FOREWORD: I'd just like to say that I don't write a lot anymore. There's not many things I find inspiring, especially not the things that most people might find inspiring. But luckily, we were graced by the release of the Silent Hill movie on April 21, 2006. I wish I knew people who were as fanatical about this as I am. I've seen it five times now (yeah, you read it right), and it's always just as good as the first time. Anyway, for those of you familiar with my work, I know I said I was working on other fics, but this was too important to me. Besides, those other ones didn't turn out so well, so I'm doing this instead.
Oh, and by the way, South Ashfield International Airport may not exist, but let's face it, neither does South Ashfield. I'm using it.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Ranma ½, Silent Hill, or anything pertaining to them, or anything else that is mentioned that I do not own.
Silent Hill ½
by Chris Vegvary
Rain poured down from the dark sky above.
The darkness had covered everything, and with the wound to his head and the beating he'd just withstood, he was temporarily blinded.
The only thing Ranma could see at the moment was the blurry form of the thing with the pyramid on its head.
Unable to stand, Ranma could only watch from the ground as the giant sword of the Red Pyramid was slowly raised in the air before him. All time seemed to stop completely, leaving Ranma with what he felt could very well be his last thoughts. The only thing that ran through his mind now was everything that had brought him this far…
"Filthy PIG!" Ranma shouted as he ran down the hall after P-chan. P-chan oinked and squealed, running straight into Akane's waiting arms. Ranma, focused on P-chan, was not quick enough to stop himself from running face-first into Akane's waiting fist.
"Leave P-chan alone, Ranma!" Akane yelled. "Honestly, what could a little pig have possibly done to upset you?"
Ranma rubbed his nose and glared daggers at P-chan, who stared smugly up at him from the area where he was nuzzled on Akane's chest.
He's doing it right now, Ranma thought. Looking at Akane, he said: "Why would I be jealous over a macho chick like you?"
Akane turned red and booted Ranma through the roof, sending him flying into the koi pond in the Tendos' back yard.
"I wish you two would try to get along, Akane," Soun said from the kitchen table, drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette. "Right, Saotome?" He turned to Genma, who was currently in his panda form.
Genma held up a sign that read: Uh huh! while continuing to shove food into his face.
Ranma emerged from the koi pond in his female form, coughing up water. "She's got issues…"
"Oh, Ranma," Kasumi said, appearing at the back door, "it looks like you got a letter."
"Another challenge? Jeez, it never stops," Ranma said wearily as she walked towards the house, dripping water. As she entered the house, Kasumi poured a kettle of warm water on Ranma, instantly transforming her back to a male.
"It's on the table," Kasumi pointed.
Ranma reached for it and was suddenly smacked in the back of the head by one of Genma-Panda's signs, which read: Hope you weren't reaching for the last pork bun! This, of course, was met by several kicks to the face by Ranma, and soon it became a brawl between the two of them. Soun got caught in the middle, but was quickly ejected from it. Akane entered the room with P-chan, unfazed by the all-too-common breakfast-table brawl between Ranma and his father.
"What's this one about?" she asked Kasumi. "The last pork bun again?"
Kasumi smiled and nodded. Akane looked over at the table and noticed the letter for Ranma sitting next to the last pork bun. She set P-chan down, who promptly ran towards the bathroom. Akane reached over and picked it up. On the back of the envelope, there was a single word: Ranma. She turned it over, noticing on the front a red wax seal holding it shut; a circle with strange symbols in it. Before she could open it, Ranma snatched it out of her hand, his fight with his father being over.
"Don't you know it's against the law to read other people's mail?" Ranma asked teasingly.
"I wasn't reading it!" Akane exclaimed. "Just open it already."
Ranma noticed the seal for the first time and hesitated. It seemed somehow familiar to him, but it was not a good familiarity. Since he wasn't sure where he knew the seal from, he just ignored it and opened the envelope. Inside was a letter with a single sentence, which he read aloud:
" 'I'll be waiting for you in Silent Hill…' what the hell?" Ranma asked to no one in particular. "Who sent this? And where is Silent Hill?"
"There's no return address," Kasumi pointed out.
"I have the answer to your second question," Nabiki said from the kitchen doorway. All eyes went to her. "Silent Hill is in America."
"And how would you know that?" Ranma asked.
"Weird coincidence, I had to do a report on a North American ghost town for school, and I decided to use Silent Hill as my topic."
Ryoga entered the room then, drying himself with a towel. "So, someone called you out to a ghost town in America, Ranma? Better hurry up and go, then."
"You sure make some weird enemies, Ranma," Nabiki said. "There's nothing in Silent Hill except abandoned houses and businesses. The amount of people that have gone missing there is staggering. Not to mention that just breathing the air there could kill you."
"What are you talking about?" Ranma asked.
"Long story. Basically, there are toxic fires burning underground. Anyway, if you're going, you're going to need money for a plane ticket."
"No way I'm going to America just because some lamewad wants to challenge me. But…"
"But what?" Akane asked. Ranma seemed to want to say something.
"…Nothing, really. I'm just wondering, why would someone want to meet me there? That's all the way on the other side of the world."
"You must be popular with the westerners," Ryoga commented.
"Thanks, pig. Anyway, why would I want to go anywhere but China?" And with that, Ranma left the room.
"…Pleeeeeaaaaase, Nabiki, for the love of God, let me have the money already!" Ranma begged on his hands and knees at the edge of Nabiki's bed, where she sat glaring at him.
"Alright, I think that's enough humiliation for now. But be warned, Saotome; you owe me your freakin' soul for this. I'm going to find a way for you to pay me back."
"Thank you, thank you! You won't regret it."
She tossed the money at him. "I already do. Now begone from my sight."
Ranma backed out of Nabiki's room, bowing all the way, and walked straight into Akane, who was standing behind him. She apparently heard everything.
"So, you borrowed the money from Nabiki? I thought you didn't want to go anywhere but China, and now you want to go to America so badly?"
"I don't want to, I just…" he had to think of a good excuse, because he really had no reason why he wanted to go. He smirked. "…I never back down from a challenge. Not even one from across the ocean."
As Ranma began to walk away, Akane spoke softly, obviously embarrassed about asking what came next. "Um…so, do you need some company?"
Ranma stopped in his tracks and slowly turned to face her. He looked at her for a moment and felt instinctually that something bad might happen to her if she came along. I can't risk anything happening to her…I can't let her get hurt.
"Are you kidding? You'd just slow me down."
Akane turned red and became angry. "Well, if you don't want my help, then FINE!" She booted him into the nearest wall and stormed off. Ranma took a second to pry himself out of the wall.
"Good stuff…" he managed before collapsing to the floor.
Ryoga was walking out the Tendos' front door, probably on another journey, when he was stopped by Akane's voice.
He turned, hopeful and smiling. "Yes, Akane?"
"I know I probably have no right to ask you this, but…" she trailed off, scratching the back of her head shyly.
"What is it, Akane? You can ask me anything."
"It's just that I'm worried…about…Ranma."
His heart sank, and the expression on his face showed it (to all those not oblivious to his feelings toward her). She's worried…about him? Of course she is, she's in love with him…
"Worried?" Ryoga continued on like normal. "Why would you be worried?"
"I don't know, and it's probably nothing, but he wants to go to America all of a sudden so he can meet that challenge he got in the mail."
"He wouldn't be able to afford to go."
"Nabiki loaned him the money. I tried to see if he wanted me to go with him, but he made it clear that he doesn't…" She trailed off again.
The fiend, Ryoga thought. What kind of man wouldn't want you by his side?
"…and that's why I was wondering if you could go with him."
"Huh?" Ryoga said, snapping out of his thoughts. "You want me to go with…Ranma?" My most hated enemy? he wanted to say but didn't.
"Please, Ryoga," she said, her eyes becoming almost tearful. "You're his best friend and…I have a strange feeling about all this. I'll help pay for a ticket…"
Best friend? he thought. Not likely. But for her… "I couldn't ask you for money, Akane…and I can't say no to you. Of course I will go, if you ask me."
"Oh, Ryoga, thank you!" she ran forward and hugged him.
For a moment, Ryoga didn't know what to do. He was struggling to hold back a nosebleed, finding this to be a bit out of character for Akane. Something's not right here…he thought, but he enjoyed it nevertheless.He began to laugh nervously. "Uh, heh heh, y-yeah…no problem…"
She pulled away from him. "You should go see him. I think he's out walking somewhere. But please don't tell him I asked you to go with him."
After Ryoga left, Akane shook her head, as if clearing it. "What? I wonder what came over me just now…?"
She looked at the front door, where Ryoga had just left. Did I just get all teary-eyed and hug Ryoga? she thought. …Or was I daydreaming?
Ranma walked atop the chainlink fence that was on the route he usually followed to school. He was not headed anywhere in particular. He was thinking about the challenge letter; it stuck in his mind. He felt strange about it, as if something was wrong with this whole situation. Suddenly, a pebble struck him lightly on the back of his head and he turned around. He saw Ryoga perched on a tree branch.
"So, heading to Silent Hill, eh?" Ryoga asked. "Can't say I blame you. I mean, I wouldn't walk away from a challenge like that."
"What, did Akane tell you?" Ranma asked, annoyed.
"Yes. And, for whatever reason, I feel like I…should go with you."
"…What?" Ranma asked, almost laughing.
"What's funny?" Ryoga asked, becoming defensive.
"You hate me. Why would you want to go with me?"
"My reasons are my own!" he was becoming angry. "I'm going with you!"
"No, you're not!"
Ryoga swung at him, but Ranma easily dodged. He seemed to have a surprised look on his face though, as Ryoga kept trying to punch and kick him, each attack being dodged. Finally, Ranma knocked Ryoga to the ground and took a step back to let him recover.
"Alright," Ranma said, dropping out of his battle stance. "If you want to go bad enough to fight me for it…fine. You don't have to tell me why."
"Good," Ryoga said grudgingly as he stood and brushed himself off. "Now take me to my damn house so I can get some money."
"…WHAT!" Ukyo exclaimed, both surprised and angry.
"That's right," Nabiki said, "Ranma's going to America for a little while."
Nabiki sat at the counter of Ucchan's Okinomiyaki, across from Ukyo. Ukyo did not look happy, and she was clutching her battle spatula in two unsteady hands.
"How dare he try to go all the way to America without telling me? I'm his friggin' fiancée, dammit!"
"Alright, now pay up." Nabiki held out her hand and Ukyo quickly obliged, no longer concerned with money. Once she had her money, Nabiki stood up. "Always a pleasure doing business." And with that, she walked out.
"Ranma…if you think you're going to America without me…you're seriously mistaken!"
Akane was inside the Tendo dojo, giving an unimaginable beating to a training dummy. She finished her exercise by kicking the head right off the dummy and lodging it into the wall. Akane began to pant, out of breath from her workout…and still angry from being rejected her company by Ranma. She knew Ryoga was going with him, but she was still not satisfied. She wanted to be there, too.
"I should go…" she said to herself. "But I don't have money! And Nabiki just lent all hers to Ranma…"
She knew she would have to do something drastic. She headed towards her room to get changed.
Ranma and Ryoga, meanwhile, were packing for their trip. Food, clothing, anything they thought they'd need once they were in America. According to Nabiki, Silent Hill was a ghost town, so there'd be nowhere around there to buy food when they got hungry. For one reason or another, Kasumi had suggested they pack flashlights. Ranma felt a weird urge to do just that, and he and Ryoga each packed one.
While packing, Ryoga thought about something else that Nabiki had said when she was telling them about the town. He turned to Ranma.
"What do you think Nabiki meant earlier when she said that the number of people who've gone missing in Silent Hill is 'staggering'?"
"Probably just that," Ranma responded. "Who knows what we're getting ourselves into with this. I just want to get it out of the way already."
"You make it sound like it's a burden on you."
"Well, I can't just walk away from it until I know what this is about. It's too mysterious."
Ryoga rolled his eyes and continued packing. "I can't believe I'm doing this…why am I doing it?" Oh yeah…her.
"What? Ranma leave!" Shampoo shrieked. She was practically horrified; she had her hands on her cheeks and the face she was making was, in Nabiki's opinion, priceless.
"Just for a week or two, Shampoo," Nabiki assured, "but you might still be able to catch him if you hurry."
