Chapter Nine: I Left My Heart... Edit
(...Bitch of Joketsuzoku...)
(...I've faced warriors of skill you can't even hope to comprehend...)
"I'll destroy you."
(...Isn't that what you said five years ago? You, your pathetic boyfriend, and the worthless slayer of Saffron?...)
"It doesn't matter. You killed Joketsuzoku. You killed my... friend. You have to die. It's law."
(...Law... What is law, Joketsuzoku? It means nothing to me. I kill and slay. I manipulate and molest. I thieve and coerce. It has not once meant anything to me, nor shall it ever...)
"I will kill you or die trying, Kenoru."
(...You think it makes any difference? I killed the slayer of Saffron. I destroyed the man in white robes. The one you know as Mousse...)
"No. It won't make any difference, Kenoru. They are both still dead, and nothing can change that. But by killing you, their deaths won't be in vain."
(...Stupid Bitch of Joketsuzoku... Come then. Bring yourself to me and I will slay you, as I neglected to do so many years ago. Maybe then you can comprehend what I truly am...)
"I will kill you, Kenoru."
(...You couldn't hope to face five of my men. A mere five men were enough to overtake you...)
"They got lucky."
(...No, Bitch of Joketsuzoku, you did. I know not how you managed to escape them, but the dream link is in place. Coming to me shall ensure your demise...)
"We'll see about that, Kenoru."
(...Indeed we shall, Bitch of Joketsuzoku... Indeed we shall...)
The battered body twisted and turned on the apartment floor. The dreamlike utterances coming from her sleep was enough to send chills up Kei's spine.
"What the hell is going on here, old man? It's like she's talking to someone."
The old man took a puff from his pipe and eyed Kei thoughtfully. "I believe Kenoru has placed a dream link in her."
"Dream link? Can he do that?"
"There is much Kenoru can do that would surprise me."
"Can you stop it? It's creepy."
The old man hung his head and shook it. "Unfortunately it's beyond the realm of my understanding."
The woman before him shook her body around a bit more. He reached forward to check her temperature.
"She's cooling down. At least that much we can be thankful for."
"Allow her to sleep. She will wake up when she needs to."
"What about us?"
"What about us, Kei?"
"Well, she is Joketsuzoku. She's naked under a blanket, with two men in the room. How would you react?"
The old man blinked. "Good point. Not to worry, I'll take care of her should the problem arise."
"She looks so different, old man."
"Yes. I've noticed as well. The scars I suspect came from Kenoru. However I had never imagined that he could do such a thing to even her."
"Do you think she'll recognize us?"
"It's possible, boy. You should stay where it's dark however, I don't think she'll be able to comprehend your presence."
"No doubt she's heard I was here, boy."
"Well, given your track record with women, I don't think she'll understand it completely. Hell. I didn't even understand it at first."
"That is understandable, Kei."
Kei looked deeply into the girls face before him. Even in sleep, her eyes had crunched up, and she was shaking her head violently.
"God, what is he doing to her?" He asked.
"Could be anything. He could be forcing her to relive what happened five years ago. He could be doing something much, much worse."
"When will she wake up?"
"When he does, I suspect. The dream link only works when the both of them are sleeping."
"Can't we use that to our advantage?"
"Perhaps. But I doubt she would be willing. You've got to understand Joketsuzoku, boy. If she doesn't deal the deathblow, nobody does."
"Should I call Ake?"
"You should. Set up a meeting. Organize the Ryukaze's at the usual meeting place."
"I'm amazed at how fast those guys learn." Kei mentioned.
"As am I, boy. They almost remind me of... of Ranma."
"Well, there's no way they can match him in skill, but they sure are fast learners."
Kei made his leave and walked to the corner of the room and picked up the telephone. Dialing a predesignated number, he let it ring once. Twice. Three times, and then hung up.
The phone rang almost immediately.
"Hello?" He answered.
"The dragons of wind fly majestically."
"As the monsters of Jusenkyo fly alongside."
"Kei." The female voice greeted.
"Hey Ake, hows tricks?"
"Fine over here, Hon. Usual meeting place?"
