A.D.V. Curses and Demons Chapter 10

All Ranma characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi, first published by Shogakugan in Japan and brought over to North America by Viz Communications.

          A Different Viewpoint: Curses and Demons: Chapter 10

    The inner Senshi landed in the Tendo's side yard a short while after leaving Dr. Tofu and the others on the street.

    Sailor Jupiter, still carrying Ryoga along with a bundle of his clothing, looked around uncertainly.
"OK... so, how are we going to do this?"

    Sailor Moon pointed at the door.  "Why don't we knock on the door and ask Mr. Tendo to let us
in?"

    Jupiter blinked.  "Er... I meant how were we going to switch Ryoga back...."

    Mars looked at Sailor Moon in dismay.  "Oh right, Sailor Moon, like that is going to work.  What
do you think will happen when Mr. Tendo sees us standing on his porch?"

    Sailor Venus winked at her and started for the front door.  "Lets find out!"  the others followed
after nervously.  (With the exception of Sailor Moon, who was glad someone finally agreed with her.
Venus knocked briskly on the door and waited paitently.  Half a minute later the door was pulled
open by a calm looking Soun Tendo, who's only reaction as seeing five girls in short Sailor fuku's on
his porch was to raise an eyebrow slightly.

    "Er... yes?"  He spoke questioningly.  "Can I help you?"

    Sailor Venus smiled brightly and nodded, qesturing at herself and her friends.  "Hello Mr. Tendo.  I am Sailor Venus, and these are my friends, the Sailor Senshi!"  She faced him squarely as the other
Senshi waved to him as he turned to regard them.  "May we come inside?"

    Soun blinked once, then nodded, stepping back.  "Certianly!  Where are my manners, come in,
come in!"  Before long Soun was sitting across his living room table from five of the world's greatest
champions.  "Well now...."  He began slowly.  "How can I help you ladies?"

    Sailor Moon spoke up.  "We're here to meet with Shampoo and Dr. Tofu.  They should be coming here any time now."

    Jupiter piped in, holding up Ryoga.  "And if you could get Ryoga here some hot water, we'd
appreciate it."

    Soun blinked.  "Ah... Ryoga, didn't see you there.  Right then!"  He stood.  "I believe we have a
kettle on the stove.  Right this way, son."  Ryoga jumped down out of Jupiter's hands and followed
after the older man.

    Jupiter stood up as well, holding out the clothes.  "I think Ryoga-kun will want these?"  She handed Soun Ryoga's clothing and went back to the table, blushing slightly.  When Soun and Ryoga were
gone, she shook her head in relief.  "This is so weird.  I don't think we've ever just sat around a table
like this before... in someones house, as if everything was completely normal...."  She frowned,
whispering.  "I keep trying to remember that I'm supposed to be Jupiter right now, not... Makoto...."

    Sailor Mercury nodded.  "I know what you mean.  This is only the second time we've ever had to
work with people who didn't know our secret idenities... but I think this will work out fine.  Just keep
in mind that we're here on Senshi business, we want to know more about the enity that possessed all
those cats."  The other Senshi nodded in agreement, and sat silently, waiting.  Before long, Ryoga and Soun walked back into the living room.

    Soun cleared his throat.  "Ryoga-kun tells me that you helped step those possessed cats that
attacked Dr. Tofu before."  He looked gravely around at the Senshi.  "Which one of you is Sailor
Moon?"

    Sailor Moon blinked.  "Oh!  We forgot to introduce ourselves earlier!  I am Sailor Moon."  She
indicated her friends one by one. "Sailor Mercury is to my right, Sailor Jupiter is to my left, and that
is Sailor Mars."  She nodded to Venus.  "You've already been introduced to Sailor Venus."

    Soun bowed slightly to each of the Senshi in turn, then knelt in front of Sailor Moon and put his
head to the floor.  "Sailor Moon, I beg you.  Please help me with my daughter's pet cat!  Poor
C-chan is still possessed!"

    Sailor Moon got up quickly, tying to urge Soun to his feet.  "Oh no, Mr. Tendo, you don't have to
bow to me, please, get up.  I'd be glad to help your cat."

    Soun got up, still bowing and starting to cry.  "Oh thank you, thank you, thank you.  I was ever so
worried.  She's right this way.  I left her in the bathroom, so she couldn't damage anything.  Please,
come with me."

    Sailor Moon patted the crying man's shoulder reasuringly.  "Don't worry, Mr. Tendo, your cat will
be as good as new in a minute, you'll see."

    As Sailor Moon followed a crying Soun toward the Tendo bath, Ryoga stood abashedly by the
door to the hall, not quite sure what to do when faced with a room full of fuku clad super heros, three
of which that were eying in a way that made him distinctly uncomfortable.  "Er... hello again...."  He
began hesitantly.

    Jupiter took the initiative, patting an open space besides her at the table.  "Ryoga-san, sit down!
Why don't you tell us what you know about the Ghost Cat Shampoo mentioned."

