Title: You'll See

Author: Becka

Chapter 03: I Scream, You Scream!


Ranma opened his eyes slowly. He realized two things.

First, he couldn't move. And second... his arms were strapped to his bed.

His mind, in response to his obvious puzzlement, supplied him with a reason. He was in a mental institution. This didn't really come as too much of a surprise; his father had trained him in the Neko-ken at an early age and in this life, and he was driven quite insane because of it. What _did_ shock him was the other occupants in the room. His friends, Akane, Nabiki, Kasumi, Ukyo, Ryoga, Mousse, Shampoo, Kuno, and Kodachi were all present, strapped to their beds in a similar fashion.

Shampoo smiled weakly when she saw him look around, noting the obviously confused expression on his face. "Ranma have hard session?"

A very pale Ryoga gingerly pushed himself into a sitting position. "Hey man, you look worse than I do..." He laughed feebly, as though he had made a joke.

Ranma blinked. "Umm... why are we here?"

Ukyo and Kasumi exchanged sad smiles. Ukyo shook her head. "They really did a number on you this time, didn't they, sugar?"

Akane gritted her teeth, struggling against the bonds that held her arms. "Damn it! Let me out of here! These stupid bastards are going to get it when I get loose."

Her outburst was met with loud "shhh!"s, and everyone glanced at the door nervously, their eyes wide with fear.

Nabiki whispered feverishly, "Sis, be quiet! We don't want them to come back!"

Ranma blinked again, then questioned his memory, / Who don't they want to come back? /

The doctors, his mind replied.

/ Doctors? /

The bad doctors who run this institution, his mental voice murmured, suddenly very afraid.

/ Why are the doctors bad? /

His mind was flooded with images of bright lights and grinning faces. The doctors who ran the institution were sadists who used their teenaged occupants as test subjects for experimental "cures." Electroshock therapy, gases and pills, cruel taunts and sharp needles all hit him in a rush and he was forced to stifle a soft moan.

Everyone looked at him, save Akane who was still furiously working at her bonds. Their eyebrows went up and Kasumi questioned softly, "Won't you tell us, Ranma? We know they use you more harshly... perhaps you'd feel better to just tell us what they do to you for once?"

Ranma gritted his teeth as the over flow of images overloaded his braid. Needles, drugs, water-torture... oh, gods how they had fun with water. Suddenly he was in a different room, strapped into a chair, and the doctors gathered around him. They tortured him, and when he begged them to stop, they laughed and mocked him for being "weak" and "female." One of the doctors loved to abuse Ranma's body, in both male and female forms. He...

Ranma's face went white. Shaking free of the memory, he shuddered in disgust. Goddess, why was he here? Why did the doctors treat their patients like lab rats, tormenting and hurting them solely for pleasure?

Looking into the sympathetic and understanding faces of his friends, Ranma realized that they had all undergone the same treatment as him. Perhaps not on the same scale, but most assuredly, they all understood how he felt.

Slowly, he opened his mouth and said, "I... don't remember why we're all here... please, tell me why we're here."

Kuno looked up at the ceiling and quoted bitterly, "Fool, there never was a man so notoriously abused." He met Ranma's eyes and answered, "We are here because we have 'problems' that need to be cured. I, they said, have an overly active imagination. In short, I've lived in a world of fantasy for most of my life."

Kodachi who lay on the bed next to him did not move so much as a muscle as she spoke. "Our mutual father drove me quite insane after out mother's death. 'Psychopathic' they said. Of all of us here, I will never leave this place. They have told my kin that I am 'incurable.'"

The purpled-haired Amazon smiled ruefully. "Shampoo fine, she say. Shampoo put here by Great Grandmother, who tell men that she 'retard' because she no learn speak Japanese well. Great Grandmother no want less than perfect girl, and Shampoo no perfect."

Mousse shook his head. "Shampoo, I..." He bit his lip, looking down. "There I go again. Cologne put me here because she seems to feel I have a very serious case of obsession with Shampoo. A case, the doctors have agreed, so serious, that I have no chance of leaving here... alive."

