“Ranma, if you could grab that table over there, I’ll wait here for my bubble tea and then bring everything over. P-chan, you stay here with me.”
Tendō Akane’s voice spoke with that certain kind of authority that could only come from someone who’d had ample experience with crowded food courts and fast food joints like the Mister Donut she and her “fiancé” had stopped at for a snack on their way home from an afternoon of shopping.
With no reason to object, Saotome Ranma could only nod before heading over to claim the table Akane had been pointing at, setting the shopping bags she’d been carrying for the past few hours on the seat next to her. After a minute or two of waiting for her partner, Ranma found herself idly fidgeting with her necklace. For some reason, despite everything that had happened since she’d gotten it, rolling it around in her fingers still felt strangely comforting, especially since she’d been feeling uneasy all day.
Ranma supposed she should have felt more at ease than she did. This had been the first weekend in some time that Ranma hadn’t been busy dealing with something, whether that had been dealing with Kunō-sempai’s unwanted attention, fighting (or, perhaps more accurately, waiting to fight) her rival Ryōga, or even taking on Kunō’s sister Kodachi in a chaotic Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics match. And that was just the things that had happened since she’d first arrived in Nerima that night the moon had blown up and had to somehow explain the whole “changing sex with a splash of water” thing to the Tendō family on the same night... The night everyone had decided that Akane was to be her fiancé.
Still, something about things finally settling down after all this time made Ranma’s skin crawl. Things happened to her. And when they did, she just had to deal with them, for better or for worse, and set whatever right that she could. That was just how it always was. But for nothing to be happening? It gave her the chills. Surely, it was a calm before a storm.
At least Ranma’d been kept busy. After finding him lying on his back staring at the ceiling after breakfast, Akane had taken the opportunity to insist (courtesy of a splash of cold water from the glass of water she’d been holding at the time) that Ranma accompany her to the IMA shopping center up near Hikarigaoka Park to get some proper women’s clothing for the winter. As best Ranma could tell, Akane’s interests were probably more in not having to keep sharing her clothes with Ranma, but why argue the point, especially when Nabiki had somehow managed to get Pops to cough up 20,000 yen to cover the cost of the shopping trip? How she managed that, Ranma didn’t know, and, frankly, didn’t really want to know.
Regardless of how the money had ended up in Ranma’s hands, she was now two shopping bags heavier and some 15,000 yen lighter. And despite Akane’s insistence on bringing her pet pig “P-chan” along, Ranma had managed to find a few somewhat conservative outfits which she hoped wouldn’t earn too many jabs from Ryōga... Once Ryōga’d inevitably stopped playing P-chan and changed back to his human form with a warm bath, anyway. Ranma wished she’d felt more confident and embraced some of the cuter ones, but...
“Here we go!”
Ranma’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Akane plopping a tray of donuts and drinks onto the table. Akane then proceeded to sit down across from Ranma, her little black pig jumping into her lap, ready to chow down on anything Akane would give him.
“So, are you happy with what you picked out?” she asked.
Ranma glanced at the shopping bag that she’d set on the chair next to her. What would Akane say if she told her the truth? Let alone that little pig-brain Ryōga! As far as she was aware, men weren’t supposed to enjoy picking out feminine clothes, especially long cardigans and scarves and dresses and... and... No, no, it was too complicated to explain. Best to keep it to something noncommittal. It’s what Akane would’ve expected to hear from a guy like her, right?
“I guess so...”
“Oho!” Akane’s face lit up, pleased to get a rare insight into Ranma’s inner workings. “Any favorites?”
Acting quickly, Ranma picked up a cake donut and shoved it in her mouth in an attempt to avoid having to talk more about what was fast becoming an uncomfortable subject. “Can’-tch’alk-eading...”
Akane rolled her eyes. “Fine, be that way if you want. I was just trying to make some conversation... You’d think Ranma could be a little more gracious, wouldn’t you, P-chan?” P-chan, for his part, squealed and nodded in agreement.
Ranma had just managed to down the spongy donut with the help of her drink when, without warning, the wall the two girls and pig were sitting near exploded into a cloud of plaster and plastic. As the dust dissipated, it became clear to all that a huge hole had been torn in the wall and a strange girl stood smack dab in the middle of it. The girl, who wore a rose-colored Chinese-style tunic and pink pants, held a pair of large chuí, each rod of which bore a large sphere at one end that must have been the size of the girl’s head. Her long, purple hair had been pulled into two buns, where it hadn’t been allowed to run down to the middle of her back, anyway. A fierce look of determination crossed her face.
