Part One

To Trap a Bear
Revenge Springs Eternally

It took me awhile to realize it at first. That I was free, I mean. When you've had your destiny controlled for so long, you tend to take it for granted. What I noticed first was that things weren't happening. Sure, life was going on, but nothing like what I was used to. No one was throwing scenarios at me. That was when I realized that my life since coming to Nerima had all been scripted and finally no one was writing anymore.

I didn't know why it had stopped and I didn't care. I had a pretty good idea who was ultimately behind my situation. The trouble then was to get to where he was. Some careful negotiation took care of that problem.

Contrary to what you may have read about me, I'm no fool. I watched my query for awhile before I struck. That was how I found out what had happened to grant me this opportunity. His computer was broken and he'd had to borrow one from a friend. This new system was very unstable and it was taking him forever to get it working right. But time was running out for me. He'd solved most of the problems by now and now all he was waiting for was for a friend to return from vacation so he could continue where he had left off.

Over my dead body.

I'd warned him once.

He didn't listen.

Now he'd pay.

I've never been in control of my own life.

That might sound like an exaggeration, but I assure you that it isn't. Not at all. Ever since my rebirth, my every action has been controlled. The events around me, manipulated by the same force.

I've known this, I could feel it in my bones my entire life. I always assumed it to be the one who brought me to the world of Ranma, the girl of the mirror.

But, of course, that's when realization sunk in. I was a self-insert. I truly was. And self-inserts all have one thing in common. They're fanfics, written by authors. Those authors are the ones inserted.

It hit me hard, the fact that my life, my horrible life, was something merely created on a whim. My feelings weren't my own, my actions controlled by another force. You don't know the feeling of that realization.

Let alone the realization that the agent of my torture was none other than myself!

It made me sick, I'll tell you. Realizing all of this. But I also realized he stopped being me, or rather I stopped being him, those fourteen years ago when I was reborn as Kari Umikage.

Those kind of thoughts reminded me of DeCartes, though, so I simply accepted that fact and stopped mulling over it.

It was a while before I could really act, though. I felt it, as if something tangible, one day whilst walking home with Akane and Ranma, Ryoga having gotten lost previously. I felt the hands of fate, or rather myself, leave me.

I guess it was some sort of hiatus. Perhaps a large break of scene in whatever writing I was a part of.

It was also my time to act.

It didn't take me long to find a shop specializing in magical items. Trust me, it was Nerima, the two days it took could almost be considered long. There, I was able to find the agent of my return, and also my revenge.

A magical item, resembling the Nanban Mirror in powers and a henshin stick in appearance. It would become my tool of salvation.

The opportunity I needed wasn't long in coming. His best friend had just returned from Afghanistan. They were all going out to celebrate. It didn't hurt matters that 'Girls Gone Wild' was filming in a local bar. He'd be drunk and horny. A situation I could easily take advantage of. Ironically, he'd provided me with the tools I needed to do so.

Getting into the bar was easy. I'm a pretty girl after all, just the kind they wanted to see tonight. They didn't even ask for ID. One advantage to living in Canada's redneck country. Of course every guy there wanted to get me drunk, have me flash them and then take me home. Pigs. Of course, some of the other girls were pretty hot and it was hard not to stare...

It would have been easy to get distracted if I hadn't been so focused on my mission. You should have seen the look on his face when I approached him, introduced myself and started to flirt. I didn't have to work too hard after that. His buddies were all determined that I was going home with him. He didn't even have any choice.

For fun I challenged him to a drinking contest. What he didn't know was that I had already made arrangements with the waitress. She was bringing me Long Island Iced Teas that were only Ice Tea. She kept the difference between the drinks and he paid it all. Sucker.

The downside to all of this was that I had to nearly carry him to his room. As he was fumbling with his keys he smirked and said"Daichan eh? That's funny, I have a character in a story that sometimes uses that name."

"I know" I replied just before knocking him upside the head. He fell like a bag of bricks and felt just as heavy as I dragged him into his room.

I'm sure it was an evil grin that crossed my face as I spotted his computer. So considerate of him to get it working. The instrument of my revenge.

With the power of my new wand, I was transported to a balcony of an apartment building. I was surprised, as this wasn't the home I knew, but I peered into the glass and saw myself.

Not the me I had come to accept over the last fourteen years. This was the old me, dressed in a vibrant blue Hawaiian shirt and typing furiously at his computer. His hair was longer than I remembered and looked a little older. I realized this was a college boy, not the high school Senior I had been.

It amazed me, how into his computer he was. I was within arm's reach of him, and he hadn't even noticed me.

Taking advantage of this, I used my ninja stealth to quietly open the door and slip inside. I was glad that he didn't lock his balcony door. Of course, I had seen how high up this room was, so he had no reason to lock it.

I took a position behind the boy, watching over his shoulder as he downloaded some files. Naruto 122 and Beck 19 were on his monitor, and my author simply waited for the files to finish downloading. Growing bored, he clicked on a small fox icon in the corner, opening a web browser.

Deciding there was no time like the present, I calmly cleared my throat.

The boy spun around incredibly fast, obviously shocked at hearing somebody else in his room.

I quickly pulled out a kodachi. Instead of killing him with it, as I had the sudden urge to do, I simply knocked him on the side of the head with the hilt. He fell out of his chair with a loud thud.

I was going to have my vengeance right then and there. I pulled out the wand, intent on sending my author to the heart of the Sahara, when something caught my eye.

On the computer screen was the name "EternallyLost" which was a handle I recalled using before. I noticed the page was a fanfiction site for a group called DifferingFools.

Curiosity overcame me, and I knew this other me wouldn't be waking for several hours at least.

I clicked the link for their only story"Crossover."

It didn't take me long to realize it was about self-inserts like myself. I was shocked to discover myself in the story, as well as several others.

I also realized that my author really was a bastard. He must have enjoyed torturing me.

I was going to get back to my vengeance when I heard a beep from the computer. In the corner I saw a small window, stating "Daisetsu has logged on." It was an MSN Messenger alert, one I recognized.

Daisetsu? My curiosity was piqued, as that was the same name as a self-insert from Crossover. I clicked the window, opening a messenger dialogue. I quickly sent a message.

I'm a nosy person, it's a character flaw. So it was only natural for me to start nosing through Bear's computer files. Couldn't find much on his plans for the future, but I could read what was posted already on Plus snooping around his hotmail account provided me with some additional information.

What was truly educational was an MSN messenger conversation I had with one of his contacts after logging on with his logon, but using my name. It went something like this:

Never give out your password or credit card number in an instant message conversation.

Kari Umikage says:
'ello there.
Daisetsu says:
Umm. Hello?
Kari Umikage says:
Your name is the same as the guy from Crossover.
Kari Umikage says:
You the author?
Daisetsu says:
Maybe. Who's this?

Daisetsu began to sweat. Maybe logging onto Bear's account wasn't the best of ideas. It looked like a friend was trying to get in contact with him. Best to play it cool, though, until she could find out more.

Kari, meanwhile, was simply curious. She didn't care what the heck this guy thought, as she would be leaving soon anyway.

Kari Umikage says:
Kari Umikage.
Kari Umikage says:
Like the name says. See?
Daisetsu says:
I see.
Daisetsu says:
Well, I'm Daisetsu. Like the name says.

The gender-confused boy began thinking. It looked like this person, Kari if she was to be believed, didn't know who she, or Bear, was. If that was the case, how did she add him to her contact list? Security settings prevented that. Her curiosity was piqued.

The ninja girl nodded to herself. Curiouser and curiouser, to steal a line from Alice. If he was to be believed, he did actually share the self-insert's name.

