Author Note: Yes, I was just going about my business and I realized that I didn't tell you what the punctuation in the story for chapter one was.

" Is for speech"

// Is for thoughts.//

Good? Oh, by the way. I am reposting this after revising it on a new/old pen name. I couldn't get into my old account...Ahh, Sometimes I can not understand thee.

Back to the Beginning

Chapter 2

By Ranma1517730129

Akane stared about the forest and whimsy made her imagination run wild. She imagined that she was on a quest like in one of those fantasy novels. She would meet up with people along the way who would go with her to destroy the evil warlord. The companions all with a past that had some tragedy linked to the evil miss-doings of the cold-hearted landowner. She would find out that her family was royalty or something and at the end she would fall in love with one of her traveling companions. This traveling companion slowly materialized in her mind. //Tall, muscular (but not gross), martial artist...Did fantasy stories have martial artists?\\ she mused. Her mind returned to the list //blue eyes, long black hair, incredible smile.// Akane blushed profusely at the smile the companion was giving her. She was shocked back into reality by a squirrel that leapt from her path and she made a stunning realization, //I just described Ranma.// She was almost glowing red as she told her imagination, "Clam up! Or I'll mallet you!" Akane smiled at her own antics, but just then another part of her body made a grim protest. Akane stared down at her stomach.

"I'm really glad I'm out in the forest, that was really loud!" She addressed her stomach as she stopped. The pack was set down slowly off of aching shoulders and she wondered faintly if she might be out of shape. No not out of shape. She looked down at her watch. //It has been fifteen hours since I left this morning. Which means...Which means I haven't eaten since last night at dinner! No wonder I'm so hungry.// Akane rummaged around in her pack and found what she was looking for. Kasumi had made Akane a bento per her request the night before because Akane had told her that she was going on a picnic with Yuka and Sayuri and she found herself straining to move faster to get some food in her angry tummy.

//Wow I am really glad that I had Kasumi make a lunch for me. I would have had to find food tonight otherwise, and I am really tired.// Akane plopped unceremoniously on her butt and pulled the lid off of her bento. The bento was crammed full and would have burst all over the ground had Akane not slowed her pace mid pull. Bean buns, pork buns, rice, two slices of chilled beef, pickles, and five sakura mochi that Kasumi had put in a separate container. Kasumi had really packed this thing! "Who do I look like? Ranma?" Akane glanced again into the bento and realized that maybe Kasumi knew more than she was letting on. //My older sister Kasumi is such a mystery sometimes. I never know what she's thinking. She seems so simple to understand. Sometimes I think that she just acts simple to make Dad happy. I never think about Kasumi like a regular girl but she's only a few years older than me.// Akane frowned at her inattention toward her sister. //When I return I am going to make it a point to really get to know Kasumi better!\\ Akane pledged silently. Upon closer inspection of the Sakura Mochi Akane found a cello-bag full of dried green tea leaves, enough to last at least a month or two. Akane smiled.// I definitely have to get to know Kasumi better!\\

Akane then decided to see what she had remembered to ration on her way out. She picked through her pack and found something that made her heart miss a beat. Kasumi had packed something in her bag too sometime last night. Akane pulled out a second bento. She knew who the bento belonged to, it had been handed to her every morning along with her own for the last two years. Akane looked at the note attached to the bento "For Ranma". She stared for some time at the note on the bento. Each stroke in Kasumi's characters was beautiful and practiced. It was like looking at art. Then her conscious mind smacked her unconscious mind waking her from her silent penmanship envy. "FOR RANMA" it screamed at her. Kasumi knew she was leaving, she knew that she would be really hungry when she stopped. Akane's eyes darted all around her.

"Where are you?" She said out loud. "Come on Ranma! Don't you want dinner? Kasumi MADE this for you..." she felt herself rise to her feet and fall into an easy defensive stance. "Come on! I'm not going to stand here all night!" Akane felt a little foolish yelling at the foliage. Red...she thought she saw red in the tree. Time for a little closer inspection. She leapt from the ground and landed on a sturdy branch on the tall tree above and it shook a little. Birds took flight away from the new and hostile invader. Akane looked all around her. This was a really different view of the world. She looked at the surrounding copse and each clump of leaves seemed to become a shape. It was dusk outside and a little darker for the greenery blocking out the sun. Akane felt really foolish.

