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Ranma 1/2 is owned by Rumiko Takahashi

 

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Ranma stared at Nabiki for a few moments before shaking his head uncertainly and scratching his chin.  "You want me to go to school?"

 

"Legally speaking, you're only sixteen.  You should be in high school.  I'm sure the proper authorities would be interested in knowing that you've been ditching for the past few years."  Nabiki folded her arms over her chest.

 

"L-legally speaking?" Ranma spluttered.  "What is this about, Nabiki?"

 

"Why, Ranma!  I'm just doing my civic duty by making sure a teenager gets a proper education in order to become a good member of society."

 

"What do you want, Nabiki?" Ranma sighed.

 

Nabiki wore a deceptively innocent smile as she patted Ranma on the head, just as he had done to her a few weeks ago.  "See you in class, Ranma-chan."

 

"Hey!  Can't you take a joke?"  Ranma pled as she walked away.  "Nabiki?"  Ranma stared after her, hoping that she would change her mind.  "Damn. . . I can't afford to spend all day in school!" 

 

Ranma walked to the living-room phone, picked it up, and rapidly dialed a number.  "Hello.  Yeah, it's me.  Hey, I need my records changed again. . .   No, I didn't die, I just need to be three years older than I am now."  Ranma paused and absently scratched the top of his head.  "Yeah, my birth certificate too.  A couple of weeks?  Can't you do it quicker than that?" he demanded.  "Yeah, yeah, I understand.  Fine. . . get it done as soon as you can."  Ranma hung up the phone and sighed once more.  "Damn."

 

He left the living room in search of Kasumi.  "Hey, Hime-chan!  How do I go about getting books and supplies for high school?"

 

 

Heart of the Immortal

---------------------------

By: Anand Rao

 

Chapter 5: Amazons!

--------------------------

 

"Ranma, I can't believe you're going to school with us."

 

"It wasn't exactly my idea, student."  Ranma glared meaningfully at Nabiki.

 

Akane looked decidedly uncomfortable.  "Why couldn't you just pay her off or something?"

 

"Akane!  I'm shocked!" Nabiki exclaimed.  "Do you think -I- would accept a bribe?"

 

"Yes," Akane replied flatly.

 

Nabiki laughed. "True, but some things aren't about money."

 

"Oh?"

 

"Yes, student," Ranma interjected.  "Some things are about revenge, as petty and small as the case may be."

 

"Keep it up, oniisan," Nabiki replied sweetly. "I'll show you petty."

 

Ranma shoved his hands in his pockets and walked ahead. 

 

"What did he do to you, Nabiki?"  Akane asked.

 

"He played a rather mean-spirited joke on me."

 

Akane's features hardened.  "What?"

 

"Mean spirited?  Oh please!"  Ranma rolled his eyes.  "I gave you a nugget of pyrite.  That's all.  No need to get all melodramatic over it."

 

Akane looked puzzled.  "Pyrite?  What's that?" 

 

"Fool's Gold, Akane," Nabiki explained.

 

"Oh."  Akane covered her mouth and giggled softly.

 

Nabiki gave her a withering glare.  "He told me it was a gold nugget from a mine he owned in California.  Imagine my surprise when I found out it was worthless!"

 

"Hey!  It isn't worthless!  I paid 200 yen for that rock!" Ranma protested.  Akane exploded in laughter.

 

"Anyway, that's why he's going to school with us."  Nabiki eyed Ranma critically.  "You should have gotten a uniform, though."

 

"What I'm wearing will serve just fine, thank you."

 

"Do you have to be in my class?"

 

Ranma turned back towards Akane.  "There wasn't a whole lot I could do about it, Akane.  Legally, I'm sixteen and should be a first-year student, like you."

 

Akane sighed.  "Okay. . . I still don't want you interrupting my fights!" 

 

"Why would I do that, student?  You'll never learn anything if I'm always saving you."  Ranma smiled.  "Have you missed these morning duels?"

 

While Akane's ankle was injured, Kuno proclaimed a hiatus in his challenge to the other males in Furinkan. He explained that it would not do for Akane to be less than her best during these battles.

 

"No!  I'm completely sick of them."

 

"At least you got a bit of a vacation from them."

 

They eventually reached the school, and Ranma watched intently as Akane had her morning fight.  She was in fine form, plowing through the various boys with ease.  Ranma smiled in pride.  (Looking good, Akane.)  The fight ended soon after it had started, and only Tatewaki Kuno remained.  Yet, his focus was entirely on Ranma.

 

"You dare show your face here, you dishonorable cur?!"

 

Ranma looked around then pointed to himself.  "You talking to me, kid?"

 

"You will address me as Upperclassman!" Kuno held his bokken up and stepped towards Ranma.

 

"Did you already forget the ass-kicking I gave you?" 