Daisetsu says:
Wait a minute, if you don't know me, how come you're on my contact list?
Daisetsu says:
Kari blinked. That was new.
Kari Umikage says:
Ha, hardly.
Kari Umikage says:
This is my computer. Kind of.
Kari Umikage says:
In a way.
Kari Umikage says:
It's hard to explain.

Kari rubbed her head. It sounded weird when she typed it, but it's not like she could untype the words. Oh, well, that was the gist of it anyhow.

Daisetsu gave pause. What was up with this person?

Daisetsu says:
I see.
Kari Umikage says:
I just messaged you because I noticed you shared a name with a fanfiction character, a self-insert named, obviously, Daisetsu.
Daisetsu says:
So you're using the MSN account of someone else who uses your computer and you recognized my name from a fanfic? Crossover to be exact?
Kari Umikage says:
Got it in one!

The only natural girl smiled, glad to see that this guy had arrived at a semi-believable conclusion, mostly on his own. She realized she was doing a horrible job at covering anything up, but couldn't bring herself to care.

Bear's avatar simply smiled, believing herself to have figured this person out.

Daisetsu says:
Would you believe its just an amazing coincidence?
Kari Umikage says:
Not particularly.

The kendoist smiled. Time to cover her tracks.

Daisetsu says:
But its a perfectly valid story. I'm a friend of the writer and he borrowed my name. I'm using his computer and MSN msg automatically logged on upon the computer booting.
Daisetsu says:
He's sleeping right now, actually.
Kari Umikage says:
I guess that makes sense, in a way, I'll concede that.
Daisetsu says:
Snoring loudly in fact.
Daisetsu says:
So we're both innocent.

Sleeping loudly? Now that was the truth! Daisetsu could hardly concentrate on typing with all the noise her writer was causing. Briefly the girl wondered if her author was going to perform sleep-fu, but noted that he was wrapped tightly in blankets. That should stop that possibility. She turned her attention back to the computer monitor in front of her.

Daisetsu says:
Do you have a link for this Crossover? I've never read it?
Kari Umikage says:
You've never read it?
Daisetsu says:
Kari Umikage says:
Well, I'll send you a link.

Daisetsu was no fool, and realized that anything with her in it could prove to be valuable intelligence. It made her almost wish that her author's computer hadn't been fried. Sure, it may have given her the freedom to pursue her current goals, but it also destroyed a potentially valuable resource for information.

Daisetsu says:
I just started reading Avatar 1/2.
Kari Umikage says:
It's this guy's home page, that's how I found it.

True to her word, she quickly sent Daisetsu the link.

Kari Umikage says:
There you go.
Daisetsu says:
Kari Umikage says:
It's the only story there.

Kari sat back, deciding to let this guy read through some of the story. She looked over to her author to make sure he was still out. He was, like a light. She smiled, leaning back in the computer chair. It wasn't as nice as Akane's, which she often used, but it sufficed.

Daisetsu began to browse through the story. Some sort of large-scale self-insert, huh? Did these authors have no shame? The first and second chapters were completed before she received another message, breaking her from her reading.

Kari Umikage says:
Apparently your friend and mine were collaborators.
Daisetsu says:
So it would seem.
Daisetsu says:
Daisetsu says:
You're in this too. Or at least your name is.

Daisetsu began to wonder what was going on. This person certainly didn't act like a collaborator of Bear's, yet the name was the same as another self-insert.

The female avatar could practically see the wheels turning in this guy's head. She'd try to pass it off as a coincidence, she decided, but if he really pushed for it she'd tell him the truth. Like she decided earlier, it's not like it would hurt anything, considering she'd be leaving this world entirely soon.

Kari Umikage says:
Well, of course. It wouldn't be nearly as good without me, after all.
Daisetsu says:
That's kinda weird, don't you think? Two writers using friends names for SI's and then working together on a merged fic?
Kari Umikage says:
Well, I never gave him permission to use me.
Daisetsu says:
You must be torqued.
Kari Umikage says:
Trust me, I gave him what's coming.
Kari Umikage says:
Stupid pig.

The kendoist grinned to herself. You know, with the way this girl was talking you'd actually think she was the self-insert.

Daisetsu says:
Funny you should mention that.
Daisetsu says:
Could you hold on a sec? I need to have a quick, and very hot shower.
Kari Umikage says:
Um, sure...
Daisetsu says:
I never feel right without a hot shower.

Daisetsu smiled. Perhaps a hint or two? To confirm her suspicions, to see if they were grounded in truth. And besides, she really did need that shower. The bra, while visually effective, was damned uncomfortable.

Kari Umikage says:
You sound like a friend of mine.
Daisetsu says:
Kari Umikage says:
Padfoot never feels right without a hot shower!

The ninja girl laughed to herself, but quieted down when she heard people stirring outside her door. Suitemates? At any rate, the sound faded and she continued to smile. She loved making inside jokes.

Daisetsu says:
I can feel for him, really.
Daisetsu says:
I'll be right back.
Kari Umikage says:

The boy-turned-girl pushed back her chair, then ran to go take that quick shower. It was a quick affair, and Daisetsu was quickly back to the computer, this time as a male.

Daisetsu says:
Kari Umikage says:

Daisetsu decided that it was time to be a little more blunt. He quickly typed out his next message.

Daisetsu says:
So... do you have anything in common with the Kari in the story? Like being a 14 year old ninja with long blue hair and looks kinda like a boy?
Kari Umikage says:
Can you see my MSN avatar?
Kari Umikage says:
I took that picture with my friend's webcam.
Kari Umikage says:
My hair's short now, as you can see, but yeah.

That gave the boy pause. He quickly clicked the button to allow him to see avatar images. He noted what appeared to be a hastily-taken picture of a young girl with short blue hair. She could almost be mistaken for a young boy. But, still he couldn't be 100 percent sure. Meh, too bad he didn't have a webcam. Or, rather, Bear didn't.

Daisetsu says:
That must have been hard to dye. No webcam here I'm afraid.
Kari Umikage says:
I don't dye my hair!
Daisetsu says:

I'm confused. Your friend wrote an SI, which is supposed to be about yourself, but its really about you? And how can you really have blue hair? That only happens in like anime.
Kari Umikage says:
Heh, yeah, that does sound kinda out there, doesn't it?
Daisetsu says:
Kari Umikage says:
But trust me, the real explanation is more out there!

Daisetsu could feel it, the fact that she was hiding something.

Kari paused. He was really hitting close to the mark. If he kept things up, she'd reveal what he wanted to know. She had her suspicions about this guy, too.

Daisetsu says:
Well, lets hear it. I'm sure I've seen stranger things.
Kari Umikage says:
Well, you won't believe me.
Daisetsu says:
You'd be surprised what I'd believe these days.
Kari Umikage says:
And unless you've lived your life in an anime, it doesn't compare to my story, believe me.

"Heh, I don't kid" Kari said to herself.

Daisetsu says:
That so?
Kari Umikage says:
Daisetsu says:
I think I'd be willing to compare notes...
Kari Umikage says:
Kari Umikage says:
Well, what if I told you that's exactly what I did?
Kari Umikage says:
Live in an anime, I mean?

The kendoist actually laughed out loud. He loved it when he was right! He briefly checked to make sure his author was still out, but it looked like he would be out for quite a while longer.

Daisetsu says:
I'd patiently wait for the show stopper you promised me.
Kari Umikage says:
Don't act like you believe it, I know how off-the-wall it is.
Daisetsu says:
Daisetsu says:
Would you believe I was a girl before my hot shower, but now I'm a guy?
Daisetsu says:
Of course, I could be lying.
Kari Umikage says:
Would you believe one of my best friends has the same problem?
Kari Umikage says:
Hehe, Jusenkyo curses aren't much fun.