"Yeah, we may have that extra edge we were talking about before."
"Yeah. I found this girl--"
"Not prettier than you, Ake."
Behind him the old man groaned. "Enough lovey-dovey crap, get on with it."
Kei laughed. "Anyways, I found her getting beat by some of Kenoru's men. If I didn't show up when I did, she would've been a lot worse off than she is now."
"If she got beat by his men, how can you be so sure she's the edge we need?"
"Chinese Amazon. These people are born and bred as warriors. Plus, I've had a couple run-ins with her before."
"So she's good."
"Damn good. I can still beat her on her best day, of course. But she's good."
"That's only if you cheat, Kei, dear."
"Hey, since when have I cheated?"
"Every time you get into a fight, you've got to bring a bucket of water."
"Hey, that form helps me out. If it weren't for that, I'd never be the warrior I ever hoped to be."
"You know, I couldn't imagine growing up as you did. Cursed to turn into a horrible monster whenever you get wet."
"The monster part was easy. It's the other part that was so hard."
"What other part?"
Kei blinked. "Nothing. Don't worry about it. Anyways, look. Meet me at the normal meeting place."
Kei looked back at the old man. "Time?"
Kei turned back to the phone. "Around six, alright Ake?"
"No problem with us, Kei, dear."
"Alright. I'll meet you guys there and we can discuss what's going on."
"Alright. See you then, honey!"
Kei smiled and placed the receiver on the phone. He turned back towards the old man.
"So, what are we going to do about her?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, we obviously can't leave her alone. What if she's not awake in three hours."
"She will be."
"How do you know?"
The old man pointed at her. "Because, the dreams have stopped."
"Kenoru woke up, so Shampoo should wake up soon."
Kei laughed. "What kind of name is Shampoo, anyways?"
"Believe it or not, it's not intentional."
"That right. It not." The purple haired beauty before then muttered as she left sleep. She sat up and looked at the two before her in confusion.
Then the blanket slid down to reveal her less public parts.
The old man twitched a little, but kept himself in check.
Shampoo could only blink. "You... Happosai?" She asked, astounded.
"Shampoo, darling. You might want to fix your blanket."
Shampoo looked down. Modesty took over and she blushed, covering her breasts with the blanket.
"What you do here?"
"I'm here for the same reason as you are, Shampoo darling."
Shampoo turned to face the other man. Who was partially hidden in the darkness. "Who he?" She asked.
Happosai puffed his pipe. "I believe you've met before. Shampoo, I'd like you to meet Kei."
"I no know anyone named Kei."
"He rescued you from the alley with Kenoru's men."
Shampoo blinked. "Rescue?"
"But you knew him before, as well."
"Kei, come introduce yourself."
Kei stepped into the light.
Shampoo stared. "Pantyhose?? I rescued by Pantyhose?"
Each mention of his former name sent flinches through his body. "Not Pantyhose anymore. My name is Kei. Kei Tarou."
Shampoo blinked. She looked up at him. "Thank you. You save life of Shampoo. She owe you a debt."
Kei shook his head. "No, that's alright."
"No. Is amazon law. Must repay debt before anything else."
"But I don't want anything."
"Even if debt mean..." Shampoo looked down shamefully and stood up. She immediately disrobed.
"NO! Not even that!" Kei yelled.
Shampoo looked at him sadly. "Shampoo no good enough? Body have too many scars?"
"No... uhh... No, it's not that. You're pretty, but... I've uhh.."
"Cover yourself Shampoo. He's got someone else."
Shampoo quickly sat and placed the blanket over herself. "How I repay?"
Happosai sighed. "You can repay him by helping us."
"How? I do anything."
Kei nodded. "Yeah. Help us get Kenoru."
Shampoo blinked. "You... you after Kenoru too?"
"Hell, yeah." Kei smiled.
"Indeed. I found his location last year. About four months later, Tarou showed up."
"Why Pan-- Why Kei help?"
"It's an agreement. I help him out, I keep my new name. I don't mind it that much, actually. I may not have enjoyed Ranma's company much, but I didn't wish the guy dead. So I'm helping take care of the bastard."
