Authors note: I don't own anything in here. Standard disclaimers ect.

This has been updated for grammar so if you don't want to reread it, don't ;)

Suggestions/reviews welcome, even if you hate it.

This is a R/U pairing. There is Violent Akane bashing here. Knight's of the abusive fiancée take note of that.

Special thanks to my editor without whom this would still be unreadable.

3/29/12 updated for grammar corrections.

Night X : Dreaming Again

Dreaming again, she looked at her grandfather's manor house and sighs. She is tired of this dream. Ukyou adjusts her kimono and wanders into the main hall. Her grandfather's estate always used to scare her when she was little, so it does not surprise her that she is afraid of it in her nightmares. There was always this feeling of unease when she was there, like there were spirits watching her. Her mother didn't like it much either. The Kuze Manor was always a place of dread for her family. Her mother often seemed so sad whenever her father was mentioned and always got ill when it was time to visit.

"Maybe it's Mom's fault, this uneasy feeling I have," she mutters. "Are her fears becoming mine?" she asks herself as she looks around the dream scape. A sad thought about missing her mother adds to the sad feelings she is already feeling for Ranma.

The walls were dirty in her dreams; old, like no one had lived there for centuries. The hallway in front of her always seemed dark and dirty as well, very different from the clean and spotless hall that she remembered of her childhood. A soft, bluish light makes the scene even weirder; but, as she has had this dream before and has grown accustom to it.

In the distance, that odd song can be heard. She moves through the manor, down the hall, past the central room and towards her grandfather's private shrine. Her dream follows this pattern, so she knows what is coming. Soon she will reach the door, and her grandfather will open the door, but it won't be him. Instead it will be some vile spirit in the shape of her grandfather, reaching out for her, strangling her. Soon she reaches the door, and again it slides open. Beyond the door this time, however, the haggard face of a young man looks to her, arms out.

"Help me!"

As she wakes, the one thought on her mind was of someone she can't hold the tears back for. "Why him? Why can you just stay dead…. Ranma…" she sobs.

Ranma was, as far as everyone knew, dead. He and Akane had run off together and, a few months later, Akane returned saying they were divorced and she was "sure" he was dead. This sounds simple, of course. Just saying he was dead and expecting everyone to accept it. The Amazons had already left Nerima. Ukyou had nothing to keep her there anymore. It took Ukyou another three weeks, until she learned of his death and she returned to find out more. No amount of pressure from her could convince Akane to tell her what happened. It took Ukyou a week of trying and all she got from Akane was silence. All the other woman would say is "I am sure he is dead. Positive." Nothing else was forthcoming

After trying to get information for two more weeks, she returned to her lonely apartment—away from Nerima, unable to fully grieve. No one knew where he was buried or even where he had been when he died. Akane was not telling. A week and a day later, Ukyou got news that the Amazons had returned seeking information from Akane. And that they were far less nice about it than she was. Now there were several deaths Ukyou had to deal with. Even though Akane was a rival and she hated her for not saying what happened, she was also still her friend. Many of the rest of the dead were as well.

She went to the shrine in her apartment and replaced the incense and the plate of Okonomiyaki. She brings her hands together and prays. "Ran-chan, I am sorry. I miss you". Her life was on hold. She had moved to another section of Tokyo and set up an apartment. She had some money but didn't feel like doing anything. So she existed for a time.

The dream started again. She could hear a banging of metal on metal off in the distance. Again she was at the door of her grandfather's estate and she was smoothing down a kimono, that was her mother's in life. 'I wish I had gotten to know her better,' she thinks as she looks down at the blue kimono with the large Saukra symbol on it. 'First father took away my womanhood, then Mom died. Now Ranma's gone. Who else is left… Why not me too?'

Outside the manor, the snow came down.

The dreams continue, still usually with her grandfather strangling her as the end point. Her days are unending, nothing really seems to happen to her. She really doesn't want to move much. Her friend, Konastu, would stop by and bring her groceries and sometimes even cook for her, but he doesn't get much in the way of a response. Nothing has changed for them. He still loves her. She still thinks of him as a friend and, oft times, an annoyance. But they are both older and, hopefully, wiser. She no longer beats on him for being pushy and he is no longer pushy. He also has a girlfriend now though she is still second in his heart.

Her days stretch on and her nights drag on through the same patterns. Until, one night, she dreamed again of Ranma calling out to her.

