The Amazon and the Moneylender
After the old troll had managed to lure the persistent octopus into a series of tuna nets the gigantic thing was slaughtered by the fishermen, who were filled with a mixture of terror and avarice. From there the beast was divided among the various boats involved and chopped up for ease of transport. These boats traveled back to their ports and sold this recent catch to their various distributors and restaurant contracts.
Most of the octopus ended up being heavily processed and doused with any of a number of chemical sterilizers. At least two pieces, however, reached a restaurant in the Nerima district where they prided themselves on the fact that they used no artificial additives or preservatives. Upon getting the appropriate order the cooks took those two pieces and prepared them as necessary.
The head waiter personally, and very nervously, carried the platters to the table that had ordered the exotic meal. He set the plate down and bowed profusely as he backed away from the table.
The man's presence was explained by the presence of the one girl, a longtime customer. She looked about eighteen or nineteen, but carried herself with a satisfied and mildly amused aura. Her brown hair was cut short, about neck height curling around in front of her face a little. Her petite, slightly upturned, nose hung over a mildly smirking mouth.
His nervousness, on the other hand, was easily explained by the other girl's presence. The blue haired Chinese girl was well known as being one of the greatest sources of property damage, second only to Ryouga Hibiki, that Nerima had ever encountered in all its history. This girl was looking at her dinner companion with a measure of suspicion and veiled fear.
"Shampoo do her part, now money-girl answer Shampoo question!" the blue-haired girl demanded. The waiter and everyone within hearing glanced nervously at the infamously short-tempered amazon. They didn't want to do anything even moderately insulting, fearing how that might make the amazon react. Of course only a few of them knew that the other girl was easily more dangerous to annoy, for she was the secret mistress of Nerima.
"On the condition that I set forth before," the brown haired girl insisted as she plucked her first piece of the giant octopus sushi special (for a limited time only). Across from her, Shampoo was irritably picking at her meal. She noted that the Amazon was not taking the proper time necessary to savor the exquisite taste of the dish. "You don't expect me to harm my sister in any way," the brown haired girl looked up for a moment to glare at the amazon. All the amusement was gone as she spoke the last two words. "Do you?"
"How Shampoo expect you to help win Airen if you not help Shampoo get violent-girl out of way?"
"I don't care if you manage to win Ranma's heart or not, consider it my method of testing his loyalty. However, I'll not hurt my sister to help you do it, understood?"
"Shampoo, understand," the amazon answered, grudgingly. She had to admit that Nabiki was certainly a formidable negotiator, and what she wouldn't give to have that sort of effortless and dignified beauty.
"Good," Nabiki returned to her former good humor. A genuine and sudden shift of mood, something she had learned to control quite a long time ago. "Then go ahead and ask your questions then."
"Aiya," Shampoo declared happily. Nabiki blinked, and then recovered her manner. Shampoo was wonderfully naive, it was amazing, Nabiki never considered the possibility of a violent innocent before. "If money-girl not help Shampoo with sister, then maybe you help take spatula-girl out of picture?" The fact that guys, guys who didn't know her violent tendencies, and quite a few who did, turned their heads as she arrived didn't make her any less enviable.
"Hmm," Nabiki thought about this. "Ukyou, eh? Well that could be interesting." Her eyebrows crimped and she laughed quietly.
"What you mean?" Shampoo asked nervously.
"What do you know about matchmaking?" Nabiki asked still laughing.
"Baka!" the insult was followed by a loud clanging sound.
"What was that for!?!" came the boy's answering shout.
"You were supposed to tell her all about your undying love for her," the first speaker. She was a girl about seventeen or eighteen, wielding a huge spatula. Her hair hung down to her mid back and was tied with a cute, white ribbon. "Not comment on her ability as a martial artist."
"I'm sorry, Ukyou!" the boy shouted angrily. "I just couldn't do it, there was....too much....risk." The boy managed to combine depression, fury and embarrassment into one indescribable emotion. He was about Ukyou's age, but about a foot taller wearing a yellow shirt and a black and yellow bandana.
"So you tell her that she 'really needs to practice more!?!?!'" Ukyou demanded. "You're lucky that she only hit once, Ryouga."
