Honor or Life?

By: James Thomas

 

Shampoo stood above Ranma as he slept in his room in the Tendo Dojo.  She had waited for the right night when his father would be out drinking with his friend.  No one was there to stop her.  No one was between her and Ranma.

 

She gripped the dagger in her hand tighter in anticipation of what she must do.

 

She took one last look at him, alive and breathing.  She watched his chest rise and fall with his last breaths in this life.  She knelt down and brushed his face with the back of her hand.

 

A tear made its way down her cheek as she brought the dagger slowly toward his throat.  She knew that if she moved faster, his well honed danger sense would make him dodge out of danger’s path.

 

The point of the blade touched his neck.

 

She took a deep breath and prepared to do the one thing she had set out from China to do, kill Saotome Ranma.

 

The knife dropped from her hand.

 

She leapt back and flattened herself against the wall of the room.  She was breathing hard like she had run a marathon with a 100 pound pack.  She clapped her hands over her mouth and slowly sank to the floor.  What was she doing?  How could she think about killing the one she loved?

 

She couldn’t do it.  She couldn’t kill him to save her honor.

 

She wept openly now.  Her body rocked as she cried harder than she ever had in her life.  The tears ran down her face and soaked into her collar.

 

Ranma woke at the sounds of a woman crying.  It one of the few sounds that could wake him from his usually imperturbable sleep.  He awoke and saw Shampoo in his room crying her eyes out.  Sh-Shampoo?”  He asked silently.  The last thing he needed was more noise to wake the rest of the Tendo household, especially his overbearing but well-meaning fiancé.

 

Shampoo looked up at him.  He almost flinched from the expression.  He could tell that these were not the first tears she had shed this night, or this week apparently.  Her face was a mess.  Her usually cheery and beautiful face was marred with deep bags under her eyes and streaks upon streaks of tears down her face.  Her expression was one of devastation.  She looked like she had lost everything that she loved in her life, and then lost more.  He started to get up to move toward her.

 

His hand brushed against the knife meant to take his life.

 

He picked it up and turned it over in his hands.  He didn’t know what the markings meant, but he knew it was Chinese.  This was an Amazon blade.   He looked up toward Shampoo.  She looked up and dropped her head cried harder.  “What were you going to do with this Shampoo?”

 

She tried to collect herself and speak.  She still sniffled as she dried her eyes and tried to speak.  Sh-Shampoo sorry.”

 

He stood to his full height and narrowed his eyes.  “Sorry for what?”  He flipped the dagger around in his hand until the hilt was in his palm.

 

“Shampoo sorry for coming here tonight.”  She drew her knees up to her chest and crossed her arms over her knees.

 

Ranma glared down at her.  “So what were you doing here tonight with a knife over me while I’m sleeping?  Please don’t tell me this was another cockamamie scheme from the old ghoul.  What is it this time?  Trying some Amazon blood ritual?”

 

Shampoo brought her head back up to face him.  She took a deep breath to collect her thoughts.  “Shampoo run out of time.”

 

Ranma lifted an eyebrow.  “Out of time for what?”

 

“To marry airen.”  She took a few moments to collect herself and clear her eyes.  “Other elders come and tell Great-Grandmother that she must come home and perform duties.”

 

Ranma shrugged.  “So the old ghoul has to go home and do her job.  About time she went home and left me alone.  So why are you here with a knife?”

 

She glanced up do his eyes and looked to the side.  “Great-grandmother has come home with Shampoo, and Ranma as my husband or,” She took a deep breath.   “You as Shampoo’s kill.”

 

He took a step back as the dagger fell from his hands.  “You came here to kill me?!”

 

She dropped her head in between her knees.  “Ra-  Ranma no marry Shampoo.  Ranma no like Shampoo.  Shampoo only left with one way.”

 

Ranma stepped forward and knelt in front of her.  “Why don’t you just stay here?  You let granny go home, take up shop in the Nekohanten, and just let the village rot.  Just have the old ghoul tell them that you’re still working on it.”

 

Shampoo shook her head.  “No work like that.  Shampoo tell you we is out of time.  Great-Grandmother go home with mission done one way or other.  If go home with no Ranma…”  She swallowed and took a deep breath.  “Shampoo die before reach village to save honor of family.”

