NeeP Productions Presents:

Recipe of Disaster
Niki (NeeP) Paradis

Chapter Two:  The Price of a Meal.

     He wants my mother’s recipe?
     Ukyou was startled into silence ... but just for a moment.  She recovered quickly and glared at the boy.
     “What are you?  A scout for my competitors?”  She hefted her spatula.
     “No!  No ... lemme explain...”  Iikiba threw his arms over his head as if preparing for the oncoming blow.
     “Better make it quick, Sugar, and I better like the explanation.”
     “Like I said, I come from a place ... far away.  My mother knew your mother ... and she once had a copy of that recipe.  But it was lost ... and she was so upset, I wanted to make it up to her ... you know, make her feel better, and since I was in the area, I thought to find your shop and ask you.”
     Uh huh, thought Ukyou.  “Yeah right.  Try again.”
     “P-please, uh Ukyou-san, I’m telling the truth.”  Tears started to well up in his eyes.  “It’s really important to my mother.”
     The okonomiyaki chef looked at the tearful young man.  He’s telling the truth about how important it is to his mother, she thought, but if the rest of that tale is true, I’ll eat my spatula.

     Ryouga dashed into a restaurant and got out of the doorway just as a gust of wind blew the rain inside.  This is a good a place as any other, he thought.  Wonder where I am ... Another minute in that storm and Jiro would of had to track down the piglet, P-chan, while hauling Ryouga’s gear along with her own.
     “Hey, Ryouga!  While you’re standing there, close the door!”
     Ryouga looked up and saw Ukyou and a stranger at the counter.
     “Oh -- Hi Ukyou.  What brings you here?”
     “Ryouga you jackass!  This is my restaurant you’re standing in.  Now close the door!”
     “Oh -- sorry.  Heh, heh.”  Blushing, Ryouga quickly pushed the sliding door closed.
     Ukyou started another okonomiyaki on her grill.  “So tell me, Lost Boy, why are you here?”
     Ryouga grinned and blushed as he answered.
     “Actually, I just wanted a warm, dry spot to stay as I waited for Jiro to find me.”  He shook the rain off his umbrella.  “I didn’t even know that this was your shop.  I just entered the first restaurant that I saw...” he sniffed at the cooking food.  “Um, Ukyou, I don’t suppose I could have some of that?”
     “Sure, Sugar, if you have the cash, most of my dishes are already done, and the business day is almost over.”
     Ryouga reached into a pocket of his dark green pants and out a few bills and some coins.  He counted it out to himself.  He grinned as he walked to the counter and dropped the money in front of the cook.
     “I have 1,360,050 yen.  That should be enough for a meal, don’t you think?”
     Ukyou’s eyes opened wide.  “Do you always carry this much pocket change on you?”
     “No, not always.  Anyway,” here Ryouga grinned, “who’s gonna try and steal it from me?”
     “Good point.”  Ukyou finished the dish and handed it to him.  “Here ya go, one okonomiyaki with no pork, just like you have always ordered it.”
     “Thanks.”  Ryouga sat down next to the brown hair boy and started eating.

     Jiro sighed as she walked down the empty streets of the marketplace.  I hope he managed to find a dry place to stay.  It wasn’t as if she couldn’t find her brother when he was P-chan -- in fact Ryouga’s chi was the same in either form.  It was just that she would come across his backpack and clothes and be obliged to carry them with her until she caught up to him.
     I wonder who the other guy is?  Jiro got a description of the other boy from the police officer.  He sure wasn’t that older man who knew what was going on in Nerima, but he knew the difference between a yellow and black bandanna and a plain red one.  According to the man, the other boy also had the same rotten sense of direction.  I wonder if he’s related to Oniisan.  It would be nice to have a cousin too.  She looked up and realised that she was headed towards Ucchan’s.  Oh good, I’ll be able to get something to eat too.

     Ranma-chan was trudging through the marketplace on her way home to the dojo.  How dare she?  It was hell trying to get out of the area where she landed.  It was bad enough being sent into flight by Akane, but landing in the infamous Tomobiki district then getting rained on made things even worse.  He, then a she was suddenly grabbed by an overly hyper boy about her own age.  She managed to knock him off, only to be electrocuted as the lech ran off by one of those obnoxious aliens that she had seen on the television.
     “Don’t you dare hurt my Darling!” the alien shouted as she zapped Ranma some more.  Then she flew off after the retreating young pervert calling “Daaarling, wait for me!”
     Now that the worse was over, Ranma was happy to be on her way home.  But then again, she decided that she wasn’t up to hearing another lecture of treating the fiancée right from either her father or Soun Tendou.  She looked up and saw the okonomiyaki shop in the distance.  Hey!  Looks like it’s still open.  I’ll hang with Ucchan for a while, then I’ll go home.

