by Michelle Mista

Saotome Ranma-kun walked along the roof of the Tendo dojo, hands behind his back, until he found the place he normally sat down to watch the sunset.

He sat himself down, slowly, as he watched the sunset over Nerima, the normally beautiful golds and yellows darkening into the orange and red that finally melted into the dark of night.

Night. Ranma sat on the roof, watching the sun until the night fell... and matched his mood. He sighed.

* * * * *

"Akane-san...!" Ryouga called out in surprise.

"Akane?!" Ranma tried to turn around to see if it was true. He could barely see her, his movement hindered by the sticky, glass-like threads Saffron had used to trap him. He'd been so worried....

"Ranma, escape!!" Akane had called out as she gripped the Kinjakan, turning it in an effort to keep Saffron from growing too powerful.

Saffron yelled something out and turned the threads toward Akane.

Ranma started to yell out to Akane to get to safety...

A bright light emitted from the Kinjakan....

And, in that flash, Akane disappeared. "AKANE!" Ranma screamed. Her clothes floated down from the top of the Dragon Tap to land on him.


* * * * *

A tear fell from Ranma's cheek as he remember the moment he'd thought he'd lost Akane forever. No longer did he bother to wipe it away. No longer did he bother to turn into a girl before he started crying.... It just didn't matter any more to him.

* * * * *

"Akane! It's the water!" He remembered yelling at the doll after he'd broken the head of the Phoenix Tap with his Hiryuu Gyouten Ha.

"A... Akane!" she cried, feeling Akane's fully restored body in her arms again. Naked, sure, but Ranma didn't give a damn. What was important was that Akane wasn't a doll anymore. Ranma-chan was going to be so happy to feel Akane beat her into bean paste for seeing her in the nude like that....

But wait a minute.... <She's not breathing...>

* * * * *

Ranma drew a shuddering breath as he pulled his knees up to his chest and cried. It was right then, right then, that he realized Akane was gone... despite everything he'd tried. He'd fought so hard against Saffron... and won. That was the irony about it. He'd won that battle, turning Saffron back into a baby, but, for once, winning didn't make him feel any better. He'd only tried to win because he knew that if he won, he'd be able to turn on that Phoenix Tap and save Akane's life. But that fight had just taken too damn long!

The guide had said something about how as long as the doll's eyes were open, Akane was still alive. But just when Ranma had won... just when he caught the doll in his hands, she smiled once, and closed her eyes forever.

Actually, now that Ranma began to think about it, it wasn't him that won that fight at all. Akane had won it for him. By shooting out from his shirt, the doll had provided just the distraction Ranma needed to perform the Hiryuu Shoten Ha Henki and the Hiryuu Hyou Toppa that defeated Saffron.

He still remembered holding Akane in his arms, at first cursing at her. "Baka yarou" he'd called her, before punching himself for being so stupid. He looked tenderly at his iinazuke, apologized to her, told her about how he's clumsy, sometimes, with his feelings. He asked her to get up, hoping that she would.

"Akane," he said gently, "can you hear me?" She continued to lay motionless in his arms, while he kept hoping, praying, that she'd get up, smile at him, even get up to clobber him... anything to show she was still there. "AKANE!!"

But she continued to lay there, motionless....

* * * * *

<I'd give anything to hold her again,> Ranma thought to himself as he sat on the roof, his throat tight. <Anything....>


* * * * *

"Akane-san!!" Ryouga cried as he, Shampoo, Mousse and Genma- panda made their way down the sheer cliff. "Ranma, is she all...?"

Ryouga stopped as he saw Ranma cradling Akane in his arms, crying, begging her to get up. <Akane-san...> He stopped dead in his tracks, and sat on the ground, not daring to go anywhere near Ranma right now. Ryouga knew, now, why Ranma was crying.

"A...Akane-san.... Ranma...." He watched as Ranma told Akane all that he meant to tell her... but didn't. As much as Ryouga wanted to go up there, to touch Akane-san, to watch over her and hope that she'd get up and beat up Ranma (at this point, Ryouga would have loved to be beat up by her too,) he found that he couldn't go anywhere near them. <This is his time with Akane-san,> Ryouga thought to himself as he watched Ranma with Akane through his own tears. <These are his last moments with the woman he loves... and the woman that loved him.>

Shampoo and Mousse clambered their way down after Ryouga. "Ryouga, how's Tendo Akane doing?" Mousse called out. Ryouga didn't answer, but instead continued to sit on the ground, weeping, while watching Ranma with Akane. Mousse adjusted his glasses. "Something is wrong here," he muttered as his horrible vision, for once, adjust properly. He gasped.