 

“Can’t you still live?  You’d just lose face right?”  He thought out loud, even though he knew how much honor meant to her.

 

She shook her head.  “Shampoo would be put to death as failure and family shamed.  Kill self first, at least save family.”

 

Ranma knelt down in front of her and lifted her chin.  “Shampoo, isn’t there any other way?”

 

She looked into his eyes and stood up.  She stepped behind him and picked up the dagger.  He dropped into a stance glared at her.  “You know you can’t take me when I’m awake, so don’t even try it.”

 

“Shampoo no kill you.”  She brought the point of the blade to her heart.  “This only other way.”

 

Ranma moved faster than she could follow and slapped the blade away from her hands.  “No way!”

 

She glared at him.  “Ranma ready to kill self for mother’s honor.  Why not let Shampoo for her honor.”

 

“Well…that’s different!”  Ranma couldn’t really think of a good reason, but was pretty sure there was.  “I was kinda hopin' someone would come up with a better idea before we actually did it.”

 

“Ranma no marry Shampoo.  Shampoo can no kill Ranma.”  She sniffled a little.  “Shampoo must kill self to save family.”

 

Ranma thought desperately for a way to save her life.  When all else failed, he decided to resort to a variation on the Saotome Final Secret Technique.  He decided to buy some time so he could think of something better.  “If I can’t talk you out of it, then let me help you.  Don’t do anything by yourself; you might not finish the job.  You know about Seppuku, right?”  She nodded.  “Then we’ll do this my people’s way, and I’ll be your second.  How long before you have to leave for China?”

 

“Shampoo have leave in one week.”

 

“Then in three days we’ll meet in the clearing where your grandma taught Ryoga the Bakusai Tenketsu.  I’ll bring the ceremonial robes and blades.  Does that sound good to you?”  He watched her desperately, hoping that she would grant him the time he needed to hopefully find a way to save her.

 

She nodded her head.  “Okay.  Three days, Ranma help Shampoo redeem self.” 

 

She walked over, put her arms around his neck and hugged him.  It wasn’t her famous Amazon glomp, it was just a genuine hug of appreciation.  “Thank you, Ranma.  Shampoo always remember this, and you.”  She softly kissed him on the cheek.

 

Ranma stared dumbly as she released him and walked toward the window and hopped out the window.  When he was sure she was gone, he brought his hand up and felt the place where she tenderly kissed him.  “Shampoo.”  He said softly.  What was he going to do now?  He thought towards tomorrow and the next couple days.  He had to find some way to save her.

 

 

 

Over the next couple of days Ranma tried to think of who could help him save her.  He couldn’t go to the old ghoul, she’d just tell him to marry her.  She was one of the wisest people he knew, but she had a one track mind whenever there was anything involving him and her great-granddaughter.  He couldn’t go to Nabiki.  She’d just tell him to let Shampoo go honorably and come back to Akane with one less fiancé.  She’d be glad to get rid of one of the most destructive rivals.  She’d have more money to go toward profits and less towards rapidly growing construction bills.

 

He thought for half-a-second going to his father or Soun.  Yeah right, like they’d be any help.  They’d just say it was his duty to marry Akane, consequences be damned.  Ucchan would probably agree with them, just replace her name for Akane’s.

 

Kasumi would probably be no help, she’d just say that he’d have to stick to family duty.  That’s all she’s ever known or done.

 

All of his preconceived notions of the people in his life drove him to one of the least partial people in his life, his mother.  Even though she strongly recommended Akane, she wanted him to have as many women as he could to prove he was ‘manly’.  She’d have a little sympathy for Shampoo.  Besides, she had the katana.  If he didn’t think of anything better, he’d want his family’s honor blade to do the job.  After all, this was pretty much all his fault.

 

On the morning of the second day, he managed to elude his father and the Tendo clan to go visit his mother’s house.  By all rights it should be his home as well, but he’d known the Tendo’s place as home for so long, it just didn’t seem right to call any other place home.

 

He walked up to the door and knocked.  After a few moments his mother opened the door.  “Ranma!  Oh my manly son, it’s so good of you to visit me!”  She exclaimed as she hugged him close.

