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Obligations: Chapter 15

 

'In the Tokyo National Museum, they have so much stuff that it all has to be rotated around. No matter how often I go there – how often I end up there, rather – there's always something different to see.' Miyuki stared at the ancient armor in front of her and then moved on. When she found a hallway with nobody around, she gently knocked her head against the wall. I should have said 'yes'; I should have said 'yes'; damnit, why didn't I say 'yes'? She leaned on the wall and sighed. Exploring and seeing new things and puttering around museums and tourist spots, she'd never felt the lack of companionship before. She never minded being by herself – there was so much to see and do. That's the way it used to be. But Hibiki-sama's voice hadn't left her since she'd left him four days ago. Every place she went, she heard him, his commentaries about the places, the dry witticisms, the occasional quotes, the genuine interest… ‘I could go with you,’ he offered, brown eyes sincere in their concern and gentle curiosity… Miyuki started knocking her head again. I should have said 'yes'.

In the air conditioned, temperature controlled museum, Miyuki felt a warm breeze rustle through the halls and brush her hair to the side. Instantly, she stilled her movement and her thoughts. Her hair had been brushed just where Hibiki-sama had held it the other day. Taking a deep breath, she walked to another room and found a convenient room of Buddhas where a number of the other visitors were sitting in meditation. Miyuki sat down among them and reached her hand to touch the amulet resting between her shirt and her skin. She closed her eyes and examined her aura. It was restless. No kidding. There were extra hormones running around in her system, and her blood pressure and heart rate were up. Her nerves were sensitive to touch and sound. And if any guys had been near enough, they would have smelled her pheromones. Damn it. She set out to remedy what she could, lowering her heart rate and tossing the extra hormones into the waste cycle. The familiar tasks did a lot to settle her aura into more normal smooth waves of calm. And then she heard a voice and her eyes snapped open and her head whipped around to look. And it wasn't him. It was a stranger. But all her careful work had just been undone completely. Grimly, she set to her task once again. And that is why I didn't say 'yes'. Damnit. If I have this much trouble away from him, just think of what my discipline would be like if he was with me. The thought of him being with her sent a wave of heat rushing through her body and a flood of new hormones took the place of the ones she'd just cleaned out. Miyuki silently wailed in despair. If I can't get myself calmed down, I'm no damn good as a guardian at all! Even a temporary one until I can find Kuno-sama. She felt the amulet against her ribs, reached up to touch her Healer medallion; and started anew.

 

In the crisp outside air, Miyuki took a deep breath before going on to the National Science Museum. 'The Science Museum is sortof fun. For one thing, it has this "Zero" fighter plane from the War, and the thoughts of useless battles-- Sorry. Didn't mean to bring that up. But it also has this collection of antique clocks…' Miyuki sighed. And went over to look at the clocks.

 

The pandas were sprawled out in their cages, languid with the heat. Miyuki grinned in amusement. But these were definitely animals, and not Matane, and not Mr. Saotome.

"Nii-hao!"

Miyuki blinked and turned around. Her mouth curved up in a smile as she saw the beautiful purple-haired Amazon of Ranma's acquaintance. She replied to the Chinese greeting with the Tribal verbal greeting, ^Azz'zuraka, Shamp'poo.^

The Amazon stopped dead, her cheerful grin changing to wary caution. Miyuki grinned again and brought her hands up to her chest, signing in the silent language, *My teacher was once of the Tribe, but her Failure did not bring her death. She has taught me the Healing Ways, and the Speech, but nothing more, as the Law requires.*

Shampoo relaxed. ^You use the Silence well.^

Miyuki shrugged, *Without a voice, I learned it early.*

^But how do you know my Name?^

The younger girl laughed, "Oh, t'that's Ranma. He w'was telling m'me about how you first met." And she watched the Amazon's reaction, and hid her surprise with only a raised eyebrow to tell it. Nii-san – you told me you accidentally defeated the Amazon. You did not tell me she loved you. And that would make things very hard for her brother. Amazons did not give their hearts lightly. 'Accidentally', my left foot! She cleared her throat, "I'm Miyuki," and was surprised at herself for getting it out without stuttering. Shampoo raised an eyebrow of her own. Miyuki shrugged, and moved her hands, *I'm not an Amazon – I don't have a Name.* She slowed and exaggerated the movements on the 'have' to emphasize it.

