Chapter 20 It's just an Assistant Job, or is it?

Mei's pet dog! Mei's pet dog! Mei's pet dog! It had become Ebisu's nickname at Furinkan High. It irritated him but he couldn't deny how true it was. Mei had him follow her everywhere, attempts to leave were meet with a swift "Sit boy." It was a calm order. Always calm. Mei never showed anger anymore. Nana said it was an adaption of the "Smiling Three Year Death" where an amazon would torment a male for three years without showing any open hostilty.

Not only did she not trust him out of her sight but he also had to do things for her: Carrying all her books durring school, buying her stuff with what little money he had and carrying that stuff, getting her lunch for her, and similar things. The other guys of Furinkan tried to console him by saying they had to those things for their girlfriends too; But the fact they usually got a kiss afterwards only made Ebisu feel worse.

Even Keiosu was starting to feel sorry for the guy. Despite the attempts to kill each other, they wers still friends and, as Keisou put it " Comrades against violent tomboys". And as such, Keisou used every opportunity to splash Ebisu when Mei as looking away so Ebisu could have a break as L-chan.

But eventually Ebisu's anger boiled up and he felt he had to confront the source.

" Oh hi Keisou, what can I do for you?" Michiko asked. Keisou had pulled her aside at the end of school for a word.
" A friend of mine needs to speak with, privately." Keisou replied. Michiko put her hand to her forehead in a dramtic gesture.

" Oh dear! I hope it isn't another suitor!" She exclaimed. " I'm so tired of turning them down. It breaks my heart to see them so walk away dejectedly!" She covered her now pink cheeks. " It's hard being so beautiful." Keisou sweatdropped.

" Ah-huh... Don't worry, you won't be hearing any confessions of love."

" Is it gossip?" Michiko asked eagerly, her blush gone as ifi it had never been there. " I like gossip."

" You could say that." Keisou replied scratching the back of his neck.

" Alright let's go." Keisou lead her to the school's equipment shed. Ebisu was waiting for them there, with his club.

" Oh no! Please don't! Don't have your way with me!" Michiko cowed in mock terror.

" Oh spare us." Keisou said with another sweatdrop. "You're hardly worth it." Michiko stomped on his foot, making the mighty half-mazoku wince.

Ebisu glared at Michiko" This is all your fault!" Michiko blinked.
" Of course it is. I just stomped on his foot." Ebisu raised his club in frustration

" That's not what I meant!"

Keisou looked from one to the other.

" I'll be leaving now. Too much drama here. Later." He opened the door and stepped out. " Oh and you're welcome Ebisu."

" Thanks Keisou." Then he rounded on Michiko. " If you hadn't twisted my arm and made me go on that date, this wouldn't have happened!"

" Hey! Hold on! How is this my fault?" Michiko asked defensively.
" I just told you!" Ebisu nearly shouted in her face. "You made me go on that date!"Michiko pushed him back by his face.
"Ok, first of all: it's not my fault. " She raised one finger."YOU came to ME for help." She raised a second finger."The exchange of favors was YOUR idea." She raised a third finger. "In fact, it was MY idea to make sure the date was ok with Mei." She raised a fourth finger." I may have twisted your arm to go on that date, but I didn't do any twisting durring that affair of yours." She raised the fifth and final finger." Nor did I have anything to do with Mei finding out about said affair." She put her hand on her chest." How can you blame me for what's happened?"

Ebisu paused as all this processed. Something seemed to click behind his eyes and he dropped his club in shock and fell to his knees

" I'm sorry. So Sorry. It's just that,...I never thought things would turn out this way!" Michiko put an arm around him.

" It's ok. It's ok. Often it doesn't seem fair when life throws a curveball at us. But it may not be as bad as it seems."

" How can you say that? Mei hates me! She even put this collar on me!"Ebisu pulled at the beads for empahsis and they glowed in reponse.

