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A Ranma ½ / Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon / Ah! My Goddess crossover story
by L. S. McGill

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 characters property of Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Sailor Moon characters property of Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. Ah! My Goddess property of Fujishima Kosuke, Kodansha, TBS and KSS films; AnimEigo, Studio Proteus, and Dark Horse Comics. Other characters who may cameo are property of respective owners.  All are used without permission. I did not write this for profit, but for practice. Will be removed at request of original creators or authorized rep.

Zhu Shu (who shoo), Tao-Ching, Xi'an Chi (zy-an chee), and Clans' Dragon and Skorpion are mine, and may be used so long as I am asked beforehand.

Book One: The Mandarin

Chapter Five:  Beginning's End

Doctor Tofu looked Zhu Shu over critically. "Well, well, you've certainly managed to pull these muscles good."

Zhu Shu nodded glumly. "Zhu Shu not do kata this day. Wish could have avoided. Not have choice." She winced as Tofu straightened her neck, then sighed in relief.

Tofu nodded. "You should be ok. That tea will help you restore your ki, and this salve will help those strained muscles. But just what style do you fight that would pull those muscles?"

Zhu Shu blushed. "Not all pulled in fight. Zhu Shu try show off how flexible is. Not good idea after fight."

Ranma moved over and dropped his bag down almost on top of the photo. "What happened? Did someone pick a fight with you?"

Zhu Shu gave him a sidelong glance. "Ranma could say that." A faint hint of sadness tinted her voice.

"Must have been a tough fight to bang you up like this."

"They not lay hands on. Zhu Shu very fast. Not warmed up though. Overextend self." Zhu Shu shrugged. Ranma was too distracted to notice the haunted look in her eyes.

"They? Were you ganged up on?"

She nodded. "Deal with three before chi gone."

"Three? I hope you taught them a lesson."

Shadows covered Zhu Shu's eyes and she looked away before answering. "They learn lesson. Never bother again."

Ranma nodded, his eyes darting to the photo. Zhu Shu noticed the furtive look and her eyes narrowed. He was up to something.

Doctor Tofu finished rubbing the salve into Zhu Shu's lower back, then proceeded to put her spine back in place as Ranma bent down to pick up his bag….

And a photo he was rather covert about picking up. Zhu Shu made a note to ask him about it later.

He quickly palmed it as Doctor Tofu finished with her back. "There you go. All your bones are back where they should be! You should be more careful though."

Zhu Shu nodded as she stood, the examination gown she was wearing billowing slightly. She held the back closed with one hand as she stretched and bowed without pain. "Thank you."

Ranma, too busy looking over his shoulder to make sure no one had seen him pick up the photo, put his foot down on the soapy brush Tofu had been cleaning the floor with when Zhu Shu had arrived. His footing went out from under him and he landed on the bucket by the brush. Soapy water splashed as books and photo went flying.

Akane dived for the photo, and snagged it, but as her foot came down into the soapy water, she skidded. She slid headlong into Zhu Shu, knocking them both down as the photo fluttered into the air again.

"Hmm? What's this?" Doctor Tofu asked as his fingers closed on it. He reached to adjust his glasses to look at it…

The door slid open as Kasumi looked in. "Hello Doctor. Is Zhu Shu okay now?"

The photo dropped unlooked-at from nerveless fingers, as the Doctors glasses steamed instantly. Nabiki snatched it from midair as the Doctor stuttered, "K-K-Kasumi? Imagine meeting you here of all places!"

Kasumi laughed. "But Doctor, this is your office."

"Oh yes! Imagine that!"

Kasumi looked around the room and uttered a single "Oh, my!"

Ranma was on her knees, her white top soaked to near transparency. Zhu Shu was lying on the floor, her examination gown up around her shoulders. Akane was straddling her, not noticing her hand was firmly planted on Zhu Shu's right breast. Nabiki was holding the photo, looking at Kasumi with a pale and wide-eyed expression on her face.

Silence held for a long second before Doctor Tofu held up his skeleton. "W-well Kasumi! As you can see, Zhu Shu is back to perfect health!"

Kasumi looked to the Mandarin girl, who had a quixotically amused expression, and smiled. "Why, yes. I can see that." She beamed at Akane. "I'm so glad to see you all getting along so well."

Zhu Shu giggled.

Akane looked down and noticed where her hand was. "I… uh… I tripped!"

Zhu Shu giggled harder. "Not mind. Maybe Akane trip like this more often."

Akane blushed all the way down to her shoes. She quickly got up and straightened her school dress, too embarrassed to say anything. Zhu Shu continued to giggle as she drew her gown down.

"Yes!" Doctor Tofu said. "Akane and Zhu Shu were becoming great friends!" He addressed the skeleton again. "Weren't you, Zhu Shu?"

"Zhu Shu over here!" The Chinese girl called from her seat on the floor, still giggling.

"Ah yes!" He scurried over to Ranma. "Oh! Ahem… It seems I've developed X-ray vision!"

"That Ranma!" Zhu Shu laughed. She looked to where Kasumi was hiding a smile.

Tofu double blinked. "Oh. My. Ranma? I'm afraid I'm completely out of my depth here. You'll need to see a psychologist about this transvestite problem…."

Ranma rolled his eyes. "Gee… Thanks…."

Kasumi finally herded Tofu away long enough to allow Zhu Shu to go and get changed and Ranma, Akane and Nabiki to escape outside. As they left the clinic, Akane turned to a visibly relaxing Nabiki and demanded, "Okay! Now what was so important about that photo?"

Nabiki showed her.

All Akane managed was a strangled "Urk!" as extreme shock set in. Ranma's jaw dropped.

"Oh my! Someone took a picture?" Kasumi plucked it out of Nabiki's hand. "How wonderful! I must get this framed for Zhu Shu. It will make a wonderful apology for causing her to pull those muscles this afternoon!"

Nabiki blinked as Akane and Ranma stared wide-eyed.

"I suppose I should have known better, exhausted as the poor dear was, but I thought she would enjoy it, and I did want to thank her for saving me from those thugs… This will make such a lovely memento!" She smiled as she turned back towards the Dojo, humming happily.

Staring after her, Akane murmured, "She… she… Kasumi?!"

Ranma turned as Zhu Shu came out of the clinic, back in her usual dress. "Zhu Shu?"

"Yes, Ranma-chan?"

"Y-y-y-you and Kasumi…?"

Zhu Shu raised and eyebrow, then smiled her ‘mouse who got the cheese’ smile. "Why Ranma want know? Not Zhu Shu place tell." She sauntered past the trio, and right before she turned the corner, she threw a look back over her shoulder. "All Zhu Shu say, shiatsu can be wonderful thing." She cocked her hip jauntily as she swung her hair back over her shoulder, then vanished.

Still frozen in the pose she had been in when Kasumi took the photo, Nabiki fainted again….

Dinner at the Tendo house that night was a little quiet. Zhu Shu sat quietly, eating little. Akane and Nabiki gave sidelong glances at both Zhu Shu and Kasumi. Ranma watched all of them, but finally started watching Zhu Shu most of all. Despite her flippant attitude earlier, something was wrong. She was barely touching her meal and was avoiding looking at anyone directly.

