(And so we Amazons do something we have never done before in our tribe's history; We acknowledge our great debt to a male. To this male. The boy who died for us, and had as little love for us, as we had for him. Why he did it, we shall never know. Perhaps... Perhaps he did it simply to spite us. I think that idea would amuse him greatly.)
Cologne smirked, staring at the gathered members of the tribe, and the three martial artists from Japan. A fair amount of the tribe had refused to even be present at the funeral, though it was no surprise to her. Things change slowly, but when they change, they are changed forever. It was the way of the world, and it amused her to think of that.
She stared at the simple stone marker, a rather plain affair with the Kanji for 'Man' written on it, as well as the Mandarin equivalent. In one corner, two small Kanji were chipped into the stone, above a small image of a knotted bandanna.
Cologne wouldn't bother to ask which one of the three had done it, as she could easily guess. Her eyes passed over those who were in attendance, noting here and there expressions with varying degrees of amusement. Shampoo, of all people, looked rather conflicted about it all. That was fine, she'd learn to live with it, eventually.
(And so, in the place of the Sealing Stone, we leave this marker, to remind us all of what has happened here. We also remember our debt to the living, as well as the dead. All of us have risked something in this trial of life, and some of us merely paid a lesser price, and walked away with it.)
Four weeks later...
Sighing, Ranma Saotome sat in the Tendo dojo, alone.
He was sitting with his legs crossed, and his arms folded over his chest as he mulled over a scroll laying infront of him. On the scroll was a small doodle, given to him by one of the Amazons who'd been awake for the whole China fight.
The doodle consisted of a series of crudely drawn spikes, pinning down a stick figure with an angry face. It was supposed to be the secret to using the Bakusai Tenketsu without injuring the target. It was not, however, in any way, shape, or form, any degree of what could be called easy to figure out.
Sighing again, Ranma let his head droop in defeat. "Man, I'm never gonna figure this out."
"Figure what out?"
Akane peered in over Ranma's shoulder at the scroll. "This again? Ranma, face it; You're never going to figure this out on your own. You've been at it for weeks."
"Shut up." Sulking a little, Ranma turned his body away somewhat.
Sighing in defeat, Akane sat on one of Ranma's knees. Her cheeks were rather flushed, but she managed to hold the position without shoving her fiancee away. She was improving, clearly.
For his part, Ranma avoided stammering like an idiot, and didn't recoil away in horror. He had greatly improved, it seemed.
Feeling emboldened by the lack of hysterics, Akane ventured to lay an arm across Ranma's shoulders, trying to muster up the courage to lean in closer to him.
She was rewarded by Ranma tensing right up, and making a weird face. "Urk."
"... Right, bad idea." Akane guiltily pulled her arm away.
Both sat there in silence for awhile.
Eventually, Ranma managed to suck it up long enough to slip a hand into Akane's. He didn't see her smiling, but then, he didn't need to either. For now, that was enough for both of them. After all, they'd have a lifetime together to get it right.
Across town, at the Ucchan, Ukyo was hanging up her apron. She spared a glance at the sign hanging in the window for a moment, then shrugged it off. Snapping off the lights in the kitchen, she walked upstairs to her room, and did what she always did.
It was the same thing she'd done every night, for nearly a month now. She closed the door, left the lights off, and sat on her futon in the dark. There was a bit of a dip in the middle of the blankets now, all that sitting had left it's mark. She'd sit with her eyes closed, trying not to think about anything. She tried very hard.
But, every time, she found her eyes opening, and her gaze focused on the little ball that sat on her bedroom table. Reaching up, she picked up the small sphere, marveling at how it seemed to not weigh anything. It disturbed her a little. Mainly because, at the edges, when she looked at it, it had the lustrous cast of a perfect pearl.
The problem lie in the fact that the middle was completely transparent, and remained that way, no matter how many times she turned it over in her hands. It was like a cored pearl, but no matter which way she turned it, the hollow in the middle turned to follow her, like some sort of baleful eye.
Life had gone on, just like normal in Nerima, when they'd returned. Other than a few mentions of the new transfer student who'd only gone to school for a day or two, it seemed that nobody even knew Mato had existed. That wasn't true, of course. Everybody at the skating rink remembered how that guy in the school uniform had slapped Azusa aside without even looking. The mystery guy was a legend for that one. But other than that, nothing.
Finally making up her mind, or perhaps just giving in to desperation and gut gnawing feelings of being lost and alone, Ukyo stood up. Slipping her bandolier over her head, she slung her battle spatula over her back. Her mind was set now, and for good or for ill, she wasn't going to change it for anything. Scooping up the little ball, she stared at it for a moment.
All you have to do, is speak your wish, your heart's desire aloud, and swallow the orb.