The snow came down, piling on the ground in front of her. Her kimono was the same as before. She still feels the cold, just like before, even though she's wearing a winter-weight kimono. This time she is in the forest, a bit back from the manor. There is a statue of Inari on either side of the path. Both are missing their heads, though they have the red scarves. The scarves seem to extend much farther down the statues, giving the appearance of bloody, headless foxes.

She walks between them and moves up the hill. Tonight, it is the body of her grandfather that lies at the door of the manor. 'That's a first' she thinks to herself. 'If he is out here, I wonder what's inside?' The doors seem the same, but there is a strange pattern carved into it. It's not her family's crest, or that of her grandfather's. She studies it a moment. The circle has two cars on it—one atop the other. [[Cars? Did you mean something else?]] 'I know this symbol, think.' She goes back in her mind, thinking through all of the symbols she has seen, until it dawns on her: Nodoka's sword. It's one of the three crests on her sword. So it's either Awa or Satomi since this is not her own family's branch crest. 'Well that's different. Why would that crest be here?' She thinks to herself.

She pushes on the door, surprised when it opens into a different room than she is expecting. This one is brightly light, though the lists [[did you mean lights?]] still seem to be bluish in nature, and there is a small gathering in the center of the room. She can see two figures in what appear to be female kimonos sitting in front of a man who has his back to her. The man she is sure she knows from his long pony-tail. They sit, with voices softly coming from the females in front of him but he does not appear to move. Ukyou walks forward, but no one pays her any attention. She steps into the center tatamati chamber and notices that they are gathered around what appears to be a human head. She looks down and examines it. Everything seems to move slowly in this dream and the figures still don't notice her. There is only that background murmuring and silence from the male—who has his face down and hidden. The head, so looks at looks vaguely like Akane's but it's odd, more different than she would expect.

She reaches down to pull the male figure's head up. As she touches him, the voices become understandable, clear, and she hears her own voice, and the voice of Nodoka, saying over and over again "See how your protection works? She is dead, and you're to blame!"

The voices repeat this. She pulls his head up and looks into the eyes of Ranma, sitting there in formal clothes, and with a weird blue tattoo on his neck. "It's not my fault, Ukyou, it's not," he sobs. She starts to try and pull him up, but at her feet, something weird happens. She feels the head move, and Akane's voice echoes in her mind. "Not your fault? I gave up everything because of you, and you are the only one to blame. Some man! Some protector.. Where were you Ranma,!"

Ukyou kicks the head away and pulls Ranma to his feet. Ranma follows blindly and, as they move from this room into another, his clothes shift to what he was normally wearing. Ukyou can see blue tattoos on his arm that run up to his neck. "Ranma, this is a dream," she says to him.

"Find me, Ukyou, and find me fast. I am always asleep and I am starting to lose. SHE keeps appearing and every time she catches me, I get worse." The room grows darker, as he is talking.

"Where can I look for you, do you have anything?"

"Find Miku, Miku Hinasaki. She can help you"

The darkness becomes palatable and Ranma looks around, spooked. "She's coming! Go! I will lead her away."

"Who is coming, Ranma?" As these words leave Ukyou's lips, she sees a figure of a woman, undressed and covered in tattoos, enter the room. She is tall, and exudes power.

"RUN!" Ranma shouts.

Panicked, Ukyo runs. As she runs, sees Ranma dodging the figure that keeps trying to reach out for him. Ukyou reaches door to the outside and plunges through it. She awakes in a cold sweat.

"He's alive? Or a ghost, or… What's going on…" She sits up, looks over to the door of her room, and notices the head of Akane looking up at her. "You're Next!"

Ukyou screams.

And Wakes up again.

Ukyou moves through the streets. This is the first time she has been out of her apartment in over a month. She travels because she found the number of Miku, the person whom Ranma said would help in her dream. She called Miku, and after a very quick conversation, agreed to meet with Ukyou. The only troubling part was while she said she could help, Miku seemed to think that this had all been dealt with before, and was concerned that it was starting again. She traveled into another district in Tokyo and approached a small publishing house, where Miku said to meet her.

She entered the office, and asked the receptionist if she could speak to Miku

"Miku? Let me call down to the photography department" The young receptionist sits at a deck with a nameplate of "Mio". She is younger than Ukyou, and is very pretty, but there is something odd about her eyes. She gets off the phone. "You are Ukyou right? Miku will be here in a moment along with my uncle. Rei wanted to meet you as well but, she is out on assignment at present. Please have a seat" Ukyou looks at the girl and sighs, and sits, waiting.

