Disclaimer: Once upon a disclaimer...
< >: Thoughts
Sins of the Past
The day after the fight with Happosai...
"I'm not helpless and I feel fine!" Eric said gruffly as he tried to get up. "Ow, ow, ow!"
However, his Tattoon girlfriend shook her head as she gently pressed her significant other back down on the futon. It was a simple, gentle push with her right hand on his chest. Normally, that would not have stopped Eric, but the injuries he had sustained during his battle with Happosai had made his body extremely weak and sore. The High Priestess had no problems in holding down her beloved and keeping him from further aggravating his wounds. Using a simple spell of restraint, she then went about the business of adding an herbal salve to his torso and arms. Eric found himself unable to rise. Currently, he was only clothed in his dark pants.
"You are still in no condition to exert yourself, Eric." Balla warned as she applied the white substance to his well-defined pectorals. "When you forced more of your Secondary Marks to appear, it nearly tore your body apart. This special salve I made should ease the soreness and help speed up your recovery."
The martial artist's nose wrinkled at the smell of the medication. "Eeeewww! This stuff reeks!"
"It may smell bad, but it's good for you."
"Why can't you just use a healing spell, like you did before with Brody and me? You didn't have any trouble after I pounded Ryoga."
Balla shook her head again. "Structural damage I can mend, but your injuries deal with Tattoon Power this time, and that's trickier. I managed to repair some of the damage, but it will take a while before your body replenishes the energies it used up, when your new Secondary Marks were forced to appear. This medicine will relax your muscles and ease the process of adapting to the new marks."
"I'm not helpless! I can..."
Balla immediately shushed him by placing an index finger over his lips. She leaned forward and tenderly kissed his Primary Mark before adding more of the salve.
Eric soon calmed down as he realized that the blonde girl was not going to brook any more arguments. He sighed in defeat and his face took on a softer expression. "Oh all right. You win... for now."
The High Priestess smiled in triumph as she finished administering the salve and went to wash her hands. She returned to her love and knelt down beside him. She took a quick glance at her handiwork and nodded. The salve was already working its way into his flesh, and his body was giving off indications of a slow, but steady recovery. Ki levels would take some time to restore themselves, but she could tell by her own mystic senses, that her husband's body and spiritual essence were accepting the new Secondary Marks. Once they were completely assimilated, they would begin synchronizing their power with the marks that were already established. Overall, her beloved was well on his way to realizing his full Tattoon abilities.
On that thought, she decided to pose a few questions to him. "Eric?"
"Why did you force your new tattoos to appear? You could have died. What happened?"
The fighter that had formally been known as Ranma Saotome pondered her questions for a moment before answering. "I... don't know. Something happened yesterday. I'm not sure exactly, but something made my Tattoon Powers turn against me. I was just about to finish that little pervert off when my body suddenly heated up and I lost control of my arms and legs. I never felt such... pain. It felt as if I was being torn from the inside out."
<I have a feeling that I know who it was. > Balla silently thought as she nodded for him to continue.
"Then that freak managed to nail me with the Moxibustion Point."
"It's a pressure point that takes away a person's strength, making him as weak as a baby. It leaves a small mark on the back. I had it once before, but there is a release point that could have restore my strength. The problem was that only that old ghoul Cologne could do it, as far as I knew.
The Tattoon High Priestess nodded as she remembered him telling her about the Amazons.
Eric continued. "When I saw that little pervert trying to grope you, I just... lost it. I wanted the strength to stop him and kick his ass so hard, I didn't care what happened to me. So I just focused everything I had into my tattoos and... you know what happened after that."
Balla nodded again as she tenderly placed a hand on Eric's cheek. "You inadvertently forced new Secondary Marks to appear in order to augment your existing ones. Most likely they rejected that Moxibustion Point and canceled out its effects. That was very dangerous. You could have killed yourself."
"I guess, but I couldn't stand the thought of that little gnome touching you and..." He felt his cheeks redden a bit at this admission.
Balla felt tears of happiness well up in her eyes as Eric admitted that he truly did care for her. However, she quickly turned her head and blinked away the tears before facing him again. Unknown to him, she had heard him admit that he did love her. She had wanted him to say it again, but decided not to press him until he was ready. She felt the desire to embrace him hard and never let go, but in his injured state, that would not be the wisest thing to do. Instead, she settled for another light kiss on his forehead.
"So you really do care." She gave him her most brilliant smile.
Eric couldn't help but smile back. "Yeah, I guess I do."
In another part of Hiroshima, Balla's older sister fumed. She had just recovered from the mystic feedback she had received from Eric and was now trying to think of a new scheme of revenge against her sibling. Currently, she was sitting in the park in front of a statue as she contemplated her next move.
Kandor, age nineteen, was a striking beauty in her own right. Unlike her sister, she had reddish-brown hair instead of gold. It was cropped short, as opposed to Balla's topknot and braided sideburns. Her figure was slim, yet somewhat athletic compared to her sister's buxom form. Unlike the tribal wear that Balla usually sported, Kandor was garbed in more modern clothes, which included a pair of black, skintight shorts, running shoes, blouse and jacket.
