No sooner than Cologne yelled her warning did everyone forget the argument and run into the house. And in quite a hurry too. So much in a hurry that something was almost forgotten.
"The game!" Shampoo shouted just before she went inside, looking back and seeing everyone had forgotten to grab the game. Moving quickly she went back and picked it up, and heard the rumbling getting too loud for comfort. Panicked she ran back, where she saw Ranma by the door holding out his hand. She grabbed it and he pulled her inside just as the stampede made its appearance.
The wall around the Tendo estate burst open, revealing a set of Asian rhinos charging thru, followed by Asian elephants, running like they had to get somewhere in a hurry.
Everyone in the house watched in amazement and degrees of disbelief as a herd of animals charged right past them. The stampede was headed by the rhinos and elephants, mixed in with Chinese oxen and deer towards the center, and holding up the rear were Malaysian tapirs and Chinese cranes. A few of the cranes stopped to eat the koi in the pond before rejoining the herd as it charged through other people's yards and even houses.
Once the stampede was gone Soun with waterworks right on cue went out and looked over the wreckage that had once been his yard. In his daze he didn't even realize he stepped on some left behind dung until it was too late. No one wanted to guess what animal it came from, but size alone probably suggested an elephant. Groaning and shaking his foot, he saw something that made him fall to his knees in despair. The stampede had missed the house, but not the actual dojo.
Akane and her sisters went to their father, avoiding the dung and wreckage of course, and she screamed when she saw the rubble that had once been their fighting hall. "Our dojo! It's destroyed!"
"Well at least the house is still standing." Ranma offered.
Akane turned to him with a furious glare as if he had instead laughed at her loss. "This is your fault!" She yelled before she tried to mallet him clear out of Japan, only to be blocked by Shampoo who gave her a fist right to her face, knocking her across the yard and into a tree.
"Akane!" Soun yelled and went to go check on his youngest. He saw she was out cold from the hit, but otherwise fine.
Cologne stood beside a stunned Nabiki. "Well referee, I'd say that concludes the spar, wouldn't you?"
Once the mercenary understood the implication, she thought it over wondering if it was a valid answer. 'I suppose the match was never truly ended, just a momentarily intermission. And even if it had ended before the stampede Shampoo got in the last move, heck the only actual hits for that matter. I hate to say it, but no matter how you look at it Akane lost. Sorry sis.'
Nabiki nodded. "Yes, the winner by knockout is Shampoo. And with that, Akane's engagement to Ranma is officially null and void. But there's a problem. If I know Dad, he's going to say either Kasumi or myself will have to marry him instead."
Cologne just smiled. "Oh I'm not worried about that. I highly doubt either one of you would accept the arrangement." Nabiki shook her head. While she didn't hate Ranma, he had none of the traits she wanted in a real boyfriend let alone a future husband. And Kasumi already had her eye on someone so to force her to take up an engagement with another man would be just cruel.
"And am I wrong to believe the two of you cannot stand up to your father in that regard and make him listen to reason?" Cologne added.
Nabiki shook her head. "Oh no, the two of us have our ways with him. While Akane can only complain I doubt she would actually hit him; we on the other hand can back up our threats. No food and no money for alcohol."
Cologne smiled. "Be sure to tell your father. I believe we've taken up enough of your time."
"Wait, before you go what all has already been released from the game?" Nabiki asked.
"Going off what I've seen and been told, snakes, spiders, bees, a tiger, and you know the rest. I have no idea what's to come, as I've never seen this before, but the game says that if Ranma and Shampoo finish it then all this will go away."
"Go away to where? Where are these animals coming from?"
Cologne shrugged. "I have no idea."
Ranma approached Nabiki. "I'll go back up the rest of my stuff. It's clear I'm not welcome here anymore." Without waiting for a reply he went back to his now-former room with Shampoo following.
"Want help?" Shampoo offered when they went inside.
"Uhh, there isn't much to grab but sure."