"This is stupid!" she said out loud. "Nobody's here. I'm all alone..." Her voice gave out and was tinged with a little of the sadness she felt. Akane was sure Ranma would follow her. Up until now she just took comfort in the fact that maybe a few steps behind her he was there. He was watching. Now it was blatantly obvious that he was not behind her. Ranma Saotome would never pass up a chance for food. Especially Kasumi's cooking. //What the hell is wrong with me? I am a martial artist not some love sick teenage girl!// The fact that Akane was both never entered her mind. Or at least she wouldn't let it past the penguins in cold storage at the back of her brain. "Whatever." She said out loud more to herself than to the rocks, trees, and returning birds.

Akane returned to the grassy earth and went about setting up camp. She still had water but that would run out soon enough. In the morning she would look for a stream or something. Akane pitched her tent and began to clear out enough underbrush to start a small fire. When flames finally licked upwards the moon was already overhead. Akane had run out of curses while building the fire. First the wood around her was too green to burn. Then when she went to search for twigs she found her pack in shambles a rather angry and confused tanooki hissing at her with the last of the sakura mochi hanging from its mouth. She picked up her belongings, and placed the gathered pack sans bentos and threw it in the tent. "I can't believe this!" Akane fumed. She absently chastened herself for doing something as stupid as leaving out food in the wilderness. //I am just letting the quiet get to me. I have to pay attention to what I'm doing. I don't have anyone to blame for this but myself. No one can tell you to do it...You have to do it for yourself.// Akane bubbled with new energy and began to attempt the archaic art of fire creation again. Fifteen minutes after her energizing epiphany she once again found herself agitated. Fire was more complicated than she thought.

Fire licked up at the moon and Akane felt almost lonely in the dark night. She pulled out a book and read in the light of the fire pausing only to stoke it once in a while. Finally sleep overtook her senses and she buried the fire in soil and water. The weary martial artist zipped the tent closed and let exhaustion take her into the realm of dreams, the last thought in her head was of an imagined traveling companion his smile warming her tired heart.


Ranma was very uncomfortable. He sat in the tree and looked down into the clearing straining to see in the dark. Confident that Akane was asleep he stealthily dropped from the trees and scouted the land about him. A stream gurgled not fifteen minutes walk from Akane's campsite. "You are one lucky tomboy Akane", noticing the way the stream looped towards him and then away. "This thing could be a mile or so away in its entirety." The full thought reminded him that he was relying too much on luck. //I ain't got no food supplies, and I don't think I can fool Akane forever.//

His mind went back to earlier in the evening when Akane had finally stopped. //Geez I thought she was gonna' just walk all night too. Don't she ever get tired?// Ranma sat down on the tree branch and swung his feet back and forth. This was good training, but eventually he would have to do something else, what could he learn up here? Absently he wondered if he could learn Cologne's whirlwind or find a lake and learn how to make fish obey him. // Boy that old ghoul sure is weird. I guess I take it for granted but Akane is probably right about her world turning strange with me around. It's just always been what my life was like. She better get used to it cause...// Ranma stopped his thoughts. Sure Akane had put up with him so far and had even allowed herself to be forced into marrying him so he could be cured of the curse. That seemed to be it though. She had only gone along with it because she was a nice person. Ranma looked down at the seated tomboy.

Akane was eating and Ranma felt his stomach protest. //Sooooo hungry// Ranma was drooling. That was when he noticed Akane was going through her pack. She rummaged through each compartment and Ranma wondered if he could steal a Sakura Mochi without Akane noticing. Akane got into the largest pocket and pulled out something he hadn't expected to see. //My bento! ALL RIGHT!// Ranma's heart sang in anticipation and his stomach warmed in enthusiasm and dropped suddenly when he saw the note. Kasumi had even put his name on there...but she didn't seem to know anything on the phone...Oh well a riddle for another time. Ranma was too hungry to contemplate Kasumi.

"Where are you?" It had been Akane.