 

As soon as Ranma had the breath to speak again, he spoke to her.  “Mom, I’ve got a problem.  I don’t think I can go to anyone else with this problem, and I’d rather not have anyone else know what’s going on.”

 

Intrigued by his statement and happy that he had come to her with his problem, she agreed to secrecy and invited him into her home.

 

They sat in the main room as Ranma told her about Shampoo’s plight.  Not knowing if his mom knew all the different entanglements his father had got him into, he told about all the engagements and explained why he was tied to Akane, Ukyou, and even Shampoo.  He told her how he felt the strain from being pulled in all directions by his honor.  Even after the failed wedding, he couldn’t really decide between his fiancés.  Even if he did love one, he couldn’t leave the others without honor.

 

His mother listened silently and nodded every now and then to let him know that she was paying attention.  Finally when she felt that he had wound down, she asked for a moment to formulate her thoughts.  After a moment or two, she finally spoke.

 

“Ranma, your father has left you and our family honor in a very difficult position.  Even if you do choose Akane, we would still have marks on our honor for not honoring the other engagements.  I can’t tell you what you should do for this young girl whom your actions have directly compromised, but I will tell you this.”

 

Ranma leaned forward, eagerly hanging on every word coming from her.  “Yeah?”

 

She smiled at his rapt attention.  “Every person must decide what honor means to them.  Our culture, your father, Soun, me, and everyone else will tell you what they think your honor should be, but only you can decide how you define your own personal honor.  You’ve heard of how different people have talked about their own way of Bushido or way of Ninjutsu.  You must decide what your way of honor is.  Your own personal path.”

 

As Ranma sat there chewing on what she had said, she returned bearing three packages.  One Ranma recognized as the wrapped bundle of the Saotome family sword, and he could tell that there was clothing in the other two packages, but he didn’t know what they were.  “What are these?”  He asked as he pointed at the two unknown packages.

 

“These are the ceremonial seppuku kimonos.  I had a set made for your man and woman side.  You seem to keep getting stuck in your female side, so I had it made in case I ever found you lacking, and were trapped in that mode.”

 

Ranma’s eyes went wide.  “Wait a minute!”  He shouted.  “I thought you proclaimed me a man when you found out about my curse!”

 

She smiled at him.  “Well, you have yet to present me with a grandchild.  How do I know that you are a suitable man?”

 

Ranma took the packages in his arms and slowly backed out of the room.  “Thanks, mom.  I’ll be seeing you.”  He inched slowly out of the room and then charged out of the house.  Must run from the crazy lady!

 

After a brief stop by the Tendos to pick up his tanto, he headed out to the campgrounds where he had fought Ryoga what seemed so long ago.  The tanto had always been in his pack.  Before coming to Nerima, he had thought his father had given it to him for protection.  Little did he know that his father just made sure that he had his knife for seppuku in case his mother found him lacking.

 

He was so upset that he did not pick up anything else, including food.  He just came to the clearing and laid out the implements for the ritualistic suicide in front of himself.  Furthest from him he laid down the packages with the kimonos with his tanto on top of the one for his girl side.  Between them and himself, he set down the unwrapped Saotome family honor blade.

 

“What is my own path to honor?”  He said aloud as he drew katana from it’s scabbard an inch or two.  When no answers came to mind, he stowed the blade and laid it horizontal in from of himself.  He sat down in the lotus position in front of the implements and began to meditate on what the answer should be.

 

Having been so upset with his encounter with Shampoo and his decision of delaying technique, he hadn’t slept well the past two nights.  Also he had not eaten as much as he should have.  Weakness and fatigue slowly caused him to fall asleep in the lotus position, locked into a permanent position of meditation.

 

It was in this position that Shampoo found him the next morning.  She smiled at him as he looked so peaceful.  No matter how often she watched him sleep, she was still always struck with how handsome he was when his features weren’t marred by anger or frustration.  She decided that she would just enjoy the view.  This would be the last time she would see this.  She wanted a good memory of Ranma to carry her to the afterlife.

