Ranma 1/2 : Wicked Garden

A Ranma 1/2 FanFic by Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

(All characters copyright Rumiko-san, obviously. If I ever
even considered claiming that these were my own characters
I'd probably be thrown into a small cell where I'd be forced
to eat my own tankubon to live.)

-=-

Thunder cracked high above Nerima's skyline. Storms don't
usually pour down this strong over the peaceful suburb of Tokyo;
but there are rare moments which require them, such as the death
of an emperor, the destruction of a dark god or the creation of a
creature of pure evil.

Since this was only similar to the third choice, it was a
light to medium downpour. But the girl who ran through the rain
didn't care. Rain was the giver of life and the source of all
hope. Rain in the desert would save a man from dehydration; rain
in the damned creek would build the beaver a home.

Rain could also destroy, with torrential floods that can
sweep entire countries into the sea, dooming many lives to a
watery grave. It can drum up storms that can destroy the
mightiest vessels, dumping cargo and crew into the depths below.
It was, after all, the thing that had recently taken a life dear
to her.

Fairly unusual symbolism for a seven year old to think
about, but she was in an unusual state of mind and therefore this
is perfectly acceptable. Normally, she was much brighter...
cheerier. Now, her happy yellow and white school uniform which
she prized so dearly was ripped, torn and soaked. She didn't
care today, however. On any other day she'd want her mother to
wash the slightest stain out of her clothes, but that simply
wasn't...

Sasuke called for her through the rain, his tiny voice
carrying far. Brother dear has picked that one well, she
thought, considering that the little man, even at his young age,
could scream that far. She allowed herself this single normal
thought in an otherwise unbroken chain of dark thoughts and sad
memories, just for a change of pace. She didn't have the right
frame of mind to reply to Sasuke or go home, however. She did
NOT want to return to her home, the place where they still had
the body of her mother.

So, Kodachi ran on, through the residential district, and
into the park. She made no sounds; there was no real way to
check if she was crying, due to the weather. The only noises she
made were the splap-splaps of her school uniform shoes upon the
pavement, splap-splap.

Splap-splap. The rain continued, the distance between her
and the funeral grew.

Splap-splap and nobody really noticed this girl running
through Nerima Park at near-midnight, or cared.

Splap-splop-sp, and she paused, sound pattern throwing her
pacing off.

She had entered a most unusual place... her train of
thought, an endless stream of self-hatred and panic stopped at
the station to let everybody off. She looked around in wonder,
noticing her surroundings in detail for the first time this
evening.

A rose garden. A lovely, wonderful rose garden... roses
planted in rows, roses planted in triangles, roses planted in
patterns of kanji characters, spelling out the name of the park.
White criss-cross wood kept the roses in line, forming perfectly
symmetrical paths, a grid that created square patches of life
fenced in by the living worms and ants in the dirt paths.

She stared at the garden, mesmerized, studying the geometry,
the simple beauty of the rose. It was perfect; a symbol of life,
something that grows from a start...

And finishes. Because one of the roses, one near her feet,
had died, its happy red color dyed a permanent black. It was in
a small indentation in the ground, and lie in a puddle of muddy
water. Overwatered. The very same liquid which helped it grow
had executed it, turned it into this horrible...

But... no. Even death didn't destroy the beauty of the
rose! Sure, the color was different, the petals wilted slightly,
but the wilting and color set it apart from the other roses.
Perhaps, even, it was MORE beautiful than the others. Unique.
Lovely.

All these roses should be black, she thought, and in her
mind, they were. All wonderfully intricate patterns of nature,
coated black. Beautiful.

And for the first time, her fear and sadness over her
mother's death didn't matter. She had seen both life and death,
and saw how wonderful they were. Pretty, in form and function.
Her mother had simply gone from being the pretty red rose to the
pretty black one. The cycle was complete, with no loss of energy
or vitality.

So, Kodachi laughed. And laughed. And laughed.

She danced her way home, twirling her gymnastics ribbon in
one hand, and clutching the dead rose in another. She laughed
the entire way. The little girl that didn't laugh as much, the
one that wanted to wear the pretty clothes and missed her dear
mother didn't come home that night, but Kodachi did.

*

Now, zoom in on an older, more mature Kodachi. One with
goals and plots to get to those goals, one with logic
capabilities and a witty way with words. Still as disturbed, but
now in an older, larger form.

Kodachi peeled the thick rubber gloves off her hands before
they completely melted through, examining her new botanical
creation once more. It wasn't perfect... the poisoned thorns
could only cripple, not kill. The petals weren't great in
number. It was lopsided. But the pollen, no, the pollen should
work.

"It will serve its purpose," Kodachi noted, carefully
watering it, having measured out the exact amount of water it
would need earlier via a graduated cylinder. Mustn't overwater.
Dead plants were wonderful in a way, but less useful.

She had three main sections to her garden, three triangular
slices of the circle. The top, if circles had a top, was
dedicated to normal plants of many colors, most of them dark.
She kept a wide variety of flowers here, to provide aesthetic
appeal to the greenhouse. Something to look at and smile.

The next section contained dead and dying plants, decaying
into crumbled brown and black forms of compost. It smelled
slightly and had flies buzzing around it. She kept her failed
creations and long lost flowers here, to provide aesthetic appeal
to the greenhouse. Something to look at and smile.

The final section was more work oriented, containing her
current projects. There was a thick wire mesh cage over it, not
because she feared others stealing her babies, but so her babies
wouldn't accidentally harm anyone who approached. Some of them
could be quite assertive.

"Sasuke!" she called out, lifting the potted flower from her
work bench to her test area, powering on the various computers
and scanning devices that would keep her updated of the plant's
condition and chemical reactions.

Sasuke hurried out of Kunou Mansion, scurrying down the
twisted path that led to Kodachi's greenhouse. He stumbled a
bit, being the world's clumsiest ninja, but eventually his
grasping fingers found the door handle and he dashed inside.

"Hai!" Sasuke said, striking a battle pose. Kodachi usually
frowned on theatrics from the hired help, but it kept Sasuke
happy and manageable. As long as the ninja lived in his own
little cloud of denial, he would serve well.

"I have another for you to test," Kodachi said, pulling on
her filtration mask. "Come here."

Sasuke broke into a sweat. "Umm, Kodachi-sama, are you sure
that's wise? After all, I still have those horrible hives below
the waist from the last plant I tested, and I only came out of
the coma yesterday--"

"Nonsense! Do you not think that I'd take into account the
various chemicals swimming in your blood, dear Sasuke?" Kodachi
laughed. "Ohohohoho! Think better of me, servant. This will
not interfere with my other tests. Come."

Sasuke slumped, and began the death march to the testing
area. "Inhale or touch?" he asked, examining Kodachi's recent
creation.

"Inhale, please," Kodachi suggested. "Petals only.
Touching the stem would be near-fatal. It's a defense mechanism
against anybody who wanted to pluck my flowers."

Sasuke muttered a few quick prayers, and inhaled the flower.

"Physical reactions normal," Kodachi nodded. "No sweats, no
hives, no rashes, no combustion. Emotional rea--"

"WHEEEEHOOOOOOooo!!!!!" Sasuke called out, doing a
handstand. "Face me, enemy! I am Sasuke the invincible, and
I'll strike you down with my mighty ninja whatsit!"

"Emotional reactions on target," Kodachi smiled. "I believe
my Happy Flower is ready for use."

"Have at you! Take that! Nyaha! Who're you calling a
dunce?" Sasuke asked, facing down an invisible enemy. The ninja
span in place to face the enemy, until his spinning slowed, and
he collapsed into a sleepy heap on the floor.

"Another smashing success. Perhaps this will help me laugh
again," Kodachi said, pulling the filtration mask off. "It's
been so long since I've had a proper laugh. Perhaps even
minutes."

Kodachi leaned forward, inspecting her lovely creation a
bit. She nodded in thanks to the mighty flower, and inhaled its
wonderful fragrance.

The woman laughed inside her head for the next seven hours.

*

Ranma and Kodachi, atop an anonymous mountain, facing an
anonymous sea. The waves crash below in perfectly symmetric
patterns, clouds flickering overhead like undercranked 1930s
films.

The two lovers, standing symmetrical to the point of the
mountain, the dividing line between the two similar halves of the
picture. They turn in unison to face each other. They both have
black hair. They both have black clothing.

"I will love you for eternity," they say, in stereo.

"I've never been happier before," they continue.

"And I can never be happier again," in conclusion.

They lean, cheek to cheek, down the meridian of fantasy as
the duplex waves surge below. A moment eternal, at least until
Sasuke slaps Kodachi around.

Kodachi whipped out her ribbon and had the boy lashed up to
the metal greenhouse supports in an instant.

"G-Gomennasai, Kodachi-sama!" Sasuke blurted. "When I came
to, you were laughing uncontrollably and foaming at the mouth,
and I was worried, so I--"

"There are EASIER ways of rousing a human than physical
abuse!" Kodachi said, pointing a gymnastics club at him. She
hesitated, thinking. "Although, the easier ways aren't as fun...
alright, I retract my anger."

"Phew," Sasuke exhaled, wiping his forehead with his only
free arm. Then his face shifted to a look of concern. "Kodachi-
sama, are you sure you're alright? You don't look healthy--"

"I was FINE! And having a perfectly nice dream, no thanks
to you. Go inside and give yourself twenty lashings."

"B-But you said you weren't angry!"

"I changed my mind," Kodachi said, pulling on the ribbon to
slacken it, freeing Sasuke. "Now, GO!"

Sasuke mumbled seventeen apologies on his way out the door,
scrambling to get inside and beat the snot out of himself for his
mistress.

"It's so hard to get good help these days," Kodachi cliched,
and stuffed her face back into her flower to laugh again.

*

Once again, the two perfect lovers, Ranma and Kodachi, in
symbiosis, feeding upon each other's needs and wants. This time
in a non-symmetric world, where there was nothing but their own
flesh and minds, bonded together in pleasure. At least, in
Kodachi's mind they were.

But something was amiss. There came a rapping, a tap tap
tapping, tapping at the greenhouse door. Ranma faded, the flesh
pulling apart as Kodachi was roused from her drug induced dream,
until the only sound was the tapping.

Kodachi peeled herself off the floor ("I really must bring a
cot in here next time I experiment," she thought) and turned.

There, at the glass door of the greenhouse, was a little
urchin of a girl. Probably one of the neighborhood brats.

"Shoo! Go away!" Kodachi suggested, charging up to the
door. The little girl, terror in her eyes, fled.

Honestly, I thought one of Sasuke's jobs was to PREVENT such
peasants from entering our sanctum, Kodachi thought. She turned
back to her flower, but before she could make contact with it,
saw the clock.

9:11.

"Oh, heavens!" she exclaimed. "I'm late for school!"

