Note: Well this took a bit between my editing and writing skills and both my beta readers we have made this chapter worthy of your view or so we hope.
I wanna thank both my beta readers without them my writing would be very rough at best, you both are vary valuable to me and I am honored to have your help on my projects thank you Brian, and Richard.
Coma White Chapter:7
NWC sea trip
On the boat to China the water churned violently, as a storm was brewing. Ranko stood by the railing, rain washing over her. She stared off into the distance as lightning struck the sea. She came to her senses, hearing a voice from behind her.
"Please come out of the rain, dear, before you catch a cold," Nodoka said to her daughter as she took hold of her right arm to lead her inside.
Ranko looked at her mother, slowly following her back to their cabin. They tread carefully, as the wood of the deck was getting slippery under their feet from the rain.
Once inside the cabin, the heat from the room washed over Ranko's skin as she walked over to the corner. Sitting on the hardwood floor, she looked to her father. His head was wrapped, covering up his damaged eye. "You okay, Pops?"
"Could be worse," Genma replied with a grunt, looking at Ranko, who was displaying a gloomy aura of despair.
Ryoga sat by Akane and considering all that had happened. "You should have told us all the moment you thought there was going to be a problem, Ranko," he stated simply.
"I didn't want anyone gettin' hurt so I kept it to myself for the most part…sorry," Ranko said as she slammed her fist into the wood of the floor, causing it to crack from her vented frustration.
Nodoka let out a sigh. "We should have dealt with the Amazons ages ago. We all knew that if Ranko ever reappeared they would continue their pursuit, but we could never know you were coming back with children, honey."
"Well, it doesn't matter now…all I wanna do is get my kids back. I really don't want you guys involved. They're willin' to kill, do you understand that? This ain't just a simple matter of beatin' the Amazons in a duel. This is a fight for blood…any one of us could pay the price, not to mention that none of you have killed before. You should turn back now while you're still safe – an' your hands are clean," Ranko said flatly, slowly letting out a breath.
"Hon, we are fully aware of the risks. We lost you once; we're not doing it again," Akane declared while looking her fiancée directly in the eye.
Ukyo and Konatsu sat cuddled together, taking in the warmth of the room.
"Akane is right, Ranma. You're not going to be able to do this alone, and I for one want my grandchildren back. Besides, I owe Shampoo for this eye of mine," Genma stated firmly.
Kodachi nodded in agreement.
Ryoga nodded his head as well. "And I owe Mousse for those poison daggers of his. He should have killed me when he had the chance…now I'll show him the cost of his mistake," he promised coldly.
The Amazon village
The sun peeked through an overcast sky as children ran to and fro, playing or practicing to be warriors like their mothers before them. Several women of the tribe were practicing their warrior arts, while the men of the village tended to the farming and their various other mundane duties. They were not allowed to do much else unless instructed.
"Let me go you, filthy duck!" Rayne yelled as she kicked Mousse in the shin, causing him to lose his grip. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the part-time girl bolted with her sister. However, they soon found themselves corralled by several Amazon women, one of whom picked Rayne up by her shirt while looking her in the eyes.
"You are definitely a fighter like your mother, aren't you, child? Do yourself a favor and simmer down for now. Once your mother is here you may all go home free – depending on the outcome of my daughter's battle with her, that is," the woman stated with a hint of a smirk. She was adorned with tribal beads and furs, and she could almost have passed for Shampoo's twin were she just a little younger. She set Rayne down on her feet and turned to the girls' captor. "Now then, Mu Tsu, take them to the council's hut and do not harm them."
Mousse bowed before the woman, took both of the girls' wrists and led them to the hut in question. "As you wish, Elder," he replied quietly.
Cologne watched as Ranko's children were taken away by the part-time duck. "Sham Su, you do realize what will happen once Ranma comes for them, don't you?"
"Grandmother, I know exactly what will come to pass. Ranma was given the kiss of death by my daughter, but due to learning of the curse we changed our minds, didn't we? Well, the girl is locked, so the original kiss is reinstated. My daughter will perform her sacred duties and restore her honor, dead or alive. That is my final decision on the matter," Sham Su said to her fellow elder who surpassed her in age by many decades.
Cologne eyed her younger counterpart and current tribal leader warily. "You are going to pit your daughter and Ranma in a fight to the death. If Ranma is killed, what is to become of her children?"
"If the girl dies, then we will take the children into our flock and train them in our ways. Some shampoo would help wipe away the memories of their mother's existence," Sham Su said rather bluntly.
"And what will you do if Ranma kills Sham Pu? You can't possibly tell me you will simply accept it."
"If Ranma manages to kill my daughter, then I will be a proud mother who saw her daughter fight honorably to the death. I will then allow this outsider girl to leave with her children. I am simply bringing this shamefully protracted episode to a close. I will not have my daughter's honor and the honor of the tribe dragged through the mud any longer just because some fool Japanese boy ruined Sham Pu's Airen. And might I remind you, we wouldn't be in this mess if you hadn't allowed my daughter to lie to the tribe by telling us the female Ranma was dead. You further tarnished my daughter's honor by allowing her to lie about it," Sham Su replied as she shot Cologne a sharp glare.
Cologne didn't flinch at the glare as she simply said, "I fear you are making a rather big mistake in this matter. There are other factors to consider…Ranma carries extra baggage such as Herb, who has been waiting for her return for quite a while. She apparently has the ladle with her; don't you worry she may use it to convince the Musk to attack us?"
"King Herb knows better than to go to war with us. It would leave both our peoples vulnerable to the Communist forces who threaten to intervene in our way of life," Sham Su explained with certainty.
Rayne glared at Shampoo, who walked into the hut with a tray of food and drinks. "You two must be too too famished. Here, eat this," she said as she set the tray down in front of the two angry siblings.
"Shampoo, why let your mother do this? We could run away together and be happy," Mousse said to a plant in the corner.
Rei cocked her head, watching the strange man who was speaking to a houseplant in a language she didn't understand. "Your friend is crazy, he talks to plants," she said to the purple-haired Amazon.
"Aiya! He does talk to plant. He no very smart," Shampoo answered the young white-haired girl softly before speaking in Mandarin to Mousse. "I will not run anywhere with you, stupid Mousse! I will do as my mother wishes of me."
Placing his glasses on properly, Mousse looked to Shampoo. "This is suicide! You can't beat Ranma and you know it."
"Suicide? Maybe, but I made a mistake long ago and it is high time I make amends for it one way or another. If I can't have my Airen, then so be it. I do not wish to have this conversation with you again, Mousse. You were a childhood friend to me, nothing more. Get it through your thick skull…we were never meant to be," Shampoo replied, giving Mousse a soft look he missed.
Noting their captors' distraction, Rayne picked up a cup of water from the tray and tossed it onto Shampoo, turning her into a cat. She then quickly tossed the other cup of water onto Mousse, turning him into duck form. "Let's go, Sis!" she cried.
"Alright, Bubba, let's go!" Rei shouted as she rose to her feet with Rayne. The girls bolted out the door, running around the side of the hut as dust kicked up under their heels. They stopped as they saw one of the gates, most likely the rear entrance to the village. Guarding the gate were two burly female guards carrying frighteningly large broadswords on their backs.
"How are we going to get past them, bubba?" Rei asked while panting for breath.
Rayne looked at her younger sister while trying to think of something. 'Ugh, what would Mom do?' she asked herself while wracking her brain to formulate a plan, knowing full well the cat and duck would soon alert the other Amazons of their escape.
Shampoo growled in her cat form as she tipped the soup she'd brought for the sisters onto herself, returning to normal. Getting redressed, she stepped out of the hut, all the while ignoring the indignant quacks of Mousse. Turning her head to the left she sniffed the air, catching the smell of Rei's lavender-scented conditioner. Walking around the hut she found the two frightened children, who didn't notice her behind them. Shaking her head, she placed a hand gently on both their shoulders, causing them instantly to tense up. "Come back to hut with me; there no need for this. No one will harm you, I promise," she said in a calm, soothing tone.
