Disclaimer: 

The characters in this story aren't mine.  They are the property of Takahashi Rumiko, the creator of Ranma ½.  This is a totally non-profit bit of prose also known as a fanfic.  I am writing this for the enjoyment of other Ranma ½ fans and myself.  If the great Takahashi Rumiko says she doesn't want her characters used in this way it will be deleted immediately.  Any who... onward into the story.

The Days After: Ryouga's Journey

By:  Eric Evans

Chapter 1:  The End

A young man dressed in a black collarless T-shirt, a yellow and black speckled bandana, a white belt and black pants bound along the calves by crisscrossing leather cords was walking quietly through what he was beginning to believe was an endless forest.  It was a rather cool morning, and the leaves on the trees had started to change colors in preparation for the coming winter.  Ryouga sighed as he looked around wondering if he would ever find his way.  "I should have at least come across some sort of town or village by now...." he grumbled to himself.  The weight of his pack had started to bother him more and more recently.  He decided to stop and leaned back against a nearby tree letting himself sink to the ground.  I've been traveling for almost four months now, I think, and nothing...  I need a break.  He began trying to rub some of the soreness from his shoulders before deciding to work on the growing stiffness in his legs.

In their classroom Ranma and Akane where sitting idly talking with friends awaiting the start of classes for the day.  One of the girls who had been looking at the colors in the leaves noticed something unusual and pointed it out to several of her friends.  A little later almost all the girls were staring out the windows.  Curiosity overcame Akane, and she leaned over in her seat to get a look at what every one was staring at out the window.  She looked around for a little while before something caught her eye.  It was a dark object huddled on the far side of a tree in the woods behind the school.  She squinted trying to make it out when she saw an arm crash into the ground leaving a crater, and making all of the trees nearby shake, losing some of their leaves.

"Ryouga... that's Ryouga!" she exclaimed nearly falling over in her desk.  "Hey, Ranma, it looks like Ryouga found his way back!"

Ranma turned to her laughing,  "Well it's about time... he must have gotten lost good this time!"

Akane looked out the window to see Ryouga standing up and starting to walk away with his head lowered.  "Oh, no!  Ranma, I think he's leaving again...and he didn't even say 'Hello'," she said, the last part only a whisper.

"Heh.  Probably has no idea where he is.  I'll go see," he said as he leapt out the window.  I hope Ryouga wants to fight I haven't had a good fight since he left.  I've had to settle for sparing with Pops....  Well, even if he doesn't want to fight...  I'm sure I can 'persuade' him into it.  He laughed as he though of all the different ways he could set Ryouga off.

Ryouga was not in the best of moods.  He hadn't seen Akane in a long time and it had been very rainy recently, so traveling had been rough.  He sighed, and got up from his resting spot after punching a good sized hole in the ground, and started to walk off into the forest again, still completely unaware of the large school building behind him.  Idiot!  Why can't I ever get where I am going?

"Hey, Ryouga, wait up!" a familiar voice called.

"R-Ranma?!?" he shouted spinning around.

"So how is it going P-chan?" Ranma asked in a mocking tone.

"N-no... t-that means... that means I'm back in...." he said his voice trailing off.

"What is it Ryouga...?  I thought you'd be happy to be back...." Ranma inquired slightly puzzled by the lost boy's reaction.  What?  He doesn't want to be back?  Ah, well I can ask him about it later... time to get him mad.  "What is it P-chan?  Do you have something to hide?  Maybe it's that you finally figured out Akane likes P-chan more than you."

Ryouga glared at Ranma his ki flaring up around him.  He instantly dropped into a fighting stance his fists at the ready, and gritting his teeth showing his fangs fully.  "HOW DARE YOU!?!" he screamed.  Having been deep in thought he was caught totally off guard by Ranma's remark.  I'll kill him!!!  How could he say that?!?  I'll make him... I'll... I'll....  Damn it...!  I promised myself I wouldn't fight him again until after I've found that cure....  This is how I always messed up getting a cure before, I'd either tell Ranma, and he'd screw it up trying to cheat me out of it, or I'd get to caught up in fighting him, and some how I'd lose my chance....  He rose from his straddle stance with a groan, and turned his head from Ranma closing his eyes.

