A Ranma ½ story
By Wun Wong
Disclaimer: I certainly do not own Ranma ½ or its characters. They belong to Rumiko Takahashi and Shogakukan in Japan, Viz Video in the USA. I do not, and will not profit monetarily from this work. Thank you.
Thanks to my first and only pre-reader, Cannibal who Snacks.
Chapter 2: "Normal" Days in Nerima I
Sasuke was always the first one up at the Kuno Mansion. This was not due to a habit of 'early to sleep, early to rise'. Rather, it was due to his little-known habit of not sleeping at all. Being a retainer to the Kuno family was a 'great honor' among his clan, which was ‘bestowed’ upon Sasuke at a very young age. He had served the Kunos for decades, and during that time, had found his workload increased steadily and unreasonably as the Kuno family grew more insane.
Since there wasn’t enough time to attend to all his duties and the whims of his masters, he developed a technique that was partly drug-based, partly self-hypnosis, that allowed him to 'sleepwork' most of his more routine duties. He was instantly awakened by the sound of any Kuno's voice, as well as his alarm clock's unique ringing pattern. He was never at 100%-- or even 60%-- of his faculties, but that didn't matter as long as he could fulfill his duties and avoid unemployment. While this technique allowed him to pretend alertness at all times, it also tended to give him problems carrying out complex instructions.
An example would be his investigation of Cologne's visit to the Tendo household. In accordance with the instructions of Tatewaki Kuno, Sasuke tried to record the words he heard into a set of stylized haiku befitting his master's refined tastes. In accordance with Kodachi Kuno's instructions, Sasuke tried to illustrate the event in a manner similar to her favorite shoujo manga. Sasuke had no idea WHY he had to report his findings that way. But since he had long ago lost any interest in the reasons behind his employers’ actions, he tried his best to obey them without question. Unfortunately, Sasuke lacked skill with poetry, as well as artistic talent. In addition, he was hiding IN the Tendo koi pond, holding an extra bamboo tube to his ear so he could hear the conversation. The combination of these factors produced a piece of work that was literally a stick-figure manga where every character spoke in incomplete haiku, drawn on a wet sheepskin with charcoal. Suffice to say, Sasuke expected punishment when he returned.
When trudging back to the Kuno Mansion to report, and to receive his beating, Sasuke was delighted to hear the sounds of battle at the Kuno Mansion; a sure sign that Ranma was 'visiting'. The way he saw it, his masters were rather forgetful, and a good run in the night chasing their respective beloved/enemy tended to make them even more forgetful. They might just forget to ask Sasuke for his report long enough for him to write up better versions.
By the next morning, Sasuke was finished with the repairs, had written the second draft of his reports, arranged for a cab to bring Tatewaki home from the coast guard headquarters, and had even managed to set bail for Kodachi, who’d been arrested for indecent exposure… all without waking up once.
Too bad he forgot about the escaped alligator.
Nabiki sighed once again when she glimpsed Akane's sullen visage, next to Nodoka's slight frown. Nothing had gone well at all that day. She had planned to talk to Mrs. Saotome before anyone else, but somehow, Ranma had gotten to her first. It might have been possible to salvage that situation… until Akane started on Ranma for ‘staying out all night with his other fiancées to avoid her cooking', never mind that Ranma hadn't known that she was cooking in the first place.
The conversation ended when Ranma angrily remarked, “Well, I’m glad I was away from your poison.”
Needless to say, Mrs. Saotome was less than eager to talk after her son left the cafe by air. In fact, she was even less willing after the cafe manager kicked them out.
Nabiki tried to salvage what she could. She talked with Nodoka about Ranma's decision to leave, and found that Ranma hadn't mentioned-- or simply didn't know-- that Kasumi would be going with him. More importantly, Ranma didn't know that Nodoka had also been invited to go to China with him. Thus, Nabiki eliminated the possibility that Ranma had spent the night with the Amazons.
When Akane angrily muttered that he had probably spent the night with other fiancées, Nodoka tried to explain about Ranma's night dodging the Kunos. It was like adding kerosene to a raging fire. Akane's face was so purple from rage that she looked as though she was doing a Barney imitation for a moment. Luckily, Nodoka repeated the part about Ranma running away from the Kunos several times, making sure that the message got through to Akane so she wouldn't suffocate.
Nodoka then took Nabiki to the side and said, “Are you sure that you don't want to marry Ranma, Nabiki-chan? I don't think your sister will survive the heart attacks she will have after they marry. Ranma is too manly to stay with one woman, and she's a little too jealous. Perhaps you would like him first. Hmm?”
