The Liz has new pink shoeses. Mmm... happy.
Every high school has something special to define itself, be its awesome football team, its pathetic mascot, or it's less than favorable reputation. Furikan High had the Legend of the Principal and its constant tournaments.
Tournaments as of late, had become an event anybody who was anybody in the small world of high school attended. But a fight held outside of the school's jurisdiction; now that was a small festival in itself. And what's the first rule of thumb at a festival? Always bring your own food.
"Alrighty guys, what'd we bring today?" I asked happily as I sat down next to Kotori and Sayuri.
"I've got some dumplings my mom made," Sayuri said brightly.
"I've got the juice!" Kotori chipped in, pulling out two cans of grape juice, a can of lemon juice and, just for me, a little carton of apple juice. Mm-mm good.
I counted the cans and frowned. "I take it Akane isn't joining us then?" I asked as I pulled the container of rice balls out of my purse.
"No, I called but she said she was going to come with Ranma," Sayuri said with a sigh. "She's not even dating him and he takes up all her time."
I shrugged. "He's a high maintenance kid, of course he's gonna take up some of her time. Besides, it's not like we never see her."
"Speaking of not seeing someone," Kotori said. "Where's Yuka?"
"Don't worry, I see her coming," Sayuri said. Sure enough Yuka was running through the crowd to us with a convince store bag.
"Sorry guys," she said as she caught up to us. "Has the match started yet?"
"No, it looks like they're both gonna be late," I said. "So Yuka, whadya bring?"
Yuka smiled broadly as she pulled out a box of candy. "Ta-da! It's gummi-sushi!"
The three of us backed away like the candy was radioactive. "Yuka! Are you trying to kill us?" Sayuri exclaimed.
Yuka looked at us innocently. "What's the matter? It's only gummi-sushi."
"Only gummi-sushi?" I said incredulously. "Do you have any idea what you've done by buying this box of candy? You've disrupted the natural order!"
"Gummi-sushi is apart of the natural order?" Yuka asked.
"Yes! Since nobody here buys gummi-sushi, the Japanese government sends it out overseas where stupid Americans will buy it by the bundles regardless of its taste just because it's from Japan. From these stupid Americans the Japanese government earns at least twenty-five percent of its income. By buying this single box of gummi-sushi, you might have affected our entire government's income and because of that taxes will be raised and books will be burnt. And we will all die."
By now Yuka looked slightly alarmed. "All this because I bought one box of gummi-sushi?"
Sayuri and Kotori looked at me with blank stares. "Rizu," Kotori said. "Have you ever been committed?"
"Oh, just wondering what to get you for Christmas is all."
Sayuri chuckled, looking towards the make-shift ring to see if the fighters had shown up yet. "Oh look, it's Akane and Chimofu," she said cheerfully. "Maybe Akane knows where Ranma is."
I looked up and saw Jhim and Akane walking towards the arena, looking a tad bit nervous but laughing anyway. Suddenly I got an uncomfortably familiar feeling in my mind, a presence of something that didn't belong there. I pushed back the feeling and smiled widely. "I'm gonna go see what's up," I said, wrapping two of the six rice balls in a paper towel. "Don't eat my share!"
"Don't worry, we won't," Kotori said with a grin.
I laughed and headed towards my friends. "Rice balls anyone?" I asked cheerfully, holding out the treats.
"No thanks Rizu, I already ate at home," Akane declined.
Jhim shrugged. "I'll take one," he said. "Haven't had lunch yet."
"Are you sure you don't want one hon?" I asked Akane. "I've got others up with Sayuri and all them."
"No really, I'm okay," Akane said.
I shrugged. "Okay, suit yourself," I said, taking a huge bite of the rice ball. "By the way, when's Pigtail showing up? He's like ten minutes late."
"Indeed, the groom is late," I heard a voice say behind me.
I jumped in surprise and almost choked on my rice ball. "Gah dang," I coughed out. "Stop doing that!"
Cologne pointedly ignored me, instead turning her attention to her real victim. "Perhaps he has forfeited," she said, gazing steadily at Akane.
"Hold on," Jhim said quickly over the sound of my coughing. "Mousse isn't here yet either."
"Besides, he'll be here!" Akane said irately.
I smiled, though my throat still burned. "What they said," I muttered triumphantly.
