Kodachi Kuno didn't believe in magic.
As the second child of a largely broken family, the aspiring gymnast could say with certainty that she had never seen anything that could properly termed as 'magic' in her life, whether it be in the world around her or through her close associations. Her domestic life was undoubtedly a contributing factor. Kodachi's father had taken a mental break from reality. Her brother had insulated himself within a world of medieval samurai. With the sanity around her being such a rare commodity, Kodachi likewise retreated into her own hobbies of gymnastics and horticulture. Living alone with more money than God hadn't helped matters either.
The pessimist would say that any magic in Kodachi's life had gone or fled, having been sucked away by the very circumstances around her; but magic apparently hadn't given up the fight just yet. It was, for all intents and purposes standing before her in the form of a wet, redheaded girl wrapped in the white towel she had been loaned; dripping hair draped down to the small of her back. It was so hard to believe that Kodachi had insisted on seeing it twice; 'It' being the magical transformation that turned her friend from a girl slightly shorter than herself to a boy taller than her.
And then there was the hair.
It grew. Each time it grew, Ranma scrambled for the cold water to control it. Only when the redhead reappeared did her... his... hair cease lengthening. Kodachi shook her head as her friend explained the curse. An impossible trip. Chinese assassins. Two curses. Her friend was actually a boy.
"Please leave." Kodachi Kuno blurted thoughtlessly, interrupting Ranma as she related something in her history concerning boy's school and a bread feud. The redhead's eyes widened as she processed the contents of the interruption, her head snapping back to bear fully on the black haired gymnast. Ranma's mouth hung open with the last syllable that she had managed to speak as the damning request hung between them. The magic. The curse. The story. It was too much, too fast, and the Kuno sibling reiterated her request with averted eyes. "Please... Now. Aerial will show you out."
Ranma seemed frozen in time until her mouth closed. Ranma's gaze fell to the luxurious cream carpet at her feet. "I... I'll just get my clothes then."
The disappointment in her voice was readily apparent, but Kodachi steeled herself; refusing the urge to comfort...
Kodachi turned back. Ranma was gone.
The Bad Cut
And so ended another day.
While the day hadn't quite run its course, it had for Ranma Saotome, currently heiress to Musabetsu Kakutō Ryū. The sun still hung high in the afternoon sky and though the shadows of the buildings were slowly elongating around her, the long haired redhead was all but ready to file this particular day where many others had been filed: a mental filing cabinet filled with the memories of shitty days past. These recollections didn't have a specific order per se, but they did share an indefinable hierarchy and this particular day would rank as superior to many of its brethren.
'Another one bites the dust,' Ranma thought in an acerbic tone as the rejection replayed through her mind's eye yet again. Of course she knew the odds going in. Not many reacted well to the curse and it was hard to blame them. She herself hadn't reacted well either, especially in being the recipient. It was getting harder and harder to make lemonade with it and here life had handed her yet another lemon. Kodachi's reaction was... 'Predictable,' Ranma mulled over the thought until finding the right word. Predictable and to some degree worse than the fallout with Akane. She hadn't had time to really form any sort of bond with the Tendo girl. Kodachi on the other hand...
'Ko-chan,' Ranma mouthed silently as she wandered an anonymous sidewalk through Nermia's suburbia. She sighed with the recollection and threw the name in with the day, locking both away under that header of shitty days. Ko-chan didn't exist. Ma-chan didn't exist. All that was left was what there had been before. She was still a martial artist. The best damn martial artist. Boy or girl, she didn't need...
The redhead huffed sourly at the thought and continued walking, ignoring the occasional stares that followed the long, unruly red mane. Pulling her attention away from the what-if's of life, Ranma set a definite course for the dojo where the first order of business would be to hack the troublesome growth off and down into something more manageable. The second order of business...
'...Damned if I know,' The martial artist chuckled with dead amusement. 'Maybe light a fire under the old man's furry panda ass to find another whisker.'
That vague course of action was better than none at all and it allowed Ranma to assume a more purposeful stride that took her to the nearest fence top to intersect with a shortcut across the canal in order to shave a good five minutes off her transit back to the dojo. Her hair, on the other hand had different ideas and bounced with her every movement; around her shoulders, over her eyes and generally made itself a supreme nuisance. Its demise at the hands of a pair of scissors couldn't come too soon.
Ranma finally reached the Tendo compound and the property wall was negotiated with ease. A quick hop and she was over and walking across the courtyard's grass, doorway in sight. The redhead was inside a moment later, kicking her Chinese slippers carelessly to the corner with her primary goal in mind: Hair. Even so, her stomach had convinced her to take a side quest to the kitchen in the hopes of finding a quick snack before the hair met its fate. Ranma cleared the hallway, entered the living room and promptly stopped dead in her tracks.
There was Kasumi in a plain blue and white dress accompanied by Nabiki in her casual tee and shorts. Even Akane was present wearing her own yellow tee and slim pants. Off to the right, Mister Tendo stood apart from the group, watching the group curiously, but it wasn't any single one of them that held her attention. It had been a bad day. That bad day was being aggravated by uncooperative female biology still playing the equivalent of baseball in her gut. Her ego had taken a similar beating. And now this. Ranma Saotome's gaze narrowed on their newest guest, the object of her displeasure.
"What's shedoing here?"
'She' was Chinese. 'She' had purple hair. 'She' had, up until several hours ago, been set to kill her. The icy question announced Ranma's arrival clearly and the Tendo sisters turned, parting just enough to allow Ranma a better gaze at Shampoo. The Amazon looked like she had been run over by a bus. It caused the redhead to crack the slightest hint of a perverse smile. It not only looked like she had been run over by a bus, but the bus had decided to back up and parallel park on top of her. Her face was a patchwork of black and blue while a literal patch was tapped over one eye. Shampoo's left arm hung in an expertly prepared sling that told the martial artist she had seen professional treatment, while her lower torso was likewise bandaged.
The splint bound left leg was noted almost as an afterthought as Ranma waited for an answer while Shampoo stared back at her.
All three sisters looked uncertain and not entirely willing to volunteer the information to the irritated martial artist, but Nabiki stepped forward to bear the brunt of the bad news. "She needed help Saotome. We couldn't just leave her there."
Ranma tilted her head as if chewing on the statement mentally. After a moment those glacial blue eyes flicked back to Nabiki. "But what's she doing here?"
"Ah, she, um," Nabiki hesitated with the redhead's emotionless tone, looking back down to the stone face Amazon sitting on their couch. The middle Tendo sister motioned in her direction with a nod. "Doctor Tofu insisted-"
"Well she can un-insist her way out the-"
Shampoo interrupted Ranma's caustic remark by shakily rising to her feet. Kasumi ducked in to help, proffering the girl a crutch that had been leaning at the other end of the couch. The girl took it with the slightest deferential nod and stabilized herself, then slowly made her way around the chabudai to confront Ranma directly. Ranma in turn held her ground since the Amazon assassin was no longer a threat to her person in any way that mattered.
'But damned if I'll let her get in another kiss,'The redhead resolved silently as Shampoo hobbled closer. She closed to within a meter and stopped, favoring Ranma with a penetrating stare and brown eyes. Ranma merely stared back, all but willing the girl to try something.
And she did just that.
The lavender haired Amazon began to lower herself shakily, setting aside the crutch as she found the stability of both knees. Ranma's first impulse was to help the girl in distress, but that impulse had been effectively curbed by the day's activities. So she watched. Kasumi, however, was right by her side with the first grunt of pain, but Shampoo waved her away. The Chinese teen settled down and then dipped into a low, subservient bow to the floor.
