From A Different Viewpoint Chapter 38

Ranma is a creation of Rumiko Takahashi, Sailor Moon is by Naoko Takuchi. Please don't sue me, I'm poor.

                                A Different Viewpoint pt 38

    With the school year over, Ranma, Akane and Johnathon immediately prepared to leave for Ryogensawa, not even waiting to find out how their final exams had gone.  They set out that
very afternoon, intending to return in three days.

    Nabiki seriously debated talking to Dr. Tofu about her plan, but put it off.  < Shampoo's not fully recovered... I'll wait until Ranma returns.>

    The small group took the train to Ryogensawa, and hiked into the forest from the station.  When they had gotten far enough into the woods that they wouldn't be seen by people, Johnathon poured cold water from his canteen over his head. He explained as they walked.

    Johnathon spoke quietly as they went further into the woods.  "Since there's so many giant animals around here, I figured I could use my cat form to our advantage.  My senses are a lot better as a cat.  I can help us to avoid the animals."  Akane and Ranma led the way, Johnathon trailed behind and kept alert.  Ranma spotted two traps before they had gotten more than a mile in and avoided them.  Akane had noticed one herself and steered the group around it.  It was getting dark when Johnathon's ears perked up as he heard a large animal heading their way through the brush.  He slipped up to Akane and Ranma.

    Johnathon's voice was a low whisper.  "There's something big, coming fast, from that direction."  The half-cat pointed to the right, where a gnarled clump of small trees and bushes overshadowed on all sides with much larger trees, blocked their line of sight.  "Lets hide quickly."  Johnathon suggested.

    Ranma nodded and started leading them toward a different stand of trees, larger, and not quite as close together, off to the left.  In his haste he failed to notice a trap.  The ground collapsed under him and Ranma was barely able to leap away.  A huge deadfall crashed down on top of the new pit, barely missing him and Akane, who had been close on Ranma's heels. Ranma landed half a dozen feet away and spun to see if Akane was alright.  She was sitting down, having fallen backwards to avoid the tree trunk that had collapsed inches in front of her.

    Johnathon suddenly glanced back behind them as he heard the noises of movement suddenly increase in volume. Whatever was moving around nearby, was now coming right for them. Johnathon and Ranma both rushed to Akane's side and hauled her to her feet in mid running step.  The three martial artists raced for the trees, all efforts of stealth forgotten. They reached the stand of trees and hid behind one giant trunk, just as a weasel the size of a luxury car rushed into sight.  It investigated the deadfall, then ran on, just passing their stand of trees.

    When the monstrously huge member of the rodent family went out of sight, the three from Nerima breathed a sigh of relief. After a short pause, Ranma and Akane once again led the way forward, while Johnathon went back to playing rear guard, listening even more intently then before to the sounds of the forest.

    The small group had a few more close calls as they hiked deeper into the woods, including a running fight with a group of rabbits the size of compact cars.  When they finally came into sight of Shinosike's house, Johnathon came to a halt and stepped back among the trees.  The half-cat got out a small camp stove and started to light it.

    "I'd better change back before meeting your friends.  I don't want to start a fight."  Johnathon explained as he brought out a metal cup and filled it with water from his canteen.

    Ranma nodded in understanding.  "Akane and I will go ahead.  We'll let Shinosike know you're coming."

    Ranma and Akane headed for the house, and Johnathon squatted down over his stove, waiting for the water to heat.  He heard very light footsteps coming up behind him, just before their owner came into view of the half-cat.  Johnathon's enhanced hearing had been barely enough to pick up the quiet pace of an experienced woodsman.  Johnathon ducked his head and pulled his jacket collar up.  He hunched over his camp stove, checking the temperature with one hand while holding his jacket over his head with the other.

    "Hello?"  The voice was that of a young man, standing behind him, but Johnathon didn't dare turn around to answer.  He coughed, not wanting to reveal his slightly inhuman voice.

    "Excuse me?"  Came the man's voice again.  Johnathon nodded and coughed again, trying to stall for time.  The water was almost hot enough now.

    The man behind him put a hand lightly on his shoulder.  "Hey, are you alright?"

