Ranma 1/2 manga fanfiction
by Gary Kleppe

The characters of Ranma 1/2 are the creation of and rightful property of Rumiko Takahashi. They are used here without permission. This story may be freely redistributed, but it should not be altered substantially or used for profit in any way.


"I want to thank you for coming to little Yaku's birthday party, Mr. Mu," the woman said as she handed over several bills.

Mu Si took the money in hand and bowed. "Mrs. Tatazu most generous."

"Thank you." Mrs. Tatazu returned the bow, then righted herself. "I must say, I really don't know how you did some of those tricks."

"Mr. Mu come from hidden village in remotest China. Study for many years secret techniques there."

"Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" nine-year-old Yaku said. "Well, anyway, that stuff was neat." He held out a hand. "Got a souvenir, Mr. Mu?"

"Ah, yes." Giving out something on request had become a standard part of the act.

Mu Si reached inside. To anyone watching, it would have seemed as if he were going to pull something out of his robes. There was much more to it than that, something that he did unconsciously. His teachers had taught him not to think about how it worked, that trying too hard to understand what "inside" was might make him unable to use it. So "inside" was simply somewhere that he could take weapons and other things from.

Yaku looked at the gift that Mu Si was offering, and backed away. "Um... thanks anyway, Mr. Mu." It was a mismatched pair of socks.

"So sorry, Mr. Mu never know what he going to get." It was true. Mu Si's martial arts master had taught him he could never be aware of what was inside; for if one knew what one could get, then one also knew what one could not get, and that might include something important. So he often brought out something unexpected when he reached inside. Once he'd even found a driver's license from some westerner named Hoffa.

Mu Si made his goodbyes to Yaku's parents, then went out through the front door. He counted the money he'd just earned. It would keep the bills paid, for a while at least.

He picked up the bicycle lying on the sidewalk and got on. It, along with the pidgin-speech he used in his act, was the only thing left to him from Shan Pu.

Making sure his glasses were on, he prepared to pedal away. He stopped when he saw the image reflected in the bicycle's rear-view mirror. It was someone he had seen before, a long time ago.


"Welcome to the Nekohanten." Mousse held open the door, checking how many people were in the party. He saw only a refrigerator.

That couldn't be right, he thought. He pushed his glasses down over his eyes. What he had thought to be a refrigerator was actually... a refrigerator.

A shrill voice sounded from within the appliance. "Charge!" It pushed past Mousse into the restaurant, knocking aside several tables as it made a straight line for the kitchen.

Mousse pulled his glasses off, looking closely at the lenses to see if they were perhaps smudged.

"My dearest darling Shampoo! You're the only one for me! I --" The voice from the kitchen was interrupted by the sounds of violence as the refrigerator came crashing through the wall back into the dining room.

"Stupid girl-boy!" Shampoo yelled from the kitchen. "I see again, I kill!"

Something rose out of the remains of the refrigerator. Looking through his glasses, Mousse saw what appeared to be a cute young girl in a Japanese school uniform. "Who are you?!" he said. "You stay away from Shampoo, girl!"

"Never! And I'm one hundred percent man! Kurenai Tsubasa. Shampoo is the love of my life! We were meant for each other! Someday she'll realize it."

"But... she said she'd kill you if she saw you again!" Mousse was finding it hard to be angry at this pathetic creature. Anyway, she... he was obviously nothing to worry about as a rival.

"I don't care what she says! She'll change her mind. I don't care if it takes the rest of my life and I have to follow her to the ends of the Earth. I'll never ever give up on my dear, dear Shampoo!"

Mousse's glasses rested firmly over his eyes, his vision clear; but when he looked down, it wasn't Tsubasa he saw.


A reflection....

Mu Si turned around, coming back to his feet and letting the bicycle drop. "Tsubasa."

"Uh, hi," Tsubasa said. "Ukyo and Kuno asked me to look for you. They didn't know where to find you."

"I've been moving around a lot lately, doing some entertainment work. A friend of mine is in training, and I'm trying to earn some money to support her."