However, despite her attractive appearance and Tattoon Powers, Kandor was unhappy at the fact that she was still considered as inferior as compared to her younger sister. In fact, that was what she resented the most about Balla. Despite being born first, their father had long-since decided that the younger daughter would someday be the High Priestess of the tribe, a position in which Kandor had thought was hers by right. The chief had even gone as far as arrange a marriage for Balla when she was a year old, in order to cement her position as the future supreme mystic and seer.
Throughout most of her life, Kandor had felt as if she had constantly been living in Balla's shadow. Her younger sister was considered the little 'gifted one' and would be doted on by their parents and other members of their tribe. Balla and Kandor's father Shiror had later intended to have his eldest daughter become a Lorekeeper, which was a respected position in itself, but she flatly rejected it. After a heated argument with him and the Elders, she left the Tattoon Tribe forever.
Flashback to three years ago, in the hidden valley of the Tattoon Tribe...
"What? You can't be serious!" Kandor protested as she had just been told that she would replace the aging Head Lorekeeper.
Shiror nodded as he maintained a firm expression. "I do not see why you are not happy with this. It is a position of great importance. As Head Lorekeeper, you will be in charge of all the wisdom, artifacts and knowledge of our tribe, which has been passed down throughout the centuries."
"In other words, I'll be nothing more than a librarian! A keeper of crumbling parchment and old relics! A guardian of junk!" Kandor spat back. "Why is it that I wasn't given the position of High Priestess? I was born before Balla!"
Shiror took a deep breath as he tried to calm down his rebellious child. "Kandor, you know as well as I do that the position of High Priestess is no one's birthright. It is through the will of the Elders that the one who becomes High Priestess is chosen. The Council had sensed the potential within your sister the day she was born and had decreed that she would take up the position when she became sixteen."
"That's not fair! I have trained as hard as she has and I have at least two years more experience!" The girl protested.
"Kandor! That will be enough!" Shiror said sternly. The glare he received from his daughter only made the Tattoon chief angrier as he barely kept his temper in check. "I have been patient with you thus far, since you are my daughter. Though you may not believe it, I love you as much as I do your sister. However, I cannot go against the will of the Elders. Their decision for Balla to become the High Priestess is final."
"LIES!" The fiery girl spat back. "You've always loved Balla more than me, your first child! The way you and mother always doted on her! You had something to do with the Council's decision, didn't you?"
"That's not true..."
"I don't want to hear it! You and everyone else are against me! I can see that now!"
"Kandor, that is not true and you know it. Please, do not your anger cloud your judgment or your heart. I want only the best for my children and I care very deeply for the both of you."
"You don't care! You never cared! All you cared about was Balla! It wouldn't have mattered if I went off and died!"
"Now you know that is not true!" Shiror stated firmly. "When you started using the forbidden Dark Arts, I put my position as chief on the line, and convinced the Council not to have you executed for wielding such power. I did so, because I love you."
"I'm not listening any more of your lies and excuses!" Kandor spat back as she turned away from her father. "If this tribe won't give me what I deserve, then perhaps the world will!"
She then stomped out of her family's home, leaving her father in a state of shock.
A few days later, Kandor then broke tribal law and left for the outside world, never to be seen again.
End of Flashback...
<All my life, I was nothing more than second fiddle to Balla! > Kandor brooded as she continued to sit in the park. She then began recalling her childhood, growing up with her younger sister. No matter how hard she tried, despite having started training two years before Balla did, her sibling would always show her up and demonstrate greater skill in using Tattoon Power. It seemed that the golden-haired girl had natural ability with manipulating the elemental forces of nature. As a result, she had also developed more tattoos than her sibling, and in shorter time. Everyone marveled at her skills, while Kandor's were considered moderate at best. Through it all, Balla had remained cheerful, which irritated the HELL out of her sister.
The constant rivalry between herself and Balla soon heated up and the older daughter of Shiror would do anything to outperform her sister. She had even begun practicing the forbidden Dark Arts, against her father's wishes, in order to finally outdo Balla. That had gotten her into serious trouble with the elders and if not for her father's intervention, Kandor would have been executed for using such knowledge.
Kandor shook her head and brought herself back to the present. This was no time to reminisce about unhappy memories. When she had sensed her sister's presence in Hiroshima, the older girl knew that this was her chance to pay her back for taking what had been rightfully hers. And what better way to hurt her was through the man she had formed a spiritual bond with?
Such a task would not be easy. She had attacked Eric through his mystic tattoos before, by turning their energies against him. However, the same trick would not work the next time. Balla would undoubtedly teach him how to shield himself from such an attack. The only reason why the trick had worked in the first place was because he was inexperienced and had not yet learned how to manipulate his tattoos' defensive properties. Furthermore, the energy backlash he had created had hurt! It was hard to believe that an outsider would possess such power. After seeing him demolish Happosai, Kandor knew that a direct attack was no longer feasible.
