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

Disclaimer: Most characters and situations are the property of Rumiko Takahashi, so lawyers, don't bug me.

AN: I have had far too much Mt. Dew. Um....this got really weird. And gruesome. But not really. Um...you should probably skip the icky parts if you're squeamish. Yeah. That's the ticket!

Italics - thoughts
"{}" - spoken Chinese


* * *
- Chapter Eight-

Cologne knocked lightly on the door and waited. There was dead silence. Her brow furrowing, she knocked again. There was nothing.

I hate to be doing this again, she nearly sighed, But..

She knocked down the door, opening her mouth to shout. It closed slowly as she stared. Blood stained the room crimson, against the walls, on the furniture, and in a stagnant puddle beneath a crumpled body.

Cologne hopped over, peering down at the corpse of one of the tribe's finer warriors. Her nose wrinkled in disgust. There was a mushy hole where the girl's chest had once been, and a single slit on her throat. She leaned down and gently shut the staring eyes, fixed in an expression of utter betrayal.

She must have seen him, Cologne realized with slight shock. And she still died horribly. Didn't she fight?

Someone behind her gasped. Swiftly, she turned to see Hairspray, who was gaping at her. The younger woman slowly shut her mouth, eyes hardening as she resumed control over herself.

"{Elder?}"

"{It seems your son is getting messier as he goes along,}" Cologne said blandly.

"{Great-grandmother?}"

Shampoo stepped around Hairspray and leaned into the room. Her eyes widened as she took in the sight. "{What?}"

"{Mu Tsu.}"

* * *

Mousse felt absolutely miserable. He sat in the long grass, staring down into the valley. He was trying to figure out why it looked so familiar and drive away the thoughts that haunted him. The wind whipped through his hair, a constant reminder of his lover, though he had no idea where she was.

The young Amazon hunched lower, wrapping both arms around his legs and blinking sweat and tears out of his eyes. His nails dug into his skin as he thought about the look on the girl's face as a slender hand tore through her ribcage. He felt so helpless...and this was his fault, he knew it. He just wasn't strong enough to resist the pull of the blasted woman! He bit down hard, tasted blood. Blood for blood, my sister Amazon. Have peace...I cannot.

Brilliant eyes shot open as a warm mouth covered his. It was Her. Of course, who else? he thought dazedly, trying vainly to pull away.

What sweetling? Trying to flee?

He hated her so much he loved her. Mousse laughed against her mouth, tears streaming down his face.

Of course, he thought bleakly, of course.

It was too funny. He hated what she made him do, but loved her more than anything.

How utterly ironic, he thought sadly, and laughed again.

* * *

Ukyo took in a breath and knocked on the door. A smiling Kasumi quickly opened it.

"Good morning, Ukyo," she said pleasantly, "Can I help you?"

The chef smiled tightly. "Um, yes. Is Ranchan up yet?"

Kasumi looked thoughtful. "I don't think so. Would you like to come in and wait for him?"

She shot the older girl a grateful look as she stepped inside.

An hour later, she was feeling less grateful. Akane was regarding her strangely, Nabiki was staring at her in the exact same way that Mousse had, and both Genma and Soun were ignoring her.

Ukyo was starting to get annoyed by the time Ranma stumbled down the stairs, looking mostly asleep. Even if I am worried about Mousse, at least he gets up early, she thought, irritated.

"Ranchan. You decided to join us."

"What? Oh, hi Ucchan. Whatcha doin' here so early?" he mumbled as he sat down at the table and proceeded to wolf down his breakfast.

"I needed to talk to you."

Since Ranma had his mouth full of food, Akane answered. "About what?"

Ukyo looked over at her. She liked Akane more than the Amazonian hussy or the lunatic Kodachi, but the girl was still her rival.

"Ranchan, do you have any idea what is going on with Mousse?"

Ranma's plate fell to the table with a clatter as silence swiftly descended upon the household. Akane's eyes were wide, and Ranma was instantly next to her, looking a little panicked.

