How I Spent My Summer Vacation
a Ranma 1/2 fanfic
by Damien Roc
Disclaimer: All characters in the Ranma 1/2 universe are copyright (and all) Rumiko Takahashi and a few companies that I can't remember. If you want to pay money for this fic, send it to her, not me. (or anyone else, for that matter.)
I slowly read over the sign again. "Ucchan's Okonomiyaki." It was closed, but I waited anyway.
After about five minutes, the door slid open. I was leaning against the wall and she didn't see me at first when she brought out her sign.
"Hi there!" I said. Startled, she jumped. She turned and looked at me.
"Hi," I said again. She looked puzzled. Cursing inwardly, I changed languages. "Hi," this time in Japanese. "Sorry, haven't been in Japan in a while."
"Are you American?" I hesitated a second, then nodded.
"You open?" I asked, gesturing towards the open door.
"Yes." Then she looked across the street. "What the..."
I followed her gaze. There had been a lot of very recent refurnishing done to the shop across from hers. There was a large sign, very colorful, with large English letters that proclaimed "America's Greatest Burgers!!" below that, in smaller script, was the katakana romanization.
"That wasn't there yesterday!" she cried. A smile crossed her face, but I could tell it was forced. "You could eat there, the foods probably more familier to you."
I chuckled. "I checked already, but they're closed."
She sighed and laughed lightly, sounding slightly relieved. "Come on in, then."
"Great! I'm famished."
It was dim for a moment inside, then she turned the lights on. I took in my surroundings. The restaurant was small, but comfortable. The furnishings somewhat spartan, but still the place had a nice cozy feeling.
It seemed, I searched for an ajective... cute. Kind of like her. She had long brown hair, tied back with a white ribbon. Her nose was cutely upturned and her eyes were slightly larger than those of other Japanese people.
She wore blue, boyish clothing. Funtionally, it contained places to store little spatulas. On her back was a much larger one.
She was saying something.
"Hmm?" I wondered, bringing my attention back to reality.
"I said, 'What would you like?'" she repeated.
"Oh." I sat down in front of the bar and looked up at the menu. It was in Japanese, with a lot of kanji I didn't recognize. -Damn- I thought.
"Anythings fine," I said. "Just no mushrooms." I hoped that the rest of it would be palatable.
She shrugged and turned on the griddle. She mixed together ingredients while it heated up. For a couple of minutes, the only sounds were of her work.
"Have you been around here long?" I asked, eventually.
"About two years," she said without turning.
I nodded, even though she wasn't looking at me. "Business been good?"
She turned and poured the batter onto the griddle. It sizzled. "Mostly. It's been a little hard, being on my own and going to school, but I've gotten by."
I sniffed. "Smells good," I commented.
Smiling, she said, "It's genuine Japanese cuisine. The best okonomiyaki you'll ever eat."
That brought a little laugh. "I'll test everyone elses, just to make sure, you know." Inhaling again, "But I'm positive you'll win."
She grinned widely. "What brings you to Nerima, anyway? I've never seen you around here."
"Vacation, mostly. I'm trying to get away from the action."
"Well," she laughed at some inside joke. "I don't think you'll find that here."
"Oops." I sighed dramatically. "Better luck next time, I suppose." On an impulse, I thrust my hand forward and said, "Stackpole Terranson."
She blinked, confused. "What?"
I felt uncomfortable, but didn't withdraw my hand. "That's my name: Stackpole Terranson."
"Stackpole..." she rolled the name around in her mouth a moment, getting the feel of it. I was impressed that she didn't fumble over it. "I'm Ukyou Kuonji."
On the other hand, I flubbed hers entirely. "Ukiyoh." It didn't sound right. I tried again, but failed just as miserably. Desperate to salvage my ego, I tried to make a joke of it. "Uki... YO!" and I gave her a little thumbs-up.
She gave me a sour expression, then began to laugh. Graciously, I joined her.
"Mind if I call you Uki?" I asked after we calmed down.
"'Uki'?" she wondered.
I gave her a half smile and shrugged. "It's cute... like you."