Nabiki didn't even want to remember that part of the conversation. It was like Nodoka expected Ranma to seduce every girl in sight, and that they should all fall for him like bricks down a hole. Nabiki had to swear by her mother's grave (her fingers were crossed) that she was not interested in Ranma in any way-- and that yes, she was a lesbian (again her fingers were crossed)-- before Nodoka backed off, although she was not entirely convinced. Sure, Ranma was good to look at, but his immaturity made him high-maintenance. The last thing Nabiki wanted to do was to baby-sit some eternal martial arts boy into adulthood. Best to have him as a brother-in-law to poke fun at and make money off of.
The problem was, Akane caught some of that conversation, and now she was piqued at both of them for even considering the idea. When Nabiki tried to probe Nodoka's opinion on Ranma's travel plans, she got the distinct impression that somehow the Saotome matriarch approved of her son's decision. 'Oh, well. At least the day can’t get any worse. The cafe manager could have charged us for the roof of the cafe.' Nabiki thought to herself, seconds before Mr. Green Turtle, the Kuno family alligator, began its rampage.
Normally, a small sack containing rodents would be dumped into the Kuno alligator pond every morning. That morning was no different, and a sack of rodents drowned in the Kuno pond. However, there was a difference in the routine. Rather than being there to lazily snap up the sack of breakfast goodies as usual, Mr. Green Turtle had spent most of the night searching for the red-haired thing that had dared to disturb its sleep, and thus was not in the Kuno pond. After it had gotten tired from the chase, it had crawled down into the open sewer to sleep. When it finally woke up, it immediately looked about for the sack, and not finding one, began to search for food on its own. Mr. Green Turtle was a simple creature, and thus responded predictably to instinct and training. True to its instincts, it searched for the easiest source of food it could identify. Because Kodachi had ordered the breakfast sack be decorated with a picture of the hated pigtailed-girl on one side and Akane Tendo on the other after the Martial Arts Gymnastics match (Kinko’s has never since done such good business in Nerima), Mr. Green Turtle really should be excused for its behavior when it saw 'breakfast' walking its way.
Ryoga was not the most observant of individuals. Perhaps that's why he wandered the earth, never knowing where he would end up. Those few who knew more about him knew that his family had the same affliction, but little else more about its source. Most people in Nerima didn't know why he and his family had a direction problem, or why he didn't have a direction finding dog (he did; but not many knew that), or some sort of tracking device. Most people in Nerima wondered about that, but few were willing to risk their lives asking him about it. After all, it was possible that he hadn’t thought of it first, and might react badly to having relatively simple even-an-idiot-should-know solutions pointed out to him. Besides, he had probably tried them before, right? As a result, no one would ever know why his direction problem had never been fixed.
On the other hand, almost everyone knew about his rivalry with Ranma, though few knew the complex set of reasons underlying their enmity toward each other. One of the major reasons for their rivalry was over the affection of Akane. While Ranma might never admit to it, he often fought Ryoga because of jealousy and protectiveness toward Akane. Ryoga fought for more or less the same reasons, though being Akane's pet pig probably had a great deal to do with it. All of these things tended to cycle through Ryoga's mind in a somewhat skewed perspective when he was lost and had nothing better to do. This produced regular outbursts.
"Ranma! This is all your fault!"
Ryoga didn't really feel any better after his outburst this time, especially since he was tired from running around Nerima the whole night in search of Ranma or the Tendo dojo. Having failed to find either of them by morning, Ryoga had finally given up and decided to camp out under a bridge. He had passed by a large alligator that was leaving the waters, but didn't mind it one bit… since he thought he was in Florida.
Nabiki was not frightened when Mr. Green Turtle charged toward them with jaws open wide. She had seen weirder things, and besides, Akane would protect her. What she didn't expect was for Nodoka to draw her sword and tried to fend off the alligator.
It was true that Akane could handle an alligator, no sweat. She was fairly tense from previous events that morning, and thus was ready to unleash her rage at anyone or anything foolish enough to stand in her way. So when Mr. Green Turtle mistook her for breakfast, she was ready to vent some of her anger on it.
That was made a little more difficult, however, with a mad swordswoman swinging a katana in an erratic pattern, endangering foes and allies alike. In fact, after a few seconds of that, Akane was much more afraid of Nodoka than Mr. Green Turtle. The wildly oscillating path of Nodoka's blade came close to giving Akane a new hair cut several times, and confused the heck out of Mr. Green Turtle, who sat back on his haunches with a bemused expression.