No sooner did they put the last personal item of Ranma's in a makeshift knapsack did Genma show up looking anything but happy. "Boy what do you think you're doing?"
"What about you? I figured you would have chased after me as soon as I left but you're still here. What, your son vanishes and you just wait for him to come back?" Ranma countered.
"Of course I tried to go after you, but I found out I didn't have enough money for a train ticket to where I thought you were going."
"And four days later you couldn't think of another way to find me?" Ranma asked skeptically. "You swam across the Sea of Japan so don't tell me hiking to another city wasn't an option."
"Enough about me, unpack right now and go beg Akane to take you back."
Ranma frowned deeply. "Are you stupid? She lost the match. If anything she should beg me to take her back."
"Nonsense." Ranma just stared at Genma in sheer incredulity.
"No, you're the one talking nonsense Pop." Ranma countered, putting his face right in his father's in a challenging manner.
"Don't you take that tone with me boy."
"Or you'll what?" Genma blinked in surprise.
Soun chose that moment to make an appearance. "Ranma please take Akane back. My dream depends on you two being married."
Ranma redirected his frown to the crier. "What about my dreams? Or Akane's dreams? Don't they matter at all to you?"
Soun stammered for a moment. "But... but you two have always wanted what I wanted. To run the dojo and teach the arts while raising a family to give it to later."
Ranma's frown softened but did not disappear. "Mr. Tendo, I never said I wanted that. Not once did I say I wanted to be a teacher or have a family. For Kami-sama's sake I'm sixteen years old. I'm nowhere near ready to teach or have kids. I'm more interested in going out learning new techniques and finding new challenges to beat, not spending my days trapped in this house taking care of Akane and a bunch of students."
"But... but my dream-"
"That's just it Mr. Tendo, it's your dream. Not mine. I've never even heard Akane say she wants that. And if she does want that, I think you should focus more on getting her straightened out than getting her a husband."
Soun frowned. "Don't talk about Akane like that!"
Ranma rolled his eyes. "Oh right I forgot. No one's allowed to say anything bad about Akane. Heaven forbid she be treated as anything less than a princess with total freedom."
Maybe it was the stress of the game or Akane's bad attitude building up faster than it could be dealt with, or even some of Cologne's advice getting through to him, but Ranma was out of patience regarding Akane. He was tired of feeling like he was putting more effort into family honor than she was, he was tired of being hit so much and not allowed to defend himself, and he was tired of no one standing up to Akane and making her treat him as nicely as everyone expected him to treat her. For the most part, Ranma felt like he was just being used by the Tendo's.
'I had to ignore my real feelings for the sake of family honor, but if upholding honor means being used by people then forget it. Honor is supposed to be what separates the good from the bad, not what allows the bad to take advantage of the good.'
Soun looked mad enough that one could swear he was using his demon head technique without the giant aspect of it. "This is your last chance Ranma, apologize to Akane or else you will be forced to leave this house and never return."
Ranma just shrugged. "Fine then Mr. Tendo. But before I do, you better cancel the deal with Pop unless you want my old man to marry one of your daughters in my place. After all, aren't your dreams more important than any of theirs?"
Soun looked confused. "What are you implying?"
"You keep saying that a Tendo has to marry a Saotome no matter what, but if I'm not an option anymore than there's only one Saotome left. So does 'no matter what' still apply, or does that only apply to me?"
"I'm not an option. I already have a wife." Genma objected.
Ranma turned to his father in total shock. "Have? Not had? You mean my mom's still alive somewhere?" All this time traveling around he had assumed that his mom was dead, which is why he didn't think about her much if at all.
"Don't change the subject. You have no choice but to marry Akane boy. You've never had a choice in this and you're not going to be given a choice now. Now do as you're told and we'll all be a lot happier." Genma said, having lost all pretense at being fair now that Ranma was pushing him too much.