Daisetsu gave a humorless chuckle. Yeah, she could say that again.

Kari Umikage says:
I was lucky enough to avoid any.
Daisetsu says:
No, they're not...
Daisetsu says:
Wait a sec...
Daisetsu says:
You mean you really are the SI?
Kari Umikage says:
Does this face look like a liar?

The blue-haired girl smiled to herself, giggling. She was having a blast talking with this guy. Too bad he'd probably call her a liar at this point.

Daisetsu says:
That's just... crazy...
Kari Umikage says:
I told you it was!
Daisetsu says:
And if I weren't really the Daisetsu from Avatar 1/2, I'd say you were crazy.
Daisetsu says:
Of course we could both be lying...
Kari Umikage says:
Hey, I have a picture to back my case, buddy!
Daisetsu says:
Lets see it.
Kari Umikage says:
My avatar!
Kari Umikage says:
It's set as my avatar!
Daisetsu says:
Oh, I thought you meant something else.

The boy gave a rye chuckle. Looked like he wasn't on the ball in that exchange.

Daisetsu says:
I see...
Kari Umikage says:
Daisetsu says:
Well, I have no evidence to back up my story.
Kari Umikage says:
Yep. So if one of us was lying, it'd be you.

Daisetsu briefly wondered if she'd even believe him. After all, he didn't have anything to support his story.

Kari, however, was inclined to believe the boy. After all, she had begun to suspect as much.

Daisetsu says:
So you can either believe me or think I'm crazy. But I have to ask you, what brings you to the real world?
Kari Umikage says:
I'm taking control over my life.
Kari Umikage says:
I'm not the kind of person to let somebody else control my fate.
Kari Umikage says:
Especially with the level he's able to do it to me!

Kari began to seethe, thinking over all the crap that happened to her because of her author. Being turned into a girl, the rigorous training, the death of her mother, Itachi... the list went on.

Daisetsu says:
Funny you should say that.
Kari Umikage says:
Kari Umikage says:
Do you share my sentiments?

Daisetsu nodded to himself. Time to see what exactly was going on. Which meant he'd put all of his chips on the table as well.

Daisetsu says:
I warned this guy once, but he didn't listen to me. Just made my life worse. I had to fight a Mary Sue! I'll never forgive him for that. So I recruited some help and I'm going to dump the bastard off at Jusenkyo. Lets see if he thinks being cursed is that much fun then!
Kari Umikage says:
Some help, huh?
Daisetsu says:
Yeah. A dragon with reason to hold a grudge.

Ryo had been helpful. Daisetsu supposed the dragon must've been irritated at having his name revealed to the world at large. A little bitter, at any rate.

Kari Umikage says:
I must say I've never warned my author. Never had the chance before now. But I'll be damned if I let him control my life any more!
Daisetsu says:
Don't waste time with warnings. They never listen.
Kari Umikage says:
I got a magic item. It's what I used to bring myself here. I was thinking of sending my author away somewhere, possibly a desert...
Kari Umikage says:
But I like your idea.
Daisetsu says:
Are you going to be following him through? To make sure he suffers adequately?

Kari gave pause. Should she? She hadn't thought about it much. Shrugging, she decided to write as much.

Kari Umikage says:
I dunno, I haven't given it that much thought.
Daisetsu says:
I totally plan to.
Kari Umikage says:
Heh. Maybe I will, then.
Kari Umikage says:
It'd be better than staying here. I mean, what can I do here anyway?

Perhaps, Daisetsu thought, he'd be able to work together with this girl. If they sent their authors to the same place, there'd be a risk of the authors working together, but he decided the advantages of working with this self-insert outweighed those risks.

Daisetsu says:
If we send them to the same world, we might be able to meet.
Kari Umikage says:
Daisetsu says:
Pool our resources.
Daisetsu says:
Make their lives hell.

The ninja really liked that idea. Her grin gave away that much.

Daisetsu says:
Something just occurred to me.
Kari Umikage says:
What's that?
Daisetsu says:
Is your author a guy?
Kari Umikage says:
Daisetsu says:
And you're his Avatar, as a teenage girl?

Daisetsu shook his head. Her writer was really messed up! What kind of sadistic freak would put somebody through that? The poor girl must be really messed up.

Kari began to wonder if that'd make this guy think of her badly. This was the first person to come to that realization. The most anybody else figured out was that she liked girls; having people know her true gender was new to her.

Kari Umikage says:
I swear, I'm not a pervert. He just seems to enjoy torturing me.
Kari Umikage says:
I've tried correcting my problem, but... you know, the Jusenkyo spring not working was his fault, too.
Kari Umikage says:
That bastard.
Daisetsu says:
I see. Well, I'll be glad to help you get him back then.
Kari Umikage says:
And I'll be willing to help you with your author!

She sure was motivated. Daisetsu smiled.

And she was. Kari was getting, well, pumped.

Kari Umikage says:
He sent you to Jusenkyo, right?
Daisetsu says:
Well... sort of. I mean I didn't get cursed there exactly.
Kari Umikage says:
Splashed with cursed water then?
Daisetsu says:
I got cursed later with the water I had to cure Shampoo with.

Who would've thought it? Playing with water was worse than playing with fire.

Kari Umikage says:
So I take it you turn female?
Daisetsu says:
Kari Umikage says:
You can see where I'm coming from then.
Kari Umikage says:
Well, kind of.
Daisetsu says:
Kari Umikage says:
Yeah, I'll definitely help you out, man.

For a moment, both inserts shared the same thought. These guys were going to suffer!

Daisetsu says:
Sweet. I'll be dumping mine off right after the end of the Manga. I'll meet you at Ucchans. I have no connections in this world and you probably don't either.
Kari Umikage says:
You're right there.
Kari Umikage says:
I'm thinking of dumping mine off in the Amazons village, so any time's as good as another.
Kari Umikage says:
Ucchan's, then!

Daisetsu briefly wondered if the girl would be as cute in person. Judging by the avatar picture on MSN, she really wasn't too unattractive. Well, not that it mattered, since she was both younger and a guy. He shrugged. It would be interesting at any rate.

Daisetsu says:
Great, since I know what you look like, I'll find you.
Daisetsu says:
See you there.
Kari Umikage says:
Ta ta, then.

Kari exited the program, finally able to turn her attention back to her captive. He was beginning to stir, so she'd have to act somewhat quickly. She drew the wand from her sleeve.

Daisetsu, however, was thinking a bit further ahead. He logged back onto to read up on the fanfics done by SleepingBear, EternallyLost, and to also finish Crossover. He had a lot of research to do. Maybe rereading some of the manga, too.

It was a mild spring day in the village of Joketsuzoku. People milled about as they went about their day to day tasks. Warriors practiced their forms, sparred, or performed the tasks required of them. Craftsmen practiced their works in their shops. Merchants were scarce, as only those from neighboring villages tended to display their wares. Within such a small village, buyers would seek out the merchants, as everybody knew everybody else by name and knew who they could count on for what they needed.

"I'll see you later," one of the Amazons said as she departed from the rest of her group. Link was a part of a patrol group, scouting the areas close to the village for signs of dangerous animals or intruders. They also marked locations of good hunting spots or where wild herbs were growing, for general use of the villagers.

Link appeared to be foreign, with her pale skin and platinum blond hair. In truth, her father had been European, which accounted for a lot. She mixed her father's skill in fencing with Amazon wu shu to give her a unique style and was also top-notch when it came to tracking. If she had been born to a higher station, she might even be considered for a position on the Amazon council when she came of age.

It was this girl that was being watched from atop a nearby hut. Crouched on the top of the building was a young ninja girl, a limp body lying to her side, watching this Amazon intently.