Kasumi merrily told about the day she and Zhu Shu had spent, telling her family about meeting Rei, and their visit to Chinatown. She described the fight as an attempted mugging, but the way she watched Zhu Shu carefully while telling about it made Ranma think there was more to it than either one was saying. By the end of dinner, Nabiki and even Akane had noticed too. They looked at Kasumi questioningly, but got a shake of the head for their reply.

After dinner, Zhu Shu went out to the garden. She sat under the tree by the bank of the Koi pond and assumed a meditation pose. After a few minutes, Ranma came and sat beside her. Several minutes passed before he spoke. "I ain't real good at this, Zhu Shu, but even I can see there's something you're not saying."

Zhu Shu sat motionless for a long moment as Ranma's eyes searched the shadows that hid her eyes. Finally, Zhu Shu nodded.

Another long moment passed before Ranma spoke again. "Something about the fight."

Again, Zhu Shu nodded. A single tear escaped her closed eyes and rolled down her cheek. A slight tremor was all the sign she gave that inside she was screaming.

For once, Ranma saw it. The single tear glimmered in the darkness. At a loss, he struggled to think about what could bother the unshakable Chinese girl, and when the answer came he felt himself grow both as cold as a block of ice and a hot as the sun in rage. His hands curled into fists momentarily as all he wanted to do was demolish whoever had caused Zhu Shu this pain.

Then a second tear fell beside the first and the rage fled before concern for his friend. For long seconds he stood at a loss, unsure how to comfort her, and then some instinct told him what she would respond to.

He moved and there was the sound of a hand dipping in water, then the wet-haired girl gathered Zhu Shu in her arms. "You had to kill someone, didn't you?"

Zhu Shu nodded again as more tears fell, but she refused to break. She had been trained to deal with this! She was a bodyguard as well as a servant! It was a duty like any other!

But the images of death had refused to leave her mind. For all her fights, she had never had to kill. Memories of the shock that ran along her arm as she cut into the assassins, of the hot bloody spray that followed the path of her blade… they haunted her. Kasumi had tried to help, had tried to distract her by getting her to demonstrate a few dances, but the pulled muscles she had developed had only served to remind her of why she had them.

And she damned herself for feeling this way. She had been trained to kill in defense without remorse.

But inside she was still crying….

Ranma wasn't done turning the tables yet. She held the Mandarin girl to her and spoke. "I know you've been trained all you life to care for others, Zhu-chan, but what about you? Can't someone care for you?" She pulled Zhu Shu tighter. "You don't have to be steel all the time. You don't have to hide from me. I know I can be a jerk, and an idiot, but a very wise person once told me everyone needs someone for whom there are no masks." Zhu Shu shook slightly as Ranma quoted her from one of their fireside talks in China. "You can see beyond my masks better than I can, but what of you? Why can't I be the person you allow behind your masks. The one who is allowed to see the girl instead of the sword?"

Zhu Shu sobbed silently, her hands clenched but she still fought the tears. Ranma felt her throat tighten as she tried to think of ways to help her. Desperately hoping something would work, she just started talking.

"Look, you know I'm no good at this kinda stuff. I mean, I know I can be an idiot, and well, this bit about you being attracted to girls kinda threw me, but it doesn't matter to me anymore. You're my friend, and I ain't got so many of those. I gotta care for the ones I have, right?"

Zhu Shu looked at Ranma, her eyes brimming. She stared into the redhead's eyes and understanding dawned. "She send you, yes no?" she whispered.

"Kasumi? Yes. She stopped me after dinner and sent me after you. She said sometimes people need a friend instead of a sister." She reached out to pull Zhu Shu's head against her again. "I want to be that friend, Zhu Shu. I think I'm only just starting to see how much of a friend you are to me, but you need a friend like you too. I dunno if I can be that good a friend, but I want to try."

The weight of secrets tore her heart. She tried to pull away, guilt at what she had hidden driving her to run, but Ranma wouldn't let her go. "You not even really know Zhu Shu," she protested weakly.

"Your mysteries don't matter to me, Zhu Shu. I know enough to treasure you as my best friend."

"My mysteries can kill Ranma!" Zhu Shu sobbed.

"I don't care! Zhu Shu, you're my friend. That's all that matters!" Ranma raised Zhu Shu's face to look into her eyes. "You're my friend. You want to see me happy, I want to see you happy."

She wanted to tell her. She wanted to let her know about Shan Pu, about her quest, her plans, but as she opened her mouth to tell her everything, Ranma place a finger on her lips. "Don't speak. Don't be Zhu Shu the Sword. Don't be the Imperial Servant. Just be Zhu Shu— my friend, and a girl who had to do something more dreadful than she should ever have had to do to save the life of a friend."

She stared into Ranma's eyes and saw only concern. Within her, the iron wall broke, and for the first time since the loss of Ying Ying, she gave in to the tears….

Ranma held her throughout the crying fit, and listened as Zhu Shu told her about the fight. Zhu Shu had to admit that this was not the first time she had had to fight these thugs, and that there was someone in China that had sent them, but that she didn't know for sure if the attackers had been sent by the same person, or who that person was, or even if any others would come. All she had known was that someone in a dark cloak had asked if she was Clan Dragon, then demanded her swords. When she refused, she had been attacked. Like last time, they had tried to capture her, and if they had not tried to kill Kasumi, she could have defeated them again without killing. Ranma nodded.

"I would have done the same, Zhu Shu. A challenge is one thing, but they were trying cold-blooded murder. Why didn't you ever tell me this?" he asked

"Zhu Shu not think be danger outside Peking. Not attacked by them since. But think they tong. Zhu Shu learn not tell people her clan. Not want people think she tong." She brought her knees up and curled her arms around them. "Thought had escaped danger when leave cities in China. Did not think would follow to Japan. Did not think would be danger to friends," she finished sadly.

"You're not Zhu Shu. There's no way they would have known where you were if you had stayed out of Chinatown. And you're not alone here. I'll protect you, too."

Zhu Shu nodded sadly. "Thank you."

Ranma rose. "Will you be alright now?"

She assayed a weak smile. "Is okay. Ranma help."

The redhead nodded. "If you need anything…."

Zhu Shu nodded. "Just one thing," she said as she stood, wiping her eyes and giving Ranma a haunted look.


"Try, once, listen Akane same way." She smoothed the hem of her skirt. "Zhu Shu want Ranma and Akane be happy, but not much time be alone as couple." She disappeared before her heart betrayed too much, leaving a wide-eyed and very puzzled Ranma looking at the vacancy she had left behind.

"So why did you send him to talk to her?" Akane asked, looking up from her cup of hot chocolate.

Kasumi finished up with her preparations for breakfast as she answered. "Because she's his best friend. He knows her better than anyone."

"But he's hopeless! He can't seem to ever say the right thing!" Akane protested. "He'll make a mess of it!"

