(I apologize for the HORRIBLE formatting. If you want it to look all nice, and more like how I actually wrote it, then feel free to read it on my website instead. I never have figured out how to load my story so that it looks normal...)
He ran faster, harder, his pulse racing. No matter how hard he tried to shut them out, images of her filled his mind—her face, her smile—her tears when he told her it was over. He jumped effortlessly over rocks and crags, weaved between buildings, streetlights and people, his pigtail flying behind him. But he saw none of this; heard only the shadowy man's words…
…It'd be a shame to lose one so pretty…
His eyes narrowed dangerously at the memory. His heart, his mind, his body—all screamed for him to go faster. He pushed himself even more, now taking to the rooftops, a dark blur to anyone he passed.
Don't let me be too late, he silently begged…please…please…
And then he finally saw her.
She had waited for him… even though he had told her not to. He wanted to be angry with her—furious—but the sight of her…lying motionless, struggling for breath…
He took a small step towards her, almost afraid. That was when he noticed the faint outline of the familiar shadowy figure hovering above her… the same one he'd seen in his dreams so many times before.
Even without the form of a man, its essence remained the same: evil, vengeful, loathing… hesitantly, he walked closer, and the creature seemed to get darker, more solid. Any normal man would have turned and ran in terror…
But Ryu was no normal man.
His pace quickened now, his eyes narrowed dangerously. The shock and guilt he'd felt when he first saw her lying there were finally wearing off, and soon, all that remained was the anger. Screaming, he formed a ball of chi in his hands and hurled it towards the creature… all along knowing it would have no effect… even as the shadow appeared to get stronger the closer he came…
But he didn't care.
He threw another and another. Yelling and cursing, watching again and again as the dark shadow easily took the brunt of the attacks; now that it was solid, he could see the traces of a smile on its twisted, shadowy face… heard its voice, raspy and low…
"…until next time..."
Then it was gone. Just like that.
But its words hung forever in the air, a silent reminder.
The last ball of energy Ryu had prepared fizzled harmlessly in his hands, completely forgotten. His gaze drifted back to the girl on the ground, the dumb girl who had disregarded his orders, ignored his lies.
"Ayane…" He moved then, her name dying on his lips.
Her face was pale, and her eyes—eyes that were usually full of life and laughter—were now lightly closed, as if in sleep. He felt his breath catch in his throat, his eyes burning.
No. This wasn't supposed to happen... Not again.
Hesitantly, he moved closer. Her face was still soft as he touched her… her cheeks still red from the cold. And her lips… Ryu tore his gaze away, choking back a sob as he lifted her gently so she was lying against him.
"Ayane?" he asked, whispering her name. He could imagine her response perfectly—picture so vividly in his mind what she would say, how she would look. She'd slowly open her eyes and smile at him—the same smile that always made his heart beat just a little bit faster—then she'd speak his name softly, and tease him for crying…
But that's not how it happened.
She remained quiet and still, her hair brushing lightly against his arm. Her long dark tresses a striking contrast to her once beautiful white dress—now torn and dirty from the dirt and the mud. His arms tightened automatically around her as he tried to convince himself that she wasn't gone—that this wasn't the last time he'd hold her…
He begged and he pleaded, demanded she open her eyes—but she was never one to take orders, and like all the times before, she ignored him. "Why do you have to be so stubborn?" he whispered, holding her closer. "Can't you listen to me? Just once…?"
Again no answer… the silence stretched on forever.
He had failed her. Again. He was always failing her, no matter how hard he tried, or how soon he remembered…
Slowly, his aura began to glow a dark shade of red—not blue like his aura naturally was. And his eyes narrowed in anger as he forced himself to push aside the pain—pain that would accomplish nothing. Instead his mind filled with dark thoughts—hatred, death, revenge—all focused on the man that had done this to her. To them.
In his fury, he remembered the bastard's words, spoken softly and innocently—but the underlying threat had been unmistakable.
…It'd be a shame to lose one so pretty… it's her birthday today, is it not…?