Nabiki almost didn't move out of the way fast enough, and nearly got her head removed. She did drop her purse on the ground, though, and failed to recover it despite several desperate attempts.
"Finally! I seemed to be getting the basic moves right for once! Let me try this advanced one on the beast…" Nodoka drew her katana high into the air, and slashed downward, missing Mr. Green Turtle completely and cutting down straight at Nabiki's purse.
Ryoga jumped when a soul-piercing scream shattered the stillness of the morning air. It was same voice as the scream from the previous night. It was more frightened than despairing, but it was definitely the same voice.
'That was the ghost from last night! It’s following me! During the day, no less! And there must be something even scarier than it is!' Ryoga suffered a moment of panic as he tried to think of something so terrible that a ghost would be frightened of it. After his imagination failed him, Ryoga decided to head westward, away from the scream. 'With any luck, I could be in Italy by nightfall! The Vatican should be a safe place to hide from it! Maybe I can be exorcised!' Ryoga quickly packed his belongings, grit his teeth against his exhaustion… and headed south, directly toward the source of the scream.
Lunchtime at the Nekohanten was usually a busy affair. But to the disappointment of many of its regular customers, a closing notice had been placed on the entrance, announcing the imminent departure of its Amazonian proprietors. Inside, Shampoo, Mousse, and Linfa were busy packing, and preparing the restaurant for its new owners.
"How did the Elder sell the restaurant so fast?" Linfa questioned Shampoo as she waxed the floor.
"The Elder is nothing if not resourceful. She put it on sale on EBay last night." Mousse told a potted plant as he polishes a bowl. "It was surprising how fast it went, considering our location."
"Great-Grandmother not sell through EBay Mousse! She email friend in Hong Kong who want to expand restaurant chain. She putting you on EBay. Duck Boy described as 'useful dishwasher and competent moper'. First time Shampoo hear Mousse and competent in same sentence!" Shampoo smirked at the near-blinded boy as she finished the organization of the kitchen.
"Oh, Shampoo! You finally recognize my competence! Oh, joyous day! My Love, let us wed immediat-- Quack!!"
Upstairs above the restaurant area, Cologne sighed as she put away the jade piece Linfa had brought from China. She had probed its smooth, rounded surface and found no marks, or traces of the chisel, thus physical examination yielded nothing. The same went for the more spiritual methods as well. 'I could have sworn that I sensed strange emanations from it when the Tendo girl touched it. Yet I can find no traces, ki or magical.'
She hadn’t told Shampoo or the others that the jade had reacted to Kasumi Tendo, allowing them to think that she’d merely fainted from overwork. In fact, Cologne hadn't even thought about letting one of the Tendo girls come until Kasumi fainted. Originally, Cologne had planned to have just Ranma and his mother: Ranma for his martial arts and potential marriage to Shampoo, Nodoka so she could be convinced of the advantages of an Amazon daughter-in-law. However, Cologne had not counted on the jade reacting to Kasumi. That implied that there was more to the cave than just martial arts knowledge, and more to the jade than just its worth as a jewel. There was a mystery there to solve, and Cologne had taken the opportunity to keep one of the keys near her by getting Kasumi to come along.
Too bad the jade was inscrutable to Cologne's senses; else she might not have needed the Tendo girl. 'Perhaps there is a clue in the copied drawings.' Cologne carefully opened up the scroll Linfa brought with her. While the copying done by the young Amazon hunters was not perfect, the scroll nevertheless illustrated the Chinese characters fairly well. Unfortunately, even Cologne had trouble interpreting the archaic writing. She could catch a word here and there, but was unable to find any description of the jade.
Putting the scroll down for the moment, Cologne tried to think of some magical or spiritual trivia that might relate to a smooth, unmarked piece of jade. Recalling none, she reluctantly put both the jade and the scroll away for later study. Reaching into her hoard of magical knick-knacks, Cologne pulled out a mirror made of polished bronze. The rim of the mirror contained intricate relief of two phoenixes in flight, and the handle was shaped from their intertwined tails. Cologne activated it by pressing certain secret parts of the rim, causing a twin of that mirror to give off a bell-like sound in the Amazon Village. It was time to arrange for transport.
Kasumi was having a wonderful day. She didn't know why; but from the moment she woke up, she felt different. It was hard to describe, though a close approximation of what Kasumi felt was renewed. Sometimes she would just pause and wonder why it felt like she was doing everything for the first time.