Things had just gone from bad to worse and Ranma found himself seeking a way to hide himself as Akane launched herself towards his branch. He hugged the tree and swung around the trunk to the branch directly opposite the one he was on. He hoped that Akane didn't see. But she had called out to him. She had even said that he could have his bento and he wanted nothing more than to grab it. Food was sounding better and better by the moment, but that would end the training game and he wasn't really sure that food was worth that. Then again he also considered what was worth more than food. Ranma stifled his breathing and pressed further against the tree. //My pack...Awww geez. I hope Akane doesn't see it.// Ranma had shoved the rather large brown pack into the V between the upper branch and the trunk. He knew Akane knew exactly what his pack looked like. Ranma ordered his stomach to be quiet. He felt it lurching, trying to voice its anger at emptiness.

"This is stupid," Akane had said out loud.

Ranma agreed. He had nearly been caught. This was more fun than he expected it to be...Well minus the hunger pain.

"Nobody's here. I'm all alone..."

Ranma's heart gave a little squeeze. He almost gave away his position. //She sounds real lonely...Or maybe it's something else, like maybe disappointed. Stupid tomboy! If she'd just said she wanted company he would have come along.// He watched her leap to the ground and he snuffed at her. //Feh, well you deserve this right now then don't you?// Ranma said the words in his head but he didn't really feel like he meant them. //Maybe I should go down there. I could get some food and we could talk for awhile...// Ranma shook his head. //No, I gotta' let her do some stuff alone for a while.//

Ranma watched as Akane tried to start a fire. //Wow. She's not too good at that.\\ He tried not to laugh when Akane gave up with the flint and tried to rub the sticks together. //It's green Akane// He said in his mind. //Go find some hard stuff...and while you're gone...// Akane did eventually go to find sticks and while she was gone Ranma devoured his food. Each bite was like a little piece of heaven. His stomach thanked him. Ranma was taking a bite out of the last Sakura Mochi when he heard Akane tromping through the forest. //OH NO!// He looked around the perimeter of the small camp and spied a smallish looking moving furry thing. //PERFECT!// Ranma grabbed the now angry creature and stuffed the Sakura Moochi in its mouth dropping it directly into Akane's pack. He sprung into the tree and watched the scene play itself out. //I am such a genius.// He pat himself on the back and then on the stomach. Kasumi had as usual out done herself and Ranma was finally sated.

But that was a few hours back from now and Ranma realized that he would have to find food for the coming day. //If I do this at night she can't catch me. I just don't know when I'm gonna sleep if I do that. I haven't done too much training yet so I ain't too tired, but I will be.// Akane would have to slow down if she were going to train and Ranma knew that, but he didn't know if she was going to walk for a while first or if she would travel one day and train the next. He made eye contact with a nest and stole the eggs keeping two to himself and gently laying one near the fire pit. //Can't have her starving on me...Then

again what's she gonna do with it? If she cooks it it's gonna be inedible anyway.//

Ranma couldn't teach her to cook. He'd tried to help her before. Everything was a battle to Ranma and he figured that it brought out the best in him when he trained for a conflict. So when Akane and Ranma went head to head in the kitchen he figured that she would improve. Her cooking however didn't improve. In fact it was worse. She paid less attention to what she was doing and ruined everything she touched. //Oh well I guess I am going to have to learn how to teach people if I'm gonna be a teacher.// Then it dawned on him. //Hey I could teach Akane! She's stubborn, and an impossible student. She don't like to be told what to do. That makes her the perfect student. Well for what I have to do anyway.// Ranma stared up at the few stars that he could see twinkling in the sky. //How should I do this though?// He didn't have long to ponder the question. Sleep eventually crept into his mind and Ranma closed his eyes to welcome the long needed rest.


