Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma ½
Author's Note: Thanks to everyone that have waited so patiently for this story to be updated! My real life is such a horrible thing, it would take too long to explain in this note, so never mind it and on with the long awaited chapter!
Shampoo still lay unconscious and both Cologne and Mousse were busy tending to her and waiting for her to wake up. The campsite was still tense but only from waiting to see if Shampoo was okay. Ryoga kept his distance from Akane who kept giving him a glare every now and then. It didn't help him that Ukyo was also giving him the cold shoulder. His only friend it seemed was Ranma who was oblivious of the tension and was just happy to be packing up the campsite.
"We'll finally get back home!" Ranma said happily. "We can finally get a good home cooked meal."
"Eh, I suppose." Ryoga sighed. He was used to camping food and it had been nice to have Okonomiyaki and Akane's stew. It was much better than his own cooking.
"Ah, but you think we can make it back today?" Akane asked. "We came quite far into the mountains."
"Hey if we run we can make it!" Ranma said.
"I don't think we can run with Shampoo in that state Sugar." Ukyo said smiling. For her she was starting to come to terms though it was stinging her feelings and Ryoga sulking was really making her angry. She just had to ignore him and maybe she could be home before sunset and then she will never have to see him again. "Speaking of stupid states… do you guys have any antidotes?"
"For what?" Ranma asked, not seeing the flinch in Ukyo's eyes.
"I meant for the hypnosis drug that you put on me and Lost boy!" Ukyo snapped. It was true he saw nothing but what was right in front of him. He had completely forgotten about her problem which he had caused and this just made her angrier.
"Oh… I dunno, we should ask Cologne." Ranma laughed rubbing his head. He was quickly hit by a spatula.
"You're such a careless idiot Ran-chan!"
"We're sorry, really." Akane said grabbing Ukyo's hand. "I didn't think it would be such a stupid trick…I just thought you guys might need a little push." She blushed as she realised how stupid it sounded.
"Ugh, whatever." Ukyo relented. "There's nothing between me and that Pig!"
Akane nodded and gave another glare to Ryoga. She knew the truth about P-chan now but she hadn't decided about how to deal with it. It was too much to think about and just ignoring him might be the best option for now.
"Well, all ready, hey you old Hag are you ready?" Ranma called out to the Amazons.
Cologne hopped forward on her stick. Her face was still white from the strain of it all. "That's Auntie Cologne to you now Boy." She said. "We might have to camp again if we don't make it down the mountain, so be prepared to keep up the pace. My new grandson will be able to carry Shampoo."
"I will do my best Grandmother!" Mousse said as he lifted up his human backpack that was Shampoo. "I shall carry her to the ends of the earth!"
"Just back to Nerima is enough for now." Cologne sighed. "I gave her a sleeping herb so she won't wake up on the way but I have to do something to calm her mind. Shampoo is still not over this and her pride has been greatly hurt. She may still cause some problems for you two."
"Ah, we can handle it!" Ranma said flashing his confident smile. "Akane and I are made of strong stuff! We're Anything Goes Martial Artists!"
Akane turned red and nodded happily. 'He called me a martial artist.' She was feeling quite shy suddenly, it was like she was back to how she was with Dr Tofu. She dreaded that Ranma would catch on though as she knew how much he would tease her if he found out.
Ukyo patted her rival's back and smiled at her. Even if Ranma was oblivious she noticed the subtle change in her. "C'mon Sugar, let's get going."
"Sure, we're martial Artists right?" Akane grinned.
"Hey, don't worry I'm still the strongest out of all of you, so I'm scouting ahead!" Ranma said hopping on the trees and was gone.
"I shall go too!" Ryoga said, but he was stopped by Ukyo's hand. "Just stay with us and don't get lost."
"I have an antidote that should work on both of you, but I don't have it with me." Cologne said to Ukyo and Ryoga. "It's being posted over from our village."
"Then could it work on me?" Akane asked. "You said before that that it was permanent but were you lying?" She remembered at the time she had been told her hypnosis was permanent it was when Cologne had been trying to keep them apart.
