CHAPTER THREE

LUNCH AT UKYO’S

OR

A LITTLE EXPLANATION

Later that morning at Ucchan’s.

Ukyo had been busy preparing for the lunch rush — mixing up batter, preparing the grill, setting up spatulas, all the usual things. She quietly hummed a happy song as she knew that she would see Ranma sometime today. He had promised to stop by for dinner. She heard a customer enter the restaurant as she turned away from the door, and called over her shoulder, “Good morning and welcome to Ucchan’s.”

Suteko slid into a seat at the counter and looked over the menu board. “I’d like a number one please.”

“Coming right up.” Ukyo quickly prepared the okonomiyaki and slid it onto a plate. She gracefully placed it in front of the customer and smiled. “There you go, a number one fresh from the grill, that will be…..” Ukyo stopped in mid speech and stared. Who was this girl. She looked an awful lot like, “Ran-chan?”

The young woman looked up, “What did you call me?”

The voice was different. It had just a hint of a English accent. Maybe Ranma was working on someway of hiding out from Akane. “Ran-chan, what I usually call you.” Ukyo smiled weakly at the person she thought was her fiancé. “That’s a different look of you. Trying out the American styles now?”

Suteko looked at the girl behind the counter with confusion. “Who’s Ran-chan? My name is Suteko.”

Ukyo took a closer look. There were differences. This girl had black hair and green eyes. Ranma-chan had red hair and blue eyes. Maybe this wasn’t Ranma. “I’m sorry. You look just like my fiancé.”

Suteko, if it was possible, looked even more confused. “Excuse me, did you just say your fiancé looks like me?”

“Um, it’s a long story. He had a few things happen and well…”

Suteko listened with half an ear. This girl was sure hooked on this Ran-chan. “Sounds interesting.” Suteko responded absently. From all this girl was saying Ran-chan was Romeo, Van Damme and a boy scout all wrapped up in one. She took a bite of the Okonomiyaki in front of her and smiled. “Hey, this is good!” She quickly but daintily ate the entire thing and pushed the plate away. “They don’t make anything like that where I come from.”

Ukyo came out of her daydream about being alone with Ranma at the compliment to her cooking. “Thank you.” Intrigued about this girl who looked so much like Ranma, Ukyo stayed and talked with her only customer. “Where’s that, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Boston, Mass in the US.”

Ukyo let out a low whistle. “You’re a long way from home. What brings you here? You a transfer student?”

Suteko grimaced for a moment and then answered. “No, I’m taking time off from school. I’m here to restore my mother’s honor and get revenge on the man who took it from her.”

“And…”

Suteko debated internally for a few moments about telling family secrets but she was a bit sad and lonely after all this time and the girl in front of her seemed truly to be interested, so she spoke. “I’ve spent the last year tracking all over Asia looking for him. I finally found him this morning, right here in Nerima, where I started. I offered him a challenge and by tomorrow my mother’s honor should be restored and my life can go back to normal.”

“Here in Nerima?”

“Yes, he’s staying at a local dojo.” Suteko looked up at the ceiling, trying to remember the name of the place she found her father. “Um, the name was something like Tenso, Tenko or something like that.”

Ukyo was shocked for a moment. Someone staying at the Tendo dojo had damaged the honor of some woman from America. She had to ask. It couldn’t have been Ran-chan. Could it? “The Tendo Dojo?”

“Ya, that’s the place. He was surprised, to say the least.” Suteko’s eyes looked inward for a moment, remembering Genma’s reaction at Atsuko’s name. “He didn’t expect to have anyone come after him, after seventeen years.”

Ukyo was getting confused. After seventeen years. Well, that meant it wasn’t Ranma, he was only sixteen. Could she be referring to Mr. Tendo or Mr. Saotome or maybe even Happosai? The only way to find out was to ask. “Who didn’t expect you?”

Suteko looked back at Ukyo. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t tell you. I’ve been looking for my father. Genma Saotome.”

Ukyo’s face fell in shock. “Your father?”

“Yep. A little over seventeen and a half years ago Genma Saotome was dating a young woman by the name of Atsuko Fukusuu. They got very close one night and nine months later, I was born.” Suteko’s face hardened as she remembered her mother’s story about how he had dumped her.

“Wait a minute. You’re telling me that Mr. Saotome fathered a child and then dumped the mother, seventeen years ago?”