"Really?" Tsubasa smiled fondly. "I'd gladly do the same for darling Kasumi. You don't know where I can find her, do you?"

"Sorry, no." Of course, that was the difference between Tsubasa and what Mu Si had once been. Tsubasa changed the object of his... affections... every so often; Kasumi was probably just the latest. "She went off years ago to become an apprentice to a Shinto priestess named Kaede. I haven't seen her since."

"Anyway, Kuno wants you to come to the Tendo Dojo tonight at seven. He said that Shan Pu would be showing up."

"And you think that would interest me?" Mu Si tried to sound more confident than he really felt. Tsubasa evidently didn't think much about offering a recovered alcoholic a drink.

"There's supposed to be some kind of crisis in her village. They're expecting to be attacked, and they need everyone's help."

"Why didn't you say so?" Mu Si got back onto the bicycle. "Tell them I'll be there." After all, he thought as he pedaled away from Tsubasa, her home was his home too -- or at least it used to be.

He wondered what it would be like to see Shan Pu again. She was asking for his help now? That would certainly be a switch after the way things used to be between them....


Mousse folded over the top of the cardboard box. This was finally the last one. Packing up the Nekohanten had been like emptying his robes; every time it looked like he might be almost done, something else turned up in an unexpected place.

Now, unless there were more closets he didn't know about, he was finished.

The boxes were already labeled for shipment back to China. Mousse decided to rest for a moment before taping them shut. He sat on the floor, the furniture having been sold and taken away. The rain poured down outside, punctuated by an occasional rumbling in the darkened evening sky.

Shampoo was leaving. Mousse knew that she would be going back to China, leaving him behind, unless he could somehow persuade her not to. Maybe it was insane of him to keep trying after all this time; but to marry Shampoo was the dream of a lifetime. If there was any chance at all of it happening, then he had to try. After all, hadn't people throughout history triumphed against impossible odds to realize their dreams?

Shampoo came in from the back room. "Thank you for packing boxes, Mousse. Real estate agent say will deliver to post office tomorrow morning."

"It was nothing, Shampoo. I'm so glad I could help."

"I go airport now. Tomorrow morning catch early flight go Shanghai." She knelt on the floor next to Mousse. "What you do now?"

"I'm going to seal up the boxes. I've got this really strong tape, the kind they call --"

"No!" Shampoo interrupted. "I mean where you go now. What you do after I back in China?"

No! screamed a voice inside Mousse's head. Don't let her say goodbye! "I... I could go with you to the airport. Make sure that you get there okay. It's no trouble...."

"And go back to China with me? That what you want?"

"Huh? I... uh...."

"I tell you before, Mousse. We not ever be a couple. You want go back, that okay, but not go with me."

"Then let's stay!" He suddenly leaned over to make a desperate embrace. "Please! It'll be so good, just the two of us.... Oh Shampoo, can't you see who it is that truly loves you?"

A voice came from behind. "Stupid Mousse."

He pushed his glasses over his eyes. He had hugged a cardboard box.

"I need leave." Shampoo opened the door. Flipping open an umbrella, she stepped out onto the rain-soaked sidewalk.

Mousse ran out after her. "Shampoo, wait! I--" His words cut off abruptly as he transformed into a duck.

Shampoo looked back from under the shelter of her umbrella, eyeing Mousse impatiently, as if offering him one last chance to say something.

He reached inside and pulled out a bouquet of red roses.

Her palm struck. Petals scattered into the air, spilling across the pavement like dead autumn leaves. "Goodbye, Mousse," she said scornfully.

Mousse could only watch through fogging glasses as Shampoo turned and walked purposefully away. Her every movement was filled with a beauty that came around only once in a lifetime, one that he would now no longer know.

A sudden burst of thunder crashed through the sky. A dog barked in the distance, and the rain began to pour down harder. I should go home, Mousse thought, and realization struck like a crushing weight. He no longer had a home. He had nowhere to go.