*

Nobody at St. Hebereke had the nerve to tell Kodachi to go
stand in the hall for being tardy.

She sat in chemistry class, bored, as usual. She took the
textbook home on day one and read it, which helped her
tremendously on homework, but made this silly obligatory
classtime a needless waste. However, her principal, one of the
few people in school that stood up to her, declined on her appeal
to skip the class.

"You can't read a book and claim to be a master of its
teachings," the principal said, stirring her tea in a most
unnerving manner. "Request denied."

"But Kouchou-sensei, I know it ALL now," Kodachi pleaded.
"There is nothing I can learn in that class. I have assimilated
the entire text they are to use..."

"Haven't you ever considered the possibility of something
creeping up that wasn't in the text?" the principal asked,
sipping her tea.

"It is unlikely. In my entire high school career, not once
has a teacher strayed from the text," Kodachi said. "Very
unimaginative lot."

"Say I was to let you out of class. One day, I don't know,
maybe your teacher goes insane and decides to try something
creative," the principal said, in a tone clearly indicating her
own loathing of the faculty. "You would have lost the one rare
moment in which you could learn something new."

"It is a low chance, Kouchou-sensei."

"But there is a chance, ne?"

"Well..."

"How about this," the principal suggested. "You have my
permission to stare off into space, or doodle, or play Super
Famicom or anything you want in class. Ignore the teacher, if
you wish. But you have two rules; you MUST stay in the room, and
you cannot disturb the learning of the others who have not read
the book. Would that do?"

Kodachi considered. "Hai," she answered.

"Good," the principal smiled warmly. "You have talent,
Kodachi, and probably could TEACH that class. But you need to
treat potential knowledge like a selection of fine diamonds.
They may all sparkle, but there will be one that catches your eye
which you wouldn't have seen if you settled for one gem."

"KODACHI!" the teacher called, breaking Kodachi's memory
concentration.

"Hai, sensei?" Kodachi answered, smiling.

"Were you dozing off in class??" Onsen-Mark asked.

"Hai, sensei," she replied, still smiling.

"Well, don'... well... whatever," he grumbled, returning to
his teachings. How he hated that student. Who ever heard of
having PERMISSION to ignore the teacher?? Unthinkable! Even his
last job, as bizarre as it was, didn't match that. His old job
exceeded it, actually, but... oh, nevermind.

"Anyway, as I was saying," Onsen-Mark continued, "When
combined in this sequence, it reveals the first potentially
viable evidence of genetic language."

Kodachi looked up at the word. Language? It didn't even
appear in the text. Where was the old fool going?

"You probably read about this already in the current events
section of the paper," Onsen-Mark continued, "But since it's
relevant to the class, I figured I'd bring it up anyway and
assign some homework on-- STOP GROANING! Better. Anyway, as you
can see, if you compare THIS section of the DNA code to THIS
one... a pattern evolves."

"What does the pattern mean?" Kodachi asked.

Onsen-Mark nearly bit the end of his tongue off in surprise.
Kodachi? ASKING QUESTIONS? Jump on that, man! It's like a
million yen bill in the middle of the street!

"Ah, Kodachi-chan, it's very simple!" Onsen-Mark beamed.
"Scientists have discovered this gene sequence in two locations
of basic human DNA. They seem to be the bookends for a sequence
that handles languages. An experiment was conducted to prove
this; when the code was changed, the subject lost most of its
speech and understanding skills, but could still react well
enough to show that no IQ was lost. There is a chance that this
sequence controls language and speech."

"Interesting," Kodachi said.

Onsen-Mark could cry. She found it interesting! He
continued on. "Now, this could just be a wild coincidence. The
medical evaluation wasn't done by a well-established laboratory.
But from what has been seen, these sequences might very well be
the key to understanding... well, how we understand each other."

Kodachi smiled.

*

Sasuke dared not move, as the robotic needle descended
slowly towards his uncovered arm, guided by the sure and slender
hand of Kodachi Kunou.

"Uh... is a blood sample absolutely necessary?" Sasuke
gulped. "I hate needles..."

"Oh, relax," Kodachi laughed. "This won't hurt me a bit!"

"Ah, good. Wait. Won't hurt yo--"

Kodachi thrust forward on the joystick, driving the needle
several inches into Sasuke's arm. Sasuke's eyes bugged out and
he would have likely shot through the ceiling, if not for the
iron restraints on his body.

"Whoops! My bad," Kodachi admitted, and withdrew the needle
some to take her blood. "Don't worry, I don't think it punctured
the bone."

"Qui... quite alright," Sasuke tried to smile, before
passing out.

Mental note : obtain test subject with better stamina,
Kodachi thought, extracting the blood into a vial. Her computers
automatically scanned Sasuke's DNA.

Kodachi studied the readouts. The sequence was there,
alright... very, very easy to miss, though. It sandwiched a
complicated section of DNA, like a pair of buns around a meaty
center of genetic code.

On a whim, Kodachi made a few soft copies of the DNA
sequence, scrambled one slightly and injected it back into
Sasuke's blood.

"Oh, dear Sasuke? Wake up," Kodachi requested sweetly.

Sasuke stirred. He opened his eyes, looking around. "Gonoe
aeongo orngo?" he asked.

"Oh, wonderful!" Kodachi exclaimed, clasping her hands to
her chest. "Simply wonderful. You can't understand me at all,
can you?"

"Oaognag!" Sasuke exclaimed. "Xnxvooe erong! Oeeogng!!!"

"Well, that's fun to know," Kodachi said, reloading the
needle and jabbing it back in Sasuke's arm. He yelped with the
incorrect vowel, and a look of confusion spread over his face.

"What happened?" Sasuke asked.

"Hmmm. The changes occur almost instantly. That seems
impossible," Kodachi said. "But, evidence is evidence... thank
you, Sasuke, you may go now."

Kodachi turned to her work table, examining a growing rose
she had been considering splicing into twin roses. Now she had a
better idea.

"Umm, Kodachi-sama? I can't get out of the restraints..."
Sasuke whined, pulling at the chair which bound him.

"Details, details. You're a ninja, escape," Kodachi
suggested. She took the flower over to her work table, made some
quick adjustments, and injected the DNA stream into the plant.

"Hello, can you hear me?" she asked the flower.

Sasuke, working his way out of the chair, blinked. This was
the first time he had seen Kodachi-sama talk to her plants.
Well, no, but it was the first time she seemed to expect a reply.

"Hmm. If you can hear me, spread your petals a bit," she
suggested.

The petals widened, as did Sasuke's eyes.

Kodachi smiled. "Wonderful... it's a shame you don't have
more muscle than that, little flower... but yours is not the role
I will design. But I thank you for helping me, and being the
first of my babies to have... language."

With that, she bowed. Sasuke scrambled out of his chair and
out of the greenhouse, running in fear. To date, he had never
left the greenhouse in a wholly stable frame of mind... or at
walking speed.

*

Kunou sneered at the array of takeout food in front of him,
with a look of visible contempt.

THIS? This was to be his evening's meal? It made no sense.
It was peasant food, the kind of thing prepared in fifteen
minutes or less by greasy workers trying to scrape by on short
order cook's wages!

Where was his feast? The family dinner, lovingly prepared
by his skilled yet demented sister?

"I will not eat such slop!" Kunou said, overturning his
plate.

"Hey, boy!" Kunou's father exclaimed. "You're wasting food
by doing that. Cut it out. Hmm, maybe the noodles on top are
still good..."

Kunou sighed. Father dear didn't care one iota where the
food came from, as long as it was food. That's what working
among the lower peoples will do for you.

"It needs more pineapple, but not bad," the father shrugged,
adjusting his chopsticks. "I like takeout. It's a good change
of pace. I hear there's a new hawaiian pizza takeout joint down
the road from the house, we should order from them next."

"Where is Kodachi?" Kunou asked. "I have yet to see my
sister once today. Usually she is so happy to present dinner,
even if just to watch me try to figure out what part of it has
been poisoned."

"That's an unhealthy habit, that," the elder Kunou said,
picking through a cardboard box of noodles. "It's very
unhygienic to put poison in your food. I'd rather have takeout,
on the whole."

"I miss the taste of some of her lesser poisons. Hmmm. I
believe it is time to get to the bottom of this mystery.
SASUKE!" Kunou called.

Sasuke appeared in a blast of smoke, striking his usual
battle stance. "HAI, Tatewaki-sama!"

"Please, good Sasuke, no smoke. We are eating."

"Gomen, sir. How may I assist you?"

Kunou smiled. The little ninja was showing more enthusiasm
than usual. He approved. "I would like to know," Kunou started,
"Where sister dear has gone off to. This is the first evening in
many weeks that she has not prepared nor attended dinner."

"Kodachi-sama is busy in her greenhouse," Sasuke reported.

"What, again?" the Principal asked. "Oy, that makes the
third day in a row she's gone straight to the greenhouse after
school."

"I believe I will investigate," Kunou said.

"Shall I box your meal to warm later, sir?" Sasuke asked.

"Bah. Throw it to the dogs," Kunou spat, grabbing his
bokken and marching out of the dining hall.

"We already fed the dog, Tatchy!" the Principal called. "Oh
well. For the best. I'll have his share, Sasuke."

*

Kunou peered into the depths of the greenhouse, through the
glass. Kodachi didn't SEEM to be in there... but of course,
plants and equipment blocked Kunou's vision. Therefore,
firsthand investigation would be a wise idea.

Tatewaki opened the door and entered cautiously, bokken
drawn.

"BOO!" Kodachi yelled, popping up out of a patch of vines,
dramatically underlit.

Kunou didn't flinch. "Cute, dear sister."

"Ohohohohohoho!" Kodachi laughed. "Well, it was worth a
try. So, what brings you to my humble nursery, brother?"

"I would inquire as to the reason of your absence. You have
not entered the mansion itself except for sleep over the last few
days," Kunou stated. "I am worried about your health."

"No, you're probably worried about your stomach," Kodachi
said, poking playfully at the kendo enthusiast's gut. "Well,
don't worry. The fruits of my labor are ripening. In fact,
perhaps you could be of use in testing them."

"How so?" Kunou asked, narrowing his eyes. He did not like
to be used as a guinea pig. That was Sasuke's job.

"Well, you fancy yourself the swordsman, ne?" Kodachi asked,
stepping out of the vine patch to gather up a pot of dirt at her
work table.

"A sword has a point. Do you?" Kunou asked.

"Ohohohohohohohoho! That's a good one. Yes, I do. I'd
like you to spar with one of my babies," Kodachi said, placing
the pot at Kunou's feet.

"Spar? With a plant?" Kunou asked, unbelieving. "Surely
you jest. A mere puff of greenery is no match for the great
Tatewaki Kunou."

"Well, this is no mere puff," Kodachi smiled. She took a
watering jug off the table. "Observe. Common water, with my
newly developed formula RS9."