"At least she doesn't hit me with a giant spatula every time I ask a question!"
"What was that? I couldn't hear what you said."
"You violent, uncute, chef!"
"What was that for!?!"
"What did you hit me for?!!?"
This was witnessed from the trees above by a very reluctant and nervous Shampoo.
"Trust me," she remembered Nabiki saying. "They really like each other, for all I know it might even be love. Make her think your moving in on her territory and she's bound to fight back."
"Hey, if spatula-girl get pig-boy, won't he stop chasing money-girl sister?"
"I really doubt that my sister will ever notice that patheticly shy boy," Nabiki assured her. "Either way its one fiancee down, isn't it?" Nabiki raised an eye-brow.
"But what make pig-boy like spatula-girl?"
"Oh, I'll handle that problem," Nabiki laughed.
Then later it was her great-grandmother.
"I'm not sure I trust this Nabiki," Cologne cautioned her. "It could be that she too has designs on the boy."
"Great-grandmother just upset I not go to you for help this time," Shampoo insisted. "Money-girl only care about money, and she very smart."
"And have you stopped to consider that she might be trying to trick you into serving her own purposes?"
"Yes, Shampoo know she make much money if spatula-girl dates pig-boy sooner than later."
"Oh, I see," Cologne nodded. "In that case, perhaps she can be trusted."
Back in the trees Shampoo breathed in a large sigh of relief as she cleared her mind of the flashbacks.
"Time Shampoo go to work," she almost sounded like she was purring. Shampoo leaped down from her tree and glomped onto Ryouga with a half-way plausible "Woda Airen!" It didn't take long for Ukyou to recover from the face-fault.
"Ryouga?" Ukyou began, far too calmly and sweetly for Ryouga's liking. It reminded of the way Akane sometimes talked to Ranma.
"Y-yes?" he asked, trying to turn to face the okonomiyaki chef while trapped in Shampoo's surprisingly strong arms. The amazon meanwhile was smiling and and nuzzling her head against his chest.
"Tell me you didn't beat Shampoo in combat," Ukyou said quietly. Then she started yelling. "AND YOU BETTER DO IT QUICKLY!!!!!!!!!"
"I didn't! I didn't!" Ryouga declared. "I not know what going on...er...I mean I don't know....AAAAGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!"
The Amazon stared in trepidation at the flattened boy. If her deception was revealed, the two would be more than willing to do that to her.
"Shampoo practicing in woods when something hit back of head and Shampoo go night-night," the amazon explained. "Shampoo wake up and here 'excuse me' as new Airen walk away."
"I...did....n't...meeeaan it," Ryouga drawled out as he struggled back to consciousness.
"You idiot!" Ukyou yelled. "After everything I'm doing to help you win Akane's love, your off romancing Shampoo as well! You...you...you...."
"Ukyou, I didn't do anything," Ryouga pleaded, miraculously recovered after multiple spatula strikes. "I must have just landed on her last time you orbit kicked me!" Ukyou wasn't listening.
"Casanova!!!!!!!....You're just as bad as Ranma!" The chef stomped away. "RYOUGA NO BAKA!!!!!!!!!" Ryouga winced as Ukyou shouted those last words.
"Fine be that way!"
"Wo ai ni," Shampoo whispered, again glomped onto Ryouga. Nabiki had stressed that it was necessary for him to believe the deception as well.
"Get off me!" Ryouga yelled leaping up and away. Before Shampoo could even make it look like she was following he had extended his umbrella and was gliding away on a wind current.
"Now money-girl's turn," Shampoo noted.
"What is this image of beauty I see before me?" the pompous voice demanded. "This is not my lovely Akane or the Pig-Tailed Goddess."
"What is it Kuno-Baby?" Nabiki asked feigning annoyance. She looked at the picture he was inquiring about. "Oh, that? Sorry, that's another customer's merchandise, didn't mean to give it to you." Nabiki casually reached out to retrieve the photo she had "mistakenly" delivered to his hand.