From a puddle, Mousse's reflection stared back at him. It was a funny-looking sight. The duck with glasses. Something that should be a character on a children's cartoon. The funny-looking duck with glasses. Watch and laugh as he tries to catch the beautiful cat girl with one wacky scheme after another, all of which go humorously awry.

But even funny-looking duck men needed love. Even they were capable of giving it.

He stood in the rain, bare stems that had once been flowers lying dead at his feet. The only sounds in the cold night were the constant downpour and the howling of a distant dog. The one Mousse loved had left him, maybe forever. And even if she did come back, she wouldn't love him. The dream would forever be... a dream.


The rain stopped. The last dim vestiges of evening sunlight emerged around the clouds. Soon it would be dark again.

Mousse wiggled his tail feathers and flapped his wings, and the water rolled from his duck body. He sat down on the wet sidewalk. He had to decide what to do, where to go.

Shampoo would be at the airport by now. Soon she would be out of the country. He could go back to China too if he wanted; but if he did, he'd have to face all the people who knew him, who would know that he had been courting the same girl all of his life and had failed.

Fine, Mousse thought. He'd just live his life without Shampoo. Knowing her had only brought him pain anyway. He was better off on his own. In fact, he thought, if she came back right now, he'd....

Someone came walking down the sidewalk. Mousse looked through his fogged glasses in the dim light. It was Shampoo! She'd come back for him! He waddled up to her, excitedly.

Taking another look, he saw that it wasn't Shampoo at all. The newly-arrived person looked down at Mousse, and smiled happily. She spoke in a child-like voice.



Once there was a girl named Azusa. Azusa had long, wavy hair and big blue eyes. She lived with her Daddy and her friends, in a big house with a wall around the yard.

Azusa loved to ice skate. Ice skating was her very favorite thing. She would go to the ice rink almost every day and practice for hours and hours.

Azusa was walking home from the skating rink one day when she met Claudette the duck. "Hello, Claudette," she said. "My name is Shiratori Azusa. Would you like to be friends?"

"Kwak?" Claudette answered. That was how ducks talked. It meant yes, Azusa, I would be happy to be your friend.

"You're so cute!" Azusa said, smiling at the duck. "Would you like to come to my house to meet my other friends?"

"Kwak!? Kwa wa kwak kwak!" Claudette said. That meant thank you, Azusa, I would like that very much.

"Oh, I'm so happy!" Azusa cried, as she took the duck in her arms and ran toward her house.


Itakura Ryoko wrote in her notebook as she sipped from the drinking glass in her other hand. She was a thin short-haired woman wearing a blazer.

Anything else you'd like to know for your article, dear lady?" The small middle-aged man in the chair next to her, Shiratori Hideki, wore large dark-framed glasses and an expensive-looking kimono, with his
hair slicked back.

"No, I think I have enough. Thank you for the interview. I have high hopes of being able to sell it to one of the major business weeklies."

Hideki smiled the absurdly wide smile that he seemed to wear most of the time. "I hope listening to my ramblings has not bored you too much, my dear."

Ryoko chuckled. Such modesty! "Not at all. It's fascinating to hear the life story of one of Japan's leading industrialists."

Hideki laughed loudly. "My life? It is nothing special. The house of Shiratori is an unexciting place, my dear interviewer, where the unusual never happens."

A young woman entered the living room, sliding quickly over to Hideki and kissing him on the cheek. "Hi, Daddy!" Her thick, wavy brown hair and wide eyes looked Occidental. Ryoko recalled Hideki mentioning that his first wife had been an American. The girl carried something in her arms. Ryoko peered curiously. A... duck? Wearing a pair of glasses?

"Good evening, Azusa." Hideki sipped from the drink he was holding. "How was skating practice tonight?"

"I met a new friend, Daddy!" Azusa held the duck out for her father to see. It seemed to be struggling in her grip. "Her name's Claudette! Isn't she cute?"

