THE MADNESS OF RYOGA - PART 5

Ryoga collapsed to his knees as he saw the broken pieces of the Nanban mirror on the ground, and cried.

Happosai came to him and put a sympathetic hand on the kid's shoulder in comfort. There was absolutely no way home for them. But he was more worried about Ryoga. He had killed both Ranma and Akane in an unrelenting bout of rage with an ultimate Shi-Shi Hokodan blast that destroyed everything in a quarter mile radius.

Fearing the loss of his own sanity, Happosai kept calm. With no one to turn to, he would have to come to be a father figure to Ryoga. Train him. Control his anger. And foremost, save him from himself.

Suicide. Ryoga was emotionally unstable, and after what he had done, Happosai wouldn't put it pass the boy to take his own life. So he had to distract him in some way, give him hope that life was still worth living.

Ryoga was a powerful martial artist. He couldn't let the boy throw it all away. Despite is checkered past, he was willing to put it all aside to help the lad re-grow his self-confidence. He would become Ryoga's new mentor and parent.

"I killed them all. I don't deserve to live. The Shi-Shi Hokodan is too powerful or one man to wield. It's secret has to die with me."

"A martial artist never gives up, no matter the adversary, Ryoga." Happosai's firm tone caught Ryoga's attention. "You killed everyone in a blind rage. . .but killing yourself is not the answer. Living is the greatest challenge every martial artist must face even when his friends are gone."

Ryoga sharply turned to the diminutive martial artist. "How can I go on after what I've done? And the Nanban mirror is smashed. There's no way for us to return to our own time."

"Then we make a home here. You and me. I'll train you, teach you to control that rage of yours. In exchange, you become my student."

"And a cat burglar of woman's panties? No way, old man!"

"I'm willing to change my ways to be your teacher. It's a small price to pay to help you manage your pain. I'm the last surviving member of the Anything-Goes Martial Arts, and I want you to learn its techniques to pass them on."

"I'm not interested in your school of martial arts. I have my own techniques and style that I learned from my father. I progressed on my own after he died."

"I'm trying to help you, son! You owe me! I showed you the mirror so we could travel in time to fix what had happened in the past with you and Ranma."

"Instead it compounded things. I wasn't supposed to kill everyone. My emotions got the better of me, and I used the mirror to travel in time to a time to kill Ranma."

"You have only yourself to blame for that. I've seen this in other people. You have a genetic disposition for violence. Ever since I first met you, you've been angry and swearing revenge on Ranma at every opportunity for what he did to you, or what your thought was his fault. But falling in that spring of drowned pig was an accident. As both Ryoga and P-Chan you feel a duty to protect Akane from Ranma because he treats her inappropriately than a fiancée should. Well, let me tell you something Ryoga, despite all your training and any special techniques you pick up, you don't have a hope in hell of beating Ranma. And you know why. . .because with each battle you engage in with him, you're not only fighting him, but also yourself, your own pride and ego. For a martial artist to be driven by emotions alone is a poor stratagem, because most assuredly, the one who loses is you. A win is empty. You lose even before you begin."

"But I beat Ranma. . ."

"No, you didn't - you killed him. And in doing so, lost everything you were fighting for. What greater defeat for a martial artist is that."

Ryoga started to cry again. "You're right. In trying to defeat Ranma, I only defeated myself."

"But that doesn't mean it's the end of it. You still have a lot more fight in you. Use that passion and emotion to help others, atone for your sin in killing Ranma and the others. Learn to control your anger, instead of letting it control you. Let me teach you the ways of the Anything-Goes Martial Arts and through my tutelage, you'll become a stronger and a more confident martial artist."

Happosai smiled. "I have faith in you, lad. You may not look like who you remember, but you're no longer cursed with the pig. By some strange quirk of fortunate, it must have been eliminated with the Switcharoo. You look like Ranma, but you can be anyone you choose. And me, being your mentor, I have the privilege to pick your new name, if you choose. . ."

"Oh no, old man. I remember the name you gave to that guy you bathed in a Jusenkyo spring, and he came after you because of it. Pantyhose Taro, I believe. I'll choose my own name. . .if I decide to change it. But I might just want to keep the name Ryoga, or use Ranma, in honor of him."

Water spouts burst everywhere from the damage he had inflicted upon the area. He had not only destroyed the Tendo house and other homes around it, but also severely damaged water pipes that fed to them, and now water showered down upon the area, filling craters, creating puddles everywhere. He himself was wet, but had not changed - he was finally whole, the man he once was before falling in Jusenkyo.

But he was now forever trapped in Ranma Saotome's body. It was a curse in its own rite.

