Loss, Hope, and Redemption
His face was gentle, perhaps even serene. His eyes stared up at the night sky as all around us the Phoenix cleaned up after the Musk rout. I wanted to chide him for his laziness, in not helping us move the bodies to the various burn piles, but I couldn't.
You can't chide the dead for anything.
It was hard, the fact he was dead. He'd come from his home to save an enemy who'd tried to kill him and his loved ones, and died so that his enemy's family could live. It was a strange thought, to ascribe nobility to someone who had still been a child, but it fit. Across the battlefield, I saw Lord Saffron walking towards us, towards Gong Gong's body.
Why was Saffron an adult?
I gently knelt by Ranma's side, closing his eyes, that he might see peace in the next world instead of the battlefield in this one. He'd died here, without any of his family around him. I might have been his only friend for hundreds of miles. My people respected him, respected the power he'd wielded, but they'd never befriended him. Most were doing their best to ignore his death, pretending they didn't notice me weeping.
As if they could have missed the clash of two titans which had dominated the entire war. This battle we'd won had been by his hand, due to his annihilation of the enemy forces in collapsing one of the gate entrances on the Musk army. The after battle report stated we'd found hundreds of dead Musk, caught in the initial cave-in or struck by rocks from the ensuing avalanche on the outside of the mountain. Ranma had even neutralized a foe who'd rendered his own army redundant.
I coughed, tasted coppery blood as I stood to meet Lord Saffron. I would heal. Like all Phoenix, my ability to heal was unsurpassed by most other mortal creatures. Broken bones healed in a matter of days, not weeks, and would rarely heal improperly. I'd be able to fly within weeks and had never been in danger due to my injuries.
"Kiima, your wings..." Saffron's concern was touching, but misplaced.
"Isn't there anything you can do?' I asked, gesturing to Ranma. I wanted my Lord to tell me that yes, he could use his powers to bring him back. To return him to life... but my heart dropped to my knees as he shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Kiima... My power only works on myself," Saffron admitted, a pained look on his face. Pain for my grief, or pain for Ranma's death? I didn't care any longer. He walked over to the man who'd killed him, looking down with concern clear on his face. "I have but one final task for you, Kiima."
"A task, Lord Saffron?" I knew what it'd be, of course. Saffron may have been a spoiled child, but he certainly had a sense of duty.
"Someone will have to tell his family," Saffron said gravely. He gestured to Ranma. "I would tell them myself, but the gods have demanded I depart within the hour. With the Dragon dead, the Phoenix is no longer needed to support the balance of this valley. After thousands of years, I will finally rejoin my brethren in Heaven."
"What of his-" Saffron cut me off, placing his hand on my shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly.
"I've demanded he be interred with the highest of honors. The north tower is no longer required for my quarters. It shall be his tomb, where our people can go to pay their respects to the man who ensured they could live in peace," He smiled, knowing full well how much that decision would bother the council. He knew they would have preferred to sweep the matter under the carpet and ensure that Ranma's deeds would be forgotten within generations.
He'd taken steps that meant that even long after our people were gone, a record of Ranma's deeds would remain. I wouldn't have preferred anything else and was glad that Lord Saffron felt the same.
I departed almost immediately, changing into my cursed form to allow my wings to heal without the need of braces. His family had a right to know as soon as possible. It was my fault Ranma was here. It was I who'd journeyed to his home and forced the choice on him, of helping me or ignoring the Musk.
It would be my responsibility to tell his family that he'd died a hero.
I've always felt strange in Japanese cities, doubly-so because I was wearing someone else's face. I didn't like being constrained to plodding along the ground, having to move so slowly. Though I suppose I was in no rush. A mix of emotions filled me. Anticipation. Dread. Sorrow. One of the greatest people I'd had the honor of meeting was dead and it fell to me to tell his family.
What could I say to them? That he'd died honorably was a small, fleeting comfort for their sorrow. That he'd vanquished a foe my people had feared for millennium before he'd died would simply be another feather in his all-too-full cap. How could I possibly-
"Akane-san?" I looked up sharply, vaguely recognizing the boy in front of me from months ago. He'd been there when Ranma had fought Saffron... My mind raced as I searched forgotten encounters for the name. Ryouga. "Those are some strange clothes."
"I'm not Akane, Ryouga," I finally said, and Ryouga's face grew confused for a moment. "I'm Kiima."
His face darkened, his hands clenching into fists at his side.