In a few moments, a young woman and a man show up, from downstairs. There is something of dread in the way they look at Ukyou, but also great sympathy. The girl speaks first.

"Ukyou, I am Miku. Before we go any farther I have to know: do you have any tattoos that suddenly appeared on your body?"

Ukyou shakes her head, "Not on me, no, but in my dream when I saw Ranma, his arm was covered in a blue tattoo."

"Okay. Well, then, it's only on his arm so far. Still, we have to hurry if we are going to save him. Next question, Did he or you in your dream have an old Camera?"

"Uhmm, no not that I can tell."

Miku sighed. "The camera has to be somewhere, and it's your only weapon that works against them. Ever. Ken, can you bring her the Camera"

"Are you sure?" Kei asks. "We have that locked up."

"Yes, it's started again, and she needs to have it if she is going to fight and save her friend"

"But Miku, we haven't yet resolved that Ranma IS alive and not some form of ghost."

"Either way, she is drawn in and the least we can do is help her survive."

The man gets up and walks upstairs leaving the three alone. Mio seems uncomfortable during this discussion of the camera, as does everyone else.

Okay, Ukyou, I have a story to tell you. First off, everyone who works at our company understands what you're going through. We all went through it and survived, barely. However, the vast majority of those who enter into the dream manor die there. There is a woman covered in tattoos that slowly encompass you. It's important to know what happened with us, so you can survive the experience. We can't go in for you, so learn from our experiences and we will help in any way we can."

Around this time the man returned with an old camera that looked completely broken. It had weird symbols around the edges and around the lens. Ken carefully carried it and placed it on the desk in front of Mio, who pulled back from it.

This is the camera. I want you to take it with you for now. Listen to our story and try to learn from it."

For the next two hours Miku and Kei talked to Ukyou, telling everything they could remember about the Manor of Sleep. The knowledge of what Ranma and she was going through horrified her. Kei did not think that much of the knowledge was going to be of help, but maybe it would make details of this somewhat easier. They listened to Ukyou and after discussing this with her more they decided that she was not that far into the dream yet, although it was a bad sign that she had seen the woman they called Reika.

" If you have seen Reika, then you're locked into this and you have to force her back to sleep. To free yourself and Ranma," Mika said. "What we will do is see if we can find your Ranma in a hospital or the like. He said he was always sleeping; maybe he is in a coma somewhere. We had one we met like that." Ukyou just nods at this point. She is terrified now of what is to come, but she will willingly give up her soul for him.

Ukyou, how do you feel about moving in for the time being with Rei and me? Rei suggested it, so we can try and help you in this as much as possible"

Again she just nods blankly, agreeing to the strange request. At least she won't be alone in this. They have been through it. Maybe they will help her survive it.

By the end of the day, she is set into a new room down the hall from hostesses Rei, and Miku. Both are extremely nice to the younger girl, and make every effort to relay their experiences so that Ukyou has at least some idea what to expect.

These were dreams to them as well, so many of the memories are spotty, at best—other than Miku's memories of her first encounter with the camera, of course. She settles into the room that used to be Rei's fiancé's room and finally, late that night, sleeps again. She was once more being pulled into her own personal hell.

Night One : Joining

The snow falls outside the manor again.

She is not being touched by it, of course. It is just the unending cold. Today she wears no kimono. Instead, she wears her normal clothing. She feels more comfortable dressed so. She is, however, sure that her comfort is not what anyone here has in mind. The path is still in front of her. She seems farther from the manor than before. Farther down the path, in the woods, more of the strange Inari statues are here—also without their heads. She walks towards the manor. The snow continues to fall silently as she steps closer to the door.

The doors to the manor are almost the same as before. A little brighter this time ,and instead of the crude carving of the crest, a refined crest is on the door. It is a broad circle with two horizontal lines on it. Ukyou is sure that it's from the main family of the Saotome clan, the Satomi branch. She had drawn the symbol out for Miku and she has pulled up the information on the clan. Ranma was a part of a proud family of Samurai, one of the oldest there were, dating back to the 1200s. It was funny that no one put that together before. But here, in the world of ghosts, they remember things like Clan and Family. Maybe this was the section she could find Ranma in.