Akane crept down a long pathway in the woods. Darkness was everywhere around her and she felt her legs beginning to tremble slightly in fear. Each step seemed to quicken, and it took her further and further out of the light. How far had she traveled? She felt as if she had traveled a million years and her legs ached and threatened to give out. Her hair blew in the soundless wind and she allowed herself to look about at her surroundings. She was walking down a long, winding, and unforgiving road. A road that would neither let her sleep, nor eat, nor truly rest. She was recognizably older. She could see herself even though she was herself and she watched the way her steps measured themselves out. She saw a grace in her steps that she didn't know she could achieve. Silent lonely evenings saved in the pools of her own eyes almost as if this Akane had been alone forever. But mostly she saw skill. The way she moved spoke that she had knowledge that Akane hadn't yet acquired. There was seasoned hardness in her rougher hands. She walked in a way that gave away her accomplishments as a martial artist to those who knew what they were looking for. It was then that a voice drifted out of the darkness and the nightmare began.

"AKANE..." It rasped.

A man in black crept slowly closer and closer. Akane was running and terror was in her heart, but no matter how fast she ran he was always a step away. He was walking, but somehow always stayed just in her periphery. She felt like her body was far away, and she felt herself flailing about. Akane felt the air leaving her lungs, she was gasping for the precious sweet relief of breath. His breath caressed her neck like a soft hand. The terror remained, but there was also a sense of thrill that she couldn't explain. He drew life from her body, he survived on her emotions. She silently cursed her lack of training. How could she defeat

such an enemy? In the past she would simply rely on her friends to save her. Her friends would always come to help her. Shampoo, Mousse, Ukyo, Kuno, Ranma...Ranma would always come for her. He was always there to catch her. Catch? The ground was gone! Akane's heart pounded in her ears as she fell. How could she die like this? Falling? She would never live it down. When she met her friends in the afterlife they would certainly barb at her for this one.

The figure in black seemed to float down to meet her and held out its hands to grasp onto, when she didn't take the offered appendages the figure floated forward and held her in an embrace that was like that of a lover. Quick and sure, as if he had done it a thousand times. She felt her body respond to him. Her arms encircled his long beautiful neck and her fingers entangled themselves in his hair. She was going to kiss him, and why not? Weren't they lovers? He was familiar, someone that she could hold forever. Akane stared at her would-be rescuer his face was that of a young man, at least in his twenties. His eyes though were old and smoldering with disgust, hatred, and something she couldn't identify. No...This was all wrong. She didn't know him, she didn't love him, and she was almost positive that he was going to try to do more than kiss.

"You. Are. Mine." The man in black rasped.

"Help...Someone help me...", she thought. A bright blue filled the darkness, swallowing the green of the dark man's eyes. Then Akane screamed the name of the one person she knew could save her...

"RANMA!!!!!" Then her world went black.

Akane's eyes snapped open and she awoke with Ranma's name on her lips. It was raspy and had no volume. Her throat was dry like a person who had run a marathon without liquid or a camel jockey that had forgotten his water on a weeks long trip. Legs and arms that had been wrapped in a sleeping bag last she closed her eyes were now lying on the cold floor of her tent. This cool felt unusually good, she realized. Her body was covered in sweat and she felt as if she had been sleeping in or near a blast furnace. Her mind brought forth images of the dark hooded man. The way she had run from him like he was the devil on her heels. Then the complete opposite of the way she had felt when her hands were snaked in his hair with her arms around him.

Green eyes. He had angry green eyes. //Green,// Akane thought, // was the symbol for greed. He sure seemed to want something from me...// She felt a sort of longing that she had only felt a few times in her life surface above the fear and then suppressed it just as quickly. "What in the world am I doing?" She had said it out loud to nobody, but for some reason she felt as if "he" were listening. The pre-dawn light was filtering through the tent window and made all of the shapes outside seem ominous. Shadows seemed to move everywhere. Also strange was the blue cast that everything around seemed to be illuminated with. Light danced about the few areas where it suffused through leaves and onto trees that seemed to walk. The wind was blowing like in her dream, but this time it had sound. Akane wanted to close her eyes and shut out the early morning world. Get more sleep so that she could start her day a little later, but every time she closed her eyes she saw him...Her beautiful angel... //Where did that come from?// She questioned herself. Akane felt frustrated. It was just a dream after all. Why on earth was she cowering like a five-year-old girl? It was then that Akane noticed her opened tent flap. //Didn't I secure that last night?//

Her senses were screaming, every noise caught her attention and turned into a horrible beast or lecherous green-eyed man. She summoned up all of her courage to zip the tent's flap and noticed that her hands were both slightly blue and crackling with energy. She had only seen this once before...Ranma. What was going on? Had something happened? Maybe her dream wasn't as unreal as it seemed. She felt herself slowly rising off the floor of the tent before she even made an attempt to think about further movement. //Since when am I so fast?// Akane watched the sun's light come up around her and she felt a nagging sensation at her back. She turned and the man in black was there...


