"She lied to you?" He whispered, a cold and deadly sound that promised pain. The three girls were utterly defenseless, all having bared themselves to his mercy. His fist raised, and around it black fire leapt and cracked. His fist kept rising until it reached eye level, ready to destroy them. Until it started shaking. It remained for one long instant, before once again dropping to his side.

"I can't do it. As much as I want to say you're lying, as much as I want to hate you. She lied to you, and you're just a bunch of teenage girls. I can't take you away from your parents. I won't kill you, it isn't worth the cost." He followed Cologne's advice, and with it, a great weight fell from his shoulders. He stumbled off into the night, away from Nerima, away from the world. He needed to think.

In Darkness In Fire

By: XZero

Disclaimer: I own nothing

Epilogue - Forged by Time

Ryouga

Life for one such as he was never easy, his training was endless, so there was nothing that could hold his path. Ranma had disappeared months ago, and no one had heard anything. Ryouga wanted to search for his rival, wanted to ring the life out of him. The battle had finished, and they had hurried to the Tendo Dojo, what they found there was not something you want to witness. Ryouga had leapt over the wall and nearly vomited, the destruction was unlike that caused by the frequent battles visited upon the district.

The fires had been extinguished, but the house lie in ruins, the dojo nothing more than a twisted heap of splintered wood. "Damn you." He muttered to himself, the hot air muffling his voice. He heard noise, and the senshi with him heard it too. Sailor Moon was by his side, having taken again to her superheroine form. She had to do something to redeem herself, and she would apparently start now.

Groans came from the blackened structure, threatening with a low voice to collapse, possibly with living Tendos inside.

He caught sight of a flash of red, so like Ranma's own hair that he leapt to join the distorted form of the woman. Wait, she didn't have her hair in a pigtail, nor did she wear the clothes that his rival so often wore. She and another were struggling with something, and though he could not see through the haze clearly enough to make it out, his instincts told him to hurry. He landed near to the woman, and took in the differences between Ranma and her. Her bust was more proportional, as she was taller than Ranma. He blushed furiously, and grasped his nose to prevent the blood loss. He closed his eyes, desperately trying to stave off the image of her bosom.

"Who are you? No, never mind, help me with this beam, a man is trapped underneath." She barked immediately, not taking the time away from her efforts to notice his actions.

Ryouga's mind cleared up immediately as horror shot through him. Mr. Tendo, his mind raced and for a moment his mind was stuck, forgetting temporarily the strength that he possessed. The fiery haired woman said something, he'd never be sure what, but it succeeded in rousing him from the shock. His wild black hair flew a second and he sprung into action, tired aching muscles bulging as they strained under the weight of the support beam. He growled and pushed the heavy wooden beam away from him, sending it crashing away into a clear area.

The woman started, but he didn't pay any mind to it. Mr Tendo was his priority at the moment. He knelt beside the man and began to check his vitals. He was obviously alive, though unconscious. His legs were mangled but he'd live, and perhaps even keep the limbs.

He looked to the woman, "Get him some help, I'm gonna go look for the others." He rushed off into the smokey ruins without pause. Sakura sat blankly for a moment, before calling out for help, surely the fire department, police, or someone would be able to help her.


Hours passed, and the Tendo house was entirely ruined, the police on scene and the fire Marshall both agreed, the fire started at their gas lines, a crater surrounding the main line seemed to indicate its beginning. The occupants were all alive, most were injured, but thankfully, still breathing on their own. The patriarch, Soun Tendo, whom both men had known for a number of years had severely broken legs, though would hopefully recover.

"Wrap it up." The fire Marshall hollered over the buzz of reporters who'd flocked to the Tendo home like a swarm of locusts. They'd get more answers when the occupants of the now burnt out house came to.


Mousse

The last thing he remembered was fighting the Senshi of Time, the attack that he'd loosed, falling, darkness. Though now he was awake again, the light was far too bright, in his opinion. It shone through his eyelids, invading his sleep. That was it, sleep, at the time it was all he wanted, his muscles were aching and burning. He could feel the numerous lacerations decorating his chest and back. He'd been lucky, the main of combat had seen Ranma as its center, and the others had only needed to run support, to keep him from being overwhelmed by numbers. Something soft brushed his cheek, and he cracked his eyes open to find the tender touch's source. A blur. He couldn't feel the familiar and seemingly omnipresent weight of his glasses resting atop his head. He'd long ago felt that they were a part of him, and often forgot that they were present.

