Everyone was packed in the helicopter like sardines. Ranma was wondering if anyone had one of those handy dandy keys around to peel this thing open when they landed. He was glad that Shampoo had stayed behind. Of course he had to make her swear that she wouldn’t do anything to Akane while he was gone. She said something about earning his trust and was off like a flash. Not like that Amazon ever stood in one place for more than a few seconds anyway.
He looked around and shook his head at the antics. He was seated next to the window with Pan at his side keeping Kodachi’s affections at bay. Pan was currently throwing, yet another, bouquet of black roses out the window that Kodachi had pulled from her leotard. Ranma couldn’t help but wonder if she had learned that from Mousse. Of course she could be the master because she can pull everything out of her leotard while the blind Amazon had to use robes. On the other side of Kodachi sat Katsuhito. In the sedate pose he sat in, you’d think that he was asleep. Of course the only sign of life he gave was taking the roses that Pan threw at him and passing them out the open window.
Across the cabin was the real floorshow: Ayeka and Ryoko fighting over who would get to sit on Tenchi’s lap. Washu was sitting opposite Katsuhito with her finger on the button for an automatic shield generator, or the Reactive Expedient Tachiyon Ayeka and Ryoko Damage Suppressor (RETARDS for short), as she liked to call it.
Ranma just shook his head as the shield enclosed the little sticks that appeared around Ayeka and the energy being given off by Ryoko, for the thousandth time it seemed. Don’t they ever quit? He thought. I mean, can’t they see they’re only hurting him by fighting over him? He of course wasn’t thinking emotionally. He was describing the now singed Tenchi who was starting to exhale smoke instead of carbon dioxide.
Once again, the pigtailed martial artist sighed. He couldn’t wait until they were over Nerima. Then he and Pan could jump out and fly the rest of the way to the Kuno estate, which he still wasn’t too happy about flying to.
They were going to pick up a Galaxy Police woman that, from what Ranma could tell, didn’t have a brain in her head. Personally, he thought it was a lot better idea to just leave her where she was, Kami knows that Kuno can afford the damage. But every time that he tried to bring up the argument, Tenchi and his friends kept on stressing her duty.
At last, they finally arrived on the outskirts of the Nermia district of Tokyo, Japan. Ranma reached down and grabbed Pan’s arm. “Time to bail.” Using the instant transmission technique, he teleported her and himself outside the heilcopter.
Tenchi groaned. “I wish I could do that…” He spoke absently.
“I can do that.” Ryoko grabbed him and they left the cabin interior, much to Ayeka’s dismay.
Ranma turned when Ryoko and Tenchi appeared. The cyan-haired space pirate had a smug look on her face while Tenchi held on to her for dear life. I’m REALLY going to have to teach him how to fly. He thought absently as he turned to take in Pan’s reaction.
Pan wasn’t even looking in Tenchi’s direction. Her attention was focused on the street below. “Ranma, where is Kuno’s place anyway?” At that moment a loud explosion was heard and a plume of black smoke came up from the nicer part of the district. “Never mind.”
The pair flew toward the explosion with Ryoko (with Tenchi clinging tenaciously to her) and the helicopter following shortly after. They landed in the courtyard in front of the estate while the copter landed behind them. The pigtailed martial artist looked around. “So should we just go in?”
“I’d say let’s let Kodachi lead us through. She does live here after all.” Pan responded as she crossed her arms.
Ranma shook his head. “Man, I really don’t want to be here. It’s a zoo inside of that house. Not to mention all the traps and funhouse gags. Oh yeah, and then there’s the nuts that live here.”
“Thanks for the tip.” Pan’s voice was sarcastic. “You could have told me all that before we came here. I was just hoping to get some Kuno beating in. I need something to relax.”
“What’s been wrong with you today? You were all distracted when we were sparing, you ignore Tenchi, and now you’re tense. What’s up?” Ranma gave her a somewhat concerned, but confused look.
The young Saiya-Jin shook her head. “I had a really, uh, weird dream last night and it kind of has me rethinking things.”
“Oh?” Ranma looked at her with an upraised eyebrow. “Like what?”
She turned to him with a serious expression. “Ranma, how did you feel when all your fiancés were always fighting over you?” Ranma gave her a confused look. Pan rolled her eyes. “You found it annoying sometimes, right? You hated the fact that you didn’t get any peace.” He nodded his head. “I guess I’ve always been going about it the wrong way. Maybe what people need are some space and not overzealous affection…and stuff.” She looked sadly away.