She blushed furiously, but nodded. Composing herself, she added. "But I'm shortening your name as well, Stackpole."
"To what? Pole?" I questioned. "There'll be no end to the jokes about me then."
She shook her head. "No. Stack."
There was a moments silence. Then Ukyou looked down at the okonomiyaki and hurriedly turned it over.
"Stack... I could live with that."
"Good, because you'll have to." She put the cooked food on a plate and placed it in front of me. "There you go! Enjoy!"
I took a bite and savored the taste. It exploded in my mouth, a combination of seafood, vegetable, and savory batter; with a zesty sauce that had a sweet-and-sour tinge. "Delicious. I'll have to eat here more often."
She brightened at the compliment. "You better finish it before it gets cold."
I was about to say something else, after my second bite, but more customers came in, so I quickly finished and left.
I spent most of my breakfasts and lunches at Ucchan's over the next few days. Ukyou and I talked, but not as much as that first day.
"There's already a line out there," she commented at lunch a few days later. I glanced outside at the burger joint. Sure enough, a small crowd had gathered at the entrace waiting for it to open.
"It's been like that since they first opened."
"People go for the exotic, Uki." I mused.
"Wonder if it's really got good food."
"Not as good as yours," I consoled her. She gave me a sharp look. "You're food's some of the best I've ever had." That reassured her.
I glanced at the clock on the wall. "Oh, damn! I'm late for work." I began stuffing the okonomiyaki down.
"I thought you were on vacation."
"Heh." I swallowed. "No rest for the wicked." I stood up. "See you tomorrow." And I left.
A few minutes after I opened the restaurant, things were running smoothly. Customers were beginning to stream in. I wasn't opened in the morning, but the afternoon business was more than enough to keep me afloat.
The door burst open. Ukyou stormed in, brandishing her large spatula like a club. She paused a moment, her face red with rage while she surveyed her surroundings. Her gaze stopped on me.
"You! You!" She fumed, stomping forward. "YOU BASTARD!" She slammed the spatula down on the counter, I narrowly pulled my hand away.
"What?" I shouted, annoyed.
"You didn't say you owned this place." She took a swing at me. I ducked, and the spatula thunked into the counter, she tried to remove it, but I quickly reached forward and held it down.
"You never asked." I looked at her sternly.
"But... You..." she huffed for a moment, then tears began to well up in her eyes. "Go to hell!" she let the spatula go and turned away, hurrying for the door. She paused. "I don't want to see you in my restaurant ever again." Then she was gone.
It took a moment for realization to sink in.
I leaned against the counter and rubbed my eyes.
"Shit. Shit. Shit."
-What the hell was I thinking?- I wondered.
"That was so... stupid."
I'd just lost my only friend in Nerima.
I pulled the spatula out of the counter and carressed it absently. After a few minutes, I noticed that all the customers had cleared out.
The next few days passed in a kind of funk for me. Focusing on the present was difficult, at best. I still opened and ran the restaurant, but it felt... wrong.
With little to do in the mornings, I took to wandering around the town. I stopped by Furinkan High School, where Ukyou went, and watched the students as they entered.
I wondered how she managed to keep the shop open while she was at school. "Maybe it's not mandantory attendance," I mused, shrugging.
One day, just before lunch time, I happened upon another restaurant. "Nekohanten" the sign proclaimed. Hungry, I entered.
The rush hadn't started yet, but from the growing crowd, I could tell that this place got more business than my burger joint and Ucchan's combined.
After a moment, a waitress approached and led me to a table. She handed me a menu. "Shampoo be back in just a few minutes," she said in accented Japanese.
I stared at the menu, but wasn't looking at it.
"Shampoo take your order now?" The girl had returned, and stood attentively.
"Just a bowl of ramen." She waited a moment, expecting something. "Chicken."
She was about to leave, then stopped and looked at me curiously for a moment, then she was gone.
The ramen took a few minutes, but I didn't notice the time passage. I was wondering about longer spans. My vacation wasn't going to be over for a long time. Working across the street from my _former_ only friend wasn't going to make it any easier.