Cologne graced me with a look of utter disdain. "You're very confident that the groom will win. After all, he still can't stand hot water."
Akane looked a little worried at that comment. "That doesn't matter," she said defensively.
The old woman chuckled. "We shall see."
Cologne had the skill to make everyone around her feel uncomfortable, and I was feeling the ultimate chill of her power when suddenly we heard a familiar voice.
"So Ranma Saotome! You have come!" Mousse exclaimed loudly into the face of someone who definitely wasn't Ranma.
"Um, can I help you with something?" the kid asked, clutching his Chinese take-out protectively.
Mousse ignored the voice difference between this random boy and Ranma, continuing to harass the poor boy. "Our man to man fight!"
"Hey man, I just wanna eat some noodles," the boy protested weakly.
WHAP! A surprisingly hollow sound came from Mousse's head when Cologne whacked him with her cane. "You think that's Ranma?"
While having his head wailed on by an old monkey certainly got his attention, it didn't seem to do anything for Mousse's thinking process. He faced Cologne with his arms crossed and a solemn look. "You've shriveled up Saotome."
WHAP! "Put your glasses on fool!"
Mousse did as he was instructed and bent closer to look at the person who had been beating him over the head. "It's a ghoul!" he exclaimed like a little kid who just discovered something new.
No wonder Mousse was the way he was! First thing he gets right all day and he gets whacked for it. It almost made me feel sorry for him.
Luckily for the male Amazon, before he had the opportunity to stick his foot in his mouth again, a loud female voice yelled "Into the ring Mousse!"
Into the ring flew… a bundle of clothes.
"Are we supposed to believe that somewhere in that mess of clothing is Ranma?" I asked.
"I guess so…" Akane said. The poor girl was looking very nervous, but I couldn't blame her. Her fiancé was sporting the multi-layered look with long sleeves and big black sunglasses that covered her entire face.
"Well," Jhim coughed. "At least you can't tell if he's a she."
"Are we really sure that's Ranma?" a near-by spectator commented.
Mousse regarded his opponent with a steady eye. "So you've come Ranma!" he declared loudly.
"Well, he seems pretty sure that's Ranma," someone said.
I couldn't help but roll my eyes. "They're going to trust a blind guy?" I said.
"Hey, don't complain if it works," Jhim said. "The last thing we need is for them to wonder how Ranma can pull off the girl disguise so well."
The fight started out as planned; with lots of cool magic tricks and explosions.
"This is way better than any birthday party I've been to!" I commented happily, watching Ranma's costume emit rabbits, flags, and confetti. "How'd he hid all those things in there?"
Jhim shrugged. "Well the jacket looks big enough."
Suddenly Mousse pulled out a chicken from his sleeves and collected four eggs from the poultry, throwing them at Ranma.
"Exploding chicken eggs!" I squealed. "I want some!"
Soon enough Ranma revealed his final trick; dressing herself up in a bunny costume and disguising it as a magic trick. But even though that problem was solved, there was still the problem with Ranma's legs and arms being shorter than he was used to.
"That doesn't look so good," Jhim commented as Ranma delivered another failed kick.
"And that looks even worse," I said when Mousse barely missed Ranma with a kick, slicing open the front of Ranma's bunny costume.
"Mousse have no chance against airen!" I heard Shampoo yell.
"Oh wow," I muttered. "That's kinda harsh for a guy that's in love with her."
"Sympathizing with Mousse young one?" Cologne said to me. "Perhaps you'd like to be his bride?"
"W-what!" I stammered ignoring Jhim's stifled laughter.
"It would be a good match," Cologne said.
For some reason that seemed like an insult. "Er… I'll pass thanks."
Luckily for me, Cologne (along with the rest of the crowd) became distracted by the whistles and catcalls coming from the guys.
Ranma, the half-naked object of the catcalls, was trying to avoid being hit by Mousse's weapons. Dodge right, off comes the collar. Jump back, a nasty run in her stockings.
"Pigtail, dodge better!" I yelled at the red-haired girl who was rapidly losing her clothing. "Is this what some of those hentai games are like?"
"Why are you asking me?" Jhim responded.
"I wasn't actually," I said. "But if you know the answer you can keep it to yourself." He didn't respond.
Akane was ready to kill somebody. "We've got to do something!" she yelled angrily as Mousse's metal claw tore through Ranma's thin layer of clothing. "That pervert's giving them a free show!"
