by Trisar Alvein
THIS STORY IS HEREBY DISCONTINUED
After listening to a bit of Evanescence (most specifically, Snow White Queen), I found myself in the mood for angst.
Well, here goes.
Chapter Four: Rain Forever
"So it's true?" asked Shampoo in her native Mandarin, speaking with her great grandmother as Nabiki slept in one of the upstairs rooms of the Cat Café. "Ranma, Mousse's blood-brother, has really come back to life?"
Cologne nodded, a nod which Mousse joined as he approached from upstairs. "Nabiki's sound asleep. She must have been up half the night."
"She was waiting for any new news regarding murders," replied Cologne. "Morning rush won't be here for another two hours, let's go see." She began pogoing over to the still active television set.
"Ranma... is beyond my reach, isn't he?" asked Shampoo as she moved to sit next to Cologne and the man she was coming to see as more than just the blind duck-boy.
"Child... Ranma has become a revenant. An undead creature animated purely by will alone, and bent toward a single task: vengeance. All Ranma cares about now is vengeance on those who, in his mind, dared attack his wife, his unborn children, and himself," was the matriarch's reply as she focused her attention on the TV.
Ranma frowned deeply. This was not a new expression for the revivified martial artist, but it was certainly a bad one. There was something wrong. He was so close to his revenge, so why did it seem like there was going to be a problem?
The razor-like projectile slicing through his side, spraying his blood everywhere, likely had something to do with it. Ranma had a bare moment to recognize the yellow and black bandanna before his assailant was on him with a cry of "MURDERER!" And that was when Ranma realized this was going to be a very hard fight to win, even with his undead strength.
Ukyo's knives had done nothing, having lost her pride as a warrior years ago. Konatsu's cold, unfeeling gun would only work on the living. But this man, this man of power and skill, had lost none of his warrior's spirit over the last few years.
"I saw what you did... you white-faced bastard!" growled none other than Ryoga Hibiki, slamming his fist into Ranma's face. "Wasn't it enough to win your fight against Ukyo? You couldn't stop there, you just had to carve her up like some kind of meal?! And then throwing Sayuri, not even a fighter, off a roof? I'm going to kill you!"
"You're a year too late for that," growled Ranma, driving his fist forward into Ryoga's gut. As the lost man doubled over from the hundred fists that had made their home in his belly, the revenant cocked his arm back and slammed his elbow into Ryoga's face. Bone and cartilage cracked under the force, sending Ryoga stumbling back with blood flowing from his crushed nose.
Undaunted, Ryoga blinked to clear his vision, then rushed forward to grapple with his foe, gripping the smaller man's hands and squeezing them. "I'm not going to be beaten by a reckless killer like you! I'm not letting something like last year happen again!"
"I've waited in the cold earth for my revenge, I've slept for a year and waited to avenge it all, and I won't be stopped by anyone!" returned Ranma. "Least of all, by you!" His hands tightened, bones snapping like fireworks as he crushed Ryoga's hands in his own. Before he could truly cripple Ryoga, the lost boy drove his knee into Ranma's stomach, then again, and again, forcing him to let go due to the strain on his ribcage.
Strain, hell! realized the revenant, taking new stock of his mending, but serious injury. He broke at least five! Fortunately for Ranma, he was healing. Ryoga was not. Or, at least, not nearly at the same rate. For the very first time, Ranma had the complete advantage in strength, speed, and endurance. But I know better than anyone how fast that can change... Ryoga sure hasn't been slacking off this past year. And I know just how well he can surpass human limits.
"A year... it's been a year," mumbled Ryoga. "But I know those moves. And I know that voice. But you, my friend, are dead. What the hell are you doing up on your feet?" asked the lost man, raising his eyes to glare at Ranma, recognition and suspicion in his eyes.
"Revenge," replied Ranma, standing up straight as his ribs continued mending. "All those people I killed took part in my murder. I intend to pay them back with interest. Once I've done that... I can rest."
Ryoga paused, considering that. "And what about any innocents who stand in your way?"
