Thursday, July 28, 2005
The Peddler from Jusenkyo
"After about 10 or so years of mild weather here in Tokyo meteorologists are expecting an extraordinary change in the weather patterns. People can expect a sixty percent increase in precipitation. These stories and more on tonight’s 6:00 news…"
"Ugh!" Ranma turned down the volume on the television set and joined his wife and daughters for breakfast.
"Well honey you always were a water magnet." Akane giggled while refilling her husband’s coffee.
"Yeah, but at least we were having a lot less unexpected rainstorms the last few years."
"That’s El Nino for yah Pop." Akane frowned at her youngest daughter as she munched loudly while talking. The red head shrank noticeably at the glare and slowed her eating. "I better get going, don’t wanna be late for school."
"Riei can you try to be on time coming home today."
"Ah sure Ma, what’s up?" The girl looked worriedly at her mother as she gathered up her book bag.
"I just have something I want to discuss with you." Akane happily smiled at her daughter.
"Why is it that I end up standing here every morning watching everybody else go to school on time?" Yuske leaned against the fence above the drainage ditch.
"It’s not my fault things just always happen."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah let’s get going." The two began the walk to school together.
"Sensei wants to have a word with me before training today?"
"Yup, he said he would be VERY disappointed if you were late today."
"I wonder what we are going to talk about. Maybe he wants to discuss the future of the dojo with me." Yuske clasped his hands together excitedly.
"Yeah he is dying for your advice."
"Shut up." Yuske frowned looking ahead. A strange looking old man was pushing a wooden cart down the sidewalk. The old man wore a long white robe with blue markings on the front. He looked Chinese, with long gray hair and white whiskers two feet in length.
"Nihao!" The old man bowed to the two youths before him.
"Nihao, do you need some help with that?" Yuske asked motioning to the cart.
"Thank you kid sir you please direct to Nerima shopping center?"
"Sure just take a right and follow this road and you’ll be right there."
"Oh thank you." The old man nodded and then looked thoughtfully at Riei. She inched away feeling a little uncomfortable.
"Young miss please to give piece of your hair?"
"You want some of my hair?" The old man nodded rummaging through the contents of his cart. He pulled out a glass sphere filled with a stirring grayish smoke.
"I give for hair." The old man smiled. Riei eyed the orb and then the old man.
"Well alright but only a little ok?" The old man nodded anxiously and fished out a pair of gold scissors from his cart. Riei grabbed the end of her braid and loosened the thin white ribbon letting her hair fall all around her face. She turned her back on the old man and Yuske.
"Is perfect." The old man excitedly cut a strand of her wavy red hair and placed it in a silk pouch.
"What do you want it for anyway?" Yuske asked.
"Virgins hair very powerful. This most powerful I see in 100 years."
"Hmph, why didn’t you take his hair too?" Riei smirked putting her hair back into the loose braid. "Hey, so what’s so powerful about it?"
"Is tremendous aura, lots of magic surrounds it." The man bowed repeatedly and made his way down the side street.
"Wow, I wonder what he meant by all that?" Yuske said watching his retreating figure.
"Damn I should have held out for those throwing knives he had on the cart." Riei examined the swirling mass of gray and white inside the clear glass ball. She placed it in her backpack and glanced at her watch.
"Ah jeez we’re late!" She grabbed hold of Yuske’s wrist and yanked him down the street as she tore up the pavement in her haste.
Riei yawned loudly squinting her eyes at the black board. ‘Boring. Who needs to know any of this stuff anyway.’ She straightened in her chair searching in her backpack. She pulled out the glass sphere and placed it at the edge of her desk. She stared at it cocking her head the grayish matter moved sluggishly thickening slightly. The teacher continued to lecture the class on the great literary poets of the eighteenth century. Riei took the ribbon from her hair and examined the soft waves.
‘Powerful magic, huh? And to think I wear it on my head everyday.’ She giggled to herself and continued to look thoughtfully at the enigmatic orb.
Yuske turned from his book to where Riei sat two seats over from himself. She looked distracted, playing with her hair. She took a deep breath straightening in her chair. Slowly she ran her fingers through her hair bringing it up into a ponytail. He watched her eyes close as she twisted the dark red hair making a loose bun a few strands hung loosely around her face in perfect ringlets. All at once she dropped the bun and let it unfold down her back.
Suddenly she was gone and all the world was black. Yuske felt the sting of the ruler hitting his head work its way down his neck. Reflexively he moved his hands to the top of his head where they were also struck with callous force
"Oww! What?!" Yuske turned in his chair to find his teacher, Ms. Fujihama, glaring down at him.
