When Love Dies
By Edward Simons
Based on characters and situations created by Takahashi Rumiko Ranma 1/2 and characters copyright Shogakukan, Kitty Animation Circle, and Takahashi Rumiko. This story written 2000 - Edward A. Simons
She was waiting for me at a small sidewalk cafe. It made it all more casual and hid the real purpose of our meeting. I hadn't seen her since high school, but when the name Akane Saotome crossed my desk, I volunteered to meet her. I hadn't expected her to want legal advice.
Akane was surprised to see me.
"Yuka? It *is* you. It's been years. I didn't know you were working at a legal office."
Actually, I'd been practicing law for several years now, mainly cases like hers.
"Yeah, it's been a while since we were kids, Akane. How've you been?"
Akane smiled, but it never reached her eyes. She looked tired and it was hard to remember her as the laughing carefree friend of my high school days.
"Sorry, Akane." If all was well, she wouldn't have been talking to me.
We enjoyed a little casual conversation before she finally came to the business at hand. She was as precise and efficient about it as I remembered Nabiki being and I told her so.
Akane sighed. "I had to get good at paperwork trying to run the dojo finances. Nabiki turned out to be a big help learning to do this kind of stuff. There was a time I hated her, you know."
The surprise showed on my face, but I waited to see if Akane would continue.
"You know she hired Ukyou and Shampoo as caterers for the first wedding."
I remembered. It was the only wedding I'd seen that involved exploding food or martial arts combat between the caterers and the bride.
"I couldn't believe Nabiki was so stupid, but she was trying to do me a favor. We were too young for marriage and that disaster bought us a couple years till father could afford to try again."
I flinched at the way she used the word 'father' like it was a curse.
"I was too stupid to see what was really going on. After that battle with the bird people in China, I thought Ranma loved me. I know I heard him say it, but he never admitted it. Not once."
Akane's eyes smoldered with anger.
"And he never *did* tell me he loved me. A relationship can't succeed without love."
"After a while I figured out it was all about duty. If Ranma felt duty was involved, he did something. That's why he rescued me, that's why he fought for me, that's why he married me. Duty!"
And she used that word as a curse.
"Do you know what it's like to just be an obligation to somebody, Yuka? To be treated more like a thing than a person."
I tried to interrupt, to tell Akane that it had been more than just some sense of obligation that motivated Ranma. He'd fought for lots of people. He only married one. I *tried* to interrupt, but Akane just kept talking.
"We started fighting again, worse than we did in high school. I told him my needs, the same ones everyone has - respect, love, encouragement. He had the *arrogance* to claim he wasn't getting those from me, either. He said he didn't understand what was going wrong. If he didn't understand me it's because he never tried."
"And he never did grow up. I was running myself ragged teaching my share of classes at the dojo and trying to balance the books. Ranma never was any good at math and I wasn't dumb enough to let him near them. And what did he do? All that idiot could suggest was closing things down for a while and going off on a training trip or something. As if I had the time to waste screwing around doing dumb things like that. Didn't he understand the dojo would go under if we didn't keep it running constantly?"
"Well, it took a couple years, but he finally shut up about stupid ideas like that. The problem was he shut up about everything. Grunts or two word sentences were all he said anymore and it would take five minutes of talking to get him to do that!"
I got the impression Akane had done more yelling than talking.
"He started taking long walks in the evening and *that* gave me a few hours of peace. For a while I thought things were getting better. Was I ever stupid! Nabiki informed me that he'd been spending all his time down at Ukyou's restaurant. I told him right after we got married that I didn't *ever* want him talking to any of *those* girls again."
"Anyway, I confronted him about it and he had the nerve to claim he just wanted someone to talk to. I was his wife! He could have talked to *me* anytime he wanted to!"
Akane suddenly realized people were staring at us and continued in a whisper.
"I told him I didn't trust him anymore and then he was cruel enough to claim I never had. You know that's not true, Yuka."
I wondered which of us Akane was trying to convince.
"Now that I think about it, it was really all over then. I just didn't realize it. That was three years ago. Three years I never want to repeat."
"My first clue was so old I'd almost forgotten it. At our first wedding, my father..."
Again, she used the word as an expletive.
"...my *dear* father had a barrel of Nanniichuan water that Ranma was only supposed to get after we were married. Ranma wasn't marrying me for love; he wasn't even doing it out of duty. That selfish jerk was just doing it to get rid of his curse. I've never felt so *used* in my life. It serves him right that the stuff got destroyed before he could be cured."
She was finally crying and I gave her time to work some of the anger and grief out of her system. Eventually she continued in a voice cold and hard as iron.
"He started by betraying me, so it shouldn't have surprised me that he'd do it again. Nabiki acquired this for me."
Akane pulled out a photograph of Ukyou holding a small boy of a year-and-a-half to two. His resemblance to Ranma was striking, though he clearly had Ukyou's eyes. She looked proud and happy and somehow just a little sad. Yes, I could see it in the lines around her eyes. Ukyou had experienced a lot of unhappiness in her life.
Akane brought me back by tapping the photo. I looked up at my old friend and realized there was one more thing in Ukyou's face that I couldn't find in Akane's anymore and that was hope.
There was a time when Akane and Ukyou had been friends, but that was gone, too.
"She named the little brat Kintaro. You remember the old legends of the hero Kintaro, how he was the son of a sorceress and the thunder god. Well, Ukyou's no sorceress. Bewitched maybe, to ever want that jerk, but no sorceress. And Ranma sure isn't any thunder god, I shared his bed long enough to know that."
I blushed, but Akane wasn't paying attention to me. Her eyes were hollow and she wasn't really looking at anything anymore.
"Well, she can have him. I know when to cut my losses. That's why I'm filing for a divorce. I have to get out now before I waste any more of my life."
I don't think Akane realized she was crying again. I think she really had loved Ranma, but that wasn't enough anymore.