"Not my problem." Ranma shifted his stance, stopping Ryoga's angry kick cold. "Let me rephrase. They're not an issue. Anyone who actually would get in my way wouldn't be innocent... except maybe the police. And they're not a pro—"
"Don't move, clown-face!" a voice, female, barked. Ranma and Ryoga both turned, seeing a woman in a police uniform pointing her service pistol at him. "Both of you lay flat on the ground and put your hands behind your backs!"
Ranma grinned his death grin at the officer. "But you just told us not to move," he protested. He only grinned wider as she growled at him. Still grinning, he knelt down, laying flat on his belly with his hands resting on his back. Some shuffling told him Ryoga was doing the same, though he could hear the lost boy groaning as his injuries protested the move.
"Alright then," the officer mumbled, stepping forward and holstering her pistol. She pulled out a white cloth. "Let's see who the man behind this would-be mask is. You know there's a lot of witnesses saying you were seen leaving the area after Ukyo Kuonji's murder?" Ranma growled at the mention of the name... or perhaps that it was called a murder. "There's some saying you were around Konatsu and Sayuri Hanako's apartment for their murders." Again, Ranma growled softly, but the officer paid it no mind as she begin wiping the grease paint from his face. Suddenly, skin touched skin...
"Akane-chan, I'm so sorry," Yuka said, tears in her eyes as she held her best friend. She couldn't believe it... Ranma? Dead? And Kasumi too? How could anyone do such a thing? Kasumi had no enemies, and she had twins on the way, too... and while Ranma had enemies in plenty, how many would have gone so far?
Shampoo was present as well, sobbing and clinging to Akane like a life preserver. One could hardly imagine, a year ago, two years ago, these two being anything but bitter enemies, rivals for a boy who grew up and found someone else as they bickered. Now they stood, united in their love for that man who had passed on, and the wife and unborn children who had shortly followed. United in their love... and their grief.
Yuka shared that grief, having grown to love Ranma and Kasumi in her own way. And now they were gone...
"H-How?" mumbled Yuka Shiro, homicide detective, as she stared disbelievingly at the familiar face of one Ranma Saotome, three hundred fifty-nine days dead. "Y-You... You both died... I... I became a detective so I could try to stop cases like yours..."
"Death will not stop my path of vengeance." Ranma stood up, and Yuka did nothing to stop him, in shock as she was. "Yuka... Tell her... tell Akane... that I'm sorry I couldn't protect Kasumi. And tell her... that Kasumi's death has almost been avenged."
"Caw!" the bird sounded, fluttering in and landing on Ranma's shoulder, its piercing gaze staring into Yuka's eyes.
"A crow...? Wait, you mean—?"
He nodded. "Yes. Ukyo, Sayuri, Konatsu... All shared their part in torturing and killing my wife and children. There was another... but her part was inaction, and she's suffered so much grief of her own making..." Ranma shook his head. "Death isn't her punishment. Life is." He then glanced up. The sky was beginning to get light. "Daylight... Not the time for creatures like me," he mumbled. He turned and began walking back to his home.
"Wait!" Yuka stepped forward. "I... I know I can't stop you, Ranma, but... is this really the only way?"
"None of them held any regret or desire to redeem themselves except for Kiima. If they had... they might have lived." Ranma crouched, then leaped, easily alighting on the roof of a nearby home. With his next jump, he was gone.
Yuka turned away, reluctantly, and saw the man Ranma had been fighting with when she showed up. "Ryoga? Oh my God, are you alright?! We have to get you to a hospital!"
"I'll be fine," the lost boy assured her, picking himself up. "I've taken worse than this. You go deliver that message to Akane-san. I'll try to find where Ranma went off to." Without waiting for her to protest, and not listening when she did, Ryoga jumped... and landed on the house in the opposite direction of where Ranma went, bounding off in the completely wrong way.
Yuka stared, but decided there was nothing for it, turning to get back in her car. Her shift would be over by the time she got back to the precinct anyway, though she'd have to stay a little late to file her report from Konatsu's apartment. After she was done, then she could come pay Akane a visit.
Nabiki yawned tiredly as the news finally changed from its constant repetitions of what she'd heard an hour ago. Apparently, some new news was finally in.
