((LEGAL STUFF: Ash Ketchum, Brock, Misty, Pikachu, etc., are all property of whoever owns the Pokemon franchise including Nintendo, Game Boy, and the anime/cartoon version (it's such a large collective I'm not sure who owns what). I don't intend to infringe on anybody's rights, and I'm not getting any money out of this. Ranma Saotome, Akane Tendo, Mousse, Shampoo, and the other Ranma 1/2 characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi (hope I spelled that right). Again, this story is for reader enjoyment only. No profit is being made. Thank you, have a nice day...))
Part 1: Electricity and Water
"I still don't understand why we have to stick around this boring ol' town!" Ash Ketchum complained loudly. "There's almost no Pokemon around here so there's nothing to do!"
"Chu!" Pikachu, the yellow electric mouse, agreed heartily from his perch on Ash's head.
Misty glared at her traveling companion. "Ash, get a grip! You agreed that since I let you train your Charmander against my water Pokemon that you'd let me go shopping in the next town we came to. I don't care if it just happens to be boring old Nerima; you'll just have to grin and bear it."
"But there's nothing to do!" Ash groaned. "I had to visit my cousin here once. Nothing ever happens here!"
"Ash, you promised!" Misty said shrilly.
"I heard you too, Ash," Brock reminded from behind them.
Ash waved a hand boredly. "Yeah, whatever. Fine. Go ahead an' shop. Shop 'til you drop. Walk your feet off."
Misty giggled happily and trotted off down the street with Brock, Ash sullenly in tow.
"Nerima's such a dumb ol' place..." he muttered. "So boring...no wonder there's no Pokemon here..."
* * * * *
Xian Pu, the purple-haired Chinese Amazon, was happily busy preparing her favorite ramen recipe. She was cooking, as usual, in the kitchen of the Cat Cafe, her great-grandmother's business. She hummed softly to herself as she stirred the noodles in the pot.
She jumped a little as the front door opened with a jingle. "Customers!" Mu Tzu called from his sweeping in the hall.
"I hear them come in, stupid servant boy," the young girl replied testily. She had little patience for her lovestruck would-be suitor. Handsome thought he might be, Mu Tzu was so nearsighted he could barely see even with his huge, thick glasses.
The teenage Amazon bounced through the door to the front counter, where she spotted a redheaded girl, a shorter black-haired boy, and a tall, stoic youth that seemed to be carved from rock. The youngest boy had some kind of funny yellow cat or rabbit sitting on his shoulders. The thing was cute though...
"Hello!" she said politely. "How can Xian Pu help you?"
"Oh, I'd like to be able to help you!" said the oldest boy, his stony face melting into blushing admiration. Xian Pu sighed.
"We'd like a hot lunch," the girl replied brightly with an embarassed glance at her swooning comrade. "We've been shopping all day. How about whatever's on the stove?"
"Three ramen noodle coming up!"
"What'd ya say your name was? Shampoo?" the younger boy asked with a puzzled laugh.
Whatever, Shampoo thought as she headed back to the kitchen. These people never could get her name right. Oh, well, as long as their money was good...
* * * * *
Ash twiddled impatiently as he sat in the booth next to Misty. Come on, he thought. "What's taking the ramen so long?" he asked out loud to no one in particular.
"Be patient. I'm sure she's cooking it extra special just for us," Brock said, gazing dreamily in the direction of the kitchen.
"Oh, brother, not again," Misty moaned, seeing Brock starstruck by yet another pretty young woman.
"Excuse me," said a soft male voice, "I couldn't help noticing that...interesting creature you have with you."
Ash and his companions started, then looked up at the servant boy, who was leaning on his broom at their table. "Huh?" they all said.
"Sorry." The young man pulled his glasses down out of his long, dark hair and adjusted them on his nose. "My name is Mu Tzu, but since that's hard for you to pronounce, you can call me Mousse."
"Hi," the trio greeted easily.
"I'm Misty," the redhead greeted. "This is Ash, and that's Brock."