With that, Kodachi poured a bit of water into the pot.

A green stem literally tore its way out of the soil,
stretching and growing until the stem base had outgrown the pot.
It flopped around, a gigantic vine with a sucker-leaf tip,
thrashing around with a clump of dirt at its 'feet'.

"Adorable," Kunou stated. "So what does it do?"

"It obeys my voice," Kodachi smiled. "My darling, please
entangle and disarm my brother, NOW! ATTACK!"

Kunou automatically shifted to a defensive position as the
tentacle-like vine snapped to attention, flowing its way through
the air towards him. He stepped forward and slashed at the
vine's target area, bisecting it neatly.

"Well, that was enjoyable," Kunou said, lowering his bokken.
"But I think you still have work to do to even dream of defeating
the great Tatewaki Ku--"

The vine tangled around Kunou's left arm. He raised his
right arm to slash it again, wondering how it was still capable
of movement, but found he couldn't raise his right arm; the other
half of the vine, leaking green fluid but still alive, had
ensnared his right hand.

"Touche," Kodachi smiled. "Ohohohohohoho! What a wonderful
toy, my darling vine..."

"Charming. Could you please tell your plant to let me down
now?" Kunou asked. "It's staining my clothing."

"You mock me," Kodachi flatly said. "I don't like that."

"I do not mock, I merely complain about my rough treatment,"
Kunou denied.

"Passable. Alright, dearies, you may set my brother down
now. Give him a good pat on the head. That's a good vine! GOOD
vine! Let's see about repotting you..."

Kunou shook his head. His sister and her strange ideas.
Nonsense, all of it. He marched out.

*

Late that night, Kodachi slept. Her patented Happy Flower
had its place of honor at her bedside... for the last few days,
it was the only way she was able to get to sleep.

She didn't mind. Often in the past, she'd have to devise
sleep aids, and at least this one guaranteed her good dreams.
Such as this one, a wonderful vision of her and Ranma as king and
queen of all of Japan, with the various hussies that pretended to
be worthy of Ranma at her feet, bowing and begging forgiveness
for living.

Yes, there was Shampoo, that barbarian from China. The one
who could barely speak the language, whereas Kodachi had mastered
it. Then there was Ukyou, the COOK, such a lowly social position
to begin with, who also fancied herself a warrior. She was in
her place now... then, Akane Tendo. Useless in all respects of
the word, clumsy, incompetent. Unworthy of Ranma. Lastly, that
horrid little pig-tailed girl, who Kodachi was almost certain
wanted her Ranma-sama; why else would she change her name to
match his, unless she was truly obsessed? And then there was
that strange little girl, the one with the white...

Wait. Strange little girl? Kodachi stepped off her throne
to face this girl, grabbing her by the chin and pulling her to
her feet.

"Who are you?" Kodachi asked.

The girl stared on in fear. Who was this one? She could
not be older than seven, so she clearly wasn't a suitor of Ranma-
sama. Why was she familiar...

"You were the one at the greenhouse the other day!" Kodachi
exclaimed. "What are you doing in my dreams? Some sort of
related thought, perhap..."

But then the entire palace faded. Kodachi cursed. One of
the easiest ways to stop a dream was to call it that, to call it
a dream. She submitted to the fading, figuring it was probably
time to wake up in reality anyway.

But the dream would not completely fade. It resolved to a
ghostly image, translucent, with a persistent noise in the
background... a beep... another beep... and another. A stream of
beeps. And there was a bed, her bed, which--

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP rang Kodachi's alarm clock. She
picked it up with a sleepy hand and threw it across the room,
shutting it off. She loved those baseball alarm clocks which you
had to physically and violently turn off.

Another fine day, she mused, hopping out of bed to do some
warm up exercises. By this point, she had completely forgotten
the dream.

*

Kodachi loved the weekends.

They allowed for more time to partake in her favorite
hobbies : practicing gymnastics, winning Ranma-sama's favor,
working on her gardens, etc. This weekend, however, was
dedicated solely to gardenwork.

She was chemically bonding her DNA-enhanced vine seeds to
dehydrated RS9 particles. It would work; a good dosage of water,
and the vine would grow. A lovely vine, a vine with grafted
plant muscles and a language center, a mindless servant. Sort of
like Sasuke. Speaking of which...

"SASUKE!" Kodachi called. Before the last syllable had left
her mouth, Sasuke exploded onto the scene with a smoke bomb.

"HAI!" Sasuke called, bowing.

Kodachi blinked. An unusually fast entrance for the little
ninja. "Sasuke, I have a task for you. It shan't take more than
an hour or two."

"Then I feel I must decline," Sasuke said, in stable, strong
tones. "I have much ninja practice to do this weekend.
Tatewaki-sama has already released me from duties."

Kodachi frowned. "Well, that's fine and good, but Kodachi-
sama hasn't released you from duties. You will take these seeds
and--"

"No," Sasuke said.

"NO? Impudent servant, you dare refuse your mistress??"
Kodachi exclaimed, kicking her work stool away to stand firmly on
her decision.

"I am not obligated to help today. I apologize deeply if
this affects your plans, but I have business of my own to take
care of. Farewell," Sasuke said, bowing deeply in respect before
vanishing in another blast of smoke.

Kodachi instinctively pulled on her filtration mask, waving
the smoke away. Stupid, stupid ninja! Smoke was BAD for plants!
And how dare he claim that any affairs of his own took
importance? He HAD no affairs, first of all! His life is to
serve! He's FIRED if he ever shows again!!!

"Well, BAH! I don't need Sasuke!" Kodachi yelled, to the
world in generally. "I was going to replace him as a patsy
anyway... with... with... him!"

Kodachi tore open the door to the greenhouse, and charged
outside to the figure she saw trespassing on mansion grounds.

"You there! Stop!" Kodachi called, rushing to greet him.

"Koko wa doko wa?" Ryouga asked, lowering his map in time to
see Kodachi Kunou running to him at top speed. Ryouga panicked,
tried to go in six directions at once, failed, and froze on the
spot.

"Greetings,... umm... Ryoogle, right?" Kodachi asked. "One
of Ranma-sama's little friends?"

"It's Ryouga Hibiki," he said, finally unfreezing. "And I
am NOT one of 'Ranma-sama's friends."

"Whatever. How would you like to make some money, good
sir?" Kodachi asked.

"Money? Gosh... I could get those neat matching
tigerstriped pendants for Akane-san and I... Whoa, wait," he
said, breaking out of his waking dream. "I know you. You're
underhanded."

"I prefer the term 'Socially Challenging,'" Kodachi laughed.
"It's very simple, really. I'd like you to take this bag of
seeds and plant them at the Tendo Dojo."

"Oh, is that all," Ryouga said. "I was on my way there
anyway... wait. What are these seeds, exactly?"

"Ohohohohohoho! Just a flower, nothing more," Kodachi
smiled.

"Hrm. I don't buy it," Ryouga said. "No thanks, lady.
Gotta go."

"Waaaait," Kodachi warned, dropping to a menacing tone.
"Alright, I tried to do this the polite way, but you leave me no
choice. Either you'll plant the seeds, or... I'll let everybody
in town know your little secret."

"Wh... what little secret?" Ryouga asked.

"Oh, you know. That one little secret... the one you don't
want anybody to find out..." she smiled. "Least of all Akane
Tendo..."

Oh, god, she knows!! Ryouga thought. If Akane was to find
out my curse, it'd be... it'd be...

"Alright, I'll plant them!" Ryouga said, grabbing the seed
bag. "Just don't tell anybody! Please!"

"Good boy," Kodachi smiled. "Now run and play."

Ryouga ran off in a totally random direction, clutching the
bag close. Kodachi watched the boy flee, and quietly returned to
her greenhouse.

Good thing he didn't realize I was bluffing, Kodachi
thought. Of course, everybody has that one little secret they
don't want to come out. Whatever his one is, it must be horrible
indeed.

*

Ryouga finished planting a few seeds around the building,
before someone leaned out the window to yell at him.

"Whaddya think you're doing?!" the man screamed. "Get off
my property!"

"Huh?" Ryouga asked, looking up. "Isn't this the Tendo
Dojo?"

"No, you moron, this is Hiroaki Dry Cleaning."

*

"No, this is the supermarket. I don't see how you could
mistake it for a dojo. What are you planting, anyway?"

*

"It's my house, not a dojo, boy. Stop digging up my
flowerboxes."

*

"Ryouga?" Ukyou asked, leaning out the restaurant door.
"What're you planting?"

"N-Nothing!" Ryouga said, hiding the now lightweight bag
behind his back. This isn't good, he thought. I'm almost out of
seeds, and I still haven't found the dojo. If I don't get there,
Kodachi will tell everybody about my curse...

"Jeez, you look pale," Ukyou said. "Have you been eating
alright?"

"Fine, fine. Umm. Ukyou, could you... ah... lead me, umm,
to... to the..."

Ukyou sighed. "The dojo. Alright, let's go. Honestly,
Ryouga, why not just take a taxi or something?"

"Not enough money," Ryouga said, taking Ukyou's hand.

"I guess so. Hey, what's in the bag?"

"Uhh... ummm... flower seeds," Ryouga said. "I was going
to, ah, grow a bouquet to bring to Ak... to the Tendos, yeah!"

"That's nice, but flowers don't grow that fast," Ukyou
smiled. "Can I have a few? I'm working on a garden behind the
restaurant."

"Sure thing!" Ryouga said, passing her four seeds. He still
had enough to plant at the dojo, when he got there. Who cared
where else they ended up?

*

"Come on in, sit down, Kodachi-chan," the principal of St.
Hebereke said, motioning for the student to have a seat.

Kodachi nodded, and wandered into the office. "Is something
wrong, Kouchou-sensei? I don't think I've broken any school
regulations recently..."

"Hmmm? No, no, this doesn't have much to do with school,"
the principal said, stirring her tea. "It's actually something
of a worry of mine... I've heard you've been having trouble
sleeping lately."

"Oh, no. I've been sleeping quite well lately," Kodachi
said. "Where did you hear that from?"

"Oh, I have my ways. You're using a flower with special
pollen as a sleep aid, is this correct?"

"Well... hai, Kouchou-sensei, but it hasn't degraded my
educational performance an--"

"I really think you should stop using the flower," she said.
"It's for the best for you."

"Kouchou-sensei, I mean no disrespect in this statement, but
frankly I don't think my home life falls under your
jurisdiction," Kodachi said, in her polite way of telling the
principal to butt out. Where was she getting this information,
anyway? Had that horrid little Sasuke been playing spy?

"The sleep it provides is unnatural, and you know it," the
principal continued, in the same calm voice she'd use to announce
grade reports. "You're only harming yourself by persisting in
this abuse of chemicals and drugs. If you stop now, it would be
easier--"

"Kouchou-sensei!" Kodachi exclaimed. "I don't see how it's
any of your business!"