She still felt a need to be with the jade, but it was lessened, as though the craving had decreased in importance. Not even the mess left by her sisters' hurried exit that morning-- or the fur dropped by Genma-- could make even the slightest dent in her armor of good cheer. She had managed to put Tofu's letter away in the back of her mind, and for the first time in days she had regained her equilibrium.
Kasumi floated through the morning cleanup with perfect harmony of mind, body, and soul. With her morning chores and cleaning done, Kasumi decided to shop for much needed lunch supplies, an act that spread an unprecedented level of happiness and contentment throughout Nerima. Normally, her mere presence soothed the mind and brought smiles to the faces of passersby, but that day she was like a shining beam of pure joy piercing the figurative gloomy cloud that was Nerima. She radiated cheerfulness so greatly that a police officer stopped her and almost asked her what illegal substance she was using. He just couldn't accuse her, however, when she turned her smile on him. So instead he greeted her and then let her go, confident that no evil could come of someone like Kasumi, no matter what she might be on.
It was a good thing, too, because a few seconds later a pigtailed boy landed right on the spot where he’d greeted Kasumi. Recognizing the prone and somewhat twisted form of the pigtailed youth, the police officer quickly vacated the area, since Code 44 (immanent possibility of random Nerima martial arts duel) was beyond any officer's duty, or capacity to deal with.
"Ranma, are you all right?" The first thing Ranma saw after landing was Kasumi's smile, which caused his brain to revert to 'polite' mode.
"Ah… I’m fine. Just need to twist my neck back into proper position. Um, could you turn around? It looks really painful, or so I've been told." Ranma unsteadily got himself standing, then carefully wrenched his head side to side, making sure to pop his spine as well. Looking around, Ranma saw pedestrians walking by. Most were oblivious to him, although a few glanced around in case another crazed martial artist began an attack. Recognizing that he was between the Dojo and the marketplace, Ranma surmised that Kasumi must have been going shopping.
"Good. Then would you like to help me get groceries? I need to stock up before we leave for China." Kasumi started off toward the marketplace, with Ranma trailing after. It took almost a minute before Ranma regained enough wits to realize that Kasumi said 'we' and 'leave for China' in the same sentence.
"Kasumi, what do mean by ‘we’, exactly?" Ranma sincerely hoped that he’d heard wrong, but unless the landing was more damaging than usual, his acute hearing would never have made such a mistake.
"I’m coming with you to China, Ranma. Daddy wanted to make sure you wouldn't get molested by the Amazons. Nabiki didn't want to go, so it was decided that I would." Kasumi explained as they approached a vegetable stand.
"Aw, man… I’m sorry I got you into this, Kasumi. Maybe we could work something out with your pop. You don't have to leave if you don't want--" Ranma was stopped by Kasumi's light laughter.
"Don't worry, Ranma. I actually do want to go. I have been thinking about traveling away from Nerima for quite some time. I just never got the chance. This seems like the perfect opportunity, really. Maybe it will be as fun as our trip to Toma's island." Kasumi started examining the vegetables, looking for the right bargain. "Besides, your mother will be coming with us. I’m sure she will keep me company if you’re too busy."
"Since when is Mom coming with us?" Ranma was confused. No one had told him so many people were going.
"Well, Cologne did offer to take your mother along if she wished to go." Kasumi smiled at the storeowner, causing the price of carrots and cabbages to drop by fifty percent. "You don't mind, do you?"
"Er… No." Ranma stared at Kasumi with puzzlement. There was something off about her, something that tugged at Ranma's non-physical senses. "Kasumi, are you taking medication?" This time Kasumi mirrored Ranma's confusion, though she still smiled. Ranma's face flushed from embarrassment when he realized how rude the question was, and he rubbed the back of his head furiously at her reaction. "Well, its just that you seem so much… um… higher today than yesterday. I mean, you seem… happy today, yeah. Did something happen?"
"Nothing you need to worry about, Ranma. Nothing at all."
It didn't take very long for the news of Nekohanten's closing to reach Ukyo. Having a ninja as a ‘waitress’ might have had something to do with that, although the sudden influx of customers gossiping about the end of good Chinese food in Nerima might have been the initial clue. Too busy with making a living to scout out her competition's true situation, Ukyo sent Konatsu to check on the Amazons. Unlike Sasuke, Konatsu did get to sleep every night, and as a result he was more successful in his spying and reporting. He got back in record time, after overhearing the conversations of the younger Amazons.
