The Lonely Sea
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.
signifies a character's thoughts
[ ] signifies Genma's signs
"I must go down to the seas again,
To the lonely sea and the sky"
Sea Fever by John Masefield
The crash of shattering concrete shook the walls of the Tendo house. Not even Ranma could sleep through this and he rolled to his feet, prepared to defend himself.
No directionally challenged pig-boys were screaming "Ranma, prepare to die!"
No top-heavy Amazons were wallpapering themselves across his chest.
Ranma edged to the window, seeing the construction crew who had knocked down the remains of the retaining wall on the side of the property nearest the dojo. It had been damaged so badly at the attempted wedding that Mr. Tendo reluctantly agreed to have it removed and replaced.
Ranma relaxed, shrugged, and walked downstairs for breakfast. He was ready for another typical day.
Genma landed in the koi pond with a splash. A large panda held up a sign [How could you do that to your own father?]
"Ahhh, shut up, old man. All you were was dead weight on the trip to Phoenix Mountain."
As Ranma moved toward the breakfast table, the panda attempted to smash him over the head with the sign. The boy pivoted smoothly, his fist shattering the sign as his foot booted the panda back into the water. A new sign poked above the surface [That hurt, you know!]
"Yeah, right. Quit whining, Pops"
Ranma tackled breakfast with all the grace of a starving hippo. For a change, no one lectured him about his manners. Akane didn't even mallet him. It was a very quiet breakfast. Something in Ranma's subconscious tried to warn him this was very odd. Of course, he didn't listen.
Ranma finished inhaling the last of his breakfast and rushed out the door. He almost reached Furinkan High when he remembered it was Sunday.
The voice was quiet and deliberate, but did not conceal a barely contained fury.
"Nabiki, how could you even think of selling information about Ranma and Akane's wedding to those people! I've put up with your scheming for long enough. Someone could have been badly hurt. It's a miracle no one was."
"It was a disaster. I'm not talking about the way the dojo was nearly destroyed or the fact you provided no help with the cleanup. You. Hurt. Akane. She's probably upstairs crying again. You took what should have been a beautiful precious event and turned it into chaos. How could you dare to do that?"
Soun placed a hand on Kasumi's shoulder.
"Kasumi dear, aren't you being a little hard on your sister..."
"Don't get me started, Father. What were you thinking, trying to hold that barrel of water from the Spring of Drowned Man till after the wedding? Do you think so little of Akane that you thought you had to bribe Ranma with a cure for his curse before he would marry her?"
A panda holding a sign that proclaimed [I'm only a harmless panda] slipped silently out of the blast radius.
"Ranma Saotome, you fiend! Now that you have finally chosen to be-wed the beauteous Akane Tendo, you have not even the decency to release the pigtailed goddess from the clutches of your vile sorceries. Nay, not even my manly visage and martial prowess have availed me in freeing either of the fair maidens from your vile grasp so I needs must trust to my courage and honor alone to expunge your cruel manipulations from their gentle and trusting hearts..."
"Yeah, yeah, Kuno, whatever. You gonna fight or you plan on boring me to death."
Kasumi hummed happily as she prepared lunch. It felt so-o-o good to vent, just this once and they *had* deserved it. Her smile faded as a rather battered girl-type Ranma staggered through the door.
"What happened, Ranma?"
Kasumi passed a kettle of hot water to Ranma, who sighed, poured it over herself and transformed back to his true form.
"Kuno. Kodachi. Shampoo. Mousse. Happosai. Drinking that water from the Spring of Drowned Man rejuvenated the old pervert. He's still the same wrinkled old geezer, but he's got a lot more energy now. The others were fighting at a higher level than normal. They seemed kinda, y'know, well..."
"Yeah, that's the word. I wonder why?"
Kasumi stared at him.
"Oh yeah, the wedding." Ranma put his hand behind his head and chuckled nervously.
"Ranma, your father never taught you how to deal with other people, but think how they must feel. Shampoo is trapped by her laws in a land of strangers unless she marries or kills you. And it's obvious she doesn't want to kill you. Mousse sees what he wants to. He thinks Shampoo only pursues you out of duty to their laws. Is it any wonder he hates you? Kodachi sees the only man who treated her with kindness marrying another woman. Ukyou dedicated most of her life to you. I know it was hard when you to left your mom and spent years on the road with only your father for company. She did the same, but was truly alone, abandoned by her family. Kuno can't admit the truth about your curse to himself. Maybe he's afraid to."
"Good thing Ryouga found Akari. That's one problem solved."
"But you can't expect all your problems to solve themselves."
