The 2nd Bet

'Into Dreams'

Ranma/NiGHTS into Dreams crossover

The more Toltiir thought about 'Foxie's' idea, the less he was beginning to like it. Having another bet would be a good way to shake out the conundrum of constant Ranma and Sailor moon mergers and crossings (Why in the infinite planes did that particular crossover tend to happen so often anyhow?), but the most grating thing about the situation was that the lesser spirits could enter. Keeping the Gods in line was bad enough, but now the workload was just going to overflow.

The cat groused, as it felt the presence of something with way too little power for his tastes. "Goody, another one. So you think you can play with the big boys?"

An androgynous character, dressed in a purple harlequin's outfit, with lush eyes that held a child's joy, and a knowing smirk of a wise man that knew the way and nature of things, glided towards its feline host. Spinning once, then bowing in a way an ostentatious showman would, the would-be entriest presented him/herself, and awaited acknowledgement. Toltiir cocked his head once he realized what type of spirit was before him.

"Interesting, a dream spirit, Nightmeran I believe. What do you plan to do?" The dream spirit just shrugged in a jovial manner and gestured to the pool, awaiting the power boost that would provide him/her access...


Three weeks.

It's been three weeks and the nightmares weren't easing any. Ranma rocked in a fitful slumber, disturbing imagery and words assailing him in the dream plane. No one in the household bothered to come check up on him, assuming it was just his usual reoccurring nightmare about cats at the times he shot up screaming. Most times he awoke frantically but silent, the despair he felt holding a lifeless girl in his hands, eyes closed to the world forever...

No matter how hard he fought, and each night he dreamed he had fought harder than before, but he still failed her. Each time he would *just* get to the fountain and both would awash in the mystical waters, and each time her eyelids would twitch, but never flutter open. Her breathing would never return, her skin remained pasty, as a doll's.

It was a despair that rotted the very core of Ranma Saotome; in his dreams he would die right with her, or at least he wanted to. Unfortunately he felt the sneers and looks of contempt upon his back; their taunts wrapping around him like a python crushing, and in paradox, sustaining his life.

"Pathetic Ranma! You LET Akane die! She didn't deserve that, OR you!" An unfelt tear slowly trailed down the pigtailed boy's cheek, no matter how much he wanted to tune it out, he was going to be made to hear every word. "I should kill you for this, rip you to shreds and leave you as lifeless as the girl you failed," Sneered Ryoga, but then continued, "but you're not worth my rivalry. You're just as garbage to me."

"Aiyah, Aire... Pigtail boy not strong as Shampoo thought," came an ironically perky voice that was tinged with consideration and contempt, "Shampoo happy to find out soon. Ranma too weak to marry strong womens."

"The kiss of Marriage... is annulled," proclaimed a withered voice, as Cologne pogoed out of the darkness, her eyes emotionless and cold to Ranma, as if she was observing a specimen in a petri dish. "Come Shampoo, Mousse, it is time we returned. Let us leave this... boy... to his misery."

Mousse looked like he was going to say something, but almost immediately his demeanor changed as he realized it just wasn't worth it. Bugs that small were to be ignored, not worth the energy to crunch them under the heel.

"Shampoo ready, Spatula Girl can have weak male now."

"Nu-uh, Sugar. I've already spent enough time on this two-bit loser. Feh, couldn't even save one of his fiancées, you think someone like that is worth bothering over? And he thought it was his curse that made him less of a man..."

Ranma worked up the energy to speak, desperation in his voice like salt in the sea, "Ucchan, are-aren't we friends?" Everyone was beginning to abandon him, he needed someone.

Ukyo strode up to him, her eyes shadowed, but her mouth pulled into a smirk and cheerfully said, "Why, Ranchan, who would want to be friends with trash like you?" With that she bent down and patted him on the back, then strode away, fading into the darkness with the Amazons and Ryoga.

"Ranma, Ranma, Ranma," Kasumi was next to come into view from the darkness, followed by Nabiki. Kasumi wore her usual cheery smile, but it felt different, like the difference between the rays of the sun and the emptiness of the abyss, "and to think I cooked, cleaned, and looked after you for all this time. I'll now have time to do other things it seems.

Nabiki's scowl spoke volumes. Her righteous anger combined with her usual countenance that made Ranma's Soul of Ice seem like a summer breeze. He could imagine the waves of mist flowing around her.

"Ranma, you're not welcome into our house no longer. If I had known back then what I know now, I would have stayed sober the night I made that pledge with your father," Soun's voice was solemn and sterile of emotion as he spoke.

"This... refuge is not my son," simply stated a speaking panda

Others had shown up; Ranma's mother didn't even acknowledge him as he cried out for her attention as she walked by. Even if it was in demand that he commit seppuku for his failure, he just wanted her words. She continued by, her back straightened at his wails and she shifted the Saotome honor sword in her grasp; never bothering to turn back around. Kuno couldn't have sounded more contemptuous towards Ranma as his sister disclaimed him. Friends of Ranma and Akane's from school showed no fear as they told him exactly their feelings on the matter. All Ranma could do was sit still as the constricting feeling around him tightened with each venomous word hurled towards him. But the coupe de grace came from the rapidly cooling figure in his arms...