    Johnathon nodded again.  "Just a second."  He rasped.  < The water had better be hot enough now!>  Johnathon lifted the cup quickly and splashed his face.  It seemed to take longer than normal but the change came in seconds.  Johnathon turned to face the young man, letting his jacket drop to his shoulders. "Hello, is your name Shinosike?"  Johnathon took a good look at the young man, who held a push broom in his left hand.

    The young man looked confused.  "Um, yes, I'm Shinosike... What just happened?"

    Johnathon blinked innocently.  "Hmm?  What do you mean?"

    Shinosike frowned.  "Who are you anyway?  Do I know you?"

    Johnathon smoothly stood and bowed slightly.  "I am Johnathon Dwire.  I'm afraid we haven't met before, although friends of mine have told me about you."

    Shinosike scratched his head.  "Oh?  Well, why don't we go over to the house, and we can talk."

    Johnathon nodded.  "That's a good suggestion. Lets do that."

    They walked over to the house and went in the front door.  Ranma and Akane were sitting across a table from an older man.

    Shinosike blinked.  "Hello."  He turned to Johnathon.  "It seems I have three more guests!"

    The old man jumped up and punched Shinosike into the wall.  "I'm not a guest, I'm your grandpa!"

    Shinosike got up and rubbed his jaw.  "Oh, right."  He blinked, then took a careful look at Ranma and Akane.  "Um... am I related to you two as well?"

    Akane laughed easily.  "No, Shinosike.  I'm Akane and this is Ranma.  We were here a few months ago."

    Shinosike's grandfather nodded.  "They helped save your life, boy! You should be grateful!"

    Shinosike blinked again.  "You did?  Um, thank you!"  He turned to Johnathon.  "This is... um..."

    "Johnathon Dwire."  The tall english teacher supplied helpfully.

    "Right."  Shinosike nodded.  "Did you help save my life too?"

    Johnathon shook his head, trying not to smile.  "We just met.  I came with Ranma and Akane."

    The old man nodded.  "Akane tells me that you have come for the water of life."

    Johnathon nodded back.  "Yes.  My wife, Akane's sister, Kasumi, needs it.  She has a... curse.  Two curses, actually. The water of life can reverse the effects of one of those curses."

    The old man blinked.  "Oh?  What kind of curse?  And how do you know the water of life can reverse it?"

    Johnathon glanced at Ranma and Akane, then shrugged.  "A curse from the cursed springs of Jusenkyo.  Have you heard of them?"

    The old man hesitated.  "I have, and I have recently found out that the legends are true.  Unfortunately, I do not believe that the water of life will lift such a curse, although I couldn't say for sure."

    Johnathon shook his head.  "No, I'm afraid not.  The water is to deal with the other curse, the cat's tongue pressure point."

    The old man looked interested.  "I was not aware that the water of life could cure Shiatsu points."

    Johnathon nodded.  "It doesn't, however, it can treat the symptoms. The Cat's tongue makes heat intolerable to the victim, and hot water is what is needed to reverse a Jusenkyo curse.  The water of life, however, negates pain as well as heals injury.  Hot water of life can be used to transform my wife back to her human form."

    The old man nodded in understanding.  "I see!  This is very interesting.  The water of life has returned to the pools, but it can be used but sparingly, or it will vanish once more.  For the ones who saved my Shin-boy's life, I think we can spare some.  This is a worthy cause.  I have a cask for personal use.  You may take that with you.  It is getting late, however.  Why don't you spend the night and leave in the morning?"

    Akane bowed to the old man.  "Thank you sir.  We accept."  Ranma and Johnathon bowed as well.

    The old man clapped his hands together happily.  "Wonderful!  It is always nice to have company.  I will start dinner. Akane my dear, would you care to assist?"

    Johnathon jumped to his feet.  "Oh no!  Allow me!  I love to cook!" Ranma sighed in relief.  Akane frowned but didn't comment.  Johnathon glanced at Akane and looked slightly guilty. "Akane, why don't we both help cook?"

    Akane smiled gratefully.  "Sure, I'd like that."