"Nae, I shall keep this glorious image." He held in his hand a picture of Ukyou cooking. "She is so disciplined and focused, like the blade of a finely wrought katana. Honed to a brilliant sharpness and oneness of purpose. Yes, this woman is indeed a wonderous example of human nature. Truly a prize worth the winning." The would-be samurai ceased his rant for a moment to again address Nabiki. "Tell me, fair Nabiki, who is this beauty and where might I find her?"
"Two thousand yen." Nabiki demanded. Kuno forked over the cash unhesitantly.
"Now I demand you..." Nabiki held up a hand to forestall his next spiel.
"Hold it Kuno-Baby," she told him. "That was for the photo, the name will cost you five thousand yen, and her home will cost you another eight thousand."
"Errrgghh!" Kuno growled. "You would demand my soul itself if you could use it, woman." He handed over the thirteen hundred yen. "Now what is her name and place of residence?"
"Her name is Ukyou Kuonji," Nabiki told him. "She lives with Ryouga at Ucchan's restaurant."
"Ryouga?" Kuno asked. "And who is this...Ryouga?" Nabiki stopped to think for a moment.
"Four thousand yen."
"Damn it woman! Who is this person?!?!" Kuno demanded as passed over more money.
"You know Ryouga," Nabiki told him. "He's that guy with the umbrella Ranma is always fighting with."
"Ah yes, Ryouga Hibiki," Kuno said in sudden realization. "I had thought that he was a man of honor and discipline, but it appears that he is just another sorcerer. Obviously he is the evil Saotome's former apprentice come to overthrow his master and beginning by enslaving this fair maiden with his vile magics. I must go to rescue her at once!" The samurai leaped to his feet and charged out of the diner.
"Whatever, Kuno-Baby," Nabiki said to the disappearing dust trail. She smiled and thought back to Shampoo's objections over dinner.
"What make money-girl sure sword-boy want date spatula-girl?" Shampoo had asked, unceremoniously wiping her face after devouring the last of her meal. Nabiki half-wished that she could be so free from social restraint, but she did have an image to maintain.
"Oh yeah," Nabiki started sarcastically. "Like it would be difficult to get Kuno obsessed with someone. We're not talking about the most intelligent or stable of people here."
"Money-girl have point," Shampoo agreed.
"He's even more dense than you," Nabiki pointed out.
"What that mean?" Shampoo demanded crossly.
"Though in your case I'd call hard-headness a virtue," Nabiki added, trying to save from her earlier mistake. "You certainly don't give up very easily."
"That right, Shampoo no ever give up," she admitted reluctantly. Nabiki thought she was trying to decide if she had been insulted or not. "What if sword-boy hurt spatula-girl?" Shampoo didn't sound as if this would necessarily be a bad thing.
"Not likely," Nabiki asserted. "He might pester her to death, but nothing worse."
Nabiki's mind returned to the present as she walked out of the diner at a much more sedate pace than Kuno. Her stride was only broken as she worked to avoid the sharp broken points of the door Kuno smashed on his way out.
"Now, if Shampoo did her job..." Nabiki's thought was interrupted as boy in a familiar yellow and green outfit floated down from the sky under a red bamboo umbrella.
"Excuse me," Ryouga started, with a great deal of resignation. "Do you know how to get to Ucchan's from her?"
"Follow Kuno," Nabiki suggested, hooking her thumb towards the rapidly disappearing dust cloud the samurai was kicking up. "He's on his way to see Ukyou." Nabiki silently thanked her luck that he had appeared with such exceptional timing.
"Kuno?!" Ryouga shouted, he was immediately racing after the would-be samurai, struggling to keep him in view. "What does that pervert want with Ukyou!" His last shout carried back to Nabiki as he too vanished in a cloud of dust. Nabiki didn't want to guess the odds that Ryouga would actually find his way to Ucchan's, but at least the trap was set.
Nabiki didn't know that Kuno had been training hard recently, finally admitting to himself that his skills needed improvement. He was at least on level with Mousse now, and much more unstable. In other words, he was an actual threat to the most of the Nerima warriors.
"What's that sound?" Ukyou asked no one in particular. Then the door to her restaurant was slammed open.
"Oh lovely Ukyou!" Kuno shouted to the recoiling Okonomiyaki chef. "I, the great Tatewaki Kuno, called the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, have come to prove my love to you by freeing you from the clutches of the vile Ryouga Hibiki. His evil magicks and black magic spells can not possibly stand before the might of my blade."