 

She moved the clothing packages and tanto out of the way and sat down in her own lotus position with the honor blade between them.  Despite knowing that he was more than likely going to have to kill her in a little while, she couldn’t help but smile at the state of peace they both found themselves.

 

After a couple more hours, Ranma opened his weary eyes and found himself looking into the smiling eyes of Shampoo.  Not the usually over zealous, almost maniacal smile she wore when trying to win him, but a smile private smile that seemed to carry tons of sincerity that he didn’t even know she had in her.  It stabbed deep into him as he knew that he’d never see her again.  He knew that she was glad that he was here to see her off, but he was grieved that he had not come up with a way to save her.

 

He stood up and looked away from her in shame.  “Morning Shampoo.”

 

Shampoo was a little upset that he couldn’t even stand to look at her.  Did he find her so revolting?  Those and other thoughts ran through her head as she slowly replied.  Nihao, Ranma.  Ready do seppuku?”

 

Ranma sadly nodded and turned back to her.  “Are you sure that there is no other way?”  He had to ask one more time.

 

She shook her head.  “This only way left to save Shampoo’s family honor.”

 

Ranma sighed as he picked up the clothing packages.  He noted that his mother had labeled them.  One said Ranma, and the other had Ranko written in kanji.  He chuckled a bit at the fact that she wouldn’t acknowledge that he was the same person as a girl.  He handed the Ranko package to Shampoo.  “Change into this, and then well get started, I guess.”

 

“Okay.”  Shampoo took the package, and immediately began to disrobe.

 

“Hey!  At least wait until I’ve turned my back!”  Ranma shouted before she could get much further.

 

She couldn’t help but smile at his shyness.  She had come to realize that is a part of his culture and part of being raised such an isolated childhood. She still couldn’t help but find it cute.  “It not like Ranma no see Shampoo naked before.  Not so bad now, Shampoo still wear underwear.”  As she said the last statement, her clothing fell to reveal her wearing nothing but bra and panties.

 

Struck by the sight in front of him, Ranma’s eyes went wide as he spun around and began to walk from the clearing.  “I-I’ll just change over there.”  He did a quick check to make sure he didn’t have any blood flowing from his nose.

 

“No like Shampoo not see Ranma naked before either…”  She casually said from behind his back.

 

Ranma shook his head and began changing in front of her with his back turned.  She had a point, and besides, what does it matter?  There’s no Akane here to pound him, and, if he didn’t think of something, Shampoo wouldn’t be around to tell anyone about this.

 

When they were both dressed, Shampoo looked up into Ranma’s eyes with pleading eyes.  “Can Shampoo ask one more thing of Ranma?”

 

He sadly gazed back into her eyes.  “Sure.”

 

She slowly inhaled as she built up her courage for the next question.  “Can Ranma give Shampoo kiss before die?  Shampoo want to taste Ranma one more time before death.”

 

Ranma hesitated a bit.  Deep down he wasn’t surprised at the request, but he hesitated anyway.  When he took too long she sadly nodded in acceptance and turned around to pick up the tonto.  Before her hand reached it, Ranma grabbed her shoulder and turned her around and pulled her up to standing.  He steeled himself and pressed his lips to hers. 

 

Shampoo was surprised but quickly recovered and kissed him back.  She tried to hold the kiss for as long as she could, but Ranma released and stepped back.  “Thank you.”  She said as a tear of happiness made its way down her cheek.  Now she could die with one happy memory, a freely given kiss from her beloved husband.

 

“Don’t mention it.”  Ranma numbly replied.  He shook his head to try and clear it.

 

Shampoo sadly smiled as she dropped to her knees and picked up the tanto.  “How Shampoo do Japanese way?”  She asked as she turned the blade over in her hands.

 

Ranma shook himself out of his stupor and picked up his family’s katana.  “You have to jab it far enough into your stomach that you go through your guts and cut your own spine.”  His innards slowly churned as he explained what she would have to do.  “Then, when I think you’re done, I cut off your head with the katana.”  Ranma didn’t know the ceremony and the cleaning of the blades, he only knew the basics.

 

Shampoo nodded.  “Then goodbye Ranma.  Shampoo always love Ranma, especially for being here for Shampoo now.”