When Ukyo heard that they were really leaving, she did a little dance on her grill, and knocked out three customers by accident with her battle spatula. After she recovered from her momentary lapse in self-control, and her feet had cooled to an acceptable temperature, Konatsu continued his report. When he got to the part about Ranma planning to leave with the Amazons, Ukyo grabbed her spatula again and left him in charge of the restaurant as she headed off to do battle.
"I won’t fail you this time, Ukyo-sama!!" Konatsu shouted before he started cooking for the customers… badly.
Ukyo stalked toward the Nekohanten with violence in her mind. Though she didn't know how, exactly, she wasn't going to let them take away her Ranchan without a fight.
Ranma and Kasumi arrived at the Tendo dojo laden with groceries. Though Ranma was carrying most of them, he was still the first one through the door. The reason was that he wanted to get home as quickly as possible to tell his mother about the invitation for her to visit China. Opening the door with his foot and dropping the groceries, he skipped inside and started for the living room.
However, he was blocked from his goal by a barrage of wooden signs thrown by his father the moment he set down the bags. 'Ungrateful boy! Where were you last night?! We had a priest lined up, and you didn't show!' It was always amazing to see a panda communicate through fast writing, but Ranma had seen it enough times to be less than amused.
"Quit doing stupid things like that! And get out of the way!" Kicking the sign in front of him into Genma's face, Ranma quickly hopped over his father. Not surprisingly, Genma recovered fast enough to lash out at Ranma with a back-kick, which Ranma dodged by twisting to the side. Ranma struck again before his father could recover, a kick to the knees that sent the panda sprawling on the ground. Ranma took the opportunity to move into the living room, calling out for his mother to hear about some 'great news'. Dodging swipes of panda claws, Ranma managed to make it to the stairs, where he could see his mother descending from the second floor with Nabiki beside her.
"I’m all right, Saotome-san,” Nabiki said for the fifth time that hour, embarrassment evident in her voice. Earlier, the sight of her purse being menaced had pushed Nabiki into a screaming panic that surprised Nodoka so much that she had missed the purse lying on the ground. Seeing her yen were safe and uncut, Nabiki had sighed in relief, and then faded into unconsciousness. By the time she’d awakened, she was in her room, being babied by the Saotome matriarch. After Nabiki had fainted, Nodoka had stopped her 'fighting' to help the prone girl. Akane had taken the opportunity to boot the alligator in the direction of the Kuno Mansion, after which she carried her sister home by piggyback.
"Oh, Nabiki. I am so sorry about earlier. I should've handled the beast faster, so you wouldn't be frightened." Nodoka's exclamation almost brought a grimace to the Tendo daughter's face. Nabiki would have much preferred to be without protection than to be subjected to the Saotome Matriarch's display of 'skill'. Keeping a diplomatic face, Nabiki was about to respond to that absurd remark when Ranma's voice reached them.
"Ah! My son is home." Nodoka hurried up their pace down the stairs. "We will need to plan his trip properly. Clothes, travel money; and since my son is so manly, some… protection."
Nabiki rolled her eyes as Nodoka sank into her own little world.
Akane was in the bath when Ranma returned. Cleaning herself up after dealing with that alligator was essential, since it had literally smelled like a sewer. After finishing her soak, Akane toweled herself, and proceeded to her room for more drying and clothes. After putting on a non-descript blue dress, Akane went downstairs in search of some lunch. The scene that greeted her was one of relative tranquility; Ranma and his father were fighting over food, Nodoka and Kasumi were discussing recipes quietly as they ate, while Soun and Nabiki ignored the others as they dined. Having worked off most of her anger earlier, Akane found herself with little desire to start an argument. Reminding herself that she didn't really care, and to avoid the subject of Ranma's trip to China, Akane took her seat and started her meal. However much she would liked to have ignored it, though, Akane was soon consumed with curiosity about Nodoka's plans.
"So, are you going with Ranma, Aunty Nodoka?" Akane asked.
Nodoka paused in her conversation with Kasumi, and turned to face Akane.
"Of course. It’s an all-expenses-paid vacation. I have always wanted to travel, but since my husband hadn't let me know when he would return, I had to stay home and wait…" Nodoka was still smiling when she said this, but by reflex Genma splashed himself with water anyway. "After all, I didn’t want to miss my son's return for anything. But now that our family is reunited, I am taking the opportunity to be with my son and take a vacation for a while." Pausing for the moment, Nodoka refilled Ranma's rice bowl. "It is unfortunate, but my husband will have to stay here with you. It seems that he is not welcome in the territories we will be going to. It's too bad; bamboo is so much more plentiful there, just perfect for feeding a panda."
