* * *
No One Has Won the War
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Aren't mine, never were, not making any money off of this. They belong to Takahashi, remember? Story's mine, so are new characters, and that's about it really.

"{}" - spoken Chinese
Italics - thoughts
 

* * *
- Chapter Six -

They walked home slowly, Ranma on the ground instead of the fence. Their fathers had gone on ahead, both frightened of the sorceress, as if she would jump out of the shadows and strangle them.

"It's only Mousse. how bad can it be?" Akane's voice sounded very young to him, and he forcibly reminded himself that she had never been in a fight with the Amazon.

"He's a lot more dangerous than you think, Akane."

"Huh? What do you mean? Shampoo beats on him all the time, and so do you and Ryoga."

He stopped and turned to her, something in the back of his mind whispering about the way her hair looked in the moonlight, how sweet she smelled...how cute she looked when she was confused...

It took a moment for his mind to snap out of Akane-mode. "Um..." he blinked, trying to remember what he was talking about. Oh...Mousse and the sorceress chick... "Mousse lets Shampoo beat on him, and Ryoga and I are just stronger. But I still think he's dangerous."

"That because he is."

"Shampoo!" they spun in unison, shouting in surprise.

The violet-haired girl just stood there, face blank. "Airen, listen to Shampoo."

Akane growled softly, but Ranma grabbed her gently by the arm and she shushed. Hey, Shampoo wasn't jumping on him, so he wasn't going to complain.

"What is it, Shampoo?"

She stepped forward into the soft glow of a streetlight and folded her arms as she glared briefly at Akane. Then she sighed. "Shampoo want you to know you no have to be involved. This matter for Amazons only."

He felt Akane relax, and decided it was safe to speak. "Shampoo, you're our friend. We're gonna help you out, right Akane?"

She nodded, smiling in an almost friendly way at Shampoo.

"Thank you, airen. Shampoo no want to see anyone get hurt..." her voice drifted off as she turned and walked away, head bowed.

They stared after her. "That was weird."

"This whole thing is weird," Akane agreed, turning to smile at him.

His brain fogged over, an he smiled back like an idiot. A warm breeze ruffled Akane's hair, blowing it in front of her eyes. She brushed it away, then froze.

Ranma tensed, looking around warily.

All they heard was the whisper of the wind, soft and musical, like laughter.

* * *

-Joketsuzoku-

He sat there, paralyzed from the neck down, eyes deleriously bright and unfocused. Two archers stood at opposite ends of the room, ready to fire if he so much as twitched. Despite his paralysis, his arms were tied down, legs bound to the chair. He was giggling slightly. The effect is unnerving, she thought, like he doesn't have a care in the world.

Comb stood in front of him, glaring. At her side stood Hairspray, expression cold and unforgiving.

"{Why have you done this?}" she said slowly.

The man smiled back, wide and sickly. "{To serve my mistress.}"

At her side, Hairspray flinched, but her mask of indifference did not slip. Comb cast her a cautious glance and decided she was necessary to the proceedings, despite whatever she would be forced to hear.

"{When did...she...first contact you?}"

He frowned, and she couldn't shake the notion that he was an overgrown child. "{When I was little. All alone. Nobody would play with me,}" he complained, "{Nobody liked me. So I ran away.}"

Comb cringed. Not that I can't understand why nobody liked him...he's insane. Still...how could his son be her chosen one? What did he do?

"{To where?}"

He looked confused. "{Away. From the village, to the forest. I found a pretty place there, with all kinds of rocks. Some of them had pretty pieces of paper on them. I thought I could bring some of the pretty things home as a present, and somebody would like me. So I took some of them.}"

Her eyes widened in shock. Of course...with some of the wards missing, she would be able to slowly build up her power without anyone noticing. But how does Mu Tsu fit into this?

"{Continue.}"

"{Then I heard someone. She has a very pretty voice, you know. Prettier even than hers.}" he bobbed his head in Hairspray's direction, who glowered.

"{She talked to me. She said I could help her, and she would be my friend. But she said I had to be careful. It was a secret. I promised I wouldn't tell.}" he looked puzzled. "{She's going to be angry that I told.}"

Comb blinked. Then the problem will be keeping him alive long enough to answer our questions.

* * *

Sweetling, will you help me?

Help you? he thought sleepily, Of course.

With anything?

He rolled over in her arms, nose-to-nose with her. He sighed happily, curling his arms tighter around her. I promised everything, beloved.

Would you kill for me?

He thought for a second. Yes.

He fell in love with her all over again as she smiled contentedly, leaning over to nip playfully at his bare skin.

