It was lunch time in Nerima on Sunday and as usual, the Cat Café was humming with activity. Amid sounds of enthusiastic slurping and sighs of contentment, the restaurant's only waitress and main attraction pranced from table to table. Eyes followed her bright blue hair, the locks swinging enticingly against the snug fit of her uniform. Her name was Shampoo and she was every teenage guy's dream.
Her smile could make their knees weak and watery. The seductive cast of her eyes could make their aching throats close up in awe. Her scent -- a distinctive mix of ramen and jasmine -- could make grown men weep. And her walk made their mouths water.
Her ramen was pretty good too.
"Boy, what a babe!"
Akane turned in her seat in the crowded cafe to pound the offending chauvinist into the ground, but halted when she realized he wasn't referring to her. She followed the boy's rapt gaze to the blue-haired bombshell and scowled.
"Tell me again why I agreed to come here with you," Akane sighed, exasperated and miffed.
Ranma-chan smirked in between giant gulps of noodles. "Akane, I don't know why you keep thinking those guys are talking about you. There's only one cute girl in here, and that's wa-ta-shi!" She batted her eyes and looked cute while flowers and sunbeams appeared behind her.
Akane whapped her on the head reflexively. "Don't be stupid Ranma." She rested her chin on her hand and studied Shampoo from beneath her eyelashes, taking in the too-tight outfit, the bouncy walk, and the flowing long hair. Then she turned to her female fiancee. "What about you? Do you think she's pretty?"
Ranma nearly choked on her pork. "What?! Me?! IÖ ah Ö hehehÖ" With noodles still hanging from her mouth and obviously avoiding Akaneís steely gaze, she glanced around wildly for some means of escape and spied a vent directly above them. Maybe if I dislocate my shoulder Ö She was yanked back by her pigtail.
"Answer the question, baka." Akane had that "oh brother, heís at it again" face and seemed very casual about it, but her unnaturally strong grip on Ranma's pigtail betrayed her tension. "What's so great about her?"
"Ö" Backed into a corner, Ranma's brain was going into overdrive. Shampoo's beautiful Ö sexy Ö she adores me Ö Shut up! Ranma told herself frantically. I'll tell you what's wrong with her! First, she tried to kill me! And, she's too clingy. And her hair's too long -- plus it's blue, for crying out loud! And then donít forget she turns into a cat! And -- and, she's just Ö she isnít.. .
Ranma looked at the girl sitting next to her. Ö Akane.
However, the object of her thoughts had turned away with a sniff.
"I see! Words can't describe the virtues of Shampoo, is that it?"
Ranma defended herself to the back of her fianceeís head. "Akane, I didn't even say anything and you're already jumping to conclusions! Would you listen to me sometimes?!"
"... Okay, so talk." Akane slowly turned back around, a bit ashamed. He was right. She rarely stopped to listen to his side of things. But then again, he rarely took her seriously, always getting her mad and saying such stupid, thoughtless things... and he was always going out with other girls, even though she was his fiancee... and he was constantly calling her names... and he took every opportunity to make fun of her cooking. Her regret evaporated under the growing heat of her temper.
"Shampoo's a cute girl, but--!" Ranma held up a chopstick, cutting Akane off when it looked like she was ready to explode. "But that doesn't mean I like her or anything. Thinking a girl's cute and liking her aren't the same thing Akane. I could like an uncute girl as much as a cute one." As soon as the words left her mouth, she blinked and began to panic. What did I just say? Is she going to kill me? Or even worse -- is she going to think that I -- I like her?
Meanwhile, Akane was experiencing a similar anxiety. What did he just say?! Did he just admit he could like me? Or did he just insult me again? Akane considered this, weighing her knowledge of Ranma's personality with the remote possibility that he actually complimented her. She decided immediately. He just insulted me, that jerk!
"We'll see who's uncute, you baka!" Akane stood up, unconscious of the stares she was finally receiving her way. Splash! She dumped the hot contents of Ranma's bowl over her head, turned on her heel, and stomped out. Ranma-kun sat still for moment, watching the soup drip off the tip of his nose, then sighed heavily.
"I didn't even get to finish."
Suddenly a fresh, steaming bowl of ramen appeared before him. He looked up to see Shampoo smiling down at him. "Ranma, you hungry? Shampoo make special just for you!"
"Wow, thanks Shampoo! This looks great!" Without bothering to think of the potential danger, Ranma eagerly dug in. The ramen at the Cat Café was the best in Nerima, and he was going to enjoy it as much as he could before Shampoo tried to blackmail him -- again.
Pulling one of her customary evil plots, the Amazon had threatened to suspend service to the Tendo Dojo if Ranma didn't go out with her. And so, pushed into temporary infidelity by his own stomach, Ranma had agreed. Just thinking about the episode made him shudder in remembered pain as he slurped up some more noodles.
"Ranma, you like?" Shampoo hovered by his elbow, her face eager and bright.
He looked up from his bowl, his mouth so full of ramen that juice was dribbling out.
"Mmrm? Slup -- frmph mrhhhmrff!"
She jumped and clapped her hands together in delight. "You like! Ai-yah, Shampoo so happy! I go tell Great-grandmother!" Before scampering away she paused to gleefully glomp Ranma, who promptly went into a choking fit.
Shampoo hummed happily as she entered the steamy kitchen in the back of the café, oblivious to the admiring glances of her customers. Her great-grandmother was seated on her trademark walking stick, directing Mousse around the kitchen. "No you blind fool! Over there! There!"
"Dried up old koala," muttered the near-sighted martial artist. He was rewarded with a hard rap to his head with her gnarled cane.
"I may be 300 years old, but my hearing is as good as ever, sonny." Cologne looked up inquisitively from her perch before a giant pot of simmering noodles and noted Shampoo's excited appearance. "I take it that Son-in-law ate all of it?"
Shampoo nodded enthusiastically, giggling and jumping around in joy.
"It won't take long, then."
Ranma walked home by himself from the market, carrying several bags of groceries for Kasumi. "That dummy Akane! Leaving me like that so I'd have to do the shopping myself," he grumbled. "I bet Shampoo would never do that. She'd probably insist on carrying all these herself."
And then she'd say we're -- shudder -- just like newlyweds and then she'd glomp me again.
