Disclaimer: I don't own Ranma ½ or any of its characters.

Well I really suck at updating, and I don't think I'm going to get any better at it. All comments & criticism is appreciated.

Chapter 5

His index finger caressed the trigger of the rifle. The cold smooth metal sent a tingle up his spine. Just the slightest movement of his finger and a life would be extinguished.

Something cold and hard pressed against the back of his skull.

'Oh fu…'

He never got to finish as a bullet tore a path through his brain.


Ryoga stood in front of the koi pond, not knowing how he had gotten there. He started to back away, alarmed by his proximity to such a large body of cold water, but came to a halt, remembering he had nothing to fear.

He walked a little closer and stared into the water, rippling ever so slightly and reflecting the soft yellow of the evening sky. The liquid surface shimmered like a portal to another dimension, with his dimensional double standing on the other side, beckoning him over to an entirely different world.

A dog barked in the distance causing the daydream to shatter, and Ryoga was once again standing before a pool of plain, innocuous water. It was amazing how something so harmless could cause so much trouble.

Beneath the surface the koi swam in meaningless circles. His reflection stared back at him almost accusingly. One of the koi rose up to break the surface before sinking back down below, leaving a widening series of rings behind it.

In an act of defiance he crouched down and stuck his hand in the water. His body tensed reflexively, but the water was cool and pleasant against his skin, and the tenseness quickly faded. He dragged his hand through the water with his fingers splayed, creating countless ripples that disrupted his reflection.

Closing his eyes, he sighed. The evening was warm, and the garden seemed so tranquil. So at odds with what he felt inside. The sky should be concrete grey, with a thunderstorm looming on the horizon. The air should be filled with a cold that sank into the bones and made you weary of living.

He opened his eyes and found another reflection next to his, staring up at him with a disapproving frown.

"I found it," the lips of the reflection moved but the voice came from beside him.

Ryoga rose to his feet and turned to face the owner of the reflection. Ranma stood there; backpack slung over one shoulder and a few loose strands of raven hair dancing over his forehead. Ryoga held out his hand for what belonged to him.

Ranma ignored the gesture, tilting his head slightly to look at Ryoga questioningly. "You gonna tell me what's goin on?"

"Just give me my bag."

"Maybe you should give me some answers first."

"No." he said flatly.

"Look P-chan, I just wanna know…"

Ryoga interrupted "It's got nothing to do with you!"

He lunged forward, trying to grab a shoulder strap.

He was too slow.

Ranma bent backwards out of reach and into a back flip, sending a foot out to catch Ryoga squarely on the chin.

Ryoga stumbled backwards a few steps before loosing his balance and taking an undignified fall to the ground. The impact with sent sharp shooting pain through his legs, reminding him that he was in no shape to take on Ranma. Wiping the dirt from his chin with the back of his hand, he looked up at Ranma with no small amount of resentment. Ranma stared down at him impassively. It was Ryoga who finally broke the stand off, "Why do you always have to make things so difficult?"

Ranma's expression hardened. "Fine" He dropped the backpack to the ground with a look of disdain. "Take your stupid backpack."

Digging his hands into his pockets, Ranma turned on his heels and stalked back towards the house, leaving Ryoga to glare at his back. But Ranma was quickly forgotten in favour of the backpack that lay ungaurded on the ground only metres away. Not bothering to stand up, Ryoga crawled towards it.

After struggling for a few moments with the latch, he opened up the side pocket and plunged his hand inside. His searching fingers quickly closed around something cold, hard and familiar in shape. He pressed his face into the cold leather of the backpack and let out a breath he hadn't known he had been holding in. Taking out the amulet, he draped it around his neck and quickly concealed it beneath his burrowed shit shirt.

Slowly, pulling his bag onto his shoulders, he got up and looked around only to find himself alone in the garden.

"Ranma?" he called out, having to bite back on his already wounded pride.

No response.

"Ranma?" he called louder this time, a hint of panic leaking into his voice. If he got lost now, he may not find his way back for weeks. He didn't have the time for that.