Crow Murderer! declared the sidebar. The news anchor was a young woman, staring fixedly at the camera as she spoke, undoubtedly led by a prompter.
"Late last evening, the body of restaurateur Ukyo Kuonji was discovered with numerous stab wounds, apparently having bled to death from a multitude of otherwise non-fatal injuries. Discovered near her body was a gruesome graffiti depicting a crow in flight.
"Detective Yuka Shiro was assigned to the case from the local police precinct, and had the following comments on the scene."
Nabiki rolled her eyes as clipped reels of Yuka's commentary and interview with the reporter Jun were played. Then the anchor—a woman named Misao, Nabiki idly noted—returned.
"Earlier this morning, just a couple hours before dawn, two more bodies were found. Regrettably, while we do not have live footage of the event, one of our reporters was quickly on the scene and interviewed the detective in charge," Misao reported. The screen changed quickly to the image of another woman, Nabiki not even bothering to notice her name, talking with Yuka.
"Are you certain that this is related to Kuonji-san's killing earlier?" the reporter asked, holding her microphone to the weary-looking detective.
"Quite certain. The methods are quite different, but the common link is there."
"What were the causes of death?"
Yuka frowned, and Nabiki could see she was thinking about it. The coroner would have probably gotten a report by now, but when this was filmed... "I can't say anything for certain at this time, but it appears that Sayuri Hanako-san was killed when her skull impacted the ground from a considerable fall, which we believe to have been from the rooftop of her apartment. Her husband, Konatsu Hanako-san, was apparently killed by a nine millimeter bullet to the brain."
"And what's the apparent link?"
"Numerous." This time Yuka could speak confidently. "Konatsu-san and Kuonji-san worked together in Kuonji-san's okonomiyaki shop in Nerima, and Sayuri-san lived in the same district and went to school with Kuonji-san. Even without that, there was the image of a crow carved into the floor of the rooftop."
"What makes you so sure this isn't someone attempting to pin these two new murders on Kuonji-san's murderer?"
"Fingerprints. The knives used on Kuonji-san and the handgun used on Hanako-san share the same fingerprints. The investigative headquarters is currently comparing the prints with those on file in an attempt to discover the culprit."
Nabiki snorted, tuning out the broadcast. Sayuri was one of the killers too? Hard to believe, she thought to herself. Konatsu is a bit easier to believe... almost... I wonder how the police will respond to the fact that the prints belong to a man who's been dead for a year?
"Nabiki-san, it's getting... well, early. We'll be opening up soon. Would you like to go upstairs to rest or keep watching?" Mousse asked, polite and calm as he stepped out of the kitchen.
Nabiki considered it quietly. "No. I'll have a pork ramen breakfast deluxe for three, to go," she said, pulling out her wallet.
"On house!" chirped the voice of Shampoo as she bounded down the stairs. "Nabiki-san do so much for us at Cat Café, it the least we can do, yes?"
Cologne hopped out of the kitchen on her staff, giving a knowing smile and a nod to Nabiki. "Well, if you insist," mumbled the attorney quietly, putting her wallet away.
"We make it for five, and I join you. News so depressing this morning, it be good to get outside for a while," added Shampoo, heading to the kitchen with a swish of her hair.
"Old adage among the tribe," explained Cologne. "When making food, always make more than you really think you need. You may suddenly have guests, or perhaps someone may be extra hungry."
"That makes sense... Oh! I'd better call Daddy and tell him I'll be bringing breakfast home," she said. "He's probably worried that I've stayed out so late anyway." She whipped out her cell phone, dialing her home phone number.
'Hello?' came a girl's tired voice.
"Akane? I'm sorry, sis, I didn't wake you, did I?"
'Not really, Nabiki... I just didn't sleep well. Feels like there's something wrong out there. Why didn't you come in last night?'
"I got caught wandering and ended up spending the night at the Cat Café. Shampoo and I will be coming over with breakfast soon, so go ahead and tell Daddy not to worry."
'Okay, sis... Tell Shampoo-chan I said "hi" and that I'm sorry for not getting a chance to stop by lately.'
