Dummy Perception: Yey! Its important to keep her adorable, or else she's just a scary sociopath. :D Shampoo is like Squishy!
VlightPhase; Oh, don't worry.My stalker abilities allowed me to seek your profile and send you a PMI=D Muahahaha!
Thank you for all the reviews! Yey!
The air was filled with the joyful chorus of a hundred birds. The warmth air and a gentle breeze brought the wondrous scent of wild flowers. The sun was a blanket and the wet grass the comfiest of beds. Akane opened her eyes with a smile. Her eyes bulged out of their sockets and she sat. It was a mistake. A sharp pain stirred on the back of her head. After the initial jolt, Akane ignored it and stared in shock at her surroundings.
A broad lake gleamed at her feet under the glorious sun above. Wild ducks swan in the distance and white herons strutted by the shore in search of food. Hundreds of insects and small birds danced above the surface. The broad meadow where she sat and the lake were shielded by walls of trees and bushes, some with flowers. The sheer beauty of unspoiled nature stole briefly her trepidation.
Akane yowled and staggered to her feet and found Shampoo standing calmly behind her. Anger, confusion and trepidation returned with a vengeance.
"What's going on? Where are we?"
"Somewhere…" Shampoo answered coyly with a small smile grazing her lips.
Akane wondered if she was dreaming but the stinging pain at the back of her head was silent proof that what was happening was real. She grabbed Shampoo by the collar of her shirt.
"Why are we here and where is here?!"
"You stupid city person no understand how world work. I teach you here."
"No, it's you who don't understand anything!" Akane raged. "You are taking me back home, now!"
Akane shuddered with rage. She wanted to pummel the arrogant bitch to the ground and drop what was left on the lake. Shampoo stared calmly at her, her eyes and face completely void of guilt or fear. With a sigh, Akane released her and stormed to the edge of the clearing.
"I'm going home!"
"Lesson 1, Akane." Shampoo's hateful voice followed her. "You is helpless here. Get in woods, you get lost. You starve to death. If you lucky, snake or spider bite you or bear rip you apart."
Akane stopped dead on her tracks. She looked into the forest and what had been beautiful from distance, looked dark and threatening up close. She could suddenly hear the hissing snakes and the haunting wails and howls of wild beasts. The sun and trees drew ominous shadows in every corner, all of which seemed to move, waiting impatiently for her to venture into their mist.
"You stay with me and is safe." Akane flinched back. Shampoo was standing calmly next to her. "I leave note for family and this nice place. You trust me, okay?"
Akane looked back at the forest, then at the lake and back at Shampoo. It didn't seem like she had much of a choice. It was a wonderful place and it seemed proper to scare her family with her absence after what they did to her the previous day. It would serve them right.
"You let them know I'm okay?"
"Yes! I left note for Kasumi to find!"
Akane nodded and smiled despite herself. The note would be enough to put Kasumi at ease and she was the only one Akane didn't want to upset. Shampoo hugged her.
"Yey! This going be so fun! We take bath and eat!"
Shampoo missed the horrified look on Akane's face as she removed her cloths. She stood shamelessly nude in the middle of the clearing, drinking in the warmth sunlight and the gentle breeze. Akane glanced fearfully at the lake.
"How deep is it?"
"I don't know. I think deep enough. Is clean."
"Maybe later…What are we going to eat?"
Shampoo grabbed her hand and started dragging her towards the lake. Akane tried to snatch her hand back. It seemed nothing short of a blow would set her free. They were at the shore and Akane blurted out the shameful confession.
"I can't swim!"
"I-I can't swim."
"I don't know…"
Akane looked at the gleaming surface of the lake. She had grown to despise lakes and pools and the sea. They represented an insuperable obstacle, an unbeatable opponent and the greatest shame obscuring her life.
"No be shy, come on!"