    Johnathon kept Akane from making too many mistakes, and Akane did her best to control her impulses.  The surreptitious addition of a couple drops of the water of life made the meal a delicious one.  Night came and went, and with the dawn, the three from Nerima were ready to return home.  Saying their farewells and professing their thanks, they set out, hurrying home.

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

    At the Tendo Dojo, Nabiki decided to go talk to Dr. Tofu.  < Ranma and company are returning in another day or so, but there is no reason to put things off any longer.>  Nabiki called out to Kasumi as she passed the kitchen door.  "Hey, Kasumi.  I'm going out."

    Kasumi stuck her head out and smiled.  "Alright, I'll be starting dinner at six, so be back by then."

    Nabiki nodded.  "Sure thing, sis."  She walked to the door and out, then started heading for Dr. Tofu's clinic.  When Nabiki arrived, she waited for the doctor to finish with the last patient before bothering him.

    As the final patient left, Dr. Tofu came out with a smile.  "So, Nabiki, how can I help you?  No further side effects from the hypnosis I hope?"

    Nabiki blinked.  < Hypnosis?  Oh yeah, Ranma got hypnotised.>  "Um, no, doctor.  That's not why I'm here.  I wanted to talk to you about something else."  She hesitated.  "Um, why don't we go have lunch and talk."  She tried to keep from grimacing.  "My treat."

    Dr. Tofu blinked in surprise.  "Why don't we go dutch, Nabiki." Nabiki nodded gratefully.

    Soon they were in a small cafe booth.

    Dr. Tofu looked calmly across the table.  "So Nabiki, what do you want to talk to me about?"

    Nabiki sipped her coffee, then put the cup down.  "Doctor, how do you feel about Shampoo?"

    Dr. Tofu blinked in surprise. "Shampoo?  Well, she's a nice enough girl.  She was an efficient nurse... when she worked for me.  Why do you ask?"

    Nabiki took another sip of coffee to cover a nervous twitch.  "She's quite good looking too, isn't she?"

    The good doctor raised an eyebrow at that.  "That's safe enough to say, I suppose..."  He took a long look at the middle Tendo sister.  "Nabiki, what are you hinting at?"

    Nabiki put her coffee mug down slowly.  "Doctor, have you thought about marriage?  Since that time your mother came here..."  She broke off, not sure quite how to proceed.

    He stared at Nabiki, the mention of marriage had his eyes wide in shock.  He recovered quickly though, and straightened his gi.  He gave Nabiki a questioning gaze.  "Why are you asking?"  He paused to consider his next words.  "I believe you may be aware that I had certain... hopes... that are no longer possible at this point."  He looked at her sideways,  "Are you suggesting Shampoo, as a possible marriage candidate?"

    Nabiki quickly took another sip of coffee.  "Ah, well you've got to admit, she has a great set of hips.  I'm sure your mother would be satisfied on that account."

    The doctor's eyes were wide at the suggestion, "Nabiki! I, I..." Still he had to acknowledge the idea. He paused in consideration and shrugged.  "Isn't Shampoo bound to marry Ranma?"

    Nabiki put aside the mug, and took a firmer tone.  "Yes, but it is possible for her to marry another.  Pantyhose Taro apparently discovered this.  If he had defeated both Ranma and Shampoo in combat, then he would of been considered her husband, having proven himself the more worthy suitor."

    Dr. Tofu looked thoughtful at this information.  "So, that's what he was up to.  Yes, I remember now.  Nabiki, are you suggesting that I defeat Shampoo, and Ranma in combat, then claim her as my bride?"  Nabiki hesitated to speak, but he shook his head,  "No, you don't need to say anything else, Nabiki, I believe I know what your getting at.  I'm surprised this didn't occur to me earlier."  He sighed, his eyes becoming calm and thoughtful, and slightly sad.  "If Shampoo was too marry another, she would be freed from the danger of being punished for her failure to marry Ranma.  Cologne would then give Kasumi the Phoenix pill, since her heir and Granddaughter would then be safe."  He smiled wryly at Nabiki.  "You've put a lot of thought into this, haven't you, Nabiki Tendo?"

    Nabiki flushed slightly and looked away.  "Doctor, I... I'm.."

    He interrupted, shaking his head.  No, don't apologize, Nabiki.  It is a good idea.  Thank you for telling me all this."  He stood, putting several bills on the table.  "I have to think about this.  That should take care of my half of the bill."