The principal sighed. "Well, I tried. But please, Kodachi,
whatever you do, don't bring any of your creations to school. I
would hate to have to suspend or expel you for bringing a
medically dangerous plant on campus. That is all."

Kodachi nodded, and stomped out of the office. How did she
know about Kodachi's home life? There had to be a spy. Who
could it be, though? Sasuke? Supposedly the little toad didn't
have the spine required to defy his masters, but... after
yesterday's incident, who knew...

She passed down the line of other girls, waiting outside
Kouchou-sensei's office. Mostly gang members or other
delinquents. Hmph. Even that little one at the end.

Wait.

Kodachi span on her heel, examining the little girl. It was
her! The one who was peeking into the greenhouse...

That HAD to be the principal's spy!

If she hadn't already been enraged by this intrusion into
her private life, she might've smiled, walked out the door and
plotted ways of identifying the little girl later. As is, she
pushed formalities and politeness aside in favor of grabbing the
girl by her silly white and yellow uniform.

"Who are you? Have you been following me around?" she
asked, staring into the girl's eyes. The girl stared back, the
same look of fear she had carried at the greenhouse. Her tiny
jaw sagged, but couldn't form words.

"Kodachi!" the principal called angrily, leaning out her
office door frame. "You were excused. You will go to class
NOW."

Kodachi looked away from the girl, setting her down. "Of
course, Kouchou-sensei," Kodachi smiled sweetly. She turned to
leave, not noticing that the little girl had vanished.

*

Ryouga jogged onward, worried.

He managed to get to the dojo and plant the seeds, sure
enough. He even got to talk to Akane... for awhile, before Ranma
decided to stomp on his head for awhile... finally, ending the
day as P-Chan, snuggled in dear Akane-san's arms.

But he forgot he had to go see Kodachi again and tell her
the job was done, before she spread his secret all over town!

So he continued through the streets of Nerima, running
wildly, trying to find the Kunou mansion. The clouds overhead
threatened rain, building to a dark head on the horizon.
Fortunately, he had his umbrella.

Maybe... maybe I should stop and ask for directions, Ryouga
thought. He skidded to a halt in front of a large building,
tapped the nearest girl on the shoulder, and asked : "Where is
the Kunou Mansion?"

"Oh, Ryouga-kun!" Kodachi smiled sweetly. "What timing, you
caught me just as school was letting out. Have you filled your
end of our deal?"

Ryouga's eyes bugged out. He found her! Okay, so he didn't
find the mansion, but who cared about the mansion? "Yes! Yes.
I planted the seeds. Now, you won't go telling anybody about...
y'know... bwee bwee, right?"

"Bwee?" Kodachi asked, puzzled. "Oh, yes, bwee! No, bwee
is perfectly safe with me. Arigato, Ryouga."

She bowed, just as thunder rolled. Ryouga quickly pulled
out his umbrella, before the rain came down... a drizzle, then a
smattering, and finally a medium pour.

"Ah, the rain comes," Kodachi smiled. "I believe my lovely
plants will be given life no..."

Kodachi blinked. There was a vine growing right next to
her... and another. More down the road. In fact, every source
of dirt she could spot was sprouting vines, vines tangling around
lampposts, wrapping up cars and buildings, slowly but surely
coloring the city green.

"Oh my," she gasped. "Ryouga, where did you plant my
seeds?"

"Uhh... well... I had a hard time finding the dojo..."
Ryouga said, half-concentrating on speech, half-concentrating on
the chlorophyll monsters that were stretching across the city in
the rain. "And I kept mistaking places for the dojo, and..."

"You planted them all around Nerima, didn't you??" Kodachi
asked, shaking Ryouga by the straps on his backpack.

"Ack!" Ryouga gagged, trying to keep his umbrella overhead.
"Sorry! Please, don't tell anybody about my curse!"

"Hmmmmm..." Kodachi mused aloud. "Actually, this could be
beneficial... I was just hoping to impress Ranma with my
gardening prowess and decorate his lovely house, perhaps wreck
that silly Akane's room in the process... perhaps I can do more
now. Thank you, Ryouga-kun."

"Do more? What're you talking about?" Ryouga asked.

"I tire of carrying my books," Kodachi said. "Vines,
please, lift these for me."

Ryouga boggled as one of the growing vines, previously
winding its way through the St. Hebereke gate, disentangled
itself to slide over and grasp Kodachi's bookbag.

"Th-they obey you??" Ryouga gaped.

"But of course! My darlings, around the entire city...
yes... this COULD be fun. I thank you again, Ryouga Hibachi! Ta
ta! Ohohohohohohhohohohhoho..."

"That's HIBIKI!" Ryouga called, as Kodachi bounced gleefully
home, vines crawling along after her, carrying her bag.

Dear god, what have I done? Ryouga thought.

Akane.

There are at least a dozen of these things at the dojo...

Ryouga ran off into the storm, accidentally leaving his
umbrella behind. He didn't get far.

*

Kodachi span and twirled her ribbon, dancing merrily in her
garden. The music box she kept around whenever she needed to
relax cranked out its endless tune... it had seen better days,
really, burned by acids and thunked around throughout the course
of normal laboratory work. The merry-go-round pipe organ song it
played was sickly, notes bent, bars broken. But it was musical,
in a warbling, diseased mockingbird sort of way, and Kodachi
liked it.

How wonderful! Vines, vines, everywhere. Lovely plantlife
reclaiming territory long since taken by technology.

How wonderful! There were no places left without some vine
cover. Where Ryouga hadn't planted them, vines had burrowed
beneath the earth, or severed children-vines replanted
themselves. Roads were useless. The city had ground to a halt.

How wonderful! Kodachi now had a league, no, an entire ARMY
at her disposal... the vines couldn't think, but they could
respond. They could respond to her voice, thanks to Onsen-Mark's
teachings.

Nerima would not likely be the same, Kodachi thought,
smiling. It would be BETTER.

"Now, to work," she said, closing her music box, the last
dying strands of the carnival fading away. "What to do, what to
do..."

Kunou slashed his way through the vines covering her
greenhouse, forcing his way into the door. "Sister! You have
MUCH to account for!!"

"Why, hello, Tatewaki-kun! How fares?" Kodachi asked,
smiling happily.

"Was it you who has planted this series of green monsters
around the city?" Kunou asked. "The town is in chaos! You've
reduced the flow of business to a light trickle! The government
has declared it a disaster area!"

"They just can't appreciate nature."

"There is nothing natural about this, sister. What you have
done... this... this ATROCITY, it seems... well, impossible,"
Kunou said. "Straight out of a movie with rubbery monsters. How
could something this stupid exist?"

"I don't know, I don't care," Kodachi dismissed. "It
exists, which is enough. Relax, brother dear! I have a plan."

"I do not wish to hear of your plants."

"Not plants, brother, plans. One in particular involves
Akane Tendo..."

"NANI?" Kunou exclaimed.

"Well, I'll have no use for that clumsy girl when I'm done.
Would you like her?" Kodachi grinned.

*

Sasuke watched the spread of chaos from the rooftops.

"It's not right," Sasuke said. "Things just don't GROW that
fast..."

"Master Sasuke," one of his ninja bowed to him. "Second and
third headquarters have been flooded with vines. We are trying
to prevent any identifiable evidence from being left behind
before relocating..."

"Yes, yes, good," Sasuke waved away. "Tell me, how long
have you been in my employ as a ninja team leader?"

"Only a smattering of days, sir."

"Didn't you find it odd to become part of a hundred-man
ninja army, which was formed in that amount of time as well?"

"What?" the ninja asked, blinking from behind his black
pajamas. "Certainly not. You are a capable leader of men, and
could raise an army in such time. Why?"

Sasuke sighed. "Sorry, just my own worries creeping in
again. I would like to make a request. Take a team of three men
and have them tail Kodachi Kunou."

"Your former employer?"

"Hai. Something has gone wrong."

"One would think that the vines would be a sure indication
of that, Ninja Master Sasuke."

"Not the vines, lad," Sasuke laughed heartily. "Something
on a larger scale. Either way, see to it. I want to know her
activities and contacts."

"Do you think she is a threat, master?" the ninja asked.
"We could inhume her cleanly and efficiently--"

"No, no."

"Ah, so she isn't a threat."

"Oh, she's threatening. I just want to find out who she's
threatening," Sasuke said, watching the streets below. "You have
your orders. Farewell."

The ninja nodded, tossed down a smokebomb and vanished.

*

Kodachi was in a new dream. It was, as usual, with Ranma;
Ranma was a permanent structure in any dream she had.

She was dancing with him, to the sickly amusement park
themes of her music box, through a darkened fun park. Rusted
hulks of equipment sagging in the damp breeze, horses that were
never meant to ride hanging from poles, ferris wheels that hadn't
turned in aeons.

"And tomorrow, I shall rid my life of my competition," she
told Ranma. This dream wasn't as surreal as her others. It was
a nice change of pace, the ability to have a quiet, normal
conversation with her Ranma-sama.

"Sounds good to me," Ranma said, twirling her around the
park, to the music. "You know I only want to be with you. The
others, I care for them, but... they annoy me. They are a
bother."

"Oh, I'll remove them for you," Kodachi laughed. "I have
plans. I have the power now, with my vines. How lucky I was to
have them available for my use!"

"Very lucky," Ranma smiled. And when he smiled, the lights
snapped to attention; long dormant light bulbs around the park,
casting down shadows of white and yellow, blinking in harmony
with the music.

"Too lucky," the principal said, sitting on the merry go
round, side saddle as the horse circled endlessly. "Far, far too
lucky, Kodachi-chan."

"Kouchou-sensei!" Kodachi gaped. "What're you doing in this
d--"

The principal put a finger to her lips. "Don't say the D-
word. You'll wake up. You must wake, Kodachi, but not from
this."

"Get out of my fantasy!" Kodachi demanded, leaving Ranma
behind to hop onto the moving merry go round. She stomped after
her principal, but the principal's horse always seemed just a bit
faster... ahead of the pack.

"You haven't realized it. Sasuke has realized most of it,
and he's of a lower mental degree than you," the principal
sighed. "It's too convenient. It's too lucky."

"It's perfect!" Kodachi said, pulling out a black gymnastics
ribbon and lashing it around the pole of her principal's horse.
"It is perfect and I will allow none to ruin it!"

"Can't you hear the beeping?" the principal asked. "Don't
you know what that means? Time is growing short, Kodachi!"

"Good. The sooner I wake, the sooner I lose you!" Kodachi
said, ripping the horse off the merry go round, and casting it
aside.

The principal hopped off at the last second, facing Kodachi.
"That's not what I mean, and you know it. You have to want to
wake up!"