"I'm not sure child. You've been under this hypnosis now for several days. I have never seen it last for so long or have such a strong effect. That's why I believe it was permanent at the time." Cologne said though it had been a lie. "We shall try the antidote and see what happens, it is the least I could do." Cologne had asked for the antidote herbs as soon as she'd found out the affect they had on Akane, she had no idea she would need to make another dose for Ryoga and Ukyo.
"It better work…" Ukyo said. She would hate to be stuck like this forever. She hated being tied to such a jerk as Ryoga who could only think of Akane when all along he'd had another girl just as sweet waiting for him as a fiancée. She was starting to think he was just as bad as Ranma, he probably had more hidden girls out there waiting for him.
"I believe the tonic is still in its experimental stages, I had assumed it would wear off like the original mushroom but it seems to need some stimulant to reverse it." Cologne sighed. "No matter how old I get there are still some things to learn for this Elder."
"Ya don't say." Ukyo said still distracted by her own thoughts. She didn't notice that Ryoga had slipped away.
"Actually…" Akane said sheepishly. "We made Ryoga and Ukyo eat the tonic… would that make it difficult to fix?"
"Hmm… no actually that might work better since it was originally meant to be eaten." Cologne said thinking about it. "We'll find out anyway! Hurry up son-in-law!"
"Yes, Grandmother!" Mousse panted as he carried the unconscious girl. He was hoping that Shampoo wouldn't be too angry when she woke up and had everything explained to her.
Ukyo was giving Akane some angry stares as she had been reminded about the hypnotic stew.
"Sorry," Akane hung her head. She knew it had been the worst thing to do but she'd just gone along with Ranma at the time. It was a stupid excuse and she couldn't hide the guilt she felt, even though she knew her idiot fiancée wouldn't feel the same; he was probably swinging the trees up ahead like a stupid monkey.
Up in the scouting position Ranma was indeed swinging from the trees like a monkey. He was feeling relaxed, one major problem had been eradicated with Shampoo and now all they needed was to get the Neko one fixed. It would probably mean more training in the wilderness once they got everyone back home. He hoped that he could have some time alone to be with Akane. He was starting to feel like they were a real couple now and it was much easier to speak to her than before. He knew she liked him, her cat side had shown that and she didn't reject him.
Life was good, life was great.
"Me and Akane, swinging in a tree!" Ranma sung as he swung. "K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"
Ranma looked down to see in some relief Ryoga. He had snuck away to join Ranma. He laughed and greeted the pig-boy but Ryoga had no real will to be friendly. At least it wasn't another unexpected 'guest' who wanted to kill him.
"You know there's some chance we could be permanently cursed." Ryoga yelled up at him.
"What the Hot Spring? Yeah I know that, but there's got to be a cure." Ranma said as he jumped down to join Ryoga.
"No I meant the tonic…" Ryoga growled. "That hypnosis joke that you did, that you make Akane put in the stew!"
"Oh that!" Ranma said rubbing his head. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah, sure." Ryoga huffed. He didn't think Ranma really meant it; he was just as bad as he was and always did things on the spur of the moment. The consequences were never really thought about till they happened. "I guess Akane will never forgive me too."
"I did tell you pervert." Ranma said. "I kept my word though."
"Sort of." Ryoga said in a low voice as he remembered all the hints he had dropped in front of Akane. "I guess we're even… but I still love Akane."
"What about Akari?"
Ryoga's face blanched as he thought of the sweet girl that was waiting for him back in Nermia. He had completely forgotten about her. His white face turned red as he thought about how she would probably hug him when he returned.
"Ya thinking perverted thoughts." Ranma joked.
"Says you, what was that song you were singing earlier?"
"You heard that?" It was Ranma's turn to turn red faced. "It wasn't anything, idiot!"
"Who are you calling an idiot?" Ryoga shouted. "You are the idiot for taking so long to tell Akane!"
"T-Tell her what?" Ranma stammered for words.
"If you're still playing this game I'll steal her from you!" Ryoga said. "If you break her heart, I won't think for a moment of snatching her from your idiot grasp!"
