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These Chains
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Me no own. Me no make money.

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- Chapter Three: Look Away -
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There was a light tap on the door. Mousse blinked, startled out of a dream about a gleaming dagger in the hands of a slender young girl. He glanced around the room. Shampoo was still asleep, curled up like a cat on a futon underneath the window. The sun was just peeking over the horizon, filtering into the room with a soft glow that caught in her hair.

A second knock, a little louder, startled him out of the half-trance he'd fallen into. He leapt to his feet, jumped over various piles of junk, and managed to reach the door.

Ukyo wasn't smiling when he opened it. She looked at him blandly, arms folded, brow furrowed. "Morning."

"Good morning, Ukyo," Mousse replied, trying to stifle a yawn, "How may I help you?"

She tsk'd softly. "Any chance of that explanation coming soon?"

He knew there was something he'd forgotten. Memories of the past week crashed like a tsunami through his consciousness. He blinked, suddenly dizzy.

"Um...it's complicated."

She raised an eyebrow. "The shop doesn't open until noon today. I want the full truth by then, sugar. D'you want breakfast?"

"That would be nice, thank you."

* * *

He didn't look like a psychopath today; she mused thoughtfully, carefully arranging the ingredients for her morning special. He looks perfectly normal, even without the glasses. He looks better without them, anyway.

The boy in question sat in front of her, idly tracing patterns on the table with a fingertip, expression pensive. She let her eyes wander across his naked torso for a moment before reminding herself that he wasn't Ranma. It didn't help. Hormones sucked royally. He yawned sleepily, half-raising a hand to cover his mouth, and flashed her a slightly sheepish look. Definitely nothing like my Ranchan.

"So...ya wanna tell me how this all started?"

He sighed heavily, a deep frown curving his lips. "It's...hard to explain without me sounding like...a...lunatic? Schizophrenic?" He shook his head slightly, rubbing at his eyes with a free hand.

"Hey, we've already got certified lunatics in this town. Know the Kuno family?"

"That disturbing girl and the delusional boy with the wooden stick?"

"Yeah, that's a pretty good description, except you forgot the haircutting maniac."

"I hope to the gods I'm not like them." Mousse sounded faintly horrified at the thought, fingering his lengthy black tresses with a worried hand.

Ukyo snickered, flipping him his breakfast. He deftly snatched it out of the air, catching it on a plate and whipping a pair of chopsticks out of nowhere. Where the hell did he get that from?

"So, your story?"

"Well, the first time I noticed something was wrong was when Cologne had received some news from the village..."

* * *

Shampoo woke slowly, uncurling herself with a wide yawn. She blinked muzzily at the room and sat up. "{What the - oh. The spatula-wielding girl's restaurant.}"

She picked her way over the piles of weapons, clothing, and odds and ends with a bemused smile. How does he do that?

She bounced her way downstairs, feeling oddly cheery despite the desperate situation she'd been thrust into. So she'd been temporarily kicked out of her tribe, had no home, was in a foreign country, was on trial and would probably be banished or exiled, but at least the sorceress was dead. She could deal with that. Amazons were always prepared. Great-grandmother no longer considering her one didn't faze her. If the council, however, decided...

She shook her head firmly as she headed into the main room, seeing Mousse and Ukyo deep in conversation over breakfast. No use in being gloomy first thing in the morning. "Nihao!"

Mousse startled. "{Morning,}" he replied, turning around to grin at her. She smiled like an idiot. Ranma had never been that happy to see her, no matter what she'd tried.

"Oh, morning Shampoo," Ukyo said, not looking nearly as happy.

Shampoo shrugged and dropped to sit next to Mousse, reaching over to snatch a piece of his okonomiyaki. "What you is talking about?"

Ukyo rolled her eyes. "How Mousse here became a slave to the psycho bitch queen from hell."

Mousse blushed while Shampoo snickered. "Shampoo not know Mousse hang out with Akane so much."

Ukyo burst out laughing while Mousse repressed a snigger, deciding to say instead, "Shampoo! Akane Tendo is a perfectly nice girl!"

Shampoo snorted, grabbing another piece of his breakfast. "Need keep you away from girls, Mousse. Maybe not bad as Ranma, but at least he no kill family."

Ukyo winced, Mousse flinched, and Shampoo pressed a kiss to his cheek. "No was your fault," she murmured, "{We all know it. The council can do no less.}"

He sighed. "{I hope.}"

"Um, hello? Non-Chinese speaking person right here."