"But at least I know how she feels about me. She's so uncomplicated, unlike some girls I know." He muttered to himself, not noticing the strange looks he was getting. "I mean, she likes me and she isn't afraid to tell me. She's cute, she's a good cook and a great martial artist, not to mention she'd do practically anything for me." Waking from his unusually contemplative state, Ranma saw that people were obviously trying to avoid going near him. He was clearing a path on all sides of him. Huh? What's the matter with everybody? It's like I've got an oni on my shoulder or Ö something Ö
Then he felt it again. That terrifying haze of anger behind him. He slowly turned around to see a monstrous Akane breathing fumes out of her nostrils. Not her prettiest moment.
"Ranma, you Ė you pervert! After I went all over the market looking for you! You just can't stop talking about Shampoo, can you?"
"Gee, Akane, why so jealous?" Ranma rocked back on his heels and grinned knowingly. He couldn't help himself.
"Who's jealous?! Why should I care if you're making a complete fool of yourself over Shampoo?? Going off on your little dates -- how many has it been now? Three? Four?" Akane sneered at him. "When's the wedding?"
"Akane, for someone who's so unjealous, you seem to be keeping track of those dates awfully closely." Ranma put his hands behind his head and began whistling.
"Oooh! Well, how are we supposed to get anything done when you keep chasing after that -- that shameless flirt?! Ignoring your chores, ignoring Kasumi's requests" Ö ignoring me Ö "and just acting like such a -- such a JERK!!" She punctuated her shout with a sharp punch and kick, both of which Ranma neatly dodged.
Ranma landed safely out of range and shook his head, tsk-ing in disapproval. "Akane, I thought you knew better than to rush into battle without thinking. Didn't you learn anything from my training last time?"
A dark specter rose silently behind him, carrying a mallet high over its head. He turned and jumped away barely before the mallet crashed into the pavement he had been standing on. "Whoa!" He looked at his fiancee and finally noticed his teasing hadn't exactly improved the situation. If anything, she was even angrier than before. And more dangerous, with that mallet in her hands. He decided on a different tactic. "Akane, wait - wait! I - it wasn't what you were thinking!" He held out his hands in appeasement. "I wasn't talking about Shampoo!! I - I was thinking about you!!" He threw that last bit out in desperation. He was trying to live, after all.
Akane blinked and shrank back to her normal size and appearance. A becoming flush crept over the bridge of her nose. "You - you were?" She looked at him suspiciously, her hands stilled in the action of reaching for her mallets. "Y - you think that I'm Ö cute?"
Ranma cursed himself. Did I actually say that?! Okay, gotta think fast. I better use the legendary Saotome wit to get out of this one. Unfortunately, it failed him. "Yeah, sure, I'd say you're as cute as Shampoo Ö" Uh oh. He froze as soon as the words left his mouth. WHY did I just say that? He watched in abject terror as the appealing girl before him transformed into Akane-youkai again.
Okay, only one option left Ö "Saotome School of Anything Goes Final Attack: RUN AWAAAAAYYYY!!!" He leapt to the top of a nearby building and sprinted away.
"Ranma, you come back here!!"
"Nya-nyaaaahh!" His voice disappeared in the distance as he made tracks, dashing to the one place he knew he could hide in relative safety.
Ukyou hummed contentedly as she polished down her counter, watching her reflection in the formica top. Her long brown hair was a little damp from all the steam, but she winked at herself with a little smile. Looking good, girl! There was a lull in the crowds since lunch time was almost over. She always enjoyed seeing people enjoy her cooking, but she also appreciated these peaceful moments in her restaurant. There were so few of those in her life ever since she arrived in Nerima, chasing after Ranma.
Ranma. Her heart lurched just at the thought of him. I was so close last time too! If only those two idiots Shampoo and Kodachi hadnít jumped into my battle with Akane, Ranma-honey would be all mine! Unconsciously, she frowned and rubbed the spot on her counter even harder.
A shadow hovered in the doorway, apparently unsure of whether or not to enter.
Ukyou straightened quickly and chirped brightly, "Welcome to Ucchanís! Please sit where --" she recognized the figure and scowled. "Oh. Itís you."
Ryouga looked uncertainly around him, his appearance bedraggled, as usual. "Am Ė am I in Nerima again?"
"No Einstein, youíre in Paris," Ukyou retorted sarcastically, turning around to neaten her grill.
Ryougaís eyes widened. "Gosh, you speak Japanese very well, being French. And you look a lot like someone I know. Are you related to an okonomiyaki chef from Tokyo?"
"Youíre such an idiot, Ryouga!" Ukyou sighed resignedly and beckoned him over to the counter. "Of course youíre in Nerima. Well, sugar, what corner of the earth did you go to this time?" She began preparing an okonomiyaki for him, an instinctive action whenever anyone sat down at her counter.
"Oh! So it is you, Ukyou!" She sighed again as he continued, unperturbed. "Actually, itís a long story. After the battle for Ranma the other day, I woke up in the forests of Japan. I have no idea how I got there." He paused to appreciatively inhale the smells from his steaming okonomiyaki. "The last thing I remember is --" A warm bosom that wasnít Akaneís. A spicy fragrance that intoxicated his senses ... and left him unconscious in Ukyouís arms. A bright red flush slowly crept over his skin and Ryouga started to stuff his face, his eyes fixed on his food.
Ryouga looked up from his clean plate with an overly cheerful smile and wiped at his small nosebleed. "Heh hem, oh ... nothing! Well anyway, I couldnít find my way back, for some reason --"
"óbut after a couple weeks of wandering, here I am, back to Nerima, and back to Akane." He whispered her name in reverential tones. "I guess itís just fate that I keep returning here."
She looked curiously at him. "So I guess youíve been all over the world, huh?" Ukyouís eyes unfocused dreamily as she recalled her childhood fantasies and went into an uncharacteristic trance. "I used to imagine myself traveling the world with Ran-chan and establishing Ucchanís Okonomiyaki shops all over the place." She rested her elbows on the countertop and smiled lazily. "There Iíd be, the owner of the internationally-renown Ucchanís, with my doting husband Ranma by my side. Iíd be known as the best okonomiyaki chef in Japan .. and the world!" She made a victory sign, almost by habit. She shook her head a little, as though clearing away those old wishes. "So, I donít think Iíve ever asked you. Whatís it like? Going from place to place, never knowing your destination, just living each day as it comes?"
Ryouga had been listening quietly but now looked mildly surprised at her interest. "Well, actually ... Iíve never really thought about it." He scratched the back of his head. "It isnít like I do it because I want to, but going to new places and meeting new people is an experience, I guess. I get to learn about all sorts of stuff, and I have a lot of time to think, but it also gets pretty lonely. Thatís why I always come back -- I know I will always have a home with Akane-san." His eyes went dreamy again.