And my job wasn't one I could just choose to go back to.
I sighed and began eating the ramen when it showed up.
The waitress didn't leave immediatly. I had already taken a bite, but looked at her expentantly.
"Shampoo recognize you," she said. I shrugged and swallowed. She seemed about to say something, but left.
The food was excellent, but I didn't taste it. I slowly worked through it.
"Is it good?" The gravelly voice brought me out of my revirie. I looked around, but didn't see anyone. Then, a very short woman hopped up onto the chair opposite me. "The ramen," she said with a gesture, her arm enshouded by a long sleeve. "It's good, isn't it?"
I started to shrug, but nodded. "Quite good."
I have to be honest, the woman was ancient. I mean beyond age here. If there was a personification of ancient, this woman was it.
"My granddaughter recognized you."
-The waitress.- I thought. "She's cute," I said.
The woman's face darkened slightly. "She's taken." Then she sighed. "You run that new American restaurant. That's where Shampoo saw you."
I nodded and looked around the room. "Haven't hurt your business at all."
"Not too much," she agreed. "But you're right across from that okonomiyaki place." She paused and looked slightly upward, musing, "I'll bet her sales have been a little low."
"Maybe." I looked at the woman cooly. I was starting to dislike her.
She nodded and said, "I like that. It hasn't been much, but the business of that place has always taken away from mine."
That brought an inward smile. "But now you've got two restaurants competing against you."
"Not really," she said, shrugging. "Your business hurts young Ukyou's more than mine." She paused. "And, after people get tired of your unnatural food, you will bust, and they'll come back to me."
"Or Ucchan's," I countered.
She shook her head adamantly. "My food is backed by three thousand years of Chinese Amazon history and tradition, people cannot help but to love it."
For the first time in three days, I smiled. "Oh... You think you're food is better than mine, is that it?"
"I know it."
I licked my lips in anticipation. "How about a contest to determine it?"
"My business is already better than yours. I've won."
I shook my head. "Nah-ah. You've got the benefit of time and advertising. How about a neutral location to determine this."
"Neutral location?" she rasped. "Like what?"
"I don't know," I shrugged. "A park or plaza or something."
She considered that. "There's a fair coming up."
"Sounds good to me."
She nodded, satisfied, and started to get up. "I'll send Shampoo over to your place with the information."
I narrowed my eyes, but mentally vowed to recheck everything. Then, an idea hit me. "Wait!" She stopped a few paces away and turned.
"What is it?"
"Why don't you prove you're the best overall?"
"I _am_ the best overall."
"Officially." She cocked her head slightly. "Bring Ukyou into the competition."
For a moment, she looked as if she would call the entire thing off, but eventually she nodded. "It won't matter in the end."
The fair, and the competition, was a week later. That gave me seven whole days to prepare - entirely too much; and seven days to convince Ukyou to come along - entirely too little.
I learned two things when I stepped into her shop the next day. Ukyou is very stubborn, and very passionate. In short, she was still pissed at me.
Thankfully, Ucchan's was empty at the time.
"Hi! Wel..." she said with a smile on her face when she heard me enter. Immediatly, she clouded over, then anger took command. "What the hell do you think you're doing here?" she shouted.
"Don't call me that!" She picked up a small spatula, and held it threateningly. I put up my hands, palms out, and for the moment that stayed her.
"Fine, Ukyou," I said, stressing her name. "Or would you prefer Miss Kuonji?" She scowled. I told her about the cooking competition.
"You did WHAT?" she demanded. She threw the spatula at me. Surprised, I barely ducked in time. "How could you, you jackass?"
"I thought you'd be happy?"
"About what?" She looked forlorly around the empty shop. "Dinner's been hell since you're place open. I'm lucky to get two customers a night." Her voice had lost the edge, but it came back, full strength. "And NOW you want to pull me into some stupid competition, so you can publicly humiliate me?"
I was at a loss for words.
"Just... lay down and die, why don't you." She turned, and her voice quieted. "I wish I'd never met you, Stack."