"Ucchan...you've seen Mousse?" he asked, looking worried.

Ukyo stared back at him in surprise. "Yeah, he's been staying with me because he got kicked out of the Nekohanten."

She was nearly deafened by the loud yell of "WHAT?!"

* * *

Gods, no, she thought, staring around at the blood-drenched room. Shampoo raised a shaking hand, gripping the doorpost hard. Hairspray touched her arm questioningly, but Shampoo pulled away, stepping into the room.

She knelt in the scarlet pool, staring down at the fallen warrior. She had been barely older than Shampoo, and they had trained together in the past. For a brief moment, she wondered for the girl's companion, who had gone out to shop for breakfast. Shampoo hoped the girl wouldn't be slaughtered in the corner store.

"{Do you think my son was responsible for this?}" Hairspray asked distantly.

Shampoo listened intently as her great-grandmother inhaled deeply. "{He is.}"

No! she closed her eyes tightly, I know Mu Tsu. He couldn't kill - not like this. Not like this.

"{If the sorceress' control is strong enough to make him do this...then we will have no choice.}" Comb, who had appeared out of nowhere, spoke with finality.

Shampoo stood and turned towards the elder Amazons. No choice? What are they planning to do? she thought suspiciously, giving Comb a hard look.

"{No choice but to kill him. We must remove her essence from him completely.}"

"{NO!}"

All three women turned at the raw scream. Hairspray looked strained, and Cologne and Comb appeared determined. The two elders spoke in unison. "{Yes.}"

* * *

The world was spinning. Had she been made of frailer stuff, Ukyo would have fainted. But she wasn't so instead she gripped the table hard and felt it splinter in her grip.

"You can't be serious." she said flatly, glaring at the assembled families of Tendo and Saotome.

"But Ucchan, he killed that man. They're sure of it," Ranma said sincerely, looking earnestly at her.

The chef shook her head, folding her arms. "He's not like that, and you all know it. Besides, he didn't act like a guilty person at all."

"But he's being controlled by the sorceress," Akane pointed out, sounding cross. Ukyo imagined she felt jealous since Ranma was paying attention to his cute fiancée, then realized how childish she was being. Besides, this had nothing to do with Ranma.

"Maybe so, but there isn't any proof that he did it. I won't believe anything if there's no proof," she insisted. The others groaned.

"Ucchan, you shouldn't let him stay near you," Ranma said, sounding concerned.

He does care! she thought excitedly. Her face fell as he continued.

"I mean, you might be next."

"HOLD IT. Why would he try and hurt me? I've been nice to him, which is more than I can say for any of you. Even if he is being controlled, this sorceress-person shouldn't want to do anything to me," Ukyo argued, feeling more than a little annoyed.

"She doesn't care!"

"Stop worrying about Akane!" she snapped, suddenly furious, "Ranma, I can't believe you! You leave Mousse alone!"

"But Ucchan-"

"I'm leaving!" With that, she stormed off, feeling outraged.

I can't believe it! Mousse, of all people, a killer! Though that would explain the blood...but still! Mousse! Ridiculous! She sighed, trying to relax. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted the public gardens. I gotta work off some of this tension. Seems like a good place to do that.

Turning, she headed into the waiting park.

* * *

"{Xian Pu, you are being childish,}" snapped Comb, glaring angrily at the young girl, who stood her ground and glared back.

"{Great-grandmother, you told me that Mu Tsu would not be blamed for anything he did while under the sorceress' control.}" Shampoo said icily. And he shouldn't be! He would never slaughter someone like they were less than an animal!

"{If the sorceress' control over him is that great...}" she trailed off chillingly, and Shampoo shook her head violently.