The two of them stood across from each other inside the Cat Café. Shampoo was obviously not happy that Ranma had decided to go on some kind of vacation without her.
"Then Shampoo hurry!" Shampoo proclaimed angrily as she headed for the door.
"Uh, Shampoo…remember, that information costs money, so..."
Shampoo flung a wad of cash at Nabiki without turning or stopping. Nabiki looked at the money. She glanced around to make sure no one was looking. Then, she held it under her nose, inhaled deeply, and shuddered. "Sexy."
Ranma and Ryoga arrived at the airport that night, after Kasumi had been kind enough to call a taxi for them. They entered the building, went through all the motions, and waited for their flight to board. After an undeterminable amount of time, a voice finally came over the P.A. system that informed them that their flight to South Ashfield, West Virginia, was now boarding. Picking up their packs and keeping the chatter to a minimum, they headed for the terminal.
Akane was outside the airport's main building, wandering around the airfield. She was looking for Ranma's plane, but there was no way she could tell which one it was from down there. After a few moments of deciding what to do, Akane figured they had probably boarded the plane and left already.
As she headed back the way she came, she happened to glance up through one of the terminal windows and saw Ranma and Ryoga in line to board the plane right next to her.
Akane couldn't believe her luck. She had found them, but…now what? She hadn't planned on paying for a ticket. Looking towards the plane, she saw the cargo bay was open and being loaded. As the loaders were busying themselves, Akane snuck towards it.
It's not wrong if I'm doing it to help a friend… Akane thought, trying to rationalize her stowing away aboard the plane. With that, she snuck on board and found a good, comfortable spot to sit and wait.
Ukyo arrived at the airport finally. She had just gotten there, hadn't even walked inside, when she saw Akane walking around near the planes. Ukyo concealed herself in the shadows, though her battle spatula stuck out. No one seemed to notice.
She watched as Akane walked back and forth and then started to head towards Ukyo's position. But Akane suddenly stopped and looked up. Ukyo followed her gaze to one of the terminal's windows and saw Ranma and Ryoga standing in line to board the plane. Akane then ran towards an open cargo hatch and snuck by some loaders, going aboard.
So, bitch thinks she can sneak off to America with MY fiancée! Ukyo thought angrily, grinding her teeth and clutching her spatula. Not on my watch. I'll KILL her!
Ukyo moved towards the cargo hatch, not bothering to sneak around. A loader noticed her coming and began to tell her she wasn't supposed to be there, but she quickly bonked him on the head with her battle spatula, not missing a step. The other loaders backed off and let her go aboard the cargo hatch; they didn't really care.
Ranma and Ryoga had stored their bags in the overhead compartment and were now getting settled into their seats. It was going to be a long, long flight, and they had hours ahead of them. Ranma tried to take a nap, but Ryoga was not tired. He watched out his window, waiting for the plane to take off.
After a few moments, the plane's engines started up and they began to take off. Some form of movement outside the window caught Ryoga's eye and he looked. He squinted at first, then a surprised look fell over his face and he pointed.
"Hey, Ranma, isn't that Shampoo?"
Ranma, not yet asleep, leaned over Ryoga and looked out the window to where he was pointing. Sure enough, there was Shampoo, sitting on her bicycle, watching them take off.
"Hey, how 'bout that," Ranma grinned, "Shampoo came to see us off." He waved.
Shampoo had ridden her bike all the way to the airport, but she was too late. She spotted Ryoga through one of the plane's windows, and he was pointing at her with a surprised look on his face. Shampoo watched the plane begin to take off and made an angry sound as she saw Ranma lean over Ryoga and wave to her. She turned around and began to ride back to the Cat Café.
Once she arrived, Shampoo tossed her bike aside angrily and entered the restaurant. She immediately put her fist through one of the tables, shattering it to splinters.
"Shampoo," Cologne's voice drifted from the doorway to the next room, "what troubles you, Granddaughter?"
"Is Ranma!" Shampoo said unhappily. "He sneak off to America without tell Shampoo!"
"Strange that son-in-law would be heading for America…I don't believe he's ever been there before. Did he give any indication as to why he was going?"
"Hmph." Shampoo folded her arms over her chest, turned, and began to pout. "Nabiki Tendo say he go to answer a challenge in Silent Hill."
If it were possible for the old ghoul to turn any paler than she already was, she would have. If it were possible for her eyes to get any larger than they were, they would have.
"Where…did you say?"
"Hm?" Shampoo turned to Cologne, an expression of curiosity on her face. "What is wrong, Great-Grandmother?"
"If Ranma is heading for Silent Hill, then he is in for much more than just a challenge. He is in grave danger, Granddaughter. You must stop him from going there."
"But he already leave!"
"Yes, and so I will pay for a plane ticket for you to follow him. But beware, Shampoo. Do not enter the town of Silent Hill. It is tainted by the mark of evil."
Shampoo followed Cologne to her table in her room, where she picked up a pen and a piece of paper and began to draw a symbol on it. When she was done, Shampoo looked at it. Unknown to them, it was the same symbol that was the seal on Ranma's envelope. Shampoo looked worriedly at Cologne.
"You must find him before he gets there. If he gets to the town before you get there…come home. There will be nothing more we can do."
"Great-Grandmother, you scare Shampoo with this talk!"
"There is no time to discuss any more! We must act quickly."
Mousse had been upstairs practicing his hidden weapon attacks, waiting for Shampoo to return. Finally, he heard her bicycle hit something, which meant she was angry about something. Not wanting to catch the full force of her wrath, Mousse slowly made his way to the bottom of the staircase. He stood in the shadows and listened, hearing a conversation between Shampoo and Cologne.
Apparently, Ranma was heading for America…so far, so good…
…he was going to answer some kind of challenge there…
…in a town called Silent Hill…
…and that's when Cologne began to sound strange. My God, Mousse thought, is that fear I hear in her voice? Impossible.
Then, he heard Cologne talk about sending Shampoo after him. That wasn't good; that meant Mousse had to come up with some money for a plane ticket real fast. No way would he let Shampoo go off to America in search of Ranma, not by herself.
But how would he get the money? He didn't have the first clue who to ask. He briefly thought of Nabiki Tendo, but then figured he didn't really want to owe her anything. Heading back up the stairs quietly, Mousse wondered if he knew anyone with money. After a few moments, he figured it out. He climbed out the window and headed quickly for the Kuno mansion.
Tatewaki Kuno was already asleep. He was awakened by loud banging that was coming from his front door. He heard one of the maids answer, followed by an exchange of voices.
What could anyone possibly be bothering me at this hour for? Kuno thought. Unless…Akane Tendo? Or perhaps…dare I think it…my Pig-Tailed Goddess?
That thought sent him running towards his bedroom door, and he raced down the hall to meet with his late night guest, tossing the maid off to one side.
"Oh," Kuno said disappointedly as he looked at the sight before him. Behind him, the maid brushed off and walked away, grumbling to herself. "It is merely you."
"Yeah, it's merely me," Mousse said, pushing his way past Kuno and into the mansion. "Kuno, look, I need your help."
"And just who, exactly, are you again?"
"I am Mousse, betrothed to Shampoo! Well…not really…but I'd like to be."
"Ok, then…the query I pose to you is this: why would I want to help you for any reason?"
"Uh…" Mousse had to think for a second. "Ah! Ok. Who did you think I was when you raced to your front door and flung aside the maid?"
"Why, the beauteous Akane Tendo or the Pig-Tailed Goddess," he suddenly grinned devilishly, rubbing his chin. "…or perhaps…both?" He snickered at this thought.
You wish, Mousse thought, rolling his eyes. Aloud, he said: "Well, guess what? They're both in danger."
"What?" Kuno's expression became one of alerted concern. "Danger, you say? I will not have it! Speak more of this to me in the living room at once!"
With that, Mousse followed Kuno into the living room and told him what he knew as the two sat on different couches, facing each other. Mousse lied and told Kuno that Ranma, Akane, and the Pig-Tailed Girl had gone on a dangerous journey somewhere in America, and that the reason he wanted to go was because Shampoo was going after them.
"What, exactly, is the danger? Besides Saotome and his wily ways, of course…"
"You mean that's not enough for you? Well, they're going to this cursed town, and from the way it sounded, they might not make it back."
"…in time for breakfast?" Kuno asked hopefully.
Mousse stared weirdly at Kuno for a moment, in shock of his stupidity, and shook his head. "Nooo…."
"…in time for dinner?"
"At all, Kuno."
"Then my task is clear," Kuno stated as he stood. "Mousse, thank you for bringing this to my attention. As a reward, if you wish it, I will allow you to accompany me on my quest to save Akane Tendo and the Pig-Tailed Girl!"
Akane had fallen asleep. When she awoke, she had no idea how much time had passed, but she hoped the flight would be over soon. It was comfortable at first, but now it was shaky and cramped. She stood, stretching out her muscles.
"So," a voice from behind her said, startling her, "trying to sneak off to America with Ranma, are you?"
Akane whirled, ready for anything, and was surprised to see Ukyo standing there in a fighting stance, her battle spatula raised and ready to go.
"What? Ukyo? What are you doing here?"
"I pose you the same question!"
Akane began to get angry. "That's none of your business!"
"I knew it. Trying to elope with Ranchan, huh? Well, that's not gonna happen!"
"What! If Ranma and I were eloping, which we're not, why would I be sitting back here in the cargo bay instead of up there with him!"
"I know your game, Akane!"
"What the hell…?" Akane asked, genuinely confused and more than a little pissed at these outbursts. "What's wrong with your brain, Ukyo?"
"The time for talk is over!" Ukyo gave a battle cry and moved to strike, and Akane stood ready.
Ranma awoke to a sudden and violent bit of turbulence. At first, there was a loud bang and then the plane rocked back and forth heavily, then slowed to just slight rocking. The other passengers were a tad unsettled.
"What the hell was that?" Ranma asked Ryoga, who shrugged.
"Sorry about that, folks," the captain's voice said over the P.A. "Just experiencing a bit of turbulence. Nothing to worry about."
"If you say so," Ranma mumbled in response, going back to sleep.
Ukyo and Akane stood across from each other, staring one another down and panting heavily. The cargo hold was a mess of open suitcases and personal belongings, underwear, and other unmentionables. Ukyo was holding her side with one hand and Akane was rubbing her shoulder.
"Now stop!" Akane shouted. "Do you want to bring the whole plane down?"
"Well, then, tell me what you're doing here!" Ukyo said, still panting a little.
"I'm following Ranma, because…I think he might be in trouble."
That caused Ukyo to drop out of her battle stance, and she started to look worried. "Ranchan's in trouble? What do you mean?"
"He got this weird letter this morning…"
Finally, the plane landed at South Ashfield International Airport in West Virginia the next morning. A relieved Ranma and Ryoga practically dove out of the plane and kissed the ground. After that little debacle, they headed out the airport's entrance and ran straight into Akane and Ukyo, surprising all four of them.
"What the hell?" Ranma asked, confused.
"Akane…" Ryoga said softly, transfixed on her.
"Don't tell me to go home, Ranma," Akane said, becoming defensive. "I didn't stow away in the cargo hold for four-thousand hours just to go all the way back to Japan."
"Akane…you…" Ranma began. He was turning red. "You moron! Why'd you have to follow me here?"
"Well excuse me for trying to help, you jerk!"
Ryoga turned angrily on Ranma. "Don't you speak to Akane like th—"
"Hey, Ranchan," Ukyo whined, interrupting Ryoga, "why didn't you tell me you were going? And about the challenge letter?"
"It's MY challenge, ok!" he yelled, startling them all. "I had it under control! Ryoga was going to be my backup, but you two screwed it up royally!"
"Well, it's too late now, so let's get going, shall we?" Ukyo said happily.
Ranma glared at Akane and she looked back. The glare made her feel guilty for coming. He had just wanted to protect her, and she knew that, and she had sent Ryoga with him, but that had just not been enough for her…and now, he and Ryoga had not only her to look out for, but Ukyo as well. Not that they couldn't take care of themselves, but this wasn't their fight…or whatever it was.
"Alright," he said finally, softly. "Follow me. And don't wander off, Ryoga!"
Ryoga turned and looked at him. He was already headed in the opposite direction as them. "Huh? Oh, right."