"She walks like a real warrior," Kari intoned, keeping her eyes on the girl. The ninja was doing her utmost to keep from being spotted as she stalked the older girl. It worked, too, as she even made her way past several elders without their knowledge. "That's a wicked rapier she has by her side, it looks dangerous." She smiled, picking up the body and leaping to another building to keep close to the girl. "Perfect."

Link stopped as another Amazon ran past, cutting the blonde off as she shouted to some other villager. Link shouted at the older woman to what basically translated to "Watch where you're going, you filthy weakling!" The older Amazon stopped, turned, and cowered away from the girl.

"And a lot of spunk," the ninja also noted, paying attention to how easily the girl cowed the older and more experienced warrior. "I think I've found the perfect victim."

With a smile, the girl's form shifted until she stood six feet tall. Her hair grew, becoming brown and in a ponytail. Her ninja outfit, a brilliant shade of green, switched to a blue Hawaiian shirt and jeans. And, most importantly, she looked male.

She became the spitting image of her former self, now unconscious on the rooftop.

In a beautiful, magical valley there lay dozens, possibly hundreds of small springs. Each spring was unique. Each spring was cursed. For these were the cursed training grounds of Jusenkyo.

Waiting patiently at a previously selected spring was what appeared to be an elderly Japanese man in monk's robes. He was trespassing on someone else's territory, but it was worth the risk for what he wanted to accomplish. Revenge was going to be sweet.

In due time, he received the signal from his pawn in this endeavor. A simple talisman that could be activated by even an untrained novice. Little more than a transdimensional beeper actually. Mystic senses reached out and found his henchmen across the void of space and time. Once found a two way portal was opened.

Daisetsu stepped through it, carrying a man in club clothes over his shoulder. The teenager dumped the man unceremoniously on the ground. "Here's the bastard, Ryo. What have you got planned for him?"

The transformed dragon smiled. "Simple, really. He calls himself Sleepingbear. I say we grant his apparent desire." With that, Ryo easily hefted the man up with one hand, despite the apparent frailty of his body. With a flick of a wrist, the unconscious man was tossed into the nearest spring.

Cold water instantly shocked the fanfiction writer awake. Splashing desperately he half swam and half scrambled to the shore. Once there he shook himself dry, fur flinging water droplets in all directions. Looking up he saw a young Japanese man and a very old Japanese man. The old man had a slight grin while the younger one was clutching his sides because he was laughing so hard. The writer went to say something, but it came out as a high pitched growl.

The suddenly very concerned the writer trotted over to the pools edge on all fours. Peering at his reflection he saw an adorable little bear cub, not even a year old. He wheeled around and growled at the two men who were the cause of his transformation.

The growled ceased with a whelp of surprise when water splashed across the bear cubs face. The older man was holding a ladle and smirking with a superior attitude. "I trust you've heard of the locking ladle? The one that locks you into your cursed form? Now you are well and truly a bear, until the day you die."

This revelation hit the newly made bear cub like a ton of bricks falling from the sky. It began to cry, whimper, and whine pitifully.

Satisfied that his work here was done, Ryo turned to Daisetsu. "Well, my boy, it's time to return you home as I promised."

Daisetsu cleared his throat and motioned that he wanted to walk out of Bear's hearing range with a nod of his head. Curious, the dragon followed to hear what Daisetsu had to say. "Look Ryo, I've been thinking that I'd like to hang around here for a bit. Make sure that miserable bastard gets what's coming to him."

"I suppose it could be arranged." Ryo was hesitant, trying to see some advantage to altering the deal at this point. He'd had his revenge in sufficient quality and quantity. Being a dragon, he was intensely curious as to what the young man had in mind, however.

"I just want to go home to pick up a few things, and then get you to drop me off in this worlds Nerima district. I was planning on meeting... a friend there." Daisetsu seemed quite earnest in his request. He glanced over at the pitiful bear cub several times, his features hardened against the creature.

"I'm not a ferry service Daisetsu. Dimensional travel can be quite taxing." Ryo wasn't going to outright deny the request yet. He wanted to see if the boy would make it interesting for him.

"I know that Ryo." Daisetsu sighed. "Look, so far all I've done is deliver him here. I have plans for him. Interesting plans. I want his heart to break the way mine has. I want him to suffer."

Ryo was slightly taken back by the venom in the boy's voice. Maybe this could be interesting. The real beauty of it was that whatever Daisetsu did to Bear, he was really doing to himself. There were also possibilities opening themselves up to the ancient dragon as well. "What about your home and life? Can you really leave them behind?"

Daisetsu held up the talisman. "I can get your attention with this. When I'm done here, I can get you to take me home again."

The dragon nodded and smiled a kind looking smile. "Very well Daisetsu, I will do as you request." A portal opened up and the two men walked through. Ryo had to hold in a chuckle. Sure the talisman could get his attention... if he recharged it. Which he wasn't about to do.

Link stopped her walk home when she spotted somebody out of place. She was in a deserted street leading out of town, and nobody traveled on the road except for mornings or nights, which it was neither. Seeing anybody was odd. Seeing a foreigner? Sign of alarm.

"Who are you?" the Amazon shouted to the boy, who appeared close to her age, in her native Mandarin.

The boy looked over his shoulder at the Amazon, then took off running.

"Wait!" Link cried, pulling her rapier free of her scabbard and giving chase to the surprisingly fast and agile boy. He turned a corner, so the girl quickly followed. She was unprepared for him waiting directly around the corner, nor was she prepared for the kick to her stomach. She reflexively let go of her sword to clutch her stomach, a decade of training gone in the moment of surprise.

Not to let his advantage be given up, the boy brought both of his hands back and clubbed the back of the girl's head, sending her to the ground. One swift kick to the side of her head and her world faded to blackness.

Smirking, the boy let his disguise fade, revealing a head of short blue hair and a much slighter figure. "That'll do," she said. "Not unheard of for a non-combatant to pull those kind of moves." She vanished from sight, appearing on a rooftop nearby. Using her stealth once more, Kari made her way back to where she had left her author.

The boy known online as EternallyLost slowly came to. He looked around and noticed that he was in an alleyway. The last thing he remembered was... downloading Naruto and Beck episodes?

No, that was wrong. He shook his head to clear it.

Something had happened afterwards. A sound... a girl with blue hair? That almost reminded him of his fanfic.

The boy looked at his surroundings. Wooden buildings? How odd. "I wonder where I am," he muttered in English, the only language he really knew. He pulled himself to his feet and wandered out of the dingy alley.

He found himself in an equally dingy street.

"Just great," he sighed. "Where in the nine hells am I?" Briefly he entertained the idea that this was all a dream. A quick look at his surroundings dashed that idea into the rocks; this was too vivid to be one.

Shrugging, he decided one direction was as good as another. The Hawaiian-clad boy didn't make his way anywhere useful. He did, however, run into a pretty face.

That face was also quite irate.

"Wo da airen," the blond girl said, glaring at the boy as she did so.

"Wo... da? What the heck does that mean?" The boy looked around. "Just where the heck am I?"

The girl blinked, her green eyes showing confusion. "You... speak English?"

"I'm American," the boy replied"what else would I speak?" He reached down and began to fiddle with his watch; a habit that showed he was either bored or nervous. He wasn't bored. "Just where am I, and what did you say just now?"

"You're in the village of Joketsuzoku... and I simply called you my husband."

"Joket... suzoku." The boy rolled that over in his head. "Wait, the Amazon village?" Then the second part of her statement caught up with him. "Wait, husband!"

From the shadows came a voice, though only the boy heard it and he wasn't quite sure if it was imagined. "Suffer as I have suffered, and see how 'nifty' it is."

