Death stood in his realm, gazing into his mirror. A blue world turned in the glass, as it orbited its sun. INTERESTING, he mumbled, as he examined this world that was so strange to him. A ROUND WORLD.
"Is there something of importance in that world, master?" Albert asked him, coming up from behind.
BEFORE TOO LONG, ME, Death responded, fingering a strangely configured hourglass. It was different from the others he normally collected, as it was made of different materials. THE DEATH OF THIS WORLD HAS CALLED IN SICK TODAY, AND I HAVE BEEN ASKED TO FILL IN FOR THEM. THERE IS ONLY THE ONE, SO IT SHOULDN'T TAKE ME TOO LONG.
Albert nodded. "I'll saddle Binky, then, shall I?" Turning, he went to the stables.
Death watched the world turning, and paused. I REMEMBER SOMETHING ABOUT THIS, he mumbled. SOMETHING...IMPORTANT...
Putting it from his mind for the moment, he slipped the hourglass into his sleeve, grabbed his scythe, and headed for the stables. Mounting Binky, he rode out to the round world, called...Earth.
Binky came in slowly to the road in the city. THIS PLACE IS CALLED...TOKYO, Death said to himself. Reaching into his robe, he pulled out the hourglass and read the name inscribed upon it, then followed it to the one he was here for.
He came across an elderly fat man manhandling a small boy wrapped in some sort of meat into a pit. The boy was begging the man to stop. "Dad, please, not again..."
"Foolish boy!" the man proclaimed. "This is for the sake of the art! Now get in there and learn the technique!" The man threw the boy into the pit and slammed the lid shut on his despairing scream.
OH, BUGGER, Death said, as he remembered what was going to happen next, as the white fire began to build in his bones.
NO, said the voice of Isabelle's father.
NO, said the voice of Mort's master.
"No," said the voice of the chef at Hagra's house of ribs, who had found happiness.
NO, said the voice of Mr. Scrub, who heard the music and understood.
NO, said the voice of Susan Sto Helit's Granddad.
NO, said the voice of the temporary Hogfather, who knew there was no greater present than a future.
The white fire filled Death completely, and when it was finished, he understood why this event was so hard to remember...as he FELT fury.
NO! cried Death, in a voice that echoed for miles around, waking children from their beds screaming from nightmares; that made women clutch at their throats in terror with no explanation; which caused men of various age to lean against nearby walls as their heart's beat out of rythm; that set every animal in range to making an unholy din; as every entity with the slightest occult sensitivity reacted to a force of destruction unleashed, fearing for whatever poor soul had awoken Death's fury.
Genma Saotome turned. "Huh?" he said, and was shocked as a very bony elbow slammed into his face, sending him skidding across the street to slam into a building.
Even through the cloud of his fury, Death stared at what he had just done and thought, I REALLY MUST SEE IF I CAN TALK VIMES INTO A SAFER LIFESTYLE WHERE WE DON'T MEET SO OFTEN. HE'S STARTING TO RUB OFF ON ME. Death had to admit to himself, though, the pattented Vimes Elbow manuever was quite effective.
Genma staggered to his feet. "Who the hell do you think you are, striking me like that?" he demanded.
Death drew his scythe and threw back his hood, in his fury forcing what was really there through Genma's gaze, long clouded by what wasn't.
Upon seeing the foe he now faced, Genma responded with the only technique he had at his disposal for this situation: the Crouch of the White Tiger. "Please don't kill me!" he begged.
Death raised his scythe, glowering at Genma...and threatened. DON'T TEMPT ME.
Shifting the scythe to his back, he floated through the lid of the pit and scooped up the child. He also set the cats free, after providing them with a good meal he'd pulled out of the air. Knocking the lid of the pit aside, he lifted the child out of the pit. Turning, still filled with inexplicable fury, he stared into Genma's eyes, the blue novas burning into his vision.
THIS CHILD IS MINE, NOW, Death proclaimed, wrapping the young boy in his robe protectively. Mounting Binky, he rode into the sky, fading out of sight as he passed out of the world. Pulling out the boy's hourglass, he examined it again.
'Ranma Saotome,' the glass read. The upper bulb was empty, as all the sand had poured into the bottom bulb. ...but sand continued to pour from the apex of the hourglass, despite there being no sand to pour.
I SEE... Death said to himself, as he came in to land in his own realm.
Ranma woke slowly, the pain from the training nothing but a faint memory. He felt silken sheets around him, and a comfy bed. He wasn't really waking up, just on the borderline between unconciousness and true sleep. He heard voices.
"Master, why do this again? Remember all the trouble it caused last time?"
YES, ALBERT, I REMEMBER. I ALSO REMEMBERED DOING THIS.
"Oh, so this was supposed to happen, then?"
"So what happens next, if I may ask?"
YOU MAY, AS I DON'T KNOW.
"What? But I thought you remembered everything, master."
THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS. THERE ARE...INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE...FOCAL POINTS OF REALITY. BY THEIR VERY EXISTENCE, THEY WRAP THE FATES OF THOSE AROUND THEM INTO THEIR OWN, CHANGING THINGS. CARROT IRONFOUNDERSON OF AHNK MORPORK IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THIS TYPE OF INDIVIDUAL. THESE PEOPLE ARE TOUCHED BY FATE, AND...ARE SLIGHTLY MORE REAL THAN THOSE AROUND THEM. THE REAL PEOPLE, I CALL THEM, SOMEWHERE BETWEEN ORDINARY PEOPLE AND PEOPLE LIKE ME.
"You mean, he's like Susan?"
HE MAY WELL BECOME SO, YES. HIS HOURGLASS IS EMPTY, BUT SAND STILL POURS. ONLY HE CAN DETERMINE THE TIME OF HIS DEATH NOW. FRUSTRATING.
"Will...will you get in trouble for this, master?"
NO. I HAVE ALREADY SPOKEN TO AZRAEL REGARDING THIS. ...HE WAS PLEASED.
"Oh, dear. That's worrisome."
INDEED. THE BOY STIRS. I WILL CHECK ON HIM.
The door opened, and Ranma looked up into the eyes of a skull, filled with light like twin blue stars. RANMA SAOTOME?
"Yes. Who...who are you?"
I AM DEATH.
"Oh." Ranma thought for a time. "Where am I?"
YOU ARE IN MY REALM.
"Oh. Am I dead?"
"Then...why am I here? And where's my Dad?"
Death was quite for a while. I GUESS YOU COULD SAY...THAT I'M YOUR DAD NOW.
"Oh. ...that's all right, then." Ranma's eyes closed, and he slept.
Death sat there, watching Ranma sleep. SLEEP WELL, SON, Death spoke, trying the word out.