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A Ranma ½ fan fiction story
by Beer-monster

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 characters property of Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.

Book I: The Mantis Saga

Chapter Four: Lavender Heart

The bristles scraped against the red clay tiles with each sweep of the broom. The sound caressed the air like a whisper before it was drowned in the noises of the city. The afternoon sun hung low in the sky, its light casting harsh, fluttering shadows as it struck the red, patterned flags hanging over the door.

Xian Pu sang quietly to herself as she swept the entrance to the Cat Cafe. The lunch shift had ended, and now the restaurant was being prepared for the evening. Mu Tsu was inside wiping and resetting the tables, while Ko Lun prepared the soups, sauces and broth that would be needed tonight.

Her song was a gentle melody, the soft Mandarin lyrics flowing from her. It reminded her of her home, of the mountains and the rivers of China. She hated the city, all concrete, steel and glass. There was no beauty, no soul, in the city. Nothing that could reflect the wonder of nature; it was all cold and heartless.

But the song kept the memory of home alive. Conjuring up an image of the great mountains of Quing Hai, rising into the dawn sky as the purple light of the new day's sun sparkled at their fog bound peaks.

"<Excuse me. Do you know if there is a hospital or doctor's office nearby?>"

The image burst like a bubble and Xian Pu sighed.

"Doctor Tofu is…" she began. Then she paused as the words of the question echoed through her mind. They had not been spoken in Japanese.

"<You speak Chinese?>" she exclaimed as she whirled to face the man.

He was tall, his face gaunt and hawkish, with narrow eyes and thin lips. His ebony hair was pulled back into a long tail which hung to his waist, his forehead and brows were clean-shaven in a style that she recognised as one common in old China. He was dressed in clothing from a similar era, a button-up tunic and pants that were tied at the ankles, all jet-black. His posture was slightly hunched, which Xian Pu guessed was due to the large burden he seemed to have cradled in his arms.

"<Yes, I am from Fu Jian Province,>" he said in response to her question.

Xian Pu nodded, still unused to the conversation, as her Grandmother had told her to always speak Japanese to help her improve.

"<Er, miss?>" the man prompted, forcing her attention back to the matter at hand. "<Is there a doctor's office or hospital nearby?>"

"<Yes. Doctor Tofu's practice is not far from here. I can show you the way, if you…>"

Xian Pu's voice trailed off as her eyes took in the burden that the man carried. The broom dropped from her suddenly numb fingers and clattered against the floor. She did not notice, as all of her heart and soul were locked upon the unconscious man before her, and the pigtail that hung lifelessly over the strangers arm.

"RANMA!" she screamed, leaping forward so fast that the stranger could only blink. She seized hold of Ranma's arm and wrestled him from the bemused man.

"Ranma," she whispered in a broken voice, as she laid the incapacitated fighter on the ground, his head nestled in her lap and her arms wrapped around him protectively.

" Airen," she gasped, holding back tears as she shook him gently, hoping that he would open his eyes, hoping that he would get up, hoping that her greatest fear was not coming true.

"Airen?" the stranger muttered. "<He's your husband?>"

The sound of the man's voice awoke something within Xian Pu. She turned at him, and snarled, growling in a catlike hiss.

"<What did you do to my beloved?>" she spat. "<WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY HUSBAND?>"

"Shampoo? What are you shouting at, child?" came a rasping voice.

A shrivelled, dwarfish figure came out from the restaurant, hopping towards them on a cane that was almost as twisted and gnarled as she was. A shock of white, brittle hair wove in the wind from her parchment-like scalp. From beneath skin that hung from her face like wrinkled sacks shone a pair of grey eyes that gleamed with a wisdom and vibrancy that belied her withered frame. Those eyes passed from the stranger, to the girl, to the unconscious boy.

Finally she said, "Bring him inside." Then she spun on her staff and hopped back into the restaurant.