“Ranma! I kill!”
Surprised by the sudden pronouncement from the hole in the wall, Ranma jumped to her feet to face the newcomer. She knew that voice. And it belonged to the last person she’d ever wanted to see again.
The purple-haired girl swung one of her chuí at Ranma, then the other, giving the redhead barely any time to dodge. Jumping and ducking around each swing of the girl’s chuí, Ranma needed a diversion, and fast. Quickly glancing around the interior of the Mister Donut, she spotted a napkin holder on a nearby table and threw it at Shampoo. When she swatted at it with one of her chuí, it exploded in a fountain of napkins. That was good enough for Ranma, though. By the time the napkins had all fallen to the ground, she was nowhere to be found.
“Ranma! Where Ranma go?”
After a pregnant pause, Akane slowly raised her hand and pointed back at the hole in wall that the girl had arrived through. “I... I think I saw her go out through there...?”
The purple-haired girl could barely conceal her rage at Ranma’s sudden escape. “Ranma cannot run forever!” As if to punctuate her point, she slammed one of her chuí into the side of a trashcan before dashing back out the hole, presumably to look for Ranma.
Once the coast was clear, Akane walked over to the trashcan Shampoo had hit and rapped her knuckles on the dented lid. Ranma’s head popped out. “Is... Is she gone?”
Akane’s irritated face said all Ranma needed to know. “Care to explain why you have a cute girl like that after you?”
Ranma could tell it was going to be a long trip back home.
__ ,--,/' / 戦姫絶唱 / //_,' ,--,`-' ,----, ,--------, ,---` '--, ,----------, /____/ ,--, ,-----, /_____ / ,--, /___ ___/ /_______ / ,----, / / /____./ / / ,-----` `-, ,---' '--, ,--,/ / /____/ / / / / /__ _ _/ /___ ___/ / / `-' / / __.-, ,--` / ,-` _// / / / / / .------'` / .----` __/ /___,-' /_,-` /__/ / / .---'` / /_______,-'` /___,--` /__/ /____,-'` S Y M P H O G E A R _,.._ ,.. ,.. ,^` `^. _,---,__ | \ / | | ,---. |'` ____ `.\ \ / / | '---` | ',_ `-.' \ x / | ,, ,.-``-. `-._ / \ | | \ \ ``-., './ /^\ \ | | \ `-,--.__./ / / \ \ `-.-` `-..',_ ,.'._./ '._.' `''^'' MAYBE ONLY THE NEVERENDING WAVES WOULD KNOW WHAT'S BEEN DECIDED IN MY HEART...
Ranma said little on their way back. Shampoo’s sudden appearance had upset her greatly, sending her into another of her “broodings” as Akane had taken to calling them. And so, despite Akane’s prodding, she had refused to volunteer much.
All Ranma would willingly offer her was a vague but technically true claim: Shampoo’d been compelled to commit an honor killing to regain face with her people after Ranma had bested her in some martial arts contest in her home village. Ranma supposed that even that must have sounded patently absurd to Akane, given that she’d simply dropped the matter entirely after Ranma had continued to insist it was true.
If she were to tell Akane the whole truth? No, no. That wouldn’t work at all. Akane would never believe her.
But then again, if Shampoo was already here in Tōkyō, that might not matter. Ranma supposed that it all depended on what Shampoo would do now that she’d followed Ranma all the way to Nerima. That worried her. She’d already had to explain to the assistant manager of the Mister Donut that she didn’t know Shampoo and couldn’t pay any damages, besides. And she didn’t want to begin to think what Nabiki might ask of her to help cover house repairs if Shampoo stayed in town.
Well, she’d just have to deal with it if it came to that. As always. Akane and the others would have no choice but to believe her if things went as badly as Ranma feared they might. But, with any luck, perhaps she’d get a few days before she ran into Shampoo again. Just enough time to come up with a plan...
By the time the two had arrived back at the Tendō household, Ranma had very nearly put the Shampoo incident out of mind. Informed by Kasumi that the furo had already been drawn for the evening (something, apparently, about an accident with a burst hose in the garden), Ranma quickly tossed her shopping bags into a corner of the room in which she and her father had been staying since they’d first arrived and made her way to the bathroom to change back into a guy before dinner.