Shampoo grabbed her hand and jumped. Akane screamed as they flew straight to the center of the lake. The cold water took her breath away. She grabbed onto Shampoo desperately as they sank to the bottom. The Amazon banished under her fingers in a surge of bubbles. Akane was alone in the depths of the lake, staring at the startled fish and waving alga. She kicked and flailed desperately, winning the surface. Birds and wild beasts froze at the alien frightening sounds that were her screams for help.
Water rushed down Akane's mouth and nose. The lake swallowed her down again. Her arms no longer had the strength to keep her in the surface. Her kicking grew erratic. It seemed Ranma would not jump out of nowhere to save her this time. He had warmed her about Shampoo. Everyone had and she had ignored them all. Her eyes glazed over and the struggle stopped. It was futile. She was just sinking deeper and deeper…
As her body hit the sandy bottom, her eyes caught a white blurry form floating before her. It took her a moment to process what it was. The white cat directed distorted mews at her. Its paws kicked the water rhythmically. It was just so cute!
The cat bit her sharply on the nose. The jolt of pain startled Akane. She suddenly remembered where she was. She was drowning. She was going to die…
Shampoo yowled and rolled around in front of her. She kicked the water rhythmically with her paws. Akane twisted around so that her stomach was facing the sandy depths. The kitten moved in front of her, kicking the water with her four lavender paws. Akane mimicked the motions, hesitantly at first but more vividly when she realized it was working. The gleaming surface was right above her. She kicked harder and broke free of the choking liquid. Air, wonderful air, was her rightful reward.
Shampoo mewed and yowled, swimming in circles around her. Akane ignored her and swan clumsily towards the shore. She crawled out of the water, letting out a thunderous belch as she slumped in the mud. Her lungs ached horribly and the air burnt as it passed through her nostrils. Her water-filled ears caught faintly the constant meows at her side. It was a sound that accompanied her into the depths of unconsciousness…
Shampoo sat in the grass. Akane said she couldn't swim because she didn't know how. It was insane. To Nujiezu swimming was essential to survival. They born in the water and the babies swam for hours each day. It strengthened their muscles and prepared their lungs to endure the rigors of hard-pressed exercise when they were older. Her ears flattened slightly and she wagged her tail, startling a dragonfly perched nearby. Babies who lacked the skill or endurance drowned. Elders said it was a necessary filter.
Shampoo liked her fur, brushing it with her raspy tongue and swallowing the water dripping from it. She was hungry and it didn't seem like Akane would wake up anytime soon. Her ears moved to catch better the chirping of the birds.
Akane stirred. Her chest hurt and it was cold. She took a hand to her dripping nose and rubbed it, daubing mud all over her mouth. Moaning in disgust, Akane opened her eyes and looked numbly around for a napkin. There was only grass and more mud. There were also feathers and a white cat licking its lavender paws…
"Shampoo!" Akane grabbed the unexpected cat, half strangling her. "You are taking me home, now!"
Akane's eyes were burning and for the first time in years, Shampoo felt fear. It was taking time to adjust to the idea that, in her cat form, she was vulnerable. Instead of giving her the beating of a lifetime, however, Akane simply rammed her into the mud and crawled away to discharge the rest of her rage on the only backpack brought for the trip.
"You didn't bring any of my clothes!?" Akane snarled after throwing out everything on the backpack.
Shampoo extracted herself from the mud. Her tail held high, the small muddy cat jumped back into the water and walked back out with an immaculate white fur. Her eyes widened and she hissed angrily at Akane.
"Shut up!" Akane snarled back and bottomed close one of Shampoo's silky blouses. "Mine are drenched because of you and you just brought things for you!"
The cat hissed and yowled.
"I don't understand you, you-you stupid cat-girl!" Akane raged but removed the golden kettle Shampoo kept pointing at. "Tell me you at least brought matches or something…"
Shampoo stretched, a pleased moan slipping her lips. It was not unpleasant to be a cat. She could hear, smell and see things completely undetected by human senses. Hunting was especially rewarding. Still, it was always exhilarating to recover her true form. She could feel once again the warm breeze caressing her naked skin. The only thing ruining the moment of primal pleasure was Akane's bellowing.