Before the boy could even turn to see who had said that, his new wife was upon him, gripping him arm in a grip fit to crush walnuts. "Come now, husband. I'm taking this directly to the elders. I won't stand to be married for you longer than necessary!"

"Ouch! That hurts!" the boy cried as she dragged him down the street.

Amazons paused as the two paraded into the center of the village, not stopping for anybody. Link was well known for being a skilled, if somewhat vain, Amazon, and she was dragging a foreign boy through the streets. It didn't help that he was shouting as she did so.

They soon found themselves stationed in front of a group of elderly women, who the girl bowed before. The boy, unsure of what was happening, simply gawked. It was all happening way too fast for him.

"Foolish boy," one of the women remarked in Mandarin. "Why do you bring him before us?"

One of the other two women nodded. "Explain."

"I was blindsided by this foreigner," Link explained, wincing in memory as she did so. "By law, he is my husband. He gained that by fluke alone! I refuse to take this foreign boy as my spouse!"

"Husband?" the last elder said, looking over the boy. "He is in shape, but only as much so as any male who eats well and does simple exercises. How can a non-fighter like him defeat you in combat?"

"As I said," the girl replied through gritted teeth, obviously not enjoying talking to even elders with such tact, "it was simply a fluke, a lucky series of hits that caught me unawares."

"And you do not wish to take him as a husband?" the first elder said.

"No," the girl replied vehemently.

"What's going on here?" the boy asked in English, though he was silenced when the first elder whacked his shin with a cane. He held his shin as he leveled a glare at the old woman, though he didn't pipe up again.

"If you were indeed caught unawares," the third elder began, "then perhaps this marriage can be considered a punishment." Before Link could reply, she continued. "You allowed a boy with no skills to defeat you! If he had been an enemy in ambush, you would have died a dozen deaths for such foolishness!" She huffed. "I will not allow you to unwed this boy."

"Take him to your home," the second added. "He is your husband."

"I am in agreement," said the first. "We have spoken, and so let is pass."

As if the business was concluded, the three turned and simply began to walk, resuming whatever business had been interrupted.

"Wait" Link cried, standing and moving a hand out toward the women.

"Give it up," an Amazon girl from behind Link stated. Both Link and the boy turned to her, though the boy still didn't understand what was going on. "So, this is your husband, hmm?" The girl, rather homely with a large gap between her two front teeth, grinned. "I'm glad. I thought you'd have first pick on all the cute boys, but instead you wound up with some foreign weakling."

"Oh, shove it," Link replied curtly.

"Can somebody please tell me what happened?" the boy asked.

The boy was only sticking around so he could piece together what happened. And so he had followed his new wife to her home. Luckily, for him, she lived alone. He didn't have to meet the parents, not yet.

But instead of sitting and discussing things, as rational people did, she ordered him to go cook them dinner.

What the heck?

"Look," he said as she was walking into the house, "don't you think we can talk about what just happened? I don't even know what the hell is going on here."

The girl wheeled around, fury etched in every feature. "You blindsided me, you foreign bastard! Don't play innocent on me, for this is all your fault! But you've earned yourself an Amazon wife, so start acting like a proper Amazon husband."

The boy didn't know what was going on any more than before, but recoiled from the sheer anger directed at him. Any arguments he had were lost in the face of an angry and irate girl.

She sighed, the moment of anger passed. "Just... get out of my sight. You can use the spare bedroom for now. I'll bring you some fruit or something similar later, just get out of my sight for now."

The boy quickly complied.

The next morning he found himself staring at the ceiling. What exactly was he going to do? Should he even head out of the room? He really didn't feel like facing anybody or anything.

On the other hand, he was getting pretty hungry.

Before need for food could war with need for survival, the door of his new room burst open, allowing in an angry Amazon.

"Hey!" he cried, sitting up. "Jeez, don't you people knock? What if I was getting dressed?" Of course, since he had no clothes but the ones on his back, that was unlikely. Still, that was besides the point!

"We're married,." the girl said, simply. Without pause, she continued with another topic. "My parents wish to meet you. Come along, I wish for it to be quick."

"You speak formally," the boy observed, standing up and brushing off his shirt, as if it'd actually help it get unwrinkled. "Do you not have enough practice with English?"

"This is how my father taught me," she replied stiffly. She walked out of the room, silently giving the signal to follow.

As the two made their way out of the house, the boy began to converse. "You know, we're married and I don't even know your name. Care to fill me in?"

The girl looked at him from the corner of her eyes. "Link."

The boy ran that over in his head, imagining her wearing green and with pointed ears. He shook his head to clear it of those thoughts.

At any rate, he mulled over what name to provide to her. His real name felt off here, and he didn't want to give her anything she could use to track him with when he left; he had come to the conclusion that he would flee if no other alternative was made available. He figured he wouldn't be able to make it far, but he wasn't about to make it easier.

"My name's Yuber," the boy said, supplying the name of a video game character he tried to emulate on the internet. It certainly fit better than EternallyLost did.

Link remained silent, which suited Yuber fine, though he did find it an awkward silence. She always kept her gaze straight forward, which unnerved Yuber as he felt the eyes of countless other Amazons on his back. He was sure that they were the center of town gossip at that point.

All too soon they arrived at their destination, a middle-sized house near the center of the village. It had a wall, resembling a feudal Japanese home, and a large area seemed to be cleared in the back for training.

"My mother is a healer, and very well respected" Link advised as they stopped in front of the home. "Keep your manners with you at all times. Both of my parents speak English, so that will be of little problem."

"Gotcha," the boy replied. He felt like he was heading onto stage and being fed his lines.

The two entered and found themselves in a living room of some sort. Two middle-aged people, obviously Link's parents, were there waiting.

Yuber looked over the two. The mother was Chinese, obviously Amazon, with brown hair tied into a bun on the top of her head. The father was Caucasian, with long blond hair rivaling the length of Yuber's own.

He also noticed that he, like his daughter, had a dastardly looking rapier at his side. That alone made him pray for the success of this meeting.

"Hello," the father greeted in English. He extended a hand, which Yuber shook. The man had a death grip, and seemed to be taken aback by Yuber's weak handshake. A firm handshake was said to be the best introduction, but the boy just failed in that regard.

"It's good to meet you," the mother said in a friendly tone. "We've heard... a lot about you."

"Yeah," Yuber thought to himself, "and I'll bet my life that none of it was good." On the exterior, he simply grinned. "I'm glad to hear that, ma'am."

The father began to walk toward the kitchen. "We can talk over breakfast. My wife has prepared a delicious one, so please take a seat at the table. I'll bring it out."

As Link took a seat, Yuber noted that four places were set at the table. It was a small table, which was the perfect size for four, so the furthest away from his wife was still too close for Yuber. Of course, being the furthest away, it's what the boy took.

His new mother-in-law took the seat next to him. With a gentle nudge and a harsh look, the boy got the message. Sit next to your wife.

Moving his seat, Yuber winced as his wife glared daggers at him. He knew in-laws would be a hassle, but never in his life did he imagine a meeting to be this bad. Of course, he never expected to wake up married to a woman in a man-hating tribe, either.

An awkward silence reigned until the father brought out the breakfast. To be quite honest, Yuber didn't recognize a damned thing he brought out. But it sure smelled good.

The boy's stomach rumbled. His new wife had left a few fruit for him the previous night, but they were small and hardly filling. And that had been quite a while ago.

Yuber gave silent thanks that he knew how to use chopsticks. With a skill of a natural chopsticks user, he snatched something off of his plate as soon as his host had been seated.

The boy gulped. That had been close.