"I need to talk to Ranma's family. It's important," I didn't want to fight him. By all accounts I'd heard, he was Ranma's rival. His equal, with the both of them playing a game of tit-for-tat and increasing in power as they met time and time again. "It's about Ranma."
"What about him?" Ryouga demanded, glaring. He crossed his arms over his chest as he challenged me. "The last I heard, he was off with you and left Akane all by herself."
"He's... Look, I'm not going to explain this more than once," I finally said. I didn't want to explain it... Not yet. I began to walk away, pausing only to glance back at the fanged boy. "Are you coming?"
Ryouga followed silently as I wandered through Nerima, lost in my own thoughts as I observed one of the places that had shaped Ranma, the place which had been his home. I passed by Furinkan High as I walked, smiling at the constant repair work along the outer wall, no doubt a result of one of Ranma's fights.
"Hey, this is important, right?" Ryouga asked, reading my silence, if only a little. He gestured to an Okonomiyaki restaurant. Right, his friend... Ucchan, I think he'd said. "I'll get Ukyou and meet you at the Tendou dojo."
With those words, he disappeared inside the shop as I walked towards my destination.
The Tendou dojo intimidated me far more than the Musk army ever had. At least when facing down those terrible foes who'd come to burn my home I had a purpose and a sense of what I should do, how I should act. With Ranma's family, his friends, I had nothing of the sort. All I had was the death of a man who'd come far from his home to end a war which was not his own.
With a deep sigh, I knocked on the gates, waiting as I heard footsteps approach the door. A young woman, her brown hair bound in a ponytail handing over one shoulder, opened the door.
"Akane? I thought you were training!" The girl was surprised, and based on her similarity to my current form, no doubt one of the three Tendou sisters. That little confusion would no doubt get old very quick.
"No, I'm not Akane," I answered, stepping inside the gate and looking around. Here and there were the tell-tale signs of constant repair, but overwhelming the scars of battle was a sense of peace. The lone cherry tree, blossoms beginning to sprout, engulfed me with a strange sense of serenity after the swirling chaos he'd described when he was talking of his home. "I bring news of Ranma."
That was all it took, the young woman hurrying inside without another word, urgency overriding her sense of propriety. I followed her inside, passing by her on the phone to stop briefly in the kitchen to find some hot water. I tilted a battered brass kettle over my head, stretching my wings as I luxuriated in my true form and the warm water running down my back.
"So, you're here but Ranma isn't," A voice announced from the doorway. I turned to see a young woman with her hair sharply trimmed to shoulder length. The shape of her face and the uncanny resemblance to my cursed form told me she was the other sister. "I didn't mean anything personal about that night, you know."
"The night you wanted me to die?" I asked, coolly observing her as I refilled the kettle and set it once more on the stove. I folded my now-healed wings back, crossing my arms under my breasts.
"Don't lecture me about morals," The young woman hissed, gesturing towards me. "Because of you, my sister nearly died at the hands of a god so powerful that even one of the best martial artists in the world barely won! You have no right to tell me what's right and wrong!"
"And yet, you're feeling guilt about it," I smirked, returning the heated glare with a cool smile. I pointed at her with one hand, not bothering to lift it from my stomach. "You feel guilt about how you treated me that night, otherwise you wouldn't be so sensitive about your morals. Though you're wrong about Ranma's strength... It surpassed Lord Saffron's strength so much that I'm amazed it took him as long as it did to rescue your sister."
"What do you mean by that?" The girl growled at me, stepping forward until she was nose to nose with me. I casually noted that she was nearly the same height as me, her roiling brown eyes inches from my own.
"You don't realize, do you?" I demanded, stepping forward and forcing her to stumble back a half step. "Ranma's goal when he was fighting Lord Saffron was never defeating him! It was secondary to saving your sister! The fight was a footnote to his goal of getting your sister's dehydrated form to the proper spring... If Lord Saffron had stepped aside, Ranma would have ignored him!"
"Ranma... could have ignored a god?" The young woman asked, stepping back out of my personal space.
I strode out into the living room, going over what I knew and waiting until his family and friends were all present. I didn't want to tell this story more than once. Hearing it once from Lord Saffron had been enough.
All around me, Ranma's family and friends waited in anticipation for me to speak. The Amazons sat in the back, watching me warily as they whispered amongst themselves. Ranma's various rivals, Ryouga included, sat beside them and watched me, unmoving. Front and center were Ranma's various fiancees and his family, eager to hear what had happened.