 

"You could not have defeated me without trickery!"  Kuno charged towards Ranma.

 

Ranma merely grinned and waited.  As Kuno reached him, Ranma spun to the side and kicked him in the back of the head as the kendoist passed by.  Kuno flew forward a few feet and landed face first on the ground. 

 

He did not get back up. 

 

Ranma winked at Akane.  "Nice trick, eh?"

 

"I told you not to interfere in my fights!"

 

"Hey, he attacked me!" Ranma protested. 

 

Akane frowned and walked towards the main school building.  "Just. . . stay out the way next time, then."

 

 

                                ********************************************

 

"Class, I'd like you to welcome a new transfer student today."  The teacher kindly gestured towards Ranma.  "Please introduce yourself."

 

"Sure thing, Sensei.  My name is Ranma Saotome."  Ranma bowed to the class.  "Pleased to meet you."

 

The whispers started up immediately.  "Isn't he the guy who beat Kuno?"

 

"Twice!"

 

"He's kinda cute. . . "

 

"Do you think he has a girlfriend?"

 

"He's probably after Akane.  Everyone -else- is!"

 

"What's with the pigtail, anyway?"

 

The teacher glanced around the classroom. "I'm afraid the only seat available is in the back. . ."

 

"Not a problem!"  Ranma quickly walked to an empty desk in the back left corner of the class.  A few of the girls giggled as he walked by, and Ranma winked and gave them a sly smirk.

 

"Flirt," Akane muttered quietly.

 

"All right, class.  Please open your math books to page 162."

 

Ranma, not having a math book, just shrugged his shoulders and decided to -try- to pay attention to the teacher.  The girl seated next to him quietly moved her desk flush against his and slid her math book closer to him.  Ranma look up in surprise and blinked.  The girl, a rather cute one with shoulder-length chestnut hair, just smiled and then looked down at her book.

 

 Akane frowned slightly at this exchange but quickly tried to dismiss it.  (What is he doing?)

 

 

                                                ************************************

 

Nabiki placed a wet hand towel on Kuno's forehead and leaned back in her chair.  Forcing Ranma to go to Furinkan, at least for a short while, was a good idea, she decided.  The arrogant martial artist, by his very nature, would help take some of the heat off Akane.  His 'fight' with Kuno had proven that.  (Besides, I'll probably be able to make a few yen off him, too.)

 

Kuno groaned softly and Nabiki looked down at him.  She had gotten to class just before the final morning bell had rung and had explained Kuno's situation to her teacher.  After that, she had managed to drag the unconscious kendoist to the nurse's office. 

 

"Oh, Akane Tendo. . ," Kuno sighed, slowly sitting up.  The towel fell to his lap and Nabiki idly noticed that his eyes were still closed. 

 

"Hey, Kuno-chan, you awake yet?" 

 

Kuno turned towards her, his eyes still closed.  "I love you dearly." 

 

Nabiki sighed almost wistfully at his passion-filled voice.  "Wake up, Kuno."

 

"I would date with thee.  You are a flower in full bloom, with a strength and beauty beyond compare!  Beyond even this mortal realm, nay beyond-"

 

Nabiki slapped him.  Hard.

 

Kuno blink a couple of times and opened his eyes.  "Oh.  It's -you-."

 

"Welcome back to the land of the living, Kuno-chan."

 

"That dishonorable cur tricked me again!"  Kuno slammed his fist into his open palm.  "To think that there is one such as he!  One whose need for victory out weighs even honorable combat."

 

"To think that there is one such as you, whose delusions won't let him realize when someone is better than him!" Nabiki retorted.

 

"Nabiki Tendo, is there something you desire?"

 

"I have more pictures for you, of course, but I was also wondering if you would be interested in knowing more about the 'dishonorable cur' who knocked you out this morning."

 

"Tell me what you know," Kuno demanded.

 

Nabiki smiled and held up her hands.  "Let's get to class first, then we'll discuss what this is going to cost you."

 

 

                                ***********************************************

 

Ranma leaned back in his chair and stretched out his arms, as the teacher left the classroom.  (Man, I could hardly keep my eyes open!)

 

The girl next to him giggled.  "You don't like math?"

 

"It's just a bit boring."  Ranma smiled.  "Thanks for sharing your book.  What's your name?"

 

"Ukyou Kuonji." 

 

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Kuonji-kun.  How long until the next class?"

 

Ukyou blushed and closed her math book.  "The teacher should be here in a few minutes."

 

Ranma sighed.  "Great.  What subject?"

 

"English."

 

Ranma's mood lightened considerably.  "Oh, no problem!"

 

"A good subject for you, huh?"

 

"Why, yes, I speak the language quite well," Ranma replied in English.

 

"Wow!  You don't even have any problems with the accents!  Did you spend some time overseas?"

