DISCLAIMER: Relatively standard stuff. Existing characters are properties of the people who made them up. Mitsuki, and several other characters are mine, and so's the story, hence ownership and copyright of them belongs to me. Contact me at domino@linksnet.nu if you want permission to use anything I've written for whatnot purposes.

 

 

TRUTH

by

Raymond Cooper

Chapter 18

** Splitting Hairs **

There was a noise outside the house. He wasn't sure what it was... sounded like light footsteps. He looked up.

Just as the front of the dorm's front lounge disappeared as a pair on bonbori ripped through it and smashed the wood into kindling.

"Airen!" a familiar sing-song voice called from outside. "Now you mine!"

"Oh my," Ranma said.

******

"Okay, Shampoo, you understand what's going on?"

"Aya! Shampoo do!" The purple-haired Amazon woman bobbed her head in understanding. She knew what was going on. Airen had run off - again - and this time split up with what he had always considered to be his primary fiancee (for reasons Shampoo couldn't understand). But not content with that, he had taken up living with seven new women, whom he had engaged himself to willingly, prepared to forget his Nerima engagements. This angered Shampoo. Surely she should get the next chance with her Airen. Or even Spatula-girl, now that Angry-girl was out of the way. Weird as to why Airen would do this. Oh well. She shrugged off the deeper implications, and the implications of the method of Shampoo's hearing this information. "Thank you, Nabiki. Shampoo think you make up for all times you played with Shampoo's head in past!"

Nabiki Tendo nodded. "Yes, yes."

"And you even not ask for payment!"

Nabiki almost gagged on that one. But nodded again. "Yes, er... yes. This information, you see, is... important! And I shouldn't be asking for payment with this tidbit. You see, Ranma did tell Akane some very unnice things. So telling you... that Ranma's jilting all of his fiances is kind of payback."

"But he is?"

"Leaving you all?" Nabiki put an angry look on her face. "Yes. And he's getting a harem together."

"Why he do that?"

Nabiki thought quickly. She hadn't expected that question. Inspiration struck like lightning. "He's scared you and Cologne might team up, try to beat him or something. Into submission, you know. So he's got the women to protect him."

"Airen not coward!"

"No, but Ranma's not stupid either. He knows that you and Cologne will wear yourselves out while he waits behind them, so he can be fresh when he fights you both."

"You tell Spatula-girl this?"

Nabiki shook her head. "What, would I do that?"

"Yes!"

"Well, maybe I would. But I haven't, yet. If you're successful in changing Ranma's mind... well, I won't have to, then, will I?"

Shampoo thought about this. It seemed a fair offer. But... "You no give free information. What you want Shampoo to do?"

"Change his mind about staying away from Nerima," Nabiki said, quietly. "He owes my family big time. In money, and in a debt of honour."

Shampoo nodded once. "Shampoo do this. Airen not flee from Shampoo again." The Amazon bounded off. Nabiki stared after her, watching the Chinese teen bounce over walls on her way back to the Nekohanten.

"All too easy..." Nabiki shrugged, and walked off to find Ukyou.

******

"Ranma?!?"

Mitsuki shook herself out of her stupor, and looked up at the new hole adorning the lounge. Ranma took up a ready-stance, in front of Mitsuki. "Stay back!" he said. "I can handle Shampoo."

One by one, he heard doors open behind him, and footsteps, as the occupants of the Ai Sou filed out into the lounge to see what had caused that almighty noise. Usagi opened her mouth to make some wondering remark about how a truck got up the stairs, when the dust cleared, and revealed a Chinese woman, the same age as her, glaring directly at Ranma. She was dressed in a pinkish outfit, but had purple hair. She really didn't look happy, and as Usagi watched, two bonbori bounced back towards the woman.

"Airen not hide behind harem?" the new arrival asked, wonderingly. She seemed uncertain for a moment, then Mitsuki stood up, shaking off the last effects of her pills.

"You're not gonna do that to Ranma, girl." She made a show of rolling her sleeves up. Ranma stared, surprised at her, dumbstruck. It was at that moment that he saw Shampoo's expression shift into one of resolve. She would go through each of these women living under the dormitory's roof to get to Ranma. And she'd take them out first.