"I don't think so. He has a good heart, Akane. He may not be all that great at showing it, but I think that might have to do with the fact that he's your fiancé."

"What would that have to do with anything?" Akane grumped. "He treats her way better than he does me!"

"I think you make him nervous, Akane." Kasumi washed her hands and sat down for a cup of tea. "He's just more relaxed around her, is all. She's his friend. You are much more, at least potentially."

"That's a wonderful reason to insult me all the time."

Kasumi shook her head. "You intimidate him, Akane. I think you'd be surprised at what he might be like if he didn't think he had to prove anything to you."

"I don't want him to prove anything to me! Except maybe that he's not a jerk!"

"Have you told him that?"

Akane looked at Kasumi oddly. "Well, no."

Kasumi rose and placed her teacup by the sink to wash up in the morning. She stopped at the door just before exiting and looked at Akane. "Maybe you should."

She turned and left just as Ranma entered, his shirt still damp from comforting Zhu Shu. He saw the hot chocolate Akane was drinking and asked, "Is there any more of that?"

Akane nodded to a kettle on the stove. "Help yourself."

Ranma did so, and settled into the chair opposite of Akane, a subdued expression on his face.

"What's wrong with Zhu Shu?" she asked.

Ranma stared into his cup for a long time before answering. "She… She'll be okay."

Akane glared. "That's not what I asked."

Ranma looked up. "I'm not sure I should tell you. I don't know if she wants you to know."

"Oh. I see how it is. I'm not enough of a friend." Akane crossed her arms and slumped sullenly.

"That's not—" Ranma started, then shook his head. "Think what you want," he said disgustedly. "You're only looking for an excuse to fight anyway."

"I am not! Just because you and her have your little secrets means nothing to me!"

"Why do you have to be angry all the time?" Ranma asked. "She's my friend and I just went to comfort her because I saw she wasn't feeling happy. I don't want to fight!"

"Oh. So you care more about her feelings than you do mine! Some fiancé you are."

"Yes, I care about her feelings!" Ranma growled, leaning over the table. "She had to kill three people today to save your sisters life! And she's feeling bad about it! I think that's a little more important than your fit of jealousy!"

Akane stared in shock. "What?" she whispered.

Ranma sat back down, his fury suddenly spent. "She had to kill those muggers. They were trying to shoot Kasumi. She had no time to take it easy on them. As it was, she barely got to the gunman in time."

Akane was speechless.

"That's why Kasumi kissed her on the train. To thank her. For saving her life. I dunno if they did anything else, but in retrospect, I just don't care, except to hope that if they did, they both enjoyed it. I feel like a complete jerk for reacting the way I did at the doctor's office. So Zhu Shu likes girls. Big deal. She's my friend, and I care about her. Nothing else matters…" He hung his head between his hands. "And all she wants is for us to be happy with one another. After all the crying and the tears, her last words to me before going to bed were to ask me to listen to you the way I listened to her. That's why I came in here."

Akane looked down into her cup. "I-I'm sorry."

Ranma shrugged. "What does it matter? Whatever I do, it makes you angry."

Akane looked up, stung, and glared. "That's because you go out of your way to aggravate me!"

Ranma looked at her for a second, then lowered his eyes and stood to leave. As he passed through the door, he stopped and looked back at Akane. "Nabiki fainted because I asked her where you'd have fun on a date. Now I don't know why I bothered."

Akane sat and looked out the door after him for a long, long time…

Back in her room, Zhu Shu shut the door and leaned back against it. She hoped she had not said too much, but she had lost control of her emotions. Her feelings were a storm of chaos inside her that raged unchecked, but quixotically, for all the pain and despair, she felt more alive than she had in years. She didn't want to analyze the feelings, to sort them and categorize them and tuck them back in their niches, not now. They were still too raw for that. Tonight she simply wanted to forget….

She drew a deep breath. Kasumi's scent was still heavy in the air, a light floral fragrance that reminded her of spring. She'd been in the room recently. She looked around the room, her eyes finding a small silver frame placed artfully so a beam of light from the street outside illuminated it. She stripped out of her dress and panties, folding them by the door, and moved over to the bed to look at it.

The photographer had gotten the best possible angle, showing the kiss Kasumi had given her on the train. A light outside the train window had been passing as the shot was snapped, and a trick of the light made it look like a halo….

She lay down on the bed and let the happiness of that memory drown out the sadness, her eyes locked on the photo until they just couldn't stay open.

On a rooftop several houses away, a black figure had observed Zhu Shu's preparations for bed. As she drifted off to sleep, the figure made its way around the dojo, occasionally crouching on all fours as it seemed to sniff the ground. After several circuits, it seemed satisfied and slinked away into the shadows to report.

Friday dawned bright and clear over Nerima. Kasumi hummed happily at her work as she prepared breakfast. Nabiki sat and laid odds on who would go into the Koi pond first. As Ranma once more landed in the pond, Akane came down to breakfast. Kasumi brought out several trays as Ranma wrung out her shirt, studiously ignoring Akane. Akane looked at Ranma with a strangely subdued expression as she sat down at the table. Nabiki watched both of them curiously.

As Kasumi brought out the last of the breakfast dishes, Zhu Shu came down as well. She was smiling her usual smile, and only a small hint of sadness behind her eyes betrayed the last traces of yesterday's stresses. Akane watched her wide-eyed as she came and sat down. Zhu Shu's gaze flickered between Akane and Ranma, and a small sigh escaped her lips.

Kasumi noted all of this and tried to ease the tensions by starting a conversation. "Did you sleep well last night, Zhu Shu?"

A real smile came into Zhu Shu's eyes as she turned to Kasumi. "Yes, Kasumi-san. Zhu Shu sleep well. Have pleasant dreams." The sparkle in her eyes left little doubt what those dreams had been about. Kasumi blushed slightly.

Nabiki looked up, a calculating look in her eye as she glanced between Ranma and Akane, still studiously avoiding looking at each other. "Zhu Shu, I was wondering when you would be starting school. You and I can go together. Do you need your transcripts sent from China?"

Zhu Shu considered. Grandfather would need a reason for why she would need to go to a Japanese school, and an explanation for why she was in Japan. But it would make guiding Ranma and Akane to a happy relationship easier. She weighed the advantages and disadvantages, then decided it was worth it. "Yes. Zhu Shu will need send to home village."

Nabiki smiled. "Wonderful. Now I'll have someone to walk to school with again. If you will write the message, I'll take you to where you can send it."

Zhu Shu nodded, noting Kasumi's happy smile. Akane and Ranma both looked surprised, but happy about it as well. Soun just beamed and cried at how happy he was that his new "Adopted Daughter" would be starting school.

So Friday began.

Zhu Shu spent several hours composing her letter to her grandfather while Akane and Ranma were in school, then helped Kasumi clean house until they got a visit from a well-to-do reporter by the name of Tsukino, who spent several hours looking over the dojo and talking to Soun before deciding that it was okay for his daughter and her friends to attend martial arts classes. Why his little Usagi wanted to learn martial arts was beyond him, but he approved of the idea of her getting some discipline. Soun wept for joy again when the man handed him the check for the girl's entire first year….