A long rapier had cut his chopsticks in half right in front of his mouth. From across the table, Link's father leveled a wicked gaze at Yuber. "In this home, we don't eat before Grace."

Yuber finally noted the large cross hanging from the man's necklace. Well, dang, this was awkward. "Er, I'm really sorry, sir. I didn't know."

Link shook her head. "It's rude to begin eating before your host at any rate, husband."

The ponytailed boy gave silent thanks to the woman for trying to help him out. It was sarcastic, of course, even in his head.

He was glad to begin eating, once the proper words had been said. After his first bite, however, he wasn't so glad. The food would be considered good, he was sure, by anybody who could stomach this sort of food. It tasted like a local dish that needed time to grow accustom to.

He just thought it tasted nasty.

The boy noticed Link's mother giving him an odd look. He faked a smile and took another bite. Oh, yeah, this was Hell.

Link stood, and her new husband quickly followed her example. "It has been a wonderful morning, parents, and thank you for preparing such a wonderful meal."

"Er, yeah," Yuber added lamely, "thanks."

The blonde took no notice of her husband. "We'll be off now."

Her father cleared his throat. "If you don't mind, I'd like to have a few words with my new son-in-law first." He looked between his daughter and her husband.

"Of course, father," the girl replied. She rudely shoved Yuber forward, making him take a few stumbled steps before he regained his balance. "Stay with my father, husband."

"And I'll walk you outside, dear," the girl's mother added. The two females quickly took their leave so that only Yuber and his father-in-law remained inside.

The Hawaiian-clad boy could feel the awkwardness. "Er, so what is it, um, dad?" He was unsure of what to address Link's father as, but he decided "dad" should be safe.

"Mr. Cross. You'll address me as Mr. Cross."

Apparently it wasn't, though.

The man's eyes narrowed as he looked over the younger boy. "You'll treat my daughter right, you got that young man? I won't stand for any man to treat her wrong."

"She can take care of herself," Yuber muttered under his breath.

Mr. Cross felt he had something else to add. "Also..." Too quick for Yuber to follow, the man pulled his rapier free from its scabbard, knocking the boy in the solar plexus with the end of the hilt. "That's for ambushing my daughter in the first place."

Yuber fell to the ground coughing as the man put the sword back into its scabbard.

"Now get going, I'm sure my daughter is waiting for you."

Yuber pulled himself to his feet as quickly as possible and then practically rushed out of the house. He saw his new wife with her mother by the gate. When they saw him approach, the mother began to walk back toward the house.

"Let's get going," Link said, walking off in the direction of her home. She walked fast, and Yuber was pressed to keep up after getting winded by her father. "When we get back," the girl said, "we'll see about getting you some new clothes, then we'll make our way to Jusenkyo."

To say the boy was taken aback would be an understatement. "Jusenkyo? Why in the nine hells would we want to go there?"

"The Jusenkyo Guide has many maps of China," the girl replied. "If we wish to make our way to Japan, it'd be best to borrow a map off of him."

Yuber knew his was missing something, or many somethings. "And why are we heading to Japan?" In truth, it'd be a lot easier to escape there, but he still wondered why.

The blonde smiled. "My mother reminded me that our matriarch, Cologne, is residing there right now. She has power to override any of the other elders and can get our marriage annulled."

So Yuber really did have a chance to formally get rid of their marriage. Things were looking up. Of course, he also realized they'd have to head to Nerima to accomplish this.

Still... things could only get better!

It was less than a day's walk to Jusenkyo. Yuber spent the entirety of the trip complaining. His natural laziness was in vehement protest to that much strenuous activity.

Link was very irate as she left the Guide's hut, slipping the map into her purple Chinese outfit. As she leveled another glare at her husband, she noticed something behind the boy. "Bear cub?"

Yuber turned his head, catching sight of a small bear near the forest bordering Jusenkyo. "A bear? Weird, I wonder what it's doing here." He held out a hand, beckoning the cub to come closer, which it did slowly.

"It's probably looking for water," Link replied. "It's young, without a mother, and doesn't know enough to avoid this area." She looked the creature over, not noticing the glimpse of intelligence in its eyes. "Poor thing. It would be best if I killed it, to put it out of its misery. It won't survive without a mother." As an afterthought, she added, "And besides, it might make a nice coat."

The bear, after hearing that, began to back away.

"Oi," the brown-haired boy muttered, "don't kill the poor thing. I'm sure it can make it, and you shouldn't just go around killing things that make good coats."

Her husband's protests made the decision for Link. Grinning, she spoke. "What's that, husband? You'd like to have such a coat?" She drew her rapier. "Don't worry about a thing, I'll get that bear for you. Just wait here."

The bear was curious as to why a foreigner was at Jusenkyo, but he wasn't curious enough to risk death. He bolted.

"Stupid bear!" the Amazon cried, taking chase. "Come back here"

As the two made their way out of his sight, into the forest, Yuber sighed. He looked around for a comfortable spot to wait and decided on a tree stump near the springs. Sitting down, he looked up at the sky. Several clouds floated by, and the boy found himself reminiscing of times spent in college doing nothing but staring at the sky while he was supposed to be attending class. Why had he been pulled from that life?

Unbeknownst to the boy, the cause of recent events was watching him nearby.

"Going to Jusenkyo, eh?" Kari muttered. "I couldn't have planned it any better myself." She milled some thoughts about in her head. He was sitting close to a spring, but it didn't look like he was going to take the plunge. Perhaps with a little help?

Grinning, the girl threw a rock into the air then caught it, testing its weight.

Yuber leaned back, continuing to keep his gaze toward the heavens. He didn't bother trying to label the clouds, comparing them to objects as others often did. Seeing them floating free in the eternal blue sky, that was what cloud watching was about.

A splash directly behind him shook him from his reverie. He turned his head, noticing some ripples in the spring nearby. Had something, a rabbit or such, fallen in? He mentally weighed the risks, but curiosity won out. He'd be careful enough to not fall in.

On his hands and knees, the boy peered over the edge and into the spring. It was fairly deep, but clear. The bottom was easily visible, with nothing in the water at all except a few rocks near the bottom. Had a rock fallen in? But that didn't make any sense.

He didn't notice the kunai being thrown at him, even when it sunk into the soil next to his elbow. He noticed when that part of the ground collapsed, however, sending him sprawling into the spring.

Link was confident in her skills as a tracker. However, the chase was going too far from Jusenkyo for her liking. Using her skills, she was able to steer the bear in the direction she wanted, being sure that it was heading east, toward Japan.

With the fact in mind that she could track the creature to her leisure, the blonde went back to collect her husband, so they could begin their journey. The sight that greeted her was unexpected.

The Jusenkyo Guide had wrapped a large towel around a young girl, apparently sixteen, with short, dark hair. She wore the same outfit that Link's husband had been wearing, a green Chinese outfit borrowed off of a male friend. The guide was making his way to his hut whilst the girl sat on a stump, shivering from the cold waters of the pond she had come out of.

"Husband?" the Amazon asked, approaching. Seeing that he hadn't heard her, she reiterated. "Yuber? Is that you?"

The boy-turned-girl looked up. It looked like she may have been crying. Link couldn't be sure.

In any case, the Amazon burst out laughing. "You fell into the Nyannichuan! Oh, honestly, did I not warn you of Jusenkyo's curses?" She found the situation highly amusing. Anything that spited her husband was good, and being able to rub his own uselessness into his face was doubly so.

"I'm glad you find this humorous," her husband, or now wife, muttered darkly.

Link smiled as she took a seat on the ground next to Yuber. "I do, very much so."