 

"Yes, that's right.  I was in the United States for a bit."

 

"Really?"  Ukyou's eyes widened.  "That's really great!  Maybe. . . maybe you can help me sometime.  My English isn't so good."

 

Ranma smiled warmly.  "Sure, I'd love to." 

 

Ukyou was about to respond when the teacher walked into the classroom.  Instead, she just smiled at Ranma and took out her English book.

 

 

                                ****************************************************

 

Ranma managed to stay awake during the rest of his morning classes and let out a loud yawn, as his classmates got ready for lunch.  (Man, I can't take much more of this.)  Ranma rubbed his face ruefully then opened the bento Kasumi had prepared for him that morning.

 

"Ranma-kun?"

 

"Hmm?" Ranma turned towards the girl who had shared her books with him all morning.

 

"Do. . . do you like okonomiyaki?"

 

"Yeah, quite a bit, actually."  Ranma smiled.  "Why?"

 

"I have a portable grill.  I usually set it up outside during lunch and make okonomiyaki.  Would you like to try some? "

 

(She's a bit more confident than earlier.)  Ranma pointed to his lunch.  "Let me finish this up and I'll meet you outside."

 

"Great!  I know you'll like it!"  Ukyou practically bounced out of the classroom.

 

Akane walked towards him, her own bento in hand.  "So, Ranma, how are you holding up?"

 

"Fine, I guess."  Ranma shrugged his shoulders.  "I dunno how you do this day after day, though.  It's so. . . boring."

 

Akane blinked.  "Didn't you ever go to school?"

 

"Nope.  Just learned the Art, took over my father's dojo when he died, got married, taught classes, had a few kids-"

 

"Okay, okay, I get the picture!"  Akane shook her head then frowned.  "Wait a minute. . . you're married?  And have kids?!"

 

"I'm a widower, Akane.  Most of my children are dead."  Ranma smiled sadly.  "Remember, most of all this happened two hundred years ago. . ."

 

Akane's eyes widened.  "That. . .that. . ."

 

"I know.  It's a bit difficult to get your mind around."  Ranma sighed.  "You may want to start eating your lunch before the break ends."  He closed his bento box and stood from his desk. 

 

"Yeah. . .  Hey, where are you going?"  Akane asked as Ranma headed for the door.

 

"I'm going to try some okonomiyaki."

 

                                *********************************************

 

Since meeting. . . the Master and Ranma, Soun's life had been filled with strange adventures and near-death disasters.  It was a time of life that he looked back on with fond nostalgia. It was also a time of life that he hoped to never experience again. For over twenty years, since he got married, his life had been filled with quiet and dull peace. 

 

Until now.

 

The purple-haired girl who came barging through the wall pointing a silly looking multi-colored spherical weapon at him was definitely -not- quiet and dull.  "Where Ranma?" she demanded.

 

"Of course," Soun sighed.  (Sachiko, give me strength.)

 

"I apologize for the disturbance, just tell me where my Son-in-law is, and we shall be on our way."

 

Soun gaped at the small old woman who had followed after the purple-haired terror.  "Son-in-Law?"

 

"Where Ranma?"  Shampoo stepped towards Soun.  Suddenly, the weapon didn't look so silly anymore.

 

"He. . . He's at school," Soun replied faintly.

 

"And where would this school be?"  The old woman smiled and Soun shuddered.

 

 

                                *********************************************

 

"So, how do you like it?"  Ukyou had an eager and hopeful look on her face and her hands were clasped nervously together in front of her chest.

 

"This is great!  The best okonomiyaki I've ever had!"  Ranma sincerely exclaimed.  "I don't think I've tasted anything quite like it."

 

Ukyou beamed.  "It's my family's recipe.  The ingredients to the sauce itself have been a clan secret for generations!"

 

"Well, I'm impressed. . ."

 

Ukyou bowed her head slightly while her hands brushed out the creases in her skirt.  "If you think mine's good, you should to come to my father's restaurant.  I haven't come anywhere close to his level of cooking yet."  

 

"I think I'll take you up on that offer, Kuonji-kun.  What's the name of your place?"

 

"It. . . it's called Ucchan's. "

 

Ukyou blushed at Ranma's sudden grin.  "That's cute."  He nodded his head playfully.  "It suits you. . . Ucchan."

 

"Ranma-kun, please!  You're embarrassing me!"  Ukyou deftly twirled a small spatula in her hand and easily flipped another okonomiyaki onto Ranma's empty plate.

 

"Nice technique," Ranma murmured.

 

Ukyou pointed the spatula at him.  "It's okonomiyaki-style martial arts."  She giggled and poured some batter onto her grill.  "I've been practicing since I was very young."

 

Ranma blinked.  "You're kidding!"  He suddenly found the business end of Ukyou's spatula flush against the side of his neck. 