"Shouldn't you be propositioning Akane or Ranma-Chan or something," Ukyou asked nervously. She was plastered to the wall, putting as much distance between herself and Kuno as she possibly could."
"Ah, yes," Kuno stood straight and closed his eyes as if in remembrance. "My other loves. Akane the tigress, and the Pig-Tailed Goddess like a wind in the grass. I still must free them from the vile clutches of Hibiki's master the evil Ranma Soatome. But I felt I must also declare my love to you, oh mistress Kuonji, and test my skills against the lesser sorcerer before I again whet my blade on Soatome's hide!"
"Ka...mi....sa.....ma....." Ukyou said in desperation. Then she was out the back door of her restaurant. "Ryouga!!!! Where on earth are you?!?"
"Wait my love!" Kuno shouted as he followed. "I have a poem in which my love for you is declared!! Wait I say!"
"KUNO! What are you doing to Ukyou?!?" Ryouga demanded.
"Qu'est que vous avez besoin?" the person in front of him asked nervously, with a forced nasal sound due to the umbrella under his nose.
"Oh, Vous n'etes pas Kuno," Ryouga noted before pulling back his umbrella and scratching his head in embarrassment. "Er....Ou est Japon?"
"C'est japon," the man said.
"Pourquoi est-ce que vous parlez en francais?" Ryouga asked.
"Je suis une tourist," the man insisted. "Je ne parle pas en japonais."
"Oh, je regrette," Ryouga said. "Au revoir." Ryouga went back to running and looking for Ucchan's. "Damn it, I know it's around here somewhere."
"Merely...." *CLANG* "...a false demon..." *CLANG* "...sent to torment me." *CLANG* "Very well...." *CLANG* "Then I shall fight as well!"
"AAAAGH!!! STAY DOWN!"
"Well?" Nabiki asked as she answered the phone.
"Spatula-girl walked out on pig-boy," Shampoo said on the other end.
"Good," Nabiki laughed. "That's what I was planning on happening."
"Strange way to make match," Shampoo commented. "You?"
"Ryouga is off chasing Kuno who is off chasing Ukyou."
"Me no pay you rest until spatula-girl give up on Airen."
"Don't worry, Kitty" Nabiki assured her. "I have everything under control."
Akane and Ranma were interrupted in mid-argument by a desperate looking Ukyou. The okonomiyaki chef was panting heavily, her clothes were battered and torn. All that remained of her mega-spatula was a splintered handle that she gripped in her right hand. Her left arm hung loose out of joint, and her right eye was obviously starting to swell shut.
"Akane! Ranma!" she shouted. "You have to hide me!!!"
"Ucchan?" Ranma asked in surprise.
"What happened to you!?" Akane added.
"Isn't it obvious?" Ukyou demanded. Suddenly the door behind her opened up and a well-battered Kuno had thrown a flurry of attacks at her before anybody could react. "Hey!!" Akane shouted, about the same time Ranma yelled "Ukyou!!" Ukyou finally was thrown back from him into a wall where she slid to the floor.
"Ah ha, I see that the vile Hibiki has used the Ukyou-copy to lure me into a trap. It is obvious that he fears my blade and hopes that his master in the black arts can dispose of me for him. Well! He should know that I, Tatewaki Kuno, have had dealings with the vile Saotome before, and he has yet to vanquish me. Come warlock let us fight this battle for the souls of all three my loves!"
They all started to move just as the ceiling collapsed on top of the deluded samurai. Ranma and Akane had heard the characteristic sound of "Baksai-Tenketsu" and had taken cover. Fortunately the samurai wannabe took the full force of both explosion and Ryoga landing on top of him.
Ryouga shouted something in what they thought might be Gaelic. It was apparent the he had not yet recognized them. He scanned around and saw Ukyou lying battered across the room. Instantly he rushed to her side, cradling the exhausted and bruised chef in his arms. "Ukyou!?! What are you doing in Ireland? And who did this to you?"
Ukyou responded to the insistent but gentle ministrations by waking up enough to hear most of the questions.