The black-clad man bent to pick up Ranma's prone form, but Xian Pu slapped his hands away contemptuously. She slung her fiancé's arm over her shoulder and bore his weight herself, dragging him through the restaurant and laying him on a sofa in the small living room behind the kitchen.

"SAOTOME!" Mu Tsu exclaimed, busting into the room to check on his rival through his thick glasses. His curious glance turned into a bitter glare as he watched Xian Pu dote over Ranma, shaking him and gently stroking his face, her eyes were wide with open concern, and rippled with tears she was too proud to shed.

"<What happened?>" he asked.

"<Yes, that is what I would also like to know,>" Ku Lun said from her perch on her cane.

"<My name is Lo Fu,>" the man began. "<I came to Japan to take care of some personal business. The man this business involved was an acquaintance of Ranma's.>"

"You mean you came chasing after Happosai,>" Ku Lun said. It was not a question.

Lo Fu's eyes widened, then narrowed.

"<How did you know?>" he asked.

"<Three hundred years on this earth does not make a person stupid,>" she said smugly.

Lo Fu remained silent, staring sullenly at his feet. He felt like a child who was being forced to listen to his betters and their lessons.

"<So you fought with him in a duel?>" Mu Tsu asked. His mind panicked at the thought that this man could defeat Ranma with seemingly no more damage than a few bruises and cuts, whereas he could not even touch the Japanese youth.

"<That's blatantly obvious, boy,>" Ku Lun snapped irritably. "<The thing this young man needs to explain is why.>"

Under the old woman's stern gaze, Lo Fu told his story.

Xian Pu barely heard the conversation. She was aware when Mu Tsu spoke, or when Lo Fu or her Grandmother did. She learned that the fight had been a duel; that it had stemmed from a grudge with Happosai and an insult about the Anything-Goes school. But other than that, the world was a blur. Nothing else existed to her but Ranma. Her eyes never left his face, still handsome despite the bruised and swollen cheeks, her hands never left his hair as her fingers gently smoothed brushed his black bangs from his eyes.

"<So,>" Ku Lun said after Lo Fu finished his tale. "<You have managed to defeat both Happy and my Son-in-law. You must have exceptional skill, beyond any in our tribe.>"

"<Tribe?>" Lo Fu repeated. "<You are Amazons?>"

"<Yes, I am Ku Lun, Matriarch of the Joketsuzoku. You have met my heir Xian Pu, Ranma’s wife by tribal law, and her companion Mu Tsu. The question is, who are you? Really?>"

Lo Fu made his face stone and returned Ku Lun's fierce gaze with a proud stare.

"<I am Lo Fu of the Sho Rin temple, Grandmaster of Tong Long Chuan.>"

For the first time in over a century Ku Lun was speechless, her jaw dropped before she could control it as her eyes bogged in their wrinkled sockets. The silence in the room was broken by the sound of Mu Tsu's glasses falling from his similarly shocked eyes. Xian Pu cradled Ranma in her arms tightly as she stared at the figure fearfully.

Lo Fu sighed. "<I can see that Mr. Saotome is in good hands. I will take my leave. Take care of him.>"

With that the dark-clothed master turned and left the room. No one followed or even made a move. When the sound of the restaurant door swinging shut reached them, Ku Lun turned to regard the prone form of her son-in-law and student.

The Mantis Fist? she thought in awe. Ranma… what have you gotten yourself into this time?


To be continued.

Authorís notes: Well, nothing here that I havenít said before. I know most people think Shampoo has no real feelings for Ranma, but I think that anyone who sticks to him as stubbornly as she does must be feeling more than tribal obligation. Also from a cultural perspective, Shampoo is an Amazon, and so is surrounded be meek men who consider themselves inferior, so I think that she is bound to be attracted to Ranma's strong will and battle prowess, as it is so different from what she is used to. That attraction would make it easy for her to fall for him. Well, tell me if you disagree, but donít be too stubborn about it.

Chapter 5
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