 

"People sometimes make fun of my art."  Ukyou smiled sweetly.  "But only once."  She withdrew the spatula.

 

"I can understand why."  Ranma chuckled and rubbed his neck lightly.  "So, how good are you?"

 

"Not as good as you," Ukyou admitted, "but I can hold my own.  I saw your fights with Kuno, and you're incredible!"

 

"Thanks."  Ranma scratched his chin thoughtfully.  "Do you think you could take on Akane?"

 

Ukyou frowned.  "I've never fought Akane.  I don't think I could take on Kuno-sempai though, so she's probably a bit better."

 

Ranma waved his hand dismissively.  "Kuno lets up a lot when he fights Akane."  He stared at Ukyou for a few moments, as if coming to a decision.

 

Ukyou dropped her eyes.  "Ranma-kun. . ."

 

"Sorry.  You blush a lot, don't you?"

 

"Ranma-kun!"

 

"Sorry!"

 

               

                                                ********************************************************

 

Ranma was suffering from a severe bout of lunch coma when it happened.  The huge meal he had eaten along with the boring lecture material provided the perfect ingredients for sleep.  A tenacious Amazon ended all that, however, as the front of the classroom exploded with dust and debris.  Ranma sat up in his desk and stifled a yawn. 

 

"Where Ranma?"  an all too familiar voice demanded.

 

(Uh oh.)  Ranma slid down in his seat as his classmates, almost as one, turned towards him.

 

Shampoo took one look in his direction and ran towards him.  "Airen!  Shampoo happy to see!"  She tackled him in a hug, and Ranma fell back, desk and all.

 

"Uh. . . Hi," he offered weakly.

 

"Friend of yours, Ranma?"  Akane dryly asked.  Ukyou just looked away, a small frown marring her face.

 

The teacher, who had stood silently by, gaping like a fish out of water, decided to speak up.  "Saotome-kun, explain the meaning of this!" he demanded.

 

"Yes, Son-in-Law, please explain." 

 

Startled by the second unexpected visitor, the teacher jumped back, tripped over a piece of the wall, and fell to the floor knocking himself out.

 

Ranma managed to stand up, Shampoo still very much attached to his arm.  He looked at the old woman who had entered the classroom through Shampoo's 'entrance' and cringed.  "Hey, Cologne, long time no see!  What are you guys doing in Japan?" 

 

"We lost a piece of property and came to get it back."

 

Ranma frowned and disengaged himself from Shampoo's hold.  "I don't belong to anyone, Cologne.  And if you came all this way just to take me back to China, you've wasted your time."

 

"We shall see.  You -are- coming back to China, Son-in-Law, even if I have to drag you there."

 

Ranma's eyebrow rose.  "Oh?  Does that mean you are -finally- granting me the honor of sparring with you?"

 

Cologne shook her head and smiled fondly.  "As insolent as ever, I see."

 

Ranma shrugged his shoulders.  "There's no point in changing a good thing."

 

Akane slammed her hands on the top of her desk.  "Just -what- is going on here?"

 

Cologne glanced at Akane.  "This is no concern of yours, child.  So, Ranma, will you return us quietly or not?"

 

"Come on, you already know the answer to that one!"

 

Cologne sighed.  "I suppose I do."

 

 

                                                *************************************

 

"Who's fighting again?"

 

"Did Kuno challenge anyone?"

 

"I think it's that new guy. . ."

 

"Ew. . . who's that old hag?"

 

"Who cares?  Check out the babe with purple hair!"

 

Ranma and Cologne stood across from each other on Furinkan's sports field.  Cologne carried a gnarled wooden staff that was more than twice her height in length.  Ranma's entire class, and quite a few other students, surrounded them.  Shampoo stood off to one side with Akane and Ukyou.

 

"Do you get the feeling that you entered a theater in the middle of a movie?"  Ukyou muttered to Akane.

 

"Yeah, who are these people and what do they want with Ranma?  This is getting way out of hand.  I can't believe he's going to fight that old woman!  He might seriously hurt her!"

 

"Great Grandmother no get hurt!" Shampoo chimed in.  "She greatest warrior in all village.  Know many, many special techniques!  She make sure husband come home."

 

"Husband?  You mean you and Ranma are-"  Akane's startled reply was cut off as Ranma spoke. 

 

"Shall we get started?"  He bowed towards Cologne.

 

"Your pride shall be your undoing, child.  You face 3000 years of Chinese Amazon tradition and technique.  But do not worry, I will not hurt you too badly.  Shampoo needs you in one piece."

 

Ranma snorted.  "I appreciate the concern."