Ranma who had also dropped into a fighting stance to wait for Ryouga's attack looked stunned when the lost boy turned away.  What is he doing?  Is this some kind of new technique, or is he really not going to fight?  That was my best taunt too... I can't believe he hasn't tried to flatten me yet.  The way he yelled back at me he was obviously pissed off, so what is going on?!?

"Ranma... I don't have time for this....  I'm not going to fight you… just leave me alone," Ryouga whispered his voice trailing off.  Ryouga turned back to look at Ranma again, and noticed Furinkan High School was there for the first time.  As he stared in shock at the building that seemed to him to have magically appeared he noticed Akane starring at them out of one of the windows.  "Akane...." he said with a sigh as he turned back around and began to walk away.  So close, and yet so far... Akane has accepted her engagement to that jerk, and... and I... I saw the way she looked at him when she thought he was going to die because of those winged jerks... she almost gave her life to save him then... she would have if he hadn't saved her....  Her heart is....

"Wha... hey!!!  Ryouga, where are you going?!?" Ranma asked rising from his fighting stance still trying to recover from the shock of Ryouga not attacking.

"I have to go somewhere... so just leave me alone Ranma," he said with out turning to look at Ranma not wanting him to see how badly he felt at that moment.

"Boy, that is a laugh!  Like you can even find your own house!"

"Yeah, whatever Ranma," he spouted not paying any attention to what Ranma was saying.  He dashed away concentrating on leaving as fast as he could before he told Ranma something he didn't want him to know. I've lost Akane for good... just one more defeat I guess….  I've had so many... and so few victories....  A cure is all there is left for me now.  That will be my victory... after I get a cure I'll start my life over....  Farewell Akane... may you have a joyous life....  Ryouga could hardly hold back his tears.

"H-hey!  Ryouga, wait a sec will ya.  Ryouga!" Ranma chased after his old rival wondering what he was up to.  He is definitely acting strange, and something just seems wrong.  Ryouga continued to run with no idea where he was going, Ranma close behind.

A while later Ranma was bored out of his mind.  They had nearly reached the edge of the city and Ryouga still wouldn't answer him and didn't show any signs of stopping.  Ranma couldn't wait any longer.  Ranma lunged over top of Ryouga and sprung back towards him as soon as he touched the ground.  He quickly connected an uppercut to his jaw, and a kick to his solar plexus.  Ryouga was caught off guard and thrown backwards and into a wall, which instantly shattered from the force of the kick.  Ryouga crumpled to the ground unable to get any air.  Damn, I should have been ready for that….

Ranma stood surprised his rival had gone down so quickly... and wasn't getting up.  "Is that it Ryouga?  Well, then you'd better just tell me now.  I don't like bullying the WEAK." He cautiously walked up to Ryouga expecting to be attacked.

Weak?!?  Weak!?!  I'll show you who's weak!!!  Ryouga wanted to jump up, and go hurt Ranma, but it was all he could do to stand, still unable to breath.  Damn!  I can't believe I let him catch me off guard like that!  I'll... I'll....  Man... if I can't get a breath pretty soon I'm gonna pass out....

Ranma dropped into a back-stance as Ryouga stood up expecting to be attacked.  Instead he heard a muffled thud as he watched Ryouga collapse to his knees.  "What the...." he said standing back up.  Did I really hurt him that bad?  He realized that his rival was struggling to try to breathe.  Damn, he must have been completely off guard....  He watched as Ryouga turned an odd shade of blue.  I can't let him die like this...  Oh man!!!  There is no way I'm going to do CPR on him!!!  He started to gag at the thought then controlled himself.  He watched as Ryouga rose to his feet again starting to gasp in a little air, a hint of the odd blue color remaining on his angry features.

Ryouga was gasping for air, but at least he was getting some air.  That jerk... I should kill him.  I should... I... I shouldn't have let my guard down....  It was my own fault....  Ryouga's face returned to a look of depression, and he started to walk away fighting the darkness threatening to close in on him.  He had wanted to yell some insult about having no honor, but he couldn't really think straight, and he was sure he couldn't spare the air anyway.  As he walked away the last of his anger slowly faded into depression.

Ranma was stunned.  What?!?  He's still not going to come after me even after that?  I wonder if there really is something wrong....  He opened his mouth to say something, but he couldn't think of anything, so he once again started to follow Ryouga.