So what options were left?
"So what or who attacked me yesterday?" Eric asked, as he was being spoon-fed some soup. "It felt like your power, but it was different somehow."
"I'm... not one hundred percent certain..." Balla began. In actuality, she was almost totally convinced that it had been her sister's handiwork, though a small part of her wanted to deny the evidence. She shelved that thought for later as she changed the subject. "When you've recovered enough, I have to start teaching you how to shield yourself from that kind of attack."
The café, a day later...
"Where's Eric?" Nodoka asked as she and her sister Atsuko were led to a booth.
The waiter shook his head and replied. "I'm afraid that Eric won't be coming in for work for at least a week. He called in a couple of days ago and said that he got injured."
"Oh no! What happened?"
"As far as I can tell from his message, it didn't sound too serious, though he did say that his body was sore and needed some rest."
"That's good to hear." Nodoka said in relief.
The high school...
"Eric is hurt?" Lisa became very concerned.
"That's what I heard." Deiner said. "He called in and said that he won't be coming to school for a few days."
"What happened?" The bow girl inquired.
"I'm not sure of the details. From what I heard, he ran into that Underwear Thief that people were talking about and things got really ugly. The news did mention some strange light occurring near the business district."
Brody shrugged. "Hey don't worry about it. Eric's one mean badass! From what I heard, his injuries weren't too serious. He'll be all right and back to kicking butt again in no time!"
"Just so long as he isn't kicking our butts." Deiner said jokingly.
"And I also heard that Balla is taking care of him."
"Sweet! Man, I'd love to have her as my nurse!"
As the two laughed together, Lisa immediately disregarded them and began thinking about Eric. The thought of him actually getting hurt was news to her. He was so tough that she didn't think anything or anyone could cause him pain. Then she thought about him being cared for by Balla and the green-eyed monster began to stir.
Lisa immediately made a decision to go see Eric after school.
The hotel where the Amazons were staying at...
"Shampoo can't wait to see Airen again!" The purple-haired girl was giddy as she imagined herself in Ranma's arms. After asking a few questions around the nearest schools and a few of the locals, the Amazon had discerned which school Ranma was now attending, and was eager to find her missing 'husband' and take him back to China as soon as possible.
However, Cologne was not quite as enthusiastic. Ever since she had sensed the power of the Tattoon, she had been getting a bit edgy as she and her great-granddaughter continued to search for her missing son-in-law. Then, yesterday, her senses had picked up an incredible surge of power, and she knew that her suspicions were confirmed.
To those that knew of her, Cologne was very well traveled and she knew of things that were of the mystical nature, including a certain tribe in Tibet. An old memory from her youth came back to haunt her when she had sensed that power surge, and she had begun to hope that what she suspected was not true. If it was, then it might be in their best interests to abandon Ranma. She could only wait and see... and give her great-grandchild some advice.
"Seek out your groom with caution, Shampoo. I feel that an ill wind is blowing."
Later that day...
"Hi Lisa. What are you doing here?" Balla asked as she opened the door.
"I came to see Eric. I heard he was hurt." The bow girl replied, though a small part of her was still uneasy with the thought of Eric being near the Tattoon priestess.
"Oh, Eric is getting better, though he won't be leaving home for a few days."
"Can I come in? I... wanted to give him something." Lisa held up a small package.
Balla smiled. Though she and Lisa were sort of rivals for Eric's affections, Balla also considered Lisa as her friend. She nodded and led her to the bedroom.
Lisa's nose wrinkled as she caught a whiff of some strange odor.
"Yuck! What is that smell?"
Eric grumbled as he replied. "It's that God-awful goop that Balla keeps smearing on me. Hi Lisa."
"It's not goop, it's a tribal remedy to help you heal faster." The blonde girl insisted as she and Lisa came to his side.
"I said I feel fine! I can't stand being cooped up. I need to get up! I've got to train and... ow!"
However, just as he started to rise, a sharp, stabbing pain ran through his limbs, causing him to wince in pain. Balla immediately cast a restraining spell to push him back down.
"Eric!" Lisa immediately became concerned at seeing the normally strong-willed fighter in such a weakened condition. However, the Tattoon girl put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
"Don't worry, Lisa. He's been like a bear ever since I've started caring for him. He'll be up and kicking butt again in a few days."
The statement calmed Lisa down as she remembered why she came. "Oh, here you are Eric. I wanted you to have this."
Eric smirked as he said in a teasing tone. "Oh? You didn't have to bring me flowers."
"Who said anything about flowers? Here. This is all the schoolwork you've missed." Lisa tossed a folder of papers into Eric's lap.
"What?" He stared down at the folder in disbelief.
"I'm not going to have you lower our class average even more by slacking off Eric. As class president, it's my duty to..."
"You gotta be kiddin' me! I'm hurt!"
"You're not hurt enough to ignore your studies are you?"