"What... What is she doing?" Akane wondered aloud, directing the question to the closest sister available. Nabiki simply shook her head without a clue and watched the scene play out. After several seconds of silence, Shampoo spoke in pitched mandarin.
"Wǒ shǔyú nǐ."
Ranma was just opening her mouth to clarify the statement when Nabiki interrupted with her own translation, furiously flipping through a small red pocket book. A queer look settled on her face as she spoke it aloud. "I belong to... you?"
Ranma blinked. Then blinked again, staring down at the girl who had yet to retrieve from her kneeling posture. Only one thing came to mind and the thought was translated directly into words. "Oh, hell no."
"That can't be right," Nabiki murmured, flipping through the pages to find possible alternate meetings.
Ranma, all but knew it was. It somehow fit with the whole defeated Amazon deal: Lose a match, kill the winner. Have your life spared by the winner... She interrupted Nabiki's progress with her growing consternation. "You brought her here, so you take her back."
The ice queen blinked, her page turning stalling. "Back where?"
"Back to the hospital!" Ranma snapped, glancing down at the immobile girl at her feet. "Let them patch her up so she can stumble on back to China or somethin'! I went through hell just to get rid of her, dammit!"
"We can't," Nabiki said, understanding the frustration of her sister's maybe-maybe not fiancé to a degree. She had been ringside for their fight, after all. Regardless, she sighed her own frustration. "Doctor Tofu helped patch her up the best he could without needing... substantiation for her. Legal substantiation."
"And...?" Ranma pressed, unsure where the Tendo was going with her explanation.
"There's no way she's in the country legally, Saotome," Nabiki returned edgily, trying to will her point into the martial artist. "You know it, I know it and if we send her back to a hospital, the authorities will eventually know it. And then they'll ask how she got so badly injured. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be part of an international incident!"
"I could give a-"
"Oh, she can stay here until she feels better," Kasumi volunteered helpfully, prompting both Ranma and Nabiki to boggle at the eldest Tendo sister.
"And this day just keeps getting better and better," The martial artist groused to herself even as Soun finally saw fit to insert himself into the conversation.
"Now Kasumi -chan, we simply don't have the room for another guest," The Tendo patriarch tried to insert some manner of reason into her charitable offer.
The eldest sister merely smiled serenely. "She can sleep in the guest room with Ranma."
Ranma all but choked on her own tongue with the suggestion. If there was a choice between sleeping in the same room with the snoring Panda or sleeping in the same room with her own personal Chinese Amazonian assassin, Ranma clearly knew which evil she would partake in. Ranma thus jabbed her thumb to the room in question. "And where's my old man gonna sleep?!"
"As a martial artist I'm sure he's slept in a dojo on occasion," Kasumi continued with that unwavering, and in Ranma's opinion, increasingly creepy smile. "I'll ensure he has the proper bedding for a good night's rest."
"How about I sleep out there with him?" The alarmed redhead pushed back edgily, folding her arms defensively. "She can have the room to herself!"
"But then who would take care of her?" Kasumi inquired innocently, her head lolling off to the side as if to consider the possibility before deciding for herself; as if the entire question had been rhetorical in nature. "She is your responsibility after all."
Rnama's mouth snapped open to deny the eldest sister's logic, only to have Soun attempt to insert himself back into the conversation.
"Ah, Kasumi, we can't-" Soun raised his hand to interject, only to be overridden by his other daughter's concern.
"But...! but...!" Akane eyed her sister with a measure of uncertainty. "Ranma's a boy! And Shampoo... She's... Isn't that...?"
"...Perverted?" Ranma finished in a bland tone, rolling her eyes.
"Yes!" Akane shot back with a glare.
"Ranma looks like a girl to me, so I'm sure it'll be fine." All eyes snapped back to Kasumi with the simplistic rationalization as she departed the living room to acquire the requisite linen. They tracked the eldest until she paused, smile brightening. "And then we can see about your hair, Ranma-kun!"
With that she was gone, leaving the room in silence for a solid minute before anyone spoke. Soun finally mobilized, chasing after his eldest daughter but it was Ranma who spoke first, shaking her head while fingering her long hair. "Your sister is super scary."
"You don't know the half of it," Nabiki agreed finally, then turned her attention back to the still kneeling Chinese girl. "We can't leave her like that, however."
Much as Ranma hated to admit it, Nabiki was probably right, so she returned her efforts to the subservient Amazon by crouching down to her level. "Look, get up already. How about we help fix ya up and send you home, sound good?"
"Wǒ méiyǒu jiā," Mandarin met Ranma's ear once more, prompting her to cock an eyebrow. Finally Shampoo looked up for the first time since kneeling to stare up at Ranma. Japanese flow haltingly from her mouth. "Must stay."
"Something about having no home," Nabiki resumed her translation activities, flipping through the language book's pages.
The redhead's thoughts returned to her earlier conclusion concerning the Amazon code and she really didn't like the hypothesis that was forming with Nabiki's translation. Something about belonging to her and the part where she couldn't she go home. Ranma put the theory to the test.
"Honor... honor... Ah, 'duìxiàn' I think," The martial artist picked through her limited Chinese vocabulary. The accented mandarin earned Shampoo's undivided attention as Ranma turned back to Nabiki. "What's 'debt'?"
Nabiki flipped through the red book's pages until she found the entry. "Zhàiwù, I think."
Ranma nodded and turned back to Shampoo, piecing the phrase together. "Duìxiàn zhàiwù?"
Shampoo blinked as her mind pieced together the mangled wreck of Mandarin, but the intent was clear enough. She nodded. "Shi."
"That doesn't mean what I think it means, does it?" Nabiki let the book close as she watched the girl nod yes and Ranma's shoulders slump as a result.
"I'm thinkin' it does," Ranma returned with a hint of depression tinting her voice. "I seriously don't need this crap."
With her purpose in life now clearly defined for the redhead, Shampoo struggled to return to an upright stance, shakily re-acquiring her crutch with one hand to prop herself. Once she had stabilized, Shampoo directed a deferential nod toward the redhead.
"Nǐ de mìnglìng, qíngfù."
The page turning began anew and after a couple minutes, Nabiki hesitated, her eyes flicking back between the book and Ranma. After another moment she merely shrugged. "Well that's convenient, I guess."
"What?" Ranma eyed the middle Tendo warily.
"She said, 'Your command, Mistress.'" Nabiki replied with slightest edge of humor. With that, she threw the book to Ranma who caught it on reflex. Nabiki pushed herself off the end of the couch. "All yours. Ask me to translate anything else and I'll start charging for services rendered... Or bang my head against the wall, whichever comes first."
Ranma's eyes flicked between the Tendo and the book as she departed, finally settling on Shampoo herself. The girl stood, or rather leaned into the crutch with no intention of going anywhere until she was apparently so ordered. The pair stared at one another for a solid minute before Akane stomped over, joining the Amazon's side with a threatening look.
"Well I don't care what Kasumi says, she's not staying in with-" Akane was in the process of tugging on the Chinese girl's lavender silk sleeve to pull her away from Ranma when Shampoo jerked her arm back forcefully, favoring the youngest Tendo with a frosty countenance.
"No touch." Shampoo menaced in barely comprehensible Japanese. Akane blinked and stepped back, slightly stunned by the rebuke from a fellow member of the same sex.
Akane stood in place before her reactions finally caught up to her thoughts, resulting in the feeling she had been slighted. "I was just trying to help!"