    Ryoga nodded and sat down next to Jupiter, although several inches farther away then she would have liked.  "Er, well, where should I begin?"

    Sailor Mercury looked at him encuragingly.  "Why don't you start at the begining, Ryoga-kun."

    Crashing sounds could be heard farther back in the house, then a yelp.  "Oops!  Quick, hold her, Mr. Tendo!  I'll zap her!"

    Soun's voice came back querrously.  "This isn't going to hurt her, is it?"

    Ryoga paused.  "Er... it all started...."  A loud knock from the front door interrupted him and Ryoga glanced around, fixing finally on the side door.  "Um, I guess I had better get that...."

    Sailor Mercury jumped up.  "I'll get it, Ryoga!  You go ahead and go on with your story...."  She headed quickly for the front door and opened it.  "Dr. Tofu, I'm glad you're...."  She trailed off in
embarrassment.

    A little old lady peered up at her through bifocals.  "Is that you, Akane, dear?  Going to a costume party?"

    Mercury blushed slightly.  "Well... I...."

    The little old lady nodded.  "That's nice, dear.  I was wondering if perhaps you had seen my little Hinako anywhere?  I'm afraid she's run off."

    Mercury blinked several times, then took a wild guess.  "And Hinako would be your... cat?"

    The little old lady nodded.  "That's right, dear, and I know that I'm not supposed to let her out near your house, but I though I might have seen her heading this way, so...."

    Mercury nodded slowly.  "Well, I think she might have... stopped by for a bit... but I think she's probably gone now.  If I see her, I'll tell you...."  Sailor Mercury winced.  "Or at least I'll try and get
someone to.  Hopefully your Hinako is heading for home as well speak."

    The little old lady nodded, smiling.  "Thank you, Akane dear, you're probably right."  She reached out and felt the material of Mercury's skirt.  "This really is a very nice costume, my dear.  Did Kasumi help you with it?"

    Mercury swallowed slowly.  "Er... no, it um, came premade...."

    The old lady nodded, pouting a bit.  "Oh I see.  I hope it wasn't too expensive."  She smiled again.  "I hope you have a nice time at your party dear.  I really must get going."

    Sailor Mercury nodded.  "I'll keep an eye out for your cat.  Thank you for stopping by."  She watched the old lady walk out of the front gate and then closed the door, leaning against it with a sigh.  "Oh my... now that was a bit ackward...."  Mercury blew out a breath and started to go down the hall after a minute's contemplation, but before she got two steps she was stopped by another knock on the door.  Mercury turned around with her fingers crossed.  "Please, please let it be Dr.
Tofu and Shampoo!"  She opened the door a crack, and sighed in relief, opening the door fully to let the Shampoo and her passenger in, followed by the good doctor himself.  "Oh thank goodness."

    Shampoo blinked in confusion but desided not to ask.  "Should I take Nabiki up to her room?"  She said instead, glancing up the stairs.

    Dr. Tofu nodded.  "That would be best.  I believe she'll be waking up in a few more minutes, so she should be in familiar surroundings when she does."

    Soun Tendo came around the corner carrying C-chan, followed by Sailor Moon.  "Oh, Dr. Tofu...."  He blinked in shock at the sight of Shampoo carrying Nabiki.  "What has happened to my little girl?!?"  He rushed over, starting to cry again.

    Dr. Tofu intercepted him.  "Don't worry, Tendo-san.  Nabiki just had a bit of a shock.  She'll be fine."  He gestured for Shampoo to go up the stairs.  "Shampoo will just take her to her room, so she can rest." Shampoo started up the stairs as bidden, taking care not to hit Nabiki's head on the railing.

    Soun sniffed worriedly.  "Are you sure my baby will be allright? What happened to her that made her collapse like that?"

    Dr. Onu Tofu patted Soun's shoulder reasuringly, subltly manipulating several pressure points to calm him down a bit.  "Nabiki is uninjured, Tendo-san, she will recover quickly.  She has had a bad
shock, however, and it would be best if she wakes up to a calm enviroment, so please try to remain clear headed and calm.

    Soun straightened up, sniffing back a final tear.  "Yes, of course, doctor.  Whatever you think best for my daughter."

    Shampoo came down the stairs calmly.  "Nabiki is sleeping in her bed, is alright?"  Dr. Tofu glanced at her as if he was about to correct her again and Shampoo sighed.  "Nabiki is sleeping on her bed, is THAT alright?"  Dr. Tofu nodded and Shampoo sighed silently.  < I know Tofu-chan just wants to help me improve my Japanese, but does he have to correct every single mistake?>

    Dr. Tofu turned to Sailor Moon.  "Now, I assume you would like to hear what we know about the Ghost Cat, correct?"

    Sailor Moon nodded quickly.  "Yes, Ryoga was about to tell us what he knew, but I'm sure that Shampoo has some details to add?"

    Soun blinked for a moment, then nodded.  "Ah!  I see!  The Ghost Cat, now that explains everything!  Yes, yes, why don't we all go into the living room and talk this out.  It would be wonderful if something could be done about that Ghost permanently, I can't tell you all the
times we've had trouble with it...."