 

Cologne hopped forward and swung the staff in a wide arc.  Ranma leaned back and felt a slight rush of air as the staff soared over his head.  He grinned in anticipation, and the fight was joined.  He straightened and instinctively jumped as the staff passed by quickly underneath his feet. "You gotta be quicker than that, Cologne!"  Before his feet even touched the ground, Cologne rapped him on top of the head. 

 

"You talk too much, Son-in-Law."

 

  Ranma forced himself not to rub his head as the pain started to fade.  "Fair enough," he chuckled.  Cologne swung the staff once more but Ranma grabbed hold of it and pulled it out of her hand.  "Let's see how you do without this, eh?"  He threw the staff over the surrounding students' heads. 

 

"You just prolonged the inevitable, child."

 

"Right."  Ranma leapt forward with a right jab; one that Cologne easily dodged.  He followed with another punch, and then several more.  Yet, he couldn't manage to connect even once.  "You're quick!"

 

"Quicker than you think," Cologne replied.  She jumped towards Ranma.  "Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken!" Her arms became a blur as she attacked him with punch after punch. She blinked in surprise as Ranma blocked every one. 

 

Ranma wore a smug grin.  "But not quick enough."  His arms were easily moving in time with Cologne's.

 

"Where did you learn that technique?" Cologne demanded.  She halted her attack and stepped back.

 

"Oh, don't go getting into a snit.  I didn't steal one of your precious 'secret' techniques.  There are quite a few schools throughout the world that teach speed punching and blocking."  Ranma wiggled his fingers playfully at Cologne.

 

Cologne let out a deep breath then began laughing.  "Son-in-Law, you will indeed make a great addition to our tribe."

 

Ranma nodded his head.  "I might consider it. . . in a few hundred years or so!"  He quickly went on the offensive, launching a series of hits and kicks.  His speed and size not withstanding, Cologne was able to dodge or block most of his attacks.  A few punches did connect, however, and Ranma continued to push her back.  Thoroughly enjoying the fight, his excitement growing, Ranma pushed himself a bit harder.  He had never gotten an opportunity to fight Cologne back in China, and he wanted to make the most of the opportunity.  (The old bat really is quite good.)  Ranma smiled.  "Getting tired, Cologne?  You must be a bit winded from running away!"

 

Cologne blocked another punch.  "Not at all, Ranma.  In fact, I feel a second wind coming along."

 

"Glad to hear it.  I'm getting a little bored."  Ranma managed to tag her on her right shoulder.  Cologne ignored the hit and her fist began to glow.  (Uh oh. . .)

 

"Hiryuu Shoten Ha!"

 

A cyclone of power seemed to grow from Cologne's fist and the air around the two combatants blew and twisted, tossing Ranma into the air.  As he soared into the sky, Ranma pulled his arms back to his right side and a blue glow grew from his hands.  His vision blurred as the force of the cyclone tore at his body.  His arms shot forward and a burst of ki shot from his hands towards Cologne.  He blacked out just as the blast reached her.

 

 

                                                *******************************************

 

The jarring, painful impact of landing on the ground brought Ranma back to his senses.    

 

"Ranma!" A trio of female voices called out at once.  He slowly sat up just as Shampoo pounced on top of him.

 

"Husband okay?"  she asked, her voice filled with concern and love.

 

"S-sure," Ranma coughed out.  "No problem."  He gently pushed Shampoo away and sat up to find Akane and Ukyou glaring at him.  He was expecting the first, Akane got angry at nearly anything, it seemed, but Ukyou's reaction was. . . surprising.  (Will have to deal with that later,)  he idly thought. He slowly stood up and stretched out his arms and back.  Turning to the side, he watched as Cologne slowly and wearily walked towards him.  Her clothing was a bit charred, and she seemed to have a slight limp in her left leg.   Ranma tried to remain steady on his feet and managed a smile.  "Ready to continue?"

 

"I think we should call this one a tie, wouldn't you agree, Son-in-Law?"  Cologne's voice was soft and firm.

 

"Are you kidding?  I'm still ready to go!"

 

Cologne shook her head in consternation.  "Your strength and tenacity serve you well, but don't be stupid.  Come along, Shampoo."  She turned aside and walked away from Ranma.

 

Shampoo smiled and kissed Ranma on the lips.  "See you soon, Airen!"  She ran after Cologne.

 

"Count on that, Son-in-Law," Cologne called out.  "We will be back."

 

"Can't wait," Ranma muttered. 

 

As soon as the Amazons were out of sight, the crowd dispersed on its own and two irate females confronted Ranma. 

 

"So, care to explain all that, Ranma?"  Akane asked, her hands on her hips.

 

"Is that girl really your wife?"  Ukyou softly asked.

 

"No, she's not, but she thinks she is, or at least, according to her tribal laws, we're married, but. . . well, it's kind of a long story."  Ranma chuckled weakly. 

 

"That's fine; I'm not going anywhere.  We've missed most of the rest of class, anyway."