    Nabiki nodded mutely.  Dr. Tofu smiled at her, but Nabiki didn't look up to see it.  He sighed again, and nodding to himself, turned to walk away.  A waitress came by a minute later to see if the young lady wanted anything else.

    She heard quiet sobs as she approached, however, and decided to leave her alone for awhile.      < Poor girl. she must have been dumped by the man with her.>  When the girl came up to pay the bill, the waitress was surprised to see no sign of distress whatsoever on the girl's face.

    Nabiki paid the bill and left, her emotions once again firmly under control.

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

    Back at the house, Kasumi was worrying about Johnathon, and getting rather tired of her state of virtual house arrest.  < I haven't been out of the house since the day Cologne gave me the Cat's tongue, except once to meet the Sailor Senshi, as a cat.>  Kasumi sighed.  < Johnathon will be home in another day.  Perhaps I can go out then... and perhaps not.  The water of life is not infinite.  Johnathon will probably want me to stay safe at home, and I can't really blame him.  I'm not much of a wife to him stuck as a cat.  It's dangerous going to Ryogensawa as well.  For his sake, I shouldn't take chances.>  Kasumi sighed again.  < But it's been so long since I was able to visit the market and shop.  I miss it, and it's frustrating to be trapped here.>

    The day passed quietly, her father had gone to visit the Saotome's and Nabiki had been out all day.  The house was quiet, even C-chan spent most of his time napping.

    Kasumi finished the last of her chores, and knew that she would have nothing to do for hours.       < Johnathon will be back tomorrow.  I really should fix something special, but... We're all out of ingredients.  Nabiki or Father would go for me, but...>  Kasumi's resolve wavered, it was a cloudless sky outside, and she hadn't been out in so long.  < I'll just be very careful.>  She promised herself.  Writing a short note in case her father or Nabiki returned home early, Kasumi headed for the market.

    Nabiki returned to the Tendo home half an hour later to find a house empty except for a sleeping kitten.  The note Kasumi had left got her worried right away, but Nabiki gave her sister the benefit of the doubt.  Half an hour passed, and it started to get dark.  Nabiki was really worried now, but decided to give Kasumi a few more minutes.  Ten minutes passed, then twenty, and it was getting quite dark.

    Nabiki shook her head.  < She's in trouble.>  Nabiki went to the phone.  < Kasumi should have been back by now.> Nabiki called the Saotome house first.

    Nodoka answered.  "Hello?"

    Nabiki quickly explained.  "Auntie Saotome?  Kasumi went to the market while I was out, and she hasn't come back.  I'm getting really worried."

    Nodoka's voice was calm and comforting.  "We'll come right away. Stay at home for now, Kasumi might come back while you're gone if you leave now.  We'll start from here, and search the market ourselves."

    Nabiki took a deep breath.  "Right, I'll be here."

    Nodoka hung up and Nabiki started dialing again.  Somehow, Nabiki was not surprised to get no answer at Dr. Tofu's. She debated calling the Cat Cafe, then called the Ucchan's while she was thinking about it.  The phone was picked up almost right away.  "Ucchan's! Can I help you?"  The okonomiyaki chef immediately volunteered to help search for Kasumi, and promised that Konatsu would assist as well.

    Nabiki waited another five minutes before finally resolving to call the Cat Cafe.  She sighed in relief when Shampoo answered the phone.  "Nihou!  Cat Cafe,  you want order?"

    Nabiki  spoke quickly.  "Shampoo! I'm glad it's you.  Kasumi went to the market over an hour ago, and she hasn't come home.  Could you help...?"

    Shampoo interrupted in a rush.  "Aiyah!  This not good!  Kasumi in much danger of cold water.  Market not safe place for cats what not know how to be cat.  Shampoo go right now!"  There was an abrupt click as Shampoo hung up the line in a rush.