"Yeah, you're right Kasumi. I gotta end this now. I just hate hurting anyone."
"But the more you wait, the more deeply they get hurt."
Ranma sighed. "Guess you're right. I'll start right after lunch."
Kasumi flashed a mischievous smile. "Good luck then. I'm taking this over to Dr. Tofu's. Our fathers and Nabiki decided to go out for lunch."
Kami, no, thought Ranma, That means Akane will want to cook.
Ranma began chanting to himself. "Please, please let her make curry. Kami knows how she makes curry tasteless, but at least it's non-toxic."
Kasumi saw Ranma sweating and smiled even more broadly. "Well... she would if she were here, but her friends Yuka and Sayuri took her shopping to cheer her up." And Kasumi was out the door.
As usual, Ranma missed the not-so-subtle clue that Akane might need cheering up.
Contrary to popular belief, Ranma did not think with his stomach. On the other hand, he didn't think well on an empty stomach. He was decent cook, but the fridge was empty. Obviously his dad had cleaned the place out again. Since Nabiki took his last yen as payment for the wedding tux, Ranma actually made a decision.
Only two restaurants gave Ranma free food. Shampoo had attempted to kidnap him within the last hour and Mousse had tried to give Ranma a full body acupuncture. The Neko-Hanten would not be a safe place.
Good ol' Ucchan always gives me free okonomiyaki.
Some decisions were easy.
Ranma was beginning to have second thoughts. Ukyou was his fiancée, too, and she hadn't taken the news of his wedding to Akane very well. All right, so she and Shampoo had blown up half the dojo.
Kasumi's words came back to him. "The more you wait, the more deeply they get hurt." If he was going to be any kind of friend to Ukyou he needed to resolve this.
So what do I feel? Who do I love? Where does friendship end and love begin? This isn't like martial arts, there everything is clear-cut, you win or you lose.
Ranma's head hurt. This was not surprising since a boy disguised as a girl disguised as a street sign had smacked him in the back of the head with something large and metallic.
Tsubasa's eyes went wide with surprise. He'd actually hit Ranma! His mouth opened, but before he could gloat, Ranma slammed a flurry of punches into the transvestite. Tsubasa had more resistance to pain than you'd expect. Actually, after a year of cramming himself into disguises that would leave most contortionists in agony, pain had become a way of life for Tsubasa.
The metal pole he squashed himself into also provided some protection from Ranma's attacks, but it took only moments before Tsubasa fell, mumbled "Ukyou", and passed out. Tsubasa normally said her name just before he was knocked unconscious. Ranma had no reason to suspect it was a warning.
Shattered window glass littered the street in front of the restaurant. The sign that had said "Ucchan's Okonomiyaki-ya" was gone. Most of the splintered front door lay in pieces, with one pathetic remnant dangling crookedly from a hinge.
Ranma leapt over the glass shards, diving through the doorway. It was just after midday and very little light penetrated through the holes where the doors and windows had been. Ranma squinted as his eyes tried to adjust to the darkness.
The restaurant's interior was worse than he expected. Tables, booths, and chairs were shattered. Walls, floor and ceiling were marred by cuts, slashes, and jagged holes. The grill was trashed. Charred remnants of something lay on it and soot covered the ceiling above it. The smoke detectors hadn't gone off only because they'd also been destroyed by whatever battle had raged.
Ranma closed his eyes and focused on his other senses. He could normally perceive other people's chi, their life energies, especially if they were martial artists, but the room felt cold and empty, as if it had been robbed of warmth and light. It was silent, too. No, there was a faint sobbing coming from upstairs.
The damage ended partway up the stairs, a high water mark of violence. He moved carefully and not just because of the darkness. From the top of the stairs he saw a pale flickering glow coming from a room on the right, the room where the crying came from. Ranma peered through the doorway, where darkness was barely affected by a lone candle flame.
"Oh Ranma, she's gone!" Konatsu wailed.
Ukyou had returned from the failed wedding in silence. The next several days were agony for Konatsu. Ukyou spoke only the minimum required to deal with the customers. The smile she wore was a mask that barely shaped her mouth and never, ever reached her eyes. Eyes gone cold and grey like a winter sky. Her movements were stiff and mechanical, like a robot. No, worse, for there was something dead inside where there had once been life.
Konatsu tried to be happy and cheerful, but he couldn't break through the shell his employer built around herself. He was scared for her and sometimes even scared of her.
All that had changed the night before.
"Konatsu, I need you to make a delivery."
He'd never done that before. Ukyou's restaurant didn't do deliveries. But Konatsu had spent his life taking orders. He virtually never made decisions for himself. The only people that really cared about him were Ukyou and Ranma, the ones who freed him from the Kenzan ninja clan, and he'd do anything for them. He made the delivery.