Later that day at Furinkan High School Akane was staring absentmindedly out a window wondering what happened to Ranma and Ryouga. 

Ukyou was watching Akane.  Having arrived after Ranma had already left, she hadn't found out that Ranma had gone chasing after Ryouga until lunchtime and she was worried about him since he hadn't come back.  What am I worried about?  It's not like Ranma's never skipped classes before....  She sighed.  I think I'll see if I can go home with Akane, and see what Ranma's been up to though.

In a fair sized forest not to far from Tokyo Ranma was still following Ryouga.  He had wanted to say something to Ryouga... to say anything... but the longer he had waited the harder it had become.  Finally he had just decided that he couldn't go on any longer.  He was bored out of his mind, and he had no idea why he was following Ryouga.  Ryouga is always like this... I guess I had better just stop following him, and head back to school.  He could go on like this for the rest of the day... the rest of his life for that matter.  

Ryouga couldn't suppress the growling in is stomach, or the pain pushing him to rest early any longer.  He dropped his pack, and began to set up camp, and Ranma decided not to leave having found the opening he had been looking for, "So… Ryouga...."

Ryouga spun around in shock.  "Ranma!?!  I'm at Furinkan High School again?!?" he shouted franticly looking around for the building having thought that Ranma had gotten bored and went back to class. 

"Oh... uh...." Ranma said completely unable to remember what he was doing.  "Nope, where out in the middle of the nowhere in some woods.  Just you and me."

Ryouga thought about that for a second before he reeled back in terror.  "I knew you were a pervert, but... but...." he said not wanting to finish.

"Huh....  No!  No!  No!  That's not it!  I mean you've got it all wrong!!!" he screamed realizing what Ryouga was thinking.  "Geez, and you call me a pervert!  You're the one with the dirty mind!" Ranma shouted having turned a bright red.

Ryouga being so relieved by Ranma's first statement didn't even notice the insult.  "Then what?" he said having calmed down a little bit, but growing more and more angry at the fact Ranma was there.

Ranma thought for a second before it came back to him, "I want to know what's wrong.  You are definitely hiding something....  Why didn't you want to fight me?"

"I already told you that it's none of you business… and there is no way… I'm going to tell you ANYTHING!" 

"Oh come on man we are sorta friends, right?  What's wrong?"

Ryouga ignored him and began setting up camp in silence.

After a short time Ryouga had gathered firewood, started a fire, and cooked some stew out of a few things in his pack.  He offered Ranma about half of what he had cooked, and Ranma accepted it thankfully.  Both of them finished, and Ryouga started cleaning the dishes.  Neither of them broke the silence that had been hanging over them.

Finally Ranma couldn't stand it any more, "That was a pretty good meal Ryouga.  I'm impressed.  It was definitely much better than Akane's anyway."  If nothing else he will say something about me insulting Akane's cooking.

Ryouga who had started to rustle around in his pack glanced up at him, but went back to what he had been doing with out a word.

"Oh, come on man.  You can at least say something!"  Ranma was starting to get irritated.

Ryouga looked up again, and looked thoughtful for a second, "What is it you want me to say Ranma?  Do you want me to thank you or something?"

"No!  I just... well, what I meant was...."

Ryouga interrupted, "How about this?  Go home Ranma.  You're not welcome here."

Ranma was startled by his cold response, and was starting to get a little mad.  "No way, Ryouga, I'm not going until I find out what you are hiding."

"It's none of your damned business!"

"Sorry, P-chan, I thought maybe you could use a little help, but obviously an idiot like you is to stupid to appreciate it!"

"Why would I appreciate your help?!?  You'd probably just steal it after you helped me find it!!!"  Damn!!!  Shouldn't have said that!!!  Damn it... I hope he didn't notice....

"Why the hell would...." he stopped, after realizing what Ryouga had said, "Looking for something, huh?  Well, I guess if you won't tell me I'll just have to keep following you to find out!"

DAMN IT!!! I've got to think of something... fast!  Ryouga growled, "I see.  So you think you can survive out in these woods for a couple weeks with out any supplies, or maybe you think you can keep leaching of me!"

Ranma quickly retorted, "I can take care of myself!"

