Author's Note: I found this today during a lull at work on my hard-drive. I wrote this a few years ago in German and then more or less forgot about it until today. Seeing as I had nothing better to do and my co-workers had left hours ago (work-moral in Kenya is almost non-existent, from a Germans point of view at least) I started translating. I have more written and will post it as soon as I finish translating. Also keep in mind; English is not my first language, so if I mangle the language too badly feel free to tell me. As always comments and reviews are welcome, just keep 'em constructive or at least civil.
Thank you and enjoy!
Ranma wasn't feeling all that good, well actually he felt like shit. Not even 12 hours ago he'd fought against the prince of the Musk dynasty to unlock his curse and the curses of Ryoga and Mousse. During the course of the fight Mt. Houraisan had lost it's tip, but he Ranma Saotome again had done the seemingly impossible and won the fight against the descendant of a dragon, whose Ki reserves were large enough to give Cologne and Happosai pause. But now it was a struggle to take three steps without stumbling.
Ranma knew he had high fever. He had after all sweat enough to soak through his clothes, combined with the cold wind this had been enough to trigger the hated curse that turned him into a girl. Besides the fever she also had a headache of truly epic proportions. It felt like someone was squeezing her head in a vice, while someone else from the inside tried to expand it by hammering the inside. As if that wasn't enough her senses also seemed to have gone haywire. One moment everything suddenly turned dark enough she couldn't see her own hand right in front her eyes, the next everything was impossible bright. And this was happening to all her senses.
Her joints felt like they were filled with molten lead, every little movement caused excruciating pain. She couldn't even move the last digit of her right pinky finger without wanting to scream in pain. But all of this was nothing compared to the soul charring agony in her left shoulder. When they angry throbbing pain had started she'd taken a short look at her shoulder and had nearly gasped in shock. Angry red spots doted her shoulder in a pattern that reminded her of an animal's bite like a wolf's. But even during the endurance training at the beginning of the 10 year training journey no wolf had ever bitten her in the left shoulder.
Suddenly the world went out of focus and Ranma tipped forward a pain filled groan escaping her. She hit the wet forest ground with a dull thud. She did not even have enough energy to scream in pain when she hit the ground, she just laid there and tried not to let her backpack's weight suffocate her.
Ryouga and Mousse heard Ranma hit the ground and stopped their trek back home to turn and look and Ranma's fallen form. They'd noticed Ranma's declining health some time ago. How could they not with her slow shuffling and the barely noticeable pained moaning. So far they had ignored the signs, the bastard could cook in his own juices as far as they cared. But looking at her now almost made them regret ignoring the signs.
It was a shock to them to see Ranma lying flat on the ground in her cursed form, even though there was no water in sight. The loud dry rattling sound she made every time she forced air into her lungs just made it worse.
Their rivalry took a backseat in their minds and both rushed to Ranma's side. Ryouga attempted to turn Ranma onto her side but pulled his hand back in shock the moment he touched her soaked shirt.
"Damn, the bastard's burning hot!" he exclaimed surprised.
Now forewarned about the unnatural heat coming from Ranma, Ryouga slowly turned her onto her side while Mousse freed her from her backpack. Without the weight of her backpack Ranma's breathing got easier but was still sounding far from healthy. Nervous Mousse tried to feel her pulse while Ryouga noticed Ranma's left shoulder.
"I can't count the beats, her heart is beating too fast!"
"Holy shit, look at this!" Ryouga pulled Ranma's shirt to the side, revealing what looked like an infected bite wound.
After staring horrified for almost five minutes at what had been a shoulder and now was angry red mess of raw flesh, they'd decided to set up their camp right there. They had quickly dressed Ranma's shoulder, then wrapped her in her sleeping-bag and shoved the whole mess into her tent. They were careful to give the tent a wide breathe, after all whatever struck down Ranma could be infectious.
It was getting dark and both rivals were sitting before a small fire occasionally throwing worried looks at Ranma's tent. Both hadn't said a single word after finding Ranma lying on the ground. In the silence both could hear that the rattling of Ranma's breathing that had taken on a definite wet undertone. Ryouga was poking listlessly around the embers of the fire determinedly trying to ignore the sickening sounds coming from one of the three tent surrounding their small camp. Mousse for his part had been polishing the same spot of one of his countless swords for hours. Said spot could by now be used as a mirror.
An especially loud rattling breath came from the tent ending in a coughing fit accompanied by several dry cracking sounds made both of them look at each other worried.
"What do you think we should do now?" Mousse asked what both of them had been thinking for some time.
"Maybe we should try to get her to a hospital?"
Mousse shook his head. "I don't know about you, but I have no idea where the next hospital is and Nerima is still at least three days of travel away. Besides, who knows if what she has is infectious? I don't want to get whatever it is what she has!"
"Don't look at me, I have no idea where we are." Ryouga shook his head. "And I certainly don't want to touch THAT again."
They both knew he could only mean Ranma's shoulder. Before Ryouga had used disposable gloves, Mousse had found them somewhere in his sleeves, to dress Ranma's shoulder. But those had been the only pair of gloves Mousse had with him and Ryouga had tossed them into the fire after he had finish dressing the shoulder.
For a moment Mousse looked around the small campsite nervously, not that he could see much with his bad eye-sight. "You think whatever bit him is still around?"
A cold shiver ran down Ryouga's spine. So far he had avoided thinking about what could have caused such a wound. "Maybe it was one of those Musk freaks?" He asked hopeful.
"No," Mousse said decidedly, "they've bred animal traits into their bloodlines, but they can't take the shape of an animal. And that's definitely an animal bite."
"So what do you think we should do?"
Mousse looked around distrustfully for a moment before leaning towards Ryouga. "If whatever bit Ranma is still around and wants to finish what it started, what do you think we should do?"