Ryoga let out a sharp bark of laughter, one that seemed to resonate off the walls. "Where shall I begin, eh, Ranma? The doctors have found a prime specimen in me. They feel I have enough mental illness to cover at least five other men." He counted off, holding up a finger for each condition, "Serious depression, suicidal intentions, loss of direction, disorientation, obsession, homicidal tendencies... they'll never let me go because they can't seem to stop finding things to fix in my head."

Ukyo bit her lip. "Who knows? Maybe we'll get lucky and one of them will set the building on fire by accident." She sighed softly. "They put me in here because they seem to think that there is something in my head that tells me to be a boy. They don't care that I only dress this way because it's comfortable; they just like screwing around with my head too much."

Kasumi stared at the straps that bound her wrists, her voice gentle, as always. "I came here of my own accord. I simply couldn't find the will to live after mother died. I thought they could help me, for my family's sake, but..."

Nabiki closed her eyes, burying her head into her pillow. "It's alright, sis. Of all of us, I hate having you here the most. Anyway, they brought _me_ in because they seem to think that I would do anything for money; I'm considered a danger to those around me."

Akane didn't say anything. She looked infuriated, and she continued to struggle against the metal straps that pinned her arms. Beads of sweat trickled from her furrowed brow and she let out a growl of frustration. Nabiki murmured quietly, "Rage disorder. She can't control her temper, any more than I can control my greed. Combine that with being manic depressive, and you've got Akane."

Kodachi finally moved, turning her face towards him. "And you, Ranma-darling, have never told us why you are here, or why your father put you here. You've never been very open with us, but again, we respect that. If they took me in for therapy half so often as they did you, I would probably go..." she giggled softly, "... insane."

His face ashen, Ranma listened to his friend's calm explanations. His eyes were dark as he spoke. Surprising them, he said, "I'm sorry... I need... to sleep, I think..."

And so he closed his eyes, as did most of the others in the room, and slept. Kuno remained staring at the ceiling and listening to the silence for almost an hour after the rest, but eventually, he too surrendered himself to the darkness that beckoned.

The next morning, four burly men stormed loudly into the room where the young martial artists slept. Nine pairs of eyes watched silently as two flanked either side of Ranma's bed. Two of the men grabbed his arms in a death vice, and though Ranma didn't struggle, they twisted them behind his back to prevent him if he should try. They yanked him from the bed, dragging him roughly across the floor and through the doors.

Remaining calm, Ranma allowed them to take him to a small padded room. One of the brutes opened the door, and dropping the slightly disoriented boy to the ground, they kicked him in. They left him there for a minute, then a bearded doctor, Dr. Wonshinja his mind supplied, entered, flanked by three toughs in white coats. Ranma faced them confidently, his eyes only wavering a little.

Dr. Wonshinja was confused. Only yesterday, this same boy had cowered before him and asked him not to hurt him. Wonshinja had ignored those pleas, of course, but watching a once proud boy grovel before him was an invigorating experience. Now the youth seemed to have regained his confidence tenfold.

Wonshinja forced a smile, indicating that his men should rough Ranma up a little bit before they began. One of them stepped forward, raising a beefy fist. The man slammed his hand down, expecting the pigtailed boy to crumple into a sobbing little heap.

Ranma raised his hand, catching the thug's fist with hardly a gesture. Wonshinja blinked, realizing that the boy's courage was not totally unfounded. He looked down at his notes, wondering what the quickest way to break him would be.

When the doctor looked back at Ranma, he was smiling, a calm, cold, and calculating smile. Dr. Wonshinja turned and murmured something to one of his brutes quietly. The man looked puzzled, but he shrugged and left the room. Wonshinja was quiet, and Ranma patiently waited for some kind of acknowledgment.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, the doctor turned his attention back to the pig-tailed boy, still smiling. "So... Ranma... you do know why you're in this institution, correct?"

Ranma started to get a sinking feeling in his stomach and he answered, "Yeah."