"Yeah sure Ranma!"

After the short exchange both of them sat in silence once again.  Despite what he had said Ranma knew Ryouga was right.  He needed his pack if he was going to keep following Ryouga, but it was back in his room, and there was no way he could go get it with out Ryouga leaving.

Ryouga put out the fire, and angrily stuffed the last of his gear back in his pack having decided that he didn't want to rest there for the rest of the day after all, while Ranma watched him thoughtfully.  The way Ryouga's acting he's got to be after a cure.  If that's the case he's never going to tell me what he's up to, and I'm not going to let him get it without me.  I'm going to have to follow him until I can get it, or find out how to get it, but if I'm going to follow him I need my pack.  So how am I going to get my pack?  It's back in my room, and Ryouga's not gonna wait while I go get it....  I'll have to take him with me... but he would never agree to that either....  Wait!  Who said he has to agree.  I'm sure I can find a way to force him....  Yeah!  If I could get him to fight me I'm sure I could lead him back with out him noticing.  Ranma was impressed with himself having come up with a plan.  He was so impressed in fact that he was ignoring the part of his mind that was saying things like: What if you can't get him to fight... he wouldn't earlier today, and What if he's not really after a cure, and so on.

Ryouga picked up his pack, and checked one last time that the fire had been sufficiently smothered, and then started to walk off.  Ranma finally broke his concentration, and bounded after the lost boy.  "Hey Ryouga unless you just want me to beat on you like before you had better get ready, because here I come."

Ryouga grimaced, then his face filled with anger as he spun around to face Ranma.  He didn't have any idea what Ranma was up to, but he dropped into a straddle-stance having already sensed Ranma's attack.  He didn't have to wait long because Ranma had started to charge him as soon as he had finished what he was saying.

Ranma knew that he needed to get Ryouga to stay on the offensive.  That way Ryouga would have to follow him wherever he went while trying to attack.  Ranma started the fight with a flurry of punches, and kicks most of which Ryouga blocked.  Once Ryouga began to fight back Ranma fell into a defensive posture constantly retreating, and leading Ryouga in the direction of Nerima.

The duo flew through the trees both on the ground, and occasionally in the air, or on the branches of the trees.  The longer they fought the more of Ryouga's strikes began to sneak through Ranma's defense, and to Ranma's great irritation every time he began to seriously counterattack to slow down the blows he was taking, they would end up headed off in the wrong direction. 

After classes had let out Ukyou approached Akane as she was just starting to head home.  "Hey, Akane."

"Oh.  Hello, Ukyou," Akane said not at all surprised at being followed.

"Ummm..." Ukyou stuttered feeling a little embarrassed, "do you mind if I walk home with you?  I'm... uhhh... kinda worried about Ranchan."

Akane shrugged, "No that's fine... I wouldn't worry about him though."

"Really?  I thought you looked a little concerned too....  You weren't paying attention at all in class...."

Akane blushed slightly, "Why would I worry about that insensitive jerk?!?"  After a long pause she continued, " Actually, it was Ryouga I was thinking about.  I haven't seen him in along time."

Ukyou looked smug, "Oh, so you DO care about Ryouga?"

"What?!?  N-not like that... he… he's just a really nice guy...!  Ryouga is my closest male friend, and I can talk to him about anything... but that's all!"  Akane's face took on a thoughtful expression.  "Actually, he's so sweet, and shy that I don't usually think of him as a guy at all, but more of just as a friend."

The smile faded from Ukyou face.  I kinda feel sorry for Ryouga…. does she really have no idea the way he feels about her...?  "Say, Akane, have you ever wondered if there's a girl Ryouga likes?"

Akane thought about the question for a second, "Well I'm pretty sure there is... but he would never tell me who she is.…  I guess he is just to embarrass about it....  It could be Akari.  They get along pretty well, and he's always really happy when she is around... but he doesn't seem to really want to get close to her."

"I wonder why?"

"Well... I guess it could be because he is shy, but... I think it's that there is someone else...."

"Really....  Why would he be so happy when she is around then?

"It's probably because he's lonely....  He seems to really want to be close to someone... anyone, but just can't."

"Hmmm... I'll never understand that idiot...."