He made a move to stop Mitsuki, but she held up a hand, not taking her eyes off Shampoo. "Leave her to me, sensei. I can stop this silly bitch."

Ranma's hand stayed up for a moment, then he dropped it, looking back to Shampoo. She wasn't looking at him now. He nearly missed Mitsuki's murmured words.

"You've already had to put up with enough from these kind of people."

She leapt.

******

"Keep your eye on the enemy, Xian."

Xian blinked the sweat out of her eyes, and desperately wanted to pull her hair back from her face. It had come out of her hair ties a few punches earlier and was now annoying her, getting in her eyes. Great Grandmother was chiding her. She'd dropped her head for a scant quarter second to let sweat drip off her brow.

She raised her head now, and jerked back involuntarily. Her opponant was leaping towards her, arm outstretched for a disabling blow. Xian couldn't allow that, so she tried to backflip, but started from a bad pose.

That failed flip was what saved her from instant failure. Expecting her to do a flawless backflip as she always had, Ming slid forward, another blow already in motion towards Xian's expected landing spot. But Xian wasn't there. She'd stumbled to the side, landing on a hand. She saw Ming's mistake, and rearranged her body weight to collapse down on the other girl, wrapping her legs around Ming's neck, then rotating and lifting the girl up into the air.

Ming struggled for a moment, then was slammed into the ground. Xian stood, brushed her hands off, and walked off, victorious. Great Grandmother nodded at her from the sideline, then turned, and disappeared. Xian turned, and faced her opponant. Ming was surprised; Xian Pu was a younger girl, and should have been easy to beat... in comparison to some Ming's companions. But Xian had studied Ming in secret, knew why her friends called her Ming the Merciless, and had prepared.

Before they'd stepped into the ring, Xian had known how to beat the older girl. And while Xian had made two mistakes... she had allowed Ming to make many, many more.

She stepped outside the ring, headed towards her hut to complete some cool-down exercises. The day's competition was over now, and the crowd that had gathered drifted off. As soon as Xian stepped inside the shade of her home, her grandmother's gravelly voice floated out of the air.

"Do you know why you almost lost?"

"Yes, Grand Grandmother."

"Why was that?"

"I allowed myself to lose concentration."

"Were you prepared for the match?"

"Yes, Great Grandmother."

"How did you prepare for the match?"

"I watched Ming prepare."

"How could you have done better?"

"I would not have lost concentration, Great Grandmother."

"Very good, Xian." There was a sigh from the rafters, signifying the end of the more formal part of the discussion, and Xian looked up. "Always remember, child, that you must observe an unknown enemy before you can hope to beat them. You may otherwise be surprised."

"Yes, Great Grandmother." Xian paused. "But I've seen Ming training many times, and she never tries anything different."

"There is no but, child. What happens if someone does something unexpected?"

"Yes, Great Grandmother."

******

Mitsuki's leap was easily dodged. Shampoo stepped to one side before returning with a swift chop to her lower back. The woman dropped to the ground, but rather than staying there, growled, and kicked her legs out sideways at Shampoo's. The Amazon jumped, but not quite soon enough, the tip of one foot grazing the swinging leg. Shampoo's weight was redistributed by the slap, and she found herself heading towards the ground.

An outstretched arm allowed her to spring up and bounce towards Ranma. One of her bonbori left her hand, flying with unerring accuracy at Ranma's head, but a casual block with a forearm shattered it. Shampoo gaped, but allowed herself no time to ponder this. Ranma was stronger now. He was better trained. Thus he would be a stronger, and harder, adversary. She couldn't afford to waste time on his new harem, so she dropped down onto both hands, and kicked out backwards with both feet. They buried themselves in Mitsuki's gut, and she staggered back, the wind knocked out of her, while Shampoo recovered, leaping to her feet and facing Ranma again.

He stepped back lightly to the ruined wall, and Shampoo stalked after him, not allowing his casual movements to entice her into a battle she knew she would lose. No, she would strike with everything at her disposal, and anything else she could find, to take her airen down. He needed to be taught a lesson - don't play around with the heart of an Amazon.

But he still kept his face turned to her. "Shampoo, why are you doing this?"

"Angry girl's sister tell Shampoo and Great Grandmother what you do! Now you Shampoo's!" Stupid, she thought to herself, speaking will only distract me. She decided it would be best to keep the speaking to a minimum.