"The tribal council decide on what to do with us soon. We probably get banished." Shampoo was amazed that she was able to say such a thing without trembling.

Mousse idly gnawed on a fingernail. "It's not that bad. We could never go back, but it doesn't really matter to me."

Ukyo frowned for a moment. "Shampoo, why are they mad at you? Seems to me that you didn't do anything."

Shampoo bit her lip. "I disobey great-grandmother and Comb and go find Mousse. Is very bad thing for warrior to do."

"The elders of our tribe are held in the highest regard. To disobey a direct command, especially the one that Shampoo was given..." Mousse trailed off, grabbing her hand and squeezing it tightly.

She managed a wavering smile at him. "It no matter. We together, everything is okay."

"You shouldn't have to deal with such things because of me," he replied softly, "I've done too much."

"{Mu Tsu...}" she murmured, leaning over to caress his face with her fingertips, "{Didn't I tell you I would stay with you no matter what? I'm not losing you like I lost my mother.}"

He stared at her with those beautiful liquid eyes, sparkling with some unknown emotion. Her skin tingled pleasantly where his breath brushed against it and she felt a blush heating her cheeks. I wonder...did he look at her this way? she thought suddenly, outrage abruptly yanking her from the warm place her heart seemed to have gone.

The look on his face suddenly didn't seem so enchanting. She gritted her teeth, trying to force the jealousy down, but it didn't work. Her eyes dropped to his mostly-empty plate and didn't look back up, so she didn't see his concerned look or Ukyo's frown.

* * *

Kenji couldn't understand it. It was morning, true, but it didn't look it. Maybe it had something to do with the sun not being quite up yet, but he was feeling remarkably diabolical as he eyed his much younger partner, who seemed to have not a care in the world.

This was probably because he had gotten a full night's sleep and eaten both dinner and breakfast. Kenji, on the other hand, had neither. The urge to throttle the boy was rising. Yuusuke bounced along, cheerfully oblivious to him and only him, it seemed. Otherwise, he was one of the most intuitive and observant detectives on the force.

"So where are we headed?"

"The Tendo Dojo."

"Funny how everybody we asked mentioned this Ranma guy, huh?"

"Hn."

"You're not too talkative this morning."

"Hn."

"Look! It's morning! It's nice out! Look in that restaurant there. See those people? Just kids, but up bright and early to face the day."

Kenji obediently looked into the shop, a little place apparently just called 'Ucchan's'. Three teenagers sat squeezed together in a booth, chatting and looking as if they hadn't a care in the world.

"Kids don't understand life or death situations," he remarked blandly, "Those teens in there only have high school to worry about."

"Oh, I think you'd be surprised. Hey, it's not crowded today, why aren't you walking faster?"

* * *

Several hours later, Kenji felt as though he'd gone on one of those new roller coasters that went a hundred miles an hour. Yuusuke trotted along at his heels, waving brightly at the eldest Tendo sister as they departed.

"That was no help at all."

"Yeah, but at least we got breakfast! Good stuff too, 'cept the panda stole my miso soup."

"Why are there aquatranssexuals in Nerima?"

"Why are there daily martial arts battles that cause mass destruction throughout town in Nerima?"

"Funny how the two go hand in hand."

"I guess." Yuusuke said idly, "But the Ranma guy was hiding something. Actually, they all were, but he's quite bad at it. Really bad. Nay, horrendous."

"You think they warrant watching?" Kenji had thought there was something odd in the way that pretty young girl had beaten that confused young man over the head with a mallet. Multiple times.

"They know something. Now, how many martial artists live here?"

Kenji frowned. "Nobody really knows. Apparently the one with the really bad sense of direction that they mentioned-"

"Hibiki, I think it was."

"Well, he seems to drop in every once in a while. And the other fiancée...the one with the restaurant? Yes, she lives here permanently. The Kunos have lived here since forever..."

Yuusuke dropped back to a steady pace at his side, tilting his head thoughtfully. "That boy's other fiancée, the pretty one that kept on getting kidnapped, she seemed to have more sense than the rest of them except the middle sister."

"She frightened me. I've heard some stories about her." Kenji mused, frowning. Nabiki had quite the reputation as a vicious businesswoman. And the eldest had been so very nice...

"Yeah, well, she's no martial artist. I think it's safe to bet that our little park scene is definitely something that only the weirdoes would get into. All those weapons lying around and all."

Kenji smirked. "So they are hiding something?"

Yuusuke grinned. "Yup. Especially that boy. We need to get closer to the rest of them."

He looked innocently devious when he grinned like that. "So, you gonna treat me to lunch for my info?"