Good.

He shivered at the satisfaction and pleasure in her tone.

* * *

A soft footfall interrupted her musings. Cologne looked up, watching through hooded eyes as Shampoo slipped through the doorway, her expression wistful as she stared out into the night sky.

"{I'm sorry, Xian Pu.}"

She spun in place, turning her startled gaze onto her great-grandmother.

"{What do you mean?}" her voice was soft and sad, and she had bitten her lip to keep it from trembling.

Cologne hopped over to her side. "{Whether or not you loved him...}"

"{I don't!}" she exclaimed sharply.

Cologne shook her head. "{Perhaps. Either way, you must realize that you have lost him.}"

She watched as Shampoo absorbed her words, wrapping her arms around herself as if to ward off a chill. Her head tilted down, long hair tumbling down to obscure her face.

"{Why him?}" she whispered thickly, "{Why does she want him?}"

She continued on before Cologne could reply. "{Of all people, why Mu Tsu? Why did she have to choose him? Why not someone else? He's such a fool...}" her voice caught, and she gave a little hiccuping sob.

"{Xian Pu?}"

She looked up, and Cologne was horrified to see tears in her eyes. "{Why, great-grandmother? Why is she taking my best friend away from me?}"

Cologne wished she could give her an answer.

Shampoo blinked, a single tear falling down her cheek. "{Excuse me.}" With that, she departed upstairs.

Cologne watched, feeling much more sympathetic than she really should. But it's my granddaughter, not just another warrior. And she has lost her only true friend here. Despite herself, she sighed. Poor child.

* * *

It was so wrong. Crying was *not* the Amazon way! She blinked harder, but the tears just kept coming. She closed her eyes tightly, flung herself down on her bed and buried her face in the pillow.

She was acting like a weakling. Like some little *male*! She choked back a sob.

Why is this happening? Mu Tsu...where are you?

She sniffled, swiping angrily at her eyes. Mu Tsu, come back, talk to me like you used to - you're the only one who understands me here - I can't even speak their stupid language.

Her thoughts suddenly turned back to the sorceress. She sat up as she realized what the woman had said. You gave him to me...she hadn't! She hadn't! Mu Tsu had promised...always to love her...except now...Could I have driven him away?

But...it's not fair! He lied! He said...

It hurt to think of all the things he had said, had done for her. I didn't mean it...whatever it was, I didn't mean it! You knew that...didn't you? Didn't you?

The breeze was warm, and carried a soft, menacing message.

He's mine.

Shampoo snarled, reaching for a weapon, something, anything. She found her bonbori, tightened her grip on them until her knuckles were white. Whoever this sorceress was, she was going to kill her.

You'll do no such thing, child.

The window warped, shimmered, and vanished. She stared. That was her, proud, strong, eyes blazing an unholy gold, resting protectively over another figure, curled against her side. She stared unblinkingly at Shampoo, a wicked smile curving her full lips. Then she shifted to the side, leaving the other person in plain sight.

Her heart froze. She felt herself drop the bonbori as she fought down the urge to cry.

No...no no no no no...he couldn't...

He rested quietly in a pool of moonlight, long ebony hair fanned around him, catching the starlight, casting a soft glow over his pale skin.  He was asleep, breathing slowly, expression peaceful on his handsome face. Gods, but he's gorgeous... Shampoo thought numbly, barely remembering to breathe.

A pale hand reached down, traced his fine features delicately. Shampoo gritted her teeth. How dare she!

Such a lovely thing.

Shampoo couldn't speak. No. He hasn't. She didn't....

Mine. Her amber eyes glittered strangely as she bent to brush a soft kiss against the bare skin of his chest.

Shampoo stiffened, fists clenching. No...Mu Tsu wouldn't....

Her tone was vastly amused. Why would you give up such a wonderful thing? He's perfect. And, she looked up, wrapping her arms around him in a possessive embrace, Such a delicious lover.

Shampoo shrieked an enraged war-cry.

The window shattered. She stood, trembling with fury, radiating a battle aura half of Nerima must have seen as the glass fell, caught and flashed the dim light around her like rain.

"{I WILL KILL YOU!}"

* * *

A soft chuckle rose him out of his drowsy state. He blinked sleep out of his eyes, saw that it was not yet dawn. When his eyes fell on her, he smiled.

She leaned forward, purring. Hello, sweetling. We have much to do today.

He yawned and streched. Sleeping on the ground wasn't the most comfortable thing in the world, though he was in heaven whenever she was around him.

"{Like what?}" he questioned as he got dressed.