"Baka....Not Ireland...." She said before falling unconscious again.
"Ukyou!?!" he checked to make sure she was still alive before setting her back down again gently. "WherE IS THE BASTARD!!!!"
"Who dares topple the Great Tatewaki Kuno!?! The varlet shall pay dearly for this undignified insult."
"Kuno...." Ryouga growled.
"Want help Ryouga?" Ranma asked, cracking his knuckles.
"We're right behind you," Akane agreed readily.
"He's mine." Ryouga's voice was grim. "Get her to Tofu's."
"So it is you, the vile sorcerer's apprentice," Kuno said in dismissive manner, then noted the battered Ukyou. "I have defeated the foul creature that you gave miss Kuonji's form. Now I, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, shall smi-*" His spiel was interrupted by a volley of fury driven fists and kicks.
"You damn arrogant prick!" Ryouga shouted. "Think you can go around beating on girls do you? I'll show you!!" Kuno recovered himself quickly, of them all he had always seemed to have the highest capability to heal.
"Foolish worker of dark magics!" Kuno shouted as her swung his bokken into Ryouga. The lost-boy winced a little at the impact, but nothing more. Ranma was concerned upon seeing that, he knew just how much damage was needed to make Ryouga actually feel pain while enraged.
The fight was quickly carried outside as Kuno succeeded in ramming the lost boy through one of the dojo walls. From there Ranma and Akane heard the sound of a quick series of Baksai-Tenketsu blasts.
"Ryouga has Kuno under control I think," Ranma told them. They could all hear the sound of Baksai-Tenketsu's being performed in rapid succession. "How's Ukyou?"
"Do you think we can get her to Dr. Tofu's?" Akane asked Ranma, desparately.
"I think I have an idea," Ranma said before running into the guest room.
"What's going on?" Nabiki asked curiously as Ranma passed by.
"We have to get Ukyou to Dr. Tofu's," Ranma informed her.
"What?!" Nabiki shouted after him. "Why?!?"
"Kuno beat her up! Ryouga's after him now, I need a stretcher or something."
"He beat her up!" Nabiki repeated in disbelief. "H-he's never done anything even remotely like this before!!" She quickly rushed to where Ranma had come from and quickly found Ukyou. Akane had called Kasumi and their older sister had brought out an icepack and small collection of bandages. Ranma reappeared soon after Nabiki.
"I think we can use this to get her to the clinic," he suggested. He appeared to be carrying some form of hammock or something similar.
"Why did he do this?" Nabiki demanded. "What happened?"
"Not right now Nabiki," Akane commanded as Ranma laid the make-shift stretcher on the floor. "Help us move her."
Nabiki quickly moved to do so, and the four of them easily moved Ukyou to the stretcher. If the circumstances had been otherwise, Ranma and Akane would have wondered why Nabiki was being so enthusiastic about helping them. As it was they had more important things to consider.
"Kasumi and Nabiki," Ranma said as he and Akane hefted either side of the stretcher. "Stay here and wait for Ryouga, in case he can find his way back."
"That's fine," Nabiki said angrily. "I have some calls to make."
"Your vile sorcerer's tricks can't fool me Hibiki," Kuno declared. "And to think I once thought you a man of honor!" Ryouga didn't say anything intelligible as he tossed bandana after bandana at the samurai.
Ryouga could see how Kuno had beaten Ukyou so badly now. It wasn't the man's skill that was the problem, it was keeping him down once you beat him. He had thought the samurai had been getting progressively harder to defeat, but hadn't really paid attention to it until now. There had to be a way to at least semi-permanently keep the man down, but it was proving difficult to find.
"I have beaten the vile succubus that you summoned to fool me into believing that it was my fair Ukyou," the samurai declared. This angered Ryouga even further. Unfortunately there was no self-pity involved in this rage so he couldn't reach the depths of depression needed for the Shi Shi Houkoudan. Fortunately he also had an endurance level that fairly equally compensated for Kuno's fast healing time.
Umbrella clashed against bokken as the pair continued their battle, leaving a wake of explosions behind them. The anger of both opponents flared brightly as their auras lit the streets that should have been growing darker.