"Pleased to meet you," Mousse replied. "That yellow creature--what is it?"
Ash grinned. This kind of work was his forte. "It's a Pokemon!" he responded eagerly. "This one's a Pikachu."
"Pikapika!" Pikachu greeted brightly.
"It's very nice," Mousse commented, patting Pikachu's soft head. "I've heard a little about Pokemon. Aren't they dangerous?"
"Only when they're wild or untrained," Ash replied without hesitation. "I'm a Pokemon trainer, and I've won lots of battles. Someday soon I'm gonna be a Pokemon Master and a member of the Pokemon League, and maybe even become the leader!"
Mousse laughed. "You've sure got a lot of goals for such a little guy."
"Hey! I'm twelve years old! I'm not little!" Ash looked disgruntled.
"Pik-pikachu!" the electric mouse agreed.
"I'm sure you'll achieve everything you hope for," Mousse said placatingly.
"Mu Tzu!" Shampoo barked. "Why you bothering customers? Go back and finish sweeping job!" Her thick Chinese accent made her even more comical as she stood behind him with her hands full of Ramen plates.
Mousse, bigger than her and probably stronger, merely ducked his head and scurried back to his work, not caring in the least that the surprised group stared after him as he left. Shampoo deposited their meals with a cheery "Enjoy ramen!" and departed.
"Gosh, did you see how she bossed him around?" Misty said softly, picking up her first bite.
"Yeah, and he just ran off to do it!" Ash said. "I can't believe any guy, especially one like him, would let himself get pushed around by some girl."
"And what do you mean by 'some girl?'" Misty demanded. "Are you saying girls have no authority?"
"That's not what I said," Ash defended. "I just mean that guys don't usually let people boss them around, especially girls."
"So you're saying that girls are weak?" Misty's voice was beginning to rise in volume. "What's wrong with being a girl?"
Brock merely ate complacently, not looking up from his plate. "I'm staying out of this."
"Well?" Misty growled.
"Nothing! There's nothing wrong with being a girl. I mean, not that I...uh, well..." Ash swallowed his bite of ramen nervously. "Well, girls aren't as strong as guys, but..."
"Ash, you idiot!" Misty was fuming.
* * * * *
In the kitchen, Shampoo rolled her eyes in resignation. The young girl's rising voice in the other room reminded her of another girl she knew who often yelled at a certain boy...
* * * * *
Hurriedly, Ash gulped the rest of his meal and rose from the table. "Uh, I'm gonna go look around. See you guys when you're done. Bye!"
Hopefully, he could allow Misty's temper to cool for a while. Leaving his friends at the booth, he wandered through the cafe, eventually coming to an open door that led into the back. "Not An Exit" said the sign across the doorway on a rope.
Ash would have gone right past, except that Pikachu chose that moment to squeal "Pikapi! Pika-pika pikachu!" and leap off of Ash's shoulder to dash into the closed room.
"Pikachu! Get back here!" Ash ordered, exhasperated. Looking over his shoulder, he cautiously ducked under the rope and entered the back room. "Pikachu!"
"Pika pika pika," could be heard from around the corner in the hall. Ash followed, turning the corner just in time to see Pikachu vanish up a flight of stairs.
"Pikachu..." Ash's voice dropped to a whisper, afraid of being caught trespassing. "Pikachu, come back!"
The young Pokemon trainer paused at the top of the stairs, unsure of where his favorite pal had gone. Only one door was open, the one at the end of the hall, and it looked just wide enough for a plump Pikachu to have popped in. He tiptoed to the room and pushed the door open.
The room looked like an ancient attic, or perhaps an antique shop. It was full of old and arcane-looking objects, some large, others small. There were trinkets of jewelry, vials on shelves, and scattered leaves of yellowed paper bearing indecipherable Chinese handwriting, among other things.
"Pikachu," Ash called, barely above a breath.