I feel that I must tell you what I would have you do. And why it is necessary. Will you listen?

He smiled and nodded, settling himself down in front of her. She slid closer, wrapping her arms tightly around him.

I need you to help me destroy your tribe.

He shot out of her grasp, eyes wide and shocked.

"{WHAT?}"

* * *

"{Xian Pu. Talk to me.}"

She didn't respond, glaring out the window, battle aura flaring brilliantly.

"{Xian Pu...}"

She turned her head slowly, gaze icy. "{What.}" It was a statement, not a question, and it sounded very peculiar spoken by Shampoo.

"{You saw her again?}"

An unreadable expression crossed her face. "{Yes.}"

Cologne hopped closer, concerned. "{Did she attack you?}"

She was silent for a long moment. "{No.}"

Cologne blinked. "{Then why did she come?}"

Shampoo's aura grew even more blinding. "{To gloat.}" she said in that same, empty tone.

"{Gloat? What do you...oh.}" she murmured to herself. She hadn't realized she would go that far that quickly. She felt a moment's pity for Mousse. He had no idea what he was getting into...or perhaps he did.  He had never been overly fond of some of the members of their tribe, especially the elders. Some of the warriors of his age held their same views about the man staying home and taking care of the children and the house. Perhaps it was outdated, but could his resentment be enough to drive him to ally with the sorceress? Or had he been seduced?

Either way, Shampoo was furious. Is she jealous? Cologne wondered, Or is she angry because the sorceress has hurt her best friend? Not that he would consider himself hurt....She shook her head. "{What are you going to do?}"

Shampoo sighed, her aura dimming.

"{I don't know.}" her voice was thick with despair and anger. "{I'll need help finding her...and then I'm going to kill her.}"

"{If that is your wish, I will not keep you from doing as you would. But be careful, child.}"

Cologne didn't think she heard.

* * *

-Joketsuzoku-

His head lolled to the side as he smiled again. Hairspray shivered, her disgust evident on her pretty face.

Comb muffled a curse. "{What did she ask you to do?}"

"{I brought her things.}" he said happily, "{I went out and killed small animals for her. It made her happy. Sometimes I brought her flowers. She said I was sweet. But it wasn't enough. She said she wished I were stronger. It made me angry. But she told me how a part of me could get stronger, if I continued to help her.}" he sounded pleased with himself, almost smug.

"{What did you do?}"

"{I killed someone,}" he said proudly, "{With poison. It was an outsider, so it didn't count.}"

Hairspray gasped, looking horrified. "{A defenseless outsider?}" she burst out, "{Killing in battle is one thing but...murder?}"

He nodded pleasantly, "{Killed him dead. It was hard, but she was happy. I did well.}"

"{She told you this?}"

"{Yes. I'm a good child....and she rewarded me for it. She let me marry H'ir Zprai.}"

The woman in question gave him a look of deep revulsion, reaching for the slender sword at her waist. Comb's hand on her arm stopped her from doing anything extremely rash. The elder tried not to groan. She could see where Mousse had gotten his temper.

"{After you were married, did she continue to talk to you?}"

His head bobbed enthusiastically. "{Especially once Mu Tsu was born. I gave him to her as a gift.}"

She could feel the color drain from her face. Of course...that explains everything...absolutely everything...

The man just giggled.

* * *

He gaped at her, her expression placid, arms folded as she stared back.

"{No! I won't! Are you crazy?}"

Hardly, sweetling. Her amber eyes gleamed, Are you?

"{What? I'm not going to kill anyone!}"

Her gaze hardened, but she still looked amused. Did you lie to me?

"{No! But I...what do you want from me? Why?}" he was pacing furiously, hardly aware of what he was doing. He didn't notice when a nearby tree blackened as he swept past, eyes burning, hair flying in the chill breeze that had started up out of nowhere.

I have my reasons. Will you listen?

"{I...yes.}" he said softly, unsure. What was going on? She was talking about the genocide of his own people, for gods' sake! He couldn't help with that!

You can. Listen.

Her eyes caught his, and he froze, half-hypnotized by the sound of her voice.

Long, long ago, I was an Amazon as well. I was young, proud, but not very strong. The others scorned me, said no man would have me because I was a weakling who wouldn't be able to protect my family or the tribe. Then one day an outsider defeated me. I was ashamed. He did not even fight me to defeat me. It was humiliating, even moreso when I was forced to introduce him as my fiance to the elders.

Mousse frowned, confused. He could feel what she was saying, what she had felt. It resounded deep within him, binding him even tighter to her, though he was unaware of it.