It was quickly becoming apparent to Ryouga that the fight would last until one of them dropped from exhaustion. Neither Ranma and Akane had much trouble keeping the samurai down, but then they both had the tendency to orbit kick him away rather than allow him to stand and fight.
It was too late in the fight for an orbit kick, Kuno would be too on guard for it. On the other hand there was another trick that he had been working on. A variation of one of Ranma's actually.
"Come on, asshole," Ryouga growled. "Let's go." He started driving forward viciously letting his umbrella lead the way.
"You honorless dog!" Kuno shouted. "How dare you push me back! I am the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, a warrior of unmatched might and fury."
"Shut and fight," Ryouga demanded. The battle suddenly acquired two more spectators along with the others who had gathered at the edge of destruction.
"That looks like a spiral pattern," Hiroshi noted.
"Can't be," Daisuke responded. "Ranma's not down there."
The two flaming red battle auras met near the center of a massive spiral as Ryouga shouted out.
"JIGOKU HI HONO'O!!!!" As the spectators watched it seemed as if all Ryouga's angry chi was piled into Kuno's. The abrupt doubling and redoubling of Kuno's fury proved too much for the samurai too handle. The heat reached out and suddenly the witnesses to fight were treated to the site of a massive pillar of flame engulfing the would-be samurai and most of the entire spiral. The fire spun outward, blowing things away rather than sucking them in like the Hiryu Shouten Ha.
Ryouga wasn't unscathed in this confrontation either. He had managed to avoid the "Hell Fire Blaze" mostly, but the blast had still thrown him into backwards through a building. The difference was that Ryouga could still stand afterwards, and Kuno was, at the very least, not going to be moving for quite awhile.
"Errr, think somebody should call an ambulance?"
"For a Kuno?" Hiroshi looked at his friend and comrade in gambling. "Well maybe this once."
Ryouga stumbled to the center of the crater where a charred Kuno lay in a twitching pile. He wouldn't be getting up anytime soon from those injuries. A further point of fact towards rendering him defenseless was the fact that his bokken was no where to be seen. Ryouga assumed that had been reduced to ashes and carried away in blast.
"Gotcha, you bastard," he spat on the unconcscious samurai and started walking back to the Tendo dojo, falling the trail of destruction. He wanted to make sure he didn't get lost, so he restrained himself from running. At least the trail was somewhat easy to follow. As he started to walk away a half burned picture of Ukyou drifted down in front of him.
"Where'd this-?" he started to ask as he pocketed it. Then he realized who it had to be. "Nabiki." Then he looked back in the direction he was walking.
"Hey!" Ryouga said. "Where on Earth am I now!?!?"
"You heard me," Nabiki said, voice filled with ice. "Tatewaki Kuno, call in all his debts.""
"B-b-but Miss Tendo," the man on the other end of phone started. "You said it yourself, he's worth more as a source of income than merely taking in all his property."
"This isn't business," Nabiki informed him. "This is personal."
"Personal?" suddenly the man was terrified. It was best not to get in Nabiki's way on anything even remotely resembling a personal vendetta. "I'm right on it Miss Tendo."
"Good," she answered. Outside the blast of Ryouga's Jigoku Hi Hono'o flared against the night sky before fading away to nothing. "Excuse me I have to go now."
"H-Hai," her minion on the other end hung up nervously.
"Oh my," Kasumi said quietly. Soun and Genma chose this moment to return home from another "training session" at the local sushi bar's all you can eat special lunch.
"What was that?" Genma shouted.
"It appears to be have been a spiral of flame," Soun noted technically. "It bares a remarkable similarity to Ranma's Hiryu Shouten Ha."
"You're right Tendo," Genma agreed. "It's spiralling outward, and the fire bares a marked resemblance to battle aura."
"I guess that means Ryouga finished Kuno," Nabiki said. "Good."
"Nabiki, Kasumi, what is going on here?" Soun asked.
"Well we don't have all the details," Kasumi said. "But it seems that Kuno attacked Ukyou and chased her here. Ryouga then chased him out the dojo while Ranma and Akane took Ukyou to Dr. Tofu's clinic."
""I see," Genma said. "The samurai finally snapped then?"