" Exactly. Your relationship was all love-dovey when you did what she wanted. You step out of line just once and she pulls this on you. Albeit it was a big step but you've never done anything wrong before. Personally, I would have given you the benefit of the doubt and a chance to redeem yourself. " Ebisu looked up in hope.

" Can I redeem myself?" Michiko shook her head, no smile in sight.
" No, I'm sorry to say. Mei's an amazon after all. She showed a great deal of restraint just letting you live. Actually forgiving you and moving on would be too much to ask of her."

" So you're saying it's hopless?"Michiko patted him on the back.
" Yes I'm afarid so. With other girls it would be possible; difficult, unlikely, tedious and certaintly expensive, but definitely possible. An amazon on the other hand, definetly not possible."

" So what should I do?"
" Well you can continue to live like Mei's dog or you can do something about it."

" But you said I couldn't redeem myself."

" True, but what about...leaving Mei?" Ebisu looked horrifed at the thought.
" I...I... I can't do that!"
" Why not?"
" I'm honor bound to be her husband because I defeated her."
" And where has that gotten you, dog-chan?" Ebisu looked down. Michiko could taste the inner conflict storming within him. All kinds of tasty negative emotions clashing. But then she gagged when something icky came to the surface.

" I can't. It goes against everything I believe in." He bowed to Michiko like a monk. " Thank you for your time Michiko-san, I guess I'll just have to work hard at redeemition." He turned around, picked up his club, and left.

As soon as the door closed Michiko scowled.

" Damn it. That Hoshi guy has more influence then I thought. Oh well." Her smile came back. " I like a challenge." She opened the door and saw Keisou. " Speaking of challenges." She chuckled.

Genkai's Temple

Homura fired blasts of different color energy from her finger tips at a series of targets, muttering as she did so.

" Anger, confidence, fear, spirit." Within a few rounds of this, all the targets were reduced to ash.

" You seem to have the hang of it now Girl." Genkai said
" Thank you Sensei." Homura said after bowing.
" Now you're ready for moving targets. TARGETS! GET OUT HERE!" The six stooges ran out, each wearing a bull's eye on their chest. Homura stared, convulsed, then broke out laughing.

" Oh shut up." growled a blushing Shishi. The others echoed his sentiment, except for Jin who didn't seem to mind. Homura eventually started breahing again.

" Done?" Genkai asked. Homura nodded. " Good. Here's how the game works. The six of them are going to run around the Courtyard and attack you from a distance, you can attack back only with those blasts. Each hit on the target gets you points. Rinku and Jin are worth more becuase Rinku's such a small target..." Rinku scowled. "... And Jin beacuse he can fly. Understand?" Homura nodded again. " Good. Game...Start!" Genkai jumped away and Homura took aim.

Nermia

A glowing 'Sorry, I'm closed' sign hung over the door. Surprising since it was normal hours for the magic shop. The shop itrself was dark and empty, the only light comming from the backroom where the founder, owner and mananger of Ninaku's Magic Charms was hunched over in her work room.

Ninaku gazed over an old thick volume in the back of her store. The volume was open to page entitled Legendary Magical Amplifers. The gold necklace Mei had traded for the necklace of subjugation lay next to the open page.

" Did that amazon know the turth about this necklace?" She muttered to herself. " She wouldn't have given it so easily if she had, but, perhaps her anger at that husband of hers overrode her logic."

She stood up and started pacing, hand at her chin.

" Where would she even get something like this? An amplfier of this level is hard to find even in my world, so where'd she get one in this magic fearing world? Hmmm."

She took another look ove the necklace, searching again for some kind of clue: an inscription or engraving of some kind. " An amplifer sent in a necklace, a rather beautiful one at that...OF COURSE!" Ninaku's eyes lit up with the exhilaration of disciovery. " The amazons! Their customs! The kiss of marriage! Yes! That's it!" A smile stretched from one ear to the other. " If an amazon is defeated by an outsider male, they have to marry then, but amazons still believe that men are scum and can't be trusted, so! This necklace is a hidden power boost! Something to push their natural abilites beyond their husband's so they can continue punishing them! No one would expect a heart shaped jewel to be a power amplfier."