"Mm-hmm. Thatís nice." Ukyou waved his last words away, her interest rapidly fading as the topic approached her rival. "So anyway, what are you doing over here?"
He looked self-conscious and started twiddling his index fingers. "Actually, I was just looking for someone to direct me to the Tendo Dojo."
"Why am I not surprised?" She rolled her eyes. "Why do you always stay there when youíre in town, anyway? Donít you have a place of your own?"
He straightened indignantly. "Of course I do! Do you think Iím homeless? I can go back anytime I like!"
"Well, why donít you, then?" Ukyou arched her eyebrow at him, fully knowing what his answer would be. She just took a perverse pleasure in deflating his ego every now and then.
And deflated he was. "Well, I Ė I just canít find it Ö" He trailed off miserably. But in one of his characteristic mood swings, he stood straight again, holding a fist up stoically as the sun burst behind him. "But I know Akane will welcome me gladly into her home!"
"You just need me to guide you there, right?" Ukyou was already hanging up her apron and loosening her hair from its ponytail. "All right, but only this one time. You owe me, sugar."
Just as she took his hand and started for the door, another figure burst through in an panicked rush. "Ucchan, Ucchan, you gotta hide me! Sheís gonna kill me this time, I know it!" Ranma leapt clumsily over the counter and crouched behind it, shaking in fear.
"Ran-chan!" Ryouga completely forgotten, Ukyou rushed over to him in concern. "Whatís the matter? Is it Kodachi?" He shook his head frantically. "Shampoo?" Again, he shook his head.
"Even worse, Ucchan. Itís Akane, on one of her killing rampages."
"Ranma, what have you done to Akane-san this time??!" Ryouga snarled and whipped out his umbrella, nearly sweeping the settings from a nearby table. "Oops. Heheh. Sorry Ukyou."
Ukyou turned and casually whapped the umbrella to the ground. "Put that silly thing away before you break something, you klutz." She turned back to Ranma, all sweetness and light. "Tell me, Ran-chan, what did you say to her?"
Seeing he had a sympathetic ear, Ranma stood up looked around cautiously before regaining his usual arrogance. "All I said was the truth Ė Shampooís a great girl and sheís really cute, to boot." Ranmaís eyes widened as though horrified at what just left his mouth.
Ukyou froze. "What did you just say?" She ground out, a hand closing around her spatula handle caressingly.
Ryougaís reaction was a little more expressive. "What?! You told Akane that to her face?" He grabbed a couple bandannas and started twirling them. "You donít deserve to be her fiancee, you - you Casanova! What man would even look at another girl if Akane was around ?! Die, Ranma!!" He attacked, but Ranma simply hopped on top of his head, effectively stamping him into the ground.
Ranma was so intent on explaining things to Ukyou that he didnít even seem to notice he was standing on top of the other boy. "Ukyou Ė Ucchan, thatís not what I meant to say! All I did was tell Akane that Shampoo is the cutest chick in Nerima." As soon as he said it, he jumped back and clapped his hands over his mouth, giant-sweating.
The okonomiyaki chef transformed into Ukyou-youkai, green flames emanating from her head, and metal spatulas gleaming dangerously. Next to her, Ryouga rose up also, a footprint decorating his shaggy mop and one eye twitching erratically.
"Ranmaaa Ö" They both growled menacingly.
"No wait! I didnít mean it! Wait! Aaahhhhhhh!" Ranma curled up in a fetal position and awaited his doom.
As Ranma flew through the ceiling of Ucchanís, mini-spatulas poking out of his hair and various injuries covering his battered body, Akane burst through the doorway, a mallet in each hand. "Where is he?! Where is that pervert?!?"
Ukyou grimly re-sheathed her spatula while Ryouga casually brushed himself off. "Sorry sugar, weíve already taken care of him." She pointedly looked up at the hole in the ceiling.
Akaneís anger dissipated somewhat and her mallets magically disappeared. "Oh. Well, at least he got it from someone." She suddenly looked extremely worn out and down. "Do you mind if I rest here, Ukyou? Iíve been chasing that baka all over town."
"Donít worry, I understand." She placed a glass of water in front of the tired girl. "He actually had the gall to tell me what he told you."
Youíre as cute as Shampoo Ö Shampoo Ö Shampooís a great martial artist ... a great cook ... sheíd do anything for me ... Shampoo. The glass shattered in Akaneís hand the same instant her eye twitched violently. She instantly came back to herself. "Oh, Ukyou, Iím sorry! What a mess." She tried mopping up the water with her napkin. "Ooh, he just gets me so mad sometimes!"
"Donít worry about that." Ukyou swiftly cleaned up the counter and smiled. "I know what you mean, but he isnít usually so tactless."
Ryouga couldnít stand any defense of Ranma, however slight it was. "Saotome has no feelings at all! How dare he say such a thing to you, Akane-san! He must be crazy!"
Akane smiled wanly at him. "Thank you Ryouga-kun. I can always depend on you to be a good friend." She didnít notice his disappointed expression. "But Ukyouís right. Ranma may be a jerk, but heís never been that unfeeling. Unless Ö" Her face darkened. "Unless he actually feels that way and was just telling the truth."
"No way, honey!" Ukyou turned back from the grill, with a couple more okonomiyakis for the other two. "Ran-chan wouldnít mean that!"
Akane blinked, surprised that her rival would actually support her. "Why thank you Ukyou!"
The chef continued blithely, "After all, Iím his cute fiancee!"
The other two face-faulted.
Suddenly, yet another figure burst through the doorway. Actually, more like flew through, quacking its head off wildly.
As soon as they turned the frantic duck back into a frantic Chinese boy and dressed him, they calmed him down enough to explain his unexpected visit.
"I was hoping I could find you, Akane Tendo! I need your help!" The Amazon grasped Ryougaís hands feverishly.
Ryouga whapped him on the head. "Who do you think youíre talking to?!"
"Mousse, what is it? Why do you need me?" Akaneís curiosity was perked.
"Oh, my beloved Shampoo is being coerced into yet another misguided scheme to have Saotome! Cologne still has her under the conviction that we are not a couple fated in the heavens, a pair born for each other from previous lives, two lovers doomed --"
"Get on with it, duck boy," Ukyou warned impatiently.