 

Ranma nodded and stepped into position.  He still hadn’t thought of anything.  Damn!  He wanted to save her, but he just wasn’t smart enough to think of anything other than martial arts.  As Shampoo pulled the tanto away from herself to get the maximum thrust into herself, a solution came to him to save her.

 

Before he could verbalize, she began to plunge the dagger into her stomach.

 

The only thing faster than Ranma’s mouth, thankfully for Shampoo, is his reflexes.  He snapped the katana blade down knocked the tanto from her grasp without harming her.

 

“Stop!”  He cried.  “I’ve thought of way you can live!”

 

She looked up at him curiously.  “How?”

 

He dropped the katana at her feet and walked over and picked up the tanto.  “I give up my life.  You will have succeeded in killing the red haired girl that took you from the village.  You can go home in honor.”

 

Faster than he had ever seen her move, Shampoo was up and slapping the knife from his hands.  “No!  Shampoo no let Ranma die!”

 

“But I can’t let you die!” Ranma pleaded.

 

“Then we fight!”  Shampoo pronounced.  “If I win, Ranma live.  If you win, Shampoo live.”

 

Ranma nodded.  Now she was speaking his language.  He moved the katana away and leaned them against a tree to the side of the clearing.  He stepped back in looked at her as she took up a stance.  He internally decided that he would use no special moves.  They would do this hand-to-hand, skill against skill.  There would be nothing to cheapen this.

 

Shampoo watched him as he took up his own stance.  To win was death, but such was her love for him that she would gladly give her life for his.

 

A single leaf dropped from one of the trees that shaded the clearing.  It slowly drifted down between them.  As it touched the ground, the two combatants leapt forward.  The two exchanged blows fast and furiously.  To win was death, to lose was life.  If they thought about it, they would have concluded that this was kind of a backward stakes match, but, such was their need for the other to live, they fought all out, holding nothing back.

 

After a few bouts, Ranma came to startling revelation.  Shampoo was much better than he thought she was.  Even though he could usually take her on any given day, but having not eaten nor rested much the last couple days, the match became even.

 

They battled for several long hours, neither one getting the upper hand.  At last Shampoo made a mistake and took to the air for a flying kick.  Ranma leapt higher and place a well-aimed shot into her midsection.  She stopped in midair and reversed course and plowed into the ground.

 

Ranma landed and looked at the motionless Shampoo.  He was breathing hard as he silently declared himself the winner.  He turned from her and started to walk to where he had placed the dagger.

 

“Where Ranma think he going?”

 

Ranma slowly turned back to see Shampoo had stood up from her trench he had used her to dig.  Her tresses were hanging every which direction, the ceremonial robes were torn to shreds.  Overall she looked like a train had hit her.  Ranma looked down at himself and realized he probably looked about the same.  They really should have changed out of the robes before fighting. 

 

He looked back at her as she dropped into stance again.  He couldn’t help but smirk at her.  She was just as determined as he was.  She noticed his small smile and returned it.  He dropped back into his stance and charged back in.

 

They battled into the afternoon and into the evening.  Ranma already fatigued, and Shampoo weary from the long day of fighting, both finally approach one another again and collapsed.  They looked at each other and started laughing.  They had to look a sight, practically naked and completely worn out.  If Akane had stumbled on the scene, she would have definitely pounded him for cheating.

 

Ranma looked her over as she laughed and he had an epiphany.  He respected her!  He actually admired her martial arts ability.  Here was someone else who had dedicated her life to the art, someone that understood him.

 

As the floodgates of truth opened, so were his eyes.  Why was he even having this fight?  Because if he didn’t choose her, she had to die.  Would Akane have to die if he didn’t choose her?  No, Soun would never let any harm come to his little girl.  She’d lose some face, but she’d still live.  Ukyou was in the same boat.  She would lose face, and maybe be kicked out of her family, but she’d be alive.  She could live on her own, she’d already proved that.  Plus, she had her choice of Konatsu or Tsubasa to keep her company.  Neither would care if she were a ronin.  Akane also had admirers a plenty.  She didn’t need him.

