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
That same morning, as the sun rose, the Senshi were
gathered at the Hino Shrine for a last planning
meeting before the flight to China. Rei was shaking her head. "She's late! I can't believe she's late
again. How does she expect to get all the way to China and back if she can't even get to our meeting
Minako sighed. "Rei, you're just mad 'cause
you can't go with them." She looked over at
Makoto, and Luna. "I wish I could go with you too."
Rei frowned. "I don't CARE what Grandpa thinks!
I'm coming...." She broke off as a breathless
meatball haired girl burst into the room.
"Huf... Huff... OK, I'm, huff... here!" Usagi
gasped out. "I didn't mean to be late, but Luna
normally wakes me up, only she wasn't there, and Mamo-chan couldn't go to the front door, so he
was waiting outside and he finally came to my window and it was so romantic except I was all messy
from not being able to sleep, only I was asleep, so he woke me up, and we hurried as fast as we
could, and he just dropped me off...."
Rei frowned darkly at her. "How can you say
all that in one breath if you're tired out from
running?" She looked around at the others. "I'm going to have to come along. Usagi'd end up in
Taiwan if she went alone."
The girl in question wailed, "Rei! You're so meeaan!"
The other girls all sighed as the tongue war began.
Later, Rei took the time to decide, "I'll just tell
Grandpa I'm making a shrine visit. He'll have to say
yes if I tell him it's good for my spiritual growth. He may grumble, but he'll let me go... he's been after
me to do something like that for months."
Usagi groaned. "You'll get away with it too. You're so lucky, my parents will just kill me, or
ground me for eternity." She sighed deeply, troubled, but her face hardened. "But I don't care.
After they kicked out Luna, and wouldn't believe us!"
Luna pointed out, "It did look pretty bad, Usagi-chan.
I still don't approve of your coming, you're
in enough trouble with your parents as it is. Running away won't help matters."
Ami spoke up suddenly. "So, how are you five
going to get on the plane without Nabiki-san or
Ryoga-sensei recognizing you?"
Makoto answered. "She said she got tickets
for another flight, and it's about an hour after hers, so
if she sees us at the airport, we can say we're just there to see her off." She pulled out the itinerary
that Nabiki had given to 'Sailor Jupiter' "See?" She showed it to Ami.
Ami pulled it over to her and started perusing it.
"Hmm, different airline even, different bus
company when you arrive, hmm, doesn't say where she's staying, but you've been booked at a fairly
nice hotel, the Qinghi Hilton. She says she'll meet you all the next morning in the lobby for the trip into
the Balankala Range." Ami looked up thoughtfully. "I wonder what the Chinese know about the
Sailor Senshi?" She sighed. "It's too bad we haven't been there before, or we could just teleport and
save all this time.
Usagi grinned suddenly. "Hey! We can teleport back! That'll save us whole bunches of time!"
Ami shook her head, "Minako and I can't come, remember?
I don't think you three can manage a
Sailor Teleport alone."
Usagi sighed. "That much longer away from my Mamo-chan."
Minako sighed as well. "Yeah. Artemis, do you
have to go too?" Everyone but the daydreaming
Usagi stared at Minako, and Artemis tried not to look too nervous. Luna almost growled, but
Artemis gulped but answered her. "Ah, yes,
I really should go, they might need me. Besides, if
there's any hope of a cure for the curses, it'll be at Jusenkyo."
Luna added. "Oh, and Artemis just couldn't
miss an opportunity like that." Her voice was steeped
< Does she know?> Artemis glanced at Minako,
but she just shrugged back. < If not, why's she
so mad at me?>
Rei was staring at the interaction between Artemis
and Minako confused. < What's going on? It
almost sounds like Luna's jealous... but of what?>
Usagi didn't notice any of the interaction, she still
had stars in her eyes as she daydreamed about
her return to her Mamo-chan. < Oh Mamo-chan, it's so good to be back!> She also envisioned her
parents, < Oh, we're so sorry we didn't believe you dear! Come back home!> The others backed
away as she started laughing in a maniac fashion.
At the Airport.
"Please?" Usagi was tugging on Rei's arm as
they stood in line for the metal detectors. "Buy me an
ice cream?" She was pointing to the 62 Flavor's store they were passing. "I still haven't tried their
Double Mocha Fudge yet!"
Rei groaned. "Usagi, I'd have to get out of
line." She pointed behind them. "We've already been
here for half an hour, and the line is longer than when we arrived. I've never seen the airport so
crowded." Makoto nodded. "What is a 'Shriner' anyway?"
Rei shrugged. "I think it was some sort of American Scifi/Horror flick..."
Usagi continued her assault on Rei's nerves. "Oh Please? Pleeease? Pleeeaasee?"
Rei's eyes glazed over a moment. "Ah... No!"