"Boy, that sounds familiar," Ranma quipped acerbically as Akane retreated from the room. The Tendo sibling sent a glare back at her and stalked out, leaving Ranma and Shampoo alone in the room. The redhead gave Shampoo a long, searching look and sighed, flicking a particularly annoying strand of long red hair back over her shoulder. "What am I gonna do with you, anyway?"
The Chinese teen remained silent, pushing any hope that Ranma had for successfully removing Shampoo from her life further and further away. 'Like everything else in life,' The martial artist through bitterly as she was forcibly reminded of the dragon whisker. Regardless, the Amazon was still a problem; especially in her current condition... A condition directly attributed to her actions as Kasumi had indirectly reminded her. 'Dammit,'Ranma groused as she unwittingly assumed more responsibility for her welfare. "Fine, but I can't just leave you like that."
The Amazon merely waited expectantly for her to give an order, so Ranma finally broke down and gave her one, beckoning her to follow. "C'mon let's go already. You're gonna need rest. This way. Zūnxún."
The mandarin focused Shampoos attention and she did indeed follow... Or rather hobble behind Ranma until they encountered the guest room. She slid the door open and pointed inside. "Qíyú."
Shampoo fixed the redhead with a suspicious look but simply nodded. Ranma slid the door closed behind her and the last of her determination fled her body for the day. She slumped against the sealed guestroom door and let loose a sigh of relief.
'Like hell I'll be sleepin' in there tonight.'
"I said give it here, old man!"
Xian Pu jerked awake with the rancorous, feminine screech and in the process strained muscles she had no right straining. Pain coiled through her body, prompting an involuntary hiss as consciousness was forcefully inserted in place of an uneasy slumber. her brown eyes blinked open and a mixture of confusion and alarm overcame her with the unfamiliar setting she now found herself sitting upright within.
A room. Spartan. Two futons. Her attention glided from one detail to the next as she took in the features of the room she had woken up in. The only illumination was that from outside beyond the curtain where it was most obviously daylight; morning unless she missed her guess. Something breakable crashed beyond the curtain, prompting enough interest in the lavender haired girl to try slide herself over to the window for a look. Even that was a painful endeavor for the Amazon as she pulled herself up to the wall and up just enough to nudge the curtain aside.
That was all it took. Cold hard reality set in as she watched a redheaded girl hand spring out of a barrage of panda paws, land lightly, then ducking to evade another swipe before charging after the animal. Xian Pu let the curtain slide shut and slumped back down against the wall as her will to live quite literally faded in that moment. The redhead. Her panda. Xian Pu clenched a fist with the recollection of yesterday's events. She had been beaten. Not just beaten, but rendered unconscious and left to the mercy of her enemy. The memory flashed through her mind's eye- the first recollection she had of waking up after the loss had quite literally been a reflection of her own face, red and bleeding. The mirror just happened to be the very steel of her sword imbedded only centimeters from her cheek.
In that moment she knew her fate was sealed.
The former Amazon warrior's attention returned to the here and now with a resigned sigh, then set to the task of actually standing. That in and of itself was a painful ordeal, but she managed using the wall at her back as balance. She glanced at the crutch leaning against a nearby dresser but decided against its use. The healer the other Japanese girl had taken her to had done a fair job at popping the joint back into place and she was an Amaz- Xian Pu's thought process dulled with regret. No, she could no longer name herself as amongst their ranks. Still, the crutch was unnecessary. She would endure the pain. The pain let her know she was still alive. The pain reminded her of just how far she had fallen. The pain...
...She deserved the pain.
'Failure,' Xian Pu nodded with the thought. That was the proper way of things now. She was less than an Amazon and less than even a male. She was a servant and it was time she stepped into the role of her new, pathetic existence. Shampoo hobbled to the door while pain accompanied her every step. Sliding the door open was a minor feat, but the purple haired warrior managed and exited the guest room, stepping out of the hallway where the smell of freshly prepared food assaulted her senses. Her stomach produced and undignified rumble but she ignored it and took up a slow, deliberate pace out into the living room where she caught sight of one of the family residence setting the table.
With little idea of how to begin her new role, the girl wobbled into the living room where the table was already half set. Three of the seven places had food set and the person setting the table could be heard, humming in the kitchen around the corner. Xian Pu crouched down and began to gather one of the settings for herself- three plates total balanced precariously up and down her left arm and in hand while the still sling born arm was only strong enough to carry the tea cup without stressing the limb. The pain was ever present, but she managed slowly. The outside door to the patio and courtyard beyond was already ajar, allowing her to nudge it open carefully to exit the house where she was greeted to the sight of open combat between the Panda and her redheaded mistress.
'Ranma,' She categorized the girl and felt a seething hatred well up from within her. Xian Pu indulged in it then let her anger flow away with a resigned sigh. Ranma had proven her better two times in a row. Ranma had spared her life in mortal combat. She was Ranma's property now unless she somehow acquired the skill to defeat one of the elders to officially regain her status...
'...And perhaps I'll grow wings tomorrow,' The girl thought bitterly. Still, it was a chance... A distant, nigh unobtainable chance, but quite literally the only one she had short of her new mistress granting a request slit her own wrists.
Her eyes returned to the action just as the her mistress dodged a stubby Panda kick, then was nearly blindsided by its claw. The girl's arm flashed up and she took the swipe squarely on the shoulder. While the redhead's general features were the same, her hair had undergone yet another transformation, from the long tangles of last night to a polite, almost pixie like crop that bounced with her movements.
"Oh my, shouldn't you be in bed?" The voice came from behind, but Shampoo ignored the melodic Japanese.
The voice, however, did catch the redhead's attention, who in turn spared a quick look. The look turned into a stare as she noted the former Amazon's unexpected presence. It was also more than long enough for the panda to exploit the opening. It drove a bear fist into the girl's stomach, causing her eyes to bulge a she was manhandled skyward and thrown directly into the koi pond. She impacted with a violent splash and the Panda dusted its paws together as if its job were well done. Its opponent surfaced from the frothing water, sputtering indignantly as the animal sauntered off the field of battle, up to the porch then paused, noting the purple haired teen's presence for the first time. She stared up at it as it stared down until it simply shrugged and continued on to the door behind her.
The lull in action finally allowed Xian Pun her first opportunity to... serve her new mistress. The very idea made her want to cringe, but she suppressed it and hobbled out to the redhead who had waded back ashore to wring out her clothing. She was also keeping a healthy eye on her wobbling ex-assassin as she closed, then stopped by the very rocks Ranma now sat on. With considerable effort, the purple haired girl set down the tea cup, a plate of rice, a shallow bowl of misu and another with cold green-brown noodles.
"Wǒ suǒ fúwù de qíngfù."
Ranma looked from the noodles to the girl and back several times, trying to connect the dots. Given the girl's behavior yesterday, it wasn't hard and she waved the girl off with a nervous smile. "Ya don't have to. Go on back ta China. You're free! Really! Ah, free...? Zìyóu?"
While half of what the girl was saying was unintelligible, the mandarin came across clearly and Shampoo shook her head, struggling for the Japanese words herself. After a moment, she shook her head and pointed at the martial artist. "You. Mistress."
"I ain't no mistress," Ranma scrunched her brow in overt frustration, then looked over the girl's shoulder as if something had distracted her. Ranma glanced back, fully intent on solving ending the encounter quickly. "Look, um... you eat this. And ah, do whatever. Me and my old man are gonna have a talk."