His arm was heavy, it seemed to take all his energy to grope the area for them. He didn't find them. Gently again he felt something brush his skin. The touch thought was not warm, it wasn't flesh as it had been before.

"Silly Mousse." That angelic voice, touched with concern to his ears. Shampoo, he was beyond it though, the energy that would normally jump to him to pursue the lavender haired amazon was not present, and he could only drift back to sleep as his vision cleared and his spectacles were replaced. Her face was the last thing he saw as he drifted back. Though the tender touch of her lips against his would form a lasting memory.


Ryuu

The battle had ended, and he was tired. The Saotome techniques, each was a deadly weapon unto itself, but now he'd seen then used for better purposes. He'd been working on adapting them into a style before, but now, he realized that they were simply too powerful, too dangerous if used improperly to wield against a foe. He would continue to study the arts, his dedication to that goal unerring, but he was finally free of the responsibility. The others had been gone when he'd awoke, off doing other things, having left him resting inside the Nekohanten. He wrapped himself in the thieve's cloak and left Nerima, he would return someday, when he had mastered them, and himself.


Ranma

It was done he realized, he'd gotten revenge for his mother. Life before that had been about perfecting his art, spending time with his mother, doing all these things that now seemed a child's game. He couldn't return to Nerima, he was too dangerous. He felt the control slipping from him in that battle, he would have slaughtered them all if Ryouga hadn't broken his concentration. He would taken the lives of all those girls, would've stolen their lives. His mother, she'd died because of Pluto, because she feared what they could do, and in doing so, had started the path to her own destruction.

He realized suddenly that he'd been walking for a day, the night sky above him only barely visible through the trees. He knew where he was, the towering trees could only belong to Ryugenzawa, but how had he traversed so much distance in a day. The faint light was not from the sky. He looked down at his hand, noting the fire that enveloped it. The aura was astounding, revenge had left him empty, but free. His violent thoughts had disappeared, but the want to use the seductive power was almost overwhelming, he'd need to master this power before he could rejoin the others, no matter how long it took.


Akane

"Kasumi, I'm headed out, is there anything you need?" She was headed to the door, halfway done with putting on her shoes when the response came.

"If you could pick up some sake, I'd be most appreciative. I have a new recipe I'd like to try." The elder sister's face had emerged from the kitchen, her carefree smile seemingly lit the hallway.

"Alright Kasumi, I'll be back in a couple hours." Akane left the house, turning back once she'd reached the gate to marvel at the house. It had been almost ten years, but it still never ceased to amaze her how quickly the entire district leapt at the chance to help them rebuild. The government funded the entire thing, a token of thanks for helping to put down a public menace. They had been reluctant, but the contractors of the ward had been too quick. The salvage of whatever they could had only taken a week, and surprisingly, her mother's shrine, their table, and a few other nick knacks that had been in the dojo. Her smile was interrupted at the thought of the one person who'd just disappeared that night, she just shook her head. He'd gone to find himself, and she couldn't blame him, she just hoped that he was okay.


Usagi

The professor's lecture was boring, she reflected, listening to his droning about the different philosophies. The years had passed slowly it seemed, since Setsuna and the other outer senshi's deaths, they had lost their lives, and she now understood that they had merely paid the price for their fanatical pursuit of a dream. She grieved the loss of the other two, but she could not find it within her to forgive Pluto for her crimes, the look in her eyes, they were filled with nothing but maniacal hatred for Ranma. She had kept in touch with the other inner senshi, though they never again appeared as such to the public. She made her living now as a normal woman. Mamoru had long since faded from the picture, leaving her sure that it was merely the promise of power, and threat of destiny that had kept them together.

For awhile she had despaired, but some words that had been left on her answering machine by Rei. Usagi remembered those words and clung to them, leaving her where she was today, a student of Tokyo University, top in her class. She was studying to become a lawyer, because she recognized that lawyers were the ones to become political officials. She would not become the queen of Crystal Tokyo, but she would do her best to aid her nation. Her path was chosen. The professor was wrapping things up, she came out of her reverie as he started talking about the assignments that he expected before the next class. An essay discussing the finer points of Nietzsche's philosophies.

