I Was Right All Along

The stars blurred as I bounded across the rooftops of Nerima, heading towards my destination: The Tendou Dojo. Already I could see my rival, my target, the cause of all my problems. Ranma Saotome lay quietly on the tiles of the dojo's roof, gazing up at the sky. With a surge of strength I bounded from the Takahashi's rooftop, noting her new white dog, before alighting on the roof next to Ranma, who tilted his head towards me.

"Hey, pork-breath. How's it going?" Ranma's voice was jovial, and on his face he wore the biggest damn smile I'd ever seen him wear. It'd had been just a few weeks since we'd gotten back from China. Weeks since Ranma had killed a god. I pushed my rage to the side as I looked down at his smile.

It wasn't his usual mocking grin. It wasn't a victorious smirk. It was a smile, like he was the happiest man in the world. How he could feel so damned happy with his own wedding being thrown into such chaos just a week ago?

I pushed the thoughts aside.

"What are you so damned happy about, Ranma?" I demanded, suspicious of my rival's joy. He was never this happy about anything. Last time I'd seen him was at the wedding, and that only for a moment before it had turned into a free-for-all for the cask.

"Akane," Ranma admitted, crossing his arms behind his head and staring back up at the sky with a serene smile on his face. "Take a seat and look up at the stars, Ryouga. Everything's perfect, now."

Unsettled, I sat next to him. I looked up at the stars, trying to discern the source of Ranma's giddiness. He was acting totally unlike the Ranma I was familiar with. Silence dominated us, Ranma content to stare up at the sky while I tried to piece together my thoughts.

"What did you mean? Why is everything perfect because of Akane?" I finally asked. Had Akane accepted this cad for a real suitor? Had she admitted her love for him? While Akari was waiting for me at her farm, I still considered myself one of Akane's friends. This jerk didn't deserve her.

"The fights, Ryouga," Ranma finally admitted after a long pause, stretching out one hand to the stars, his palm facing the inky black above us. The glow of chi filled his hand as he effortlessly blasted an orb of pure life energy into the night sky, watching as it became a bright yellow star in the night sky, before moving beyond our sight or fading. "Think about it, man! When we were kids in middle school training to be martial artists, did we ever dream of being able to manifest our chi as a projected force we could actually use in battle? Did we ever think we could consider the techniques weak compared to the stuff we know?"

He sat up, a manic energy overcoming him as he turned to face me. His eyes glowed with something unnatural, something which reached down through the numbness I was feeling as I tried to comprehend what he was saying. I wanted more than anything to be anywhere but here.

"I got to fight a god, Ryouga! I won a fight against a god!" Ranma was standing now, pacing back and forth with more of that restless energy. He suddenly stopped, turning to face me. "What's gonna happen next, with Akane under my protection? More gods? Maybe demons will come to try us? Or something even more wonderful!?"

He was excited, I realized as ice formed itself in my the pit of my stomach, adding a weight to it which dropped it to my knees. The thought of foes even stronger than Saffron was terrifying, but Ranma was...

I'd spent days trying to get to sleep after that fight with Saffron, and I'd just been on the sidelines. I'd been sick with worry for Akane.

"You know what I mean, Ryouga!" Ranma enthused, grabbing my shoulders and shaking me once before letting go, to splay his hands out once more to the stars. He clenched his fists, his entire body shaking. "You've been there with me from day one! Even back in middle school with those bread fights! You've always been stepping forward to grab a little more power, be just a little better at fighting! I bet you've even learned a new technique since China so you could match me again!"

With a sick realization, my hand strayed almost unconsciously to my belt. Inside the pouch was a scroll I'd picked up while visiting a small village of warriors in Hokkaido, detailing a way of multiplying my strength for brief bursts. I'd already learned the basics and had expected to use it when fighting Ranma tonight.

He was right. I'd been so eager to learn the technique so I could show Ranma up after his fight with Saffron.

