Author's Note: Wow. So, here it is…the last and final chapter of Worlds Fall Apart. So, this has been one of the most fun stories I have ever written, and I am feeling mighty accomplished right now having finished it. Yay:)
I know it is sad that it is over, and I am sorry I was late in releasing the final chapter, but here it is…so prepare. I don't know how thoroughly this will tie everything up, I was trying to make it just a little more conclusive than the Manga…some things are solved, some are assumed, and many are left hanging because chaos is in Ranma's nature.
So, I'd really appreciate a final review from people. Compliments, constructive criticism, thoughts, etc. :)
Thanks for reading! And keep an eye out, I have three more Ranma fics in the works right now…as a treat, here are the synopsis' of them (although they are open to a bit of change):
Smart Business- Kuno and Nabiki decide it is a smart business transaction for them to get married, but falling in love is more than either of them bargained for.
This is set after the end of the manga and is a continuation, canon friendly story where everyone will be in character. Will likely be at least PG13 because of some adult subject matters.
The second one is less developed, doesn't even have a title. But, essentially, it is going to be slash…Ranma/Ryoga. He won't be a girl in this story, gonna explore a little homo type RS/RH relationship…should be interesting. I'm thinking about having a small series of them called Just Friends or something, but they would all be independent of eachother, just the same concept.
The third (part of this slash series) would be Ukyo and Akane become close as they realize how much they have in common, but as their friendship strengthens they realize that even if Ranma was the start of it, he no longer plays such an important role in either of their minds…in fact, no guy does…This one would probably be called Slumber Party or Sleepover or something because the idea is that they get together every weekend for a sleepover where they talk about Ranma and family and other things, ya know, girl talk.
So, look forward to them, but it may be several months before I can even start them, so don't hold your breath. ;)
Finally, I hope you enjoyed my story…thank you and goodnight!
Worlds Fall Apart
(3 weeks later)
I've looked everywhere…Akane lamented as she wiped sweat from her forehead, This is impossible, Japan is just too big!
Still, Akane walked on, feeling like she had doomed herself to wander the Earth for all eternity, always searching, never finding. She angrily slammed down her pack and roared, "I'LL NEVER FIND HIM THIS WAY! I DON'T HAVE THE TIME FOR THIS! AUGH!"
"Akane!?!?" said a voice in complete surprise.
Akane looked up and saw the face of hope. The face of the man she had been searching for. The face of someone she had thought she would never see again. "RYOGA!"
Ranma twinged as she felt shock. Not hers. Ryoga's. Wherever he was, something had just surprised him. She sniffled and felt herself tear up again, but it had been a while, and she was almost out of tears, so nothing came of it.
"You okay, Ranma?" Ukyo asked gently.
"Fine…" Ranma lied, and then tried to force a smile to make Ukyo feel a little better. Ukyo had come over and insisted Ranma come out with her and try to have some fun, try to get her mind off of everything for a bit. Unfortunately, it wasn't the pick-me-up trip Ukyo had hoped for, and now that Ranma had felt something from Ryoga again, her mood had gone from sour to dismal.
"Ranma, cheer up!" Ukyo begged, "Look, you're in a slump, and I'm not saying you're going to forget about Ryoga, but eventually you'll learn to live with it,"
"I know," Ranma said, not really able to see such a time in the near future, but not wanting to argue, "Everything is just…it's all so still…everything is moving so slowly…I feel like nothing is happening, and each day that nothing happens, that leaves it so that all I have to do is wallow in my pain…if something would happen, maybe I'd be able to take my mind off of it all…"
"Ranma?" said a nervous and quiet voice behind Ranma and Ukyo, and Ranma nearly fell over when she turned around and looked into the last face she had been expecting to see.
Ukyo was the first to speak, and all she could manage was to whisper, "Soun?!?!"
"Ranma," Soun Tendo said nervously, "How…how have you been?"
"I…I…" Ranma started, but instead of answering his question, she met it with a slew of her own, "When did you get back? Where have you been? Why did you leave?"
Soun looked nervous, then asked the question he had been wondering about his entire return journey, "Do you…still hate me?"
Ranma was silent for a second, and closed her gaping mouth. She thought on this for just a minute, then her voice softened and she said, "I…no…I don't,"
Soun's eyes filled with tears, and he asked, "And my daughter's? And Saotome?"