Mousse peered at Ukyou and adjusted his glasses. "And who are you, little boy, to order me around? Do I even know you?"
She slammed him with her spatula. "Iím Ukyou, you jackass! Ucchan, the person who owns this restaurant youíre sitting in?"
Ryouga piped in timidly, "Hey Ukyou, I thought you called only me a jackass." He sounded slightly hurt.
He got slammed too. "Shut up, you giant jackass!" She massaged her temples tiredly. "God, boys are so incredibly dense around here."
Akane met her eyes and they rolled their eyes together. Guys.
"Okay Mousse, go on." Akane said encouragingly to the flattened boy.
He sat up again, tears streaming down his cheeks as he related his tragic tale. "My lovely Shampoo has again been influenced by that hideous old witch to use another Amazon secret to entrap Saotome! It is called Ö" he paused dramatically, and everyone leaned in closer in fascination, "the Romance Ramen!!" Lightening struck behind him as he held out a small package of noodles, while everyone oohed and aahed.
He tossed his hair back and continued, now with a microphone in hand and tears pooling at the corners of his eyes. "Yes, these deceptively innocent-looking noodles in reality hold a terrible power to cause its victim to think and speak of nothing but the person who used it! Locked in my cage and trapped helplessly in my duck form --" he spat the words out bitterly while the girls gave him unimpressed looks, "I could only watch in horror as that evil witch Cologne made Shampoo cook this vile Romance Ramen for that wretch, Saotome! Oh, the humanity!" He wept into his voluminous sleeves some more.
Ryouga, who was leaning against the counter with his arms folded, was unmoved by this emotional display. "So what? Shampoo fed Ranma some weird noodles that would make him think only of her? Whatís so bad about that?"
The other three whipped their heads around, pinning him with evil expressions. Mousse gave a disgusted snort. "It means that Ranma will be so consumed with thoughts of my Shampoo that he will eventually believe he loves her! Then -- oh Horrors of Horrors! -- Cologne will have succeeded in her nefarious scheme to join Shampoo and Ranma together! Oh my poor darling Shampoo! What unholy fate awaits you!" He wailed and tore his clothes in despair.
Akane grabbed his shirt and yanked him to her, a grim expression on her face. "Okay, enough with your darling Shampoo. You said you needed my help. Thereís a cure for this ramen?"
"Yes, yes. There are two cures, actually. One -- one that I will never accept! -- is that the effect will wear down after one month. However, I am convinced that by then, Ranma will not be able to withstand all his lecherous thoughts of Shampoo and that he will force her into marriage."
"Well, Iím convinced I wonít be able to stand an entire month of Ranma going on about that hussy!" Akaneís eyes clouded with worry. He seemed like he was being honest before... But did he really mean it? Does he really like her better than me? ÖDoes he actually believe that sheíd be a better fiancee? She ignored Mousseís frown at her name-calling.
She also didnít notice Ryougaís sudden tenseness. Why does Akane seem to care so much? Can it be that she really has feelings for Ranma? He clenched his teeth and forced the painful thought away.
"Ahem!" Mousse leaned back and brushed Akaneís hands off. "The other cure, the one I am hoping you can help me with, is that he can be cured if he is fed this very same ramen by his One True Love!"
Akane and Ukyou blinked and big-sweated. "One Ö true Ö love?" They asked in unison.
"Yes. All it takes is one noodle." Mousse put his hands behind his back and began pacing, his voice taking on a lecturing tone. "Of course though, it may take more for that brute Saotome. It depends on the nature of the victim, you see. I believe he ate an entire bowl of the Romance Ramen. The fact that he is not chasing Shampoo down already is a testament to his iron-clad stomach. One wonders how he developed such a tolerance for poison!"
Ukyou and Ryouga glanced at Akane out of the corners of their eyes. "Donít even say it," she gritted out, a dark look on her face.
"As I was saying, if all goes well and he eats these noodles prepared from the hand of his true love, he will return to normal. After all, if the girl is his true love, heíd be thinking of her all the time anyway, correct? And since you are his fiancee, I believe you would have the best chance to cure Saotome. And then my Shampoo will be free to come back to me!"
Maybe now heíll finally stop talking about Shampoo. The way he goes on and on about her is just so sickening! Akane felt her stomach clench in pain just thinking about it. And ... and maybe now I can finally see if weíre meant to be ... if weíll be compatible, Akane thought hastily.
At last! Iíll be able to prove that Ranma-honey loves me! Ukyou couldnít hide the hope shining from her eyes.
The two girls hadnít moved an inch. Now they turned their heads to look at each other. Then at the package of ramen Mousse held in his hands. Then at each other.
"Give me that!" "Oh no, you donít! That spice is mine!"
Ryouga peeled Mousseís mangled form off the restaurant floor. "You have to be careful around these girls in matters concerning Ranma," he advised sagely. "Now shape up, because youíre taking me to the Tendo Dojo."
They were a strange pair indeed on the streets of Nerima: two boys, one peering into every doorway through his thick glasses, the other asking every other person on the street for directions, and both holding hands.
Exhausted, Ranma finally limped back to the Dojo, a big human bruise. With each step, his muscles screamed and his legs trembled wobbly. But he managed to bring Kasumiís groceries back intact.
"Oh Ranma! We were beginning to worry!" Kasumi clapped her hands and smiled sweetly.
"Yes son, I was wondering when youíd ever get back." Genma eyed his son in concern.
"Pop, you didnít have to worry." He must be more fatherly than I gave him credit for.
"Of course I did! After all, we canít have dinner without the groceries."
"Ha ha ha!" Soun slapped his old friend on the back heartily. "Ah, Saotome, you havenít lost that legendary wit! Ha ha ha!"
"Yeah, a half-wit," Ranma muttered as he pushed himself off the floor, wincing as he pulled some sore muscles. "Iím gonna take a bath before dinner. Man, Iím beat!" He trudged upstairs slowly.
"Hmm, looks like the prodigal has returned home." Nabiki commented as she bounced downstairs, dressed in her usual short shorts.
"Hmm? Oh hi Shampoo," Ranma said. "I mean Nabiki," he amended hastily. Why do I keep talking about her? Well, at least Nabiki wonít beat me up.
"Gee Ranma, have you been having this problem all day?" At his nod, she smirked. "So thatís why you look like hell. I guess my little sister wasnít too gentle with you, huh?"
"Yeah, whatever." He just wanted to climb into the tub and relax.
