by Trisar Alvein
THIS STORY IS HEREBY DISCONTINUED
I know what you're thinking. "Why is this joker starting another fanfic? Why doesn't he just update Displaced or Strawberry Vacation, or toss out the next chapter of Big Changes?"
The answer is simple. "Angst" and "writer's block." The last chapter of The Techniques Saga ended up far too dark for my tastes, so I decided to write a fic that will allow me to channel that darkfic-ness away from my works. Also, I'm suffering a writer's block on the other fics, but this one practically leapt from my fingertips.
Hmmm... Yeah, anyone who knows Japanese will be able to at least guess what this is about, so...
The Crow is copyright James O'Barr... not entirely sure of the date, but it's his, not mine.
Ranma ½ is copyright Rumiko Takahashi. It's hers, not mine.
Prior knowledge of "The Crow" is not necessary to enjoy this fic, though if you didn't like The Crow, you don't want to read Karasu. Prior knowledge of Ranma ½, however, is required to enjoy this fic. Of course, you wouldn't be reading this if you didn't have at least a passing familiarity with the series, I hope.
Now let's see what happens when I combine the two while eating homemade Texas-style chili.
Scenes may contain excessive violence and/or sexual suggestions. Not for the consumption of children, adults, animals of any age, and/or humans. Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do.
Try not to take that too literally.
Prologue: Birth of the Legend
People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can't rest. And sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.
Fire and smoke engulfed the city. On this night, sin reigned supreme, man seeking to hurt his fellow man. Pain and death were everywhere to be found, and those left untouched by the sins of others felt backlash as it touched their family.
Such were the thoughts of Nabiki Tendo as she clutched desperately at the hand of her older sister Kasumi, wishing that all those manga were real; that Sailor Moon would swoop in and save the day, putting out these terrible flames and healing those who had fallen; wishing that she could have healing powers, perhaps to save her sister with, and wishing that Dragonballs were real, so that she might restore life to he who had fallen.
"Sister," wheezed Kasumi, her hand spasming to Nabiki's as her stretcher was lifted up. Nabiki ran with the medics, not willing to let go. "Where... is he?" she said, coughing into her oxygen mask.
"He's... he's fine sis... and you'll be fine too!" replied Nabiki, though she could see the truth reflected in the medics' eyes. Her tears made that truth so much more real, so much more condemning. Kasumi was going to die, and all they could do, at best, was make her last moments more comfortable.
"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but you have to let her go now," said one of the medics, patting Nabiki's wrist reassuringly. "We'll call you as soon as she can accept visitors."
"Thank you," she replied, her voice thick with emotion. She backed away, watching as the ambulance closed up and sped off into the night.
"You lied to her," said a nearby detective. His tone wasn't accusing. If anything, it was actually sympathetic. "Twice," he added as an afterthought.
"I know... Believe me, I know..."
Overhead, unseen in the blackness of the sky and amidst the smoke, a crow flapped its wings.
Worldwide media services greedily pounced on this day that Tokyo burned. Arson and property destruction was reported to be on a scale not seen since World War II, and there were several speculative anchors who dropped the term 'Japanese Devil's Night,' as it had all occurred on October 30th—ringing eerily synonymous to similar burnings that had happened in Detroit just a few years ago.
One Nodoka Saotome was saddened as she gazed at the obituaries a local newspaper printed and distributed in the Nerima district. Ranma Saotome, killed on what those in America knew as 'Devil's Night' by a combination of brutalization, several gunshot wounds, and smoke inhalation. The obituary went on to note that Saotome had died nobly, protecting the one he loved.
If the notation of her son's death was the knife in her heart, the second entry twisted the cruel blade. Kasumi Saotome, also killed on Devil's Night, struggled and clung to life for an excruciating 170 hours after the death of her husband, Ranma Saotome. Despite numerous cuts, severe blunt trauma, smoke inhalation, and critical internal bleeding, Kasumi had struggled until her body, finally exhausted of all the fight in it, had given up.
Unwritten in the article, however, was something that drove a second knife into Nodoka's heart when she read the official copy of the death certificate.
Kasumi had been pregnant—apparently, with twins. Twins who had, like their mother, clung to life despite the numerous shocks and jars the womb had taken, but whose lives had been cut short before they could begin when their mother died with them.
Nodoka had known about her coming grandchildren—Ranma and Kasumi had been incredibly proud that they would be providing her and Soun Tendo with such joys, and had been bound and determined to raise the children right.
But now it will never be... thought Nodoka, a tear rolling down her cheek as she sealed the death certificates of her daughter-in-law and son, as well as the clippings from their obituaries, into a small urn that she set on her shelf.
A noisy fluttering brought her attention to a large black bird that landed on her window. As a traditionalist, and an incredibly superstitious one at that, Nodoka recognized the bird at once as a crow. The bird turned its head, fixing a beady eye on her, and let out a single raucous "caw!" before flying away.