Wonshinja's smile doubled. "And why is it that's you're here?"

That sinking feeling doubled as well. Ranma replied slowly, "Because I have a fear of..."

There was a soft hiss, and the man who had left returned, carrying a cage with six or seven hissing, scratching, and clawing felines.

The doctor completed Ranma's sentence. "... cats."

As the cage of angry animals was set on the ground, Wonshinja opened it. He and the other men backed away slowly, moving out of the room and closing the door. The last human voice Ranma heard for quite a while belonged to the doctor, and his last words were mocking. "I think I'll just let you an my... pets... get acquainted."

Ranma backed into a corner as the cats padded out of their cage, eyes cruelly and unnaturally focused on his own. That's when Ranma's conscious mind stopped functioning properly, and as his eyes darted to and from each of their furry faces, the cats surged forward, attacking the only source of food they had seen in at least a week.


An hour later, one man, looking rather shaken, carried the broken and badly injured boy back to his bed, laying him down gently. The man finally saw the kid as a human being. The man's name was Desenso Shirako, and before today, he'd enjoyed his job. He got to take it easy, was paid well for it, and his only requirement was to follow the doctors orders and generally look imposing. There wasn't any harm in that, was there?

Then he'd seen something, which he soon would discover, that would haunt his darkest nightmares for the rest of his life; the terrified face of a boy who had been forced to face his darkest and most secret fear.

He'd been told to go into a room and retrieve a young boy. He'd done so, not really thinking much of it, that is, until he'd seen the kid.

Blood pooled around the fragile body, trickling from any one of a thousand deep bite marks and angry red scratches that covered him in parallel scores. A few claws of some kind were caught in the kid's skin, having been stuck in so deeply that the animal, if animal it was, had not been able to pull them out. That wasn't what disturbed Desenso the most. What was most frightening was that the boy's eyes, which were wide open. One of them had been gouged from its socket.

The boy was no more than sixteen.

Desenso had a child, a boy, who was sixteen.

After Desenso carefully tucked the pigtailed boy into his bed, painstakingly binding his swollen and bloody wrists to the bed, the large man turned, walked to the head doctor's office, and dropped off his formal resignation.


Ranma was torn from the depths of his fitful slumber by a voice calling his name. Sluggishly, he opened his eyes. For some reason, he couldn't see from one of them. Curiously, he tried to reach up to touch his hand to the lid of his eye, but found it bound. Brow furrowing, he looked around and caught sight of himself in a nearby mirror.

He swallowed hard, his hands trembling. He remembered... the cats. And the pain... and the terror... and...


"Ranma, are you alright?"

"Man, what did they do to you?"

"Ran-chan, are you... can you... oh, please say something..."

"What session doctors give Ranma?"





Closing his eye, Ranma swallowed back the tears, and forced himself to sleep. The only place he could escape the voices, he drifted in a world of blackness, haunted by razor-like fangs and slanted golden eyes.


Genma Saotome sat beside Ranma's inert body. He'd been there ever since Ranma's friends had left, in search of the ingredients that would awaken his son from whatever hell he was living in. He'd been applying a cool washcloth to his son's forehead for a little over three hours, thinking about the man his son had become, and how he might never get the chance to tell him that.

He looked down as Ranma began to thrash and moan. That was followed by heavily breathing. Then he started to mumble, "Get 'em away from me... get 'em off! They hurt... the cats... someone... please. Help me! Take them away! Take them all away! They want to kill me! I don't want to die! They're going to kill me! I DON'T WANT TO DIE! PLEASE, GOD, TAKE THEM AWAY! PLEASE DON'T HURT ME ANYMORE!"

His words had begun as a murmur. They built up, louder and louder, until his voice was hoarse from screaming, and Genma sat stolidly through it all. When Ranma had finished his ragged and frightened pleas, Genma slowly began to clean his son's face again. He'd gotten about half way done when a scalding drop of salty water splashed against Ranma's skin.