"Yeah, but what can we do?" I asked.
Akane scowled. "If only Ranma hadn't blow up that jacket he had on…" Suddenly her eyes lit up. "That's it! Rizu, do you have any clothes on you?"
"Of course I do, I can't go outside na- Oh, I get'cha," I said. "One outfit for Ranma coming up!" Confident in my abilities from the last time with the giant bag of catnip, I reached into my purse for a pair of Ranma's pants and shirt from the Tendo's laundry and I pulled out the ugliest dress you have ever seen.
This thing had the puffy sleeves, the loud floral print, the lace trim, the whole shi-bang man.
"Where the hell did you get that?" Jhim said.
Words failed me while the little voice in my head reminded me "It's not called comedic physics for nothing."
"It'll have to do," Akane said with a tone of disbelief. She grabbed the flowery dress and made her way to the front of the crowd, shoving the dress over Ranma's head just as Mousse had destroyed the last piece of clothing.
There was so much booing over that dress I almost went deaf; the guys were upset about the presence of the dress while the girls were just upset about the dress itself.
"I repeat," Jhim said. "Where the hell did you get that?"
"Shut up," I said grumpily. I wasn't happy about being one-upped by my own tool.
"Nicely done Miss Rizu," I heard a voice behind me say. Dr. Tofu was enjoying a pork bun from the Nekohaten cart while watching the fight. "The dress looks remarkably like one of my mother's."
"Dr. Tofu! How long have you been there?" I asked.
"I just arrived actually," he said. "Say, is there a reason Ranma is fighting as a girl? It seems it would be easier for him to fight as a man."
"It would," Jhim responded. "But he isn't able to turn back."
The doctor arched his eyebrow. "Really? Why is that?"
"Well see, the old lady over there hit him with a Full Body-" At this point my explanation was cut off by a rather sharp kick in the ankle from Jhim. "Ow! What the hell was that-"
Suddenly I noticed three pairs of eyes looking at me intently. Jhim was sending me major disapproving daggers while Dr. Tofu just looked interested in what I was saying. But the third pair of eyes belonged to Cologne and I did not like the look she was giving me.
"The Full Body what?" Dr. Tofu pressed the matter.
I gulped and tried to ignore the old ghoul's rather piercing glare. "Akane said something about the Full Body Cat Tongue attack," I said. "But I'm not really sure what it does."
Dr. Tofu nodded. "I see. Thank you for explaining," he said. "If you'll excuse me."
As Dr. Tofu walked away, Jhim grabbed my arm and began to pull me out of the crowd. "We need to talk," he said.
I'm sure many of you already know this, but a teenage girl can only be scolded so many times by her peers before a limit is reached. Being told off by my parents was one thing, but I was just about sick of being told off by someone who apparently thought he was my parent.
"Alright, what did I do this time?" I asked, trying to keep some of the dark sarcasm out of my voice. It wasn't working too well.
My attitude seemed to put Jhim in an even worse mood. "I thought you told me you were going to be more careful," he growled.
"Careful of what? Dr. Tofu knows we're Akane's friends, she could've told us what was going on," I responded dryly.
I shrugged, my rising temper causing me to stiffen up. The harder I tried to get control of my anger, the more sarcastic I became. "She might not have noticed if you didn't have that stick up your ass," I muttered.
Jhim's face turned a deep shade of red. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're the smart one," I shot back. "You can figure it out."
It seemed I'd struck a nerve. Jhim looked down at me angrily while the crowd behind us cheered for one reason or another. "What the hell is your problem?"
"My problem?" I asked in a shrill voice. "My problem is you dumb ass! Nothing I do is really that bad you know! Okay, so I've got a little Foot in the Mouth disease, so does half the fucking population."
A huge cheer came from the direction of the fight but I barely noticed. I was pissed and I was on a roll. "You're always playing it safe and you fly off the handle when I don't! I'm sick of always being told how much I suck because I don't do things like you damn it!"
The older boy looked at me levelly as the dark storm clouds rolled in. "Let me remind you," he said with cold anger. "I didn't want to partner up with you in the first place; that was your idea."
"Obviously it wasn't one of my better ones," I growled. It had started to rain now and if I wasn't so angry I would've laughed at how melodramatic this argument had become.