Rayne looked over her shoulder at the cat-woman. "Why can't you just let us go home? We didn't do anything to you, and our mother didn't do anything to you either!" she half-shouted while being led back to the hut with her younger sister.
"Yeah, Momma did nothing to you at all!" Rei exclaimed as she was pulled along by Shampoo, who had a soft but firm grip on her arm.
Shampoo let out a depressed sigh. "Your mother and Shampoo have unfinished business from before you were born." 'If only I hadn't been so quick to give the Kiss of Death, and then the Kiss of Marriage! What a fool I am. If I should win, these children will have suffered a great, irreplaceable loss…all because of my foolishness and mother's stubbornness,' she thought bitterly, knowing her own pride had brought them to their current situation.
Elsewhere in China, just three hours away from the Jusenkyo valley
Ranko walked ahead of her group as she kept an eye out for Herb or any of his patrols, and for any Amazon scouts that may have been shadowing their movements since their arrival. The wind was quite fierce as it blew her red and blue hair back, causing it to whip around. Dust swirled around them, leaving some members of the party to coughing to keep their airways free.
"Well, we're certainly bein' trailed," Ranko noted as she spotted a Amazon scout sitting not far off in a tree, unaware she had been discovered.
Akane observed the scout and asked quietly, "How many do you think, Ranko?"
"More than just that one. There are two more behind us pretending to be fishing at the riverbed," Ryoga answered for Ranko, as he had also spotted their trailing stalkers.
Nodoka and her husband trailed behind their daughter but keeping quiet throughout the trip.
"Ranko, I personally think you should think this through a bit more before we get there. Cologne isn't an easy opponent, you know," Happosai said from Genma's shoulders, where he sat perched.
Ranko gave the ancient master a thin smile. "You ain't an easy opponent either, Gramps, but that didn't stop me from fightin' ya, did it?"
"You only win flaunting your goods to me or throwing ladies' underwear my way! Without that, I would've had you modeling silky darlings for me on a regular basis long ago, now wouldn't I, Ranko, my girl?" Happosai said with a lecherous laugh.
Ranko grumbled a protest, knowing that his words may have possibly held a kernel of truth. Setting aside all such methods of distraction, she wasn't completely certain she could defeat him. Cologne would surely prove at least as great a challenge.
"Sister, dear, this country is rather beautiful, don't you agree?" Kodachi asked her sister-in-law.
"Yeah, it's peachy, Ko-chan," Ranko answered softly, not truly in the right frame of mind to pay the landscape any heed.
Ranko and her companions made their way up a dirt path, the Amazon scouts following some distance behind. The party came to a stop as a group of riders approached from the opposite direction, dust kicking up in their wake. As the riders drew nearer, Ranko made out Herb on the lead horse with his two retainers, Lime and Mint, on either side of their master/sometimes mistress. Behind them rode ten of the Musk king's honor guard.
Thunder could be heard in the distance as Ranko stood firm, watching Herb and his entourage come to a halt only a couple of meters away. "Well, Herb, how are ya?" she asked.
Herb stepped down from his mount, eying the blue-and-red-haired young woman for a moment before finally fitting a name to the face. "I am well enough, though you, Ranma, are quite late for our rematch. I sent you the challenge a decade ago; you were to come and face me after your marriage. Do you seek to mock me by only arriving now?"
"I really was meanin' to come give you that rematch, Herb…but unfortunately, some people had other plans. For the last ten years I haven't had the chance to make my own decisions. Sorry," Ranko said plainly. Pondering a moment, she then asked, "If you were so concerned why didn't ya come ta Japan ta find out why I never showed?"
Herb chuckled at Ranko briefly. "Ranma, I have an empire to run. I can't take time off to find out why a mere human doesn't show up for a challenge. I assumed you had simply scurried off with your tail between your legs. Though since you are here now, perhaps you would like some hot water so we may have a proper fight, man to man?"
Ranko stood with one hand on her right hip, pushing her hair out of her eyes with the other. "Jeez, I'd love to do that if I could. Sadly, a certain artifact insured that'll never happen…though I'd be happy to fight you as is. Besides, we did it that way before, remember?"
"This certain item wouldn't happen to be my people's artifact, would it?" Herb questioned.
Ranko shrugged her shoulders, taking a breath before speaking. "It might be…an' if it is, I can tell ya who stole it. You want 'em both? Y'know, a 'you scratch my back an' I scratch yours' kinda thing?" she offered with a smirk..
"What would…'scratching your back' entail, Saotome?" the Musk king asked with a hint of bemusement.
Ranko stretched, giving Herb her patented bored expression. "The Amazons have my kids. Maybe you help me get 'em back an' I get you the item, along with the thief. Whaddaya say?" she asked.
"I'm afraid I have no need for war with the Amazons at this time, Saotome. I have a counterproposal: you give me the item and deliver to me the culprit at a later date, and I let you and your party go unmolested. As you can see, I am not alone…you cannot hope to protect them all," Herb replied, giving Ranko a cold, superior smirk of his own.
Ranko's jaw dropped slightly, as she was left momentarily stunned by the dragon king's "offer." "But…I-"
"There is no room for conflict between the tribes of this region, Saotome. This is a time for diplomacy, as we must present a united front against the ever-growing threat from Beijing. Furthermore, you have already defied me by not appearing to accept my challenge ten years ago. Now I find you here with my people's prized artifact in your possession…it is only because I believe you were not the one who stole it that I don't have you all killed right here and now. So hand it over and then you can be on your way. Once you deal with the Amazons, come see me for our rematch."
Ranko sighed, feeling utterly defeated. She reached into her pack, pulling out the ladle and pail and handing them over.
"Very wise thinking, indeed. After you have addressed this Amazon problem of yours, bring the thief to me. Until then, I will hold your mother as collateral," Herb declared, signaling to Lime while he reclaimed the artifact.
"Unhand me, you filthy mongrel!" Nodoka cried as she tried to wrench her wrist out of Lime's grasp.
Ranko turned in shock as Lime grabbed her mother, dragging the woman to one of the Musk's horses and binding her hands. "Herb, you harm her, and so help me, I'll slaughter every last one of you," she swore, her tone darker than anyone present had ever heard it.
Herb brushed aside her threat with a wave of his hand. "Calm yourself, girl. You have my word she will be treated well. I look forward to your return. We shall have our rematch then," he promised as he got up on his mount.
A low, enraged growl emanated from Genma. "No-chan! Let my wife go, you bastards!" he bellowed. As he started to lunge forward, Ranko placed her arm against his chest, blocking his path.
"Let it go, Pops…this ain't tha time," Ranko sighed.
Herb chuckled at Genma. "Listen to your daughter; she knows best in this situation. I'll be waiting for you, Ranma!" he shouted as he rode off with his entourage towards the south, Nodoka in tow. Thunder crackled over the mountains, signaling a storm was on its way.
Rain camp, fifteen kilometers closer…
Ranma sat in a large canopy tent with Akane at her side and Ryoga sitting opposite them with the heating unit they were using sitting between them. Genma was lying down asleep while Ukyo and Konatsu cuddled together for a nap. Kodachi slept quietly behind Ranko and Akane, while Happosai sat by the open entrance of the tent, smoking his pipe in deep contemplation.
"So what now, Ranko? What are we going to do once the rain is gone?" Ryoga asked as thunder boomed overhead and lighting flashes could be seen through the tent flaps.
Ranko looked at her friend as she leaned against Akane, who was hugging her. "I've been thinkin' for the last few kilometers now, an' I'm convinced we should create a diversion," she explained, pausing for a breath before she continued. "You, Akane and Pops'll get the Amazon scouts' attention, raising' the alarm…then ya make a break for it, leadin' their war party on a chase – say, as far as Jusenkyo if ya want. Konatsu, Ukyo an' Kodachi will sneak into the village, hopefully causin' some mayhem on the inside…an' I'll move in, grab the kids and go. It's pretty simple, though…"
"Though what, Ranko?" Akane asked from her fiancée's side.
Ranko let out a sigh, looking into Akane's worried eyes. "Well, it prob'ly won't end up bein' that easy. I'll bet Cologne's guardin' my kids, along with all of the elder council…I'm not sure if we can take 'em all even if we went in one big group."