Ranma shook her head, "I don't think they do…where did you go?"
"Ranma, can we go somewhere and talk?" Soun asked hopefully, unable to stop from smiling a little in relief.
Ranma looked at Ukyo, and she shrugged and mouthed, "It's up to you…"
Ranma nodded, "I guess so…"
Soun nodded and led the way into a small diner, followed tentatively by Ranma. Ukyo stopped at the door and indicated she'd be right there if Ranma needed her, and a second later, Ranma and Soun were seated at a table. A minute after that, Soun was eating as if he hadn't eaten in months, and Ranma was nervously picking at her food, looking up at Soun from time to time as if he were a ghost. Once they were done, Soun pushed away his plate and said excitedly, "Ranma, I've done it! I had to search everywhere, but I've managed to do it!"
"Do what? What's going on, Mr. Tendo?" Ranma asked, "Where did you go, and what have you done?"
"When I saw all the pain I had caused, I knew it would not be honorable to sit back and do nothing, I knew I had to take responsibility for my actions and set things right…so I packed immediately and left on a journey all across Asia. I began by going to China, swimming across the ocean until I was so exhausted I nearly drowned. Then, I walked to the Cursed Springs,"
Ranma gasped, "The Cursed Springs!"
"Yes, and while I was there, I tried every single spring until I found the Spring of Drowned Man. I must have turned hundreds of small animals into monsters and other animals, I was nearly killed by a canary that I dropped into the Spring of Drowned Dragon and was nearly fatally distracted by a squirrel that I put into the Spring of Drowned Siren. Finally, I found it…The Spring of Drowned Man…the cure to your curse…"
"But…" Ranma began, momentarily ignoring the fact that he had called her womanhood a curse…he didn't know all that had happened, so she'd have to explain later, "But…that wouldn't work…all it would do is turn me back into a half man half woman…and I'd still have all my memories…It'd be even worse than before!"
"I know," Soun said, "I knew something had to be done to the water, something to make it stronger…so I spent the next several months searching every village for a wizard powerful enough to alter the water. Finally, I found one, and it took three full moons before he could complete it…but he did…and now I have it…a one of a kind cure…"
"Cure…" Ranma said, utterly confused and unsure what to think.
"Yes, Ranma…this powerful water, if drunk on the full moon, will turn you back into a man…permanently. All your memories of being a woman will disappear instantaneously, and all our memories will be altered accordingly. There is enough here so that if something like this ever happens again, you will have a written explanation and a second dose. This water should last you the rest of your life…and you never have to be a girl again…"
"All my memories…" Ranma said, and her mind involuntarily leapt when she realized what this meant…all the pain…all her love for Ryoga…all of it would be gone…she'd be back to being a guy, a guy who was not a fool for love, a guy who could find happiness and would not be doomed to be alone without the love of their life forever…
And besides, since Ranma had become a girl, things had only gotten worse. More complicated. Insanely complicated. Sure she finally felt like she was being honest, like she was no longer living a lie. She could sleep at night without the undeniable residue of magic over her. But…everything was so much harder now…so much more complicated. Besides…she really didn't have anything…anyone. She had lost the love of her life. She had lost her best friend. She had lost everything that mattered to her.
If she did this…she could become a man again, and things would be simple. She'd be engaged to Akane again, and could probably convince herself they were in love. She'd know that martial arts were all that mattered because people only hurt you. And most importantly…all this hurt would be gone. No more pain…
It was worth it, she decided, to live a tiny lie and get rid of a large amount of pain…
"I'll do it…" Ranma said, and Soun beamed.
"Ranma!" he cried, leaping across the table and enfolding Ranma into his arms, "Things are going to be okay! You'll see! You and Akane will be together again, you will take over the Dojo! You'll be all male! Everything is going to work out!"
Ranma smiled, not for Soun, but for herself, and tried to tell herself the smile wasn't even a bit forced. This is what I have to do…
Akane sat awkwardly at a broken and wobbly wooden table, nervously sipping tea. Ryoga poured boiling water over some instant ramen and set it in front of Akane.
"Is this…is this where you've been living?" Akane asked awkwardly.
"Yeah," Ryoga said, unsure whether he should be hospitable or angry with her.