"Akane all right?" Shampoo asked Mousse. "Why Ranma crying so much? Why Ryouga cry too?"

Mousse bowed his head, and turned a little away, taking Shampoo with him. "Shampoo," he said gently, catching her by the arm as she started to go towards Ranma. "I don't think you should go to Ranma right now."

"Why? Mousse jealous?" Shampoo guessed. She grinned wickedly. "Shampoo go Ranma."

"Shampoo." Mousse's voice was tight, firm, almost angry. Shampoo stopped in surprise. Mousse had never, ever addressed her like that. "Leave Ranma alone. Tendo Akane's gone."

"What Mousse mean gone?" Shampoo wanted to know. She pointed to Ranma. "She right there. Ranma hold violent Akane."

"Shampoo," Mousse took her by the arm, and Shampoo squirmed in his grip. "Akane is dead." Shampoo looked blank. "She's dead. She's not alive any more. That's why Ranma's crying."

"Akane... dead?" Shampoo turned once again to watch Ranma as he cried over the body of his iinazuke. "Ranma...." She turned to Mousse with tears in her eyes. "Shampoo no really like Akane, but Shampoo sad she dead now," she told him. "Shampoo want kill Akane before, but now, Shampoo see Ranma so sad. Shampoo glad she no kill Akane. Shampoo never think that Ranma really love violent girl like Akane so much. Ranma never say he love Akane."

"Hai," Mousse told her, wearily, watching Ranma. "But he showed her in his own way... and he's only telling her after she's dead...."

* * * * *

Burying Akane was probably the hardest thing Ranma ever had to do in his lifetime, as short as it was. Sixteen years wasn't long to live, but, as Ranma thought of it, Akane's lifetime was much shorter than his.

He stood at the gravesite, looking down at the coffin of his iinazuke, overcome with grief. Being Akane's iinazuke, he got the closest position to the coffin. From right behind him, he heard Soun wailing, and Kasumi and Nabiki's soft sobs. He could understand their grief. They'd lost their little sister, Soun had lost his youngest daughter....

Ranma's mother stood by the two Tendo sisters, right behind her son, weeping her own tears of sadness as she bid her own tearful good-bye to "Akane-chan". Even Genma was having trouble holding his tears back.

Ryouga stood off to the side, behind Ranma, muttering to himself before setting down a stack of letters beside the coffin. Ranma found himself looking at them, and then back at Ryouga. Ranma supposed they were the letters Ryouga had written to Akane on his trips, but never had the nerve to send. Ryouga, catching Ranma's glance at the bundled letters, started to pull them back, but Ranma shook his head. Ryouga nodded solemnly back.

<Hai, Ranma, there are many things we both should have told her,> Ryouga thought to himself. <But neither of us ever had the guts to tell her.> He watched Ranma, whose fists had clenched in what Ryouga took to be sorrow and frustration, and understood. He saw, for himself, how much Ranma had put into the fight... and for the first time, understood how much Ranma had loved Akane, though the words were never said.

Ukyou, Mousse, Shampoo, and Kunou had all come to the funeral to pay their last respects to Akane. Ukyou sobbed as she placed an orchid and one of her spatula shuriken on the coffin. Akane-chan had really tried to be a friend to her, no matter how much they battled for Ranma's attentions. Looking at Ranma now, Ukyou thought of all the time they wasted. All the time they wasted fighting over Ranma, Ukyou realized that she and Akane could have been friends. Ukyou's gaze wandered to Ranma as he stared sadly at his iinazuke's coffin. <Ranchan,> Ukyou thought, <you've always loved Akane-chan. We were all too blind to see it... even you two. But you did....>

Mousse bowed his head and Shampoo looked on with sad, but dry eyes. She could see how much Akane's death had affected him... and just as she saw in Jusendo, she saw how much Ranma truly loved Akane.