"{What if it wasn't him?}"

Comb barked a laugh. "{The room had his aura clinging to it, intertwined with the sorceress'. No one else could have done it. No motivation, for one thing. We're in Japan now, so only those members of the tribe that live here can be suspected. We know he did it.}"

Of course. There was so much evidence. But still..."{What if the sorceress was the one that killed the girl?}"

Cologne snorted in disbelief. "{The legends say she doesn't like getting her hands dirty.}"

Shampoo's eyes narrowed. "{I think that things are very different in this case. I know Mu Tsu better than any of you. He would NOT do something like this.}"

Hairspray said softly. "{Are you so certain? I do not know my son very well, but he can be incredibly determined. I think that he is entirely capable of such an attack.}"

Alarm swelled in her chest, and she snarled low in her throat. "{I tell you he is not! He would kill, but he would never be so brutal about it!}"

"{Nevertheless, if we can find him, he will be dealt with,}" Cologne said sharply, "{It is the only way to remove her essence from him.}"

Shampoo could hardly believe her ears. How could she? Why? There has to be another way! No matter what, I won't help them. I can't. Not if they are going to kill him.

"{Xian Pu, will you be aiding us?}" Hairspray questioned softly.

The youngest Amazon's head snapped up sharply. Gathering her courage, she stated frigidly, "{I will not.}"

"{I see,}" Comb said flatly, "{So what will you do? Find him and convince him that his lover is evil? What if he decides to kill you too? Don't doubt what he is able to do, child.}"

Shampoo flinched. Lover....no. "{I will do whatever is necessary. But I will protect him from you.}"

"{Even if it costs you your life?}"

She drew a breath. "{I will always trust him. He must be confused. The sorceress might kill me, but he is innocent. You said so yourself, grandmother. I won't let you hurt him!}"

"{You don't know what you are talking about.}"

"{I do!}" she half-shouted, "{I don't care what happens to me! It doesn't matter! I can find him and help him! You would just kill him! It's not that easy, haven't you realized that by now? The sorceress has already tried to kill me once, so I'm marked for death anyway. But I am going to help him, no matter what you do!}"

Before they could react, Shampoo launched herself out of the open window and nearly landed on the other Amazon returning from the market.

"{Good luck,}" she snapped at the surprised warrior, "{I hope you don't die as well.}"

Leaving the other blinking in confusion, Shampoo fled.

* * *

The dojo was nice. Quiet. Peaceful. The perfect place for him to practice his katas without (much) interruption.

"AIREN!"

Ranma instinctively leapt sideways, out of the reach of the violet-haired girl's grasp. As usual, it didn't work. Much to his surprise, she didn't try to crush his ribcage, settling instead for a rather loose embrace.

"Shampoo need to talk to you," she said, stepping back.

He gave a double take before realizing she had no food and wasn't actively trying to make him fall in love with her. That alone made speaking with her worthwhile.

"'Kay. Whatcha want to talk about?" he asked, dropping to sit cross-legged on the floor.

Shampoo dropped to sit next to him, and he cringed back when she reached to touch his arm. Shampoo seemed to notice his reaction for once, and drew back slightly. She closed her eyes, than began evenly, "Airen, is another dead person at Nekohanten."

His heart plummeted to his feet. Ucchan...I told you he was dangerous...please, kami, don't let it be her...

"Is warrior of our tribe. Elders think Mousse killed her. Shampoo not so sure. Had throat cut and chest ripped open."

Ranma gagged at the mental image, and the soft coppery scent that he had noticed since Shampoo's appearance. So it's blood...

Shampoo continued on, seemingly heedless of his reaction. "Shampoo know Mousse could cut throat, but he never rip apart someone's chest. He better than that. Shampoo sure sorceress is one who do that."

She looked up, meeting his eyes squarely. He stared, surprised, at the smoldering fury in their amethyst depths. "Great-grandmother and Comb think best way to deal with problem is kill Mousse," her voice went hard as diamond, "Shampoo not let that happen, no matter what."

"But if he killed two people-"

"He being controlled!" she practically shouted, and Ranma flinched back at her vehemence.

"Shampoo, I don't think you..."

"Will family help Shampoo find Mousse and help or not?"

she demanded, voice low and fierce.