And then the bastard had smiled. Fucking smiled!
Ryu held her body tighter in his arms, ignoring the cold wind blowing all around them... and he whispered a promise; a promise that had followed him from one life to the next, but which needed to be spoken all the same.
"Next time," he said. "I'll be ready."
There was no way in Hell he would lose her again.
With those thoughts filling his mind, Ranma Saotome awoke.
Ranma 1/2 is the property and creation of Rumiko Takahashi and whoever else owns it. I'm not making any money off this, so please don't sue me!
SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY
I wake up to find myself
After all these years
And where all the time has gone
Still seems so unclear
'Cause there's no one else
Since I found you
I know it's been so hard
You should know
If I die tomorrow
As the minutes fade away
I can't remember
Have I said all I can say?
You're my everything
You make me feel so alive
If I die tomorrow...
(if I die tomorrow)
It was always him and Akane in one form or another—different clothes, different names, but always them. But something… something had been different this time.
He couldn't for the life of him figure out what it was… but somehow he knew that it was important.
Growling in frustration, Ranma stood up, ignoring the sleeping panda beside him. "Aw, hell," he muttered. Now, any hope he had of falling back asleep was useless. He knew from experience that it would be a long time before he could get the images of Akane—Ayane, some part of his mind corrected—out of his head.
Ever since Jusendou, the dreams had been occurring steadily every night. He hadn't told anyone, for obvious reasons, but he had a pretty good idea of why they kept coming back…
… He was scared of losing Akane. And after China, who could blame him?
These dreams, he reasoned, were just a result of that fear… or some junk like that. Ranma was many things, but a shrink, was not one of them.
Climbing to his feet, he stretched, now completely awake. He had to do something to get his mind off these damn dreams, and he knew just the thing…
As quietly as he could, he opened his door, making his way silently down the hall. Nothin' like a late night practice session, he thought.
But first he had to check on Akane.
Not that he was worried about her or anything. It was something he'd gotten into the habit of doing ever since those dreams had started. It was just a quick peek, really… just to make sure she was still in her room. Then, if necessary, a quick trip to her bed—just to make sure it was really her. And of course, he had to make sure she was still breathing… you never knew when Shampoo or Kodachi or someone might try to slip her something…
Moving even quieter, Ranma approached his fiancées door. He paused for a brief moment, scanning the hallway, searching for any sign of Nabiki, his parents, or Ryoga… despite his noble intentions, all they'd see is some pervert sneaking a peek on his fiancée in the middle of the night. Though he was sure Nabiki and their fathers wouldn't mind… but both for entirely different reasons.
Noting that the coast was clear, Ranma gently opened the door as quietly as he could. As a martial artist—and a damn good one—such a task was easy. But still, it was hard to see anything when he first opened the door, and his eyes took awhile to adjust to the darkness… when he finally did, he didn't like what he saw.
Her bed was empty.
His heart-rate sped up at that—his mind not comprehending what he was seeing.
She was always there—she was never not there—not during the night, not when he needed to see her, to confirm that it was all just a dream...
His face went cold as he flipped on her bedroom light, quickly scanning the room, praying his eyes were deceiving him.
The room was empty as well.
Without waiting another second, Ranma ran to the bathroom—pausing briefly to make sure it was empty. And then he was off down the stairs, his mind a flurry of possibilities…
He refused to dwell on that last one, despite the fact that his dream was still so vivid in his mind. After searching the rest of the house briefly, he threw open the door, ignoring the cold rush of wind as he ran out into the yard, desperately scanning the area. He wouldn't call her name yet…not til he knew she was really gone…doing so would be too final—to hopeless—.
Too much like Jusendou.
That's when he noticed that there was a light on in the dojo.
His heart and his mind grabbed onto that fact like it was a life-line—the only thing keeping him from going under. And not wasting a second, Ranma ran towards the familiar building, his heart beating frantically in his chest.