Balla giggled slightly. This was Lisa's way of showing that she cared.
Meanwhile, on the streets near Eric's school...
"Hey babe. What are you doing tonight?" Deiner asked as he and Brody were trying to ask out a certain girl they had just met on the street. Her figure and looks reminded them of Balla. Since Eric would kill them if they tried to put the moves on her, they figured this new girl would be easier.
"Shampoo no interested in date! Shampoo have question." The Amazon firmly said as she held up the most recent photo she had of Ranma. The photo depicted him in his old clothes and still sporting a pigtail. "You see before?"
Both guys looked at the photo and shrugged, as they did not immediately recognize the person.
"No, I don't think so." Brody replied.
"He... kind of looks familiar." Deiner added.
Shampoo became more impatient. Before going to the school, she had to make certain and she had see these two boys come out of the school that Ranma was supposed to be to going to. However, she had not seen her intended husband anywhere and wanted to know where he was.
"You see Ranma or not?" The Amazon asked with irritation.
At the mention of the name, Brody took on a very rare look, one of actual contemplation. He turned to his friend. "Ranma? Hey, is that what that nut-job who attacked Eric called him?"
Deiner shivered as he remembered back to that day when Ryoga attacked. "Oh yeah. That's what he called him all right." He then took a second look at the photo with his compatriot. "Come to think of it, that picture does look like Eric."
Brody nodded as he saw the resemblance. "Yeah. I guess I'm not used to seeing him with long hair and no scar on his forehead. He dresses differently too."
At these words, Shampoo became more excited. "You see him, yes?"
"Uh, yeah. His name's Eric and..." Deiner started, hoping to impress the purple-haired girl. "Him and me, we're best buddies!"
"He's my best buddy too!" Brody added.
"Where Ranma?" The Amazon asked, hoping to get an address.
That was when Deiner unknowingly added gasoline to the fire. "Uh, well he's not going to be at school for a while, but you can ask Balla about him. She's coming tomorrow."
"Yeah, she probably knows more about Eric than we do." Brody agreed.
At the mention of the girl's name, Shampoo became very tense. "Who is Balla?"
Deiner shrugged as he said the one thing that he REALLY shouldn't have. "Oh. Well it's kind of hard to explain. Heck, we still don't believe it. A lot of people always thought he was gay, but he surprised us all when he went and totally got married to that babe Balla."
It was at that point that Shampoo's face took on a totally shocked expression as she took in the information. Then, slowly, but surely, the expression became darker as another feeling came over her. Finally, the female warrior exploded with an anguished scream, as she made her bonbori appear and thrust them out toward the two boys. Both backpedaled a bit as the colorful, yet deadly weapons stopped within an inch of their faces. When they glanced back at the Amazon, they were a little more than frightened to see that beautiful face now twisted into a mask of utter rage, with an expression that could KILL.
"WHO IS OBSTACLE! RANMA BELONG TO SHAMPOO! OBSTACLE IS FOR KILLING! SHAMPOO WILL KILL!"
The following day...
Balla nodded as she and Lisa walked toward the front gate as the final bell rang. In their hands were various notes in which they intended to give to Eric. As they both headed toward the main gate, Balla suddenly stopped as her mystic senses picked up something just beyond her range of perception.
"Balla, what's wrong? We have to get these notes to Eric. That big history test is coming up and he needs to study."
"Someone is... here." Balla began as she started scanning.
High above them on the roof of the school, Kandor tried to mask her presence as best as she could. She had thought that by not using any of her Tattoon powers, her sister would not be able to detect her presence. However, Balla's senses were more refined than she had remembered and the older sibling realized that the High Priestess would determine where she was within a minute. Kandor had thought to observe her sister and probe for weaknesses, but if she were detected now...
Everyone's attention was diverted when they heard that explosion and saw that a section of the front wall had been blown out. When the dust settled, a certain purple-haired Amazon stood ready with a wicked-looking sword and a bonbori in her hands. She looked about and her expression became hard as she spotted her target.
"YOU! YOU IS BALLA?"
The Tattoon Priestess stiffened when she made eye contact with the Amazon. If this person was the same one that Eric had told her about, then things were going to get... violent. Ever since some of Eric's old rivals had been showing up, she had a feeling that she might encounter some of his former fiancées.
"Yes... I am Balla. And you are... Shampoo?"
"YOU I KILL!"
Eric suddenly rose from his futon as his Primary Mark started glowing. A shiver went down his back as he felt the connection between himself and Balla grow even more intense. She was in trouble and despite the pain he was feeling, he felt that he had to be by her side.
Gritting his teeth and ignoring the stabbing agony that he was putting his limbs through, he forced himself to his feet and began staggering toward the door. Each step was pure torture as he willed himself forward. However, just as he managed to get a hold of the doorframe, he fell forward and landed hard on his stomach.
<Damn it! I have to get up! Balla needs me! >
With supreme effort, he began struggling toward the front door.