She didn't say anything else. I waited a bit, then turned to leave. I paused, and said over my shoulder, "That's not what I thought at all, Uki... I do hope you will come."
The week passed in an incredibly slow blur. Like waiting for Christmas; happening so fast that you can't keep up, but still not quick enough.
The fair came, however, and I found myself waiting in an open lot with my portable grill, a mobile refridgeration unit stocked with burgers and fixins, and some frazzled nerves.
The old woman, named Cologne, I found out, was also waiting there. She had a portable ramen stand set up. Her granddaughter Shampoo was promoting the event already, clad in scanty Chinese garb. I noticed that the words "Cat Cafe" were announced decidedly more that "America's Greatest Burgers"... and "Ucchan's Okonomiyaki" not at all.
I set up my grill and a condements stand, then hoisted up a sign.
"It doesn't seem like your friend is going to make it." I spun around at the raspy voice, and looked down at Cologne.
"We can wait a little longer," I said, shrugging.
"It's your choice. But I don't think she'll come."
Thirty minutes later, I was about to agree with her.
"Grandmother say we start now, or you admit defeat," Shampoo announced to me. Sighing, I was about to agree.
"This thing doesn't start until I'm ready." A smile sprang onto my face as I heard Ukyou's voice. Relieved I turned to face her.
At first glance, I could tell she was still pissed. But she had a driven look on her face as well. She gave me a cold stare.
"Ran-chan," she said to a man with her, who was carrying some supplies. "We'll set up over there." She pointed to the far side of the lot, putting the Nekohanten inbetwen my stand and hers.
"The rules are simple," Cologne announced as Ukyou set up. "The contest lasts until dusk. Whoever sells the most orders wins." There were nods of agreement from the growing crowd.
"Addendum!" I proclaimed loudly. "The shop which does the worst business has to close."
"Close?" the man with Ukyou shouted, "That's ridiculous!"
I shrugged. "Cologne, do you have any problems?" The old woman hesitated a second, then shook her head. "Ukyou?" I asked.
Her lips pursed for a few moments while she thought. "Fine. I'll beat you, Stackpole."
"We'll see," I answered. And the contest was on.
Business was a flurry from the first moment. People streamed to all three places, buying up orders. I could barely keep up.
After about two hours, my supplies began to run low. Worried that I might have to close up for a time while I went to get more, I was somewhat relieved to find out that someone had already covered that contingency.
Unfortunately, the meat quality of the new burgers was less than stellar. It didn't matter, however, I could make ANY burger taste wonderful. And I did.
Burgers were flipped, ramen was boiled, and okonomiyaki was cooked throughout the day. My arms grew tired and beyond, but I didn't care. I was the master of making burgers, and today was my day.
Not with a little regret, however, the business was so good that I couldn't view how things were going in the other two stands, and the din of the customers drowned out any talk that might be meaningful.
In the end, I was exhausted, a large puddle of slowly congealing grease lay beneath my grill, and there was a lot of trash on the ground. A quick survey of the other two places told a similar story.
Ukyou, Cologne and I met to figure out who had won. "I hope you enjoy your defeat," the old woman said to me. "I hope you don't mind closing," she said to Ukyou. The girl bristled, but didn't say anything.
As I happened, my place would be closing. I had come last... but not by much. By a slightly larger margin, the okonomiyaki joint had beaten the Nekohanten.
Cologne stood there shocked for a moment. "Something must be wrong."
I smiled and shook my head. "You tried hard to subvert the customers, giving us less than the best for food replacements, but I think it shows how good at cooking Ukyou and I are."
"You LOST, Stack," Ukyou told me.
"I know. Congrats."
"That's it? You're not angry?" she asked me.
I shook my head. "Not really. I couldn't keep the place open for very long, anyway, and I didn't want to sell. I'm happy for you." I looked at her in the eye. "Are you still angry with me?"
She thought for a bit. "... Ye.. No... A little. Um, not as much."
I chuckled. "Does this mean we can be friends?"
Her friend had been looking around the lot and came running up before she could answer. "Hey, Ucchan, take a look at this." He held half a hamburger bun forward.
