Chapter 5: Of Spatulas and Men
A Ranma ½ story
by D.B. Sommer
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
All comments and criticisms appreciated. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s gone on before: In the beginning, Ranma and Genma traveled to Jusenkyou for the first time and started to spar, not realizing a duel was already occurring between Shampoo and Mousse. One mid-air collision and dunking in spring of young drowned man later, we have a male Shampoo as well as a female Ranma. (So Ranma-chan= female Shampoo-kun= male.) Shampoo began traveling with Ranma after acquiring her curse. Since then chaos and confusion has reigned. At the end of last chapter, a certain somebody at an all boy’s school heard about the antics of one “Ranma Saotome” and has become very interested in settling an old score…
It was turning out to be a boring day.
Slowly, eyes little more than half-lidded slits, Ranma-chan scanned the classroom. Today was just one of those languid days when nothing was happening, and to be blunt, she was bored. That was perhaps the one thing Ranma-chan hated most of all: nothing interesting in the least going on. Oh, it was true that sometimes things got TOO interesting, but given a choice between the one and the other, she would have wanted something to happen to liven things up each and every time.
Lazily, the redhead looked over towards Akane and Shampoo-kun. No. Neither one of them seemed to be having any problems (nor causing any, for that matter). Kunou wasn’t around. No deranged cheerleaders were present. There was only the droning voice of Godai-sensei disturbing the silence. It was too boring for Ranma-chan to complain about how boring it was.
Ranma-chan’s head was resting on her desk when a young student entered the room. He appeared to be the same age as the others in the class. Curiously, the newcomer bore a grill under the arm and a large spatula strapped across the back. All eyes turned towards the unusual visitor.
“Ah, I was wondering when you’d show up,” Godai-sensei said to the newcomer before turning his attention to the rest of the room. He hoped things would go all right. He didn’t believe they would, but he did try to hold on to a glimmer of hope. Clearing his throat, he said, “Class, allow me to introduce a new student. Everyone, please meet Ukyou Kuonji.”
The members of the class immediately sized up the new student. The girls evaluated the new boy, coming up with an eighty-seven percent approval rating: He wasn’t leering at any of the girls, had not attempted to glomp onto anyone the instant he had laid eyes upon them, did not spout poetry, and had pretty darn good-looking bishonen features to boot (though he still fell somewhat short of Ranma in the looks department.)
The boys of the class came up with a thirty-five percent approval rating: Too good-looking; they didn’t need the competition. If he went for the bishonen look, he was probably not athletically inclined and therefore not likely to help by joining any of the sports teams. However, he did have a large spatula slung across his back, which meant he was weird and would probably have some decent entertainment value.
As the students continued their evaluations, Ukyou bowed before the class. The chef then laid the grill down and held two of the mini-spatulas from the bandoleer in her hands.
Ranma-chan had initially been interested in the newcomer, but when all that happened was a normal introduction, quickly became bored again. Her own evaluation had gone something along the lines of ‘Not attacking me or anyone I know: another boring student with a grill.’ She was about to try catching just a tiny nap, when something about the figure struck a chord deep inside the recesses of her memory. “No way. It can’t be.”
Ukyou raised the spatulas high in the air. “Witness the prowess of a master of okonomiyaki.”
Her hands moved at blinding speed, and within moments the chef cooked, then tossed, okonomiyaki to everyone in the class. Each serving of the food landed right on target upon each individual’s desk.
Akane bit down on hers. It was delicious. She was going to have to try to get Kasumi to make some. Or better yet, try to do it herself. Judging by how quickly this Ukyou made them, cooking some would be easy.
Across from Akane, Ranma-chan took one bite into hers and smiled. Only one okonomiyaki in the world could taste that good. “It is! It is Ucchan!” she shouted as she jumped out of her seat in a heartbeat and made her way across the room by leaping upon other students’ desks as a normal person would play hopscotch. She stopped right in front of Ukyou and was about to embrace the chef, when a giant spatula was maneuvered between her and her intended target.
“Do I know you, Miss?” Ukyou asked, watching for any other unexpected movements from the girl. The redhead had seemed more happy than violent, but it could have been some sort of trick. Ukyou was too close to achieving her heart’s desire now to let anything get in the way.
The smaller girl gave Ukyou a hurt look. “Sure, Ucchan. It’s me, RanAKK.”
Akane’s elbow landed on top of Ranma-chan’s head, preventing her from saying getting anything else out. “My, my, Shampoo, aren’t we being too friendly with Ranma’s acquaintances?” She emphasized ‘Shampoo’ and ‘Ranma’ with all the subtlety of a brick to the head.
Ranma-chan blinked in confusion for a second, then nodded in understanding. “Right. Ranma’s friends.”
Ukyou’s eyebrows raised in surprise at that. “You know Ranma?”
“Yeah.” Ranma-chan decided to make the best of the bad situation. Besides, she could probably tell Ukyou the truth, eventually. “He’s right over there.” She pointed to Shampoo-kun.
Ukyou looked suspiciously at the dark-haired boy Ranma-chan had indicated. The chef was still staring at him as she asked, “So, he’s told you the nickname he had for me?”
“Oh, yeah,” Ranma-chan said casually. “We’ve been around each other for months now. There aren’t any secrets we keep from one another.”
That got the attention of all the girls in the room. Every set of female eyes, save Akane and Ukyou’s, regarded Ranma-chan with hostility at the perceived advantage the redhead had over them and the target of their affections. Since the Ranma-chan’s attention was riveted on the newcomer, she remained momentarily unaware of the host of lethal stares.
Ukyou stared suspiciously at the shorter girl. “And what did Ranma tell you about me?”
Thoughts about their shared past cheered Ranma-chan up. “He told me everything. About how you were one of the few friends he had growing up. How you used to make okonomiyaki for him. How you two used to spar. It was too bad he had to leave all that behind with Pop. I mean his pop. He never knew anyone else that ever made okonomiyaki as good as that.”
Ukyou’s harsh look, which had partially faded away when the chef had been cast adrift on memories of bliss, hardened. “Typical.” Ukyou snorted in disgust. “He lied about the ‘departure’.”
“The heck I did,” Ranma-chan shot back. “I didn’t forget anything. Pop and me were leaving and you were chasing uACK!” A blunt object halted her speech once again.
Akane tossed back the paperweight Shampoo-kun had thrown to her —to silence Ranma-chan— back. “Who was leaving who, might I ask?”
Most of the girls in the class picked on the faux pas as well, and as usual, came to their own conclusions as to what that meant. A chorus of voices filled the room as the girls formed small groups and began chattering amongst themselves.
“How dare she call Ranma’s father, Pop.”
“She makes it sound like they’re already married.”
“You don’t suppose there’s a reason for that?”
“What if they got married in a secret ceremony and are just keeping it quiet until Shampoo becomes pregnant and they can’t hide it anymore?”
“Oh my god! Shampoo’s pregnant with Ranma’s child!”
“NOW CUT THAT OUT!” Ranma-chan roared at the top of her lungs. It was amazing how quickly students could come up with weird ideas and spread ridiculous rumors. Odds were the shout would be seen as a denial that would serve to confirm the gossip, and Nabiki would be accepting bets on the sex of the child by tomorrow morning. The only saving grace was that Ukyou didn’t seem to be buying into the rumor.