She tried to endure a few more minutes, but she
finally cracked. Finally she admitted. "I left my purse with my baggage anyway."
Usagi stopped whining and blinked. Everyone
nearby sighed in relief. Usagi then turned to
Makoto. "Buy me that? Please?"
Rei hid her head in her hands. < It's going to be a long trip.>
Nabiki looked around once more at the horde mingled
inside the airport. < Sheesh, I'll never spot
them like this.> She turned to board the plane with the doctor.
As they settled into their seats, Dr. Tofu turned
to her in surprise. "Nabiki, if you could afford first
class tickets, why did Ryoga and Shampoo have to fly with the baggage?"
Nabiki frowned. "Do you think so little of
me? I couldn't 'afford' these seats, I traded them with
an acquaintance of mine." < Mendo-san was so glad to get that wedding ring Daddy had me get
Ranma last Christmas, he'd of given me his paid reservations in Hong Kong too. Too bad I'm not
going that way.>
Down in the cargo bay, Shampoo meowed softly in frustration,
looking at the slumbering pig next
to her. < Oh, this is going to be a long flight.>
Already in the air, Moose flapped vigorously.
< Don't worry, Shampoo, I'll rescue you from that
treacherous Tofu. In China, he'll be on my home ground. I'll defeat him for you in no time.>
Several hours Later the plane had arrived at it's
destination. Nabiki was pleased to note the lack of
crowds in the disembarking area. "Tofu-san, would you check on our luggage? I've got an errand I
need to run, I'll meet you at the bus later."
Dr. Tofu raised an eyebrow at her words, but nodded.
"Certainly, if you like." He seemed a bit
skeptical about her 'errand', but didn't protest, quickly heading off in the direction of the baggage
Nabiki meanwhile went to check on the status of the
next flight from Tokyo. < On Time. Good,
they should be here in a little under an hour then, plenty of time to find a good vantage point to watch
from.> Ever since Sailor Moon had healed her, Nabiki had been putting the pieces of memory that
had returned in order, and several things, (other than the memories of Happosai she'd as soon forget
again,) were starting to stand out to her. Everything that had happened recently was starting to make
a sort of sense. < Somehow, Ranma knows, or at least has worked with, the Sailor Senshi, and
more than once. My little sister too, if I'm any judge. Johnathon was seen with them, or there's more
than one black half-cat in Tokyo. It's a pretty big coincidence then that Ranma knows the Sailors,
and out of the blue a big group of young girls wants to train with him.>
Nabiki snorted to herself. < Maybe if they
were just there to watch Ranma, but these girls are
serious about training, as if they have a very good reason. Beyond the fact that some of those girls
seem smitten with Ryoga.> She frowned. < Of course, there might be a simple explanation, but I'll
bet at least a few of those girls are the Sailor Senshi in disguise. If I see any of them here in China,
then I'll know for sure.>
Nabiki walked around the area their flight was due
at, then settled down with a good romance
novel to pass the time.
On the plane in question, the three sailors
and their guardian cats fretted... or at least most of them
Artemis had been trying to make small talk with Luna
for over an hour now, with no success,
having been frustrated by her single syllable answers. < Great, she's still steamed at me, and I'm
not certain why.> He sulked himself for awhile. < Ah, maybe I should get it over with and ask her if
she's mad about me and Mina-chan.> He sighed. < But what if that's not what she's mad about?
She'd really be angry then!>
Luna wasn't half as mad at Artemis as he imagined.
Oh she was mad at him. < They're supposed
to be our charges, not our lovers!> She sighed imperceptibly, < I always thought that maybe
we'd...> She thrust that thought away roughly. < No! Never! Me and that... male? Ridiculous.>
She sighed again, louder. < I wonder if I'll ever find someone?> She almost laughed at the thought.
< What am I thinking?> But she knew, in her minds eye, still, was the picture she still had about one
day not long ago.... A cafe, a strong hand, with long sensitive fingers, placed carefully over hers. The
tone of concern in the voice, the kind word, the compassion obvious in his face, the joy on his face
transforming it as he reminisced freely in her presence. Over that image, a stronger one, of the feeling
of his bare skin against her own, of the damp, slightly musky sent of him....
< No!> Luna shook her head violently, trying
to clear it of those images. < We're not even... the
same species, (not that that seems to bother Artemis), I have responsibilities, (wouldn't he share
them?), he's probably back in America by now. (but what about what he told me... I never mentioned
it to Johnathon, could it be important?)> Her inner voice was insistent. < He'll never accept me.>
She answered herself. < He'll think I'm a freak, or an animal.> Her inner voice made no reply.
Artemis, having heard her sighing, decided that she
might be more receptive in that mood. "Um,
Luna? I've got something, ah, that I really should tell you."