"…a sleep-bag or a tent?! And what are we supposed to eat?!"
"Stop whining, Akane." She answered tartly. "We sleep on the ground under the stars."
"No! We go back. It's getting cold. What if it rains? And what about the food?! "
"We stay. It not going to rain. Food is in water and in trees. You just need catch it."
"Fine. Stay. I'm going home."
Akane marched to the edge of the clearing and regarded the dark woods. Her angry expression slowly shifted to one of trepidation. She could hear again the haunting hisses and howls in the distance. She stepped into the looming shadows of the first row of trees. She was inside. Now it was moving forward or back down in defeat. Before she could take another step, however, Shampoo spoke.
"Many year ago fierce Emperor of China found a horse swimming in the sea. It was most beautiful horse any human ever see. It was gentle but very fierce and it took great effort to tame. He rode that mount in all his great conquests across the Byankalas.
One day, he took army back near sea. The smell of water and the sound of roaring waves maddened the horse. The Emperor hit it with whip and yanked the reins cruelly but the horse no stop its charge. It jumped over the tall cliffs to dive in the waters.
People find the Emperor body in sand of shore days later. The horse drowned with him."
Akane turned slowly to regard Shampoo.
"Sea-horse never forget what it was but it forgot how to be what it was. The day you get use to sad life, Akane, is the day you die."
Goose-bumps rose over her arms and neck. The blood drained from her face. Akane knew she wasn't like other girls. Everything she was supposed to do well, she did wrong. What everyone expected of her, she did not want-or could- give. And for the first time in her life, someone planted a small seed of doubt in her heart. Was failure her fault?
Akane walked back towards the clearing. Shampoo smiled and they walked back together to the shore of the lake.
Kasumi liked to rise first. When everyone slept, the house was in silence and in peace. It was a little cold, though. She entered the kitchen and set water to boil. As she reached for the pantry, she found a note fixed to it. It read in stylish letters.
"Matriarch of the Tendo Clan of Japan:
Akane and I going camping. Please, no worries and mind own business.
PD: If father abuse hospitality, please feel free to punch in face and send back to Nekohanten."
"Oh, my…What a terrible grammar…"
"Gone? What do you mean she's gone!?"
The panda sat suddenly, black ears twitching. Next to him, Ranma groaned and stirred. He rubbed the mark of Akane's weapon still beating on his forehead.
"Akaneeee..." There was an angry stomping outside, followed by eerie wails of anguish. "Akane? Akaneeee!"
"Stupid uncute flat chested tomboy…." Ranma grumbled crossly, siting up. "Head hurts…"
Soun Tendo walked through the thin fabric-walls. He collapsed before Ranma, grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and shook him violently. .
"I'm so glad Shampoo and Akane are becoming such good friends!"
Kasumi sipped sedately from her tea-cup. Nabiki's eyes narrowed. She wondered just what kind of tea her older sister drank.
"Mr Pu, I am offended, worried and enraged." Soun grabbed Shampoo's father by the collar of his robe and shook him violently. "Where did your crazy daughter took my little girl!"
"No know!" The Amazon moaned. "She no say I no ask!"
Soun's demon head rose from the shadows, towering over the whimpering Mr Pu.
"WHY DIDNT YOU ASK!?"
"Maybe Akane went willingly." Nabiki said.
Everyone stared at her for a long time. Then Soun shook Mr Pu more violently. Ranma ran out the door. After a stunned silence, everyone ran after him. Alone once again, Kasumi gathered the dirty dishes and walked to the kitchen, humming softly to herself.
Ryoga Hibiki shuffled across the deserted streets of Nerima. He needed to find the Tendo Dojo or Furinkan High School. He needed to speak with Tendo Akane, the love of his life. He glanced at the picture in his hand and his eyes filled with tears. He was expecting Ranma to steal Akane forever from him…not Shampoo. Not another girl, not someone he could not fight.
Ryoga fell to his knees and wailed his anguish to the skies.
"Oh, why, Akane-san!? Why?!"