Throughout her long life, Cologne was no stranger to pain, either from inflicting it, or receiving it. However, it was the latter that she began feeling at the moment. She had just finished rounding the block near Ranma's school when she felt an intense stabbing pain in her head. The sudden discomfort appeared without warning and it began overriding all of her metaphysical senses, while disrupting all of her ki pathways. Her vision became blurry as she felt a throbbing like the beat of a thousand war drums. This forced the old woman to her knees as more torment was added to her body and soul. The agony began spreading throughout her limbs as and the Elder felt as if her entire body was being consumed by fire. She managed to raise her head and saw her reflection in a store window. Her eyes widened as she saw a strange symbol glowing on her forehead. The sight made her blood run cold.
<By all the Kami! No! The curse! I had forgotten about our family's curse! Shampoo... must be... attacking one of the Tattoon Tribe! I... must stop her! >
The Amazon matriarch managed to get to her feet and began using her staff to pogo toward the source of her pain.
Shampoo had never felt such intense pain before. What she was feeling was the great-granddaddy of all migraines. She felt as if her brain was about to explode, as she held her head and writhed about on the ground in spastic fits. Her weapons lay useless on the ground after she had dropped them.
The Amazon had charged toward the High Priestess, intent on finishing her off quickly and finding Ranma. However, she had taken no more than two dozen steps when Balla sensed something about her and focused her power at her. It was a small, simple application of energy, but it was enough to trigger something within the warrior girl. Shampoo was stopped instantly in her tracks as an intense pain ripped through her very being and caused her to fall, only three meters from reaching her target. Now she was feeling a kind of anguish that was rarely experienced by anyone and death would have been welcomed at that point.
Balla looked down at the girl who wanted to end her life. She noted the symbol that was glowing on Shampoo's forehead and nodded. She knew what it was.
Beside her, Lisa and everyone else watched in complete puzzlement. A minute ago, the Amazon had effortlessly smashed through a concrete wall and had attacked Balla with the intent of killing her. Now she was convulsing on the ground and looked as if she was experiencing Hell itself.
Balla looked up and saw Cologne standing near the hole where Shampoo had made her entrance. Well, standing was stretching it. The ancient crone looked ready to drop as she leaned against her cane for support. Her entire body trembled from the pain she was experiencing, and the blonde girl saw that she too sported the same mark as her attacker.
"Please... stop it." Cologne said, no begged as she fell to her knees.
For one long, agonizing moment, Balla said nothing. Finally, she nodded as she made a sweeping gesture with her right hand. Shampoo finally stopped twitching and lapsed into blessed unconsciousness. As for Cologne, she got back to her feet when the pain dispersed.
Unlike her usual, perky self, Balla was all business as she glared at the matriarch with disdain. She then addressed her in a firm tone. "Elder Cologne of the Joketsuzoku, I presume?"
The older woman nodded, albeit reluctantly. "You know of me?"
"My husband described both you and your great-granddaughter in detail." She pointed to the unconsciousness girl at her feet. "This is Shampoo?"
"She is. And you are?"
"I am Balla, High Priestess of the Tattoon Tribe."
"I see." The Elder started to approach slowly, but stopped when the mark on Balla's forehead appeared momentarily. The old crone caught the warning, and stopped moving forward.
The High Priestess gestured with her head at her would-be killer. "Take your descendant and leave... and hope that our paths never cross again."
The expression in Balla's face left no doubts in Cologne's mind. The Tattoon girl was not in a negotiating mood. She nodded and quickly went over to her great-granddaughter. With one quick motion she swept up her heir and turned to leave.
Everyone turned to the sound of the weakened voice and saw a badly injured Eric leaning against a wall. He was trying hard to keep on his feet, but the trip from his bedroom to the school had been too much as he fell forward.
"Eric!" Both Lisa and Balla ran to him, as everyone watched. The Amazon Elder then looked at her 'son-in-law' and took in the changes he had undergone.
In addition to the physical changes to his appearance, Ranma looked harder, and had lost much of the innocence and naiveté that Colgone remembered. He didn't have that aura of cockiness that he often taunted her with, nor did he have that same irritating, conceited attitude. Her eyes narrowed as she sensed a faint emanation of Tattoon power being emitted from the scar on his forehead.
Eric growled at Cologne, as the two girls helped him up. "I'm... NOT your son-in-law!"
Cologne was silent for a very long time as she considered the mark on his forehead. Finally she nodded as she replied, "Yes... you're not my son-in-law."
With those parting words, she leapt off into the distance with Shampoo slung over her shoulder. A minute later, she was gone from sight as Balla and Lisa began helping Eric back to his apartment.
<Well, well, well. That was interesting. > Kandor thought as she walked away from the scene. <Hmmm, from what I saw, those two were marked with the Tattoon Spirit Curse. They can't attack Balla, so that means, that one of our ancestors had placed the mark on that old woman. This could work to my advantage. >
"No! Why Shampoo must leave Ranma? He is Shampoo's Airen!"