"What info?" Kenji countered, grinning back. So what if the kid was a brat, he was fun to listen to.

"Feed me!"

Kenji rolled his eyes. "Whatever."

* * *

"We work here?" Shampoo sounded more than a little bit skeptical.

Mousse shrugged. "She listened, she didn't try to eviscerate me with that giant spatula, and the room's free."

"Sound like you know how thing like this work."

He shrugged idly, plucking up a loose shirt from a random pile of clothing. "I was with the circus for a while - it was kinda the same deal."

She poked thoughtfully at one of her piles. "Aiyah! Shampoo not wear this in age! Ugh. Now see why." she muttered, wrinkling her nose.

The shirt tossed behind her landed on Ukyo's head. She lifted it off daintily and snapped her fingers.

"Right. We take orders and clean tables, yes?"

"And since the Nekohanten's closed, the usual customers will show up sooner or later. They'll be looking for Shampoo." Mousse's voice held the slightest trace of anger.

Shampoo huffed. "Mousse forget, girls not come for Shampoo." Her voice held an edge of jealousy.

Mousse blushed.

Ukyo smirked to herself as she went downstairs to open. Guess Shampoo wasn't as dedicated to Ranma as I thought. Though now she's got Mousse. Damn, why are the good ones always taken? Even though he's kinda...messed up in the head right now, she's still with him. That's dedication for you. Amazons must be obsessive.

* * *

"We must go here!" Yuusuke proclaimed loudly, pointing a dramatic finger across the street.

Kenji followed his gaze. "Oh, that place we passed this morning?"

"Yes!"

They made their way across the street. Several people were ringed around the entrance, staring inside. Kenji glanced at the group, then yanked a boy out of the little crowd.

"What's going on?" he demanded brusquely.

The boy hardly noticed. "It's those two people from the Nekohanten, and instead of there, they're working at the Ucchan's! Nobody knows why!"

Yuusuke shouldered his way closer to the boy. "What two people?" he demanded, eyes glittering in that slightly insane way that always made Kenji uneasy.

"Those two Chinese Amazons! That really gorgeous girl - she's such a babe! And there's that one guy with the glasses, except he hasn't got 'em on today. It's really weird."

Yuusuke grinned maniacally. "Thank you for your cooperation. Have a nice day now." He shoved the hapless boy into the street and skipped into the Ucchan's, Kenji following him slowly.

The place was rather nice, Kenji thought, somewhat startled. A large grill/table occupied the last half of the room, while the front portion had several tables and booths ringing the room. The grill had several stools in front of it, and behind it stood a pretty girl with a bow in her hair and an enormous spatula strapped to her back.

He blinked several times. Yes, that was definitely the biggest damn kitchen utensil he'd ever seen in his life. She had to be the chef, judging from the skill and dexterity with which she cooked.

Something other than Yuusuke bounced into his vision. "Nihao! Welcome to Ucchan! You take seat, yes?"

He blinked again. The young girl in front of him smiled dazzlingly as he stared at her dress. The garment on her body should have been illegal. He didn't even know if it qualified as a dress, skintight violet and short as it was. The color matched her gorgeous hair and deep eyes perfectly. Beside him, he could almost hear Yuusuke drooling. She ushered them to a booth, dropping menus into their stunned hands before flouncing off.

Yuusuke gazed after her. "Oh...this place is heaven..."

He coughed. "And she's way too young for you."

Yuusuke pouted. "Dammit...but it's love! She's gotta be the Amazon."

Kenji grinned at him over his menu. "So she'd kick your butt if you ever tried anything."

"Probably. Bet you anything she's somehow involved."

Tearing his eyes away from the mouthwatering selections offered, Kenji gave him a puzzled glance. "Why?"

"They never mentioned her."

The bell at the door chimed, and two high school age girls walked in, giggling. Yuusuke looked around eagerly for the beauty, and turned tearful eyes to his partner when she failed to appear. "Where'd she goooo?" he whined pathetically.

Kenji's eyes narrowed. "Never mind that, who's this guy?"

Yuusuke swung around to stare at the young man who was greeting the group. His mouth fell open as the boy led the now-blushing duo to a table not far away. "Gah..."

Kenji tapped the table with an impatient fingertip. "That boy is entirely too pretty."

Yuusuke goggled. "Damn. Why are all of these kids so attractive? I'm jealous."

"Poor baby. Wish my hair were that shiny."

"Or that long."

"Think he's the other Amazon?" Kenji wondered, staring at where he'd vanished into the back.