Shampoo nodded. ^And Ranma?^

Miyuki laughed, ^He's m'my bond'd-sibl'ling.^

The Amazon finally relaxed, grinning, ^Will you give me your Rights?^

Still grinning, Miyuki shook her head, ^He m'must make up hi'ss own mind.^ "Bes'sides, I j—ust spent't four'r nights at the Tendo's. Ow'we them guest't-right, and m'more."

Shampoo shrugged, "Was worth try."

Both of Miyuki's eyebrows went up in involuntary surprise. Shampoo grimaced, ^Okay, so foreign languages aren't my forte. Big deal. I'm better at a bunch of things.^ But a red blush was spread across her face.

"H'hey, I'mm not't one to thr'row stones."

Laughing, the two girls turned from the panda cage and moved onward in the zoo.

 

Eventually, they came back to it. Miyuki leaned on the fence, ^Shampoo, wha'tt do you know 'bout the Jus's's-- the cu'rrse?^

Shampoo leaned next to her and watched the pandas with a serious expression. ^The curse is the truth of ourselves that we do not want to face.^

Miyuki raised an eyebrow, "Ranma's reall'ly a girl?"

Shampoo's laugh was a tinkle of bells, a contrast to Miyuki's deeper rich one. "Ranma no want…" ^Ranma doesn't like or accept himself the way he is – though he hides his dislike even from himself. To accept the girl's body, he has to accept himself first.^

The younger girl nodded thoughtfully – she could see that, in Ranma. Part of it was merely youth, but there was deeper truth to it as well. "Wh'hat about Hibiki-sama?"

"Huh?" Shampoo blinked, "Who?"

Miyuki blushed. "Ryoga-sama."

Turning away from the pandas, Shampoo looked straight at Miyuki, looking at her and through her and evaluating her in more ways than just a fighter. ^You're kidding.^

The redness was now covering every inch of Miyuki's body and she looked down at her feet in total embarrassment.

Shampoo tested a couple of things she had been wondering about, ^To tell you of his worth, it is true that Ryoga was accepted by Great-Grandmother to be her student.^ Miyuki looked up, intensely startled. Having waited for, and gotten, the reaction she wanted, Shampoo grinned, ^You know of Cologne-sama.^

Miyuki gulped, "My Sens'sei…" She shut her mouth. Even to an Amazon, it wasn't to be talked about. But she had wondered, "Wh'hy…" ^Why did C'colgne-sama leave th'he town?^

^For me.^ Shampoo motioned to Miyuki and they left the zoo, heading through the park to the Shinobazu Pond, where they perhaps would get some portion of privacy. ^Cologne is not my blood-relation – she is my Sensei.^

Miyuki blinked, then bowed low to Shampoo, ^You are the Chosen of the Amazons.^

Shampoo grimaced, ^I was. Until I lost rather blatantly, shamefully, and painfully, to an outsider. And then used the Kiss. And then failed to complete the Kiss. I've got to do something pretty damn spectacular now in order to return. And something even more-so to return with my position and worth in their eyes intact.^

*Ranma said that in guy-form he 'accidentally' beat you.* Since they were now sitting down, Miyuki reverted to the hand signs.

A light snort of amusement was at first the only reply. Then Shampoo elaborated, ^Oh no. He beat me fair and square – especially because he wasn't trying. I was threatening Akane to get her to tell me where girl-Ranma was, and he kicked my mallet, breaking the pole. A new threat? I hadn't given him any attention beyond noting the obvious, and instantly turned to look at him. Really look, this time. And then I just stood there. Like a complete and total idiot. Until my mallet finished it's trip through the air and hit me on the head.^ Shampoo watched the birds flying around the pond, ^Oh no. Ranma conquered me all right. Before the mallet had hit, he conquered me.^

They both watched the birds.