"Alright!" Kodachi yelled, over the incessant beeping.
"This is just a dream and I'm ready to wake up."

"Not THAT d--" the principal called, but she had vanished,
as did the dream, leaving her only with the vision of her in bed,
and the beeping...

She grabbed the beeping alarm clock and threw it out the
window. Kodachi got up, stretching, facing the new morning.

"Stupid dreams," she said. "Just a side affect of my lovely
flower. Oh well."

A vine flowed into the window of her room, carrying her
alarm clock with it. Kodachi smiled and accepted the gift,
putting it back on her nightstand.

*

Kodachi had Purpose today.

She carried with her a clipboard, reading :

TO DO :
[ ] Shampoo
[ ] Ukyou
[ ] Akane
[ ] Pig-tailed girl

First stop -- Nekohanten. Ryouga had planted a few seeds
here, and that had multiplied when apparently the owners decided
to try cutting their way out. Foolish people, you can't stop my
pretties! Kodachi laughed inwardly.

"Hellooooo!" Kodachi called, peeking through the mess of
vines at the door of the restaurant. "Anybody home?"

Shampoo looked up from her task of clearing the tables of
overgrowth. "Nekohanten closed. Go eat somewhere else. Gomen."

"Ohohohohoho! I haven't come to eat," Kodachi grinned.

Shampoo examined her. "You that insane gymnastic girl who
after Shampoo's groom! What you want?"

"Revenge," Kodachi smiled.

"If fight you want, Shampoo always ready!"

"Of course you are. You and your barbarian ways. Ranma
deserves one of high society, not a primitive such as you!"

"SHIIINE!!" Shampoo shouted, charging Kodachi.

"Darlings, restrain this one," Kodachi said, pointing to
Shampoo.

Shampoo blinked, as suddenly the vines which had done little
more than grow and get in the way snapped to life, whipping
around her to grab her arms. She pulled mightily and snapped
them, but for every one she ripped through, two more joined the
ranks. Soon, she was practically mummified in flora.

"Ohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohoho!"
Kodachi laughed, allowing herself the extra time to make it a
really GOOD laugh. "Where are you now, without your weapons and
tricks, silly one?"

"How you make plant move??" Shampoo demanded, trying to pull
herself free.

"Just a little trick of mine. Now, if I recall, you're the
stubborn one. I don't think I'm going to be able to get near
Ranma with you running loose... so I'm afraid I'll have to
dispose of you here."

"NANI?" Shampoo exclaimed.

"Darlings, please extend your gentle hug to that one's neck
for me," Kodachi said. "Ta ta, Shampoo."

"STUPID GI--" Shampoo started, before the vines reached up
and wrapped themselves around her neck.

Kodachi bounced out of the restaurant, laughing. Shampoo
pulled, ripping vines away, until she had her limbs free; but the
ones which had been holding her arms joined the ones on her neck.
She pulled and pulled, but couldn't get all of them off, not
quickly enough... the vines hoisted her up off the floor,
gripping onto the ceiling... her vision started to get fuzzy...

Shampoo fell to the ground, something whizzing through the
air above her. And in an instant, an angel in white descended
onto her and carefully cut the vines away from her neck, pulling
her out of the restaurant...

Shampoo coughed, wheezing, getting her breath back. She
reached up and clung to her unknown savior, until she realized it
was just Mousse. So she slugged him.

"Stupid Mousse!" she barked.

"This is the thanks I get for saving your life?" Mousse
grumbled. "Itai..."

Cologne poked at the vines that were now filling the
restaurant with her staff. "Unusual business, this. You're
lucky Mousse forgot to bring money for the market, or we wouldn't
have come back in time."

"Shampoo go find Kodachi and hurt her seventy different
way!" Shampoo declared. "She try kill Shampoo so have Ranma for
herself!"

"No," Cologne said.

"No? What great grandmother mean, no?"

"If the growth which has infested Tokyo is Kodachi's doing,
then it is a power too strong to stop with means available. One
must build a strength that is greater if they can hope to
overcome such a situation. We must go back to China."

"RETREAT? After what she's done?!" Mousse exclaimed.
"Never! I'll fight her to my last dying brea--"

Cologne bonked Mousse with her staff. "Not a retreat, you
fool, a regrouping. I said with means AVAILABLE. I have a
plan."

"What about Ranma?" Shampoo asked.

"Son-in-law can handle himself," Cologne said. "But still,
let us hurry, ne?"

"Shampoo going do something first, then we leave," Shampoo
said, taking a single step towards the door. "Umm. Restaurant
seem not safe place to be. We go stationery store around corner,
yes?"

*

TO DO :
[X] Shampoo
[ ] Ukyou
[ ] Akane
[ ] Pig-tailed Girl

Kodachi whistled her music box tune, placing a black X in
the appropriate box. One down. She would have liked to avoid
any messy carnage, but that one... she could be dangerous. She
DID show in town with intention of killing her dear Ranma-sama,
after all. Oh well, out of sight, out of mind.

The next on the list would be that low-bred tart, Ukyou.
She wouldn't have to be removed, but certainly dealt with...
Kodachi figured she would decide what to do when the time came.
After all, she had--

Kodachi froze in her tracks. Just ahead, walking along the
street, was that little girl. That nameless enigma, the
principal's spy...

"You there!" Kodachi called out. "Stop!"

The little girl turned to look, saw Kodachi, yelped. She
took off running, as fast as her little feet would carry her.
Kodachi pursued... until she realized she didn't have to bother.

"Sweetie?" she said to a vine, which nodded in recognition.
"If you could... see that little brat? Fetch her, bring her to
the mansion and hold her. I have other business to attend to."

The vine nodded, gathered others and took off in pursuit.
Kodachi smiled. They made such lovely servants, the vines...
powerful, strong, unable to disagree, unable to be stopped.
Perfect, perfect. Like a gift from the heavens...

That thought line stopped as she reached the door to that
other restaurant, Ucchan's. Why does Ranma-sama like these chef-
types? There's no future in marketed food... besides, *I* can
cook just fine, no, better than them...

Kodachi sighed. She might be highly intelligent, but there
were some things that escaped even her.

She wandered into the restaurant, parting the cheap curtains
with a hand so they wouldn't touch her delicate face. This place
wasn't nearly as overrun with vines... perhaps because they were
on the plates, instead of on the floor.

Kodachi recoiled in horror. Unlike the previous restaurant,
which saw the vines as a nuisance, this one had... had... turned
them into the dish of the day!!

"Konnichi wa!" Ukyou waved, from the griddle. "Welcome to
Ucchan's. Today's special is vine okonomiya... oh. Kodachi.
Hello."

"You're EATING my vines!!" Kodachi exclaimed. Several
customers paused in eating, noticing Kodachi for the first time.
More than several, really; this was one of the only restaurants
open in a three mile radius and was doing a booming business.

"Well, it was either that or shut down for the day," Ukyou
said. "Considering that I'm living alone, I can't afford to lose
a days' business. Besides, with the ones around the restaurant
and the ones I've planted, I'll never run out of ingredients!
Would you like a dish of the day, or just the way to the door?"

"That tears it! Darlings! Rip this place apart!" Kodachi
called. Nothing moved. Not a single vine was left alive to hear
her.

"Darlings?" Ukyou asked.

"You mean you've killed and served up EVERY vine in the
place?" Kodachi gaped.

"Well, what else was I going to do with them?" Ukyou asked.

Kodachi frowned. No. This wasn't how it was supposed to
work at all; it was supposed to be a repeat of the Nekohanten
episode, her and her lovely plants storming in, overpowering the
weak girl and showing her who's boss. She would NOT put up with
this. It was unacceptable.

And then, the vines on the plate moved, coming to life.
Kodachi smiled; THIS was more like it.

The customers freaked out and ran like only a Tokyo crowd
really can, the kind of crowd that's used to fleeing in terror
from men in large rubber monster costumes. Within seconds, the
place was empty, and the long, wound up strands of vine were
crawling off pancake bases all over the restaurant, heeding
Kodachi's call.

"What the--?" Ukyou exclaimed, in surprise.

"I can't let anything get in the way of my dreams. NOTHING!
Darlings, get her!" Kodachi called, pointing to Ukyou.

Ukyou cursed, and pulled out her mega-spatula, slicing away.
But now, the vines were alive and growing, restoring themselves
to their previous lengths. The more she cut, the more vines were
made, as they twisted and turned to get a hold on her.
Eventually, they had the girl immobilized.

"Now, this is more like it," Kodachi said. "Justice finally
comes to the cook-girl, and I didn't even have to lift a finger.
Ah, why can't life always be this good? Ohohohohoohohohohoho!"

"So what now?" Ukyou asked, glaring down at Kodachi from her
place, tangled up among her grill equipment. "Am I supposed to
cringe in fear at your weeds and beg for my survival?"

"Dear, you need not beg. I... I believe I have need of a
good chef at my estate," Kodachi smiled. "Yes, a nice serving
wench would be appreciated. After all, I'll be at Ranma-sama's
side all day, and probably won't have time to cater to the petty
details of household management..."

"I get it now. Kodachi breeds new killer plants to snatch
my Ran-chan away from me," Ukyou laughed. "I don't think it's
going to work."

"It will," Kodachi said. "Your only chance of survival is
to submit to my will. Do you yield?"

"Go kiss a cactus," Ukyou suggested. "You know, what just
happened in here is impossible. Dead and cooked plants can't
come back to life."

"Impossible, but it happened, so who cares about the
details?" Kodachi said.

"But it's not true, Kodachi," Ukyou said, voice dropping to
more cautious tones. Worried tones. "You know it's not... come
on... you've got to stop this."

Kodachi glared. "Stop talking nonsense. Darlings, please
take this servant back to the mansion and fit her for a proper
underling uniform."

Ukyou thrashed against the vines, regaining her spirit.
That was more like it; the girl had spunk, at least, if not
brains, class or social status. Kodachi smiled, and checked off
another box on her list.

*

Sick Kodachi using plants take over town and get rid of
other fiancees and get you. Gone to China, will save
you when get back... you be alive when Shampoo get back
or Shampoo kill you!

Love, Shampoo

XXXOOXOXOOXXXOOOX

"Alright, what's the meaning of this?" Ranma said, flashing
the poorly-written letter the dojo had just received via duck-
courier at Ryouga.

"I told you, I helped her plant seeds all over town," Ryouga
said. "I didn't know what they were gonna do, alright?! Get off
my back, Saotome!"

"Ranma! Ryouga! Dinner will be ready soon!" Kasumi called,
pushing a few green strands out of the way to lean into the
living room. "It's vine again. The market is closed."

"Anyway, this means she's going to be coming here... for me,
AND Akane," Ranma said. "Not good. Hrm... well... these stupid
trees--"

"Vines, you idiot. Trees are made of wood."

"So's your head, Ryouga. Anyway, they don't look THAT
threatening."