How to begin? How do I tell them that their loved one was dead? How can I possibly tell them that Ranma had passed from this world? Remembering Lord Saffron's tale and his wisdom about the prophecy, I decided to start at the beginning.
"At the birth of history, there was a war among the gods for the throne of Heaven. One god, a foolish dragon named Gong Gong, warred against his elders and was eventually sealed within a mortal body, confined to be passed from generation to generation among that people, nothing more than a sealed beast within their souls," I paused, taking in their rapt attention as they wondered what this could possibly have to do with Ranma. "To balance this, the gods cast down a Phoenix to guard this Dragon God and keep him within a certain valley in China. That Phoenix was a young godling named Saffron who wielded great power, but lacked wisdom."
I paused, beginning to stride back and forth as I marshaled my thoughts. They were beginning to get agitated as well, recognizing the name and becoming anxious, almost afraid of hearing more.
"For time uncounted, the Dragon and the Phoenix held a fragile peace. The Dragon's people, the Musk, and the Phoenix tribe held an uneasy truce which never broke into outright warfare throughout the entire period of Gong Gong's imprisonment," I stopped, facing Ranma's parents. "A Phoenix soothsayer, Michiyo, foretold the arrival of The Warden, a human who would shatter the balance of our valley and destroy the dragon god once and for all. Your son. Ranma Saotome."
"My son..." Genma trailed, his gaze falling to his hands. Ranma's mother merely clung to her husband, fright wracking her frame as she looked at me with tear-filled eyes. Both were beginning to realize, reading my own nervousness.
"Ranma Saotome, The Warden, shattered the balance of the valley by defeating the Phoenix, rending him limb from limb in the name of a slip of a girl, not yet an adult," I nodded to the source of my cursed form as her eyes widened. "He killed the Phoenix before our god could make the usual preparations for a period of dormancy, allowing the prince of the Musk to wage war on my people with impunity. With no other options left to me, I fled through the enemy lines and made for the home of my people's worst enemy, hoping beyond hope that he would help."
"That's when you wandered to our doorstep," Akane noted, standing up and moving to my side. She placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. "That was why you were in my home and why Ranma left with you... I didn't realize!"
"He left out of duty, but his thoughts were always with you," I noted, placing a hand on her shoulder in turn. I turned my head to the rest of the gathered people. "He returned me to my home, defeating Herb as he arrived and returning not just one of our magical staves, but our ability to fly, stolen from us through Musk sorcery. Within a day, he'd rekindled our will and ability to fight. Within a week, he'd bolstered our courage and handed such a bitter defeat to our foes that victory was no longer just a fragile dream."
"The boy does know how to stir things up!" A tiny, grizzled old man noted, drawing another breath of tobacco from his pipe. He glanced at me with a small smile. "Well, continue your tale, girl!"
"Within another week, the Musk grew desperate enough to sacrifice their prince to release the dragon god Gong Gong from his imprisonment, unleashing him on our valley at the height of his power. His very aura pierced the mountain, maddening my people with fear," I smiled wistfully, looking outside of the dojo to the carp pond at the rear of the house. "In the face of this, Ranma Saotome challenged the god to a one on one duel."
"Sounds like him," Ryouga noted with a wry smile, glancing at Akane. "I was there for the fight with the Orochi. A dragon with just one head should have been child's play to him!"
"Anything but," I countered, shaking my head. "Gong Gong's true form was larger and longer than anything I've ever seen. Still Ranma fought, eventually trapping Gong Gong in Herb's female form. He then defeated Gong Gong, pushing past her god-granted strength to take her head. It was how Ranma earned his title, whispered in myths in our history before this nation had a written language."
I laid my sword, the sword Ranma had used to slay Gong Gong, on the table. With a gentle hand, I slid it towards Ranma's parents. His mother gingerly picked it up, examining the blade with a kind of numbness.
"Ranma died escorting Gong Gong to the gates of Hell itself before taking his place among the gods in Heaven," I finished, noting the looks of shock on everyone's face as I finally pronounced Ranma's fate.
I couldn't stand their accusing eyes as the weight of my words crashed down on them, as they realized he was dead.
My duty fulfilled, my resolve to face their gazes faltered and I ran.
With a heavy heart, I made my way back home. Like a coward, I'd fled from Ranma's family. My feet dragged and my flight was slow, reflective. It took me weeks to return. When I finally arrived at my home, Suzu sought me out in my chambers before I'd even had a chance to freshen up.