    Nabiki blew out a breath, more worried then before, thanks to Shampoo's disturbing assessment.  "Damn, I can't just wait here when Kasumi might be in trouble... but someone needs to be here in case she makes it home."  Nabiki quietly swore to herself.  She got out the phone book, turning to the page holding the number for animal control.  < Just in case>

    Shampoo hurried into the kitchen after hanging up the phone.  She poured a large glass of water.  < Best way to find cat, is be cat.>  She poured it over herself and an instant later crawled out of her clothing, even as the glass fell to the floor.  < That stupid Moose could help, if he wasn't still recovering from the fight yesterday.>  Shampoo jumped out of a window and headed for the marketplace at high speed.

    Nabiki hung up the phone.  No black cats had been found recently, and Nabiki was out of options.  She slowly walked into the living room.  Near the table, the kitten, C-chan, stirred at Nabiki's entrance.  The kitten had been asleep for some time. and it was feeling wide awake now.  It went over to Nabiki, meowing at her for attention.  She sat down and picked up the kitten.  "Hello C-chan.  At least your here, safe."  C-chan meowed interrogatively, and Nabiki petted it in response. "Sure, Kasumi will be fine.  She has you to look after, right?" < Kasumi, please be alright.>

    Shampoo found her first clue after only a few moments of searching. A single shoe was on the side of the street. Shampoo checked it out.  It appeared to be one of Kasumi's, it was wet, and there was a small amount of water in the sole. Shampoo smelled it carefully.  The scent was faint because of the water, but it was there.  < It is indeed Kasumi's shoe, but where is the rest of her clothing, and where is Kasumi?>  Shampoo noted that the pavement was just slightly damp near the shoe and the water spot corresponded pretty well to how a pile of clothing might fall.

    < Someone noticed the discarded clothing and picked it up.>  Shampoo reasoned.  < Most likely, Kasumi headed home from here.>  Shampoo started heading for the Tendo Dojo, moving slowly and trying to pick up Kasumi's scent.  Shampoo started to get worried as she recognized the area she was moving through.  < This is were that large dog stays.  I hope Kasumi didn't run into him.>

    Half an hour earlier, Kasumi was hurrying home when she got splashed from above.  Someone dumped a bucket out of a second story apartment window without looking.  Kasumi instantly changed into a cat, her clothes and groceries dropping to the ground in a heap.  She was shocked, and almost angry.  The cat crawled slowly out of the bundle of clothing and paced around nervously, too stunned to immediately head home.  She remained by her clothing until an elderly woman came out of the apartment and picked up her clothes and the groceries, carrying them into the building.  Kasumi now had to comfort her self with the notion that the old woman would find her identification in her purse, and return her things home eventually.

    She headed for home then finally, trying to avoid thinking of Johnathon's reaction when he arrived home from Ryogensawa.  < He'll scold me at first... he won't yell, and he'll apologize afterwards for complaining... but he'll be disappointed.  Nabiki will scold me, and father will cry...>

    Kasumi was lost in thought when a ferocious bark startled her several feet into the air.  It was almost to late to run, the dog was nearly on top of her when it rushed her from an open doorway. Kasumi landed and dashed away, a hair's breath to the side of the mutt's slavering jaws.  Only her practice sessions with Shampoo, Luna and Artemis, and later with just the two moon cats, kept her alive in the first few seconds.  Fear leant her speed, however, and she began to gain ground.  Though she was too frightened at the time to tell, the dog was a pit bull, vicious, and faster than he had a right to be.  She ran, through almost thirty seconds of adrenaline pumping terror, in the first direction that presented itself.  Her initial rush began to fade, and Kasumi realized the animal was gaining on her, so she took the only sane route available, and went up a tree, climbing frantically to avoid the massive mutt's attack.

    Now, at the top of a small tree, Kasumi sighed tiredly.  < Won't that horrible dog just go home?  How long is he going to stay down there?>

    She'd been in the tree now for what seemed like hours.  The pit bull wasn't showing any sign of becoming bored and leaving.  Kasumi sighed,  < Go away doggie!  My family is going to be worried about me!>  Even had the dog been able to read her thoughts, she doubted it would care.  < I really wish I could go home now.>

    Kasumi's ears picked up at a strange sound.  Strange at least, in it's proximity to the dog below.  A cat was meowing nearby.  Kasumi surveyed the street for the sound... sure enough, a small white cat with pink socks and ear tips was licking it's paw in the middle of the street, seemingly unaware of it's danger.