Cologne let off a tired sigh as she continued to pack her bags. "Child, I'm sorry, but it seems that Ranma... is already married to that girl."
"NO! Ranma belongs to Shampoo! Girl is obstacle and obstacles is for killing! That is Amazon way!"
"Shampoo!" Cologne's tone became so harsh that her heir immediately became silent. "If you were to attack that girl again, then you WILL die. You cannot attack her, under any circumstances."
"Why? Sneaky girl use some kind of magic trick! Shampoo not fall for it again!"
Cologne shook her head. "No child. It was no trick. It was a curse. And I'm sorry to say, that it was I, who had caused it."
This took Shampoo by surprise. "Huh? What great-grandmother mean?"
Cologne sighed again as she motioned for her relative to sit down with her. "It happened a long, LONG time ago. Almost three hundred years ago, actually. It began sometime after Happosai had stolen my Magic Mirror, along with the other treasures of our village. I went out in search of him to try and retrieve our stolen property. I traveled far and wide, eventually encountering a very powerful tribe of mystics in Tibet. They were the Tattoon."
"Yes, child. The magics they possessed were unlike any I had ever seen. I suppose a little of Happosai had rubbed off on me, for I had determined to steal their secrets and bring them back to our tribe. Perhaps I wanted to replace that which had been taken from us. I suppose that was the foolishness of youth. However, they did not take kindly to my actions and I was... punished."
"Punished? How, great-grandmother?"
"They had decided to spare my life, but give me a reminder of my greed. The High Priestess imprinted a mark that they called the Spirit Curse. Any attempt to attack them or to learn their secrets would result in unimaginable pain, and would eventually lead to death if I persisted. Since then, I had never spoken of the Tattoon Tribe until today."
"But why did Shampoo feel pain? Only curse Shampoo have is Jusenkyo one."
Colgone sighed again as she explained. "Unfortunately, another effect of the Spirit Curse is that it would be passed down to my descendants, including you. My children, her children and all those that followed gained the same curse. Furthermore, I would feel the pain of my descendants should they attempt to attack the Tattoon or learn their secrets."
"Yes. So you see, we have no choice but to abandon Ranma. From what I saw, he is now one of the Tattoon and attacking him or that girl would inevitably be fatal to us."
Shampoo felt as if she was going to cry. "Is there nothing great-grandmother can do? Great-grandmother knows magic. Can remove curse, yes?"
"If I knew how, I would have done so long ago. However, I know next to nothing of Tattoon magic, and the Spirit Curse prevents me from learning it. There is no way it can be removed."
It was at that moment that a new voice was heard.
"Oh, yes it can."
Both Amazons turned and saw that a stranger was now sitting on a chair behind them.
"Who are you?" Cologne demanded as she assumed a ready stance.
Kandor stood up and wagged a finger at her. "Ah, ah, ah. I wouldn't attack if I were you." To emphasize her point, she made the symbol on her forehead appear.
The matriarch and her heir stiffened when they saw the symbol and immediately relaxed their stances.
Kandor nodded as she made the symbol vanished. "That's better. Now then, in answer to your question, I am... someone who shares a common goal with you."
"What do you mean?" Cologne asked with suspicion.
Balla's older sister smiled as she began explaining. "For my own reasons, I wish to see the downfall of the current High Priestess of our tribe. It would be in your best interests to consider what I have to offer you. What would you say if I could REMOVE the Spirit Curse from you and your descendant?"
"Impossible! I have tried many times and countless exorcism spells! None of them have worked for I do not know the nature of your tribe's magics!"
Kandor chuckled as she replied. "Of course they did not work. A Spirit Curse can only be removed by the one who had cast it..."
"Then you have nothing to offer us!"
"You didn't let me finish." Kandor stated as she made her forehead's mark glow again, thereby silencing Cologne. "A Spirit Curse can only be removed by the one who had cast it, or by ONE of the person's descendants."
"That's right. Now the Spirit Curse is usually cast by the High Priestess, correct?"
"Yes." Cologne nodded. "I will never forget the name of the person who cursed me."
"Was her name... Indenia?"
"Yes! How did you know?"
"She was my great-great-great-great grandmother."
"Then that means..."
"Yes. I can remove the Spirit Curse. Now, are you interested in my little proposition?"
Cologne considered the haughty girl in front of her and the possibilities. "Tell me more..."
"Now lie still! You hurt yourself even more when you came to school today." Balla said as she prepared to apply more of the herbal salve to her beloved's body. He had agitated his injuries a bit and would need more rest.
"I don't want any more of that gunk on me!" Eric groaned as he tried to get up. However, he was pushed back down by Lisa.
"Balla's right, Eric." The bow girl stated as she nodded to the High Priestess. "You're definitely in no condition to leave now. If you keep trying to get up, then I'll TIE you down to the futon!"
Eric was about to challenge her words, but then relented as he saw that Balla preparing to cast another restraining spell. He flopped back down on the futon in a huff, wincing a bit as his body ached. "Oh all right, you win... for now."