The Jusenkyo Guide appeared again, this time with a brass kettle. He dumped the contents onto Yuber's head, who became male once more. He quickly toweled off his hair then put it back into his ponytail. "Oh, and by the way..." he began.

Link cocked her head to the side.

"I didn't fall into Nyannichuan." As he handed the towel back to the guide, he finished. "I fell into Akaneniichuan."

Later that night, the Jusenkyo Guide was putting away the registry. He had just made the changes necessary for the new customer when a knock came upon his door.

Wondering who it could be, the guide walked over, opening the door for whoever it might be. The sight of a small girl, in her early teens or even earlier, with short blue hair was not what the guide had expected.

"Excuse me," the girl said with a smile, "could you show me the way to Naniichuan?"

Ukyo drew open the entrance to her restaurant and brushed aside the curtains to greet the rising sun and a new business day. She closed her eyes and drew in the early morning air into her nostrils. With a smile and a sigh she opened her eyes lazily.

She was mildly surprised to find she wasn't the only early riser out to enjoy the morning air. Directly across the street was a boy, maybe a year or two older than her. He was leaning against a parked motorcycle with his arms crossed and was looking at her with a smirk. His black hair was all pulled into a top knot except for his bangs which fell to either side of his face. It was a face that was cute, if not handsome. He was no Ranchan, that was for sure. He was dressed in a black silk shirt that was buttoned all the way up to his mandarin collar and a leather riding jacket. He also had on leather riding pants that he was athletic enough to fill out nicely.

This wasn't the first time Ukyo had noticed what a boy looked like since Ranma and Akane's failed wedding attempt. Like all the previous times, she put such thoughts from her mind. It was still too soon to give up on her Ranchan.

The boy had started to walk across the road. He waved and smiled as he approached. "I don't suppose you're open now are you? I'm half starved and I heard you made the best Okonomiyaki in all of Japan, maybe even the world." His smile was odd, like he was enjoying some private joke.

"Well you've heard right, though I'm not exactly open yet sugar." Ukyo smiled brightly at the boy. "Still, that doesn't mean I can't whip you up something. You can come in and wait while I do it." She turned and pushed past the curtains and back into her restaurant. The boy followed her through and immediately took a seat by the grill. The same seat that Ranma normally took, she noted. "What do want on it sugar?"

"I'm in the mood for shrimp today I think." The boy was looking around as if he were returning to a favorite watering hole after an absence. He certainly seemed to be at home and Ukyo felt that he seemed to fit in as well. Except that he was sitting in Ranma's seat. He watched her as she went about the task of preparing his meal with a warm smile. After a moment he spoke. "If this is Ucchan's, I'll go out on a limb and assume that you're Ucchan?"

Ukyo nodded while she flipped the flattened dough. "That's right sugar."

He nodded as though he weren't at all surprised by that fact. "Is that short for Ukyo?"

The chef nodded. "Right again sugar."

Now the boy leaned in a bit. "May I call you Ucchan?"

That caused her to pause. "I don't even know your name sugar."

He nodded, never losing his smile. "Of course, how rude of me. I'm Daisetsu and I just arrived here from Juuban. You're the first person I've met here in Nerima. I was just hoping we could be friends is all."

Ukyo blushed for some reason she couldn't quite define. "Of course we can be friends sugar. And ya can call me Ucchan too, if you don't mind if I call you Daichan."

Daisetsu nodded easily. "I wouldn't have it any other way, Ucchan." He said her nickname with the same practiced ease as her own Ranchan.

That was when the third person in the room made their presence known. "Good morning, Ukyo! Is this vagabond giving you any trouble?"

Glancing over her shoulder, Ukyo smiled at the irate ninja. "Not at all Konatsu! He's a customer."

The cross dressing ninja glared the twin daggers of death and hatred at the interloper. "Well, if he causes any trouble I'll be here, watching." With that Konatsu again slipped out of view.

"Here ya go, sugar." Ukyo delivered the plate of food with a smile.

"Thanks!" exclaimed Daisetsu with gusto. He immediately took a bite and his smile told Ukyo all she needed to know about how much he enjoyed it.

Now it was Ukyo's turn to watch the young man for a moment before asking questions. "So what brings you here to Nerima?"

Daisetsu swallowed before he answered. "I agreed to meet a friend here. Someone I met over the internet. We've both heard a lot about Nerima and thought it would be nifty to check it out for ourselves."

The young woman laughed. "Well you two won't be disappointed, this place is anything but dull." She started going about opening the restaurant officially. "Is this one of those internet romances I've heard about?"

Suddenly and forcefully Daisetsu spewed the contents of his mouth out through his nose. Then he choked for several moments before recovering. "Err... no. We just have a few interests in common is all. She's way to young for me for starters."

Ukyo felt relieved at that and then guilty. She had to remember that she was engaged to Ranchan. "Well, I hope your meeting goes well for you then, sugar. When and where will you two be meeting?"

That caused Daisetsu to frown slightly. "Well, we agreed to meet here, but we didn't exactly nail down when. Not even a specific date. Just that we'd both come here when we got to Nerima."

Ukyo pursed her lips cutely. "Well what's her name, sugar? I could keep an eye out for her and let you know when she gets here."

"Kari Umikage," Daisetsu replied. "She's about fourteen with short blue hair."

"Sounds easy to spot" Ukyo said with a smile. "Now if you tell me where you're staying and how to reach you, we'll be all set." She grabbed up a pen and notepad, eager to record his contact information.

Again Daisetsu felt compelled to frown. "Well, I haven't got a place to stay or a number yet. I don't even know how long I'll be staying in Nerima so perhaps I should get a job..."

The perfect solution jumped into Ukyo's mind. "You could work here! I could clean out one of the storage rooms and you could stay there. And food wouldn't be a problem obviously. I'd have to deduct room and board from your wages of course."

A very warm smile crossed Daisetsu's face. "Wow, Ucchan, that sounds like a great idea..." His face dropped a bit. "But there's something you should know about me first."

The young Okonomiyaki chef wore a mask of concern. "You're not gay are you? Or married?" Then the oddness of her questions occurred to her. "Or a criminal, or something?"

He just shook his head slightly. "Nothing like that." Sure, he was engaged to Nabiki, but she hadn't exactly asked that. "It's hard to explain and you'd probably think I was crazy, but if I live here, it would come out eventually, it always does."

Ukyo's face softened. "What is it sugar? It can't be that bad."

Sighing, he answered. "I'm cursed. I was training at a place called Jusenkyo..."

She immediately gasped. "You've been to Jusenkyo?" Then on impulse she threw a glass of water at him.

The now female Daisetsu blew a damp bang out of her eyes. "A girl. I change into a girl."

Immediately Ukyo put a kettle on. "I know a lot of people who've been cursed. I'm even engaged to one of them. He turns into a girl, too. His name is Ranma."

"Perhaps I could meet him sometime then," Daisetsu said amicably.

"I'd be happy to introduce the two of you, sugar." Ukyo really hoped that the two of them would get along. But then she thought that maybe Ranma might get jealous and that might cause him to get serious about the two of them.

Just then someone else walked into the restaurant. She was a short, underdeveloped girl of about twelve to fourteen years with short blue hair. She was wearing boot cut jeans and a button up pink and white floral print blouse.

"Oh look, sugar!" Ukyo exclaimed while pointing with one of her small spatulas. "I think your friend just arrived." She was quite jubilant. Daisetsu had been right, this Kari girl was way too young and seemed kind of boyish to boot.

The blue haired girl stopped and looked the other two over. She had been expecting to meet Daisetsu here as a guy, but the soaking wet hair on the other customer clued her into what must have happened. "You wouldn't be Daisetsu, would you?"