Then he told me how he had done it. It was my chance, sweetling, my chance to prove myself! Anyone would have taken it...I needed the power. So he taught me. Taught me much.

He was suddenly deeply, insanely jealous. If the man had been alive, he would have killed him without a thought.

I grew stronger, much stronger even than him.  She murmured, low and throaty. He turned to her, eyes startlingly wide as she moved, pressed herself against him.

Can you still be so shy? she teased, running her hands lightly down his back. His eyes closed, and he sighed. My jealous one...I needed him, not like I need you, but because he was useful. I went out, to destroy a spirit. I succeeded, and became as you see me now.

Perfect...

Perhaps. But when I had returned, they had killed him.

The kiss was sudden, urgent, and desperately hungry. He gasped against her mouth, a sudden torrent of emotions sweepting through him. Anger, pride jealousy, and a deep, aching need for revenge...How could they!?

Then they destroyed my body and trapped me.

Her voice was low and bitter as she pulled back, locking her blazing eyes with his.

Help me, sweetling.

Mousse didn't hesitate.

I will.

* * *

The late afternoon sunlight flooded the Nekohanten in a warm glow as she stepped inside.

"We closed now!" came a singsong voice from the back room.

"{We are not customers, Xian Pu.}"

A lavender head peered around the corner. "Aiyah."

She strode forward, the rest of the group trailing behind her. Shampoo stepped out, bowing politely.

"{Honored elder, I am pleased to see you are well.}"

Comb nodded back at the child, trying to hide her annoyance and headache. It had been next to impossible to get a flight to Japan on such short notice with so many people. Fortunately, their tribe had a reputation that had led to several nice people offering them their tickets.

Her lips thinned as she looked around. All of this for one outsider male? He must be very worthy.

"{Sister elder, it is good to see you.}" The voice was as familiar as her own. She locked eyes with Cologne, who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere.

"{As it is to see you.}" she replied warmly. Cologne was one of the few members of the council she could really tolerate.

The two clasped hands, smiling, before Cologne turned to greet the others.

Comb sat back and watched the young girl, who was running to fetch everyone food and drinks. She's grown since I last saw her. Ku Lon must be very proud. But where is Mu Tsu?

* * *

It was well past midnight when the conversation wound down. Mousse's mother was concerned, his father...gone, and the warriors that had accompanied them asleep. Cologne stared at her sister council member, who seemed deep in thought.

Comb shook her head. "{I cannot believe we missed so much.}"

Cologne nodded. "{We should have been better prepared for this, perhaps have told the children sooner.}"

Shampoo was quiet.

"{Xian Pu?}" Cologne questioned gently, reaching out and brushing her fingers over the girl's hands, which were in the process of shredding the tablecloth.

"{Yes, great-grandmother?}"

"{You know Mu Tsu better than anyone here. What do you think he will do?}"

She stiffened, growling softly under her breath. "{He's a fool. He'll do anything for her. Anything.}"

Hairspray and Comb stared at her in surprise. Her voice had been harsh with unshed tears, Cologne realized, and she was still hurting from whatever she had seen earlier.

"{You need to rest, child,}" Hairspray said suddenly. Shampoo swung around to stare at her in surprise.

"{You've been up all day. Go to bed. I would like to speak to you in the morning about my son.}" her voice was quiet, but held a note of command that the younger Amazon dared not ignore. Casting a quick glance to her great-grandmother, she left.

"{What was that for?}" Cologne said curiously.

"{Look at him,}" she said, pointing.

Her husband was slumped over where he had been restrained, head tilted to one side and an eerie grin on his unmoving face.

Cologne froze, trying to detect his diseased aura. Nothing. It's as if...oh no. She inhaled deeply. She knew that smell very well.

Comb walked over, pressing her hand against his back. When she held it up, it glistened scarlet in the muted lighting.

"{He's dead,}" she remarked blandly, "{Probably killed by his son, if I'm not mistaken. Do these knives look familiar?}" She held up several small, silvery throwing knives, all the size of an ordinary pencil. Cologne recognized them immediately.

"{It's begun.}"

* * *

"You're out this late again? Why did they kick you out this time?"

"I'm not sure, Ukyo. Are you certain it is all right for me to stay here?"

"Why wouldn't it be?"

"I don't know, but thank you for your hospitality."

"Hey..."

"What?"

"Do you have a girlfriend or something?"

"Why?"

"You've got something red on your robes. Is it lipstick?"

"Of course not."

"Oh, that's right. You're hopelessly devoted to Shampoo."

"....Yeah."

* * *

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