Both girls smiled as they began administering their own brands of TLC. As Balla continued to smear the salve on Eric's chest, Lisa applied a wet towel to his forehead.
As the two tended to his wounds, they began feeling a bit nervous with each other and their feelings for Eric. Lisa made the first move to ease the tension by asking a question. "So who was that girl who tried to attack you, Balla?"
"She's..." Balla began, but Eric decided to answer the question for her.
"Her name is Shampoo, and she's a member of a Chinese Amazon tribe."
Eric nodded as he began explaining.
"You've GOT to be kidding! She's supposed to kill the girl who defeats her, but marry the person if he's a man?" Lisa was stupefied after hearing Eric's abridged tale of his encounters with Shampoo. He had purposely left out certain details, such as his former Jusenkyo Curse, feeling that Lisa didn't need to hear about it. Not that it mattered, considering that he was cured of it.
Eric shrugged as he sat up. "That's the way it went. She's been chasing after me ever since I accidentally knocked her out. She even got her great-grandmother Cologne involved. Don't let that old ghoul's appearance fool you though. She's pretty powerful and she's got almost three centuries of experience under her belt."
"Yep." He turned to Balla to ask her a question. "Though I don't know how you were able to make them back off like that. I've NEVER seen that dried-up mummy back down from anything or anyone before. How did you do it?"
Balla smiled a bit as she replied. "Well, actually I didn't make them back down. It was the Spirit Curse they had."
"Spirit Curse?" Both Lisa and Eric said together.
The magical girl nodded. "It looks like that old woman had encountered the Tattoon Tribe before. She must have done something really bad to receive such a terrible hex. That particular spell can cause great pain to the bearer, which prevent him or her from attacking a member of our tribe and learning our secrets. It can even cause death if the cursed one persists. The Spirit Curse is one of our most potent spells, and the last time it had been invoked, was almost three centuries ago." She then became introspective. "Eric, didn't you say that Cologne was over three hundred years old?"
Balla then made the connection. "Then that means that Cologne had been the one that my great-great-great-great grandmother Indenia had cursed."
"Your ancestor cursed that old woman?" Lisa asked, to which Balla nodded. "But that still doesn't explain why that Shampoo girl was in pain. She wasn't cursed, was she?"
"Actually, she was. You see, not only does the curse cause extreme pain to the original bearer, but it will also be passed down to his or her descendants."
"Whoa." Eric started contemplating on the information then grinned a bit. "Hey. If that's how it is, then I won't have to worry about that old ghoul or Shampoo. They can't attack us since we're both part of your tribe, right?"
Balla nodded, though a bit reluctantly. She was still worried somewhat about her sister's presence. She also knew that a descendant of Indenia could remove the hex. The only candidates in Hiroshima were herself... and Kandor.
"Well, have you decided on my generous offer?" Kandor asked as she crossed her legs and waited for Cologne's reply. Currently, they were having their discussion in the hotel room. Shampoo was waiting in the lobby, so that she could have a private conversation with the Tattoon member. However, she had left her great-granddaughter with strict orders not to go after Balla or Ranma. The purple-haired girl had been reluctant, but did as she was told.
The old matriarch considered her options. Fundamentally, she and Shampoo had a very painful curse, which prevented them from forcing Ranma to return back to China with them. According to what this stranger had told them, Ranma was married to the High Priestess and subsequently was part of the Tattoon Tribe. Any attack on the girl or Ranma would result in substantial agony and possibly death for herself and her great-grandchild, which would end the family bloodline. Therefore, Shampoo could not eliminate her rival, nor could Cologne challenge her former son-in-law.
If they were to return to the village without Ranma, both Shampoo and her great-grandmother would be disgraced for failing to uphold 3000 years of Chinese Amazon history. Such a thing would greatly damage Cologne's position as a village elder and would give her rivals on the Council a reason to gloat.
Then there was Shampoo's honor to think of, as well as the great potential the tribe would gain with Ranma. The purple-haired girl was dead-set with bringing back her Airen and would accept no other. To fail to uphold the laws once was unpleasant and she had already paid for it with a Jusenkyo curse. To fail a second time was an outcome that Cologne did not want to consider. The removal of the family's Spirit Curse would greatly improve their chances to get Shampoo's intended groom, but there had to be a catch. Cologne had not survived for three centuries, without learning the lesson that nothing was free.
"Why would you help us?" The old crone asked with suspicion.
"I told you. I have my own reasons." Kandor said simply. "And it seems that my goals coincide with yours, so it would make sense for us to join forces, would it not?"
"Hmmm... Tell me, in return for removing my family's bane, what would you receive?"
"Ah." Cologne had guess as much when she had looked at Kandor's eyes. The fires of such an emotion burned brightly in her. "I suspected that might be your motive in offering to help us."
"You're very... perceptive." Kandor admitted. "Yes. Revenge is the reason why I am offering to lift your curse. I happen to know a few things about your tribe and its laws."
