Title: You'll See

Author: Becka
Pairing: Various.

Warnings: Abuse. Angst. AU. Blood. Dark. Deathfic. Torture. Violence.

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ does not belong to Becka; characters are used without permission for a non-profit purpose. No infringement is intended.

Note: This isn't a particularly happy story. In fact, my original point in writing this all those years ago was to see just how many ways I could kill Ranma. Looking it over now, it's not particularly well written, but who knows? I may one day attempt a re-write because of all the characters I love to kill, Ranma steadfastly remains my favorite.

o

You think that I can never laugh again. You'll see.

You think that you've destroyed my faith in love,

You think after all you've done, I'll never find my way back home,

somehow, someway.

You think that you are strong, but you are weak. You'll see.

It takes more strength to cry, admit defeat.

I have truth on my side; you only have deceit,

You'll see, somehow, some day.

All by myself, I don't need anyone at all,

I know I'll survive, I know I'll stay alive.

I'll stand on my own; I won't need anyone this time.

It will be mine; no one can take it from me.

You'll see.

-Madona

o

"Ranma no baka!"

Akane, garbed in her pretty yellow jumper, produced her mallet out of hammer-space and swung it hard, landing a heavy blow across Ranma's face. The two had been arguing a few moments earlier, and arguments only ended in one way.

Wham!

Ranma spun around, landing on the ground with a thump, a telltale mark appearing across his face. He looked up, eyes full of hurt, and yelled, "Akane! What'cha do that for?"

Akane didn't see the hurt; she only saw Ranma denying something she knew he did. He HAD to have done it. It was his fault. It was always his fault. Akane glared at him, bringing her mallet around in another full swing. "You were in my room again, weren't you! Weren't you?"

Ranma never got a chance to answer as yet another of the many blows he should have blocked struck him full in his face. Trying to impede the blows with one arms, he pushed himself off the ground. "No! I wasn't in your room, Akane! Why won't you believe me?"

"Hah! Like I should! Pervert!"

Whack.

"Akane, what are you so angry about?"

Whack.

"You were in my room! You were in my underwear drawer, sicko."

Whack.

"Why would I be interested in the panties of an un-cute tomboy like you?"

Whack. Whack.

Akane stood over him, her eyes ablaze. "What did you call me?"

Ranma glared up at her. One of his eyes was slightly swollen shut and his pigtail stuck out at an odd angle. It made him look pathetic, like someone who deserved a little sympathy, but Akane didn't care. He made her so mad; she just wanted to pay him back for what he did to her.

"I called you an un-cute tomboy! You are! Un-cute, un-sexy, and flatter than a wall. And at least the wall can cook better!" Ranma didn't even have time to raise his hands as she lit into him.

Whack! Wham! Thump! Thud! Whack!

Like a minion from hell, she stood over him, anger written in every line of her face and the stiffness of her body. She yelled down at him, "I hate you! I never want to see you again, you disgusting pervert! You're just a sex-changing freak, Ranma! Even if you weren't, you'd just be a guy, and I hate guys!" Akane raised the hammer.

Her cruel words registered briefly in his mind, and he brought his arms up to protect himself.

With every ounce of strength she could muster, Akane swung. Hard. The last thing Ranma saw before he was knocked out was the blur of a yellow mallet, but even that couldn't block his view of Akane's angry eyes.

o

Some time later, Ranma peeled himself out of the Ranma-shaped dent in the ground, complete with pigtail. He brushed himself off with one hand, the other gently touching the black eye he sported from his most recent encounter with an angry mallet.

Why wouldn't she listen to him? He never did the things she accused him off, but that didn't seem to matter. All she wanted to do was hit him. Sighing, he mumbled a soft curse and headed to the safest recluse he knew of: the roof.

Looking up at the clouds, Ranma allowed his thoughts to drift back to Akane's harsh words. She hated him; she never wanted to see him again; she considered him a freak. Yeah, those were really the words he wanted to hear from the girl he was supposed to marry. He contemplated a cloud thoughtfully. "You know," he said to one of the cotton-like balls that vaguely resembled a mallet, "I never could figure her out. She says she hates me... so why do I still save her when she needs me?" He halted, his eyes widening slightly. "Maybe... maybe I kinda' do like her. And the only time she's nice to me is when I take a beating for her. She smiles and calls me an idiot. She's so pretty when she smiles..." He shook his head, breaking out of his dreamy stupor. "Baka! You really are an idiot if that's the only reason you rescue her... to see her smile."