“Anyway,” Ranma-chan began again. “Mr. Saotome and Ranma were leaving and you were chasing him down the street. Ranma was sitting on top of the yattai as he saw you running and calling out his name as you waved good-bye. He waved at you until you were out of sight. He even felt kind of bad about it for a couple of weeks, before completely forgetting about it until he saw you again today.”
Ukyou’s anger began to swell. Ranma had dared to forget about her? After what he had done? “And did he tell you what kind of a yattai it was?”
“Sure it was the oko… wait a minute. We didn’t have an okonomiyaki yattai.”
Shampoo-kun tossed a desk at Ranma-chan. Once again conditioning took effect.
“RANMA! RANMA, didn’t have a yattai!” the redhead emphasized as she rubbed her head. “You did. Why did we… I mean they, have your cart?”
“It was part of the deal.”
Ukyou’s eyes glinted dangerously. “The deal to take me along.”
“Why were you supposed to go with, er… them?”
“That is between Ranma and me,” Ukyou intoned dramatically before turning her attention to her grill again. The chef whipped up yet another okonomiyaki and tossed it to Shampoo-kun, who snatched it out of mid-air. On it were written the words, “I challenge you to a fight, Ranma Saotome. Meet me behind the gymnasium right after school.”
With the challenge delivered, Ukyou leapt out a window and to the ground below.
“You know, I actually kind of expected that to happen,” Godai-sensei stated from his desk at the front of the class. Apparently desensitization to the bizarre really could happen.
“So what did you do to him?” Akane asked.
“Nothing,” Ranma-chan insisted. “I can’t figure out why the guy’s angry with me. I know there was nothing I did that could have been misinterpreted as something bad, like with Ryouga. Besides, Ukyou wasn’t screwed up like Ryouga was. Ucchan was a normal little kid, just like me.”
Ranma-chan missed the suspicious glances Akane and Shampoo-kun shot towards her. She was too lost in thought over the new events. Something strange was going on with Ucchan, and she meant to get to the bottom of it. On the bright side, at least things were looking interesting for the first time today. Although suspicions about the situation evolving into something TOO interesting made her somewhat cautious.
Shampoo-kun considered the situation, and then shrugged. If he had to fight in Ranma’s stead, it would be no problem. He brought out a bonbori and gave it a few practice swings. He doubted if it would be much of a fight. After all, how dangerous could someone whose primary weapon was a spatula be?
Rumors had reached Tatewaki Kunou (rumors he had not needed to pay for, the gossip having reached his ears before Nabiki Tendou had gotten to him and offered to give him some ‘exclusive information,’ about Ranma, for a price), and they had told of yet another person who had become embroiled in the holy crusade against the Evil Saotome. It was a matter worth looking into. Not that Kunou needed assistance in his campaign against the vile one, but it suited his desires to know who else might be aligned against his most tenacious and dishonorable opponent.
Besides, he had to be sure it wasn’t some sort of plan on the part of the newcomer to ingratiate himself into the feelings of Saotome’s two love slaves: The Beauteous Akane Tendou and The Equally-Spirited Shampoo.
It took some searching, but eventually he came upon the new student. Ukyou was in the process of setting up some kind of fighting ring behind the gymnasium. The design was a bit unusual, with an odd black metal surrounding the edge of the mat and several large ceramic jars located near one corner of the ring. Apart from those odd characteristics, it appeared to be capable of containing an honorable duel.
“Good day to you, Sir.” Kunou’s announcement captured Ukyou’s attention and caused a scowl to crease the chef’s forehead.
“What do you want?” Ukyou asked.
“I have come to see for myself yet another of the foul Saotome’s many enemies.”
That got Ukyou’s attention. “Oh? He has lots of enemies?”
“Indeed,” Kunou’s eyes glazed over and he drew his bokken, pointing it to the skies as he went into full rant mode. “All men are truly the enemy of one so low, yet it falls to champions such as us to counter his evil ways, for he is an opponent of some might. Though no comparison to my own, of course.”
“Unn, right,” Ukyou said hesitantly, wondering if the guy was for real.
“His evils know no limits. He has somehow, perhaps through magic, bound two women to his cause. Two sweet innocent maidens that he uses for his own base desires.”
Ukyou nodded in understanding. It was an unusual way to put it, but Ukyou knew what Kunou meant. “Using women for his own, umm, base desires. Now that sounds like the Ranma I know. A real user of women, along with his worthless father. I bet that redhead was one of them. Maybe I can explain to those girls what a creep he really is, and then they’ll leave him.”
“Indeed,” Kunou cast a suspicious glance towards Ukyou, and pointed his bokken in her direction. “Why such concern about the women? Do you mean to make them yours as well?”
“Eww,” Ukyou made a face towards Kunou. “I’m not that way. I don’t like girls.”
“Ah, that is a relief,” Kunou paused as he considered exactly what Ukyou had just said. There was something a little off about that statement. “What do you imply by declaring that you do not like girls?”
“It’s self-explanatory,” Ukyou responded. “I’m normal, okay? I just like guys.”
Kunou paled. “What a grim day this has become. Furinkan has yet another pervert amongst its halls, as though there were not enough such depraved people already.”
“You probably lusted after me from the moment you laid eyes upon my magnificent form.”
Ukyou made an even more disgusted face at that. “I’d sooner date a girl than a guy like you, Sugar. And believe me, that’s saying a lot.”
“Methinks thou doth protest too much,” Kunou quoted as he jumped into the ring and brandished his bokken towards Ukyou. “I consider it my duty to teach you the error of your unholy ways.”
The giant spatula found its way into Ukyou’s hands. “Okay. I wanted to test my fighting ring anyway. I guess this is as good a way as any.”
“Foolish, perverted, misguided youth. I am the Blue Thunder of Furinkan. There are none that can truly defeat me, Ranma having cheated in all of our fights to date. Allow me to beat the perversions out of you.”
Ukyou just gave a grim smile in return.
The fight was brief, consisting of Kunou going. “A spatula is no true weapon.” *SMACK* “OW! Put that pot down, else I shall—“ *SPLASH* “How grotesque. I am now covered in some repellent, brown sticky substance.” *SMACK* “OW! How dare you strike me while I’m distracted. All I need is a moment to.” *SIZZLE* “ARGH! I’m being cooked alive!” *SMACK* “I shall avenge myself upon you, once I recover consciousness.” *THUD*
A wide smile broke Ukyou’s face. Now that she felt warmed up, she was prepared for the main event. As she waited for her former fiancé to show, she stared at Kunou. As she did so, an idea came to her. After all, she needed something to kill the time.
Word had traveled like wildfire through the school during the course of the day. Enough people heard about the impending battle that when school ended, there was a sizable crowd gathered behind the gymnasium waiting for the fight.
“What the heck is that?” Ranma-chan called out as she made her way through the crowd only to see Kunou, leaning against the ring, baked into the middle of a giant okonomiyaki.
“I was experimenting with a new style of food,” Ukyou explained from the center of the ring. “I was going to call it, Dip-with-a-Stick Okonomiyaki, but it’s an absolute failure.”
“The great Tatewaki Kunou is no man’s side order,” Kunou complained as he tried prying himself out of the slightly burned yet still-tasty crust. But it was all to no avail. He turned his head towards Akane and Ranma-chan. “It appears my situation is somewhat awkward. I would not consider it beneath me to have you assist me out of this foodstuff.”