Following school, the five girls showed up for their lessons, and ran to hug Zhu Shu.

"We've missed you!" they chorused.

Zhu Shu gave hugs all around, before leading them inside to be introduced to Ranma and Akane, whom she had talked into being sparring partners. She frowned at the cat Usagi was carrying, but Usagi swore Luna would behave herself. Zhu Shu nodded, but made a note to watch and make sure the cat wasn't distracting the girls.

But it wasn't the moon-marked feline who caused problems. Ranma took one look at the girls, screamed, and fell over twitching. Luna jumped down and walked over to the prostrate boy and meowed worriedly.

Genma came running into the dojo following Ranma's scream, but was quickly pelted out again when he started yelling about how his son was such a failure and began calling him names. Zhu Shu and Akane finally took the unfortunate boy up to his room to lie down and recover from whatever it was, before returning to give the girls their lessons.

Zhu Shu felt the cat's eyes upon her the entire time, making token attempts to appear as if she was washing whenever she or Akane looked directly at her, but by the end of class, Zhu Shu had studied her aura enough to know she wasn't an ordinary cat. She sent the girls out to shower and get dressed, but shut the door on the cat when she tried to follow them out.

"Wha— uh— Meow?" The startled cat said as the door closed in her face. She turned to look at Zhu Shu, then backed up hastily at the sight of a burning green sword an inch from her little nose.

"Not fool Zhu Shu. Not cat! What?!" the annoyed Mandarin girl asked.

"Meow?" Luna tried again.

"No good. Heard start to talk! Watch Senshi too close! You spy?" Her eyes narrowed. "Maybe Zhu Shu should kill!"

"Me— uh— Oh no! Wait!" The bemooned cat cried as Zhu Shu's sword sank into the floor a whisker’s-width from a paw. The she jumped as the other blade descended. "I AM NOT A SPY!" she yelled desperately.

The blade stopped a fraction of an inch from Luna's nose. Zhu Shu looked down the glowing length. "Why watch Sailor Moon so close? Answer good! Zhu Shu have no patience with lie."

Luna looked at her wide-eyed. "Y-y-y-you know she's Sailor Moon?"

"Zhu Shu ask questions." She tapped Luna's nose with the point of her sword for emphasis.

Luna clapped both paws over the sensitive organ. "I'm her Guardian!" she yelped.

Zhu Shu tilted her head. Her aura said she was telling the truth. She nodded and put her swords away. "Humph! Should have said so. Why no have girls trained? Lucky no one kill yet!"

"No one’s supposed to know who they are!" Luna protested. "So they'll be safe! They shouldn't have told you!"

"They not. Zhu Shu have good vision. See aura. No matter if in costume."

"You can see their auras?!"

Zhu Shu sighed. "Yes. See aura. How know cat not lie."


"Still no answer. Why no train?!"

"They're Sailor Senshi! Reincarnated warriors of the Moon Kingdom! They know how to fight!" Luna yelled.

"That why Zhu Shu break bones and take wands away?" She tilted her head and sighed. A quick motion slid the door aside to let the five girls tumble in, Usagi as usual landing on her chin as the other Senshi fell on top of her. Zhu Shu glared at Luna. "And now raise voice in dojo with paper wall!"

Luna stared at the semi-dressed girls, then raised her eyes to an Akane Tendo who was standing in only her bra and panties, the shirt she had been about to put on still held in frozen hands.

Zhu Shu nodded. She'd heard. Zhu Shu was very glad the dojo was so isolated from the main house, or a major disaster might have ensued. She felt she could trust Akane and her sisters, and probably Ranma, but Genma would have been a major problem.

She looked down at the tangle of fifteen-year-olds and frowned. "Usagi! You leader of Senshi! Should behave better! Be example! Not first listen at door!"

Usagi groaned, "My chin's broken!"

"Poor bunny. Now up! Zhu Shu see girls dressed, in dojo, five minute! Or else!" She raised her look to Akane. "Akane too! Five minute!" She turned to Luna, a knife and a wok appearing in her hands.

"Wh-wh-what are you doing?" Luna said as she backed up and up.

"Zhu Shu tries remember recipe for Cat Tongue!"

"Eep!" Luna cried and looked for a place to run, but there wasn't one….

Fortunately, Zhu Shu wasn't serious about the recipe. By the time the girls came out four minutes later, Zhu Shu's show having been sufficient motivation for speed, she had laid out a light snack of rice and stir-fried vegetables. She noted their apprehensive looks, but waited till they were all seated.

"Usagi. Why keep Zhu Shu secret from Guardian?"

"Um—" Usagi hemmed.

"Luna! You be upset Usagi tell about Zhu Shu?" Zhu Shu's gaze caught the cat in a driving glare.

"Uh— Of course not!"

"Not tell all truth, cat! Now know Zhu Shu. What then?"

"Well— maybe."

Zhu Shu nodded. "Better. Zhu Shu meet Senshi on Hikawa Shrine. Mistook Zhu Shu for Cardian. Nearly kill, but realize mistake. Take care of Zhu Shu. Zhu Shu wake, see Sailor Mars as Rei. Recognize. Mars decide better off if friends. Zhu Shu have dangerous knowledge. Good idea, yes no?"

Luna nodded.

"Zhu Shu show why should train. Take wand, break bones. Make point. Senshi listen. Zhu Shu help in own way to fight evil."

"That's wonderful!" Luna exclaimed

"Usagi! Should have told Guardian. Small mistake. Understandable in young girl."

Usagi blushed shamefacedly.

"Now must deal with consequences." She turned to Akane. "Know of Sailor Senshi?"

Akane nodded furiously.

"Better than Zhu Shu when first meet, then." She turned to the others. "Senshi, Make Up and introduce selves. Is only polite when meet new friend." She turned her attention to her bowl of rice. The girls all looked at each other, then at Luna, who was apparently totally fascinated with her bowl of shrimp in a cream sauce.

Finally Rei nodded. "She's right, and we really only have ourselves to blame." She stood. "Rei Hino." She brought out her pen. "Mars Power, Make up!"

A half hour later, Zhu Shu waved goodbye to the cheerful Senshi. A bemused and still slightly dazed Akane stood next to her. Still, Akane thought, who wouldn't be? Next to that near-invasion of the world by the alien Oni, the Senshi have been the most popular news item in Japan for the last few years. And now, I know them personally. What's next? Space visitors?

A hum in the air made her look up as a tiger-striped saucer dropped down to hover over the dojo. She stared as a hatch opened in the bottom, and Japan's Number One Famous Alien poked her horned head out. "Konichiwa, Zhu Shu. Have you seen Darling? He ran away again!"

Zhu Shu waved. "Nihao, Lum. Zhu Shu not seen Ataru. Found Ranma!"

"Wonderful!" The Oni flew down to give Zhu Shu a hug. "Is this where you disappeared to?"

Zhu Shu nodded. "Must come visit. Zhu Shu miss first friend in Japan."

