Know it sounds funny but I just can't stand the pain

Girl I'm leaving you tomorrow

Seems to me girl you know I've done all I can

You see I begged, stole and I borrowed

Yeah

That's why I'm easy

I'm easy like Sunday morning

That's why I'm easy

I'm easy like Sunday morning

I wanna be high

So high

I wanna be free to know the things I do are right

I wanna be free

Just me

Oh baby

That's why I'm easy

I'm easy like Sunday morning

That's why I'm easy

I'm easy like Sunday morning

('Easy' Faith-no-more Version)

Soul Heir

A Ranma ½ Fanfiction by Ralf Martin

Disclaimer: All characters are courtesy of Rumiko Takahashi. Except those who aren't. I plundered them from someone else, but I'm not going to tell you who.

Chapter 1. The Gordic-Maneuver



"This sucks.." Ranma muttered darkly as he dragged his battered body back home. His clothes were in tatters, his face bruised and out of his ruffled mop of hair small spatulas stuck out like some strange ornament. To top things off it had just started to rain. Feeling the water trigger the all too familiar transformation he directed a baleful eye at the gray clouds as if he suspected to see a mocking face up there, laughing at his expense.

"Yeah, go on, have some fun with the freak...!" he called challengingly to the celestial nuisance. The heavens, as was their usual behavior, didn't reply and so, after a minute of standing there, he let out a disgusted snort and continued on his way to the Tendo residence, cursing his father, his engagements and, maybe most of all, his own inability to do anything about them.

"So, son. Have you finally managed to convince that Kuonji girl to drop the engagement?" Soun asked hopefully as Ranma slumped unceremonially into a corner of the living room and started to treat his wounds.

"Does it look like I did?" Ranma growled back, making a show out of plucking the spatulas from his scalp. "Anyway, I'd really like to know why it's my job to sort out this mess. I mean, most of it is pop's fault and I don't see him get beat up or nothing..."

"Gee, Ranma," Nabiki quipped from where she sat, reading a manga, "do you already want to give up? Of course, you have been trying to convince your little harem to give up on you for what, three months? Maybe it's time to cut the losses and ask for professional help..!" The last part she said with a grin that would have caused the Cheshire-cat to hide in the woods.

"Yeah, right." He replied without much excitement. "And probably stay in your debt for the rest of my life? Nah, thanks sooo much."

"But son!" Soun wailed (wail Nr. 7329: 'Protection from getting the crap beat out of me for saying something that will get people mad but they won't hit a pathetic loser.') "Do you want to keep Akane waiting forever? Oh ye gods, my little girl will be old and gray before you marry her!" He quickly changed his wail to Nr. 6113, not that anyone noticed the difference.

"Hey," Ranma shot back out of reflex, "who said I want to marry that.. " He paused for a second, suddenly out of words. Or, more specifically, out of appropriate words. Since that failed wedding he had found that stuff like 'uncute', 'sexless' or 'build like a brick' conflicted with memories of a wedding-dress and a smile and left a bitter taste in his mouth whenever he used them. "..tomboy." he finished lamely, clinging to one of the last of his usual names for her . After all, it still described her pretty well, even though he suspected that he didn't really mind that little fact.

"Ranma, that's not a very nice thing to say," Nabiki chided him casually, "especially if said 'tomboy' can hear you..."

"Huh?" he asked intelligently, registering for the first time the buildup of an all too familiar aura right next to him. And true to Nabiki's words, when he turned his head, the hurt expression of his local fiancée greeted him.

"Is that so?" Akane asked in an annoyed tone of voice. "Well, then you sure don't want this either.." With that she poured the steaming contents of the kettle she carried over his head, returning him to his male form. "..or this.." she added, slapping a towel into his face. Then she turned on her heels, stomping out of the room under the scrutinizing stares of her family and the guilty one of her fiancé. Soon after she had left, a door slammed shut upstairs. As if woken up by the sound, life started to return to the living-room.

"Gee, what's with her lately?" Nabiki asked no one in particular. "It's nice that she's keeping the repair-costs at a minimum but it's getting scary nonetheless."