With that the pixie cut redhead hopped up and hurried off around her, prompting Shampoo to watch curiously, then turn back to contemplate the dishes she had set out on the rocks. The ex-Amazon shrugged and took up the pair of chopsticks balanced on the plate.
She had been ordered to eat it, after all.
Having started breakfast without the martial artist and minus one place setting, the rest of the family could only stare as Genma Saotome dangled what looked to be some sort of ramen noodle before his face; head tilted as if trying to decide what to do with it.
"Um, Genma-kun?" Soun asked timidly, watching his old friend contemplate the noodle in question. It did little to jar the bald martial artist from his study of the noodle, prompting the Tendo patriarch to try again. "Is that noodle..."
"...Salvation, Soun old buddy." Genma advised in a completely serious tone that directly conflicted with his humorous wiggling of the noodle. With that, one grown man and three teenage girls watched as Genma Saotome lifted a portion of his bandanna and applied the noodle to his head.
"I swear breakfast gets more and more entertaining each and every day the Saotomes are here," Nabiki deadpanned as she watched him continue to apply the ramen noodle to various parts of his cranium.
"Would you like another noodle, Mister Saotome?" Kasumi offered helpfully, picking one out of her own soba bowl and proffering it to him from the tip of her chopsticks. It was apparently enough of a reminder as to how foolish he looked and Genma pulled his own noodle away, directing a polite smile toward the eldest daughter.
"Ah, no thank you, Kasumi-chan," He shook his head, then returned his attention back to the noodle where the serious mask of concentration resumed.
"Dammit, old man!"
"Ranma!" Genma's stern gaze swung upon the girl who had just stomped across the threshold of the living room, interrupting her as he held the noodle out before her. "How does it work, Boy?"
"I just knew you were gonna keep it for yourself!" She accused direly, though the potent glare she held for her father was lessened by the short crop of cute hair that had been inflicted upon her the night before. She crossed her arms, doing her level best to reinforce the emotion. "And why the hell should I tell you?! I need it way more!"
"Son, you have no idea of the pain and horror that come with baldness," Genma sternly explained to his son-turned=daughter. "Besides, I was able to obtain two whiskers. Show me how it works and I'll let you have the other."
The redhead looked far from convinced and favored her father with a half lidded gaze. "Yeah, and just where'd ya get em?"
"One of my contacts, of course," Genma stated imperviously, twirling the noodle as if it were now some toy. "He talked to somebody who talked to somebody who knew of a supplier."
"Right," Ranma rolled her eyes. "And since you ain't got no money, I'm thinkin' somebody and somebody is missin' a noodle right now... Oh, wait. Two noodles."
"Nonsense," The elder martial artist turned away from his pseudo daughter's sarcasm as if the accusation was beneath him. "Our transaction was completely above the board."
"Surrre it was," The girl drawled, clearly disbelieving his testimony and held out a waiting hand. "Tell you what, you hand over that noodle and I'll see what I can do for ya."
Genma turned back to the neo girl with a narrowed eyes and the pair stared one another down until Nabiki interjected, raising her hand as if in class.
"Um, hello?" She waved even though neither girl nor father figure took their eyes off one another. "What's so special about a ramen noodle again?"
"Fine, here." Genma sniffed, flicking the noodle in hand at Ranma, who caught it between fingers. The girl's eyes widened as she stared at it then raced past the table, its occupants and Genma himself, who in turn began sputtering after her. "Get back here! Tell me how it works, ungrateful boy!"
The girl disappeared around the corner in a blur and water was heard running. A male yell was heard moments later. "YES!"
It was followed within seconds by a cry of despair and a string of curses in a female voice. Stomping footsteps foretold the family of Ranma's arrival and she rounded the corner back into the living room with darkened wet clothing and a sour disposition. The red hair that now fell to below shoulder length held everybody's attention and the girl flicked the wet noodle back at her father where it slapped against his face.
"Hope you didn't pay too much for that, old man," Ranma shook her head as she walked past to her place at the table, only to realize it was the only one barren of any food stuffs. "Where's the-" Ranma's speech stalled and she turned out to the window to see Shampoo eating by the courtyard exactly as she had been ordered to. The redhead's mouth snapped shut and she sighed with tested patience. "Right."
"It was very kind of you to share your breakfast," Kasumi smiled kindly, prompting Ranma to fix her own weak smile. The eldest Tendo put her finger to her chin in thought, as if remembering something. "I believe Tofu-san sent word that Shampoo should stop by for a follow up visit."
Ranma noted Kasumi was still looking at her and the implication was crystal clear: She was the one expected to escort her Amazon pain in the neck to the doctor's office. The martial artist glanced over to her father, who was mumbling something about the noodle he continued to pull and stretch, as if the activity would somehow imbue what was obviously a plain ramen noodle with magic.
'Yay. The fat panda or crazy Amazon choice again,' Ranma thought dryly, at least until Kasumi made it even tougher.
"Oh, and can you return the medical books I borrowed as well, Akane-chan?"
Akane Tendo's head snapped from her alternating view of her would-be fiancée's longer hair to her own sister with wide eyes. "What?! Why am I being punished?!"
"And since when is taking books back to Doctor Tofu punishment, Akane-chan?" Nabiki's head lolled to track her sisters indignant expression with a bemused smile. The younger sister realized the gaff abruptly and her demeanor collapsed into embarrassment as she sought to avoid eye contact.
"That is.. ah, I meant..." Akane floundered while Ranma simply watched, slightly amused herself. An irritated look was the redhead's reward until the eldest sister spoke again.
"Thank you, Akane-chan," Kasumi favored her sister with a gentle smile as if she hadn't even noticed the her initial bluster or subsequent embarrassment. Ranma's own humor over the matter abruptly turned to ash as the sister took notice of the new red hair. The martial artist could almost swear there was an unholy gleam in her eyes accompanying the smile now. "And when you get back, we can style your hair again since it seems to have grown back! Wouldn't that be nice?"
Ranma's mouth opened to protest then closed as the eldest sibling smiled upon her with all the innocence in the world. The Saotome's cheek twitched as she force the smile again. "Heh-heh, yeah. Again."
With that, the eldest Tendo began to collect the spent dishes and made her way back to the kitchen, leaving Akane to stare and Ranma grumbling in her wake. The martial artist shook her head at the injustice of it all and decided to take her own leave, returning to the back door.
"Boy, where do you think you're going?" Genma queried in a gruff tone that prompted Ranma to stop and stare at his father with bland look that indicated it should have been painfully obvious where she was going. It was for her, after all... Painful and obvious.
"Look, the sooner I get Miss Amazon out there out of my hair, the better," Ranma replied edgily. "If that means takin' her to the doctor to fix her up, then I'm all over it."
"Then you'll be taking Akane with you." Genma ordered. Ranma rolled her eyes as Soun happily chimed in.
"Yes, Akane. You can return your book with Ranma." Soun nodded happily.
It was the only protest she would be allowed as Kasumi returned from the kitchen for another stack of plates. "I think that's a wonderful idea, Akane-chan."
The youngest sister's gaze flicked from one parent to the other, then Kasumi and finally Ranma who waited by the back door. The redhead produced an uncaring shrug and opened the door to depart for the outside world. A grumpy frown flickered upon Akane's face. "Baka."