"Cute? That she is," Ryoko said. "Are you going to cook her for dinner?"

"No!" Azusa turned away, cradling the duck tightly. "Claudette is my friend! I won't let anyone eat her!"

Ryoko heard what sounded like a sigh of relief from the duck. It must have been her imagination, she decided.

"She didn't mean it, dear." Azusa's father gestured toward the woman. "This is Ms. Itakura. She's writing a magazine article about me." He looked back at Claudette. "She looks healthy enough. You'll have to take care of her if you want to keep her, you know. She'll be more work than your other friends."

"I know, Daddy. Tomorrow I'll go out and buy her some food."

Ryoko looked closely at the duck. "But... glasses?" She examined Claudette's eye wear closely. "They're real prescription lenses." Thick ones, in fact. She hoped whoever lost them had a spare.

The duck suddenly broke free from Azusa. It flew around the room, picking up speed as it rose toward the ceiling.

"Claudette, be careful!" Azusa cried. "You dropped your..."

The duck flew to a window -- a closed one -- and thudded into the glass head-first, dropping to the floor, stunned.

"... glasses," Azusa finished. "Oh, Claudette!" She ran over to the duck. "I'll have to get you a leash so you won't hurt yourself!"

Ryoko turned to Mr. Shiratori and whispered. "A duck? With glasses?" She grinned. "Not unusual?"

"Azusa often... finds... things. Usually not living things. No matter. I'll find out who, if anyone, owns this duck, and negotiate to purchase it. What little Azusa wants, she will have."

"I take it your daughter is... special? Developmentally disabled? Autistic, perhaps?"

"My dear," he answered without bothering to lower his voice, "I assure you that no child of Shiratori Hideki is any such thing. Azusa is just Daddy's little girl. Isn't that right, honey?"

Azusa giggled. "Right, Daddy."

"It's late. I ought to be going." Ryoko stood up, stumbling a bit as she moved toward the door. "Oh! That sake of yours was very good. I must have had a little more of it than I thought."

"Azusa, would you show Ryoko to one of the guest rooms?" Hideki said. "She seems to have had too much to drink."

"I don't want to impose on you," Ryoko said.

"No trouble at all, my dear. My home is your home."

"Thank you." Ryoko followed as Azusa scampered out of the room.


Ryoko glanced from side to side as she walked down the corridor. Each part of the house was decorated in a different style, apparently chosen at random. Paintings, books, and shelves filled with other
assorted knick-knacks cluttered the walls. Some of the things looked valuable, but most didn't.

If Azusa was a collector, Ryoko thought, she wasn't the only one in the family who was.

Azusa stopped and swung open a door. "Here you are!"

"Thanks, Azusa," Ryoko said. "I'm sorry about what I said before. I wouldn't want to cook your pet."

"Azusa-chan won't let anything happen to her friends, will she?" She embraced the duck, whose head wobbled groggily.

"I believe you, Azusa." Ryoko moved around to the door. "You've been collecting... friends... a long time now, have you?"

"Daddy sent me to school. The other kids there didn't like me. So I looked for different friends to play with. I learned how to skate later. Then everybody liked me."

Ryoko entered the guest bedroom. "Well, goodnight, Azusa. See you tomorrow!" Azusa bounded off down the corridor as Ryoko closed the door.

She smiled to herself. Hideki had believed her story about the magazine article. Everything was going according to plan.


"This is your home now, Claudette!"

Mousse looked around the large room. A canopied bed with frilly pink covers stood on one side. A white chest of drawers was nearby, with a mirror above it; both had several little pink ribbons tied to them.

On the opposite wall to the bed, a collection of items rested on various parts of a large multi-level shelf. Azusa pointed to each one in turn. "I want you to meet all of my other friends, Claudette! This is Lucia." A music box. "These are Danielle and Delphine!" Two stuffed terriers, one larger than the other.