Ranma didn't bother to answer the question, though he had a pretty good idea about the 'why'. Instead, he toweled his head mechanically as he stared into the distance, lost in thought.

Kasumi stepped out onto the porch just as the sun waved a last farewell over the rooftops of Nerima, painting the sky with a dark-red taint. Drying the last of the dishwater from her hands via her apron, she watched the spectacle only partially aware of its beauty, as her mind was busy with other matters. Even without looking, she knew that Ranma would be sitting to her right, watching the Koi-pond in introspection. This had become his habit for the last couple of weeks. Ever since he had taken up the duty to straighten out his engagements and corresponding entanglements, as he had been told to do after the failed wedding, he had become quieter, tenser and his frustration showed more and more. Kasumi hated to see him like that. To her it seemed unfair that this young man had to carry a burden he had never been taught to deal with, while the one who should have taught him to, and mainly responsible for the whole mess, lounged in the living-room without any apparent concern in the world. But even though Kasumi seemed oblivious most of the time, and maybe was, even she wasn't truly surprised about one Genma Saotome happily ignoring troubled times like these. No, there was no help to be expected from the senior male of the Saotome-clan, or, she had to admit, the Tendo-clan either. So, as the female senior of her family, she saw it as her duty, if nothing else, to support Ranma in the only way she knew how to, by supplying him with a friendly ear and a smile.

"You know," she said in a reminiscing voice, "Mom used to sit in the same place whenever she needed to think. She always said that the best ideas travel on the back of a jumping Koi."

"Dunno," Ranma replied quietly, showing no signs of surprise from her presence, "maybe she fetched all the good ones already. The ones I got turned out pretty bad."

"Would you tell me about it?" she asked politely, staying put in her place as to not project a feeling of intrusion. Ranma turned his head and looked up at her, a slight frown on his otherwise blank face, clearly weighting the pros and cons of her request. Finally he nodded, gesturing for her to sit down by his side.

"I've been over at 'Ucchan's' today," he began once Kasumi sat comfortably. "Mom had me make Ukyou an offer about paying for the yattai, with dues and all. She even offered to adopt her into our clan in case that her family wouldn't agree. I really hoped that Ukyou would go for it, but she didn't." He absently fingered one of the bumps on his head. "Nope, she definitely didn't like it."

Touched a particularly sour spot he winced, cursing under his breath.

"I mean it's stupid! She knows that I can't marry her..."

His voice trailed of for a second as his feet seemed to draw in all of his attention. Then, with a sigh, he continued.

"Ok, I could, in theory. But then I would have to deal with the amazons and the.., and your family first. And with Shampoo it's just the same thing. She's insisting on that stupid law of hers and telling me that she never can go home without me as her husband. Two weeks ago I even lost to Mousse in a fight just to give her an opening! I mean, honestly! That guy is all nuts about her while I would never make a .. What do they call it? ..proper amazon male? Yeah right, that's me…"

For a second, that mocking smirk that had become his trademark returned to his face. Just a second, and then the resigned was back.

"Anyway, it was hard enough to make it look halfway descent, and what does she do? Tells me that her stupid law doesn't apply because he ain't no outsider!"

"You lost to Mouse? Willingly?" Kasumi asked, slight surprise in her voice from knowing Ranma's usual view concerning defeat. "You are very serious about this, aren't you?"

"Desperate is more like it.." Ranma replied with a wry chuckle. "Doesn't change one fact though. Neither Ukyou nor Shampoo are going to give up on me anytime soon." Having said that, he fell silent again. They both just sat and watched the Koi for a while. Then Kasumi asked the unavoidable question.

"What about Akane?"

"What about her?" Ranma returned the question in a slightly uneasy tone.

"Do you want to get out of our families arrangements too?" Kasumi's asked, sounding equally uneasy.

"Does it matter?" he replied, "With our dads supporting that engagement I really don't see any way out of it."

He almost jumped up in surprise by the soft touch of Kasumi's hand on his shoulder. Turning his head towards her, he noticed a sad expression on her face, so very unlike her usual smile.