"Well then," Jhim said. "Consider our partnership terminated."
Something about the calmness he said that in shook me. "A-alright," I stammered angrily. "Fine by me."
Jhim held out his hand in the rain, looking very stiff and polite. "I wish you luck," he said, his cold eyes locked on my face.
I returned the look and shook his outstretched hand. "I won't need it."
"Rizu!" Kotori yelled at me. "Snap outta it!"
I was jolted out of my quiet mood suddenly with Kotori snapping her fingers in front of my face. "What?"
"I asked you if you wanted some of my lunch," she responded, holding out her bento box.
"Oh, sure, thanks," I said. I smiled at my friend and took what remained of her lunch, something I was not unhappy about receiving.
"Rizu, seriously, what's wrong with you?" Akane asked. "You've been really quiet for a long time now. That's not like you."
"At all," Kotori commented.
I shrugged and swallowed the mouthful of rice I'd been devouring. "I'm just tired, that's all," I said. "I've been really busy lately."
"With what?" Akane asked.
I shrugged again and delved deeper into the bento box.
"Is this about Chimofu?" Kotori asked seriously, putting her hand on my shoulder.
I snorted. "Chimofu. Heh. Stupidest name ever."
Akane raised an eyebrow. "So it is about Chimofu," she said with an all knowing smile.
"No, really, it's the stupidest name ever. I told him so when I met him," I said. "Why do you think I called him Jhim?"
"What happened with you two anyway?" Kotori asked. "You never talk to each other unless you have to, and even when you do it's like you'd never met before."
"So?" I asked. "I don't get it, what's the problem?"
"The problem," Akane said sharply. "Is that you two were best friends up until a while ago. Now I can't even walk in the same room with you two without feeling like there's a cold war on!"
"We got in a fight," I supplied nonchalantly. "It's no big deal. By the way Kotori, your mom is an awesome cook!"
"Don't get off topic here!" Kotori shot back. "You guys have gotten into fights before, why is this one so bad?"
"It's not," I said. "We're just not really friends any more, that's all."
The two girls looked at me like I was crazy. "Rizu, all I know is that this fight isn't good for you," Akane said. "It goes against your very nature to be mad at someone for this long!"
"Hey, who's mad? I'm not mad. Nope, you don't see me getting angry here," I said, throwing up my hands. "Besides, we're not hurting anybody here."
"Not hurting anybody?" Kotori repeated. "Rizu, you're hardly ever at your apartment, you sleep in class, you're tired all the time, and your grades are horrible!"
"And Chimofu on the other hand is doing nothing but studying and practicing martial arts," Akane said. "He hardly ever talks to anyone, and he's working himself to death!"
"And this is different from how we normally act?" I said.
"Yes!" both girls yelled at me.
I sighed and ran my hand through my hair. "Guys, you've got nothing to worry about. My grades have always been horrible and we only have a few days left anyway. Besides, the reason I'm so tired all the time is because I've been cleaning houses for extra money lately."
Kotori and Akane looked at each other as though not sure whither or not to believe me.
"Look, I'll prove it to you," I said, pulling out a flyer from my purse and handing it to Akane.
"Arumigufuchi's Cleaning Service," Akane read out loud. "We Clean Your Toilets So You Don't Have To."
"See?" I said. "Everything's perfectly fine, trust me."
Akane handed the flyer back to me. "I guess so…"
"If you still don't believe I'm okay," I said. "You can come with me to help hand out more flyers after school. Then you'll see I'm still my normal, perky self."
The short haired girl smiled broadly. "Okay, but we have to drop by my house first."
"I'm home!" Akane announced happily as we walked into the Tendo's house. "And I brought Rizu!"
Kasumi appeared in the hallway in all her cheerful motherly glory. "Welcome home Akane," she said happily. "Rizu, it's been so long since we've seen you."
"I'm sorry, I've been busy with interviews and such," I explained. I swear Kasumi's cheerful energy was like a freakin virus.
"Oh? How is that going?" the eldest Tendo sister asked.
"Eh, not so good," I laughed nervously. "I had a few interviews but nobody's called me yet."
"Have you gone back and asked if they're still hiring?" Nabiki said from the stairs.
I looked up at the sister who'd suddenly appeared. "Not really…"
She smirked and walked past us into the living room. "It wouldn't be a bad idea," she said.