"An omen," realized Nodoka, as she wondered what it would mean.
Time passed as it was wont to do. All too soon, the "Japanese Devil's Night" as it was popularized became forgotten in the minds of most, though in the hearts of those who had lost someone or who had been personally touched by it, the night was never forgotten.
October 20th of the year following that burning tragedy rolled around. A black crow flitted over Honshu, its flight taking it to Tokyo. It fluttered into a small burial site, not quite large enough to be called even a small cemetery, and found itself a perch on one headstone in particular.
Born 2-14-1973, Deceased 10-30-1995
A true martial artist to the end.
Survived by his father, mother, and two sisters-in-law.
Thunder rumbled overhead, and rain began to pour over the grave site, though the bird paid it no mind, staring intently down at the dirt in front of its perch, which was shifting as though something were moving underneath it. It flapped its wings, cawing as if surprised, when a great deal of dirt—as well as a coffin lid—were shoved aside with tremendous force. A black haired young man, clad only in tattered, shredded pants and with his raven locks strewn about his face and bare shoulders, pulled himself out of the grave, clawing desperately for purchase in the soaking dirt.
As he finally freed himself from the earthy prison, he propped himself up, his stomach heaving emptily as if to vomit, but lacking anything to upheave. His body shuddered and trembled with cold, a cold he knew was that of the grave, of death he could still feel the chill fingers of. Buried in his soul near this death-cold chill was a blazing heat, a wrath he lacked explanation for.
The crow cawed again, calling his attention. As he turned to it, it fluttered off, finding a new perch and turning to him pointedly. Realization dawned, and he stumbled to his feet, awkwardly following after the bird and nearly tripping over himself between clumsiness and the slick mud on his bare feet. As he approached the crow and, more importantly, the entrance to the graveyard, the black bird left its perch, flying to a new one at the torii gate to the shrine just nearby.
Finding somewhat firmer footing on the stone walk of the shrine, the disheveled man stumbled forward, walking toward the torii with slowly steadying feet. As expected, when he got close enough, the crow flapped off to a new perch, this time down the stairs of the shrine. Instead of immediately following though, he leaned against one of the legs of the archway, steadying himself. Taking a deep breath, he lifted his head up as lightning flashed overhead, illuminating his cold, ice blue eyes.
With renewed strength, he dashed down the stairs, and this time when the bird took off, he kept up. His feet splashed in the tiny puddles left on the sidewalks and streets as he followed, until finally the bird led him up to a burned ruin of a house. The windows had all been smashed, and carbon scoring showed clearly where flames had eagerly licked for anything to consume in their pyre. Yet somehow it was familiar.
'His' crow, as he had come to think of it, fluttered up to the roof, perching steadily and easily on it as the rain lightened into a faint drizzle, before fading fully away, leaving only the overcast sky and occasional rumble of thunder.
Firming his resolve, he stepped forward, seeing the front door of the house removed, the doorway blocked by several planks and wooden bars. With a careful precision, he managed to find two of the boards that had rotted enough to be weakened, and pried them off, allowing him access. As expected, the inside of the house was dark, the lights from the street outside casting eerie shadows throughout the rooms where they entered the windows.
Images flickered in his mind as he searched through the rooms, finally stumbling upon one in particular. Blood stained the floor and walls, and several pockmark holes also had a home in the walls and ceiling. A bed lay in one corner, white sheets stained by fire, fluid, and time, sliced apart as if in some violent rage.
Guided by some unknown memory, he walked over to another object that caught his attention. A full vanity mirror, complete with several makeup kits strewn about, lay almost untouched near the bed. The mirror itself was broken but not shattered, and he could still see his own reflection in it. His hand, led by the images tickling his mind, reached under the vanity set, finding some hidden latch and turning it, and then pressing against this hidden compartment and dragging his hand back, revealing a secret drawer in the vanity.
Inside this drawer, untouched by flame or time, lay two books—journals, he reasoned. One with a red cover had the name 'Ranma' emblazoned on it in fancy Western lettering. Ranma. "Ranma," he said aloud, his voice hoarse as if from disuse. "That's... me... my name... it's Ranma..." Of course it was his name, that was what was on that gravestone over the dirt and coffin he fought his way out of.
The other book, this with a soft blue covering, transfixed him. In the same lettering style, emblazoned on it was the name 'Kasumi.'
Sounds and pictures flickered into his head, causing him to groan and clutch at his temples as he fell to his knees.
"Kasumi!" called Ranma, stepping into the bedroom as she sat at the vanity, brushing her hair. "Breakfast is almost ready, what're you still doing here?"
"I can't decide what to wear, Ranma-kun," she replied. "After all, it's not every day I'll get to tell Aunt, no, Mother Nodoka that I'm going to give her grandchildren, is it?"
