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Insanity's End!

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"Come on, Ryō-chan! We'll be late if we don't go soon!" Ukyō was standing at the base of the staircase, tapping her feet. She wore a silk blue evening dress.

"Just... a minute!" called Ryōga back. "Do you know where I put the chocolates?"

Ukyō sighed. "I have 'em! And now come on!"

"Oh. Coming!" With that, Ryōga came down the stairs. He was dressed in a black tuxedo with a bow-tie, his bandanna missing for a change. "He's getting better, don't you think, Ukyō-chan?"

"Yeah..." Ukyō frowned, "She's helping him a lot. If only..."

"Yeah..." Ryōga inspected the ground. "If only this hadn't happened."


Flashback


 

Pansuto-Tarō was losing again. All his training, and it had all been in vain. He wished back the old times when only Ranma was a real threat. But since that cross-dresser's wife had gotten so much faster and stronger, he never saw the light. Even in his curse form those two were a force too powerful for him. He had to end it, or else...

"Time to end it, don't you think?" called Ranma across to Akane. She nodded.

"Yeah! Let's do it! He tried to kill us for the last time!" Akane was happy. She remembered the times when Ranma hadn't trained her; she never held out this long. And now... now he was going down, and she had a part in it!

Suddenly, Beast-Tarō lashed out with four of his tentacles toward Ranma.

Akane, seeing that her husband didn't react, whirled around. "Ranma!" She started for him... "Watch ou-!"

There was a sickening crack, and Akane's body fell limply to the floor.

"Akaneeee...!" Ranma's eyes went vacant.

Tarō had hoped the girl would react that way. He had wrapped one of his tentacles around her neck just when she started for her husband. It was all to easy!

Ranma couldn't wrap his mind around it. Akane had been killed, and just because he hadn't told her that Tarō was starting a diversion!

His mind shut down completely, and his heart started falling...


 

"Ryō-chan, what's up?" Ukyō was worried. In the middle of serving some customers, her husband had dropped the plates, his expression raw despair.

"Don't you feel it?" asked Ryōga, turning around. There were tears standing in his eyes.

"Feel what?" She didn't like the direction this was going.

"It's Ranma. He..." Ryōga choked.

"Oh no!" Ukyō went white as a ghost. "Come quick, Ryōga!" She ran for the door, dragging her husband with her.


 

"MUAHAhahaha!" Pansuto-Tarō was gleeful. He had killed one of them, his deed leaving his second opponent completely defenseless in despair.

He shouldn't have laughed, though...


 

"Great-grandmother! I sense disturbance. As if..." Shampoo trailed off.

"I know, child. I felt it, too." Cologne looked worried. "Take Mousse and follow me. Quick!" With that, she ran for the door of the Neko Hanten.


 

"MUAHaha- Huh?"

When Tarō had started laughing, Ranma's eyes slid back into focus and started burning. Having fallen deeper than despair, Ranma's heart froze.

Through tear-blurred vision he glared at the chinese-man-turned-beast. He would pay for killing Akane!

It seemed as if Ranma was standing in the eye of an invisible storm; the dust started rotating around him, the speed increasing more and more. Then the rotation suddenly stopped, and the earth started quaking.

Frost formed outward from Ranma's position, the ground it reached freezing instantly. Close to Ranma it broke, chunks of it starting to float. Shortly thereafter, those chunks floating were ripped apart by sparks as a dark, greenish-black aura burst into flames around the pig-tailed martial artist.

Beast-Tarō remained immobile, caught between awe and fear. This was his second mistake...

His pain and anger blocking all other feelings, Ranma focused completely on Tarō. He thrust forward both of his hands, and immediately a globe of dark, invertly-glowing, ki started forming, quickly growing in size.


 

Ukyō and Ryōga were the first to arrive.

"Ran-chan!" cried Ukyō, starting for him. She was held back by her husband.

"Don't. There's no way you're gonna reach him. Look." He pointed at a body lying off Ranma's side.

"Akane!" Ukyō clasped her hands over her mouth and buried her face in Ryōga's chest, choking. "Nooo...!"

"At the very least she'll be avenged." Ryōga was worried for Ranma. While it stabbed at his heart that Akane had died, he knew how it was for Ranma. This is the end of Tarō. He watched in morbid fascination as the ball of ki in Ranma's hands, which already was twelve feet in diameter, continued growing. Focusing in, Ryōga could see the anger and pain etched into his friend's face.

He drew a sharp breath.

"Ukyō-chan! Run for it!" Ryōga started for Akane's corpse, yelling "Run as far away as you can!" Picking up Akane and cradling her limp form in his arms, he ran for his life.


 

His fear taking over, Tarō decided to fly away...

...but he couldn't. His feet had been frozen to the ground, literally pinning him down. He looked back up at Ranma in complete and utter terror...

The sphere in his hands now having reached fifty feet in diameter, Ranma felt the old despair return. Before it could overwhelm him, he gave a push, uttering a terrible, inhuman scream...

Beast-Tarō's eyes were wide. He just knew this was his end, and nobody would miss him, or despair at his loss, like Ranma had at the loss of Akane...

I'm worthless...


 

Cologne stopped. "That..."

Suddenly, the day turned darker than the darkest night. From the epicenter of the darkness, blinding white light expanded. Then there was a tremendous explosion, flattening trees for miles around.

"Bā-san!" Ryōga came running up to her, holding something in his arms.

"no. It couldn't be..."

"It's Ranma." Ryōga said breathlessly. "He... He..." Unable to finish the sentence, he gently lowered Akane's limp form to the floor.

Cologne swallowed hard. "I understand." She looked up at Ryōga. "Go. He needs you now."

Nodding, the young martial artist ran back to Ranma's aid.

"Great-grandmother, what j-" Shampoo's words died in her throat. She wordlessly took the blanket Mousse handed her, knelt down and covered Akane's body with it.


End Flashback


 

"I'm so sorry, Akane..." Ranma broke down in mid-kata and cried.

"Huh? What for?" asked Akane, floating down through the ceiling.

Ranma quickly willed the tears away and looked up at her, the slightest hint of a smile creeping onto his face: "Ever look into the mirror, lately?"

"Ranma..." Akane looked at him with a serious expression, "Please. There's nothing you could have done about it. It's my own fault..." She snorted. "Mō! To take his feint for an attack and neglect my own defense...!"

Seeing Ranma look down again, Akane growled. "Look, there are only two ways this can end: a) you accept it and live on with me here, or b) you overflow with self-pity and I'll haunt you forever and a day. Take your pick!" The spirit crossed her arms.

Ranma smiled faintly and stood up. "I think you already know my choice." His smile quickly vanished, however. "But did Happōsai really have to summon ya to this realm? I mean, did he really hate me that much?"

"Ranma..." Akane was searching for the right words. "You were his best student. I think in his own way, that little pervert liked you. It broke his heart to have you just shut down and not react to anything. Take it as his last gift for you."

"Besides..." She looked her husband straight in the eyes, "Who will take care of our children, if not you?" There was a loud crash and the front door rattled in its hinges. Akane massaged her temples: "And tell Ryō that he cannot go through walls!"

"Hey, I'm not the one who does." retorted Ranma with a small grin.

"See? I wish... No, I WANT you to smile like that more often." Akane laid her hands on her hips.

"Okay. I promise."

"Good." She smiled at her widower. "And now you better go take a bath. They'll be here, soon."

"Will you come with me?"

"Hmm... Okay." Akane smiled at him.