Holding the little ball to her lips, she hesitated for a moment, then gave it a little kiss. For luck. Then, she whispered something just under her breath, so softly even her ears mistook it for a hiss of air.
"There's as many worlds out there, as there are stars in the sky... And as many Ranma Saotomes just about... I want the one person who was made to be with me..." She pressed the little ball to her lips again. "I want a Mato Hibiki of my own." With that, she let the pearly sphere slip past her lips, and tumble down her throat, swallowing the wish she'd been granted by Heaven.
There was a low crackling sound, and all the windows in the Ucchan lit up for a moment, before everything went dark again. The sign hanging on the front of the restaurant swayed a little, the red letters standing out against the dark building's front.
Closed - Building for lease.
Yawning, a certain yellow and black clad fellow stretched his arms above his head, extending his legs in a full body movement of sheer pleasure. "Mmm, aahhh... Oh man, is it ever good to have the old body back." Sighing, he rubbed the back of his neck for a moment. "Now, I wonder if I got my end of the bargain?"
Tilting his head back, he frowned. "Oh, hmm... I guess so, close enough." There, up 'above' him, was the ground. The only problem was, it was about thirty thousand feet away, and screaming in on him at around three hundred miles an hour. Staring for a moment, he shrugged. "Whatever." Folding his arms over his chest, he crossed his legs at the ankle, closed his eyes...
And waited for the inevitable to happen.
"My my, what about the girl though?" A seductive voice hissed in his ear, sounding not unpleasant, and not at all reassuring.
"Totally none of my business now. That was her world, this is mine. Now, if you don't mind." An irritated expression crossed his face. "I've got gravity to deal with, and I'd like to enjoy the fall while it lasts, thank you very much."
"Oh. Well then, I suppose you're not interested in knowing that the girl got her wish refunded."
"And you're not interested in knowing what it was that she wished for?"
"Then you really won't care that, in effect, she's been granted the ability to perform dimensional shifts?"
"Oh my, yes. Someone just happened to hint to her, that if she were to travel to other worlds, she might just find the person she was ment to be with."
A saucy laugh tickled his ear. "And do you know who that person was?"
He grumbled, refusing to open his eyes. "I could take a guess."
"You'd guess right then, boy."
"So what are you charging for this information?"
"Me? Charge? I'm insulted. I'm merely a well-wisher, a creature of good faith and-"
"Cut the crap. You don't think I've delt with the mistress of Hell enough to know what she sounds like?"
"...Ah. So you have died and gone to Hell in your world after all."
"Spying on me, cute."
"It's not every day a traveler from another world shows up with the power to rend Demons asunder and banish them to Hell."
"So it's not my boyish good looks?"
"You hardly look boyish now."
"Touche. Fine. Tell me what you want out of this, and what you're offering."
"I can stop the girl from being used by Heaven. All I want is your soul-"
"All I want is your soul, you didn't let me finish, for a period of ten years."
"I'll come and stay in Hell for five years, you can't have my soul, and if I feel like it, I'm walkin' out of there, probably because you pissed me off."
"Oh my, you are experienced at this sort of thing. I wanted you to be a faithful minion."
"You'll have to settle for me beating the crap outta things in Hell."
"No small loss, as I could use a few less upstarts. I really wanted you as my concubine though."
"No friggin' way. Now is it a deal, or not."
"A shame, but it is a deal. But."
"You'll have to find the girl on your own... Unless you'd like to lease your soul to me for that information?"
"Hah, you think I can't find one girl in the multiverse on my own?"
"It would be a long search, considering-"
"Five minutes, tops."
"-The fact that you've been displaced in time by about a month."
"Oh, did your God neglect to give you that information? A shame. After hitting the ground, he'd probably offer you a chance to go after the girl... For the price of another task."
"Gee, what a big surprise. I am totally shocked."
"Don't be snide, it's unbecoming of you."
"Lady, I'm all about being snide. And a total jerk."
"So I've noticed... Better hurry." With the sensation of something brushing over his ear, the voice was gone.
For awhile, he hung there in the air, his head bowed in thought. Another fine mess this has turned out to be. Ah screw it. Shaking his head, his eyes snapped open, glowing bright green for an instant. Then there was a bright flash of light.
And he was gone.
And that ends everything. That's all there is, there is no more...
For this story. Now, the story of what happens to Ukyo, and trying to find the object of her desires, is another thing entirely. And from what it seems, a few of you really want to see that story be told.
But enough about that for the moment, let's talk about Mato's wrap up.
Originally, I had planned on ending it with the line 'and waited for the inevitable to happen'. But as I looked over some of the reviews (that came in wickedly fast, I must say) it seemed to me that you all might not enjoy such a closed-faced ending. So rather than open the new story with the exposition, it winds up here as a closer. If you're not interested in it all, I'll pull a Stephen King, and say 'just close the book at this part, and pretend it was finished with a happy ending'.