"You didn't see what I saw," Ryouga said. "They can obey
her commands... like tentacles in a bad horror anime. It's a lot
freakier in real life, though. They're STRONG, too; I saw them
ripping up the street just to have more room to grow on the way
over here..."

"Ranma? What's going on?" Akane asked, wandering over from
the Dojo, carrying a stained pair of gardening shears. "By the
way, no luck in cleaning out the dojo. Cutting them doesn't seem
to help."

"Read this," Ranma said, passing the note to Akane.

Akane browsed it lightly, then slammed Ranma's head into the
floor with a wooden mallet. "BAKA! This is no time to be
getting love letters from Shampoo!!!"

Ranma got up, ignoring the hammer jutting out of the top of
his head at a jaunty angle. "JEEZ, did you even read it? It's
TROUBLE! Kodachi's coming this way to get rid of you and claim
me for her own!"

"Oh," Akane said. She paused, considered apologizing,
rejected the idea out of instinct and simply nodded along.
"Well, what can we do?"

"You can get out of here," Ranma suggested.

"What? But I couldn't possibly--"

"Akane, she's got a thundering horde of mindless tubewormish
demons under her control. Tokyo isn't safe... Ryouga, if you
even SMILE at my next sentence, it will go badly for you. Got
it?"

"Uh... yeah?" Ryouga asked, confused.

"I want you to take Akane and go," Ranma said.

"NANI?!?!" Akane exclaimed.

"Really, Ranma? You're not joking?" Ryouga asked.

"No, I'm not. We need her to get out of sight... maybe if
she leaves, Kodachi won't hurt her. And the best way to lose
Kodachi is to get lost yourself, and frankly, you're an expert at
that."

"Hold on a second here!" Akane said. "I'm making a stand
with you. You can't just roll over and let her do this!"

"Of course I'm not going to!" Ranma argued. "I just don't
want your clumsy body in the way when I gotta face her down,
that's all!"

"CLUMSY? I'll have you know that I'm... uh... nevermind!
I'm not going to run when danger shows!" Akane yelled back.

"I don't want you getting killed, okay? Kodachi is SICK!"
Ranma said. "Very sick... in fact, quite sick... in trouble...
uh... where was I?"

"I think you were on getting killed," Akane glowered.

Ranma nodded. Odd train of thought, that... Ranma bopped
the side of his head a few times to clear his head. Must
concentrate on present. Ignore strange repetitive noises.

"Anyway, yeah, getting killed," Ranma nodded.

"What makes you think she'd try?" Akane asked.

"Because she almost killed Shampoo," Sasuke said.

Everybody blinked.

"Sorry, I ran out of smoke bombs, so I had to settle for
sneaking in," Sasuke said, bowing. "Anyway, I saw the whole
thing. Or rather, my spies did. She attacked, strangled and
almost killed Shampoo."

"That's... not like her," Akane said.

"I know. She's not acting right. It's like her id is in
control," Sasuke said.

"Since when do you even know what an id is, you punk?" Ranma
asked, grabbing Sasuke by the shirt. (Ranma didn't know what an
id was either, but hey.) "And where do you get off sneaking into
our house? Spying on us for Kunou?"

"Forgive me," Sasuke said, grabbing Ranma by the shirt as
well and mauling the boy in a matter of 2.335 seconds.

"..." Ranma said, before collapsing.

Sasuke sighed. "I knew it. I've gotten better... but that
makes sense. Look, Akane, it's for the best if you get out of
here. Something big is going to occur and this is ground zero.
If you and Ryouga like, I can have my ninja army escort you
safely outside city limits, and keep a guard posted with you to
relay messages."

"Ninja army?" Ryouga asked, confused. "Since when did you
have a ninja army?"

"Since always," Sasuke said. "Don't you remember?"

"Uh... yeah!" Ryouga said, comprehension crossing his face.
"I almost forgot Sasuke's ninja army, wow. How's the captain of
the guard doing? Thank him for showing me home last month,
please."

It's even modifying the memories of the players around us,
Sasuke thought. This has to end. It wouldn't truly matter where
Akane went, but still... best to keep appearances.

"Trust me when I say danger is here," Sasuke said. "Please,
Akane-sama. Tatewaki-sama thinks highly of you, and would be
very displeased if you were to be hurt. Even though I am no
longer on his employ, I understand his heart."

"But... I mean, I can't just run..." Akane muttered.

Sasuke looked around to make sure nobody was listening, and
leaned forward to whisper. "I'm organizing... it's not really a
resistance movement, but I'm trying to stop Kodachi's madness.
You would be of more use outside, where it is safe, when we
finally strike."

"Oh, I get it!" Ryouga grinned. "You need us to wait and
help in the final strike?"

"Something like that, yes. I have a guard waiting to escort
you," Sasuke nodded.

"What about Ranma?" Akane asked. "He's a target too..."

"He'll be fine. He's the last person Kodachi-sama wants to
hurt," Sasuke said. "Now, go. The officer outside will lead
you."

"Alright... I don't like this, but alright," Akane nodded.
"Come on, Ryouga."

"Okay!" Ryouga beamed. With Akane-san... away from
society... wow! "Lead the way! Please."

With that, the two left.

No, what happened to Akane now wouldn't matter. There was a
guard, but where they went was moot. All that mattered was that
she was out of the room, so Sasuke could prove a theory... I must
hide to witness this in secrecy, Sasuke thought. He faded into
the shadows of the room, concealing himself perfectly. If only I
could do that normally, he mused.

"Ranma-sama..." Kodachi's voice called, quietly. The vines
shifted, aware of her approach, until she finally wandered in.
The messy network of plants parted themselves automatically to
allow her to pass, and see Ranma's passed out body.

"..." Ranma said, eyelids fluttering.

"Oh no!" Kodachi cried out, grabbing Ranma and clutching him
to her chest with a GLOMP. "You're wounded! I bet that Tendo
girl did this! If I ever find her..."

"It's okay..." Ranma said, coming to. "I got her to leave."

"You did? That's great! Are you sure it's forever?"

"Probably," Ranma said, straightening out his shirt. "It's
better this way, right? Now we can be alone, without needing to
slaughter everybody to do it."

"Yes, yes!" Kodachi beamed, overflowing with joy. "Alone at
last!"

"Inseparable," Ranma said, taking her by the shoulders.
"I'll never leave your side again, Kodachi-sama. We have won
against all odds."

Sasuke's jaw nearly hit the floor. He was expecting this,
but... that didn't make it any less weird.

"No! You mustn't, master!" a high pitched voice called from
the hallway.

Ranma-chan stepped in.

Sasuke crashed to the floor in a massive facefault. He
cursed himself for losing track of his stealth, and prayed that
nobody had noticed that. There were two Ranmas here! It...
well, it was a fact he was always reluctant to tell to Tatewaki-
sama, for fear of the boy's mental health (and rage), but Sasuke
knew of the curse...

And he knew there shouldn't be two Ranmas. But there were;
the little redhaired one looking absolutely pitiful, like a puppy
that has been kicked by its master.

"Please, don't leave me!" the girl begged. "I know that
Kodachi is more beautiful than I can ever hope to be, but what of
your heart? What of my needs? What of our meaningless nights of
debauchery?"

"Eh, stuff it," Ranma said. "You were never very good.
Hasta la vista. Come on, Ko-chan, let's settle into our new
home."

"Oh, Ranma..." Kodachi pined, resting her head on his
shoulder as they left. Sasuke finally got the nerve to step out
of the shadows.

"Who're you?" he asked the girl.

"Eh? Me?" the girl said, losing her demure manner
instantly. "I'm Ranma Saotome, why?"

"Wasn't that other boy who was here Ranma Saotome?" Sasuke
asked.

"What other boy? I just got here."

"It's getting far more warped from reality with every move
she makes..." Sasuke muttered to himself.

"Eh?"

"Nothing. I'd better go. Thank you for your hospitality,"
Sasuke bowed, before vanishing with his newly obtained but
supposedly there all the time magical ninja powers.

*

"Oh, Ranma, you were wonderful," Kodachi smiled, hugging her
dear tight in bed.

"I aim to please. Anything for my lovely Ko-chan," Ranma
smiled. "Did you arrange for the video of our lovemaking to be
piped into Ukyou's cell to show her I never truly loved her the
way I do you?"

"But of course!" Kodachi smiled. "Hmmm. This reminds me.
I'm afraid I have some business to attend to, dear."

"Darn. I was about to show you the venus butterfly," Ranma
complained.

"Oh, it can wait, silly!" Kodachi laughed. "Ohohohhohho!"

"I love it when you laugh."

"So do I," Kodachi smiled, pulling on her luxurious new
robes. "Be right back for more fun."

With that, she blew him a kiss and headed out the door.

Kunou Mansion had changed quite a bit. Most of Ranma's
stuff had been moved in, so that he could feel right at home; and
there wasn't a speck of dust in the entire place, now that they
had Ukyou as a servant. She was MUCH better at domestics than
that horrible little Sasuke man, who hadn't shown his face since
long ago.

Another addition was the dungeon. True, Kodachi always had
her toys (and of course, Midorgame) hidden away in the basement,
but they never had proper cells. No need for them, really. Now
they had two nice prisoners, their new serving girl and that
other one.

The other one was behind the door Kodachi was unlocking now.
We'd uncover her mystery soon, Kodachi thought.

The girl was cowering in her disgustingly cute school
uniform, in the back of the cell. She was always so afraid, this
one. So weak and afraid. Of course, being tossed into a cell by
mutant plants probably didn't help.

"Hello, little girl!" Kodachi smiled, causing the girl to
cower even more. "I'd like to just ask you a few questions, then
you can get out of here and run to your mommy and daddy. Would
you like that?"

"Mommy's dead," the girl said.

"Okay, then to your daddy, for all I care. First, the
questions. What were you doing outside dear Kouchou-sensei's
office?"

"Waiting," the girl said.

"Waiting for what?"

"I dunno."

"Well, that's not very helpful, is it? What were you
waiting for? Were you waiting to deliver a report on me? Are
you spying on me for her? Why is she so interested in my
behaviors outside the school?"

The girl just cried. Obviously, she was traumatized in some
way, and thus a completely useless source of information.

"I suppose I won't be getting much out of you," Kodachi
sighed. "Very well. Darlings, please escort this one off Kunou
Mansion grounds. And dear, be a good little girl and never come
back, okay?"

The girl nodded, being lifted gently and carried away by a
few vines. Kodachi turned and exited the cell, and was about to
head upstairs when she noticed the second cell door... and
smiled.

Kodachi unlocked the door to Ukyou's cell and stepped
inside. She didn't need to worry about her newest toy getting
away; her darlings could always return strays.