^But why Ryoga?^ Shampoo curiously asked.

Miyuki flinched, taken by surprise. Then she grinned, acknowledging the fair hit. And gave an answer that an Amazon could understand, *He saved my life.* Shampoo's eyes asked another question. *Once,* Miyuki answered it. *But, like you, the deed was done before completion.* "'sides. I'm'm not an'n Amaz'zon."

Shampoo nodded, ^But you are a Healer.^

"App'prentice."

^Try saying that in our language.^

Miyuki tried. And couldn't. There was no word in the Amazon language that matched 'apprentice'. Once one chose a path, that was what they were. There were different abilities and ranks, of course, but the path that had been chosen defined exactly what they were.

^Let me ask you a question.^

Miyuki nodded, eyebrow raised.

^Why did you dump out a potful of very rare and valuable hatchan, just to save a worthless plant?^

"It w'wasn't wor'rthless." Miyuki grinned, commenting on the second half of the question and ignoring the first for the moment. Twisting around, she grabbed her backpack and started rummaging around through it. She brought out a sealed pot identical to the one she'd had eight days ago. And then she pulled out another, and another, and another… Shampoo's mouth dropped open. The twinkle in Miyuki's eyes said she was enjoying Shampoo's surprise. "Our'r village is m'mostly substanistt …" *Why am I talking? The place that I live has only enough food to feed us and to store for hard times. When there is extra of anything, the people mostly use it for the good of all. Sending me to Tokyo, even if it was their idea, is not important enough to raid the town treasury.* "'sides – it w'wouldn't have paid'd for even thr'ree mus'seums." *Sensei and I spent many long days making up the hatchan. Along the way, if my Healer skills are not enough to trade for food and shelter, I find the local herbshop and sell a pot of hatchan – providing they can explain to me it's proper usage.* Miyuki put three of the pots back and frowned at the fourth. *That reminds me, it's about time to get rid of this one as well.* She turned laughing eyes to Shampoo, *When I started this trip – my pack was mostly hatchan! I was glad of an excuse to get rid of some of the weight!*

Shampoo grinned, but cautiously, thinking about what Miyuki had left unsaid. Getting back to what had been Miyuki's question a long time back, Shampoo spoke thoughtfully, ^Ryoga is the best fighter there is. Has the potential to be better than Ranma, even. If he would let himself be. Cologne trains Ranma for my sake, and because she likes him, but she took Ryoga as a student – even if Ryoga doesn't know what that means. He thinks people don't like him because he's strong and powerful. The small, black piglet is regarded as weak and not a threat. If he learns to fight as the pig, he will be unbeatable. If he is liked as a human, he will be complete.^ Shampoo frowned, ^Akane really didn't help by taking P-chan as her pet, even if Ryoga is her Defender.^

Miyuki's breath drew in, if he is liked as a human… Oh, Ryoga-sama… An Arctic wind whipped through the humid park. Miyuki jumped up, "Damnit!!" She pulled the amulet out from inside her shirt and concentrated on shielding herself and it. The wind died. Putting the amulet back, Miyuki pinched her nose, it's getting worse. The coincidences were one thing, but this… I think I stayed at the Tendo's too long. Too long in one spot. I wish Kuno-sama had been home. But wishing wouldn't change things, and it was still her problem. Miyuki pulled her backpack over to her and rummaged through it, eventually pulling out a small box. She looked at it doubtfully.

^Allow me.^

Having totally forgotten about Shampoo, Miyuki jerked back. Then relaxed and handed the box to her. Shampoo frowned at it, then unwrapped the bells off her hair. ^I wish Mousse was here – he'd be able to actually seal it. But my bells have some power. Put two of them in with the… whatever it is, and wrap the others on the outside.^ Miyuki did as she directed, and instantly felt the jangling of her nerves settle. The air became its normal humidity, and the sun shone its normal color. She sighed with relief. And tucked the small box into her waist sash.