    The pit bull glanced up at the small black cat in the tree, then at the tempting new target.  The white cat had walked closer, and was now examining a bit of grass at the side of the street.  Giving in to the temptation, the dog started stalking forward, and when it felt it was close enough, leapt at the seemingly innocuous feline, jaws agape, drooling for her tender flesh.

    At the very last instant, Shampoo dodged away, raking the dog's tender nose as she easily sidestepped the larger animal's rush.  The pit bull yelped in surprise, and slowed it's motion, uncertain for a moment.  Shampoo didn't hesitate, however, and took the attack to the mutt, her fur on end, hissing and spitting, she tore into the dog.  Though it must have outweighed her at least 20-30 times, it couldn't touch her, and soon the animal, scratched and limping, was running terrified of the small pink and white demon.

    Shampoo sat back and carefully licked a few specks of blood from her paw as she watched it tear around the corner.

    Kasumi made her way down the tree, jumping down the last six feet. She walked up to Shampoo with a grateful purr. Shampoo meowed at her questioningly and walked around her, checking her over.  Satisfied that Kasumi was unhurt, Shampoo used her head to indicate that Kasumi was to follow her.

    Kasumi nodded and Shampoo led the way back toward the Tendo dojo, purposely taking a circuitous route to avoid other hazards.  Kasumi noted the route and kept careful track so she would remember, easily guessing Shampoo's reasons for such a roundabout path.  When they arrived at the Tendo home, they found the gate wide open and Nabiki waiting just inside the fence, holding C-chan.

    "Kasumi!"  Nabiki was ecstatic.  "Shampoo!  Thank you!  You found her!"  Nabiki sighed in relief.  "Come on in you two. Shampoo, I'll get you some hot water and something for you to wear.  We still have one or two of your dresses around here."  Nabiki led them inside, holding the door for them.  "Kasumi, I was really worried.  You should know better then to go out by yourself.  You should have stayed here and waited for one of us to go shopping for you."

    Kasumi nodded sadly.  < Nabiki is right, I did know better.  Feeling cooped up was no excuse.>

    One by one, the searchers called in, or came to the Dojo.  Nabiki thanked Ukyo when she came to the Dojo with Kasumi's shoe.  "Thanks Ukyo, Shampoo just brought Kasumi home."

    Ukyo smiled in relief.  "Oh good.  When I found this shoe I was afraid something bad might have happened."

    Shampoo came out then from the direction of the bathroom. "Something bad almost do happen to Kasumi."  She said informatively.  "Big dog try eat Kasumi, Kasumi was stuck in tree."

    Ukyo and Nabiki both gulped at that, and they both looked quickly at Kasumi as if checking to see that nothing was missing.  Ukyo shook her head.  "Boy, It can be dangerous being a cat, huh Kasumi?"

    The little black cat nodded.

    Shampoo shrugged helplessly.  "It not easy live with curse.  Shampoo know."

    Nabiki looked at the amazon with mixed emotions.  < In a way, Shampoo is the cause of Kasumi's problems, but somehow, I can't blame her for it.>  "Shampoo, thanks for bringing her home."

    Shampoo shook her head in dismissal.  "Is not important.  Shampoo do anytime."

    Kasumi looked up at the girl and purred her gratefulness.

    Ukyo nodded.  "Well, all's well that ends well.  I've got the dinner rush coming, I should probably go and get what business I can."

    She and Shampoo turned to go.  Shampoo turned one more time at the door to speak.  "Shampoo must also return to restaurant, see Kasumi later."  She bounded off over the wall, not bothering with the gate.

    Moments later, as Ukyo walked out, Nodoka arrived.  She looked glad to see Kasumi safe, if stuck in cat form again. "Oh good, I'm so glad you're alright.  Genma and Soun will be by soon, so we can wait here for them."  She paused to kneel by Kasumi and look her in the eyes politely.  "I stopped by that nice Dr. Tofu's office while I was looking for you.  He should be told your alright."  Saying this, she stood, and looked at Nabiki expectantly.

    Nabiki gave her a blank look for a moment, before saying.  "Oh, I'll call him."  She headed for the phone.