Ranma held his ground. "You mean you two will be happier. You don't give a damn about if me or Akane will be happy. There's no way you two are stupid enough to believe once we get married all our problems are just going to magically disappear. You know what, even if I did marry Akane I'd divorce her the second she tried to mallet me or poison me with her cooking."
"You can't!" Genma and Soun shouted.
Ranma crossed his arms. "I can and will. Nowhere does it say I'm not allowed to get divorced."
Now Genma was close to have an aneurysm from his anger. "You ungrateful brat! You intend to blow off honor and my well-being? For what? To go play a game with this foreign slut?" He asked as he pointed at Shampoo.
All this time Shampoo had been overjoyed to see Ranma stand up to the two fathers, telling them what he had been suppressing in order to satisfy what they led him to believe was right. He was finally thinking for himself just what was or wasn't honorable, and decided their ideas did not fit his own and something had to be done.
Now she was pissed at her potential father-in-law, though she never intended to call him that outside of times where she had to be formal. Who was he to judge her? He knew nothing about her and made no effort to learn, yet he declared her something so vile all because he didn't want her to be the one his son ended up with?
"You just old fat man who want use own son. You least honorable man Shampoo knows."
Genma glared at the Amazon. "And what does a stupid girl from a backwater village know of honor? Do us all a favor and go home."
Shampoo frowned deeply. "No until game is over." She said, holding out the game she still had with her.
Acting on impulse more than anything, Genma threw a punch at the game. "Then let's get rid of this thing." However, before his fist could connect to the game, Genma was covered in a dark, leaf-green light that blinded the others only because it was so unexpected, not because it was so bright or anything. It faded almost as quickly as it started, and when it did Genma was a panda.
"Huh?" Ranma and Shampoo said, not understanding what happened.
"But there was no water." Soun pointed out confusedly.
Shampoo stared at the wooden board in her hands. "Did the game do that?"
Genma hurried downstairs right away, heading for some hot water, with Soun deciding to follow.
"Ready to go back out into the jungle?" Ranma asked Shampoo.
Shampoo nodded. "Airen, Shampoo proud of you."
"For no letting them make you submit. They want you act like pet, do as they say because they say, but you say no. You say that no what you want. That make you real man to Shampoo, man Shampoo likes."
Ranma arched an eyebrow. "You like a guy who fights back?"
"More guy that have courage to defend self, not take easy way out." She explained.
"Even though I'm basically doing the same to you and the old woman?"
Shampoo strangely didn't look bothered by his question. "Not want you fight us forever, but respect that you not just surrender all of sudden to us. You not like men who fail test."
Ranma looked confused. "Test? You've been testing me?"
Shampoo looked forlorn. "Great-grandmother explain it best. Please wait to hear it?"
Ranma thought about it and relented. "Alright Shampoo, I'll wait, but I want to hear the complete truth on what you've been doing regarding me and why you really gave me that marriage kiss in the first place. I need to know why you want me before I think about wanting you the same way. Fair?"
Shampoo nodded. "Fair."
The two grabbed everything and went downstairs. But before they reached the bottom they were stopped by Kasumi who stood nonthreatening in their way. "Ranma, I'm not going to ask you to stay, but before you go could you please make up with Akane?
Ranma looked ready to explode just then but for Kasumi's sake he did not. "Kasumi, I didn't do a damn thing to her this time. And if even you can't see that, then I'm leaving without another word to any of you."
"Tell me what I did wrong Kasumi. What exactly did I do that I have to apologize for?" He demanded.
Kasumi struggled to reply right away, and then she realized she didn't have an answer for that. Now that she thought about it, the only reason she even had approached Ranma on this was because Akane was unhappy, and apparently she too had fallen in the trap of assuming that meant Ranma was guilty of something.
'The only thing's Ranma's done so far was stand up for himself and defend himself for once when Akane tried to hurt him, and defending himself isn't a crime. Akane may be high-spirited, but she made all the first moves here, not Ranma.' Kasumi thought. "I'm sorry Ranma, I guess I jumped the gun on that one. But now that I think about it, you did lie about where you were going for the past few days."
