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OtakuNXS Presents...


             The Uses of a Knife

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 belongs first and foremost to it's original
creator, Rumiko Takahashi, for writing it; secondly to Shogakukan, for
putting it out there; Thirdly to Viz for bringing it here, and most
importantly to it's fans... your love makes it grow.

o-(----

    Ukyo woke up to dull pain. She had fallen asleep in the back room, a
small pile of shrimp and vegetables in front of her and apparently with
something sticking into her ribs. She pulled the thin, cylindrical
object out of her sash and yawned sleepily. Blinking rapidly, she tried
to get some strength back into her eyes. Had she fallen asleep crying?
It must have been the onions.

    Ukyo wiped the weariness from her eyes and studied the light from
her window. It was morning... again. Letting practiced reflexes take
over, she began slicing up some shrimp with the nearest thing handy, her
stomach in desperate need of food. The steady rhythm slowly drummed life
back into her. Her thoughts began to turn to the previous night.

o-(----

    "Ukyo?" Akane had stuck her head into Ucchan's around seven that
night. The place had been bustling for the past few hours. Her main
competition had lost one of its major selling points and Ukyo was doing
a brisk business. Of course, Shampoo's disappearance had also worried
her a little. What could that purple-hared hussy be doing?

    With a smile she nodded to an empty chair in front of the grill. If
Akane was here, Ran-chan was almost sure to follow and that meant more
opportunities to stuff his face with real food. Cooked straight from the
heart for the man she loved. How could he not notice?

    Even if he didn't show up, Akane was nice company. Most of her
current customers were male refugees from the Neko-Hanten and they
weren't in a talkative mood. They had spent the evening mourning their
loss, not to mention trying to conjure up mental images of Ukyo in
seductive attire. It wasn't working out well. The youthfull cook was
very cute but she just didn't bounce the way the Amazon did. Still,
their abortive leers were nothing compared to the dark mood of the
remaining patrons. While the young men had lost a Goddess, their
girlfriends had found a God.

    Mousse had always been attractive, but lately he seemed to have a
whole new confident way about him. His eyes seemed to smolder behind his
thick glasses and when he smiled, he smiled without any trace of the old
malice. Just a quiet, contented grin that made your heart melt. Ukyo
wasn't quite sure what was going on, but if Shampoo didn't forget about
Ranma and stake her claim on him soon, he was as good as gone.

    She looked over at Akane who seemed to be fidgeting over something.
What was with that weird look in her eyes? Was she sick? Not sure what
to say, but glad to have someone to talk to she began innocently. "So,
how's Ran-chan? I haven't seen him around much lately." She smiled as
she prepared an okonomiyaki for a female patron. Ukyo concentrated on
watching Akane's face, her reflexes concentrated on the task at hand.

    It was always fun to start Akane off on one of her little "Ranma no
baka!" tirades. With a little more prodding she might even be able to
set her up with some other guy. This would leave Ran-chan for herself
and of course would probably be the best for all concerned. Even more
fun, if she could subtly remind her of the momentous difference in their
cooking skills, the enraged girl might even try and force-feed him. She
could just see his hungry expression as he begged Ukyo to hide him from
danger, not to mention giving him some real food.

    The fantasy came to a premature death as she saw Akane's face
transform. Her hardened features melted and, was that a... blush? She
was smiling, and all from one name, Ran-chan. Ukyo barely noticed as her
spatulas tore through the Japanese delicacy.

    "Oh Ukyo, h-he proposed to me!" Akane had reached over the counter
and was fiercely hugging the okonomiyaki chef, crying and laughing at
the same time.

    Ukyo just stood there, her hands not moving and her face etched in
stone. He had proposed. The young men who had been trying to conjure up
ecchi images of her took one look in her eyes and saw the pits of hell.
Those men who had come in, betrayed by their loves began to fidget under
her burning glare and began remembering their own infidelities. The
restaurant emptied in record time. No one even thought of skipping out
on their tab. Piles of money with healthy tips adorned every table.

    "I-I'm very happy for you." was all she could stutter out. He had
proposed.

    "Thank you, you'll come won't you? Ranma and I just couldn't have
the wedding without you." Akane smiled, her eyes still moist with tears.

    "Wouldn't miss it." Ukyo choked out. He had proposed. "I-I got some
things to do Akane, could you come back later?"