"How 'bout this, Ranko…Akane and Kodachi go with you, and you let me, your dad and Happosai lead them on a chase. I don't get lost so easily anymore, so I can shake them and then come help you out," Ryoga said confidently.
Happosai broke from his contemplation. "Good idea, Ryoga, m'boy! We'll give those Amazons a panty raid the likes of which they haven't seen in two hundred years!" he cackled.
"What! I didn't say we'd steal underwear!" Ryoga shouted, his face turning red.
Ranko grinned. "For once, Gramps has the right idea. A panty raid would definitely do the trick, don'tcha think, Akane?"
"I- I- uh, sure…yeah, I guess," Akane whispered, her cheeks flushing.
Ukyo opened one eye for a moment. "I guess we all get to be perverts for one day, huh?" she murmured before closing her eye and going back to sleep.
"Do Amazons even wear panties?" Ranko asked, cocking an eyebrow. She'd never thought of it before – or at least she didn't think she had. She didn't have all of her memories back, but she felt fairly certain she would have remembered that piece of information.
Happosai looked to Ranko with a lecherous smirk. "Of course they do, my girl! Why, we'll have a panty raid that Kami-sama himself would be proud of!"
"I just bet we will, Gramps. I hope you brought your firecrackers, 'cause I wanna throw a huge goin' away party while we make our escape with my kids," Ranko said with a grin.
Knowing they would be headed for the Amazon village in just a few hours, Akane reached into her pack and made sure she had her flasks of vodka and sake handy. Looking over her fiancée's shoulder, Ranma noted the flasks with some concern. "Akane, I thought you quit drinkin' when I got home?"
Akane looked to Ranko in embarrassment. "Well…I did, but I think I'll need my drunken fu techniques if I'm to be a match for these Amazons," Akane said sheepishly as she popped the cap on a flask and took a swig.
Ranko sat startled a moment, mouth agape. "You know drunken kung fu? When did you learn that?"
Akane sighed. "Not long after I started drinking, I ran into a martial arts master. I complained about my troubles advancing as a martial artist because I had no one to train me. My father wasn't up to it, and you were gone, so he took me into his school and taught me some techniques he felt were suited my style…later I found out he was just a drunken master," she explained with a chuckle. She gave Ranma a kiss, who returned the gesture while trying to ignore the alcohol on her fiancée's breath.
Ranko chuckled a little in response. "Maybe I'll have you teach me someday when my kids are on their own."
"Sorry, Ranko…not a chance. I'm not teaching it to you or anyone else. Once this is over, I'm done with the bottle. Count on it," Akane stated firmly as she finished her first flask, receiving a supportive hug from her fiancée.
The assault begins
As the team trudged off to their positions some four hours later, Ranko and a staggering Akane made their way onto a ridge overlooking the Amazon village. Ranma was about to take out the lookout when Akane jumped forward drunkenly, taking the scout's head between her calves. Falling backwards, sending the Amazon back into Ranko's waiting fist. "Good job, Akane," she whispered.
"Ya knooow Ish got thish," Akane slurred with a lopsided grin.
Konatsu and Ukyo made their way into the Amazon encampment, sticking to the shadows. They rigged several of the village storehouses with Happosai's explosives, setting them with extra-long fuses. They split off from one another as a patrol neared them, at which point Ukyo looked to Konatsu. Receiving a nod from her husband, Ukyo leapt out from her hiding place, hitting the unsuspecting Amazon over the head with her battle spatula. Giving it a twirl as she slung it back over her shoulder, the couple sped off to their next target.
"Great-grandmother! Ranma is standing up on the ridge with Violent Girl and Crazy Ribbon Girl! Should we raise the alarm?" Shampoo asked the elder, who was watching the spectacle of Ranko's rescue party. She had known of their impeding arrival some time ago, before they even left their tent.
Cologne chuckled to herself, thumping her staff twice on the ground. "No, Sham Pu, let's let 'Ranko' have some fun…I have no wish to see you dead any more than her. So, we will let this play out for now. Your mother has made a grave mistake as she wishes to pit you against a foe you have no hope of defeating. Let her find out firsthand…mark my words, child: Ranma will challenge your mother rather than fight you. I feel it in my bones. She wants this to be over as much as we," she said with a wry grin, watching Akane's movements from afar. 'So she did master that fool's art, I see. Sadly, it leads to a broken life if not balanced by love…but perhaps she's found such balance, after all?'
"Understood. Then I will sit and watch along with you, Elder," Shampoo said as she turned her attention in awe to Ryoga, Genma and Happosai, who were leaping over one of the walls to the village. They immediately knocked out two of her best friends, Ling-Ling and Lun-Lun, who were considered highly-skilled warriors of the Joketsuzoku. What really caught her eye, however, was when she saw which buildings they entered. Now the alarms were being sounded and the shouts of angered Amazons could be heard as several of their food stores exploded in a rainbow of colors. "Now do we move in, Great-grandmother?"
Cologne watched the spectacle while also keeping an eye on Ranko, who was still on the ridge. They were now looking directly at one another. "Not yet. She knows we are here, Sham Pu."
"Well, Akane, looks like the Ghoul is watchin' our show," Ranko growled out, glaring at the old woman who waved at her with a cheerful smile.
"Welll…maybe we shhould go play shhome?" Akane replied, almost falling off the ledge before Ranko caught her.
Ranko laughed at Akane's stumble. "Dammit, maybe I shoulda sent you in with Ukyo…then I wouldn't hafta worry 'bout you fallin'," she observed, scooping Akane up momentarily and jumping down to ground level with Kodachi following right behind. Heading for the village, she spied Cologne and Shampoo doing the same. As she set Akane down on her feet, the three of them made their way to the encampment. Not bothering to jump over the thick wall of logs that surrounded the village, Ranko simply slammed her fist through it, causing it to shatter into splinters and dust as they made their entrance.
As Amazon warriors moved in to flank the trio, Ranko pulled out her mother's honor blade and prepared for battle. She channeled her ki into the blade, causing it to glow red as fire. Akane took a drink from her pouch and then, with a flick of a lighter, blew flames out onto one of the Amazons. The warrior's leather battle armor caught fire, causing the poor girl to rip her breast plate off and toss it to the ground. She then leapt at Akane with her poleaxe, missing the bobbing and weaving blue-haired girl and soon finding her pants on fire as well.
"Hot! It's hot!" the Amazon screamed in Mandarin, dropping her axe as she tried to put out the fire that was now burning through the seat of her pants. Dropping and rolling to quell the flames sent her into a nearby pond. Kodachi shot forward to clear the path ahead for Ranko. Meanwhile, Ranko battled four Amazons at once, swiping at them with the ki-charged honor blade. She cut through one of the Amazon's bonbori, and then twirled into a roundhouse. Kicking her in the head, Ranko knocked her out cold, sending her careening into a nearby building. That building exploded shortly thereafter thanks to Konatsu's bomb-planting.
"I can do this all day!" Ranko exclaimed as she formed a ki blade with her left left hand, wielding the honor blade in her right. She charged forward, quickly clashing swords with the other Amazons and achieving yet more knockouts against the warriors.
Ranko surveyed her and Akane's handiwork. "Alright, Akane, let's go get my kids back. So far, no one's dead…I really wanna keep it this way," she said. When Akane didn't answer she turned around to find Cologne and Shampoo, an unconscious Akane in the latter's arms. "Let her go, Ol' Ghoul!"
"You want her back, dearie? Then call your party off. We're going to dance to a new tune now," Cologne said smugly as she pulled a dagger from her cloak, placing it against Akane's neck. 'Please tell me she will buy this. I don't really want to hurt either of them,' the ancient Amazon thought to herself, as she wished to resolve the matter as painlessly as possible.
Ranko snarled, her rage beginning to boil over as her aura flared out in a deep red that bordered on black. "I wouldn't be here if you didn't take my kids, dammit! You hurt her or anyone else and I'll see your entire village wiped off the planet for good…and I mean everyone!" she threatened.
"Ranma, we both know what you're capable of, but do you really want to live with her blood on your hands? Call them off and we will work this out one way or another," Cologne replied as she pressed the blade against Akane's throat, causing a slight trickle of blood to flow.