    Nodoka looked after Nabiki then at Kasumi and sighed.  Kasumi seemed to share the sigh, and she shrugged as she looked up at Nodoka again. Nodoka said quietly to her.  "I know you've been handling these things Kasumi, but Nabiki should at least know how to welcome a guest properly."  She looked thoughtful.  "Perhaps... I could help you teach your sisters?"  She paused and bowed contritely.  "Of course I don't mean to intrude..."

    Kasumi nodded enthusiastically at Nodoka's suggestion.  < What a good idea.>  The two ladies, (one feline), followed Nabiki inside.

    Nabiki was just hanging up the phone.  She turned to shake her head at the two of them.  "No answer.  Oh well."  She frowned.  "I'm sure he'll check in sooner or later."

    Fifteen minutes later Soun and Genma walked in.  They both broke into relieved grins when they saw Kasumi sitting safely of the kitchen counter watching Nodoka as she demonstrated a recipe.

    "Time for a drink to celebrate!"  Genma declared,  and the two men went into the living room to get seriously drunk. Genma made sure too keep sober enough to enjoy his wife's cooking though.

    Dr. Tofu arrived half an hour later, followed by Ranma, Akane, and Johnathon.  He had met the others as they were getting off the bus from their trip.  The four of them heard Genma and Soun 'celebrating' and went around the back to see them.  As they came around into the back yard, Johnathon spotted his wife.  He was ecstatic to see her safe and sound, even if she was a cat.

    He shouted, "Kasumi!", happily and headed towards her.

    As he did so, a menacing voice came down from the outer wall. "Dwire!  For all that you have done to my beloved Shampoo, I will make you pay!  For the humiliation you've dealt to me, I will destroy you!"

    Everyone looked up to see Mousse standing there, obviously enraged. Johnathon then had to dodge a volley of knives. He quickly shucked off his pack, which was bulging with the cask of water he'd brought from Ryogensawa.  He then tossed it towards Akane, even as he dodged a flung chain.  "Here, Akane, keep that safe!"

    Mousse spotted the rapidly moving black object.  < I have you!>  He thought as he tossed a pair of weighted chains to ensnare his enemy.  He then yanked it towards himself.  < Has he lost weight?>  Mousse heard Ranma, Akane, and his foe shouting at him.  "No, don't!  Drop it!"  and "I'm here, leave that alone!"  came from different parts of the yard.  Disregarding their obvious diversion, Mousse yanked his opponent high into the air. Leaping to meet his target, he brought out a pair of giant maces, bringing them swinging into his target.  < Wow... I killed him?>  Mousse was just stunned enough that he failed to realize his danger until the three furious martial artists hit him from all sides as one.

    Mousse collapsed under the triple assault.  Johnathon rushed to the koi pond where the remains of the backpack had fallen, but he could see it was no use, the cask had been shattered.  He leapt at Mousse's fallen form screaming.  "You blind idiot!"  Ranma and Akane grabbed him to restrain him.  The pair looked across at each other, surprised at the effort it was taking to restrain him.  Johnathon was straining, his face red and eyes flaring.  He was shouting almost incoherently.  "You've destroyed Kasumi's cure!  I'll kill you!!"

    Akane almost lost her grip as Johnathon smashed her in the chest with a flailing elbow.  "Oof!  John-san, calm down!"

    Dr. Tofu started to move in behind Johnathon to apply a sleep Shiatsu, even while a part of him wanted to let him at the unconscious male amazon.  Kasumi beat him to it though.  She leapt over to Mousse's chest and meowed worriedly at Johnathon.

    That seemed to reach him, because he stopped struggling.  "Kasumi." He said it quietly so that only Akane and Ranma (and Kasumi probably) could hear it.  He said a little louder.  "OK." His voice was trembling with adrenaline.  "Alright, you can let me go.  I won't attack him."  They released his arms and, as if his strings had just been cut, he dropped to his knees. Kasumi ran to him, and he scooped her up, bringing her to his chest, slowly, as if it was the most important thing he had ever done.  He cradled her gently, like a piece of fine china 3000 years old.  Then, though no one could see his face, he lowered his head, and began to cry.