"Lady Kiima?" I glanced at the young girl, her wings now healed. She slipped into the door, closing it quietly behind her. Her gaze at her feet, her talon traced a design on the stone as she searched for words. "We decided to wait until you returned before we opened Ranma's tomb. I thought you might like to..."
"Thank you, Suzu," I said, nodding to her. I gestured to myself with a small smile. "I'll have a bath first, but I'll be there within the hour."
She nodded, departing through the door without another word. After a brief visit to the bath chambers, I returned to my quarters and dressed, making my way to Saffron's former quarters.
I was greeted by nearly one third of the mountain, filling the hallways so I had to squeeze through. I recognized many as soldiers in our army, though civilians were plentiful as well. Most of them were younger members of the tribe, ones who'd only been around for the last time Saffron had been an adult... The spoiled child Ranma had confronted and slain.
As I reached the doorway, I was surprised to see that the painting of Saffron had been replaced by a painting of Ranma. As depicted, he was standing calmly as he faced a dragon of monstrous proportions, a look of peace on his face. I nearly chuckled at it: For my Ranma, the one I'd known for that all-too-short month, being nearly so wise-looking was impossible.
I walked up to the door, accepting the key from one of the members of the council. It was the same key I'd held for years as Saffron's surrogate mother. I turned the key, hearing the lock click as the familiar mechanism turned. I removed the key, placing it in my belt pouch before realizing it was no longer mine. I made to fish it back out when I felt a light grip on my wrist.
"Saffron was your responsibility, but this groundling was your friend. You shall hold the only key to this place," He pronounced, garnering a cheer from the assembled crowd who could hear the exchange, a cheer which was taken up by those down the halls until the very mountain seemed to shake with the noise.
Overcome, I could only push the door open.
The tower itself was much changed from the time when it was Saffron's nursery. Most of the walls and furniture were gone save for those pillars which made the tower stable, leaving one large auditorium forty feet tall, two hundred feet wide and three hundred feet deep. Though no torches lit the tomb, it was illuminated by dozens of stained glass windows, making the whole thing almost dreamlike. Light ranging from the palest blue to the darkest red to the brightest yellow lit individual sections of the place, with every color in between splashed here or there. Dominating it all was a clear dome of crystal set in the roof which brightened the entire place from gloom to something more, allowing the sun to honor one of the mortals in her domain.
"This was Saffron's last gift before he departed," Suzu noted, now at my side. She gestured towards the bier at the back of the room, then swept her hands all around. "Moments after he announced that this was to be Ranma's, we found everything changed like this."
I approached the white marble which was Ranma's final resting place, almost dwarfed by the emptiness around it. As I advanced, I heard people flood into the tomb behind me. Like the craftsmanship on the stained glass and the perfection of the crystal dome, the relief of Ranma lying on the stone tablet was too perfect to be the work of mortal hands. It was real enough to be him, covered in white dust he'd brush off when he awoke.
I felt a lump claw it's way up from my chest, coming to rest in my throat as I looked at him. My eyes fell from the carving of him to an engraved stone book on a pedestal behind him which detailed his confrontation with Gong Gong. I walked over to read it, my fingers tracing the characters which spelled out his name.
It detailed the legend of The Warden, his subsequent arrival in our valley and the fight with Saffron which finally brought a stalemate thousands of years old to an end. It told of his return, his defeat over Gong Gong and his death.
It didn't say anything about his cocky smile, his love for battle... His passion for life. It told me nothing of my Ranma, nothing of the person I'd known. I barely recognized the events carved on those two stone pages, so disconnected from the man I knew. Already he'd passed from this world into legend... Where heroes cannot have flaws or weaknesses. There was no mention of his self-doubt when he'd been faced with the truth of war.
I'd lost him. Lost him to Gong Gong, then lost him again to the legend he'd become.
The crowd around me was adoring the legend, not him. Never him. They didn't know him.
Grief overwhelmed me and I left this shallow assembly, making my way through the crowd.
"It's been a year, Ranma," I noted, sitting on his bier with my hand resting on his stone chest. The Warden's Day celebration had been long, lasting hours after the sun had set. Outside, the moon hung in a dark sky scattered with stars. The massive room was dimly lit by the candle I'd set on the ground nearby, turning his carved face into a play of ink-blank shadows on white marble. "We've finally negotiated peace with the Musk and we're working on a similar truce with the Amazons across the valley. You've shifted the balance again, for the better."