The four of them began to walk. There was a gas station nearby, and that was decided to be their first stop. Ranma entered, followed by the others. He walked up to the man behind the counter, who was busy reading a magazine, and asked him a question.
"Ah…" the man said, scratching the back of his head, "no offense, but I don't understand that Asian shit, kid."
Ranma sighed and Ryoga stepped forward, speaking broken English. "We…are…wanting to know the…way…to Silent Hill."
The man looked at them like they were crazy. Ryoga shrugged at the others, thinking he must have said the wrong thing. But as quickly as that look had come, it was gone.
"It's closed off. There's all kinds of road blocks to keep people out. You know that place is abandoned, right…? Dangerous…? Y'know?"
"Which way?" Ryoga asked.
The man pointed them north. He noticed their backpacks and asked them: "You kids going backpacking around there or something?"
Ryoga nodded and thanked him and the four of them left the gas station. The man followed them out and watched them go, scratching his head, no doubt trying to figure out why they were really going there.
"So, how do you know English, Ryoga?" Ukyo asked as they walked.
"I've ended up here more than a couple times in my travels," he replied. "It helps to learn the language, even if it's just a little."
The road led them through the woods. All around, there were trees as far as the eye could see. The four of them walked as fast as they could, trying to keep a good pace; they wanted to get there before it started to get late. Ranma did not want them to get slowed down by stopping, so they ate as they walked.
"Hey, this ramen is actually pretty good, Akane," Ranma said as he munched away. "I didn't know you were getting cooking lessons."
"Ah, well, actually," Akane started, scratching the back of her head, "Kasumi made it for lunch yesterday…I just wrapped it up and brought it with me."
"Oh…sorry…er, well, I mean, thanks."
"How about that okinomiyaki I made for you?" Ukyo asked.
"That was really good, too. Thanks, Ukyo."
Akane nodded in agreement, a little disappointed that Ukyo had jumped in on her conversation with Ranma. He had not insulted her for once. Had even apologized and thanked her in the same stuttery sentence.
"I liked it as well, Ukyo," Ryoga said, grinning, and the turning his attention to Akane. "But Akane, are you planning on gracing us with one of your culinary…" he had to find the right word, "…masterpieces, at all?"
Akane smiled at him. "Well, maybe if we get a chance…sure!"
Ranma shuddered slightly, thankfully unnoticed by Akane, and decided to keep his mouth shut for once. Then he noticed the sign on the side of the road before them. He stopped, causing the others to stop as well.
"Look," he said, pointing at the sign. It read: SILENT HILL, and had an arrow pointing them to a road that forked to the left.
"Ok, so we're close," Ukyo said.
Ranma nodded and they continued on towards the town.
Shampoo arrived at South Ashfield International Airport only an hour after Ranma, Ryoga, Akane, and Ukyo. Unfortunately, she did not know any English and was not able to ask anyone for competent directions. She wasn't even sure who to ask. As she left the airport, she wandered down the street until she came to a gas station. Shampoo decided that it might be the best place to try to get directions. She entered the store and walked up to the man behind the counter, who immediately looked up from his magazine and grinned ear-to-ear when he noticed her.
"How can I help you, miss?" he asked, trying to stand up straight and suck in his stomach.
Shampoo smiled back at him. "Silent Hill?" she asked.
The man's smile faded and he looked confused. He pointed her in the right direction. "You know, I think some of your friends were headed that way a couple hours back."
Shampoo nodded and said thank you, exiting the building. The man scratched his head again. "There some kind of convention going on over there…?" he asked himself.
Finally, Ranma and the others came to the bridge. There was a large gate blocking any entrance to the bridge leading to the town. The gate was barred with chains, sealed with a padlock.
Ryoga approached the fence and stopped short. He began to remove his bandannas and fling them towards the fence with great speed. He did it until there was a hole large enough for them all to walk through. They continued onward, across the bridge. Shortly after that, they came to a tunnel that was barricaded. It was strange; it was like tons of wood and concrete and metal and all kinds of debris had been placed directly in the way of their path.
"This is too thick to break through," Akane said. "It would take all day."
Looking off to the right, Ukyo spotted a path leading into the woods. "What about that?"
Ranma shrugged. "Might as well. It could lead to the town."
"We'd better hurry," Ryoga mentioned, looking upward. "It's starting to cloud up."
The others looked up, too. It was, indeed, clouding up. They could no longer see the sun. It wasn't thick rain clouds, but thin ones.
Heading down the path, they eventually came to a well, where they took a moment's rest. Ryoga looked down inside the well and saw nothing but blackness. He picked a pebble up off the ground and dropped it, listening for it to hit the water; it never did.
"It's snowing," Akane said, looking up and holding out her hands. The others turned their attention to the sudden change in the weather.
Ranma caught several flakes on his hands and then rubbed them together, looking down at them. "It's ash," he said, showing the others the black soot on his palms.
"Ash?" Ukyo asked. "Why would it be raining ash? And when did this fog kick in?"
They all looked around, noticing a fog screen that had rolled in all around them. It was hard to see very far.
"Well, whatever," Ranma said. "We can't let a little fog keep us from getting there. Let's move on."
Kuno and Mousse had taken the same flight as Shampoo, but they were seated in a different section than her. The two hadn't been aware of her presence and had not seen her during the flight, or when they had exited the plane, Mousse and Kuno having exited only moments after Shampoo. Once outside the airport, the two were not sure which way to go. Like Shampoo, neither of them knew any English, and were going to have a tough time finding directions. So, naturally, they headed for the first gas station they saw. When they walked in, the man behind the counter looked up from his magazine, scoffed, and rolled his eyes at them.
He pointed. "Silent Hill is that way."
Kuno and Mousse looked at each other and nodded. They looked back at the man and bowed, then exited. Once they were gone, the man chuckled to himself and went back to reading his magazine.
After passing through a somewhat unsettling graveyard, Ranma and the others eventually ended up inside the town. They came out on Wiltse Road and began to head southwest along it. Eventually, it forked off in two directions. One was blocked off, but the other was clear. They headed that way and came to Sanders Street, next to a flower shop. They walked west along the road and began to see houses as well as small buildings. The ash continued to fall and the fog was still thick, showing no signs of letting up.
"That letter gives no indication of where you're supposed to meet this person, Ranma?" Ryoga asked.
"No," he replied. "It just says to meet 'em in Silent Hill."
"Great," Akane said. "So now we have to search the entire town?"
They continued west along Sanders Street, passing Lindsey Street and Martin Street. As they came to Neely Street, Ukyo stopped them suddenly.
"Wait!" she said, pointing at the street. "Look."
In the intersection, there was a huge blood streak leading north on Neely Street, as if someone had bled out and been dragged away.
"What the hell is that?" Akane asked, wide-eyed.
Ranma wasn't sure what to say. He tried to keep them calm. "Alright, we've all seen blood before. No big deal, someone got hurt. Let's see if we can help out."
"Yeah," Ryoga said, trying to appear natural, though he felt uneasy. "Right. Let's go."
They followed the blood streak and it led them to a small bar on Neely Street, appropriately named "Neely's Bar". The blood streak seemed to lead inside the bar.
Ranma approached the door and opened it, stepping inside. "Hello?" he called, but there was no light and no answer. He stepped back and removed his backpack from his shoulders. He set it on the ground and began to dig around inside until he removed the one thing he was now glad he brought; a flashlight. He clicked it on and once again entered the bar, leaving his backpack on the ground.
The others stepped in with him and they, too, realized there was no one there. Ryoga removed his backpack as well and reached inside, pulling out another flashlight. He lit it up and they looked around, trying to see if there was anything indicating an injured person.
"Ranma," Ryoga said, "look at this."
Ranma turned to see a window completely covered by newspaper. Written across the newspaper in what appeared to be blood was a message: IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR ANSWERS, RANMA, START AT ROSEWATER PARK. BUT YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE WHAT YOU FIND.
"Rosewater Park?" Ranma said. "Where is that from here?" At the same time, he wondered what the message meant.
"Over here, guys," Ukyo said, motioning over to the bar counter. Ranma and Ryoga both shined their flashlights in that direction. On the counter sat a map of Silent Hill, a red marker on top of it. Ranma grabbed the map and the marker. He marked squiggles on all the places they'd been that had roadblocks, and he circled the Rosewater Park area.
"Alright, good," Ranma said. "Let's go."
A long, blaring siren suddenly rang out in the distance. They all stopped and listened. It went on for a few moments before dying out.
"Do you feel that?" Akane asked. "Something's happening."
They all began to look around. Through the cracks between the newspapers covering the window, Ranma could see that it seemed to be growing much darker outside very quickly. Though they could not see anything, in the darkness, they felt something happening; there was a swooshing, sort of throbbing sound, and a feeling of being temporarily displaced. They shined their flashlights around and saw that the surface of the walls and ceiling, the countertop and tables, everything in the bar, was moving, changing…melting away. Finally it ended, and they stepped slowly outside.
"What…the hell?" Ranma asked, looking around in confusion.
A sudden darkness had fallen over the town, and the streets and sidewalks were no longer made of concrete; they had become rusted metal grates and platforms. Everything, the buildings and streets, had taken on this rusty, deteriorated quality. Strange windmills spun slowly in the distance, squealing softly. Rain was pouring down on them.
"Ranma, you're not changing!" Akane pointed out.
"Wha…?" he said, looking down at himself. He looked at Ryoga, who was also checking himself with relief, and then looked at Akane. "I don't understand..."
They looked around again. "What the hell is happening here?" Ukyo asked.
A loud squealing sound began to come out of the darkness. It sounded like something heavy being dragged along those metal grates. It was impossible to tell which direction it was coming from. They tried to look everywhere at once, on their guard. The flashlights showed nothing, and Ranma and Ryoga set them down, ready for battle.
"Flashlights aren't helping! Keep your eyes open!" Ryoga warned.
"But which way is it coming from?" Akane asked softly.
The sound got much closer and much louder, almost too loud to stand. Suddenly, it was quiet, and Ranma squinted into the darkness. He could just barely make out the silhouette of something strange, and he could not figure out what it was. When his eyes were finally able to focus on the shape, he realized that it was standing right in front of him.
The only thing Ranma saw clearly was a large, muscular gray-skinned fist as it backhanded him strongly across the face, sending him flying headfirst into the wall of Neely's Bar. He slumped to the ground, a line of blood trickling down his forehead.
"Ranma!" Akane shouted, and they all turned to face the danger.
That's when it stepped into their range of view. It was what appeared to be a large muscular man, at least seven feet tall, wearing some kind of draping that appeared to be made of human skin around his waist, and a huge, rusty red metal pyramid over his head, like some sort of unnecessarily oversized mask. With his left hand, he dragged behind him some kind of gigantic sword that was too heavy for even him to carry. Shock came over Akane, Ukyo, and Ryoga, and their faces showed it.
Ranma regained some of his sight. He tried to pull it together, shaking his head to clear his mind. He knew that someone had hit him, but he had never been struck that hard by another person, and the effect was devastating. He wondered briefly if this was how other people felt when he hit them. He tried to sit up, but his vision started to blur again, so he stayed put.
He tried to think about the situation. Here was what he knew:
Rain poured down from the dark sky above.
The darkness had covered everything, and with the wound to his head and the beating he'd just withstood, he was temporarily blinded.
The only thing Ranma could see at the moment was the blurry form of the thing with the pyramid on its head.
Unable to stand, Ranma could only watch from the ground as the giant sword of the Red Pyramid was slowly raised in the air before him. All time seemed to stop completely, leaving Ranma with what he felt could very well be his last thoughts. The only thing that ran through his mind now was everything that had brought him this far…
In the span of a few milliseconds, he recounted everything, and was inches from death as the sword was swung in his direction. As he cringed back, there was a loud clanging sound right in front of his face. He cracked an eye open and saw that Ukyo had intervened, guarding Ranma with her battle spatula. She was struggling to keep the blade from coming any closer to him.
"Back…off!" she screamed, pushing with all her might. Pyramid Head was thrown back slightly, the pointy end of his sword hitting the street with a loud bang.
While Ukyo kept the Pyramid Head busy, Akane and Ryoga helped a groggy Ranma to his feet.
"Ukyo!" Ryoga called. "Come on!"