"It matters, Ranma. For you as well as for Akane. And I'm sure, if you told her that you need to get out of the engagement, .." She sighed, her shoulders slumping a little. ".. I'm sure she would support you."

"Yeah, bet she would.." Ranma snorted, somewhat unnerved by Kasumi's unusual behavior. Noticing the frown starting to mar her usual calm features, he almost backpedaled.

"Ranma!" she chided him, although softly, "you know that she would support you. Even if it would hurt her. Whatever your choice, Akane will do her best to help you.. and so will I."

They stared at one another in silence for several long moments, until Ranma hung his head in apparent defeat.

"I know," he finally admitted, "but even then there would still be too much mess left.."

"That's true," Kasumi agreed sadly, "but there simply has to be a way to sort everything out."

"Sure," Ranma remarked with a shrug. "I just hope I find one soon…"

---

Ranma's current determination to clean up some of the chaos in his life, namely his multiple engagements, had one unexpected side-effect. His scores in school improved. This was mainly caused by the fact that he actually listened to what the teacher talked about, even if it was simply to get his mind from running in circles. It's a well known fact that if you think too much about one and the same problem you get kind of stuck in the way you look at them. A little distraction goes a long way in giving you a new perspective and right now, that distraction was schoolwork. If anybody had told Ranma three months ago that he would concentrate on mathematics or history to clear his mind he would have surely laughed out loud. But right now, the teachers constant droning about the Togukawa-period was balm for Ranma's frayed nerves. Even if he would probably remember less than half of the stated names and dates in the coming test.

Ranma wasn't the only person in class who's mind was in dire need of distraction. One such person went by the name of Kuonji Ukyou, a.k.a. Ranma's 'cute' fiancée. Right at the moment she was still pretty pissed from Ranma's latest try of 'getting rid of her' as she called it. She didn't know why he would do something like that, or rather, she chose to ignore his more probable reasons. Like he actually might not want to marry her. Such a thought was nonsense in her book after all. So she tried to think of a more plausible reason to explain his deeds. Like his parents had brainwashed or used a potion on him or this was just an evil clone and her 'Ran-chan' waited for her to rescue him, locked up in some dusty basement. Or maybe some mind-controlling aliens were conducting a strange and dangerous experiment to test the strength of human love... Those musings didn't get her anywhere, and in the end Ukyou realized that she had better listened to the teacher. Dull as history might be, there would soon be a test after all.

While we're taking stock of troubled minds, it would be rude to forget about Tendo Akane, the other 'official' fiancée of Ranma. This was a little curious because she obviously should be happy. After all, she was currently leading the polls of who would be the most likely girl to finally make the catch. And Ranma was about to convince the other girls to give up on him too, right? And he didn't insult her as much as he used to, right? And because of this he didn't spend that much time freeloading in two certain restaurants anymore, right? So if everything is coming up roses, where's the catch? Well, in Akane's case, the catch was that even though matters seemed to be improving generally, she still didn't know for sure where she stood with her fiancé. With him spending most of his time brooding and only talking to her about small stuff, if he talked at all, she simply couldn't tell if he did any of this to be with her, or if he would one day simply walk up to her while he was at it and end their engagement too. Because, deep down, Akane feared the day when Ranma would grow some serious backbone. After all, given her record of temper-tantrums and malletings, as well as her general lack of domestic-skills generally looked after in a prospective bride, she deemed herself justified for a little worrying.

The were even more people then just those three who were unhappy or uneasy with the current situation, like Shampoo and therefore by association Mousse and Cologne. Konatsu too was worried and the Kunos were frigging mad, but seriously, that didn't draw much attention. The only one not affected by the general sense of uneasiness and bad portents was Ryoga, but then again, he didn't hang around Nerima much off late so how could he. But seeing that he was currently on his way to the Unryuu-farm it was only a matter of time until he showed up at the Tendo-residence. Predictable, ain't he?

---

School was finally out and all the good children were going home. So were Ranma and Akane for that matter. They walked side by side in silence, Ranma with his head down and a thoughtful expression marring his features, Akane worriedly eyeing her distracted fiancé. But with this being the Nerima district, certain standards had to be upheld and so, soon enough, the silence got shattered by an ear-piercing scream.