Shampoo leaned back, frowning at the younger girl. Miyuki glanced at her, and looked away. Then she turned back, *I am pledged to give it to the one my village is under Obligation to. Until I do, it is my care and my responsibility.*

^And your danger.^

Miyuki shrugged, *Until now, it hasn't been so bad. Just a bunch of coincidences. And I probably would have gotten a lot of those anyway considering what else I'm carrying with me.*

Shampoo glanced only once at the pack, ^Come home with me – Great-grandmother will be able to deal with it.^

*And she'd confiscate it for the Greater Good. No thanks. I'm pledged.*

^She understands Obligation.^

*Not in this case – and I'm not an Amazon. The rules don't apply to me.*

Shampoo didn't know what the amulet was, and so she was forced to agree. If the young Healer's estimation of its power was correct, then she would probably be right about Cologne as well. Which also meant that Shampoo was now in a complicated dilemma because the proper thing for her to do as Cologne's student was to take it to her Sensei. But she liked the young Healer... A decision could wait a bit longer. Shampoo stood up, ^Let's get some lunch – I'm hungry.^

Miyuki looked up at the sun, *Well, no wonder!* It was actually approaching dinner time. They'd spent the afternoon without knowing it.

 

The large 'M' dominated the inside of the small building. "Big'g Mac, p'please."

"Shampoo have Quarter Pounder with Fries."

They took their food to one of the tables and munched away. The biggest advantage of American food was that it could be eaten quickly without being rude.

"An'nd the p'panda?"

Shampoo was quiet for a moment, "Panda strong, but no fighter. Sleep in sun. Eat."

Miyuki grinned, it was certainly true. But a devastating truth for one who had devoted his whole life and his son's life to Martial Arts. "Ryoga-sama s'said you w'were a cat."

The tray and wrappers on the table jumped and shifted as Shampoo's hand slammed down. Miyuki jumped three feet in the air and came back down with wide eyes. Shampoo's face was dangerously tight and her eyes roved the room for something to kill.

I almost forgot I was talking to an Amazon. "N'never min'nd…" Miyuki actually thought that she could figure that one out on her own, considering Ranma's phobia. 'The truth of ourselves that we do not want to face.' Definitely time to change the subject. "S'say, th'hhat was a c'clever way of 'killing' Akane w'without l'losing face on the Kiss."

Shampoo lost her angry look. But her grin was tinged with sadness. ^It's my specialty. Hence, my Name. Your Sensei probably left the Tribe long ago, and things have changed. Especially since the leadership of China changed. To survive, the Tribe must keep a very low profile, and be almost a legend. We allow few visitors, and those that do must be kept from telling all they learn. But if we killed all that came in, the Chinese government would destroy us, for they do not tolerate competition within their own borders. If they learned of us in truth, they would destroy us. So we use the shampoo techniques to make the foreigners forget us, or remember us only as legend. Never, ever, where the Tribe lives. Ranma and his dad – and the Guide – stumbled across the Competition partially by accident. Cologne-sama won't let us do anything about the Guide. I think he originally brought them to us because of the Jusenkyo curse, but that certainly went out the door when I gave Ranma the Kiss of Death – and really meant that one! I was angry!!^ Shampoo sighed, "Too bad she boy-Ranma."

Leaning back in the chair, Shampoo regarded Miyuki thoughtfully. "What you do now?"

Miyuki looked up, briefly startled until she figured out what Shampoo was asking. "Well, Nab'biki said Kuno-sama w'wouldn't be b'back unt'til Wednesday at t'the soonest. S'so I was going to do more t'tourist st'tuff – keep m'moving – and ch'ch'ch" she rolled her eyes – one of these days she'd learn not to even try to use a word starting with a 'ch' syllable, "—show up'p on Wednesd'day and see if he's b'back."

"Two day."

The young Healer nodded, "Tom'morrow I was going to g'go to the Meiji Jingu Shrine, t'the Tokyo Tower, and t'then the Sword Museum." Shampoo's eyes lighted up with interest. Miyuki grinned, "Ton'night, I was thinking of Roppongi."

Shampoo grinned back, "Okay. Shampoo join you. To Wednesday."

Miyuki touched the box in her waist sash and agreed.


 

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