"Do you think you can keep your hormones under control enough to pay attention for the rest of today’s lesson."
"Sorry ma’am." He bowed his head and she walked back to the front of the classroom. Yuske turned up his head to look at Riei who was giving him a questioning look. He turned his eyes back to the book in front of him and tried to fight down the burning sensation in his cheeks.
"Haha, made it through today without being held after. Won’t sensei be proud." Yuske beamed as he and Riei walked through the gates to the Saotome Dojo.
"It was dicey for awhile there. I thought for sure that Ms. Fujihama was going to make you stay after. What did you do anyway?"
"Nothing…I don’t wanna talk about it."
"Jeez you are so touchy." The two kids stopped outside the doorway on the stone walkway. Ranma and Akane were waiting outside the house.
"Ah, hi yah Ma, Pop." Riei smiled nervously.
"Sensei, Ms. Saotome." Yuske nodded. Akane led Riei inside while Ranma brought Yuske up to the roof.
The two men sat on the ridge of the roof the breeze blow through their hair and rustling their clothes. Ranma looked up into the sky, barely a cloud in sight. Yuske twiddled his thumbs looking down into the yard.
"Um sensei, what did you wanna talk to me about?" Yuske asked timidly. Ranma continued to look around absently not responding. He took a deep breath and looked to his student, Yuske shrank under his close inspection.
"Yuske I’m not going to ask you how you feel about this engagement. Furthermore I am not going to ask you if you love my daughter." Yuske nearly slipped his footing on the last remark. "But I do want you to know that I was a young man once and I understand what it is like to be engaged at your age."
At that point Ranma rose to his feet, Yuske watched him walk past him to the edge of the ridge. Yuske got to his feet and stood beside him. Ranma turned to him with lightening speed.
"So I want you to know that I am in no way GIVING my daughter to you!" Ranma started to shout at the young man making him back away. "She is a sweet INNOCENT girl and she had better stay that way for your sake!"
"Um…ah…" Yuske stuttered backing further away, toward the edge of the roof.
"She will be your wife, but until then she is still my daughter. If you so much as lay a finger on her I will show you more about martial arts then you ever wanted to know!"
"AHHH!" Yuske finally stepped beyond the roof’s edge and lost his footing.
"What’s up Ma? You and Pop are acting weird." Riei said watching her mother close the door to her room. She turned and smiled at her daughter.
"Oh Riei!" She hugged the young girl squeezing the breath out of her turning them both around so Riei faced the window.
"W-what?" Akane let go and held her daughter at arms length.
"I’m so happy that things will finally be working out for you and Yuske."
"Ma, about the engagement…"
"Now listen to me Riei I lost my mother when I was very young and never benefited from her knowledge. I don’t want that to happen with us."
"I know how things can be at this age, all sorts of new emotions and hormones." Akane dug into her pocket and pulled out a package of condoms. Riei’s eyes bulged out of her head and her face turned a bright crimson. "I don’t want to be the kind of mother a young girl can’t talk to and I know times are different from when I was growing up. So I want you to take these."
Riei took the package and held them in front of her speechless, a blank look on her face.
"I know how it feels to love someone and to want to be with them. I want you and Yuske to be happy. Oh my little girl." Suddenly she grabbed the girl in another bone crushing hug. Riei stood stiffly her arm still extended holding the prophylactics. From outside the window Yuske dropped down one arm extended upward.
Their eyes met, her brow furrowed with confusion. He looked at the thing in her hand and began to stutter words incoherently. With incredible speed and strength he was yanked up to the roof again. He hung by his arm at eye level with Ranma his legs dangling beneath him over the edge of the roof.
"Don’t think I’m going to let you off the hook that easily. Now I know you won’t disappoint me son." Ranma dropped him on his back onto the tiles of the roof and left him to his thoughts.
"When did my life get so complicated?"
‘That was not my mother. Some strange woman has come and replaced her.’ Riei stopped at the last step thinking to herself. ‘Didn’t Pop once mention some special pond or something that made someone look just like mom.’
She stepped down and walked to the front door, once outside she turned to close the door behind her. A figure flashed behind her jumping down from atop the porch. She turned to find herself face to face with Yuske. They looked awkwardly into each others eyes both stumbling over what to say.
"I…don’t wanna talk about it." They both said turning away. They each made a slide long glance at the other and decided some things were better left undiscussed.
"Wanna grab a bite, I don’t feel much like sparing today."