Any further contemplation would need to be saved for later because Ranma was suddenly crushed under a weighty bicycle. Perched atop that bicycle was an even weightier, in attitude at least, Chinese girl. "Ayia! Shampoo no see you there, Ranma! Let her make it up to you with gift of ramen, is okay?" She pulled a bowl of ramen out of her delivery box.

Slithering from beneath the bicycle, Ranma nodded, never one to pass up "free-eats." With one slurp, the contents of the bowl Shampoo had presented to him were gone. He smiled gratefully. "Thanks, Shampoo. I was kinda' hungry..."

The dainty girl clapped her hands together, delighted. "Oh! Shampoo so happy! Ranma, go on date with Shampoo, and day no get any better!" Saying so, she wrapped her arms around the neck of her (alleged) future husband, holding him in a glomp so powerful that there was only one thing that could break it.

Whack!

"And just _what_ do you two think you're doing?"

Ranma was sent into orbit for the second time that day, leaving the two girls with one another. Shampoo glared at her greatest rival. "Stupid girl! Why you always hurt Ranma? You think he like being hit?"

Akane Tendo blinked, seeing a tiny glimmer of logic in the Amazon's words. Without another word, she turned on her heel and stalked away, her words drifting back to Shampoo. "The baka deserves it."

Sighing, Shampoo hopped back onto her bicycle to finish the rest of her deliveries. She eyed the direction Ranma disappeared in and muttered softly, "Why Akane always hit Ranma... and why Ranma never stop her?"

o

With a groan, Ranma settled down onto his bed. It was still the same day and the swelling from the black eye Akane gave him had gone down nicely. It wasn't very late, and normally he wouldn't have retired until nightfall, but for some reason he was really tired today. Ever since Akane had whacked him that second time, he couldn't seem to get his mind off sleeping and the oh-so-tempting bed roll on the floor.

Settling down, he curled into a ball, his soft voice murmuring fitful words as he drifted off into sleep. "Stupid Akane... I'm not a freak... I'll prove myself to you... you'll see..."

Perhaps if he had known the consequences of his actions, Ranma might have been able to fight off sleep a little longer. As it was, the moment his eyes drifted shut and his consciousness wandered to the far recesses of his mind, Ranma didn't have a chance to fight off the rare and powerful drug that would change his life forever.

o

The next morning, Genma Saotome arose from his bed on the floor. He was surprised; Ranma was usually up and about far earlier than he. He shrugged and grinned to himself; let this be a lesson to the boy, then. If he wasn't able to control his biological clock as a true martial artist should, he didn't deserve to be woken for the delicious breakfast Kasumi had prepared. Sniggering happily, Genma tiptoed out of the room, heading for the dinning hall.

Soun and his three girls looked up from their meal as Mr. Saotome entered the room. He spoke hesitantly. "Say, Saotome, shouldn't Ranma be up by now?"

Shrugging, Genma responded, his forceful voice filling the small room easily, "My boy's still sleeping, Tendo. I think it's time for another training mission if he's getting so lax. I'll tell him when he wakes up, but first, let's eat!"

Soun, seeing no reason to argue against a third helping, let the matter slide until after breakfast. Ranma still hadn't woken up, and so he sent Kasumi to check on his future son. Secretly he hoped that Ranma wouldn't be too mad at missing a meal, and he figured that Kasumi would be the last person he would attack upon finding they had neglected waking him for breakfast.

Kasumi rushed back into the room, her eyes worried. "Father, Ranma won't wake up!"

That caught everyone's attention and the group made its way into the room the Saotomes called their own. Ranma was still lying on his bed, not so much as twitching a muscle, eyes peacefully closed in sleep. Genma stalked over and hauled Ranma's limp body to its feet, giving his son a shake for good measure. "Come on, boy! You already missed breakfast and at this rate, you'll miss lunch as well."

There was no response.

Genma blinked in surprise, having figured that the mention of missing a meal would have brought his son straight to his feet. He released Ranma's body, stunned as it slumped to the ground without the slightest sign of resistance.

Akane's eyes widened as she knelt by his side, her hands on his shoulders as she shook him frantically, "Ranma! Oh, come on. Ranma, this isn't funny! Wake up!" Akane's voice managed to bring Ranma around a little; his voice barely audible and slightly slurred, almost as though his body was reacting but his mind wasn't there.