Ranma stepped forward to try and comfort her when he noticed the condition of the house. “What happened to this place? It looks like a dump now.”
Sure enough, the place looked like it had been repaired several times and that the main structure couldn’t take much more. The walls were pitted and large pieces were missing. The house looked like a stiff breeze would knock it down.
“Woe is the state of the proud house of Kuno!” Kodachi cried out from behind him. She strode up and glomped onto the pigtailed martial artist. “You must save my home, Ranma-sama! That terrible witch will be the end of our proud heritage!”
Ranma frantically tried to push the smaller girl away. “Hey! I’ll help you, just get offa me!”
Katsuhito strode up at that moment. “Yes, we really should be about getting Mihoshi back.”
The black rose released her grip on Ranma and made a proper bow. “Right this way everyone, and we’ll find that harridan.”
“Hey, Kodachi, what about all the traps?” Ranma asked.
Kodachi shrugged his question off. “The defense systems should be deactivated.”
At that moment, Ryoko touched down on the ground, and the ground beneath her feet erupted in an explosion, sending her and Tenchi flying. Ayeka quickly appeared at Tenchi’s side. “Are you okay Tenchi-Sama?”
“I’m fine.” Tenchi squeak out with a smoke ring as a punctuation.
Ranma turned and gave Kodachi a frown. “Deactivated, huh?”
“There have been a few…malfunctions since that woman has come to live with us.” She shrugged and walked on into the house. Everyone glared at her back and followed her inside.
Ranma looked around at the ill-kempt interior. “Man, I would have expected this house to look a lot better on the inside. Hell, me and pop keep our room at the dojo cleaner than this place.”
The gymnast’s back went rigid for a moment and then she walked on with her usual poise. “It is only because all our servants have chosen to use all there saved up vacation time at once. Even Sasuke fears the destruction that woman brings, and since Tatewaki has not asked anything of him lately, he too has sought out sanctuary.”
“YO, KUNO! WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?” Ranma yelled at the top of his lungs. Everyone looked at him, and he shrugged in response. “I figured that would save us some time if he came to us.”
Kodachi shook her head. “That would not work, I took it upon myself to soundproof the house so I would be spared brother dear’s constant ranting of his kendo prowess and his various ‘loves’.” A shiver went down her spine. “Just the memory of his rants about his ‘red-haired, pigtailed goddess’ chills my spine!”
Tenchi turned his head slightly in confusion. “You do know that Ranma is that girl, don’t you?”
Kodachi turned and instantly a ribbon appeared in hear hand. The ribbon went forward and wrapped around the other boy’s neck. “NEVER! Never shall you speak such blasphemy about my Ranma-Sama!”
A flash of red flooded everyone’s vision. When their eye’s cleared, Ryoko stood in front of Tenchi holding her energy sword. Ayeka was right behind her left shoulder. The cyan haired space pirate had a dangerous glint in her eye. “Don’t ever think about trying to hurt Tenchi, or you’ll get hurt little girl.” She warned. Over her shoulder, Ayeka nodded in agreement.
Ranma looked over at Tenchi. “I’ve told her before, but she has the Kuno family oblivious aura.”
Kodachi ignored Ranma’s comment and smirked at the pair of protective girls. “If I were a lesser woman, such a rude gesture in my house would cause me anger, but I’m better than that.” With a condescending smile on her face, she stomped her foot on the floor once. A trapdoor open beneath the trio and they fell through. Three down. “Now, that that is out of the way, we will proceed toward the interior.
“HEY!” Pan shouted. “You can’t do that to people that came to help you!” Katsuhito put a hand on her shoulder to try and restrain her.
He leaned down and whispered in her ear. “You have to be patient with eccentric people. They can be very vindictive when provoked.”
“You mean crazy people get pissed off easily? I already knew that.” Pan hissed back. “And don’t touch me, you old pervert.”
Kodachi strode over to a table with two statuettes on it. “Crazy am I?” She reached out for one of the hand-sized sculptures. But, just as she was about to tip the first one over, the floor settled and the other statue fell over. The wall beside the table opened up and an enormous mallet swatted Ranma and Kodachi through the wall where the large hammer embedded itself.
Pan smirked. “Gee, looks like crazy people have good ears too. Guess I’m lucky they’re also dumb.” She turned to Katsuhito. “Right, old man?”
“There still could be some danger…” The eldest Masaki warned.
Just then the other statue fell, and older man fell through the floor into darkness. Pan’s condescending smirk was still on her face as she floated above the hole. “No danger if you know how to fly, you old fart!” Good thing I was hovering ever since Tenchi dropped.