Watching Akane and the big-tailed girl laugh until they cried, Kunou realized that Ranma truly had woven his spell deeply into their souls. Should the perverted Kuonji fail to dispatch Ranma, it would fall to Kunou to defend them in their innocence once again. First, he had to get out of his bizarre predicament to make sure he would be able to do that. After taking a deep breath, he began eating his way out of his baked form of confinement. On the bright side, Kuonji, as perverted as he was, did know how to make darn good okonomiyaki.
Next to the ring, Godai-sensei sighed. It was his responsibility to see to the welfare of a new student. Actually, it was his responsibility to look after the welfare of all his students, but he gave up on that early on. He’d have been lucky to survive spending five minutes with them given some of the situations they tended to end up in. But for the sake of the new student, he had to try at least this once. It would be risky, but no one would accuse Yusaku Godai of being spineless.
Except his neighbors, wife, family, and anyone else that knew him really well.
Walking over to Shampoo-kun, Godai cleared his throat to get the boy’s attention. “I don’t know what happened in your past, Ranma, but try to go easy on Ukyou. He is a new student, after all.”
Shampoo-kun did what came naturally and promptly ignored the reasonable advice. Ukyou had challenged him (inadvertently) and was going to learn the hard way just what a mistake that was (a big one). Besides, in a way, Shampoo-kun was doing the chef a favor, since Ranma was better than the Amazon and would have defeated Ukyou even more quickly and efficiently.
A glance at the students surrounding the ring revealed the usual crowd of Shampoo-kun admirers waving signs with his ‘name’ on them and shouting words of encouragement. Annoyingly enough, he also noted that most of the guys were rooting for Ukyou. The naïve fools. Really, what chance did anyone think the likes of a chef, even a martial arts one, stood against someone as tough as Shampoo-kun? He’d make short work of the newcomer; less than five minutes was all it would take.
With a leap, Shampoo-kun effortlessly propelled himself over the ropes and into the ring, landing lightly on his feet and ready for battle. Ukyou met the cursed-Amazon's look of intensity with one of her own. Now that she found herself at the moment of truth, a moment anticipated for more than a decade of devotion to revenge, she took her time to evaluate him. Her Ranchan no longer looked the same since those bygone days when they were in the flower of their youth, before he shamed her. His appearance had completely changed. Had it not been for people pointing him out, she would never have been able to guess this boy was him.
She took note that he was several centimeters taller than her, with a broad chest and nice shoulders that even his school uniform couldn’t hide. Definitely handsome, much more so than she had remembered. For a moment, the feelings of desire, long since forgotten (or perhaps more accurately, suppressed) flooded back to her. But then years of not so pent up anger overwhelmed the pleasant memories and attraction. This was the moment of truth, where Ranma paid for humiliating her and abandoning her at the side of the road. She felt an increase in anger towards him for making her want to not bash his head in, even if it had lasted for only the span of a moment.
Ukyou brought her giant spatula up, raising it up past her shoulder so that she could bring it into play in an instant. When they were but children, Ranma might have been able to defeat her, but no longer. For years she had practiced and become better at her art. She had even gone so far as to fight the ocean. Sure, it hadn’t been much of a sparring partner, and she hadn’t defeated it, but that wasn’t the point. Besides, Ranma was no body of water; he could be beaten.
In response to Ukyou’s motion, Shampoo-kun brought his own bonbori to bear.
“I see you came prepared,” Ukyou said. “For what you did to me, Ranma Saotome, you are going to pay.”
Shampoo-kun smirked in response. “Am ready.”
Much to Ranma-chan’s surprise, she found herself becoming dismayed over the fight. It was bad enough to allowing Shampoo-kun to fight yet another battle meant for her, but now it was against someone she had really liked. The redhead had already warned Shampoo-kun to go easy on Ukyou, but perhaps the whole thing could still be prevented. She muscled her way past the crowd and to the edge of the ring, then called up to the chef, “Isn’t there some way to call this off, Ucchan?”
Ukyou turned in anger at the strange girl who had been acting far too friendly with her from the moment they had met. “NO! And don’t call me Ucchan. Only Ranma could call me that, and he lost that right a long time ago.”
“Fine,” Shampoo-kun snorted. “Ranma call Ucchan something else stupid instead.”
Ukyou looked at her opponent curiously. “What is it with the missing pronouns?”
Before Shampoo-kun could answer, Akane blurted out, “Ranma was in China for so long, and spoke Chinese so well, he’s forgotten how to speak Japanese fluently.”
“Good answer.” Ranma-chan patted Akane on the back in appreciation for coming up with the excuse. Yes, it was flimsy, but the student body of Furinkan was not the brightest around. It would hold up to their sort of casual inspection.
“I think it’s cute,” one of the girls next to the ring moaned, proving just how correct Ranma-chan had been
Ukyou considered the girl’s words. The spatula wavered slightly. “Yeah, it is kind of cute. Maybe…” She realized what she was saying and shook her head. “Hey! You’re trying to get me to not beat you up by coming on to me by acting cute again, aren’t you? That’s a pretty low trick, but it’s not going to work! What feelings I had for you don’t matter anymore. You’re going to pay!” Ukyou brandished her spatula in Shampoo-kun’s direction once again.
Akane eyes widened at the reference to ‘feelings’ and the manner in which they were spoken. She looked at Ranma-chan quizzically. “Feelings he has for you? Coming on to him? Just what kind of relationship did you have with Ukyou?”
“Not that kind.” Ranma-chan shook her head furiously, picking up on the implication of Ukyou’s words as well. He hadn’t thought Ukyou went that way. He had always seemed like a normal kid, or at least that was what Ranma-chan remembered. Obviously she hadn’t known Ukyou quite as well as she thought she had.
“Are you sure you didn’t lead him on?” Akane asked suspiciously.
“Of course not! I’m not that way!” Ranma-chan shot back, offended at the implication.
The girls surrounding the ring listened to the words Ukyou had used as well. Several huddles formed as discussions on this new information broke out among them.
“It can’t be. I’ve seen the way he looks at me. You know, the way guys look at girls. Pure lust.”
“And yet, it would explain why he tries so hard to avoid dating us.”
“And also why Akane isn’t interested in a hunk like him.”
“We need some way to prove Ranma’s not gay.”
“Let’s have a guy try to kiss him. If Ranma hits him, that means he’s not interested in men.”
“My brother, Tetsuo swings that way.” The speaker turned to her brother. “Hey, Tetsuo. Try to kiss Ranma.”
Tetsuo was offended. “Excuse me, I am not some desperate alley cat that tries to kiss someone whom he hardly knows, unlike some girls I could mention, dear sister. Besides, I don’t go for the martial artist type. They are so insufferably macho.”
Shampoo-kun didn’t know whether to be offended at being unkissable to the boy, or grateful that his acting job was so good.
Sayuri took command of the situation. “I guess there’s only one other course for us to take. We’ll have to have a girl kiss Ranma and prove that he isn’t gay.”
“Who’s going to do it?” another girl asked.