 

Then there was one thing that stood out and smacked him over the head like a thrown brick:  Shampoo’s problem was his fault!  His father may have helped him eat that food so long ago, but he didn’t stop his father or himself from eating it.  He was the one who had defeated her, not once, but twice.  He was completely responsible for the situation she was in.  He didn’t know how many times the old ghoul had pointed that out; he just never wanted to listen.  He thought she was just trying to push him around.

 

He looked at her and smiled.  She smiled back at him.  The desperate fight for life and death had become one of the most exhilarating times of their lives, two martial artists whose only focus in life was the art, battling to the limits of their abilities and further.  He looked at her and remembered how beautiful he thought she was when she first started being nice to him.  He had thought it was such a waste when she had left Nerima.  Her image had been tainted by love potions and crazy schemes, but he really couldn’t blame her.  He had broken her heart and sent her to death by her people.

 

He owed her.  Not just for everything he had done to her and the trouble he had caused, but because she had helped him find his path to honor:  He would only honor commitments that he himself created, not the ones his father created for him, and he would always seek life above honor.

 

He slowly came up on his hands and knees and crawled over to her.  He plopped down on top of her pinning her to the ground.  Her eyes went wide in shock.  He smirked and looked her in the eyes.  “I win Shampoo.”

 

Tears came to her eyes as she realized that Ranma would have to die because of her.  “No!  Shampoo no let Ranma die!”

 

He gave her a tender smile as he tiredly brushed her tears away.  “I know.  You were wrong about something three nights ago.”

 

She gave him a confused look.  “What Shampoo wrong?”

 

Ranma turned himself to where their faces were looking at one another.  “I do like you.  I would have driven you off if I didn’t.  I just couldn’t hurt anyone else.”

 

“Ranma like Shampoo?”  She looked completely shocked.

 

He smiled again.  “Yes, Ranma like Shampoo.  Ranma even likes Shampoo enough that he has a way for her to live and be happy.”

 

“How is that?”  She asked hopefully.

 

He bent forward and tenderly kissed her.  “Easy.  I choose you as my wife for honor and life.”

 

“What about love?”  She asked as she pouted up at him.

 

“Um, er, well.”  He stuttered.

 

She knew very well that he could never utter that word.  Otherwise she would have lost to Akane long ago.  She smiled at him once more.  “Shampoo have work on that.”

 

She rolled them back over and proceeded to tear what was left of their clothing off.

 

 

 

In the bushes Cologne and another Amazon looked on at the couple as Shampoo was tearing their clothes away.  The other Amazon looked like an older, wiser Shampoo complete with purple hair.  She turned to Cologne.  “See.  You stop treating him like an object and let things run its course, and everything will work out.”

 

Cologne looked back at the couple.  “I still don’t see how your methods worked.  You let your daughter get cursed and come close to death’s door before forcing her to do something.”

 

Shampoo’s mother smiled.  “I knew who the council would send for the message.  You can tell Shampoo and her husband what to do, but you can’t make them.  You’ve got to let them figure out for themselves that they have no choice.  If her man is any kind of man, he’ll know what he has to do.  And from what I can tell, he is quite a man.”

 

The matriarch of the Amazon tribe scoffed at her grand-daughters methods.  “I had to do something.  She would have failed miserably by herself.”

 

“Or she would have succeeded on her own.”  Shampoo’s mother looked at the couple again as they appeared to have recovered most of their energy from somewhere.  “You always have meddled too much.  If I didn’t start thinking for myself, I wouldn’t have gotten my husband.  Now, let’s leave my daughter and her husband alone for their first night.  The last thing they need is watchers.”

 

They both turned and left the happy couple rolling around in the forest clearing.

 

 

 

A little past midnight, Ranma and Shampoo sat dripping cuddling against one of the trees.  After they had finished they had gone to the stream to bathe.  Ranma was in his girl form, but Shampoo didn’t care.  Ranma was still Ranma, and he was all hers.

 

He sighed as he looked up into the night sky.  “You know we have to tell the others now.”

 

Shampoo cuddled up to her now female husband.  “We tell tomorrow.  Night too too nice to leave now.”

 

Ranma couldn’t help but agree.  Everything had worked out choosing life above honor.