"Will do, Akane. See you in a bit. Bye." Shampoo-chan, is it?
Nabiki flipped her phone shut, slipping it back into her pocket as Shampoo walked out of the kitchen with a large takeout box in hand. "Akane says 'hi,' and that she's sorry for not being able to visit."
"Is okay. I ask why at breakfast, though wish she wait long enough for me to say hi, too," Shampoo replied. "We go now, yes? Akane-chan and father be too-too hungry, and Nabiki-san need much sleep."
Nabiki nodded, stifling another yawn. "Let's go," she said through her hand, leading the lovely warrior out the door.
Ranma sat on his destroyed bed, sadly staring at Kasumi's journal in his hand. He remembered the day she suggested they start keeping them as if it were yesterday.
It had already been a day since Ranma had put his ring on Kasumi's finger, but Ranma still couldn't believe it. His father didn't dare disturb Kasumi's sleep by attacking him for their morning exercises—a Kasumi who was too tired to fix breakfast meant Akane might end up cooking instead!—so Ranma had plenty of early morning before his new fiancée would wake up in order to enjoy watching her peacefully sleeping face.
They hadn't done anything "improper" the night before, just lay together in each other's arms. But somehow, it was more restful than any sleep Ranma had ever had.
Kasumi stirred suddenly, her eyes fluttering open. They focused on him, and she smiled beautifully. "Good morning," she said.
"Good morning," he said, smiling back and leaning in to give her a quick kiss. Nothing like the kiss she'd given him for his proposal, or the one they'd shared on their first date, which had come complete with the thrill of hiding from Shampoo, Ukyo, Akane, Kodachi, and for some reason, Pantyhose Taro.
Not that they'd been able to hide it after their first month together, of course...
Kasumi sat up, seeing the wistful smile on his face. "As long as you're reminiscing, dear," she said in her best matter-of-fact tone, "I have a present for you." She reached over to her nightstand, opening a drawer. "I had them made yesterday... They were going to be a surprise gift, but you sprung your surprise on me and I forgot all about them."
Ranma's curiosity was piqued, so he sat up, looking curiously at his fiancée. She quickly turned around, holding a blue book to her chest and holding out a red one to him. On the cover was simply his name, "Ranma," written in very stylized Roman lettering. He took the book quietly and opened it, seeing nothing but a blank page of note-paper, and at the top a small box with "Date:" inside of it.
"A journal?" he asked, closing it and looking up.
Kasumi nodded. "From what I've seen, the biggest difficulty many couples face is a lack of communication... so I had an idea. We keep journals, writing in them each day just before bed... Then, at the end of the week, we show our journals to each other."
Ranma smiled. "That's a great idea, Kasumi. Let's start with them tonight, okay?"
Ranma sighed. The day of Kasumi's murder was two days into the week, so there were two journal entries he hadn't seen yet, but he was more interested in rereading what he'd already seen. He turned to the first page.
Date: September 17th, Heisei 2
Dear diary, (that feels so trite, but I doubt Ranma will mind)
He thinks it was a good idea! I'm so excited! I really would have written this entry on the 16th, except that he proposed! Ranma Saotome, the wild horse himself, proposed to me! I couldn't have been happier!
Oh! The good idea! I gave Ranma a journal as a gift, and suggested that we use them to improve our communication with each other by showing each other our journal entries each week. And he liked the idea!
I'm sure this will help us with any pesky issues of that nature.
I love him so much... In the two years I've known him, he's grown so much. At the very least, he's not the immature, brash, arrogant young man who showed up out of nowhere with my father saying he was our new fiancé anymore. He's my immature, brash, arrogant young man. It isn't that I own him... Ranma can never be owned.
But it still feels like he's mine. And I'll fight if I have to to keep him! Hya! (Ranma briefly chuckled at the little sketch Kasumi drew of herself throwing a punch and, apparently, knocking out Shampoo, Kodachi, and Ukyo all at once.)
I don't think I'll have to fight, though. Ranma is free to choose who he likes, and it's him, not me, who they should worry about angering by not accepting his decision.