She learned from the others that, eventually, she would have to go all of the way in. There was no way to avoid it. However, the first thing Miku and Rei wanted to see if Ukyou could find Ranma in the dream, to give him advice to NOT to go father in. If they could keep him out of her, Reika's grasp, he could survive longer. Kei said he had to survive and run from things for quite a while before he would be able to get and understand the camera. They also thought that once she found the camera in the dream, she needed to get it to Ranmadelete comma so that he could find it as well. Unless he knew what it was it was, it was doubtful that he would even bother picking it up if he found it.

She looks again at the doors that block her path into the manor. From within she can, faintly, hear the sounds of someone playing a Biwa softly in the distance. She reaches out and slowly pushes on the doors. Inside the lights are bright and she can hear the Biwa playing, louder now, coming down the hallway into what she remembers as the main hall. She steps into the entrance way and takes about three steps towards the hallway when she feels this cold pressure from above. She looks up and sees the outline of a man, in traditional nobleman's clothes, looking down on her from a catwalk above the entrance. He has a spear in one hand. He also looks slightly inhuman and seems to be covered in small cuts. He stares at her a moment and then just fades away before her eyes. The Biwa playing hits a sour note when he vanishes, but starts back up again after a second of silence. 'I hope they are right about me finding the camera here. I am not sure my spatula is going to cut it against ghosts,' she thinks to herself as she continues down the hallway. She passes the doors that are on either side of her, but there are no lights on in those rooms and she is still being drawn down the main hall to the center of this part of manor. Farther down stood the paper doors that would give her entrance into the main hall. She can see figures inside, and the shadow against the paper wall of a figure playing a Biwa. She reached out and touching the door, and started to open it.

The lights vanished as she touched the door and the figures were gone. As she opened the door, she saw the bodies of many, many men and women strewn about the main hall. In the shadowy light from the hall behind her, she could see that each body was covered in cuts and most had parts of their faces removed. Ukyou sucked in her breath and if she had been in her body rather than this dream, she would have vomited. The smell was intense and, as she looked around, she saw more bodies that were missing eyes. Some bodies were simply missing their heads. She looked around in growing horror, and noticed that one pair of eyes, from a headless corpse, was following her movement. When the eyes blinked, she started screaming.

At her scream, the room's lights turned back on and all of the bodies disappeared. It was now an empty main hall, ornate in a style that would have been used centuries ago. There is a center seating area for the master of the house, on which lies a scroll case, and spots for others around the hall. Two statues of samurai guards stand motionless, silent forms of armor watching the hall. In front of the audience chair, there is a small table. She notices, and feels drawn to, the ornately designed silver mirror that rests upon it. She learned from Miku to always pick anything up that she was drawn to, that it would be of use to her later in the dream. She looked in the mirror and, at first, saw her own reflection. Then she saw Ranma lying unconscious in the mirror. His face was blueish and it looked like he was being strangled. His body was limp and appeared to have been dropped to the ground. Then she saw the mace—big and metal with a large spike on the end—as it crashed down on his head over and over again. She saw the blood spreading on the ground. His face was not even recognizable and still he did not move. The bashing stopped, and he lay there, on cement. Written beside him, in paint, were the kanji for Taian Yeushou and the numbers 8765-2. The image faded then and she put it in her bandolier.

She felt a sense of being drawn, so she stepped back into the hallway and returned to the two doors she passed before. In the distant entryway, she sees something flickering that she is sure was not there before. She approaches it and sees a small pile of things lying there. There is a flashlight, some papers, and the camera that her new friends described to her.

'I guess it's really beginning then,' she thinks to herself. She picks everything up, and starts to read the first paper when a dark feeling in her gut grips her and she hears the wood creak and groan around her. Turning to look behind her, she sees a pale man in traditional peasant garb and carrying some sort of knife moving towards her. His face has numerous cuts on it and he is moving very slowly. Ukyou's stomach twists, her fear overpowering. This is very unlike the other "ghosts" she has encountered. It must be different on grounds like this. She grabs her spatula out of reflex and faces off against the spirit. He reaches out for her. She attempts to bash him with her spatula but it passes right through him. His cold fingers grab her arm as it passed through his body and she feels the cold rush into her, slowing her down. As he holds her, he stabs her with his knife, and she screams again. She manages to push him back with her hands, taking more damage, and remembers that the camera is her only hope here. She raises it and watches as symbols flash inside of the viewfinder. She can see him differently through the viewfinder. He is more detailed and far more terrifying. Suddenly, the light in her viewfinder turns red and, just as Miku instructed her, she took the shot. The ghost screams and falls to the ground, dissipating. Her camera flashes a bit as it absorbs the energy of the spirit.