"Yeah sure, let’s go." Riei answered exasperated and all too happy to leave the house and her parents.
"Hey you two wait up!"
"Huh?" Both turned around to find Kirasato running through the crowd of people lining the streets outside the Cat Café.
"Well hello there." He said catching up with them walking on Riei’s other side opposite Yuske.
"Hey." Riei smiled pleasantly at the young Chinese boy. Kirasato looked thoughtfully at the beautiful red head beside him and adjusted his thin wire rimmed glasses nervously. He let the long bangs of his dark blue hair fall into his face to obscure his staring eyes.
"Um Riei, I wanted to ask you something." The boy said softly dropping his gaze to the pavement below his feet. Yuske turned to look a frown crossing over his face.
"Shoot." Riei replied keeping her eyes forward looking at the many shops and cafés before them. A strange wooden cart caught her eye and she examined it closer.
"Well I was wondering if you would like to come and have dinner at the restaurant tonight?" Kirasato held his breath for the reply.
"Sure." She stopped were she stood and examined the cart from earlier, Yuske and Kirasato also stopped both staring at her. "Hey isn’t that the guy from before?"
"Hm? Oh yeah the weird old man who bought your hair." She went racing over to the old man the two boys following closely behind.
"Nihao!" She exclaimed smiling brightly at the elderly Chinese man.
"Oh, nihao." The man said bowing to the three youths. They each returned his gesture. Riei was too eager to contain herself.
"Hey I really love that orb-thingy you gave me last time. What other stuff you got stashed on that cart of yours?" Her head started to bob excitedly, as she looked through the various items, all unusual or rare, her hair lying among them. Kirasato took the wavy strand of silken red hair in his hands running it in-between his fingers. Yuske turned a crooked eye in his direction.
"Hm…" Riei stopped her rummaging when she came upon a collection of flasks marked spring water in crude Japanese handwriting. "Jeez you can get this stuff in any store. Don’t think you’ll be selling much of these."
"Oh no young miss, very special spring water from China."
"Oh yeah, what’s so special ‘bout it?" Riei picked one up examining it closely. It was labeled simply frog, Riei raised an eyebrow.
"It come from legendary cursed training ground."
"No way!" All three shouted in the old man’s face surrounding him closely.
"From Jusenkyo?" Kirasato asked.
"Yes young sir."
"How much?" Yuske asked.
"What you have trade?"
"Huh, trade? Like my hair?"
The old man nodded and the three looked at each other with both excitement and apprehension. With one last glance at the water they shot off in different directions. A figure from the ally watched them depart and slowly shrank back into the darkness.
"Cursed springs huh."
Yuske burst through the doors of Ucchan’s barely stopping to acknowledge Ukyo behind the grill.
"Yuske is everything ok?"
"Fine, just in a rush!" He flew up the stairs and immediately started to look through the boxes that lined his room. ‘There’s got to be something in all these souvenirs from Pop.’
The door to the Saotome home opened with a crash. The sound of feet furiously running through the house echoed down the hall to the kitchen where the young girl abruptly appeared.
"Well you’re home early. I thought you two were going to grab a bite to eat, where’s Yuske?" Akane said turning the faucet off and bringing the glass of water up to her lips, a bead of sweat running down her cheek.
"Mom do we have anything cool I can give away?" Riei asked anxiously.
"Anything cool?" The attractive woman said slightly out of breath placing the empty glass on the counter. She used a towel from the counter to wipe the sweat from her brow. The young looked at her questioningly.
"What you been up to?"
"Oh your father really worked me over today."
"I don’t wanna know about any of the kinky stuff you and Pop do when I’m not here." The girl said crinkling up her nose. Her mother laughed and put her arm around her.
"It’s a good thing you’ll be marrying a man as…vigorous as your father. It won’t bother you as much to talk about it."
"Gross Ma." The girl closed her eyes and covered her ears. Akane tickled her ribs and she squirmed in her arms.
"You’ll be bragging yourself one day."
"Cut it out…it’s just wrong!" ‘Mom and dad, Yuske and me…VERY wrong.’ Still she couldn’t help herself from giggling as her mother tickled the flesh of her side.
"Come on Akane I’m not done with you yet. If you want to help with more of the classes," Ranma walked in wearing an all white gi matching his wife’s. "What are you two up to?"
Ranma looked curiously at his wife and youngest daughter sending them both into further hysterics. Ranma frowned putting his arms across his chest.
"What’s so funny?"