"Where on earth am I nowww!!!"

The screamer didn't have to introduce himself any further, both of them recognized the voice immediately.

"That sounded like Ryoga," Akane said, snapping out of her observation.

"Yeah," Ranma agreed distractedly, "sounds like it came from over there."

He pointed at a small park by the roadside.

Akane grabbed him by the arm, dragging him towards the indicated direction.

"Come on," she told him, "let's have a look. Maybe we can help him out."

"Yeah right," Ranma grumbled as he followed her reluctantly, "it's not like giving him directions would do any good."

"Oh shut up, will ya," Akane shot back, "just because he gets lost easily doesn't have to say that he's hopeless. Contrary to other people I could name..."

"Ah yeah? And that's supposed to mean what..?"

Some couples like to exchange pleasantries, some couples like to exchange smiles and touches and some simply like to argue.

'Well,' Akane thought while trading barbs, 'at least he's talking to me.'

Ryoga was once again trying desperately to figure out how the discrepancy between his map and the space he currently occupied had come to pass. Even with the trees and grass around him this didn't really look like rural Honshu. He was just about to stop and ask some passerby to explain the location when he recognized the arguing couple closing in on him. Now, it had been previously stated that Ryoga lacked information about the latest proceedings and so, while he was glad to see two familiar faces he was equally pissed off by their conduct. Or, to be precise, Ranma's conduct. After all, given Ryoga's view of Akane, how could she do anything wrong? This might be based on the fact that after all, Ryoga still had a thing for Akane. Or two. Or three. Still, after what happened in China, he had resigned to the simple equation of 'Ranma + Akane = 1 couple' and by his estimation, they should have started to act like one about three months ago. And if they didn't, this had to be Ranma's fault. Simple, isn't it?

Ranma, for his part, enjoyed the occasional arguments he had with his tomboyish fiancée. They had changed a little since their return from China and that bogus-wedding. They used fewer of their old ACME-insults (you know, 'uncute', 'pervert', 'built like a brick', 'jerk') and instead had started to treat them like a real fight, complete with blocks and sweeps and special-techniques.) Sounds scary? Maybe, but it wasn't that bad. Actually, in forcing themselves to use their brains instead of standardized responses in a dispute it actually resulted in a lot less structural and emotional damage. They had even ended with some kind of mutual understanding or an apology once or twice. So for Ranma, arguing with Akane was one of the brighter parts of his day, and he didn't really think twice of doing so right in front of his second-favorite sparing-partner.

"Hello Ryoga!" Akane called out, waving at the fanged boy across a small expand of lawn. "Over here!"

"Your sure he gonna make it all the way on his own?" Ranma remarked dryly.

"Oh come on, he's not Mousse. He can see me."

"Ain't got that much to say with him. See?"

Akane frowned as Ryoga tried to reach them via a small crop of trees to their left.

"Ah, shut up." she hissed before calling out loud again. "Over here Ryoga!"

"Gee, this could take all day," Ranma remarked as the fanged-boy turned in the opposite direction.

"Then why don't you go and bring him over?" Akane demanded to know .

"'Cause it's been your idea to come here, " he replied casually. "Me, I would have more important stuff to do right now."

"Like what? Dinner?"

"Hey, why not? A hard-working guy like me needs to eat regularly."

"Sure, as long as it's not me doing the cooking."

"When I said 'eat', I had actual food in mind, you know."

"Oh, and what I'm cooking ain't food? Is that what your hinting at?"

"Only as long as you stick to that curry-recipe of yours. The other stuff is mostly toxic."

"How do you know? It's not as if you ever actually eat any of it."

"Well, maybe that's because I usually pass out after the first bite..."

While those two had their fun bickering, Ryoga actually managed to reach them all on his own. And being of a chivalrous nature, he just had to come to Akane's defense of course.

"Ranma," he growled, "you take that back!"

"Huh?" the addressed boy asked back, "take what back?"