She turned to give him a frosty look, and the words
almost died in his throat, but he plowed on
regardless. "Ah... well... the Senshi, you see, they're growing up, able to... well, make their own
decisions, so , um when..." He broke off, uncertain how to continue.
Luna rolled her eyes. < Is he going to tell me it was all Minako's idea?> She frowned suddenly.
< Could it be true? No, never...> But she wasn't certain.
Artemis swallowed. < Well, I guess I better spit it out.> "Luna, Mina-chan and I are in love."
Luna barked a laugh. "Love? Lust you
mean! You don't honestly expect me to believe that you
love that girl, do you? I can't believe you, abusing your trusted position like that..."
Artemis snapped back finally, "Yes love! I love her, and she loves me."
Luna scowled. "The last part I might believe,
that girl could fall in love with anything cute on two
legs, but you?"
Luna was surprised, Artemis was practically spitting
with anger. "How can you say that! I can fall
in love as easily as the next guy."
Luna denied his anger as a pretense, "Like as not,
you were the next guy! Besides, you're not a
guy, you're a cat, or a woman! How's that supposed to work?"
Artemis snorted suddenly, feeling he had a clue to
Luna's behavior. "It works just fine. It sounds to
me like you're jealous Luna. Wishing maybe you treated me better?" It slipped out before he could
stop it. From the murderous rage in her eyes, Artemis was suddenly very glad that they were in
separate carriers. "Um, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way, Luna."
She turned away and began ignoring him again. <
That arrogant... thinks he's the only man around
does he? We'll I'll show him I don't need him!>
Up in the passenger section, Usagi was snoring mightily.
Rei had given up trying to sleep, and was
reading a book. Makoto was staring out the window at the ground below. Occasionally she'd
compare it to the map book she was holding.
"Rei, I think we're almost there." Makoto said suddenly.
Rei looked up. "Really? Recognize a landmark?"
Makoto shrugged. "No, not really, but we are going down."
Just then the seat belt light flashed on, and the
speakers began announcing the descent. Rei turned
to the snoring Usagi and shook her gently. Usagi, we're almost there, time to wake up."
Usagi yawned hugely, and stretched. "Huh? Oh
good morning... Rei, why are you in my bed?"
She sat up suddenly. "Oh! We're on the plane! What time is it anyway?"
Rei sighed. "It's still morning, about 5:30am here." < Usagi sounds... relaxed.>
Usagi blinked. "Huh? you're joking, that'd mean we haven't left yet!"
Rei sighed again. "No, baka, remember we're gaining hours? We're going west, right?"
Usagi nodded, "Ah... OK." more to cut off the lecture than because she had understood.
Rei said softly to both girls, "Look, I've
been thinking... I'm pretty sure Nabiki suspects who the
Senshi are. We didn't see her at Tokyo airport, but she might be waiting for us here."
Makoto blinked. "Ah, I didn't think of that.
Maybe that's why she got us a flight after hers. how
are we going to explain why we're in China?"
Rei shook her head. "We can't, obviously.
She'll know who we are for sure." She paused
dramatically. "But I've got a plan." The other two listened intently. "We can transform. Then she
won't be able to recognize us."
Makoto shrugged. "That might work, but won't
the airline be able to tell who we are then? We
did use our own passports."
Re sighed. "Yeah, probably."
Makoto sighed back. "It's too bad we can't
use that disguise magic without wearing the fukus."
She paused. "Hey, won't Nabiki-san be able to tell who we are anyway? She could find out who
was on this flight maybe."
Usagi was mumbling something to herself, but she
looked up at that. "No way! Ami said she'd
take care of the airline's computer records, so nobody can tell we ever left Japan. And anyway, I
can use my disguise pen."
Rei nodded. "That's right, then at least you
can go out first to see if Nabiki's waiting, then if she is,
me and Makoto can do a quick change in the plane's rear rest room, after most of the other
passengers have already gotten off."
Makoto frowned. "Hmm, maybe... but how will
we get through customs? The Sailor Senshi don't
exactly have passports."
It wasn't long before the airplane landed.
In the hustle, no one noticed the transformation Usagi
had made into an older looking business woman, (complete with briefcase.) She pushed her way to
the front of the disembarking line, and headed out onto the concourse. Sure enough, she soon
spotted Nabiki Tendo scrutinizing each person as they exited. She herself had gotten a long
appraising look. Nabiki was still casting the occasional glance back at her, but apparently she wasn't
sure who she was. When Nabiki was watching another passenger exit, Usagi went to the window to
wave at the plane.
Inside, Rei scowled. "Looks like Nabiki's out there all right. Quick, you change first."
The two were looking out of the plane's rear windows
at the terminal, near the rest room. Makoto
got in, and there was a brief pause. "Uh, Rei? I didn't bring a change of clothes in my carry on
Rei groaned. "Just take off what you've got
on now, transform, and change back into it, but
hurry!" She whispered fiercely.