I traced my hand to one of the carved shirt pegs before returning my hand to my lap as I gazed through that crystal dome at the stars outside. Clear as if I was standing on the highest peak, My eyes followed the few craters on the moon I could make out before returning to Ranma's face.
"I wish you were here to see the peace, Ranma. I wish you were here to see that your efforts haven't been wasted. I wish you were here to see the happiness of the next generation, the younglings who weren't old enough to understand we'd been fighting that war," I spoke quietly, my voice barely carrying to the candle. I stood, placing a hand again on his chest. "I wish I could have had longer to know you better. I wish I could have been just a little more than a friend. I... I wish."
I stood in silence, pondering my words, pondering the events nearly a year past. Almost in answer to my prayers, I thought I felt a tremor through the marble, as if Ranma's stone heart had beat just once, just for me.
That dark beast crawled back up to my throat and my hand remained, hoping against hope that I'd feel just one more tremble. I waited breathlessly, my hands trembling... Nothing. It had been the foolish hope of a foolish woman. I gathered my candle and began towards the door.
I'd taken two steps when a fierce crack echoed through the tomb from behind me. I spun in reaction, seeing a pale while fist emerging from the center of the carved Ranma's chest. It opened into a widened hand which slapped down on the side of the chest, before the rest of the carving shattered as a cloud of marble dust rolled towards me, obscuring my vision. From the depths of that marble fog I heard a deep, angry growl. A dark figure strode from the cloud.
"Those jerks!" Ranma groused, not noticing me at all as he turned to glare at his former resting place, slapping the dust of his clothes. His red shirt and black pants still bore the marks of his fierce battle with Gong Gong, more than a year ago. "They could have at least put me back OUTSIDE of a damn thick stone coffin! Another ten minutes and I would have been right back up there! Pompous, self-righteous assholes!"
I wanted to laugh, wanted to scream. Reckless joy pulsed through every vein in my body as I stared at the young man who'd emerged from his own coffin, a young man who was now going on to detail exactly what sort of esoteric torture he was going to visit on "those cloud-sitting idiots" the next time he was in Heaven.
"I mean really, how incompetent do you have to be to return a guy to his own damn gr-Oof!" Ranma grunted as I tackled him in a fierce hug, him lying on his back as he looked at me, bewildered. I ignored the increasing panic in his eyes as I ran my hands over his body, making sure he was real, he was alive. "Uh, Kiima?"
"You're alive!" Abandoning propriety, abandoning my own fears, I threw my hands around his neck and hugged him again. He squirmed, clearly uncomfortable with me pressed against him like I was. I finally released my hug, sitting back on his thighs as I looked down at him. "Ranma... How?"
"Well, those jerks owed me a favor. I didn't want to be a god or nothing, so that left them with bringing me back," He frowned, glaring up through the crystal dome at the sky. "Took 'em long enough, too. Blah blah, unnatural... Whatever. I still haven't learned all the cool techniques out there yet and if they can bring Saffron back, they can do the same damned thing for me!"
"You... bullied the gods into allowing you back?" I asked, my right hand raising to quell my laughter as I looked down my pinned friend. It was silly, absurd. Nobody would have the guts to make any demands of the gods... Except him, I guess.
"I got the idea from Michiyo, actually," Ranma admitted, grinning as he looked up at me. He shifted a hand to scratch at the base of his pigtail. "I figured if I was able to take out someone who managed to nearly take the throne of Heaven, I was probably just as much of a threat to the jerk sitting on the throne right now. So I told her I'd kick her ass if she didn't bring me back."
"You threatened the lord of all the gods!?" I demanded, incredulity striking me like a cold bucket of water. I'd known Ranma was cocky, but... "Wow."
"I had some help," Ranma admitted, his grin falling to a simple smile. "Both Saffron and Fang Shou told the chick on the throne not to fight me when she started to get all uppity. Since Saffron was powerful enough to be trusted to guard her most powerful foe and Fang Shou is the largest dragon in Heaven, she finally got smart and gave in to my demands."
I stared down at the young man underneath me. Less than two decades old and he'd gotten away with challenging the god on the throne of Heaven. I was amazed, not only by his strength of will, but the sheer audacity it would take to even attempt such a thing. My eyes locked on his, and I could see no worries, no regrets. He honestly thought it was no big deal he'd pissed off the most powerful god in existence.
"So... What now?" I asked, staring down into his calm blue eyes. This was the sort of serenity I pictured in Ranma. Not a wise peace, but an innocent one. More trouble undoubtedly on the way, he was instead happy that nobody was attacking him right now. It was endearing. "Back to the Tendou's?"