At that moment an oversized whack-a-mole stick fell from above and slammed her into the hole spiraling downward after the older man. Washu just shrugged at the performance and pulled a small device from her clothes and started tinkering with it.
It was a couple minutes before Kodachi came around. She recalled what happened and rubbed her bumped head. Not the way I’d prefer to be alone with my Ranma-Sama, but this will work. She looked around and realized that she was in the ruins of one of the mansion’s many bathrooms. Now where is Ranma-sama?
“Owie. This stuff still hurts when I’m not powered up.” A female voice came from the other side of the dividing sliding door.
The bile started to rise in the back of the Black Rose’s throat as she recognized the voice. What is SHE doing here?! She strode forward and ripped the remains of the door open to reveal, as she suspected, her redheaded rival. The girl had the NERVE to look sheepish.
“Y-Yo, Kodachi.” Ranma-Chan spoke with a hint of trepidation.
That was it! Kodachi lashed out with one of her ribbon attacks. Ranma-Chan rolled to the side, easily evading the shot. She lashed out several more times, only to keep missing. “Stay still and take your punishment, you filthy harridan!”
“Wha’ did I do?” The redhead questioned as she deftly evaded more strikes.
“You have taken the heart and soul of my beloved Ranma-Sama away from me!” The ribbon shot past Ranma-Chan and struck an exposed plumbing line behind her. A large flume of high pressure hot water crashed into the smaller girl, sending her barreling through yet another wall. Kodachi followed the path of the water by making a hole in the wall for herself to pass without getting wet. “Where are you, you succubus?!” She stopped dead in her tracks when Ranma strode out of the steam that had been generated by the hot flow. “Ranma-Sama!” She threw herself at him and latched firmly about his midsection. The pair tumbled back, through the flow, past another doorway, into the hall beyond, knocking over a small table with a vase on top. The vase tipped and the liquid insides spilled out on Ranma’s now female form.
The gymnast started and knocked the smaller girl away, and drew out a pair of clubs. “I know not how you managed to steal my Ranma away from my very arms, but you will pay!”
Ranma-Chan shook her head. “This could take all day.”
Down below, Pan slowly opened her eyes. She looked up to see Katsuhito holding her in a bed of black rose petals. It would have been romantic if not for the black roses, and the fact that Pan was wishing the man of her dreams was the one to whom she had awakened.
The older man gave her a concerned look. “Are you all right?”
The young Saiya-Jin shook her head. “Physically, yes. Ego is a little bruised though. How could such a small fall like that have knocked me out?”
The gray-haired man looked around the room. “It’s not a lack of strength that you were subdued. I’d say that all these chemical ridden rose petals had the majority to do with it.”
Pan shook her head, sat up, and rubbed her head. “Damn chemicals. Why does everyone in Nerima use potions of one form or another? I’ve never been to a weirder place in my life!”
Katsuhito chuckled. “I always wondered why the tourism brochures always has a large circle with a slash over this area with words of ‘Don’t Go Here!’ in bold text.”
The younger girl smiled despite herself. She stood up and walked around the room. “So how do we get out of here?”
“I’ve already searched the room. Of course, I don’t have the benefit of flying to check higher than my reach.” Katsuhito commented.
“Oh well, I guess there’s always the easy way out. Not like they’ll notice more damage.” Pan hauled back and punched the wall; creating a convenient, yet oversized, exit. She bowed with a flourish of her arm. “Exit courtesy of Amazon construction.”
“The young ones never did learn the use of doors…” The old man trailed off as he walked by.
Pan gave him a strange look. “Did you know many Amazons?”
He smiled back at her. “I did travel a few years before you met me.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Don’t make it sound like we’re dating, old man. You won’t like what shape I decide to twist your body in.”
He wisely stifled any comment that would have sounded like ‘put your money where your mouth is’ and took a look around the interior of the next room. It was a hall of mirrors. More appropriately, it was a maze of mirrors. He took a few steps and saw his reflection coming toward him. He decided that was a wall and took another turn. After a few steps, he found himself at a loss. He could use his fists to get out, but he really hated to cause more damage than really necessary.
Pan followed at her own pace, getting lost herself eventually. She looked at herself as she passed yet another mirror. She saw an older, gray, wrinkled version of herself lying in a hospital bed all alone. That will never be me! She walked a little further and saw an image of her walking down the aisle with Katsuhito in a dreary wedding reception. “That will never be.” She said aloud. She strode on a little more and saw herself in the Great Saiya-Man costume with the helmet doffed. The image was giving her the victory hand signal. Pan stopped and cocked her head to the side. Is that me?
