A Ranma fanfic by Mike Breslau

Disclaimer: You know the drill: better folks than I own the characters that appear in this scribbling.

Somewhere deep in a wooded area of Japan stood an odd cabin. It was small,
only eight feet square, and had only one window and no door. It wasn't
there this morning, and all traces of it would be gone by noon tomorrow.
Inside the odd structure Ranma looked around, pride and astonishment
clearly evident on both of his faces. After much experimentation he had
finally improved upon the Amazon's "Splitting Cat Hairs" technique, and
now he had two real and solid bodies. His one and only mind was shared
equally among both of his bodies - he was seeing through two pairs of
eyes, with two points of view, and similarly all the sensory input of both
clones was experienced by just one martial artist with two bodies and two

It was very disorienting.

Ranma paused for a while to adjust to the multiplicity of sensory inputs.
Experimentally, he tried to move the right hand of the body seated on his
futon - and was gratified to see that the other right hand did not move.
That meant that he could move each clone independently of the other. If
his copies were condemned to move in lockstep it would make his new
technique nearly useless for fighting - not good. With growing confidence,
he made a fist with the left hand of the body standing in a corner. It
worked. Success! Ranma smiled in stereo.

"Now I'll find out for sure if two heads are better than one," Ranma
thought whimsically. He opened the window once and climbed out of it
twice. Taking stances, he prepared to spar against himself. After all,
where else could he find a partner at his own high level? Sparring didn't
work out too well - each of his offensive moves was anticipated and
blocked perfectly - his 'opponent' could read his mind. Ranma settled for
doing two different katas concurrently. It was rough for the first few
minutes as he learned to process twice as much information per second as
he had ever done before. Practice makes perfect, and after half an hour
Ranma was quite skilled at managing two bodies at once.

Ranma decided to see how far apart his bodies could be and remain mentally
linked. His two bodies started running in opposite directions, being
careful to avoid detection. When he was three miles apart he paused and
looked around. There was no reduction in the unity of his mind. In some
ways it was easier than being close to himself - instead of having two
points of view on the same scene, he now had a single point of view on
each of two unrelated scenes. He scratched beneath his pigtails - this
still took some getting used to. Ranma's clones returned to the cabin
site, again being careful to avoid detection. One of his bodies paused at
a creek and dipped his hand into the cold water, with the usual result. A
quick check showed that having two genders did not impair his mental unity
at all - he as still one Ranma. He very briefly considered the hentai
possibilities of this situation, and dismissed it as being unworthy of an
artist who aspired to honor.

Now it was time for the most critical and dangerous test of all - could he
revert to having only one body, or would that be too much like dieing? He
would be removing half of his flesh without benefit of anesthesia - surely
at the least it would be painful. "The life of a martial artist is fraught
with peril," he quoted. Mentally gritting his teeth, he caused his newer
body to vanish. It was disorienting, but to his surprise it didn't hurt a
bit. Being stuffed back into only one body was familiar, but strangely
confining. He'd lost half of his brain and half of his senses; Ranma
realized how much he had already gotten used to being in two places at

Why was Ranma alone in the wilderness, and what about the rest of the
Nerima Wrecking Crew? How was he able to duplicate his body, and why? For
answers to these questions we have to go back almost a year, to a day two
weeks after the failed wedding attempt.

Imagine a wavy "begin extended flashback" sequence here...

It was late in the afternoon. Almost all the principal characters in
Ranma's life were gathered, at his invitation, in the rebuilt (and
reinforced) Tendo dojo. Ranma was pacing back and forth in the front of
the room, his usual self-assurance was conspicuous by its absence.

"Well, are you ready to tell us what this is all about?" asked Genma,
sounding annoyed. "We're all here now."

Ranma stopped pacing and drew himself erect. "If any of you really know me
- know how my life has been going - you'd know things cannot continue as
they have been. Every one of you has made demands of me, tried ta force
choices upon me, or tried to determine how I lived my life. It isn't
possible to satisfy all of you, or even a group of you, because these
demands and obligations often conflict with each other." His voice grew
louder, betraying his frustration. "Not once has anyone ever asked me how
I want to live or what I want to do." His fists clenched.
"It's gotten so bad that if you asked me that today I couldn't answer! I
haven't had time to figure out who I am or what I want to do. This has to
stop, and it has to end today."

Genma interrupted, "Now see here, boy..."

Ranma's aura manifested in a large polychromatic display, eliciting gasps
from his audience. He leveled a malevolent glare at the part-time panda
and nearly shouted, "Shut up, Pop. I didn't ask for your opinion. I never
asked for your opinion; you usually just shove it down my throat."