After disrobing, removing her necklace, and placing the latter with her clean clothes, Ranma quickly washed up before sinking into the furo. As she did, Ranma found that his thoughts once more drifted to Shampoo. What could he do when Shampoo popped up again? It wasn’t like he had the advantage of being on the move any more. He’d have to figure something else out... Something that would send her far, far away from Japan. Far away from him. Things were hard enough without her hanging around trying to kill him. Things were hard enough without having to explain the singing, too.
After spending enough time wrangling his thoughts, Ranma climbed out of the furo, dried off, and put on a set of fresh clothes, men’s this time. At least he probably wouldn’t have to deal with Shampoo again just yet. Tōkyō was a big city, after all.
And so it was that Ranma entered the Tendō family dining room only to see the purple-haired girl in question sitting at the table, quietly sipping some tea while the eldest Tendō daughter, Kasumi, was laying out place settings. “Oh, Ranma! You’ve got a guest! She just arrived with your father and says she’s been looking for you...”
Ranma glared at the giant panda who was laying on the floor between them, clearly sweating bullets. Noting Ranma’s irritation, the panda hastily penned and held up a sign: I didn’t invite her, I swear.
“Thanks a lot, old man,” whispered Ranma. So much for a few days.
“Ranma?” Kasumi’s casual mention of the name had clearly grabbed the attention of Shampoo, who had now sprung to her feet. She turned to take a good look at Ranma, leaning in to study him closely.
“You are Ranma?” she asked, apparently unsure of his identity. She glanced at his chest and prodded it a few times, before sitting back down to her tea once more, visibly deflated. “Not my Ranma. Is man. My Ranma is girl.”
Half-relieved that Shampoo had not immediately recognized him in his male form, Ranma chuckled nervously. “Ha... Haha. Yeah, that’s me. Just a normal guy, that’s all!”
“Oh, so she’s never met the male Ranma, has she?” said Ryōga, joining the conversation halfway through with a smirk. Given the towel and shampoo Ryōga was holding, Ranma could only assume that “P-chan” had decided to take a soak in the furo just after Ranma had gotten out.
“Oh, Ryōga! Where’d you come from?” Evidently Akane had also come to join the growing hubbub in the dining room, and, given the way she was so overtly giving Ranma the cold shoulder again, was clearly irritated by the reappearance of the purple-haired Chinese girl.
“Since when do ya know which Ranmas she’s seen, ‘P-chan’?” asked Ranma, the pig’s name dripping with every drop of contempt he could muster.
Ryōga scoffed and grabbed a mop bucket that Kasumi must have been using to clean the dining room before Shampoo’s sudden arrival. “You sure you want to be bringing that up right this minute?” A devilish grin crossed his face. A horrible, no-good grin. “I mean, this Shampoo girl seems to have come all this way to find a girl... and it seems to me that maybe you should be taking care of that first!”
Lost Boy then proceeded to let bucket fly, dousing Ranma head-to-toe with cold, soapy water.
“What didja have to go and do that for?” she sputtered.
Ryōga ignored her.
“Hey, Shampoo, was it? Is this your Ranma?” he asked, gesturing to the redhead.
Looking up once more from her tea, Shampoo’s eyes seemed to suddenly shine with a fierce intensity when she saw the boy-turned-girl. “Ranma! Found you! You die! Here! Now!”
Suddenly, without warning, Shampoo began to sing along to a strange melody as a pink crystal dangling from a hitherto unseen necklace hanging around her neck began to resonate with a strange light...
“Reisen Bājiāoshàn teios tron...”
A pair of glowing yellow energy rings began to circle Shampoo as she floated in the air for a few seconds. Without warning, goldenrod-colored armor with lime green accents seemed to blink into existence around her torso, replacing the simple pink clothes that she’d been wearing mere moments before. Similarly colored headgear adorned her head, featuring a pair of chunky horn-like protrusions covering each ear. Most notable, however, were the pair of yellow and green fan-like paddles that had suddenly appeared in mid-air, floating their way into each of Shampoo’s open hands. Once they were firmly in hand, the room suddenly erupted in a bright light, briefly blinding all who were present.
By the time the bright light had faded, however, Ranma had already bounded over the walls of the Tendō compound, and was moving fast. Shampoo quickly followed after her, clearly unwilling to lose track of her target again.
Oh crap. Oh shit.
Of course Shampoo would be willing to go all out in the middle of Tōkyō. It’s not like she’d hesitated any of the other times she’d come at Ranma. Still, Ranma felt a strange duty to do something, anything, to avoid causing any more damage than she knew was likely to happen given the circumstances.