"That's why I'm happy, Ryouga! The fights are never gonna end!" His grin was triumphant.

"Then why, Ranma? If you're so happy with Akane, why the other girls? Why don't you just admit your damned feelings and end all this petty bickering?" I almost spat the words, determined to figure at least that out.

"That's the key, Ryouga!" Ranma spun to face me once again. He raised a finger, wagging it at me as he stepped back with a grin. "With all the fiancées, the trouble raised is a lot more fun, a lot more intense! Shampoo brings all the Amazons and all their problems! Ukyou has Konatsu, and she keeps Shampoo on her toes! Both of those girls keep Akane guessing and keep things exciting around here! With those three, I'm never going to run out of people to fight, and they all keep getting stronger!"

"I'll stop you!" I snarled, grasping my umbrella and thrusting forward as I allowed my chi to surge. The technique, still not fully learned, didn't work as well as it could have, allowing the pigtailed madman to twist under the thrust and sweep my feet from under me, using my momentum to toss me off the roof. I twisted and landed on my feet, windmilling my arms as I nearly fell into the koi pond. A small wooden keg struck me, throwing me into the pond.

I flinched as I hit the water, feeling more raid down on me from the broken keg.

My eyes opened. I was human? What?

"Your curse was a lotta fun, Ryouga," Ranma admitted, now sitting on the edge of the roof. He grinned. "Of course, it means that no matter how strong you get, I can always win by finding a bit of cold water. So now you're cured."

"How?" I demanded, staring down at my cold, wet hands. I must be in shock, I noted absently. I should have been furious with Ranma for hiding a cure 'til now, should have been furious for the casual way he was treating everyone he knew, how casually he was treating his engagements. I couldn't work up the energy for anything.

"Jusenkyo water contaminates normal water and I realized Happosai left a few dregs in the keg old man Tendou got me," Ranma said with a shrug. He grinned, smiling down at me. "I would have cured myself, but that would have ended all the fights that get started thanks to my girl side. I couldn't have that, could I?"

I stared up at him. Once I'd considered him almost a friend. For the longest time he'd been my rival, the one who marked the progress I was making in the Art and the one who was always pushing me to be better by his very existence. Now I knew, he was just a sick person who had to be stopped.

"I'll stop you!" I whispered, my mind racing. I could, too. I wouldn't even have to fight him. "I can tell people what you're really like. Your little game will fall apart when I tell Akane and everyone else about all of this."

He smiled.

"Nah, you can't," Ranma said, pulling one knee to his chest and letting the other dangle over the lip of the roof. "If you could do anything about it, I wouldn't be telling you all this. But I figured that you were getting too relaxed, too close to thinking about me as a friend. I figure if you know the only way to end all this was if you beat me, you'll train extra hard."

He was right, damn him. I began to focus my chi again, searching for that flux which would cause my chi to surge and boost my power so I could end his chaos. Ranma flowed off the roof with freakish speed, barely landing next to me before driving a sharp knee into my stomach to send me backwards into the Tendou's perimeter wall. Then he was in front of me again.

"Go train for a few more days. You can't beat me unless you master that technique. I'm not going anywhere anyway," His grin caused the little black beast in my chest to roar, filling me with a blinding heat.

I knew he was right, and I hated that he knew just how right he was when he said I'd go train. My mind was already racing as I went through the technique, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.

I had to end his madness.

He watched me depart, knowing I would now be returning to kill him.

He was still smiling.

Author's Notes

A bit of concept from DB Sommer's Veils Placed Over Others Eyes, a bit of the Ranma from WFRose's Age of the Warhorse, inspired by a third fic in which Ranma was talking with some unnamed person about the situation as if he was manipulating things. Sure, this Ranma does love Akane, because she keeps getting him right into The Shit™.

I wish had a WTF category for fanfiction. This'd fit, no?

Sorry. I'll go back to writing that full-length Ranma fic I'm working on now.