Genma shut his mouth, radiating displeasure. Ranma was too powerful, too
dangerous, too angry, to mess with right now.

Ranma calmed himself with some effort and suppressed his aura. "I've
decided I wanna leave on a SOLITARY training trip, for up to a year and a
day. I need ta improve my martial arts skills so that things like the
wedding fiasco can be controlled. I wanna figure out who I am, what I
wanna do with my life, and who I will marry, if anyone."

There was a hubbub from the audience as many people tried to speak at
"Take me with you, Ranchan."
"Husband no leave..."
"At last the evil sorcerer departs."
"Now Shampoo will be mine."
"Oh my!"

One voice cut through the commotion like a katana. "Running away isn't
very manly, Son." Guess who.

Ranma approached his mother and knelt before her, head bowed, and then he
stood up and looked her in the eye. "If you will not let me find myself or
be myself, if you will not allow me to control my life or live my life,
will you at least be my second?"

The silence in the room was deafening. Nodoka turned pale. "Are... Are you
serious, Ranma?"

Ranma went over to his backpack which was leaning against the wall. He
returned bearing a white kimono and a tanto. "I've never been more
serious, Mother. I'm not a little boy anymore, and I can make my own
decisions. This mess has to end tonight. If you will not let me live my
life, at least let me end it."

A quiet "aiyah!" could be heard in the background. Mousse only smirked and
said nothing.

Nodoka trembled in fear and indecision. This was her only child, and she
was proud of his astonishing accomplishments. After a long pause she
asked, "Do you promise to return here in a year and a day?"

Ranma's relief was palpable. "On my honor - in a year and a day or

"In that case, you may go with my blessings."

The room burst into pandemonium - 145 decibels!

Ranma's aura flashed bright white and disappeared a moment later like a
flashbulb. The room quieted. "If I have your attention, I'm gonna make an
announcement. This is gonna be a solitary training trip - that
means me alone. If any of you follow me, if any of you find me, I
guarantee that you'll regret it for the rest of your life. If you see me
coming run the other way. The gloves are off until I return. You can
resume your petty bickering and futile wooing of me after I return, not
before. Is that clear?" His countenance was stern.

The room was quiet, and a few heads nodded in reluctant agreement. Without
further ado, Ranma strode over to his backpack and picked it up, then he
faded into invisibility using his improved version of the Umi Sen Ken.

Ku Lon stamped her staff on the floor to get everyone's attention. "I hope
everyone appreciates the seriousness of this situation. Ranma is the most
powerful martial artist alive, and he is in a very precarious emotional
state. You all saw his aura - he is in danger of losing his self-control.
Ranma has killed several demons and many monsters, he has leveled two
mountains with his bare hands, and he has slain a rogue demigod." There
were a few gasps from the audience; the loudest was from Nodoka who had
never learned what had transpired at Jusenkyo. Ku Lon continued, "He knows
the nekoken, which is a form of berserk rage. Would any of you like to
face a berserk godslayer when he was mad at you? The only reason any of us
are still alive is because Ranma has a strong inhibition against killing,
and he always held back when fighting us because of his personal sense of
honor. If I were you, I'd take his warning seriously and wait for him to

Ku Lon glared at Xian Pu and Mu Tse. "That goes double for you two. If
Ranma gets mad at either of you he might decide that all Amazons are
'obstacles for killing.' How long do you think it would take him to
destroy us all? If either of you goes looking for Ranma and survive, I
personally will se that you are punished severely!" The younger Amazons
blanched and nodded.

Ku Lon turned her glare on Genma. "If you meddle in Ranma's affairs before
he returns, there's an old Chinese recipe I'd like to try: Moo Goo Gai

Genma blanched, and not just from the pun. The old ghoul was on a par with
Happosai, and therefore out of his class.

Tatewaki was shocked by her speech. "The demon Ranma has slain a god? This
evil cannot be borne..." Kuno only heard what he wanted to hear.

"If you attack Ranma now, then Japan will be missing a samurai-wannabe,"
advised the elder.

"What are the chances that things will be quieter around here now?" Kasumi
asked Nabiki.

"I wouldn't lay odds on that one, but I sure hope you're right," her
sister replied.

Once outside the dojo Ranma ran. He didn't take to the rooftops - that's
where they'd expect him to go - but instead ran, still cloaked, along the
streets to the railroad station.