Akane...I can't put her in danger, Ranma shook his head. "Shampoo, if Mousse is that dangerous, don't you think that you should stay away from him and let Cologne take care of him?"

She stood, looking regal and thoroughly infuriated. "Not if great-grandmother kill him. It not Mousse's fault. He only a male, no can help it if sorceress chose him," her mouth twisted in a sneer, "Shampoo *not* let her keep him, she kill sorceress first."

"Shampoo-"

Her demeanor went icy. "You no help. Fine. But no help elders, either. You understand?"

"Shampoo..."

"Sayonara, Ranma."

She left, head held high and proud, not looking back once. Ranma stared after her, bewildered. Murder...but if he killed two people...but if it's not his fault...

A musical sigh drifted to his ears. "This just gets more complicated," Akane commented as she walked over and sat down next to him.

"If he's that dangerous, we gotta do something."

She turned, liquid eyes wide. "But what if it's really *not* his fault? What if the sorceress is making him do all this stuff?"

"I...don't know, Akane. I'm worried about Shampoo and Ukyo."

She scooted closer, covering his hand with her own. Despite himself, he gulped, but she didn't seem to notice. "I know, Ranma. I don't think they're going to listen."

"That's what I'm afraid of."

* * *

Mousse was trembling, though it was pleasant day. The world was falling down, and nobody seemed to know it but him. He watched as the people walked by from his perch atop a shopping mall. Most of them had few worries, no life-or-death choices to make, no voices that whispered and enticed whenever someone decided to play. He wished he could be like that.

Regrets? No, you have nothing to regret. He choked back a sob at the seductive whisper as it carried on the wind. By all that's holy, leave me alone, he begged silently.

Only for you, sweetling.

He could feel her presence caress his, and then she was gone. He shuddered briefly. Alone...it was such a strange concept. Ever since she had first contacted him, he had never been alone. It felt strangely empty.

Mousse decided he didn't like being alone. He jumped down, joined the crowd, but nothing changed. Nothing at all. He felt like an outcast even as he was swept along by the masses of humanity, rushing around him like water around a boulder.

He didn't belong there. He stopped, jumped, landed on the roof. A few people looked, realized where they were, and disregarded him. He tilted his head back, looked into the cloudless sky. It was crystalline, perfect. Pure. Everything that he was not. The young warrior started running, trying to clear his head. Leap, spin, twist, jump, and run. Caught a hint of Mandarin, doubled his speed until he could no longer hear. A headache began to throb behind his eyes, and he dropped to his knees, exhausted, somewhere in the park.

"Mousse?"

He blinked, looked up, feeling trapped. "Ukyo?"

"We need to talk."

He staggered to his feet, looking at her warily. "I can't," he said softly, "I can't."

Her green eyes narrowed. "Did you kill someone?"

"No, I killed two someones." Shocked, he nearly collapsed. What am I doing? he wondered, feeling something slipping. WHAT? Sweetling?

Ukyo reached out what looked like a hand, but everything was swimming and he just gaped blearily at her.

Funny, she looked a bit like that girl he had killed. His vision clouded with scarlet, and he shook his head violently. The headache exploded, and he nearly fell over. What is going on?

"MOUSSE?"

"LEAVE ME ALONE!" Something swelled, burst, and then she was away from him, but he wasn't alone.

Sweetling, how surprising, cool arms slid around his waist, but welcome.

An Amazon war cry reached his ears, and he reacted without thinking, though he couldn't see or understand what was going on. He felt a triumphant shriek echo through his ears, twist inside his mind like a knife in a wound.

There was a wet sound, like flesh being rent apart. He gulped, feeling her presence drift from him and dive into another. His legs gave out as she giggled darkly.

Mousse felt himself cry as he collapsed to the sound of her laughter.

* * *

Heh. End of chapter eight. Now you get chapter nine! Don't you feel lucky? You should!