"Like that will happen." Ranma retorted back. "Akane is mine and we're going to stay together!"
Ryoga was silenced by this most bold declaration from Ranma. It was almost like a wedding declaration. "I'm not coming to your wedding!" Ryoga said.
"Who says we're getting married?" Ranma choked. "Just together for now and maybe married later is best, don't go telling my old man!"
"I'm not getting married either."
Ryoga turned to see that the group had caught up with them. Ukyo was looking furiously that he had slipped away.
Akane was red faced. "I'm with Ranma… don't go making marriage declarations, we need to date first. I don't want to be a teenage bride."
"Like I want to be a teenage groom, then there's a teenage Dad." Ranma laughed and was pushed in the back by Akane. "Maybe, that'll be first before marriage."
"Don't make jokes about that." Akane flushed. She was reminded of their own close encounters in cat form it was a chance that it could well be true.
"Keep moving!" Cologne said, "We've wasted enough time, if we're lucky we can catch the bus at the end of the road."
"Bus?" Ranma asked.
"There's a road?" Ryoga asked equally amazed.
"Do you think I walked all the way here?" Cologne sighed. "We took the bus." She pointed her stick to the road in the distance.
"You mean we hiked all the way into the forest from Nerima and there was a bus!" Akane said.
Ranma shrugged, he always ran everywhere. Ryoga also looked at the road and thought that going through the forest was faster.
Cologne said something to Mousse in Chinese and they hurried along towards the road. "You can walk if you like but for me I'm using my pass." Cologne cackled to the teenagers.
Akane fumbled in her bag to find her purse, she doubted Ranma had any change on him. She gave a glare to make him aware but he was too busy running to keep watch ahead of them.
She was still feeling flustered from that confession from Ranma to Ryoga about his feelings for her. She looked across to Ukyo who had been silent the whole time. She could understand she was busy thinking about the hypnotic effect being possibly permanent or not. Her guilt was piling up, that one weak moment, the thought that it would help push the two together. Then it turned out that Ryoga was more interested in just following her as a pig. It really didn't make any sense. She watched the boys walk further ahead as they began arguing over marriage details and when the correct age would probably be or never be.
"Um… Ukyo…" Akane said.
"I don't wanna hear anymore apologies." Ukyo sighed.
"It's not about that, it's about Ryoga."
"That idiot?" Ukyo's eyes flared, she was all ready to deny any romance between her and the pig.
"Why do you think Ryoga lied to me all this time?" Akane innocently asked. "About him being P-Chan all along, I just don't get it. I thought he was my friend."
Ukyo blinked and tried not to slap her forehead. There was only so much naivety she could handle in one day.
"Well, it's not really that complicated." Ukyo said as kindly as she could. "I think it's more a sort of, he wanted to be close to you."
"As a friend?" Akane was still confused. "Was he protecting me from Ranma?" It was true, P-Chan hated Ranma or rather it was Ryoga hating on Ranma like he always did.
"Eh… sort of…" Ukyo spluttered and inwardly struggled to not shake Akane. "I mean… look at it this way, when a boy gets close to a girl it's usually for one thing and no it's not friendship before you say it."
"Wait… He…?" Akane finally put it together.
"Yeah?" Ukyo smiled as she saw the pink flush on Akane, looked like she'd figured it out.
"All these things that he did, hiding next to me as P-Chan… was it because he liked me?"
Ukyo almost fell over at the acute sense from the usual ignorant to love Akane. The girl seemed honestly surprised by this. "I think you should ask that yourself Sugar!"
"I guess…" Akane said quietly.
"Don't worry about it." Ukyo said. "He's not really that much of a pervert no matter how many nose bleeds he has."
"I guess." Akane looked at her feet as she walked. "There're a few stupid things you do because of love."
"You don't need to tell me," Ukyo said and patted Akane on the shoulder. "I might just walk back I don't think I can take the bus."
"You need time to think?"