    Dr. Tofu took Ranma and Akane, (who was about to lay a shaky hand on Johnathon's shoulder), by the arms and led them back away from the scene.  They turned away and followed the doctor inside.  Everyone left Johnathon and Kasumi alone and gathered in the living room.

    Dr. Tofu sat down and looked at Ranma.  "That was the water of life?"  He asked quietly enough that Johnathon wouldn't hear him.

    Ranma nodded.  "Yeah, I'm afraid so."

    Akane nodded sadness and anger mixed on her face.  She rubbed her chest absently.  "According to Shinosike and his grandfather, that was the last of it for awhile.  There's only so much that they can take from the springs at one time,  It'll be at least a month before we can get any more."

    Everyone looked aghast at the news.  Nodoka looked horrified.  "A month!?"  She put a hand over her mouth and looked anxiously at the back porch after her outburst, but heard nothing.  She said much softer, "Kasumi will be stuck as a cat for a month?"

    Ranma and Akane slowly nodded.

    Dr. Tofu stood up suddenly, his face a mask of determination.  "Not if I can help it."  He looked strongly at Ranma who blinked, never having seen the doctor's face so composed.  "Ranma, meet me at the Cat Cafe tomorrow at noon."  He looked around at the rest of them,  "You all should be there as well."

    Soun and Genma stood together.  "Right!  We'll make the old woman give us the pill!"

    Soun added.  "My baby won't have to go through this any longer!"

   Genma nodded.  "I'm right behind you old friend."  < If were going to confront Cologne, I'm _way_ behind you.>

    Dr. Tofu looked calmly at them.  "Just be there.  I'll explain tomorrow."  He turned then to go, only pausing to bow slightly to Nodoka.

    Akane was puzzled.  She looked at the ground as everyone else watched the doctor leave. < What is he up to?>  She heard a slight sound behind her, < Was that a sob?>  and turned to see the source.  Nabiki was sitting there, also watching the doctor leave, and her face looked funny.  < Is she sad?  Nabiki? Why?  Is it because of Kasumi?>  Akane watched her sister compose herself, hiding behind the mask of aloofness once more. < That must be it, right?>

    Outside, Johnathon stayed there, quietly crying, his heart pounding louder to Kasumi then any other noise.  Gently, like rain on a spring day, Kasumi could feel his tears on her own face.  She wanted to cry too.  < Please, don't feel this way... please. I'll be alright.>  Not having ever seen her husband like this, she was torn up as well.  Uncertain how she could cheer him up, she tentatively licked his chin.

    Johnathon froze, then chuckled. He held Kasumi tighter, and squeezed her to his chest.  "Oh, Kasumi.  I wish... I wish..." Slowly he released his hug and let her down.  He left one hand on her shoulders and back, stroking her gently.  "A month Kasumi, a whole month."

    Kasumi shook her head, and nuzzled firmly into his hand.  Johnathon scratched her behind the ears. "Can you make it? Kasumi, can we make it?"  She looked up at his face and slowly, but firmly nodded.

    Johnathon nodded back, his eyes becoming calm once more.  "You're right, we can, and we will, my love.  We can, and we will."  He repeated more softly to himself.  He noticed Ranma and Akane peeking at them from the porch, and Mousse beginning to stir.  He stood slowly, and booted Mousse into the pool with his foot after turning to walk inside.  "It's late Kasumi, let's go to bed."  He set her down.  She nodded, and the two walked together into the house and up the stairs.

    There was a chorus of sad sighs as the Tendos and Saotomes watched them head upstairs.

    Moments latter a small white duck burst out of the pool and quacked angrily.  Akane and Ranma looked at each other, nodded, and grabbed the fowl.  Next thing Mousse knew, he was wrapped up in his own chain, and apparently making a new field goal record.

    Akane walked back into the house looking a bit happier.  Suddenly something occurred to her.  "Hey, has anyone seen Ryoga?"

    Nodoka, Soun, and Genma all turned to each other questioningly.  "I thought he was with you?"

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

    Somewhere, on the streets of Hiroshima, Ryoga wandered, calling, "Kasumi?  Where are you?"

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

                        End pt 38

 

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