“Thank you, April,” J.R. said as he, Daffy and The King joined Hiroshi and Daisuke at the commentating table. “And we look forward to you joining us down here after this next match.”
“No April!” King whined.
“Speaking of which, this next match holds special interest for us, doesn’t it Daisuke?” Hiroshi said with a sneaky smile.
“Yes,” J.R. pondered. “I understand you two know one of our next competitors.”
“Yeah,” Daisuke told him. “Kuno was an upperclassman at our school...You know, before we became clones.”
“How the heck did that happen anyway?” Daffy asked.
“It’s a long story...” Daisuke started.
“I had a caffeine induced heart-attack and died, then came back as a freaky android/clone and killed Daisuke, so he was cloned too!” Hiroshi proudly reported.
“‘Android/clone’?” Daffy blanched.
“Well, I got better.”
“When did all this happen?” King asked, worried about his new commentating partners.
“It was--” Daisuke began, but trailed off. “I--I don’t remember. ‘Roshi?”
“I don’t remember either,” Hiroshi said.
The uneasy silence that settled over the commentating table was interrupted by the sound of traditional Japanese music. On the entrance stage, petals of lotus blossoms floated in the air and gently fell to the ground. A young man holding a wooden bokken sword appeared on the stage and paused a moment to pose dramatically.
As if by magic, the mood of the commentating table lifted with the tense silence.
Watching from somewhere in the arena, a dark caped figure--well, you know
“Didn’t you say that you used to go to the same school as this guy?” King asked the cloned commentators about the young man in the loose fitting white samurai gi with matching sky blue pants.
“Yeah,” Daisuke replied as Kuno started his proud march to the ring. “Unfortunately.”
“Making his way to the ring,” The Announcer began. “From Nermia, Japan, The Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, Takewaki Kuno!!!”
“That egotistical creep was the bane of our high school existence Hiroshi added. “But he’s gonna get his right here, right now!”
Kuno climbed into the ring, placed his bokken on his shoulder in a superior pose, and flipped the front of his froofy hair for the mildly cheering crowd. A couple of girls actually swooned.
“I do not blame you for your blind adoration,” Kuno proudly smiled. “I, Takewaki Kuno, do truly deserve it after all. You may all continue to humbly praise me.”
When the cheering went from mild to wild, Kuno had no idea it was because a giant “Z” was slashed onto the huge screen behind him.
“Listen to that ovation!” J.R. shouted above the massive din. “Looks like business is about to pick up!”
“There’s another catch phrase,” Daisuke muttered.
o/` Oh Maria, Maria,
She Remind Me of a West Side Story.
Growin’ Up in Spanish Harlem,
She Livin’ the Life Just Like a Movie Star. o/`
A masked man all dressed in black appeared from the entrance and waved to the cheering crowd before heading to the ring.
“And his opponent,” The Announcer pulled his weight. “From Spanish California, the legendary swordsman, The Fox, EL ZORRO!!!”
As black leather boots marched down the ramp, his black-gloved hand waved to the appreciative crowd, and his black cape whipped behind him (No, he’s not the smiling dark figure). Zorro’s black swashbuckler outfit and black mariachi hat may sound weird, but it fit him perfectly as a fighter and protector of the people. A bullwhip strapped to one side and his ornate fencing sword sheathed on the other only strengthened his image as a noble warrior.
“What’s with the bullwhip?” Daffy complained. “Haven’t we seen enough bullwhips tonight?”
The acclaimed buccaneer continued down to the ring to “Maria, Maria” by Santana.
o/` Stop the Looting, Stop the Shooting,
Pick-Pocking on the Corner.
See, as the Rich is Getting Richer,
The Poorer’s Getting Poorer! o/`
Zorro stepped into the ring and again waved to his cheering fans.
“Ah,” Kuno sighed to himself with undue pride. “Listen to how much the common people adore me! It seems like I’m the only thing to light up their petty, dreary little lives.”
“Is he always this bad?” J.R. asked.
“No,” Daisuke admitted. “He’s unusually subdued today.”
Then Kuno noticed the other man in the ring.
“What ho?” Kuno pointed his bokken at the famous masked figure. “Are you the miserable varlet who has come to challenge me? I can see by your black dress and concealing mask that you are nothing more than a common thief, and therefore, on my honor as a noble warrior, I must defeat you! Prepare for justice, foul criminal!”