He entered the bathroom, pulled off his filthy clothes, and slid his battered body into the steamy water. "Aahhh," he sighed in utter contentment. He let his thoughts drift back to the events of the day. Why do I keep thinking about Shampoo? I donít have a death wish, and itís not like I like her or anything, but I canít seem to stop myself from mentioning her or thinking about her! I have to admit though, she is cute. And sexy. He remembered the first time she kissed him, the way she had breathed "Wo ai ni" against his lips before closing in for the kill ...
He dunked his head under the water then surfaced again, sighing deeply. Why would I think about her so much if I didnít like her though? Maybe ... He shook the thought away violently. This is crazy! The only other girl I think about is that psycho tomboy, and I know why I do that! ... Come to think of it, I didnít start actually thinking about Shampoo until after we visited her ... after I ate her ramen .Ö
Since things come pretty slowly to Ranma -- especially after such a grueling day -- he didnít put the clues together at once. Then -- "I got it!" He jumped up, a fist raised to the air in triumph. "Shampoo pulled one of her stunts again and put something in that ramen she gave me! And thatís what making me think about her! I'm a genius! Bwah HaHaHA!" He put his fists on his hips, threw his head back, and laughed maniacally.
Suddenly the screen door to the bathroom slid open.
"Ran-chan, eat this!" Ukyou rushed in, holding a fresh okonomiyaki garnished with ramen, of all things.
"Ranma, eat this!" Akane was close on her heels, holding what looked like a bowl of bloated worms.
Then they looked at Ranma, who stood there in his full glory. Seconds ticked by. Then they all turned bright red.
His mind working again, Ranma scrambled for the cold water bucket and dumped it over his head. "HEY! What do you think youíre doing?! Is it too much to ask for you guys to knock!?" Ranma-chanís outraged voice was shrill and embarrassed. She put her hands on her hips again, this time in a scolding pose. "I mean, really! You knew I was taking a bath -- did you think Iíd be wearing my clothes?"
The other girls had turned around so Ranma-chan couldnít see their expressions. But they couldnít stop their snickering.
"Gee Ranma -- heehehe -- we didn't think youíd be -- hehehaa -- standing up!" Akane tried to hide her wide grin behind her bowl of worms. Her fiancees collapsed in helpless giggles.
"Ranma what are you doing to Akane?" Ryouga rushed in, brandishing his umbrella.
"Saotome you fiend! Stay away from Shampoo!" Mousse followed in closely behind him, his hands already reaching into his sleeves.
Both boys skidded to a halt at the sight of Ranma-chan in all her glory. Their eyes bugged out and their weapons dropped from their limp hands.
"Gah," Ryouga managed to croak.
Ukyou marched over and gave him a swift kick in the butt. "Hey stupid! Itís not like youíve never seen him like this!"
Ranma was really in a temper now. "Now if youíre finished staring at my body, would all of you mind GETTING OUT?!!!"
Akane smirked at him. "Why Ranma, whatís with this sudden modesty? This isnít the first time Iíve seen you."
Ranma pushed past the frozen boys and reached her clothes. Pulling on her tank top and short shorts, she muttered, "Yeah, well so has Shampoo, but you donít see her laughing at me."
At the mention of that name, everyone remembered their initial purpose for barging into the bathroom.
"Ranma, try this, would you? Iíve spent a lot of time fixing this for you!" Akane proffered the bowl to her.
She looked at the squirming worms suspiciously. "You want me to eat worms??"
"Itís ramen, baka!"
Ranma couldíve sworn one of the noodles suddenly turned to look at her. Her stomach lurched. "Ugh. Um, no thanks Akane. Iím sure Kasumi has got something made for dinner."
Before Akane could blow her fuse, Ukyou jumped in. "Ran-chan! How about tasting this new okonomiyaki recipe I made up? I even named it after you: the Ranma Ramen Special!"
Ranma looked at the plate with mild interest. "Hmm. That looks pretty good, Ucchan! Two of my favorite foods, combined!" She smiled cutely and picked up the okonomiyaki, not hearing Akaneís gasp of dismay.
Time slowed to a crawl. The okonomiyaki crept closer to Ranmaís open mouth, its juices still bubbling and hot. Ryouga and Mousse watched with wide eyes by the doorway, not quite recovered from their earlier shock. Ukyou wrestled to keep Akane from reaching Ranma, but Akane, after all, has superhuman strength. She broke free of Ukyouís hold and lunged at Ranma. Her voice seemed distorted as she cried, "Ranmaaaa! Noooooo!!!"
Suddenly, yet another figure crashed through the delicate screen door, knocking Mousse to the floor and shoving Ryouga on a collision course with Ranma. Ukyou watched in horror as Ryouga stumbled into Ranma and bit off a piece of the ramen-covered okonomiyaki before it fell to the floor with a plop. Ranma looked down at it, a little disappointed. "Oh well." She turned to Ukyou and smiled. "You can always make another one, right?" She looked puzzled as Ryouga and Ukyouís howled agonizingly, then shrugged, unconcerned. Then she looked over at the latest intruder.
"Airen!" Shampoo bounced over to him, using Mousseís head as a stepping stone, carrying a take-out box of ramen in one hand. "I been thinking about you all day! You think of Shampoo?" She reached the other girl's side and looked at her slyly.
Ranma looked at the Amazon snuggling against her and all thoughts of anything else disappeared Ö except Ö A memory fluttered in the recesses of her mindÖ Akane turned slowly to face him, and everything faded away but the sight of her, breathtakingly beautiful in her wedding gown Ö the faint feeling flew away when she looked at Shampoo again. "Yeah," she said slowly, "I have been thinking of you."
Shampoo waved the box of ramen enticingly in front of Ranma. "You want more of Shampooís too too delicious ramen?"
That was a mistake.
Rationality returned to Ranma. "Yeaahghh!" She leaned back and swiftly kicked the box away from her. "Get away from me, Shampoo!" Then another thought occurred to her. Akane and Ukyou were suddenly pretty eager to feed me ramen too ... "All you of stay away from me!" She took a flying leap out the bathroom window.
Akane ran to the window and watched as Ranma landed in the backyard. "Ranma! Wait! I have the cure!" She pushed past the others and ran out the door. Just one bite, and he'll be back to normal. No more Shampoo this and Shampoo that! At least, I hope he'll be back to normal Ö but if he isn't, and the ramen just does the same thing to him again Ö she pushed the implications of that away as she ran down the stairs.