"Whatever you said to insult Akane!" Ryoga shot back, unfazed by own his lack of information.

"It's ok, Ryoga," Akane tried to intervene, putting a hand on his shoulder, "it's been nothing serious."

"You heard her," Ranma added sourly, one eyebrow raised because of the show of intimacy before him, even if it was rather harmless in nature. "No need to butt in..."

Ryoga glared back at him, baring his impressive set of teeth.

"Do you expect me to stand idly by while you treat Akane like this?"

"Oh, and what exactly would you advice I treat her like?" Ranma asked back with a smirk, knowing full well what kind of answer to expect.

"Damn you, Ranma," Ryoga growled, really getting into it now, "You should be nice to her treat her with respect! In case you haven't noticed yet, she's your fiancée!"

"Gee," Ranma deadpanned with a dismissive wave of his hand, "if I'd be nice to every girl I'm engaged to, who'd be left to tease?"

Wrooong thing to say.

Ranma ran as if all hounds of hell were after him and actually, that wasn't too far from the truth.

Skidding around a corner he dared to take a look back and take stock of his pursuers. There was Akane for starters, waving her infamous mallet in the air, and Ryoga with his trusty umbrella raised high. Then there was Kuno, a live-steel blade in his hand as was his habit since the wedding. They had passed by him on the street and he never needed any more invitation to join the hunt. Next came Shampoo with her bonbori. Ranma had barreled into her during his flight and for some strange reason she had taken offence in that. Maybe he shouldn't have stepped on her face, but hey, that hadn't happened on purpose. And as Shampoo was there, Mousse was there too, alternating between his professions of love for the lethal amazon and his prophecies of doom for her fleeing 'Airen'. Last but not least came Ukyou with her massive spatula. This made Ranma realized that it had been a bad idea to take the shortcut through her restaurant with all those loonies in tow. It had produced quite a commotion in there, and lately she hadn't been too happy with him to boot. But what the heck, the more, the merrier.

To tell the truth, Ranma actually enjoyed those chases, with everyone after him and he always staying just that one step ahead. It was good training after all, and it was in those moments, when the rush of adrenaline pushed aside everything idle and unimportant, that he was able to think the clearest. And man, did he need to think. So his body ran down streets and jumped over fences, acting on a mostly automated program fine-tuned over the years, when inspiration suddenly struck him like an eighteen-wheeler going a hundred miles an hour.

This was his life, right?

Everyone wanted a piece of him but he would never let himself be caught, always staying just that aforementioned step ahead.

Therefor the hunt would go on. And on. And on.

Because his pursuers would never give up.

And he was unlikely to give in.

On the other hand he had promised to sort out this mess. Well, kind of promised. He hadn't argued against the order to stop it, so there. He had even made a couple of frustratingly futile attempts to accommodate them.

So yes, his honor demanded he made an end to this perpetual hunt.

And if those that hounded him couldn't be convinced to end this on his terms, he had no choice but to end it on theirs, right?

Even if he wasn't too keen on giving in to anyone.

But then again, this were his friends he was talking about. It's not so bad to give in to your friends, right? So there.

Now, what was it what everyone wanted?

What would he get if he reduced everyone's problem to a common denominator?

Oh..!

Figures..

At least, in his the current situation, he didn't have to worry about how to get them all together in one place.

Ranma laughed out loud, a hysteric undertone mixing into what should have been a carefree expression of joy. Everything was so simple, really.

That's probably why he hadn't seen it before.

There was an empty lot in the vicinity of the Tendo-dojo. Everyone in Nerima had at least heard some stories about this place. It had quite the reputation. Here, duels between some of the finest martial-artists Japan had ever produced had taken place. Between some of the weirdest too. This place had seen magic and monsters, princes and heroes and all in all, it had a larger amusement value than most of Tokyo's cinema-complexes combined.

It was a traditional places for the local martial-artists community to begin things, or to end them. Once and for all. So it simply was the most logical place for Ranma to lead the pack to. After all, he had a little bit of a traditionalist inside him.

Once he got there, he immediately moved to the center of the area and turned to face his pursuers.