She rushed back to her seat and read further nto the chapter. " But if I'm right...they didn't know the full extent of this thing's capabilites, they must have used it to increase their raw power for martial arts. This same power is amplifying my spells." She finally reached the page she was looking for. "... With a few adjustments and repairs,... I can return this thing to it's original form." She giggled, she couldn't help it, she was so excited. " And then I-"

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!

Ninaku got up from her work and stomped to the front door of her shop.

" What is it?" She demanded, glowering at whoever had interupted her momment of discovery.

" Hello Ninaku." Mizu smiled at Ninaku's anger. " I brought someone who wants that job you offered." She said as she pulled Keisou into the store. The sorcress' anger melted away at seeing Keisou and her expression sweetened considerably.

" Oh that would be wonderful! Come on Keisou I'll show you around." She reached for Keisou just as he had pulled himself loose of Mizu.
" Wait! I don't even want to be here!"

" That's right! Ronitca needs the job more then he does anyway!" Kimera shoutd, dragging the dragon prince behind her.

" Oh hello Kimera." Mizu smiled." Why are you here? I thought you'd be busy with your chimera."
" I'm helping Ronitca as a favor to Akira." She flipped her hair." A personal favor."

" Wow, you two must be pretty close." Kimera's checks turned slightly pink and she lowered her eyes.

" Yeah.. we are."

" Girls, girls, this is about me getting an assitant." Ninaku said."Not Akira's love life." At the mention of 'love life' Kimera's face burned bright red. Ninaku turned to Keisou" Do you want the job?"
" Why would I -"Keisou started

" I might be able to remove that gauntlet." Ninaku whispered

" -yeah I want the job." He finished

" You're hired!"
" That isn't fair! What does Keisou know about working in a magic shop?" Kimera demanded

" Oh... well I can teach him all he needs to know..." Ninaku trailed off
" And take that time and energy away from your customers?"
"...I'll do it after hours."
" Oh alright. " She turned around still dragging Rontica " Come on Ronitca, she odviously doesn't care to make more money." Ninaku pulled her eyes away from Keisou and back to the retreating pair

" Did you say make more money?" Kimera stopped.

" Yes but I'm sure you don't want to hear about it." Kimera continued walking out of the store the store, Ninkau quickly followed.

"Nonsense, come back in. Let's talk." She put an arm around Kimera and lead her back into the store. Mizu noticed a triumphant smirk on the Chimera Alchemist's face.

Ninaku sat Kimera down at a table full of charms and talismens. Ronitca finally pulled himself loose and sat beside Kimera.

" Now what was that about more money?" The Sorcress asked while rubbing her hands
" Oh it was just that Ronitca already knows about magic charms, much more then Keisou." Kimera began. " So he'll already be earning his pay while lightening your burden. But Keiosu on the other hand, knows as much about magic charms as he does about history, that is, nothing.So you'll still have to pay him, but he won't be helping you. In fact you'll be using more of your own time teaching him stuff he'll never get."

"Hey!" Keisou shouted. Neither girl heard him,

" You never told me you knew about magic charms." Ninaku asked Ronitca.
" Oh I hardly know anything compared to you, I'm sure." The dragon prince replied modestly. " But I dabble."

" Secondly: Ronitca, as a gold dragon, knows holy magic, which is something you don't." Both prince and sorcress turned shcoked eyes on their alchemist companion.

" How'd you know I'm/he's a dragon?" they chorused. Kimera closed her eyes and grew two black dragon wings out of her back.

" Trust me, I could tell." She assured them as she folded her dragon wings over her chest.

" Well, I do lack knowledge of holy magic." Mizu bit her lip. She pulled Keisou's ear down to her mouth, ignoring his protests and whispered

" You're dying here. If you don't get this job you'll never get that gauntlet off. Now charm her into geting that job" She let go and pushed him forward.