Ranma felt like crap. He couldn't seem to sleep. Something was bothering him, and his senses told him that he should be on guard. Someone or something was watching, and it wasn't part of nature's normal flora and fauna. He had only gotten five hours of sleep before he felt the invading presence. It was overwhelming and definitely not friendly so he sat and waited for it to show itself. After all, Akane was asleep and she would be in poor form to fight just waking up if whatever it was did attack. Ranma decided that being caught was okay as long as Akane was in danger. She was going to be his first pupil after all, couldn't have her dead...Never mind that thought. Ranma watched the world that should be waking up in the early morning darkness. Ranma noticed the complete lack of sound and took it for what it was...Strange. His sense of danger was almost never off. On one hand nothing had happened yet and nothing might happen at all. On the other hand the birds had even abandoned their places on the trees. There was not one living thing left in the clearing besides himself and the sleeping Akane. Ranma allowed himself to check up on Akane and slipped out of the tree onto the ground. His footsteps seemed to echo in the empty space between the tree and Akane's tent It was then that Ranma thought he heard a hoarse whisper...A man's voice and a flash of green.

Every sense in his mind and body called out to him. It was attacking Akane. It was making its move at last. Ranma dropped into a ready stance and loosened up to prepare for a sneak attack. It never came, but that was when Akane began to thrash inside her tent. Ranma panicked, he feared that something might have slipped past him. That thing, whatever it was, must have been extremely fast, and if it was attacking Akane, extremely dead. Ranma unzipped the flap to the tent and stared at Akane, a strange green light circled her, and she breathed like she was running for her life. Her body shuddered and her arms flailed akimbo. "Akane!" Ranma fell to his knees and held the flailing girl in his arms. He didn't know how to help her now, and all he could think to do was keep her from hurting herself. "What in the hell is going on?" Ranma yelled. Her body arched as if she were in terrible pain, and a tear slid from the corner of her eye onto the skin of her cheek that glowed eerily like an emerald. Her eyes were open now, and Ranma saw terror in her normally brown laughing eyes. Even Akane's quick anger was better than terror.

"Akane can you see me? Akane?!?" Ranma screamed her name but she didn't seem to notice him in the thralls of her dreamy flailing. Then suddenly she stopped, and her arms settled around his neck her fingers tangling in his hair. There was something in her eyes now that still contained terror but something else as well. Something that made Ranma's cheeks turn scarlet and his mind almost forget the battle raging in a place he couldn't defend against. For a second Ranma felt his cheeks flush as she came dangerously close to kissing him and he found himself unresisting. Then she was struggling again.

"Help...Someone help me!" Her voice was hard to hear and her eyes were black with fear.

"I will Akane" He screamed to her unhearing ears. Her breath was hot, it was then that Ranma realized her whole body was like a small furnace. His own ki flared a bright blue in the darkness and seemed to flow from his hands to combat the green. Tears were streaking down her cheeks, and at last the thing jumped out of her body. A Small green globe spun out of the tent and into the air.

"Impossible!" It screamed as it began to make its escape into the forest. Ranma sprung to his feet and began to give chase.

He was a kilometer or so out before he gave up looking for the attacker and Ranma ran as quickly as he could to get back to the campsite.

Ranma now drug himself toward camp and he wished silently that he hadn't followed the light. What if it had just been a diversion? He was tired now, too tired. He didn't know if there was any fight left in him but he would sure as hell try if the thing attacked them again. The woods were becoming lighter and lighter as the minutes ticked on, and Ranma could see the clearing. He was prepared to fall into the tent and sleep Akane or not. He had used up too much of his ki to fight whatever had thrust itself upon Akane and running almost two kilometers hadn't helped. What had he done back there? How had he helped Akane with his own ki? He felt like he was freezing, but something in his mind told him that this was impossible. It wasn't winter. It wasn't cold. He sure was cold though. His whole body was shaking and he felt like he was walking in a snowstorm. Ranma concluded that this couldn't possibly be good. Rationalizing that he might have used up his whole life's essence. "Well if I gotta' die I think I want to at least make it back to camp." Ranma smiled half-heartedly. "At least then that un-cute tomboy will have to carry my body all the way back home then." Ranma's mind screamed that something wasn't right. He heard a low chuckling and

then the feeling of sharp pain. Darkness filled his senses.