Ranma reappeared in the doorway, wet, female and looking rather pissed off "What?"

"Take me to the dojo."

"Why should I?"

There was a dry silence as Ryoga tried to think of an answer but found himself unable to do so. He looked away from Ranma and stared bitterly at the ground. He wanted to tell Ranma to go to hell, but he couldn't. He hated this. Hated having to rely on others. Hated having to ask for help from the one person he wished never to ask anything from. Why was everything always so hard? Why was Ranma such a…

He was snapped out of his reverie by the sensation of being pulled forward. He looked up to find Ranma dragging him towards the house. He stared down at her hand, latched tightly onto his sleeve as she pulled him along. It dredged up old memories.


The dead man's head fell hard onto the flat concrete roof, blood and cerebral fluid dribbling out from the hole in his forehead.

A figure stood behind him, dressed in a back hooded trench coat. What the overhang of the hood did not hide of the face was hidden beneath a plain white mask.

The figure crouched down, returning the silenced pistol into his coat before rolling the corpse over onto its back. Lifeless grey eyes gazed skywards. Arctic blue eyes stared down at the dead man's rifle.


They came to a stop and Ranma let go of his sleeve. Ryoga's gaze lingered where she had held onto him, feeling a strange pang of nostalgia. A floorboard creaked and he looked up, expecting to find himself standing in the dojo. It wasn't the dojo though. The room was far too small. The window told him they were not even on ground level. Faded flower patterned wallpaper clung to the walls, peeling at the edges but refusing to relinquish its hold even though its time had long ago passed. There was nothing here that marked it at belonging to someone, no personalization, no display of personal items, nothing that marked it as being used. Perhaps the Tendo's had another guest room he had been unaware of.

His eyes fell upon the single incongruity within the room; leaning against a small wardrobe was a a worn looking backpack, swollen with contents that had yet to be unpacked.

Recognition dawned on him.

He turned to Ranma with narrowed eyes, "Why are we here?"

Completely ignoring his question, she headed over to the wardrobe. "I got a spare futon you can use."

Ryoga stared dumbly as she pulled out a worn looking futon and came back to offer it to him. "You betta not snore or I'll throw ya outa the window myself."

Ryoga blinked, and for a few moments he just stared at the futon held out in front of him. A tight ball of confused emotion welled up inside him and burst.

"I'm fucking fine!" He yelled, knocking the futon to the floor with a swipe of his hand. "I don't need to be looked after. Not by you or anyone else!"

Ranma looked down at the floored futon, then back up at Ryoga. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but closed it again without uttering a single word. Instead, she bit down on her lower lip and looked at him in a way that made Ryoga feel like scum.


She averted her eyes and shrugged. Turning away from him, Ranma started to walk away with her hands resting on the back of her head. "Go sleep in the dojo if ya want. But I ain't taking you there." She spoke over her shoulder, her voice brimming with indifference.

Ryoga stood there and stared after her as she left the room, feeling a little lost.

Slowly, leaning his backpack up against a wall, he bent down to pick up the fallen futon.


In a room at the top of one of Tokyo's many towers, two men sat on opposite sides of a black rosewood desk.

One of the men, sporting a neatly trimmed grey beard, sat in a large almost throne like chair. Ornate curling dragons were carved into the armrests, and red leather padded the seat and backrest. Behind him a blinded window, which took up an entire wall, offered up a view of Tokyo in all its neon glory.

The other man sat in a simple black leather chair, with his legs crossed and his chin resting on the back of his hand.

Three sharp knocks sounded on the door.

"Enter" spoke the bearded man, his voice a rich baritone that matched his large, well built body. He closed the red folder he had been holding and placing it face down on the desk.

The ivory door handle turned and a young man entered, dressed in a white dress shirt and a tailored black suit. His well-polished shoes clicked across the marble floor, coming to a halt a few feet.from the desk. He bowed towards the bearded man. "It is done".

The bearded man nodded, a slight smile curving his lips. His raised his hand slightly in an act of dismissal.

With another bow the young man turned and left the room, the door clicking closed behind him.