"Well... Akane's kinda moved on," Ranma finally admitted, shrugging as he turned his head to avoid my gaze. "Ryouga finally made a move four months back, and they're actually kind of happy. I don't wanna break that up. Ucchan's got Konatsu now... and I didn't really feel that way about her anyway. Shampoo's got no problems with her tribe now that I'm dead, so that's that taken care of."
He shifted, his eyes not quite meeting mine.
"I was actually kinda hoping I could stay here for a little while," He admitted, his eyes not rising to meet my own. "It don't mean nothing, but your people have got some cool martial arts techniques, and I wanna be the best! It ain't for anything else!"
Of course it wasn't, I thought.
I didn't even tell the servants to prepare some things for him for my room after we'd walked out of The Warden's Tomb.
Author's Notes (Reallylong)
Fake out is go!
Sorry. I am a bastard. I know it. I accept it. And I chuckle at the emotional roller coaster I just put you all through... Especially after the cliffhanger at the end of Chapter 8 and leaving Ranma's resurrection to the last scene in the story. You guys didn't deserve it. Don't blame me, blame Ranshin. Ranshin got me addicted to messing with you guys. Blame the Ranshin.
Now, time to reflect on this fic as a whole! You'll enjoy that, right? If not, feel free to just skip to the bottom and leave a review, as there's not really much story stuff you haven't already read first-hand.
I set out to write this as an epic, not in it's length but in the overall tone of the story. Now the problem is that Ranma's companions from Nerima tend to lack the combined seriousness to make a story work well as an epic. Any of them by themselves or just a few together would have worked, but all of them together just don't scream epic... So rather than addressing the individual characters and spend a couple chapters eliminating them one by one I decided to just use a plot point which would get rid of the entire Nerima Wrecking Crew in one fell swoop... Hence Ranma's ejection from the Tendou Dojo.
From there, it was a simple march towards the final confrontation with Gong Gong, with Ranma engaging in suitably heroic acts while being forced to grow as a person thanks to Kiima. I largely selected her because aside from her brief appearance in the end of the manga, she was a blank slate. I was able to get away with introducing a new character by bolting certain characteristics to her without bothering to file off the serial numbers. Being first person and told from Ranma's point of view, I was able to cheat out of filling in anything about Mount Phoenix, which I think helped underscore the development between Ranma and Kiima.
Speaking of which, I didn't set out to write this as a Ranma/Kiima match up. I went into it determined to have Ranma have his epic fight and then come back with a new story to tell. Then I decided to kill Ranma off in the final fight, and then Lady Shinimegami told me I was a complete moron and not to kill Ranma. So that prompted nearly a year's worth of writer's block on top of the loss of a nearly-done Chapter 8 thanks to computer failure. Then I caved, but decided to throw in the "Ranma is dead" fake out, purely out of spite... Plus, I needed to give that one-year gap between Ranma's death and rebirth to allow the fiancees to move on to make the Ranma/Kiima thing work.
One thing I was careful to do was not to make Ranma too overpowered. I wanted the possibility that he wasn't going to live to be right there in the reader's mind. His growth and fights with Herb and Gong Gong tried to reflect that as much as possible. That's why I gave Ranma the boost from the Kinjakan. I knew I'd take it from him before the final battle and it gave him a plausible chance to fend off Gong Gong's dragon form, provided you make the small leap that it could enhance Ranma's chi. I figure it's a pretty old Phoenix artifact, which means it probably has more than a few nifty tricks.
The ending... I wanted it to feel both Epic and Ranma at the same time. Epic tells us that the hero generally is all messed up by the end of things... So I decided to kill Ranma. The resurrection was pure Takahashi, the hero boldly striding through a dust cloud and ignoring the amazing feat he accomplished, instead focusing on the things that were annoying him. It was a wonderful contrast which mean that last scene practically wrote itself.
Well, I hope you guys enjoyed the story. I'm kinda sorry to see it go. Aside from editing for spelling and such (as these chapters were all posted in an essentially raw version), I think this one is done. I might detail Ranma's time in Heaven as a side-story. Would there even be an interest? Likewise, I'm toying with the idea of rewriting the events of this fic from Kiima's point of view. Would THAT be something people are interested by?
I've got another idea for a Ranma fanfic, too... Probably twice as long as this one. Expect a first chapter sometime soon, after I take some time to edit the earlier chapters up to an acceptable level.