No One Has Won the War
by Edmondia Dantes

* * *
- Chapter Nine -

He woke up tasting copper. Mousse sputtered, choked, and shoved blood-heavy hair out of his eyes. He whimpered as he looked down, saw a scimitar clutched in his white fist. Blood was everywhere, the ornamental fountain next to him seemed to be made of red stone instead of white.

He limped unsteadily to his feet and gagged. Oh, gods...

It was worse than it had been that morning. In the morning, the body had been in one piece. Now...the torso was mostly intact, but he had no idea where the head was, and both arms and legs seemed to have been pulled out of the sockets. He choked, feeling tears overflow his eyes. My fault...gods, this is my fault, I killed her...oh...

He heard a horrified scream, and looked up past the blackened trees to see Ukyo stepping shakily back, hands clutched over her mouth. Her horrified eyes turned towards his crimson-soaked form, and she met his gaze briefly. She shuddered, looking terrified. Then she spun, ponytail twirling behind her, and fled.

Mousse stared numbly down at the corpse.

* * *

"Don't go in there!"

Shampoo paid Ukyo's shout no heed as she raced into the park. Since she had heard the war cry, she had known that the other Amazon warrior had found Mousse. Shampoo thought it was unlikely she would have won against the hidden weapons master. Judging by the fact that she could smell the blood from the entrance, she was fairly sure she was right.

She came to a screeching halt at the gruesome sight before her. There was so much blood...! And there in a spreading scarlet puddle, his entire body coated in blood, stood Mousse.

Shampoo cringed, and leapt to his side, sending little crimson splashes onto her shoes. She touched his arm gently, and he looked up, hazel eyes wide and frightened. He was shaking.

"{Mu Tsu.}"

He swayed.

"{Mu Tsu,}" she repeated insistently, "{Listen to me. You have to get out of here.}"

He looked lost, staring at her blankly.

"{The elders are coming, and they are going to kill you if you don't run.}"

He didn't respond, looking past her to the still, dismembered body and giving a silent sob.

Shampoo shook him, but he didn't move. She closed her eyes, horror and despair warring for control of her emotions. Oh Mu Tsu...what are you going to do? Now there is no way I can protect you from them now.

There is no need. I can protect him. Shampoo's eyes shot open, and she stared. The slender woman leaned back into Mousse's arms, amber eyes gleaming, fangs bared in an unpleasant smile. She seemed to enjoy the thick, choking smell of the blood, rubbing her long silvery hair into it, letting it splash up to soak through her simple white gown.

"{You monster! What have you done?}" Shampoo screamed, mind reeling in confusion.

The sorceress giggled softly, leaning back into Mousse and pressing her mouth to his cheek. Marvelous, isn't he? He's so perfect...

Much to Shampoo's horror, Mousse's grip on her tightened. He looked stunned, eyes glazed, body trembling.

"{Mu Tsu...you must realize what she is making you do.}" Shampoo was disgusted by the way her voice quavered.

"{I do.}" His voice was low and rough with tears. She cringed at the sound. What has she done to you?

I improved him.

"{You made him something he is not! He is no murderer!}"

"{But I am,}" he whispered brokenly.

Her breath caught, and she involuntarily stepped forward until and icy breeze split the air. She stepped backwards, lips curling as she stared at the sorceress.

"{You are an abomination.}" Shampoo stated sharply. I've just condemned myself to death. She is going to kill me, she thought bleakly.

* * *

The walls burst down, and suddenly the living room was full of Chinese Amazons. Ranma toppled over, nearly onto Akane.

"Son in law! Come quickly!"

"Cologne?" he questioned, feeling very confused.

"Hurry!" said an unfamiliar, heavily accented voice, "We must stop my son!"

"What are you waiting for, boy?" demanded another voice.

"What's going on?" Ranma managed to shout as he was forcibly dragged out of the room. "MOUSSE!" shouted all three women at once.

He cringed back, or would have if Cologne hadn't had such a firm grip on his pigtail. "Oh. Okay."