"One of your hired guns?" Spoke the man in the leather chair. He had found himself looking into a pair of arctic blue eyes as the young man had turned to leave. Those eyes, upon a face that belied no expression, had sent a strange fear coursing through him.

"You think me a fool enough to let a hired gun in here, into the very heart of my fortress?"

The man in the leather chair forced a laugh and ran a hand through his back-combed blond hair "I suppose not."

The bearded man picked up a silver paperweight sitting on the desk and rolled it around in his palm, his expression serious. "In the glory days of this country, before it became a whore to the west, my forefathers knew the true meaning of loyalty. They lived by it." He snorted. "But times have changed, and today such loyalty is virtually extinct. But that boy… that young man' He paused, staring into the reflective surface of the silver.

"He took a bullet meant for me." The bearded man continued as he placed the paperweight back on the desk. "And it very nearly ended him."


Morning came, and it couldn't have come too early for Ryoga. The amulet felt heavy against his chest. His body was sticky with sweat and the room seemed very small. The walls seemed to lean inwards on him. He wanted to leave, to go home, and to be in his own room with his own bed, surrounded by all the knick-knacks and items that made a room truly a room. This place was so sterile it made him feel queasy.

His futon was pressed right up against the wall, as far away from Ranma as he could manage.

He stared at Ranma. The side of Ranma's head pressed against his pillow, his mouth slightly open and his limbs akimbo. He looked almost harmless.

Ranma's eyes shot open suddenly and a pair of stormcloud eyes stared back into his. Ryoga quickly rolled onto his back, having been caught off guard.

"You sleep much?" came Ranma's voice.

He remained silent in the hope that Ranma would just leave him alone, his fingers clutching tightly the white woollen blanket he had woken up with.

"You look like ya didn't sleep at all." Ranma spoke again, stifling a yawn "That's not healthy ya know."

Part of Ryoga wanted to tell Ranma what an idiot he was for stating something so incredibly obvious, but he managed to resist the temptation.

"Ya know…." Ranma trailed off into silence.

Seconds passed into minutes and eventually Ryoga gave into his irritation, turning over to glare at Ranma, who was staring at him intently. "'Ya know' what?" he asked, his voice sounding scratchy.

Ranma shrugged noncommittally.

"You can't start to say something and not say it."

"Why not?"

"What do you mean 'why not?' You can't because it drives people crazy wondering just what the fuck you were going to say. If you're not going to finish saying something, don't open your mouth in the first place."


Ryoga growled as his irritation grew "Just tell me you bastard!"

"P-Chan," Ranma started, his expression thoughtful "for such a cute little piggy you swear wayyyy too much."

'I don't fucking swear too much! And don't call me P-Chan.'

Ranma smirked and raised an eyebrow at him.

Ryoga narrowed his eyes at him, realizing what Ranma was trying to do. "Don't try and change the subject. Just tell me what you were going to say."

"Fine." said Ranma with a huff, as he rolled onto his back and stretched out like a lazy cat. "I was just gonna say that it ain't good to keep stuff to yourself, ya know? You should talk to..."

Ryoga interrupted. "I've got nothing to talk about."

Ranma turned his head to look at him tiredly "You never change."

As Ryoga was still trying to process Ranma's last words, the door swung open and Akane burst into the room.

'Wake up baka! We're going to be late!' She tossed a bucket of water over Ranma. It must have been cold because he changed into a she instantly.

"Goddamnit!" Ranma yelled, shivering "I was already awake."

The words were wasted as Akane had already left.


Ken jogged up stairs, ducking under the black and yellow striped tape that cut across the doorway, to step out onto the open rooftop. A half eaten jam doughnut stuck out of his mouth and his frameless glasses hung perilously from his face.

"What time do you call this?" A gruff voice called from beside him.

He turned to face his partner and mentor, Detective Gato. The man was many years his senior, and it showed in the greying hair at his temples and the wrinkles that marred his forehead. Gato took another puff of his cigarette, sending acrid smoke into Ken's face.

Ken removed the doughnut from his mouth and coughed. "Well, I can't really answer that."