"Okay. But I have to find Darling! He ran away to be with Shinobu again!"

Zhu Shu nodded. "Understand. Come visit!"

"I will. Saucer! Remember this address!" She gave Zhu Shu another quick hug and flew up to her ship. "Bai-bai! See you soon!" With a further hum, the saucer shot out of sight.

Zhu Shu turned to apologize for her eccentric friend, but a wide-eyed Akane stopped her. "Is there anyone famous in Japan you aren’t friends with?"

Mischievousness won. She giggled and gave Akane a peck on the cheek. "Zhu Shu not meet Emperor yet!" She vanished into the house.

After all the shocks she had gotten, it was a relief for Akane to beat the tar out of Ranma when he insulted her figure, after Kasumi and Nabiki dressed him in one of Akane's outfits because all of his were in the wash. In fact, upon reflection, it was the most normal thing she'd had happen all afternoon.

Saturday afternoon found Nabiki going over the school schedule with Zhu Shu.

"Now, I managed to get you put into my homeroom, so I can help you get adjusted, and we can work out a deal for me to help you get up to speed on your schoolwork. However, it's only fair to warn you that most of the boys at our school are hentai, and were rather fixated on my little sister. They may have claimed to have given up on her since she's engaged to Ranma, but that just means they're looking for a new target."

Zhu Shu sighed. "Zhu Shu understands. She spend week at Tomobiki. Have deal with Hentai squad."

Nabiki shrugged. "I'd almost suggest letting your preferences be known, but that might cause you more problems. One, it'd get you labeled as a pervert while not necessarily keeping the boys from chasing you, and second, it might make you a target for Ai."


"The head of our cheerleading squad. She's been fuming since Akane's the only girl in Furinkan who can beat her, and with Kuno's proclamation, she lost her place as the focus of the school's Hentai Squad. And to top it off, she likes girls as much as she likes guys. There's no telling if she'd ask you for a date or a duel."

"Zhu Shu see." She shrugged. "Zhu Shu no can change. Tomobiki boys not leave alone, even when Zhu Shu hide. Give her many presents."

Nabiki raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Like what?"

Zhu Shu smiled. "Rei supposed to bring today."

The doorbell rang. Nabiki raised an eyebrow in the general direction of the door. "My, what coincidental timing."

There was the sound of Kasumi opening the door and starting to say hello, but it was replaced by a surprised squeal and a rumble, followed by silence.

Zhu Shu was down the steps followed almost as quickly by Ranma, then Nabiki and Akane. At the front door, they found a sheepish Rei helping Kasumi dig herself out of a pile of stuffed animals. The pile completely filled the doorway to a height of a couple of feet, and the pile grew larger outside, where a large delivery box had given way from the pressure of the stuffies within.

Rei saw Zhu Shu and gave her an apologetic smile. "I guess I shouldn't have tried to put them all in one box."

Kasumi finally regained her feet, a Mokona stuffie poking out of her apron top. "Oh my! Wherever did you come by such a collection?"

Zhu Shu lowered her eyes. "Boys at Tomobiki give as gifts. Try to get Zhu Shu to date with them." Zhu Shu grabbed a huge Pikachu and held it against her. "Zhu Shu think are cute," she said defensively at the raised eyebrows from the Tendo sisters and Ranma.

Ranma surveyed the massive pile of stuffed animals. "An' we gotta take these upstairs? Ah man, that's going to take all day."

Zhu Shu gave him big pleading eyes. "But they cute!"

Nabiki couldn't hold in the laughter anymore…

Monday morning was a change of pace, as it was Zhu Shu's first day of school. Her grandfather's permission had arrived on Sunday along with paperwork detailing her "schooling". She smiled at Sung Po's signature on the paperwork. At least it seemed the local magistrate did not hold her choice to try and not have to marry his son against her. Her Grandfather had also sent her a letter to tell her that Ke Lun had met with him and advised him of her current quest. She had his blessing and approval. He also informed her that Pin Ke had showed up in town, looking for yet another rematch. She had been irate to find Zhu Shu gone. Lin Ke had been, as always, apologetic for her sister. Zhu Shu had sighed at that. One day, she'd have to deal with Pin Ke once and for all; only her friendship with Lin Ke had prevented her from paying Pin Ke back for all she and Ying Ying had endured from the bullying girl as they grew up. The girl from the next village had a lot to answer for, and not just to her. Shan Pu had had stories of Pin Ke to tell, too.

Still, she had what she needed for her current quest, so that morning found her walking to school with Nabiki. They talked about Ranma and Akane — and other topics — until they arrived at Furinkan High.

Kuno was waiting.

"Ah, Nabik— Oh! Can it be? My beautiful Chinese Goddess! Oh! As the Apple tree doth shake off the snow and lift its branches to the sun of spring, so does my heart throw off the cold snows of its desolation at the joyous return of your beauty! Yea, my heart doth rejoice at the happy fates which hath returned you to me, my goddess!" He lunged to envelop Zhu Shu.

Zhu Shu had forgotten about Kuno. She leaped straight up, and as his arms closed around air, did a back-flip to land on the post by the gate, both swords coming out.

Nabiki watched from half-lidded eyes. "Interesting…."

Kuno's bokken had appeared in his hands as tears of gladness streamed from his eyes. "My goddess, I rejoice at your challenge for my favor! Happily will I allow you to date with me if I, Tatewaki Kuno, should lose!"

Zhu Shu sighed. "Zhu Shu not date Kuno!" He was completely oblivious to her protest as he closed in. She leaped above his attack as his bokken shattered a three-foot section of the wall. She landed behind him as he whirled. Green fire flickered along her blade as she moved to parry him and slice through the wooden blade.

Thunder rumbled as the swords connected and Zhu Shu's sword barely nicked the bokken. Kuno retaliated with a super-fast blur of thrusts which Zhu Shu bounced away from, her momentary handstand revealing the pink panties under her short skirt, which drew a whistle of appreciation from the boys watching the fight. She dodged another flurry of blows and leaped, her ribbons swirling in a cyclone around her. Thirty feet above Kuno, her ribbons snapped into a tight spiral as she cried "Dragon Tail Whip." A ball of green fire arrowed down to envelop Kuno in a rumbling explosion.

The clearing smoke revealed Kuno, his clothes in tatters, standing in a small crater, the shattered remains of his bokken in hand. Wind whistled as he blinked twice, and then, like a toppling tree, he slowly fell over, unconscious.

Zhu Shu landed at the edge of the crater and for several seconds, silence reigned. Then a buzz of conversation broke out all around.

"Who is she?"
"Gods, she's cute!"
"Did you see what she did to Kuno?"
"Humph! Well, anyone would look cute to you if they wore a skirt like that!"

Nabiki stepped up to Zhu Shu as she put her swords away. "Well, I see you've already met Kuno. Come on. We wouldn't want you to be late on your first day of school!" She led the Chinese girl inside by the elbow.

Ranma and Akane arrived a few minutes later, and stared at the devastation.

"Hmm, I have a feeling that Zhu Shu is already here," Akane said.