Ranma flew passed him like a bullet and went through the doors of the building Ryoga was standing next to. Glass shattered and wood splintered.
Ryoga blinked and leaned over the hole to peer inside. Ranma's angry bellows grew fainter as he stormed his way deeper into the Nekohanten. A panda shoved him roughly to enter. A disheveled Soun Tendo in his pajamas entered next.
Ryoga ran after them. He could understand blinding rage but Shampoo was a girl. Ranma couldn't win Akane back with a fight this time. It was wrong. Besides, it wasn't the girl's fault. She was just another victim of Ranma's mistreatments.
"Ranma!" Ryoga snarled and prepared to attack as his nemesis ran back towards him. "Be a man for once and take responsibility for what you've done!"
He threw a punch at Ranma's face. The next thing he knew, his face was pressed against the floor and every move stirred fresh waves of pain across his arm and back.
"Shampoo's kidnapped Akane, pork face." Ranma growled right on his ear, pressing him harder against the floor. "Either help or get outta my way!"
The painful hold on his twisted arm was released and the smothering weight on his back lifted. Ryoga jumped to his feet so that Genma could throw him face-first to the floor again in his hurry to keep up with Ranma. The half-naked Soun stepped on his neck. Growling darkly, Ryoga climb back up and ran after them.
Most of her incomes were gained during the busy Saturdays but Ukyo didn't care. Life was too precious to be wasted working over the grill. Or it was when the love of her life was finally free. The competition had removed itself from her way and she would spend the day with Ranma. The Chef squealed girlishly for the first time in her entire life. She just felt like being silly that day. She couldn't believe her luck. Ranma was all hers and there were no victims on the battlefield.
Ukyo beamed. She had been planning for hours how to approach him and came out with nothing good yet. Ranma saved her the trouble. He had come to eat her delicious food. It was a friendly regular encounter that could be gently swayed to a more personal-more romantic- situation.
"Ranchan!" She opened the door and her wide smile banished. "What happened?"
"Akane's gone." Ranma looked around, as if expecting to find her there. It hurt a little. "Shampoo kidnapped her."
"There's no time to talk. We gotta keep looking…"
"Ranma wait!" She grabbed his arm before he could walk away. "Are you Shampoo kidnapped her?"
Ukyo spent all her Saturday searching for Akane. At least Ranma had been there with her and she had been able to play the advisor and loyal friend. He would be vulnerable for some time and she would be the only one there to comfort him. Ukyo smiled, serving Genma another okonomiyaki. The others, sitting on the counter, stared sullenly at their plates.
The group looked tired and worried. Akane was nowhere to be found and her friends had no idea where she could be but everyone asked the same question: was it really a kidnapping?
"Damn it, this's all your fault, Ranma!" Ryoga exploded, slamming his fists on the counter.
"How's it my fault, pork face? I was unconscious!"
"You were such an insensitive jerk to her that she lost her faith on all men!" The eternal Lost Boy's eyes watered and his fist trembled. He suddenly jumped to his feet. "But not all of us are like him, Akanw. I'll show you what's like to have a brave, honest man that really loves you at your side!"
He ran out the door. Ranma slowly turned back to his plate.
"Shampoo's gonna kill that jackass…" Ukyo said.
"Do you-do you really think Akane went….willingly?"
Ukyo regretted the outburst immediately. Ranma looked sad and pensive. Perhaps there was one victim in the battlefield after all. She found herself giving support instead of asserting the truth she wanted to believe.
"Why do you ask?"
Ranma's face hardened. He stood and left without a word.
Gleaming eyes appeared and quickly disappeared as they jumped from branch to branch, dashing through the wood. The sound of leaves flogged mercilessly by the strong wind was smothered by the pounding of her heart in her ears and her ragged breathing. Her leg muscles were twitching, her lungs and skin burnt but a smile danced on her lips. Never in her entire life had Akane Tendo felt so free.
It was a matter of keeping up or be left behind. It was a matter of landing within the barely visible outlines of each perch or fall to the impenetrable darkness below with all its hiding dangers. Any other worries or concerns had leaked out of her like dirt. There was no space in her mind for mundane thoughts anymore.