Inside, Makoto quickly divested herself of clothing
and pulled her transformation pen from it's
pocket dimension, raising it above her head... and paused. < Do I have to shout?> She
experimented, whispering, "Jupiter Star Power... Make Up." The words seemed to reverberate
beyond the small room, and the transformation started.
Outside, the plane's electronics flickered then went dead. Rei jumped. "Makoto? Better hurry!"
Makoto was fumbling with her choker. < Now
how does this come off?> It was seamless, but as
she imagined it, a seam appeared and she pulled it off easily. < Oh.> She got out the fuku then easily
enough, putting it away in her carry on bag. She was mildly surprised at how small a bundle it made.
She then tossed on her old outfit. < Hmm, it fits the same, I kinda thought... oh whatever.>
Outside a stewardess asked a nervous Rei, "Is your friend all right in there?"
Rei nodded. "Uh huh, I'm sure she'll be done
in a minute." Just then, the rest room door opened,
and Makoto came out. Rei was surprised suddenly. < I know it's her, but somehow she doesn't
look at all the same. Is this how other people see us when we're Senshi? Weird.>
Makoto motioned to her. "Ah, OK, your turn."
Rei hurried inside. Makoto noticed the stewardess glance at her, a confused
expression on her face, but the woman shook her head and headed forward.
< Looks like the disguise magic still works without the fuku. Good.>
duplicated Makoto's actions, then the two disguised Senshi hurried to exit the plane.
Outside, Nabiki was frowning. < Only one person
with gold hair, and she seemed to be a little old to be Sailor Moon or
Venus.> Nabiki continued to wait. < Maybe they're still
on the plane, waiting for me to leave? Is there another way off that
plane?> She sighed < Maybe I should leave, I don't want to jeopardize
the Senshi's friendship....> Just as she was thinking this, two young women
came down the exit ramp. < Hmm, I don't recognize them either... wha?>
Nabiki's mouth hung open
for a moment in shock. She stared at the tall brunet harder. < That's Sailor Jupiter! I'd swear it's the same girl! I thought perhaps that I wouldn't be able to recognize her out of 'uniform'. Otherwise, someone would have discovered their identities by now, but I'm sure that's the same person I gave the tickets to yesterday.> Nabiki debated the merits of going up to greet them or sneaking away. < I could try to follow them, but stealth's not really my strong suit. I guess I'll go say hi.>
She stood and walked over to the pair. "Hello there! Welcome to the Qinghai province, China. So... what should I call you two? I can't just call you Jupiter and Mars all the time can I?" She studied their reactions. < Yup, the other one's Sailor Mars... how DO they maintain a secret identity? Maybe, they don't have a regular life? Just hide out in some secret base on the moon or something until their needed? More likely a base in Japan. If they could travel to the moon, why would they need plane tickets to China?> Satisfied with her reasoning, Nabiki waited as the two conferred together quietly. When they finished, she asked, "So, just the two of you?" < I hope I can get a refund on the other ticket.>
Mars frowned at her. "We'll do fine ourselves."
Nabiki put her hands up placatingly. "I don't doubt it. Still, don't you at least need Sailor Moon along? I mean in case Happosai has any more of that hypnosis incense?"
Jupiter glanced at Mars. "Um, well she'll be here tonight, don't worry."
Mars glanced back, then gave Nabiki a searching look. "Well, we don't want to keep you. We've got to pick up our bags. We'll meet you at the hotel later, when we are ready to leave, all right?"
Nabiki fought back a frown at the obvious dismissal.
< Smile girl, remember they're your allies....> "Yes, I'll see
you there." She smiled more winningly at them then, her true gratitude
showing through. "Again, thank you for coming. I don't think I could
manage without your
help. I know it must be terribly inconvenient coming all the way to China."
Jupiter was smiling back now. "Oh no, we had to help. We owe your family, and Ranma, a great deal."
Nabiki smiled again to cover her burning . < My family? And Ranma? I'm missing a lot of information here, and I don't like it.> She managed to contain her frustration and nod. "I'm glad, whatever your reasons. Bye till then." She turned and started towards to airport's exit where the bus to the hotel was waiting.
Ryoga and Dr. Tofu were there waiting for her. Ryoga was asking a uniformed man a question in Chinese. Tofu looked relieved when he spotted her coming. "I was worried we'd miss the bus. Where have you been?"
Nabiki shrugged eloquently. "Girl stuff. We ready to go? Where's Shampoo?"
Tofu looked at Nabiki a long moment before pointing. "She's already on board the bus. we should get on as well, the bus is full, and the driver wants to leave." Indeed, the driver, having decided that this was the long awaited passenger, was making quick preemptory gestures to her to board, while jabbering at her in rapid Chinese. Dr. Tofu and Ryoga hurried to load their bags, and they got on.