Claire was an oddly-shaped piece of crystal. Raphaelle was a two-foot high beer stein. Lara was a small round piece of yellow plastic fruit. Odette was a silvery teapot, with geometric designs embossed all around it. Stephanie was a plaque, colored bright sky blue. Graceful pictures of birds in flight adorned it. Mousse read the words on it. If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it's yours. If not, it never was. With the heavy leash chafing against his neck, Mousse was not pleased by the irony.

Azusa giggled. "Those birds on Stephanie are so cute, aren't they!" She flipped a deadbolt into place, locking her room shut.

Mousse noticed that one of the shelves was empty except for a small velvet pillow. "This is Michelle's place," Azusa said. "She was one of my best friends until she got lost. Isn't that sad, Claudette? I hope someday she'll come back. I miss her and worry about her."

Azusa took a large blanket from a closet. Folding it over twice, she set it down in a corner. "You can stay here tonight, Claudette." She unhooked the leash from around Mousse's neck. "Tomorrow I'll get you somewhere better to sleep. Goodnight!" She turned out the light and slipped into her bed.

Mousse sat on the blanket and waited. Soon Azusa and everyone else in the house would be asleep, and he'd be able to slip out.


Hours passed. The pale rays of the moon shone through the single window in the room, casting a stream of light on the adjacent wall.

Mousse looked at Azusa. She seemed to be sleeping peacefully, breathing so softly that he had to listen closely to hear it.

He examined the window. It was a single pane of thick glass, with no opening mechanism. He could smash through with his bill, but that would probably wake Azusa. It would be easiest to simply leave through the door.

Waddling past Azusa's collection of cute things, he wondered whether Shampoo would like it if he were to give her something like them. Probably not. Nothing he gave her or did for her ever seemed to make her happy.

Mousse was far too short in his duck form to reach the doorknob from the floor. He flapped his wings and propelled himself upward, hoping that Azusa wouldn't wake up. Gripping the deadbolt in his bill, he managed to slide it open.

The same thing wouldn't work for the doorknob, he realized; not enough leverage to turn it. Noticing a small wooden chair in the room, he flew down to it. He slowly pushed the chair along the floor, as quietly as possible, until it was adjacent to the door on the side with the knob.

From atop the chair, Mousse leaned over to grab the doorknob in his bill. He hung precariously in the air, supported by the bad-tasting knob in his mouth and the wobbly chair at his feet. Kicking away from the chair, he let gravity swing his body downwards, thereby turning the knob with his mouth.

The knob turned enough to allow the door to open. Mousse stretched his leg over to push off of the wall. The door swung back. He let go of the knob and fell to the floor.

Mousse stepped out the door into the hallway. Now he just had to find a window that opened, and he would be free to go; although as to where he would go, he had no real idea. But first things first.

There was an old saying, life is what happens to you while you're making other plans. That was certainly true for Mousse's life. Perhaps the gods were punishing him for something, he mused. Why else would they make Shampoo so perfect for him, and then arrange things so that nothing he did could possibly win her love? Were they trying to teach him a lesson? If so, he couldn't see what it was.

One of the other doors opened.


Ryoko stepped into the darkened corridor, quietly shutting the door behind her. Now that everyone had gone to bed, she could search the house. She walked silently down the corridor, keeping one hand on the wall, flashlight at the ready.

She had checked into Hideki's financial records. The balance in his bank accounts was far lower than it should have been. He had to be keeping a secret hoard somewhere. She was going to find it.

As Ryoko took a step, she felt something beneath her feet. A soft crunch came from whatever she had stepped on, followed by a loud "Kwak!"

She moved quickly back. Finding the door to the guest room, she opened it and ran back in. Being caught would ruin everything.



Mousse felt something step on his left wing. Pain shot up and down it. He heard the sound of footsteps moving away, and a door opening and closing.

A light came on. "Claudette?" Azusa stepped out into the corridor. "Oh no, you've hurt yourself, haven't you?"

Mousse pointed with his other wing to the direction whoever had stepped on him had run to. "Kwak! Kwa kwak!"