"Excuse me." Nabiki was shaken, this was directly her fault. Unfortunately for her she couldn't tell anybody, or else it might do more damage. Also, there was the possibility of a threat to her own health as well. She'd tell them about the picture later, but play it up as a mistake, an accident.
Then she realized, there was one person that she could talk to about this. Not that Shampoo would be any help, but at least she already knew the truth of the situation. She also wasn't likely to turn around and spread the story all over town. She picked up the phone and dialed the Shampoo's number.
"Xie Xie," she heard Shampoo's voice on the other end.
"Shampoo could I...talk to you?"
"Money-girl?" Shampoo asked. "Talk fine, what about?"
"Not over the phone," Nabiki said. She thought for a moment. "How about that vacant lot, it always seems to work for Ranma and Akane."
"Okay, see you there, bye." Nabiki hung up the phone and started walking for the door.
"I'm going somewhere for a little while," Nabiki told her family and Ranma's dad. "Be back soon."
"What happened to this girl," Dr. Tofu asked as he applied bandages and medicines.
"Kuno," Ranma told him, saying the name with a great deal of venom and anger.
"I was afraid something like this might happen someday," Dr. Tofu nodded grimly.
"Is she going to be okay?" Akane asked nervously.
"The injuries are extensive," Dr. Tofu admitted. "But she should effect a complete recovery."
"Oh good," Akane breathed a sigh of relief. Then Ukyou snapped awake, she tried to sit up, but found that excessively uncomfortable and let herself lay back against the bed.
"Where is he?" Ukyou asked, a little nervously.
"Kuno's gone," Akane assured her.
"No, not Kuno," Ukyou corrected them. "Where's Ryouga."
At that point the night sky outside the clinic was lit by a huge pillar of flame that must have been about three miles away.
"He went after Kuno," Ranma answered unnecessarily as the light through the windows faded. "Why'd Kuno attack you? He usually just bugs girls."
"It was the next logical step in his delusions," Dr. Tofu said. "Considering his belief that Ranma is a black sorcerer it was only a matter of time before he came up with the idea of dopplegangers copying his 'loves'." He turned to Ukyou and admonished her. "Don't try to sit up again."
"Don't worry, I won't," Ukyou answered dryly. She relaxed against the clinic bed, trying to ignore the mine of breathing past a pair of broken ribs. Ukyou noticed Ranma and Akane watching her very cautiously. Ukyou hoped she didn't sound as shaken and terrified as she felt. "I think I'm just going to go to sleep for a little while."
"Perhaps you should let her sleep," Dr. Tofu suggested.
"What money-girl want to talk about?" Shampoo asked, curiously. The amazon was somewhat worried about Nabiki, she wasn't acting normal at all. The usually arrogant and cynical girl seemed almost contrite even.
"You were right about Kuno," Nabiki said, sitting on an old lawn chair someone had thrown out.
"What that mean?" Shampoo asked. "What Shampoo say about sword boy?"
"He..." Nabiki faltered as she considered repeating the events of the day. Shampoo leaped from her tree perch and performed a cursory examination of Nabiki. "What are you doing?"
"You okay?" Shampoo asked as she ascertained that there were no visible bruises or marks. "He not do anything to you?"
"No, not me," Nabiki said indignantly. "Ukyou! He hit Ukyou!"
"Oh," Shampoo said, neutrally. "What your problem?" Nabiki half growled, she should have known that Shampoo wouldn't understand things.
"It's my fault!" Nabiki shouted. "I set him up to 'fall in love' with Ukyou."
"So spatula-girl in fight with sword-boy," Shampoo shrugged. "She martial artist, she handle bruise or two. Not like he fight you or nice-girl."
"How about a broken leg?" Nabiki asked. "Or a dislocated shoulder? Or broken ribs?"
"What?!?!!!?" Shampoo responded in disbelief, then she started walking away. "Excuse me, must go kill sword-boy now."
"Don't bother," Nabiki said. "Ryouga already got him."
"Oh, problem solved." Nabiki blinked as the amazon returned suddenly to her normal cheerful demeanor.
"I wish I could do that," Nabiki said, smirking a little.
"What you mean?" Shampoo asked, confused. Nabiki laughed, an actual full laugh, not her usual snide giggle. "What so funny?"