Shampoo was evidently quiet eager to go. "When we rescue Tendos and Ranma, then we go to village, neh Tofu-chan?" I show you where I grow up, and you meet elders. Is very good, yes?"
"Yes Shampoo." Dr. Tofu nodded. "I'm almost glad we go this opportunity to return to your homeland so soon. I don't think it would of been too easy for me to find a good time to break away from my practice, if this hadn't come up."
Shampoo's eyes, gazing about at her homeland as the
bus moved, turned to her husband. < He is always looking at things
in the brightest light. I am lucky beyond my deserving.> She
"You is... you are so good to me, husband. Wo ai ni." She snuggled up to him gratefully.
Dr. Tofu sighed, just a little, and wrapped one arm around her. "Shampoo, what can you tell us about this area?"
As Shampoo happily began pointing out some of the
region's features and landmarks, Ryoga reflected on his situation.
< What am I doing here? I mean, really, why did I agree to come
along at all?> He sighed softly to himself. < If I believe
Johnathon, the spring of drowned man is no cure for me... and unfortunately,
I believe him. Hmm, would being a pig-man be so bad?> He pictured
the end result in his head, then shook his head violently. < Ugh,
no way. I'd rather be a pig than a
monster.> He thought again about his reason for coming. < I'm not doing it to win Akane either... I still love her, but she loves Ranma. I want her to be happy.>
Ryoga grimaced, thinking about his old rival. < Damn that Ranma, he never should have agreed to marry Ukyo. Akane's way more important than any deal that idiot Genma made...> He paused, trying to control his anger... something he didn't have a lot of practice at yet. < Akane said I shouldn't attack Ranma anymore... that we should be friends... but he hurt her... arrgh! What about Ukyo? What does she see in that two timing jerk!> "Ranma, this is all your fault!" He was so worked up he didn't realize he'd muttered the last bit out loud.
Nabiki shook her head listening to Ryoga. < Pig-boy's falling into his old thought patterns again. Ordinarily I'd just sit back and enjoy the fireworks, but we'll probably need him, so...> She reached out to grab the lost boy's elbow. "Hey Ryoga. Earth to Ryoga, come in Ryoga."
He blinked and looked at her. "Huh? What is it, Nabiki?"
"You know, when we get back, we're going to have another problem, Ryoga." Nabiki said blithely.
He frowned at her. "What do you mean, another problem?"
She looked at him seriously. "You know, Daddy's been real impressed with you lately, Ryoga, how you helped save Kasumi, and how you've been teaching those classes for Ranma."
Ryoga blinked again. "Uh, I guess..." he petered out, not sure what Nabiki was hinting at.
Nabiki continued, ignoring his growing confusion. "Nodoka-san thinks a lot of you too. I heard her telling daddy how she wanted to track down your parents."
Ryoga looked astonished at this news. "Wow,
really? She'd do that for me?" He lapsed into thought, only
half listening as Nabiki described how Nodoka had been training her in
'wifely ' skills. < Wow, maybe I'll get to see see
Mom and Dad again. Heck, maybe I really do have a little sister by
now.> He was a little sad at the thought of leaving the Tendo home
though. < For awhile, it's been like they were my family.
They've taken such good care of me. Kasumi and Nodoka's home cooked
meals, the way Nabiki makes sure I don't get lost, helping me out at school,
its almost as if she was my sister.> He nodded absently at whatever
Nabiki was saying, < Huh, something about arranged
marriage...> "Arranged marriage?" He asked suddenly, shocked. "Nodoka-san wants to arrange a marriage for you?"
Nabiki looked frostily at him. < Baka.> "That's what I said, Ryoga."
Ryoga frowned. "Why? I mean, who's this jerk she wants you to marry anyway?"
Nabiki almost laughed. < This is too easy.> "You of course." She paused to enjoy his shocked stare, his open mouth and bulging eyes. "As soon as she can find your parents to discuss the idea, that is."
Ryoga finally managed to close his mouth. He almost immediately opened it again. "Mmmee?" He squeaked. "No, you must mean some other guy named Yuu, or something, right?" He checked. < No, she's still looking at me like I'm an idiot.> "Oh, you mean me." He paused. < Nabiki? Me and Nabiki? Marry Nabiki?>
Nabiki pouted at him. "Don't make it sound like torture."
Ryoga grinned wryly. < Did I say that out loud?> "Ah heh." He put his hand behind his head sheepishly.
She softened her fierce expression. "Well you can see what I mean by us having a problem when we get back, right?"