"No there might be some random bangs that will make me do something stupid." Ukyo blushed and coughed as she was reminded of how close she got to Ryoga. "It's better if I stay away from loud noises."
"Right." Akane bit her tongue she wanted to say sorry again but it would probably be better to wait until they were cured. Maybe there was a chance her own hypnosis could be removed.
Ukyo smiled and pulled her backpack up higher. She was going to go on a long hike by the looks of it. She ran ahead and kicked the back of Ryoga's leg. He stumbled forward and gave her an angry glare.
"What was that for?" He shouted. "I was only talking to Ranma!"
"Looked more like a fight to me." Ukyo said winking at Ranma. "Oh but I forgot, that's how you two friends talk to each other."
"Yeah," Ranma agreed but Ryoga couldn't and just grunted.
"Ryoga and I are gonna take the long way back." Ukyo said. "I don't want to be anywhere near any traffic or public in case of any noises that make that thing happen."
"Well, THAT thing that made us go temporary insane for an instant and hug each other!" Ukyo said hitting Ranma with one of her throwing spatulas.
Ryoga shook his head. "I still believe you tricked Akane."
"Hmm…" Ukyo didn't want to add her own thoughts on the matter. She didn't have such an innocent opinion of Akane as Ryoga did. She didn't want to spend the rest of her hike arguing over something that they would forever disagree on.
"We need to walk another mile down this road." Cologne said.
Ukyo pointed towards the forest path. "Then we're going onwards down the mountain."
"Are you sure it's not that path?" Ryoga asked as he pointed to a more narrow and overgrown one.
Ukyo grabbed him and started walking. "We'll see you guys later tonight." She called back. "So long as I can keep this guy from following his obviously wrong gut instinct."
"We'll see you at the Nekohanten!" Akane yelled. "We're going to find the cure!"
"Better count on it." Ukyo mumbled. "There's no way I want to be caught forever with this pig-boy."
"Why do you think we'll be caught forever?" Ryoga said as he waved to the group, he tried not to think about any meaning in Akane not actually looking at him in the eye. She hadn't even spoken to him since the temple and she seemed to make an effort to only speak to Ukyo or Ranma rather than himself directly.
"Well Sugar, think about it for a minute rather than your lost love." Ukyo sighed. She hated being surrounded by all these people with no forethought. "If either of us hear a loud bang, like thunder, what will happen?"
"That person will rush to wherever the other is and strip and…" Ryoga blushed and couldn't finish the sentence.
"Wherever we are, as in if you're off in China, you'll instantly try to leave to find me!" Ukyo snapped. "It would be better till we're cured that we stay close so we don't have to be in any hypnotic trance running cross country to hug each other."
"I never thought about it."
"Right, story of my life…" Ukyo said faintly. "I'm surrounded by guys that never do that."
Near the Nekohanten the closed sign remained hanging. A large pig walked past with a little cute girl right beside him.
"Looks like they're not back yet." Akari said patting her pet. "It's been really lonely. Almost as if I've been forgotten about."
She was nudged by the large Sumo pig and she gave it a hug. The girl had been checking the whole of Nerima for any sign of Ryoga returning but it had only been a few days. She hadn't even got to say goodbye properly, he had just left so quickly. That girl she'd never seen before with the weird spatula throwing technique had distracted them. It wasn't in her nature to be jealous but there was something bugging her and it hadn't helped that she'd had no postcard or message like she usually received.
Akari gave a little love sick sigh and headed back to the Tendo's. It was no good for her feeling so negative; she needed to get back to her positive attitude. She gave herself a little tap on the cheek and tried to shake the blues away. Although that nagging little voice inside her tried to question her resolve she kept herself moving forward like she always did. Ryoga would come back to her, he always did.
Author's Note: There we go, more plot development and Akari who has been so neglected got a little bit of a character arc going on and more to come I can assure you. I would have had my usual cliffhanger but I thought that might be a bit too cruel this time.
I do plan to finish my fanfiction, it's probably more neglected than Akari. As usual my normal apologies and lame excuses. Sorry, real life, blargh, why do things keep happening?
Next chapter coming some time…