Kunou stepped forward to place a rose upon Akane's coffin, whispering a short, sweet verse of love and tenderness in her honor. He glanced up to see Ranma looking first at the rose, and then to him. Kunou blamed Ranma for Akane's death, seeing that he was the one, according to Ryouga's account, that Akane was trying to save. But his anger was tempered by his sorrow at Akane's death. <Saotome Ranma, the vengeance of heaven is slow but sure...> he thought. <The day will come when you will pay for your iinazuke's death....> He looked again from Ranma to the coffin, and his anger tempered yet again. <Perhaps,> he amended, <heaven's vengeance is already upon you, Saotome Ranma. The look in your eyes is just slightly more pain than I, Kunou Tatewaki, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, could ever mete out.>

"Son," Soun stepped forward to place a hand on Ranma's shoulder, choking back his tears enough so that he could talk. "I know that today might not be the right time to tell you this...."

"Go ahead, Ojisan," Ranma said quietly, still staring at Akane's casket. "I'm listening."

"Ranma-kun. Akane was your iinazuke...."

Ranma nodded. "Hai, Ojisan..."

"And do you remember the time before you left for China when you saw Akane in that wedding kimono?"

The image her sitting on the floor, surrounded by his mother and her father in that beautiful white kimono flashed in his mind, and his closed his eyes for a second. <Kawaii....> "Hai, Ojisan."

Soun choked. "Ranma-kun. Today was supposed to be the day of your wedding, but instead it is the day of my little girl's funeral." He began to sob, and held onto Ranma, whose only movement was to look down and begin to cry. "Instead of being beside you every day of her life, she will now rest beside her mother for eternity."

"Gomen..." Ranma's throat tightened. "Gomen nasai, Ojisan... I tried. I really tried...." Ranma found it harder and harder to speak through his tears.

"I know, Ranma-kun, I know," Soun told him. "I don't blame you for my little girl's death. I know that you tried your hardest. Ryouga-kun told me after you brought her home." Ranma looked up in surprise at Soun. Turning to Ryouga, he saw him walking away from the gravesite.

Soun tried to get a hold of himself before he began to speak again. "Ranma-kun, there was a present I had for you and Akane after you two had gotten married...."

"Ojisan," Ranma gently pushed Soun from his shoulder. "I don't want to hear about it now." He looked to the coffin again. "I-I want to say good-bye to Akane."

"Hai, Ranma-kun," Soun said, stepping back to join his two grieving daughters.

Ranma stood over the gravesite again, his mother and father having drawn back to comfort Soun and the two remaining Tendo girls. The friends who'd stood toward the side of Akane's coffin, vanished, a few leaving some sort of token to be buried with Akane. Ryouga had left his letters; Ukyou, an orchid and a small spatula. Kunou had left a red rose on her casket. Some others left flowers, and a few of her classmates had left small stuffed animals... one had even left a small stuffed pig that looked remarkably like Ryouga's cursed form.

"Ranma?" His mother's gentle voice came to him, as though reading his thoughts. "Are you, too, going to leave something for Akane-chan?"

"Ofukuro, I..." he looked toward the coffin again, and to his bare hands. "I don't got nothing to leave her." He lost control and began to cry again. "I ain't got nothing to give her!"

"Ranma," his mother said soothingly, through her own tears, as she held her grown son. "You know you've something to give her..."

"What, Ofukuro?" Ranma asked, weeping like a child. "I ain't got nothing. I can't give her anything now... it's too late!"

"Ranma," Nodoka said again. "I'm sure that you'll find something to give to Akane-chan when you're alone with her." She held her sobbing son for just a minute longer before she let him go. "We'll all be returning to the dojo now. Ranma," she said, prompting him to look up. "You can go ahead and take your time. Say your good-byes to Akane-chan."

"Un," Ranma nodded to his mother, and then nodded to the Tendos and to his father, before turning back to the coffin.

* * * * *

"Ranma-kun!" Soun called as he heard Ranma return from the graveyard. "Please, come in here."

"Hai, Ojisan," Ranma replied, as he walked into the living room.

Soun sat in his place, flanked on either side by Kasumi and Nabiki. Nodoka and Genma sat on the side opposite of where he and Akane usually sat. "Ranma-kun," Soun implored. "Please, sit down."

"Hai," he said as he sat down, the place beside him feeling unusually empty.

"Ranma-kun," Soun began. "As I told you, today was supposed to be the day of your wedding with Akane." Ranma nodded, and stared at the table. "In honor of that event, I called Jusenkyou and asked the guide for something. Kasumi?"