"I'm sorry Akane. I tried. I love y..."


"Pitiful little boy!" He spat the words. "Did you think you could beat me?" Hideo Fujiwara looked down at the young man that lay slumped across the trail. He couldn't be sure that he had even struck the blow that had killed this...Ranma. "You seemed to be dying on your feet anyway. Using your ki like that with no training is more than enough to kill, and yet I have to wonder at how you learned to project yourself so quickly and then to survive so long without that part of your soul." He wiped his blade clean on Ranma's red silk Chinese shirt. This strange young man had learned to do something in minutes that had taken him half of his "after-life" to learn. "You are quite amazing...It's really too bad actually. I think that I could have taught you much. Unfortunately I need your woman to survive."

Hideo Fujiwara was a shade. He was neither human nor ghost, but he thrived off of the energy produced in the hearts and minds of the strong. He had decided long ago that he would feed only on the souls and minds of women, as they had done nothing for him in life, they would have to serve his purposes in death. Not even really in death, so much as non-existance. He had been fully human at one time, his creaking bones and sore muscles reminded him of that, as he was locked in the same state that he was in when he first became a shade.

Akane had seemed an excellent target. She was in a state of dreaming. This Ranma had been walking and talking with her about some wealthy land-owner oppressing the weak. She had such strong feelings, he would not have to feed again for months. Of course it didn't hurt that she was quite beautiful. He would seduce her and then lay waste to her. It was exciting and erotic. The fear and the lust that he would force into her dream. She would feel for him like she would feel for no other man, and then she would never feel again. It was what Hideo thought to be a small parting gift. He was a beautiful man after all, and to leave this world with such a visage stamped on your memory was privileged. Then the man from her dreams had truly come to rescue her. He copied the ki transfer perfectly and then purged him from the girl's mind and body. Truly there was a bond there between them. Perhaps love or something more?

"Impossible" he said aloud. The boy had chased him through the forest for nearly an hour before losing his true shape and turning back towards camp and to Akane. Hideo was exhausted. He would have to rid himself of this troublesome creature before he was to capture Akane again. She was his now. He had tasted of her like the vintage of a perfect wine. There was nothing else. She would be his, she belonged to him. Hideo would make her love him like she would never love this Ranma, and then she would be reunited with him in the afterlife. "Touching really." He thought out loud.

He saw the man coming back. His shade had returned to him almost a full ten minutes before Ranma came into site. "Oh well no time like the present." Hideo said to himself laughingly. He sat in wait and studied the fleshling in its silk Chinese Kempo outfit. He was staggering like a drunken woman and looked just as coherent. This would be far too easy. He allowed himself to synch with the young man. //Amazing...He survives even with so little ki. I don't understand how he's doing this.// Ranma wobbled

before him like a reed in the wind. He seemed slightly aware of the impending doom but Hideo cared very little of what Ranma knew or didn't know. He slid the katana slowly out of its scabbard making no sounds to alert the young man. //Give your ancestors a hello from me. Now...goodbye.// His Katana sliced through the air and struck Ranma squarely. He fell like a sack of potatoes. Blood leaked out of the new puncture in his side and Hideo felt the excitement of the kill stew in his insides like a cauldron. Akane would soon die for him, keeping him young, perfect, and alive for much longer than Ranma would be.

"Noooooooooo!" A female voice screamed from behind him.

While basking in the delight of his fresh kill it had become apparent that Akane was ready for revenge. It also was not lost on him that this someone seemed to be very angry, very powerful, and very behind him. She was wailing like a banshee, and looked not beautiful, but frightening. She had a look of revenge. "DIE!"