Meanwhile the other occupants were a little slower to act. Shampoo clutched her ramen protectively and followed Ranma out the window, shouting, "Airen! Shampoo have delicious dinner just for you!"
Mousse likewise followed, yelling, "Shampoo! It is I who loves you, my beautiful bride!"
Ryouga and Ukyou stood alone in the bathroom, its silence broken by the occasional dripping of water. They both stared at the floor, where the bitten okonomiyaki lay.
"Oh, you clumsy jackass!" Ukyou swung toward the lost boy and gritted her teeth. "All you had to do was spit it out! And now -- now ..." she trailed off uncertainly as he turned to face her, his eyes serious and inscrutable.
"Ukyou." Ryouga had confusion written all over his face. "But I love Akane!" He clutched his head as though in pain. "Arrgh! I canít stop thinking about you! This is terrible!!" He closed his eyes tightly, as if trying to ward off the sight of her.
"Well thanks, sugar, that makes me feel a lot better." She said dryly.
"How much of that ramen did I eat anyway??"
"Only a couple noodles, I think --" she eyed him warily as he stared at her again. He took a few
steps toward her. "Hey, what are you doing? Youíre making me nervous, Ryouga. Donít forget
about your Akane!" She started backing away from him.
"Hey! Do you think I actually want to be doing this?!" His eyes were wild, looking everywhere
except her figure. "I -- I must leave! I must leave before this cursed spice makes me unfaithful to
dear Akane-san!" He made the mistake of glancing at her. Immediately, all his hazy memories
of her -- few as they were -- dominated his mind and consumed his thoughts. Fighting
alongside her in the Tunnel of Lost Love, rescuing her on that island from that odd ape-guy ...
her name escaped him in a strangled voice. "U-kyou..."
She blinked and looked at him again. There's something about a guy who only thinks about me
... Helplessly, Ryouga reached out a shaking hand, his weakened will and susceptible heart
obviously at odds with his loyalty to Akane.
He neednít have worried. "Oh no you donít! No guy is going to like me just because of some ramen!" Ukyou whipped out her spatula, spun around to gain momentum, and slammed Ryouga sky-high in the direction of the forests of Japan.
"Thank you Ukyoouuuuuu!!"
The slightly confused chef leaned heavily on her spatula and wiped a big-sweat away. "Whew, that was close."
Akane and Ranma paused in their fight to squint up at the receding figure in the sky.
"Goodbye, Ryouga! See you soon!" Akane called up to the tiny spot. She returned her attention to Ranma only to see her dart off toward the walls surrounding the backyard. "Oh no you don't!" She easily tossed a nearby stone garden ornament over to land in front of Ranma, effectively stopping her in her tracks. "Come on, take your medicine like a good little girl!" Akane taunted, knowing that Ranma's pride wouldn't let him take that insult.
"Hey, who are you calling a girl?" Ranma predictably shouted in outrage. She spun around and the two squared off on either side of the small decorative pond. The rest of the family watched with mild interest from the dinner table. A slight breeze made Akaneís blue skirts billow around her legs and ruffled Ranmaís red hair.
"Oh and you call yourself a man?! You won't even try this cure, you're so scared!" Akane called out. "Hiii-yah!" Without warning, she flung a noodle straight for Ranma's mouth.
She merely leaned back and held up an index finger, letting the slimy noodle wrap harmlessly around it. "Scared of your cooking, yeah! Any normal person would be! After all, who wants to die?" Ranma shot back as she tried to shake the noodle to the ground. It clung stubbornly. While Akane fumed incoherently, Ranma sneered, "Besides, I know what that is! Itís whatever Shampoo put in that ramen during lunch! No way am I gonna fall for that again! You just want to do the same thing as her!" She clenched her fists determinedlyÖ But why would you want to?
Akane scoffed at Ranmaís paranoia. "Please, I have better things to do than try to make you think of no one but me."
"Yeah, so what are you doing, trying to make me take your Ďcureí?"
She colored, but quickly yelled, "This is the cure, you jerk!" She flung some more noodles at her and started running around the pond toward Ranma. "All I want to do is see you normal again!"
"As normal as he can get, anyway," Nabiki murmured snidely to Kasumi.
Ranma bobbed and spun as she ran away, avoiding the noodles which were darting by at lightning speeds. A couple landed with a wet slap against her cheek. She tried clawing them off, but they also refused to budge. "What the heck are these anyway? Leeches??"
Akane growled, "Look stupid, do you want to be normal again or would you rather end up marrying Shampoo? Cause thatís whatís going to happen, you know! That spice is going to drive you nuts!"
"Even more so than he already is?" Nabiki looked impressed. "Wow, thatís quite a feat."
"Can't you already feel the affects?! Don't you think it's weird that you keep thinking about her now?" Akane's voice took an almost desperate edge.
Ranma looked a little uncertain now. "Well, anythingís better than ending up chained to Shampoo for the rest of my life ... although she is pretty foxy ..." she suddenly realized where her thoughts were leading her and shuddered. "Okay okay Akane. Iíll try it."
Just as she began to jump across the pond, Shampoo tackled her from behind. "Ranma! You no want Akaneís bad cooking! Eat more of Shampooís!" She revealed the ramen, still neat and without a drop spilled. Suddenly, one of Akaneís noodles shot out, grazing the back of her hand and causing her to drop the box. "Ai-yah!"
"I don't think so, Shampoo," Akane said grimly, posing impressively with legs spread wide apart and her bowl of leeches held high in the air with one hand.
"Shampoo! I will save your fine cooking!" Mousse appeared from nowhere and rolled through the air to grab the boxed ramen himself.
"Mousse, you idiot! I thought you wanted me to help you!" Akane raged from across the pond.
He looked at her as if she was the crazy one. "I can't let Shampoo's homemade cuisine go wasted. I will eat it myself!" He whipped out his chopsticks and eagerly dug in.
However, before he could slurp up the ramen, a bonbori bounced off his head, and the bowl dropped into Shampoo's waiting hands. "Stupid Mousse! Don't interfere with Shampoo's fight!" Then she noticed that Akane had tip-toed over to Ranma with her own ramen. "Akane no fair! Being sneaky behind Shampoo's back!" She threw her other bonbori straight for the back of Akane's head.