“This burden must fall upon my shoulders.” Sayuri boldly said, beating back the other girls that wanted to share her ‘burden’. She crawled up the ring apron and walked over to the corner Shampoo-kun was in. She leaned in the ring and said, “Well, Ranma, here’s a chance to prove your manliness to everyone.” Sayuri closed her eyes and puckered up.
Shampoo-kun let his bonbori kiss her. Hard.
As the crowd grabbed Sayuri’s unconscious form, cries of anguish and tears began to come from the girls, and the boys cheered as Shampoo-kun’s sexual orientation came into question.
Ranma-chan began to panic. There was only one option left to her. Boldly, she declared to Akane, “I can’t let this happen. The name of Ranma Saotome can’t be connected with such unmanly behavior. Shampoo has got to kiss a girl to prove I’m not gay.”
Akane’s eyes widened at the look of determination in Ranma-chan’s eyes; nothing would be stopping the redhead this time. An odd sensation came over Akane. It wasn’t jealousy. Really, it wasn’t. “Ranma, are you sure you’re going to be able to kiss Shampoo in front of all these people?”
“Don’t be silly. I’m not going to do it. She’s a guy now. You’re going to have to go in there and kiss her for me.”
A giant wooden hammer found its way to Ranma’s skull.
Shampoo-kun turned his attention from the fallen Ranma-chan back to his opponent, only to see Ukyou glowing blue and glaring at him with a look of pure rage.
“How dare you blatantly tease and seduce all of these girls right in front of my face!” Ukyou roared.
After Shampoo-kun picked himself from the facefault, he returned the glare to Ukyou. “Stupid Spatula Boy not have strong connection with reality. Now Ranma make connection even worse.” He waved his bonbori menacingly towards Ukyou.
“Spatula BOY?!” Ukyou raged, then lunged forward and attacked.
The Amazon met the charge with one of his own, the two opponents meeting right in the center of the ring. The sound of metal on metal resounded across the yard as bonbori met spatula, sparks flying as the weapons connected soundly with one another.
For a couple of minutes, all that was heard was the ringing of weapons clashing and the gasps of the crowd as one opponent would nearly hit the other, only to have a flurry of counterstrikes drive the attacker back and prevent him from taking the advantage. Ukyou connected first with a glancing blow off Shampoo-kun’s shoulder, which was then returned with a solid blow from the cursed Amazon, who struck with a bonbori to Ukyou’s ribs.
Ukyou back-flipped away from Shampoo-kun. At first, the dark-haired boy thought it was because his opponent wanted to catch his wind, but instead, Ukyou kicked one of the pots lining the inside of the ring in Shampoo-kun’s direction. The Amazon was a blur of motion as he barely reacted in time by batting the pot back with a blow from the bonbori, driving the batter and rubber cement mixture within back towards his foe. Ukyou, having more time to react, deftly leaped over the jar, allowing the contents to spill over the edge of the ring, hardening almost instantly. She then retaliated with a volley of throwing spatulas in Shampoo-kun’s direction. He dodged the weapons, only to land on the black metal lining the edge of the ring. A second later, he discovered that what appeared to be a normal part of the ring was actually a very hot non-stick cooking surface. Shouting from the pain of the unexpected hotfoot, Shampoo-kun leaped back to the center of the ring.
Ukyou pressed the advantage, hurling another volley of mini spatulas. Anticipating where Shampoo-kun would dodge correctly, the okonomiyaki chef struck solidly with Shampoo-kun’s shoulder, causing him to drop a bonbori. Smiling, Ukyou picked up the weapon with the flat of her own and hurled the metal sphere into one of the other batter and rubber cement jars.
“That takes care of that,” Ukyou smirked, cocky at her success and believing her victory close at hand. Her overconfidence was short lived as she received a kick to the chest when she paused too long to unleash her next blow. The next strike from Ukyou’s weapon was deflected by Shampoo-kun’s remaining bonbori, which also left her too close as Shampoo-kun drew back his free hand and called out, “Kachu-tenshen amaguriken!”
Ukyou’s skills were great enough that she saw the hand actually blurring in front of her and realized her opponent’s fist was moving at an unbelievable velocity, although Ukyou felt nothing of the blows. Rather than allow the volley to continue, she leaped backward, preparing for another attack. Just as she drew her spatula back for another blow, she saw Shampoo-kun smirk and hold out his hand. Within its grasp were several throwing spatulas, each held between his fingers. Ukyou looked down at her bandoleer to see it absent of her familiar weapons, the majority of which were now on the mat, lying at her opponent’s feet.
Reacting even as Shampoo-kun continued his cocky grin, Ukyou pulled a bag of flour from its place of concealment within her outfit and hurled it at the dark-haired boy. Shampoo-kun’s form was lost in the white haze of the flour bomb.
“Time to finish it.” Ukyou drew yet another weapon she had prepared especially for the duel, a bowl of special noodles with the tensile strength of steel. Using a pair of chopsticks, she hurled the noodles into the fog in a wide web, allowing the base of the strands to remain in the bowl. In a second she felt them latch onto something in the fog and pulled the noodles tight. She knew she had her prey at last. This particular strategy had been one she came up with the night before. She had not thought she would need it, but thankfully she had decided not to take any chances. Victory was now hers. Once the fog cleared, her helpless opponent would truly get the beating he deserved.
The flour fog finally dissipated, and Ukyou was left staring in disbelief at the tableau before her. Shampoo-kun was standing there, all of the noodles firmly in the grip of his right hand.
“Ha!” Shampoo-kun laughed as he maintained his hold on the noodles. “Ranma has been trained in Martial Arts Take Out, and knows counter to stupid noodle trick.”
While Ukyou stood there, stunned, Shampoo-kun pulled back on the noodles, jerking the chef forward and causing her to lose her grip on her giant weapon. The moment Ukyou was close enough, he released his hold on the noodles and wrapped his opponent up in a bear hug, pinning her arms before she could recover. Ukyou squirmed futilely in his grasp, trying to escape, but was helpless in the face of his vastly superior strength.
Shampoo-kun tightened his grip and felt Ukyou’s body smothered flat against him, her breath slowly being forced from her lungs leaving her helpless to draw in another. Just as he was sure she was about to pass out, he noticed an inconsistency with his opponent’s form. Specifically, two rounded fleshy inconstancies that were poking him in his chest.
Using his foot, Shampoo-kun flicked one of the fallen mini-spatulas in the air. Just as it reached eye level with him, he released his hold on Ukyou and snatched the weapon out of mid-air, taking a half step back.
The audiences’ eyes widened as Shampoo-kun brought the weapon down in a sweeping arc, right in front of Ukyou. Cries of dismay started to circulate among the crowd when everyone finally saw that Shampoo-kun had not actually cut Ukyou, but rather the front of her outfit.
And the bindings that kept her breasts bound tight against her flesh.
It took a moment for the cool breeze to wash over Ukyou’s front for her to realize what had happened. Her eyes drifted down slowly, as though if she hesitated in looking upon her display, others would too. But she saw that it was just as she knew it would be. Her hands pulled her slashed top back over the exposed flesh, though the damage had already been done. Through tear-filled eyes she stared at Shampoo-kun, feeling even more betrayed than before from suffering further humiliation at what she thought were her former friend’s hands.
She drew one of her hands back, holding her top in place with the other. “You jerk!” she shouted as she slapped the stunned boy across the face.