"... you'll see... stupid Akane... I'm not a freak..."

Akane blinked, releasing him abruptly. "What did you say? Ranma, you're such a jerk!" She whipped out a mallet and was about to whack Ranma when she remembered the events of the previous day. She'd said some pretty cruel things, even though she knew how sensitive Ranma was about his curse. Akane dropped the mallet, having called it up only out of reflex, and shook Ranma again, unable to bring herself to apologize. "Come on, Ranma. Wake up!"

He didn't stir.

Akane looked up to Nabiki, her voice full of concern. "Get Dr. Tofu, and hurry."

o

Dr. Tofu finished his examination, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, Akane. I don't know what's wrong with him. His body is as healthy as ever, but his mind is simply not there. Did anything happen yesterday?"

Akane looked at the man she loved, even if she hadn't fully accepted that fact yet. Her face, normally energetic and excited, was tight with worry. As she spoke, the fear was evident in her voice. "I... it was just a normal day. Is he going to be all right, Dr. Tofu? He's going to make it, right?"

Sighing, the older man pressed his palm to Ranma's forehead. He simply couldn't sense anything there. He didn't know of anything that could do this to someone as resilient as Ranma... unless...

Tofu's eyes widened in understanding. Grabbing up one of the many medical books from his bag, frantically flipping through the pages, he looked for the obscure passage that had triggered his memory. Akane watched him intently, new hope dawning in her eyes. Tofu stood abruptly, his eyes skimming the text purposefully. Finding the proper page, the doctor looked at Akane with an excited smile. "I _knew_ I'd read something about this kind of case before. It's so old that it hadn't even crossed my mind..."

Akane hopped up, landing lightly. "What is it, doctor? Can you help him?"

Tofu shook his head, handing the book to Akane to examine. "I can't be sure, but I think that Ranma's condition is a result from a very powerful Chinese curse: The Million Little Deaths. The specifics are only known by a select few, specifically the Amazons. To my knowledge, there have been only two other cases like this. Both times, the victim remained in a coma like state."

Akane bit her lip, her fears renewed. "Ranma's going to be in a coma... forever?"

To her relief, the doctor shook his head and said, "No. The passages weren't very specific, but the victims did not remain comatose forever. From what I understand, both simply stopped breathing, perhaps a week after first infected. I'm sorry, Akane. I don't think that Ranma's going to last very long if we aren't able to find help very soon."

He watched as a variety of emotions passed over Akane's face: shock, fear, worry, despair, and finally, determination. She stood abruptly. "Sempai, you'll have to excuse me. You'll look after Ranma for me, won't you?" At his nod, she smiled grimly and pushed her sleeves up past the elbows, her words leaving Tofu speechless for a few moments. "Good. I have a date with a bonbori and I don't want to miss it."

o

Akane stalked over to the Neko Hanten, flinging the door open with one hand. She hefted her giant mallet onto one shoulder easily. Angrily, she called out, "Cologne! Shampoo! You two have some explaining to do!"

After a moment, a wizened old woman hopped out from the back room, using her staff as some sort of demented pogo stick. The young girl with bright purple hair continued to deftly serve ramen, unperturbed, to her costumers who lined up at intervals along the tables. She paid about as much notice to Akane as one pays to a tree in a forest.

Akane shook an angry fist at the old woman. "Did you do it to him? Did you curse him?"

Cologne tilted her head to one side, her expression clearly indicating she believed the girl to be daft. "What are you talking about, child? Did I curse who?"

The youngest Tendo stomped her foot in frustration. "I don't have time for this! Did you curse Ranma with 'The Million Little Deaths' or not? Either way, you're going to help me save him. I don't care if you don't know of any cure; invent one!"

Cologne's brow furrowed slightly, eyes drifting to where Shampoo continued to work, blissfully unaware of this new development. "'The Million Little Deaths' eh? Well, well, what has son-in-law gotten himself into now...?"

Akane snarled, "I don't have time for this!" She threw herself at the older woman, intent on beating the information out of her if necessary. She never reached her goal, though, as the old woman simply raised her gnarled staff to block Akane's assault with ease. She quirked a mild brow in reprieve, "Calm yourself, child. I'll help cure son-in-law... perhaps. Go back to his side. Shampoo and I will be there shortly."