"Akane, watch out!" Ranma dived and tackled her just as the deadly weapon destroyed the tree that had been behind them. They tumbled to the ground and settled in a daze. "Akane you dummy, why am I always rescuing you?" Ranma sighed in exasperation. Akane met her gaze, temporarily unaware of the fighting around them, then abruptly jerked her head away in embarrassment. And spotted her ramen, spilled all over the ground.
"Ranma no baka! Look what you've done!" She sat up and kneeled to better yell at her. "Now how are you going to be cured??"
"Simple! He can just eat this!" Ukyou stood over them, holding up her soggy okonomiyaki. "Now just open up, Ran-chan!" She dropped a piece over Ranma's open mouth, but the redhead jumped five feet away in fright.
"Are you crazy? I know what that stuff is and there's no way I'm eating that!" She backed away in a panic as Ukyou stalked closer, driving her to the edge of the pond.
"Ranma, you eat Shampoo's ramen now?" Ranma suddenly had the unexpected weight of Shampoo added to her back. She flailed her arms wildly, trying to regain her balance, and clamped onto Ukyou, who stood in front of her. The trio teetered on a boulder edging the pond.
Then it seemed Ranma mastered her equilibrium. They all sighed in relief. Then from out of nowhere, a small wizened figure bounced off Ranma's head, carrying a large sack on its back. "Whatta haul! Whatta haul! Ranma my boy, aren't you glad to see your Happosai-sensei again?" The little old pervert landed on the porch and took in the scene: three lovely young maidens, frolicking by the pond.
"Happosai wants play too!" He jumped back and glomped Ranma's chest, rubbing his face in happily.
"Hey, ya old pervert! Get offa me!" She punched him to the ground. Unfortunately, that meant releasing Ukyou's shoulders. "Eep!" She and Shampoo wobbled on the brink again, then fell into the pond with a big splash.
After a moment of absolute silence, they emerged together. "AUUUGGHHH!! C-C-CAT!" Ranma jumped ten feet into the air, screamed hysterically, and began running around in frantic circles. "Get it offa me get it offa me get it offa me!!" In her blind panic, she bulldozed over the unsuspecting Mousse, trampling him into unconsciousness. Shampoo-neko clung to her back and enjoyed the ride.
Ranma was so freaked out that no one could catch her to remove Shampoo. She kept darting all over the backyard, tears streaming down her superdeformed face. "Akane, Pop, Mr. Tendo, Kasumi, Nabiki, ANYBODY! Get it offa me! Aiieeeeee!"
Kasumi sat at the table and watched the scene with mild distress. "Oh my! Father, shouldnít we be doing something for Ranma? Sheís terrified!"
Meanwhile, Happosai had gorged himself on dinner while everyone else was distracted. In seconds, he was done and sat back with a satisfied belch. "Ahh, Kasumi, my dear, that was a wonderful meal."
She looked at him and smiled. "Why thank you! Father, look! Your master has come to visit again!"
Soun and Genma paused in their shoji game and turned to see Happosai sitting there, smoking a pipe. "Ahaha! Master, what a pleasure it is to see you again!" Genma exclaimed with false heartiness.
"Genma, I am quite disappointed in you." Happosai frowned and puffed some more on his pipe while Ranma continued screaming for help in the background. "Havenít you taught Ranma to control his fears yet? This display is quite, quite shameful."
"Yes of course, master! I will teach the boy a lesson --"
And then, they heard it.
"Ranma?" Akaneís voice was hesitant.
" -- as soon as he returns to normal." Genma finished hastily. "After all, what sense is there in trying to teach a cat something?" Rivers of tears began flowing down his cheeks as he stood and clenched one fist. "My son, my only son! To be struck down in such a tragic way! Oh, you have shamed your loving father!"
Happosaiís eyes glinted dangerously. "What are you waiting for Genma? Go on now, control your boy!"
A soaking Genma-panda looked up from taking his turn in the shoji game. He held up a sign saying "What? Are you talking to me?"
Akane whacked him with his own sign. "What kind of father are you anyway?! Look at her!" She pointed to the pathetic figure of Ranma-chan, who was crouching with her back to the wall, huddled defensively in the infamous Cat Fist stance. Shampoo-neko padded closer curiously. Instead of hissing her away, Ranma seemed to become entranced by the little cat. She allowed Shampoo closer, then sniffed her cautiously. Giving a happy yowl, Ranma grabbed the cat and lapped at her furry face. "Augh!" Akane gave the giant panda another whack. "This is all your fault!"
"The one time Akane blames someone other than Ranma for something, and he canít even understand." Nabiki paused between snapshots to smirk at the irony. "Well sis, looks like itís time to do your stuff."
Akane cautiously approached and held out her hand. "Ranma, come here, kitty. Come on!" She wiggled her fingers encouragingly and smiled warmly. "Come to Akane!"
Ukyou appeared next to Akane, also bending down and beckoning with her hand. "No way Ranma-honey! Come to Mama! Come to Ukyou!"
Shampoo-neko just looked at Ranma-chan, pausing to delicately lick her purple paws. She gave Ranma her come-hither cat eyes.
"Mmrrw?" Ranma watched the three in confusion. Akane and Ukyou enthusiastically called to her, while Shampoo sat nearby, letting the ramen work for her. Ranma looked at each girl again, then seemed to make up her mind. She wriggled her nose and leapt into Akaneís open arms without further encouragement. She purred contentedly and snuggled closer into her lap. "Mrrrwwww..."
However, Ukyouís outraged screams and Shampooís angry yowling seemed to break her enjoyment. She flicked her ear and lifted her head to glare at the two, but they didnít seem to notice.
"Ran-chan, how could you?! Choosing that violent tomboy over your cute fiancee? You really mustíve lost your mind!"
"Rrrroowwwrrr! Sssssss! Mrrmoww!"
Ranma clawed the air in their direction. A sudden whirlwind formed, furiously winding its way toward the two. Caught off guard, they were pulled into it, the volume of their screams varying with their position in the whirlwind. The swirling tunnel of air vanished as quickly as it appeared, dropping Ukyou and Shampoo a long way to the ground, where they landed spread-eagled and motionless.
Satisfied, Ranma-neko settled back down on Akaneís lap. After her big-sweat evaporated, she patted the redhead awkwardly, then with growing affection as she crooned, "Thatís it. Now, just settle down. Hey, you know what?" Ranmaís head popped up in curiosity. "I have something good to eat! Mm-hmm! Yumm!" Akane picked up one of the limp noodles from her spilled ramen bowl and let Ranma sniff it cautiously. "You want to try? Itís good!"