    Everyone filed into the living room and sat down, and Ryoga, Shampoo and Soun took turns telling their audiance their stories about the Ghost Cat.

    Soun explained first.  "It all started, you see, with this magic bell that Shampoo brought to Ranma.  It belonged to this Giant Ghost Cat, and whoever held the bell was supposed to be the Ghost Cat's
bride.  We did finally manage to get rid of it, for awhile, but it ended up coming back over and over again."

    Ryoga jumped in.  "I met the Ghost Cat while wandering Japan in search of training... It tricked me and ended up possessing me, and it tried to get Akane to marry it, using my body...."

    Soun continued.  "Of course, we soon discovered the truth.  You see, even while it's possessing someong, it still tends to act like a cat, and it speaks with a distinct accent...."

    Ryoga continued.  "Which is why I realised that Shampoo was possessed by it today... although she splashed me before I could say anything...."

    Shampoo continued.  "The Ghost Cat has been much... has been a lot of trouble for me in the past.  Once, it kidnapped me and cast a spell that would cause me to be stuck as a cat forever, if the magic wasn't broken before the last bell rung at new years eve...."  She sighed. "Ranma rescued me, although because of all the cats the Ghost Cat had summoned to protect it, Ranma was in the cat fist at the time...."

    Sailor Mars spoke up.  "So it's able to possess people, control cats, and even cast spells?"

    Shampoo nodded.  "Yes, it is a lot of trouble, everytime it comes back.  Ranma aways seems to beat it, though."

    Ryoga nodded.  "The cat is really a coward, it can't stand pain, so it's not really too difficult to get rid of it, even if it possesses someone."

    Sailor Mercury scratched her chin as she mused out loud..  "So, it must have been after Tofu-sensei because it still wants Shampoo for itself?"

    Shampoo nodded.  "That sounds right to Sham... to me.  Do you think that you can help?"

    Sailor Jupiter slammed her fist into her palm.  "You bet we can help!  That Ghost Cat doesn't stand a chance against us."

    Sailor Mars looked thoughtful.  "I could put up some wards... but it would be best if we could find the Ghost Cat and get rid of it permanently."

    The Shampoo, Ryoga, Dr. Tofu and the Senshi started to discuss plans for dealing with the Ghost Cat, while Soun listened interestedly.

    Upstairs, Nabiki slowly woke, as if from a deep sleep.  "Huh... was I dreaming?"  She sat up slowly.  "Wait a second, I'm still dressed... and it's the middle of the day."  She paled slightly, then her face hardened.  "Alright... damn it, get a grip, Nabiki, you can handle this."  She sat still for several minutes, trying to calm down.  "I... I remember...."  She shook her head speaking in a whisper.  "Can it all be true?  I can hardly believe most of it... the Senshi....  The Sailor Senshi, at my house?  No way, that can't be right, I must have had a nightmare."  She got up and went to her door, intending to go downstairs.  When she opened her door she head the sound of multiple voices talking in the livingroom, some familiar, while others she couldn't quite place.  Slowly Nabiki started heading for the living room.  As she did, pieces of conversation came to her with more clarity.

    < What was that?  They're talking about the Ghost Cat?  That is Shampoo talking... and Dr. Tofu....>  Nabiki slowed down, listening silently.  < I wasn't dreaming?  No, I wasn't, I... I must have fainted on the street....  Either that or Dr. Tofu put me out with one of his Shiatsu techniques.  They brought me home....>  Nabiki moved a bit closer to the living room, not wanting to miss anything.  < So... everything I remember, really happened?>  She peeked around the corner and spotted Sailor Mars sitting in one corner of the room before she pulled her head back again.  < The Sailor Senshi really are here, and Sailor Moon... healed my memory.....>  Nabiki's hand went into a fist. < Happosai!!!  That miserable excuse for a lower life form did this to me!  He... he....>  She tried to calm herself.  < Just cool it, Nabiki, don't go loosing it now, you have to stay calm....  OK, so Happosai progammed me with his hypnosis incence...  I found out about it, thanks to Dr. Tofu, and I tried to find a way to get Happosai to lead me to the cure....>

    Nabiki took several deep breaths as she recalled exactly what she had done in order to accomplish that.  < Gosenkugi found out about the hypnosis, and blackmailed me into helping him get the incense from Happosai... and we did, I bugged my... bra... and when Happosai took off with it, we tracked him to his hideout, found the incense, and I laid a trap for Happosai... which almost worked, but....>  Nabiki took a deep breath.  < Happosai put me to sleep, and Gosenkugi put him to sleep... I
think... yes, because the next thing I knew, Happosai and Gosenkugi were there together... Gosenkugi has him under his control!  He used the incense to make me forget everything, and took off with the rest of the incence and Happosai as his faithful toady....>