His hands began to tremble slightly as he wiped the tear away. Another took it's place, and another. Genma closed his eyes, willing the tears to stop. Clenching his jaw, he whispered fiercely, "Forgive me. Gods, forgive me for what I've done."

Determined, Genma steadied his hands like a man would do, and continued to swab his son's face with deliberate care.


Ranma opened his eye, looking around with a pained expression on his face. The conversation, previously a soft din, stopped. Nine stricken faces stared at him in concern and a little horror. He'd done a lot of thinking and a lot of dreaming the night before. Though he knew he would have nightmares for the rest of his life, there were people here who needed his help here and now. He could let the doctors break him and close his eye, willing himself not to wake up, or he could follow his heart.

Ukyo questioned softly, "Ran-chan?"

Ranma gritted his teeth, wincing as he sat up, "Yeah, Uc-chan?"

The teens exchanged quick glances, having not known what to expect from him when he awoke, but whatever speculations they had formed certainly did not add up to this. Ukyo, having been unanimously elected to speak to him, queried lightly, "Are you... okay?"

The pigtailed boy snorted softly, then punned, "Do I _look_ like I'm 'okay'?"

The former okonomiyaki chef had the decency to wince. "I guess that was a pretty stupid question..."

Ranma shook his head, fighting the urge to mourn the loss of his eye, and spoke up, "No. I'm sorry, Ukyo. I'm not really feeling too great." He paused. "Last night, I had a lot of time to think. We all want out of here, right?"

His statement was met with a few wry smiles and one bitter laugh. Ryoga snorted, "No, man. We want to stay in here because we _like_ the pain."

Ukyo glared at Ryoga, then turned her head to face Ranma. "Yes. Why?"

Propping himself up a little better to address all of them, Ranma continued, "Because... I can't go through that again. I don't care what it takes, but I'm getting out of this place."

They all stopped at that; even Akane ceased her struggling to listen to him. Whatever else the therapy had done to him, it had certainly matured him beyond his years. His voice was filled with some kind of command that none of them had ever heard before, a command that demanded attention and obedience. Strength, nobility, power, they all seemed to resonate from his voice.

Kuno murmured, thoroughly awestruck, "Then tell us, that we might escape this torment."

"I can free myself without a problem. Escaping alone won't be much trouble for me either. I'll go straight to the police and bring them here, because I don't want to escape only to be dragged back again. I'm going to bring this place down using its own system, and once charges are made, no one will _let_ us stay here. All I need you to do is say you don't know where I went or how I escaped."

He added quietly, "No matter what."

A serene aura of calm seemed to surround Ranma as he spoke, and never once did it occur to any of them that he could not do exactly what he proposed.

Kodachi gave him a not-quite smile, "I don't think that'll be a problem. When are you going to do this, may I ask?"

His answer, spoken in deadly, quiet tones, offered both hope and fear to the occupants of the cramped, sanitized room.


With that, he yanked up sharply on the metallic straps that bound his hands to the bed. They broke cleanly with a small snapping noise. Ignoring the incredulous stares of Kuno, and Ryoga's fruitless attempts to break his own bonds, Ranma got out of the bed and stepped over next to Ukyo. He pressed a gentle kiss to her cheek. "Thanks for believing in me, Uc-chan. You've been my best friend for as long as I can remember."

To Kodachi, he lightly touched her hand. "I'll get you out. You're a rose, Kodachi. You can't grow in here."

Moving swiftly, though stiffly, he stood beside Shampoo's bed. Placing a delicate kiss on her forehead, he said nothing.

He moved quickly to Akane, pressing a kiss to her forehead, and ignoring the puzzled stare she gave him, he murmured, "Akane..." Rather than speaking with clumsy words, he gave a second kiss, this one to her mouth. Then he backed away, his eye offering silent thanks and good-byes to Mousse, Kuno, Ryoga, Nabiki, and Kasumi.

He walked towards the door, the only indication of his earlier experience a faint limp. He grinned over his shoulder and winked, "See you guys soon."

Then he opened the door and stepped out, leaving behind four blushing females and five confused others.