Ukyo continued her battle with Pyramid Head. As his sword would take too much time to lift up again, he blocked Ukyo's attempts to strike with her battle spatula, slapping it away each time she swung at him. She spun with it, with the intention of doing serious damage to him. Unfortunately, Pyramid Head saw it coming and caught the spatula with one hand, stopping Ukyo in her tracks. Ukyo gasped and Pyramid Head ripped the spatula from her hands and flung it away. With the hand that wasn't holding the sword, Pyramid Head grabbed Ukyo by the front of her shirt. She did not go willingly; she kicked and screamed, trying to pull away. She used every martial arts move she could think of in that situation, but nothing worked. Instead of killing her on the spot, which Ranma, Ryoga, and Akane were sure he was going to do, Pyramid Head turned and began to walk off into the darkness, dragging his blade and the screaming Ukyo behind him.
"Ukyo!" Akane cried, but they seemed to disappear. The last thing they heard of Ukyo was a distant scream for help before the darkness began to literally melt away, revealing the foggy town of Silent Hill once again. Ranma regained most of his composure, watching the world become what it was again. It was perpetually daytime in the foggy world.
The three of them began to look around in the mist frantically. It was just as thick as before, and ash continued to snow down on them.
"Ukyo?" Ranma called, but received no answer. "Ukyo!"
"Where did they go?" Ryoga asked.
Akane shook her head, indicating that she had no clue. "She's gone…"
Ranma quickly picked up his flashlight and Ryoga followed suit. The three of them ran together, Ranma and Ryoga on either side with Akane in the middle, abandoning their backpacks. At this point, all they cared about was their lives.
It didn't take Shampoo long to get to Silent Hill. Once she was at the roadblock, she realized that she would not be able to go any farther unless she took the path leading into the woods.
"Great-Grandmother say not go into town," she reminded herself. She remembered Cologne saying to come back if Ranma had already gone into Silent Hill, but she knew even when she was told that she would not oblige to this wish. "Ranma in there…Shampoo no will leave him."
She looked at the barricade, searching for holes large enough for her to get through. She spotted one, then another behind it, and another behind that one. She decided that she might not have to go through the woods after all.
Shampoo took a water bottle out of her pack and poured cold water over herself, transforming her into a cat. Being small enough, she began to pounce through the roadblock, diving through areas that only a small animal could get through. When she reached the final barrier, Shampoo leaped out towards the ground…and was surprised when she hit the ground, noticing her human hands and long purple hair hanging down past her shoulders.
"What?" she asked to no one in particular, standing and checking herself. "Shampoo curse no work here?"
She looked around. She had ended up on Nathan Avenue, at the other side of the tunnel roadblock. The only way she could go was straight, and so, she started on her way.
Mousse and Kuno arrived at the roadblock shortly after Shampoo had scurried through it. They looked off to the right and noticed the path leading into the woods. Mousse pointed and began to lead the way.
"Does this not seem strange to you, Mousse?" Kuno asked, his wooden sword unsheathed and held tight in his right hand. "Someone does not seem to want anyone entering this place."
"I told you, it's cursed or something," Mousse said, continuing forward. "People are superstitious, so the locals probably blocked it off. Anyway, this is probably the same way the others took, so let's keep going."
They eventually came to the well. The atmosphere stayed the same, but it was becoming later in the day. They had to move quick if they wanted to get in town and have time to search before nightfall.
Finally, they came to the broken roadblock on Wiltse Road, where Ranma and the others had come through. Mousse and Kuno kept walking until they got to Sanders Street, heading west. They looked around at the buildings. They were old, deteriorated, and looked as though they had suffered through some bad times. The atmosphere was sickening, and they could taste the bad air.
"Why the hell would anyone call Ranma out here?" Mousse asked, covering his mouth with the back of his hand.
"I am unsure," Kuno said, doing the same. "This town is dead."
"Shampoo!" Mousse called into the distance. He listened for a moment, but received no answer.
"Akane Tendo! Pig-Tailed Girl!" Kuno tried.
"Maybe they're in one of the buildings?" Mousse suggested.
"Ah, to come to the aid of two of the most beauteous women to grace this planet…hopefully my efforts will not go…unrewarded." Kuno grinned that strange and unnerving grin again.
Mousse looked at Kuno for a second, wondering how he could be thinking about something like that at a time like this. Then, he felt something on his head and brushed at it with his hand. He looked up and saw that it had begun to snow, and looking around, he noticed that a strange fog was rolling in from all directions.
"Interesting," Kuno said. "It is as if the town provided a more romantic atmosphere for me…"
"This doesn't feel very 'romantic' to me, Kuno," Mousse said, eyeing him and then looking around quickly. He saw some sort of movement out of the corner of his eye and squinted. He could just barely make out long, flowing purple hair. "Shampoo!"
Kuno followed his gaze and Mousse took off after the figure, which disappeared into the mist, headed north on Martin Street. Kuno followed after Mousse, and the two of them ran. They passed two cafés and came out on Katz Street.
"Where did she go?" Kuno asked. He and Mousse both turned around several times, trying to look everywhere at once.
"Wait," Mousse said suddenly, standing still. "Do you feel something?"
Kuno shook his head slightly, but then looked up when a flock of birds began to squawk, flying off into the distance. A siren began to blare loudly from somewhere nearby and fell silent after only a few moments. Suddenly, the sky became dark and reality began to fade away. The two watched in amazement as the foggy world was transformed into a world of rust, metal, and darkness. Reality stripped away to reveal metal grates and strange things; Mousse happened to see a caged area that had just been part of a building. Behind this area, there was a huge deformed thing of some sort, a humanoid monster perched on the side of the wall behind it. It twitched crazily and was reaching down, rotating one of two red valves.
"What…in the hell…?" Mousse asked, unbelieving.
Kuno merely shook his head again, unable to speak at the moment. It began to rain on them and neither of them noticed or cared that Mousse's curse was not triggered by the sudden downpour.
Out of the darkness, strange sounds began to emanate; the sounds of unknown creatures coming towards them.
"I think we had better be moving along now," Kuno said, not taking his eyes off what he believed to be something or things moving in the darkness.
"Yes," Mousse said, and as the ferocious roar of some angry beast sounded nearby, the two of them ran west on Katz Street.
Ranma, Akane, and Ryoga had gone north on Neely Street. They were more paranoid now than they had ever been. They continuously looked around as they ran, trying to stay aware of their surroundings. As soon as they reached Nathan Avenue, they stopped to lean on one of the abandoned vehicles to take a breath.
"That thing…" Akane began, panting, "that Pyramid Head…it got Ukyo…"
"She might…be ok…Akane…" Ryoga said between breaths.
"This is insanity," Ranma said angrily. "What's happening here?"
As soon as he said that, a strange squealing sound came from under the car they were leaning on and they all jumped back. A strange sort of monster quickly skittered out from under it, coming to a stop at Ryoga's feet. It began to get up, using only its feet. This was because, once they saw it, they realized it had no arms, nor a face. It appeared to be wrapped in some kind of fleshy straight-jacket, and it had a putrid, dripping black hole in its chest.
The thing twitched and let loose a spray of acidic black bile from its chest, narrowly missing Ryoga and hitting the ground behind him. The concrete sizzled and began to melt away a little. Ryoga sweep-kicked the patient-demon and it hit the ground. As Ranma and Akane approached to aid him, Ryoga just began kicking the squirming thing as hard as he could. After a few well-placed stomps, the thing died squealing.
"We need to leave now, Ranma," Akane said.
"What if Ukyo's not dead?" he asked her.
Ryoga looked at him, then at Akane, then at the ground. He knew that fiend wouldn't have left Ukyo alive. They all knew it. Maybe that was why Ranma didn't press the issue any further.
"Then let's go," Ranma said. He looked at Rosewater Park circled on the map of Silent Hill with contempt for a moment. "Fuck answers, let's get the hell out of here."
He folded up the map and put it away. Then, he led them east on Nathan Avenue, back towards the barricade. He intended on breaking right through it when they got there. As they continued on towards the barricade, they were stopped suddenly. On Nathan Avenue, between Vachss Road and Wiltse Road (both of which went under Nathan Avenue), there was a huge, bottomless gap. The road had been completely destroyed, removed. Broken concrete, rebar, and pipes lay scattered about near the edge.
Ranma, wide-eyed, approached the edge and looked over the side. He looked back at the others, who looked at him questioningly, and he shook his head as he looked back down and then stood up.
"We're not getting out this way, that's for sure…"
"Then let's go back the way we came," Ryoga suggested.
The three of them ran back the way they came. As they passed Lindsey Street, Ranma slowed down and stopped, causing the others to stop as well.
"What is it?" Akane asked him.
"This barricade wasn't here before," he said, walking up to the roadblock that had supposedly just sprung up on Lindsey Street, blocking the way to the south, once a potential alternate route back the way they came. "When we were running east, this wasn't here!"
"Ranma, we don't have time for this!"
"What if that darkness comes again?" Ryoga asked, trying to get Ranma to move.
After another moment's hesitation, Ranma nodded and ran with them. They passed the fire station and the church, coming up on Neely Street. Akane, up front, nearly fell off the edge of the world as she came around the corner. She pinwheeled her arms to keep from falling, and Ranma and Ryoga each grabbed one of her arms and yanked her back. She fell back and they caught her. After she stood up, Ryoga moved forward and saw that Neely Street, too, was now gone.
"Something doesn't want us to leave," Ranma said.
Shampoo didn't know what was going on. One moment, she was wandering through Silent Hill, searching for Ranma. The next thing she knew, a siren had started to wail and reality had suddenly begun to shift and she was surrounded by darkness. Even without having much vision, she could see the world changing. It began to rain.
She tried to keep her composure. She'd been through worse…she'd thought. At first, it just seemed to be a creepy-looking place after the change. That was until she heard a noise close by. It was sort of a shuffle-drag, shuffle-drag…and then a female figure came into view. Shampoo squinted towards it.
Whoever it was, she appeared to be having a problem. Her head hung limply forward and twitched strangely. She was making very soft moaning sounds. The way she stood was, in itself, odd.
"Hello?" Shampoo called.
The woman's head snapped up and she limped forward, and her body began to twitch and contort in different directions. Shampoo could see with horror that she was dressed in a nurse's uniform, complete with the little hat. But her face…her face was sort of mummified, and underneath, Shampoo could see something red and horrifying moving around. The demon-nurse held up a mean-looking scalpel threateningly as she approached Shampoo.
"You stay back!" she yelled, not really expecting that the demon-nurse would listen. She kept coming and when she was within reaching distance, Shampoo gave her an uppercut that smashed her disfigured jaw into the rest of her ugly face. The demon-nurse went flying backwards and twitched even more as it died.
Shampoo straightened out and was prepared to move on when she heard it again: shuffle-drag, shuffle-drag, shuffle-drag…only this time, she heard it more, louder, as if there were an army of them coming for her. Turning around, she saw several of the demon-nurses staggering out of the darkness towards her, all of them holding a weapon of some kind. More and more seemed to come out of the darkness, all of them heading straight for Shampoo. Looking around, she realized she was surrounded.
She waited for a few of them to get close and attack. With a spinning back-kick, she sent one of their heads flying off. The next one stabbed at her face, but Shampoo bobbed her head back before the blade touched her. She pushed herself forward and gave the demon-nurse a headbutt, and the demon-nurse fell back into a couple of the others. Focused on what was in front of her, Shampoo did not realize that one had gotten close enough to strike. Luckily, Shampoo was dodging other attacks at the time and was not gravely injured, but the demon-nurse did manage to leave a long, bloody gash down her upper-right arm. Shampoo grabbed at the wound and saw blood on her hand. Temporarily enraged, she punched the demon-nurse, smashing in her face and killing her.
So many of them, and they just kept coming…Shampoo knew she wouldn't be able to hold out for much longer. She tried to push through one area of oncoming demon-nurses, but they swung their weapons at her, holding her back. Things were not looking good as they closed in on her.
"Shampoo!" a voice yelled out.
She looked around, trying to recognize the voice. After a second or two, she figured it out. "Mousse! I here!"
"Just stay there, Shampoo!"
The demon-nurses began to turn their attention away from Shampoo and towards Mousse. Shampoo could suddenly hear the sounds of struggling, and what she thought were death squeals.