She continued on more as more images passed. She looked over each one and doubts formed about what was real and what was not. She didn’t know if all these images were possible futures or just lies. She came to one where she transformed into an Oozaru and was trampling the countryside. NO! I’m more than a monkey!
The next mirror contained her as an ugly, ill-proportioned girl in boy’s clothing. She dropped her knees, and a tear fell down her face. This has to be me. Why else would no one be attracted to me? This must be how I really am if no one but an idiot and an old pervert would want me. It’s not fair. It’s not fair! “IT’S NOT FAIR!!!” She shouted at the top of her lungs.
All the mirrors in the glass labyrinth shattered except for one that was behind the last that she was looking at. What she saw there was a beautiful woman staring back at her with a lonely look in her eyes. “Who is that?” She spoke in a hushed whisper, barely more than a breath.
Her eyes got wide when she saw the man that was in her dreams last night walk up behind the woman. The look on the beautiful lady’s face brightened. Pan quickly looked over her shoulder, but all she saw was Katsuhito standing behind her with a concerned look on his face. “Are you all right?”
Pan looked back at the mirror and saw the same image. “It’s not fair.” She’s so beautiful, but that’s not me.
Katsuhito pulled the girl into a hug when the tears started flowing. “That’s okay. Everything will work out. None of those other horrible images were you.” She started sobbing louder in his shoulder. He looked up at the mirror and saw his hidden form holding the beautiful woman. I saw horrible images as well. This last mirror is at last the truth. He looked down at the crying Saiya-Jin. Too bad she doesn’t see it that way.
He thought for a second and came to a decision. “Pan?” She looked up at him through blood shot eyes. “I will never force you to do anything you don’t want to. I would never hurt you. We don’t have to be married, or we can get married in name only and then divorce to satisfy honor.” He smirked a bit. “I’m also sorry I gave you such a hard time. I didn’t realize how much stress you were under.”
Pan nodded her head and buried it into his chest, hiding the new tears. “Thank you.”
The older man held her close once more. Might as well go for broke. Just as he was about to open his mouth to tell the truth of his form another voice was heard.
“What vile cretin dare destroy the Mystical Mirror Maze of Kuno?” An arrogant voice ran through the chamber as Tatewaki Kuno and Mihoshi strode in.
“Hi grandpa, we found Mihoshi.” Tenchi walked in with Ayeka and Ryoko close to his sides.
Pan quickly cleared her tears away and stood up. “Well, I guess can leave. Just one thing…” She walked over and slapped Kuno, sending the mad kendoist through several walls. “That’s for your damn maze! Now let’s find Ranma and get outta here.”
Speaking of Ranma, he was having one hell of a day. He’d lost count long ago how many times he transformed and ran the full gamut of Kodachi’s emotions. He was getting tired of this. That and the fact that he couldn’t just bash her head in for being so thick headed as not to realize what was going on.
Here we go again. “Listen Kodachi! I’ve got a curse! The redheaded Ranma and I are the same person! I turn into a girl with cold water and a boy with warm!” He tried to explain for, what, the billionth time.
Kodachi gave him a stern look. “Now, I know not what spell that despicable woman has on you, but I will save you with the power of my heart Ranma-sama!”
“Damn it!” Ranma swore as he pounded on the wall. A sprinkler system gave a brief burst before closing again, causing he to become a she once more. “Can’t you see the truth?!” He got nothing but a stern look. “I don’t know what your…problem is?” He paused as his voice deepened on the last few words. He looked down and saw that he was a man again “What?” All of the sudden his body shifted once more. Slowly he morphed into female form again. “What’s going on? There’s not even any water! Great now my curse has gone haywire!”
He turned to see Washu standing there holding a wristwatch. “Washu-Chan? What’s going on?”
The small redhead smiled from ear to ear. “I finally figured it out! I figured out the scientific reason for it!”
Ranma gave her a wane smile. “Gee, that’s great.”
Her face quickly became serious. “But I have some bad news and some good news.”
“What’s the bad news?” He asked carefully.
“There is no way to cure your curse.”
Ranma shrugged. “No shock there. In fact I wouldn’t want a cure if you could.” I’d die before Akane in that case. Oh wait a minute, I already have. I’d die before Akane again… Before his thoughts could get further off course he asked for the good news.
Washu smiled. “The good news is that it’s controllable. Here.” She tossed him the watch, which he gazed at with some hope. “Just turn the dial from one side to the other and you’ll shift between forms!”