Ranko shouted out her frustration before letting her aura drop away. Her ki blade faded to nothing, and the glow from her katana dissipated as well. "Fine, Cologne. Please take the blade away from her neck. You win, okay?"
"Wise of you, child," Cologne said as she removed the knife from Akane's neck. Shampoo placed a cloth against the small wound to ensure it would stop bleeding quickly.
A few minutes later, nearly all of Ranko's rescue party found themselves chained up in the main elders' hut. Except, that is, for Ranko herself, who was surrounded by Amazons with spears to ensure she didn't try anything desperate.
"Happi got away, Great-grandmother. He left several of our warrior unconscious before we could capture him," Shampoo said apologetically before she kicked Ranko in the ribs to vent some of her frustration.
Ranko winced as she looked up at Shampoo. "Love you too, wench," she spat as she quickly threw a punch into Shampoo's gut. The purple-haired young woman doubled over, gasping for breath. Several Amazon spears jabbed Ranko to remind her where she was.
"You foolish boy! Male not supposed to hit Amazon warrior," Shampoo shouted, slapping Ranko. The red-and-blue-haired woman spat out a mouthful of blood in response.
Shaking her head, Sham Su spoke up. "Enough from the both of you! Sham Pu, I don't see a male there, do you? And you can't kick someone and not expect to get hit back. Simmer down, girl," she scolded. The leader of the Joketsuzoku sized Ranko up, crouching down to look Ranko in the eyes. "You want your children back? I want my daughter's honor redeemed and my reputation restored. If we are each to get what we want there is something that must be finished today. A Kiss of Death was given and today it will be fulfilled one way or another. Champions or no, you're both worthless to us until you fulfill your destinies," she said as she reached up and patted Ranko's cheek.
"What kinda mother pits her child to a death match against a foe she can't beat?" Ranko asked, spitting the blood that that pooled in her mouth onto Sham Su's face.
Sham Su simply laughed as she wiped the blood away, belting Ranko hard with the back of her hand. "The kind who takes pride in her children and her tribe. The kind who upholds the laws of her people. Sham Pu isn't my only daughter, and until this matter is finished she's nothing but a disgrace. It's all thanks to you and your infidelity with another male…getting your curse locked! Pitiful. It would have been so much better had you died the day you first arrived here after Jusenkyo. Then we wouldn't be in this position today," she said with a mocking laugh.
"I didn't choose to get locked or have children, but I'm glad I have 'em, 'cause they give me the strength to do what's needed. Thanks to my fiancée's sister, I know of your laws now…an' I'll uphold one that's written in cases like this where a cursed one's life's in peril because of a misunderstandin' of the tribe's laws. I challenge you to a battle to the death!" Ranko shouted, giving Sham Su a glare.
Sham Su and most of the other Amazons present were taken aback.
Cologne was one who was not surprised by Ranko's declaration. "Ranma, you do realize that simply winning this duel of yours will not end things. You need to think this over a moment," she warned.
Ranko let out a low growl. "I don't care what this does, dammit! I've already made up my mind. Ya wanna kill a snake, ya gotta take its head. I killed once before…killin' a tyrant like her won't be any different!"
"Very well, then. I accept your challenge. You will be allowed an hour with your children until our match. It will be your last moments with them ever," Sham Su cackled as she left the hut.
Ranko glared at Sham Su's back, giving her the type cold, determined look she had only worn when she fought Saffron.
"Foolish child…there will be many consequences of your decision – if you make it out alive, that is. I hope you're ready, because your life will not be the same," Cologne stated, shaking her head at her old apprentice.
Ranko said nothing and just sat fuming as Cologne and most of the other Amazons left. Shampoo stood watch by the door as Rayne and Rei were let into the hut, running over to their mother. As they tackled her, Ranko returned their loving embrace.
"Momma!" Rei cried as she hugged her mother, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Rayne tried to smile through her own tears. "I thought we would never see you again, Mom. They plan to make us Amazons…they said you'll be d- dead soon."
Ranko sighed, bittersweet feelings washing over her. "They won't take me away from you two. After this, I promise we'll go home together."
One of the Amazons tossed the Saotome honor blade down next to Ranko. "I figure this is your weapon of choice. Our leader surely will use one of her own. I hope you win," she said, giving Ranko a nod as she started to leave, only to be stopped by the blue-and-red-haired woman's voice.
"Why do you want me to win?" Ranko asked the green-haired Amazon.
The woman turned to Ranko, the feathers in her hair swaying about and the light of the fire gleaming off her sword. "I too was a victim of Jusenkyo. I was forced to marry and was virtually a slave for many years under Lady Sham Su's rule. Even with my curse I was treated as dirt, until my wife was killed by King Herb and his Musk. I then became a warrior in order to avenge her death. If it weren't for getting splashed by the locking ladle, I would still be a slave today. I feel you will change all that soon. My name is Kalaina-ye, I am one of Lady Sham Su's battle maidens. Call me if you need me after your battle," she said with a bow before leaving Ranko to spend time with her children.
Akane slept soundly while Ryoga struggled to break the chains. "Ranko! Little help here?"
"Ryoga, an escape's outta the question. So let's just chill. I'd like these moments with my kids…'cause soon I'll hafta do somethin' I swore never to do again," Ranko said to her friend as he tried in vain to break free.
"You better win this, Ranko, if you're even half the martial artist I trained you to be. Otherwise you'll prove that I was right and you're just too weak," Genma taunted, knowing it would provoke his daughter into proving him wrong. 'There it is, the fire in her eyes! That's my son! We'll win this yet,' he thought confidently.
Ranko growled at her father. "I'm a Saotome! I don't lose to anyone! So can it with the 'weak little girl' crap, Pops, or I'll have a practice match now with you…usin' Mom's sword to do it!"
"Uhh, heh. Yeah, of course you'll win this! I have faith in you! Ahh...heheh," Genma replied with embarrassed chagrin as he cringed away from his angry daughter while warily observing the Saotome honor blade with his remaining eye.
One hour later
Ranko made her way out of the hut with the katana held in her right hand and leaning against her shoulder. Her children walked closely behind her with Cologne bouncing beside Ranko on her staff.
Akane, Ryoga and Genma, along with Kodachi, Konatsu and Ukyo, all stood off to the side in a long cage to ensure they didn't interfere with the match that was about to decide all their fates.
"Ranko, you do know that if you win you will have more than just your children to worry about, yes?" Cologne asked.
Ranko didn't look at the tiny, shriveled woman. "I already said I don't care, as long as it means I can get out from under the tribe's damned kiss laws."
"I will remind you of this conversation if you should make it out alive, child," Cologne noted, continuing her pogo.
Ranko nodded as she stopped and knelt down. "Rei, here…tie my hair back how I told you."
"Okay, Momma," Rei answered as she took the black hair tie her mother had handed her and began to tie Ranko's hair back into her classic pigtail. "There you go."
"Good luck, Mom," Rayne said as she watched Rei finish fixing her mother's pigtail in place.
"Thanks, kiddo. You two bein' here gives me all the edge I need," Ranko said warmly as she stood up and proceeded towards the challenge ring. Her children were ushered off to Kalaina-ye who would chaperone them until the battle was over. "I love you," she whispered to them when they were out of earshot, her composure slipping for just a moment before she regained control of her emotions.
Ranko sighed as she stepped into the arena. 'I just wish they didn't have to watch this…they're so young, they don't need to see what's gonna happen here.' "Granny, can you please move my kids away from here? I don't want 'em to see blood bein' spilt, please." 'Especially if it turns out to be mine….'
"Very well, Ranma. I will have them taken back to their lodging," Cologne replied as she went over to the battle maiden, telling her to take the children back to the village proper.
After hearing the stone gates close behind her, Ranko leapt up onto the challenge log that had a fire burning beneath it. Smoke wafted into the air around her as she waited for her opponent to enter the ring from the other side. "Guess they take this death match stuff seriously," Ranma said to herself as she made note of several one-foot spikes jutting up from the ground. There were also several bamboo poles stuck around the ring much like at Jusenkyo.