He nodded mutely, still thinking, < Me and Nabiki?>
Nabiki sat back after a few moments of studying his face. < Yup, Ryoga's lost again, in thought. At least he's not brooding now. That should keep him busy for awhile.> Nabiki grinned to herself, not at all worried about what she had told Ryoga. < Even if Nodoka does find Ryoga's parents, there is no way they'd agree to anything like that. Besides, I can easily slip out of any arrangement they make. I'll marry who and when I say, no one else.>
A huge Ghostly form of a cat with a bell around its neck appeared in front of a certain dark cloaked woman, who was sitting in her private jet, currently on its way to China. "My spies have informed me that the Senshi have arrived in China, and they are hurrying to intercept Ranma and the others, before they reach Jusenkyo."
The cloaked woman snarled angrily. "No! That group must reach Jusenkyo, it is vital to my plans! You must stop the Senshi from reaching them."
The Ghost Cat shuddered. "Stop them? The Sailor Senshi destroy my kind! Every time they see something like me, they blast it until it's gone. Do you know how many monsters, youma, demons, and supernatural entities they've erased from this plane of existence? They're cold blooded murderers I tell you! They can't be reasoned with!"
The cloaked figure put one black furred hand up to her head tiredly. "Very well, go to the old one and tell him he is commanded to stop the Senshi instead. He only needs to slow them down for a day at the most. Go now, and continue using your power over cats to keep me informed of our prey's movements."
The Ghost Cat nodded, obviously relieved. "Yes, I will do as you say. Only remember our bargain."
The cloaked female nodded. "I remember. When all this is done, Shampoo is yours." The Ghost Cat smiled widely and vanished, his body first, leaving his smile behind until it too finally vanished. The cloaked one sighed. "I never should have let him borrow my Lewis Carroll collection...."
Hundreds of miles away, a young man in a purple Gi spied on a certain group of hikers as they made their way through the China wilderness. He had been following them for almost a whole day, using his invisibility techniques to no avail. His camera, borrowed some time ago from his master, had to that moment gone unused."
"How can I get a picture of Ranma or Ranko-chan's
back if neither of them ever take off their shirt?" The youthful
looking martial artist grumbled to himself. "Even if they do, I can't
get close enough to see without them detecting me. I somehow need
to get one of them to take their shirt off for long enough that they drop
their guard... but how?" He grinned to himself. "Actually, I wouldn't
mind if all of those pretty ladies down there decided to take their shirts
off, but that's not going to happen...." He blinked. "Or is
it?" The lecherous blond martial artist grinned wider. "That
gives me a great idea! And I know just where I can pull it off!"
Thought became action as he raced ahead
of the group he was shadowing in order to get to the spot he had in mind first.
It was getting to be well past noon as they marched along the mountain trail, and Johnathon was keeping his eyes peeled for a good stopping place for lunch. No one had complained yet, but he knew Kasumi as least had to be getting a little tired. Misty was riding up on top of his backpack, and suddenly meowed loudly. He craned his neck up to see what she wanted, and the small black cat pointed off the trail to the left. A side trail led away, and in the distance Johnathon could just make out the glint of water. He stopped and listened and heard the faint sputtering of running water.
He looked impressed. "Good catch, Misty-chan." Johnathon turned back to the rest of the group. "It looks like there might be a mountain stream over that way. Why don't we take a break over there?"
Akane hiked up next to him and peered in the direction he had seen the water in. "That sounds like a great idea, Johnathon-san. I could use a break."
Kasumi came up a bit later, trying not to pant. "I'll make lunch, alright?" She said determinedly. Kasumi was the only one of the bunch (besides Misty of course) not to be carrying a pack, and was determined to pull her own weight.
The small group headed toward the sound of the water,
and before long came across a pleasantly bubbling stream, shaded by a thin
band of trees that appeared to follow its length for quite some way in
both directions. Everyone took the opportunity to top off their canteens,
and Kasumi started setting up Ranma's tiny portable stove. They had
only packed enough food for five days or so, but Ranma, Ranko and Johnathon
had promised to do some hunting on the trip in. The group had
decided almost unanimously to avoid passing too near to the Amazon village, so they would have to make do with the supplies they already had.
As everyone else settled down for a rest, Ranma and Ranko, still full of energy, decided to do some exploring, Ranko downstream and Ranma upstream along the river. It wasn't long before Ranko came running excitedly back into their temporary camp.
"Hey, guess what I found!" Ranko yelled as
she came into view. "You've got to see this, just through the woods is
a great little lake! It's out in the sun, so the water's pretty warm, and
Kasumi smiled brightly at that. "That sounds wonderful, Ranko. It would be nice to take a little swim before we start walking again."
Akane paled slightly at the word swim. "Er... I didn't remember to bring my bathing suit, Kasumi."
Kasumi winked at her. "Nether did I, Akane-chan, but we're a long way from any people, so I don't think we'll need them."
