Ranma holds Akane tight to himself, as he continues the kiss with closed eyes. Akane's shock is slowly wearing off, to be replaced by fury. Just as she is about to free herself and boot him into orbit, a voice rings out.
Voice: Hold it right there!
Nabiki is standing behind the pair. She has just turned Ranma female again with a kettle of hot water.
Nabiki: Say, Ranko... Why are you kissing Akane?
Ranko's eyes snap open, to look right into Akane's nonplussed face. For a second, nobody moves. Then Ranko slowly backs out of the embrace, looking at Akane in total astonishment.
Ranko: I was kissing her because... I... I was...
Akane: [hisses] Nabiki! You were planning this all along!
Nabiki: Of course. I figured that would be one situation that she couldn't find an explanation for.
Akane: Why didn't you tell me?!
Nabiki: Huh? Would you have done it, if I had told you?
Akane: Of course not!
Nabiki: Well, then it would have been pretty pointless to tell you, right?
Akane: Uh, sounds logical... Hey!
In the background, Ranko has fallen to her knees, her hands on her temples. She hears nothing of the quarreling siblings - she hears only an echo of her own words.
Echo: I was kissing her... was kissing her... kissing her... kissing her...
Ranko cries out in pain. Akane's head snaps in her direction.
Akane: Ranko! [hurries over] Are you all right?
The wall bulges inward and breaks. In the hole stands Shampoo, with her bonbori ready.
Shampoo: Ranko, Korosu!
Akane: Aww, not now!
She stands up and moves between The Amazon and the groggy Ranko. Shampoo makes one bonbori vanish and wags a finger at Akane.
Shampoo: No. Shampoo come for Ranko now. Violent girl Akane wait till is her turn.
Akane: You can't kill Ranko!
Shampoo: Shampoo can. Must! Then she marry Ranma. [narrows eyes] Shampoo sure she can find time for Akane in between.
Ranko: [gets up unsteadily] Uuuhh... How many times do I have to tell you, Shampoo? I won't marry you.
Akane almost jumps at this.
Akane: [thinks] She remembers!
Shampoo: Silly Ranko. Shampoo kill Ranko - marry Ranma. Is easy.
Ranko: Not quite as easy as you think.
Shampoo: Ha! You talk brave now, but one day Shampoo win.
Ranko: That was not exactly what I meant. Nabiki? Why don't you fetch a bucket of cold water, while we calm the living wrecking ball down?
Nabiki takes off, thankful to be out of the way of violence, before Akane can cry out.
Akane: No, Don't! Ranko, you can't tell her!
Ranko: Sure I can.
Shampoo: Tell Shampoo what? Where is Ranma?
Akane: [never taking her eyes of Ranko] I guess he'll be here soon.
Ranko: [grinning] He'll arrive with Nabiki - in a way.
Akane: [whispers] What are you thinking?
For a moment, they stand still. Shampoo with her bonbori ready; Ranko in fighting position; Akane besides Ranko. Then Nabiki arrives back with a bucket as ordered. Ranko takes the bucket, while Shampoo cranes her neck to look down the hallway.
Shampoo: Where Ranma?
Ranko: Over here.
As Shampoo turns, Ranko splashes herself with the water. Everything seems to slow down. Ranko grows taller and changes into Ranma before the astonished Amazon's eyes. Shampoo's jaw drops, as do her bonbori. Ranma waits for a few seconds, then he takes the kettle, that is still on the floor, and upends it over his head. Shampoo twitches as Ranma reverts to female form.
Ranko: You see? You can't marry Ranma. Ranma is just me in disguise. It's a secret, but now you know.
Shampoo's slack jaw begins to move, as if she was saying something. Suddenly she lunges forward.
Shampoo: K- korosu!
Ranko frantically brings up her arms to deflect the punches - but they never hit. Shampoo has stopped short, without connecting. When Ranko looks up at her face, she sees tears rolling from the Amazon's eyes. Shampoo backs away, then abruptly turns and hurries out through the hole in the wall.
Shampoo: [running] Bie liao!
The three girls stare after her. Then Nabiki flourishes a Chinese-Japanese dictionary.
Nabiki: Bie Liao... That means... [flips pages]
Ranko: [without turning her head] I guess I know what it means.
Akane: [regaining her speech] What were you thinking?! You could have made her believe that you were really male.
Ranko: Huh? But then she would have tried to marry me. This way she just wanted to kill me.
Akane: Oh, now it makes sense.
Ranko: Well, she thought I... I was in love with you. Um. So she would have tried to kill you instead.
Akane: I can very well look after myself!
Ranko: Sure! You may be good, but don't flatter yourself - Shampoo is faster. She had you on the mat once already.
Akane: [hefting the chair] Is that so?
Nabiki: My, it's good to see you two back to your old selves again. Whatever would we have done for entertainment otherwise?
-- End of Part 23
Part 24: "Take these lips of mine"
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