A Ranma ½ story
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
The air hummed, shivering with some indefinable quality that a sensitive person may have called power. If one looked closely, not allowing their eyes to focus properly, they would eventually, if they were lucky, catch a flash of movement, a shadow where none should be cast. Then the hum grew, became a high whining that slowly decreased in pitch until the very walls of the dojo shook. Finally, in a rumbling roar, a figure emerged from thin air. Chest heaving, his clothes soaked with perspiration, Ranma Saotome slumped to the wooden floor beneath him. A hazy gray, smoke-like aura drifted from his body, fading from existence shortly thereafter.
"Too much," Ranma gasped. "Too much…" And he fell to the paneled floor, unconscious. He was barely breathing when they found him.
The immediate and reflexive urge was to rush Ranma to Dr. Tofu's clinic. The man wasn't exactly a doctor in the traditional sense, but his brand of medicine dealt with the arcane and the abstract. Who better to care for one such as Ranma Saotome? The timely arrival of a horrified Cologne rapidly changed the plans.
"Oh, son-in-law, what have you done?" Cologne moaned, her tiny little hands grasping her staff until the gnarled wood groaned in sympathy.
"What's wrong with Ranma?" Akane asked tenuously. She was controlling herself through a massive effort of will, but tears leaked from her eyes nonetheless and her entire body trembled noticeably.
"He's gone too far… I felt the emanations all the way from the Nekohanten… too far," Cologne muttered, tapping several pressure points along Ranma's upper chest and neck. His breathing became slightly less labored and gained a hint of regularity.
Nabiki, worried for Ranma, the gullible, lucrative, stupid little brother that she never had, asked, "What do you mean 'too far'? What emanations?"
"Emanations in chi aura generated by all the living things in Nerima, child. To one sensitive to it, this little corner of Japan glows like a bonfire." Cologne shook her head, continuing to administer aide to Ranma while explaining. "A few minutes ago, nearly every passive aura in this district was blown away by son-in-law. I don't know how he did it, but the effort has drained his body of life and taxed his spirit beyond imagining."
"But he'll be all right, won't he?" Akane's hands now shook so violently that she had to ball them into fists and hold them at her side. She only succeeded in driving her fingernails deeply into her palms. The pain, gratefully, distracted her a bit.
Cologne looked at the young girl in sympathy, her eyes relaying as much comfort as she could manage. "Child, for Ranma to survive this ordeal, I fear that nothing short of divine intervention or some magic beyond my knowledge will be necessary."
Akane closed her eyes, a deep moan rising from her throat. The girl felt like she was falling, spiraling out of control, buffeted on all sides by unseen attackers. A cool, soothing blankness began to intrude upon her distressed consciousness.
Kasumi caught her sister as she fell. Unable to support the weight of her deceptively heavy sister, Kasumi changed the effort into cushioning her sister's fall by sinking to her knees with the younger girl cradled in her arms. She stroked Akane's short black hair, murmuring kind words to her sister. Oh, poor Ranma, such a kind, if misguided young man! Kasumi thanked the kami that Mr. Saotome and her father were away at another 'council meeting'. She didn't know what she would have done to comfort and calm everyone.
Ranma coughed, a series of muscle spasms racking his body until his back formed a bow. The seizure passed and Ranma slumped back to inactivity. His chest no longer rose and fell. There was no heartbeat when Cologne checked, virtually blurring with speed in urgency.
Nabiki watched Cologne shake her head minutely and knew that Ranma was gone. His face, normally so full of life and overwhelming vitality, was pale, slack. Her respect for Cologne grew tenfold as she observed the ancient woman frantically trying to bring Ranma back to life with a hand that glowed purple and seemed to have the same effect as a defibrillator. Eventually, Nabiki knew not how long, Cologne drew back and looked up at her. The piercing black eyes were hooded and swam with unshed tears. Oddly, Nabiki felt something wet sliding down her face. She reached up to brush away the tears, amazed that she was crying. The last time she'd cried, ever, had been at her mother's funeral service all those years ago.
Ranma Saotome was laid to rest in a small, private ceremony, attended only by the Tendos, Saotomes, and Ranma's closest friends and rivals. There was much crying involved, some wailing at the injustice of it all, and no small amount of cursing Ranma for letting himself die.
Life in Nerima would never be the same.
Ranma's eyes opened slowly, adjusting rapidly to the low light of a nearly full sunset. He felt incredibly weak, but hunger overrode the feeling. Following his nose, he was led to a steaming bowl of broth that rested on a small nightstand. He attacked the soup with a vengeance. Even as he drained a cool mug of water, Ranma felt strength slowly returning as his rapid metabolism went to work on the first meal it had had in almost a week.
Just as he was about to attempt to stand, the door to the shadowed room swung open. Ranma didn't know where he was, but he was sure he wouldn't be able to put up much of a fight in his current condition. Despite that, he tensed his muscles, prepared to spring into action at the merest hint of a threat to his person. A moment later and Ranma allowed himself to relax.
"Son-in-law, you must rest. You have been through a very trying ordeal," Cologne said gently. On an ornate silver tray she bore another bowl of the broth and a small pot of tea. "This will help you to further regain your strength." Placing the tray on the nightstand, Cologne drew back and asked, "How do you feel, son-in-law?"
"Awful," Ranma croaked, stunned at how weak and hoarse his voice sounded. "Ugh. Old ghoul, what happened to me? The last thing I remember is practicing that new speed technique you showed me… that's all."
With a hop, the Amazon alighted on Ranma's bed. "Ranma, this is going to be very difficult to accept, and you should not feel guilty. I blame myself for not warning you, though I never suspected even you to learn the technique so quickly."
Confused, Ranma asked, "Old ghoul, what are you talking about? What happened?" He was getting worried. Where was everyone else at? Where was Akane? She usually greeted him with an insult or two whenever he regained consciousness.
"When you slipped back into normal space, somehow, Ranma, you created an enormous shockwave. It leveled the dojo and much of the surrounding city," Cologne answered, laying her wrinkled little hand on his shoulder in an attempt to comfort him.
"Akane? Pop? Kasumi…?" Ranma trailed off, his eyes widening in horror as he realized the finality in Cologne's words. They were gone. He'd killed them. They were gone. The only family he'd ever known. Gone. Dead. His fault.
Cologne jumped back as Ranma became enshrouded in a black and green aura of complete and utter despair. The bed and floor beneath him and the ceiling above simply dissolved. Then, emotionally spent and physically exhausted by the momentary lapse in control, Ranma slumped to the ground, once again unconscious.
The best way to break someone was to never let them know they were being broken. To shape someone to your will is best achieved by making your will their own.
Cologne's lips pulled back into a ghastly version of a grin. Ranma would make a truly magnificent addition to the tribe.
To be continued.
Author's Notes: Ugh, stupid cold front, damned weather. Thanks to some kind of illness, I'm guessing a bad head cold with a touch of strepthroat, major computer problems (Gateway sucks, but at least the tech support people are nice) and a tad of writer's block (no, the major case of that from this summer isn't coming back), I haven't wrote anything in a while. Got this idea last night while I was trying to go to sleep, and decided to write it out. It's amazing how little sleep you need when you're too miserable to recognize exhaustion as anything but another reason to bitch and moan. Anyway, I'll probably continue this for three or four more chapters, like I do with almost all my works, then start something else and forget about it. Maybe not, though, so look out for the next part sometime soon. C&C is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
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