    Nabiki frowned.  < Wait a minute... something isn't adding up.  Why would the Ghost Cat be trying to keep Dr. Tofu from helping me get my memories back?  It said that we had almost figured things out... what connection does the Ghost Cat have to Gosenkugi and Happosai...?> Nabiki took a deep breath, then blinked.  < Gosenkugi... now I remember, he was hanging about the photo shoot all this week, always taking pictures of Ranma....  Could that be it?  Could that be what he wanted?>  She turned and quickly headed back upstairs to her room.  < It makes sence.  I don't know how the Ghost Cat fits into all of this, unless Gosenkugi managed to make a deal with it, but the rest of it
makes sence.....>  She entered her room and quickly started to go through her photo collection.  < Alright, where is it, where is it.....>

    Half a minute later, Nabiki strode into the living room, interrupting the impromto planning session that had been going on. "People, people, forget the Ghost Cat.  I'm afraid we have bigger problems than that."  She tossed a photograph onto the living room table.  "And this is the proof."

    The room went silent, and Ryoga picked up the photo slowly, turning it over and over trying to figure out what Nabiki was talking about. "Er... Nabiki, this is just a photo of Ranma's... Ranko's back, right?" He looked carefully.  "Yup, red pigtail, and everything... I don't get it."

    Nabiki smirked knowingly, and gazed around the room wisely, soaking up all the attention she was getting.  "Of course you don't."  She explained helpfully.  "I only just figured it out myself, but it all
makes perfect sence now."

    Sailor Mars spoke up.  "What does?  What does this photo prove?"

    Nabiki hesitated, extremely temped to charge an extremely lucrative fee out of her audiance before continuing.  "Just this once, because you helped me, I'll forgo my usual fee."  She went over to a spot near Ryoga and took a seat.  "You see, all this started when Happosai hypnotised me."

    Soun blinked, then looked like he was ready to explode.  "HE DID WHAT?!?"

    Nabiki winced.  "Quiet, Daddy, I'm trying to tell a story here."

    Soun paused.  "Er... quite.  Go on, Nabiki."

    Nabiki cleared her throat.  "As Dr. Tofu was aware, I managed to figure out that I had been hypnotised, and so I desided to do something about it."  She nodded to the doctor.  "I desided to find out how Happosai had hypnotised me, and get him to undo it, on my own...."  She sighed, shaking her head.  "I nearly succeeded, but I made the mistake of allowing one Hikaru Gosenkugi to help me."  Nabiki shook her head. "I tricked Happosai into breathing in his own incense, and put him to
sleep, but not before I breathed in some myself.  Gosenkugi desided to take the incence for himself, and with both me and Happosai under it's effects, there was no one to stop him."

    Dr. Tofu spoke up.  "Gosenkugi is the one that took that photo, correct?"

    Nabiki nodded.  "Yes.  You see, Gosenkugi did nothing more to me than making me forget everything that had happened... for which I hold no harsh feelings, but...."

    Dr. Tofu nodded in understanding and encoragement.  "But...."

    Nabiki continued.  "But with Happosai, he used the incense to make him into his personal slave."

    Shampoo blinked.  "Oh!"  She grabbed the photo away from Ryoga and took a good look at it, then pointed something out to Dr. Tofu who nodded in agreement."

    Nabiki concluded.  "Now, I didn't recall this until just recently, thanks to the hypnosis, but apparently someone used the strength sapping Moxibotion point on Happosai to make him weak?"

    Shampoo nodded.  "Great Grandmother used it on Happosai, after he hypnotised us, Mouse, and the Kuno's to attack Ranma and Akane." Shampoo nodded to the Senshi.  "The Sailor Senshi helped Ranma and Akane defeat Happosai, and Sailor Moon cured all of us of the hypnosis.  Great Grandmother used the Moxibotion point on Happosai, but he escaped soon after.  Still, we desided that he was no longer much of a threat...."

    Nabiki sniffed.  "Unless he was to get his strength back... and since Cologne has the only copy of the chart that will show Happosai the cure...."

    Shampoo finished.  "The only other way for Happosai to find out where to cure Moxibotion point is to look on Ranma's back!"

    Nabiki nodded.  "Which is why Goesnkugi has been going around trying to get a photo of Ranma, in this case Ranko's, back.  He's trying to cure Happosai."  She pointed at Dr. Tofu.  "So the reason the Ghost Cat attacked Dr. Tofu wasn't because he was out to get Shampoo again, it was Dr. Tofu was about to find out that I was still hypnosised!"  Everyone blinked.

    Sailor Mars shook her head.  "Wait, I don't get it, what connection does the Ghost Cat have to what you've just told me?"

    Nabiki held up a finger.  "Only one.  We were about to "figure out the truth" it said.  That was why it was trying to stop us.  What other truth could it have been talking about?  Certainly it knows that we know it wants Shampoo."  She shook her head.  "No, while I don't know how Happosai, or Gosenkugi managed to get it to cooperate, there is no other real explination."

    Sailor Mercury spoke up.  "So what you're telling us is that Gosenkugi, who has the hypnosis incense, is working with Happosai and this Ghost Cat... and they want to get Happosai's strength back?"