Ranma made a clean break from the institution, not that he'd had any doubts. His problem was that the doctors would come to check on him soon, and he wouldn't be there. They'd doubtlessly torture his friends, but he hoped that maybe he'd be back by then, with help.

He quickly made his way through the streets, moving stealthily through the shadows. A quick glance around once he'd escaped revealed that, in this reality, the institution was right where... Dr. Tofu's Clinic would have been. He'd almost laughed at that, but as bad as Dr. Tofu could be when Kasumi was around, his ministrations where nothing compared to those of the doctors.

/ First thing, though... / He found a clothing store and, regretfully, stole a pair of loose black pants and a blue shirt, as well as some shoes. Wearing them was painful, because he still hadn't fully healed from his... "encounter" with the cats, but it was nothing he couldn't handle. He also made a quick stop to the children's dress-up department, and after a few minutes of fruitless searching, he finally found what he was looking for: a pirate's eye patch.

The Police Department was only a few blocks away in his reality. With any luck, the Department would be in the same area. It was.

Soon, his friends would be free from the institution, and he, most likely, would be dead. Walking calmly to the twin doors and throwing them open, he smiled bitterly.

"A small price to pay."



The chief of Nerima's Elite Police Squad answered the phone. He normally never got calls this late, but an officer of the law was always on duty. He sincerely hoped that he wasn't being called in to talk down some lame-ass jumper simply because no one else could be reached at this hour.

"Moshi moshi. Captain Hatsuru Sensuko of the Nerima District Police speaking. How may I help you?"

"Hello, this is Dr. Wonshinja of the Institutional Ward of Psychiatric Care and Development. We'd like to report that one... no, _two_ of our patients from Ward three have escaped. Both of the patients, Ranma and Ran... Ranko Saotome, are highly skilled martial artists. They are quite insane and a danger to society. It is imperative that these two be brought in by any means possible."

Hatsuru grabbed a pencil and a pad of paper from the disorganized mass of his desk. He barked into the phone, "Description."

On the other end of the phone there was a brief pause as Dr. Wonshinja smiled darkly, then gave the description of his favorite patient in both male and female forms.


In the same building, a few rooms away from Hatsuru's office, Ranma left his name with one of the secretaries and took a seat on one of the chairs in the lounge.


"Alright, Dr. Wonshinja. I'll get on this case immediately. Thank you for reporting this as promptly as you did. Goodbye."

As he hung up the phone, he noticed a small green blinking light on one corner of his machine, signifying that his secretary was trying to get in touch with him from the front desk. He pressed the appropriate button, then lifted the receiver to his mouth again. "Yes?"

"Mr. Sensuko, there is a young man out here by the name of Ranma Saotome. I've told him that showing up at the Department like this is simply not done, but he's insistent and he says he needs to talk to someone as soon as possible. Do you want me to call security, sir?"

Hatsuru glanced at the name he'd hastily scrawled. "Did you say... 'Ranma Saotome'...?"

"Yes, sir. Do you want me to call security?"

He shook his head in disbelief. "Yes. Call security and have the young man detained. Be sure that all of the men are heavily armed and order them to take extreme caution in apprehending this man."

"Sir, he's just a boy. Are you honestly saying– "

"DO IT!"

There was a pause, then, "Yes, sir."

Strapping his guns around his waist swiftly, like one of the cowboys from an American film he'd seen recently, Hatsuru bolted out the door and down the hall to the lobby.

By the time he got there, six burly men bearing an impressive arsenal of the latest technology had already surrounded the young boy. Hatsuru was shocked at how young the boy appeared, no more than 16 years at the most. He was handsome enough that he was probably very popular with the ladies, though he looked as though he'd gotten into a fight with some kind of animal, if the scratches and bites were any indication. For some reason Hatsuru couldn't fathom, he wore around his head what appeared to be a shinny eye patch.

Hatsuru was worried. This kid didn't appear to be at all concerned for where he was and who was with him. In his past experience, less nervous criminals were all the more dangerous.