The cursed individual in question nodded. "That's me." Seeing that Ukyo was a little confused, Daisetsu explained to her, "I've already told her about my curse and how it works."

The young blue haired girl and the currently female young man shook hands naturally in the western fashion. In English, Daisetsu addressed his new acquaintance. "It's good to finally meet you."

Kari responded in equally fluent English. "Same here dude, but don't you think it's kind of rude to use English in front of someone who can't understand it?"

He nodded once. "You're right, but there are things we need to discuss that we don't want anyone else understanding." Switching back to Japanese the kendoist addressed Ukyo with a smile. "Sorry about that, Ucchan. One of the interests we share is a love of western culture. Call us geeks, but we've even learned the language."

The chef smiled patiently. "I understand. My friend's sister knows a little English. She even made animal plaques for herself and her sisters with their names on them. They've hung them on their doors. Apparently she thinks knowing English will help her in the business world."

In the rafters, Konatsu was not smiling. His stepmother's establishment had catered to many American customers, so learning English had been a requirement. Not only did he not speak it without an accent, but also with better diction than most westerners. These two strangers had secrets and were up to something. There was no way he was going to let either of them hurt Ukyo!

Kari and Daisetsu exchanged looks at Ukyo's words. Daisetsu smiled and nodded to Ukyo. "Thank you. That's good to know. I don't suppose you know anyone else we might be able to practice our English with?"

"Oh sure!" Ukyo exclaimed. "My waitress, Konatsu, is quite fluent. I normally let her handle all the English customers. She's been trying to get me to learn... and I'm beginning to think she may be right."

The cross-dressing ninja was swearing in his mind using a number of languages. Now the strangers would be more careful around him. That Daisetsu was clever and subtle. There was no doubt at all that he was up to no good. Something would have to be done to get rid of him. Perhaps arrange some sort of vendetta with Ranma?

"You know Kari, you should try the Okonomiyaki here." Daisetsu grinned at Ukyo. "Ucchan here is easily the best chef you'll ever encounter."

While Ukyo was blushing, Kari was thinking. 'Ucchan? Boy, this guy didn't waste any time. But according to Crossover he was married to Nabiki. Maybe this Daisetsu hasn't gotten to that point in his life?' Well, it wasn't really any of her business anyway. To Ukyo she said cheerily, "I'd love some. I've never had a chance to try okonomiyaki, but I heard that you're good and wouldn't miss it for the world."

Always eager to please a customer, and perhaps taken aback by the fact the girl had never tried okonomiyaki, Ukyo set about preparing her meal with gusto, pausing only long enough to provide Daisetsu with some hot water which he promptly used to restore his masculinity.

"Holy crap!" Kari exclaimed when he transformed.

Daisetsu blinked at her. "I though you said you knew someone who was cursed? I wouldn't think the transformation would be that startling."

"It's not that." Kari peered at the young mans face. "A year or two older perhaps, but I recognize you! You were an upperclassman in my school!"

That caused Daisetsu to chew his lip. In another world, the real Daisetsu Saito might not have died, so it was certainly feasible. Best to play along for now, as best he could. "Is that so? I'm afraid I don't remember you. Nothing personal, but I didn't spend too much time with freshmen."

A mischievous smile crossed Kari's face. "Well it's no wonder. You were always with that girl in your class. Real gold digger type. You two aren't still together, are you?"

Daisetsu cleared his throat to buy him the time he needed to come up with a story that wasn't a lie, but concealed the truth. "Our paths have taken us apart." He smiled broadly at the girl and wondered how much she really knew about him. He had taken the opportunity to learn all he could about her after all.

Kari was actually approving. The guy thought fast on his feet. An important skill. An almost ninja-like quality, in fact.

Soon enough Kari was served her food and she dug in. She was mildly surprised at just how good it was. It made her wish that Ukyo had arrived back in her own world. Well, she would soon enough anyway. In between mouthfuls of food she asked Daisetsu, "Have you found a place to stay yet?"

He nodded. "Sure have. I'll be staying and working right here."

Kari nearly choked. He really did move fast. She quickly recovered. "I still need to find a place."

"The Ono clinic occasionally takes boarders for extra income. If Doctor Tofu could take in that hussy Shampoo, he shouldn't have any problem at all with you sugar," Ukyo interjected.

The diminutive ninja nodded. "Thanks Ukyo, that's a good idea." She continued to eat while adding absently, "I'll have swing around there later."

"I don't suppose you could provide us with directions Ucchan? We are after all new around here." Daisetsu shot Kari a look and a grimace.

"Of course sugar. It's no trouble at all." Ukyo got out a pen and a notepad to sketch out a small map and some directions. "Here ya go, sugar."

Kari accepted the paper while suppressing a blush. She would have to be more careful about making such amateurish mistakes in the future. It's just that she was in such a good mood recently that she was letting her guard down. She'd definitely have to pay more attention.

Daisetsu was satisfied that he had gotten her back sufficiently for letting that gold digger crack slip. In Crossover he had been married to Nabiki while at University. That seemed odd to him as he and Nabiki had agreed to wait until after they were done with school to wed. And the fact that he had seemingly taken her family name dumbfounded him. His uncle would disown him. From what he had read in Bear's profile, he gathered that there was a rewrite of his life story in progress. No doubt he was from the rewritten version while Crossover was based on the original version. Interesting. Perhaps Kari knew less about him than he did about her, unless she had bothered to read the rewrite. He'd have to wait to see.

"Well, I should see about getting a place now." Kari pushed the now empty plate away from her.

"Here, I'll give you a ride on my motorbike." Daisetsu stood up and bowed to Ukyo. "Once I drop her off I'll come back so I can finish my training, if that's okay with you, boss?"

Ukyo nodded. "Sure thing sugar. Make sure your friend is settled in."

With that the two SIs walked out of the restaurant. At the bike, Daisetsu handed his younger friend a helmet.

"Thanks for covering up for me back there, Dai. I can't believe I slipped like that." Kari was shaking her head in disgust.

"Just a sec, Kari," Daisetsu interrupted while staring hard at a mail box. "You may as well show yourself Konatsu. I know you followed us outside the restaurant."

Irritable at having been caught, the beautiful ninja stepped out into plain view. "You're good stranger. I'm not sure how you noticed me since I was in your blind side the whole time."

Kari was slack jawed. She'd always wondered how she might stack up against Konatsu. She hadn't had the slightest idea he'd ever been there. This must be the Zen circle technique that Daisetsu knew from Crossover. She'd have to get him to teach it to her.

Daisetsu shrugged. "You stink of rotten elder berries."

Konatsu lunged but was blocked by a wooden bokuto that appeared from nowhere into Daisetsu's hands. While Kari could see that Konatsu was faster than the kendoist, Daisetsu had been able to anticipate and counter his move even as he was making it. It set her mind wheeling. If she could combine her speed with that ability to sense her opponents intentions and focus, she would be unstoppable! There was no way she would be leaving Nerima without learning that technique!

Meanwhile Daisetsu was smiling confidently at the ninja who was held at bay by the bokuto. "Lets just both go about our business, shall we? After all, what would Ucchan think of her employees fighting like this?"

That comment made Konatsu back off reluctantly. "I'll be watching you."

Daisetsu returned the bokuto to its storage place on his bike. "Good. You may learn something." Then he threw a leg over the bike and invited Kari to do the same. Soon enough they were whipping down the road to the clinic.

Konatsu smiled to himself. "I'm already learning, stranger. I've learned that you know the Zen awareness technique. I believe there's a counter technique somewhere in my scrolls. Shouldn't take me too long to master it. I've also learned that you know your way around here already, since neither of you even glanced at the map and directions that Ukyo made for you."

The ninja smirked to himself as he headed back inside.

Part One