"And why is that?" Gato deadpanned.

Ken gave an embarrassed chuckle as he fixed his glasses "I couldn't find my watch this morning so…"

The man in the grey trench coat squeezed the bridge of his nose and shook his head in exasperation.

"Why do I even bother?" he muttered as he turned his back to Ken.

Ken stuffed what remained of the doughnut into his mouth and followed the shorter man as he walked towards the edge of the roof. Chalk outlined the shape of a body next to where Gato came to a stop. Dried blood stained the concrete around the chalked out head.

"Two corpses" Gato said matter-of-factly. "Corpse one on the roof and corpse two on the street below. Corpse two killed by a single bullet to the head from a high-powered rifle. Corpse one killed by a single bullet to the back of the head by a pistol. Corpse one was also found with a sniper rifle in his arms. Said sniper rifle had fired a single round."

"Last night?"

"Evening around eight thirty. A team's already been on the scene so we missed the action. We'll probably get the ballistics report this afternoon. Feel free to take a look around, though there isn't really much left to look at.

"Where you going?"

"Going to talk to the management, see if any of the staff saw anything. I'll meet you down at the car." Gato turned and walked briskly towards the stairs.

Ken turned towards the street and stepped closer to the edge of the roof, the wind buffeting him as he peered down at the ground below. One look was enough to have him backing away from the edge with a gulp. Fifteen stories. It was a long way down.

His eyes fell once again on the chalk outline. Soon enough he would get to meet the owner of that outline. He shuddered. He wasn't looking forward to that meeting.

He shoved his hand's into his trouser pockets and looked skywards. The police team that been here last night had no doubt gone over everything thoroughly, and he would be able to read everything in their report. There was no point in him staying up here any longer.

He turned to leave but something on the ground caught his eye. Something small and black, being pushing along the edge of the roof by the wind. He crouched down and picked it up carefully. It was a feather. Holding it up against the morning sun, he twirled it around between in his middle and index fingers. The feather was surprisingly unruffled despite it's treatment by the wind and the smooth black surface shimmered purple and green against the dull morning light. What kind of bird did this feather belong too, he wondered. He stood up again and stuffed the feather into the inside pocket of his coat.

Turning round, he made his way back to the doorway and ducking beneath the tape again he left the rooftop behind him.

When he made it down to the car Gato was already there, waiting for him.

"What did they say?" He asked as he got into the car.

"There was an electrician that came in around seven 'o' clock last night, and that was all. Coincidentally corpse one was found with a toolbox containing no tools."

"So that explains the sniper." It always bugged Ken how Gato would always number the corpses instead of giving them names.

"Perhaps. We'll have to get a positive ID. But that still leaves us with nothing on who killed corpse one and we can't be sure that corpse one actually fired the shot that killed corpse two."

'Who else if not the guy on the roof WITH the sniper rifle? Ockham's razor...'

"You're still green as cabbage kid" Gato interrupted as he turned the key in ignition to start up the engine. "Ockham's razor doesn't apply in this city."

Ken snorted. "Well, what if one of the staff were involved? That would explain the missing killer who wasn't seen going up or down."

"I've asked for a full roster of staff and details on their employment, you can check it out later." Gato reversed out of the parking space. "Next stop, the morgue."

Kenjiro frowned.


"The gun residue and burns around the entry wound suggest he was shot from point blank range' spoke the man in the long white lab coat as he gestured to the naked corpse lying face up on metal table. "There were no other injuries or signs of struggle."

"Thank you Tatsuya."

The man in the lab coat bowed politely to both Gato and Ken then retreated from the room.

Once Tatsuya had left the room Gato turned to Ken and began to pull off his latex gloves. "Go ahead and do your thing kid, I'm going out for a smoke."

With that, Gato too left the cold metallic room. Leaving Ken alone with the corpse. He sighed resignedly and turned to the corpse, his expression becoming serious as he stared down into the face of the deceased.

He hated this.

Taking off one of his latex gloves, he laid his bare hand on the cold flesh of the dead man's forehead.