Keisou grabbed Ninaku's hands and stared into her eyes.

" Please accept me for this job." Sparkle shojo background appeared. " Won't be great to work together, side by side?" Ninaku stared back at him, in a daze. She opened hermouth to agree when Kimera spoke up.

" More money!" She reminded. The sparkle background shattered with an almost audiable crash as Ninaku shook her head to clear it. Seeing he was lossing her, Keisou tried a different tactic.

" You can't hire him!"
" Why not?"
" Becuase...because...he's a dragon...it'll be werid if people find out." Kimera glared at him. Standing up she marched over to him.

" This.Is. NERMIA!" And with that she kneed him between the legs. Keisou made the most funny of faces and collasped clutching his manhood. Mizu facepalmed while the other two laughed.

" She does have a point." Ninaku mused

"Why don't you have a contest?" Kimera suggested. A contest will determine who is the better assistant once and for all. What do you think, Keisou?"

" Angurf." Keisou groanded from his fetal position. Ninaku muttered a few words and water poured on Keisou..

" Better?" She asked Keisou-chan. Keisou-chan opened her eyes and realized she didn't feel anymore pain.

"...Yeah."

Kimera pulled a tank out out of Hammerspace. Within it were several aquatic chimera. She pulled a few out and wrapped them around one of Keisou-chan and Ronitca's arms

The two of them looked down at the electric eel/slug chimera attached to their arms.

" What are these for?" Keisou-chan asked
" Just something to keep things interesting." Kimera replied. She pulled out two whistles and gave one to Mizu. " Failures result in shocking."

" SHOCKING?!" Both contestants shouted.

" Magic is not a plaything, you have to be absolutely confident in what you're doing." Kimera replied, she cocked her head towards Ninaku. " Isn't that right?" Ninaku nodded. "If you're not confident enough in your knowledge for something like this, how can customers have confidence in you?"

" She's right." Ninaku said. " If you know your stuff, there's no need to worry." Keiosu-chan began sweating.

' No more gauntlet, no more gauntlet, no more gauntlet.' she chanted like a montra.

Conest Phase 1: Tell the difference between various magic charms

" Since this is a magic charms shop." Ninaku began." My assitant will need to be able to tell the difference between charms and their functions. Ronitca first."

The Gold picked up a charm and examined it.

" This is a love-charm, although it's actual function is merely to make the wearer seem more beautiful to the person whose name is inscribed on the back of it. Judging from the amount of power invested in it, it should last only for about a week, so I assume it's purpose is merely to get the attention of the user's crush."

" Very good Ronitca!" Ninaku praised. Mizu looked annoyed. " Now Keiosu, your turn."

Keisou-chan grabbed a charm at random and made a big show of looking it over.

" Uh...this is a cooking charm, it umm... guides the hand of the person who uses it so they can cook better. it ..uh... will last ah...five meals so the user's confidence will rise."

" No." Ninkau said causing Kimera to blow her whistle and the chimera shocked Keisou-chan." Ronitca." The dragon prince picked up the charm and examined it.

" Yes, while it is a cooking charm, its function is to enhance the user's sense of smell and taste so they can better learn how to cook on their own. It doesn't require a lot of energy so it could last a long time."

" Right again." Ninaku said and smiled at Ronitca.

Contest Phase 2: Tell the difference between various potions

Keisou-chan and Rontica stood before a counter with a number of vials with liquids in them. Ninaku stood on the other side of the counter. Mizu and Kimera stood aside fromt he counter, the latter with her dragon wings still folded over her hands and arms.

" It's not all charms and spells." Ninaku said." Magic involves potions too. Your knowledge of them will be just as important in determining whether or not I will hire you as your knowledge of charms. Keisou, you can go first this time."

The grabbed the vial in the middle of the row and sniffed it.

