A Video Girl Ai / Ranma ½ crossover story
by Ukyou Kuonji
Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 is the creation of Rumiko Takahashi. Video Girl Ai is the creation of Masakaza Katsura. No infringement intended.
Episode 2: Stranger in Paradise
Konatsu turned the card over and over between his fingers. This was what had the Mistress so rattled?
That afternoon, Ukyou-sama had charged, wild-eyed and disheveled, into the Ucchan, darted upstairs to her apartment, and locked herself in, leaving Konatsu to tend to the customers himself. Which was all right with him: he'd intended to let the Mistress take the whole day off to go shopping, and she had come back much earlier than he'd expected, so it wasn't as if he'd been left in the lurch.
But the way she'd come home clearly, she had gotten neither rest nor relaxation from her time off, and her kunoichi was concerned. He was going to have to pay a visit to this place — Gokuraku, was it? — and find out what happened.
He turned the name over in his mind, much as his fingers absently continued to turn over the business card the Mistress had dropped in her rush upstairs. Gokuraku Paradise. The kunoichi snorted quietly, a truly strange sound to those nearby who heard it. More like Hell, judging from the Mistress. Still, he didn't worry about the prospect of visiting such a place.
After all, in his days working at the Sexy Ninja Teahouse, he'd seen his stepsisters naked. There are certain terrors even Hell can't match.
The way of the ninja, a fabled legacy of old Japan, is a dying art in its homeland. It's not that hard to see why. The province of the ninja, after all, is darkness and silence, and there's precious little of that left in hyper-urbanized Japan. So, Konatsu was feeling understandably silly standing in front of the Gokuraku video store that night, bathed in the crisp mercury vapor of the streetlight behind him, and blinking owlishly in the face of the store's own neon and florescent lights. He may have been swathed in the traditional black garments of the ninja, but he might as well have had a spotlight on him.
He pushed back the cowl of his cloak, and unwound the wrappings that concealed his face. Stealth was pointless in a place like this. Besides, the blazing lights of the Gokuraku suggested that the place was open for business. While he would have preferred to confront the owner outside of business hours, this would have to do. Besides, at least this way there was guaranteed to be someone to confront.
*rattle-rattle* Assuming the door would open, that is. Now, why in heaven's name would they leave the lights burning so furiously if the place was closed and locked up for the night?
Konatsu decided not to dwell on the question; he'd planned to slip in quietly after hours, anyway. The lights just made it that much more of a challenge. Crouching by the door, he brought out a thin wire from the folds of his outfit. Carefully, he eased the wire into the lock, jiggled it around a bit, and leaned on the door
which practically flew open, propelling him into the shop. He landed on his hands and knees, staring at the carpet and at a white hair ribbon, neatly cut in two pieces, along with a number of strands of chestnut hair. The Mistress' hair.
After standing up and brushing himself off, he looked around to see if anyone had noticed his inelegant entrance. There was no one. The place was clean, well-lit and deserted. Only the rows and rows of videotapes stared at him accusingly as he prowled his way through the store. He knew it was only his imagination, but he could swear he could feel the pictures on the tapes watching him. He could hear girls breathing in the stillness of the empty store, and was starting to understand what Mistress Ukyou had found so unnerving about the place.
"May I help you?" With that, an alarmed Konatsu suddenly found himself instinctively clutching the nearest ceiling-mounted fluorescent light, while an old man looked up in no small astonishment and chagrin.
"You're the second customer today that's done that, more or less. I suppose I really should try to give our customers a little more warning. Need help getting down?"
By way of reply, Konatsu let go of the light, flipped himself over like a cat, and landed silently on his feet. More intrigued than frightened by the old man's sudden appearance, he asked, "What clan are you from, sir?"
"Yes, you are from a ninja clan, aren't you? There's no way you could have sneaked up on me like that unless you were trained in the Art "
At this, the old man laughed; a hearty, good-natured laugh. "No, my dear girl, I'm no ninja." He patted his stomach as his smile faded to a rueful grin. "I'm in no shape to be a martial artist of any sort, really. But I have been able to do some rather amazing things since we set up shop in this location. Maybe it's the water "
"Amazing things?" Konatsu doubted anything could surprise him, even less so from such an unprepossessing old fellow, but was quite curious.
"Well like this." The old man's face was somewhat perplexed, as if he still was unable to believe it himself, as he produced a business card. Placing it between his thumb and index finger, he flipped his wrist and sent the card spinning across the room, to land with a thunk into the opposite wall
where it was now embedded nearly a centimeter deep.