* * *

The wind picked up, tossing Shampoo's hair into her eyes and sending an icy chill trickling down her spine. She shivered, staring at the sorceress, who was smiling in a way that made her skin crawl. The wind didn?t seem to be bothering Mousse or his companion, whom he was clinging to almost desperately.

"{Mu Tsu?}" she breathed, eyes locked on his tortured face. He looked so torn that it made her ache to watch him.

He looked up through blood-matted black hair, silent tears streaming down his face. "{I can't help it Xian Pu, I can't leave her.}"

The sorceress nodded her agreement, caressing his face with surprising gentleness. Mine, all mine, she stated smugly, And now I think I should get rid of you.

Shampoo squared her shoulders, inhaling deeply. If I die today...I will do it with honor.

Sound cracked sharply through the deepening skies. Something white flashed before her vision, and the silvery figure of the sorceress leaped away, Mousse trailing a second behind her. She landed lightly atop the fountain, Mousse splashing down into the bloodied waters a little below her. Both turned at the same time, looking as though they were two parts of the same person.

Shampoo stared at them for a moment, more than a little afraid.

"{Xian Pu!}"

She spun, relieved and worried at the same time. "{Great-grandmother! Airen!}"

They raced through the park like avenging angels, three Amazons and one teenaged boy. But - if they beat her, then Mu Tsu...

She swung back, her eyes lighting on her best friend. His eyes were cold and dark, and his fingers were curled around a variety of weapons. The sorceress stood above him, haughty and proud, fangs bared and eyes flaming amber and gold.

Ranma skidded to a halt, his expression horrified. Shampoo hoped this wouldn't scar him too badly. She doubted he'd ever seen a dead body before, and this particular corpse was spread in pieces all around the park. She felt his eyes on her, and she knew that she was splattered with blood and tears. She found she didn't care in the slightest what he thought of her anymore. All that mattered was Mousse.

And at that moment, he started to glow blue.

* * *

The sky had clouded over, thunder rumbling and lightning sparking brilliantly. Comb took that as a bad sign. She could tell that the sorceress was near, for she was making no attempt to mask her presence. The aura of darkness blanketed the sky, and made the air heavy and choking.

As they flew into the park, her mind froze for an instant. Only in battle had she seen so much blood. And there?the sorceress, smiling chillingly, hair flying and eyes burning. Below her stood Mousse, coated in blood, weapons at the ready. She winced, casting her eyes towards Cologne's granddaughter. The girl looked frozen, the hems of her pantsuit splattered scarlet and a scowl on her face.

Beside her, the boy, Ranma was his name, turned and was violently sick. She wrinkled her nose, disgusted, before her attention swung back to the sorceress.

Then indigo light exploded, and she barely held her ground. Shampoo, Ranma, and Hairspray were sent hurtling past her head, slamming into the blackened trees behind her.

"{Sorceress!}" she shouted, "{This must end!}"

As I desire, so it shall be.

"{No.}" said a soft voice behind her. She caught a glimpse of the young warrior, straightening up and staggering to her great-grandmother's side. Well, she's more determined than I would have thought. But is she going to stop us from doing what we must?

Cologne lunged forward, staff extended. The air shimmered, and she landed atop the fountain alone. She spun, growling.

Comb leaped, grabbing the girl and Ranma and darting forward. A large sword split the ground where they had been standing a second before. Mousse landed silently, hurling several knives and chains in their direction. Ranma swatted them away, hands blurring. Maybe he's not so bad, the Amaguriken technique is hard to master.

She hurled herself to the side. Pale, daggerlike nails rent the air and pulled back to strike again. She countered with a swipe of her staff. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Ranma and Shampoo run to fight Mousse. Good. Maybe the girl will fight, not merely defend the boy.

* * *

Ranma yelped as he dodged a barrage of grenades. Man, where's he getting this stuff? Has he gotten better somehow?

"Mousse! Why are you attacking me?" he yelled as he slammed a fist into the Amazon's stomach. Mousse reeled, then bashed him over the head with a sledgehammer. Ranma blinked stars out of his eyes and counterattacked, sending Mousse flying into a copse of trees.