A drop of sweat rolled down Ranma's temple. "Remind me not to get her mad at me. And to get her to teach me how she does that."

Things went well that morning for Zhu Shu, even though she was in the same homeroom as Nabiki and Kuno. After the second eraser, Kuno had been sent into the hall with a bucket and Zhu Shu had had some peace. Then lunchtime had arrived.

She had been walking towards Nabiki when a student tripped because he was watching her instead of where he was going, and with unerring accuracy, the curse had brought his glass of ice water down on her thin sleeveless dress.

The dress pulled tight as she gained a foot in height, and a cup size. For a single long moment, no one moved as the blonde dragon-girl stood motionless, then a riot of conversation broke out across the lunchroom.

Nabiki arrived a second later with a kettle of warm water and a muttered "I should have guessed," but the damage had been done. For the rest of lunch, Zhu Shu was stared at, and finally, one of the Hentai Squad got brave enough to dump another glass of cold water on her.

After that, it was nonstop. Every time she changed back to normal, another "accident" would happen. She gave up on hot water, at least till every male was gone from the lunchroom. She was very glad her dress wasn't white, damp as it was by the end of lunch. Then, to make a bad situation worse, she ended up having to hold a bucket of water in the hall for being late to class because she had had to wait till everyone had left the lunchroom before she could get hot water.

Then at gym class, she had to admire the ingenuity of the "accident" that soaked her on the bench of the softball field, and she hoped the Hentai Squad had enjoyed the wet tee shirt, because she had sent most of them to the nurse's office. And then had to knock out Kuno, now madly in love with his "Sun-Gold Dragon Maiden"…

And all the while, she was the subject of intense scrutiny by five sets of eyes.

The tall, busty blonde watched as Zhu Shu disappeared into the girls changing room and gave a slight frown. This new girl was formidable, possibly even a match for her, and the way the Hentai Squad was chasing her irritated her. She was going to have to teach the fools who the beauties of Furinkan High still were.

"She's kind of cute," said the redhead next to her, "and she's got that gymnastic figure you like. Thinking of asking her out?"

The blonde looked over. "Maybe later, Megumi. Once we've shown her who's in charge around here. I think she needs to be shown what's acceptable at Furinkan."

"Yes," said the tall raven haired girl on her other side. "After all, everyone knows only we're allowed to dress that sexy. Right, Ai?"

Ai nodded as the other blonde girl in the group gave a huff from where she was watching the unconscious boys being hauled off the field. "You'd think from their behavior, they think she's prettier than me!"

"But she is prettier, Kaede. I saw her up close in the lunchroom. And she has a better figure," the last girl spoke up.

"Shut up, Kyoko!"

"But it's only the truth—" The short girl with curly chestnut hair broke off as Ai turned.

"Enough. I'll decide who's prettier later. Maybe I'll even give her a collar. But first, we're going to show Little Miss China her place."

The school day finally ended, and a still-damp Zhu Shu met Nabiki by her locker. "Zhu Shu seriously think tell boys she only like girls," the Chinese girl said in frustration. "Then maybe Zhu Shu get through day in dry dress.”

"Well, I could have prepared you a little better if you'd told me about your curse," Nabiki replied. And I could have had a camera ready at lunch, she thought. Her pocketbook had already gained a pleasant weight from the few pics she had gotten during lunch and at gym. Kuno had paid triple for the wet tee shirt pics. Zhu Shu was going to be a gold mine. The only worrisome part was that Ai had bought one of the wet tee shirt pics too.

"Zhu Shu has grown used to. Forgot." She shrugged. "Zhu Shu just need remember not wear white dress."

Nabiki watched the students hurrying to the front of the school and sighed. She had figured this was inevitable, and had told her factors to handle the bets, but for once a guilty conscience nagged at her. As they approached the front doors, Nabiki stopped Zhu Shu. "Wait."

Zhu Shu looked at her. "Yes?"

"Give me your books. And… And be prepared to get in a fight when you go out those doors."

Zhu Shu tilted her head curiously. "What Nabiki mean?"

"The rumor mill's been going all afternoon, ever since your gym class. You remember I warned you about Ai?"

Zhu Shu nodded.

"I think that she and the rest of the cheerleaders are waiting for you out there."

Zhu Shu nodded. "Challenge." she said quietly. Nabiki nodded.

Zhu Shu handed her book bag to Nabiki, then reached behind her back and drew her swords. She detached her ribbons from the pommels and returned the blades, drawing out the wooden practice swords she used to spar. After tying the ribbons back in place, she nodded at Nabiki. "Zhu Shu is ready."

The large entrance area had already had the crater left from that morning repaired, and as Zhu Shu and Nabiki stepped out of the building, they saw a crowd had gathered to either side. Ranma and Akane stood off to the side of the door, Ranma's fists clenching and unclenching as he looked at the blonde girl waiting in the center of the cleared area, surrounded by the other four girls of her squad. When he saw Zhu Shu he stepped up and growled, "Those girls said they were waiting to challenge you."

"Zhu Shu knows."

"All five of them."

Zhu Shu nodded.

"That's not right. Five on one isn't fair, even if they are girls."

Zhu Shu raised her eyebrow. "Ranma."


"Zhu Shu not say this often, but please to shut up." She stalked forward, her ribbons lashing.

"What I'd say?" Ranma asked, looking puzzeledly at the annoyed Chinese girl.

Nabiki gave him an amused look. "Offhand, I'd say you insulted her with that remark."

Zhu Shu paid the spectators no further attention as she approached the blonde girl in the lead, examining their matching blue tops, yellow skirts, and black shoes with white socks. The word Furinkan was written in Kanji across their chests, and their hands were concealed inside fluffy blue and yellow pompoms. Their stances were not typical martial arts, but she could tell they held themselves ready to move in any direction. Their leader almost oozed confidence.

Individually, Zhu Shu would rate them decent martial artists, though not a challenge to her skill. Together was something else. She had no way to gauge how well they may work as a group. She stopped in front of the leader and gave a half bow before raising and meeting her opponents gaze.

"Nabiki say you wish challenge Zhu Shu."

The blonde gave her a nasty smile. "Challenge makes it sound like you have a chance. I'm here to teach you your place. We're the only ones allowed to put the boys around here in the nurse's office."

"And are?"

The blonde motioned to the red head by her side, who struck a pose with one pompom raised and the other at her side as she gave Zhu Shu an appraising look. "Megumi Ohtama."

The second girl struck a pose the opposite of the one the first girl had taken on the leaders other side. "Ayeka Hibishi."

The other blonde in the group knelt before the redhead, her pompoms held out behind her in a pose that showed off her generous chest. "Kaede Miyaki."

The last girl, with curly chestnut hair, duplicated the blonde's pose on the opposite side. "Kyoko Onamuri."

Then the leader stepped forward and took a pose that showed her figure off to the point that Zhu Shu had to sniff. "And I am Ai Konjou. The Captain of Furinkan's Combat Cheerleading Squad, and greatest Combat Cheerleader in the world!"