"Not for lack of trying," he replied with a smirk, tickling her abdomen and causing her to squirm, giggling.
His wife! The mother of his unborn children!
The woman he loved!
"Kasumi," whispered Ranma quietly, kissing her on the forehead as they lay entwined in their bed. "I love you. Don't ever forget that."
"I couldn't, even if I wanted to. I could never forget... I love you too."
How could he have forgotten her? The scent of her hair? The taste of her lips? Their first time together...
"YES! I DID IT!" whooped Ranma, turning toward his wife after reading the letter in his hands, wrapping her up in a great big hug and beginning to twirl her around, much to her delight.
"What did you do?" she giggled.
"I got accepted into Tokyo U! Can you believe it? ME! The dummy martial arts jock of Furinkan, a Toudai student!"
Kasumi gasped in quiet elation, returning the hug with interest and evicting a quiet 'oomph' from her husband. "That's great! I always knew you could do it! Besides, no husband of mind would be just a 'dummy martial arts jock.' I'd just challenge him to an Anything-Goes Martial Arts Culinary Battle and he'd be a master chef in a week!"
"Hmph! Gimme a little credit. I'd do it in five days."
That day... a year ago... it was a year ago, just shy a week or so...
He'd come home from a long day of classes to find the front door ajar. Kasumi never left the door open like that—one of the quirks he learned quickly about his wife was that she was a real neat freak, and that it wasn't just an act that she put on at the Tendo dojo—which immediately alerted him to something being very wrong.
"Kasumi?" he yelled, looking into the kitchen. Nothing. Panicking, he reached out with his trained senses, feeling her and several very hostile presences in their bedroom. This time, he bellowed her name, charging in their direction while already focusing a ball of hard ki into his hands. Whoever dared hurt his wife would pay!
He slammed the door open with his elbow, quickly assessing the situation. Two large men held Kasumi at knife-point, two smaller men held bottles filled with a clear liquid that had rags stuffed in them, and a fifth man...
As the bullet made a home in his belly, Ranma realized that he'd analyzed the situation far too slowly. However, the shot apparently missed his vitals and was a very small bullet. He'd taken worse from Kuno than a small shell to the right of his navel. Focusing on the man who shot him, Ranma yelled out his rage and thrust his hands forward, unleashing the ki blast he'd been holding, which knocked the poor fool to the ground.
"Bastard!" yelled one of the men with the bottles, whipping out his own gun as two others of his comrades did the same. Even as they opened fire, he charged forward, causing the judgment of their shots to be off just enough to continue to miss his vitals, though these bullets were larger than those of the first one and ripped big holes in him.
His first, and only, strike knocked one of the knife-holders to the floor, stunning him as he lost his grip on both knife and gun. As he prepared to follow up the strike, awareness flickered on the edge of his consciousness.
Blood sprayed from his body liberally as his world exploded in pain up and down his back. He could feel every individual hole that had just been made in his body, and knew it was only his incredible toughness and the distance from the shot that had kept him from being torn in half. His vision swam as he pirouetted, but before he could focus on his assailant enough to identify them, more shots slammed into him from all sides, and a second shot from the big gun knocked him to the floor.
"He's still alive!" exclaimed one of the men, unbelieving.
"Not for long. He'll bleed out. Still, no point takin' chances. Burn the place, just like we planned, but start here instead."
Heat and the smell of burning sake soon greeted his nose, and he would have recoiled if he were capable of anything except shallow breathing. He couldn't even feel the pain of all his gunshot wounds anymore, and knew his time was shortly to come.
"Ka... su... mi..." he tried to whisper, barely able to mouth the words, before the darkness engulfed him.
"AAAARRRRGHHH!!!" Ranma bellowed, stumbling away from his wife's untarnished vanity to a nearby window. Gripping the frame to steady himself, he recoiled and his mind found a new focus as pain pierced his mind. The jagged glass still present on the window frame had, he noted, sliced very deeply into his palms.
But even as the blood flowed, the wounds sealed up, vanishing as if they were never there.
"What am I... What the hell happened... I died... I died! WHY AM I STILL ALIVE!?" he shouted to the heavens.
On the roof, 'his' crow cawed.
Post Chapter Notes
Shouldn't be too much to explain here, but...
The villains will be explained later. I already have plans for them, so please, please don't send suggestions.
People are likely to be upset that I killed Kasumi, the 'untouchable' maiden of Nerima. Live with it.
Finally, a quick explanation.
Torii - Torii are the traditional gates of 'jinja,' or Shinto shrines. Just run a Google image search or look on Wikipedia for a picture of one if you haven't already. Also can be considered a pun on word sounds, as "torii" and "tori," the Japanese words for "shrine gate" and "bird" respectively, sound very similar (with "torii" simply having an elongated verb sound).
Karasu - For those not quite fluent in Japanese, "karasu" is the Japanese word for "crow."
Well, that's that. See you next mission.