Ranma didn't want to take the train, he just wanted to use the rails to
get out of town. The steel rails would leave no footprints or other
traces. He ran along the tops of the rails in leaps that varied from 20
feet to 40 feet, and occasionally switching from the left rail to the
right rail to further confuse anyone tracking him. He kept his senses
alert for danger, such as an approaching train or anyone trying to follow
him. After a few miles the tracks passed under a high-tension electrical
transmission line. Ranma grinned. He jumped to the top of a nearby utility
pole and then lept gracefully onto one of the high-voltage wires. "Let
them try to follow me up here," he thought.

Ranma ran carefully along the taut cable, keeping his distance from the
other cables nearby. An observer on the gound would have noticed only a
slight sag of the cable he was on, for he moved quickly and as lightly as
a feather.

After three miles the transmission line crossed over a small stream. Ranma
lept down into the water and paused to adjust his clothing as he shifted
forms, then he proceeded to wade upstream. He continued until a smaller
stream emptied into the brook. Ranma followed the smaller stream until he
was sure that he had eluded anyone tracking him, then he left the water.
Finally dropping the Umi Sen Ken, he pitched camp under the concealing
lower branches of a large tree. The sun was setting, and he didn't want to
go any further today - it had been an unusually emotional day, and he was

As he lay in his tent, Ranma pondered his situation. Clearly improving his
ki mastery was essential for improving his martial arts. A wise monk had
once advised him to purify his ki. While emotion-based ki was easier to
access, it was also slowly poisonous to the wielder. Akane used
anger-based ki routinely, and look at her now. Likewise, Ryoga used
depression-based ki, or sometimes anger-based ki, and now he was dominated
by those emotions. In all honesty Ranma had to admit to himself that he
himself was poisoned with an excess of confidence. It had two primary
drawbacks: he would often rush in where more caution would be advisable,
and it caused him to act cocky and brash, thus alienating his friends. The
first order of business tomorrow would be developing pure ki, free from
any emotions. The old monk had implied that it would be stronger than the
ki he was using now.

Ranma's mood turned somber. Improving his martial arts skills was the
easiest of the tasks before him. Genma had raised Ranma to be ignorant,
compliant, and dependent on his father for directions - a tool for
assuring Genma an early retirement based on Ranma's efforts. Damn him! Now
he had to wean himself from his old man so he could be his own person, and
he had to learn all the things that boys his age had learned while Ranma
was doing martial arts exclusively. Yes, he has a world-class fighter, but
he was a one-dimensional man. Somehow, Ranma vowed, he would find a way to
become better educated and well rounded. With that thought Ranma rolled
over and went to sleep.

The next day dawned bright and clear. Shampoo awoke early and began her
usual morning rituals. When she came to a free moment she asked,
"Great-grandmother, do you think Ranma will be alright? I miss him."

Cologne interrupted her soup-making. "Child, I don't think there is
anything that can harm him physically; it's his mind that I am worried

"What do you mean, Grandmother?"

"Tell me, Shampoo, have you any experience in defusing a live nuclear

The purple-haired beauty was taken aback. "No. Is it that bad?"

Cologne looked depressed. "Then do not even think of doing anything that
could make Ranma angry until he calms down. That goes for you too, Mr.
Part Time." Mousse had excellent hearing. He blushed and continued to
sweep, pretending not to be listening.

Cologne continued, "Ranma may be the best martial artist alive, and I have
no idea how much better he may yet become, but he is a man and men have
emotional weaknesses. He has been under extreme pressure, some of it
coming from us three, and he is very close to breaking. If the worst
happens we could lose much more than just your husband..."


Ranma awoke feeling optimistic. Today would be a good day, with beautiful
weather, and minimal chance of getting wet. He spent more than an hour
practicing katas and then made breakfast. He broke camp and began trying
to perfect his Art.

"How can I purify my ki?" he wondered to himself. "Surely the Soul of Ice,
or something like it would be a good starting place." He set to work.
After two hours he realized that he was getting close, but there was
something he was missing. "Nabiki controls her emotions completely and
always hides what she is feeling - perhaps that's a technique of her Art.
I wonder if I can learn anything from her example?"

As the sun began to sink towards the horizon Ranma felt that he had
achieved his goal. "Who'da thunk I could learn anything useful from
Nabiki?" He held out his hand, palm up, and tried to form a ball of ki.
Instead of the usual bright blue color of confidence-based ki, he now had
pure white ki - but it looked faint and transparent as if it was the ki of
a ghost. "The color's good, but I wonder if it's a weak as it looks." He
took aim at a house-size boulder that was located on the other side of the
field he was training in. "Mouko Takabisha!" The faint ball of ki flew,
more quickly than he expected, across the field. The boulder vanished in a
loud explosion, and tons of gravel rained down all around him.

