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Ranma 1/2 - Shoelace Tangle

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Xiu Li Huang had arrived in Nerima early in order to check into the hostel while Shin Mouri, his lover, finished his last day of classes before summer break. He was homeschooled himself, which was why he was able to leave Yokohama ahead of time.

Xiu Li had to beg his mother for months for permission to go, and he had to do extra shifts in the restaurant for weeks to earn enough money for this trip. Shin had really, really wanted to see something called the “Anything Goes Cooking Tournament”. He figured it had to be something like Iron Chef, and since Shin insisted that he would enjoy it too, he made dang sure they would be in Nerima for it.

So far, Nerima ward looked like a nice neighborhood. It was quiet and clean, and everyone he passed had greeted him warmly and they had helped him make sure he was heading in the right direction. It was very different from the more familiar Shinjuku ward of Tokyo.

“Not now, Shampoo!” A Japanese teen around Xiu Li’s age ran along the tall fence that lined the sidewalk, for all that he was worth. He had his black hair pulled into a braid and he was wearing Chinese-style clothing that consisted of a red short-sleeved shirt with black long pants. “I’m busy!”
“Not too busy spend time with Xian Pu!” declared a Chinese girl following him on a bicycle. He saw that she had long purple hair, and that she wore a traditional Chinese outfit of a silk pink blouse and matching knee pants.

“Well, that was different. Good balance too,” Xiu Li muttered as he continued down the street. “There was something familiar about that girl.” But for the life of him, he couldn’t think of why.

After he had checked into the hostel and stashed his bags in the two-person room, he went to find a good place to eat. The Chinese teen followed his nose to an okonomiyaki shop called Ucchan’s not far from the hostel. “Sounds like a place Shin would like.”
“Welcome!” was the immediate greeting when he entered. He grinned and took a seat at the open grill that took up much of the small space.
“Whatever’s your special will be fine.”
“Coming right up, sugar!”

Xiu Li enjoyed watching the chef do her thing; having grown up in a restaurant he liked to see others enjoying the same work. “You have good technique.” He wondered if she practiced any martial arts by how she handled her spatulas.
“Why, thank you. Okonomiyaki is my life!” she replied enthusiastically. He saw the truth of the statement in how her dark eyes sparkled. It was nice to see.

Lately he had seen too many look like life had beaten them down.

“So I’m guessing you’re Ucchan?”
“Yup! Kuonji Ukyo’s the name, and okonomiyaki is my game. What’s your name, stranger?” She slid the finished pie onto a plate and gave it to the Chinese teen.
“I’m Huang Xi-”

“Ranma!” shouted an angry voice, just moments before the boy in Chinese clothes from earlier jumped through the door with another teenager right behind him. The second male had long dark hair, big glasses, and he wore white silk robes that reached his ankles.
“Sorry, Ucchan! No time to talk!” shouted the supposed Ranma person before he jumped behind the counter to avoid a thrown chain.

Xiu Li dropped to the floor to avoid the lash when it was pulled back by the white robed owner before it would have hit. “What the hell?!”

Ukyo growled and whipped out a giant spatula that she had had under the grill. “Mousse, you jackass!” She slammed it into Mousse’s face, who immediately dropped to the ground from the hit. “I’ve told you before not to bring your crap into my establishment!” She swung around on Ranma, pointing the unusual weapon at him. The guy had the sense to put his hands up in a reflexive block. “And you! You’re to blame too, running in here! I have a customer!”
“Sorry, Ucchan, really!”

Xiu Li got back onto his seat and took out his wallet. There was drama here, so he would pay for the food and eat it to-go. Although he was glad to see that Kuonji could take care of herself. Whatever martial arts she practiced, it obviously worked. He laid down the money then glanced back to the other man still laid out on the floor, and paused. This guy was really familiar, more so than the girl had been.

The tall teen finally stirred and sat up, adjusting his glasses that had miraculously avoided any damaged. “Huh?” He blinked up at a Chinese man wearing a yellow shirt and a golden headband. His teal eyes widen behind the spectacles. “Xiu Li?”

“Shoelace?” both Ukyo and Ranma asked together.

“Ah!” Xiu Li pointed at Mousse when realization hit him. “Miu Tzu!”

Mousse jumped to his feet and pointed an accusing finger at him. “What are you doing here?”
“Me?” Xiu Li pointed at himself at the sudden turn in questioning. “I live in this country! What are you doing in Japan?”

“Mousse, you know this guy?” Ukyo questioned while she cleaned off the cooking surface of her grill. With the Amazon male now distracted, Ranma took a seat at the counter. Ukyo always gave him free food.
“This scum’s family abandoned the tribe!”

“Exaggerate much?” Xiu Li scowled and crossed his muscled arms, which made them bulge even more. “Mother earned the right to leave in the eyes of the council and even that petrified drift wood approved it.” He realized the new presence too late and received a whack to the back of the head from a wooden staff. Out of habit he pretended that it hurt and covered the offended area with a hand. “Ow!”

“Well well, what have we here? I thought I’d watch my future son-in-law knock some sense into this buffoon and instead I find the offspring of Tzuri Pa ready to do it.” Short but deadly, Cologne stood balancing on the staff she used to hit Xiu Li with. Her long white hair was longer than her body, which was completely engulfed in a green and red silk Chinese shirt decorated in gold embroidery.