Please… please let her be there…
He heard her even before he reached the doors. She was yelling as she drove a fist into a large stack of cinder blocks, something he hadn't seen her do for awhile… and finally his heart slowed down, his breathing returned, and he entered the dojo, angry.
Akane looked up as he entered, surprised as she wiped at her brow with the sleeve of her gi.
"What the hell are you doing Akane?" he demanded, walking quickly towards her. He knew he was being unreasonable, but he really couldn't help himself… the sight of that empty bed…"Don't you know how dangerous it is to be here alone in the middle of the night?" he added.
Akane's initial surprise quickly turned to anger at the tone of his voice, and her eyes narrowed to reflect that anger. "I can take care of myself," she shot back. "I don't need your permission if I want to practice."
Ranma frowned as he looked away, knowing she was right. But that didn't make him any less angry. "Well—well you do from now on. If you're gonna leave your room, you should write a—a note or somethin'. That way, we don't gotta worry about ya if you're not in your room."
Akane raised an eyebrow at that, slightly confused. "My room?" as soon as the words left her mouth, the anger was back. "Just what were you doing in my room anyway, you pervert?" she demanded.
Ranma blushed, realizing what he'd said. "Nothin!" he said quickly, shaking his head. "I just thought… thought that I heard..." silently, he cursed his bad luck. He was never any good at lying. "Oh, forget it," he muttered irritably. Grabbing her hand in his, he began to pull her out of the dojo. "Come on," he told her. "Let's just go back to the house."
Akane tore her hand away. "Ranma," she said, her voice cold and… worried? "What is going on? Why are you acting so weird?"
Ranma glanced around the dojo uncomfortably. A couple days ago, he had another one of those nightmares—only that time, he had been some guy named Satoshi while Akane was known as Akimi. But again, he had been too late… had arrived just in time to see the shadowy creature hovering above her…
…in a dojo a lot like this one. Now every time he saw Akane training, he couldn't get the image of Akimi dying on the dojo floor, out of his mind.
But he doubted his fiancée would appreciate such an explanation.
"I ain't being weird," he told her, clinging to the lie. "You're probably just tired." Grabbing her hand again, he led her out of the dojo, relieved when she went willingly this time. They entered the house silently, neither one speaking.
Somehow they had ended up in the living room and Akane seated herself at the small square table, Ranma following suit. They spent a lot of time sitting in companionable silence, sneaking secret glances at each other, shyly looking away… but even that couldn't sustain Ranma's growing curiosity.
"So," he began slowly. "What were you doin' in the dojo anyway? Shouldn't you be in bed?"
Akane frowned. "I could ask you the same question," she shot back.
Forcing a laugh, Ranma shrugged. "Couldn't sleep," he said, waving a dismissive hand. "You?"
"Same," she grumbled softly.
He nodded his head, relieved. At least none of his other fiancées had tried something desperate during the night… after their failed wedding he sure wouldn't put it past them.
"Ranma," Akane began tentatively, her voice troubled. "I've been…I've actually been meaning to talk to you for awhile now," she said.
Ranma looked at her in surprise, curious despite himself. They'd already had their little talk after the second failed wedding…what could it be this time?
"Um… yeah?" he asked quietly. "What about?"
"Well, I—I wanted to ask you about Jusendou," she said, her voice barely audible. Ranma went white as a sheet at that, and was even close to jumping up and making a break for it… when her next words stopped him cold. "I've been having these dreams," she continued. "And I think they may be connected to what happened in China."
Ranma stared at her in disbelief, his eyes wide. It had to be some kind of coincidence, that's all… it wasn't anything to worry about. Not really…
"Dreams?" he said slowly, with a calmness he didn't quite feel.
Akane nodded as she shifted uncomfortably where she sat. "Ranma… In every single one of them, I die."
12-13-10: I'm sorry. I realize how terribly this story is in need of a rewrite, especially the scenes involving dialogue. I promise to get to it when I have time (which admittedly, will be awhile from now.)
3-13-05: I know this whole dream-sharing idea-thing has been done to death: But I PROMISE I'm doing something new with it, so please, don't give up on me yet!