Thunder rumbled and rain started to pour down upon the arena. As Sham Su made her entrance, lighting struck one of the stone pillars, causing it to crack. Ranko readied her honor blade, channeling her ki into the sword once again. It coursed with blue and red energy with bursts of electricity arcing off of it. Her aura burned with a fiery red heat as she prepared for battle. As she prepared, she readied herself for a possible surprise attack by the tribal leader, whom she considered a self-righteous dictator unworthy of breathing the same air as her or her children. The wind picked up, causing both women's hair to fly as the readied their stances.
Sham Su pulled out a duel-ended, curved sword, giving Ranko a smug, self-assured grin. "Prepare yourself, girl, for this is the last day of your weak, pathetic life."
"Yeah, same to you! Why don'tcha pray to whatever kami you believe in, 'cause I'm about to send you to them!" Ranko taunted as thunder boomed and the rain picked up.
Not far away on a cliff overlooking the arena below
Herb, in male form, held an umbrella over both himself and Nodoka. "Woman, you are about to witness the true birth of a queen on this day…Lime, prepare the council at once. There will be need for diplomacy soon, I feel."
"Yes, Master!" Lime called, quickly mounting up and heading back to the heart of the Musk tribe.
Nodoka stared down at the two women that were now poised to strike at one another. 'My child a queen…of what? The Amazons? Yes, that is what this man just said, isn't it? Good luck, my child. By the kami, I know you can win this,' she thought as she clenched her tied fists tightly and prayed for her daughter's victory.
Back to the arena…
Ranko and Sham Su charged one another, clashing blades. Lightning flashed as steel met steel, as if in time with the battle. Ranko lashed out with her left fist, catching Sham Su in the cheek and sending her off the log. Righting herself, Sham Su managed to land on top of one of the bamboo poles and avoid getting impaled.
Ranko grinned at her opponent, holding her honor blade to the side with a smug look. "Why don'tcha fall an' save us the trouble of draggin' this out, huh?"
"I would hardly call this 'trouble.' You're more pathetic than I realized if you think I would be fall so easily," Sham Su taunted as she began to twirl her blade in front of her, chanting an ancient spell. Soon, a vortex formed in front of her weapon and flew off at Ranko, who immediately blocked it with a ki blast.
Ranko laughed as she watched the dismay on Sham Su's face. "Didn't think I could block that, did ya? Lemme show you somethin' else you didn't know! Icy blast of the frost tiger!" she shouted, hurling a cyclone of freezing air from the honor blade as if it were a part of herself. As she did so, Sham Su was left dumbfounded to see Ranko's body momentarily transform to male. Giving a grin, she quickly went back to female and then back to male once again.
"What the hell is this trickery!" Sham Su shouted as she barely ducked the vortex, frost chilling her armor. "You're locked! How did you change!"
Curse-Ranma laughed hysterically. "You're right, she is locked. I'm not. Call this divine intervention…it's time to pay for your trespasses!"
Shampoo stared at her mother as if she'd gone mad. "Great-grandmother, what is Mother talking about? Ranma is still a girl."
Cologne didn't answer as she was using her ki sense in order to see what was truly happening. 'So, the curse fights for Ranma…how interesting. And to think only I and Sham Su can see Ranma's birth form, while everyone else sees the same girl that entered the ring a moment ago.'
Ranko readied for another attack, the old strength of her male form flowing through her as the manifestation of her curse had given her the power to win this match.
~You have my blessing. Strike her down in the name of Jusenkyo!~ Curse-Ranma's voice called to her in a rather sinister tone. It was enraged at the audacity of this particular Amazon, who had for years mistreated and abused Jusenkyo's chosen. For centuries it had watched many a man, woman and beast fall in its springs. Once nothing but the force behind the curses, it thought only of mischief until the day it found Ranma and all his (and then her) glory. The spirit of the curse now had a purpose: to watch over its wayward adopted child and champion, the one who held the heart of an unbroken stallion, the boundless passion of a dragon maiden and perhaps, surprisingly, the gentle grace of a butterfly.
The two adversaries launched themselves at one another, each receiving a bloody gash in the process. Turning to each other, they glared, each with matching cuts on their forearms. Ranko then leapt into the air and used her new found strength to bring her sword down on the challenge log, splitting it in two. Ranko used the blade to stop her fall onto the spikes and watched as the Amazon elder fell, hitting the floor. One of the spikes tore into her arm, causing her to scream as she wrenched herself free. Blood poured down her arm and onto the rain-drenched earth where it mixed with the mud.
Sham Su picked herself up and stared daggers at Ranma's male form, who was smirking at her while perched atop the honor blade that stood splitting a spike down the middle. "I won't be bested by a man, especially not you!" she shouted as she readied her weapon for another offensive. She charged towards, Ranma who continued simply to smirk at her.
Ranko laughed as she leapt up, pulling the honor blade with her from the spike and clashing swords with Sham Su. The rain danced around their blades as they seemed to hover in midair, not hitting the ground for several moments.
Sham Su broke the deadlock as the rain finally hit them and they returned to the ground with a splash. She ducked under Ranko's blade, managing to strike home on the younger woman's leg. The slash left a two-inch wound on Ranko's thigh, causing her to wince in pain. "There, now we both bleed!" the Amazon spat.
Ranko gritted her teeth, trying not to let the intense, burning pain distract her. "That comin' from a woman who's missin' a piece of her cheek, eh?"
Sham Su finally noticed the pain and the blood that dripped down the right side of her face from the small wedge of flesh that had been taken out of her. "You will pay for that!" she screamed.
"Yeah, I just bet I will." Ranko challenged.
Once again, the combatants battled each other in a furious fight for their lives. They leapt into the air, hurling ki blasts at each other that sent both of them rocketing backwards. As if in sync, both quickly righted themselves and jumped from one bamboo pole to the next, clashing swords again. Making one quick stab at her opponent, Ranko then went into a somersault as Sham Su's blade flew just past her head. It sliced into a post not far from Shampoo's head, causing her to swoon from shock at the nearly fatal experience.
Sham Su, who was standing on a bamboo pole in mid-combat stance, placed her hand to her breast. It was then she realized she had been dealt a mortal blow. Making one last leap, she grabbed onto Ranko, who held her firmly. Holding Sham Su up, she jumped to a safe location and laid the tribal leader down. Sham Su blinked away tears and spoke softly. "I never believed…you were as strong as my grandmother had said…now I kn…" she drifted off into eternal sleep, proud to have died honorably by the blade of a warrior greater than she.
Ranko stood facing away from the fallen Amazon, holding her honor blade at her side. "Rest in peace, Sham Su."
The cheers of the Amazons roared loudly as their leader had been felled in combat honorably.
Cologne stood firm as she watched the curse retreat back inside Ranko, leaving her as she was before the match had started, though it was clear the girl was shaken from the act of taking another's life. 'So, she still feels burdened by death, even after Saffron. I thought as much…but now on to more pressing matters.' "Mu Tsu, go get Ranma and bring her to the main elders' hut. It is time she accepts responsibility for what she has done on this day," she called.
"She isn't going to become the leader, is she? Surely you can…" Mousse trailed off.
Cologne slapped him upside the head with her staff. "Enough. Do as I say and bring Ranma to the council chambers, Mr. Part-time," she scolded, before saying a silent prayer for her departed granddaughter.
Nearby, a violet-haired young woman sat crumpled on the ground with her head in her hands, tears streaming down her cheeks.
A few hours later
"Sham Pu, Elder Ko Lon has asked for your presence. Your mother's council has been disbanded." Ling-Ling informed the older girl.
Shampoo simply nodded in reply. She was grief-stricken from her mother's death, though there was also a pervasive sense of relief as well. For while Sham Su's demise heralded her freedom, it left her feeling hollow inside. She could not ignore the fact that that it was because of her own rash actions that these events came to pass. 'I am so sorry, Mother. I should never have given her the Kiss of Death. Your death is my fault. I promise you, Mother…I will redeem myself, so that we may walk the fields together again one day,' she thought as she walked towards the elders' lodge. She saw other Amazons appearing worried at what was to become of them as they had no proper leader at the moment, with only Cologne holding things in check until Sham Su's replacement was declared. 'If the Musk were to strike, this would be the day to do it,' she concluded, as her people's spirit was in tatters – as was hers.