"Ranma! That's gross!"
Insistantly, he pushed the bun towards her. "Just look at it." He gave me a cold glare. Inwardly, I cursed.
"But..." Ukyou sighed and looked at the bun. "Stack," she said after a shocked moment.
"Uh... I," I swallowed, "I don't think it made any difference. You won, Uki."
"Because you threw the contest!" Ranma shouted.
I shook my head. "I did _not_ throw the competition."
"Then how do you explain this?" he thrust the bun forward. It flopped and broke in two. I caught one of the pieces and held it up next to the one in his hand. Together, you could plainly see the words "Visit Ucchan's" cut into the crust.
"A helping hand," I explained, "But I didn't throw the contest."
"You did, and Ukyou deserves better than that!"
"Look, man. Just think about it. I didn't throw the contest." I shrugged. "I, ah, just gave Ukyou a little help. If you think I deliberately tried to lose, you're all wet."
"I'm what?" His face started to go red with rage.
"You're all wet. Crazy. Insane. Deranged."
"Oh, that's it! I, Ranma Saotome, challenge you to a duel!"
I sighed and shook my head. "I don't want to fight you."
"You're going to! Ucchan's my friend."
"Ranma," Ukyou pleaded to him, "You don't have to do this."
He shrugged her off. "Stay out of this, Ukyou." He coldly regarded me. I analyzed him. He had on loose black pants and a red shirt; sometimes Chinese martial artists wore similar garb. His posture was that of a person who'd trained for a long time. Instantly, I knew that if we did fight, I was in for a tough time. I'm a fairly good fighter, but not the best.
I also knew that he wasn't going to back down. "I guess I don't have any choice." I shrugged off my jacket and lowered myself into a defensive stance.
Almost instantly, Ranma came at me. The first few strikes, I dodged easily, then I had to resort to parries. I studied him mostly, not taking the offensive. From that, I could tell that he was better than me. While I had studied martial arts for quite some time, only recently had it become extremely prominent in my life.
Studying him was also a mistake.
Catching me completely by surprise, Ranma suddently started moving around me at high speed. I tried to spin around to keep facing him, but he dashed in and I felt the ground leave me as he executed a leg sweep. I started to roll with the attack when his fist slammed into my lower back, robbing me my ability to breathe.
I gritted my teeth and forced myself to finish my roll. I hit the ground clumsily, but managed to tuck enough and force myself over. I'd almost gotten fully standing when his roundhouse kick intersected my jaw.
The world exploded for my vision, then snapped quickly back when I hit the ground. I gasped in a ragged breath and scrambled away from him. For a moment, he held off.
Ranma was faster than me, no question. But fast people are usually very quick to tire. I had to outlast him, had to keep him coming until he overextended himself. Then I would have a chance to counterattack
I had no chance.
My blows were easily dodged, parried or blocked, while his managed to sneak through my defenses. I stumbled, but fought to remain standing.
It was over. I knew it was over, he knew it was over. Ranma struck out with a punch that should have incapacitated me.
I tried to dodge and got lucky. I slipped, and his strike just missed the side of my head. Quickly recovering, I snaked out, grabbing his outstretched arm and whipping it back into a painful lock behind his back. I pressed up and in towards his neck and executed a leg sweep.
Ranma pitched forward and the two of us unceremoniously fell to the ground. I rammed a fist into his side and was rewarded with a "whuff" as air was forced out of his lungs.
I tried to keep the arm lock, but he slipped out of it, eel-like, and quickly counter-attacked. I half dodged his kick to my knee, but the pain lancing up my leg made standing difficult. In response, I struck at his stomach, but felt only light contact as he danced away. I pulled back to catch my breath.
"This ends now," he said, taking a step forward.
"Ranma! That's enough!" Ukyou shouted.
Ranma ignored her, advancing on me. Then he struck out, his fists striking my body at lighting speed while shouting, "KACHUU-TENSHIN-AMAGURIKEN!"
I don't know if I felt the strikes. I did, however, feel my ribs crack.
"STOP IT! YOU'RE KILLING HIM!"
