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The stage is dimly lit, and empty, and the audience awaits the featured speaker. He walks onstage, carrying a meter-high three-legged stool. He sets it down, center stage front, and as the spotlight falls upon him, we notice the dark circles under his eyes. He has aged twenty years or so since we recall him, but it is clearly Hikaru Gosunkugi. His days of dabbling with voodoo long behind him, he now holds forth weekly on this very stage, and his gravy-like voice (well, it's brown and lumpy, anyway, as he would say) is carried across Japan on NHK public radio.

The audience is silent as he begins his monologue:

"It's been a quiet week in the Nerima district of Tokyo, my hometown…

Haha Ukyou
(Mommy Ukyou)

a Ranma ½ fan fiction story
by Ukyou Kuonji

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. This story is dedicated with great respect to the memory of Garrison Keillor, whose work inspired it.

It's been a quiet week in the Nerima ward of Tokyo, my hometown. Well… Actually, I say that because, compared to all the stories from so long ago when we were still in high school, it has been quiet. Tokyo could be leveled by an earthquake, and it would be quieter then some of those days back then. Anyway, it's a nice, comfortable opening, and after those days, "nice" and "comfortable" is just what Doc Tofu ordered.

To be honest, there's been a bit of a stir in the business district: Ucchan's recently reopened… after being closed for what? Ten, twelve months? for "remodeling", the sign said. Folks thought of that as a pretty lame excuse: the Nekohanten had undergone some extensive remodeling shortly before the Ucchan closed down, and they managed to stay open throughout the whole time. Especially considering the fierce competition between the two restaurants, it didn't stand to reason that Ukyou would close her place down for something as trivial as remodeling. After all, remodeling is a pretty trivial matter in Nerima…

But if there was any remodeling, it didn't even show. The place looked very much the same as it had before it was shuttered. A bit cleaner, to be sure, and everything about it looked brand new, but really, if you looked around, it would look very much the same as the last time you visited the Ucchan sometime last year. The real difference is in the staff.

Oh, sure, you're still greeted with a chirruping "Irrashimase!" when you walk in the door, but the voice has a breathier tone to it, as if sung out in falsetto. Which it is.

That's right; it's Konatsu who's tending the grill these days. And it's pretty clear that Ukyou's been training him in the interim; he may not have the flash that she does in preparing her specialties, but the taste is almost indistinguishable from hers. Konatsu will tell you it's all due to having a happy soul. And when Ukyou's happy, and happy with him, Konatsu can be all but delirious with joy… and it shows in his work.

So why is Ukyou happy, especially considering that she's effectively downsized herself from the Ucchan, her dearest love after Ranma? Better you should ask why she's done that…

Ukyou has found herself a new love…

…a bouncing baby boy named Kuonji Kyouma.

Her son.

Nerima may be a part of cosmopolitan Tokyo, but the old traditions are still fully honored here. Where else in this supposedly 21st century city would you still have children dealing with the confinement of arranged marriages, after all? Needless to say, unwed mothers are not a common thing in this family-oriented neighborhood. Ukyou's, ah, condition had been kept a secret only because she had taken the precaution of closing the Ucchan and leaving town during her pregnancy. Now that she has Kyouma, she doesn't give a rat's tail about what people think.

The busybodies have already been by in full force. Several of the older women of the community had, none too discreetly, suggested that Konatsu "do the right thing" by Ukyou and marry her. "The child needs a father, you know…" An odd thing to say, considering Konatsu — the idea of him as a father figure is just a bit hard for most folks to wrap their minds around.

It was the one time since the reopening when the kunoichi's okonomiyaki were, shall we say, sub-par. The biddies had raided the Ucchan, verbally slamming the poor ninja up against the wall. Never mind that he'd just poured several okonomiyaki onto the grill; Ukyou's honor, as they saw it, was at stake. They kept haranguing Konatsu until everyone noticed a rather pungent, smoky odor coming from the grill.

The food was burning. Which probably wouldn't have stopped the old hags except for the fact that it was then that it became quite clear that Ukyou had indeed made structural changes to her restaurant… such as, for example, a sprinkler system.

It should be pointed out that the sprinkler system was not Ukyou's idea. The insurance company covering the Ucchan wanted to reduce the possibility of damage by fire, so they more or less required her to install it or lose her coverage. Against her better judgment, she complied.

Obviously, these insurance boys knew nothing of Nerima. The damage fire can cause to a building there is nothing compared to the damage water can. Especially when the water hits the building's occupants.

You see, Jusenkyou enjoyed quite a vogue during the recession of the mid- to late nineties. It was trendy among underemployed Neriman youths to play a rather curious version of Russian roulette involving a six-chambered water pistol, one or two chambers of which were filled with imported water. And I don't mean Perrier.