Dashing along the Nerima rooftops, Ranma cursed her dad once more. Why’d the old man have to bring her to a city where all the buildings were crammed together like this? Where the heck was she supposed to find enough open space to... Of course! Hikarigaoka Park! Thank you, Akane...
If Shampoo was going to demand a fight right here and now, then the least Ranma could do is hold it somewhere that would be less likely to accidentally involve other people, and Ranma figured the large park out behind the IMA shopping center that Akane and Ranma had been to earlier in the day would do nicely. It might require a few minutes of hauling butt to get there, but she could handle it. At least the faint sound of Shampoo’s singing behind her let her know how much distance she’d left between them.
Before long, Ranma had spotted the opening in the endless ocean of rooftops that marked the edge of the park. Upon reaching it, she sprinted onwards into the park until, arriving at a baseball field somewhere in its middle, Ranma stopped running and turned to face her pursuer. “Why can’t ya just leave me alone!”
Shampoo either didn’t hear Ranma or didn’t care, as she immediately swung her fans at Ranma, the sharp edge of each slicing cleanly through the space in which Ranma had been standing mere moments earlier, having quickly leapt out of the way when she saw Shampoo beginning her lunge.
Well, if Shampoo wanted a fight, then Ranma would have to give her one. So Ranma let the strange words deep in her heart once again fill her mouth with song.
“Balitzal vascen Maltet tron...”
A chime seemed to ring somewhere deep inside Ranma’s mind as she felt a now-familiar raging blast of wind surround her body before being pushed away by a soothing warmth that began to envelop and circle her body instead. The warmness was accompanied by a strange buzzing sensation, a series of pulsing vibrations that seemed to come as much from the gem that hung around her neck as from inside her own head, vibrations which soon resolved themselves into what could only be described as music.
The warmth that flowed around her began to pool deep within her as harmonies and rhythm grew louder, each gradually filling her up in its own indescribable way, until the warmth burst out into sudden movement. It pulled and pushed at her body, contorting it like the invisible strings of a marionette, pressing her as if to dance for an unseen audience.
And still the music grew within her, the rhythmic beat of the song calling out, demanding her uncomfortable attention.
Ranma could feel the overflowing warmth pulling things from Elsewhere and draping them on her body, as if some unknowable being was playing with it like a doll. A form-fitting body suit clinging to her skin. Headgear snapping together around her ears. Pieces of armor clicking into place around her arms and waist. And still the music grew within her, the melody crying out for an instrument to start playing its notes.
Again the pull of the invisible, warm strings called to Ranma, this time an unwinding. The overflowing energy flowed again into and through her, pulling her down to the ground, pivoting and twisting her body as it did. Her hands found sudden grip around the long, two-handed handle of a naginata as she caught her breath and once again opened her eyes towards her foe, ready to fight.
Shampoo struck first, before Ranma had gotten a chance to regain her bearings following her transformation. The Chinese girl swung her razor-bladed fans at Ranma, who only just blocked them with the ebu of her naginata, the staff ringing from the blow. Ranma dug her heels into the ground, barely yielding before pushing Shampoo back off her and leaping back onto the pitcher’s mound to create more space between the two. As she did, she found her voice ringing out in song...
On my way surely, to some distant hope...
Having succeeded in putting some distance between her and Shampoo, Ranma readied and lowered her weapon, preparing to thrust it at the purple-haired girl if she made another move towards Ranma.
“Go back to China, ya loon! Leave me alone!”
Shampoo shook her head and returned to a ready stance. “Nǚjié-zú law clear: Cannot rest until Ranma dead!” With that proclamation, the Amazon took a flying leap and proceeded to flip head over heels, aiming the bladed edge of her fans downward, directly at Ranma, who managed to roll out of the way of Shampoo’s attack in the nick of time.
Would I think that that me was carelessly free?
Ranma’s lyrics came effortlessly as she stood back up and swung her naginata around, muni first, hoping to cut Shampoo’s legs out from under her with the back side of the blade. By the time she had brought her naginata around, however, Shampoo had again somersaulted, this time over her fans which had embedded themselves in the pitcher’s mound. In so doing, Shampoo managed to pull them free from the ground and kept clear of Ranma’s swinging blade.
The momentum of the fight having again returned to Shampoo, the Amazon leapt once more in the air. Unlike her previous attack, however, she moved to swat at Ranma with the flat side of one of her fans...
