By Glyph Bellchime
“Argh, that’s the third time this week! Damn!” Ryoga
snarled as he got a look at his carrot patches. They had been ravaged again.
He dropped the basket, angry at the little holes of where he and the kids
had carefully planted the carrots. Now only rough holes remained. He stared
at the holes, still trying to figure out this little mystery.
“Hey, Ryoga, you got a problem?” a voice called up to him. Ryoga gave a snort, and looked down the stairwell to the level below. The relaxed voice of Saotome-san didn’t ease his brooding rage.
Both men were about in their late thirties, and standing now on the roof of the Hibiki’s house. It was flat with several containers of plants, some not even indigenous to Japan or Asia. Ryoga picked up a shovel and bent over to dig the hole back in one of the carrot patches.
“Nice garden, by the way,” Ranma commented. “I’m still trying to get that pool fixed up so the water would stop flooding the yard when it rains hard.” He finally leaned over Ryoga. “Jiro told me I’d find you up here.”
Ryoga Hibiki, married about sixteen years now, had actually done well. Building onto his wife’s business, and doing a lot of construction work, (The Bakusai Tengetsku was the not-so-secret weapon in that endeavor, when businesses found that they didn’t have to hire a wrecking crew to demolish a building, they hired him a lot.) he had actually made life comfortable for this side of the Hibiki clan. His little sister, Jiro, was working in the restaurant, waitressing. She could usually find him when the others couldn’t, even with his bad sense of direction. She admittedly didn’t look like him much, except for the odd shaped ears. The Hibiki’s had adopted Jiro in one of Ryoga’s travels in his youth.
“Actually, it was an idea I picked up from a guy in the housing projects, in New York,” Ryoga replied. He was still bent over the carrot patch. The soil looked dug up by claws. He shook his head. “I don’t understand it. It’s the ripe ones being dug up, and only the carrots. None of the other vegetables are touched.”
Ranma inspected the nearby nets. “Can’t be the birds?” he asked, pointing to them.
“No, and not because of the nets, Ranma,” The other replied, turning to some
green peppers instead. “Ucchan is definitely not going to be happy about the carrots.” He pushed his usual bandanna up on his forehead. Then he started to pick some peppers off the plants.
“Well, there is definitely a variety, here,” Ranma went over to some flowers. “Hey, these black orchids are very pretty. Did you pick them up on your travels?” He went to place his hand on the stem.
Suddenly, Ryoga was there, knocking his hand away. “DON’T TOUCH THOSE!” he yelped. “Read the sign.”
Ranma read aloud, “DON’T TOUCH. They eat. . . anything?”
Ryoga picked up a stick from nearby in the compost, and handed it off to Ranma. “Now try.”
So Ranma touched the flower with the stick. He had his other hand resting near his lip. The stick came closer to the center of the flower.
Ranma stared at his half of stick, gaining a sweatdrop.
“That’s the main reason there isn’t a net around that one. Iikiba picked them up for Yoiko, from some guy; I’m still trying to find out whom. Began with an A, really odd name. An English name, Adams, something like that.”
“So the orchids are dangerous?”
“Hey, do you think I could send one to Kodachi?”
“Ha-ha, very funny.”
“Well, they are pretty, and pretty deadly.”
“Yeah, but they seem to like it in this soil and low light over there. As long as they keeps the usual pests away, they aren’t that bad. You gotta watch it when you prune the things though.”
Yoiko went to go find her carrot eraser set,
when she bumped into something furry. She was eleven, and quite curious
to find it near her desk. Her dark hair framed her face in two pigtails
near her ears. For a minute she blinked, not afraid because Iikiba sometimes
had a creature follow him home. But this one had puzzled her.
Besides that, it had looked cute.
She followed where it had gone. Down the hall towards her brother’s room, the little furry thing was moving fast. She saw that it looked like a little rabbit, but its ears were huge and furry.
Suddenly, it stopped, sniffed, and then pushed through his door. But the door didn’t open. It had gone—THROUGH—the door. Yoiko stared.
She then slowly crept up to the door. She heard a voice talking in frustration to itself. A boy’s voice. At least Iikiba was home.
She leaned on the door, trying to listen in.
Meow, meow, miya, she heard several bits of chirping. This was puzzling her.
Then she abruptly fell to the floor as the door popped open. “Ouch,” she muttered, then looked up to see her oniisan looking down at her. He was thirteen years old, and had two severe cowlicks in the back that didn’t want to stay down. His face looked at her with surprised hazel eyes, much like his father’s.