Zorro took a moment to look his opponent over, and a wide smile appeared under his thin mustache. He unhooked his bullwhip from his side, held it up for the crowd to see, and casually tossed it out of the ring with a dramatic fling of his arm.
“Ooooo!” The audience responded to the bold challenge.
“Ha! What folly!” Kuno mused. “As slight as it might have been, you very well may have thrown away your only advantage against me! Do you truly believe you can defeat one as great as I? Foolish thief!”
Zorro prepared himself and placed a hand on the hilt of his sword.
“I won’t need more than this to defeat a pompous fool like yourself,” The infamous bandit proclaimed.
“How dare you insult me in such a manner!” Kuno gasped at the sheer audacity.
“Very well Señor,” Zorro replied with a charming smile. “In which manner would you like me to insult you?”
Kuno answered by raising his bokken above his head and attacking.
“It begins. EN GUARD!”
With one easy movement and, very little effort, Zorro unsheathed his sword and blocked the young kendoist’s attack to his head, and the subsequent attacks to his right and left.
Although Kuno’s arrogant demeanor was now replaced with righteous annoyance, Zorro’s dashing smile remained fixed in place.
“So,” Kuno sneered. “You posses a small amount of proficiency with the sword, but you cannot possibly be as good as I.”
“You are really full of yourself,” Zorro shook his head in amusement. “You know that don’t you?”
“Die, Foul Thief!” Kuno growled and again raised his wooden sword in attack.
“And Kuno has put Zorro on the defensive!” J.R. stated.
Surprisingly, Kuno’s attacks actually did manage to push the masked swordsman backwards.
“He’s pushing Zorro to the ropes!” Hiroshi yelled in shock. “If he gets cornered, Zorro could be done for!”
“And yet,” Daisuke calmly observed. “Zorro doesn’t look too worried.”
True to Daisuke’s words, Zorro looked perfectly calm even while being backed towards the ropes.
As soon as the masked swordsman felt his back touch the ropes, he simply ducked under Kuno’s next strike and, with a leg sweep, kicked the legs out from under the arrogant kendoist.
“Whoa!” J.R. shouted. “And Zorro turns the tables on the young upstart, Tatewaki Kuno!”
“You mean Zorro was just playing with him the whole time?” King asked.
“Looks like,” Daisuke noted.
“Isn’t that a foul or something?” Daffy wondered.
“Not in this fight,” The clone smirked.
Hiroshi just giggled with glee.
Back in the ring, Kuno was leaning on his bokken to help lift himself up.
“So,” Kuno growled. “Not only are you a thief, you do not adhere to the proud traditions of swordplay. I should have expected no better from a foul criminal.”
“You forget,” Zorro corrected. “This isn’t a fencing match. It is a fight.”
With a single blur of movement Zorro thrust his sword forward and made three cuts in Kuno’s billowy shirt.
“And my name is not, ‘Foul Thief’. It is Zorro.”
“There it is! Zorro finally performs his trademark taunt!” Hiroshi cheered. “You go Zorro!”
Tatewaki looked down at the “Z” cut into his shirt.
“You dare to sully my traditional garb by inscribing your insidious insignia?!?” He shouted.
“Then face my righteous fury!!!” The young kendoist yelled as he thrust his bokken forward with blinding speed. “KUNO THUNDER STRIKE-STRIKE-STRIKE-STRIKE-STRIKE!!!”
Zorro’s smirk remained as he ducked, weaved, dodged, or merely parried around all of Kuno’s lightning fast attacks.
“Uhh...Wow,” Daffy remained the only commentator capable of speech for Kuno’s entire flurry of attacks.
Standing among the blur of wooden sword strikes, Zorro remained calm and used three simple movements with his own sword to deflect, block, and totally disarmed the younger man.
Using his own speed against him, Zorro knocked the bokken out of Kuno’s hand, and sent the weapon sailing out of the ring and skidding along the padded ground outside.
In a show of sportsmanship, Zorro quickly threw his sword without looking, which neatly embedded itself in a turnbuckle pad, and used the momentary distraction to attack.