"So, enjoying the film?" Kodachi asked, smiling and pointing
to the unbreakable monitor she had installed in the ceiling. "I
hope you realize now that there's no hope for you and your...
what do you call him? 'Ran-chan?' That's a cute name."

But Ukyou wasn't behaving according to pattern. She should
be crying her eyes out, after seeing her true love with another
woman...

"Oh, hi there!" Ukyou waved. "How are things?"

"Not the least bit upset about our version of the late
show?" Kodachi asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh, that," Ukyou laughed. "Well, at first. Then I
realized I didn't have to, or rather, I was told not to worry."

"Told? By whom, pray tell?"

"The girl in the cell next door," Ukyou said, pointing to
the air conditioning vent. "Sound carries."

"Odd. She didn't tell me anything."

"Maybe because she hates you. Me, she's more open with.
You see, Kodachi, I don't need to worry about anything anymore,
because this isn't really happening," Ukyou grinned.

"Nani?"

"It's very simple. I'm not here, and that isn't my Ran-
chan. I don't care what you do with that boy. Engage in all
your fantasies, I don't mind watching. He's a stranger to me."

Kodachi smiled. Good, the girl had cracked! Either that,
or she had given up on Ranma-sama. Either way, great.

"I'm glad to see you're adjusting. Now, please, go clean
the toilets. With your tongue."

"Naah."

"Naah?"

"Naah," Ukyou repeated. "I don't have to, because this
isn't happening. Heck, even if you killed me, no big deal! One
less puppet in the puppet show, you know? I'll just sit here and
stare at the wall, or watch Letterman or something. Don't mind
me."

"When I say WORK, you will WORK," Kodachi warned. "Or face
the penalty."

"No penalties can touch me," Ukyou said. "I'm not even
here."

"It's amusing that you've gone insane, dear, but it doesn't
excuse you from work."

"No," Ukyou said.

"If you will not work, then you will be tortured!" Kodachi
screamed, stamping her foot. "Darlings! Take this wretched
being off to the rack, string her up and apply needles!"

Ukyou shrugged, getting carried off. "You're only digging
yourself deeper, Kodachi! You're going to have to stop this
soon, before it stops you! Listen to the beeping! LISTEN TO THE
BEEPING!"

"I'll listen to your screams!" Kodachi laughed.
"Ohohohhohohohoho. This I think I will watch."

*

Kodachi slumped back to her bedroom, sighing.

"Problem?" Ranma asked, looking up from his copy of the kama
sutra.

"I just tortured Ukyou severely and I still don't feel any
better," Kodachi whined. "Rub my shoulders, Ranma-sama, while I
think of ways to entertain myself."

"If you want, I can go downstairs and whip her myself,"
Ranma suggested.

"No, I think the poor girl's mind has gone. Nothing will
bring that back. She keeps babbling on and on about stupid,
meaningless things... it's such a shame, the inability to get
proper labor nowadays."

"Tell me about it. I could ask Kasumi. She's quite nice
and wouldn't need any of the force you have to apply to Ukyou,"
Ranma said.

"I'll consider it," Kodachi sighed.

"Something vexing you?"

"I just... feel distant. Like something's missing from the
picture."

"Why? You have me," Ranma said, rubbing Kodachi's
shoulders. "I'll do anything for you. You have your plant
warriors, able to solve any problem for you. I'd say you have it
made."

"Oh, hai. It all went according to plan. Most of it, at
least," Kodachi nodded. "I need more, though. Maybe we should
move. Take over a small country, dominate it and live like
gods?"

"Sounds good to me," Ranma nodded.

"It's a shame mother isn't alive to see this. How proud of
her daughter she would be," Kodachi said.

*

"So that's the story, huh?" Sasuke said.

"About so," the principal of St. Hebereke nodded. "You've
been more receptive than Kodachi was. It helps that you never
knew me as Kouchou-sensei. I thank you for returning the little
girl to me, by the way. She really doesn't belong in this
nightmarish world."

"But in a way, she does, right? I mean, if it's all--"

"Well, she belongs HERE, but I wish she didn't have to see
this," the principal said. "So, Sasuke, what are you going to do
now?"

"The only thing I can do," Sasuke said. "Disband the ninja
army. Destroy the headquarters and lose my political contacts.
Get rid of everything I've built up for myself..."

"Quite a loss."

"If it's the only way out of this, then I'll go back to
being the clumsy, stupid little man I was. I want my life more
than I want this... this TWISTED version of success," Sasuke
said. He got up, and bowed to the principal. "Thank you for
your information."

"You're a good man, Sasuke, no matter what your skill level
or luck," the woman smiled. "If you could, there is one last
favor I'd like to request of you."

"Which is?"

"I need transportation for two into the mansion," she said,
pointing to the vine-encrusted visage of Kunou Mansion. "I need
to stop them before it's too late for Kodachi."

*

Ranma and Kodachi kissed for the nth time that evening,
after making love for the n^2th time that evening.

"Do you want more, my dear?" Ranma asked.

"Oh, I'm so tired..." Kodachi yawned. "I think rest is
required now. Tomorrow, let's spend the day conquering our new
domain of Tokyo and the evening like this. Mustn't concentrate
too hard on one or the other."

"As usual, your ideas are wonderful, Ko-chan."

"Of course," Kodachi smiled, reaching for her flower.

"What's that?" Ranma asked.

"This is my Happy Flower," Kodachi said, petting the rose
atop its petals. "It helps me sleep and have happy dreams."

"What a wonderful idea! Can I use it too? Maybe we'll even
have the same dream."

"Certainly, Ranma-sama," Kodachi smiled, lifting the flower
over to Ranma. He inhaled deeply, and fell back onto the pillow,
a blissful expression on his face.

Kodachi smiled. He's so adorable sleeping and prone. She
inhaled the flower herself, and drifted away...

...to nothing.

Unusual. The flower always had a new, original concept
dream waiting for her when she arrived, not a void. And where
was Ranma-sama?

Finally, the dream unfolded... hazing into her mind, drug
taking affect as it always did. She found herself in a nice rose
garden, divided off by crisscross wood fences, forming wonderful
gridlike patterns of roses...

But not Ranma. She wandered around, calling his name,
wondering where he went. It's not good to spent time out in the
rain like this... then again, it WAS a dream. Dreams can't hurt
you.

She found someone, but it wasn't Ranma.

"You!" she exclaimed. The little girl, the yellow and white
clad girl who never wanted to talk, kneeling down to examine a
dead, black rose.

The girl turned her head, looking back up at Kodachi.

"What are you doing in my dreams?" Kodachi asked. "Out! I
want to spend time with Ranma-sama, not you!"

"She is you," the principal said, stepping her way around
the rose grids. "Look at this place. Don't you recognize it?"

"It's a garden," Kodachi said, shrugging. "So?"

"It's the garden where you left part of yourself behind,"
the principal said. "The part that was afraid, the part that
loved her mother and missed her. The part that wanted to wear
the nice clothes--"

"Mommy!" the little girl cried out, running to the principal
and hugging her. The principal patted the girl's head, motherly.

"Mommy?" Kodachi gasped. "You... you... no. You're my
principal. You are not my dead mother!"

"Your real principal isn't a woman, Kodachi. Remember? Or
have you twisted your fantasy around to accept my presence in
your mind as something you can understand, like you twisted the
presence of the 'pigtailed girl' around?"

"I don't understand... you're dead!"

"So are you," Mrs. Kunou said. "Or will be. Please,
Kodachi, you have to wake up. Stop hurting yourself like this."

"I will! My alarm clock will beep at--"

"Not that!" Kodachi's mother protested. "This is your dream
in a dream. Your world, the one where you and Ranma are
together, the one where you've driven out or conquered all your
rivals, that's the dream! I tried to help you understand before,
but you couldn't... you had placed me into a position in your
dream that you could ignore. The words of a sensei. I hoped
maybe seeing yourself at age seven would help... she belongs
here, in your mind, but in this dream she's even more scared than
she was the night you lost her."

"I don't... I don't understand, mom... I'm dying?" Kodachi
asked, going pale.

"It was the flower," the little girl said, getting the nerve
to speak. "You made a way to be happy with a flower..."

"But you miscalculated the drug's effectiveness. It should
have stopped making you fantasize and draw plot lines in your
dreams after several hours, yes?" Mother asked.

"Yes! It stopped... Sasuke slapped me..."

"He was caught in this shared dream as well, gaining power,
status, and skill beyond his imagination. Both of you inhaled
that flower. He has left now, but you remain. The drug lasts
years, Kodachi! Not hours! And if you don't come out of it
soon, you'll die in reality."

"Why are you telling me this? I don't want to hear it!"
Kodachi shouted. "This is my life. This is where I'm happy! So
what if I die? If I go back the way I was, I might never have my
Ranma-sama..."

"I'm the part of you that respects life above all else,
Kotchy," Mother said. "I'm the part that wants you to wake up.
There will be other chances. You have to give up on your dream
now, because it may destroy you..."

"Please!" the little girl begged. "I know you don't care
about me anymore, but I'll die too if you go! I don't want
everybody out there to be sad. I had to calm down the puppet you
made of Ukyou, soothe her worry by telling her what was going on,
but I can't help anybody outside this!"

"What if I don't want to stop this?" Kodachi asked. "How
long will I have before I die? I don't want to stop it just yet,
I have so much to do... people to see, places to conquer--"

"It's not a question of how long, daughter. It's started to
degrade already. Your mind is causing more and more
inconsistencies to keep you happy. Vines that can reincarnate
themselves after cooking? The vines, period, and the impossible
DNA strand that gave you your tools to make your dream real.
Your easy defeat of your rivals, after you've already tried so
hard. It'll break down, getting more and more weird, until there
isn't anything left but a tiny spark of joy, which will go out.
Without Sasuke as a mental anchor, your dream will confuse itself
and defy truth farther and farther--"

"I don't care!" Kodachi screamed. "Go away! I want to be
with Ranma! Get out of my DREAM!"

With that, the walls of the dream started to crumble. They
were shaky at best, but the added strain of conscious thought
caved them in.

Mother held her little girl protectively, and faced Kodachi
for one last time. "I know you'll understand what you have to
do, my daughter. You were always the bright one of the family.
Just try to understand it before there is no time left..."

Then came the beeping of the alarm clock, or of some other
beep-source, Kodachi didn't care. She thrashed awake, back to
her mansion with Ranma at her side and threw the clock hard
enough to shatter it against the walls, silencing the beep
forever.

*

"Why are we going so soon?" Ranma asked, packing a travel
bag. "I thought we were going to conquer Japan first, then move
on to the third world nations..."

"I want to do it sooner, okay?" Kodachi said.

"And this morning. We made love seventy times. Why so
much, so soon? Don't you want to enjoy it over a longer period
of ti--"

"We might not HAVE time," Kodachi said. "We need to hurry.
We need to go and live out our lives."