Lacking any other option to extricate herself from the situation the girl sighed and rocked to her feet, grabbing the book her sister had set beside her to follow the martial artist. Five minutes later an uneasy silence floated between the three as they walked, or in Shampoo's case, hobbled down the streets of Nerima on their way to Doctor Ono Tofu's practice. Ranma kept a cautionary eye on the Amazon and while she was sure the girl was no longer a threat, there was no guarantee that she wouldn't just fall over and had thus far refuse either her or Akane's assistance.
Akane likewise kept an eye on the Chinese girl, but the silence was getting to her. There were too many unanswered questions surrounding the her and the martial artist. Why was Ranma still a girl? What did noodles have to do with it? Why did she have an Amazon assassin trying to kill her, anyway?
'Not that I can't sympathize,' Akane decided grumpily from the privacy of her thoughts, glancing up at the martial artist easily balanced atop the fence running parallel to their sidewalk path. Ranma glanced down at the girl, noting the attention. After several seconds of study, the martial artist produced a patronizing smile.
"Ask me out on a date if you're gonna stare like that."
"Who would want to date YOU?!" Akane snapped back and hurled the thick medical book in hand at Ranma, who caught it easily and began to study the tome. Akane's eyes widened as she realized her mistake. "And give that back!"
"The Concise Medical Encyclopedia," Ranma flipped through pages as if interested in the contents all while maintaining her nigh unnatural balance atop the fence. She cocked her head, ignoring Akane's simmering below as she turned a page, cocking her head curiously. "Huh. Learn something new every day."
"You don't have to be such a jerk!" Akane stomped with bluster, causing Ranma to pause in her fence walking for the first time. She pulled her attention from the book and favored Akane with a lidded stare.
"And you don't have to be such a macho hothead." She rebuked coolly, fully willing to indulge the Tendo in her staring match. After a full thirty seconds of simmering, Akane turned her nose up at the redhead and resumed her path of travel with a contemptuous sniff, passing Shampoo. Ranma shrugged and returned her attention to the book, hopping down to escort Shampoo now that Akane had taken the lead.
They caught up with the youngest Tendo several minutes later as she waited for them just outside the clinic with a grumpy expression on her face. This time Ranma simply snapped the thick book she had been thumbing through closed and tossed it to her as they passed. "You can thank me later."
Akane's expression crinkled but she managed to hold her tongue, following the redhead and lavender haired Chinese girl into the office. Two patients later and Doctor Tofu was hovering over the Shampoo while the Akane and Ranma watched. He probed her left arm with light fingertips and slowly began to test its range of motion. He smiled at the girl. "Tell me when it hurts."
No comprehension was found in her expression and Ranma pulled out a Chinese translation book- the very same one Nabiki had remanded to him last night. After a good deal of page turning, Ranma pieced together a phrase.
"Ah, Gàosu dāng tā... shānghài?" Ranma asked hesitantly and to her surprise, the girl nodded. Tofu got to work cycling the arm through its range of motion. Whatever advisement Ranma had given, however, never translated into Shampoo's actions as she would wince in obvious pain, but never once requested the doctor to stop.
"As I've told Akane-chan before, I don't necessarily condone violence," Ono Tofu lectured reasonably as he worked, pressing several points along the girl's arm. "Especially at this level."
Ranma merely shrugged. "Wasn't givin' me much choice."
"So Nabiki-chan told me," The physician nodded, moving down to the leg to test its range while Shampoo herself stared at the arm, moving it with a minimum of pain. "I appreciate your economy in light of the situation; everything appears easily fixed... Another reason why I've chosen to allow the dojo to handle the situation discretely."
'Really wish ya hadn't,' Ranma thought at the doctor, then found Akane and the doctor staring at her. After a minute of puzzling, she scratched the back of her head with embarrassment. "Ah, said that out loud, didn't I?"
"Ahem," Ono Tofu coughed, politely ignoring the missive. "Regardless, Nabiki has advised me that her status is rather indeterminate at the moment. While I'll be happy to provide whatever assistance I can, what you actually decide to do with her is up to you."
'SHIP HER BACK!'Ranma's mind screamed at her consciousness while another portion couldn't help but to note that the Chinese girl fell squarely under the 'you broke it, you fix it' clause of her martial arts code. She hadn't meant to hurt the girl so badly...
'...Okay, maybe I did,' Ranma admitted to herself with a hint of guilt, remembering how thoroughly she had lost any and all patience with the girl. That in itself was disconcerting and she knew exactly where to place the blame. 'Stupid girl body.'
"We'll take good care of her," Akane responded in an upbeat tone and smiled for the doctor who then returned his own easy smile.
"I'm sure you will, Akane-chan," Tofu nodded agreeably. Akane blushed slightly with the attention, prompting Ranma to roll her own eyes and insert herself into the moment.
"And then we'll ship her back."
"How can you just say that!" Akane's mood flipped like a switch and the girl turned a perturbed stare onto Ranma. "You're the one who did this!"
"Because she was about to turn your sister into a pancake!" Ranma pushed back with nerves still raw from uncooperative biology and current events. She jabbed a thumb at the Chinese girl on the examination table. "Do you know how many times that chick has popped up in the middle of the night swinging a blade for my throat?!"
"Probably because you did something perv-!"
"Girls," Tofu spread his hands out patiently, emoting an uneasy smile while Shampoo simply watched the argument go back and forth. Both quieted down, staring at the doctor. "Regardless, I've done what I can for now. " The physician turned back to the former Amazon as if she were liable to understand him. "You should experience less pain now, though I'll ask you not to strain anything for at least a couple of weeks."
Ranma was rapidly flipping through the translation guide again to piece together a phrase. "Ah, less pain, no strain... Téngtòng jiào qīng, ah, um, méiyǒu yìngbiàn."
The chinese girl nodded hesitantly. "Shampoo understand."
"If that's settled, I have another patient in ten minutes," The doctor nodded and moved along side Ranma to pat her on the back. "Take good care of-"
The redhead's hand blurred up and intercepted it at the wrist, locking the doctors hand in a powerful vice. Crystal blue eyes held his surprised own, glinting with impatience. "That ain't happenin' again."
Akane's eyes widened with alarm with the girl's incomprehensible action. "What are you doing?!"
The doctor tried to withdraw his hand, but would have sooner had better luck if it was rooted in cement, then produced a sheepish smile. "Of course not. My apologies."
Ranma held the hand a moment longer and allowed her stare to burrow into the doctor to ensure her displeasure over being manipulated was clearly conveyed, then let her hand snap open. Tofu retracted the immobilized limb and rubbed the tender joint even as Akane's temper spiraled out of control.
"You... you... YOU!" Akane's fists balled and she stomped over toward Ranma until the lethal hiss of steel being deployed intervened. Silver flashed through the air and the next thing the youngest Tendo knew, the cold length of a jian was being held at her throat. Akane's eyes slid down the line of steel, finding Shampoo's no nonsense gaze staring back.
She didn't speak it with nearly the fluency of Akane Tendo, but Shampoo's command when paired with the blade at the her throat made the meaning crystal clear. The action had even surprised Ranma as she stared at the purple haired girl holding the sword to his supposed fiancée's throat with her only good arm. She made a mental note in that moment. Crippled or not, the girl was still dangerous.
Doctor Tofu cleared his throat timidly, attempting to gain the trio's attention without provoking further hostilities. "No weapons in the examination room, please?"
The request wasn't aimed at either Shampoo or Akane, but Ranma herself. It took a moment to realize that she was the focus and the redhead blinked, coming to the realization that she was apparently the one expected to talk the former Amazon down. She sized up both girls, noting the grim countenance on Shampoos face and the pale complexion Akane held.