Then she saw the furry things lying on the bed.
“Get in here,” he hissed. Yoiko got up quickly, and shut the door behind her. Iikiba was holding something in his hand. “I believe that this is yours.”
She got a look at it. It was the orange eraser from the pencil set she was missing. But it had a rather funny bite out of it. She could smell the carrot-like odor they had added to make the eraser fun.
“Sorry, I didn’t know that they’d eat it,” Iikiba growled at the one that looked pitiful.
“What. . . are they?” Yoiko asked.
Jiro, Ryoga, and Ukyo were cleaning up for
the night. The kids needed to study, even though supper could be considered
late. Ucchan’s had pretty good nights, after the locals came in. But for
a weekend, it had been decent. Ryoga carried a tray full of dishes
over his head, and over his wife’s to the back room. Ukyo cleaned on the
grill. She rubbed the back of her hand against her face for a moment.
The radio was running, some pleasant music, but then Jiro suddenly perked up. Her ears were pointed, so caught sounds far easier than Ukyo. The announcer was talking, and sounded like he didn’t believe the report either.
“Hey, is that a radio drama? But I didn’t hear the thing start.”
Ryoga listened in as well. “It sounds like a news report, but a UFO?” he muttered aloud. “Does sound like one, what station is that on, anyway?”
“FM1376. But they play only music.”
Ryoga shrugged. “That’s strange.”
A few kilometers away from Nerima, something
had landed. But it didn’t look like any UFO. A young woman materialized
on the grass of the local park, and then sighed. Her red hair bounced
around her shoulders. She looked at some type of mechanical object. The
woman signaled the ship, and it abruptly shrunk down to the size of a small
creature. She bent over, picking up the small thing and let it settle on
her bright red hair.
“Let’s go, Ryo-Oki.”
Iikiba scratched one behind the ears. Yoiko
stared at him as he explained about finding the little furry things. And
the major problems he was having with getting them to stay put. Especially
getting them to stay, Iikiba also had seen them phasing through doors,
although his had been too excited and banged into the door first.
“Why haven’t you taken them back yet?”
Iikiba looked chagrined. “Because I don’t know how many there is. Every time I get a head count, it changes. I think that maybe, there’s eight of them, but I’m not sure.”
“What are they again?” Yoiko found another one that was friendly.
“Miya, meow,” some trilled.
“Part cat, I’m guessing from their bodies and sound, but the ears and tails say that they’re also part rabbit.”
“So why not call them Cabbits?” Yoiko finally giggled. One had jumped into her lap. They were very friendly.
Suddenly they heard their Tousan’s voice carrying in the hall. The cabbits scattered, hiding in parts of the room. “Great,” Iikiba muttered under his breath, then yelling. “Yeah, Tousan?”
“Okay, Tousan , were coming!”
Iikiba sighed. “Not one word of this until I can get them rounded up again. I need your help, Okay?”
Yoiko smiled, letting her fangs show. “Yeah, I don’t think Kaachan would like it too well.”
Ryoga poured his milk, then handed of the carton
to Yoiko before she did the same. He had a glass of green tea beside it.
Yet he seemed to be lost in thought.
“How’s school going?” he asked.
“I’m doing fine, got a history test tomorrow,” she shrugged, “but then I’ve always done pretty good on those as well.”
“Something bothering you, Ryo-chan?” Ukyo smiled, trying to get a smile out of her husband. She had called him that ever since they were engaged.
“I’m still puzzled about those carrots,” he said before eating a bite of the casserole he had made. Ukyo wasn’t the only cook in the house.
But when he had said the word, ‘carrot’, he noticed that both Iikiba and Yoiko paused in their eating. Yoiko blinked, but returned to her food, but Iikiba picked again at his plate, acting oblivious, on purpose. Ryoga picked up his chopsticks again. Hmm.
After dinner, Yoiko went back upstairs to her
bedroom. She plopped down on her bed. But then she felt something under
her pillow, and she lifted it. Another cabbit! This one had looked very
different from the ones that Iikiba had sitting on his bed. Then also she
saw the others. . .
“Iikiba. . .” she whispered loudly. This time she opened her door very quietly, and tiptoed, not trying to get her parents attention.
“Iikiba?” she whispered.
This time the boy was there, but he looked as if a ghost had visited his room. “How many this time?” he hissed.
“Seven, in mine,” Yoiko pointed with her thumb.
“I just counted nine, sixteen total then, do you know what this means?”