Akane gaped at her older sister incredulously. "Huh?"
Ranko patted Akane on the shoulder. "You don't have to worry about having to swim, Akane, there's a shallow part so you can wade without drowning."
Akane glared at the red head then shrugged, smiling. "It does sound nice. Come on, Ranko, lets go swimming!"
Kasumi hesitated. "Well, I did just start cooking...."
Johnathon spoke up. "You really shouldn't eat before going in the water anyway. I'll take over lunch, and you girls can go swimming. Me and Ranma can go in after you girls get back."
Ukyo stood up. "Sounds like a great idea, Johnathon! Don't go peeking in on us though!"
Ranko protested. "Hey, why do I have to wait with the food? I found the place!"
Akane grabbed her wrist and pulled her along. "No silly, Ranma is going to wait here. Johnathon can tell him when he gets back. You're coming swimming with us."
Ukyo grinned. "Sure sugar, we're all girls, right?"
Ranko blinked. "What does that have to do with anything?"
Akane shook her head in mock dismay. "We're going skinny dipping, idiot. Why else would Johnathon and Ranma have to wait until we get back?"
Ranko's eyes went wide and she blushed. "Wait a minute, I'm not sure...."
Akane just pulled the smaller girl along. "Well I am. Now are you going to show us this lake or not?"
Johnathon watched them go bemusedly, then glanced
at his feline wife. "Not going to go with them, Misty-chan?"
The black cat shook her head and pretended to be shaking off water.
He nodded. "I don't like wet fur much myself." She looked off
at the nearby woods and pointed in
their direction. Johnathon followed her look. "Want to do a little exploring yourself?" Misty nodded. He nodded back. "Alright, but stay nearby, who knows what wild animals are in the woods?" Misty meowed an affirmative and slipped off into the trees.
Near the lake, a youthful looking man in a purple gi laid in wait with his camera. He had never been one to use camera's before, but recent events, and his master's primary hobby had given him a chance to appreciate their uses. For one, with his telephoto lens, he wouldn't need to get too close to his target to get a good picture, which would be a bad idea around a martial artist as sensitive as Ranko or Ranma. He hadn't been positive that Ranma's small group would stumble across the lake, but the opportunity had been too much to give up. It looked like his hunch was going to pay off as well, because he could hear several voices approaching the lake. He hunkered down to watch.
Ranko stood nervously by the edge of the lake as Kasumi, Akane and Ukyo all started to undress. "Er... are you sure this is OK?" She kept her back to the others and stared at the lake, trying not to think about what they were doing behind her.
Akane dropped her shirt on top of a convenient boulder and started taking off her bra. "Don't worry about it Ranko. It's not like you're going to be seeing anything new." She laid her bra down and started unbuttoning her shorts. "Besides, you're a girl right now, and you will be one at least until we get to Jusenkyo."
Kasumi finished folding her clothing and walked naked past Ranko into the water. "I certainly don't mind if Akane doesn't, Ranko-chan." Ranko's eyes went wide at the sight of the eldest Tendo sister in the buff. She rapidly schooled her expression as Kasumi turned around and waved for her to come in. "The water is lovely, Ranko, come on in."
Ukyo finished undressing and followed Kasumi into the water a few moments later. "Don't be shy, Ranko. Don't tell me you're afraid to let us see you naked."
Ranko frowned. "Hey, I ain't afraid of nothing." She started to undress in a rush, flinging her clothing over her shoulder. She beat Akane to the water by about a second, cannonballing into the deep end with a rebel yell worthy of Tarzan.
The blond haired martial artist rapidly clicked off
photos of the captivating scene. "What a vision of loveliness!"
He gloated as he took photo after photo. "Now, my dear Ranko, just
go ahead an join the others... that's right... yes, she's taking her shirt
off... wait, not so fast, I can't focus! No, don't jump in the water...
wait just a second more!" He sighed. "Darn it, she didn't stay
still long enough
to get a clear shot of her back, and I can't get a good shot through water." The youthful looking man brightened. "We then, I suppose I'll just have to go with plan B! It'll be a lot more fun, anyway."
As the blond martial artist vanished into the trees, once again using his invisibility technique, he missed seeing the pair of eyes six inches from the ground that watched him disappear.
Back at their impromptu camp, Johnathon sat back and let the stew he was cooking boil on the lowest setting the stove had. There was no point rushing until the girls came back. Behind him the group's backpacks started to open one by one, their contents slowly being stolen with consummate skill. Even if he had the ears of his half cat form, he would not have heard the thief moving, and even if he chanced to glance in that direction, there was almost nothing at all to see that was out of place.
The youthful man in the purple gi faded back into
sight several dozen yards away, carrying a full sack about two feet wide.