'She would do it,' Ranma determined in that moment. The Chinese assassin would cut Akane Tendo down just as assuredly as her own self only twenty four hours before. 'For me?' The question bubbled up before meeting more cynical opposition. 'As if. It's that asinine honor debt thing.'
The redhead shook her head and sighed, diving into the translation book one more, mumbling to herself. "Stop... withdraw... Release? Shìfàng."
Shampoo eyed the martial artist with silent inquiry but pulled the blade away nonetheless. Akane stood absolutely still for another moment before sucking in a deep, trembling breath to stagger back away from the Chinese girl. It took another sucking breath before she could produce speech once more and she did so by pointing at the lavender haired girl in panic.
"She would have killed me!"
"Welcome to my world," Ranma shook her head as mental fatigue weighed down on her... And it was still only just past 10am. "Look, just don't piss her off. We'll fix her up and send her back to China where she'll be out of both of our hair, alright?"
Akane's eyes flicked nervously back to the girl in question, then back to Ranma. It was hardly an offer she could refuse. "Fine."
Ranma arched a curious eyebrow at the reluctant concession, but nodded in kind.
"That doesn't make me your fiancée." The youngest Tendo sibling added quickly and Ranma favored her with a put out look.
Akane opened her mouth to produce some form of retort, but her gaze quickly flicked back to Shampoo, who still held the jian in hand and who was still boring into her with an icy stare. It was enough to nudge her thought process onto another track. "I'm... I've got things to do."
'Like not get skewered with a Chinese blade,' Ranma thought after her with dark amusement as Akane sent a token bow Ono Tofu's way and exited the room hastily. She watched Shampoo flip her blade around. It abruptly disappeared, causing Ranma to stare for a moment before moving on. 'Gonna have to learn that one.'
"I guess we're out, then," Ranma shrugged and gestured for Shampoo to follow. The girl cast a wary glance back at the doctor but followed, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
"Guess things aren't working out so well between them, huh Betty?" Tofu frowned slightly at the skeleton hanging limply just to the side of his examination table. Of course, the pressure point had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now...
Betty of course didn't respond with words. Ono Tofu shrugged and was about ready to prep for his next appointment when he paused. The Doctor adjusted his glasses, noting a hairline fault running diagonally across the skeleton's skull. He cocked his head in wonder.
"What in the world?" He murmured curiously. It certainly hadn't been there before the visit. Betty's answer to the missive was likewise unexpected.
The whole top third of her cranium slid off at a diagonal angle, clattering to the floor.
The departure of Ranma Saotome's male aspect from the student body of Furinkan High School had produced several unforeseen complications in the life of the Anything Goes Martial Artist; complications that were only coming to light as the week wore on. It was somewhat fascinating to watch the social dynamic around her shift even though she hadn't actually left. The guys were annoyingly upbeat with the absence of her 'brother' while the girls had gone out of their way to befriend her after the hair incident. She would normally have found the sympathetic girls annoying, but her own protected status had unexpectedly offered a subtle barrier between herself and the homicide of half the males in her class seeking to ask her out on a date. Of course, some of her other female classmates were overtly jealous, but Ranma didn't mind.
A smirk formed along her lips The redhead had learned early on in the martial arts world that envy was its own form of flattery. The smile slipped as the male portion of her ego reminded her of exactly what the other girls were jealous of.
'Cursed to be a hot chick,' Ranma thought dully. 'Yay me.'
Still there were worse things in life if she thought on the matter. After all, she could have been cursed to be a hot chick and inflicted with a hair curse that grew out whenever she attempted to return to her male aspect. Ranma rolled her eyes. 'Check, check and double check.'
With her ego thoroughly deflated, Ranma looked down from her fence top transit to the other two girls accompanying her, neither which she could really call friends. The first was Akane Tendo, of course, forced into accompanying her to school by two parents that just couldn't take 'no' for an answer. The youngest sister's only conversation consisted of suspicious glances at both lavender and redhead, to which Ranma would reply with her own patronizing smirks. Other than that, it was complete silence...
'...Which is fine by me,'Ranma shook her head mentally, then hopped from the fence to the sidewalk as the her chain link path came to end.
Her gaze flicked to the other female in attendance: Xian Pu.
What she was even doing following them to school was beyond Ranma's comprehension, but the former Amazon was doing a fair job of keeping pace in spite of the subtle limp in her gait and Ranma's multiple attempts to have her remain back at the dojo under Kasumi's supervision.
'And what the hell am I going to do with her, again?' Ranma wondered with the subtle glance in the girl's direction. Tell her to wait outside like a puppy? Bring her into class for show and tell? The redhead snorted sarcastically from within the privacy of her thoughts. 'Yeah, this has swell day written all over it.'
The trio of girls crossed the street in silence, none speaking to the other or even wanting to speak to the other as they turned onto the final sidewalk that would bring the gates of Furikan High into view. The usual cliques hung outside the gates, riding the clock down to the start of the school day with chatter and gossip...
...That ceased instantly as the trio of girls came into range and passed. Ranma's study flicked from group to group, noticing the attention now riveted upon their person as they closed upon the entrance. The atmosphere around them hung with expectancy, though why was beyond the martial artist as sidelong glances followed their every step. It smelled like a challenge if she didn't know any better and she had seen enough of those to know. The who, what, where and why, however, were still-
Ranma, Akane and Shampoo finally reached the gates and the source of the expectation suddenly became quite clear. Just inside the school courtyard stood a mob of students- All male and sporting every manner of improvised weaponry. Cricket bats. Hockey sticks. Badminton sticks. The male masses instantly locked onto them as they stepped inside the gate and their chatter ceased as well.
"You have got to be kidding me!" Akane surprised Ranma with the outburst and for once, the girl's temper and balled fists weren't directed at her. "This again?!"
"But we love you Akane-chan!" One of the students from the back yelled, raising his baseball bat to the heavens. Another closer to the trio- this one in full baseball umpire padding -dropped to a knee pleading. "And you too, Ranma-chan!"
"What?!"The redhead blurted incredulously, disgusted by the passionate pledge.
"With your brother gone, it's our sacred duty!" A bald male student clad in a simple white gi explained excitedly.
"I'm right here, you idiots!" Ranma balked, jabbing a thumb at herself while Akane simply dropped her book bag, twisting her neck to work any kinks out. "Try anything and I'm gonna kick your ass!"
"Yes!" Another crowed. "Only the strongest amongst us will be able to claim your hand!"
"That's not what I-!"
"Just beat them down already," Akane snapped back and stepped into her own martial arts stance. Her smoldering gaze narrowed on the mob. "That's the only language they understand anyway!"
"Exactly!" Another cried. Suddenly the crowd surged. "ATTACK!"
Ranma Saotome had barely enough time to gawk at their stupidity before the first ranks surged upon her. Violence was a language she was well versed in as well and she was more than happy to provide a practical demonstration in the light of such idiocy. Whereas Akane plowed into the Hentai Horde like an enraged berserker engine, Ranma stepped in to their charge gracefully, weaving in and out between students, leaning out of their attacks and unleashing focused, measured punishment with near impunity. Bats, fists and other sporting implements were evaded with utter ease; so much so it was barely worth the redhead's time to even be there as both girls tore a swath of pain and unconsciousness through the mob.
Two minutes later Ranma and Akane stood alone on the field of battle surrounded by inert male bodies. Those that managed to retain consciousness no longer spoke the language of violence, but that of pain as evidenced by their groans and wheezing. The redhead scanned the fallen with a smirk when a new female voice called from on high.