Ranko turned to the sound of the wooden doors opening, seeing Shampoo step inside the hut. She then turned her attention back to Akane. "Take the kids for a walk, along with the rest of the gang. This isn't a place for them to be right now."
Akane nodded, giving Ranko a quick kiss as she took the two children's hands and led them outside, with Genma, Ryoga, Kodachi, and Ukyo following.
Ranko noted Konatsu had stayed behind. "Go with them, please," she requested.
"I am staying, Ranko-sama. I'm sorry, you don't get any choice in this. I swore to Ukyo I would watch over you," Konatsu explained calmly.
Ranko nodded her head, gesturing to the right-hand corner of the room. "Well, go over there and please don't speak while we discuss this. Okay?" 'Oh boy, wonder what the Ghoul is up to now?' she wondered.
Cologne watched the doors shut, leaving Kalaina-ye, Shampoo, Mousse, and Ranko, along with Konatsu, left in the room. The elder finally spoke. "Well, let us get down to business, Ranma. Remember how I told you there would be repercussions to your battle?"
"Yeah, could you get to the point?" Ranko asked, as she would much rather be with her children currently.
Cologne smiled, letting off a chuckle. "Yes, you were never one for chit-chat, were you? Well you'd best get used to it. When you challenged my granddaughter Sham Su to a death match, you effectively challenged her for leadership of our tribe. As you have won, you must now lead our people. Between dealing with the affairs of the tribe and taking care of your children, I would say you'll be quite busy. You also must learn our ways and customs, along with our language. Though you are allowed to make changes to some of our laws, most traditions cannot be changed. Otherwise, there would be no foundation upon which the tribe could stand."
"Huh…I, uh…you mean, you're makin' me the tribe's new leader!" Ranko stuttered out, her eyes wide as saucers and her pigtail standing on end in a classic look of shock.
Shampoo walked over to Ranko, giving her a soft slap. "Get hold of self! That is what she say. Stand up straight and be proud. This highest honor ever for any outsider sister," she said with a thin smile as she straightened Ranko's posture. In many ways, she loathed the smaller girl, especially after the events of the past few hours. At the same time, however, she still had a firm respect for the red-and-blue-haired woman. For she knew Ranko was by far the most powerful warrior she had ever seen; indeed, in Shampoo's opinion, there was likely no one else who could have bested her mother in a battle to the death.
"Granny, surely there's another way…I can't lead!" Ranko shrieked.
Cologne shook her head at Ranko. "Ranma, for at least the next five years, this isn't optional. You must take up the mantle of leadership until then. I suggest you choose your council carefully. I am assigning both Kalaina-ye and Sham Pu to your honor guard until your government is in place…if you require advice, you may, of course, always talk to me," she said soothingly.
"But…I…what about Akane?" Ranko asked, as she knew outsiders weren't allowed to remain amongst the tribe without status.
Shampoo looked to Ranko, giving her a shrug. "You the leader now. You just give them status as citizen of Amazon tribe, then they come and go as please. As for Too Too Violent Girl, if you still wish her hand, we allow that here…though I rather you had been mine. But you woman now, so I no want. She can have; she pervert girl anyways."
"Akane ain't a pervert," Ranko protested, gritting her teeth while taking a seat on the floor next to the fire.
Shampoo smirked. "To each their own, as you say, my queen?" she replied half-sweetly.
"Forgive me, but may I ask if we can get to work setting up this council? Because I'm hungry," Kalaina-ye said with a smile. She was the acting battle maiden until replaced by Ranko herself, though she hoped Ranko would keep her in her service.
Later that day
Ranko let off a sigh as she finally managed to get some time to walk alone, finding a place by a pond. Several stares followed her from different villagers, looking to her as if she were a kami of some kind.
Rayne and Rei ran as fast as they could when they saw that their mother had finally came out of the council's hut. Jumping to either side of her they were finally reunited in giggles of joy.
"It's good to see you both, my loves," Ranko whispered as she cuddled her children to her.
Kodachi walked over to the pond and took a seat near Ranko, looking off to the water. "So we are finally a family again, Sister-in-law?"
"Yeah, I guess so, Ko-chan," Ranko said softly.
Rayne looked to his mother, a boy again as he had finally gotten some hot water from a cook. "So when do we go home, Mom?" he asked, studying the bandage wrapped around his mother's right thigh.
"I…well, not sure. It seems I hafta set up a council for the tribe, plus I gotta place a general in charge in my absence if I'm to go somewhere…which means we may have to return here often if problems come up. Um, how would you feel if we stayed here for a little while?" Ranko asked while looking at her son.
Listening to the conversation, Rei spoke her piece. "If you stay, I stay! I love you, Momma."
"Like Sis says, Mom, if you wish to stay here, then so will we," Rayne answered, hugging his mother tightly.
Ranko gave her children a proud, heartwarming smile. "I love you both too…so very much. Well, we'll need to stick around for a while. See, I made a decision that affects these people and now I hafta step up to the plate, as they say in baseball."
"So. you have to take care of us and them too, Momma?" Rei asked curiously, not fully understanding but trying to be part of the conversation as young children often do.
Ranko smiled at her daughter. "Yes, Momma has a lot of people to care for now…and I have a lot of work to do, honey."
After a few moments, Shampoo approached. "Ranm- uh…sorry, no good at this. But is okay if we hold celebration in honor of my mother?" she asked her new leader.
Ranko looked up to Shampoo, her head slightly downcast. "I'm sorry it came to this, Shampoo. Yes, go ahead…prepare the celebration. Your mother was a powerful warrior and deserves an honorable funeral as the leader of your people," she said as she stood up, beckoning her children to follow her, while Shampoo made her way back to her great-grandmother to get the preparations started. Kalaina-ye, soon falling into step behind Ranko, carried a long, wicked-looking blade on her back. She was prepared to fend off any attack on her new leader.
A few minutes later, Cologne saw Ranko step into the elders' hut, her children at her side. "So, will I be giving a speech or would you like this to be your first act for your people?"
"Um, if you could, Ol'- er, Elder Cologne, I'd appreciate it. I still need some time…I don't like takin' life, and today a great warrior fell 'cause of foolish rules…rules I aim to change if I can," she explained. Thinking a moment, Ranko turned to Shampoo. "Who writes your tribal laws? Nah, it doesn't matter. You'll make this change by talking to them for me, alright? I want that law clarified for all outsiders from here on out. New blood will only be brought willingly into this tribe, not forced. This is my, uh, decree…or whatever they call it," Ranko said sternly.
Shampoo nodded her head. "I will talk to tribunal starting tomorrow for you, My Lady."
Ranko made a disgusted face. "Cut the 'My Lady' crap. I'm Ranko…or Ranma, if ya like. I don't wanna hear you call me anything else," she stated adamantly.
Cologne chuckled. "Sorry, Ranko, but when in public you will hear that quite often. Otherwise it would reflect poorly on you when it comes to our enemies and other outsiders. They would think you were not respected by your people."
"Fine then…I think I'm gonna sit this party out, at least for now. I may come once I put the kids to bed," Ranko said as she bent down to pick Rei up, as she had noticed the girl wanted to be held. Seconds later, she turned her head to the sounds of shouting from an approaching sentry.
"Elder Ko Lon, the Musk have two envoys waiting at the gate; they request entrance. Shall I send them in?" the guard asked. The woman had teal-colored hair and was dressed in leather battle armor the color of jade.
Cologne turned her attention to Ranko. "Let this be your first act…and first test," she said as she left, gesturing for Shampoo to follow her, leaving only Ranko, her children, Kalaina-ye and a rather confused sentry in the room.
"Well, I guess I don't get to rest yet, do I?" Ranko noted softly as she sat Rei down by her older brother and spoke to them both. "I want you two to stay here for now while us grownups deal with this. Then it's off to bed for you, got it?" she instructed, before standing and turning her attention to the guard.