The nimble shadow that was her guide averted the course sharply, jumping towards a tree trunk and bouncing off to an unseen perch to her right. Akane hesitated merely a moment before quickly following.
She sprang her legs away from the trunk and panicked when she realized there was no visible place to land. Instead, the solid base of another branch met her in the form of a powerful halting blow to the chest. Her breath escaped her lungs explosively for the sudden impact and she gasped, clawing at the evil thing to keep herself from falling. Safely up, she frowned slightly at the sight of the path ahead. There, the moon's gentle light did not fall and complete darkness reigned...
Something cold and soft brushed her arm. Her startled yelp was quieted by a strong hand. Shampoo released her face a second later. Akane could barely see and hear her as she crouched next to her like a tiger on the hunt, the sound of her silky clothing whipped by the wind deafening compared to the soft whispering of the Amazon's hair waving gently by the breeze. It suddenly made sense to be naked. She longed to take off her own cloths and become one with the wilderness.
Akane heard something near and turned. Two golden eyes glimmered right in front of her. Claws scratched the wood and the shadows released a low growl. The glittering eyes disappeared. The perch where they sat shook slightly. A rush of air passed by her and Akane breathed again. She flinched violently when Shampoo grabbed her hand again.
Something cold was accommodated between her fingers. It was a bow and an arrow. The Amazon maneuvered her hands, setting the arrow and straining the string. She pushed her hands so it was pointing under them. Akane's eyes widened. There was something moving there. As Shampoo released her hand Akane pulled the bow sharply up. The arrow flew whistling and stuck in a tree. There was a frantic rush of leaves under them, accompanied by startled bellows. The deer had escaped.
Shampoo slapped Akane sharply on the back of the head.
"Is you stupid?"
"You didn't say we were going to kill something!" Akane hissed angrily back.
"You asking all time what we eat!"
"Why didn't you bring something from the restaurant?!"
"Akane, forest is like fair, okay? There food everywhere."
"They are not food. They are animals!"
"Is you crazy vegan person?"
"Well, no….but I won't kill anything! There are trees everywhere. Can't we eat fruits or something?"
"You no fun, Akane..."
Shampoo leapt to another perch. Akane sighed and hurried to follow.
They found mushrooms, loquats and kaki. Shampoo had also managed to kill a rabbit when Akane wasn't looking and ate it without sharing. She didn't mind, though. The fruits and mushrooms had been delicious and fulfilling. They lay together at the lake shore, watching the darkening sky.
It was always amazing how many stars could be seen in the wilderness, away from the blinding lights of the city. The singing frogs replaced the chirping song of the birds and the sky was claimed by bats. Insects gave no relent and continued zooming above the water.
No one had come looking for them. Shampoo would not tell her where they were, but Akane could tell it was very far away. There were no signs of other people in the vicinity. Her family may never find her. She wondered if they were looking for her. Perhaps they believed whatever Shampoo had written on her infamous note. Maybe they thought they had ran away together to live the lesbian dream. Maybe they trusted she would find her way back alone…eventually.
Ranma always found her. No matter where she was taken and how hopeless it all seemed, he would always find her…he had warmed her about Shampoo. He had told her the girl was unpredictable and dangerous and Akane had not listened. This mess was her fault. He would have to crawl his way through the wood because she did not listen. The warm satisfactions coined during the day fled her in the face of those dark thoughts.
Shampoo's face popped into her camp of sight, blocking the stars.
"Why sad now?"
"I'm not sad…" Akane managed to smile a little and sat down. "Just tired. Are you sure it's safe to sleep here?"
She sighed and turned her back on the Amazon. She threw over herself a blanket and placed the backpack under her head. She closed her eyes. Shampoo crawled under the blanket and huddled close.
"Shampoo…what are you doing?"
"You should have brought another blanket."
"But I did not."
"You are not…you don't like me like that, right?
"No. Do you like me like that?"