Seeing their quarry obviously preparing to make a stand, the mob stumbled to a halt, a little confused by the sudden change of tactics.

Ranma simply looked at each one of them in turn, his infamous smirk firmly in place.

"What's the matter," he called out mockingly, "suddenly shy? Come and get me! If you can!"

They didn't need much more coercing to proceed where they had left off, namely rushing at him.

Except for Akane, that is.

She stayed put in her place, her mallet tightly in front of her chest and a confused frown on her face. She liked to bash her wayward fiancé as much as the next man, but this time something felt wrong. She couldn't quite put her finger on it.

Was it the way he had looked at them?

His posture?

The slightly off sound of his voice when taunting them?

She just couldn't tell, but suddenly she had a very bad feeling about all this.

He moved like a cat. Like and incredibly strong, incredibly graceful cat. She couldn't tell him this, for obvious reasons, but a cat was the animal he had always reminded her off most. One moment buckling and hissing, the next dosing in a sunny spot. His only worry in the world where his next meal would come from. Just like those animals he despised the most. That thing about the Nekko-ken really was a shame. He probably would have been a cat-person otherwise. Akane wondered for a moment why she was thinking along those lines while her fiancé was actually fighting off about half a dozen powerful martial-artist bristling with deadly weaponry. She should be out there, screaming for them to stop this lunacy at once. Or maybe she should end this fight like she always did, with a mallet to Ranma's head. But somehow she could only watch in fascination, feeling strangely detached from the whole ordeal. Just an observer on the sidelines, neither cheering for the one side or the other. Anyway, what were the chances that they actually succeeded in even touching him? After all, this was Ranma! So she watched as he darted through his assembled adversaries, evading them, taunting them, drawing them in an ever complicating dance.

Round and round and round…

Suddenly it dawned on her what he was up to. Why he was only dodging instead of fighting back. He was trying to trap them in a Hiryu Shoten Ha! It almost made her laugh that the others were obviously falling for it. After all, everyone in that crowd had already witnessed the threat this attack posed, if they hadn't experienced it first hand. But then again, in the heat of battle one might overlook details like that. The next thing Akane realized was that, with all those extremely powerful fighters flaring off their auras like nuclear reactors on the brink of bursting, this would very likely become the mother of all Dragon blasts. If Ranma wasn't careful, there was a likely chance of structural damage to the neighborhood. Scratch that, there was a very likely chance of heavy damage to the involved fighters.

Akane's eyes grew wide with shock and a cold feeling took possession of her.

Was this what he planned to do?

Simply kill them all?

Ranma knew that he was almost there. His enemies, his friends, were already in a blind rush to hit him, oblivious to the otherwise obvious reasons behind his tactics. His taunts and his skills in evading their attacks had placed them in this state. After all, they had egos too. And what was worse for martial-artists than never coming even close to hitting their target? Even if part of the reason was that they constantly got into one another's way. It didn't matter if they realized this or not, for the outcome would be the same. They would be playing right into his hands. Ever following closely along the tightening coils of his spiral, like water that couldn't help but flush down the drain. Dancing his deadly waltz to the final point of release, he took a tight rain over his chi, bracing for the task at hand.

"Hiryu" he shouted, ducking under one of Ryoga's wide swings.

"Shoten" he continued, evading a Katana and a couple of chains while pirouetting straight toward the spiral's middle.

"Ha.." he screamed, watching as the eyes of his opponents widened with the realization of their impending doom. They all struck out in one last, desperate attempt to bring him down before he could send them on a wild ride towards the clouds, knowing full well that is was already too late.

To their utter surprise and growing horror, it wasn't.

Akane watched with wide eyes as the fight drew to a close.

She saw Ranma step into position, calling out the name for his most prized technique.

She saw him raise his fist to the heavens and waited for the display of his Chi lashing out and starting a violent chain-reaction with the already energy-saturated air, initiating a maelstrom of destruction that the attacking group could not hope to withstand.

Only, not even a light breeze came up.

Instead there were some sickening sounds like steel hitting living flesh.

The sound a Katana made when it pierced a chest.