Ranma sat passively on her lap, still rumbling in satisfaction, and opened her mouth obediently as Akane dropped it in. As soon as her lips closed over the noodle, Ranmaís eyes twitched violently. Her hair stood on end in little spikes.
"I wonder if she likes it," Akane turned around to pick up another noodle as Ranma began foaming at the mouth. "Now, just say Ďahí again -- oh!" Ranma lay unconscious across her lap, occasionally spasming in pain.
Shampoo-neko shook her head groggily in pain as she pulled herself to her paws. Across the yard, Ranma lay unconscious and vulnerable. Her mind already plotting, she saw that this was her chance. Ranma wasnít awake and couldnít defend herself. Her mind made up, she quickly snatched up her bowl of ramen from the nerveless grasp of Mousse and ran to where Ranma awaited.
Suddenly, the bowl was yanked from her mouth. She watched, stupefied, as Happosai gulped down the entire bowl in two seconds flat. "Ahh, nothing like the Cat Cafe ramen. Thank you, little kitty ..." The effect of the spice took hold. "Helllooo kitty!"
Shampoo stared at the ancient pervert -- who knew how perverted he could be, if given the chance? She didnít want to find out. She turned tail and ran as fast as she could.
"Wait for me, my silky darling!" Happosai ran eagerly after the poor cat.
Oh god, my stomach ... what happened? Did I eat Akaneís cooking or something? The intense pain in his gut forced Ranma awake. He blinked his eyes blearily and shielded himself from the bright morning light coming in through his window. "Mmmm ... what happened?" Idly scratching his back, he rolled over ... and looked right into Akaneís eyes. He shot right out of bed. "Yaagh!" He clutched his chest and had to take a couple deep breaths. "Donít scare me like that!"
"Donít be stupid Ranma," Akane replied casually. She eyed him a little hesitantly. "How are you feeling? Do you remember anything?"
He shook his head groggily and ran through the events he recalled. "I remember jumping out the bathroom window ... then you trying to convince me to eat those nasty-looking leeches --" He looked at his finger and felt his cheek. The noodles were all still there, all hardened and crusty now.
Akane flushed defensively. "We tried to scrub them off, but they had already hardened and wouldnít come off! I donít know why it turned out like that --"
Ranma cut off Akaneís protest with a careless wave. "Hey, I should be used to it by now -- your food never turns out right -- ouch!" He got whapped for that. At Akaneís glare, he continued hurriedly, "Anyway the last thing I remember is falling into the pond with ... Shampoo." He shuddered. "... I guess I used the Cat Fist?" His pigtail drooped at Akaneís nod.
"Well, for your information, Ranma, while you were in your cat form, I managed to feed you the same ramen that Shampoo gave you. It was a little bland-looking, so I added my own special ingredients!" Akane smiled cutely at him. "See, youíre all better now!"
"Oh, is that why Iím having the worst stomachache in my life?" Ranma rubbed his stomach tenderly. Then something occurred to him. "Waitaminute. If you fed me the same stuff Shampoo gave me, then, arenít I going to be thinking of you all the time?"
Akane blushed again and looked down. He seems pretty normal right now. Could it have worked? She remembered Mousseís dramatic words. "...he can be cured if he is fed this very same ramen by his One True Love!" "Umm, well actually, thereís something you should know about the cure..."
Ranma stared at her downturned head, surprised at her sudden shyness. Akaneís being awfully nice this morning -- she hasnít even yelled at me yet! And that blush makes her look pretty cute ... "What kind of cure is this anyway? I thought I wasnít supposed to be thinking of any girl!"
"What, are you still thinking of Shampoo??" Akane growled menacingly.
Ranma twiddled his thumbs, a little red. "Uh -- um, no, not Shampoo ..."
"No? Then --" she stopped as she realized who the only other girl could be. So he canít stop thinking of me now? She was torn between giddiness and disappointment. But that means the cure didnít work ...
Man, the way the sunlight is shining on her ... "How long is this going to last, anyway?" He looked at her and his gaze seemed to linger on her face, every line and curve seeming to glow from the rays of golden light.
"Well, Mousse said the effects last for about a month," Akane murmured, clasping her hands behind her back, uncomfortable under his intense scrutiny.
"A month?" He groaned and looked at her again. I wish she would look at me. Her eyes ... Stop it! "Why do all you girls insist on chasing after me like this??" He straightened indignantly. "I mean, I know Iím irresistible -- but you girls gotta learn how to control yourselves! Wha- ahhhh!!" As he flew through the window, he couldnít help thinking, Sheís pretty cute when sheís mad too.
She was still standing there, amazed at his arrogance, when Nabiki sauntered in, holding a package in her hand. "Hey Akane, is this that magic ramen you guys were trying to force-feed Ranma last night?"
Akane glanced at the familiar brown wrapping. "Yeah, it is. Why?"
"Well, Kasumi found it in the garbage this morning. She was wondering why someone decided to throw away perfectly untouched ramen." Nabiki inspected the noodles carefully. "Doesnít look like you even opened up this stuff."
"WHAT?!" Akaneís eyes widened. Then what did I put in my ramen last night? And more importantly, doesnít that mean Ranma isnít cured??
"Hmm. Guess you just used some old instant ramen." Nabiki whipped out her magnifying glass and peered at the wrapping. "Hello, whatís this? Hmm.. it says: Secret Amazon Romance Ramen. One dosage will cause its victim to be consumed totally by thoughts of the user. Use sparingly. Lasts one day."
"Lasts one day??" Akaneís eyes widened even more. "B-but Mousse! He said it would last a month!"
"Well, it says right here: Lasts one day. And why would you rely on Mousse for information? He wouldnít recognize his own face." Nabiki arched her eyebrow wryly.
The - then doesnít that mean that Shampooís ramen has already lost its effects? Why, he should be completely normal! Then she recalled his searching gaze just moments earlier. ... But why did he say he was feeling the effects ... ?
Nabiki smiled cunningly, as though she could read her sisterís mind. "So, now it seems Ranma thinks heís under some sort of spell thatíll make him think of only you. For an entire month."
Hmm, better check the room for Nabikiís bugs again. Akane shook her head and turned back to the matter at hand. "B-but just right now, he seemed to be totally under the ramenís influence!"
Nabiki grinned knowingly. "Ah, the power of suggestion!" She whipped out her ledger and pen. "Now, how much to keep this ... interesting fact ... from Ranma?"
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