Ukyou feels cold. The spirit had hurt her. On the floor where the spirit was defeated, another twinkling light appears. She turns and picks it up. Lying there are two bottles of some herbs. She puts them in her pack and looks around a bit more. She starts to move back to the doors as the room does dark, and she feels an even greater presence than before. She looks up at the end of the hallway. There is the dark woman again. She moves towards Ukyou with arms outstretched, and Ukyou does what she was told to do, run fast to where she entered, to try and escape the dream. She runs and the Blue woman follows, teleporting to be much closer to her When Ukyou reaches the door, she jumps through just as the woman was about to reach her.

She wakes in Yuu's room. She is cold but no pain, and she does not see any tattoos on her. So far she has been lucky. She does not know how long that will last. She gets up, walks downstairs, and tells everything to Miku. "I will research that name and those numbers," Miku tells her. Maybe they will give us a clue about where he is."

Rei looks at her and laughs. "You're always researching clues, Miku."

Ukyou feels a little better, in this company. At least she has some help.

Night two, hour one: Red

She appears again in the woods, but this time she cannot even see the manor. The forest bears down around her. She is dressed as she usually is with the Camera Obscura as her only apparent weapon. Looking around, she sees the path go in several directions. In the center of the juncture is a statue of a man in samurai armor. He is also missing his head. The statue is old, and slowly being covered by snow. Since she can't tell which way she is supposed to go, she picks a direction on the path and starts walking. She walks down this path for a bit and realizes that this is not the same path. The statues here are of the Twin Dosijin's and their all of faces have been rubbed off.

She walks up the path and under a gateway to see that she is at the top of a hill looking down on a village in the distance. Far in the distance she hears a crash as if something collapsed. She starts hurrying down the hill. As she rounds the bend into what would be the village itself, the Camera starts to jerk a bit. She holds up the camera to her eye and scans the area. The viewfinder turns blue when she looks at a dilapidated house and the door that is missing from it. She takes a picture and in the viewfinder she sees the image of a ghost that is reaching out to grab Ranma and Ranma trying to jump back is seen. She looks around suddenly.

'Ranma was here too' she thinks.

She starts trying to find more clues of his presence. As she wanders around in exploration, she walks up to a house at the end of the road. Next to the house is a well. She examines the well and finds yet another herbal bottle. Following her instincts, Ukyou goes around to the back of the house. In back is a small series of grave stones. There is a light inside of the house visible through the window. As she examines the window her camera jumps again, and she slowly pulls the viewfinder up to her eyes. In it she sees the face of a boy, who is looking back at her. Pulling the camera away, she sees that he is still there, He appears to be speaking to her but she can't hear him. She takes his picture and leaves the area.

Ukyou wanders back down the road. She comes to a branch to the left and kind of a jag to the right. Silence reigns here but at least it's not snowing. She looks both ways and decides to go right, down a path that heads between buildings. On her right is a short stairway to a door that hangs slightly open. She walks up the stairs and enters the building.

As she enters, on her left is a door while on her right is a small room. Further along on the right appears to be a stairway leading up. Also at the foot of the stairs stands what appears to be a girl, in a kimono, who looks at Ukyou and smiles. She is an extremely creepy young girl.

" Have you come to play with the other one?" the little girl asks.

"The other one?" Ukyou wanted to jump, thinking it was Ranma.

Sure," the creepy little girl said. "They are in MY room, playing with my sister. Follow me." She led Ukyou into the room in front of her and out a door in the back. That room had a weird projector in it, pointing at a white dirty wall. They passed into a hallway and, on the left, was another door even more ornate. The girl opened the door and led Ukyou inside. Inside she saw another girl who looked Identical to the first one, who seemed to be fighting with a very familiar petite red headed girl.

Wait!" yelled Ranko. "Don't let her close that door!" Ukyou turned and realized she had NO chance of reaching the door before the first girl slowly closed it. She opted to try throwing one of her spatula daggers instead, lodging it into the door jam and blocking the door being closed.

The first girl looks angry suddenly. "That was not nice," she grumbled. "You need to play fair," while reaching for Ukyou.

Ukyou felt the same sickness in her stomach. Fear gripped her, but she raised her camera. The girl got close and the image turned red, so she took the picture. The girl screamed and faded for a second. The other girl stopped her assault of Ranko and turned towards Ukyou "Will you play with me?" she asked.