Yuusuke nodded briskly. "And I'm willing to bet he's a big part of the whole bloody mess."

"Why's that?"

Yuusuke smiled mysteriously. "So, what do you think about the seafood?"

"Order up!" came the ringing shout from behind the grill. Kenji turned a curious gaze towards the call. The girl flipped the okonomiyaki once, then tossed it outwards. It sailed through the air in a graceful arc and started to fall. The beauty from before leaped into the air and scooped it onto a plate, backflipping over someone's head and handing it off to a stunned customer with another dazzling smile.

"Order!" the girl cried again. The purple-haired girl didn't even look up. This time the okonomiyaki was intercepted by the boy, who simply flung up an arm. Seemingly out of nowhere, a plate appeared beneath it, and a pair of chopsticks materialized on top. He handed it off to a young girl of about six with a brilliant smile and a pat on the head.

"Those are the martial artists we weren't told about. And the girl behind the grill is Ukyo, the other fiancée." Yuusuke murmured thoughtfully. "This is the right place."

Kenji frowned. "They're just children."

"Oh? And children can't do amazing things?" Yuusuke questioned, eyes hard. "They must be involved. If what that kid said was right, they suddenly aren't working in the right restaurant. I'm willing to bet the owner kicked them out. We don't know why, but it's just suspicious enough that we should keep an eye on them."

"I'll see what we know about them." Kenji murmured, glancing back down at his menu. "Whoa, look at the special."

"Ooh. Yummy." was the rapturous response. Yuusuke's eyes sparkled in a way Kenji had only seen previously in anime.

* * *

"Finally closed!" Ukyo exclaimed with a yawn, stretching sore arms. "Wow, a lot more people than usual came in today. I'm going to be rich!"

"Knew would get more people. Nekohanten customer need somewhere to go." Shampoo commented with a flip of her long hair.

"They're probably writing out the accusations now," Mousse murmured, "I'd give it about a week before we're summoned."

Shampoo bit her lip and cast him a worried glance. He met her eyes squarely. "I'm not expecting mercy. It's too much..."

Ukyo frowned at both of them. "Well, you can stay here as long as you need to, I can use the help."

The window shattered.

All three teens leaped to their feet, weapons drawn and ready.

The wind whistled in through the window. Shampoo frowned, tiptoeing her way through broken glass and kneeling to scoop up a small metal ball. The blood drained from her face as she fingered it.

"What's that?" Ukyo asked softly, coming over to peer at it more closely.

Shampoo flipped it over her head. Mousse deftly plucked it out of the air, rolling it across his palm with a frown.

"{Damn. Are we targets?}" he asked softly.

Shampoo nodded slowly. "{Yes, since we no longer have my great-grandmother's protection.}"

Ukyo looked around at the splintered glass littering the floor. "Damn. I'm going to have to clean this whole place up again. A death threat?"

"Mmm. And a serious one, to boot," Mousse said softly, "Probably for Shampoo and I. We should be on guard."

Shampoo sniffed. "Others in village no match for us."

Mousse glanced up, eyes flashing. "And if they team up?"

The question hung heavily in the air.

"Then we fight until death to preserve honor." Shampoo's voice cleft the silence like a knife.

Mousse frowned and cast his eyes to the floor. "I have no honor any longer," he reminded her quietly, "I will fight to survive, no more, no less."

She laid her hand on his arm and looked into his eyes. "I stay with you. We fight together, not like rest of villagers. Is smarter, yes?"

The warmth in his smile made her melt. "Smarter?"

She leaned in to brush noses with him. "{What other male would have the impudence to fight and defeat the best of our village? The old traditions hold everyone back.}"

His breath was very soft against her lips as he murmured, "{They didn't want this to happen. It was too dangerous...}"

"{Teaching a male the art of hidden weapons was danger enough. Only you would be so single-minded as to pursue it like a madman.}"

"{We've never been known for giving up,}" he whispered, lashes drooping and a lazy smile curving his mouth.

"{I didn't give up on you,}" Shampoo purred back, pressing herself flush to his body, "{Even if you aren't the most faithful man in the tribe.}"

"{I'm not going to do you any good,}" he said softly, "{I won't be obedient and do whatever you wish.}"

She curled her arms around his waist, breathing, "{I'll make you love me again...}"

"{What makes you think I don't already?}" he questioned, leaning down to kiss her.

"{We'll see, Mu Tsu. We'll see.}"

Ukyo blushed and turned away.

* * *

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Written in 2001 by Edmondia Dantes