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A Ranma ½ story
by Ukyou Kounji

Ukyou


It was a proud day indeed when Ukyou-sama summoned me to the kitchen shortly after Ranma and Akane's wedding.

"Take off that kimono, Konatsu."

I misunderstood her meaning, and my eyes goggled. "Ukyou-sama… what are you saying…?"

She quickly backed up a step, and waved her hands in front of her, laughing and blushing furiously. "No, no, no… nothing like that, Konatsu." She waved her hand toward a coat rack in the corner. On it was hanging an exact replica of her own okonomiyaki seller's costume. "I ordered this from a local uniform shop, and it's finally arrived. I think you're ready to work side by side with me rather than just as a waitress…" and she winked at me.

"Go ahead, try it on… I want to see if it fits; I gotta return for alterations it if it doesn't, ya know, and they only give me so much time for that…"

I removed my kimono, and put the leggings and the robe on in a daze. She thought I was worthy of this! I was overwhelmed. The outfit was perfect… I looked almost like Ukyou-sama. Well, almost…

She held out her hand to me. In it was a white hair ribbon. "Here ya go. This'll finish it off…" She walked over to me, and gently pulled the flowers and ribbons out of my hair. She then grasped the whole of it, like a sheaf of wheat, and tied this new white ribbon around it. "There ya go, sugar…

"Let's have a look atcha, ne?" She stepped back to appraise her work and nodded approval. "Super…" She waved at me to indicate a nearby mirror, and I went over to it…

…and saw two Ukyous staring back at me. The one in the foreground wore a expression of perplexed amazement, while the other Ukyou off to the side was still nodding in satisfaction at her creation. I turned back to her.

"Ukyou-sama… I can't believe this! Thank you!" I dropped to my knees and bowed. "I will do everything in my powers to be worthy of this honor you have bestowed upon me."

Ukyou-sama sighed. "Get up, Konatsu… this is only gonna be half the battle. You've gotta learn how to cook like me, now, too." She grabbed my hand and pulled me to my feet. "Now, let's get on with things, shall we?"


For the next few weeks, we worked in tandem. Every move she made, I shadowed, until I could copy all of her patterns without looking. Every so often, I could feel her presence retreating, stepping back to see how I would handle the next order on my own. And in all humility, I would say I acquitted myself well. Our business began to grow, as word spread of the 'twin Ucchans' performance. And with both of us behind the grill, we were prepared.


It was a rainy, blustery day outside. The kind of day that persuaded your ordinary mortals to stay indoors at all costs.

But Ukyou-sama was no mere mortal. She set a portable grill down by my futon that morning with a clang that bolted me awake.

"Come on, 'Natsu-chan, get up… we're going on holiday."

I must have looked awfully puzzled at that. "Holiday?"

She shrugged. "Or you can call it a training journey, if you prefer. C'mon… you gonna sit around in bed all day, or what? Grab your grill and let's go."

As I clambered to my feet, picking up the grill as I rose, I made a mental note of the fact that, through the kitchen window, it was still dark. I doubted the storm was that severe; it must be awfully early in the morning. I began to wonder if Ukyou-sama had even gotten to sleep.

Daylight had broken by the time we reached our destination, although you would hardly know from the skies. The wind and the rain were howling furiously, and the ocean was crashing against the promontory upon which we set our grills.

Ukyou had poised hers precariously on the edge of the rocks. If a wave came in too high, she would be in serious danger. She lit her grill, and turned to me, screaming to be heard over the wind and waves: "Now watch me! Do everything I do, okay?!" After the past few weeks, she hardly had to tell me, but I nodded and fired up my own grill.

We spent the better part of the day fighting the elements as we prepared okonomiyaki that, it occurred to me, no one would ever eat. The waste saddened me, but when I tried one of my creations during a brief lull, it was so waterlogged as to be unpalatable even for me. So, I thought, these are the sacrifices of training…

Ukyou-sama, for her part, never even bothered tasting her work. She was preparing okonomiyaki at a frantic pace, all the while yelling down the wind. With her back to me, I couldn't make out all that she was saying, but I'm sure I caught Ranma's name once or twice, and a fair number of unprintable words as well.

Finally, late in the afternoon, the rains subsided, as did the breakers against the rocks. Ukyou turned off her grill, and dumped the bucket she had filled with okonomiyaki into the sea. "Here ya go, fishies!" she screamed, "Take it, compliments of the Ucchan!"

She turned to me, and picked up my bucket. "How'dja do here? Hmm… not bad." It wasn't quite as full as hers, but apparently it was close enough, even in her eyes. Again, she heaved its contents into the water.

"Okay, Konatsu… that'll do. You've done very well. Let's get back, now, shall we?" I tried not to stare at her as we made our way back to the Ucchan, but I noticed her eyes were tinged with red. I realized that the dampness on her face had not been merely rain or sea or sweat… but if she wasn't going to say anything about it…


In time, the novelty of the 'twin Ucchans' wore off a bit, and our clientele dropped back to the old regulars and a handful of new ones. With business at a relatively slow pace, it didn't surprise me when Ukyou-sama opened the store wearing one of the fancy kimonos she had given me to wear when I was working as a waitress. She had pulled her hair back in a long ponytail as well; in fact, she almost looked the way I used to. Several customers actually confused us, but when I tried to correct them, I was met with a rather harsh glare from Ukyou-sama. I was stilled in a hurry, but I had to wonder why…


This went on for a while; I worked behind the grill, creating okonomiyaki with as much panache as a could muster, while Ukyou-sama relegated herself to the role of 'draw girl', even to the point of enduring customers' inevitably addressing her as "Konatsu-chan."

One night, I was busy cleaning down the grill while Ukyou-sama took care of the dishes in the back room. When I finished up, I walked into the kitchen, to find all the dishes neatly cleaned and stacked, but no sign of Ukyou-sama. All I ever found was a small piece of paper on my old futon with three little words scribbled on it in her handwriting:

"Tell no one."

I searched long and hard through the streets of Tokyo that night. And every night thereafter. I felt honor-bound to respect her wishes, and so I never told the police. But night after night, you might hear the wind on a calm night, as I continue my search for my missing mistress. But day after day, I am Ukyou-sama myself, pretending everything is normal, serving up okonomiyaki with even the same broken heart she must have carried for so long, carrying out her second dream in her stead, the dream she abandoned to me for… what?

And people still come into the Ucchan these days, and ask me the fateful question: "Hey, Ukyou… where's Konatsu these days?"

And I respond, with total honesty, "I have no idea."

 


"And they say
Life's made of cruel circumstance.
Fate plays the tune, and we dance,
Dance, till we drop in the dust, and we're gone,
and the world… just… goes on…"

from "Christmas at Denny's" by Randy Stonehill

 
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