The man in Black had his back to Akane and she could not discern what his features might be. Then time seemed to slow down around her. Her heart felt as if it were tearing itself from her body and seemed to die. The creature from her nightmare stood over Ranma. He was bleeding everywhere...Dead.

"Nooooooooo!" It tore from her throat like so many claws scraping against her windpipe. She would kill this creature. She brought her hands forth. Blue crackling energy still surged like lightning kissing the earth. She brought her wrists together and focused all of her pain, loss, and anger into the man that seemed to glow green. Akane shrieked in despair and all the built up ki went flying and crackling toward the green energy. "DIE!" she commanded. The ki Akane released was a mix of blue and angry red. A green ball escaped the blazing crackling inferno and the man in black was vaporized. Akane thought she heard a howl of anger, and a promise of harsh revenge, and then she sank to her knees.

"No, no nonononono." It was seconds before she rose and ran to the place where Ranma lay. The ground was black to the right and left of his unmoving body, but where he lay bloody grass peeked around in a circle. The air smelled of ozone and charred flesh. Akane wanted to vomit, but instead she simply coughed and held the bile in her throat. If she were going to die, she would die here. With Ranma.


"Ranma? Please no, please don't leave me alone..." Akane's voice cut through the mist.

His mind was foggy at best but he always knew Akane. She was next to him and was holding him close. She was crying again. No not crying, sobbing. He hated it when she cried, he had never heard her sob before. It was absolutely heart wrenching. Ranma could smell blood, it was his own he guessed...Then the other scent reached him and tried to turn his stomach inside out. He had only smelled it once before, in Jusendo, when he...It was getting hard to think again so he concentrated on Akane. She had curled up next to him and he could smell her shampoo. He tried to open his eyes but they didn't want to obey him.

//OPEN!// He ordered them silently, and they did. Akane was, just as he imagined, right next to him. He

had never seen something so beautiful in his life...Partly because it was just one more chance that life was giving him to "get it right" as his father would have said, and partly because she truly looked like an angel. Blue light was seeping into him wherever their bodies touched and Ranma felt a little more alive with each passing moment. //Oh I get it. Akane had my ki...I didn't get it back when the freaky green thingy left her. So, when I left I was running on empty.// Sobbing, Akane brushed her fingers over the place where that jerk in black stabbed him. //If I ever see that guy again I'm gonna'...// Then his mind returned to the acrid smell of burnt mammal and realized that he would never, in fact, see that guy again.

Akane was shuddering, crying, and breathing in turns, so Ranma decided that he should try to concentrate on getting Akane to realize that he was still alive so that he would stay that way. Ranma found that speech wouldn't quite come, so he resorted to breathing really hard.

"Ranma?" Akane's face turned up toward him. She was even more beautiful with a face, Ranma decided."Ranma...You're alive...I thought...I thought...Oh, Ranma!" She passed out.

//Great. I'm leaking like a sieve and she passes out.// Ranma thought desperately. "Akane no baka...I need you...Help me..." The words croaked agonizingly slow from his mouth but he forced them to come. Akane seemed to sputter to life and she began to tear at her gi. "Come on...This ain't no time for that." It was getting easier to speak so he decided to do what came natural. He couldn't make her worry any more. It killed him enough that she was so distraught in the first place. Not to mention that he had no idea what this guy had done to Akane while he was "out to lunch".

"Ranma no baka, I'm going to dress your wounds." She tore up her gi top into strips and ran over to the tent for her first aid kit.

He watched her go through the motions of cleaning and dressing the cut. It was deep and required stitches, Akane seemed to be doing well with it. Ranma noticed that her fingers shook and that beneath her nails the skin was black and blue.

"Crap. Akane you're in shock." His mind ran incredibly slow, and he thought he heard her dismiss it. He felt himself going into shock right along with her, and his eyes closed again. //...No...I gotta' stay up...I gotta' stay aware.// Ranma no longer felt Akane near him and he wondered if she had fallen to the side of him. Perhaps he could summon the power to find her. He felt a blanket cover him, then he felt Akane slide in under the blanket next to him. "Relax." Akane's voice was calm and without emotion. "We will survive this." The world went black and Ranma dimly wondered if either of them would make it through the day.