"Not just Ranma die. Mousse too."
"True." Happosai muttered. "Then for the both of them, we shall avenge."
Shampoo smiled. "I in."
"We meet the Ryukaze's in three hours."
"The Ryukaze's are a local street gang. They've got just as much a grudge against Kenoru as we do. We've been training them for the past few months."
"Training? Street gang?"
"Yeah. I thought it was a mistake at first, but once you get to know them, they're actually okay. They're not like other gangs. These guys are decent."
Happosai smiled. "That and the fact that he's dating one of them."
Kei smiled in return. Shampoo could only stare.
"So Pantyhose get girlfriend?"
"Could you PLEASE stop calling me that?"
Shampoo laughed. The first real laugh she'd had in a long time.
"Where we meet them?"
"By the docks. There's a warehouse owned by Ikanisa manufacturing out of Japan. It's not used much, so its the perfect place for a meeting, and any training we may do."
"Docks? Had bad encounter in docks last night."
"Ran into men. Shampoo think they hate anyone who not white."
"No hair on heads. Tattoo of.. Swas.... Swas..."
"Yes. That it."
"Yeah. They were skinheads. One of the only downer about this city. There seem to be alot of them. They never come around this area. They usually hang around the docks. I've had a few run-ins with them before. They usually wish they hadn't run into me, though."
Shampoo nodded. "I know. I kill some last night. Unavoidable."
Kei nodded. "That happens sometimes as well."
"Can Shampoo ask question?"
"What happened?" He asked. It was more of a command.
"I don't know, sir. We had her. We were sure we did."
"How could you have lost her? She was unconscious."
"There was this... thing, sir."
"Thing? What thing? Explain."
"I don't know how, sir. It was like... a minotaur With.... tentacles."
"A minotaur with tentacles?" He looked up and smiled. "Jusenkyo."
"Pardon me, sir?"
"Nothing. I wouldn't expect your feeble mind to grasp it. You are forgiven. It is hardly your fault that you are so weak you were unable to beat a simple curse."
"Carry with you hot water from this point on. If you run into the creature again, spray it at him."
"Yes, sir." his servant bowed.
As his servant left, Kenoru laughed. "Jusenkyo, indeed."
"This place?" Shampoo asked.
"Yeah. We meet them here, usually."
"They know about curse?"
"Yeah. It came about about two months ago. The got freaked and ran, but Ake stayed around. She knew it was me, and called the rest of them back."
"Ake knew it was you?"
"Is that Ake?" She pointed at a single woman, no older than twenty, walking up the side of the warehouse.
Kei nodded. "Ake, nice to see you."
"Hey Kei, honey. This your new squeeze?" She joked.
"Hardly. This is Shampoo."
Ake's face twisted into confusion. "What?"
"It not intentional." Shampoo said.
"Well, you'd think otherwise, with a name like that."
"Yes. I get that alot."
"No doubt." She extended her hand forward. "Nice to meet you, Shampoo. Names Akeiko, but my friends call me Ake. You can call me whatever the hell you like with a grip like that." She took her hand away from Shampoo's grip and rubbed her hand.
"Sorry." Shampoo apologized. "Not know own strength."
"You don't speak Japanese very well, do you?"
Shampoo shook her head.
(You speak better English?)
(No. Know more Japanese than English.)
"Very well then, Japanese it is. I don't know any Mandarin, so I can't help you out there."
"Is okay, Shampoo needs more practice anyways."
"Anyways, shall we enter?"
"We shall, Ake."
"Hey Happy, how are things?"
"Quite well, actually. Especially now that Shampoo is here."
"The others are waiting inside. I'll double check things out here and meet you inside."
"Very well. Shall we enter?" Happosai asked.
Kei and Shampoo nodded, and then entered.
"So, how do we know this chick's as hot as you say?" Someone asked from within the group.
"Trust me. She is among the most skilled people that I know."
"You say, but how do we know?" Someone else muttered.
"Kei and I have trained you over the past four months. Each of you have at least doubled your skill. You've seen Kei and I fight."
"Can't we get a demonstration?"
Shampoo laughed. "Who want to test Shampoo first?"
