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Foreword by Gary Kleppe

Keener has invited me to say a few words here to introduce this story;
it's a pleasure to do so.

They say that the best works of fiction are those which come from the
authors' personal experiences. That's certainly true in this case.
Keener Barnes is one of the many people who suffer from the illness
called depression, and he is a survivor of several depression-induced
suicide attempts.

But with all due respect to Keener, most of us aren't here to read
stories about his life. We're reading this because we care about the
Ranma 1/2 characters. Fanfiction authors have the difficult job of
convincing us not only that their stories (given certain changes in the
laws of physics) could happen, but that they could happen *to these
characters.* I'd say that Keener has succeeded.

The Suicide Blast is a frighteningly logical extension of Ryoga's Shishi
Hokodan, and it doesn't seem like that much of a stretch to think that
in darker times, the Lost Boy might be tempted to use it to its fullest
extent. But will he? And what will be the result? Read the story and
find out.


Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 belongs to Rumiko Takahashi for creating it,
Shogunakate for publishing it, Viz for bringing it here, and finally,
though by no means, leastly... the fans, your love makes it grow.

BTW, if you have the Ruoroni Kenshin sound track at home, play the Theme
for the Darkside of Your Soul 
whenever Ryouga uses the Jisatsu Bakuha.


                OtakuNXS presents...


    China, a time when dreams were closer, and a place where nightmares
were never very far...

    The storm raged on, men looking to leaders and flags, trying to tame
fear with courage. Horses frothed at the mouth and banners ripped from
the ground, joining the tempest. In accordance with the rules, the night
was indeed dark, but never for very long. Lightning crackled and hissed
while the thunder rumbled, letting no one shut it out. There was still a
final act in this particular play, and the audience would be attentive,
regardless of its attempts to hide.

     Dangerous men scattered about the valley, weapons being tossed
aside as cover was sought. The very soil beneath them tried to swallow
them whole, the sky above trying its best to drown them. Over it all,
there was the crackle, flash... BOOM!

     Only their captives seemed immune. While terror turned grown men
into children, they stood quietly, drinking it all in. They looked to
the sky and wept, tears invisible amongst the rain

    "The Lion is dead," breathed one of the captors slowly. "Think on
that, think on the rain, think on the perfect day it was. Think on a
daughter we let die... just to keep a secret." As the words left him,
the men fell silent, each taking a ladle and dipping into his own
private soul. Then, as one, they began to glow.

    The soldiers learned why they had been sent to guard a group of
lowly miners, learned why an emperor had trembled in fear of well
diggers. They might never know what love was like, or how a newborn felt
as it wriggled in your arms, but they learned all there was to know
about untamed grief. It was a mistake making those men unhappy, a
mistake the unprepared warriors took to the grave.

    Spheres of iridescent pain outshone the lighting, outshook the
thunder, as they exploded upon the battlefield. The storm itself seemed
to be stunned into silence, only the wind continuing, dancing about the
scattered remains of abandoned armor and useless swords. As the screams
of those few men with voice, faded and died, the zephyr blew on.

    Another ending... A dreamer would have mocked and claimed it was
just another beginning. An idealist would have smiled knowingly and said
there were neither beginnings nor endings, just the circle. The realist
would have sighed, walking closer to the wind then the others, tasting
the many bitter cold nights it had brought about. You can never really
tell where you come from, the past shrouded in a thousand hellos and
good-byes, all insignificant, all monumental. And circles, while nice,
are just one more way to free yourself of the chains of the present.
When it comes right down to it, the light is neither behind, nor
filtering through the tunnel, only at the egress.


                Suicide Blast... Part One


    Whether finale, overture, or intermission, the gust creeped on. It
became another storm, ravaged a passing butterfly, making a rather
overdue point and then transformed to a winter's chill. It was a
terrible twister one year and a pleasant breeze the next. Centuries
passed and it traveled the world, watching the whole cycle, making as
much comment as was necessary, which happened to be none at all. Then,
years later, it lazed its way through a country lane in rural Japan,
stopping just long enough to bring refreshment to a young boy. He looked
tired, a traveler who had forgotten what it felt like to be without a
pack. But there was something else on his face; a faraway look that
could only be described as... a homecoming.