The kunoichi's eyes went wide, and his gaze dropped to the hair ribbon in his hand. "So, that's what terrified the Mistress "
"Mistress? She's your 'mistress'?" Konatsu nodded, slowly. "So you must be Konatsu." He chuckled. "And to think, I called you a girl earlier, didn't I?"
"You know me?"
"We know much here, young man." The proprietor put special emphasis on the word 'man', as if to correct his previous error. "We know you and your, ah, 'mistress' are pure of heart, otherwise you would not be able to find this store." The old man peered intently at Konatsu. "You more than her, I believe, but that's beside the point." The kunoichi had no response to that remark, so the man continued. "You see, I and my business partner, have had a bit of a falling out. He has gone his way, and I mine."
The old man shook his head in mild dismay. "Though what he was doing in this business in the first place, I have no idea. He just didn't understand " His voice trailed off, staring out into space. After a moment of silence, he shook himself, "Terribly sorry about that. I suppose you're wondering where you and your, ah, 'mistress' figure into all this."
The kunoichi nodded, and the old man gazed at Konatsu, chuckling ruefully. "Remarkable, really quite a pity."
"All right, well, our stock-in-trade is in video girls. Comfort for the broken-hearted, but not just any broken heart, mind you. Ours are for the noble heart that weeps for another's wounds despite its own grievous injuries. Otherwise, well, things would turn out pretty much the way your, ah " Despite the repetitions, the word was clearly no easier for him to say.
Konatsu decided to offer him an out. "You may call her Ukyou " he barely resisted adding '-sama' at the end, "if you prefer."
"Yes, Ukyou. Thank you. I'm sure she thought she was being offered a job as a porn actress. And of course she's not that kind of girl. She wouldn't have been able to find us if she were, you understand. That was nothing like what I was asking of her.
"You see, my problem is that the Gokuraku is a bit strapped for," and he paused, and rolled his eyes to the ceiling, as if the word he was searching for could be found burrowed in one of the holes in the acoustic tile, "new talent. My partner was the one who would create the girls. Brilliant fellow, a creative genius, he was. Trouble was, he insisted on building gorgeous creatures with no humanity, and therefore no understanding of human suffering." Another rueful shake of the head, "What was he thinking? How do you solve a problem you don't understand?
"I'm sorry, I keep wandering from the topic, don't I?" The kunoichi merely offered a weak grin and a shrug.
"The thing is, I'm not a designer. I can't just create video girls. Besides, those computer creations were cold and unfeeling, when you got down to it — by design." Again, he shook his head a moment before continuing. "What I can do is construct one from a living, human template.
"Your Ukyou fits the bill. She's not perfect, but she does try. That's all I ask."
Konatsu remained silent for a considerable length of time, to the point where the old man's face fell. "I see. Well, it was worth asking, I suppose. You and your, ah, mistress have my humblest apologies for causing you such trouble " and he turned to go.
The kunoichi blinked. "No, wait."
The old man stopped and turned back to face Konatsu. His face was etched with sadness, but there was a light in his eyes that spoke of hope. Hope in the good news that the kunoichi's next words might bring.
Konatsu could not bear to disappoint the man. There was a feeling, in the furthest reaches of his mind, that there would be grave consequences were he to do so. But he was powerless to offer any guarantees. "I I will talk with my Mistress and see if I can persuade her "
The hope sprung from the old man's eyes, and spread across his face, "Thank you, my boy. But you needn't talk to her if that makes you feel uncomfortable. Here " In his extended hand was a videotape, wrapped in kraft paper, and addressed and stamped as though it had been mailed to the Ucchan. "Just tell her that this arrived for her."
"Don't mention the mail. Just tell her it arrived. That it arrived with you is irrelevant."
Konatsu blinked several times, "How do I make sure she watches it?"
The old man's smile grew broader with every second, "Oh, she will. Don't worry about that."
To be continued.
Author's Notes:Looks like I'm violating the cardinal rule of fiction in this chapter: show, don't tell. All this exposition is pretty dull, and I apologize. I'm considering getting Rolex (the aforementioned partner) into the mix eventually, and I hope this tape manages to plausibly persuade me to join up (why is the old man so confident, anyway?)
Special thanks go out to DF Roeder for believing in this project and encouraging me after the disastrous turn the first chapter took. I hope chapter three doesn't prove to be so difficult.
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