"Too... heavy...." He groaned, letting the sack drop lightly to the
behind him. Wiping the sweat from his brow he hefted the sack again. "Why... did they... have too... carry... so much stuff?" After several minutes he stopped, panting for breath. "That's far enough. It'll take them forever to search this far. He put the bag under the hollow of a fallen tree and quickly covered it up with branches and leaves. "Whew. This never used to be this hard when I was a youth." He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "OK, now for the tricky part...."
Back at the lake, Ranko was swimming around the deeper end like a dolphin, deciding to enjoy herself. Ukyo got tired of watching and swam out to join her best friend and the two of them started to play like a pair of six year olds. Akane and Kasumi were content to sit in the shallows and watch the two play. The distraction, however, was more than sufficient to keep them from noticing as their clothing started to vanish from the shore of the lake behind them.
A minute later, the man in the purple gi pushed aside a few branches and slid the stolen clothing on top of the rest of the pile of stuff he had hidden. He covered them up again and hefted his camera with a grin, intending to head right back to the lake.
"Happosai." The voice came out of the air and the youthful martial artist jumped in surprise. "Happosai, I have new orders for you from your master."
Happosai glared up at the Ghost Cat which had materialized above him. "Not now! I was about to get my strength back!"
The Ghost Cat shrugged. "Your master commands that you immediately go to head off the Sailor Senshi before they can find Ranma and his group. You are to stall them for at least a day."
Happosai's whole body sagged in acute disappointment. "No! I was so close!" He sighed. "I cannot disobey. Where do I have to go?"
The Ghost Cat smiled faintly. "There is a little hot spring resort at the foot of these mountains, to get there all you have to do is...."
As the Ghost Cat rattled off his instructions, Happosai sighed to himself. < Now that I've hidden all of their clothing, I would have been able to get a shot of that moxibotion spot easily!> He sniffed in dismay at the lost opportunity. < Not to mention getting to watch all those naked girls for the next few days!> As he listened to the Ghost Cat's instructions, Happosai started to cheer up. < Oh well, this next job sounds like it could be a whole lot of fun too!> He nodded to himself. < And after I finish playing with those cute little Senshi, I'll come back and visit Ranko-chan and friends!> Happosai started hurrying off down the mountain, eager to get to his next mission.
Kasumi sighed in contentment as she felt the last aches flowing out of her muscles. Slowly she stretched and stood up, then turned to go up on shore. She had only gotten a few steps when she stopped dead in shock.
Akane watched Kasumi get up and walk towards the shore. "Are you going back to camp, Kasumi?"
Kasumi shook her head and pointed toward the shore. "I don't think so, Akane."
Akane followed her older sisters finger with her eyes, trying to figure out what was wrong. "What are you talking about, Kasumi, there's nothing there...."
Kasumi nodded. "Yes, I can see that, Akane."
Akane's eyes bulged in shock. "Oh... my!"
Kasumi echoed her statement wryly. "Oh my indeed. It appears that someone has made off with our clothing."
Akane frowned angrily. "Ranma! Why that little pervert! I'm going to kill him! It's one thing if he wants to see me naked, but to spy on Ukyo and you...."
Kasumi wrapped her arms over her breasts self consciously. "You don't think Ranma really did this...."
Ukyo came swimming up, panting from her recent exertions. "What did Ranma do this time?" Kasumi pointed mutely to the empty beach. Ukyo figured it out right away. "Oh my." She gave a low whistle. "Now that takes guts." She shrugged and stood up, striding out on to the beach. "Well if Ranma wants a good look...."
Kasumi blushed. "Ukyo-chan... what if it wasn't Ranma?"
Ukyo looked around thoughtfully, and belatedly covered her breasts with one arm, while strategically placing her free hand over the space between her legs. "Well... it had to be someone sneaky... right? Otherwise one of you two would have heard them."
Akane nodded, growling under her breath. "I always knew he was a pervert. Hmph. Give them a little taste, and they can't get enough." She stood up in the water and shouted into the trees. "Alright Ranma, you've had your joke. Now bring us back our clothes! RIGHT NOW!!!"
Ranko swam over interestedly. "What are you yelling about, Akane?" She took one look at the beach and blinked twice. "Whoa...."
Akane shot a glare at Ranko. "I bet you think this is funny, huh, Ranko?"
Ranko shook her head quickly in denial. "No way! I'd never play a prank like this." She shook her head again. "Uh uh, never happen. Have you ever known me to go for practical jokes? That's more Nabiki's line." She shrugged. "I hate to defend the guy, but we're just not like that. Ranma isn't the one who stole our clothes."
Ukyo gulped nervously, glancing out at the surrounding trees, which had suddenly gotten a whole lot more menacing. "If he didn't, who did?"
End Chapter 11
I hope you liked it! C&C is always welcome!