"Never mind," Nabiki said. "Thanks Shampoo, I needed to talk to some one."
"No problem, but go back to work now. Bye bye!" Shampoo leaped away in standard martial artist fashion.
It was three days later when Ryouga finally reached the Tendo dojo. By this time Kuno had been hospitalized, bankrupt and under police guard. He looked like he normally did after returning from being lost. That meant that he was tired, bruised, covered in a variety of twigs and leaves, and leaning heavily on his umbrella.
"Oh, Ryouga," Kasumi said as she answered the door. "We were wondering what happened to you."
"Kasumi?" he asked nervously. "I'm there?..er...I mean, I'm here? Where's Ukyou? Is she all right?"
"Ukyou? I believe that she is still at Dr. Tofu's clinic," Kasumi answered him.
"Right!" Ryouga started to turn around and leave, but then thought better of it. He turned back around. "Are Ranma or Akane around?"
"Don't worry, lost-boy," someone said from inside the dojo. "I can take you there." Ryouga narrowed his eyes as Nabiki appeared.
"I want to talk to you anyway," he noted darkly. Nabiki paused in her stride and looked at him curiously. Ryouga thought he noted a crack in the girl's normally glass smooth demeanor.
"Really?" she asked dryly. "What about?"
"I see, let's walk and talk," Nabiki said as she passed the obviously angry martial artist. Ryouga followed behind.
"Have a good walk you two!" Kasumi called out to them before returning to the chores that seemed to fill her life.
"Kuno had a picture of Ukyou," Ryouga told her a little bit later after they were. "How did he get it?" Nabiki stopped and sighed.
"From me, of course," Nabiki answered. "Something Tsubasa wanted, Kuno saw it by accident and went nuts over it." She started walking again.
"So all this is your fault!" Nabiki winced at the accusation.
"I know my responsibility," she assured him. "Kuno is quite finished here." Ryouga glared at her, but the tone of Nabiki's speech made him cautious about further insulting her.
"I'm keeping an eye on you," he told her.
"I would be insulted if you didn't," Nabiki said. "Here we are." Ryouga turned to look at Dr. Tofu's clinic.
"Thank you, Nabiki," he said, grudgingly. They walked into the small building, watching each other cautiously. It didn't take them long, with Nabiki navigating, to find the single patient room that the small clinic possessed. Ryouga peaked into the room nervously and saw a bandaged Ukyou chatting with Akane, who was sitting in a chair to the side of the bed. Oddly enough he didn't even notice Akane at first.
"Ukyou?" he asked as he stepped into the room. The okonomiyaki chef turned to face him. Her eye was still bandaged, her left arm was in a sling, and she had a cast on her left leg as well. Most of the bruises had visibly improved, however, and she certainly seemed to be her normal self when she was talking with Akane a moment ago.
"Ryouga?" she responded back. He walked forward to within a couple feet of Ukyou and bowed low in apparent shame. "What is it?"
"Gomen nasai," he said. "I was...too slow."
"Ryouga, please," Ukyou said frantically. "It wasn't your fault. How could any one know what he was going to do." Nobody, not even Ryouga, noticed Nabiki flinch. Ukyou reached out with her good arm and forced him to look into her face. "This all Kuno's fault, nobody else's." She hugged him with her one good arm, and he gingerly returned the embrace, fearful of hurting her.
"I'm sorry about yelling at you," Ukyou suddenly admitted, tears rolling down onto Ryouga's shoulders. "I know you weren't after Shampoo."
"Who cares about Shampoo?" Nabiki's eyes narrowed at that.
"Umm do you guys want to be alone?" Akane asked.
"Huh?" Ryouga blinked. "Akane?"
"Did you say something?" Ukyou asked.
"I'll take that as a yes," Akane said, quietly leaving the room and dragging Nabiki with her.
"How dare he dismiss Shampoo like that!" Nabiki grumbled as soon as they reached the lobby. "She's twice the martial artist Ukyou is, and much more honest at that!"
"What is it Akane?" she demanded irately.
"Why are you defending Shampoo?"
"Uh...I don't know," Nabiki admitted, suddenly confused.