Ranma was worried. He'd shown up expecting a little doubt and skepticism, but he hadn't thought he'd be immediately surrounded by six gun-totting, trigger-happy officers. He didn't have any doubt he could take them out if necessary, but he didn't think it would really leave a very good impression if he kicked the crap out of the department's brute squad.

He glanced at each of their faces, looking for some remnant of sympathy or understanding, but sadly it was not to be. In return, he received five expressions of total apathy, and one of open hostility.

He was about to say something when another man entered the room, one who appeared to be in his late thirties or early forties. Ranma felt a tugging on the back of his mind, something that told him that this man could be trusted. Hatsuru... that's his name. He... he had tried to help Ranma in another life. Ranma stepped forward, relieved to have found someone who he could talk to. "Hatsuru!"

The other man blinked, visibly taken aback. "You know me, kid?"

Ranma nodded, "Yeah! You..." How to put it... / You tried to stop me from jumping off a building in another dimension. / Somehow he didn't think that'd go over really well. "You... probably don't remember me. You helped me... a while back..."

"Look, kid, I don't know you. What I do know is that a very concerned doctor called me up not five minutes ago and said that you are certifiably insane. You're goin' back, kid."

The "kid" in question felt his hope plummet to somewhere in the vicinity of his toes. "That's what I need to talk to you about..." he looked around at the guards, then continued, "I don't know if you're going to believe me, but those 'doctors' use the kids in ward three for... experiments. You gotta' help us."

One of the other men snorted, "God, you are a nutcase. Those docs are the best around."

Ranma took a step forward. "I'm serious! I..."

That was all it took. The man who'd been giving Ranma hostile glares, Akito Mikage, moved forward, swinging his gun around to hit him across the face with its butt. Ranma, who hadn't been expecting any sort of physical attack, stumbled back, throwing his hands up. "Wait a minute, I didn't..."

Ranma blocked a second blow from the man, tearing the gun from his hands with a precise move, then tossing it to the ground with a snort. "Look, I'm just trying to tell you that the doctors aren't what you think they are."

Hatsuru blinked. The five non-active participants blinked. The final man, Mikage, did not blink. He gritted his teeth in anger and brought a beefy fist to slam into the side of Ranma's head. The pig-tailed boy spun like a top, falling to his knees, mostly in surprise than anything else. Ranma lashed out one foot, knocking Mikago to the ground. He stood, offering the man a cock-sure grin. "That all you got, man?"

/ Aw, shit. / He hadn't meant to say that. It just kinda' slipped out, like when he fought Ryoga or Mousse. Ranma was trying to figure out a way to take that particular remark back when Hatsuru gestured for the rest of the men to help their comrade. They didn't really need much urging.

All five of them raised their guns, and one said, "You're coming in slowly, or you aren't going in alive."

Ranma looked at Hatsuru pleadingly, "Just... just come in with me. See how the doctors treat their patients."

Swallowing the little pride this lifetime had left him, he bowed his head. "Please."

Hatsuru got the distinct impression that this ki... that Ranma wasn't the type of person who said "please" very often. He also knew that he was holding back. He wasn't fighting the men all out. What little he had done was just reflex. He hadn't really appeared to be concentrating very much. That both worried and intrigued him.

Taking advantage of Ranma's bowed head, Mikago grabbed his discarded gun up quickly, bringing it down hard on the back of Ranma's head. Ranma never saw it coming.

Hatsuru looked down at the crumpled body in front of him, then kneeling down beside him, he reached one hand out and flipped out the eye patch up. A very shaken Hatsuru flipped the patch back down and spoke quietly, "Yeah, kid... I'll take a look around your ward."

Turning his head away, he never saw the faint smile that momentarily passed Ranma's mouth.

Then one of the men slammed down on Ranma's head again for good measure. Two sets of hand hoisted him up roughly, and Ranma blacked out and remembered nothing more.


When Ranma finally did come around, he found himself in the middle of a room he knew well. The small padded cube was forever burned in his mind, mingled with apprehension, pain, fear, and seven pairs of slanted golden eyes.