Lame, I know. But hey, if you're not interested in another story, who the HELL are you to judge?
I didn't bother to pad out the ending with showing all the characters, because it's an epilogue, not an end of credits easter egg thing. If it were an anime, then sure, I'd wrap it all behind the credits with stuff like...
Ryoga standing atop the Sphinx in Egypt, glaring at an upside down map of Hawaii.
Mousse scrubbing dishes in the Nekohanten, while Shampoo babbled on about how much ass she kicked in China (we assume, since there's no sound during the credits, save the ending theme) while wearing one of her fanservice waitress fangirl special outfits. What a shocker that Mousse has his glasses on, and is scrubbing the same plate the entire time.
Genma-Panda sleeping, rolling over, and scratching his ass, right at the camera.
Kasumi serving Soun, Nabiki and Kuno tea.
Kuno being promptly booted out the window by Ranma.
The Golden Pair tripping over a large crack in the ice.
The empty Ucchan.
And finally, a close up shot of those two Kanji on an otherwise nondescript grey chunk of stone...
Just over the little image of the bandanna, the characters for 'Mato'.
But it's not an anime, so be satisfied with a mental image of what it could've looked like.
What? What would the ending theme be? Well, I always thought that Nanishitenno by SURFACE sounded right for Mato's image song, so, why not that?
... You have no idea what that is, or how to find it, do you? Fine. I'll help you, just a little. Go Google 'surface nanishitenno'.
...What? That was helping.
Oh whatever. And don't ask me what the video's about, as I have no idea. Just play it in the background, and type up your reviews demanding to know what the hell Mato's ending was supposed to mean.
You know you want to.
Review replies! For the final time on this one too... Let's try and make this somewhat memorable, shall we?
My-name-is-foxglove- To be honest, I'm always surprised when people tell me that my writing carries emotional impact. Now watch like ten people tell me that on this chapter alone. Hopefully, this chapter won't reduce you to a sniffling wreck. I'm aiming for a wistful smile here, I think. And close to Takahashi goodness? Sweet. I'm touched.
That's one for a sequel.
beartooth- Think it'll be cream cheese icing? I love that stuff. Though honestly, I'm not sure how many answers the epilogue has, as much as just closure. Well, I hope you liked it either way.
James Birdsong- Glad to know I can keep my readers happy. Thanks for all the short reviews. Heh.
Pryde Kitty- Honestly? I really only made two... Ok, three, if you count Bob WHICH I DON'T! Bob is not getting a spinoff! Never I say! And... Mato gets some more love, nice.
Two for a sequel. And my first threat if I don't deliver...
Jusenkyo- Yeah, I do the combat good, but I really like to pound out the chatter. I guess I need to work a little harder on finding the perfect balance. And honestly? I'm a little surprised at just how attached everyone got to Mato. He is a jerk, you know. Funny you should mention the Mato/Ukyo love being illegal... Maybe I should print out t-shirts, or release that picture of Mato, hmm... Anyway, here it is, hope it was worth the wait.
SithKnight-Galen- I am on popcorn. Yummy, yummy, buttery popcorn. And I'm not mad, just, a little unhinged? HAH! Oh, I'm sorry, I just read the part about Mato getting some rest. In his own words;
"No nap? No friggin' new crapshack of a body."
Apparently, it's time to do things his way. God help us all. And yes, I guess I can write the sweetie moments, when I need to... Need to keep the romance hungry fans from gnawing my ankles off. Back, back I say! And do the care packages come with pretty bows, and chocolate covered cherries? Because I might risk opening them then. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out how a record company can sue me! I- ack, ok... It's all going to my head now. But to be fair, the Demon killed Mato once, and he technically killed it twice. How's that for ultimate payback?
Three for a sequel, and another threat. Eep.
MarieBaringer- Yup, everybody loves/mourns Mato. Hmm, a sitcom next, perhaps? Glad you liked it, and stuck on through to the end.
Baitdcat- Geez, I need to start issuing kleenex warnings in my chapters, don't I? Everybody gets so happy/sad. But yes, Ukyo and Mato have one sweet moment, then I utterly crush all your hopes for a happy ending... Or do I?
...Yeah, I pretty much do, don't I? Glad that you liked both Mato, and the story as a whole.
Four for a sequel.
Well, that's it I guess. It's the end of the line here, and we're all about to get off the train, and move on with our own lives... Some of you will be sticking around to get on the next train, I assume...
Geez, I guess I'd better start getting to work on the next story, huh? Wouldn't wanna get lynched or anything...