Akane smiled at me. "I'm going to help Rizu pass out her business flyers today," she said.
"Business flyers?" Kasumi asked.
I rummaged inside my purse for a minute before presenting her with one of my cleaning flyers. "It's just something to do while I wait to see if any other jobs come up," I said shyly. After all, I was showing my idea in front of the Cleaning Goddess and the Business Lord. Who wouldn't be nervous?
"It sounds like a wonderful idea!" Kasumi said enthusiastically. "I'm sure we could come up with something for you to do."
"You really don't need to create work for me you know," I protested.
"Create work for you?" Nabiki said. "Ranma creates work all the time for no one in particular."
I laughed at that. I seriously missed being at the Tendo's house, the whole place felt like a good ole normal home. Despite what I'd said earlier, I wasn't exactly feeling top-notch lately. Coming home to a messy apartment that was right next door to the guy I was currently battling it out with wasn't my cup of tea.
"I'll be right back," Akane said, walking up the stairs. I nodded and followed Kasumi into the living room.
"Actually Rizu, this is perfect," the older sister said. "The dojo has really needed a sprucing up. You know how absent-minded those boys get. Akane usually organizes things but she's been busying studying for tests lately."
"That sounds great," I said with a huge smile. "I could do that, no problem."
"Wonderful!" Kasumi exclaimed. "Why don't you come by tomorrow after school?"
"Sounds good to me," I said.
"I'll remind Daddy that he'll have to cancel practice tomorrow," Nabiki said. Her little smirk triggered my paranoid senses; she was either up to something, or I seriously need to calm down.
"Why thank you Nabiki, that's so helpful of you," Kasumi said.
That settles it, she's up to something.
Akane appeared only a minute later and we made our way to the front door. I was just about to open the door when it opened for me and I ran into somebody.
SMACK! "Oh, sorry abo-," the person I'd smacked into began but stopped abruptly when they recognized me. "Oh, it's you," Jhim said, his apologetic tone dropping instantly. "Sorry about that."
I glared up at my neighbor and frowned. "Nice to see you too," I muttered. "Come on Akane, we'd better head out."
"O-okay," Akane said. "Dad's out back with Mr. Saotome Chimofu."
"Thank you," he said as he walked past us, pausing to take off his shoes.
I walked out quickly and waited a good distance from the door for Akane to catch up. "So let's get going!" I said cheerfully, a completely different tone that I'd just used.
"Wait a minute," Akane said. "What was that?"
"What was what?" I asked her in an overly cheerful voice.
"That split personality thing you just did," she said.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," I responded. "Well we'd better get going!"
"Wow, we really tore through those flyers didn't we?" I said. "This is great! I'll have the money to pay rent in no time! I mean," I stuttered. "For that, uh, cd player I wanted."
Akane smiled at me. "You don't have to be embarrassed about it you know."
"Yeah, I know," I said as we approached the Nekohaten.
"Hey, why don't we stop by and say hi to Ranma?" Akane said suddenly.
"Wait, she works here?" I asked. "It is still she, right?"
The girl sighed and nodded her head. "He's been working here to get the Phoenix Pill from Cologne but so far he's hasn't had any luck."
"Wow, that really sucks for him," I said. "I'll see him tomorrow!" I was looking for any excuse at all to not go into the Nekohaten, particularly after the match. That and something about her really made my nasty little Foot in Mouth problem kick in. Cologne was a shrewd old lady that I'd avoid if at all possible. But at this moment, Akane was making avoiding the old geezer impossible.
"Oh no you don't," Akane cut in. "Come on, we're going in!"
"No, no, no, please don't make me go," I begged as Akane grabbed my elbow to drag me in. "I don't wanna see that stupid bim-"
"Welcome to Nekohaten!" Shampoo said brightly as we walked in.
Shit, speak of the freakin devil.
"Oh, is you," she said. "What Violent Girl and Stupid Girl want?"
Oh real creative there, I thought. Wonder which one of us is Stupid Girl. "You know Shampoo," I said slyly. "My momma always said if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all."
Shampoo smirked. "Shampoo Mom say is better to have no hair than hair that look like poodle," she said.
Yes, her comeback was rather lame, but it still irked me. A whole string of 'Yo Mamma' jokes came to mind, but Akane cut me off before I had any time to share them. Next time.