Xiu Li really did jump when he saw her. There weren’t a lot of people who could sneak up on him to get close enough to hit him like that, but it figured that Cologne could. She was 200 or 300 years old and she was a master of several disciplines, or so he had been told by his parents. He was 6 when they left the Nujiezu tribe and he didn’t remember a lot from that time. “You’re here too? Wait, you’re alive?!”

Cologne laughed. “You still have that stupid expression, the same one as that sire of yours.”
“I see you haven’t changed,” he responded with a flat tone.

Abruptly, Cologne lost the jovial look and became serious. Her beady eyes narrowed as she stared hard at Xiu Li. Purely on instinct, the boy took a step back. “You have changed, though. Your aura has become interesting.” She leaned into his face, their noses almost touching. “What have you been getting up to?”

Never in a million years will Xiu Li admit that he grabbed his okonomiyaki and ran for it.

“Wow, he’s fast,” Ukyo commented as the door swung closed. She flipped a freshly made pie to Ranma who nodded in agreement.
“He doesn’t seem half bad.”

Cologne smacked Mousse over the head with her stick. “As for you, get your lazy ass back to the Nekohaten! There’s still work to be done!”
“Ow! Okay! I’m going, you old hag!” Mousse took another whap to his head. He desperately held up an arm in a block. “Ouch! I’ll be back for you, Ranma!” He took another hit for the delay. “Ow! Okay!” The Amazon teen ran out of Ucchan’s and towards the Chinese restaurant before Cologne could punish him more.

“Future son-in-law.” Cologne hopped over to Ranma, mischief in her dark eyes.
“What do you want now?” The young man wasn’t in the mood to deal with the Amazon matriarch.
“I want many things, but right now I’m merely giving you some advice.”

Ranma snorted at that but he nodded that he was listening.

“Do not test Xiu Li, he’s too much for you to handle.”
“What did you say?!” Ranma’s pride instantly flared. Cologne bounced out of the restaurant laughing.

“Calm down, Ranma-honey,” Ukyo said while wiping her grill down again. “She was just riling you up.”
“There’s no way that Shoelace guy is better than me!”

Ukyo sighed and rolled her eyes. Whatever the old crone had planned, she had already suckered Ranma into it.

Xiu Li only stopped running once he reached the hostel. He took a seat in the lounge to eat his okonomiyaki and pulled out his phone to check messages. He had one from Shin. “Hope he’s not gonna be late.”

[ Hey there, love!
The closing ceremonies got out on time, and I helped my mother and sister finish setting things up for the summer. I’m catching the early train, and as long as I don’t get lost switching trains, I should be at Nerima station by 12:11 PM. Did you find the hostel okay? I hope you’re eating well, I know how grumpy you can get. Don’t get into any fights!
Hugs and kiss! :* ]

Xiu Li chuckled. “A little late for that.” He brushed some crumbs from his shirt. “I better warn him though.”

He quickly tapped out a reply to his lover.

[ Doign just fine, ate okonomiyaki, think you’ll lik eit. :)
Bad stuff hre though. X( Some guys from the old country re here too. I’ma avoiding them, so no worried. Cant’ wait to see you!!! :* ]

He stared at all of his typos then shrugged. “Eh, good enough.” He sent the message and slipped his phone back into his pocket.

When he looked back up he noticed a poster on the wall advertising a local event. There were two people in chef hats holding various cooking implements while kicking at each other. “Anything Goes Martial Arts Cooking Tournament. Is that what we’re going to? How does that even work?”

The corner of the lounge had a TV, DVD player, and a huge shelf of DVDs. Some of the boxes were clearly labeled as being recordings of the tournament in previous years. “Looks like I’m watching those tonight.”

The train arrived at Nerima Station 12:11 PM sharp. Shin Mouri yawned and stretched before he trotted off the train with his rolling suitcase. Since he lived in Yamaguchi he had only ever seen Nerima on TV when they hosted any number of ‘Anything Goes’ competitions. The Anything Goes Takeout Race and the Anything Goes Figure Skating Challenge had been especially interesting in the past year.

His excitement was tempered by a bit of worry. He hoped that what he had to tell Shu wasn’t going to be a problem. He really should have told him when he found out the mistake when Shu had come over last weekend.

He perked up when he saw his lover waiting at the gates for him and gave the other man an enthusiastic wave. Shu waved with both arms, to the annoyance of the people near him, and even gave a hop to wordlessly tell Shin to hurry up. It was rare for Shu to be so wide awake at such an early hour. He wondered what had his boyfriend so amped up. It couldn’t be the ‘old country’ people he had messaged him about. He looked excited, not upset.

When the auburn teen finally made it past the gates, Shu grabbed him by the shoulders and touched noses with him, making him drop his bag. The sudden movement startled the people nearby and they received several strange looks. “That thing we’re going to is the Anything Goes Martial Arts Cooking Tournament, right?” Shu asked in a rush.
“Uh, well, yes. Yes it is. Did you read up on it?”
“I marathoned the last decade on DVD. We need to go! I need to experience this thing!”

Shin started laughing and shrugged out of Shu’s grip so he could grab his bag again. He could almost make out sparkles around his lover. “Well then, that makes my news easier. I accidentally entered us into it.”