He looked down into a puddle and saw the face of his rival staring back at him. A hand went to the face, his hand, and he felt his right cheek. It was real. He wasn't dreaming this. If it was a dream, it was most assuredly a nightmare. Happosai's words rang true through his mind. He had so much to give, and he would spend the rest of his life atoning for what he had done today.

His brow folded thoughtfully as he looked at his new reflection and a sudden and inexplicitable thought sprang to mind. "Water! It can sometimes act like a mirror," he excitedly said. "Old man, gather up all the pieces of the mirror. I have an idea. If it works, we can go home."

* * *

Happosai helped Ryoga gather up all the broken pieces of the Nanban mirror and put them all in a pile. Then Ryoga spent time sorting them and piecing them together like a jigsaw puzzle, organizing them under water in a near-by puddle. All-in-all, it took a couple of hours. He told Happosai what he had in mind, but the elder martial artist had his doubts. Happosai had never seen the mirror used in such a way.

"Now what?" Happosai said, once the Nanban mirror was pieced back together underwater. Although the cracks were noticeable, all the pieces fit nicely. The mirror had broken cleanly, so no little piece were left out. "I still don't believe this will work. The mirror is broken, it won't work."

"Have faith, old man," Ryoga said firmly. "I know what I'm doing. I know this will work. The water will act as a reflective surface. Now all that's left is for one of us to cry, so a tear can fall into the water - and make a wish."

"You know, that's very smart." Happosai smiled, and gave Ryoga a hearty congratulatory slap on the back. Ryoga exhaled a breath from the hard hit. "I under-estimated you, Ryoga. I always took you as the brute type, never smart."

Ryoga withheld a sneer. "I'll try not to take that as an insult. There's more to me than martial arts. I may travel a lot, but on my journeys I take books to read. I school myself. It's just around Akane I forget myself, and that's why I act dumb."

"Well then, you're a pretty good actor." Happosai smiled. Ryoga knew he was joking. "You really love Akane, don't you?"

"With all my heart and soul. But until I'm cured of the pig, she must never know my true feelings, despite expressing, or acting foolishly around her many times before. I'm actually very kind. I'm just passionate in what I want."

"I can attest to that."

"If this works, I'll return to being me again. But I'll also become nothing more than her pet P-Chan to her."

"Love takes time. Even love at first sight. You're still young. Enjoy your youth while it lasts. And try not to be so angry. It's not worth the effort."

"I'll try and remember that." Ryoga leaned over the puddle and looked into the mirror. Once again the face of Ranma Saotome stared back at him. He turned to Happosai. "Ready?"

Happosai nodded assuredly.

Looking back, Ryoga stared into the mirror and closed his eyes, reaching deep into the recesses of his mind. He thought of the saddest thing he could think of - never being able to see Akane again if this didn't work - and a tear fell from his right eye and splashed into the water.

He opened his eyes, and saw the water begin to emanate with a magical glow. He made a wish.

Instantly he found himself back in the Tendo Home.

Momentarily, he saw both his double and Ranma plunging into the flood water that surrounded the courtyard after a fight. Using his Breaking Point technique, he touched the water with a finger and forced it to separate, cutting a trench between the two martial artists, pushing each aside.

A moment later, lightning struck, coursing down, hitting the empty trench, absorbed into the ground harmlessly. Then the flood water filled the trench with the martial artists.

No one had seen him, and no one would. Happosai either. He had changed history. And now he was back in his regular body, or as a regular as he could be cursed with the pig. He jumped out of sight, and joined Happosai on the roof.

"You did good, Ryoga," Happosai said. "You prevented the Switchroo."

"Then why am still here? I'm back to normal, too."

"The universe needs time to reorder itself. Soon we won't exist. But ourselves in this time will continue to live on."

"I just hope me - that Ryoga - learns to control his anger. I'd hate to see anything like what happened happen again."

"There's an old saying: the greatest accomplishments in life are the things you'll have to work hard for. Your double will eventually learn what you've learned, but it might take him a little longer. In the meantime, leave things as they are, and everything will work out."

Ryoga smiled, and nodded. . .

* * *

"Ryoga, you idiot!"

Ranma emerged from the water in his female form cursing his rival, but when he looked around he didn't see Ryoga anywhere in sight. And it was a good thing, or Akane would see him as P-Chan. Ryoga went into the water and P-Chan comes out. She wasn't dumb, she'd put two-and-two together quickly. Ryoga may have been able to fool her in the past, but this change was pretty cut and dry. But where was the fool? He hadn't submerged yet. He was probably hiding underwater somewhere afraid to come out.

"Oh my heavens! Are you two alright?" Kasumi nearly dropped a plate of food she carried as she saw what nearly happened. "That lightning almost hit you two. Why did the water split like that? It saved your life."