"I'm sure your Great Grandmother would be thrilled to know you're insulting paying customers," she said. "Isn't that right Rizu?" she asked, digging her fingernails into my elbow.
"Paying customers, right," I grumbled.
Suddenly I noticed Ranma! the Amazing Performing Waitress who was currently balancing six spinning plates on long poles. I had a strong urge to start singing the Barnum and Bailey theme song.
"Oh wow," I said with a laugh as Ranma lowered the plates to the respective customer. "You're right; I should come here more often! This is great!"
Ranma-chan slumped over to us after putting down the poles. "Hey, it's Rizu," she said. "What're you doing here?"
"I got dragged in here," I responded, shooting a dark look at Akane. "How come you haven't been at school anyway?"
Ranma waved me off. "School-shmool, I've been training!"
"To do what?" I asked. "Run away and join the circus?"
"She's got a point," Akane said. "Why don't you quit? At least you've learned… to balance plates."
Ranma-chan laughed wildly. "You ain't seen nothin yet!" she laughed manically.
Wow, working here seems to have made him crazier than he already is.
"Groom!" Cologne called from the kitchen. "Come over here!"
Ranma stopped laughing immediately and followed the old ghoul out with Shampoo in tow. Akane and I looked at each other. "What do you think she wants?" Akane asked.
I shrugged. "Only one way to find out."
Out back Cologne had gotten a small campfire going. "Why do you wanna make a fire in this heat?" Ranma-chan asked.
Cologne ignored the girl and turned to me. "Miss Arumigufuchi, would you be kind enough to hand me that bag?" she asked.
I froze at the mention of my name. "S-sure," I said, reaching down to pick up the bag of chestnuts. "You mean these?"
"Yes, those'll do," the old woman said. Clearing her throat, she held up the bag for all to see. "You see that I have here a bag of chestnuts."
"See? You are training for the circus!" I announced.
Cologne gave me a withering look. "This is no circus trick, I can assure you." Cologne smirked. She threw the chestnuts into the fire and cleared her throat again, for dramatic effect. "Watch very carefully," she said. She faced the fire and suddenly Akane and Ranma gasped.
I knew what was going on; I just couldn't really see it. All I saw was Cologne's hands moving in a blur, agitating the fire. Soon enough she was holding all of the chestnuts in her hands, gloating like no one's business. "Care to try?"
"Whoa!" I exclaimed. "That was frickin awesome!"
"I couldn't even see her hands!" Akane said, obviously impressed with what she'd seen.
"Is legendary technique," Shampoo said. "The Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken!"
Cologne laughed her gloating going on overload. "If you can master this, snatching the Phoenix Pill will be child's play!"
As the old lady hopped away cackling madly, I turned to Ranma. "Well Pigtail, think of it this way: if you do end up with Shampoo (heaven forbid), you can start a little Chinese traveling troupe with all the little Amazon babies!"
"Heh, yeah right," Ranma said. "The Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken." Suddenly she stepped forward, flames dancing around her in determined fury. "I WILL NOT BE STOPPED!" she announced to the world. "I WILL MASTER IT!"
"Somehow Ranma," Akane said with obvious sarcasm. "I don't think you should start today."
"Good point," I said as I pulled out a water bucket to dump on Ranma's flaming foot. "Stepping in the fire isn't the best way to start."
When I got home that night, I had a one new message on my machine.
"Hello Ms. Arumigufuchi. I am calling to inquire about your cleaning service. Because of the start of summer vacation, I find myself a little short-staffed and I called to ask you for your assistance. I assure you the pay is quite good and you would only be required to clean the master bedrooms. Please call us back at…"
Kasumi had underestimated the mess the dojo was in. The storage area really needed to be organized and corners of the ceiling had spider webs among other unpleasant things. "Well, it's not that bad," I said cheerfully. "At least I've got all afternoon." But somehow, that wasn't making me feel so cheery.
The one bad thing about these cleaning jobs is that they left me a lot of time to think about things. Things I didn't really want to think about because when I did I began to brood on them. Brooding is not a good thing in my book.
"Ah well," I said to myself. "All I gotta do is keep my mind off this whole stupid fight and everything'll be just fine."
Today was the day school had let out, and the sun was shining beautifully outside. Usually, I would've been looking forward to sleeping in for the rest of the summer, but I had an appointment at eight in the morning.