"Nabiki?" Ranma looked puzzled. "I thought she'd be faster than this. It's been, what, a week now?" He looked at the girls gathering behind Shampoo for confirmation. Hotaru nodded slowly.

"Yes, Ranma-chan, about that."

Ranma-chan? Not as bad as Spatula-girl's Ranchan, but close enough. Shampoo saw red, but visibly kept her temper in check. She'd have to, to face her Airen with any hope of winning. The ki she was detecting from those behind her was almost insignificant, apart from the woman she had hammered. Already, Shampoo could feel her getting back to her feet, angry, very angry, and not hiding it. She said something under her breath, but Shampoo missed it. Ranma's eyes opened wide at something he saw behind Shampoo, and he shook his head.

"Shampoo! Get out of -"

But even before she could finish his sentence in her head, Shampoo felt a huge explosion of power behind her, and the stamped footsteps reached her before she could turn to see what had caused such a desvastating amount of ki to blast forth from a body. As she turned, a fist slammed into her ribs. There were audible cracks, and Shampoo looked surprised to everyone around her as the angry-looking woman's fist buried itself deep within her chest cavity. Everyone fell silent, then the Amazon dropped to the ground, still surprised. It was hard to breathe.

And there was no noise.

Almost as if detached from her body, Shampoo saw a foot pull back, and then rush towards her exposed midriff - but then pain blossomed along her side, shock dulling enough for her to realise someone had picked her up and was leaping skywards.

Up past Great Grandmother, her large eyes open wide on the roof as she watched her charge fly off to what Shampoo thought would be akin to a 'happy hunting ground' she'd heard of in badly-dubbed american movies.

Then she was falling - no, that couldn't be right. She'd been a good Amazon, surely no demons of any kind would dare lay claim to her soul! But yes, she was falling. And then hard impact. More pain swept through her body. Shampoo opened her eyes. Her Airen was holding her - that explained the sensations of flying. They were on top of the dorm. But she still couldn't hear.

******

Plugs, in Xian's ears. She couldn't hear, except for the dull thud of her heartbeat.

She knew, somewhere in this darkened room, was Ming. The older child had grown up with an intense dislike of the younger Amazon, and had trained ruthlessly to beat her for humiliations that had built up over the years. And now, in one of Xian Pu's training bouts, she had her chance to avenge them.

This test called for fighting skill, under the assumption that one had been struck deaf. Be it from an explosion, or injury - or infirmity, Elders forbid - Amazons were expected to be able to fight around disabilities. Xian was no different. She had trounced Ming in the blindness tests, and Muu Tse as well, but the deafness test was conducted in complete darkness - doubly compounding the problem.

Xian relied on the vibrations in the floor, in the walls when she found them, in the air.

She knew where Ming was.

That wasn't the problem. Xian hated not being able to hear. Her hearing was the sense she relied on most in combat. Some might say sight was more important, but Xian knew better. Sight didn't allow one to dodge a blow from behind, nor a knife from up high. Hearing covered that, the slight variations of air movements that signified a coming attack.

She trounced Ming in this test, also, but was sufficiently worried by the test to end up wearing the ear plugs for another month in daylight, until her Great Grandmother was sure her charge could lip read and act as well without hearing as she could with it.

******

"She's dying."

Cologne's words rang in Ranma's ears. He had been prepared to handle this eventuality - his fiances and their various suitors searching him out and tracking him down. But he hadn't been prepared for this. He moved to the edge of the roof, and looked down at Mitsuki - Sailor Nemesis - beind held back by the other senshi. Somehow, he didn't wonder where Sailors Moon, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter had come from. He had more important things on his mind. Like the broken girl in his arms. Blood gushed from the wound, covering his clothes.

Down below, Saturn looked up at him, then, barely pushing off with her feet, she leapt up to Ranma's side. "I can take care of this."

"Are you sure?" Ranma murmured. "She's.."

Saturn nodded, staring into Ranma's eyes. Cologne's eyes narrowed. It would seem the Tendo girl hadn't lied. Ranma was romancing - or being romanced - with these girls.