Knowing that she was Cologne's inferior, at least when it came to fighting, Akane backed away, throwing one last glare at the diminutive Amazon. "I don't care what it takes, just cure him." With that, she was gone, leaving only a swinging door in her wake.

The old woman chuckled, turning to her granddaughter, "Come Shampoo. Fetch Mousse and close the restaurant. We have a marriage to arrange."

o

Some time later, the Tendos, Mr. Saotome, and nearly everyone else who'd heard of Ranma's plight and had an interest in his recovery were gathered around Ranma's limp body. Shampoo, Ukyo, and Kodachi gazed down at him, willing him with their eyes to awaken. The fathers, Soun and Genma, also stared at him, their last hope for the two schools. Kasumi attended him, pressing cool compresses to his forehead while Nabiki hung back, watching the proceedings with interest. Ryoga, Mousse, and Kuno also looked at Ranma, their gazes surprisingly free of hostility. In fact, it seemed that for the first time the three of them were coming to grips with the fact that Ranma was a friend who cared for them and whom they cared about. Dr. Tofu watched Cologne warily, guarding over his patient and never letting his mind nor his thoughts stray to Kasumi. Akane sat by Ranma's side, her face slightly drawn. She demanded, "Alright, Cologne. Explain what this 'Little Deaths' thing is."

Never one to waste a dramatic moment, Cologne drew herself up, pausing for emphasis. "'The Million Little Deaths' was a punishment developed for some of the most serious crimes that we Amazons face. It was debated whether any crime was so great that it would warrant such a punishment, and after being tested twice, it was banned from the tribe forever. In essence, a drug is given to the criminal, causing them to go into a deep sleep. Once this happens, nothing can reach them. While asleep, the person's consciousnesstravels to another dimension. They are transported into a body in another dimension, and body belonging to their counterpart. Once there, they are overwhelmed with their counterpart's thoughts, feelings and memories. They are forced to live out their life, and their death. "

Nabiki interrupted, "That doesn't sound so bad. It's certainly not as terrible as you're making it out to be..."

Cologne just gave her a _look_ before continuing, "Once Ranma's counterpart dies, he is forced into another of his bodies, in another dimension, and once again, he must undergo the same torment, never being able to affect what happens to him."

Shampoo blinked, "Ayia! You mean say that Ranma live a thousand times?"

Cologne continued as though she had not heard her granddaughter's words. "There are a few more matters at hand. Ranma will only be transported to bodies with the lowest survival rate; for example, his counterparts who are fighting in wars, engaged in dangerous occupations or hobbies, etc. Essentially he'll die, over and over again, and for a martial artist who is used to being able to protect himself and others, that is a grim fate indeed."

There was a moment of silence as everyone absorbed this information, and the horrified looks that followed were divided between Ranma's body and the old hag who stood near it. Ryoga spoke up, his voice trembling, "You mean to say that he... he'll just die over and over... and it won't ever end?"

Cologne chuckled softly, "Afraid so, sunny boy. That is not the worst of it though."

Akane's heart was suddenly weighed down with dread. Her lower lip trembled and she whispered, "Not the worst...?"

The old woman smiled grimly. "Not by a long shot, child. Have you ever imagined how he might die? He'll drown or suffocate, bleed or burn. There are so many ways that his life could end, and he'll endure them all hundreds of times. What if his counterpart commits suicide? What would it be like for son-in-law to watch as he was forced to take his own life... and to know why he was taking it? What would it be like if you or Shampoo or Ukyo killed him? Do you think his deaths will be instantaneous? It could take days, even weeks for him to die, and he'll be fully conscious through it all."

Her words were once again greeted with silence.

The old woman looked down at Ranma, as did everyone else as he moaned softly, his face twisted in pain. Her voice was soft. "Now do you understand why this punishment is perhaps the greatest of all? Why it was banned? Time passes more quickly for him in the alternate dimensions. He could have died at least 20 times by now."

Genma looked at his son, his eyes wavering. "My God..."

Cologne's mouth twisted in a cruel smile as she stared coldly at Ranma's father. "You're always telling him to take it like a man, Saotome. Do you think he'll be as strong as you want him to be if he survives this hell?"

The older Saotome looked downwards in shame. Cologne nodded once, then pulled out a small vile of green liquid. "Then, let us see if he is still the same man."