The pigtailed martial artist’s eyes were huge along with the smile on his face. “That’s great Washu-Chan! Thanks!!!”
“It nothing for The Greatest Scientific Genius in the Universe!” She proclaimed loudly. She jumped quickly to dodge a ribbon strike at her feet. “Oh, you’re still here.”
“YOU!!! You’re the one who controls the red-haired Ranma! I will see you destroyed for what you’ve done!” She lashed out to grab the smaller woman with her ribbon, only to come up with another Washu doll.
Washu’s voice came from over the Black Rose’s shoulder, but before she could react, she felt a sharp pain in an uncomfortable place. She shot straight up into the air and struck the ceiling. She feel back, unconscious.
Ranma gaped at the scientist. She was standing there with a cheesy grin holding a huge (to Ranma’s eyes) syringe. “Wha’dya do to her?”
Slowly Kodachi got back to her feet and rubbed her derriere absently. “Where am I? Oh, I’m home.” She looked around. “This place is a mess.” She looked around and saw Ranma. “Ranma?” He nodded, a little bewildered. Kodachi looked at everything as if seeing it for the first time. “Everything is so clear.” She turned back to the pigtailed martial artist. “Oh, Ranma-Sama, it’s so clear!” A tear of happiness came to her eye. “I’m so sorry about your curse and the way my family and I have treated you. Would you also convey my apologies to Miss Tendo?”
Ranma was still doing his best impression of a fish on dry land. “Are you all right?”
She gave him a brilliant smile. “Yes, for the first time in a long while, I truly feel fine!” She laughed a sweet laugh, not her trademark insane laughter, but a very normal happy laugh. “It’s like a veil has been lifted from my brain! Do I have you to thank for this?” She turned her attention back to Washu.
“Yes.” Washu smiled at her. “I gave you a serum that counteracted all the toxins in your system. You might have a slight headache later, like a hangover, but overall you’ll be as normal as the next person…outside of Nerima that is.”
“But why?” Kodachi asked.
Washu shrugged. “I felt sorry for you when I saw the chemical imbalance in your system. I didn’t think you had done it to yourself on purpose.”
“Actually I had.” The gymnast’s cheeks colored a bit. “Anyway, thank you. I’ll take you to my brother now to get your wayward police officer.”
“No need for that. We seem to have found her.”
They turned at the words to look at Katsuhito and everyone else who had come onto the scene. Mihoshi was still clinging tenaciously to a battered and bruised Tatewaki. “But I don’t want to leave!”
Washu gave her a level glare. “Mihoshi, you haven’t reported in for months. You’re grandfather must be worried.”
The blonde nodded her head. “You’re right, Miss Washu.” She turned to the male Kuno. “I’m sorry, but I have to go report in, or grandpa will be worried. Will you wait for me?”
The kendoist gave her a loving smile. “For you, Aphrodite, I’d wait until the end of time.”
She turned back to everyone else. “Okay! Let’s go!” She strolled out the door without anymore preamble. Everyone started a slow procession after.
Pan threw up her hands. “Oh well, All’s well yadda, yadda, yadda.”
Ryoko smirked from behind her. “Five will get you ten that she forgets the boy before she gets to the helicopter.”
“I wouldn’t take that bet.” Pan smiled back at the pirate. “I hate losing.”
“Well, you’d better get used to it.” Ryoko gave her an evil grin.
“Let’s just leave!” Tenchi pushed ahead, forestalling further confrontation.
The trip back to the shrine was uneventful. They flew back once more (even more cramped), but a terrible sight met them on their arrival. The fields and mountainside looked like a golf course with a multitude of sand traps. Ranma immediately teleported outside and flew around the house, which had taken substantial damage. “AKANE!!! AKANE!!!” He shouted repeatedly.
“She no here.” A weak voice came from the side.
“Shampoo?” Ranma flew over to where a bleeding Shampoo was trying her hardest to sit up with several wounds. He sat her up carefully. “What happened?”
She coughed a bit. “They come and capture Akane and little blue hair princess.” She turned a tear-stained face to meet Ranma’s eyes. “Shampoo sorry! Try best to defend Akane! Shampoo want prove that can be trusted, and fail! Shampoo do whatever you think should do! Will even kill self if Ranma ask!”
Ranma turned a stern face to her. “No way! You did the best you could. If Akane couldn’t handle them, then they were too much for the three of you.” He held her a little closer. “Who was it, Shampoo? Who kidnapped Akane and Sasami?”
The lavender haired Amazon took a shallow breath. “He say…He say his name is…is Kagato!”