The rest of the household raced onto the terrace. "Ranma, where's Ryoga?" Akane asked, looking around. "I don't see him. He's still underwater, he may be unconscious. Find him, please. Ryoga! Where are you Ryoga!"

"Quiet Akane. You'll wake the dead with your all that shouting. I'll find him." Ranma dived under the water, it was about a meter deep, so he had plenty of room to swim around. And there was Ryoga, trying to keep from floating to the surface holding onto a stone next to the pond. But it was obvious from the bubbles coming from his mouth that he was quickly running out of air. "Ryoga. . ." Ranma's voice softly reverberated underwater. Then he pointed up.

Ryoga shook his head and refused to swim to the surface. Ranma had a thought and pried the pig from the stone. Then he swam to the bottom, crouched down and shot up quickly to the surface, bursting through like a bullet, flying through the air, landing on the roof of the house. He shook his head. P-Chan shook himself off, despite the rain continuing to fall.

"Whoo, that was a close one," Ranma remarked. "You're secret's safe again. Once again I save your bacon."

"Ranma! Is Ryoga up there with you?" Akane said.

Ranma leaned over the edge of the roof and looked down at Akane. "Yeah, he bumped his head underwater when the water did that funky separation thing, but he'll be alright." The funky separation thing, Ranma thought. He knew it better by another name: The Breaking Point. But how did Ryoga manage to perform that technique underwater and as P-Chan. It was impossible to fathom. Ryoga was only able do it as a human. He turned and looked at P-Chan. "You better get inside and change, Ryoga, or Akane's gonna wanna come up here and see you." P-Chan squeaked, and immediately jumped down the other side of the house.

Ranma jumped down into the courtyard as a distraction so Ryoga had time to change. And as he kept the other's attention, P-Chan snuck behind them down the hall and pass the terrace.

"So, where's Ryoga?" Akane asked.

Ranma rubbed the back of his head, laughed, and quickly thought of an excuse why Ryoga was missing. "He's, um, he went down the other side of the house."

"Why would he do that?"

"Ah, less water?"

Ryoga quickly emerged from the bathroom soaking wet. Every once of him was drenched which added to his alibi that he had fallen into the water with Ranma just a moment ago. Akane and others turned to see him. "Ah. . .hi," he said, masked behind a deceitful, innocent smile.

"You're okay. Ranma said you bumped your head."

Ryoga blushed, touched that Akane cared about him so much. He rubbed the back of his head, playing to the deceit Ranma had concocted. "I'm fine. Nothing to worry about. I've been hit harder, trust me."

Ranma saw Akane's eyes pierce deep into his soul as she looked sharply at him angry. "And, no doubt, Ranma hit you. Right, Ranma?"

"Hey, no I didn't," Ranma protested.

"Well, this wouldn't have happened if you two weren't always fighting. What is with you guys all the time? Every time you get together, you always fight. Is it some sort of martial artist macho thing? The only way you feel manly is if you beat each other to a pulp!"

"It's all in good fun," Ryoga tried to make an excuse.

"Not some of the matches I've seen," Akane said, turning back to him. "Sometimes you just want to kill each other. And you're worse of all, Ryoga. You're always so angry at Ranma. Why? Why do yoy have so much animosity towards him? What did he do to you that makes you so mad?"

"That's enough, Akane. Please." Kasumi stood just inside the terrance. "There's no need for an interrogation. These two just survived a near fatal accident. They were nearly struck by lightning in water which would have electrocuted them. I think this calls for a celebration."

"Yeah, what Kasumi said," Ranma said. "Ryoga isn't the only one whose hot-tempered here. You're so un-cute!"

Ryoga took offense and growled angry. He raised a clenched fist at Ranma. "Don't speak to her like that, or I'll make you regret it!"

Ranma folded his arms across his buxom chest. He didn't say a word. He felt he owned Ryoga this one. If it wasn't for him, they'd probably both be dead. But how Ryoga was able to push both of them away like he did was strange. The Breaking Point came from the house and Ryoga was in the middle of the courtyard with him in the water. He saw the water separate and he was pushed back. The lightning struck aimlessly, but at the precise spot where they both had been. It was almost as if it was a divine miracle had saved them, pushing them aside from oharm. It had to be a coincidence, he thought. But certainly an unexplained one at that.

He got out of the water and dried off. Then sat down with the family and ate.

Soon afterwards, the storm lifted and the sun came out. Back to his male self, he stepped out onto the terrace with Ryoga and watched the setting sun. Ryoga was still angry with him for what he had said to Akane. But he was always mad, it was his nature. He had a bad temper and he needed to control it.

But Ranma apologized to him anyway just to make things right, to make his friend happy, to make him think he had won. It was the least he could do.

And Ryoga smiled.

END