" Uh...it's ahh." the cursed girl racked her brains for something plausible. " It's a...luck potion! Extra-ordinary luck for a week. made from rosemary, columbine and Forget-me-nots."

" Luck potion?" Ninkau asked. " I don't remember making one of those." She reached over the counter and grabbed the vial from Keious-chan. After sniffing it she frowned and said," Keiosu, this is not a magic potion. It is drain-o, a cleaning solutution." Keisou-chan sweatdropped and laughed nervously. Kimera was laughing so much she couldn't shock shock Keiosu. Even Ronitca had to cover his mouth to hide a chuckle. "Ronitca, you win by default, because there is no way you could know less about magic potions then she does."

" Ms. Converse, if you do not mind, I insist on proving my merit." the dragon prince replied. Ninaku shrugged.

" Go right ahead." The dragon prince examiend one potion, frowned and examined another. When he reached the last one he smiled at Ninaku.

" None of these are magic potions." Ninaku frowned

" Really?" She examiend them herself and by the time she put the last one down she put her hands n her hips. "You're right. It seems as if something deluded them. That's strange. Only the venonm of a hydra could do this."

" But Keisou still couldn't tell the difference and Ronitca could." Kimera pointed out, her arms still covered by her dragon wings.

" True." Ninaku said. " Ronitca wins." Kimera pulled an arm out from under her wings. It was slightly purple hand and her nails looked unusually sharp She blew her whistle adn the eel/slugs obeyed.

Conest Phase 3: Cleaning the Shop

" One of your duties as my assistant will be to make sure the shop stays clean." Ninaku explained. " Whoever keeps their area the cleaniest wins this phase. Start!"

Keisou and Ronitca, armed with cleaning supplies, dashed to their locations.

Ronitca slowly dusted the charms with the rags in his hand while sweeped the floor with the broom held by his tail.

" Wher'd you learn to clean like this?" Ninaku shouted as she saw his area sparkle with clean. "I thought you were a prince!"

" Even a prince has to clean his own room." Ronitca replied. " My parents believed it would help prevent their children from becoming arrogant."

Keisou-chan dashed around the room trying to clean as fast as possible but only succeded in making more of a mess. Ninkau docked off points allowing Kimera to shock Keisou-chan again. She was getting annoyed by this time.

Contest Phase 4: Charming Customers

" It is important to be able to get along with the customers and be willing to help them." Ninkau explained. " So I have to see how you relate to them in a real situation."

" Then why does the sign say charming customers?" Keisou-chan asked.

" Oh...that's.a...typo! Yeah a typo." Ninaku said with a nervous laugh. Keisou-chan sweatdropped.

Ninaku switched the Closed Sign to Open and customers came in soon after.

" Attention!" Ninaku called. "These are my two assitant canditates: Keisou Urameshi and Ronitca..." She trailed off as she realized she didn't know Ronitca's last name

" Gold." The dragon prince saod

"...Ronitca Gold. Just ask them if you need any help. That is all."

"Excuse me." A young girl asked Ronitca.

" Yes, how may I help you?" Ronitca asked with a charming smile

" Spirits keep comming into my room every evening and pulling on my hair. Do you have a charm that would help?" Ronitca took her by the hand and lead her to a display of charms labeled Protective. He picked up one in particular.

" This charm is guaranteed to keep all manner of annoying spirits away." He placed the charm in her hand and closed it with his own. "If it doesn't work, you could always ask me." Rontica looked deeply into her eyes. " I would be honored to protect you." The girl blushed.

"T-thank you. I-I might have to take you up on that."
" It would be my pleasure. Now is there anything else I can help you with?"

" Well..."

Ninaku nodded as she added points to Ronitca's total.

" Would you know where I can find a love charm?" A boy asked Keisou-chan.
" Ohh, so you've got a crush?" She asked with a flirty look.

" ...yeah."