...which suddenly expanded to the size of a small car before striking the ground below, raising a big dust cloud from the now-gouged-out pitcher’s mound. As the dust dispersed, however, it became clear that Ranma had once again managed to narrowly avoid getting hit by diving out of the way of Shampoo’s attack. Standing back up, Ranma steadied herself and tried to take stock of the situation. They were getting nowhere fast. She’d need to rely on something else to regain the advantage.
After quickly looking around the park for options, Ranma decided to fall back towards a playground area. While the densely packed playground equipment wouldn’t make it easy for Ranma to handle her naginata, she figured that it would be even harder for Shampoo, whose wild, two-handed attacks required even more space. Sure, the playground might end up a casualty of their fight, but it might just give Ranma the edge she needed.
“Ranma cannot escape!” Shampoo’s halting Japanese echoed across the park as Ranma backed towards one of the slides in the playground. Shampoo happily pressed her advantage, her opponent apparently on the back foot. It wasn’t until Ranma had climbed atop the elephant-shaped slide at the center of the playground that Shampoo had realized her mistake: atop the slide, Ranma now had the better reach. Ranma again swung her naginata back-side first, this time at Shampoo’s torso, as she continued to sing loud and clear.
Nothing known to harm me, future fears will fade.
Crossing both fans in front of her in a kind of protective stance, the Chinese girl barely managed to block Ranma’s polearm. Even so, the momentum of its blade succeeded in pushing Shampoo back several feet, the blow of the habu causing her to stumble and fall to the ground. Sensing an opening, Ranma half-slid, half-skidded down the slide, swinging the butt end of her naginata at Shampoo’s fans in an attempt to knock them out of her hands.
Unfortunately, while the high ground had kept Ranma safe, it had also left enough space between the two for Shampoo to get out of the way of Ranma’s attack in the time it had taken Ranma to close it. With no resistance to stop it, Ranma’s ishizuki swung into the supports for a nearby swing set, the butt of her naginata denting the swings badly and sending a sharp jolt back up the weapon into her arms. The playground was definitely too cluttered to be fighting in for too much longer.
Worse still, with her hands now freed from the earlier block, the purple-haired girl again lunged at Ranma, parrying her naginata with one hand while swinging at her chest with the other, leaving the redhead no time for anything other than to lean back as much as she could to avoid the worst of the fan blades. But as the fan glanced off Ranma’s chestplate, she saw an opening.
Wings of courage fixed upon my back.
Using Shampoo’s parry to her advantage, Ranma countered mid-chorus by swinging her naginata around to hit the Chinese girl from the opposite side, which had been left open by the fan that glanced off Ranma’s chestplate. With nothing in the way to block it, the blow easily sent Shampoo sailing into a nearby tree, which proceeded to crack in two.
Shampoo pulled herself out of the crack in the tree trunk and steadied herself. As she readied her twin fans once more, Ranma could tell that she was only a little worse for the wear.
“Ranma must do more than that to stop justice of Nǚjié-zú!”
Using the tree trunk as make-shift launching pad, Shampoo sprang back towards Ranma, swinging her fans across each other in an x-shaped, cross-cutter movement. As the playground equipment still hemmed her in, Ranma could only dive to the ground, allowing the purple-haired girl to sail overhead and forcing her to stop herself on the far side of the playground. With her enemy again on the backfoot, Ranma stood back up quickly and rushed Shampoo, who was still trying to regain her balance from having had to unexpectedly break her leap with her feet instead of her hands.
Never giving in, not to my ordinary days...
Her song’s chorus quickly reaching its climax, Ranma swung her ishizuki again at Shampoo, this time from high above her head. As it did, back end of Ranma’s ebu seemed to grow in size and length to the size of a moderate sized tree-branch, while the end-cap itself bulged out into what looked vaguely like a large, rotating gear with etchings of vines and leaves on each tooth. In one wide and fast movement, Ranma’s ishizuki came in to make contact...
only to catch unexpectedly in the hands of a girl in an orange outfit.
No... A girl in an orange and white Symphogear like that of Ranma and Shampoo‽
Standing between the two, a short-haired brunette in the orange Symphogear seemed to strain against Ranma’s naginata, struggling to hold it steady, yet keeping it firmly away from Shampoo, with only the power of her bare hands holding it back.
Straining to hold the fight at bay, the newcomer’s mousy voice rang out clearly to both Ranma and Shampoo. “I may not have a clue what’s going on here, but I, Tachibana Hibiki, am not going to let you two ruin any more kids’ playdates!”