"Hai, Otousan," Kasumi answered, as she went to the hallway and fetched a small cask, placing it on the table in front of Ranma before returning to her place.

"Ranma-kun," Soun told him. "Do you know what this is?" Ranma shook his head. "Read the writing on the cask, son."

Ranma looked up briefly to see the kanji written on one of the boards of the cask. He read, dully, "Nannichuan."

"I was planning to present this to you and Akane after the ceremony, but now that she's gone...." Soun paused for a second, tears streaming down his cheeks, but was determined to keep speaking. "I know that, above everything, Akane would like you to have this, Ranma-kun."

Ranma looked briefly at the cask that contained his cure, and took a deep breath, his decision having been made while he held Akane in Jusendo.

"Gomen nasai, Ojisan," he told Soun, looking from the cask to his father and back to Soun. "I don't want it any more." He sighed, tears coming back to his eyes. "I don't like the fact that I turn into a girl, but I know that I can live with it. But, I can't live without...." He drew a shuddering breath as he looked back down on the cask of Nannichuan. "I wanted to be cured for her sake. I wanted her to be happy. I wanted her to have an iinazuke that wasn't the hentai she always called me. I wanted to be normal so that she could be happy with me." Tears flowed down his cheeks. "You can give the Nannichuan to Oyaji, or Ryouga, or to Mousse. But unless there's something that can bring Akane back to me, Ojisan," he looked up at Soun, "I don't want it. I have no reason to want to be cured anymore."

After he told Soun that, he went up to the roof, to remember. Oftentimes, the roof had been his sanctuary away from his mallet-toting iinazuke. Despite the years she'd trained in martial arts getting up onto the roof wasn't as easy for her as it was for Ranma. As he looked around now, he wished, he wished so badly, that she'd just come up and start yelling "baka" while brandishing either her sword or that mallet.

He remembered her smile, her laugh.... <She could be so kawaii when she wanted to be,> Ranma thought. <Hell, she was kawaii even when she was hitting me.> Ranma remembered the first time they met, the way she'd beat Akane in a match (without even trying).... He remembered the hug she'd given him when he returned after that fight with Herb, Mint, and Lime... and how he didn't hug her back, he was so surprised. <Dammit, I should've,> he thought now. He remembered the kiss he'd given her, too late.... Her body was still warm as he gave her that first, and final, real kiss.

"Ore wa omae ga suki da*," he whispered as he sat on the roof, the same way he'd said it after that kiss at Jusendo, the same way he'd said it as he crouched alone by her grave earlier that day. "I've always only loved you, Akane...." (* "I love you")

"I wish," Ranma said, choking on his tears, "that I had told you sooner." Rain started to fall in Nerima, and Ranma felt his curse take effect.

"Akane..." Ranma-chan whispered, "I really do love you."

* * * * *

<SPLASH!> "Baka!"

"Na-nani?!" Ranma-chan sat up on her futon, soaking wet and spluttering. She looked around her confusedly. "A-Akane?!"

Akane laughed and showed Ranma the pail that she'd used to soak him with. "Really, Ranma you should learn how to get up earlier in the mornings!" She grinned. "You sleep like the dead, you know!"

Ranma bristled a little at the word "dead", and held her head. Damn, did she have a headache...!

Akane blinked at his strange reaction. "Well, just needed to get you up. You really overslept this time. Did you go to bed late or something, Ranma?" she asked.

Ranma-chan shook her head, still feeling the effects of the dream. It had been so real... <Akane... dead... no she's alive... she's right here lecturing me,> Ranma thought. It was hard to believe that it had actually been a dream, with how real everything had seemed. Their friends, the tears... even her throat still hurt from feeling as though she was holding back tears. She shivered and hugged herself a little.

"If you don't hurry up, we'll be late to class," Akane continued, sighing. "We'll probably be running to school again. Kasumi-oneechan and Obasama have breakfast ready downstairs." She turned to leave, only to notice Ranma-chan was still just sitting there watching her, hugging herself as if cold. "Aren't you going to get up yet? Hurry up, or Ojisama's gonna take all your food!"

Ranma-chan looked up at Akane, and finally smiled. <She's really here,> she thought to herself. "Hey, Akane," she said as she got up from her futon.

She turned around. "Hai?"

"You really are kawaii, you know," she told her. Akane blinked a little.