After that they walked along quietly to the Tendo's residence.  Akane thought of all the things that she wanted to talk about with Ryouga hoping that she might see him again soon.  Ukyou was considering how depressing and lonely Ryouga's life must have been. 

Once they had reached the Tendo's they went inside, and quickly found out from Kasumi that she hadn't seen Ranma since he had left for school.

Ukyou sighed.  I came all this way for nothing....  "Well, I guess I had better be going...."

Hearing the disappointment in Ukyou's tone Kasumi turned to her.  "Why don't you stay for supper?  Maybe Ranma will be back by then.  It's not like him to miss a meal."

"Really?!?  I'd... ummm... well, I don't want to be a bother...."

"Oh, it's no bother.  You're welcome anytime."

Ukyou started to smile, "Thanks.  I guess I could stay... and I'll help you in the kitchen, okay?"

"Oh no, you are a guest.  You shouldn't have to help out."

"Oh, please, I love cooking."

"Well, I guess it's okay," she said as she went to work on diner with Ukyou following close behind.  Akane turned, and headed to the stairs, and to her room to change into her gi.  Well I might as well get a little practice in.

Later that evening at the Tendo's everyone was beginning to disperse after diner.  Genma, and Soun had left the table to play Go in the dojo, calling it training.  Kasumi had cleared the table and working in the kitchen.  Nabiki had left to go to her room.  Akane, and Ukyou, however, were still sitting at the table, and talking.

Ukyou looked around, and sighed, "Well, I wonder what Ranchan is up to...."

"I don't know... but I bet that jerk has been picking on Ryouga all day," Akane replied having started to worry about Ranma too, but unwilling to show it.  Ukyou felt she had overstayed her welcome, and Akane noticed she was starting to feel uncomfortable.  If Ukyou leaves then I won't have anyone to talk to... sure we don't always get along, but the last thing I want to do tonight is sit around by myself worrying about Ranma... that jerk.

Ukyou started to stand up and leave so Akane decided to act fast, "Do you want to stay and watch television for a while?"

Ukyou looked surprised for a moment at the offer, but quickly began to smile.  She had already missed the evening rush at Ukchan's, and she didn't really want to just sit around alone and worry about Ranma.  "Sure, if you don't mind."

Akane started to turn on the television, but was startled by a load crash, and some yelling from somewhere outside.  "What was that?"

"I don't know.  Maybe it's Ranchan!  Let's go see!" Ukyou yelled as both of them leapt to their feet, and started towards the noise.

Ryouga was starting to get really annoyed.  He had realized a while ago that Ranma was running away a lot more than he was attacking.  At first it had made him happy, but he also realized something must have been going on.  Ranma could have been running away because he couldn't handle the attacks, but it wasn't very likely.  His attacks hadn't been that great.  That was mostly because Ranma kept running away, but still there hadn't really been anything to run away from.  However, Ranma had finally stopped running and Ryouga was ready to pound Ranma for real.

Ranma was starting to get worn out.  Finally, I made it.  Now I have to end this quick because I can't last much longer.  "Well you've had your fun Ryouga, now it's my turn!"

"Don't make me laugh!  You're almost worn out.  I'm not even tired," he said mockingly.  Ranma rushed at Ryouga preparing to use his Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken.  However, Ryouga saw it coming, and began to concentrate on gathering his ki.  He gathered the despair he had been holding back since he realized that he and Akane were separated by a void that grew larger the more Ranma and Akane cared for each other, a void that had grown so large that he could never cross it.  The void filled his heart of glass.  Then the void overwhelmed his heart and began to flow through his entire body.  He watched as Ranma neared.  He forced the despair that had become the only thing he had known for so long, towards his hands, and formed it into a massive ball of heavy ki that exploded into Ranma's chest.  "Shishi Houkoudan!!!"

            Ranma was thrown backward smashing into the wall behind him, causing it to crumble.  Ranma pulled himself to his feet realizing how tired he really was.  Ryouga, seeing his opponent leave himself open, immediately charged at Ranma throwing several quick kicks and punches not noticing the cries of concern from the two spectators that had just arrived.  Ranma dodged by jumping over Ryouga.  Ryouga quickly spun around, jabbing at the ground with one finger.  Ranma couldn't avoid all of the flying debris from the Bakusai Tenketsu, and was knocked off balance and into the koi pond.