Both kids paused. “We’re in big trouble,” they said together. “Our parents are going to kill us.”
The stranger from the park returned to her
little device, and looked up at the signs. Nerima business district. Must
definitely be Tokyo, but not the Tokyo that she knew. Well, beside the
fact that she hadn’t visited Tokyo much. This place seemed too weird.
The young woman saw that most of the shops had closed for the night. But with her readings, she knew she was close. The little creature knew it, too. It sniffed the air, but then jumped off her shoulders and headed for the darkened okonomiyaki shop.
The readings were definitely the strongest here.
So she knocked on the door, loudly.
Ryoga heard the banging on the door, and woke back
up. He soon recognized the sound as pounding on the door downstairs. Rather
loud pounding. He grumbled, reaching for the rope that helped lead him
in the house. Who the heck would wake him at this hour? Ukyo stirred, starting
to wake up. She looked very pretty, even though he hair was mussed.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get it,” he yawned. He reached for his bandanna, which rested on the nearby bed stand. Tying it to his forehead, he wandered, actually straight towards the bedroom window. He glanced outside, down towards the front of the shop.
A redheaded someone was pounding on the front door. “What is that moron doing here at this hour?” he muttered, thinking he or she was Ranma. At the moment, only Ranma and his son Kaneda had red hair. This one looked to be a girl. He noticed the pitcher of water Ukyo had set on her side table. She’d been having a sore throat, and needed the water during the night, sometimes. He opened the window. He walked over, picked the pitcher up, then when he returned to the window in a half dazed sleep, he flung the water in the direction of the front door.
The woman was drenched, then she heard the owner
yell, “Ranma, go back to bed, ya jerk!” She saw a very miffed, dark haired
man at a nearby window close it again. At least she had seen where he had
gone. Whoever this Ranma was, she did not like being mistaken for him or
her. Though she suspected that the name matched to a man.
She then did a very odd thing. She faded from infront of the door. . .
Then appeared in the couple’s bedroom. The man had gotten back into bed, but then she heard the flushing sound in the bathroom. The other side of the bed was empty. Maybe the wife, she reasoned. She listened for footsteps in the hall.
“’scuse me, what are you. . .doing in here?” a husky sounding voice sounded behind her. The young woman whirled around. Then noticed a very large metal object being thrusted at her face. A dark haired woman stood behind it. It looked like a very large cooking spatula. She was wearing a very comfortable nightgown, but in a way it looked was also very appealing on her. The older woman swung.
Suddenly, the young woman phased out, and appeared on the headboard. “Wait! hear me out!” she barked. But the woman brought the spatula down, trying to hit from the top.
It missed. The man woke up, surprisingly calm, for all the racket, and then being conked in the head. “I’m UP,” he muttered, “Ucchan, why didn’t you just say you wanted me to get up?”
Then he heard the high, rather alarming laughter infront of the foot of the bed. Then he recognized that it was a girl about twelve laughing, at the both of them.
“Who the hell are you?” both said together.
Ryoga half stared at his tea. His hand propped his
cheek with his hand. It would still be hours before dawn, and he was half
dead from lack of sleep. The stranger explained her problem.
“So your name is Washu?” Ukyo started fixing a snack for the three of them, out of the stores from the restaurant. The girl nodded. Her little companion still sat on her head. Ukyo didn’t want to say anything about it, yet. But she knew the health inspectors wouldn’t like it if they knew.
“Actually, would you mind if you call me Washu-chan?” the girl said, starting to eat.
“Sorry about the misunderstanding earlier,” Ryoga muttered, finally getting awake enough.
“That’s all right,” Washu smiled. “This is good stuff, Hibiki-sama, Sasami might want your recipe.”
“Sorry, family secret.” Ukyo smiled.
“Well, we’ll help you look in the morning, but for now, we got a free room you can stay in.” Ryoga murmured. Ukyo looked at him, but agreed. She realized that he wanted to get back to sleep. They would both have to open the restaurant in the morning.
Washu sensed this. “Thank you both,” she bowed, then headed upstairs.
“Uh hmm,” Ryoga sighed. Then he yawned, finished the tea, and went back to bed. But at the stairs Ukyo met him, and put her arm around his waist. He did the same, and kissed her on the forehead.
“Night, Ryo-chan,” she murmured.
He buried his cheek in her hair.
Iikiba woke up to the smell of pancakes, which
was a little odd to him. He sat up, scattering cabbits that had nestled
on the bed. They meowed and miya-ed quietly. He jumped out of bed. . .
and opened the door to see his sister opening hers at the same time. They
stared down the hall. There they saw a very puzzling sight.