     Jiro opened the door to the restaurant.  Sure enough, there was Ryouga.  With him were Ukyou and a brown hair boy with a huge backpack next to him.  They all looked up when she entered.
     “Welcome, Jiro-chan!”  called Ukyou.  “Come in and get something to eat.”
     “Thanks, Ukyou-san, I will.  Hi Oniisan!” she called out to Ryouga.
     “Hey, Jiro.  I don’t suppose you have the patch-kit in your pack, do you?”
     “I think I do ... Thanks Ukyou-san,” Jiro said as she received her okonomiyaki.  “Why do you ask?”
     Ryouga shrugged.  “My tent’s got another hole in it.”
     “Told ya you should’ve gotten a new one.”
     “I guess I should have.”
     Jiro looked at the other boy, who was staring at her.  His description matched the one the police officer gave her.
     “You’re the other Lost Boy, aren’t you?” she asked around a mouthful of food.
     “Uh ... I guess so,” replied the brown-hair boy.
     Ryouga and Ukyou looked towards Jiro with surprise.
     “I asked a policeman if he’d seen a boy with a backpack and umbrella, wearing a bandanna, and he asked which one was I looking for.”  The blond-hair girl grinned.  “There’s not too many people who proceed to go in the wrong direction after being given specific instructions.”
     The boy blushed.
     “Anyway,” continued Jiro, “I’m Jiro, this is my big brother, Hibiki Ryouga.  And you are ...?”
     “Hii ...ah, Iikiba, I’m Iikiba.”
     “As in literally “good fangs”, like Oniisan’s name, huh?  His name means “good fangs” and your name really is “good fangs”!  That is really cool!”
     “Uh, Thanks.”
     “Your family name wouldn’t be Hibiki by any chance, would it?”
     “Ah...” Iikiba started to blush.
     “Leave him alone Jiro!  I don’t have a cousin named Iikiba.”  Ryouga was just as red-faced.
 Jiro looked hurt.  Tears started to fill up in her eyes.  Quickly, her brother moved to remedy the situation.
     “Jiro, I’m sorry.  It’s just that I have never heard about having a cousin with the same uh, problem that I do.  I didn’t mean to yell.”
     “But I thought it was possible ... with the similarities that both of you have...” she sniffled.
     Iikiba interrupted.
     “I understand, Jiro-san, but I’m not you brother’s cousin.  Though I understand how you would think so.”

     The rookie looked out into the rain from inside the shelter of the koban.  Weird place, he thought.  How could sergeant Yamato stand it?  People in strange clothing, boys with no sense of direction, and not two minutes ago, a panda carrying groceries strolled by.  He was pondering the situation when he heard someone clearing his voice behind him.  He turned and saw a young man wearing a raincoat and backpack, carrying a pole and a water-bucket.
     “Excuse me,” said the newcomer, “I’m looking for someone....”
     “Yes...?” The rookie was hoping to help someone normal, but the sight of the wooden water-bucket dashed that hope.
     “I’m looking for a girl dressed in blue, carrying a backpack and umbrella.  She’s probably travelling with a guy dressed in yellow and green or trying to find him.  Have you seen her?”  The boy was talking with a fiery intensity.
     “Yes, I did.  I sent her towards Furinkan High School.  That way.”  The rookie was glad to help as long it got this weird boy out of his face.
     The boy turned and muttered to himself about finally getting to kill the girl and go back home.   The rookie then wondered if, perhaps, he made a mistake.