Saturn's hands came out, and laid themselves on Shampoo's side. She closed her eyes with effort, and energy built up along the surface of her skin, moving from her into the Amazon teen. Cologne watched as bone reknitted, lungs sucked back together, and blood vessels relinked to each other. Then, the skin joined over the top, until there was only the discolouration of blood on her skin and clothing to show Shampoo had been injured. But that skin was pale.

"I can't replace the blood lost, Ranma," Saturn murmured quietly. "She'll need to go see a doctor quickly."

Ranma turned to Cologne. "Take her to Doctor Tofu's. Or someplace closer, if you want." Cologne nodded, and took the prone woman in her arms. Her eyes narrowed as she looked at Ranma.

"The Tendo daughter was right. You are taking up with other women."

Ranma scowled. "Listen, old ghoul, I'm lettin' you go so you can get Shampoo help. From now, I don't want to see you here. Nor anyone else from Nerima, get it? I'm sick of being dragged into this. Yeah, I'm sorry about what happened to Shampoo, and I'll deal with it. But consider this a warning. I don't want to see anyone of you back here again."

There was a final-sounding note about those words. Cologne made a judgment call. There would be time for retribution later. For now, there was Shampoo. She nodded, and bounced off into the night on her cane, Shampoo somehow being held over her shoulder. Ranma and Saturn quickly lost sight of them after they dropped over the lip of the hill.

Then Saturn turned to Ranma once more. "Ranma?"

He shook his head and turned away. "I'll kill her for this."

"Ranma." The voice was stripped of the power and charge that Ranma associated with Saturn, and he knew that Hotaru was standing behind him. She laid a hand on his shoulder. "Ranma. Let us deal with this. Go work this anger off. She's likely to kill you if you blow up at her."

"How could she do that?" Ranma exploded. "Be so savage? Be so strong? Be so uncaring?"

"She wasn't thinking of that girl, Ranma, she was thinking of *you*." Hotaru sighed. "I'm not condoning her actions - far from it. That... none of us know where that comes from. How... why she broke like that... I don't know. And trust me, the - the other senshi breaking their covers with you around? That means it's very bad."

"Breaking their covers...?" Ranma snorted, and refused to turn around still. "That violence, though, was completely... over the top! She should be locked up. She should be -"

"But how long could any place you can think of hold her? She's only be held as long as she wanted to be held - and the results from that could be *worse*." Hotaru paused. She was doing her best of not letting the horror from below touch her, so she could talk Ranma out of doing something stupid. "Ranma... when I got my powers... when I realised I was Sailor Saturn... I did some bad things. I hold the power to destroy worlds. And I nearly did. Thankfully, I was stopped... and the things that had taken up residence in me were also destroyed, scattered. But I think back... and I see myself as I was then... and as I am now... and I thank God and my friends that they wouldn't let me do that. That they stopped me. I think... we've got to try and work this out with her - just so it doesn't happen again." She pulled lightly on Ranma's shoulder, and now he turned. She almost cringed at the expression on his face - anger, hatred, disgust. "Ranma... please. Let us deal with her?"

"I can't... I can't train that thing. She's beyond my help."

"That might be true. And for the best. We'll let her know. We'll keep her out of your way. You won't even know she's here."

"I'd better not know." Ranma pushed past Hotaru and stalked off to his room.

Hotaru looked down off the roof again, then sighed, transformed, and dropped to the ground.

******

Things had calmed down. The senshi were clustered in Usagi's room, still in their senshi forms, apart from Nemesis, who had reverted to her human form, and was crying with shame and embarrassment in the middle of a circle of senshi.

No one reached out to her. No one said anything. They just kept an even, if angry, gaze on the woman in front of them. And Mitsuki was too shamed to go anywhere, to meet their gaze, to move.

When she finally stopped crying, and wheezed from lack of breath, she looked worried. But still she wouldn't speak. Not for a good half hour. Then, in a very small, tiny voice, she asked, "Can someone get me my pills, please?"

Venus stood up, and exited the room, returning a few minutes later with an orange bottle of pills. She handed them wordlessly to Mitsuki, who still refused to meet her gaze, and took her place as the older woman uncapped the bottle and shook four pills into her hand. She raised her head to swallow them, then looked back down again at the floor.

"Why did you do it?" Sailor Moon asked.

"I got angry," came the quiet, meek reply. "I always get angry."

"That wasn't getting angry," Mars threw in. "That was psychotic."