    "Oh, sure thing. We'll be sending out invitations in a few days, let
me know if you don't get one." Akane squeezed her hand one last time and
walked out the door. She seemed to be floating about an inch off the
ground. He had proposed, finally, he had proposed. How long had she been
waiting for that? But why had he proposed to the wrong girl?

    Ukyo didn't how she had ended upstairs but there she was, kneeling
in front of her family shrine. She lit a candle and just stared at the
pictures of her ancestors, her grandmother, her mother, a great aunt,
all strong, powerful women with calm, compassionate eyes and hearts that
burned with fire. Only one woman didn't seem to fit, she was more then
beautiful, almost unworldly, but it was a fragile sort of beauty, like a
china doll. Something that had to be held gently and never meant to
withstand all that the world had in store.

    Katsumi Kounji, welcomed her with quiet willowy eyes. Practiced
hands slowly lit the incense and tapped the small metal bowl, commencing
a prayer. All she wanted was an answer, not some miracle that would make
everything all right. She was done with waiting for miracles, now she
just needed answers. Why had she wasted her life on a dream?

    Silence fell over her, a warm blanket offered to someone dying of
heat stroke. Her eyes opened and fell back down to the darkly beautiful
woman. She looked so feminine, so unreal, there was no hardness to be
found, nothing but grace and tears, a weeping willow in a family of
oaks. Men would have died for that smile, torn out there own hearts just
for a glimpse of hers. She was every bit the princess, what  happy story
tale ending had destiny written for her? It was never to be known. Her
family was a bit reluctant to talk about it, the whole affair had nearly
torn them to pieces. Still, with persistence, Ukyo had been able to get
the whole story.

    She had fallen in love with a married man. He had promised to leave
his wife if only she would consent to be his lover. Had her heart been
stronger, she might have said no. It had taken years for Katsumi to come
to grips with the truth. Why should he give up the woman he loved for
the woman he slept with? However, she had no place left to go. She had
disobeyed her family to live within reach of the man and could not
return.

    A year later, a family heirloom turned up missing. It had been a
gift from an ancient household that had fallen on bad times. Ukyo's
family had fed and nurtured the old clan back to health. The gift had
been a beautiful ceremonial tanto, and it had become a symbol of pride
for her family. Its disappearance was looked on as a bad omen, its
reappearance was confirmation. When it was finally rediscovered, it was
alongside a forever silent, fragile creature, with too soft a heart.

    The young woman had used the blade to end her life and had laid
herself to rest in her lover's bed. The man was disgraced before his
wife and his family. His uncle had taken possession of the man's
belongings and had made sure the story, as well as the dagger, was
returned to the Kounji family. The family received the tanto and kept it
to remind them of their failure. Blood had washed away the blade's
original meaning. Now, after so many years, no one in the family would
speak openly of it, nor would any dare remove it from its sheath.

    Four years ago, the dagger had gone missing again. Another girl,
swept up in the path of honor and half understood stories, had taken it.
Ukyo had taken it. Her mind had been a flood of romantic ideals and
samurai tradition. She had thought she would seal her fate after
confronting the family who had wronged her. She chuckled softly to
herself. It had all seemed so perfect when she was a child. She, a woman
forced to be a man by a would be lover, would go the same as a woman
forced to be a lover by a would be man.

    With a quivering hand, she removed the intricately carved, red and
gold weapon from its secret place in the shrine. Her oath had been so
serious at the time, filled with the strength of belief only a child
could muster.  She looked at the ornate dagger. Its goldlen tassel and
Phoenix relief's shining just a bit in the light of the reflected
candles. Nervously, she resisted the urge to look at the naked blade.
Even now, it retained its fatal stigma. To open it was to make a
covenant with death.

    Suddenly, a nervous pit seemed to open in her stomach. Could she
really do this? The silent question played itself in her mind, over and
over. Yes, she thought, forcing calmness over her whole body... she
could. Ukyo blinked in surprise, was that the answer she seeked? She was
amazed at how good she felt. Well, not exactly good, but at peace. She
was, after all, a woman of honor. By making one final decision, she
could leave the world as one.

    But was a man's heart worth her own?

    Before she could finish her thoughts, Ukyo's stomach growled. Humph,
no point in that, she would have no need  for food on this particular
journey. Her stomach made a counter argument. Look, she thought, if I'm
going to spill my guts, they are damn well going to be empty! Giving her
point due consideration, her stomach rethought its strategy and decided
to hell with it. It continued using the persuasion techniques it knew
best.