"Nothing dear I was explaining the virtues of being a martial artist to our daughter." Riei couldn’t meet her father’s look as her mother continued to giggle. Ranma’s frown deepened and Akane tried to contain her laughter with a hand to her mouth. She walked over to her husband and kissed him on the cheek. "Really honey it was just a girl thing."
She smiled looking into his eyes and his expression softened. He bent down and kissed his wife on the lips. She reciprocated by placing her arms around his neck.
"Ugh! I gotta find something to give away and you two are grossing me out." Riei headed upstairs searching for something to trade for the water. ‘Dad will be so thrilled when I bring him home a cure.’ Riei beamed inwardly but started to get discouraged as she found nothing in her house of any interest. Her father told wondrous tales of magical items he discovered in his youth, but somehow all of them had either been lost or destroyed before she was born. She might begin to question whether all of his stories were simply fabricated for her amusement if it weren’t for his curse to constantly remind her that her father lived anything but a normal life. ‘After today everything will be different.’
Sakura adjusted the scrolls under her arm as she walked past the ice cream shop. Turning the corner visions of Yuske danced through her mind. She giggled to herself then stopped short at the side of the street.
"Huh? What is HE up to?"
"How 'bout 10,000 yen?!" Kenji was holding a fist full of money desperately offering it to the old Chinese man with the cart.
"Kind sir trade only. No need for money." The old man bowed apologetically as he spoke. Kenji dropped his head in frustration.
"What are you up to Kenji?" The young girl smiled at him. He looked her over, he knew her vaguely as one of Riei’s friends. ‘She is pretty,’ he looked her body over critically ‘but too small breasts.’
"Oh nothing-" He looked at her face his eyes squinting in thought.
"Sakura, Sakura Ono."
"Right, like cherry blossoms." ‘How appropriate.’ He thought. "I was just TRYING to buy something from this good merchant." He turned to the old man exasperated.
"What a coincidence." She smiled again displaying the sweetness of her manner. Kenji noticed the scrolls she was holding and came to life.
"Hey how much for the scrolls."
"Yeah how much?"
"Well I was planning on trading them to get some new moxibustion scrolls for my father."
"I’ll give you 10,000 yen."
"I don’t know." She looked down at the doctor’s scrolls thoughtfully.
"Come on Sakura." He turned on a charming smile.
"What are you up to Sanzenin?" Yuske said knocking the boy in the back of the head a large ceramic bear to his right. Kenji turned around grinding his teeth at the interloper.
"Well Kenji was just offering to buy my fathers scrolls."
"Oh and whatcha planning to trade for them?"
"None of your business Habiki!" Just then a set of feet settled on Kenji’s head.
"What’s up guys?" Riei looked down at Kenji innocently before leaping to the ground.
"Kenji’s trying to steal from Sakura."
"I was not jerk!" The two boys growled at each other.
"Really he just offered to buy them." Sakura smiled apologetically to no one in particular.
"What in the world is this?" Riei examined the ceramic bear beside Yuske holding a sign that said Hakido.
"Oh, it’s a souvenir of Pop’s." Yuske held a hand behind his head trying not to look stupid.
"You were going to trade this!" Riei burst into a fit of laughter.
"I don’t see you holding anything!"
"Well I was going to try to sell my hair again." She smiled weakly at the old man.
"No need hair-already have." The old man bowed. Riei crumbled to the ground and Yuske began to laugh. "No need bear-no useful."
"What!" Yuske joined Riei in a heap on the ground.
"How about the scrolls?" Kenji said extracting them from Sakura’s hands and into the elderly man’s.
"Very useful. What you like in trade?"
"Hey wait those are my scrolls!"
"Shh, I’ll give you the 10,000 yen. I’ll take the spring of drowned frog water, thank you."
"Yes kind sir." The old man grabbed a flask from the set and began to hand it to the boy, but Sakura was there to intercept.
"These are my scrolls and I am going to get what I want to get." She stood sternly between the two. Yuske and Riei were both suddenly on either side of her staring at Kenji who just cowered under their looks.
"Right Sakura can get whatever she wants." Sakura nodded and turned toward the old man.
"I’d like-" Riei abruptly turned Sakura in her direction.
"You know that this water could get rid of my father’s curse. I’m sure Dr. Tofu wouldn’t disapprove."
"I guess but-" Yuske suddenly turned her to him, she blushed as she felt his hands on her arms Riei just glared at them.
"Sakura my father has a much worse curse then just turning into a beautiful woman. Please you have to help him."
"I’m not sure."
"Sakura you’re my cousin."
"Haven’t we been friends for a long time."
"Friendship is tentative, family is forever."