"Not far wrong," Venus said. "The medication she's on is for a multiple personality disorder."

Mitsuki nodded, blushing in shame and wrapping herself up in her arms. "Yes."

"So you hear voices?" Sailor Moon asked. Jupiter whacked her around the back of her head. "Ow!"

"Multiple personality disorder, Usagi, she becomes different people. Has different personalities."

"Yes," Mitsuki repeated. "But not always. Sometimes it's... just someone getting close to me, and... something happens. But... I've got some bad people in me."

"We saw," Mars interjected, wryly. "Do you do that to all women who burst in through your wall and attack you?" She thought about that a moment, then added, "Put that way..."

Saturn had been quiet until now. "So why did you do what you did to that Chinese girl?"

"I... I don't know," Mitsuki said, her voice trembling. Venus looked up sharply - why was Mitsuki lying about that? But she stayed silent for the time being. "But she threatened Ranma, and us, and... and my medication I'd taken earlier was wearing off... and then... then one of my more violent personalities... came out, and I... I can't really remember a lot else."

"You're aware of your personalities?" Mercury asked. Mitsuki nodded. Mercury raised an eyebrow in surprise. "What trauma set these off in the first place?"

"I think it may have been my mother dying... but that's all I know. That, and gaining access to my powers and memories of a time long dead over ten years ago." The senshi looked amongst themselves. Mitsuki, with a glance, determined correctly the question. "Yeah. I 'woke up' as it were a long time ago. Just after my mother died. And... and I ran away from home, after I'd almost destroyed it."

The other senshi looked around at each other again, but decided this was a discussion best left for another time.

Mars had a question. "Uh... one of your more violent personalities? You mean there are worse than whatever we saw tonight?"

Mitsuki nodded, wrapping herself up again, and began to tell a story from five years earlier, when she encountered some cult terrorists in a Tokyo subway station...

******

Cologne sat beside Shampoo's bed, waiting. The doctors had given her a transfusion of blood, and she was on the road to recovery. It would still be a few days before she could leave the hospital, though, and Cologne wanted Shampoo to think about something while she was here. She dropped into Chinese, so she couldn't be understood, when her great (many times over) granddaughter's eyes fluttered open.

"Xian Pu?"

"Yes, Great Grandmother?" She responded in Chinese, unconsciously.

"What rule of combat did you forget?"

Shampoo thought. And thought hard. "I... I did not observe them for any length of time, Great Grandmother."

"Did this teach you anything?"

"Yes, Great Grandmother."

"And that was?"

"That I should take Akane and Ukyou with me next time. And the Kunos, Muu Tsu, that old panda, his wife, Soun Tendo, and Ryoga as well. And train us all beforehand to combat that girl who used magic."

"Sailor Senshi, I think, Xian," Cologne mused. "There are ways around their power... according to legend, there were a version of them around at the dawn of the Amazons. I will need to immerse myself in books for a time, child. But rest assured, we will find a way of turning this to our advantage."

"Yes, Great Grandmother." Shampoo paused. "May I sleep now? I am very tired."

Cologne nodded, and watched her charge drop into a deep slumber. Once she was certain the girl was alseep, she rubbed at her chin with a hand. "Yes... there are ways around their powers... but they call for great sacrifices..."

 

SAILOR MOON SAYS: Hey! Two for the price of one! Because I'd started writing this chapter before uploading the last, I thought both had best wait until I'd finished this one. Sorry about that ^^;;

Anyway, this is another part that went ways I didn't expect. This will, for now, be the end of the Nerima interruptions. Rest assured, they will return. After all, there's that really bad babe, Kasumi, waiting in the wings. And a rampaging race of monsters building numbers up in the alleys and schools of Tokyo...

We're getting near the end of this arc, anyways. Just thought I'd point that out. We're reaching the point where everything for this part has to start coming together in preparation for the next. This thing with Mitsuki? Hmm. Who knows how that will go? But there will be some resolution to this current problem in the next few parts, yes.

Next time: What next? Who knows! I certainly don't. Got to get my thoughts together again. But in a dorm as small as the Ai Sou, how long can Ranma avoid the woman who nearly killed one of his former fiances? How will Nabiki react to this unexpected turn of events? And just what methods of fighting senshi do the Amazons know?

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