"Pikapi!" The squeak to his left made him jump around. Spotting a flash of yellow, he dove underneath a shelf/desk after it. He missed, only succeeding in cracking his head on the bottom of the desk part as he came back up.
The impact of the boy's hard skull against an equally hard wooden brace caused the shelf/table to lurch, one of the more unsteady vials on it rocking precariously. Rocking...rocking...and falling. The bottle's neck snapped off with its impact on the desk's surface, and its transparent contents spilled onto the young trainer's body as he knealt rubbing his sore head, soaking him.
As if the crash of the breaking glass bottle wasn't bad enough, the icy-cold liquid pouring down his shirt made Ash gasp and jerk backwards, getting his head and then an arm into the strangely cold liquid. A funny tingle ran through him, almost like when Pikachu sent him a mild electric current. It was a warm tingle, not painful but distinctly unpleasant.
Ash groaned and staggered to his feet, still rubbing his aching skull. "Pikachu!" he hissed through gritted teeth. "Where are you?"
"Pika. Pik-a-chuuu..." Pikachu's voice was low, enthralled.
Ash went around a freestanding bookshelf and found his pal staring into an electricity globe, one of those neat set-ups where the glowing electricity arcs out to the glass from a central sphere, creating an interesting, if dramatic, light show. Pikachu's whiskers were crackling golden energy in response to the blue-white strands.
"Aw, is that all?" Ash groaned, feeling oddly light-headed. "C'mon, Pikachu, we're not supposed to be in here."
"Pika..." The electric mouse seemed disappointed.
"C'mon, pal. If we make enough money on betting on fights, I could buy you an electricity globe to play with. But we gotta go."
"Chu..." Pikachu allowed Ash to switch off the globe. When the electric mouse turned to him, it gazed at him intently, suddenly seeming perplexed. "Pikapi?"
"Yeah, Pikachu, let's go." Ash turned to leave, expecting Pikachu's familiar weight to appear on his shoulders. It didn't come. "Pikachu?" He turned.
Pikachu still stood on the table, staring at him, an ear cocked oddly. "Pika...pi?"
"Pikachu, what's wrong? It's just me." Ash raised an eyebrow. "Now c'mon, we gotta go meet Misty and Brock. They're done eating by now."
"Chuuuu." Instead of leaping to his shoulder, Pikachu hopped down from the table and trotted towards the door after him. Ash shrugged, then walked downstairs. Pikachu stayed beside and slightly behind him the whole time, still watching him closely.
He made it back to the do not enter door with no problem, then slipped out hoping no one would notice the broken bottle and spilled liquid until he was long gone. He found his friends waiting for him just outside the Cat Cafe's front door.
"Hey, Brock! Hey, Misty!" Ash greeted, his voice sounding a little squeaky to his ears. He passed this off as nervousness; he didn't know if Misty had forgiven him yet.
"'Bout time," Brock commented.
"Hi, Ash," Misty said noncomittally. "Ready to keep going?"
"Sure, fine, let's go," Ash said quickly, eager to placate her. At least she'd gone from mad to 'I'm-going-to-be-indifferent-to-you-until-I-think-you're-sorry-enough.' He could deal with that. "I've got all day if you want to shop more."
Misty said nothing, but led Ash and Brock down the sidewalk towards the thicker side of the shopping district.
* * * * *
Mousse finished his hour of chores downstairs and headed up to his room to rest. He got to the top of the stairs when he noticed, blurrily, that the door to Grandmother Khu Lon's study had been left wide open.
The young man wandered over to shut it when the distinct smell of damp carpet came to his attention. He stepped into the room, squinting about until he located the silvery blur of a bottle lying on its side on the desk top. He picked it up, felt the broken edges, and frowned. Now who could have done this? Surely not any of the recent guests. But that young boy--what was his name?--had wandered off for a bit... Bringing the bottle close to his face, he struggled to make out the label.
'Sus...Suspended...N...Nyannii...chu...an...' he read to himself. Then he gasped. "Nyanniichuan! Oh, no!"
To Be Continued...