"You can’t pick your relatives, your friends are your only true loved ones."
Riei and Yuske soon tossed Sakura to the side and were arguing face to face. Sakura watched her mouth agape in disbelief. Kenji tried sneaking in behind them to get the water of drowned frog but was impeded by Yuske elbow to his head.
"What do you mean friends are tentative!"
Kenji dropped to the ground unconscious as the argument escalated even further. Meanwhile, Kirasato made his way down the street past familiar store fronts and eateries getting closer and closer to the commotion at the cart.
"Come on, at least your father keeps his gender!"
"A lot of good that does. He IS A PIG!"
"What are you two doing causing such a scene in the middle of the street?" They both turned to see their friend before them holding a flowered tin and a set of beads in his hands. The two stared at the objects in his hands and then back at each other.
"NO You Don’t!" They both shouted lunging toward him. The three of them proceeded to run circles around the cart.
"Get away from me, BOTH my parents are cursed."
"Can I please have my new scrolls now." Sakura said to the old man her arms crossed. Out of nowhere Riei popped up behind her placing her hands on Sakura’s shoulders.
"Sakura dear the cursed water?"
"Come on man help me out here!"
"No way! Get your own!"
"Don’t be such a selfish jerk!"
"I’M a jerk!" Kirasato stopped short glaring back at Yuske over his shoulder. Kenji finally regaining his consciousness rose to his feet next to the girls. He shook his head trying to shake the remaining blackness from his vision. Spinning on his heel Kirasato swung his leg and Yuske ran right into it. He was sent flying in the air directly into Kenji who broke his fall to the pavement. Yuske propped himself up on his elbows stunned by the unexpected kick form his friend.
"What was that for?" Yuske jumped to his feet and Kirasato disregarded his items taking his fighting stance.
"Who are you calling selfish?!"
"I dunno Riei I mean turning into a pig is worse than turning into a woman." Riei frowned at her cousin who refused to make eye contact.
"How would you know, besides you are just doing this to get close to Yuske."
"I am not!" Sakura turned to her, her face flushed red.
The two boys whizzed by them fighting and stepping on Kenji who moaned in pain.
"Please kind sirs and ladies to be careful!" The elderly man pleaded with the feuding youngsters, but was completely ignored. Yuske and Kirasato danced past exchanging blows and traipsing all over Kenji.
"That’s it I can’t take anymore!" Kenji bursts up from the ground between the girls. He lunged for the cart and the other four followed. Glass could be heard breaking and loud cries just before the explosion went off.
"We are live at the Nerima shopping district the scene of a bizarre accident. Just moments ago a large explosion shook the streets destroying several stands and store fronts such as this." The attractive female newscaster shifted out of view to display the remains of several grocery stands, glass strewn all over the street. The camera panned in on an elderly Chinese man dragging a large ceramic bear, various items placed in the bear’s arms.
"What is world coming to, kids today." The old man wiped a tear from his eye and continued to the pull the ceramic monstrosity.
"Officials are not sure of the actual events that lead to the devastation, there are a lot of bizarre animal sightings coming in from shop owners and patrons. Officials also stated that Nerima has not seen the like for some 20 years. More news as it breaks, back to you Kenichi."
"Hmph." Ranma lowered the volume on the TV and continued to sip his tea.
"Honey has Riei gotten home yet?"
"Not yet dear."
Riei nimbly made her way over rooftops toward her home a clear flask clutched tightly in her hand. ‘Sorry guys, but I can’t let Pop down.’ She thought back to the mess she left behind, 3 strange animals, a small boy and a destroyed city block. ‘I hope you all made it out alright.’ She leapt down to the street below and cleared the corner to the Saotome dojo.
"Mom! Dad! Do I have a surprise for you!" Akane joined her husband in the main room of their house they both gave each other questioning looks. Riei burst into the room full of excitement. Maiyuka also entered the room climbing the steps from the yard.
"Pop you will not believe what I got here." She headed in her father’s direction not watching were she was walking and tripped on the edge of the table breaking the fragile flask of irreplaceable water.
Male and female voices mingled in a loud yell that could be heard three streets down. The nearest neighbors silently cursed the day Ranma Saotome came to live in the peaceful town of Nerima.
Next Chapter Synopsis: Rivals, Everyone is learning to deal with their own curse when a new student enrolls at Furinkan. Sunori Kuno, Riei’s cousin and Yuske’s childhood tormentor, has arrived and she has her sights set on Yuske. Will her boast that she can seduce any man prove true or does Riei have something up her sleeve that will humble the house of Kuno.