In response, Genma indignantly raised his sign, 'I am human! I require human food!'
Nodoka ignored her husband, and continued to speak with Akane. "Are you worried about Kasumi? Or Ranma? Elder Cologne promised that all accommodations would be taken care of, didn't she? I am sure your sister and I will be fine. Ranma will be too, especially with elder Cologne personally overseeing him, as well as Kasumi and I."
"What about his education, Saotome-san? They simply don't have the same level of education there in the backwaters of China." Nabiki said smugly, knowing that this was her chance to move events. While they might be able to get Nodoka's approval, Nabiki knew that a mother's love for her child could be manipulated in more than one way. "There are many things that China won't have, Saotome-san. What if Ranma caught a disease? Their hospitals are pathetic."
"Oh my! I am sure Elder Cologne wouldn't take us somewhere without medicine. I am sure their village healer will be skilled." Nabiki stared at Kasumi, trying to figure out what was going on. Could it be that Kasumi really wanted to go? "Besides, I think I can tutor Ranma while we are over there. I haven't studied for so long! I hope I remember enough." By this time, both Tendo sisters were staring at Kasumi with a glazed expression in their eyes, their shock evident. Ranma, on the other hand, looked up at Kasumi with horror. "I should really brush up on my Chinese. I’m really going to need it if I’m to shop for groceries there. I hope they have some Japanese foodstuffs, because I will have to take them with me otherwise. I suppose I could practice my Chinese dishes, too." Kasumi smiled benevolently at the blank expression on her family's faces.
"Kasumi, are you all right? Have you… recovered from last night?" Nabiki tried to make sense of what she'd just heard. It couldn't be that her sister's judgment was influenced by her fainting spell last night, could it? Nabiki's eyes narrowed as she focused her thoughts on deciphering Kasumi's behavior.
Then suddenly it all made sense! Kasumi's fainting spell when Ranma announced that he was leaving; Kasumi's acceptance of her own part in the trip; how usually happy she looked today… Kasumi was after Ranma! 'It shouldn’t be possible… but what else could it be?' Nabiki's eyes widened with the realization, then quickly returned to normal as she fought to cover up her reaction. 'Got to get rid of that habit… must control my face better if I’m to play against both Cologne AND Kasumi.'
"Oh, I’m fine, Nabiki. I haven't felt this good for a long time. I think it must have been a good night's sleep." Kasumi replied.
"Maybe you should wait until you’ve had a checkup. Managing your health is important, especially if you are going to travel far." Nabiki knew it was a weak attempt, but she really couldn’t just accuse her older sister of trying to steal Ranma. Besides, the oldest Tendo might just…
"Wah!! My daughter is sick and she's traveling to a hospitalless backwater!!!" Soun Tendo reacted just as his middle daughter expected. The waterworks were fairly standard-sized, so it didn't quite reach Ranma. Kasumi was already placing buckets by her father when he suddenly grabbed her arm. "My precious Kasumi, promise you will see a doctor before you leave? For the sake of your father's peace of mind?"
"Oh my. Of course I will, Father. Would you mind turning your head a little? Maybe aim at the buckets? We need to keep the floor dry." Kasumi gently pried her father's finger from her arm, and began mopping up the liquid that had made it to the floor.
"Yeah, Kasumi. Why don't we make an appointment for you with Dr. Tofu? He's been your doctor for years, so he knows you better than the new doctor at the clinic. I am sure he could prescribe medicine to take with you in case of emergencies in China." Nabiki noted with satisfaction that Kasumi's expression dropped just that tiny bit when Dr. Tofu was mentioned. 'There is definitely something going between the three of them. The question is what…'
"Oh my. What a wonderful idea, Nabiki! I haven't seen him for quite a while now. It will be good to visit." Kasumi turned to face Nabiki directly, somehow menacing despite her happy expression. "But I don't think he will be able to check on me. I heard from someone that he just got married. He should be on his honeymoon right now. I will need to see a doctor before he gets back. So will Ranma."
"Don't worry, Kasumi-chan. My personal doctor will give you and Ranma a checkup. He's been our family doctor for years, though for some reason Genma wasn't welcome at his clinic the last time we visited." The Panda somehow became paler despite being covered in fur. Nodoka patted Ranma's shoulder. "Son, he was the one who delivered you, you know. He's been wanting to see you again almost as much as I." A large sweatdrop was seen on Genma's forehead, sliding down slowly as he tried his best to sit completely still. Nabiki could almost smell the panic on him.