Speaking of that appointment, I got the most unusual reaction out of Nabiki when I told her the address. Something along the lines of blink blink BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! then a quick "Good luck with that."
Whatever, I thought. She's probably just trying to freak me out.
The way things were, I figured the best place to start would be the storage closet. It took me a while to move everything out, especially the multiple dummy remains, most of which sported a faux pigtail. "You know, on some level somewhere that can't be healthy," I said as I swept up the smaller pieces of Ranma!Dummies.
"Hello?" I heard someone say from the doorway. I poked my head out to see Jhim standing at the threshold of the dojo.
"Oh, hello," I said. "Nabiki said she'd tell you practice was canceled today." With that I returned to sweeping out the dust bunnies.
"What're you doing in here?" Jhim asked.
"Working," I answered from the storage closet.
I heard Jhim walk into the dojo and stop outside the storage closet. "Why're you working in here?"
"You know Chimofu, that's a good question," I replied. "You're the student, isn't cleaning the dojo your job?" My voice sounded a little too emotional, a far cry from the 'cold and unaffected' I was going for.
"It is," Jhim responded nonchalantly. "If you're really that upset about it Rizu, I could do it for you."
I frowned. Damn him! Why is he so good at the calm and unaffected thing? "Don't bother; I'm getting paid to do this."
Jhim didn't respond; he just stood at the door until I was done sweeping and dusting. "Need any help?" he asked finally.
"No thank you," I answered coldly. Unaffected attitude be damned! "I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
Jhim sighed and finally moved from the doorway. "Whatever."
After I heard him leave, I went full-force into Pissed-Off Energy Cleaning Mode.
"What really pisses me off," I growled to the dummies as I arranged them from left to right. "Is that I can't stop being pissed off."
"He's just too calm! In fact he seems happy!" I continued to rant as I knocked down the cobwebs.
"And while he's off enjoying life!" I muttered as I dipped the rag into the bucket of water. "I'M BEING ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE!" With that battle cry I charged forward, cleaning the floor till it sparkled!
An hour or so after Jhim had left the dojo; I sat near the door, hot and sweaty, and admired my handy-work. "Maybe he wanted to get rid of me all along," I said to myself.
"Ahem," someone said from the doorway. I looked up quickly to see Nabiki leaning against the doorway. "Nice job Rizu," she said, giving no indication of how much she'd heard. "It looks like we got our money's worth out of you."
I looked at the dojo and smiled. "Yeah, it does look good doesn't it?" I replied. And I dare anyone to tell me otherwise.
"You know Rizu," Nabiki said to me in a calm calculating tone. "Chimofu seems almost as depressed as you are about this whole mess." She was inspecting her finger nails like she was talking to me about the weather. Yes, lovely spring, oh and there's a fifty percent chance that if you apologize you guys can make up.
"Good for him," I said almost as calm as she. "Except that I'm not that depressed."
Nabiki laughed half-heartedly. "I'm so sure," she said. "You're almost as bad a liar as Akane, you know that?"
"Issat so?" I was tired by now and I didn't want to play 'guess the underlying meaning' with her.
The middle Tendo sister didn't respond to my comment, instead going for a different topic. "He's not that bad looking you know. I'm surprised you haven't taken advantage of that yet."
I smiled wryly. This was not a conversation I wanted to be having with Nabiki. "I could say the same of you."
Once again Nabiki was silent, staring at the dojo with an expressionless mask. "Who knows?" she said. "I just might."
My chest got tighter at her words. I wasn't sure whether or not to take her seriously; after all, this was Nabiki. This girl was second only to Cologne on my list of people not to trust.
"Good talk Rizu," she said finally. "I hope you'll consider my assistance in finding you a decent job."
Doubt it, I thought sarcastically. For all I knew, working for the Kuno's would be a better option. Or even, heaven forbid, the Amazons. "Yeah, good talking to you too," I responded aloud as she walked away.
The sun had disappeared as I continued towards my home. "Well, today wasn't a total crap job," I muttered to myself. "I finished school, hung out with my friends, did my job…"
Let an opportunity to make up with your best bud slip by.
I frowned. "Screw it; I can't do anything about it now."
"Walking the streets alone at night?" a voice from behind me observed. "This is not a wise idea. You never know when an enemy will appear."