Ranma isn't the nicest person I know, nor the smartest, strongest, or sweetest. But he's honest. And he's always kept his word when he's given it. And he genuinely tries to be a better person.
And that's what really counts.
P.S. I forgot to mention! I finally worked up the courage to... to "play" with him in his female form today. Goodness, that was an experience. I'm not sure I'll forget it any time soon... and I know I'd certainly rather not.
It wasn't as nice playing with her as it was with him...
...but it was still nice.
Ranma smiled, tears in his eyes, as he traced his finger over the cursive K Kasumi had used to sign her postscript. He remembered that "play." Nothing too overt... but nothing to give details about for the guys at Toudai. Hands had certainly been wandering that day. He turned to the next page, the first entry having taken up nearly four pages.
Date: September 18th, Heisei 2
Kodachi found out about the engagement today. It was frightening... She attacked me, in front of Ranma, in front of Akane, in front of our fathers... I've never seen Ranma so furious. After Kodachi's ribbon nearly hit my face, he grabbed her and dragged her out into the backyard... Uncle Saotome warned me not to look, and I didn't.
When he came back inside, Ranma went directly to the kitchen, hiding his hands until after he'd washed them. I don't think he knew I saw the blood under his fingernails when I followed him until I questioned him about it. He wouldn't tell me what he did, only assuring me that Kodachi would never return to the Tendo dojo, but that she was still alive.
I hope he doesn't describe what he did in tonight's entry in his journal...
On a happier topic, after Kodachi was dealt with, we went to the market together, and Ranma taught me some of his... or rather her... tricks for getting exceptional deals from the vendors. I hadn't shown so much skin since the time we went to the beach! But it was still kind of fun...
We met Yuka when we went to the supermarket for a few other things, and she congratulated us on the engagement. We asked about Sayuri, but apparently there had been a falling out between them.
Yuka was doing quite well, though. We didn't find out until we were nearly leaving that it turned out she was working at the supermarket as the assistant general manager! That was a little embarrassing, worse when she told Ranma that, yes, she did in fact see him grab those pieces of candy behind her back and expected him to pay for them.
I think I've been teaching Ranma too well. He was still in female form and put on her best pouting face toward me, and I found myself paying for the candies before I realized what I was doing. I'll have to find some way to get him back for that.
I think I'll surprise him with a bit more "girl-play" tonight after I'm done with this. Teach him to bring a glass of water to bed with him!
Again, Ranma smiled. Kasumi had done just that, though things had... gone a little further than play. Definitely not something he ever gave details to others about! He closed the journal, then blinked in confusion as he saw a drop of water land on the cover. He realized... I'm... I'm crying... He leaned over, laying face down on his destroyed bed, buried in his pillow and remembering...
Kasumi trailed a finger lightly over Ranma's body, causing the redhead to squirm under her touch. "Play time," she whispered lovingly.
"Congratulations, you two!" Yuka cheered with a smile. "I couldn't be happier for you!"
Ranma sat at the table, next to his fiancée, his pen scratching quickly over the journal she'd given him just that day. It was a great idea, and he'd be damned if he let it waste.
Kodachi whimpered in pain as Ranma let his nails dig into her arm enough to make her bleed. "Stay away from Kasumi. Stay away from me. Stay away from this dojo. Is that clear?" he growled. When she didn't respond immediately, he grabbed her other arm with the tight, almost-clawing grip. "Is that clear?!"
This time, Kodachi nodded very quickly. Good... Kasumi would be safe then...
Kasumi's lips brushed softly over her neck, and Ranma shivered at the feel. It was a completely different sensation than every "necking" session they'd done with him as a guy... and the sensation of a feather-light touch over her body was almost divine...
Ranma sobbed into his pillow, soaking it with his tears. "Kasumi," he cried, repeating the name like a mantra into the pillow.
On the roof, his crow cawed.
Post Chapter Notes
Normally, I'd use this segment to explain a few things that happened in the chapter that probably won't be explained by the rest of the story.
I would here, except that I plan on things being explained in the next chapter anyway. So HA!
See you next mission.