At least he tried. It took him several hours to not find the address. And by the time he returned...
"Konatsu you idiot! Why didn't you tell me? I coulda helped."
"B...but she wasn't...she was sure after the way she wrecked your wedding you never wanted to see her again."
"You idiot, she's my friend!" And Ranma realized how few of those he had. "Aw, quit cryin' Konatsu." It always bugged him when a girl cried. No, wait, Konatsu is a guy. But he was raised as a girl and acted a more feminine than most of Ranma's fiancées. "Next time you gotta act, not just sit around wondering what to do."
Konatsu was much too polite to compare that statement to Ranma's fiancée problems.
They found no trace of the girl. Konatsu confirmed that only a few changes of clothes and Ukyou's combat spatulas were missing. It didn't seem like the typical kidnapping of another of Ranma's fiancées.
That brought Ranma up short, realizing kidnappings happened so frequently that he *was* beginning to take them for granted. Then his stomach growled.
"Yo, Konatsu, you got any food around here."
"Perhaps there is some downstairs, but shouldn't we wait until Ukyou..."
Ranma was already gone, so Konatsu followed him to the kitchen. Both spotted the note taped to the refrigerator.
"I have returned to Kansai. Don't follow me."
"I will never see you again."
Konatsu started bawling again. "R...Ranma-sama...I...I think sh...she's going to...going to...I mean...the sea... she talked about the raging sea." Konatsu paused and took a deep breath. "Ranma, she spent her whole life chasing you. Now she's sure she lost you forever. I think she plans to...to..."
"No," murmured Ranma, "No, no, no."
She balanced on a jutting pillar of rock. Below, angry gray waves hammered against the coast.
This is where it began. Ten years pursuing a dream. An empty dream.
She was tired of deceiving herself. Ranma was going to marry Akane. All her work, all her effort, all her love meant nothing.
The pounding waves echoed in her skull.
I can't do this. I must. Nothing else is left. Nothing.
Ukyou glanced towards the sea. She was one step from the edge.
Who cares anyway?
The water drained away into the sea, drained away like her strength. She couldn't resist its call for much longer. She was tired of even trying.
The train trip from Tokyo to the Ishikawa prefecture took only a few hours. To Ranma it seemed like a few eternities. The less ethical techniques Genma taught him and Konatsu's ninja training had allowed them to acquire the money they needed. Ranma glanced down at the wallet and swore he'd pay its owner back someday.
A rented tour van took them the rest of the way to the coast. The driver prattled on about the beauties of Lake Biwa and the grandeur of Mount Hakusan and the wild rugged coast of Echizen Park. Ranma stared out the window. The driver spoke of mysterious Kyoto and Nara, the ancient capitals of Japan. Ranma heard none of it. The driver mentioned the prized Kutani pottery and Wajima lacquer-ware and the famous swordsmiths that worked in the area hundreds of years ago. No expression crossed Ranma's face.
Ranma had spent over ten years crossing Japan, training in Anything Goes Martial Arts. In all that time he met only two people he could call friends - Ukyou and Ryouga. Both spent most of their lives on the road, too. Both suffered because of him, though he hadn't realized it at the time. Ryouga had become such an angry person, blaming Ranma for everything. It took such a long time for him to forgive Ranma. Ukyou was the opposite. She carried vengeance in her heart for a decade, then forgave him so quickly. Even though he grabbed her chest...
Ranma blushed as he realized he was thinking how much better built his cute fiancée was than his uncute fiancée.
The driver whistled cheerfully. The rear view mirror showed him the first expressions to cross Ranma's face. The young man and his attractive female companion Konatsu must have come to visit the Kaga Hot Springs resort. They seemed too unhappy and tense for a honeymoon, but what else could they be here for?
Maybe their parents disapproved and they were eloping.
Ukyou's relatives were reluctant to talk to Konatsu because he was a stranger. They were even more reluctant to talk to Ranma. Eventually they located Ukyou's cousin, a huge burly man who looked a little too much like Ukyou's father to make Ranma feel comfortable.
The man worked as a tour guide at a local museum. Ranma and Konatsu were almost bursting, waiting for the man to finish answering the questions of the gaijin tourists, a wait made agonizing by a lone fool endlessly repeating questions other tourists had already asked.
"Each sword was made in two layers. The outer layer, the hagane, is hard enough to retain a sharp edge. The inner layer, the shingane, is soft and flexible. If it were to become hard like the outer layer the sword would break easily."
Finally, the two martial artists got their chance to speak to the man.