Several chains protruded from the sleeves of Mousse's robe. Attached to these chains were razor-sharp blades that tore through the demon-nurses, severing limbs and chopping off heads. Kuno, meanwhile, was swinging away with his wooden sword, slicing the demon-nurses to pieces and skewering them through their already-mangled faces. Once they cut a path through, Mousse grabbed Shampoo's hand and pulled her out of harm's way. The demon-nurses swung their weapons at the three in a final attempt to slay them. The nurses were apparently not going to stop coming, so they were forced to run. They did not know where they were going, and at the moment, they didn't care.
Since getting out of town was no longer an option, Ranma, Akane, and Ryoga began to head for Rosewater Park. It had been a while since the darkness had come, and they were hoping like hell that it wouldn't be back anytime soon. On the way there, they were assaulted by three more of those patient-demons, all easily dispatched. Seeing them was becoming less of a shock, but the place was still getting to them.
Going west on Nathan Avenue, they hurried as fast as they could until they came to a sign on the side of the road that indicated how close they were to Rosewater Park. They were, in fact, right next to it, and probably would have known that were it not for the thickness of the fog. They saw the entrance as they moved past the parking lot.
The three of them entered the park. Looking on the map, Ranma saw that the park was basically a straight path that went in a square and would lead them back out on Nathan Avenue, a little further down the road. They walked along the path until they came to the first corner. They took a right and went straight. Looking off to the left, they could make out through the fog a massive lake that was labeled on the map as Toluca Lake. After a few moments of walking, they began to hear the sound of a girl weeping softly somewhere nearby.
"Hello?" Akane called out.
A voice drifted back to them, weak and pathetic sounding. "Ranma…help…"
They looked at each other. "How does she know your name?" Ryoga asked.
"I know that voice," Ranma said.
"Help…" the voice said again and continued weeping.
Finally, he recognized who it was. "Ukyo!" he yelled, following her voice. "Just stay there, we're coming!"
As they rushed down the path trying to find her, Ranma felt they were getting close. They rounded the next corner, heading south towards Nathan Avenue. Suddenly, they heard Ukyo's ear-piercing scream and then all was silent. They quickly rounded the next corner, took a left, and came to a dead stop. After a moment of shock, they moved cautiously forward, wide-eyed.
"Ukyo…?" Ranma said, stunned.
On the path before them stood a gray mannequin that looked exactly like Ukyo, down to the very last detail. Her arms were outstretched towards them, as if she was reaching for them. The expression frozen on her face was one of pain and terror. Running from a line that ran all the way around her neck was a thick, red fluid that they recognized as blood. They circled the mannequin, inspecting it.
Ranma finally reached out and barely touched the mannequin. It wobbled slightly, and to their horror, the head pitched forward and tumbled off the body, rolling across the ground. Akane gasped and covered her mouth with her hand, taking a step back. Ranma and Ryoga both jumped back as well, Ryoga with a disgusted look on his face. The Ukyo-mannequin's head came to rest suddenly, staring past Ranma. Ryoga followed its gaze and his disgusted expression was replaced by wide-eyed curiosity.
"Ranma…" he said, pointing past him, "…look behind you."
Ranma turned and his confusion level maxed out. Before them stood a large stone statue of a girl, from her head down to the waist. She had a sad look on her face, but she was still stunningly beautiful. But that was not what held their attention; it was who she was.
"That's…impossible…" Ranma said.
"It's…it's you…" Akane managed.
The girl depicted in the statue was Ranma's female half. Below her was a plaque that read: "This is just the beginning of your suffering, Ranma. You will find me at Lakeside Amusement Park, across Toluca Lake."
"Ranma!" a voice called from behind Ryoga, startling the three of them. It was Shampoo, and she ran towards him, followed by Mousse and Kuno. She was about to hug him when she noticed the Ukyo-mannequin and the severed head, and she looked back at Ranma, surprised. "What happen?"
"Akane Tendo, are you unharmed?" Kuno asked with some kind of concern that made her want to shudder.
"What are you guys doing here?" Ranma asked with surprise.
"Great grandmother say to follow you here, to stop you from going inside town. She know bad things about this place."
"I think we all do, now…" Ryoga commented, looking around to make sure nothing was creeping up on them.
"How did you find us?" Akane asked.
"We heard Ranma calling for Ukyo," Mousse said. "Then we weren't sure where you were until we heard that scream. We followed it and ended up here."
"How did you get past Neely Street?" Ranma asked. "It's completely gone."
"We just went to the next one over. That way was actually demolished, too, so we went over one more and there was a way through."
"My Pig-Tailed Goddess," Kuno said suddenly, wide-eyed, noticing the statue for the first time. "What is the meaning of this?"
"We were just about to find that out," Ryoga said.
"Yeah…" Ranma said softly, looking back towards the statue of his female half. "And it looks like we have to cross the lake."
The six of them headed west on Nathan Avenue. The map showed that there was a boat launch at the docks just down the street from the park. It was decided that that would be easier than walking all the way around. But upon arrival, they were not surprised to see that the docks had been completely destroyed, large chunks of wood floating past in the water.
"I guess we're walking, then," Ranma said.
That siren rang out again, alerting them all.
"Oh shit," Mousse said suddenly. "Look!"
The others turned to look where Mousse was pointing. Off to the south, in the distance, they could see that the darkness was approaching fast.
"Can we outrun it?" Akane asked nervously.
"Maybe," Ranma said, staring at it. "Everyone, follow me and keep up!"
Without thinking about what he was doing, he grabbed Akane's hand and the group began to run west again. Not too far ahead, Nathan Avenue curved to the northwest and forked off in two different directions. The path to the left was barricaded, leaving only the path that curved northeast, around the lake. They slowed down and stopped at the fork as the darkness finally reached them, twisting the foggy world into the hellish nightmare world.
"Ranma…" Mousse asked, looking around, "what is this place?"
"I don't know. It just keeps coming out of nowhe—"
"Ryoga!" Akane cried suddenly. "Behind you!"
Before Ryoga could turn, a long, thinspear burst forth from his left shoulder. He fell to his knees and screamed in pain, falling finally to the ground. From behind him, heavy footsteps came and Pyramid Head stepped out of the darkness.
"What demon is this?" Kuno asked, wide-eyed.
Pyramid Head leaned down and grabbed the spear by the handle, lifting Ryoga up to his knees again, and put his foot on Ryoga's back. He gave a tremendous yank and retracted the spear from the screaming Ryoga's body, knocking him back to the ground. Pyramid Head raised the spear over his head, preparing to skewer Ryoga again.
Before he could bring the spear down on Ryoga, Akane reacted. She snatched the wooden sword out of the stupefied Kuno's hand and leapt towards Pyramid Head. She thrust it forward with a loud battle-cry and impaled him through the chest, sending him stumbling backwards. She ripped it out of him and swiftly handed it back to Kuno.
Mousse and Ranma quickly helped Ryoga up, supporting him as they all ran up the northeast path. They did not stop for anything; out of the corner of their eyes, they could see things moving, shambling in the darkness. They could hear the cries of tortured souls and the agony of the Hell they were in.
Finally, they came to rest at a bench that sat on the sidewalk. Ranma and Mousse set Ryoga down on the bench. Ryoga was breathing steadily. He was trying to keep from feeling the pain. Also, he was trying not to show any weakness in front of Akane; that pain would be worse than anything.
"I'm alright," Ryoga said, pushing Shampoo's hand away as she inspected the wound. "It's nothing."
"That thing went right through you," Mousse said. "How can you be ok?"
"Indeed, do not strain yourself if you are injured," Kuno said, trying to sound wise. "Best to rest and heal up before you injure yourself more."
Ryoga stood up on his own and, to make his point, he took a fighting stance. He did not even break a sweat, although he grunted slightly. Blood began to flow from the wound again.
"We have to dress that," Akane said. She sat him back down on the bench. After practically forcing Ryoga to take his shirt off, she ripped both of her sleeves off and tied them together. Shampoo also removed hers and did the same, then handed it to Akane. She turned to them. "Ok, now I need a gauze substitute."
Mousse ripped two large strips from his robe and wadded them up. Akane told him to hold the wads on either side of the wound while she wrapped it vertically and tied it off on his collarbone. Ryoga tried to think about something else as she touched him while she wrapped the final strip of cloth around his upper torso. After a moment, she stepped back and looked at her handiwork. There was already a spot of blood, as it was starting to seep through. It still needed to be disinfected and all that. The bandage would work for now, anyway.
"Thank you, Akane," Ryoga said, looking down.
"Are you really alright to go on, Ryoga?" Ranma asked with genuine concern.
Ryoga heard this concern and looked up slowly at him. Can it be…? Maybe we really are…friends. He stood up and nodded. "I am ready."
"Look," Shampoo pointed to a nearby sign that they hadn't noticed until now. It was an advertisement for Lakeside Amusement Park. "We here."
The inside of the amusement park was just like the rest of Silent Hill in the darkness; rusted metal grates, strange cages that held dead bodies that had been tortured so long ago. As they walked along, they saw empty popcorn carts and decaying benches. On one of these benches sat a giant bunny suit that glared right at them, blood running from its face. Apparently, whoever was inside the suit was dead.
"Everyone stay close," Ranma said as they cautiously moved past the rabbit suit, hoping it would not spring to life after they walked by.
It was difficult to see very far ahead. They could hear the sound of something shuffling towards them. "Do you still have a flashlight, Akane?" Ryoga asked quickly.
"Oh yeah!" Akane said, remembering that it was sticking halfway out of her pocket. She yanked it out and shined the light ahead.
A few feet ahead of them was a huge, lumbering monster of some kind. It had two giant forearms that ended in large, unformed hands, no face, and it twitched crazily as it lurched towards them.
They all shrank back in surprise and the closer's massive fist slammed into the ground where Mousse was standing only a moment before. The thing then went for Akane. Ranma, Ryoga, and Kuno all reacted at the same time, each striking the closer in a different spot. When it was dazed, Kuno sliced off both of its gigantic arms while Ryoga and Ranma worked together to knock it down. They then yanked what appeared to be its head clean off, spraying some sort of black bile on them. They stood, panting and looking down at the dead thing.
Their attention snapped forward as the lights on the merry-go-round came on suddenly. Slowly, the ride began to start up and the carnival music began to play with it. They watched in stunned silence, waiting for whatever came next.
The lights on the merry-go-round began to strobe and the music began to go faster. Soon the ride was spinning out of control and the music was little more than a high-pitched wail. The lights all exploded simultaneously, including the flashlight Akane was holding. She cried out as she dropped it. Eventually, the music slowed and the ride came to a complete stop. All the horses that had been white before were now covered in various bloody wounds, exposing some of their ribcages and skulls.
A cruel laugh came from their left and they turned, finally seeing their enemy in the flesh. She stood atop the first flight of a staircase that led to what looked like a high roller coaster. She was wearing some kind of white dress that seemed to be glowing unnaturally. She had her hair in a pigtail, just like Ranma.
"So, you've finally come," the girl said, addressing Ranma as she began to descend the stairs. "I've been waiting for a long time. I suspect you want some answers?"
"Who are you?" Ranma asked her.
"For now, you may call me Ranko."
"My goddess!" Kuno said with happiness, walking towards her with a stupid grin on his face.
"Kuno, wait!" Ranma said, laying his hand on Kuno's shoulder to stop him. "That's not who you think it is!"
Surprisingly, Kuno did stop. He took a good, long look at the red-headed woman standing before him. Even though her features were exactly the same as his so-called "pig-tailed goddess," there was something about her eyes…
"Saotome…you may have just saved me from death," Kuno admitted, turning and looking very seriously at Ranma. "For that, I grudgingly give you my gratitude." He turned back to the girl with anger, his sword drawn. "Witch! What have you done with the real pig-tailed girl?"
"I can see that talking to you rationally will be pointless," Ranko said. "Fortunately for me, I had not planned on just talking rationally. Not to you, anyway."
A sudden mist sprung up from all around, engulfing them. Ranma could not see anything and he reached out for the others. Soon, the mist cleared and Ranma looked around, finding himself all alone. It was just him and Ranko now.
"What did you do with my friends?" Ranma asked, his fists beginning to shake in anger.
Ranko simply smiled at him. "They're still here. But right now they're a little…preoccupied. Just long enough for you and me to talk."
Ranma watched her every move as she began to walk slowly one way, then turned and walked slowly the other way, never taking her eyes off him. "What do you want from me?"