I spun around to face Cologne. She was perched on top of her cane and had the expression of a cat who knew she'd cornered her pray.
"I-I'm lucky enough not to have enemies," I stammered, trying to sound confident and failing. Where the hell did she come from?
The old lady chuckled. "Believe me dear, no one is without enemies." She paused to observe the starry sky before returning her attention to me. "I hear you are looking for work."
"I am," I responded.
"Well lucky for you, as of tonight the Nekohaten happens to have a spot open. Now before you politely decline," Cologne said before I could say anything. "I'd like you to listen to my story."
"Is this going to be a vague and barely related Chinese tale of a monkey who climbs a mountain or something?" I asked.
Cologne shook her head. "No, no, this is an Amazon tale of forbidden love that ended in disaster."
"Oh really?" I asked, raising my eyebrow. "If it's based off of Romeo and Juliet, I'd rather not go through that again."
"No, it is not based off of anything but history," Cologne said curtly. "If you'd listen you might find out what I'm trying to say."
I nodded and kept my mouth shut. That little old lady scared the shit out of me.
"It started fifty years ago in the Amazon village," Cologne began. "The Bīng Shā clan was an ancient and well respected clan. The sole heir, Căo Méi was a strong woman and a wonderful leader. It was clear that she would lead the clan to become something important until the day a stranger arrived in our village. He was a lowly scholar who had traveled to China to study the Cursed Springs. Căo Méi sheltered him while he remained there and the two fell in love."
"So when he couldn't defeat her in combat they weren't allowed to get married?" I asked.
The old woman nodded. "You know the custom well then."
"Er, not really," I said quickly. "I just figured, ya know, from what I know about Ranma and Shampoo."
"In any case, you are correct," Cologne said. "When the Council ordered him to leave, Căo Méi ran away with the young man, abandoning her clan and her duty. This of course, didn't go over too well with the Amazons and the Bīng Shā clan died out with a disgraced name."
I nodded like I didn't really care, but I had a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach about the outcome of this little tale. "They don't know what happened to Căo Méi and her lover?"
"It is said they traveled back to Japan and started a family," Cologne replied. "Many ancestors of the Bīng Shā clan have searched for the descendents of the traitor, but to no avail. As it is, the Bīng Shā clan remains un-avenged for the great betrayal it was dealt."
"So… what does this have to do with me working at the Nekohaten?" I asked.
"The young man's name was Arumigufuchi," Cologne stated blatantly. "The same family name you carry. If the Amazon village were to discover this, let there be no doubt that they would come after you and kill you."
Shit, I thought. How did I know this wouldn't end well for me? "And working for Amazon's who want to kill me would benefit me… how?"
Cologne shook her head. "You do not understand. I care very little about the fate of the Bīng Shā clan. I do however, care about the life of a young Amazon woman who has yet to reach her potential."
Cologne sighed; I had a feeling her patience was running thin. "If you were to work for me, I would protect you from the Council and train you to defend yourself against any enemies that might appear."
"But I still need a paycheck, ma'am," I said, hastily adding the last part.
"You will be paid in more ways than one child," she said ominously. She looked up at the sky again and sighed. "It is getting late. You have much to think about." Before she hopped away on her cane, she turned back to me. "If you accept our offer of employment, come to the Nekohaten. We'll be waiting."
I waited for the old woman to disappear from sight before turning to the sky. "Whoever came up with my last name," I said loudly. "Should be shot and hung in the street."
I heard someone walking up the street behind me and quickly looked to see if they'd heard me. It was Jhim.
"What was that about?" he asked as he approached me, giving me an odd look. He almost looked worried about something. "I thought I heard Cologne earlier."
So he's worried I did something stupid then, I thought to myself bitterly.
"None of your business," I said in a tone that was the equivalent of "Screw you."
Jhim shrugged. "Whatever," he muttered as he walked past me.
His unaffected attitude really bugged me for some reason. I don't care what the others say, I don't see anything wrong with him, I thought to myself. "Screw this," I muttered to myself and turned around. I'll just take the long way home.
As I turned the corner I thought I noticed him looking over his shoulder a little, but it seemed I was imagining it.
The Liz hates this chapter with the burning passion of a thousand suns of DOOM! But she likes to mauve it, mauve it, she likes to mauve it, mauve it, MOVE IT!