"Don't just stand there, send them in," Ranko said in a flat tone.
The teal-haired woman nodded and headed out the door with a bewildered expression, not understanding why she was taking orders from an outsider. 'What on earth is going on? Did the leadership change while I was guarding the gate?' she asked herself.
Ranko watched the sentry scurry off and mumbled, "What the hell does Herb want now? First he takes my Mom and now wants somethin' else?" She gripped the hilt of her family katana, which was now in a proper scabbard at her side.
"You never know, it might be good news," Kalaina-ye offered, overhearing her new leader's quiet mutterings. She may not have been able to read Japanese particularly well, but she could speak and understand it better than most people in the village.
Ranko shrugged her shoulders. "Only thing I really wanna do right now is just put my kids to bed," she deadpanned.
"You know what you should do once you find time? Take them swimming or fishing. I bet they would like that," Kalaina-ye suggested.
Ranko quirked an eyebrow at Kalaina-ye's comment. "Eh?"
"It's all we talked about," Rayne called from his spot next to his younger sibling.
Rei smiled at her mother. "Yeah, Kalaina-ye has been taking care of us, along with that cat-lady, since we got here."
"…Huh. Yeah, okay. Of course we can do that. I'm sure we can find time…if not, I'll make time," Ranko reassured them, flinching a bit at the "cat-lady" remark. She turned her attention to the sound of approaching footsteps as the two Musk envoys arrived, the door shutting behind them. The shorter of the two then took a seat by Ranko's children, causing their mother to go rigid. "Can you please move away from my children? I don't like anyone near them. I've already had too much to deal with as it is."
The standing figure chuckled lightly. Ranko recognized that laugh immediately, causing her to look to the figure with surprise. "You know, you really shouldn't speak to your mother that way," a female Herb scolded as she lowered her hood. Her companion then did the same, revealing the auburn hair of Ranko's mother, Nodoka. The Saotome matriarch stayed silent, however, as it was not the time for her to speak.
"What are you up to, Herb? First you take my mother and now you bring her back?" Ranko asked in an irritated and confused manner.
Herb smiled and spoke softly. "Yes, well…I have something you want, and you now have two things I want. One may be out of your reach for now, though I'm sure that will change. In the meantime, I thought that since Sham Su is no longer in charge of Nyucheizu, we might finally be able to work things out in both our favors."
"I ain't gonna marry you, so stow it," Ranko snapped.
Herb laughed hysterically for a moment. "Sorry to burst your bubble, Ranma, but I have no wish to marry you, as…intriguing as that would be. I would much rather have the Musk prisoners your people have been holding, four of whom are my friends. If you will return them to me, I will happily give you your mother. Then, once you bring me the thief who stole my people's artifact, we will have our rematch. If you can meet all of these conditions, I can assure you that you will not see war between us again for a long time to come – if ever," she said sincerely.
"Um…Kalaina-ye?" Ranko asked, as she wasn't aware the Amazons kept prisoners of war.
Kalaina-ye shrugged, unable or unwilling to show much sympathy for Herb and the rest of the Musk tribe. Moreover, though an agreement between Lady Ranko and King (or Queen) Herb would mean relative peace for the tribe, it would also likely leave her oath of vengeance forever unfulfilled. 'Damn it, I never could have seen this coming…peace with the Musk? After what they did to my wife! But…if I buck against this, it could endanger the village – not to mention Ranko's mother…hmm.' "Yes, we have Musk prisoners that Sham Su put to work in the fields and nurturing facilities," she eventually answered with a heavy sigh.
"What do you mean, 'nurturing facilities'?" Ranko asked, looking Kalaina-ye in the eye.
Herb spoke for the green-haired woman. "She is referring to the cursing of males, turning them into breeding mothers. I cannot deny my people have long done the same, up until the time I took the throne. I put a stop to it, as I have rather intimate experience with the subject. While I don't particularly care for my curse, it has helped me to see more clearly the boundaries of right and wrong."
Kalaina-ye just nodded her head, as she too was one such male-turned-female, much like Ranko and many others.
"Sounds like we're all peas in a pod…huh. Maybe we can work somethin' out, Herb. By the way, why are you in female form anyway?" Ranko asked curiously.
Nodoka finally piped up. "I doused him with cold water when he was talking about how he was going to beat you in your rematch. That quieted her down…plus, I wanted to see what she looked like!" she replied, looking to the sometimes Musk queen with a cheeky smile.
"Your mother has definitely showed me where you get your feisty attitude, Ranma," Herb said with a slight chuckle, as she had actually taken something of a liking to the older woman. She had found Nodoka to be a surprisingly good conversationalist and just a generally fun person to be around in the short time they had known each other.
Ranko looked her mother over a moment, seeing no bruises. "Is it okay if my mom puts the kids to bed?"
"If it would help us get started on matters of diplomacy, then please, by all means," Herb said cheerfully.
Nodoka stood up with the children, pausing so they could each share a hug with and kiss with Ranko, and was then led out the of the lodge by Kalaina-ye towards the guest hut.
Ranko watched them leave before turning her attention to Herb. "Okay…well, let's get our negotiations started, then. Hopefully I don't screw this up."
"I doubt you will. Besides, I truly want my friends back…and if we can achieve that without war, I would be ecstatic. Tensions are rising between my people and the Phoenix tribe. Quite honestly, we don't have the manpower to fight on two fronts," Herb admitted to his friend and rival, having settled their most bitter differences long ago.
As Ranko and Herb were negotiating terms and the Amazons were readying the festivities for Sham Su's funeral, a helicopter traveled closely above the canopy of trees at least five hours from the village.
"Master Kuno, we really should be careful. This is China; if they catch us flying in their airspace, we will surely be in a lot of trouble," Sasuke warned as the pilot continued his low-altitude flight, just barely under the radar. Just one slip and the Chinese authorities would know they were there.
Kuno Tatewaki looked to his manservant. "Let me remind, you insolent cretin, we wouldn't be here if you had brought my wife and children home as I commanded! You have let me down far too many times. This is your last chance; if we fail to recover them safe and sound, you're fired…among other things."
The following day
Ranko and a now-male Herb both left the guest hut to find Akane, Kodachi, and the gang watching as the Amazons were still celebrating their old leader's honorable battle against Ranko.
Kalaina-ye ran up to Ranko and company. "Ra- ahem, My Lady, the scouts say we have intruders on their way. They have come down from the sky in a thing I believe to be called a 'choppa'…they are being led by a man with a fierce-looking katana in an emerald-colored scabbard-" she explained, before she was interrupted by Ranko.
"'Chopper' is what they call them in movies and stuff. The name of that flying machine is 'helicopter' or maybe 'helo,'" Ranko explained in a bored tone and turned her attention to Herb and the others. "Please enjoy the festivities. I'm gonna go deal with our uninvited guests personally," she said as she and Shampoo headed in the direction of the intruders.
Kalaina-ye pondered her mistress's response. 'So that's what it means…though I've never seen the movies she was talking about…or any, for that matter.' "What is a movie, anyway?" she asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"It is a…uh–…" Herb began and then went blank, as he actually wasn't so sure himself. He had heard of the technology of picture screens but had never bothered looking into it, as it seemed irrelevant to his rural, mountain-dwelling people.
"Um…a movie is kind of like a play, where people act like somebody else. They're often having adventures of some type, but you don't watch it performed live in front of you. Instead, you watch it on a big projection screen, or maybe a TV…which is, uh, in your language, a scientific or…magical…viewing device," Akane offered with a chuckle.
"What is 'scientific'?" Kalaina-ye asked, faking ignorance. She knew it was another word for alchemy.
"You know what? Forget it," Akane said with a tight smile. hiding her exasperation.
"Who intruders be, do you suppose?" Shampoo asked, seeing that Ranko already knew.
Ranko turned to Shampoo. "You wanna get revenge on the man who 'ruined' me? Well, now's your chance to unleash that frustration. Tatchi's here, but don't kill him. That's really important, okay? I need him alive," she explained as they continued walking.
"What you have in mind?" Shampoo asked, fighting a dull headache from last night's drinking session with many of her tribal sisters. She could hear the sounds of the funeral celebration still underway behind them and would continue for six days' time.