"Say, Mr. Saotome. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you? I mean, why would the doctor want to see Ranma?" Nabiki smirked when Genma's expression dropped even further into panic mode. 'I know nothing about that doctor!' To the suspicion of the entire household (except for Nodoka, who never suspected her husband… at least in public), the wooden signs were raised immediately. 'I am sure he's a good doctor, but why not visit the local clinic? She is much more affordable!' Realizing that everyone was staring at him with suspicion at that point, Genma desperately played his trump card, the Anything-Goes-Blame-Shifting technique #21: Ranma is a womanizer. [#Note: not to be confused with technique #1: Ranma did it; or #14: Ranma ate it; or even #19: I don't know the boy who stole your sake, sir, but I punished him for you, see?] 'I heard that the new doctor has a crush on Ranma, and will give discounts on his checkup!' Flipping over the sign, 'my son is very manly… heh heh'. That did the trick for Genma, as the Tendo family's heads all audibly swiveled toward Ranma. Nodoka looked happy, but Akane was seeing red. Realizing the danger he was in, Ranma tried his best to formula a response. Having no memory of any experience where he successfully avoided a beating, he settled on denial and then panic.
"I don't know what you’re talking about, Pops!!" It didn't look good for Ranma. Soun Tendo's head seemed to be warping; a sure sign that a demon-head attack was coming. Akane started growling… a bad sign. Kasumi seemed unconcerned, though Ranma was still edgy about her from their previous conversation. Nabiki was smirking… Uh oh.
"Why, could that be why you were out so often these past few weeks? There were a lot of hours when you were unaccounted for…” Nabiki reached for the Tendo microphone, and got into ‘dramatic proclamation’ pose. "Could Ranma be having an affair with the new doctor?!! "
After that, the demon-head did appear, and a beating was duly administered; and Genma successfully avoided giving answers to a question that would have changed the course of events significantly.
Shampoo finished the last of the packing at the Nekohanten with Linfa, just in time for a late lunch. Not willing to dirty the kitchen that they had spent hours cleaning, they decided to order out for food.
"What you want, Linfa? Many foods available here in city. Maybe Mexican?" Linfa turned from her task of securing the unconscious Mousse's cage and shrugged. "Shampoo decide, then. Sushi? Linfa should try."
Before Shampoo could reach the phone, the door of the Nekohanten slammed open. Ukyo stepped through the doorway with her battle spatula already drawn, eyes hard and bright.
"Where's my Ranchan? I don't know how you thought you could get away with this, but you can't take him!!" Ukyo pointed her spatula at Shampoo.
"So sorry, Spatula girl. Ranma not here. Maybe try Tendo dojo? We trying order out for lunch now. Perhaps you join us?" Shampoo was being uncharacteristically civil to Ukyo, an act that made Ukyo even more worried.
"Don't try to hide it! Konatsu told me you were planning to leave with Ranma! I bet you kidnapped him!" Ukyo moved toward the back of the restaurant, but had her passage blocked by Linfa's dao, a large knife which westerners grouped with swords. Shampoo was very pleased. In order to placate Ranma's sentiments, she had concealed much of her skill from her rivals. While she could've killed any of the other girls in a straight fight, she had held back to keep them relatively unharmed. This was the chance to show one of her rivals what Shampoo could really do!
"Oh, was very sad. Ranma not Shampoo's Airen anymore, so Shampoo have to go home." Ukyo turned to Shampoo with a 'yeah, right' look on her face.
"Yes, Shampoo’s love thwarted by Great-grandmother, who want Ranma be her official student." Shampoo appeared almost genuinely sad, but in the eyes of Ukyo it was bad acting. Shampoo knew that Ukyo would not back down from this course, so she applied little effort to appear truthful.
"Honey, I have a bridge in the Sahara desert that could use a new owner! Who do you think you’re trying to fool?!" Ukyo's patience was wearing thin with Shampoo's fake denials.
"But Shampoo not lying! Ranma come with us to be Cologne's new student, not Shampoo's husband!" The crocodile tears started to fall, but Ukyo remained unimpressed.
"You can’t fool me with that. Ranchan might fall for your fake tears, but I’ve seen better from fourteen-year-olds trying to trick their boyfriends."
"Shampoo not a liar! Spatula girl try to provoke a grieving woman! Shampoo kill!" With that, Shampoo pulled a couple of bonbori out and dashed toward Ukyo.