Zhu Shu nodded. "Song Zhu Shu. Clan Dragon. Heir to Song School of Sword Dance." She took a stance, watching Ai's eyes to see if Nabiki's statement was true. Ai's eyes roamed over her as a lascivious smile crept across her face.

"Once we've punished you for the mistreatment of our men, perhaps I'll allow you to be my play-toy. You'd look cute in a collar," Ai said as she finished her mental stripping of Zhu Shu. Ayeka gave Ai a momentary forlorn look before focusing on Zhu Shu, hatred burning in her eyes.

Zhu Shu's stance didn't waver. "Zhu Shu sees."

The attack came without warning, as the two cheerleaders who where kneeling suddenly launched their pompoms at Zhu Shu. She jumped straight up, the world slowing as she shifted to combat time, noting in passing the thin wires between the pompoms that would have entangled her legs.

However, fast as she had moved, Ai had matched her, stepping back into a cradle formed by the hands of Ayeka and Megumi and being launched after the Chinese girl. Zhu Shu's ribbons surrounded her as she deflected the half-dozen batons Ai launched at her, then they reached out towards the cheerleader as Zhu Shu sought to incapacitate her.

Ai was too slippery, though, and managed to dodge the fast moving ribbons. As Zhu Shu alighted, Ai was caught by the pair who had tossed her. She smiled at Zhu Shu. "Oh, you are quite the nimble one, aren't you? This should be fun."

Zhu Shu barely had a hint of a flash of silver before a pair of batons impacted her back and threw her forward. Ai jumped up as Megumi and Ayeka caught Zhu Shu and tossed her up to where the Captain was finishing a midair twist that planted her feet firmly in Zhu Shu's back and launched her face-first towards the school wall.

Zhu Shu fought past the loss of air from the kick and managed to yell "Dragon's Egg Shield" as she curled into a ball. A glowing sphere of green energy surrounded her as she crashed into the wall, shattering the concrete before rolling to her feet on the other side of the wall.

Ai was dusting her hands, and looked disappointed when Zhu Shu reappeared above the wall. The Chinese girl's swords burned with a green fire. "Now you make Zhu Shu annoyed."

Ai smiled. "Good, that might make this fight more of a challenge. Exploding Pompom Attack!"

Zhu Shu vanished into a green blur as the wall disintegrated in multiple blast clouds from the small pellets the bouncing girls were launching from their pompoms. A trail of explosions trailed behind the elusive Chinese girl as she zigzagged across the field, then through the gathered cheerleaders. There was a cry of surprise as Kyoko vanished, to reappear tied to a tree a second later. Zhu Shu stood beside the helpless girl. "One down, four go," she said with a level look at Ai.

"Way to go, Zhu-chan!" Ranma yelled from the sidelines. Zhu Shu spared him a second's glance, glad that she hadn't yet had to yell at him to stay out of a personal challenge.

Ai gave Zhu Shu a look that would maim most people. "That will cost you!"

Zhu Shu looked over the four remaining cheerleaders. "Zhu Shu not think so. Take out cutest one."

"She is not the cutest one!" Kaede screamed. "I am!"

Zhu Shu shook her head ‘no’. "Not to Zhu Shu. Think little blonde girl have too thick waist."

"Why, you witch! I'll rip out your eyes for that!" Kaede started forward, surrounded by a violet aura.

"Kaede, get back here! She's trying to separate us!" Ai yelled, but the other blonde girl was too far gone in rage to listen. She met Zhu Shu in a furious barrage of batons as they disappeared in a cloud of dust.

"Oh, fuck," Ai said, then turned to two remaining girls. "Time to pull out the big guns."

The dust was sucked into a whirlwind as a furiously spinning Zhu Shu rose above the cloud, trailing an ensnared Kaede. At the apex of her arc, the cheerleader managed to free herself with a triumphant cheer that ended in a pained groan as she crashed into the branches of a tree.

Ai whirled furiously, trying to find the vanished Chinese girl to no avail. Then a voice whispered in her ear, "If want date, could have asked Zhu Shu."

She spun to find the Chinese girl standing right behind her. "Cheerleader bomb!" Ai screamed.

Zhu Shu didn't quite dodge fast enough to avoid the twin pompoms that landed at her feet and exploded.

"Zhu Shu!" Ranma cried out in anguish as he started forward, but as the smoke cleared, he saw Zhu Shu was still standing. Her dress was shredded and she was blackened with soot, but seemed okay. She gave him a warning glance before smiling at Ai.

"Zhu Shu should warn Ai. Clan Dragon very strong against fire."

The cocky smile was perfect, but it distracted Zhu Shu long enough for Megumi and Ayeka to do a synchronized "Air Kick!" Zhu Shu was flung across the yard to land with a splash in the fountain. She emerged like a wrathful water dragon, her emerald green eyes burning. The tattered remains of her dress had been unequal to the stress of her change, though, and nosebleeds broke out across the crowd.

Ai found herself staring as the blonde dragon girl launched herself skyward, her jump seeming to reach nearly impossible heights. Her ribbons swirled around her as she cried "Dragon Wing Blast!"

The glow around her swords brightened as she raised them above her head, then brought them down like a pair of wings and pointed them at Megumi and Ayeka. A solid blast of chi slammed into the ground between the pair and a shockwave hurled them from their feet.

As the dust settled Zhu Shu landed between the unconscious girls and knelt, her breath coming in short gasps as she tried to recover from the massive chi blast. Ai simply stood watching her, a small trickle of blood running down her upper lip . Finally, Zhu Shu raised her head, her emerald green eyes fixing on Ai's blue ones.

"Four down. Must Zhu Shu defeat Ai too?"

Ai started, and looked around at the rest of her squad, then at the exhausted Chinese girl. She wiped the blood away from her lip and gave Zhu Shu an appraising look. "I'm willing to call it a draw."

Zhu Shu's head bowed slightly. "Zhu Shu will call draw."

Ai crossed her arms. "Another time, then. Next time, we will beat you."

Zhu Shu smiled. "Zhu Shu sees."

Then Ranma was there with a jacket for Zhu Shu, and while Akane ran interference, he escorted Zhu Shu away from the cheering crowd.

"Are you okay?" Ranma asked after they had cleared the schoolgrounds.

"Zhu Shu fine. Just had to recover. Lose temper and use too much chi."

"What kind of crazy stunt were you pulling back there. Why'd you take on all five?"

Zhu Shu gave him a dirty look. "They challenged. Zhu Shu honor to defend."

"Yeah, but—"

"But nothing. Ranma seem forget that Zhu Shu not flower. Can protect self! Zhu Shu maybe take you, if really tried."

"You ain't that good, Zhu-chan," Ranma said. "You may be faster than me, and have a few fancy techniques, but you don't have the strength or endurance."

"Ranma so sure? Zhu Shu not show Ranma all knows. Girls challenge, Zhu Shu answer! Could take Ai maybe, if not lose temper. Her only real threat."

"She's more of a danger than you might think, Zhu Shu," Akane said as she caught up to them. "She's notorious for making sure she gets her way… and she's known for carrying grudges for years."