     Ranma-chan entered the restaurant, surprised to see Ukyou serving Ryouga and Jiro, not to mention some other guy.  Then again, Ucchan’s is a restaurant and Ukyou would have to serve customers in order to remain in business.  And Ryouga and Jiro were definitely customers.  The other guy looked familiar as well, but Ranma couldn’t place him.
     “Hey, Ucchan!  Got any of that for me?”
     “Hi Ranchan.  Coming right up!”
     “And some hot water too.”  Ukyou set a kettle on the counter and Ranma picked it up, poured it onto herself, and returned to masculine form.  The brown-hair boy watched with amusement, but not surprise.  Ranma wondered about that for half a second, then shoved the idea to the back of his mind where it promptly became lost.  As he waited for Ukyou to cook up his order, Ranma turned to Ryouga, just to start up a “friendly” conversation.
     “Hey P-chan, I heard that you were looking for me again today...”
     “Shut-up, Ranma.  I’m trying to eat here. Who’s P-chan, anyway?”
     “You know who I mean, Porky.  I understand it took you over one and a half hours to travel three blocks.”  Ranma smirked.  “Why don’t you admit that you can’t get anywhere without Jiro holdin’ your hand.”
     “Ranchan, I don’t want you and Ryouga to fight in here.  My insurance doesn’t cover it.”  Ukyou place Ranma’s meal onto a plate and set it on the counter.
     “Ranma-san, he hasn’t eaten all day, please don’t provoke him.  I won’t be able to stop him.”  Jiro voice was slightly nervous as she imagined the potential damages.
     “Oh, look, the Lost Boy’s got all these people to protect him...”
     “Ranma,” Ryouga sighed.  “Earlier, I wanted to pound on you.  But right now I’m hungry and I want to eat.  Pick on me tomorrow, I’ll beat the crap out of you then.”
     Ranma was too involved in trying to get Ryouga’s dander up.  It’s been a rough day, he remembered that moment when he was being groped as a girl by a guy his own age.  A good man to man fight was just what he needed to prove his manliness, and to set things right in his own mind.
     “Can’t you fight me, P-chan?  Or aren’t you man enough to do it, Piii...”
 Ranma was suddenly grabbed and pinned against the wall.
     “Ow!  What the...”  Ranma looked at the tip of the red umbrella pointed at his throat.  He realised that it wasn’t Ryouga’s bamboo one and as he looked up the length of it, he was surprised to see the brown-hair boy holding it.
     “Excuse me, Ranma-san.  You have been asked to behave yourself during your stay in here.”  The boy’s voice was soft.  “No one else is interested in a fight.  Ukyou-san, the owner of the restaurant, said ‘No’.  The person you challenged, Ryouga-san said ‘No’.  Jiro-san said ‘No’.  And I would also like to finish my meal in peace.  So if you please...”
     Ranma nodded and the boy lowered his umbrella.
     “Okay, you win this one, but it isn’t over between me and Ryouga, nor you and me.  Got it?”
     The boy shrugged.  “Whatever...”  The boy looked towards Ukyou.
     “So have you reconsidered my request, Ukyou-san?”
     Ukyou shook her head.
     “Sorry, Sugar, but unless you give me more information, or something more believable, I can’t help you.”
     The boy sat back down and finished his meal in disappointed silence.
     Ranma slinked back to his seat, sat down and began to eat, all the while glaring at the brown-hair boy and at Ryouga.
     The boy sighed when he finished eating.  Then he got up and began to strap his umbrella back onto his backpack.
     “All right, I’ll consider what you said.  What do I owe you?”
     “Five hundred, fifty yen.”  Ukyou replied.
     “Okay, just as soon as I finish here.”  The boy was struggling with a broken strap.
     Ryouga looked at the umbrella.  It was western styled, same as Jiro’s except for the colour.
     “Nice umbrella,” he commented.
     “Thanks,” replied the boy.  “It’s a gift from my aunt.”
     Ranma was watching the two boys, eating his okonomiyaki and sulking.  The brown-hair guy seems so familiar, but I just can’t place him.
     “You realise, of course,” started Ranma, “that it’s still raining.  Right?”
     The boy looked at the ne wly knotted strap then bonked his head with the heel of his hand.
     “D’oh!  I forgot.  Thanks.”

     Ukyou watched Iikiba struggle with the knot on his pack, trying to free his umbrella.  Strange guy, she thought.  Kinda slow at times, but polite all the same.  She watched as the boy yank the umbrella free from its straps then proceed to pull money out of his pants pocket, and began to count it out.  The money looked odd, different than any styled of yen or any other currency that she ever seen before.  She was about to comment about not taking foreign currency, when all of a sudden, the door to the restaurant crashed down and five burly men wearing leather and chains pushed through. They surrounded the five teens and pulled out various weapons ranging from knives to chains to nunchuks.  Ranma, Ryouga and Jiro stopped eating and looked at the intruders with interest.
     “Who the hell are you guys?  And why’d you break in here like that?”  demanded Ukyou.
     The leader of the gang stepped forward.
     “Pardon us,” he said.  “We’re insurance brokers, an’ we’re here to collect our first payment.”
     “I hate to break it to you, Sugar, but I’m already insured.”  Ukyou reached behind her and grabbed the handle of her spatula.
     “You don’t understand,” the leader went on, “It works like this: You pay us ¥100,000 now and we’ll insure that your nice restaurant will not be destroyed tonight.”
     Ukyou’s grip tightened on her spatula, Ryouga, Iikiba and Jiro grabbed their umbrellas and Ranma slid off his stool and crouched into a ready position.
     “Yeah right,” growled Ukyou.  “Why don’t you make me?”
     “Uh uh, sweetheart, you don’t wanna do that.”  The leader pulled a sawed off shotgun from inside his trench-coat.  “Why don’t you pay up like a nice little girl and we won’t have to get rough.  Tell your friends not to do anything that you might regret.”  He aimed the gun directly at Ukyou.
     Ukyou let go of her spatula, Jiro and the boys released their umbrellas and Ranma stayed in his stance but now seemed less sure of himself.
     “Look out!  Cops!”  someone shouted.  All heads turned towards the door.  There was a sudden thwip! thwip! thwip! thwip! sound, and when everyone looked back they saw the gun damaged on the floor and the leader pinned to the wall with tiny spatulas.
     “Nice throwing Ucchan,” commented Ranma.
     “That wasn’t me.”
     “I didn’t have any throwing spatulas on me.”  Ukyou was just as perplexed as to who did the throwing.  No one that she knew of had the skill with the little spatulas.  So that left the one person that she didn’t know so well.
     She looked towards Iikiba, who was ready to throw the rest of his spatulas at any of the other gang members who would dare to attack.
     “Who’s next,” he growled menacingly.
     The remaining gang members inched towards the door.  Once they crossed the threshold, they ran out into the street, screaming.
     Iikiba shook his head.  “Dumb asses.”  He stood up.  “I’ll leave the other one for you to take care of, Ukyou-san.  So what do I owe you?”
     Ukyou remembered the odd money, then realised that one dish of okonomiyaki was cheap compared to the price of the damage that could have happened this afternoon.
     “It’s on the house Sugar,” she replied.  “I guess it’s the least I could do after what you just did.  Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about the recipe.”
     “Ah ... Thanks Ukyou-san.  Good-bye.  Good-bye, Ryouga-san, Jiro-san, Ranma-san.”  He turned to the thug still hanging on the wall.  He waved a small spatula under the wallflower’s nose.
     “I may be good with these, but Ukyou-san is even better.  So it’s best that you don’t come back.”
     With that, Iikiba left.