"It's…nice…" Akane lied.
"It's far away from all the nut cases in Nerima…that's enough for me," Ryoga said sourly.
Akane said nothing, unsure of how to respond to that.
Ryoga decided to stop playing games, so he said, simply and coldly, "Enough of the pleasantries, we both know you didn't come over for tea and ramen…why are you here?"
"It's Ranma…" Akane said.
"What about her?" Ryoga asked, trying hard to sound like he didn't care.
"She's really depressed," Akane said.
"Well, so am I," Ryoga countered, "My girlfriend broke up with me for something I didn't do, and then I find out that both my girlfriend and my best friend only thought of me as the prize in some stupid contest. I think I have a little more reason to be upset,"
"Ryoga! That's not how it is, okay!" Akane said in exasperation.
"Then how was it?" Ryoga asked.
"Okay," Akane said, taking a breath and reminding herself that for once she had to try and be selfless in order to help Ranma, to help set things right, "I'll admit, for me, it became that way. When we first got together, it was largely because…I was jealous of Ranma…I always felt second to her, and with you, I was first…"
"Akane, I loved you! I loved you for a YEAR!" Ryoga said, "And you never paid me even the tiniest bit of attention! Then you did, and…"
"And it was too late…" Akane said, she had had quite a bit of time to think while searching and she had thoroughly figured Ryoga out, "Ryoga, something was different with you, with the way you felt about me…after the thing with Ranma. What changed?"
"You did…" Ryoga said, and before Akane could protest, he clarified, "Or, my image of you did…when I first fell in love with you, you were a Goddess! You were the most beautiful, wonderful, perfect girl in the world to me! All other girls were plain and boring in comparison to you…then you broke my heart, that day when you finally told me you loved Ranma, you broke my heart, and my image of you changed because if you could make me feel that terrible, then you weren't the perfect Goddess I had raised you up to be in my mind…you became human…"
"That was when?" Akane asked in surprise, "But, you must have known before that I loved Ranma!"
"Yeah," Ryoga admitted, "I knew…but you had never confirmed it, so I could lie to myself and pretend it wasn't true,"
"So, why go out with me after I had done that to you?" Akane wondered.
"Because for the whole past year, you had been the dream…I wasn't ready to give it up yet, even if I could feel my love for you waning…"
Akane laughed a little painfully, "So…you went out with me because you were trying to hold onto a dream, and I went out with you because I was trying to create one…we're pathetic,"
"I don't regret it," Ryoga said firmly.
"Me either…" Akane said, "But I do regret trying to hold on to you when you clearly cared about Ranma more than me, and she clearly cared about you more than I did…I had no right to stand between that,"
"You had every right…besides…now, I am finally over you…I can move on…" Ryoga reasoned, ignoring the subject of Ranma.
"But you're not over Ranma…" Akane said.
Ryoga looked up at her, but couldn't find the energy to lie. So, he said nothing, and it was a dead give away.
"And she's not over you!" Akane said, "What you and Ranma have, it's real! Don't let it slip away! What we had, it was some stupid little grade school crush! You loved me and ignored my faults, but with Ranma…you love her in spite of them…I can tell…you don't idolize her…you really love her…"
"It doesn't matter because the only thing she'll ever love is martial arts, "Ryoga said, "I was just a game to her, just like I always was…"
"Ryoga, you are NOT a game to her!" Akane said in annoyance, "Do you know she hasn't even practiced martial arts since you left! Not to mention she has barely eaten or left the house! I'm worried about her, and I'm afraid in this condition, she'll do something rash…"
Ryoga couldn't help but feel a horrible pang of guilt and sympathy. Does Ranma really love me? Is it possible? "She's really that upset?" Ryoga asked, softening in spite of himself.
Akane nodded, "And it's worse…My father sent a letter…he is coming home…with a 'cure'…"
"A…cure?" Ryoga said in shock, but it was more shock than he really felt, and he just new that the shock he was feeling was from Ranma, it was a deep, horrible shock, and he was willing to bet she had just seen Soun. "How soon?" he asked desperately.
"Didn't say, but the letter was postmarked for a week before it arrived…" Akane said.
"And if he shows up, what will he do?" Ryoga said, "Will he just cure Ranma without asking her first?"