Despite his suspicions, Shampoo-kun was shocked to discover that it had indeed been a girl he had been fighting. Had it not been for feeling the bound breasts, he would never have suspected that his opponent was really a girl; Ukyou’s act had been that convincing. And then there were the implications of what relationship this girl might have had with Ranma. Those two revelations froze him in place, allowing Ukyou to unleash a none-too-gentle slap to his face, one that he didn’t react immediately to. His hesitation allowed Ukyou to flee the scene, leaping over the schoolyard and into the streets beyond, bawling her eyes out the entire time.
Akane was one of the first to recover from the surprise. “I thought you said he was a guy.”
“He was,” Ranma-chan insisted. “Don’t you’d think I’d know a guy from a girl? Just how unobservant do you think I am?” The redhead paused in thought for a moment. “Obviously if Ukyou was a guy before, and is a girl now, then something must have happened to him.”
“Obviously,” Akane agreed dryly.
“And I think I know what it is,” Ranma-chan said triumphantly.
“He fell into the Spring of Drowned Girl at Jusenkyou, just like me.” Ranma-chan smirked at her genius at solving the question so quickly.
Akane wasn’t so certain. Yes, it made sense. Too much, actually. It seemed the answer was just a little too easy. There had to be a catch, there just had to be. “So what should we do?”
“Find Ukyou and let him know he ain’t alone in the world,” Ranma-chan declared. “But first, we got to rescue Shampoo.” She pointed at the cursed Amazon and the predicament he suddenly found himself in. As Ukyou’s true sex had come to light, the Furinkan girls quickly realized that since Ukyou was really a girl and not a boy, that meant the object of their affections was not gay. In their delirious joy, they leaped into the ring and onto Shampoo-kun, threatening to drown him in the impromptu sea of humanity. It was up to Ranma-chan and Akane to pull him out of the mess he was in and help them in tracking down the fleeing chef.
Ukyou was crying harder than she ever had in her life. Harder than when Ranma and his father had left her by the roadside. Harder than when the other kids made fun of her for being dumped by her fiancé. Harder than when her pet dog, Fluffy, had been electrocuted in that horrible fight with that large yellow rat that kept shouting ‘piika.’ (All such nasty little creatures deserved to die.)
How could Ranma have so brazenly humiliated her again? Wasn’t once enough for him? Did he get some perverse joy out of tormenting her? Oh, how she hated him, even worse than before. He was going to pay. She was going to make the man who had humiliated her suffer. Oh yes, suffer horribly, just like she had. It would take her time, but she’d come up with something. Something nasty, like, like feeding him poorly made okonomiyaki. Yes. That was what Ukyou hated more than anything in the world. Okonomiyaki was meant to be subtle, yet delectable. Something that would satisfy, yet leave a craving for more. But so many amateurs did it wrong, making the flavor too strong or too bland. It was like suffering through a little piece of hell every time she tasted the world’s most perfect food cooked so absolutely wrong. It was only justice that she should make Ranma suffer such horrors as well.
“I hate you, Ranma!” Ukyou shouted through eyes so filled with tears that she couldn’t see where she was going. Which was why it hurt so badly when she slammed into what felt like a brick wall. Or maybe a Caterpillar (the construction vehicle, not the insect, of course.) But whatever it was she had collided with, it had the effect of her knocking her down, leaving her sprawled out on the ground.
The brick wall, which was in fact nothing more than a martial artist (who was built much more solidly than most brick walls), was wandering around, trying to find where Ranma Saotome had run off to once again.
Ryouga barely registered the impact, and looked down to see who had collided with him. He saw that it was a person, a girl, to be specific. He could tell it was a girl, in spite of the men’s style of clothing she wore, because her naked breasts were showing.
“ACK!” Ryouga covered his eyes as quickly as he could, pretending that he had seen nothing while still feeling a bit of blood leak steadily from both nostrils. That was all that he needed. The girl would realize he had seen her and probably hate him and call him a pervert and make him feel lower than a worm. It was all Ranma’s fault. If he hadn’t run away from the ice rink, then Ryouga would not have been wandering around trying to find him, and therefore would not have had the girl run into him and call him a pervert (which was going to happen any second now.)
Wait a minute. Hadn’t the girl been shouting about Ranma the moment before she had collided with him?
In a moment of daring, Ryouga peeked through his eyes to look at the girl, hoping he had given her enough time to cover up. As he had hoped, she was sitting on the ground, her hand holding her top together so he could only see a bit of flesh at the top. He was safe.
“Sorry about that,” Ukyou said, grateful that when she looked up, the boy she had run into had not been leering at her chest the way so many of those guys at school had. He had probably seen something, but at least he was trying to act like a gentleman. Unlike that jerk, Ranma.
“Umm, Excuse me, Miss,” Ryouga tried hard to forget what he had seen of her, the image of naked flesh threatening to superimpose itself on the chest of the girl he was speaking to. “Did you say something about a Ranma? Perhaps a Ranma Saotome?”
Ukyou looked at him in puzzlement. “Uh, yes. I did.”
Ryouga felt his temper start to burst. From the rapidly drying tears on her face, it was obvious the girl had been crying. And she knew Ranma. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together. Obviously Ranma had made this girl cry. “What did he do to you?”
Ukyou continued sniffling. Who was this stranger that seemed to know what had happened to her? And how did he know Ranma? Through her sniffles, she said, “He’s ruined me. He ripped open my top in front of the whole school and humiliated me, the jackass.”
The anger Ryouga felt quadrupled. “I always knew Ranma was the lowest of the low, but to do this. It’s unthinkable. What sort of monster forces himself on cute young women, ripping off their clothing and trying to… to… to do whatever it is monsters like him do to cute young women whose clothing he rips off. AAHH!” Ryouga punched through a nearby wall, envisioning Ranma’s face before it.
Ukyou finally managed to stop sniffling. At first it was at the awesome display of strength the strange boy had just demonstrated, but then something else he had said set in. He called her cute. Not once, but twice, meaning it hadn’t been a mistake the first time. No one had ever called her cute, except for some of the girls she had known (when they thought she was a guy), and they didn’t count because, well because they were girls. It only counted when guys called you cute. Okay, Tsubasa had called her cute, but he was annoying and didn’t really count either. So this was the first time anyone that mattered had called her cute, and she wasn’t sure how to react to it.
Deciding she was quickly getting nowhere, Ukyou stood up and began scuffing her foot, feeling embarrassed for some odd reason. She quickly brought her emotions back under control. “How exactly is it you know Ranma?”
“Let me tell you a story,” Ryouga said, and began informing her of exactly what had happened to him at the hands of Ranma. He told it all in the most graphic details that he could.
“But Ranma doesn’t have a pitchfork and horns,” Ukyou pointed out.
“Well, that’s all that the scum is missing,” Ryouga admitted.
Ukyou agreed, and told Ryouga her own version of the events that had led up to this moment in her life.
“Umm, do you think forsaking your femininity and impersonating a guy for the last decade was the right way to deal with Ranma dumping you?” Ryouga asked
“Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time,” Ukyou responded. Besides, there were some good benefits to acting like a guy. She didn’t have to put a lot of thought into her wardrobe. She didn’t have to deal with make-up. She didn’t have to put up with other girls complaining about silly things, like how thick their thighs were or how they went go on and on about guys. She didn’t worry about her weight and ate whatever she wanted to.