    Nabiki nodded.  "That's exactly what I'm saying?"

    Soun paled.  "Those two... working together?"  He slumped in fear. "We're doomed!!!"  In a second he was on his feet and running for his room.  "India... yes, India is nice this time of year... or maybe Australia...."

    Nabiki sighed.  "Daddy... you don't understand.  Now that the truth is out about Happosai, it's not us that are in trouble."

    Soun stopped in mid rush.  "We're not?"

    Nabiki shook his head.  "No, especially with the Senshi right here. No, the ones who are in danger now are Ranma and Ranko, and everyone with them."

    Ryoga bolted to his feet.  "Akane's in danger?"

    Nabiki nodded.  "At least periferally.  You see, if Happosai had already gotten the Moxibotion fixed, he wouldn't need to keep all this a secret.  Therefore he still needs Ranma or Ranko's back to find the cure.  Therefore, he is most likely already in China.  Now that we know the truth, whoever is in charge of all of this will step up their timetable, so that we can't warn them in time."

    Ryoga blinked.  "Whoever is in charge?  Wouldn't that be Gosenkugi?"

    Nabiki shook her head.  "I don't think so.  You see, whoever sent the Ghost Cat after Dr. Tofu was obviously willing to kill him, or me, in order to keep all this secret.  Gosenkugi doesn't fit the bill.  He's power hungery, and a bit of a pervert, but he's not a killer."  She shrugged.  "Somebody else has to be pulling the strings."

    Sailor Moon looked awed.  "Wow, Nabiki, you're really smart to have figured all that out!"

    Sailor Mars frowned.  "Yeah, but what are we going to do about it?"

    Nabiki frowned as well.  "We've got to contact Johnathon-san and the others as soon as possible."  She shook her head.  "Only, they're probably already out of contact with anything we could use to reach them.  By the schedule they arrainged, they should be hiking through the
Balankala Range right about now, with five days or so before they reach Jusenkyo."

    Shampoo blinked.  "So long?  It not take two weeks to get to Jusenkyo from here."

    Nabiki shrugged.  "It was Kasumi's suggestion.  They're taking their time, hiking the last bit and camping out, sort of a extended vacation."

    Shampoo wrinkled her nose, then smiled suddenly.  "Then we can catch them before they get to Jusenkyo and warn them!"  She turned to her husband to be.  "Can we go, Tofu?"

    Dr. Tofu only hesitated a moment before nodding.  "Yes, Shampoo.  I think it's about time we visited your family anyway."

    Ryoga slapped his fist into his palm hard.  "I'm coming too!  I owe Happosai about a hundred good beatings."

    Soun started to cry again.  "Oh, what friends, what heros!  You'll save Ranma, and my daughters, won't you?"

    Ryoga nodded firmly.  "Don't worry, Mr. Tendo.  We won't let Happosai, or anyone hurt our friends."

    Sailor Moon spoke up.  "We're going too."

    Everyone turned to her in surprise, including the other Senshi. "What?"  "We are?"  "Sailor Moon...?"

    Sailor Moon nodded firmly.  "What if the hypnosis incence gets used on Ranma again, or on anyone?  I'm the only one that can heal them!"

    Sailor Mars looked concerned.  "But... Sailor Moon, what about...?"

    Sailor Moon shook her head.  "I've got to go, Mars, don't you understand?  The rest of you don't have to come with me, but I at least should go."

    Sailor Jupiter nodded.  "I'm coming too.  Mercury, Mars, Venus, you three should stay behind... in case something comes up here.  Me and Sailor Moon will go."

    Nabiki blinked, then grinned.  "Great to have you along.  So, how are you two planning on getting to China?"

    Sailor Moon blinked.  "Er... actually, I don't have any idea...." Half of the room fell over.

    Nabiki sighed.  "I guess it's up to me again.  I'll get tickets for you two... just two, right?"

    Sailor Moon hesitated.  "Could you get tickets for three, just in case?  There are several more of us that might be able to come along."

    Nabiki nodded.  "Three it is then.  Could you come to pick up your tickets early tommorrow morning?  Say before 6 am?  I'll try to get a flight for as early as possible."

    Jupiter nodded.  "I'll be here."

    Nabiki blew out a breath.  "Well then, I guess there is nothing more to say.  I suspect that everyone has preperations to make, so I think we should adjurn until tomorrow.  Dr. Tofu, I'll call you tonight with our flight information.  Sailor... Jupiter?"  Jupiter nodded.  "I should have everything for you by tomorrow morning.  Be sure and be here by six, alright?"  She stood up.  "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lot to do before we can go."

    Nabiki headed upstairs to her room, and the Senshi also excused themselves.  The middle Tendo
got on her phone and busied herself in the necessary preparations for their departure.  The only seats
available were three on a flight early in the morning, and a pair of luxury seats on a flight just before it.
She couldn't afford the exorbitant price for the luxury seats, but they were the only other seats
available, so she started putting her contacts to work.  Half an hour later she had managed to wrangle
a deal that would get her the seats she wanted, and she hung up the phone in relief.