Much to his surprise, they burst into flame. Shampoo, who had been wrestling with something made out of air and...blood, flung it towards the fire. It dissolved into ash as Mousse jumped out, his eyes wild, and flung a safe towards his head.

Ranma jumped away. He's gotten fast - and now he's not at a disadvantage because he can see. This is going to be hard - and I don't want to hurt him, if this isn't his fault?

Mousse didn't seem to mind hurting anyone else, however. Ranma bit down a curse as he traded blows with the other man. When his eyes started to glow, he began to back off. Then he went crashing into the fountain. Just before he fainted, he noticed Ukyo slumped unconscious, not far away. I wondered where she was...must have gotten caught in one of those blasts.

All was dark.

* * *

Shampoo struck another thing of air and blood, her head snapping up at a scream. Mousse's mother?

The woman was gaping at the sorceress, who had neatly disemboweled her. Then she collapsed, and those burning amber eyes were locked on *her*.

She swallowed her scream as she was hurled to the ground, a long gouge sliced into her side. She gagged at the smell of fresh blood, the wicked smile that painted the sorceress' pale face as she leaned down.

Where was her great-grandmother? She strained to see behind the woman, saw the elder Amazons fighting back hordes of bloody warriors.

He is mine, little girl.

Shampoo mustered the energy to smile. "{He was mine first.}"

The pretty features above her twisted, and she closed her eyes as a slender hand dove towards her throat. Mu Tsu...I'm sorry...

A gasping cry split the night, and her eyes shot open. She cast a frantic glance around and saw...Mousse?

He turned, sword gleaming silver. It had slid into the sorceress with a surprisingly soft sound. The scream was wordless, agonized, and she clutched her head, whimpering.

Mu Tsu? Through pain-filled eyes she saw him, shaking hands sliding from the pommel, all color gone from his face, scarlet on fresh snow.

She clambered to her feet, clutching her wounded side awkwardly as the tempest swirled down. The winds ceased roaring, softening to a gurgling whisper.

He collapsed backwards, mouth hanging agape, as the woman folded gently, crumpling like a wounded butterfly to the ground.

* * *

No. No, no no no no...

Mousse scrambled forward, drew her trembling body into his arms. Silver and blue marred the perfect expanse of her skin, the ward crumbling away into ash. He grasped the sword frantically, yanking it out recklessly. Her lovely face was ashen, the color in her lips fading even as he sobbed into masses of glimmering moonlight-colored hair.

Gleaming eyes fluttered open, the flames that had once danced now dying down to a single ember. Her lips formed a sound of betrayal, but it was nothing compared to the howl of anguish that battered at his fraying mind.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry I didn't mean to oh gods help

She coughed, small body shaking with the effort. Through tear-blurred eyes he watched as she touched the hole in her stomach wonderingly.

Her voice was very soft as it brushed his mind. So surprised, sweetling?..my precious one...I never...never would have thought...

He choked on a sob, pulling her closer. Please - you can't leave me, beloved, please!

She smiled halfway, reaching a shaking hand up to touch his face. My darling one, you betray me and ask for forgiveness?...you...ask too much.

Please don't leave me alone...gods, I am so sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you, beloved, you can't leave me, you just can't.

Tears were shining in her eyes, the amber lightening to gold. I have to leave you, sweetling...you killed me, don't you know that? I would never have thought that you would...

Her eyes slid shut, and she gave a gulping gasp. He tightened his grip, digging his hands hard into her porcelain skin.

"{Don't! Don't you even think...DON'T!}" he screamed, shaking her still body.

She coughed delicately, her pale lips parting, "{I...}"

She was talking? Talking? Why now? "{What?}" he breathed, leaning down until his face nearly touched hers.

Her eyes opened slowly, one slim hand reaching up to caress his hair. "{I did love you,}" she whispered, voice softer than a summer breeze, "{my sweet one.}"

His breath caught. "{Beloved.}"

She dissolved in his arms.