Ranko smirked at Shampoo. "In America and Japan and maybe yo- I mean, uh, our tribe, they have a thing called 'divorce.' But I've thought of a better idea. I can get his house, his estate and then some if they never find Tatchi again. They'll list him as dead, and Herb will see to it he never shows up again – unless the kids wanna see their father, that is. It's their choice, after all. But we can figure out the details when we bring him back with us, minus his entourage."
Shampoo gained a familiar smirk as she realized what Ranko had in mind. "I see! This will be too too fun. I hope Silly Boy brought Funny Rat-Man with him," she said with a laugh, Ranko joining in just like old times.
Thirty minutes later
Tatewaki sat resting, as they had been walking for hours. "Sasuke, how much further?" he asked, winded.
"Not far, Master Kuno. By these coordinates, she should-" Sasuke began. "…Be right over there," he finished in a whisper, pointing at Ranko and Shampoo, who were standing by a large, ancient-looking tree.
Tatewaki whirled his head around, locking eyes with his wife. "Woman, I have come for you," he declared as he stood up.
"I just bet you did, Tatchi…where're the rest of your men?" Ranko asked, placing a hand on her hip. Shampoo stood glaring at the swordsman known (solely to himself) as the "Blue Thunder" back in the days of their youth.
"They stayed with the aircraft to keep it safe," Sasuke answered.
"Thanks, Sas. That makes this a lot easier," Ranko said as she stepped forward towards her husband, clenching her fists.
Sasuke stepped back, not wishing to get involved in his master's and mistress's impending fight.
Tatewaki gave Ranko a look of bewilderment. "You wish to fight me, is that it? Blast, your hold over her heart is strong, Saotome!" he spat.
"'Husband,' are you so deluded that you don't even know your precious wife? It's me, none other than the foul sorcerer Saotome! Your whole 'feignin' ignorance' thing has worn awful thin with me. Now prepare to fight, moron, 'cause I've had enough," Ranko pronounced darkly as she pulled the honor blade and scabbard out from her belt and tossed it to Shampoo, preparing for hand-to-hand combat with the swordsman that was, for the time being, her spouse.
Shampoo stepped back, champing at the bit for her turn at Kuno and giving him a glare full of hateful wrath.
Kuno sighed as he undid the belt that held his katana at his side and handed it to Sasuke. He didn't wish to mar his wife's beauty, though her scorn did cause his heart to ache. "I never wanted this…I love you and always have. I thought I was doing you a favor, as you are delusional," he said softly to his wife.
"I am not delusional, Tatchi! Kamai-sama, you're such a fool. Ya know, I'll admit that maybe some part of me even kinda liked you back then. I mean, you're easy on the eyes…not that I ever woulda said so…an' your idiotic determination was almost charming. Almost. But you ruined any hope you might've had with me by all you did to me and my kids. You robbed me of so many precious moments…I missed seeing my own children grow up, dammit! And to make matters worse, you weren't there for them either! You failed 'em, Tatchi…completely. But I can tell they still love you, at least a little. It's because of our children that I'll allow you to live after this…but the beatin' I'll give ya now will be for the abuse you put Rayne through. What you put me through pales in comparison to the abuse of your own son," Ranko stated in a frigid tone.
Tatewaki winced at the mention of his and his wife's eldest child. "The boy acts like you once were. I…" he began, but couldn't find the words to explain it. He hated himself for the fact that he held contempt for his son's resemblance to Ranko's former male half.
"You tried to lock his curse too! Didn't ya know the ladle would only lock someone in their cursed form?" Ranko asked, stepping closer. She threw a punch that barely missed her husband, who dodged the strike at the last moment.
Tatewaki moved in surprisingly swiftly, grabbing her wrists and struggling with her before jumping away. "I knew what it would do. Though I wanted a son, I would have preferred a child free of the vile Saotome sorcery. But I abandoned my attempts in the end, as I realized it would always serve as yet another reminder of the pain of our marriage. Do you think I really enjoyed sedating you? It hurt more than you could understand."
"Well, you shoulda thought about that before ya started druggin' me, jackass!" Ranko shouted, kicking her leg out. She caught her husband in the stomach, sending him sailing into a tree that splintered from the impact.
Tatewaki stood up slowly, glaring his irate wife. "I admit that I was not in my right mind then. It wasn't for a few years before I finally came to my sense and realized what I was doing. But I had to keep it going for the sake of the children. I didn't want them to learn what I had done to you in the depths of my madness. Now they know…and I realize I can't take it back. I would give anything to make amends, but right now I just wish for us to return home and work all of this out."
Shampoo watched the battle, slightly bored of all the talking. 'Idiot! Why does he think he can wash all this away? If he were to drug me, I would have his head when I came to!' she thought angrily.
"Tatchi, get it through your thick head right now. We are not going to work this out. Ever. We're through. We were never even really a 'we' in the first place! Understand? Now get to fightin'…or just let yourself get beat on, for all I care. I'm done," Ranko snapped as she leapt forward suddenly. A dust cloud quickly rose up around a classic duel of fists and feet as Tatewaki received the thrashing for which he'd long been destined. Shampoo soon joined in, bringing to the red-, blue-, and raven-colored battle a splash of purple as well.
After a few minutes of pummeling, the dust eventually cleared, revealing the dirty and disheveled but otherwise unscathed forms of Ranko and Shampoo. Tatewaki, on the other hand, was left bloodied and bruised on the ground, bumps, bites and scratch marks covering his body from head to toe..
"Sasuke, you mind carryin' my husband back for us?" Ranko asked, looking to the short, squat ninja who stood quaking in fear.
Sasuke nodded his head. "Yes, mistress! Right away, mistress!"
Ranko and Shampoo casually made their way back, trailing behind Sasuke, who would receive directions every so often from Shampoo.
"So, now let's see how Herb deals with him," Ranko said with a smirk.
Shampoo grinned, in much better spirits now that she'd had the chance to vent some of her frustrations. "Maybe I see another woman running around soon. Maybe I give Kiss to?"
"Absolutely not! You'd hafta spend a week washin' your mouth out with soap after," Ranko replied with a bittersweet laugh, since kisses were how they had all gotten to this point.
Shampoo sighed. "I tell too too tragic joke…I wish I never done this to you that day so long ago. My mother would still be here. It my fault."
"Shampoo, we all make mistakes and hafta live with 'em. Your mother made her choice and fought honorably for her belief in you an' her village. She cared about you an' wanted to save your honor. That's commendable, ya know? I made a mistake by thinkin' with my stomach way back when. I shoulda known the feast was your prize an' either left Pops to his fate or warned him sooner. I'm also guilty of only tryin' to help others a lotta the time if it benefited me in some way. You may wonder about that, but it's true. I did help, but almost always I gained somethin' from helping, one way or another. And I would stupidly never ask for help with my problems…or I'd want it, but I'd still refuse to ask. 'Cause secretly I regretted my actions, but I was too proud to admit it until now," Ranko said to her longtime friend and occasional tormentor and/or temptress. But now all that would change. Now they were practically sisters. And now Ranko had a vital job to do for the tribe.
As the two young woman continued their conversation as they walked back to the village, with Sasuke carrying an unconscious Tatewaki towards the encampment. The sounds of celebration and fireworks could be heard as they got closer. The sun was going down and evening was now fast approaching.
Note: Well this story takes a lot of time to put out as we try to perfect it for it's best viewing.
Ranko has now got her children but has to lead the tribe as well after her battle with Sham Su, she has also acquired her Husband Tatawaki Kuno where she will soon turn him over to King Herb to decide his fate.
Also learned Akane knows drunken Kung-fu thought this would add for an interesting concept, Shampoo is grief stricken at the loss of her mother holding some scorn for Ranko yet a firm respect hopefully they will see eachother in a better light eventually as they work together though out this next chapter of their lives.
Please feel free to leave your reviews, and suggestions for the upcoming chapters feel free to add your two yen just remember I may or may not use your idea's as it is my prerogative to decide what is best for my own story.
As always much love have a good one all take care. ~Zeltronica~