Ranko grabbed the second girl and threw her into the wall. She then jumped on top of her and started pounding her with the chestnuts roasting attack. "If that camera does anything, take a picture of her now!" she yelled.

Ukyou started to try and capture the assault in the viewfinder. The first girl suddenly popped in front of her, grabbing at her. As a reflex she got another picture of the first girl dealing even more damage. She faded back again. Ukyou managed to line up on the second girl, and said, "Okay. Ready." When Ranko jumped off, Ukyou pressed the shutter. When she did, one of the lenses that was attached to the camera jumped into place and a massive blast came out of it. The second girl screamed and faded from view. As Ukyou was lowering the camera, she saw Ranko's foot fly just past her head. Ukyou dodged, rolling to the left, and witnessed as Ranko kicked the first girl over and over again until she fell to the ground and faded from view. Ranko took a deep breath.

What the hell are you doing here?" Ranko asked.

"Looking to rescue you, Ranma."

"Sorry, but I am not Ranma. I am looking for that baka to try and get him out of here. I am Ranko."

Ukyou was amazed. She had seen them separated once before. That Ranko was homicidal, or nymphomaniac, or something, but not like this one. This one seemed like, well, Ranma, more or less.

What's going on, Ranko?" Ukyou asked. "Why are you separate and how can you hit them and not be, well, killed?"

Because, technically, I AM a ghost," Ranko informed her. "The springs remember? I am the spirit of the girl who drowned. But not all ghosts are hateful and possessed by hell spirits, like this wacko. This woman is INSANE even by our standards. I can hit them, and her, but Ranma can't. We got separated when he was touched the first time. My presence in him stopped the first formation of his tattoos but she ejected me from him as soon as she figured that out."

Ukyou was stunned. Here was an unexpected benefit of the curse.

We got to find that baka because if HE dies, I am stuck here, forever. I SO do not want to be stuck in this mad woman's version of wonderland."

Ukyou nodded and looked finally around the room they were in. It's a red room with dolls all around the edges. Two of the dolls that are human-sized and look very similar to the two girls that Ukyou and Ranko just fought. There is an open elevator behind the two dolls.

"Hey Ukyou," Ranko began, "I guess you REALLY love my baka half, don't you?"

Ukyou blushes and doesn't say anything at all.))

"It's okay," Ranko continues. "I think even he will be able to tell if you're really just here to save his sorry hide. You haven't been touched have you?" she asked.

"One of the men got a hold of me," she admits.

"No," Ranko said. "Her. She hasn't gotten a hold of you yet, has she?"

"No, I have been lucky."

" Well we better keep it that way, then. No need for both of us dieing here." Ranko looked down "I mean, we should get it through her head that she needs to go back to sleep."

For the first time, Ukyou noticed the blue tattoo that was on the back of Ranko's arm.

Suddenly the elevator started glowing a soft blue, and Ukyou was drawn to it.

Ranko noticed "Hey, keep looking for us. And I will try and find you again"

Ukyou walked into the blue light while stepping into the elevator, and the world went white. She then woke. Still no pain. Still no tattoo. With a very heavy heart, she stood up to go talk to Miku.

Day two, morning.

Ukyou walked down the stairs and looked around the living room. Miku was in the kitchen, standing and looking into the living room. She had a stack of papers and a cup of coffee in front of her. She looks up at Ukyou

"Good morning," Miku begins. "About that information you were looking for. I may have found something."

"Oh Good morning," Ukyou returns. "What did you find out?"

Miku took another sip of her coffee. "Taian Yeushou is a large scale road work company. They operate all over Japan. They have projects running all over. 8765-2 is a project reference number. It looks like there was a construction project going on near the Sugisawa Village in the Aomori Prefecture. That project stopped about two weeks ago due to a police investigation of a 'attempted murder' that took place there. Apparently, the wife of one of the construction workers came onto the site to bring him lunch. The rest of the account is kind of unbelievable."

"Well tell me anyway, I tend to believe a lot of unbelievable things. "

She takes a sip of her tea "The wife brought her husband lunch, and according to the rest of the accounts, he did not like it enough for her taste. There are some accounts that he was ill. Others say that he started choking."

"If that was Akane's cooking I can see that."