"Yes, allow me to explain. You've come all this way and you still don't know why. It will be a long story, so be prepared to listen well."
"Let me start from the beginning. Long ago, I lived in Japan…like you. I had a lover, a fiancée, and we were happy…for a while, anyway. But there came a period when I began to notice something strange about him…a change in his behavior. I tried not to think about it, to not let it affect what we had together. Then, one day, my lover took us to a place of sacred springs, and he was acting nervously. I thought he was working up the courage to tell me he was leaving me, but he was working up the courage to do something worse. He threw me into one of the springs and held me down under the water until he was sure I was dead."
"So what? What does this have to do with me?"
"Shut up!" she said quickly and loudly, glaring at him with a flash of anger. Her face returned to normal and she continued on. "Once I was dead, the spring you know at Jusenkyo as the 'Spring of Drowned Girl' was my soul's prison…for a time. I watched idiots train there and fall in time after time, all emerging as buxom young women. At least I had some kind of amusement, right?" She gave Ranma a shrug and a smile, trying to seem innocent. "Then, I was approached by The Unspeakable Demon. He told me that he could free my soul from Jusenkyo and give me an immense amount of power in exchange for other souls. I now realize my foolishness in accepting that offer…"
She looked away thoughtfully for a moment, then turned her attention back to Ranma.
"So, He freed me, and my soul found its way to Silent Hill. At first, being here was terrifying. It seemed to be another Hell from which there was no escape. I encountered many strange things: horrifying creatures from a nightmare, which I now realize are beautiful."
A patient-demon slithered across the walkway between Ranma and Ranko, no doubt triggered at Ranko's will. It disappeared into the darkness and Ranma watched after it for a moment before looking back to Ranko with disgust.
"You find these things beautiful? Are you blind?"
"They look like monsters to you, don't they, Ranma? They did to me, too, at first. In my time here, I have channeled the anger of my murder into power. Power that lets me control the other demons here."
To her right, a spotlight appeared on one of the roller coaster's support beams. Underneath the light was a rusty metal cage that held a strange-looking creature that was perched on the fence, reaching down and turning one of two red valves that jutted out from the ground. To her left, Pyramid Head stepped out of the darkness into another spotlight. He was facing Ranma, his sword in his right hand, the blade dragging along the ground. Ranma noticed a large black wound in his chest where Akane had impaled him with Kuno's sword.
"Valtiel," she said, motioning to her right, then to her left, "and the Red Pyramid."
Ranma kept his eye on Pyramid Head for a moment, realizing that he was in no immediate danger. He looked back to Ranko. "Why did you kill Ukyo?"
"That was not intended. Valtiel follows my every command because I only ask of him to bring the darkness upon this town. I, like the many others who call Silent Hill home, control almost any aspect of this place that I want, but even I cannot fully control the Red Pyramid. No one can. He is an executioner, and he takes his job very seriously, even centuries after his own death. I did not want any of you dead until you had the chance to learn the truth. But…shit happens."
"Why did you bring us here?"
Ranko began to approach Ranma. "As I said before, I had all this power. But even with this kind of power, it's still not enough. I soon grew tired of this place. When I made that deal with Him, I didn't realize that I was trading one purgatory for another. And after a while, no matter how luxurious it may be…I say, fuck purgatory. I want to live again. And I even got information from a 'little girl' named Alessa that lives here." The way she said "little girl" implied to Ranma that she wasn't talking about a little girl at all. She continued on: "She taught me about possession, how it works here. But there were no girls born in your family for generations. I had given up hope…that is, until you were born."
"I don't get it. Why my family? Why me?"
"You are of my bloodline, Ranma. I could only have ever used one of my own as a vessel, but…it was always you I was waiting for. You look exactly like me, and that was what I wanted. There was only one problem…you're a man. It was made clear to me that the body I possess must be that of a woman. And Alessa taught me that I had to wait until you were the same age as me when I died. Since I had already waited for centuries, what was another two decades or so? So I watched you from here. With my ever-growing power, I influenced your father to take you to Jusenkyo. Your falling into my particular cursed spring was no accident, either, which you might have guessed already. And, from that day on, I had a direct connection with you, no matter how small."
"You chose me because I look like you?" Ranma asked, unbelieving. "This is insane! Why did you drag my friends into this?"
"For years, I have watched through your eyes as your so-called 'friends' have constantly sinned with no thought of atonement. I am that atonement, and they will pay for their sins."
"What in the hell are you talking about!"
"Your friend Ukyo, for example: she was an angry one. She had every intention of killing Akane when she found out that she stowed away aboard your plane. For one reason or another, she did not follow through with it…but she would have. Kuno obviously sins against everyone he comes in contact with. Shampoo covets you and Mousse covets Shampoo. And Akane…she has sinned against you, Ranma, with her rage and jealousy, and she has sinned against me."
"You leave her out of this!" he yelled.
"It's too late for that now, Ranma…I told you, I need souls to repay Him for all He's done for me. I may be leaving this place behind soon, but I am still grateful to Him. And lastly, you may be wondering what Ryoga could have done to incur my wrath." Her face turned dark and angry. "He is the descendant of my lover. And your precious Akane is the descendant of the bitch that led him astray. They have bothsinned against me, and they will pay dearly."
Ranma thought it impossible to be more shocked than he was before, but he was wrong.
"I influenced Akane to ask him to go with you, and your other friends felt my influence, too, as they were drawn here after you. I will take their lives and harvest their souls and deliver them to the Demon before I leave this place, in exchange for all He has done for me."
After he absorbed the shock, his face hardened and he glared at Ranko. "No more games. Where are they?"
"They must atone for their sins by facing the most dangerous opponent any of them will ever face…themselves." She gave a hysterically evil laugh.
Akane looked around. She had no idea where she was; she was pretty sure she was still in the amusement park, but it was completely dark, allowing her to see nothing. She walked forward, looking in both directions to see if she could see anything. After a few moments, she was surprised by her own reflection as she looked ahead. She had come to some kind of giant mirror and she was only a few feet away from it. She looked at her reflection.
Suddenly, Akane gasped as her reflection lowered its head slightly and froze in place, and was slowly covered by that decaying rust that the darkness brings. Her reflection looked like a horribly scarred, dark, more evil version of herself. Finally, the Reflection lifted its head and looked at Akane, cracking a hideous smile.
"What…?" Akane asked, confused.
"What do you mean, 'what'?" the Reflection asked in some kind of a demonic double-voice; her voice with a deep, demonic overtone. "You know me. I'm your dark half. Your rage. Your jealousy."
"What is this?"
"You really think Ranma wants you? Look at you, you're not ladylike. Shampoo's more ladylike than you. Ukyo was more ladylike than you. You're just a fucking tomboy who likes to hit people."
"You don't know me!" she screamed.
"I know everything about you. I am you. You can't escape yourself…"
The Reflection stepped out of the mirror and approached Akane, who took a step back. The Reflection leapt at her and Akane was caught slightly off-guard. She dodged out of the way and tried to keep her distance, afraid of the thing. The Reflection grinned at her, circling around Akane as Akane circled it.
"You just can't stand to see Ranma happy, can you?" it asked, mockingly. "Not unless it involves you somehow. It always has to be about poor little Akane."
"No, that's not true! I…I…" Akane suddenly realized the game that was being played here. This wasn't a representation of herself; it was a trick, Ranko was using mind-tricks against her. She knew she had to fight back. "…Ranma is happy with me. He's always been happy with me, and I've always known it! Now come on!"
The Reflection stopped grinning and rushed at Akane with one outstretched hand that formed into sharp claws. Akane spun around it, dodging, and put her foot in front of the Reflection's ankle, tripping it, and her elbow on the back of its head. They both crashed to the metal grate floor and Akane began pummeling the Reflection without mercy. The thing finally let out a death wail and spat black blood before it lay still. Akane stood, panting, an angry look on her face as she watched it die. After a few moments, the Reflection began to bubble and smoke, melting into the metal grating. Akane felt herself returning to where Ranma was. She hoped the others had fared as well as she had.
Mousse stood before his reflection, which had rusted over like Akane's. It was grinning at him and walking in circles around him as he stood looking stunned, but ready for anything. It kept within a foot of him, never getting closer.
"Why did you come here, Mousse?" the Reflection said in that double-voice. "Why did you bother following Shampoo? The bitch has made it clear, she doesn't like us."
"You shut the hell up," Mousse said angrily.
"I'm just saying what we're both thinking. She doesn't love you, Mousse. You're blind as a bat, you cheat when you fight, and let's face it, all you do is turn into a duck. Ranma can turn into a girl and, well, you know Shampoo doesn't mind that…"
The Reflection stopped circling and faced Mousse. "Make me."
"I'll make you. For Shampoo!"
He quickly raised his arm and pointed it at the Reflection, and a short sword shot into his hand. He rushed at the Reflection, who effortlessly dodged a series of thrusts by Mousse and then pushed him to the floor off to the side. While Mousse was recovering, the Reflection crossed its arms and a blade grew out of each of its arms, a mock of Mousse's hidden weapon skills. Mousse noticed this and barely rolled out of the way in time as the Reflection leapt in the air and came crashing down, blades-first, in the spot where Mousse had just been. As Mousse was recovering from his roll-dodge, he came to his knees and was surprised when the Reflection appeared right in front of his face, blades crossed in front of his neck like scissors.
"Wait!" Mousse said frantically. "Don't—"
"You'll like it here with us, Mousse. I promise."
As Mousse began to scream, the Reflection scissored his head clean off.
Shampoo faced her reflection and watched it undergo the transition. She was not surprised, somehow; not much was surprising her in this place, not anymore. The one thing she wanted to do was get Ranma and get the hell out of here. Well, that was not entirely true: if time permitted, she also wanted to get Mousse. Not because she liked him or anything, but…just because, she supposed.
"Never Shampoo will have Ranma," the Reflection said to her, stepping out of the mirror.
"You wrong," Shampoo argued, smirking. "You not real. Just image of Shampoo made to scare."
"Oh, that's right," the Reflection said sarcastically. "I not real, so of course I can do no harm to you…"
Shampoo nodded triumphantly. She knew what was going on…or so she thought.
"…Then how come this happen?"
The Reflection motioned to the mirror and Shampoo's smirk faded. She watched as, in the mirror, Mousse and his own evil Reflection did battle. In the end, Mousse was at a major disadvantage and the Reflection was standing before him.
"Mousse…" Shampoo said softly. "No!"
She watched, unable to do anything, as Mousse's head was cut off. It landed on the ground and bounced once before rolling a little bit. His neck shot out a stream of blood all over the Reflection of Mousse, who seemed to be enjoying it. The image faded to black and now it was the Reflection of Shampoo's turn to smirk.
"You see? I real enough to kill you."
"No! That not real! What you do to Mousse?"
"Why Shampoo care?" the Reflection asked, moving towards her. "You never care about Mousse before. Always 'Ranma this' and 'Ranma that.' Now something happen to Mousse and you suddenly care?"
Shampoo, enraged, rushed at the Reflection. She swung in a blind fury, missing every time. The Reflection laughed as it blocked her moves. "Shampoo's anger just making me stronger."
As Shampoo began to pummel the Reflection, it took quite a few hits to the face before reaching out and grabbing Shampoo by her neck. Shampoo struggled to get free, but the Reflection lifted her up off her feet.
"Come with us, Shampoo. You're home now."
Shampoo knew this was it. She closed her eyes and tried to scream, but the Reflection's fingers pressed into her neck suddenly grew into deadly sharp claws, impaling her throat in five spots. Blood flowed down the Reflection's hand and all down the front of Shampoo's shirt. She gagged and blood continued to flow until the Reflection retracted its claws and tossed her viciously off to the side.
Ryoga wasn't sure what was happening. Without warning, a mist had rolled in and taken him and the others away to…somewhere. He felt as though he knew something about all this, like the answer was on the tip of his tongue, but he could not place it. When the mist cleared, he ended up in front of a huge mirror. He could not see where it started or ended, vertically or horizontally. He watched with amazement as his reflection became a part of Silent Hill and came to life. The Reflection stepped out of the mirror and approached him, chuckling with that double-voice.
"Woah," Ryoga said, eyes wide, backing away a bit. "Wait a minute."
"I've been waiting for a long time, Ryoga. We all have."