 

Ukyou nodded her head in agreement.

 

"Fine.  I guess you really should know about this anyway.  I doubt they're going to just give up now."  Ranma sighed.  "It all started a few months ago when a friend of mine and I were traveling in China. . . ."

 

 

                                                **********************************

 

"Ranma, do you have any idea where we are?" 

 

"Nope!  But that guide said there was a village in this direction, so we should be reaching it soon."

 

Genma rubbed his stomach.  "I hope so.  I'm starting to get hungry!"

 

Ranma shook his head ruefully.  "You're always hungry."

 

"Hey, I train hard and I'm used to regular meals!" Genma protested. 

 

"Yeah, yeah. . . Hey!  I think we've found the village!  Look over there!" 

 

Genma grinned happily.  "Looks like smoke from a chimney or campfire!"  Genma sniffed the air.  "I think I smell something cooking too!"  He ran forward past Ranma, his wariness forgotten, but not his hunger.  Ranma laughed and ran off after him.

 

A few moments later, they reached the village and followed the noises of activity to what seemed to be a large party in the center of the village.  It seemed like the entire village was seated at large wooden tables, talking, laughing, eating, and drinking.  Genma was about to join them when Ranma held him back.  "Wait a minute.  Does something seem sort of strange to you?"

 

"What?"  Genma asked in irritation.  "The only thing that's strange is that there's food here and I'm not eating any of it."

 

Ranma smacked him on the back of the head.  "Look!  All the -men- are doing the serving.  The women. . . the women aren't doing any of the work at all!"

 

Genma shrugged his shoulders.  "Maybe the men lost a bet or something.  Why, I remember that time Nodoka-"

 

"I don't think it was a bet.  Use your eyes, Genma.  These men look. . . broken."

 

Several of the women noticed the pair and started walking towards them.  They were all armed, and none of them seemed too friendly. 

 

"Ranma," Genma calmly said, "I think we're in trouble."

 

Ranma's eyes never left the approaching women.  "Not yet.  For once, just keep your mouth shut, okay?" 

 

The women stopped several feet in front of Ranma and Genma.  One of them made what sounded like a demand in Chinese.

 

Ranma awkwardly scratched the back of his head.  "Uh. . ."

 

"Go ahead, Ranma.  You handle this."  Genma slapped him hard on the back.

 

"Any of you speak Japanese?" Ranma hopefully asked. 

 

The woman repeated her demand and Ranma sighed.  Genma shook his head and chuckled.  "In two hundred years, you couldn't take the time to learn Chinese?"

 

"You're not helping, Genma.  Besides, I was busy."  Ranma whirled towards him.  "Don't take this situation too lightly; those weapons look sharp.  Not that it means much to me, of course, but I'd hate to have to explain to Nodoka how your stupidity got you killed!" 

 

By this time, the entire village had noticed the two of them, and all celebrating stopped as everyone stared at the two strangers.  Everyone waited silently.  Ranma was careful not to make any sudden moves.  He almost smacked Genma when the larger man's stomach rumbled.   

 

That seemed to break the tension as group of women who were closest to them laughed out loud.  Ranma groaned and placed his head in his hands.  "Sorry," Genma muttered.

 

A new voice spoke up sharply and the women quieted down.  They stepped aside and the shortest, wrinkliest old woman Ranma had ever seen walked into view. 

 

"Hmm.  Japanese by the looks of you.  What are the two of you doing here, so far from home?"

 

"You speak Japanese?  Great!" Ranma sighed in relief.  "We're on a training journey, trying to perfect our skill in the Art.  We just happened upon your village and don't mean to intrude."  Ranma smiled disarmingly.  "We have been walking for quite some time and have grown rather hungry.  If you could spare some food, we would greatly appreciate it and would be on our way."

 

"You are well-spoken for your age."  The old woman nodded her head in approval. "My name is Cologne.  The Art you say?  So the two of you are warriors."  She turned towards the villagers and said something in Chinese.  The crowd murmured in response and several of the younger women seemed to get excited.  "We welcome you as guests and you may stay in the village as long as you wish.  Please, sit down and eat your fill."

 

"Don't mind if I do!" Genma exclaimed, rushing towards one of the tables.

 

Ranma shook his head and slowly followed after Cologne, who led him to a different table.  "Is that man your father?" she asked.

 

"No, just a good friend.  My name is Ranma, by the way.  My hungry friend is named Genma."

 

"Ah, I see."  Cologne became visibly relieved.

 

The women at the table made room for Ranma and smiled politely at him.  He sat down and Cologne put her hand on his shoulder.  "Would you be interested in a test of skill before you eat?"

 

"What kind of test?"