Somersaulting over the Okonomiyaki chef's reactive sideswipe, Shampoo landed on a table behind Ukyo, twisted, and struck with a bonbori.
Knowing that she wouldn't recover from her swipe fast enough to block Shampoo's likely counter, Ukyo instead spun with her missed blow and stepped away from Shampoo's probable landing point, which allowed her to dodge the bonbori strike, which she didn't even see coming. Both combatants finished their spin at the same time, facing each other. Ukyo jabbed at Shampoo with her weapon, then tried to flip Shampoo's left bonbori out of her hand.
Shampoo managed to hold onto her weapon with a deft twist of her wrist. Not wasting her opportunity, she thrust her other bonbori toward Ukyo's face while stepping forward, inside the spatula's range.
Ukyo was used to people trying to move inside her range, so she was ready for Shampoo. Instead of dodging, or trying to bring the spatula back into front position, Ukyo spun her spatula so that she held the hilt toward Shampoo's thrust. Pivoting clockwise with the impact, Ukyo took a step back, spun into a low stance, and swung the sharp end of her spatula toward Shampoo's unprotected right side.
She underestimated Shampoo's recovery speed however, and the strike missed Shampoo, who leapt forward past Ukyo and her spatula, while rotating clockwise with her left bonbori extended in a backhanded strike. Ukyo abandoned her attack when she saw the bonbori approaching her from the corner of her eye, and rolled on the ground to avoid being bashed on the head with the metal ball.
Shampoo used the momentary advantage to analyze the battle. She knew that she was faster than Ukyo, and possibly just as strong. However, Ukyo was experienced enough to use less dignified dodges and strikes if she had to, thus Shampoo wouldn't be able to take Ukyo down quickly with the way the fight was going. Deciding that she needed to distract her enemy, Shampoo tossed her left bonbori at Ukyo and leapt toward the ceiling. Ukyo reflexively raised her spatula to block the incoming projectile, thus losing sight of Shampoo for a precious moment. That moment ended when Shampoo kicked off the ceiling to rocket down at Ukyo with her remaining bonbori.
Ukyo took the hit on her right shoulder, and fell to the floor with a shout. Shampoo rolled as she landed on the floor, finishing the recovery maneuver in a one-legged crane stance, bonbori over her head and left hand in a warding position. Desperate to even the odds, Ukyo ignored the pain in her shoulder and tossed a few mini-spatulas at Shampoo with her right hand. Then, in a remarkable display of strength, with left hand alone she swung her spatula through the legs of a nearby table toward Shampoo's ankles.
Shampoo ducked the mini-spatulas, instead of blocking them as Ukyo had intended. Thus she was able to see the large spatula coming, and avoided it with a quick hop. Ukyo stopped the spatula's motion by grasping it with her right hand again, then reversed its direction and chopped at Shampoo with a two-handed grip.
Shampoo threw her remaining bonbori not at Ukyo, but at her spatula's handle, in between Ukyo's hands. The impact slowed Ukyo enough that Shampoo was able to get inside Ukyo's striking range. This time, Shampoo unleashed nearly a dozen fast blows to Ukyo's lower right ribcage, which the okonomiyaki chef was unable to avoid or block before she brought her spatula into Shampoo's side. The range was too close and the strike angle too awkward to affect Shampoo much. It did put some space between Shampoo and Ukyo, but it was little consolation in view of Ukyo's injury.
Her right side and shoulder throbbing with pain, Ukyo tried one more time to take the advantage by sending a flour bomb toward Shampoo. Too bad Shampoo was no longer there, but instead diving toward one of her bonbori. Ukyo growled as she put the last of her strength in a mighty swing, trying to catch Shampoo and take her down. She knew that if Shampoo got her weapon back, she wouldn’t stand a chance of victory at that point.
Her heart sank into the pit of her stomach when Shampoo rolled under a table with her bonbori, safely out of the spatula's path. 'Oh, Ranchan! Who will rescue you now?' Ukyo thought to herself as Shampoo rolled out the other side of the table, and began her advance.
To be continued.
Author's notes: (07/19/01) I apologize for long this took. I have an unhealthy relationship going with computer RPG's, and a while back I rented Breath of Fire IV. Anyway, C&C welcome, as usual, and please let me know if you are curious about anything in the story. This chapter contained my first fight scene, and no doubt it is somewhat choppy. Any word from you, dear readers, will help me improve, so don't hesitate to write! Thank you for reading.
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