            Ranma-chan quickly pulled herself out of the water.  Damn!  This isn't going well at all!  She rubbed some of the sweat and blood from the cut over her right eye off of her face with the back of her hand. 

            The two combatants stood staring at one another, waiting for the other to make the next move.  Finally Ryouga began to slip several bandanas off his head, and flung them at Ranma-chan like shurikens.  Ranma-chan quickly noticed a gap in between the bandana-shurikens, and almost instantly bounded through it heading for Ryouga.  This is it.  He would never expect me to come straight though.  I can catch him off guard if I attack quickly enough.

            However, Ryouga had expected it, and in fact he had planned it.  Ryouga had already started to glow with the aura of his own depression by the time Ranma-chan started to move.  "Shishi..."

            Ranma-chan's mind reeled as it realized what was happening.  He lured me in!  Can't block this, I'm to tired, and if it's any thing like the last one... I've got to get out of the way... now!!!

            "Houkoudan!!!"  The heavy ki once again rushed forth from Ryouga's hands.  Ranma-chan quickly began to dodge it, jumping to the right.  If she hadn't been running around, and getting beaten on all day she could have avoid the blast with out losing a stride, but as it was she had only managed to jump a little ways before she was hit in the left side by the powerful blast.  She was forced shoulder first into the ground leaving a rut where she had been shoved down into, and along the ground.

Ranma-chan's head was throbbing.  She rolled onto her back, and sprung to her feet, almost falling back down.  Ryouga prepared to attack again having pulled his umbrella from it's binding on his pack.  Akane, and Ukyou who had been watching the exchange finally broke in.

"Stop it Ryouga!  You're going to really hurt him!" Akane screamed running to Ranma-chan's side, Ukyou close behind.

Ryouga who still had no idea where he was jumped at the sight of Akane and Ukyou rushing to help Ranma-chan.  "A-Akane?!?"

Ranma-chan moaned still dazed from the blast, and started to fall down, but was caught by Akane.  "Akane... leave us alone... this is a... man to man fight... and I'll never admit defeat to that...."  Her voice faded off as the throbbing in her head grew stronger, and she doubled over in pain.  Akane quickly put her arms around Ranma-chan wanting to ease the pain, but feeling helpless.  Ukyou had brought her battle-spatula to the ready, "That's enough you jerk!  Just leave Ranchan alone!"

Ryouga had finally figured out where he was, "But I didn't...."

"Didn't what?!?" Ukyou yelled trying to sound threatening.  "Didn't just spend all day chasing Ranchan around trying to kill him after he went and tried to talk to you?!?"  She figured it was something like that.  It always seemed to be.

Ryouga couldn't answer.  His mind couldn't concentrate.  The only thing that he could think of was the fact that Akane was hugging Ranma.  It doesn't matter what I do....  I have lost Akane to... to... to that jerk....  Damn it!!!  I... What am I fighting for... honor... love... revenge...?  No, not any more there is nothing left....  There is no way back....  The despair that Ryouga had focused against Ranma started to overwhelm him and he began to sink deep into depression.  Not wanting to see what was happening he lowered his head.  He had almost won this battle, but it was meaningless.  He no longer had a reason to fight.

Ukyou's face remained hard as the lost boy began to stumble backwards.  Then he sunk to his knees, and Ukyou started unsure what he was doing, "H-Hey...."

Ryouga pushed himself back to his feet his head still lowered.  Even Ukyou is against me....  There is nothing for me here....  I have to keep going....  I have to get away from here.

"Hey... are you okay?"  Ukyou was starting to get a little worried about him.  She started to walk towards Ryouga, but as she did he turned, and leapt off over the wall, and into the night without ever looking back.  She considered going after him, but instead decided to go back to check on Ranma.

Ranma-chan was being lead inside leaning heavily on Akane having forgotten that she had wanted to follow Ryouga.  Ukyou rushed over, and helped to support her weight from the other side.  The trio quickly went inside to bandage Ranma-chan's wounds.

Ryouga, after jumping over the wall, ran until he ended up in a small deserted park, and collapsed.  He was tired, but he had collapsed because he had lost his will... his will to fight... his will to get away... his will to live....