"You know me?"
"Then you know you've got a major fight on your hands here."
"If you insist. It's actually better that way. I'd prefer to see you go kicking and screaming rather than calm and willingly. It's more fun for us."
"Well, come on, then!"
The Reflection struck first, grabbing for Ryoga. He swiftly dodged several attacks, just barely able to keep from getting hit. Twice, he was nicked in the side by the Reflection's fingers, which had suddenly become claws. His wound was beginning to slow him down.
The Reflection struck again and this time, Ryoga's makeshift bandage was torn off. Ryoga, relatively unharmed, was knocked to the ground. He quickly pushed himself back up and staggered, feeling his shoulder wound reopen. He looked around frantically, searching for the Reflection, but he could see nothing but darkness. Suddenly, Ryoga felt a powerfully strong arm wrap around him, pinning his arms at his sides. It was the Reflection, and it had somehow gotten behind Ryoga and was now crushing him.
"We're not going to kill you, Ryoga…yet," the Reflection whispered in his ear. "We've got something special in store for you."
As the Reflection began to laugh, Ryoga pushed his arms outward with all of his might. The Reflection was caught off guard and was thrown backwards, landing on the ground face-first a few feet away. Ryoga dropped back into his battle stance. The Reflection pushed itself up slightly and looked back over its shoulder, seeing Ryoga. It smirked and as Ryoga moved forward to attack, the Reflection quickly got to its feet and spun around. As Ryoga's fist flew past the Reflection, it did a similar maneuver in which its index- and middle-fingers landed squarely in Ryoga's open shoulder wound. Ryoga froze in place, his eyes going wide. He could not move and all his power was drained. The Reflection just smiled, an evil look on its face.
Ryoga was just barely able to tilt his head downward to see what was happening to him. The Reflection's two fingers were still imbedded in his shoulder wound, and some kind of sick, red growth began to spread out of it like a virus, covering Ryoga's shoulder and running down his arms, his chest, and his back, engulfing his entire body.
"What…what are you…doing…to me?" he managed, looking with horror at the face of his Reflection as the red growth continued to spread.
"Giving you what you deserve," it responded. "You're going to be staying with us for a very long time, Ryoga…"
"Akane…" was the last thing Ryoga said before he was completely covered.
Kuno gripped his wooden sword tightly. He and his Reflection had been battling back and forth for a few minutes now. There had been no exchange of words yet, but now they were simply circling each other, both waiting for the other to strike again.
"What foul machination is this?" Kuno finally asked. "As if I am not capable of defeating what is essentially me? It is to laugh."
"Why do you talk like that, Kuno?" the Reflection asked, trying to plant the seed of doubt in him. "No one likes it and it's pretty obvious that no one likes or respects you."
"Silence! I will hear no more of this!"
"Your efforts to chase Akane Tendo are fruitless. She doesn't love you, you know that. Yet you persist. And the pig-tailed girl? You know the truth behind that as well. You're just too stupid to admit it."
"That she…she is Ranma's sister?"
"No, Kuno. Stop lying to yourself. You know what's real. It's time to accept the truth."
The Reflection pointed at him suddenly and Kuno's eyes widened as the realization that Ranma and the pig-tailed girl were one and the same forced its way into his mind, but he somehow managed to resist.
"Lies!" Kuno yelled as he swung his wooden sword.
The Reflection was caught off guard by Kuno's resilience and, consequently, lost its right arm in the process. The arm hit the ground and the hand was still clutching the nightmare-version of Kuno's sword. The Reflection looked in shock at the stump where its right arm was, and anger washed over its face. It looked back at Kuno just in time to see that wooden sword going right for its throat. The blade plunged into the front of its neck and exited through the other side. That black, oily blood began to spew forth from its throat around the sword and its mouth. It gripped the hilt with both hands, trying to remove it. After a minute of useless struggle, it finally sank to its knees, dropping its arms to their sides. Kuno grabbed the hilt of the sword with both hands, putting one foot on the Reflection's chest for leverage, and removed it in such a way that it tore half its neck open, its head flopping over obscenely to one side and exposing horrifying green and black organs. The Reflection fell to the ground, dead. Kuno stood triumphantly over its dead body until the world suddenly began to change again.
As the others fought the evil versions of themselves, Ranma and Ranko stood across from each other.
"If you think I'm just going to go along with all this, you're dead wrong," Ranma said to her. "I'd rather die."
"Then so be it. Frankly, I expected as much…nobody ever wants all this at first. But it doesn't matter if you die here. In fact, that's the idea; once you're dead, your soul will be removed from your body and I will fully restore it before taking possession of it! Then, I will dedicate the rest of my days to finding a way to become a complete woman again."
"Your reasoning for all this is pathetic and stupid. I'm not giving up my body without a fight," Ranma growled, standing battle-ready.
Pyramid Head stepped out from the darkness suddenly and reached for Ranma with one large hand. Ranma, unprepared for this, flinched back. Ranko waved her hand angrily before Pyramid Head. "Stop!" Surprisingly, Pyramid Head did freeze, his oversized hand only inches from Ranma. He turned his pyramid slightly in Ranko's direction . "He's mine."
After a moment, Pyramid Head withdrew his arm and turned around, lurching back into the darkness, his heavy footsteps thudding as he moved further away. Ranma watched him go and then turned his attention back to Ranko, once again ready to fight. "Come on already!" he shouted.
"You really have no idea what you're up against, do you?" she chuckled.
"What? Who gives a fuck anymore? I've seen everything this place has to offer! Give me your worst! Let's do this already!"
"You're not getting out of this town alive, Ranma," she said, a wicked smile forming on her face. "You're going to take my place here."
Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, only the whites showing. Her arms stretched out at their sides, she began to levitate until she was floating a few feet off the ground. Ranma dropped out of his battle stance, watching with confusion. Her dress shredded itself completely. A loud, deep hum began to emanate from somewhere, and her skin began to bleed rust, until she was covered in it. After another moment, her head split vertically in two, followed by the rest of her body, as some kind of monster version of her climbed out of its skin.
She was completely naked. Her skin was grayish blue, like a drowning victim, and her face had changed for the worse; her eyes were huge and blood-red with no pupils, and her teeth were massive fangs that ripped through the flesh of her lips. Her fingers grew into long razor-sharp talons, and she was on all fours. Her back rippled and then tore open, forming another set of giant, fang-filled jaws that roared loudly.
Ranma looked on in shock, trying to pull himself together. He told himself he could take this…this Ranko-Demon. But he knew better. This was it. All or nothing. If he didn't do this, he was going to die horribly and spend eternity in this Hell. His features hardened and he once again was ready to fight.
The Ranko-Demon twitched, bobbing her body in different directions to try to confuse Ranma. Suddenly, she leaped into the air, claws pointed downward as she came closer him. Ranma rolled out of the way and turned to her, just barely dodging a slashing attack from her claws. He landed near a pile of debris and noticed a long, lead pipe. He quickly grabbed it and stood up, spinning around with it. The pipe connected with the Ranko-Demon's face, and he quickly slapped her with it again, again, and again. On the last strike, when she was dazed, she quickly spun around and the lead pipe went straight into the massive jaws in her back. Luckily for Ranma, he withdrew his hand just before the teeth closed on the pipe, shattering it and sending long pieces of shrapnel flying.
Ranma stepped back, eyes wide. The Ranko-Demon spun back to face Ranma and she laughed. She then thrust her left arm forward and her claws went right through Ranma's right shoulder. Ranma screamed through clenched teeth, his eyes tightly shut. She raised her other claw back, preparing to strike. Ranma knew he was about to be killed and, though it hurt badly, he grabbed the forearm of the hand that was skewering him and put his foot in her midsection. He pushed her forward with his foot and hands, propelling himself backwards and removing the claws from his body. The Ranko-Demon was thrown backwards, but she flipped over and landed on her feet.
Ranma was down on one knee, holding his shoulder and trying to keep himself going. There were four dime-sized holes that went all the way through, and they were oozing blood. He looked in the direction of the Ranko-Demon. She was about fifteen yards away or so, and she was roaring at him. She then reared back and then began to run at him at full speed. Ranma tried to pick himself up, but he would never have made it in time. Before he knew it, she was already almost on top of him.
Suddenly, as the Ranko-Demon was within killing distance of Ranma, Akane flew out of the darkness above Ranma and landed with both feet into the Ranko-Demon's face, sending her to the ground. Akane leaped off her and faced her. The Ranko-Demon squealed with anger and jumped to its feet. She was now between Ranma and Akane.
"Over here, ugly!" Akane said, trying to get her attention.
"Akane, no! Don't…" Ranma yelled weakly, trying to stand. The Ranko-Demon hissed at her and looked back and forth between her and the injured Ranma. She seemed to be focusing more on Ranma and was turning his way.
"Come on, you bitch!" Akane screamed, stamping her foot. The Ranko-Demon turned to her and squealed again, positioning herself to leap. She did, and Akane was able to move out of the way, but not before her leg was raked by those claws. She fell to the ground, crying out in pain.
Upon hearing her cries, Ranma looked over and saw her on the ground, the Ranko-Demon crawling around her, trying to frighten her before it mutilated her. Ranma suddenly straightened and stood up. Anger welled up in him and his rage reached its limit. He reached down and grabbed a piece of shrapnel from the lead pipe.
Akane was terrified. The Ranko-Demon circled her, prepping herself for the kill. Just before she moved to attack, a piece of lead shrapnel whizzed past Akane at an alarming speed and embedded itself directly into the Ranko-Demon's left eye. Her head rocked back violently and she stood, glaring at Ranma with her one good eye. She reached up with her right hand and gripped the shrapnel, twisting it until it finally came out of her eye socket, black liquid flooding out. She held the shrapnel over Akane, grinning at Ranma.
"NO!" Ranma yelled, running towards them. As the shard was lowered on Akane, the Ranko-Demon's right arm suddenly disappeared in a spraying flash of black blood.
It was Kuno, who had appeared from out of the darkness, and his sword had taken her arm off before she could get to Akane. "Away, demon!" he shouted.
With a roar of pain, the Ranko-Demon curled up the one fist it had left and backhanded Kuno, sending him flying back into the darkness. The Ranko-Demon stretched out what was left of her arm and blood and rust began to flood out of the wound, reshaping itself and replacing her missing arm, although now it looked like a bloody mess of rotten meat and dead muscle.
As the Ranko-Demon turned to check Ranma's status, she was too late to realize that he was on top of her. With a cry of rage, he leapt on her and began to rapidly punch at her, striking her in the face and chest several times. On the final punch, though, she caught Ranma's fist with one hand. He quickly tried to use his other fist, but she caught that one as well with her newly formed hand. She gripped his wrists tightly and pushed downward, pulling him within centimeters of her face, where she bared her teeth and hissed at him. Her mouth began to expand and her jaw unhinged, and Ranma knew she was quite literally about to bite his head off.
With milliseconds until his demise, Akane suddenly appeared and kicked the Ranko-Demon in the side of the head as hard as she could. Her head rocked to the side and she released Ranma, knocking him to the ground. She turned her wrath to Akane, who backed away slightly.
While on the ground, Ranma saw Kuno's sword lying on the ground nearby. He quickly snatched it up.
Akane, meanwhile, was trying to keep distance between herself and the Ranko-Demon. The Ranko-Demon was clearly enraged, and moved in a crouch towards Akane. As she reared up, ready to strike, Ranma appeared behind her suddenly and drove Kuno's wooden sword down through the top of her head and it actually tore her jaw practically off. A string of meaty flesh was all that held it on as it hung from her face, her tongue rolling out.
He yanked the sword out of her head and stepped back as she flopped to the ground, twitching and making a choking, squealing sound while that thick, black fluid flowed from her face, trying to reattach her jaw. Kuno suddenly stepped out of the darkness and firmly pressed his foot down on the back of her head, mashing her face into the metal grating. He looked at Ranma, who tossed him the wooden sword. Kuno looked back down at the struggling Ranko-Demon and then promptly swiped his sword horizontally across her neck, severing her head.
Ranma and Akane were breathing heavily and bleeding from various places. She limped over next to Ranma and they watched the corpse twitch. Her severed head rolled over and glared at them out of one eye. Most of her jaw had reformed, enough for her to speak. "You won't escape this place!" it snarled, dying. "You're not done here!"