"Whoa!" exclaimed Ranma, stunned by the size of the blast. "That's too
strong for me to use in a fight - even Saffron couldn't survive that! That
old monk was right - pure ki is more powerful." He began to gather his
camping gear and donned his backpack. "Time to get out of town; that blast
would alert everyone that Ranma was here." He began to run in a series of
jumps, only to find that he was jumping further than he expected. "My
speed's increased too," he noticed, "I'm gonna have to adjust all my ki
techniques or I'll lose control."

Soun studied the shogi board. "Do you think the boy will be all right?"

Genma remained vigilant against cheating as he answered, "Of course he'll
be okay. I trained him well." What neither of them said was that if Ranma
could survive Genma's training methods, then he could survive anything.

Soun moved a piece. "So you're not worried about anything?"

Genma considered for a moment then he made an answering move. "Yes, old
friend, I am worried. Ranma is beginning to grow a backbone, and he might
try to escape from my control."

Soun frowned. "Children his age always rebel against their parent's
authority; it's perfectly normal."

"Still, we could generally browbeat him into doing whatever we want before
the wedding disaster. Now I'm not so sure. I wanted him to be stronger
than the master. Now that he is, I wonder if it was wise. He could be hard
to control."

Ranma had spent a whole day adjusting to the increased power of his pure
ki. His whole body now felt as if it were bursting with energy. It tingled
faintly, like the memory of an electric shock. It was strange, but
invigorating. If he used his fingertip, instead of his whole hand, as a ki
focus than his Mouko Takabisha was of manageable strength. Now he could
use four fingers (his thumb didn't work, for some reason) to launch
simultaneous attacks - sort of like a gun with four barrels.

The next day began with a downpour. Ranma only grumbled a little. If there
was nobody to see him he didn't bother to complain about being a girl. Not
that he liked being a girl, but he had gotten used to it and didn't mind
it much unless it was that time of the month. He/she had more important
things on her mind.

This day was devoted to increasing the rate at which his/her body produced
ki. Ki was generated simply by being alive, but when he had more ki he
felt more alive. Could he use ki to increase the rate at which his body
made ki? It was worth trying. By noon Ranma had succeeded. "If I do
this while breathing in, I generate more ki. If I do that
while breathing out, then the new ki gets compacted and stored in my body.
Neat!" Ranma spent the rest of the day practicing her new technique, and
by the end of the day it had become habitual.

Ranma's negative emotions were gradually fading away as his training
journey continued. His greatest pleasure had always come from improving
his Art, and now there were no interruptions, no conflict, no conflicting
demands of honor, and best of all, no fiancees. It was as close to
paradise as he had ever experienced, and it was slowly cleansing his
troubled soul.

Ukyo looked around her empty restaurant and sighed. "It's been so quiet
around here since Ran-chan left. I wonder how he's doing..."

"I'm sure he'll come back," said Konatsu, trying to sound supportive while
secretly hoping that Ranma was gone for good.

Ukyo began desultorily cleaning her grill. It seemed sort of pointless
while Ran-chan was away.

Ranma's life had settled into a routine. Wake up and do katas for an hour
or two, have breakfast, break camp unless it was raining, try to refine
his ki techniques until late afternoon, eat dinner, move to a new location
several miles away in a random direction, make camp, and then spend the
rest of the day meditating about his life and how to improve it.

He found that he really couldn't improve his education or schoolwork while
he was alone in the wilderness. The best he could do was to review the
materials he had already learned and try to make sense of them. Similarly,
he really couldn't improve his social skills when there was nobody he
could interact with. This was a strictly solitary training trip, after

Today's goal was to duplicate and improve upon Akane's Monstrous Mallet of
Mauling technique. Ranma was sure her mallet was made out of ki, probably
angry ki, because it faded away whenever she lost interest in it. Had she
been using Mousse's Hidden Weapons technique it wouldn't fade away like
that. After a couple of hours of trying Ranma had manifested a hammer and
then a sword using his new purified ki. These weapons were solid and well
crafted, but they were lighter than "real" weapons would be - they lacked
mass somehow - and Ranma didn't know whether the missing mass was a help
or a hindrance.

He lost interest in the sword and the mallet and they faded away. "Let's
get to the heart of the matter." He picked up a fist-sized rock and
examined it carefully. Once he was sure he had the pattern, Ranma formed a
ki-rock duplicate of the original stone. The copy weighed about half as
much, but was otherwise identical. He studied the two to see how they
differed. "Maybe if I do this..." The ki-rock briefly grew heavier, then
returned to its original weight. "Okay, what if I do this..."