    Her work done, however, there was nothing more to distract her. Nabiki put down the phone and
collapsed on her bed, trying not to cry. A soft knock on her door caused her to sit up suddenly,
checking her face quickly to make sure that there were no signs of tears.

    "What is it?"  Nabiki asked coolly through the door.

    "It's me, Nabiki."  Dr. Tofu's voice came through the door clearly. "I thought you might want to
talk."

    Nabiki hesitated for several long moments before getting up to let him in.  "I... I suppose."  Nabiki
sighed, opening the door for him then going back to sit on her bed.  "So... what is it that I'm supposed
to talk about?"

    Dr. Tofu shrugged patiently.  "That's up to you, Nabiki.  Do you want to tell me about it?"

    Nabiki shook her head.  "There's really not much else to tell.  You already know what he did to
me...."

    Dr. Tofu said the name with no small amount of disgust.  "Happosai."

    Nabiki nodded.  "You already know... what happened.  Most of it, anyway."  She shook her
head.  "It was worse not knowing."  Nabiki looked Tofu in the face.  "Not knowing what was
happening, not being in control.  That was the worst part.  The rest...."  She shook her head. "I can
handle that part.  So I gave some overly hormonal geeks a show. Big deal.  As far as Hiroshi knows,
I was the one that conned him. Gosunkugi wasn't that bad either, he didn't do anything I wouldn't
have done in his place."  Nabiki's eyes went cold.  "It's Happosai that I want dead."

    Dr. Tofu just stood there for awhile, regarding her.  "I understand.  I just want you to know, that if
you ever want someone to talk to... about any of this, about anything at all.  I'll be there for you."

    Nabiki turned to the side, not quite facing him.  "I know that." She took a deep breath and
straightened up a bit.  "I've got tickets for tomorrow morning... two of them for one flight and three
for a flight following it.  I figure I'll give the Sailor's the tickets for the second flight...."

    Dr. Tofu blinked.  "Just two tickets?  If it's money, I can pay for Shampoo and myself, certainly."

    Nabiki smiled slightly.  "I figured as much already, doctor.  No, the problem is that everything
going our way at that time is already booked solid.  I'm afraid that two of our passengers are going to
have to travel with the luggage."

    Dr. Tofu blinked.  "Two?  But...."

    Nabiki winked at him.  "Yes, two, because I'm coming with you."

       ********************

    Mamoru Chiba stopped his car in front of the Tsukino home and turned to his girlfriend worriedly.
"Usako, are you sure you want to do this? Your parents just finished grounding you for a month.  I
was supposed to come over for dinner tomorrow night!  What do you think they'll do if you go
missing for a couple weeks?  Makoto can get away with it since she's living on her own.  She'll be a
bit late for school when it starts up, but she'll manage.  But your parents will go ballistic!"

    Usagi sighed, staring at her hands in her lap.  "I know...  but there isn't anyone else, Mamo-chan.
I'm the only one that can help if Ranma or one of the others gets hypnotized again.  Rei's wards can
free people from possession, but they won't work against that magical hypnosis."

    Mamoru hesitated.  "Well, from what you've told me, the incense can be used to counter its own
effects, right?"

    Usagi nodded.  "Yes, but what if we can't get any, or it all gets used up?  Ranma, Akane,
Johnathon and the others helped us save the world.  If it wasn't for them, I might have had to watch
all my friends die again...."  She sniffed back a tear.  "I owe them anything and everything I can give."
Usagi tried to smile.  "Besides, what else could my parents do to me that's worse than grounding me
for a month? By the time we get back I'll have to go to school anyway, and I'll be too busy trying to
catch up for them to punish me!"

    Mamoru chuckled.  "You will at that.  You'll be careful, won't you, Usako?  I could come along if
you'd like...."

    Usagi shook her head.  "I know how important the first week of classes can be when you're in
college, Mamo-chan.  You need to concentrate on your studies."  She shrugged.  "Happosai isn't
really all that dangerous, even if he gets his strength back.  We've beaten him before, and with two
Ranma's helping, it'll be even easier this time."

    Mamoru frowned.  "What about this Ghost Cat?  It could be a problem if they attack you at the
same time."

    Usagi grinned and gave him the thumbs up.  "The Ghost Cat is scared of us, and Ami says it's
power level isn't high enough to be very dangerous, so its not a problem."

    Mamoru nodded.  "It sounds like you've made up your mind.  Well, good luck, Usako.  I'll come
by Rei's shrine to pick you and Makoto up for the ride to the airport, assuming that Nabiki comes
through with the tickets you asked for."

    Usagi leaned over to kiss her boyfriend on the cheek.  "You're so sweet, Mamo-chan.  I'll see you
tomorrow."  She opened her door and got out of the car, then turned back to blow him another kiss.
"Say goodnight to Luna for me!"  She turned again toward her home and ran up to the front porch,
opened the door, and went inside.  Shaking his head in dismay as he pictured the calamity that would
occur as soon as the Tsukino's realized that their daughter was missing, Mamoru Chiba pulled his car
away from the curb and headed for his own home.