" Just wear this charm" She pinned the charm on the boy's uniform. " and she'll be all over you in no time. In fact-" She fluttered her eyelashes and touched his arm. "-I'm starting to feel a little hot myself." The boy blushed and walked as quickly as

he could without making a scene to the counter to pay for the charm.

Ninaku was mommentarily surprised as she watched but her eager customers snapped her out of it. She gloated over the newly earned yen and added points to Keiosu's total.

The Decision

At closing time, Ninaku had Ronitca and Keiosu-chan stand at attention while she walked back and forth between them.

" After careful consideration, I have decided who is the best for the job." Ninaku said as she paced." I decided upon what was best for the shop regardless of my personal feelings." She looked pleadingly at Keisou-chan. " The shop had to come fist, with that in mind..." Ninaku stopped before Ronitca, "Ronitca, you start tomorrow."

" Thank you, Ms. Converse." Ronitca bowed.

" I'm sorry Keisou but this is bussiness and the only thing you're good at is charming customers." Keosu-chan's face soured and she sulked off.

Ninkau caught up to him and whispered in his ear, " Ronitca might be able to teach me how to get that gauntlet off."

Akira and Michiko faced each other over a large board game. The game was three deminsonal and looked like a map of a medieval country. Knights and mages, and queens and thieves and all kinds of pieces moved about between towns and forests and castles.

Moving on its own, a gold knight moved into a castle with a magic queen. After he entered, the gate shut on a trailing a king who moved back toward another castle. In this Second Castle, a paladin and sub-paladin resided along with a bishop.

Outside the first castle, a beast tamer was mocking a herald and the magic queen opened a window facing the king.

A third castle held a princess holding a leash to a collared savage knight. This Third Castle was also inhabitated by a sage, a warrior a magician and an executioner.

A silver guard had jumped from down from a temple to a mountain on a lower plane of the game field. She was now talking with a featureless someone.

" The battle, and the castle, are mine." Akira declared

" The battle is over, but the war is no where close." Michiko replied." By the way, Aki-kun, it really isn't nice to lie."

" Mi-chan, whatever do you mean?" Akira asked with transparent innocence. Michiko smiled fondly and gestured to the third castle.
" That deal you made with Homura, don't think I don't know about it."

" If you know about it, then why didn't you stop me?" Michiko looked away

" I would have..." She now turned back with a vicious smirk, "iI I didn't have more to gain by letting you work."
" You jest!"
" Nope." Michik enjoyed that cute look of concentration on her rival's face. " I had quite a vexing problem on my hands but with that little manuver you solved it perfectly. But back to the point, I know it was you who dropped off that tape at the Neko Haten."

" What are you talking about? All my tapes are here." Akira snapped his fingers and a video case appeared before him, floating in mid air. He traced them with his fingers, looking at each of their titles. " Let's see: Akane's copy, Ranma's copy, Cologne's copy,...Oh dear." He turned back to Michiko smiling. " I seem to have misplaced Mei's copy. She must have been quite upset with Ebisu. So upset, I bet Ebisu will be too ashamed of himself to even look Homura " Michiko smiled and shook her head at her friend's antics. Akira snapped once more and the video case vanished.

" Anyway, your queen will be ready in time right?" She asked. "The storm will arrive soon." She pointed to the dark grey clouds hanging over the far corner of their game board. They shook with lightening and cast shadows over the ground they dominated, leaving it lifeless.

" Yes she will. In fact, she should be returning home any day now." Akria replied. " How about yours?"

" Comming along swimmingly. Jewelry really is a girl's best friend." Michiko leaned over the gameboard and pecked Akira's cheek, pleased with herself when she saw a hint of a blush. " I wanted to thank you, Aki-kun, for helping me with that. By pushing the knight away from your queen you helped me develop my own." The magic queen glowed and her castle was becoming more fortifed. "Now I will have the stronger one." Akira tapped her forehead and pushed her away.

" We shall see when storm comes." The Castle of the two paladins ws fortifying as well.

The forbidding storm came ever closer.