In a movement that looked like the a flash of black, Zorro lunged forward and cracked Kuno across the face with a left hook and a right uppercut that put the kendoist down for the count.
“AND ZORRO WINS!” Hiroshi shouted, jumping up and down in his seat. “ZORRO WINS!”
“That he does,” Daisuke snickered.
A ten count later and it was official.
“Your winner,” The Announcer shouted among the screaming crowd. “By Knock-Out, EL ZORRO!!!”
Zorro pulled his sword out of the turnbuckle and sheathed his favored weapon. He then climbed tat very same turnbuckle and basked in the celebration of his victory. Zorro then pulled back his cape and was more than a little surprised to find light shining through several slash marks.
“Hmm,” He chuckled in spite of himself. “Not bad.”
Regardless, the masked romantic pulled a single red rose from behind his cape, sniffed it, and tossed it amongst a small crowd of screaming girls who fought for the prize souvenir.
Zorro then let out a sharp whistle, and, much to everyone’s surprise, a sleek black horse raced down the ramp.
“Hey!” King shouted cheerfully. “It’s Zorro’s horse. What’s his name? Blackie? Thunder? Typhoon?”
“Tornado,” Daisuke corrected.
Without even having Tornado slow down, Zorro leaped from the turnbuckle and landed right on the ornate black saddle and rode the Black Andalusian around the ring.
On his way around, Zorro leaned down and scooped his whip from the floor, then raced up the ramp, only stopping for a moment at the very top.
With one last dramatic wave to the wild crowd, Tornado reared up, and the masked hero rode proudly into the backstage area.
“That was...” Daffy began in an annoyed tone.
“SO VERY COOL!!!” Hiroshi shouted.
“I was going to say ‘Awfully one-sided’,” Daffy corrected.
“I dunno about that,” Daisuke interjected. “I enjoyed it.”
“The boy’s got guts and an ego,” J.R. referred to Kuno as the recently schooled teen began to get up and out of the ring. “But not a whole lot upstairs.”
“And he’s got a long way to go before he can even think about challenging Zorro again!” King laughed. “Hey, do you think I can get chicks if I put on a mask and cape like Zorro?”
“In your case a mask wouldn’t hurt,” Daffy remarked.
“Watch it duck,” The former “King of Memphis Wrestling” warned.
“Well folks,” J.R. announced to the audience. “We’ll be back with April O’ Neil and our very first EMW title match, right after this.”
“Woo-Hoo!” King cheered. “April!”
“Are you boys enjoying the show?”
A young woman with a ponytail and an apron entered the Tendo Family living room carrying a large bowl of popcorn. Her warm smile and friendly demeanor made her the picture of innocent beauty.
“Yes Kasumi,” The two boys said in unison as she set the bowl down between them. “Thank you.”
“I’m having a good time too,” A girl with short hair and dressed in the latest fashion of casual wear said from the couch. “Now that I’ve won ¥20,000 betting against Kuno-Baby.”
“Nabiki!” Kasumi lightly scolded her younger sister.
“Hey, don’t knock it,” Nabiki chuckled as she took a sip of soda. “I turned Kuno’s constant losing into a good thing.”
“There’s just one thing that bothers me,” The black haired boy said.
“What’s that Daisuke?” The boy with light brown hair said from beside him.
“Who the heck are those two pale commentators?” Daisuke asked rhetorically.
“I don’t know,” Hiroshi answered. “‘But they sure are handsome!”
“That’s just because it’s you, Hiroshi!” Nabiki rolled her eyes.
“Why thank you Nabiki! Wanna go on a date?” Hiroshi smiled broadly, but got a pop can to the forehead for his trouble.
“It is us,” Daisuke responded thoughtfully. “Or clones of us anyway, but they’re claiming we died.”
“Oh my!” Kasumi gasped.
“You’re right,” Nabiki stated a note of worry in her usually confident tone. “Something strange is going on. I hope Akane is going to be okay over there with Ranma and Ryoga.”
“Those two are such good friends,” Kasumi cheerily spoke of the two boys. “I’m sure she’ll be just fine.”
Nabiki still had her doubts.
And so did Daisuke.
Hiroshi was unconscious on the floor, covered in soda.
* * * * *
To Be Continued…