Azusa scooped him up. "I'm sorry, Claudette. I'll have to keep you on your leash from now on."


Mousse lay back on the blanket Azusa had set out for him. The leash around his neck constrained him, its other end tied to a bedpost. He knew that he could get loose if he worked at it; but he was tired,
and for now this was as good a place to rest as any.

He drifted off to sleep, until the pain in his wing prodded him awake. He rolled over as much as he could, hoping a change in position would help. Thoughts and memories blurred, running past his mind like speeding trains that he was too exhausted to catch....

The wall crumbled. Shampoo fought her way into Azusa's house, past Danielle and Delphine and all the other guards, to rescue Mousse. He collapsed into her arms as she said "Mousse, I no mean it. I no mean all things I say to you." Hand in hand, they went back to China together as she helped him deal with the trauma he had suffered....

Light stabbed into Mousse's eyes, jolting him back to consciousness. He struggled to remember where he was. Azusa's room. It was morning. He was still a duck, tied to a leash. His left wing throbbed, reminding him where it had been stepped on the night before. With his right, he pushed his glasses into place, and the world sharpened into view.

Azusa stood stretched out in front of her collection of "friends", as if shielding them. In front of her was the woman Mousse had seen downstairs the day before. She spoke into a cellular phone tucked between her shoulder and chin. "That's right. What we're looking for is in this room. Get here as soon as you can."

"You can't have my friends!" Azusa backed up as she and the woman glared daggers at each other.

The doorbell rang. The two women continued their standoff.

Footsteps and voices came up the stairs. "Search where you like, gentlemen. I've nothing to hide." Azusa's father walked into view, surrounded by men in cheap-looking suits.

The men headed directly into Azusa's room, and began examining her collection.

"You stop that! These are Azusa's friends!" Azusa started hitting one of the men. Heedless of her punches and kicks, he moved aside with her, blocking her from the others. "No!"

"They're here." One of the men took a small cylindrical object with an intricate symbol carved on one end from Odette.

"What's that?" Azusa asked, putting down the chair she was about to hit the man with.

"It's a bank sigil," the woman answered. "Your father uses these to access money under a false name to avoid taxes. Isn't that right, Mr. Shiratori?"

Azusa's father turned. "Then you are...."

"I'm a tax inspector, sir. I'm afraid you're under arrest for income tax evasion."

Mousse watched quietly. All of this had nothing to do with him. He started looking for a way to undo his leash. He would wait his chance and leave as soon as he could.

Mr. Shiratori looked around the room. "Ah well, such are the risks of the game. Well-played, my dear inspector." He turned to his daughter. "Azusa, to you I am truly sorry. I shall try to return to you when I can." He looked back at the agents. "Shall we go now?"

One of the agents escorted Mr. Shiratori out of the room. "Collect all this evidence," Ryoko said to the others.

"No!" Azusa cried. "You can't take my friends!" She snatched Lucia away from one of the agents. Two others grabbed Azusa, each taking hold of an arm. She began kicking. "No!" More agents took hold of her legs.

"Look, Azusa, I don't like doing this," Ryoko said, a bit angrily. "Your father has been hoarding money that other people need to survive. Japan needs to provide jobs, medical care... can you understand me, Azusa?"

Azusa screamed as she struggled wildly. "Give me back my friends!"

Mousse couldn't help feeling sympathy for Azusa as he watched. Everything that she cared about was being taken away from her, because of her father's mistakes.

"Sorry, Azusa." Ryoko said. She and the agents carried most of Azusa's collection downstairs. The other agents set Azusa down carefully and followed.

Azusa got up and surveyed the remains of her collection. There were only a few items left, things that obviously couldn't hide anything. And Mousse. "Claudette! They took Kristina! They took Cynthia! They... they took..."

She looked down with big tear-stained eyes. "Claudette, they took Daddy!"

Mousse searched for something to say that would help, something to make Azusa feel better. "Kwak."

"Claudette, you don't want to leave me, do you? I'll get you a nice bed, and some fish... I'll get you whatever you want."