And just useless and annoying things like that.
True, there were disadvantages too, like having to come up with excuses on why she couldn’t take gym (but she did get some free shows when she went into the guys’ locker rooms, not that she was a pervert or anything), making up stories about how she scored with girls, (though she was sure most of the stories the guys told were made up too. How many girls were THAT flexible?), and occasionally even being pressured by the guys into going out on dates with girls so they didn’t become suspicious about her true sexuality. It was then she learned the truth about girls; they were amorous creatures that continuously came onto guys and one had to literally fend them off with a spatula. She would never drape herself over some guy that way. It was just too creepy. The dating was easily the worst, but overall she felt the pros outweighed the cons.
Ryouga listened intently, and then said, “What did the Ranma you fought look like?”
Ukyou gave him on odd stare. “Kind of tall. Good-looking. Long hair, wore it back in a ponytail that went halfway down his back. Oh yeah, his Japanese was shitty too.”
“Ha! Just as I suspected,” Ryouga shouted. “You fought the stand in.”
“Stand in?” Ukyou asked. Ryouga informed her of the switch Ranma and Shampoo had pulled. Ukyou’s anger suddenly came to include someone who now easily rivaled, if not surpassed, Ranma on her hate list. “So it was this Shampoo that sliced open my shirt and humiliated me in front of everyone.” Her grip on her spatula tightened. “Oh, she’s going to pay for that.”
Ryouga nodded in agreement. “Let’s work together. After all, there’s two of them, and if we fight them together we would stand a better chance of getting the real Ranma.”
Ukyou agreed. Oh, revenge was right around the corner. Especially since she now had an ally on her side for the first time in her life.
And he thought she was cute, too.
“Man, I don’t have a clue to where he is,” Ranma complained as he, Akane, and Shampoo returned home. They had spent the better part of the day following school looking for the chef, but she was nowhere to be found. And now Ranma was hungry. Searching for Ukyou would have to take a backseat to more important things, like eating.
Upon entering the kitchen, Ranma saw the man he most wanted to speak to, at least after Ukyou. “Hey, Pop. You’ll never guess who I met today.”
“Oh, who?” Genma asked.
Ranma related his tale. The further he got into the story, the more his father seemed to become panicked and evasive. Knowing the man all too well, Ranma became increasingly suspicious.
“So why did Ukyou think we were going to take him along?” Ranma asked as he finished his tale.
A bright sheen of sweat broke across Genma’s brow. He mopped at it with a nearby dishtowel. “I really have no idea.”
Ranma began tapping his foot. “Pop, you’re holding out.”
A sad look crossed Genma’s face as he took a deep, sad breath. “The truth would hurt too much to tell, boy. Just try to help the poor girl… I mean boy out. But try not to believe anything she… I mean he might say. The truth has been no doubt been warped in his fragile little mind.”
Ranma considered badgering his father further, but let it go. It would be too much hassle to try to tear the truth out of him when there was another, easier way of discovering it: find Ukyou and ask him. At this point, Ranma would believe just about anything Ukyou had to say about the matter over Ranma’s father, including the idea that they were supposed to adopt the chef or something.
After raiding the refrigerator, Ranma set out to find Ukyou once again. He dragged Shampoo and Akane in tow, even though they had barely had enough time to eat anything, given how quickly Ranma had finished his own meal. As they began their search once again, Ranma began relaying a plan to his two companions on what to do when they finally had a chance to confront Ukyou again.
Two teams of searchers, one with an accurate sense of direction, set out in search of one another. By some stroke of luck, they managed to meet each other at exactly the halfway point from where each set out.
“Gee, that didn’t take long. I wonder if it’s good luck we found them so quickly, or bad?” Ranma commented as he saw that somehow, Ryouga had met up with Ukyou. Now there was the added problem of having to deal with whatever lies Ryouga had told the chef, although he probably told her about the truth about Ranma’s identity at least. That would save time. Still, Ranma was going to have to try to defuse the situation. Both Ukyou and Ryouga appeared ready for a fight, and Shampoo looked none too reluctant to involve herself either.
“What are you doing here Ryouga? This doesn’t involve you,” Ranma said.
Ryouga shook his head. “The heck it doesn’t, Ranma. Ukyou told me everything. How dare you hurt her that way, and allow that impostor Ranma to shame her in front of everyone like that. It’s not enough that you hurt me, but now you’re going around and hurting everyone else you meet as well. Oh, what a worthless piece of garbage you are, Ranma. For making both my and Ukyou’s lives hell, you should… hey! Quit yawning!”
“Sorry,” Ranma said without a touch of sincerity. “It’s just that I thought I heard this whole speech before.”
“Ryouga’s told me all about you. You’re an even bigger jerk than I remember, Ranma,” Ukyou said as she swung her giant spatula in front of her.
That actually hurt Ranma slightly. “Hey, I don’t know what this guy’s told you, but believe me when I say he’s got it all wrong. He’s as messed up as his direction sense.”
“That’s not true,” Ukyou said. “No one can be as messed up as his sense of direction.”
“Hey!” Ryouga protested.
“Sorry, sugar. But I’ve only spent several hours with you, and it’s pretty obvious you couldn’t find your way out of a closet.”
“I can too find my way out of a closet!” Ryouga retorted. “I just have a bad tendency to end up in them when I’m trying to find other places.”
Akane decided now would be a good time to run into a nearby store, just like she and Ranma had discussed earlier. Hoping the quartet would still be talking until she retrieved what she needed from inside, she ran as fast as she could.
Ranma decided to bring the conversation back to the subject at hand. “Anyhow, Ucchan, there’s no need to feel ashamed or nothing about what happened to you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ukyou asked suspiciously.
“I know your secret,” Ranma answered.
Ukyou stared at him, dumfounded. “Of course you do. Everyone knows my secret. That jackass,” she pointed at Shampoo, who stuck her tongue out in response. “Let everyone know, and she is going to pay.”
“I don’t mean that one,” Ranma sighed. “I mean the other one.”
Ukyou gaped at him. “You mean you know about the time I poured liquid heat in Akio’s jockstrap because I found out he was slapping his girlfriend, Yumi, around?”
Ryouga, Ranma, and even Shampoo, all crossed their legs in sympathetic pain and winced. “No.”
“Then I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I don’t want to do it in front of him.” Ranma pointed to Ryouga. “It might embarrass you.”
“Oh, well, that certainly cleared nothing up,” Ukyou held a hand to her head in exasperation.
Akane returned just at that moment, bearing a kettle or warm water in hand. Ranma accepted the offered container from her. “If I can’t do this any other way, then I guess I have no choice.”
Without another word he hurled the contents at Ukyou, who backed away to avoid the hot water. Just as it was about to hit her, Ryouga leaped in front of her, umbrella opened to deflect the stream.
Once he was sure the contents of the kettle had been emptied, Ryouga folded the umbrella back up and pointed it at Ranma. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but I will not let you harm one hair on her head. Ukyou’s already had to suffer far more misery in her life than any two people should have. Why, she’s almost suffered half as much as me. I will protect her with my life if necessary.”
Ukyou looked stunned at Ryouga proclamation. No one had ever talked about her in those sort of terms before. It made her feel odd inside. A good kind of odd, though.