Ukyo blinked. "Is that... a cure...?"

Everyone held a collective breath as Cologne nodded, "It is, but once I give this to him, you will relinquish all rights on son-in-law."

Akane had expected as much, and she nodded slowly, surprising those present. "Done." She let out a shaky breath, then added, "Hurry! Cure him before he has... has to die again..."

Nearby in the rafters, an old shriveled man remained hidden from their view. His hiding spot was one of the best that the aging hentai knew, leaving the entire room open to his view. This was especially useful when Ranma happened to be a girl and needed to change. There was one fatal flaw in this alcove though, and that was that he could not clearly hear what was being said. He caught a few words such as, "Ranma," "man," and "cure." His gazed narrowed. They were trying to take away Ran-chan's beautiful, lithe, young body. He could not, no... _would_ not allow such a waste to occur.

Cologne turned, about to administer the foul concoction when, out of nowhere, a small blur flung itself down at her. Happosai snatched the vial from Cologne's hands, his face set in grim determination. "No! I will not allow you to take away my beautiful Ranma! I will not be privy to a plan to deprive the world of her fine, pert breasts!" He smashed the bottle against the floor with a gleeful cry of, "Sweet!"

Spinning to face his audience, he blinked as he was met with total silence. Crickets chirped.

In a flurry of motion, the old pervert found himself bound in black ribbon and pinned to the wall by small spatulas. Above him stood four righteous women, eyes ablaze, each holding their respective weapons threateningly: black roses, a bonbori, spatulas, and a mallet that could probably level the dojo.

The old man stuttered, "Wha... wha'd I do?"

Rage in their eyes, the girls proceeded to beat the Master senseless, the oppressive silence in the dojo punctuated only by his low cries of pain.

"Ayia! Stupid pervert-man condemn Ranma to die! Shampoo no can forgive!"

"You! How dare to hurt Ran-chan like that! I will punish you!"

"You old fool! You will know the wrath of a righteous woman for Ranma-darlings suffering! Ahahahahahahaha!"

Akane drew back her mallet and with a burst of strength that would have made Ranma proud, she pounded the hentai into the ground in a single strike, burying him ear-deep in concrete.

Unnoticed by all, Cologne's hands trembled. Her mouth was dry as she stared stupidly at the remains of the glass bottle. It had taken her years to gather all the necessary ingredients for the Amazon punishment ritual, and even more time to prepare it and one vial of its antidote. She had waited until the perfect time to send Shampoo to Ranma with the poisoned ramen. There was no cure... not anymore. Even with Nabiki's resources, the cure would still take a year to create. A year for them, but tens of thousands of lifetimes and deaths for Ranma. No one, she recalled, had lived past a week, and even if the antidote was given in time, Ranma's mind would probably have all the intelligence of a shrub.

She murmured too softly for anyone to hear, "If son-in-law cannot survive, he does not deserve Shampoo," but the words rang hollow in her ears. Cologne was far too old to lie to herself; not even Ranma could live through this. He would die and it would be her fault. She swallowed painfully, knowing that she would blame herself forever for this fatal error that cost a young man his life.

She turned to all in the room, save Happosai who was now beneath her notice. She said coldly, "There is no other cure."

Akane turned towards the old man, looking down at him with tearful eyes. She hefted her mallet, and those around her backed up as she swung down on the old fool's head. The blur of the mallet was the last thing Happosai saw before he blacked out.

Akane pressed balled hands to her eyes, attempting to stop the flow of tears. She cried, "You stupid hentai! That was the cure! That was the only cure and you broke it! Now... now he won't wake up!"

As she began to sob in earnest, Ryoga laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. She spun and buried her face in his chest, her words incoherent though their meaning was clear. "Ranma... he... he's..."

This seemed to dawn on the other fiancéesas well. Mousse held a trembling Shampoo close; Kodachi leaned against her brother for support, looking pale; and Kasumi attempted to comfort the grief-stricken Ukyo. Soun looked ready to burst into tears while Genma starred blindly down at his only son.

Nabiki stepped forward, mouth set in a grim line. "How long would it take to gather whatever ingredients necessary?"

Cologne pulled out at list from the folds of her robe, perhaps a foot in length, covered in small, neat writing. Nabiki stared at it for a moment, then spoke slowly, "I assume most of the items on there are rare. Perhaps one of a kind?"