Both Kaachan and Tousan were standing on the stairs, looking startled and in wonder at something below them. Ryoga had his umbrella in his hand; Ukyo her trusted spatula. They both were in robes and bedclothes, but normally they would have been down below all ready working.
“Tousan? Kaachan?” Yoiko asked.
Ryoga signaled for them to come near and to keep quiet. But someone still heard them. There they saw the strange sight. . . .
“Good morning, anyone ready for breakfast?” the redheaded girl came to the bottom of the stairs.
“But. . .but,” Ukyo stammered. “We open. . .”
“Don’t worry, Jiro helped me get started, and everything is ready to go,” Washu smiled.
The Hibikis moved downstairs, then realized not only was the restaurant was open, but everything was ready. . .
And several versions of the redheaded girl were cleaning, boiling, packing, waitressing the restaurant. The truck order for the day had come in and another set of girls was unloading the heavy boxes. Ryoga put his umbrella on his shoulder. Then he saw his sister, Jiro, ready with the okonomiyaki.
“Morning, Oniisan,” she smiled. “Sorry, I let her in.”
“I wanted to let you folks sleep in, and thank you for last night.” A Washu spoke up. “Besides the more hands you have, the more time I can free you to help me out.”
Iikiba suddenly saw the creature that sat on the leader’s head. Yoiko did, too.
“Hey, that one’s like . . .umf, um, eh?” She suddenly stopped when her brother abruptly popped his hand over her mouth.
Iikiba knew he was in trouble, when Dad used that tone. He let go of Yoiko, and turned to his father’s gaze. Ryoga said nothing, but then the original Washu whipped something out.
“Hey, guys, something wrong?” another voice interceded. Washu turned to the newcomer. Ranma and Kaneda were there, grabbing some breakfast and Kaneda was sent to help Iikiba get to school without getting lost. But when they saw the several girls moving around the restaurant, they both stared. “Or are we in the right place?”
The little creature that had been sitting on Washu’s head jumped off to inspect the Saotomes. But when it let out a soft meow, Ranma lost it.
“Ka—ka—ka,” he stammered, jumping onto a nearby form.
“. . .bbit. Cabbit.” Washu said, seeing the man’s apparent fear.
“Ran—maaa, get off!” Ryoga yelped, muffled. He had dropped his umbrella. Ranma’s arm had wrapped around his mouth in an ever tightening grip.
“Oy—ajiiiiiiiii,” Kaneda groaned. At the same time.
“Maybe I should clarify something,” Washu said. But then she heard a shuffling sound coming from the stairs. A sleepy cabbit was coming down it.
“Miya?” it said.
“There’s more than one?” Ranma blurted.
“They’re part lepus, part felis, and all cute,” Washu walked over to the stairs. Then she spoke in baby talk. “You naughty crystal, how did you get here?”
“Crystal?” Ukyo blurted.
Finally Washu gave up speaking to the surprised group. She brought up her holographic computer and brought up a description of cabbits. She then translated the important parts,
“A crossbreed of cat and rabbit, they favor carrots as food."
"Ahh, the garden,” Ryoga yelped. “Extremely fond of carrots.”
Iikiba knew he was still in trouble, but he explained about being unable to find them all. He even explained on being lost, and he remembered that he had seen the cabbits while resting in the woods after he had gotten lost. He had some carrots leftover from a lunch, and had let them eat some. But he remembered that he had seen only six at that time.
“But they all look alike, I don’t know how many followed me.”
Washu laughed, a hearty one that surprised the whole group. “Those crystals, they were looking for a friend. They get so lonely sometimes. When you came through with the carrots, they saw you were kind. And they also saw you as a chance for a free meal. I’m surprised that you didn’t read the energy reading as very high.”
“Energy reading?” Jiro spoke up. Her blonde eyebrows lifted.
“Oh dear,” Washu suddenly said in monotone. She brought the device to eye level, then stared at it. “Wow, there are a lot more energy signatures than just six, the energy counter is unable to center on one.”
“We counted sixteen, yesterday.”
Ryoga had suddenly grown very quiet. He had his left hand resting against his chin. Then something seemed to light his eyes.
“You said they really like carrots, Washu-chan?” he asked, and when she nodded, Ranma suddenly realized what Ryoga was thinking.
“Need me to lead you to the market?” he offered.
“Got any money on you?” Ryoga asked of him. “Washu, do you have any?”