I think you can guess the rest. So not only does Nerima have a generation of martial artists with curses acquired during training trips, there is yet another generation of people with curses, and much less disciplined folks to boot. It's a real nuisance to have your customers turn into furry little creatures and scramble out without paying the tab.

It's even worse when a customers turns into an elephant when the sprinklers go off.

Ukyou is going after the insurance company for the damages — she has a good case, having warned them this sort of thing would happen — but this time, the Ucchan remains open during remodeling. In fact, they just had a big open-air promotional sale, featuring kiddy rides on Junko the Elephant. So things worked out rather well…

Except for the old biddies. Not that they needed the help, startled as they were by poor Junko's transformation, but Ukyou escorted them rather forcefully out what remained of the door. She also made it clear to them that Konatsu was not Kyouma's father; that no, she was not about to say who was; and would they kindly never darken the door of the Ucchan again.

By definition, busybodies do not give up that easily. There were other ways, scientific ones even, to find out who the father was.

"No, ladies, I can't run a DNA test on Kyouma. Not without his mother's consent." Dr. Ono did his best to be discouraging, but upon catching a glimpse of his wife walking past, he made a little slip. "Besides, it's not necessary to bother with a test like that. I know who the father is… I impregnated her myself…"

I wish I had been there to see the looks on those old hags' faces at this revelation. A married man, getting an unmarried woman pregnant, and admitting to it practically in earshot of his wife? Why, the unmitigated gall!

Oddly enough, they didn't attempt to beat him up with their canes, umbrellas, and water dippers. Nor did they rush out to tell Kasumi of her husband's infidelity. They did, however, proceed to rush out and inform the rest of the town about it.

Which forced Dr. Ono to explain what he had done.

As I've said before, newfangled ideas do not take root in Nerima very easily. Sure, the grannies asked for a DNA test, but that was a last resort. That's an exception to the rule. And as if you haven't noticed, sex is not a topic that's easily broached… even with a sex-changing martial artist as one of the pillars of the community. It's there, it's accepted; it's just not talked about.

So imagine the trouble Dr. Ono had trying to line up donors when Ukyou came to him asking about in-vitro fertilization. How on earth would he be able to set up a sperm bank in Nerima?

Well, he did what he could to keep it secret from the community. Even his donors didn't know about it; they thought their, uh, contributions were simply a routine part of their annual physicals. Guys don't ask things like 'why' to their doctor… they assume he knows what he's doing. Well, aside from the whole prostate thing…

So Kyouma could be anybody's son…

But nobody's talking. Well, nobody who knows the truth.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how Nerima doesn't keep its secrets very well. Certainly, the older women have done their part to maintain this part of Nerima's reputation. But there will always be exceptions. Ryouga's secret has been kept from Akane to this day, and no one knows how Happosai and Cologne keep going strong even so far into their second century.

And now, no one knows who Kyouma's father is. There's a lot of speculation, and most Nerimans have zeroed in on a certain specific man; certainly the boy's name suggests that in some oblique way, Ukyou got her fondest wish, the one she gave up for lost so long ago. She also treats Ranma far better than any normal customer… of course, she's been like that ever since she set up the Ucchan so long ago, too.

For his part, Ranma visits the Ucchan more often than he used to. Maybe he believes the rumors, too… or it may just be the martial artist's responsibility to the weak and fatherless kicking in.

Maybe it's for the best if Kyouma never knows. This way, he's free to think anyone could have been, and he can pick a hero for a dad if he so chooses, and he'd be as likely right as wrong. The old saying about not being able to choose your ancestors goes right out the window when you’re talking about Kuonji Kyouma.

He certainly seems happy… as long as he's fed and rested and surrounded by adoring grownups the way he is, how could he not be? It may be a strange family he's landed in, but he could do so much worse, after all… a happy home is all a child could ask for to live in, and Kyouma's got one.

And everybody's free to visit the Ucchan, order their okonomiyaki, and make 'gitchy-goo' noises at little Kyouma while you wait for Konatsu to serve them (little Kyouma puts on a better show — for now — than the kunoichi). You've just got to be careful if you order a coffee with cream to go with your okonomiyaki… Ukyou's nursing, you know, and she's got plenty of milk to go around…

And that's the News from Nerima…

Where all the women are strong (and how!)…

All the men are… Well, they aren't always men, actually…

And all the craziness is above average.



Author's notes: Hm… this one didn't come together anywhere near as smoothly as the first two. Combine that with the fact that I haven't any other NHC-related ideas in the offing, and you'll understand why I'm going to shelve this series for a little while. There are other concepts I've got going, but nothing taking high priority… it may well be the next thing that shows up out here is my con report from AnimeIowa. Oh, well… you'll see me out on the FFIRC from time to time , so you're welcome to chew me out or offer some suggestions (I'd prefer the latter, personally)

Until next time, ja!

Itsu mo,
Ucchan ^_^

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