She let out a final death wail before both the head and the body began to bubble and melt away. The world began to fluctuate back and forth between the dark world and the foggy world. Eventually, the darkness receded completely and the foggy world was revealed. Ranma let out a heavy sigh of relief. He looked to Akane.
"Are you ok?" he asked, touching her arm.
"Yeah," she said. "My leg hurts a little, that's all. Are you ok?"
Kuno nodded, grunting. "Whatever became of Shampoo and Mousse and Ryoga?"
"I'm here," a voice said, startling them. The three of them spun to face the merry-go-round. Ryoga began to approach them. "What happened?"
Upon seeing that it was Ryoga, they started to relax. "Nevermind that now, let's just get out of here," Ranma said.
"Get out of here?" Ryoga asked, seeming to be confused. "What are you talking about?"
"Are you ok, Ryoga?" Akane asked, suddenly worried.
"Yeah, what's wrong with you, man?"
"I'm fine," he responded, and for a second, Ranma could have sworn he heard two voices simultaneously come out of Ryoga's mouth when he said "fine".
Ryoga began to walk slower, approaching Kuno, who was closest to him. Kuno looked at him warily, but made no move to stop him. He sensed something was amiss, though, and waited. He knew something bad was about to happen, but he wasn't entirely sure what it was. He thought he might have to take Ryoga down before he did something crazy.
"We need to leave now, Ryoga," Ranma insisted. His worry increased as he watched as Ryoga and Kuno seemed to be staring watch other down, Ryoga still coming towards them.
"But Ranma," Ryoga said, still not looking at him, "…there is no escape. You're not done here."
They stared on in confusion, unsure of what was happening. For some reason, Kuno moved to strike with his sword and the rest seemed to go in slow motion. As the tip of the sword came at Ryoga, he touched it with two fingers and it shattered completely, leaving Kuno's hands covered in blood and wood and splinters. He looked down at his hands in surprise and then back at Ryoga. Ryoga was close enough to Kuno that he reached out with his right hand and shoved it deep into Kuno's midsection. Kuno gasped, his eyes wide, as he felt Ryoga's hand moving inside him.
"Kuno!" Akane screamed, horrified. They could only watch, helplessly.
Ryoga withdrew his blood-covered hand from Kuno, who was still struggling to stay alive. He smiled and quickly spun Kuno around so he was facing Ranma and Akane, and forced him to his knees, taking a step back. Kuno wavered slightly, blood pouring from his mouth, his eyes half-shut. Ryoga swiftly removed his bandanna and straightened it out. He slashed diagonally downward and there was a fast, crunching, tearing sound.
Kuno's eyes went wide and he began to choke. His eyes rolled upward and his torso, from the bottom of his upper-right shoulder to the top of his lower-left hip, slid off his body and hit the ground. Akane covered her mouth and tried not to look at it. Ranma absently moved Akane behind him with one arm, guarding her from the danger.
"What happened to you, Ryoga?" Ranma asked angrily.
That double-voice came out of Ryoga's mouth, clearly this time. "We still want you, Ranma. Ranko's petty ambitions failed, and she has suffered the consequences, and now she will return to Jusenkyo. But we still haven't given up on you yet. We want your soul."
Ranma realized they were no longer speaking to Ryoga. He sensed a being more powerful than anything he had come across in the place. "Who the hell are you?"
"I have many names. But that no longer matters. Bear witness to my power, and the power of this place that I have helped build."
The ground on either side of Ryoga began to turn black. It started small, then spread to the size of a large puddle. These black pools began to bubble slightly and then a hand reached out of one, then the other. Two people were surfacing, and one appeared to be headless. The other…
"Shampoo…?" Akane asked, knowing she wasn't going to like whatever was about to happen.
What appeared to be Shampoo and a headless Mousse were struggling their way out of those pools, Shampoo moaning softly in a way that made Ranma's skin crawl. As soon as they were out, Shampoo began to levitate until she was a few feet off the ground, her hands dangling loosely at her sides as her hair reached out in all directions. One of her eyes was visible most of the time; it was completely red, as if covered with blood. Ranma knew now that these were no longer the Shampoo and Mousse they knew…they had become vengeful ghosts.
The Mousse-ghost's body stretched out one arm and reached down into the black pool (that Ranma suspected led to a world he didn't even want to begin to imagine) and withdrew his severed head by the hair. His jaw moved slowly up and down, and his hand pointed his head in Ranma and Akane's direction. His glasses were still on. He, too, began to levitate, and now he and Shampoo were on either side of Ryoga. For one long and terrifying moment, everything stood still and fell silent as Ranma and Akane stared on, waiting, hearts beating heavily.
Shampoo and Mousse began to move. They floated slowly forward, towards Ranma and Akane. Suddenly, Ranma reached for his head and grunted as he felt a sharp pain starting to grow in his skull, a high-pitched sound ringing in his brain, and his vision became weird and grainy. As Shampoo and Mousse got closer, the pain became worse. He covered his ears and shut his eyes tightly, but the sound and the pain would not stop. He fell to his knees.
"Ranma, come on!" Akane screamed, trying to pull him away. "Come on!"
She yanked him to his feet and led him to the amusement park's entrance. As soon as they were far enough away from the two ghosts, the pain in Ranma's head disappeared and his vision returned to normal. He and Akane raced down Nathan Avenue, hoping to find a way out of this town. Every few seconds, Akane looked over her shoulder. She saw many things that she hoped Ranma would not, or he might just give up.
She saw Shampoo's and Mousse's ghosts were floating quickly after them. They heard those sirens again, and the darkness was racing towards them yet again from the amusement park. Patient-demons were shambling out from everywhere, stumbling towards them. As the darkness finally passed over them, Akane also saw Pyramid Head materialize closely behind them. He thrust a spear in their direction, and Akane pushed Ranma slightly so that it dodged him just in the nick of time. He didn't seem to notice the spear, but he gave Akane a grateful look as they continued to race on, knowing that she had just saved him. Akane continued to look back over her shoulder. Demon-nurses stepped out of the darkness from right behind them and swung metal pipes, scalpels, and other melee weapons. They both got nicked a couple of times, but they pressed on. Some type of gravity-defying monster had now also joined the chase. It raced along the sides of the buildings on all fours, leaping from one to another, slowly but surely closing the distance. It didn't have a face, but it had teeth and claws, and that was enough to keep the two of them moving.
They finally passed the Silent Hill Historical Society and then a small alleyway. They came to Carroll Street and Ranma forced them both to turn right. They ran as horrifying things hunted them, making bestial sounds behind them. They passed Pete's Bowl-O-Rama, the gas station, and the Heaven's Night club and bar. After they passed Brookhaven Hospital, the road came to an end. Ranma looked to his left and he pulled Akane in that direction. They continued down Rendell Street, turned left on Munson, and right on Katz. They were hoping to lose some of the drawing crowd, but it seemed they were attracting more attention. Ranma led them left on Neely Street, leading them back towards Nathan Avenue. They turned right and ran on.
They were losing their breath. The run across town was taking its toll on them, but thankfully, they were close to where Ranma wanted them to be. Finally, they approached the entrance of the tunnel that led out of town, near where they had come in. There was a roadblock in place in front of them, cars and piles of wood and junk strewn about.
"Don't stop running, no matter what happens!" Ranma yelled to Akane over the sounds of the beasts chasing them.
Ranma had been saving a majority of his strength for this. He rushed at the roadblock, drawing back his fist. As they charged it, Ranma thrust his fist forward as hard as he could. The roadblock completely exploded, sending junked cars and splintered wood flying everywhere. The blast punched a path straight through the tunnel, leading all the way to the other side. Akane moved forward and began to head through, but she felt something was amiss. She turned and gasped when she saw Ranma lying face-down on the ground before the exit he had just created, and she ran towards him. Just before she reached him, he began to slide backwards. Akane saw that Shampoo's ghost had a hold of Ranma's ankle and was dragging him away. Akane fell forward and her hand landed on Ranma's wrist. She held on and pulled as hard as she could, and she was able to move into a sitting position. Shampoo's ghost began to shriek and her hair waved in all directions. Behind Shampoo, Akane saw the army of demons closing in on them.
"Let…him…go!" Akane screamed. Shampoo's hair began to slither towards Akane, as if to snare her with it. Akane did not flinch away, but she was losing her grip on Ranma.
She looked to her left, then her right, and saw something. It was a single two-by-four, and it had a long, rusty nail sticking through one end of it. She quickly snatched it up and slammed the nail-end into Shampoo's forehead. Shampoo shrieked again and her grip on Ranma's ankle slipped completely. Akane yanked him into the tunnel and she held his prone form close, hugging him to her, as she sat on the ground. The army of demons appeared at the mouth of the tunnel, Pyramid Head up front to Ryoga's left, and another man next to his right. Akane didn't recognize the man, but there was something about him…his long brown hair and his black coat. He had spatters of blood on his face and he seemed to be smirking about something. Akane tried to focus her attention on Ryoga, but all she could think was: My god, there's so many monsters…so many… She could see them all waiting behind Ryoga, or whoever he was, waiting and growling.
"Give up, Akane," Ryoga said in his double-voice. "Give us Ranma and go on your way. We don't want you…unless you want to be with us."
"What?" Akane asked, holding Ranma tighter. Something weird, besides the obvious, was going on here. She couldn't put her finger on it. "What do you mean, give him to you?"
"I mean, bring him to me and forget you ever knew him. Or any of the others, for that matter."
"Why don't you come and get him?" Akane said angrily, ready to fight to the death.
Ryoga's eyes narrowed and he and the man next to him exchanged looks. Akane suddenly realized what was going on. None of them had come any further into the tunnel. It was as if they could not enter for some reason.
"You can't, can you? Because this isn't exactly in the town, is it?" She began to laugh, drawing an extremely angry look from Ryoga. "You're supposed to have all this 'unlimited' power, but it doesn't even extend as far as this tunnel?" She laughed again spitefully.
"Give him to us. Even if you take him from us now, he will always be drawn back to us, back here to Silent Hill."
Akane looked on silently for a moment. "…I'll take that risk."
She stood up and pulled Ranma to his feet, wrapping his arm around her shoulder to support him. Ranma began to awaken, but he was weak. Ryoga glared at the two of them and then turned. His army of demons turned as well and began to shamble off, including Pyramid Head. The darkness began to dissipate, and with it, the demons. Only Ryoga and the other man were still there, Ryoga walking away. The other man, however, stood there and stared at them, his hands in his coat pockets. The two stared back at him.
"Walter," Ryoga said, still walking, "come."
After a moment, the man, Walter, also turned and walked away, following after Ryoga. Their forms disappeared into the fog.
Ranma and Akane began to head through the tunnel.
By the time they emerged from the tunnel, Ranma was walking fine. His shoulder wounds no longer hurt and they weren't that bad. The first thing they noticed when they exited the tunnel was that there was no longer any fog. To their left, they could see the surface of Toluca Lake. They were still holding hands, though neither of them realized it. Ranma stopped and turned to her.
"Akane…" he started, looking down, and then back at her. "I just want to say thanks for saving me back there. I heard what you said."
"I think we saved each other…in more ways than one."
"That's about the corniest thing I ever heard…but probably true."
She smiled. "I know. Let's go home."
Ranma looked out at the lake one more time.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I really enjoyed writing this story. It was my first Silent Hill fic, and I based some of the mythology of the town both on the game version and the movie version. I have to say, this is the longest story I've ever written that hasn't been separated into chapters.
You may notice that the very beginning of the story has an excerpt from a later area of the story. That's actually what is happening at that point, with Ranma remembering everything up to that point. The reason I did that is that I wanted you to know that something bad was going to happen to Ranma at some point, hoping you would think it was towards the end. And then, when you found out that he was only recalling abouttwenty percentof the story, I wanted you to be happy that you weren't sure what was going to happen. Unless you did know, in which case, bravo, because I didn't even read any of it until after I wrote it. Was that confusing? Sorry.
For those of you who enjoy the many endings the Silent Hill games have to offer, I have decided to post at least one alternate ending to this story, and possibly a "deleted scene" involving Brookhaven Hospital that I just didn't think needed to be in there. I also originally envisioned it having a darker ending, but I guess I'm old-fashioned…anyway, this current ending I like to call, "Going Home".