Ryouga also looked around making sure nobody was listening to them before he leaned towards the almost blind amazon warrior. "What are we going to tell the others? We left Ranma behind to be devoured by some kind of monster?" He held up his hand to stall Mousse's protest. "Don't get me wrong, I want to get rid of him as much as you do and I certainly do not want to defend him from whatever has bitten him or touch that shoulder again." He shivered remembering how the hot raw flesh had felt when he had bandaged the shoulder. "I just want to know what we are going to say so that they won't force us to go back here."
Mousse stared at his mirror-polished sword with an expression of utter concentration. "What if we couldn't find him after Houraisan collapsed?" He asked looking up from his sword.
An evil smile appeared on Ryouga's face as his mind picked up the idea and ran with it. "Nobody could say we hadn't looked for him. After all we found his backpack underneath all the rubble just not him." The smile turned dreamily. "And Akane would finally be free of the bastard so that I can take my rightful place at her side!"
Mousse also started to smile dreamily. If someone had seen the two martial artists now he would have rightfully questioned their sanity. Mousse uttered only a single word, a name to be precise, that was enough to seal Ranma's fate.
It took a few moments for them to free themselves from their daydreams.
"When do we leave?" Asked Ryouga eagerly. He couldn't wait to tell Akane the happ...erm...sad news and then soothe her in his arms.
"We should wait until dawn, I don't want to walk around here in the dark with some kind of beast out there with us."
"What if it attacks the camp?"
"We'll keep watch and make a bigger fire, if it still attacks we'll toss Ranma in front of it's feet and get away from here fast."
Ryouga could agree with that but there was still something nagging him. "What if there is no monster out there?"
Mousse scoffed. "Listen to her! Bitch's gonna croak soon anyway."
Ryouga nodded, that much was painfully obvious. He would have preferred to leave now rather than later, as to not risk hearing Ranma draw her final breath, but without Mousse leading him it would take him weeks if not month to get back to Nerima. And if there really was something out there, he'd rather not run around in the dark if he could help it.
So they tossed more wood into the fire, built traps around the camp and used up Mousse's whole supply of coffee to stay awake. The caffeine overdose combined with some exotic noises Ranma made in her coma soon had the young martial artist believe that there really was something out to get them.
When morning finally arrived they were nervous wrecks with bloodshot eyes sitting before the last dying embers of their fire. Quickly with all possible haste they started to break up their camp keeping Ranma's tent for the last.
When there was nothing else to pack up Mousse slowly hesitantly unzipped the opening to Ranma's tent and peeked inside. Ranma was breathing a bit more easily now but not much. Her forehead was wet with cold sweat and the normally lustrous red hair was dull and plastered to her skull. Mousse could have sworn it somehow looked brighter with some dark spots in it but dismissed it as a weird effect of the morning light. They both grabbed the foot-end of the sleeping-bag and hauled it including contents out of the tent. After a minute of indecision they shook the sickly martial artist of of her sleeping-bag; it would have looked weird if the sleeping-bag was missing.
Both drew back in shock once Ranma was free of the sleeping-bag and they got a good view of her. The formerly white bandages were soaked with sweat, blood and something else that gave the whole thing a very unhealthy color. Her joints seemed to have swollen to double their original size in the course of the night.
Seeing that Mousse commented. "I don't think she's going to live long enough to see today's sundown."
Ryouga couldn't help but agree, Ranma looked half-dead already. Still he tried not to think about it as he rolled up the sleeping-bag and made a mental note to air it out later that day so it wouldn't start to mold. Mousse for his part tried to distract himself from the grisly sight Ranma made by contemplating if he should put up the tent tonight to air it out.
Had they looked at least once in Ranma's direction, they would've noticed her being awake and looking at them with eerie green eyes. Unable to move anything but her eyes, Ranma had no choice but to watch her two rivals pack up and leave her to die. In this moment Ranma could understand the helplessness Akane must feel every time some freak kidnapped her to reach his twisted goals. The sheer impotence of not being able to do anything but lie there was maddening. She had never in her life felt as helpless as she did when Ryouga and Mousse, backpacks shouldered, left her line of sight. Tears were streaming down her face unhindered as she wordlessly begged them to come back to not leave her to die alone. But they didn't hear Ranma's silent begging.
Gathering what little was left of her strength she tried to turn herself on her stomach, to get up and follow the traitors. But no matter how hard she tried, Ranma couldn't move a single muscle. Finally overwhelmed by despair and rage of being betrayed this maliciously and having to die as a girl, her lips parted and she screamed her frustration towards the heavens. Half-way through the scream her jaws suddenly opened and her scream became one of unbridled pain and then something else entirely as her whole body began to change. Whatever was happening Ranma wasn't conscious long enough to witness it finishing.
Ryouga and Mousse froze on the spot when they heard Ranma's scream. They were about to turn around when the scream turned into a high pitched screech of pain and then into something that sounded like the call of a large predator. Cold sweat appeared on their foreheads and both started shivering like old leaves in a tree during a storm. They'd started to get doubts about their plan not even 20 meters away from the camp, after all Ranma definitely wouldn't have left them behind. Their doubts almost made them turn around the exact moment Ranma's scream started.
Turning back now, after hearing what they did, appeared pointless to both of them, because by now Ranma had to be dead. The beast spreading out her intestines over the whole camp, the expression of stark terror forever frozen on her face, at least until the beast ripped her face of the skull. Their imagination, still on a caffeine high, provided the matching images.
With faces lacking all traces of color they looked at each other. They had to make a decision. To do the right thing; go back avenge Ranma's death and to pay for their sin, or to run away like kicked dogs with their tails between their legs. In a moment of absolute clarity both came to the same decision, nodded at each other and ran as fast and far as their legs could carry them.