Miku just looks at her a second. "Anyway, she apparently got angry and started beating him up. Most folks said this was a usual occurrence, and it wasn't something to be concerned about until she picked up a jackhammer and started using it on her husband's head. All of the accounts confirm this. She jack hammered his head into the pavement. The foreman called the police and several of the other works tried to help him or restrain her, the accounts are confused here. She apparently knocked them over, and down and generally beat them up as well. She fled the scene. The police report states the victim survived, account lists a Tendo Daisuke, not a Ranma."

"Daisuke was one of his closest friends. He must have taken the name and Akane's last name to help him hide."

"That makes a kind of sense. The police report shows that the victim was sent to Citizens Hospital in Aomori. The case is still listed as an "attempted murder" so unless there is a clerical error, the victim is still alive."

Ukyou thought about all of this and came to a decision. "I need to go there for myself, and see if it is Ranma."

Miku nodded "I will get Kei and we will go. It's in northern Japan,((delete comma)) and quite a distance from here. It IS worth noting that Rei and I went to that area once too, to photograph the house that she first saw Yuu's ghost in. So if Ranma was near that house maybe that's why he is having these problems."

Miku turns and pours Ukyou a cup of coffee. Ukyou takes a sip and watches Miku make her call. She thinks back about her last night's dream and, just as she did before, writes down everything she can remember. She finishes her coffee, and heads into the shower.

In her shower, she lets her mind go a second. He was really gone. He went with her even though he KNEW that she was going to abuse him. 'Why could he not see how evil she was? Why could he not see how much I loved him?' Ukyou's thoughts descend farther and farther down the spiral as she cries in the shower. The hot water turns cold as she stays in the shower. And eventually she realizes that she is ice cold. She gets out and dries off and starts to head back down the hall to meet with Miku. She feels an even colder presence coming from the spare room.

As she walks past the spare room door, She sees a dark figure standing there It is small, wearing a dress, and has no head. The shadowy figure is holding a round shape under one arm.

Ukyou staggers back against the wall as the figure fades away.

Shaking she returns to her room, waiting in silence until a knock on her door told her that Kei had arrived and they were ready to go.

Ukyou sat in Kei's car, more or less silent. After a little bit, Miku finally draws her out enough to relay what was in last night's dream. Then followed a long conversation about Ranma's curse and some philosophical back and forth about the nature of his cursed form being a ghost versus the type of ghosts Miku is used to dealing with. It's a fairly animated discussion between Kei and Miku on this that gradually draws Ukyou in, and makes her feel less despondent. They continue the drive and eventually stop for the night. Miku and Ukyou get one room, and Kei gets another.

Night Two: Red Ropes

Ukyou dreams.

She finds herself lying down on the floor of a room that she is unfamiliar with. Softlyin the distance, she hears that song again. Miku had told her that the song was a nursery rhyme and that it was used to remind everyone how to deal with the Tattooed maiden, Reika. The song becomes slightly more pronounced as Ukyou stands up and looks around. She is in a room with many cabinets and boxes in it. She walks around to the left of the room and she sees a downward stairway. She walks down the stairs and enters into a multi-room area common in Japanese traditional houses. There is a room, enclosed in rice paper walls, to her right, and a hallway to the left. She feels pulled to the hallway and at the end of the hallway she sees a young girl, in a shrine maiden outfit, standing at the end of the hall. She turns and walks away, beyond sight. Ukyou comes up to the hallway and turns to the right. A few feet ahead of her stands the girl again, in the intersection of a T. She is pointing down one of the paths. She then disappears.

Ukyou walks down this path and directly around a corner, into a door, that is covered with paper barriers. She opens the door and steps in. She is in a hallway that has flags hanging from the ceiling. Ukyou walks down the hallway. There is no wind that she can detect yet all of the flags are slowly moving as if they are being disturbed by a slight breeze. She comes to another door and enters into. On her left is a stairway going down. On her right is a lighted window with a figure sitting beside it and playing a biwa. Music plays slowly, in traditional sounds of sorrow. Before her is a banister looking down into another room. Around the right is a pathway that goes into another room. On her left is a paper stand, for decoration. At the top of the stairs she sees the little girl again, walking down them. Ukyou starts to follow her. They go down the stairs and past a grandfather clock into a room with a fireplace, heading toward a doorway in the far right end.