"I don't think so," Akane said, "He may be a stupid man sometimes, even though he is my father, but he is not selfish…this thing was a mistake, he didn't turn Ranma into a boy on purpose, I know that. So, I don't think he would turn Ranma back into a boy without asking her first,"
"Good," Ryoga said.
"Not really," Akane explained, "She is so depressed…Ryoga…I think she might do it…if he offers to erase her memory…that means she'd no longer remember being in love with you…she is in so much pain…"
Ryoga said nothing, just sat staring at the table, so Akane rambled on, "This is largely my fault, but I can't fix it. All I can do is apologize to her later, tell her how sorry I am, how badly I feel…try to repair our friendship, but right now, that won't help…there is only one person who can help her now…"
Suddenly, all Ryoga's anger, all his sadness, all his negativity and resolve to abandon that life vanished, and he looked up at Akane. He said nothing, but from the look in his eyes, she knew she had gotten through to him. He was in love, and that always made it easier.
"Go," she said, "And hurry…"
Ryoga darted across the room and grabbed just enough food for the three day run he had ahead of him, and then he darted out the door, not shutting it behind him, not saying a word of goodbye to Akane, focusing his mind on one thing and one thing only: Ranma.
Akane stood at the doorway as she watched him leave, leaping and running through the woods at top speed. She smiled a little as she closed this chapter of her life, and felt a little pain as she realized that Ryoga would not have done the same for her. What he and Ranma had…it was real. She knew that now. What she and Ryoga had had, it was childish and selfish. Love was not supposed to be selfish. Maybe one day she'd be able to understand what that felt like. Her eyes watered a little as she watched Ryoga's back disappear over a hill, and she whispered, "Goodbye, Ryoga…" Then she headed into his cabin and began to pack.
"Ranma…are you ready?" Soun asked.
Ranma blinked, then stood up from the table.
"Ranma! Are you sure this is what you want? Don't you understand…this is permanent…once you do this, there is no going back…" Nabiki reasoned, feeling desperate.
Kasumi bit her tongue, trying hard to let this be Ranma's decision. Genma hung his head and said nothing, but under his breath, he whispered, "My little girl…" Soun was grim, but determined. He said nothing. He had heard the story, over the past few days, about how Ranma had coped. About all that had gone on, about the pain she was in.
"Ranma…" Soun said nervously, "Be certain…please be certain you want to do this, be certain you want to do this for it's own sake and that it is not merely a decision made in pain…this affects your entire life,"
"This pain affects my entire life," Ranma said morosely, then walked towards the back door, "Let's go…"
The family exchanged desperate glances, but followed quietly. Ranma stood by the pond looking up at the sky. The sunset was a deep red with rays of orange. He thought she had never seen such a beautiful sunset in her life…except that one…but she was hardly in the mood for sunset's then…her body stiffened.
"Pop…why?" she said in a small voice.
"Sweetie, we are martial artists first and foremost…the life of a martial artist is not easy, and sometimes we don't have warning before we have to be on the move again. Besides, after this training mission is over with, you will be a formidable force, and all the boys will run for cover when they see you!" Genma said as he and Ranma climbed onto a bus.
The sun was setting as Ranma leaned on her elbows looking out at the roads speeding by. They passed the school, and the neighborhoods behind it.
"I wish you had at least let me say goodbye to Ryoga," Ranma said sourly, "I was supposed to meet him after school,"
"That was three days ago, that kid has no sense of direction!" Genma said.
"Yeah, but that means that he'd be there by now!" Ranma protested, then sighed and looked back out the window. The sun was almost completely down by now, and she could look directly at the big, orange yellow shimmering blob. The sky around it was a swirling mass of pink and purple, and the clouds were surrounded by a gorgeous yellow aura.
They drove past Ryoga's house, and Ranma saw Ryoga waiting in the lot behind it, standing there, checking his watch. She remembered the note he had given her that past week. It had said, "Meet me in the empty lot behind my house on Thursday after school. Ryoga". Then, she had assumed it was a challenge to a duel. Now, she knew it was not war he wanted to make…it was a confession…
Ranma swiveled her head and watched Ryoga disappear from site. Damn…he was my best friend…she thought as they turned the corner. She turned to the front as they passed and whispered to herself, "Goodbye, Ryoga".