Kandor made the symbol on her forehead appear briefly while pointing to it.
Cologne nodded in understanding as Kandor continued. "I know that your descendant, what was her name again?"
Kandor nodded. "I know that Shampoo desires the one you call Ranma, but she can't claim him, since the Spirit Curse prevents her from eliminating her biggest obstacle, namely the High Priestess."
"And I know that you cannot help her since you also share the same curse."
"Indeed. So what are you getting at?"
"What I'm getting that is that I want Balla to pay! The position of High Priestess was rightfully mine, but it was instead awarded to her! When the curse is lifted then Shampoo would be free to attack her or take Ranma from her. In fact, you'll be able to help her."
"That may be so, but removing the curse would not be enough." The elder argued. "I have already experienced your tribe's magics and they are very formidable. We could not stand against such power, especially from the High Priestess. The magical spells that I know of would not be enough."
Balla's sister thought for a moment, then added, "All right. How about this? In addition to removing your family's curse, I shall teach you some of our magics."
"Really?" This perked Cologne's interest.
"Yes. I know of certain spells that are considered very potent and if you or your descendant should learn them, then you will be able to accomplish your goals and I shall have my revenge."
"I see. And you're willing to do all that for us?"
"Yes. Now what is your answer?"
Cologne only took a heartbeat to consider, then replied. "My answer... is no."
"No?" Kandor was a bit surprised. She had pegged Cologne to be power-hungry and would be eager to snap up this opportunity. After all, it was her greed that had landed her with a Spirit Curse in the first place. "Do you realize what you are turning down?"
The matriarch's eyes narrowed as she nodded. "I know exactly what I am turning down. You were too eager to offer so much power for so very little in return. I haven't lived for more than three centuries without learning that everything has a price, especially when it deals with magic. I made a mistake three hundred years ago and I have paid for it, along with my descendants. If Shampoo did succeed in eliminating that girl Balla, then what guarantee would I have that her tribe would not take vengeance upon me, my family or my people? Even if you did teach us these spells that you promised, how can I know that they won't do more harm than good? No. I have already decided that abandoning Ranma would be in our best interests. Those other idiots may not see the futility in pursuing him further, but I have."
"Are you certain that you won't reconsider?"
"I have already told you my final decision on this matter. Good day to you."
Kandor frowned at the old woman for a long time before finally activating her tattoos and disappeared.
Cologne let off a sigh as she gathered up her luggage and Shampoo's, then headed out of the hotel room to the elevator. She knew that she had missed a grand opportunity, but she was certain that she had made the right decision. She had realized that the Ranma she knew was dead the moment she saw Eric. He had changed dramatically and there was no point in pestering him any further.
Another factor to her decision was that she had heard what had happened to those who had encountered Eric already. Mousse had called earlier from the police jail, begging for assistance. Once Cologne had learned of the incident, she had told him never to return to the village and that he was on his own. He was now considered an outcast and was forever exiled. The Hidden Weapons Master had disgraced the tribe by endangering innocents and using guns, which was considered a coward's weapon among the Amazons. In any case, with the charges brought against him, Mousse was looking at some serious prison time.
Cologne had also contacted the Tendos and learned from Kasumi that Nabiki was also going to be serving a long sentence in prison. The eldest daughter of Soun Tendo had informed her that it was Ranma who had turned her in. She had also told Cologne of her own encounter with him and how different he was from before.
That was all Cologne had needed to know. As a result, it was prudent that she and Shampoo leave Japan before he considered pressing charges against them for harassment, assault and attempted murder. She and her relative may be powerful martial artists, but even they couldn't stand up against an entire country and its laws. If they were lucky, they would only be deported.
When Cologne reached the lobby, she immediately got that sinking feeling. Shampoo was not there and she could guess where the girl had run off.
"That young fool!" Cologne cursed as she dropped her bags and raced out the door on her staff.
Kandor was in a very bad mood. That old woman had turned her down and she was back to square one. She knew that she couldn't face Balla one-on-one. Despite being younger, her sister always had the greater power. It was so unfair! Therefore, Kandor needed an ally to strike at the priestess through her significant other. However, her best bet had been that Amazon elder and her heir. She had sensed the great potential within them and they would have been enough to help her topple her sister. Now whom else could she turn to?
As she contemplated her next move on a roof, she sensed the emotion of great anger and hatred nearby. She looked in the direction of the sensation and saw a hospital where a certain Lost Boy was still recuperating from his encounter with Eric Kobayashi.
<Hmmm... I think I may have found my patsy.>
To be continued...
In the canon universe, Cologne is seen as a manipulative old crone, but in this case, she showed some wisdom when she turned down Kandor's offer. As expected, Shampoo is just as stubborn and headstrong as she was in the original storyline. Hopefully, for her sake, she will realize the futility of pursuing Ranma/Eric, before she does something that she may regret; though I won't make any promises.
How many of you want to bet that Ryoga is going to accept Kandor's offer?