Another reflection.

"Please.... You're all I've got left. Just you and Stephanie and...."

Azusa looked at the plaque. For perhaps the first time, comprehension seemed to dawn in her eyes as she read the words. If you love something....

Her voice choked as she loosened the leash. "You can go now." She fell into a silent sulk.

Mousse could go. But to where? Shampoo was gone. He had to let her go. And he knew that she wouldn't be back, that she would never be his. She never was.

On the other hand, here was someone who was hurting; someone who he might be able to help.

Mousse quacked to get Azusa's attention, then gestured with his uninjured wing.

"What's that, Claudette? You want me to come with you?"

The duck went into the upstairs bathroom. Azusa followed. Mousse grabbed the hot water faucet with his bill, and turned, feeling the familiar transformation begin.

Azusa stared with big eyes at the long-haired man covering himself with a hastily-grabbed towel. "Oh, Claudette!"

"Ah, hello Azusa... er, my name's not Claudette. I fell into a cursed spring that turns me into a duck when I get wet. I'm Chinese, not French, so of course I wouldn't have a French name. My name is Mousse."

Azusa stared uncomprehendingly. "I kept Mousse tied up?"

"That's okay. You couldn't have known. Besides, I had a lot on my mind anyway. I'm sorry about your father, and all of your, uh, friends."

"My friends are all I have." Azusa sighed. "I'll just have to look for new ones."

"Um, look, I'll be your friend. If it'll help, I mean."

"Really?" Azusa smiled. "I'm happy you're my friend, Mousse. You're cute!"

"Cute?! Why... er... uh..." Mousse looked around self-consciously.

"Mousse can be Azusa's favorite friend." She giggled. "Better even than Michelle!"

"Who is Michelle, anyway?" Mousse asked, idly curious, remembering the empty space on Azusa's shelf.

"Michelle was a little cloth doll, with yellow string hair and a red dress. I took her to school a long, long time ago. Everybody liked Michelle. They all told me how cute she was, even the ones that didn't talk to me before that."

Mousse reached inside.

He remembered all the presents he had given to Shampoo, the ones that she always threw back in his face.

Azusa's face lit up with a wide smile as she joyfully embraced the doll that Mousse handed her. "It's Michelle! Oh, thank you! Thank you! Mousse is wonderful!"

Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans.

Somehow that didn't seem like such a bad thing anymore.


Mu Si parked his bicycle and went into the skating rink. He saw Azusa on the ice and waved as he entered.

Azusa leapt into the air, doing a complicated spin and landing gracefully as Mu Si watched. Soon she might even be ready for the Olympics. Her movements were every bit as graceful and beautiful as Shan Pu's; not in the same way, but that didn't matter.

Soon he would have to leave, to help the people he grew up with. He hoped Azusa would be all right without him. They hadn't heard from her father at all since that morning he was hauled off to jail. Legally, he had no more obligation to her; she was an adult. But as that inspector had said, Azusa was special. Perhaps she was right about it being autism; he still had no way of really knowing.

But autistic or not, even someone like Azusa needed love, and was capable of giving it. And for Mu Si, that would have to be enough.


AUTHOR'S NOTES: Special thanks to Yoiko for co-writing Azusa's children's book style narration. The characters Ryoko and Hideki were taken from the movie "A Taxing Woman," with Hideki's family name changed for obvious reasons.

"Mu Si" is the Mandarin Chinese form of the name pronounced "Mousse", romanized with the Pinyin system. Mu is pronounced "Moo", and Si sounds like something between "Srrr" and "Szzz". (The Chinese characters for the Chinese characters' names are given in the manga; they're canon, and fanfic variations such as "Xian Pu" and "Mu Tsu" are as wrong as "Ukkyo" and "Nadoka.") In this series, I use the Pinyin forms for Chinese names in the framing sequences, and the old "toiletries" names in the flashbacks, as a way of marking the transition to the somewhat more mature environment of the main HaM series.