"I will." A man stepped out from the group. He was tall, rather crude-looking.
"No. Shampoo fight him."
Happosai shook his head. "Very well. He is as I used to be. Be forewarned."
Shampoo blinked in confusion for a second. Then understood.
"Anyone who defeat amazon in combat receive kiss of marriage. You ready for that?"
"I'm ready to get kissed by you anytime, baby."
"We fight then."
"Four seconds?" Ake asked, staring.
"You put him down in four seconds?"
"Anyone else have any question as to Shampoo's skill?"
No one spoke.
"Very well. Now that that's over with, time to get down to business."
"Tomorrow is the night we'll get Kenoru. Tomorrow is the night."
"He'll be expecting Shampoo, but not all of us. You may be of limited skill, but we also have the element of surprise."
"Are you crazy? He'll have his men on us in a heartbeat!"
"Not if he's not expecting us. He may only be expecting Shampoo. Possibly one other." He glanced at Kei momentarily. "But there is no way he could expect me. Me or the rest of you."
He looked at Shampoo. "I'm sorry, Shampoo. But I'll have to ask that you not sleep tonight. Your link with Kenoru will give him much needed information that would put us at a disadvantage."
"Link?" Ake asked.
"A dream link. Kenoru must have established is when she fell unconscious after his men had beat her."
"Yes. Kenoru spoke to me in dream."
"Kenoru is a sorcerer of the utmost skill. His art is also unexplainably skilled."
"So what's the plan?"
"We know where Kenoru is. We've always known, but we lacked the ability to get to him before he could get to us."
He sighed. "Tomorrow, some of our lives may be lost. If any of you don't wish to fight, you may decline now and still retain your honour."
"Very well. Tomorrow night we will attack."
Ake nodded. "Tomorrow night."
"Six o'clock okay?" Someone asked. "I'm getting a pedicure at five."
Everyone broke out into a fit of laughter. "Alright. We meet here at six o'clock. From there we go for the attack."
"Is that acceptable?"
After a barrage of acknowledgment, Happosai sighed. "We will avenge those who lost their lives to Kenoru. We will fight until there is none left to fight."
"Agreed." Ake walked up to Happosai and knelt over. She shook his hand.
Happosai smiled. "Agreed."
"We just walk in?"
"He'll be expecting you, Shampoo."
"But not you?"
"As long as you don't sleep, he won't be able to get past the defenses of your mind. Therefore there is no way he will find of our part in the matter."
"What about Tarou?"
"He may expect a monster of Jusenkyo, but I doubt he will expect more of us."
Shampoo looked towards the ground.
"Whats the matter?" Kei walked into the room, asking.
Shampoo shook her head.
Happosai nodded and walked back into the adjoining room. "I should sleep. Being as old as I am, it's unavoidable. Kei, you stay up with her. ensure she doesn't sleep."
"Right." He sat down next to her, looking out the window.
"Big place, isn't it?" He asked.
"Nothing like Nerima. Bigger. More densely populated."
She nodded again.
"Kinda makes you homesick, doesn't it?"
"Nerima not my home."
"I never said it was. I meant your village."
"Yes. Village, I miss."
"How long has it been?"
"Since I in village?"
"Too long. Last month I in Hong Kong. I find out Kenoru here. I come here. I kill, find Kenoru. Then rescued by you."
Kei nodded. He could understand how she felt.
"It's been a while since I've been home too."
"How long for you?"
Kei laughed. "Years. I don't miss it, though. I don't even think I'll ever go back."
"Because at home, they know me as Pantyhose. No matter what I tell them, they'll still think I'm Pantyhose."
"But you have new name. You tell them, they believe."
"It's not that easy. You don't think I haven't tried that before? When I was twelve, I went around telling everyone my name was Michael. It was a western name I always liked. Eventually, they found out I was lying, and the ridiculed me. They told me that I'd never get my name changed.
"Must have been like hell."