"I was going use the old phrase 'haven't you done enough', Ranma. But I don't think you've done nearly enough to do right by my cousin."
Ranma held back his anger. There wasn't time for it, not if Ukyou was about to do what he feared.
"Please, Kuonji-sama," begged Konatsu, "We have to find her before its too late."
The man frowned. "I haven't seen her for over a year, but I know where she used to practice down among the rocks by the sea. She always called it the raging sea."
Jagged columns of rock protruded from the water. The sea was foaming; the spray was being blown upward. A storm was approaching and so was nightfall. The place had a strange wild beauty, but Ranma wasn't thinking about that. He was estimating heights and distances. The rocks were a little farther apart than the bamboo poles at Jusenkyou, but they were a lot wider.
His real focus was on a tall slender form balancing near the edge of one of the taller columns of rock. The cold wind molded her clothing to her body and streamed her brown hair out behind her. Ranma blinked and wondered how he could ever have mistaken her for a boy.
Thought became action and Ranma bounced frantically from rock to rock, hoping he was not too late.
"Ucchan, what are you doing," he screamed as the wind tried to tear his words away.
She turned and stared. Something burned in her eyes. "You came."
And then Ukyou laughed. It was strange and shrill like the cry of the gulls. It echoed from the rocks. It made Kodachi's laughter seem warm and friendly and sane.
"You came," and she laughed again. "Very well, let it end here."
"Ucchan, don't do nothing stupid."
She smiled an empty smile, devoid of any warmth. "I spent my whole life being stupid. I thought you were brave and noble and kind. I should have realized you were just like your father. You never cared about me, never thought about my feelings. When you and your father abandoned me, I was mocked and ridiculed by the other children. And then I realized I had no real friends. I tried to be strong, tried to pretend it didn't matter."
"I tried to be a man about it," she said bitterly.
And her laughter came again as cold and dark as the sea.
"I was so stupid. I trusted you. I thought when you called me cute; you really cared about me. That finally somebody cared about me. But you were lying just like your father. All I ever was to you was a source for a free lunch. Akane had a home, a father and sisters that cared. I had no one. No one except you."
"Now, Ucchan, remember I took care of you and helped you when you were sick."
"And you think a few days can repay me for ten years. You just wanted to avoid losing Little Miss Meal Ticket. You never asked me out and I was your fiancée. You came over and ate my food and complained about your problems and never, ever asked how I felt."
"You whine because you spend part of the time as a girl. I spent ten years as a boy. Akane had her father and Kasumi and Nabiki and both your parents supporting her as your fiancée. I had no one helping me and you didn't even care."
Ukyou's voice had become hoarse from shouting and her last words came out in a whisper, barely audible over the crash of the waves and the moan of the wind.
"I had to buy an invitation to your wedding from that bitch Nabiki. You never even told me you were getting married."
"I didn't know I was getting married. Pops and Mr. Tendo knocked me out and when I woke up the wedding was about to happen."
Ukyou rolled her eyes in disbelief. Ranma reached forward and opened his mouth to speak. Fire blazed in Ukyou's eyes.
"Flour Bomb," as Ukyou detonated her culinary smokescreen.
As the smoke cleared, Ranma saw Konatsu thoroughly trussed up in hardened yakisoba noodles and lying on shore.
Konatsu sobbed in confusion. Ranma Saotome and Ukyou Kuonji, the people who had saved him from the Kenzan ninja clan were fighting. That thought immobilized him more than the rope of noodles.
Ranma and Ukyou were blurs leaping between the pillars of rock. To Ranma's surprise it was proving quite difficult to avoid her razor sharp throwing spatulas. Then he remembered that Ukyou fought a lot better when she was angry.
Ukyou's chi was hot enough Ranma could have used the Hiryu Shoten Ha, but she had helped him during that training session and wouldn't fall into that trap. Besides, he couldn't imagine using it any of his other chi attacks against her. He needed to get closer, but Ukyo used the terrain and her ranged weapons to keep him away.
I can't hit her. It ain't right. Ranma cursed himself. Ucchan helped me train and fed me and asked nothing in return and that's what I gave her, nothing. I didn't even thank her. She is right. I am just like Pops.
Ranma stopped dodging and sadly called, "Ucchan, I'm sorry."
Ranma had never hesitated in a fight before.
The waves continued rising. Storm winds slashed across the rocks. It was about to rain and rain hard. Konatsu feared for both Ukyou and Ranma. One misstep and they would plunge into the sea and he couldn't do a thing to help.