"I should have known better than to believe in you."

That was the point Ranma had woken up every time, but this time was different. Ranma felt a glimmer of something. Something that he thought had died when Akane never took another breath...


The pigtailed boy turned towards the direction he felt the now foreign seeming emotion originated. A pinprick of light, barely perceptible to his eye at first, began to grow, drawing a beam of light that turned into an illuminated path.

Ranma looked back down at the body of Akane just in time to see it sifting from his grasp like sand. Everyone that had tormented him in his dream grew into ogres and devils, pointing and taunting the emotionally wounded boy as he felt the need to escape.

Ranma dashed onto the path with all his might, knowing wherever it lead to would be much better than here. As he ran, the darkness around him warped into a primarily violet light show, with wisps of white lights flying about.

Ranma found his destination just in front of him. The pinprick seemed like an exit, or an entrance to another place. Ranma desperately reached for it...


Akane dreamt of her prom. For several weeks after the last wedding incident, she had been preparing for it, and she looked dazzling. She nervously awaited her date for the night she was supposed to remember for the rest of her life.

Ranma strolled down and lazily walked into the living room to sit in front of the TV. Akane would have been irked at his gall, if it weren't for the fact that he wasn't dressed to go.

Slowly, extreme surprise was replaced by growing anger when she finally spoke, "Ranma, why aren't you ready for our prom?"

The pigtailed boy looked towards Akane with a dumbfounded look, "Who said I was going to go with you?"

Akane once again stood shocked, she had assumed...

"Look at you, a tomboy all gussied up and ready to go, sorry but I got other plans."

Akane paused, that sounded like one of his usual taunts, but there was something missing. No, replaced by... by contempt? The raven-haired girl focused on Ranma's face, and stepped back with a gasp. The expression there was totally alien to her from him, and she didn't know how to handle it. Ranma didn't look like his usual smug self after a shot at his fiancée; he looked more annoyed and contemptuous towards her.

"Ranma, you jerk!" Even to her own ears, the words seemed to lose their potency as she brought her mallet out of hyperspace preparing to deliver her rightful vengeance. As soon as she brought it down to strike, without turning from the TV Ranma's hand snaked out and ripped it from her grasp and tossed it away. Akane shivered, realizing that he had NEVER done that before, and that he could have at any time.

"My dear *little* sister, did you really think you could keep treating him like that and get away with it?" questioned Nabiki's voice behind her. Akane turned to see her look with an expression almost the same as Ranma's, except her eyes were laughing at her.

"But, but, HE DESERVED IT!" Akane yelled indignantly, knowing that argument always won for her. This time though, it lacked its finalizing conviction.

"Oh my, Akane, when will you grow up? In that dress you look just like a little girl playing princess," Kasumi's words were a bit confusing to Akane. She wasn't sure if she was being insulted, or if Kasumi was just being her usual aloof self.

"Ha! Kitchen destroyer never grow up! She spoiled brat that can't cook, can't fight, can't..."

Ranma's voice joined Shampoo's

" anything right, built like a brick, thighs too thick..."

Ukyo suddenly appeared and the three continued in chorus.

"Ugly as a mule, twice as strong!"

The trio and the rest of the Tendou family, Soun and Kasumi included, laughed, as tears streaked down Akane's cheek. Every insecurity she felt was brought to the forefront, along with the main one that cut the deepest.

"Ranma, please..." Akane gasped, suddenly emotionally overwhelmed and desperately grasping for even the smallest bit of approval from Ranma.

The pigtailed boy scowled at her and turned away, putting an arm over Shampoo and Ukyo, "Comon, you two, why don't we go and see what this prom thing is all about?"

Suddenly all three of them were dressed in regal outfits. Akane looked around to see her sisters and her father wearing expensive dresses and suits, accompanied by everyone that would be at her Junior Prom. Akane realized that she also was in Furinkan High's gym, where the prom was to be held. Everyone seemed to be sneering at her before she caught the whispers of 'little girl' floating around.

The raven haired girl looked down at her own gown, noticing that it lost its luster, and hung down on her like an old drapery. Her esteem dropped to danger levels as she turned with teary eyes away, looking for an escape.

She pushed through the crowds of people who wouldn't spare her the courtesy or the effort to part for her, as her eyes caught a glimmer at the other end of the school gym-turned-dancehall. She fought furiously to reach the other end, the task seeming to be infinite as the gym seemed to fill with more people (she could have sworn she had seen many of the same people twice and even three times) and the gym grew longer.

Finally, after enduring the gauntlet, she reached it, and the comforting light from the other end beckoned her...