"It was. Anyways, I left home at 14. Then I came across Jusenkyo. It's a funny thing, really. Before I found Jusenkyo, I thought my... curse was natural. Something to make me more powerful than the others. Something that would allow me strength over my weakness. But then I found Jusenkyo. And I met the guide. And he told me the story of the spring. Of my spring. And of how so many years earlier, a man came and helped a woman through labour. Of how he accidentally bathed the baby is a cursed spring."
"That your spring?"
"Yeah. It never really made sense to me at first. And then he told me something that clinched it. He told me what the man had named the baby."
"What happen then?"
"I ran. I just ran. It took me a week to gather my thoughts, but eventually I came back. In cursed form, of course. But I stole the client register."
"Then you come to Nerima."
"Yeah. And then I found him. The old guy. The freak. And he refused to change my name."
"I remember that."
"Anyways, to make a long story short, after the incident with Rouge, I had some time to think. I had decided that the old man would never change my name." He laughed. "I joined a damn monastery. I still can't believe it."
"Monastery? What.. is?"
"Oh.. It's a place where monks hang out. You know, Buddhists and all that?"
"Oh. I understand now."
"Anyways, I hung around in there for a while. I never stopped my training, but they taught me how to stay calm. Eventually, I had gathered enough courage to search him down again, and instead of forcing him, to ask."
"'Master Happosai, can you please change my name?'" He laughed. "I thought it was so corny when I found him. I thought he was going to laugh in my face and say no." He smiled. "And then something amazing happened."
"He did. He smiled at me. I still remember the look on his face. He smiled at me and patted me on the head. And he said, 'very well, Kei.'"
"He name you right there?"
"Yeah. I couldn't believe it myself. I thought I was dreaming."
"What happen then?"
"I thanked him. Oh God how much I thanked him. It wasn't until that night that he asked for my help."
"He ask? I thought you say it was agreement."
"Well, it's easier to explain it like that. In truth, he offered me a choice. I could help him. IT could mean the loss of my life, but it would certainly avenge Ranma. Or I could leave with my name intact, and no dishonour would befall me."
He laughed. "It's not like I really ever cared about honour. But for some reason, I just couldn't leave him to fight it alone."
"How you find him?"
He laughed. "Nabiki Tendo."
"Yeah. I had to work for her for a bit before she'd tell me where he was. I didn't mind that all that much either. That was when I found out what happened to Ranma and Mousse."
"Yes. Five years ago."
"Yeah. I heard the whole story back there."
"You see Akane?"
"Yeah. She and Ryouga get along good. Little Ranma is a cute kid."
Shampoo blinked. "Akane and... Ryouga?! They have child??!"
Kei blinked. "I thought you knew."
"I no find out until you tell me."
"Yeah. Ranma's also got a little sister now."
Shampoo smiled. "She look like him?"
"His girl form, yeah. It's amazing, really..."
"I happy for them."
Kei smiled. "Yeah. Ranma would be proud too."
Shampoo smiled. "I think so."
"So, you seem to be in a better mood now."
Shampoo sighed. "I fine. I no know what you talking about."
"Oh come on. Something was bothering you. I'm only here to help."
"Oh come now, do you think I just fell off the turnip truck?"
Shampoo blinked. "You hurt?"
"You fall off truck. You hurt?"
Kei laughed. "It's an expression. Don't change the subject."
Shampoo looked down towards the ground. "I... it hard to explain."
"Try me." Kei said, smiling.
Shampoo sighed. "I no know how to say. I... no know who I do this for."
"Law says one who kills Joketsuzoku must die. Ranma part Joketsuzoku. Mousse full Joketsuzoku. I fall in love with Ranma. Once. But then I love Mousse."
"So, you're not sure who you're doing this for?"
"No. Ranma or Mousse? I not know."
"What about yourself?"
"Don't do it for Ranma or Mousse individually. Do it for yourself. You've suffered a great loss that I can't even begin to imagine. A loss that neither Mousse or Ranma felt. Two people you loved died before you. Don't do it for them, do it for yourself."
Shampoo blinked. "I... I think..." She paused.
Kei laughed. "That a good answer for you?"
Shampoo smiled. "Yes. That work. How you get so smart, anyway?"
"Don't forget, I spent almost five years in a monastery."
"Place of monks, right?"
"Right." He smiled.