“Do you take yen?” She pulled something out of a hole in the air, and gave him several bills. She smiled.
“Anyone care to fill me in on what is going on?” Ukyo snorted. The kids and her sister-in-law, and the other girls stared. Washu suddenly called the copies to herself.
Ryoga then took Ukyo gently to himself. “We’re gonna need a LOT of carrots, but I’ll explain later.” He kissed her on the forehead. She sighed, then brushed his hair away from his face.
“Okay, later,” she nodded. “But change your clothes first!”
Ryoga then looked down, “Uh, thanks.”
When they got back, Ryoga and Ranma were carrying
three bushel baskets of carrots. Jiro dropped her jaw.
“Onnisan, what are you doing?”
Washu nudged her in the ribs. “Coming up with the best plan, that’s what.”
The two cabbits that were with her cheered. Ryoga and Ranma entered the backdoor to Ucchan’s and dropped the baskets. The two cabbits’ mouths were watering.
“Call them, Ryo-Oki,” Washu laughed.
Suddenly the first cabbit began to miya and meow excitedly. Then it was echoed by the second. . .
And a third. . .fourth. . .fifth.
Then, they started coming.
Gel heard a commotion. Mascara and her both paused.
“What are those?” Cologne sat up. Shampoo and Mousse both stared, especially after Mousse put on his glasses. Furry creatures were running in the street, startling walkers and bicycle riders alike.
“They head for spatula couple’s place,” Shampoo blurted. Mascara stepped out into the street.
“Let’s find out what it’s about,” Gel started running, telling to the other girl. Both took off. Mousse tried to call them back, but then Gel knocked over an overhanging gutter with her yo-yo. The water splashed on her dad, and he instantly turned into a duck.
She smiled, not that mischievously. Sometimes it helped knowing your parents had curses! Even with hell to pay when she got home.
Back at Ucchan’s, the owners were doing a quick head count as cabbits streamed past them.
“There’s fifteen. . .sixteen. . .” Jiro counted, at the front door.
“Twenty-one, twenty-two. . .” Iikiba tried at the side door.
Ukyo noticed that the more cabbits that piled in, the more nervous Ranma got. “Sorry, I know they aren’t cats, it’s just, thirty-four. . .thirty-five. . .”
“I get the picture, Ran-chan, thanks for helping, but get outta here before. . .” she didn’t say it, but Akane had told her about the Neko-ken.
“Thanks, my last count was thirty-six!” he called.
“Thirty-seven. . .thirty-eight. . .” Washu tallied.
“Forty-one. . .forty-two. . .forty-three. . .” Yoiko called from the storeroom.
Ryoga was standing on one of the tables, because cabbits now covered the floor. He counted. “ Fifty. . .fifty-one. . .and I think I see that last one, fifty-two!”
“Same here!” came from the counter of the restaurant. Ukyo was standing on it, a frown creasing her eyebrows together.
Washu giggled. Then clapped her hands. This made all the cabbits jump.
“Come on, you cards, let’s go,” she called to them.
“Hey, what about our restaurant?” Ukyo called after her. The cabbits had tracked in mud and dust, she saw. Some had even left carrot tops.
“And the garden?” Ryoga stepped down. He had told her about the garden before the plan was put into effect.
Washu sighed, but then handed over one more bill to Ryoga. Then she clapped her hands. The dust and dirt instantly was gone. Most of the cabbits waited outside. She bent him down to whisper something into his ear. Then the cabbits meowed, and became crystals. Some carried off carrots.
“Oh wow!” Yoiko blurted. The she saw the two girls from the Neko-hauten stare in wonder up at the flying creatures too.
Washu then threw Ryo-Oki in the air, and they saw the ship.
“Whoa!” Even Jiro sounded like the kids.
Washu waved goodbye as the cabbits piled on. They took off, as the ones on the ground waved in return.
Then Ryoga got a look at the bill Washu-chan had given him. “Holy crap!” he yelped. “This is. . .”
“A 500, 000.00 yen note!” Ukyo gasped.
That would have been the end of the incident, except
for the whispered tidbit to Ryoga. A few days later he was cleaning tables,
when an odd expression crossed his face, and he started to laugh.
“Jiro, take over for me,” he giggled, then went into the back room. He then laughed until his sides ached. Ukyo had just finished her break, then noticed him laughing.
“Are you all right, Ryo-chan?” she asked.
“I-I get it, Washu said. . .called them. . .52 cards, 52 card pick up!”
Then he started to explain. Then he and Ukyo embraced and laughed together.