“Close. The day after he spent the night with my mom, he broke up with her. He told her some crap about being engaged to a…. how did mom put it … oh yeah, ‘a prettier, richer and more womanly girl than mom.’ Then she bashed him one good. She left him sitting, nursing a sore head. She told me she never wanted to see his sorry face again!” Suteko had started to glow just a little around the edges. Her anger was beginning to build. “That was before she realized that she was pregnant with me. By the time she knew, her family was in the US and, well, Uncle Jackie said he’d track down my father and make him marry her. Of course, by the time they found him, it was too late. He had married the other poor girl his family had chosen and mom was stuck an unwed mother. She had a long fight with her parents but she told them she was going to keep me, and Uncle Jackie agreed with her. He told them that he would take care of her and me. Well, he was the head of the clan in America, so that was that.”

“That must have been tough on your mom, being alone and all.” Ukyo was feeling very sympathetic. She understood feeling abandoned — and by the same man. Mr. Saotome seemed to be a real student of Happosai. He didn’t care whom he hurt.

“Actually, it was probably the best thing for her. She got to tell grandfather where to shove it and live her life the way she wanted.” The glow around Suteko died down as she smiled. “Grandfather didn’t believe in women running businesses, like a dojo. He trained mom when she was little, just for practice. He wanted a male heir for the place and hoped having a daughter trained in the Fukusuu staff work would attract a good husband. He never could admit that mom was better at it than he was.”

“You know, I’m not surprised. Genma always seems to wiggle out of things. He’s such a jackass.”

Suteko looked back at Ukyo. “What do you mean? What did he do to you?” Suteko was very interested in hearing what the girl had to say now. Had she found an ally here, so far away from home? First rule of the Fukusuu clan; Find someone with a like grievance to work with. (Someone to help get the revenge or to take the blame if it failed.) Uncle Jackie had loads rules. Suteko didn’t always agree with them but they were helpful sometimes. She turned her attention back to what the girl was saying.

“….. when Ranma and I were small, we were good friends. There was finally a day when our fathers talked, and my father offered me to Genma as a bride for Ranma. Dad even threw in our okonomiyaki cart.” Ukyo spoke quietly, remembering. “Genma took the cart but left me behind — abandoned me by the side of the road. I vowed that I would never fall in love and spent my life training as the best okonomiyaki chef in the world. After ten years, I tracked down Genma and Ranma and challenged them. He is such a jackass.”

Suteko looked surprised. Ukyo challenged her father but she was engaged to his son? Who was this Ranma? Was she engaged to two guys? What was going on here?

“When I found them, I challenged Genma but he put off the blame on Ranma. So I challenged Ranma to combat.” She stopped for a minute. “The funny thing about the whole thing was, Ranma had no idea I was a girl. So when his dad asked him if he loved me or okonomiyaki better, he picked the okonomiyaki.” She smiled. “You should have seen his face when he realized I was a girl.”

Suteko sat very still for a moment. Had she heard right? Did Genma have a son? Did she have a …? She took a small breath and asked quietly. “So, this Ranma is Genma’s son?”

“That’s right.”

“OK.” Inwardly she smiled. A brother, after all these years growing up an only child. All her friends had siblings but she had stood out. Being an only was one of the things that put off the kids back home. She spoke up after something hit her as strange. “But I thought Ran-chan was your fiancé?”

“He is. Ran-chan’s what I call Ranma.” Ukyo looked a little embarrassed. “It’s a pet name from when we were kids.”

“OK, Ranma is Ran-chan. Ran-chan is the girl I look like, right?”

“Yep.” Ukyo was getting a kick out of watching the emotions chasing across Suteko’s face.

After another minute Suteko spoke up. “Ukyo, do you know if Ranma and Genma stopped at a place in China called Jusenko?”

Ukyo was surprised. “How’d you know that?”

Suteko looked down, “Got some water?”

Ukyo’s jaw dropped. She got a pot of water and splashed Suteko. The girl transformed. One moment she was a woman, the next she was a blonde, muscular young man. An American version of Ranma. The clothes she was wearing got pretty tight where they had been loose before. With a voice an octave lower she spoke. “I followed Genma around Asia. I always seemed to get were he had been a month or more after he was there. About six months ago, I stopped at this tourist attraction call Jusenko. I speak a little Chinese and the guide told me about the pools. I thought he was kidding.”

“Kidding?”

“Yeah, we have places like it all over the US. Places claiming to be magic, you know, to bring in the bucks.” She shook her head. “To prove to him that he was lying I – um – “

Ukyo stood behind the counter in shock. “Don’t tell me you…”

“Yes, I jumped in.” Suteko looked, if possible, more embarrassed. “I was such a jerk. Mom always told me my tendency to jump without looking was going to get me into trouble.”

“That’s an understatement.” Ukyo turned and grabbed up a hot kettle and poured it over Suteko’s head. “Boy, your as bad as Ran-chan.”

Suteko rung out her shirt. “Well…,” She looked up. “Why don’t you tell me about my brother. I wasn’t paying much attention at the Dojo. I, um, have a tendency to be a bit single-minded.”