     Ranma watched as the boy left.  I should know that guy; I’ve seen him before.  He pondered for a moment then turned to Ukyou.
     “Who was that guy?” he asked.  “What’s this about a recipe?”
     Ukyou shrugged.
     “He says that his name is...”  Ukyou never got to finish her sentence as Akane stomped through the doorway screaming.
     “Ranma!  There you are!  Why am I not surprised that you’re here while I’ve got dinner on the table?”
     “You cooked dinner?” asked Ranma, who then proceeded to say something stupid.  “Then I’m glad that I had eaten some real food first!”
     The room went suddenly very quiet.  Ryouga and Jiro stopped eating.  Ukyou paused in her cleaning of the grill.  Ranma then realised that he just said something stupid.
     Akane stood very still, a red energy building up around her.  She pulled out her huge mallet from whatever sub-dimensional pocket that she kept it in.
     “Ranma, you jerk!” She yelled as she clobbered her fiancé through the front door and into the rain.  “Just how insensitive can you get?!?”
     Ranma grunted as he, now a she, had her impromptu flight suddenly terminated by a cement wall.
     “I don’t know,” she retorted to Akane’s question as she quickly recovered.  “How more macho can you get?”
     “Why don’t we find out?!?” screamed Akane as she swung the mallet.  Ranma ducked, turned and ran all the way home.

     Ukyou watched the commotion from her doorway.  At least the door was already down when Akane belted Ranchan through it.  She shook her head.  As much as she loved Ranchan, there are times when he really puts his foot in his mouth, and this was definitely one of those times.  She turned back to her remaining customers.  Ryouga and Jiro were double-checking their backpacks.  As Ukyou approached Ryouga looked up.
     “Why does she put up with him like that?” he asked.
     “I think its love,” said Jiro. Ukyou and Ryouga pointedly ignored her.
     “She deserves better,” he continued.  “I wouldn’t treat her like that.”
     Ukyou sighed.
     “Yeah, I know, Sugar.  And I would be a better wife for Ranchan.  Maybe soon, they would both realise that we’d be better for them than they would be for each other.”  She sighed again.
     “Yeah.”  Ryouga pulled out his money.  “How much do I owe you?”
     “¥990 for you and Jiro-chan both.”
     “Only that much?”  Ryouga sounded surprised.
     “Didn’t you know?  I give special discounts to friends and allies.”
     “Oh?  Well then, in that case…”
     Ryouga placed a thousand-yen note on the counter with a few ¥50 coins.
     “What’s this?” asked Ukyou.
     “A tip,” replied Ryouga.  “Gotta give credit where credit is due.  Besides, for the dishes you make, it would kinda be dishonourable not to pay some sort of tribute.”
      Ukyou grinned.  “Thanks Sugar.”
     Jiro was at the door.
     “C’mon, Oniisan!  The wind’s died down, we should be going.”
     “Yeah, coming!”  Ryouga turned to the proprietor of the restaurant.  “See you around, Ukyou.”
     “You too, Ryouga,” Ukyou replied.  “See you Jiro-chan!”
     “Bye Ukyou-san!  Thanks for dinner!”  Jiro opened her umbrella as she stepped through the door, Ryouga followed her.

Chapter Three

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