Ranma looked up, and saw the second most beautiful sunset she had ever seen, shimmering off the Tendo's pond. She watched it in silence as it sunk downwards. When it was at it's last glow, and only the very tip of the sun could be seen, Soun came over and handed her a small vial with all the enchanted water she needed to be rid of the pain, be rid of the memories, be rid of…herself. Oh well.
"Drink it as soon as the sun is gone…you will change when the moon rises…" Soun explained, turning white and wondering if he weren't even now making a bigger mistake than he had before.
Ranma nodded, and Soun stepped back. The sun sunk below the last of the clouds, and Ranma raised the vial. She looked at it, then whispered, "Goodbye, Ryoga…" She held the tiny vial to her lips, and was hit as if she had been tackled.
It took her a second to realize she had been tackled. It took her a moment to notice that she was lying on the cushy grass on her back, the dew seeping through her shirt, and that the tiny vial was spilled on the ground next to her. It took her a second to notice that the person who had tackled her was now lying on top of her, panting and out of breath, and as soon as she recognized him, she gasped. "Ryoga?"
"Did you…drink it?" Ryoga asked breathlessly.
"What are you doing?!?!" Ranma asked in annoyance, then picked up the spilled vial. It was completely empty, "You jerk! Now I have to wait until next month! Haven't you caused me enough pain already?"
"You were going to do it? You were really going to take Soun's stupid cure?" Ryoga said in annoyance, "You…baka!"
"Baka?" Ranma said, starting to get angry. Damnit…this was my only chance…
"Yes! Baka!" Ryoga said, "Why would you do something like that? After all the hard work you went through accepting that you were a girl and all the memories you've suffered through and all the friendships and relationships you've fixed! And to throw it all away just because you've got a little case of a broken heart?"
"A little case?!?!" Ranma shouted, "How DARE you trivialize this!"
"Don't be such a wimp!" Ryoga argued back, knowing full well that that would get to her. But anything to get the fire back into her eyes…he thought, "I've suffered a total of three broken hearts, and I survived! And besides, two of them were caused by YOU!"
"Huh?" Ranma asked in confusion, unsure whether he was still being argumentative or not.
"I never answered your question," Ryoga said, heart pounding, face reddening, and resolve fighting to hold on, "But it was…"
"Was what?" Ranma asked.
"You…it was you who I was in love with…when we were in school together…" Ryoga said, "And after you left, I was so heartbroken…I was furious, I was determined to give you a piece of my mind, so I set off after you…I ended up falling in the springs and getting turned into a pig, and I was even more angry…then, when I finally found you, you had already been put under that curse, and I thought that I was chasing you because you ran out on a duel…"
"Why are you telling me this?" Ranma wondered impatiently.
"Just listen!" Ryoga said, "My memory was changed, and I had forgotten that I was still in love with you…then, I met Akane, and I fell for her. Once you had turned back into a girl, I started to remember, believe me, much to my annoyance, that I used to have feelings for you…the more I remembered, the more I realized how serious they were…and the more I began to feel them again…"
Ranma blinked. Is he saying…
"But it was wrong! Sick and wrong! It was hard enough that we had gone from enemies to rivals to friends so quickly. I wasn't ready to love you again…not after everything that had happened…but…I…" Ryoga paused and looked at Ranma, blushing deeply, "I couldn't help it…you won me over…no matter how hard I tried, I fell for you anyway, and Akane was the last tiny straw of hope I had to stop myself from loving you, but it didn't work…because Ranma…I love you…I love you still, I always have, and I always will!"
"Ryoga…" Ranma said, unsure of what to say, unsure of how to respond, and unsure of whether or not she might just have a heart attack, this was just too much!
"But only if you'll give me the chance…" Ryoga said, looking at the tiny vial in Ranma's hand.
Ranma swallowed and looked at the bottle. "If…" she began, "If I stay a girl, then I will still be in love with you…and you could hurt me again…"
Ryoga stared at her, heart sinking, but then Ranma smiled and said, "Heh…I never was one to take the easy road, was I?" Then she threw down the vial and Ryoga threw his arms around her, and he kissed her, and as the full moon rose, Ranma did not become a man, but instead became a real and complete woman.