"Ranma-chan, three minutes!" Ranma twisted around, her vision tracking up the side of building 2a to find half her class hanging out her home room window. Amongst them was a mousey looking brunette with large, bouncing curls and wide circular glasses waving frantically down at them. "You're going to be late!"
'Nanki, Keiko,' The redhead recalled the girl's name reflexively. Two days ago they had been mere acquaintances. The next day she had somehow attached herself to Ranma during lunch and Ranma just didn't have the heart to shoo the overly talkative girl off. Keiko's friend Seko had joined them the following day. The paler black haired girl was almost Keiko's polar opposite personality wise and watched from the window beside her friend, nodding. Regardless of the circumstances concerning their familiarity, Keiko was right and she returned her attention to the mob with a chuckle. "Let's do this again sometime, okay?"
"You would wish that," Akane grumped but turned to follow Ranma until a new voice stopped both cold.
"How easily the chaff are cut from the wheat," Both girls eyes instantly locked onto the figure stepping out from behind a tree along their path. He was a figure both recognized instantly. Tatewaki Kuno favored both girls with a serene but supremely arrogant smile. "Their resolve is naught compared to the beauty my eyes behold."
"You put them up to this again, didn't you?!" Akane accused the upperclassman with a glare. Tatewaki merely folded his arms benevolently.
"With the sorcerer departed, the opportunity must be seized to purify your bosoms," The kendoist smiled for the pair and Ranma shook her head for the both of them.
"Look, you can either get out of the way or you can be purified by a good ass kickin'," Ranma explained without fanfare. "Personally, I'm all for the-"
"Mistress." Ranma's ultimatum was brought to a halt by a light tough on her shoulder. She glanced right and found Shampoo stepping around her person to interpose herself between the Kuno and the redhead herself. "I take."
It took another pass at the words for Ranma to guess the meaning and when she finally had, found it hard to produce any dissent when it came to Kodachi's idiot brother. "Um, sure?"
Shampoo nodded and stepped forward and as she did, Ranma's thoughts flashed back to the weekend and the blade Shampoo had put to Akane's neck. She added a condition to their match in a slightly panicked tone. "But don't kill him!"
"Indeed it is quite precipitous of you to retain an arms woman in order to preserve thy chastity," Tatewaki noted grandiosely, studying the new girl as she stepped forward in Ranma's stead. He pulled the wooden length of his bokken from its sheath on his hip and brought it to bare. "I will honor your servant's service by allowing her the pretext of combat, then spirit thy and the tigress Akane Tendo away on a date!"
Ranma stared at his blatant idiocy for several long seconds before shrugging. "Your funeral."
"THEN I STRIKE!"
It was every bit the slaughter the redhead was expecting. Tatewaki Kuno blurred forward with respectable speed, giving Shampoo barely enough time to step into a formal stance before forcing more direct action. The upperclassman's strike was enough to cleave stone through air pressure alone and almost caught the girl off guard, but like Ranma before, the former Amazon had already determined that the overkill inherent in the upperclassman's technique came at the cost of mobility. She was injured, but the graceful sliding pivot barely strained her as she evaded the strike outright. Tatewaki flashed by, completely exposing his left flank to counterattack.
Xian Pu took complete advantage of it.
The ex-Amazon's hand rose like a scythe and with it, the bulbous mass of a colorful chui that smacked the kendoist upside the head less than a second later. The impact lifted the teen off his feet where he held a meter's worth of altitude for a moment before falling back to the earth like a bag of rice. Ranma, Akane and the rest of the Furikan student body watched Shampoo hold the massive weapon aloft for another moment before flipping it back into whatever ether it had been summoned.
"Stupid male." Shampoo sniffed, paying a token glance at her fallen opponent before returning to Ranma's sided. She nodded deferentially to her redheaded mistress. "We go."
Akane looked from the Kuno's crumpled mass, then to the lavender haired girl and back. It was hard to find any fault in her action and she nodded. "Sounds good to me."
"Hey, we agree on something," Ranma threw her a cheeky smile, causing Akane's face to crinkle slightly as the martial artist took the lead to walk past corpse Kuno. She glanced down at upperclassman with the same smile. "Sorry for your lu-"
Kuno's arm suddenly shot upright even though the rest of his body never moved. Ranma blinked, all but certain the rest of him was still bereft of consciousness. His hand bore an envelope; an envelope Akane plucked for herself and examined before handing it to Ranma.
"Your best friend." She sniffed with a hint of contempt as Ranma took possession of the hand delivered correspondence. Tatewaki's own arm withered and died like a plant deprived of water, joining the rest of his unconscious body.
Ranma stared at the envelope and its flowing script advising her of the sender and recipient before her expression turned equally bland. She ripped the correspondence in half a moment later to Akane's surprise, letting the pieces fall back to Kuno's body. The redhead simply turned away without care and walked toward the building even as the school bell chimed.
It didn't, unfortunately, signify the end of the day's drama as Shampoo followed her like an obedient puppy. Ranma ignored her, at least until she began following her up the stairwell with Akane to their home room. The martial artist shook her head, glancing back at the lavender haired warrior. "Ya realize you ain't a student, right?"
"You. Mistress." Shampoo replied curtly, as if the words were likely to solve any difficulties they would encounter through her presence.
"You wanna explain it to her?" Ranma sent a pleading look over to Akane, who in turn rolled her eyes.
"Your problem, not mine." The youngest shook her head with a patronizing hint in her tone, then continued up the stairs ahead of the pair, leaving Ranma to glare in her wake.
After a moment to simmer over her own words being used against her, Ranma turned back to the Chinese teen. "Look, they ain't gonna let you in, so go home already."
Shampoo simply waited and Ranma sighed, returning back to the waiting stairwell where a few students favored them with odd looks as they passed. Two minutes later the redhead was predictably facing a somewhat perplexed homeroom teacher as the class watched curiously.
"And she's not a student?" Miss Koneka cocked her head, trying to resolve the situation for herself. She stared over the redhead to the taller girl behind her.
"Won't stop following me around." Ranma shrugged, having exhausted her own options in dealing with the girl. She couldn't fight Shampoo anymore and restraining a girl- an injured girl -just seemed...
"I see... I think," The black haired educator continued to stare, though Ranma could tell she didn't 'see' anything of the sort. Still, she was hoping understanding wouldn't actually be necessary for the woman to do something about her former assassin. Sure enough, the redhead wasn't disappointed as Miss Koneka rose from the seat behind her desk to confront Shampoo directly. "Miss, I'm afraid I'll have to escort you to the principal's office. Class, review chapter twelve until I return."
"Yeah, go with her." Ranma nodded hopefully. Shampoo looked unconvinced, but followed the educator's lead to the door. The pair exited and the door clicked closed. Ranma finally breathed a sigh of relief even as the class bombarded her with questions.
"Who was that?!"
"A new student?"
"She was cute!"
"Are you both related?"
The martial artist ignored the inquiries as she walked back to her seat, simply relieved to be rid of her Chinese shadow. 'One crisis down, four thousand six hundred and twenty one to-'
The door clicked open and Ranma turned as the class diverted their attention back to their returning teacher... Followed by a lavender haired Chinese girl. The martial artist blinked as Miss Koneka produced a vacant smile. "Class, I would like to introduce our newest student, Xian Pu."
"WHAT?!" Ranma gaped. Even Akane was wide eyed as Shampoo proceeded to the center of the chalk board to write her name in Chinese script. The redhead pointed at her adamantly. "She's not even-!"