        ***********************

    Akane stared at the country side outside her window as it slipped by.  They had been on the bus
for two hours now, and would be on it until well into the next day, with quite a few stops in between.
It was getting late, and the bus was nearly deserted, save for her husband and their traveling
companions.  The tension between Ukyo, Ranko, and herself had been high the whole time, and they
hadn't really been able to talk, leaving Akane hours upon hours to think.

    Johnathon and Kasumi were sleeping in their seats with Misty laying between them.  The bus driver
hadn't complained at her presence loose so far, but she was keeping quiet anyway.  Ranma was also
snoring noiselessly away at her side, but Akane couldn't sleep.  It seemed like Ukyo and Ranko were
unable to sleep as well, as they were still sitting up in their seats, a couple rows up from Akane.

    Akane stared at them, going over in her mind the same things she had been mulling over for the
entire trip.  < I want Ranko back, and I'm willing to do anything I have to in order to get her back.
But... Ranko's honor bound to marry Ukyo, and I can't be married to both her and Ranma.  So, I
can't be married to her, what does that leave?>  Akane kept running into the same problem.  < No
matter what I think of to do to get Ranko back, Ukyo loses.  I know she loves Ranma... and Ranko,
as much as I do.  If I steal Ranko away from her, I'm no better than Kodachi.  Ranko wouldn't leave
her, anyway.  Ukyo's honor, and hers, depends on them getting married, and Ranko cares for
Ukyo... at the least, Ukyo's her best friend... at the least.>

    Akane sighed.  < Does Ranko love her?  I know she cares for her, but does she love her, or is she
just marrying her out of honor?  Either way, I don't have the right to interfere... but I want to know.>
Akane shook her head.  < All this is getting me nowhere but tired.  I want Ranko, but I can't take her
from Ukyo.  What does that leave me?  If only there was some way we could work this out.>  She
frowned up at the pair in question.  < Ranko has been so withdrawn on this trip.  Every time I look at
her, she freezes up, like I'm going to hit her or something.... Especially whenever Ukyo's around.>
Akane smiled wryly to herself.  < I guess I did used to act like that, but... she's not mine to hit
anymore.>

    Ukyo sat next to her fiancee silently, thinking.  < What am I going to do about Ranchan?>  Despite
their physical proximity, she felt miles apart.  < Ranko has been stiff as ice this whole trip.  Whenever
Akane looks her way, she freezes up!  How can we get any closer if Ranchan is feeling so guilty all
the time?  It's not Akane's fault, not really. She hasn't said or done anything to Ranchan to make her
feel guilty. But she really doesn't have to, does she?  Ranchan knows that Akane still loves her, and it
hurts her to see us together.  I can understand how Akane feels, but that doesn't help me figure out
what to do about it.>  She glanced back over her seat and saw Akane watching her. Instead of
looking away, Akane opened her mouth, as if she wanted to say something, then shut it, obviously not
wanting to wake anyone.  Ukyo took a deep breath, then turned back to Ranko.

    "Ranchan?"  Ukyo whispered quietly to her red headed seat mate. "I'm going to go back and have
a little woman to woman chat with Akane, OK?  You stay here and try to get some rest."

    Ranko blinked and glanced back at Akane.  "You sure, Ucchan?"

    Ukyo nodded.  "Sure I'm sure.  We're just going to talk some of this stuff out, I promise."

    Ranko nodded slowly.  "OK, Ucchan.  I guess that's a good idea." She yawned.  "I think I will get
some shut eye after all.  All of a sudden I can hardly keep my eyes open."  Ranko stretched and
settled down in her seat.  "If she hits ya, Ucchan, hit her back."

    Ukyo giggled and got up.  "I don't think we'll go that far, Ranko. Akane and me know that isn't the
answer."

    Ranko sighed.  "I wish the answer was that easy.  If it doesn't got anything to do with hitting
something, I'm not much good at it."

    Ukyo patted her red headed fiancee on the shoulder.  "You're doing fine.  Now get some sleep."
She turned and walked quietly down past Akane and Ranma's seat and quirked her head toward the
back of the bus. Akane nodded and followed the Okonomiyaki chef to the seat at the very rear of the
bus and they both sat down.  Neither of them spoke for several minutes, as they both tried to come
up with just the right thing to say.

    Ukyo sighed, then broke the silence.  "I don't know how to say this, Akane, but...."  She shook her
head.  "This isn't really your fault... and I know I must sound terrible for saying it, but... but Ranko has

been tense this whole trip, especially when you're around."

    Akane frowned but nodded.  "I know... I know.  But what can I do?" She looked at the floor.     <
What can I do?  Do I want to do anything?  Do I really want Ranko to feel comfortable being with
Ukyo when I'm around?>  She sighed.  "What do you want me to do, Ukyo?"  She looked up at
Ukyo's face earnestly.  "I don't want to come between you and Ranko...."  She winced as Ukyo
looked skeptical and went on.  "OK, truthfully, I'm jealous, angry, and I quite honestly want her
back... but that's not going to happen, and I'm trying to accept it."