And something beside the weather chilled Konatsu to the bone. Ukyou was an expert with throwing weapons. When she struck Ranma with exploding okonomiyaki at the wedding, she must have intended to. Her heart was shattered and all she had left was vengeance. She hadn't returned to Kansai to end her life, but to train for final retribution against Ranma.
Konatsu prayed it wasn't too late. Ukyou had been sorry she hurt Ranma and guarded his unconscious body during the melee the wedding degenerated into. Konatsu knew Ukyou was a very forgiving person, even the years she spent trying to become as cold as the sea and as hard as the rock hadn't changed that. But now she was broken inside and Konatsu knew he had to act before she did something regrettable.
Konatsu opened his mouth to call out, but his tongue froze and he couldn't find the words.
The wild angry winds matched Ukyou's mood. The storm and the sea called to her, raging in her ears. Their anger could sustain her, give her the strength she needed to finish this.
I can't forgive him, can't become that weak helpless little girl that every one laughed at. The fool who dared to love and care and forgive. I have to be strong.
Then Ranma stopped dodging.
As he spoke, a sharpened mini-spatula stuck him in the left eye. The wind nearly muffled the disgusting wet popping noise. Ranma screamed and arched his head back. His feet lost their purchase on the rock and his body fell backward into the sea.
His final words echoed for a moment. "I'm sorry...sorry...sorry..." Lightning flashed, thunder overwhelmed the echo, and the rains hurtled down in sheets.
In that brief flash of light, Konatsu saw a second form plunge into the sea, its combat spatula abandoned at the top of the rock.
The storm raged for hours, giving Konatsu plenty of time to free himself. He stared bleakly out over the sea as the winds finally subsided.
Gone, they're both gone.
He had no more tears. He might have stayed there forever but he caught a glimpse of fierce red hair.
Konatsu sprang from rock to rock to reach Ranma's side. She was unconscious and her ruined eye was bandaged with the large ribbon Ukyou usually bound her hair with. A ribbon that was no longer white.
Ranma regained consciousness at the hospital to find himself surrounded. Almost the entire Nerima crew had descended on him. He wanted desperately to be alone. Some were angry that he ran off without telling anyone. Some sorrowed over his injury. Some were glad he still lived. Their words blended to meaninglessness, like the pounding of the surf, and Ranma didn't know what he felt anymore.
He chose a patch instead of a glass eye. He didn't think his eye socket changed size when the curse transformed him, but didn't plan to find out the hard way. The hospital had thrown away Ukyou's makeshift bandage and Ranma was surprised at how angry that made him. All he had left of her was a few photos and the large combat spatula Konatsu retrieved before he also disappeared.
"Ranma, you dummy, what do you think you're doing?"
Akane was yelling at Ranma. Several things made this less than typical. Ranma was in girl form and wore a combat spatula strapped to her back and she was obviously leaving.
A weary voice replied. "How many times do I gotta say it, Akane? I'll be back when I find Ucchan."
"And how long is that going to be?"
"As long as I need. It took her ten years to find me."
"And you think I'll wait for you that long?
Ranma's words seemed lost in the rising storm of Akane's anger. "Ranma, you moron! She tried to kill you. You can't forget...can't forgive what she did to you."
"Akane, you don't understand."
He didn't have the words to tell her, he'd never been any good with words. All he had were jumbled images - sights, sounds, feelings - filtered through a haze of pain. Brief flashes of consciousness, images of Ukyou's final battle. Eyes full of tears, words torn away by the fury of the winds, dark unbound hair streaming behind her, and her arms wrapped around him defying the sea as it struggled to tear him from her grasp.
He tried to explain, but the words sounded flat and lifeless, even to him.
"You didn't see...tears...her tears...she was...the way she..."
Ranma sighed and gestured towards the patch. "This...this isn't what Ucchan wanted anymore than I wanted to do this to her heart. I'd be dead if she hadn't pulled me out of the water." The girl that was really a boy bowed her head. "I'll be back when I find her. I gotta do this."
"No, you don't Ranma. You don't owe her anything and where did you get this dumb idea of staying a girl."
"She stayed a boy till she found me. Maybe this way I'll understand her. Maybe I'll even understand you. Maybe by the time I find Ucchan, I'll be ready to marry someone and make it work."
Akane's expression softened. "R...Ranma, please don't go. I lo...I lo...I do like you and I'll...I'll miss you. Ukyou is gone. Don't waste your life searching for a dead girl."
"Ucchan is not dead! She's too strong to drown. I am gonna find her."
Ranma turned toward the sea and stormed off, leaving a shorthaired girl crying behind her.
I must go down to the seas again,
For the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call
That may not be denied;
Sea Fever by John Masefield