There was a slight creak as one of the doors opened, and Dr. Wonshinja stepped in, wearing that same twisted smiled Ranma had come to know and hate. The doctor grinned, "Ranma, you've caused us quite a bit of trouble... you do realize that you need to be punished for what you've done. Well, I'll say no more. After all, it's supposed to be a surprise."

After the doctor left, Ranma was left with a painfully tight feeling in his stomach. He sat down, hoping that Hatsuru would be true to his words.

Suddenly, there was a little snapping noise. Ranma look over to see one of the panels of the wall being removed. He'd known they were going to hurt him no matter what, but he'd decided he wasn't going to give them any satisfaction in doing so.

And just as that thought hit him, he heard the first angry hiss, a hiss that could only be produced by one kind of animal. That's when all his common sense and self control evaporated.

He turned around slowly, his eyes focusing on several pairs of slanting yellow eyes. Ranma took one step back and the cats, livid and hungry, surged forward as one body, attacking the thing they had learned to hate in their time as test subjects: man.

They hissed and clawed and bit, a hundred of them striking at him in the same instant. Ranma jerked backwards, coming out of his daze for a moment. He tried to struggle, but fear held him paralyzed. A hundred starving cats fed on him, their sharp pointy teeth tearing into his skin. For a moment, he lay in total silence. Then a bloodcurdling scream erupted from his mouth, through the walls and the door; it echoed down the hall. In the other wing of the institution, nine teenager looked up, their eyes full of pain and fear for their friend. Never ever had they heard him scream before. Not once had the doctors broken Ranma's control. Until now.

When one cat poked his head into Ranma's mouth and bit his tongue and another gnawed at his lips, Ranma lost his last remnant of sanity.


Hatsuru also heard that scream, even though he was two wards away. He thought he recognized the voice but he couldn't be sure. He turned towards the direction that voice was coming from and took off at top speed.

It didn't really matter though. There is only one time when a human voice can produce that kind of sound.

When it's already too late.


All inhabitants of ward three, the ward for mentally disturbed children, were placed in straight jackets and led from the institution. Nine of those inhabitants paused, turning back to look at the prison that had been their hell for almost two years.

One of them, a dark haired boy with a bandana tied around his head, murmured quietly, "Stupid bastard. You were supposed to make it out like the rest of us. It shouldn't end this way."

Another patient, this time a purpled haired foreigner who stood close beside a taller man with glasses, spoke gently, "Wo ai ne, Ranma. Shampoo no forget..."

Her companion looked down at her lovingly, but his words were not meant for her. "You were the best of us, Saotome. They never truly broke you."

"Thank you, Ran-chan." The brown haired girl could barely keep the tremble from her voice, and she said no more, for fear that she might break down in front of them all.

Two sisters leaned against each other for comfort, each offering their silent farewells.

A tall man stood stolidly beside his sister, his words spoken in normal, if reverent tones. "The vengeance of heaven is slow but sure, Saotome-san. I pray you understand that." So saying, he placed a gently comforting kiss on the top of his sister's head. "Come," he said, smiling bitterly, "there was a price paid for our freedom. Let us never forget it."

One girl stood apart from the rest, strands of her short dark hair whipping about her face. She was rarely so quiet, but now she looked somberly back at the wards, still hearing Ranma's last scream echoing through her mind, even as it had echoed through the halls. An image remained stuck in her mind, one that came back to haunt her. It was just before Ranma had left, when he looked at them back over his shoulder, with all the nobility and courage of a prince, and winked.

"You knew you weren't coming back... you knew you weren't going to make it out with the rest of us... but you did it anyway. You broke free, and you could have taken off right then, leaving the rest of us without a second thought. But you came back... and you saved us. And I never even got a chance to tell you that I lo...liked you, because I was always to busy screaming or fighting. But you knew, didn't you, Ranma? You knew anyway... and you liked me back."

Maybe it was the trick of the light, but Nabiki thought she saw a sparkling glimmer on her sister's cheek as they all turned and walked away.