"Xian Pu is from China and will be with us for the rest of the semester," The teacher explained patiently, ignoring Ranma's outburst entirely. "Please help her with any cultural and language barriers that may arise. Shampoo, please take a seat next to Saotome, Ranma."
The former Amazon avoided Ranma's incredulous stare as she walked down the aisle of desks to the third row and took her seat adjacent to the redhead. It took another moment for Ranma's brain to even think about reengaging, and her head whipped back to Akane as if to confirm she was witnessing the event as well. The youngest Tendo's eyes were almost as wide, confirming that neither the teacher's mandate nor Shampoo's presence were a hallucination.
Ranma jerked back to Shampoo with a whispered hiss. "What are you doing?!"
Shampoo blinked innocently. "Me. Student."
"You're not a student!" The martial artist rebuked edgily and the lavender haired Chinese girl shrugged.
Ranma opened her mouth to argue the point, but was interrupted by their teacher's stern chiding. "Saotome-san, there will be plenty of time to visit with the new student later. Class, open your books to chapter twelve..."
The redhead's head thunked against the desk.
Ranma Saotome cast a sour glance at the girl walking along side her, seemingly oblivious to the negative emotions radiating from the redhead. Shampoo had somehow managed to accompany her through all six periods throughout the day, convincing each and every one of the teachers that she was, in fact, a transfer student in spite of having no records or even the ability to speak fluent Japanese. Anybody questioning the fact, including Ranma herself on multiple occasions, usually found themselves holding buckets in the hallway.
Akane had made similar attempts with similar results, but unlike the martial artist, could actually opt out of the walk home and had decided to do so with Yuki and Sayuri instead. That left Ranma to walk home alone. With Shampoo.
'What God did I piss off?' She grumped as the lavender haired girl kept an even pace with her while bemoaning the fact that Doctor Tofu had done too good of a job patching her up. How to actually get rid of her was becoming more and more an exercise in frustration. 'Brainwashed,' Ranma shook her head mentally. It was the only way to explain how Shampoo was able to wedge herself into her school life. That in itself was intriguing once the majority of her intellect got past just how creepy it actually was. 'That and her instant weapons technique...'
Ranma glanced at the girl next to her, who in turn noted the attention and sent a studied look back of her own. The redhead's face crinkled, jerking her gaze back down her direction of travel away from the seductive lure of a new technique or two. 'Nope,' Ranma scrubbed the traitorous thought from her brain. 'She's gotta go.'
The only question was how.
The martial artist mulled over the question, pausing at a street corner for a moment in to wait for passing traffic before ignoring the cross walk sign to traverse the empty asphalt. Shampoo, of course, followed. The use of force was out of question. She was still hurt to a degree and hurt by her own hand no less. Lacking any sort of the original 'I kill!' shenanigans, simply kicking her ass was no longer an option. Calling the police, however, was looking better and better each time she visited the idea; regardless of Nabiki's initial reservations. 'Sure, there would be some explaining to do...'
'...And what's ta stop her from brain washin' them too?'Ranma's intellect abruptly stumbled as another part of her brain inserted the decidedly unpleasant thought.
Shampoo could only wonder at the redhead's sudden jaw grinding as she followed her mistress around a corner to finally catch sight of the Tendo Dojo's property wall lining the block. For Ranma it was becoming an increasingly familiar sight. What wasn't a familiar sight was the large delivery van parked just outside the gates with workers wheeling out large parcels via handcart.
"What the...?" Ranma mumbled and increased her pace by a fraction as curiosity distracted her from the dilemma keeping pace beside her. Only one familiar face stood by the truck and that was Nabiki, who stood by attempting to lean into the truck's hold for a better look. Ranma stepped up beside her and the middle Tendo acknowledged her presence with the barest nod as she continued her investigation. The Saotome looked from her, then to the truck and back with the only question that mattered. "Ah, what's-"
"No clue." Nabiki commented, having fully expected the question. Her eyes tracked another box as it was wheeled off the truck and down a ramp the street by another mover. "Just showed up and started to unload the boxes. Won't even tell me what it is."
The martial artist followed her gaze to a man standing next to the unloaded stack of cargo who seemed to be scribbling notes on the clipboard he bore. He glanced up to check on his two subordinates progress, then in their direction. The foreman made direct eye contact with Ranma and blinked, then checked the clipboard quickly before nodding. He walked in their direction, dodging another cart-pulled box.
Ranma blinked. Nabiki stared. "Ah, yah?"
"Ah, good," The dark haired man scratched the back of his head nervously. "You definitely match the description we were given. Give us about another five minutes, then we'll start unpacking and assembly."
"Of what?" Nabiki stared, watching as another box exited the truck.
"From who?" Ranma asked, trying to peer around the foreman's clipboard. 'Who in the hell would send me-'
"Kuno, Kodachi," The man replied, ticking the end of his pen at the name listed on his paperwork. "The shipment contains-"
He didn't even get to finished the sentence as Ranma's delicate features turned to stone. "Send it back."
Both the foreman and Nabiki blurted the word simultaneously, though Nabiki's held a more incredulous note as they stared at the redhead and her suddenly bland attitude. After a moment of silence, the adult eyed his client carefully. "Miss, you didn't just say...?"
"Send it back," Ranma ordered firmly, now loud enough to where the other workers had halted their unloading. She motioned back to the truck. "Don't want it, don't need it."
"You're kidding, right?" Nabiki continued to blink at the martial artist as if she had grown a second head while Shampoo watched without comprehension. The middle sister looked from the closest box to Ranma. "You' re just going to toss this... this... What the hell is this stuff anyway?"
Nabiki pulled the foreman's clipboard toward her to get a look at the manifest. "...You're just going to toss this 'Professional Rythmic Gymnastics Practice Set' worth..." She pulled the clipboard back to confirm the insurance value. Her eyes widened a bit. "...thirty thousand yen away just like that?"
"Yeah." Ranma Saotome simply nodded and turned away to walk through the property gate. "That's exactly what I'm sayin'."
Ah, fun stuff. Yes, I should be working on other items, but this is drawing my attention so suck it up ;) If you think you know where this is going, I have news for you... It only falls off the rails from here :D
Chinese; You're going to have to give a pass on this one since google is the only Chinese I have access to. I'm quite sure my translations have issues, so unless you're volunteering to help, complaints in this department will fall on deaf ears :P
Ranma!Mandarin; Ranma knows a little mandarin here and there. Timeframes aside, I can't see him not learning at least a bit given how badly it blindsided him at jusenkyo. And funny how he is able to converse with the Dragon Whisker guy in the heart of China without need of a translator. I know I know... Simmer down, it's just another one of these plot license things.
Amazons; Yep, taking license all day long here concerning Amazonian law. This could break any number of ways, but consider how Cologne punished Shampoo for failing her initial mission in canon? Cologne had to know Shampoo had zero chance of winning when she smacked her down into Jusenkyo under the guise of training. If that's the punishment for a 'soft' failure, what's the punishment for getting defeated in death match and having your life spared? Could be anything, but I'm taking up the excommunication banner as you can see. I know it seems heavy handed right now but you'll love it in the end, trust me.
Class; Japanese class usually consists of six periods with the Teachers rotating in while the kids are the ones who stay put. And yes, Shampoo got to them all :)Thanks Mageohki for some of the more relevant info here.
Special Thanks; Materia Blade and Holyknight. Likewise the peeps at Fanfiction Federation. My other prereaders have life issues so I'm wishing them and you my readers the best :)