 

"My great-granddaughter, Shampoo, won a martial arts tournament today." Cologne had an excited gleam in her eye.  "She's one of the greatest warriors of her generation and she's about your age.  Would you be interested in fighting her?"  She pointed to a purple-haired girl who was sitting on the other side of the table.  

 

Ranma glanced at the girl then turned back towards Cologne.  "She doesn't seem like that much of a challenge.  I really don't see the point."

 

Cologne snorted.  "You're very confident for never having seen her fight." 

 

"No offense intended," Ranma smiled. "But I have no reason not to be."  Ranma looked around the village, once again noticing the amount of servitude the males showed.  "My being a guy isn't going to cause any problems, is it?"

 

"You are very perceptive, but no, it won't be a problem at all." Cologne smiled.  "I still think you should fight Shampoo, she might surprise you."

 

"Has she learned to control her ki yet?"

 

"She is not ready for such advanced techniques yet," Cologne admitted, her eyes narrowing.

 

"Then there is -really- no point in my fighting her.  Perhaps someone else?"  Ranma looked at her closely.  "You hide it well, but you seem powerful enough."

 

Cologne shook her head.  "You are too young and inexperienced to be fighting me, child."

 

Ranma wore a small grin.  "I might surprise you." 

 

"You are far too confident for one your age."  Cologne sighed despairingly.  "Just how old are you, Ranma?"

 

"Older than I look."  Ranma shrugged his shoulders.

 

"I. . . see."  Cologne grabbed a cup of hot tea that was sitting on the dinner table and poured it over Ranma's head.

 

"And what," Ranma asked, wiping his face and neck in irritation, "was the point of that?"

 

"Not Jusenkyo," Cologne muttered.  "Sorry, I must be getting clumsy in my old age," she cackled.

 

"Right.  That must be it," Ranma agreed dryly.

 

"Well, if you don't want to fight, that's fine.  Eat, and then I'll show you where you can stay for the night."

 

"Thanks.  I really do appreciate your hospitality."

 

 

                                                *************************************

 

"You still haven't explained the whole 'husband' part."

 

"Be patient Akane, I'm getting to that."

 

"Why did she pour hot tea over your head?"

 

"I honestly have no idea, Kuonji-kun.  Maybe she was annoyed that I didn't fight Shampoo."

 

 

                                                *************************************

 

"Ah, that meal really hit the spot!"  Genma let out a contented belch and put his hands behind his head. 

 

"I'm glad you enjoyed it," Ranma replied as he lay down on a sleeping pallet.  "We're leaving first thing tomorrow morning."

 

"It might be nice to stay here for a while, I mean, there are a great number of warriors here, it would be great training!"  Genma exclaimed.

 

"Great eating, you mean."

 

"Well. . ."  Genma weakly scratched the back of his head.

 

"This place makes me feel uncomfortable.  That Cologne is up to something, I'm sure of it."

 

"Ranma!  That's a terrible thing to say about our host!" Genma protested.  "She fed us well and even gave us a place to sleep in her own home.  You should be grateful!"

 

"Good to see that your loyalty is still so easily bought, Genma."  Ranma sighed.  "Just go to sleep, okay?"

 

"Sure, Ranma. I'll just-"

 

A knock on the bedroom door interrupted their conversation and Ranma climbed out from under his blankets to answer it.  He yawned and rubbed his eyes.  "What now?"  He opened the door and blinked in surprise to find Shampoo standing in front of him.  "Yes?  Is there something I can do for you?"

 

"We fight," she firmly proclaimed.

 

Ranma blinked.  "Huh?"

 

"We fight now!" she grabbed hold of the front of his shirt and threw him out of the bedroom and into the hallway. 

 

Ranma easily flipped over in mid air and landed on his feet.  "What is this about?" he asked mildly.

 

"Shampoo strong warrior!  Shampoo best!"

 

"Ah."  Ranma immediately understood.  (The old bat must really want us to fight.)  Shampoo growled and charged forward. (Reckless,) Ranma thought.  As soon as she got in range, Ranma's leg shot up and connected with her chin.  Shampoo flew back and slammed into the ground.  She tried to sit up but fell back once again. 

 

Ranma stared at Shampoo's prone form with a bit of concern.  "Hope I didn't hurt her too badly."  Shampoo silently stood and slowly walked up to him.  "Hey, are you okay?" he asked.  Shampoo suddenly hugged him and planted a kiss on his lips.

 

"Wo ai ni," she whispered softly.  She eventually ended the kiss, but kept her hold on Ranma.  Smiling brightly, she caressed his face.

 

"Um. . . no hard feelings, I guess."  Ranma smiled nervously.  (Friendly girl.  I wonder where the change came from all of a sudden.)

 

Cologne walked into the hallway, clapping her hands.  "Congratulations, Son-in-Law.  You are quite skilled."

 

"Thanks, I. . .  Wait a minute."  Ranma blinked.  "Son-in-Law?"