Ryouga took a moment to try to figure out exactly why Ranma had hurled the water in the first place. Was it possible that he…? No. Ukyou couldn’t have had one of those. If she had, she would have mentioned it to him.
Deciding the matter resolved to his satisfaction, Ryouga shouted, “Ranma, prepare to die!” and moved to attack.
“If that’s the way you want it, then fine.” Ranma had had enough of Ryouga’s messing up matters. If it hadn’t been for the lost boy, everything would have been taken care of by now. Ranma answered in kind and began fighting with Ryouga.
Shampoo moved to help Ranma, but found herself cut off by a spatula thrust.
“So you’re really the guy that humiliated me,” Ukyou said with a wide smile. “I don’t know about all this curse stuff, but I do know I still owe you. And Ukyou Kuonji always pays her debts.” She swung her spatula and began attacking Shampoo in earnest. Shampoo pulled out her bonbori and retaliated in kind.
Akane looked at the scene of battle and sighed. Things were never going to be resolved if all everyone was going to do was hit one another. She swore she was the only one with any brains in the whole group. Rather than participate in the general melee, Akane picked up the kettle Ranma had discarded at the start of the fight and headed back into the store.
Ranma didn’t hold anything back in his fight with Ryouga, and was slowly and surely beginning to press an advantage against his opponent. Although it was still close enough that one solid blow could change the tide of battle.
The fight between Ukyou and Shampoo was a little more even, especially since Ukyou was doubly enraged at her target after the day’s events. Shampoo reluctantly found herself admitting this was probably the most able-bodied female opponent she had faced (not counting Ranma) since becoming cursed back home. Of course, given Ukyou’s condition, perhaps ‘she’ should not have counted, either.
It was to that scene that Akane came out with her kettle of hot water. Ukyou was fully wrapped up in her fight with Shampoo. As for Ranma, he saw Akane and afforded her a wave, then planned his next action in a split second.
“Throw it up in the air!”
Akane wondered what Ranma was up to, but, trusting his judgment, threw the kettle high into the air between the two groups of fighters. Ranma faked an attack then jumped on top of Ryouga’s head. He used it as a springboard to leap high into the air, catching the kettle easily. Airborne, he saw that he had the perfect opportunity to get Ukyou, whose back was to him as she fought Shampoo. Taking advantage of the opening, he threw the contents of the kettle at Ukyou, hitting her full in the back.
The unexpected splash startled Ukyou, making her spatula slip from her grasp as she yelled, “Hot!” and writhed slightly in pain. Shampoo backed off, allowing Ranma to land and approach the wincing chef.
“And now, here is the truth for all to see.” He grabbed Ukyou’s pinned together top and ripped it open to reveal…
… a nice set of firm breasts.
Ranma released his hold on her top “Ahhh! He didn’t turn back with hot water!” The rest of Ranma’s declaration was cut off by a vicious spatula blow to the head.
Ukyou burst out into tears again. “What are you? Some kind of pervert too?”
Akane felt her temper began to fray. “What is going on here?! Ranma, I thought you said Ukyou was a boy!”
“He was. He was,” Ranma insisted. “I don’t understand.”
Ukyou was seething in rage now. “What kind of stupid statement is that, you jackass? Of course I’m not a boy!”
Now Ranma was completely confused. “Haven’t you ever been to a magical training ground in China called Jusenkyou? You know, you get splashed with the water there and turn into whatever drowned in the pool? Hot water changes you back?”
Ukyou seemed to follow a bit of that. “You mean that curse thing you got? Ryouga explained that to me. No. I was never stupid enough to go to some cursed training ground. Come on, it’s cursed. Why would you want to go there and maybe get cursed?”
Ranma, Shampoo, and Ryouga all shifted uncomfortably from the assault of common sense Ukyou was wielding against them. But the effect didn’t last.
Ranma examined his old childhood playmate more closely. “So, if you didn’t get cursed with magic girl water like me, I guess you got one of those sex change things.”
Ukyou suppressed the urge to flatten Ranma’s head in again. “Of course not, you idiot! I just cross-dress. I’ve always been a girl. Why else do you think our fathers engaged us?”
Slowly the words seeped into Ranma’s brain. “Always… girl…”
“…fathers … ENGAGED?!”
“You mean to tell me you didn’t know I was a girl?” Ukyou didn’t know how that was possible. She hadn’t forsaken her femininity until after she had been dumped by him. Up to that point, she had been a normal girl and very feminine. Once she had forsaken her femininity she had had to give up… had to give up… give up…
Okay, so she hadn’t really changed that much. She still pretty much dressed and behaved the same way she always had. But it was the principle involved.
“All right, so back then you might very well have mistaken me for a boy,” if you were completely unobservant and brain dead, Ukyou silently added. “But you at least had to wonder why your father engaged you to a boy, right?”
“I was never told about any engagement,” Ranma insisted.
“You’re father didn’t tell you?” Ukyou hated to admit it, but if Ranma hadn’t realized she was a girl, and hadn’t known a thing about the engagement, that went a long way to explaining a lot of what had just happened.
“I seriously don’t understand what is going on,” Ranma stated, wondering exactly how his father had gotten him into the mess this time.
Ukyou began her story. “Look, when we were little, my father was raising me by himself. We wandered around a lot, and I didn’t really make a lot of friends. Anyway, I met you and we hit it off real well. Daddy was worried that since a guy was raising me, I wouldn’t be very feminine and he thought I might not ever marry. So he offered to engage me to you. Your dad resisted at first, but when my father offered to throw in our yattai as a dowry, he relented. Then, after getting the yattai, you guys took off without me, you jackass.
“Everyone knew I got dumped and made fun of me. I vowed never to become a woman. To that end, I behaved just as a man would. I dressed, talked, and sounded like one. I also practiced the art of okonomiyaki combat until I could have revenge.” Ukyou’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “Now I learn that my fiancé didn’t even know I was a girl, I got humiliated in front of the school, and my whole life has been one cruel joke.”
Everyone felt a pang of sympathy go through them at the end of hearing Ukyou’s story.
Ranma was the first to break the silence. “Pop is so dead.”
“You can’t stick this one on me boy. You were the one who made the choice,” Genma said as he ripped off his clever disguise (consisting of a trench coat, hat, and fake Soun-like mustache). He knew following them and telling what had really happened was the only way he was going to get out of the mess that was really and truly not his fault.
“What do you mean?” Ranma asked.
“I asked you point blank which you preferred: Ukyou or okonomiyaki. You chose okonomiyaki. See. It is not my fault.” Genma thought that cleared him of responsibility quite nicely.
He was the only one.
Simultaneously, Shampoo-chan, Ukyou, Ranma-kun, and Akane all buried their fists on top of Genma’s head.
“I was, what, six at the most and thought Ukyou was a guy?! What kind of decision could I make? You were the one that did it for the yattai!” Ranma shouted.
“And this was after you promised he would be engaged to someone in my family,” Akane said.
“That low, Pop.” Shampoo twisted her fist on top of his head more tightly.
“This is all your fault,” Ukyou considered smacking him in the head a few more times, with the spatula.
Ryouga however, was not of like mind. He allowed a battle aura to build up around him before breaking his own silence.
“This is all YOUR fault Ranma!” He leveled his finger towards the object of his rage. “If you had picked Ukyou, she would never have been hurt. Now you will pay.”