Ranma kicked a stone up the path as he returned from school. Akane was still mad at him. She hadn't said a word to him since her wake up call this morning. How long was she planning on being mad at him for? Goddamnit, he'd apologized already.

As he reached the door he wondered if Ryoga would be inside. He half expected the lost boy to live up to his reputation and have disappeared already. Ranma had been preoccupied with Ryoga all day, unable even to fall asleep in class. Ryoga was trying to hide something, but what was he trying to hide? During English class Ranma had made the decision to get to the bottom of it, one way or another. He wasn't going to let a little thing, like Ryoga unwillingness to say anything, get in his way. He frowned. That is if the guy in question was still around.

Ryoga was never around for long enough.

"I'm home." Ranma announced as he entered the Tendo household.

The warm smells of cooking immediately drifted to his nose, causing his stomach to rumble in anticipation. He took in a deep breath, a wry smile curving his lips. Putting away his shoes, he sauntered past the kitchen, glimpsing in surreptitiously to see Kasumi absorbed in her work. Oil sizzled, water boiled, and steam rose up in a plume over her head. The occasional clang of aluminium sounded off in the background. Various pots, pans and dishes were arrayed around her as she moved around them too and fro, like a seasoned pro. It was almost like she was conducting a culinary orchestra. She moved with a grace and a confidence he had once thought belonged only in the higher tiers of martial arts.

Ranma suddenly realized he had been staring for far too long and began to back away from the doorway. But it was too late. As if on queue, Kasumi turned and caught sight of him before he could make his escape. He just stood there under her gaze like a dear caught in headlights. He waited for the inevitable question as to why he had been standing there staring like an idiot, but the question never came. Instead she simply smiled at him, and Ranma couldn't help but to smile back, albeit a little sheepishly.

"Welcome home Ranma-kun." She turned back around to tend to one of the pans on the cooker, and Ranma felt a little relieved, and a little something else.

"How was your day?" She asked over her shoulder.

"Who? Me?"

She laughed lightly. "Don't be silly Ranma-kun, there's no-one else here"

"Uh, well it was ok I guess"

"You want to tell me about it?" She reached over to the spice cabinet and pulled out some chilli powder from one of the carefully ordered shelves, sprinkling some into one of the pots.

'Well, uh, I should go get changed and…'

"Could you peel these potatoes for me?" she interrupted, picking up a bowl of potatoes from next to the cooker and bringing it over to the small wooden table near the doorway. Her eyes twinkled with something he couldn't define.

"Sure," he found himself saying as he moved to sit at the table.

He picked up the potatoe peeler she had placed on the table and looked at the pile of potatoes with a slight smirk.

"And Ranma-kun."

"Yea?" He looked up at her questioningly.

"Take your time." she said with knowing smile.

He grinned sheepishly and scratched the back of his head "Ill try."

She turned back around and moved to the cooker, taking one of the pots off the burner. "And whilst you do that, you can tell me all about your day."


Ranma bounded up the stairs, his mood having lightened considerably. He would just dump his school stuff in his room and go check if Ryoga was wandering around somewhere.

He pushed open the door to his room with his foot and stepped inside.

"Ryoga?" he asked in surprise.

Ryoga sat with his head bowed in the corner of the room, right next to the open window. The net curtains billowed up around him as the air passed through them.

Ranma dropped his book bag to the wooden floor and walked closer with his brows knitted.

"Hey P-Chan, what'cha doing in here?"

What was normally sure to draw a reaction from Ryoga drew no response at all.

Feeling a little concerned, he crouched down next to Ryoga and grabbed his shoulder. "Hey Ryoga…" he trailed off, noticing the shallow but steady breathing and the closed eyes.

Ranma let himself fall onto his backside and let out a small sigh of relief. He felt like an idiot. Ryoga was just asleep.

Ranma lay on his back and pondered whether or not to wake him up. In the end he decided it would be best to let him sleep. Ryoga really needed some, going by the way he had looked in the morning. Anyway, sleep would speed up the recovery. And the faster Ryoga recovered, the sooner Ranma could kick his ass.