Ranma shook his head. "I didn't lie, I really was working on my cat fear. I just didn't tell you how I was going to do it."
Kasumi realized he was right. "Even so, you hurt Akane with your sudden departure and led her to think you were being unfaithful to her. That deserves an apology if nothing else."
Ranma internally sighed, so tired of hearing that demand. "That's it, I'm done here. Even the nicest person in this family has to look for reasons for me to be the bad guy here."
"No Kasumi, I'm tired of being used by your family. Your father wants me to fulfill his dreams at the expense of my own, Nabiki wants me to make herself richer and I never see a yen of that money, and Akane's made it clear there's no future for us where I'm treated as an equal. If family honor means being your family's tool, then I'd rather be a ronin."
Kasumi looked a bit regretful to hear all this. "Where will you go after the game ends then?"
Ranma shrugged. "No idea. Maybe I'll go find my mom who's apparently still alive somewhere. After that, no idea. Maybe I'll even go back to China. Who's gonna stop me if I do?"
Kasumi saw he was serious and when she considered his point of view she couldn't blame him. 'Maybe I should have put my foot down more regarding how we treated him. Maybe I should have told Akane that she was in the wrong a couple of times instead of remained silent. Maybe then things could have worked out better for them. But now it's too late.'
The eldest Tendo daughter then stepped to the side. "Alright Ranma, and for what it's worth I'm sorry for what you've had to endure. There is no dishonor in what you're doing. I just hope my family can realize that too."
"Thanks Kasumi, though I doubt anyone's going to realize that on their own." Ranma said as he and Shampoo went down the rest of the stairs.
The first thing they saw was a wet angry panda. As soon as he saw his son Genma held up a sign. 'I'm still a panda. What did your game do to me?'
"No idea, maybe you shouldn't have tried to destroy it."
'Turn me back now.' Genma stated by flipping the sign around.
"Maybe stupid panda be person again when game over." Shampoo suggested, still miffed by his derogatory comments earlier.
Soun, empty kettle in hand, stepped towards Ranma, tears flowing down his cheeks. "Ranma, please reconsider. What would convince you to take Akane back?"
Knowing yelling was getting him nowhere, Ranma decided he had to say it in a way Soun could not refute. "Mr. Tendo, let's say you offered someone a prize if they beat you in a spar. If they lost, would you still give them the prize?"
Soun shook his head. "No. A cardinal rule of all martial arts is to the victor goes the spoils."
"Akane wasn't the victor, so why should she get the spoils?" Ranma asked.
Soun's mind froze, seeing Ranma point perfectly and realizing he was trapped, unable to counter it.
"Akane lost an official spar, by all rights she should uphold the terms. And yet you Mr. Tendo are trying to convince me, her, and everyone else here to ignore that. For what? So she wouldn't have to feel defeated? If she was a real martial artist she'd have to learn to admit defeat once in a while. I don't like losing either but it happens. She lost, she should suffer the consequences and maybe someday ask for a rematch."
Soun snapped his fingers. "A rematch? A wonderful idea. Can we do it now?"
Shampoo shook her head. "Not now. Game first."
Soun relented. "Fine, but once it's over I want a rematch right away."
"Only one rematch. No many fights until you finally win." Shampoo insisted.
"Fine." Soun said. 'I better prepare Akane, she's got only one shot at securing our home's future again.'
With that Ranma and Shampoo went out the front door. Once they did they saw jungle foliage everywhere, with a few monkeys in the trees and even some bees like from before. Standing out were Cologne and Mousse, waiting for them.
"Better hurry in case that stampede decides to circle back." Cologne pointed out.
"Alright, but not here. Where can we avoid the most damage?" Ranma asked.
"I think you're a little past that point Saotome." Mousse commented.
Ranma slowly nodded then perked up. "Ooh, I know a good place to go next."