“Really?” Ukyo cocked a brow at that. “Interesting,” she thought. Aloud, she said “Well, do you remember much besides Genma from this morning?”

“Let’s see. Before I challenged Genma, there was a boy. He landed in the pool behind the house.” She snapped her fingers. “Wait a minute! He changed into the girl! So that’s Ranma.”

“Yep, anything else?”

“Well, after I challenged Genma there was this girl who tried to stop me.” Suteko crunched up her face in thought. “That must have been Ranma in girl form. There were, let’s see, three other girls and another man. One of the girls and Ranma tried to follow me when I left but they couldn’t find me, of course.” Suteko looked smug at that comment.

“Of course.” What did she mean by of course? Ukyo could see the resemblance to Ranma clearly with that comment. The girl was sure of her ability.

Suteko heard the touch of question in the other girl’s voice. She sighed. “Sorry, Ukyo. One of my family’s secrets is how to disappear from sight. No one from the Dojo could have followed me unless I had wanted them to.”

“If you say so.” Well this girl was like Ranma but she was a little less full of herself it seemed.

Suteko laughed. “So, Ukyo, who were the other people? Like the girl who followed me.”

Ukyo debated internally for a moment but she decided to tell the girl the truth. “The girl with Ranma would have been Akane, his other fiancée.”

Suteko interrupted. “His other fiancée? Are you telling me Ranma has two fiancées?”

“Actually, that depends on who you talk to. There are arguments about two others.”

“Four!”

“Yep, makes life real interesting.”

Suteko shook her head. Poor kid. Four girls. What did Genma think he was doing? One fiancée was bad enough but put the attentions of four girls on one guy and all hell would break loose. “How did that happen? Is Ranma some type of Casanova?”

Ukyo spoke up quickly in Ranma’s defense. “No! He isn’t. It’s not his fault! It’s all that jackass Genma’s fault.”

Suteko looked aslant at Ukyo.

“No, really. You see Ranma was engaged to Akane before they were born. Then he met this amazon named Shampoo and defeated her and according to their traditions that makes them engaged. And then there’s Kodachi, but she’s just crazy.”

“Along with you that makes four. Any others?”

“Not at the moment.”

Suteko was sure how to take that answer. Not at the moment. “So which one of you does this Ranma kid want?”

“Kid?” thought Ukyo. “She can’t be more than six or eight months older than Ranma. “Well that’s the problem. Ranma hasn’t decided yet.”

“Oh, boy. Now that’s got to be interesting,” Suteko responded. “Not that I really care about that,” she thought. “Ukyo, I have a serious question for you. I want you to answer me truthfully, OK?”

Ukyo looked a bit surprised. “Why would she make a point about truthfulness now? Haven’t we been pouring out our hearts here?” After a minute’s thought Ukyo realized that they were talking like old friends even though they had just met. Strange. She gave her head a little shake and answered the question. “OK.”

“Do you think that Ranma will give me any problems with my challenge of his father?”

Ukyo started to answer but stopped. That was a good question. “If you explain to him why your challenging him I think not. But that depends on what exactly you plan on doing to Genma. Are you planning on more than just shaming him?”

Suteko sat looking at the girl behind the counter. She hadn’t thought about that in quite a while. The past year had been taken up just tracking down her father. No one had ever asked her what she would do once she found him. “Ukyo, I don’t plan on killing him, if that’s what you mean.” Ukyo let out her breath. “I never planned on killing him. Mother and I knew from the beginning that he had to be taught a lesson, but she never wanted to hurt him. She really cared for the bastard. She’s all for defending yourself but she doesn’t believe in hurting people. I guess I’m not either. It’s against all I have been taught to do such a thing.”

“Than just what are you going to do to him?”

Suteko looked crafty. “That, my new friend, I can’t tell you. It has to be a surprise to all around.” Just as she said that the first of the noon customers came in. She looked up. “Whoa, is it that late? I’ve got to go find a place to crash tonight.” She got up from the counter and placed some money on the counter. “You know any place good, clean and cheap?”

Ukyo made a quick decision. She didn’t know why she liked this girl but she wanted her around so that she could figure it out and so she could be in on what happened to Genma. “You could stay here. I’ve got a spare room. It’s not much, but it’s dry.”

Suteko smiled. “Are you sure? I wouldn’t want to be an inconvenience.”

“No problem.”

“Thanks. I’ll just go get my pack. I left it at the airport.”

“OK, see you later.” Ukyo responded absently. She was already working on the orders coming from the customers.

Suteko pushed away from the counter, smiling. She was surprised that the old family magic of finding help when needed worked for her. Grandfather said that it wouldn’t because she wasn’t a true Fukusuu. Lot he knew. As long as she didn’t push it her luck would hold.

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