She enters into another hallway that also has T intersection as well as a room with a mirror. She follows the figure to the left and down a hallway with a bunch of ropes to a door on the left. Here she sees a room with a huge hole in the door. To the left is a foyer with a door outlined in a reddish glow. On the far side of the room Ukyou sees the figure again, standing in front of a mask that hangs on a semi-hidden door. Ukyou walks up to the mask and the figure disappears once more. Ukyou pulls the mask down, and opens the door. It enters into a smaller hallway that is cramped, and tight. Through the tight space she goes, almost tripping a few times, until she reaches a mini-door that opens into a room with a large cage inside of it. Inside the cage is a bound figure, hidden under a cloak. Ukyou enters the cage. It is set up like a sitting room with resting places, a book shelf, and many small knickknacks inside. She approaches the figure and it starts struggling.

"Mmmpphhh!"

Ukyou decides to take the chance, and start untying the ropes so that the blanket came come off. Under the blanket is the familiar red hair of Ranko, Her body is tied under the blanket as well so more ropes need to come off, and her gag comes out.

"Thank you thank you thank you" starts Ranko, jumping up and hugging Ukyou. "That TWIT got me to come down here and I got trapped by Miss Rope Fetish."

"What twit? The little girl?"

"No, I mean Akane. I followed HER and she led me right into the Rope Maiden."

"Oh. A little girl led me here. I guess to help you get free."

"That must be one of the Pacifiers. I have seen a few of them, but only one of them actually is helpful. The others are a pain in the foot."

Ukyou wonders at her turn of phrase.

"I mean seriously. The last one kept trying to spike my foot to the ground." Ranko grimaced.

Ukyou thought about this. She had been led to here to free Ranko. Whoever the helper is, she is unable to directly interfere other than by leading someone here to free Ranko.

"Well, at least she led me here. Right?"

"Yeah and I'll kick Akane's rear next time I run into her. I THOUGHT she was taking me to Ranma. Even here she is a bitch."

Ranko is really agitated about all of this. "Matter of fact, you're here, you have the camera, let's go kick that Rope Maiden into next week!"

Ukyou looks blankly as Ranko pushes her out of the cage and to another door. She wonders to herself if Ranko was helping her or hindering her today. They enter a room with a huge center wheel to it. There are ropes all around it

"Come out Kyrie, I wanna Re-match!" Yells Ranko.

Ukyou feels a tremendous cold presence that's far larger than anything she felt before. A woman materializes with ropes hanging off of her hands, feet and one around her neck. Her robes are that of a shrine maiden. She hovers over the ground and starts to move towards Ukyou. Ukyou is frozen in fear of this monster. Kyrie moves closer and closer.

"Oh no you don't!" Ranko exclaims as she jumps up and kicks Kyrie in the side of the head. "Come on, Ukyou, start killing her off," she finishes, as she almost knocks Kyrie over.

Ukyou pulls up her camera and she notices another bar inside the first. If she holds the shutter down, that bar gets brighter and brighter. She lines up a shot on Kyrie and waits for a clean one. A clean shot and not much happens. Ranko keeps fighting her. Every once in a while a rope would wrap around a body part. Ukyou realizes through trial and error that if she gets a "red" shot on Kyrie, the bonds gathering around Ranko loosen. This fight seems to last forever, but Ukyou also learns that she has a gauge at the top that can read what must be spiritual energy. It's deleting over time in the fight. Eventually she gets a red shot, followed by 4 linked shots, and Kyrie goes down.

"Man, that was tough. She is a real pain," Ranko sighs as she momentarily sits on the altar. "I have been trying to get rid of her since I got here."))

Ukyou is exhausted as well. "I need to rest. This sleep is wearing me out," she groans.

"Ah well. You come any closer to finding us?" Ranko asks.

Ukyou nods "We think we are on the way to where you are now. We were taking a rest."

"Some rest, eh?" Ranko chuckles.

"Well, at least I like the company now," Ukyou says with a small laugh.

"Yeah." The two girls stand silent for a bit.

"Well, it's time to get you out of here. Let's go." Ranko leads her back to the room with the reddish door. When they get there, Ukyou notices that its color has gone blue now.

"Take that door, you will wake up again. With any luck I will keep seeing you when you come here," Ranko smiles a moment. "Take care and find us soon".

Ukyou walks through the door and wakes up. She is lying in her bed back at Rei's Stretching, she swings her legs out from the side of the bed. A figure is suddenly standing in front of her

"Not even in death will I let you have him, you whore!" yells the head of Akane. Blood is pouring from her mouth, and eyes.

Ukyou screams at the sudden appearance, waking up this time in bed with Miku. She is cold and sweating. Miku wakes up and immediately starts asking Ukyou to relay her dream.