 

"You have defeated my great-granddaughter.  She is now your wife," Cologne explain.

 

"Airen."  Shampoo giggled and leaned her head against Ranma's chest.

 

Ranma looked perplexed.  "Look, I mean no disrespect but-"

 

Cologne held up a hand.  "These are our laws, Son-in-Law.  Shampoo -is- your wife."  Her tone brooked no contradiction.

 

 

                                                *************************************

 

 

Ukyou frowned.  "What a strange law. . ."

 

"You're making this up," Akane accused.  "You defeat a girl and she's your wife?  What kind of barbaric law is that?"

 

"The village is a little behind the times," Ranma admitted.  "The law states that if an Amazon is defeated by an outsider, and that outsider is a male, they are married."

 

"What if the outsider is female?"  Ukyou asked.

 

"Then the Amazon has to kill the outsider at any or all costs."

 

"Remind me never to fight her," Akane muttered.

 

Ranma waved off her concern.  "Don't worry about it.  You couldn't defeat her anyway."

 

"Well, thanks for your vote of confidence, Sensei!"  Akane exclaimed hotly.  "Maybe you should be training your -wife- instead-"

 

"Settle down, Akane."  Ranma leveled a look at her and she closed her mouth and folded her arms over her chest in a huff.

 

"So what happened?  You obviously left eventually. . ."

 

"Well, Kounji-kun, I stayed at the village for a few weeks, trained with Shampoo, avoided some of her more, um, amorous advances, and made my escape when I got the chance."  Ranma shook his head.  "You can't believe how well they guard that place!  Of course, if Genma wasn't along, I probably could have left earlier.  I never thought that they would follow me all the way to Japan!"

 

"Well, they did.  What are you going do now, Ranma?"

 

"I'm going to step up my training.  I underestimated Cologne."  Ranma smiled.  "That was a hell of an attack she used.  I have to figure out how she did that."

 

"What was that thing you did when she tossed you in the air?" Akane asked.

 

"That was a ki attack, you'll learn about those soon enough."  Ranma glanced at Ukyou.  "Speaking of training, I might have found you a sparring partner.  That is, if you're interested, Kounji-kun."

 

"Me?" Ukyou leaned back, startled.

 

"Sure. I'm training Akane and she needs someone to spar with who's around her skill level.  If you're busy, I understand, but it would only be once a week or so. . ."

 

"Th-that's fine. . . I mean, if Akane doesn't mind."

 

"That would be great!"  Akane exclaimed.  "Ukyou, I didn't know you practiced the Art!" 

 

Ukyou bowed her head shyly.  "Only my family's school."

 

"It's settled then.  We'll discuss the details tomorrow.  Right now, I just want to go home and get some sleep!"  Ranma yawned and rubbed his lower back.

 

"I guess I'll see the two of you tomorrow, then.  Bye!"  Ukyou smiled and ran off.

 

Akane sighed and glanced at Ranma.  "Life certainly isn't dull with you around."

 

Ranma laughed heartily and slapped her on the back.  "All for the sake of training, Akane-chan."

 

Akane groaned and rubbed her forehead. "I'm never making another bet with you ever again. . ."  Ranma only laughed harder.

 

                                                *********************************

 

Shampoo poured hot water into the bucket at Cologne's feet and smiled.  "Is ready.  You rest, Great Grandmother." 

 

"Thank you, child."  Cologne sat down and placed both of her feet in the bucket.  She let out a deep sigh as the healing herbs and hot water worked their way through her pain.  After the fight, the pair had returned to their hotel to rest and plan their next move.

 

"Husband is good fighter!"  Shampoo stared off into space, thinking of the way Ranma fought and the way that he moved.

 

"He is indeed.  A little too good, I think."

 

Shampoo drew away from her daydream and looked at Cologne.  "What you mean?"

 

"He is much to strong and experienced for one of his age.  Things are not as they seem.  Son-in-Law is hiding something, and that secret may be the key to bringing him to us."

 

"And then we go home?"  Shampoo asked hopefully.

 

"Yes, child.  As soon as Ranma is yours, we will return home."

 

******************************

End Chapter Five

 

Notes:

 

Introducing Ukyou was unplanned, but I figured, why not?  I'm not sure what to say about the fight.  I'm sure some of you will have issues with it.  I'll just wait and see. J  As for next time, I'll be delving a little more into the past, and we'll learn all the motivations of Ranma's first fiancée, Aya.  I -know- some of you have been waiting for that one.  ^^;

 

Gotta give thanks to the folks helping me out here…  Firehawke, for prereading and general motivation,  D.F. Roeder who keeps *me* interested in this story, and Michelle Thatcher, for being so damn smart.  J

 

As always C&C is welcome and appreciated.

 

Namaste,

 

Anand