The old woman nodded.

Deciding that something needed to be done, and that someone needed to do it, Nabiki took the list, glaring at everyone in the room. "All of you, be quiet. If you want Ranma back, you're going to have to work and work fast. All of you are acting like he's dead. Well, he's _not_! And if any of you were lying there, he'd probably already be off looking for this stuff." She held up the scroll and waved it like some kind of ancient battle flag. "So what are you waiting for? Let's go people. Move it."

This seemed to snap everyone back to normal. They could do this. They had to.

Kuno gently patted his sister on the back, but his focus was on the middle Tendo sister. Calmly, he said, "What do we need to do?"

Nabiki settled herself down, pulling out a pad of paper and a thin pencil. A grim smile of determination crossed her face and she responded, "Find whatever's on this list, bring it back here, make it into the antidote and give it to Ranma." She glanced at Cologne. "What timeframe do we have to work with?"

Tofu jumped in before the old woman could respond and said, "At worst, four or five days. At best... well, Ranma's a strong boy. I'm sure he can survive longer than a week."

Nabiki nodded, then began her rapid fire of questions. "Alright, who here's ever heard of 'Lux Root?"

And so it began.

o

Ranma opened his eyes, or more precisely, Ranma's eyes opened of their own accord.

He lay sprawled on the ground, and something hard, with lots of jagged little points, prodded him painfully in the back. His eyes told him that he was in the middle of the aftermath of a war. His mind supplied the rest of the information: he was sprawled in the middle of the Town Square. The pointed things in his back were bits of glass and rock from the last blast that hit.

/ What "last blast"? /

As soon as the thought entered his mind, the answer was there. The last blast from the attack. He'd been walking down the street with his wife when the raiders had hit and hit hard.

/ Wife? /

A mental image of a slightly older Akane filled his mind as she smiled warmly at him.

/ Huh? /

A thousand memories hit his mind, memories enough to fill a lifetime. His name, the memories said, was Ranma Tendo. He was a forty-five year old accountant who had settled down happily with his childhood friend, Akane Saotome. The two of them had taken over the "Anything Goes School of Mathematics" almost twenty years prior. They lived with their three children, Jon, Jan, and Spot, in the Nerima region of Japan. Ranma Tendo had never once been in a fight, having preferred to study for most of his young life. To Ranma _Saotome's_ amazement, he understood everything that the man in this life had studied. He could parrot, word for word, every book this scholarly-self of his had ever read. He knew math like the he knew his Art, and given any problem with a mathematical solution, he could solve it. It was one of the most stunning rushes of his lifetime. It didn't last.

He was hauled rudely to his feet by a beefy hand. To Ranma's shock, he found himself staring into the face of one Genma Saotome. His father... his old man... but the newer half of Ranma's consciousness told him that this man was not his father. This man was the leader of the Raiders, a rebel group who terrorized the entire continent of Japan.

Genma's breath was foul as he stared curiously into the younger man's face. The blank eyes were open, but he didn't look well at all. In fact, the older man noted with amusement, he looked half dead and would be soon, by the look of the cuts and burns that covered his body. "Well, well," Genma Kuno, leader of the Raiders, drawled out, "Look what I have here boys. Seems like one of these weaklings actually managed to survive the blast..."

Ranma Saotome was about to shove his pop's hands off of him when he realized he couldn't move; he couldn't do anything at all for that matter. That was when he heard it. Another voice inside his head that whimpered, / Oh dear Goddess, what is this man? Akane! Oh, oh Goddess please let her be all right. Please let her have escaped... /

Ranma knew that voice well. It was his own. His mind went over the possibilities quickly: an alternate dimension? Probably. He was locked inside his mind in an alternate dimension, and he couldn't affect anything that was happening. How to change that...? He focused all his concentration, and at last he gained the desired response: his right pinky twitched momentarily. He immediately stopped, because it hurt his mind to do so and besides, something was happening.

Genma looked the man over again, surprised that such an obvious bookworm had survived an atomic blast that had leveled the entire city. Before he had time to think the matter over more, his second in command, his son in fact, called out, "Yo, pops. We got another survivor here."

Genma's brows shot up in surprise. "Two survivors? God, are you sure that thing was the same kind we used to level Crystal City?"

Tatewake Kuno nodded, "Yeah... kind of hard to believe though. This one's a woman!"