The sound of an impossibly heavy umbrella crushing a shoulder.

The sound of a bonbori pulverizing a hip.

The sound of knives.

Of spatulas.

The pain was unbearable. But then again, Ranma had been prepared for this and knew that he wouldn't have to put up with it for long. He hadn't come here to suffer after all. He had come here to die.

For a second he wondered if that had been really such a grand idea at all.

Letting himself getting killed like that.

He pushed the thought aside though. He was no doctor, but he knew that his condition was fatal, so there was no backing out now. The only thing left to do was to end what he had started and pray that everything worked out.

"..-ttari" he finished the name of his move as he sank to his knees.*

Akane was by his side in an instant, crossing the distance at a speed that would have Olympic sprinters cower in shame. She caught his body before he could hit the ground, lowering him gently to a lying position instead. Kneeling by his side she began to shower him with helpless blabber, telling him to hang on, that they would take him to a doctor and that everything would be fine, he would see, while she tried to hold his wounds closed with her bare hands.

The others stood around them, rooted to their spots while their weapons clattered from lifeless fingers. They, just like Akane, were unable to truly understand what their eyes presented them with quite clearly. That Ranma, someone that deep in their hearts all of them had always viewed as virtually indestructible, was lying at their feet in a bloody heap, brought to the brink of death by their own hands. No, not the brink. It was obvious that he was already dead, and it was only a testament to his incredible stamina that he was still breathing.

Ranma was feeling drowsy. That was fine with him. It kind off dulled the pain. He knew that he would soon be asleep. Good. He liked to sleep. He watched with half-lidded eyes as Akane fussed over him. He didn't like the look on her face. She didn't smile. That was bad. He would have liked to see her smile one last time.

"Ya getting ya shirt all bloody..." he remarked dreamily, pointing a weak hand at her chest.

Wasn't his fault. Clumsy tomboy. Would get mad at him anyway. But had that ever mattered? No. Not really. Not to him. She answered something he couldn't really make out through the fog in his mind. It sounded urgent, even desperate somehow. Shouldn't she sound mad? He liked it whenever she was mad. Always had her attention then. Couldn't be helped. He didn't feel like teasing her right now. So tired. And those were really ugly stains too.

"Sorry 'bout that.." he mumbled before his head rolled to the side and his eyes finally lost focus.

He really was.

For so many things.

---

Even years later the people of Nerima would still talk about what was commonly known as 'The Scream'. Not in bright daylight or on cheerful occasions of course. But when the night fell over the city and the sake started to flow, or when folks gathered to swap scary stories, like around a camp-fire, then 'The Scream' would possibly be mentioned. And no matter how drunk, and no matter how cozily horrified, on those that had actually witnessed it, that memory alone had the same effect as a cold shower in a snowstorm.

Because one sunny afternoon in the midst of summer, one name had been shouted with such soul-wrenching force that it could still be felt, if not heard, for miles around.

Only a name, but carried along with it came all the agony, and heartbreak, and desperation of the caller, each emotion almost tangible in its overwhelming intensity.

And the cats buckled and hissed, and the dogs began to bark, and little children started to cry while everyone else got confused and scared.

And only a chosen few, not all of them necessarily of the human variety, who maybe knew more about the nature of the soul than was absolutely necessary, understood that a heart had just been shattered, most likely beyond any hope of repair.

By someone who's name sounded something like 'Ranma'.



*'Hiryu Shoten Ha' translates roughly as 'Dragon ascend to Heaven Blast'. 'hattari' translates to 'bluff'(n). So this should be read as something like 'Dragon ascend to Heaven bluffing'.



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Authors notes: Hey, who would have thought? I finally came around to kill Ranma. Makes me finally write in the big league now. You know, 'Drama', 'Angst' and 'deep emotions'. On the other hand, if you ever read one of my other stories you might find that I easily succumb to a certain pattern. Will this time be different? Who knows? Well, actually I do, because I have the whole thing plotted out. So this is going to be a multi-part story that will be written to the end. Or my name ain't Krista Perry!

Until the next chapter,

RaMa