    Fine, thought Ukyo, I'm an honorable Japanese woman with the
munchies. Besides, she had all the time in the world to make her
decision after all. She would have all of eternity once it had been
made. With as much dignity as she could summon, she stuck the unopened
blade in her sash and walked downstairs.

    The young woman took a sturdy kitchen knife from the chopping board,
and attacked the various ingredients with hungry ferocity. She hummed a
little tune to herself, perfectly in beat with the rhythm her cooking
utensil set. All of her answers were right there in her sash. Besides,
she was always a little bit more at peace when cooking for a purpose and
her purpose tonight was clear. An okonomiyaki made just for her, not for
any customer, not for some fickle fiancÚ, but for Ukyo Kounji, honorable
samurai and one hell of a cook.

    Her mistake came with the onions. An experienced chef knows how to
cut them just right so that juices secretions were kept to a minimum and
therefore, so were tears. Ukyo had always ignored this little trick. If
you were silly enough to cry over the massacre of a vegetable, you
really had no business in the kitchen. Besides, at the speed and skill
she wielded her tool, rarely did she feel so much as a sting.

    The small drop of onion mist landed on her face, like a newborn,
unknowing of just why it was there, just sure that it was going to be
paid attention too. She felt the slight itching sensation, but was too
smart to just rub it right in with her hands. She would grab a towel in
just a moment, after she was done chopping. Trickling down the curve of
her lower lid, the invading liquid seemed balanced on her eyelashes.
Don't blink, she thought, whatever you do, don't blink. Her eyes began
to dry from the strain. She could almost feel her iris getting dryer and
dryer and... aw the hell with it. She blinked.

    Rubbing her dampened eyes she thought, well, that wasn't so bad was
it? Her continued chopping slowed as her tight smile began to falter,
her eyes slowly beginning to moisten. Rubbing again fiercely, she looked
accusingly at the offending vegetable. What had been simply moisture
became a single tear. Just one trickle that made a long languorous trip
down her check. She felt it hanging on her bottom lip, which started to
quiver.

o-(----

    She didn't remember much after that. She had fallen asleep with
tears in her eyes, and with a dagger poking her in the ribcage. Wait a
second... she looked down as her hands skillfully sliced a shrimp in
half. Skillfully and with a cursed ceremonial tanto!

    Her face paled and her bottom lip began to tremble uncontrollably
again. There was only one thing to do, and she needed no ancestral sob
story to tell her what. She laughed. She laughed at onions, she laughed
at daggers, and she laughed at martial artists who turned into women or
animals when splashed with cold water. Most of all she laughed because
she was still alive. The knife had kept her company through one of the
hardest nights of her life, but now it was just another tool for making
the best tasting okonomiyaki in the world. The blood that had washed
away the blade's original meaning, had been washed away itself... by
shrimp juices.

o-(----

    Still giggling, Ukyo locked the door of her restaurant, her plans no
more defined then that she would have a nice time and maybe get a new
dress. She decided to pick up something nice for the upcoming wedding.
Inside her shirt, a finely crafted tanto, useful for committing seppuku
or slicing shrimp, nestled against her skin.

    She still had some dark days ahead of her, and she still had no
focus or a clear path to travel. But she was alive! Maybe the darkness
would try to drown her again. Maybe she would really succumb to its
promises of eternal peace. She just wasn't sure.

    Today, however, was not the time to worry about such matters, the
whole day spread out before her and there were still so many other
possibilities! Sighing a bit to herself, she wondered if Katsumi-sama
would ever have found that happy ending if she had discovered the other
uses of the knife.

o-(----

    Somewhere, a phone rang...

    "Hello?"

    "Yo Ryouga, I got something incredible to tell you man!"

o-(----

The End "The Uses of a Knife!"

Ending Theme..."Suicide is Painless" If you don't know the tune, it's
the M.A.S.H. Theme Song

        The Game of Life is Hard to Play...
        I'm Going to Lose it Anyway...
        My Final Card I'll One Day Lay...
        And That is All That I, Have to SaaaaaAAAAYYYY...

        Suicide is Painless...
        It Brings So Many Changes...
        And I Can Take or Leave It If I Pleasssseee...

Paraphrased Neitzche (I think) The thought of suicide is a great
comfort, it has gotten many a man through many a dark forgotten night...