I hit the ground with a thud. Ukyou and Ranma might have said more, but I thankfully blacked out.
I awoke to see a bright light above me. There was pain all over my body, most prominent was my chest, a sharper pain within the dull ache all over.
"Oh, you're awake!" I head a man's voice. I lifted my head and turned towards the sound. A man in his late twenties or early thirties stood there. He wore glasses and loose black clothing. "How are you feeling?"
I opened my mouth but could only croak something unintelligible. I pushed myself up, which drew a hiss of pain when I agitated my chest.
"You'd better be careful. You're ribs are quite bruised right now." I nodded to the man, but didn't say anything. "Just a moment, I'll get you some water."
The man left the room, and I had a look at myself. My shirt was off, any my chest covered with a bandage, but I could see sickly purple, black, and green splotches around the edges. -Damn, but that was a one sided fight- I thought.
The man returned with a glass of water, which I thankfully gulped down. "Ah," I gasped afterwards. "Thanks."
"Ukyou brought you in and told me what happened. Ranma can get a little heated at times."
"So I noticed." I nodded agreement.
"Ukyou went out to have a 'talk' with Ranma. She should be back shortly." The man stood. "You can rest here until then."
"Oh, sorry. I'm Dr. Ono Tofuu"
"Thanks, Doc. I'm Stackpole Terranson."
Just we heard a door slide open. "Dr. Tofuu?" I heard Ukyou ask.
He went to the door and opened it. "In here, Ukyou." He left as she entered.
"Hi!" I said, forcing enthusiasm. She walked over and sat down in the chair Dr. Tofuu had vacated.
"That looks bad," she said, studying my wounds.
"Looks worse than it feels," I half-lied, forcing a shrug and a smile.
"I'm sorry about what Ranma did to you. I tried to..."
"Don't," I interrupted, shaking my head. "He was angry, and you couldn't have stopped him."
"Well, I'm still..." she trailed off as I gave her a stern look.
"Hey. Can we get out of here?" I asked.
She brightened and nodded. "I guess so, just a second while I get your stuff."
As we were walking away, she carrying my shirt, and my jacked draped over my shoulders, she asked, "What are you going to do now?"
"I dunno. Could you use any help at Ucchan's?"
For a moment, Ukyou regarded me severely, then it passed and she smiled. "Konatsu's normally around to help, but I convinced him to take a vacation." She laughed. "I'll think about it."
--- Epilogue ---
I awoke to find two men standing over me. "Stackpole," one of them said. "It's time to go."
The predawn light was beginning to illuminate the room.
"Already?" I asked, "But it's early."
Pak, the second man laughed. "Big, bad potential anomaly," he said. "You're needed. All vacations cut short."
I nodded and got up, beginning to pack my things.
"Did you learn anything?" the first man asked.
"Yeah, Ren, a bit," I answered.
He nodded solemly, "I can tell it was important. What was it?"
I didn't answer. "I've got to do something," I said after I'd finished packing.
Ren scrutinized me. "Make it quick. You've got fifteen minutes."
I ran out of my little motel room and over to Ucchan's place. I hesitated just before knocking. Inside I could hear some clattering as she started to get up.
I shook my head. "Sorry, Uki," I whispered, "Goodbye."
When I got back to Ren and Pak, I said. "I learned friendship."
Author's note: Stackpole is my GRIT character. I wrote this to establish his background in the Ranma universe. Hopefully, knowlege of GRIT isn't necessarry to enjoy this story.
Ren, Pak, and Stackpole are members of an interdimensional organization known as the Info-Hounds. I hope to write more stories about them in the future, some of which will also be about Stackpole.
Any criticism, comments, and praise (^_^) can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Much thanks is directed to Blade for his help spotting problems with this fic.
Damien Roc a Mike Stackpole fan since 1992 Umi's Champion Nuriko's Honor Guard "Here we Go! Go! Hashiri tsuzukeru Dare ni mo tomerare wa shinai Mirai no jibun e to Give a reason for life todoketai" -Megumi Hayashibara "Give a Reason"