After about an hour of experimentation the two stones were completely
identical, and the copy remained even when he stopped feeding more ki into
it. Ranma's technique required more ki and more mental focus than the
Tendo's technique, but he could produce real objects and Akane couldn't.
"I can make somet'in outta nothin'!" he exclaimed happily. This had many

"It's been two weeks since Ranma left. Things have been awfully quiet
around here..." Akane mused aloud.

Nabiki smirked. "You miss him, don't you?"

Akane turned red. "I do not miss that three-timing, womanizing, jerk!"

"Are you hiding the truth from yourself, or are you merely trying to fool
the rest of us?" Nabiki inquired sweetly.

Akane sulked. "He's probably seeing one of his floozies on the sly."

"I can tell you for a fact that none of his friends, male or female, have
seen Ranma since he left. I do have my sources, you know."

Akane didn't reply.

Nabiki continued, "You know, Akane, none of his other fiancees leap to
conclusions before giving him a chance to explain. Nor do they bash him
first and ask questions later. If he hooked up with one of the other
girls, he would be doing what any sensible guy would do. Yet, he still
seems to prefer you over them..."

Akane's shoulders slumped. "He makes me so angry! I can't help myself,"
she exclaimed softly.

Nabiki's voice became soft and sad. "I hate to tell you this, but the
world does not revolve around you and your wishes. Just because you want
to be the best martial artist does not make it so. You can't be the best
cook just by wishing, either. If Ranma is the greatest martial artist,
it's because he worked hard and long to become so. If Ukyo or Shampoo are
great cooks, it's because they practiced and learned from their mistakes."

"What can I do, onee-chan?"

"Things are quiet and the pressure's off until Ranma returns. Maybe you
could use this opportunity to improve your attitude and your skills."

Somewhere in another universe, thankfully far from our own universe, there
was a thing. It had no fixed form - it resembled a dark mist - and it had
no mind to speak of. It wasn't evil, or nasty, or greedy, it was merely
hungry. Unfortunately, all it could eat was the ki of living things. It
left a trail of lifeless desolation wherever it went - again, not from
malice, but from necessity.

It had no name, and it needed none. We will call it "Nightmare."

Nightmare was composed of billions of particles, each of which changed
colors randomly, but the chosen colors were always dark. The individual
particles were somewhat like a prion - they had the power to warp normal
ki into distorted ki like themselves.

Ranma had intended to work on Soun's Demon Head technique today, but he
changed his mind when he noticed that the rock he had made yesterday was
still there beside its twin. He picked up a rock in each hand. "I need to
see if I can make my copy go away. I wonder if I can get my ki back
too..." He thought about the method he had used to make it real and solid.
"I should be able to undo it if I do this..." Five minutes later he held
only one rock, and had received a ki boost too. "Yatta!"

Ranma eyed the remaining stone speculatively. It was similar in every way
to the one he'd just undone. Could he undo this naturally occurring one
too? He had to try. Without any fuss at all the 'real' stone turned into
pure ki which Ranma absorbed. There were now no stones of its type.

Ranma gaped in surprise. Now this was a really useful martial arts
technique - he could disarm any weapon-user once their weapon got close
enough! He couldn't be disarmed himself, for he could rapidly make another
if his own weapon was taken away. "I've got to explore these techniques.
How big an object can I make or unmake? How far away? How quickly?" He set
to work practicing.

Later that day Ranma ate a copy of one of Ukyo's special okonomiyaki for
lunch and a duplicate of one of Kasumi's meals for dinner. The food was
good, much better than the usual camp-out fare, and there was so much of
it. Ranma was in a glutton's heaven. That evening instead of setting up a
tent he created a small two-tatami one-room cabin with walls of inch-thick
armor plate. The futon was more comfortable than his bed roll. This was
the life!

Author's Notes

Yet another Ranma becomes very powerful fanfic by Mike Breslau.
I'm not really in a rut, I'm just convinced that by the end of the manga
Ranma is stronger than any possible opponent, and that's why the story
ended there. (I'm also convinced that Ranma and Akane like each other very
much, but a marriage between the two would never work out.)

About Nightmare: Later on it is described as having a mist-like or
smoke-like appearance. Nightmare was conceived and written before I became
aware that there was a "smoke monster" on the TV show "Lost". I do not
watch television (except for DVDs) and so I miss so much. Not!