"First day of the rest of your life, eh?" Ranma smiled.
"Okay, I can understand. I have the helicopter waiting at the
amusement park."

"Amusement park?" Kodachi asked.

"Come on, you know. It's the place we've been living all
these years," Ranma said, wandering past the tilt-a-whirl. "I
love the atmosphere... the innocent fun, betrayed by rust damage
and vines..."

"We didn't live here... or... no, we did..." Kodachi said,
filling in the memory gap with happy memories. Memories of
family picnics, of riding the rides, of nights under the stars
with romance in the air and that wonderful organ music...

"We should stay here," Ranma said, dropping the bag and
holding Kodachi. "This is paradise. We don't need society, it
can just crumble without us... to live together, in the park,
doing as we please. Utopia."

"Oh, yes..." Kodachi said, joyfully. "Cast off the world
and live like we were the last two people on earth..."

"We are, remember?" Ranma said. "They dropped the bomb, and
this was the only place to survive?"

"They did?"

"Of course. It was after they arrested and executed Akane,
Ukyou, Shampoo and the pig-tailed girl for selling plans for the
atom bomb to those terrorists--"

"Ohohohohohoho! They did get what for!" Kodachi laughed.
"Umm. Shouldn't we be dead from radiation poisoning?"

"Of course not. As an Aes Sedai, you used your powers to
protect us and the park," Ranma said, making a sweeping arm
gesture to the broken down funhouse, and the radioactive
wastelands outside it. "We're alone. Nobody to bother us."

"But I want SOME people! Let's go humiliate the servants
more."

"I am your servant," Ranma said, bowing. "Whatever you
wish, I will do. If you want to humiliate me, I will enjoy the
humiliation. Hurt me, I like it."

"Hmmm... let me get my ribbon-- no, wait. There should be
SOME people around. What of the americans and their bomb
shelters from the 1960s?" Kodachi asked.

"Oh, of course there are the survivors. Mutated and
unworthy of being called humans," Ranma said, kicking a three-
eyed Shampoo away. "Let's do with them as we please. Can you
hear the music, Ko-chan?"

"The music..." Kodachi breathed, listening to the pipe
organs play, the wonderfully broken pipe organs, with the beeping
pulse beat... "Beep?"

"What beep? I hear no beeps," Ranma said.

"I DISTINCTLY hear beeping..." Kodachi said, trying to find
the direction of the noise. The world around her, her vision
itself was pulsing with the beep... no, that was just the sun's
solar flares from the accident with the... no, it was the bad
lighting, it strobed a lot and wasn't anything to worry about...

"It is beeping!" Kodachi said, as the world blinked on and
off around her. She concentrated on the sound, ignoring all
attempts by her logic center to rationalize what could be causing
it, what could be causing the vision of herself on a hospital
bed, hooked up to tubes and wires, while the life monitor next to
her beeped away, slowly, beeping...

Kodachi stood, horrified, at the sight that strobed in and
out of the amusement park view. She was dying... on a bed and
dying. Ranma was there, holding her hand, worried, as was
brother dear... even the rivals, even Shampoo, Akane and Ukyou...
they all looked worried.

Only one of them wasn't watching Kodachi's chemically
damaged form intently, following the beeps of her heart pulse.
It was Sasuke, awake but in bad shape, wheeling around an IV. He
was starting right at Kodachi, right at the dream-Kodachi that
was watching from the sidelines.

"End it now," Sasuke said. "You have to."

"Ko-sama!" Ranma called, from behind her. "I have the
picnic ready!"

"NO!" Kodachi yelled, pointing to the Ranma at her hospital
bedside. "THAT is my Ranma-sama. I don't care if you love me,
you're a stranger to me! Get out of my head!"

"You don't love me anymore?" Ranma asked, blinking. "Oh!
Yes, your mood swings. You'll be normal in no time, according to
the doctors that survived the bomb. Relax and take six deep
breaths--"

"It's this, isn't it?" Kodachi said, holding up her Happy
Flower. "This is keeping me under. Well, I don't need it any
more to sleep. In fact, it's high time I woke up!"

With that, Kodachi dashed the pot against the floor,
shattering it.

The amusement park ripped itself apart, dying strands of the
organ fading away. With every beep of her life support
equipment, another layer was torn; the mutants left, the
wasteland restored, the mansion back in place, Ranma gone, the
vines shriveling up and dying--

"We said we'd be back," Mousse grinned, continuing to spray
her vines with herbicide.

"We're quite lucky to have this in stock back at the
village," Cologne nodded. "Now we can clean up this mess and go
back to normal."

"Shampoo forgive stupid girl for trying to kill because girl
is insane," Shampoo said, helping her family and adoptive family
kill the weeds around Tokyo. "But no try again!"

"Oh, that's much better," Kodachi said. "Goodbye, stupid
vines! You were never meant to be, anyway. Ranma! I'm back,
Ranma! I'm not going to die!"

"That's wonderful, Kodachi!" Ranma said, holding her close.
"You're not going to die. You're safe and sound now, and I'll
never let you get hurt again."

"Thank you, Ranma-sama..." Kodachi said, melting into the
hug.

But the beeping was still there. Kodachi blinked, and
looked behind her, back at the hospital bed where she still lay.

No! She had gotten out, hadn't she? The flower was no
more, shattered on the ground... or was it that she could never
escape? She had to!

"I don't want to die!" Kodachi yelled.

"You won't, you won't," Ranma said. "Everything is fine
now. Stop this needless worry. I'm here for you..."

That's when she saw the flower, broken at her feet, pulsing
with the beep like some parody of the human heart. It was still
alive.

With great effort, Kodachi pushed Ranma aside, and stomped
on the flower. Something inside her head exploded, and she
tumbled, out of the fantasy and into deeper waters still...

*

Kodachi's eyes opened. There was the beep, but it wasn't
pervasive, overpowering her... it was a gentle beep, coming from
the stack of electronic equipment to her right.

"Kodachi?" Ranma said. "Kodachi? DOC! DOC, GET IN HERE!
She's coming around!"

"Ranma?" Kodachi asked. "Is this... am I really back, or am
I still dreaming?"

"I think this is reality, dear sister," Kunou said. "This
should teach you not to be so careless with your silly little
chemistry set. You almost fried good Sasuke's brain."

"Uh, yeah," Sasuke grinned stupidly. "I'm feeling better
now, I think. Are you okay, Kodachi-sama?"

"You called to me, didn't you?" Kodachi said, propping
herself painfully up on her elbows. "At the end, you told me to
end it."

"Huh?" Sasuke said, a look of total non-comprehension
crossing his face.

"Nevermind, Sasuke. Such concepts are above your mental
level," Kodachi sighed. "I feel so... tired."

"Well, I'm just glad you're alive now," Ranma said. "The
whole town's been worried sick."

"I thought the whole town believed me to be a freak of
nature," Kodachi said.

"Ah, but you are our freak of nature, sister," Kunou smiled.

Kodachi matched the smile. "Hai. Is it safe to go back to
sleep? I mean... I'm so tired..."

"It should be fine now," Doctor Tofu said, appearing at her
side. "Once you recover the first time, the drug shouldn't be
strong enough to pull you back under. I'd recommend rest,
really. Could everybody clear out of the room? My patient needs
relaxation, not a football huddle."

"Can Ranma-sama stay?" Kodachi asked.

"Uhhh..." Ranma said, looking to Akane to see if she was
about to clobber him. Akane simply shrugged, indicating that she
didn't think it'd be a problem. Certain allowances had to be
made for the ill.

"Please, Ranma-sama?" Kodachi begged.

"Alright," Ranma said. "But only until you go to sleep.
We're all missing school, yaknow."

"Okay," Kodachi said, watching the others quietly exit.

"You really gotta stop fiddling with those roses and things,
you know," Ranma said. "It's not healthy."

"I'll be more careful in the future," Kodachi said. "How
ironic, to be nearly destroyed by my lovely flowers! Ohohoho...
ghack... *cough*. I think I should rest. Ranma-sama?"

"Uh, hai?" Ranma said, shifting uncomfortably at the -sama
tag.

"I gave up having you until the end of my days so I could
have you here. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do... I
just thought you'd like to know that."

"Okay," Ranma said, not understanding one bit but still
smiling. "Pleasant dreams, Kodachi."

"Dreams," she said, "Are the last thing I want right now."

She drifted into sleep, a silent sleep without images,
without sounds. Someone even came in to turn off the beeper.

*

"Mother?" Kodachi said aloud, despite the fact that nobody
nearby was alive to hear her say it.

It was the first time she had ever visited Nerima's
graveyard, the first time she had been within this many feet of
her mother since the day she died. But Kodachi felt strong
enough to visit now, despite Doctor Tofu's warnings about rest
and relaxation.

"I want to thank you, mother, for helping me," Kodachi
continued. "Even if it was probably just a symbol drudged up by
my hallucination... if it was you, you deserve thanks. And I'm
sorry I forgot all about you. I can grieve now, I think."

Nobody replied. Kodachi wasn't expecting a reply, but still
found the silence eerie.

"Well, that's all," Kodachi shrugged. "I mean, not much
else to say. Ranma and I are going on a date today... I know
he's just doing it out of pity, and at major protest from my
rivals, but a date is a date. I couldn't have it without you.
So... thanks."

With that, she dropped two roses on the grave; one black,
one red. She bowed in respect, and headed back towards the road,
twirling her ribbon around her as she walked.

A little girl in a cheery yellow and white uniform wanted to
add a second rose to the grave, and she had.

-=-

Author's postscript.

This is probably the darkest Ranma story I've written since
Juyza's Lyric. Hey, I don't mind, gotta have some variety. I
did the whole thing in about a day and a half, which proves that
when I've got a good idea I can really roll, and the rest of the
time I get to stare at a blank WordPerfect screen and beg for
something to come out.

Okay, notes, let's see...

'A sword has a point. Do you?' was a phrase used by Orlando
de la Cruz once. I take no credit for that. Go read some of his
fanfic, it's great.

I'd like to thank the few of you who replied to my posting
of Elseworlds #4. The responses I get for these stories really
make them worth writing. If you can't be paid in legal tender,
e-mail is the next best substitute.

I'd like to thank the crews from BakaMUCK and Amush,
including Stoner, the goddesses plus Keiichi-san and of course
the Ranma cast. It's a lovely way to pass the time, crashes or
no crashes.

Thanks go out to Jenny Gagne, my sister, for the cool-beans
title. I considered 'Make a Little Greenhouse in Your Soul' and
'In Bloom' but not good pun-title really fit the mood of the
story. She came up with that in under two minutes. Frightening.
Cool, but frightening.

That's about it. Thank you, drive through.

Stefan Gagne
Gaithersburg, MD
August 11th, 1995


- 'This isn't Psych 101, lady.'
Little Julie, _The Maxx_