Ranma's mental eyes widened in shock. That long black hair, the pretty yellow dress... Oh god, no. Not her... not Akane.

Several men, toughened and hardened soldiers of fortune, walked over to their leader, eyeing the half-conscious woman in speculation.

One spoke up. "Sir, we ain't got another city to nuke for a few hours..."

Twisted smiles crossed the faces of all present. The woman was beautiful, with a pure and innocent child-like quality about her that made their mouths water. Genma dropped the broken man and began to strip down, pulling his shirt off. The rest of the men followed his example and both Ranmas watched in horror as they descended on Akane... their beautiful, perfect, if stubborn, Akane. Ranma Tendo was mad with pain but he still hauled himself slowly to his feet. His voice was a hoarse whisper, but they heard it.

The Raiders turned to find a dead man on his feet, stumbling towards them with hell in his eyes. His voice was scratchy and hoarse. "She's... mine... don't any of you bastards touch her..."

Genma was impressed, thinking that this man had to love the woman very much if he could stand in spite of all his pain. A cruel and feral grin crossed his mouth. "Hey boys, think we should take care of her little man first? It would only be polite." There were several bawdy remarks and short bark of laughter. Then they converged on a man who had never once had any injury more serious than a paper cut.

Kick, punch, spin kick, slam; Ranma Tendo slumped to the ground, his mind reeling from the glass and the burns and the severe beating he was taking. They hauled him to his feet, dragging him over to watch, repeatedly, exactly what they did to his precious wife. He fought, fought with more strength than he knew he possessed, every time one of Akane's screams reached him, and each time he was beat down by one of the men holding him back. Ranma Saotome watched this in agony, feeling everything his counterpart felt physically, and sharing the pain of seeing Akane and knowing that there was nothing he could do to help her.

Even as her hoarse cries turned to bare whispers, tears trickled down Ranma's face. Then, from the corner of his eye, he caught sight of one of the men holding a knife. The man was watching Akane with interest, his eyes flitting between the weapon and Akane's body. Smiling sinisterly, he advanced on her prone form, kneeling down and thrusting upwards.

Ranma felt something in him snap, and even as his counterpart faded away, he forced the body to stir as he willed it. He could move! A half-mad howl erupted from the back of his throat, so primal that the men holding him stumbled back, shock and fear in their eyes.

Focusing his entire being on the pain, he spun, one leg connecting solidly with Tatewake Kuno's face. There was a snap and the younger Kuno went down. Berserk in his rage, Ranma twisted and turned, delivering blow after blow to each body that got in his way. He lunged for the man who still knelt over Akane's form, slamming a fist into his face. Blood and ooze covered his hands and finally, when no one else challenged him, his rage and hate ebbed to be replaced by anguish, grief, and a despair so powerful that the few raiders who still stood retreated, watching the mad man from a distance.

Controlling his body was becoming easier for him, and even through the pain he forced himself to crawl to his only love's side. Her body was limp and broken, for any kind of humiliation that could be afflicted onto one person had been done unto her. His trembling hands wrapped around her body, pulling her against him as he rocked on his knees, moaning like a wounded animal. Her name issued from his lips as he called to her softly, the tears running down his face, the sobs caught in his throat.

Akane's eyes fluttered open and the expression in them mirrored his own. He held her firmly but gently to his chest. She leaned into him, and in a voice that was hoarse from screaming, she murmured, "R... ranma...?"

He ran his fingers through her hair gently, his own voice small. "I... I'm suh-sorry... Akane... oh god, Akane... I'm so... s-sorry..."

She closed her eyes, her words dying off. "I... lo..."

Ranma bowed his head, knowing the exact moment her heart slowed down and finally stopped and died altogether. The men who had watched this scene with wide eyes felt their own hearts go still as the man who should have died a several times already threw back his head and screamed. A mad howl that resounded and echoed, causing men and women miles away to look up and wonder what sort of beast could produce a sound so tormented and haunted, a sound that no human voice ever should be able to. It was only a single word. A name.

Seeing the two, man and woman, joined together in a single living statue, Genma and his men turned and walked away. Later they would contest that they had a schedule to keep, but deep inside they knew, without a doubt, that the man would have turned to face them with dead eyes, and that he would have welcomed the end they brought. So Ranma stayed there, staring down at the body of the woman he loved as he slowly bled to death on the empty cement walkway.

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