* * *

"{Mu Tsu?}" Shampoo whispered, staring at the still form of her best friend. He killed her for me. Oh gods, he loved her...

She watched as he gave a choking wail of despair, flinging himself onto the ground and sobbing.

Somehow, she was kneeling at his side, stroking his blood-soaked hair, and whispering his name. Mousse barely responded, trembling every time she touched him.

She leaned over him protectively.

"{I won't let them hurt you, no matter what,}" she murmured to the distraught boy, "{I'll keep you safe.}"

* * *

It was now truly night, and he still wasn't speaking. Shampoo carefully led him up to her room, settling him gently onto the bed. He stared blankly at her, beautiful eyes glistening with unshed tears. Turning, she shut the door securely behind her, then knelt at the foot of the bed and took his limp hands in hers.

"{Mu Tsu?}" she spoke carefully, caressing his palms with her fingertips. He was so cold!

Mousse made a soft noise of acknowledgement.

"{Whatever happens, I will protect you. I will keep you safe, even if it means I get separated from the tribe. I'll leave Ranma, stay with you. We'll be all right on our own. And even if you never love me again, I'll always be at your side.}"

The thought of such total commitment frightened her on some level, but for him she was willing to give up everything. She laughed bitterly. A week ago I wouldn't have given him the time of day, and now I am pledging my life to him. How strange.

"{What am I going to do?}"

Shampoo's head snapped up, her eyes widening. "{What?}"

"{What am I going to do?}" Mousse repeated brokenly, "{I can't live alone, not like this. Gods, I killed her. I loved her and I hated her and then I killed her.}"

Without really understanding what she was doing, Shampoo settled on the bed next to him and pulled him into an embrace. He was so cold! He returned it loosely, more for the touch of another being than because of any affection for her, she was certain. But it doesn't matter, she reminded herself, it doesn't matter at all.

"{I'll take care of you,}" she whispered into his hair, hands tightening. "{I won't let them hurt you.}"

He sobbed against her neck, and she pulled him closer until the embrace was as tight as a lover's. "{It doesn't matter what they try and do,}" she sighed, "{Even if we need to run away I'll do it for you...}"

"{Xian Pu?what about Ranma and your family?}" he murmured, nuzzling closer, though she doubted he was even aware of it.

"{It doesn't matter. Nothing else matters but you and me.}"

His laugh was soft, and bitter. "{Don't. I'll just kill you too.}"

"{You won't.}"

"{I loved her, and look what happened.}"

She shook her head slightly, "{Different. No matter what you do, I'll keep coming back.}" Shampoo managed a smile, "{We Amazons are persistent.}"

When he opened his mouth to protest, she kissed him. To her surprise, he leaned into it, returning it almost desperately.

Nothing else mattered.

Nothing.

* * *

Ranma was grinning. "We won again!"

Comb stared at him. "No we did not."

Cologne whacked him over the head with her staff. "Go home, ex-son in law. We don't need you any longer. Besides, Akane will be wondering where you are."

The teenager left, a puzzled expression on his face.

Cologne turned to Comb. "{Is she truly gone?}"

Comb sighed, brushing a hand across her eyes. "{We can only hope.}"

* * *

The moonlight flooded down on the two, entwined messily on the bed, sound asleep.

A shimmering hand reached down, smoothed back the fine ebony hair of the male.

For your sake, my sweetling. I loved you more than I could say - for your sake will I return to the shrine and stay. Only for you, my love, only you.

The sorceress pressed a soft kiss against his lips, and vanished.

* * *

Somewhere in China, fresh wards rippled where they had been replaced on new white boulders that shone in the moonlight.

* * *

The End. Seriously. And yes, I am bad at writing action. So what. So, did anybody think that the sorceress really *did* love him? Does the title make sense now? It makes sense to me! If the 'bad guy' is killed by one of their own, then no one has won the war. Yay.

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Story completed in 2000 by Edmondia Dantes