    Ukyo blinked, looking impressed.  "I appreciate what you're going through, Akane-chan.  Now I
guess you know how I've felt for the last few months."

    Akane slowly nodded.  "Yes... I suppose I might at that.  Ukyo, I promise, I'm not going to try and
break you two up.  I love Ranko, but marrying you is something she has to do...."  Ukyo glared at her
but Akane kept going.  "... and something you've had to do for most of your life.  I won't destroy her
honor, or yours, just because I'm hurting right now."

    Ukyo sighed.  "You're not the only one.  Ranko's been hiding it, but I know she misses you.  How
do you think I feel?  I'm finally going to marry my Ranchan, but only because there's an extra one.
I'm coming in a poor second, and that's not how I wanted things."  She shook her head.  "But that
doesn't matter.  I love Ranma... Ranko, and I'll take her any way I can get her."

    Akane sat back.  "I know you love her, and I honestly don't want to get in your way... it's hurting
Ranko, and that hurts me too.  If the only way Ranko can be happy is to be happy with you, then...."
She shrugged.  "Then I want her to be with you."

    Ukyo sat back as well.  "We're agreed on that, but Ranchan is going to keep wincing every time
you're around...."

    Akane broke in.  "I won't stay out of her life, if that's what you're implying.  She's not just my
ex-fiancee you know, she's also my best friend."  Akane glanced up at her own husband.  "I wouldn't
keep you from seeing Ranma you know.  I haven't, have I?"

    Ukyo shook her head.  "No you haven't... not that I've come by very often, but you've been pretty
good about it... well, after I gave up trying to marry him at least."

    Akane sighed.  "I admit it wasn't easy, but I trust him...."

    Ukyo nodded.  "And I trust my Ranchan too.  If they're anything, they're honorable."

    Akane sighed.  "I took too long figuring that out... but you're right, they are."  She glanced from
Ranma to Ranko and back.  "So what are we going to do about it?"

    Ukyo shrugged.  "How should I know?  Even if I asked you to stay away, I know Ranko would
want to see you... and I'm not going to ask you to stay away."

    Akane frowned thoughtfully.  "Ranko's uncomfortable because she is feeling guilty about being with
you while I'm around."  She glanced at Ukyo.  "So since I'm going to keep being around...."

    Ukyo looked back at her, trying to follow along.  "Then we have to get her to stop feeling guilty?"

    Akane grimaced slightly, but nodded.  "That's about it."  She looked back up at Ranko.  "I
suppose I could have another talk with her...."

    Ukyo sighed.  "I guess that's the best we can do."

    Akane wrinkled her nose.  "Maybe... maybe we can put our heads together and come up with
something better."

    Ukyo looked interested.  "What did you have in mind, Sugar?"

        ***************

    Hours later, the bus stopped at their destination, a small town in the foot hills of the Balankala
range, from where they planned on walking the rest of the way.  Ukyo and Akane had talked until
very late, not really arriving at a conclusion, so they were the most bleary eyed of the bunch as they
staggered out  onto the street.

    It was just getting light, and Johnathon went looking for a telephone, while Kasumi consulted their
map.  "Johnathon thinks it will take us around six days to hike in, given a steady pace."  She looked a
little self conscious.  "I know I'll be holding the rest of you back, but I'll do my best to keep up."

    Ranma was quick to reassure her.  "Nah, don't worry about it, Kasumi.  It'll be nice to be able to
take it easy for once."

    Ranko nodded.  "Yeah, what's a few extra days getting there going to matter?  I've been a girl
longer than this before.  It's not a big deal."

    Kasumi smiled.  "That's very nice of you two to reassure me.  I know you must want to get to the
springs as soon as possible...."

    Ranko shook her head.  "It's no big deal, Kasumi, trust me! Besides, with you along, this is going
to be a great trip!  This way, Akane don't gotta cook nothing!"

    Akane spun around to face the red head, her face turning purple. "Ranko!!!"  She scooped a small
boulder off the ground and started to chase Ranko around and around the bus, shouting threats.

    Johnathon came back shaking his head.  "I leave for a couple minutes and look...."  He cleared his
throat, speaking so everyone could hear. "I'm afraid the phones are out here, so I wasn't able to leave
a message for everyone back home, but I'm sure they're all fine."  He grinned at Akane, who was still
holding her boulder.  "Since everyone seems so full of energy, why don't we get started right away.
We can be miles from here by dark, and find a nice camping spot.  What do you say?"

    Akane dropped her boulder and sniffed at Ranko.  "Never mind.  Who cares if you like my food
or not.  You get to eat Ukyo's cooking now." She aimed a glare at her.  "And I better not hear you
complaining about that, or I'll help her beat you up for it!"

    Ukyo laughed and shouldered her pack.  "If Ranchan does insult my cooking, Akane, I'll hold you
to that!"  Without further discussion, the small group headed into the foothills.
 

End of chapter 10
 

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