He pulled a bandanna from his forehead and hurled it at Ranma, who dodged nimbly out of the way. Instead of human flesh, the razor-sharp piece of cloth sliced through a fire hydrant directly in front of Ryouga. Rather than go for the umbrella strapped to his pack to avoid the stream, Ryouga froze, disappearing from view as the burst of cold water hit him squarely in the chest. Once the powerful flow of water stopped, all eyes saw that instead of a somewhat thickheaded young boy, there was a bat floundering in the middle of the street.
Ranma was the first to put it all together. “So that’s what happened. He must have fallen into Jusenkyou, too. No wonder he kept disappearing whenever he got doused with water. Poor guy, er, bat.”
High-pitched squeals assailed everyone’s ears as Ryouga flew up and attached himself to Ranma’s face.
“Get this thing off me.” Ranma tried prying his fingers under exceptionally powerful wings, but Ryouga steadfastly remained.
“I’ll get it,” Akane and Shampoo said together as they aimed fists towards Ryouga’s unusual glomping attack. As the last two times it happened, Ryouga detached himself before the blows connected, though not in time for Akane and Shampoo to halt their fists. Both hit the center of Ranma’s face squarely.
“Not in the face!” Ranma shouted as he picked himself up off the ground.
Ryouga landed next to Ukyou, protecting her as only a bat could. Which was not really very well, if one stopped and thought about it.
Ukyou picked Ryouga up and held him gently. She turned to Ranma. “Can you get some hot water? Please.”
Ranma reluctantly poured the remaining contents of the kettle over Ryouga, who changed back to his human, and very naked form in Ukyou’s grasp. The sudden shift in weight caused Ukyou to fall forward, sending both her and Ryouga to the ground. It only took Ryouga a moment to realize his current state, and he quickly grabbed his clothes and put them on, though not before Ukyou managed to catch a glimpse of him. Not too bad. She’d seen better, but Ryouga definitely qualified as being a little above average.
“Make sure I’m in my clothes when you do that!” he shouted at Ranma.
Ranma ignored the complaint. “So, tell us what happened, Batboy.”
Ryouga scowled at Ranma, but decided to finally unburden his tale to the others. “Everything I told you about Ranma making my life hell was true. I just left out the fact that I stumbled into the training grounds of Jusenkyou while in my search for him. I had it on good authority that Ranma and his father had headed off to China. After a lot of searching and wandering around, I thought I had finally caught up to them at the cursed springs. Unfortunately, just as I was about to catch up to him, disaster struck.
“I had just come out from some foliage and found myself at the edge of a small cliff overlooking the springs. I was still trying to get my bearings, when I noticed a shadow right above me. I looked up, only to see this multi-colored metal orb fall from the skies and nail me right between the eyes. I lost my balance and fell off the cliff and into the Spring Of Drowned Bat below. I was so confused by the change that I flew off. It took me a while to discover that it took hot water to change me back into a human. By the time I had figured it out, Ranma was long gone.”
Shampoo had listened to the story intently. As Ryouga got to the part about falling multi-colored spheres, she took a close look at her bonbori, remembering how the day she had first gotten cursed went. Her eyebrow rose slightly, then both weapons were behind her back in a flash. She attempted to look nonchalant by looking directly up to the sky and whistling, thereby gaining everyone’s attention.
Ranma turned his attention back to Ryouga. “So turning into an animal is pretty tough, huh?”
“You don’t know the half of it.”
“Why do you keep flying into my face, though?”
Ryouga looked odd for a moment, almost as though he were trying to find the right words. After a moment, he said, “It’s weird. I think my echolocation system confuses my lack of direction sense. Instead of getting lost, I always get to where I’m going. I even tried to get lost once as a bat, but still I flew in the right direction.”
“But if you could have found me at any time, why did you take so long to locate me?” Ranma asked.
Ryouga turned angry again. “Because, you idiot, I despise being stripped of my humanity! Do you know how degrading it is to know that there’s something you could do only as an animal instead of a man? Besides, no one likes bats. People are always trying to knock you out of the air, scream in terror, or exterminate you. And do you know how difficult it is to find hot water as a bat? Now, if I were some kind of cute animal, like an otter or piglet, it would be different. That I could have dealt with, but now I’m just a kind of flying vermin no one likes.”
That answered a few questions. Still, Ranma felt he had to point out, “It ain’t my fault you got that curse, so quit blaming me for it.”
Ryouga wasn’t mollified in the least. “I was looking for you at the time, so it is.”
The two began arguing again. Ukyou shook her head, trying to figure out how she might defuse the situation, when she thought about Shampoo’s attempt at being nonchalant. The chef moved quietly, sneaking up behind the Amazon to see what was in her hand. Upon seeing the bonbori, and remembering what Ryouga had said earlier, she darted in and snatched one of them out of Shampoo’s hand before the Amazon realized what was happening.
Ukyou moved next to Ryouga and showed him the bonbori. “Did that falling sphere look something like this?” She handed it to him for a closer look.
It appeared right to Ryouga’s eyes, but there was only one sure way of finding out. He held it high above his head, looked up, and then released it, allowing it to smack into his face.
“Ow!” he said. “Yes, it not only looks exactly like it, but it felt like it too.” He shot Shampoo an accusing glare. “Is this yours?”
Hesitantly, Shampoo nodded her head.
“And you are really a girl?”
Again, she slowly nodded her head.
“Great.” Ryouga’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “I can’t beat up a girl. So much for revenge.” He let the bonbori drop to the ground.
Ranma felt relieved. At last everything had been explained. “Now that that’s settled let’s call it a day. What do you say?”
In answer, Ryouga took a swing at Ranma that he barely ducked.
“What the hell are you trying to hit me for?” Ranma shouted.
Ryouga kept his fists clenched. “Just because I no longer have a grudge against you doesn’t mean you get off that easily. There’s still the matter of you hurting Ukyou. She may be too much of a lady to beat you up, but I’m not.”
Ranma felt like slamming his head into something out of frustration. Anything except Ryouga’s fists. “But that wasn’t my fault!”
“No excuses! Fall, Saotome!” Ryouga swung again. Ranma decided the terrain wasn’t to his advantage, so he elected to run, Ryouga staying hot on his tail.
Shampoo watched their retreating forms. She gave a sad shake of her head. “Boys fight over silly things. Yes?” Hearing the light sound of a whistle behind her, she instinctively ducked, barely avoiding a spatula thrust aimed at her. She turned in shock. “What Stupid Spatula Girl think she doing?”
Ukyou kept her spatula up. “Just because I no longer have a grudge against you doesn’t mean you get off that easily. There’s still the matter of you hurting Ryouga. He may be too much of a gentleman to beat you up, but I’m not.”
“But that not Shampoo fault!” she insisted.
“No excuses! Fall, Shampoo!” Ukyou swung again. Shampoo also decided the terrain wasn’t to her liking, so she elected to run, Ukyou staying hot on her tail.
Akane soon found herself standing alone, with only an unconscious Genma as her companion. It figured. They all high tailed it out of there and left her to clean up the garbage. She hoped they all bludgeoned each other into unconsciousness. Sighing, she grabbed Genma by the collar and proceeded to drag him back home.
As she made her way back, Akane did allow herself to smile. At least the day hadn’t been boring.
To be continued.
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