She looked up from her notes just in time to catch a blur fly past the window. She exited the class as swiftly as she dared, though the piercing scream spurred her on faster. She reached the outside just in time it seemed. A single youma stood holding a woman by the throat. She gazed on at it, stunned by the sudden appearance of such a creature, years after their last appearance. She hated it, but she knew what she had to do, even if they started hunting the senshi again, she could not leave an innocent to such a gruesome fate.

The darkness of the shadowed building was enough for her transformation, a crowd would no doubt begin to form soon, she had to deal with it by then.

Fast as she could manage she was back on the scene, the nostalgic feeling of wearing this uniform descending on her. She fought the urge to make a speech, and in the end, the thought of making such a ridiculous declaration before attacking an enemy defeated the purpose of surprise and tactical advantage. Yes, Sun Tzu had been a vital part of her reformed attitude. Cunning was the military philosopher's greatest asset, something a lawyer would need in spades.

Her attack was whispered, and she felt the surge of familiar eldritch energies as she focused the power. She chose the target carefully, made sure that the youma would suspect nothing until the powerful wave of positive energy was unavoidable.

It slammed home, knocking the misshapen fiend away from its intended victim. The woman fell limp to the ground, her energy stolen from her, but luckily, not her life. Usagi leapt to her, cradling her delicately in her arms. The woman seemed impossibly light, and was pale, she suddenly recognized her, it was Nabiki, the Tendo daughter whom had assured her that Ranma had forgiven her. She sprung again, this time landing near a knot of her peers who'd been attracted by the screams. She handed her frail burden to a young man whom she did not recognize.

"Get her away from here, please." She said, turning just as she heard the raging bellow from the vaguely feminine aberration. Plucking her tiara from her brow she cocked her arm, whispering the classic spell that had dealt with so many youma in her time as Sailor Moon.

"Moon Tiara Action." The golden disc streamed through the air, missing the youma by inches. The thing, for you could call it nothing else, surged forward, confident that she could muster nothing else in the short time it would take to reach the blonde senshi.

"Adauchi!" A beam of crimson light engulfed the youma, and just as soon as it began, it ended. She spun on her heels, turning and bringing her guard up as the golden disc returned to her hand. Unmindfully she replaced the ornament on her forehead.

The masculine form melted from the shadows, coming into the dull light outside the lecture hall.

"It's, you." Was all her stunned mind could manage, it had been nearly ten years, but he seemed so much older. His hair was still thick and full, but bits of silver touched his temples, streaking through his hair and marking his aging frame. He had become leaner than he had been, all the baby fat that disguised the lethal and corded muscle gone. His clothing was nearly the same as it had been all those years ago. A black tunic and black pants. A pair of sturdy boots that were visibly reinforced with steel protected his feet. She could feel though that this change of style was not the greatest change, and as she met his eyes she saw how right she was. The blue eyes were deep, endless and eternal, just as they had been years ago on the roof of the Nekohanten, but now, they seemed heavy with the burden of knowledge. It seemed that his years away had done a great deal for him. Rage no longer burned beneath his surface, no longer permeated his being until he seemed like nothing more than a savage animal ready to pounce. She nodded to him, expressing her thanks without sound. He returned her gesture, and melted back into the shadows. She was in the middle of relinquishing her transformation when the three simple words touched her ears, seemingly a whisper of the wind.

"I forgive you."

The End

A/N: Well that's it, it's done. It has been a great deal of fun writing this story, and am glad and saddened simultaneously to have finished it. It is only through the encouraging words you all have left me that I was able to get through this. For a time the words wouldn't come to me, and one day, I received a review, and the next I'd posted a chapter. I want to thank especially those who gave me honest criticism. I realize that the last chapter may have seemed rushed, however, as many of you mentioned, conflict, in any form, always moves quickly, and to keep things from becoming wordy and poorly presented I had to write it in bursts of action.

I cannot even begin to run through the list of you who have inspired me, but foremost I must thank Paul, who presented the idea for this story to me. It was he who helped me shape the plot of this story.