Zhu Shu sighed. "Will deal with as comes."

"Don't worry about her, Zhu-chan. I got your back."

Zhu Shu whirled to confront Ranma, the jacket falling off her shoulders with the speed of her turn. "Zhu Shu not need watch back! Does Ranma think Zhu Shu not warrior? Zhu Shu train all life be master of Song school!"

Ranma held up his hands. "Hey, hey, why are you so angry? You're my friend. I just want to make sure you're okay. Okay?"

Zhu Shu pulled the jacket back around her. "Ranma need learn that just because Zhu Shu female does not mean is weak."

"I didn't say that!"

"I seem to recall you saying just that before Zhu Shu had her fight," Akane said helpfully. "I believe the phrase was "even if they are girls."

"Yeah, so? Guys are stronger than girls."

"Oh yeah?" Akane punched him in the shoulder. There was a startled yelp as Ranma was knocked off the side of the bridge they were crossing.

There was a splash, and then the sputtering redhead pulled himself back on the bridge. "Whaddja do that for?"

"I'm strong enough to knock you off a bridge!"

"That's because you're an unfeminine tomboy!"

Zhu Shu pushed the unprepared redhead off the bridge again. Looking down at the just surfacing girl, she called down. "Zhu Shu strong enough to push off bridge, too. Make her tomboy?"

Ranma growled as he jumped back up to the bridge. "Okay, okay. So you're both mad at me. I get the picture."

Zhu Shu shook her head ‘no’. "Zhu Shu not think do." She sighed as she snuggled the jacket tighter around her shoulders. "Does Ranma even know why upset?"

The sullen female shrugged. "No."

Zhu Shu sighed even harder as Akane rolled her eyes and muttered "baka" under her breath. Zhu Shu turned to her. "You no help. Why insult instead of explain?"

"Wha—" Akane sputtered. "But he's the idiot!"

"Who you calling an idiot, you uncute—" Zhu Shu's hand over his mouth muffled the rest of the insult.

"Can please have conversation, not insult? Zhu Shu too tired referee."

The pair of them glared at each other, but were silent. Zhu Shu nodded. "You two on edge since other night. Zhu Shu want know why."

"Because he's a baka!" Akane spat.

"You were the one looking for a fight!"

A hand went over both mouths. They looked at Zhu Shu, once more minus the jacket that had fallen off when she had reached up with both hands. "Will please stop yell?"

Grudging nods followed. Zhu Shu bent over to pick up the jacket again, watching Akane out of the corner of her eye.

She was watching, rather than glaring at Ranma. Settling the jacket around her shoulders again, Zhu Shu asked, "Does Akane think Zhu Shu friend?"

"Of course I do!"


Akane gaped as her mouth opened and closed a few times. "Um… um… because you are. I mean, you've listened to me, and… Um… well, you saved Kasumi from those muggers."

"Zhu Shu would have done anyway. Not do out of friendship. Do cause have no choice. Why else?"

Akane looked sidelong at Ranma, who was sullen trudging along beside them. "Because… because you asked me to be, and you've acted like a friend."

"Ah. Ranma. Why you friend with Zhu Shu?"

"Huh? Because we made friends in China. You know that."

"Has Akane asked to be friend?"

Akane looked startled, and looked over at Ranma.

"Yeah, she asked me. Then she found out I was a guy and started insulting me."

"What happen?"

"She walked in on me in the bath!"

"He looked at me naked!"

Zhu Shu looked back and forth at the simultaneous answers, blinking.

"You could have knocked!"

"I was expecting a girl! Why should I knock!"

"I would have!"

"It's my house!"

Zhu Shu whistled. When the two of them turned to look at her, she nodded. "So, why that so bad? Ranma see Zhu Shu naked. Akane see Zhu Shu naked. Zhu Shu mostly naked now."

Akane glared at Ranma. "Because… because… He's a pervert!"

"I am not!"

"Akane. Why Ranma pervert for looking at Akane?"

"Because a guy's not supposed to see a girl naked until they're married!"

"So why is okay for Ranma see Zhu Shu?"

Akane blinked, nonplussed.

"Ah, jeez, Zhu-chan. You're like my sister. I couldn't think of you like that!" Ranma protested

Akane looked at Ranma and blinked. Finally Akane shrugged. "You showed me what happened when you taught Ranma about girls. I— I just—" she trailed off.

"No be jealous?" Zhu Shu supplied.

Akane was silent, but Ranma gave her a wide-eyed look and blinked. "Jealous?"

"Why would I be jealous over you?" Akane snarled. "It's not like you're some prize catch or anything!"

"Oh yeah, well at least I'm not sexless!"

"Ranma?" Zhu Shu interrupted before things got any further out of hand.


"What you think if Zhu Shu say she wish her in Ranma place. Zhu Shu think Akane very sexy."

Akane blushed as Ranma kicked a stone. "But she's always acting like a boy!"

Akane's blush turned to fury as her hand balled into a fist, but Zhu Shu stopped her. "What Ranma judge against?" she asked, a touch of anger in her tone.

Ranma's eyes locked on hers as he realized the trap he had just set for himself, and he swallowed hard.

Zhu Shu stepped up to the redhead and poked her between the breasts. "You make vow on honor Saotome name! You no have honor?"

Ranma sighed. "I'm sorry, Zhu Shu."

"Zhu Shu not one should apologize to." She said as she turned her back on him.

Ranma stopped walking as she seemed to deflate. "Akane?"

Akane had stopped too, but was studiously not looking at the redhead. "Yes."

"I'm sorry for calling you a tomboy. Zhu Shu's right. I— I—"

"I accept your apology."

Ranma nodded. "And look, I'm sorry I didn't warn you about my curse right away. I-I just didn't think you'd believe me, and I wasn't really wanting to get engaged. My old man just kinda sprang it on me, then knocked me unconscious and dragged me there."

Akane sighed. "My dad told us about it right before you got there."

"So maybe Ranma and Akane give each other chance? Zhu Shu know Ranma arrogant, and Zhu Shu must still break of notion that boys better than girls, but he can be trained."

"Hey," Ranma protested as Akane giggled.

"And Akane can have short temper, but she just want respect."

Akane raised an eyebrow at the Chinese girl, but kept silent.

"Now, maybe Ranma and Akane start over? Be friends? Worry about fiancé stuff later?"

A wind whistled through the silence as the two stood looking at each other before Ranma stuck out his hand. "Friends?"

Akane looked at the proffered hand for a long moment before shaking her head yes as she took his hand. "You're still the most aggravating male I know, Ranma Saotome."

"Would not be Ranma if not," Zhu Shu chimed in. "Is part of Saotome charm."

Both girls giggled as Ranma let out another "hey" in protest.

"Now, can please get home? Jacket very drafty."

Akane and Ranma both laughed as they stepped up beside the dragon girl and began walking again, the tension between them currently fading.

And on a rooftop behind them, red eyes watched them from the shadows before a dark figure slipped over the edge of the roof and vanished.


To be continued.

Chapter 6
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