"Uh, thanks Ranma...." She blushed, but looked at her iinazuke suspiciously. "Um... are you feeling okay?"

"Hai," Ranma walked past her, towel in hand. "I'm perfectly fine," she assured her as she walked down the stairs and into the bathroom to change. "Oh, and next time I oversleep," she called over her shoulder, "hit me or something instead of splashing me. It'll save some time," Ranma said, smiling to herself again as she continued walking.

"I wonder what's wrong with him this morning?" Akane said as she watched Ranma descend down the stairs. "He sure is acting strange... even for him." She started to walk down the stairs after him. "I wonder if I hit him too hard on the head last night...?" She mused, shaking her head. "I've got to remind myself to stop doing that. All those blows to the head are probably what's making him act so strange."

* * * * *

Ranma stepped into the hot water of the bath tub, he smiled.

<Yokatta,> he thought to himself. From the bathroom, he could hear the sounds of his iinazuke joking around with her sisters, her father, and his own parents. <It was all just a bad dream.> As he sat in the tub, he remembered what day it was. It was a Monday, time to get ready for school to start. He thought back to the dream, how lonely he felt without her by his side. <Maybe I'll run beside her instead of on the fence today,> Ranma thought to himself with a smile. <Yeah, that's it....>

His mind began to wander. Just a few days ago, they almost got married. He remembered the way she'd looked in her wedding dress, how beautiful she was. He remembered the way she looked when she awoke in his arms in Jusendo.... And he remembered the way he felt on both occasions.

"Akane," he said, quietly. "Ore wa omae ga su..."

"Ranma!!" Akane pounded on the door to the bathroom. "Are you going to stay in there all day? Hurry up! I don't want to be late for class!"

"Baka!" Ranma yelled through the door as he got out of the bath. "What do you want me to do... go to school as a girl?" He put a towel around his waist and opened the door just a crack. "Kawaikunee!!" he yelled at her.

"Why you!" Akane was about to bash through the door before he closed it again. He heard Akane yelling something incoherent back at him.

Ranma laughed to himself and started to dress. "Aw, save it, Akane!" He called through the closed door as he put on his shirt. Akane continued to yell at him through the door.

Ranma grinned. "You ain't as kawaii when you're mad," he told her, opening the door, now fully dressed, catching her in mid-yell, careful to keep his smile hidden.

Akane looked blankly at him for a second. "What's wrong with you?" she asked. "You're acting weird!"

"There's nothing wrong with me," Ranma insisted as he walked with her to the breakfast table. He sat down at the table, next to Akane, accepting his bowl of rice from Kasumi. Between mouthfuls, and arguing with his iinazuke, he finished quietly, to himself, "-ki da."

The End

End Notes:
I wrote the story cuz, 1) I was in a weird mood, and 2) because on rec.arts.anime.misc there as an article about how all Ranma "dying" fan-fics are always about Ranma dying and Akane dealing with his death. How would Ranma deal with it?

I thought re-working the ending of V38 would just be a nice ironic twist.... I tried to keep everything the same until about the middle of page 161 (in V38... I don't know what page it is in the Shonen Sunday issue.) In the manga, Akane awakes after Ranma yells out her name. I thought, "What if Akane doesn't wake up?" In the manga, Ranma later tried to deny what he'd implied as he spoke to an unconscious Akane (who, as far as I can surmise, Ranma thought was dead at the time.) If Akane didn't miraculously wake up, how would Ranma (and those who were there) deal with the situation? And yes, for those who noticed, I left out Genma-panda. As he was still Shampoo's underling at the time this would've happened, I can't very well gauge how he'd react.

I also tried to stick, as closely as I could, to the rest of the story line. I cut out the part at the flooded Jusenkyou but stuck it in as the little speech Ranma gave Soun when presented with the Nannichuan after Akane's funeral (in place of the botched wedding, of course.) I've got some comments on how Soun seemed way too calm for a man that normally has a nervous breakdown when one of his daughters catches a cold. This is true... but Soun's waterworks are normally very comical in nature, and because this story, is on the serious side, I chose to tone him way down. ^_^;

I'd also like to thank the FFML for all the C&C, and especially Mario "Lee-kun" Bansen III, Stephanie A. Gonazles, and David Tai.

Ja ne!

Story Page back to the Short Story Page.

Sabishisa (Loneliness), 27 August 1996