    Ryouga let the wind blow coolly across his face. It caressed a face
that was no longer creased in anger, no longer twisted in grief. Today,
it was a  gentle wind, one that had no knowledge or care of the past,
just whisperings of a final peace. The mind, once ever-raging against
itself and the world, had come to rest. Was it the calm before the
storm? Another whirlwind of pain, even more flailing then the one he had
endured these past long years? Or was it simply the peace he had spent a
lifetime searching for? He knew it wasn't a good decision and he knew it
wasn't fair. But his life had been neither good nor fair, so it all
seemed to make sense.

    He had come to terms both with himself and his soul, and it all
seemed right. A question whose obvious answer had eluded him through
untold hours of sobbing in the darkness, alone. Ryouga thought back to
the phone call. A simple ring that had congealed all his fears and
destroyed what little hope he had been able to tear from his godforsaken
life. It had also set him free.

...oooOOO(  )(  )(  )

    "Yo Ryouga, I see you finally got to Akari. Only took you a month
too, not bad. Owww! Hey quit it, I'm being nice, geez Akane." Ranma's
voice had ended a month long stupor for young man. He had been beyond
care ever since the whole wedding fiasco.

    Maybe the others hadn't been able to see it, but he was used to
searching Akane's face. How often had he searched that lovely visage,
waiting, begging for a sign, a look, a smile, anything that said, I love
you too? He knew her anger, he knew her tears, and he knew her smile,
like a desert wanderer knew the sweet taste of water. He watched shock,
then confusion and finally joy play about her perfect features as
Ranma's words made their way  to her heart. Lips had parted to return
the love, breaking into a tearful smile that could melt the hardest
heart. Or break it. Who would've thought a smile could be so fatal?

    "Listen, me and Akane are finally gonna get hitched and I... awww
man, quit crying already Mr. Tendo, I can't make these kinda
arrangements with you blubbering every time we mention it. Anyway we'd
like you for the best man." Ranma paused, continuing with a chuckle.
"Doesn't that just say it all. My best man and best friend all rolled
into a neat little 'Ranma, I'm gonna kill you' package. What? Lay off
would'ya, Akane? He's used to it by now."

    Ryouga just listened as Ranma and Akane yelled at each other over
the phone. Part of him noticed that their fighting had a playful edge to
it that had been absent before. Most of him, though, just wanted the
whole thing over, all of it.

    "So anyways, just stay where you are. Me and pop'll be by to pick
you up in a couple of days. We can go training and stuff, you know, like
the old days." Ranma continued in a whisper, "She's been cooking for
days now and we just gotta get some real foo- Oh nothing Akane. Look I
gotta go, she's yelling again and waving a deadly weapon around. My god,
it's a western omelet, brrrrr, wish me luck. See ya."

    He placed the receiver down, a little surprised he hadn't crushed
it. It just didn't hurt as much as he thought it would, his decision
giving him comfort already. Was that when he had decided? Or had it been
when he first saw the smile on Akane's face? It had been a spring of
pure sweetwater, given to a man who already owned the river. Meanwhile
the sunlight cracked Ryouga's tongue, now, not even able to beg. A
figure hugging him tightly stopped his musings short.

    "Who was it, Ryouga-sama?" Akari asked sweetly, eyes full of life
and a smile on her lips.

    Ryouga looked at her with new eyes and he absently traced the smile
with them. He tried to conjure up the love he had for Akane, comparing
it to his love for Akari. She knew his secret and still cared for him,
loved him even more because of it in fact. She had been there when "she"
had not. Her tears fell for him, and the smile he hungered for was given
with healthy doses of hugs and kisses for dessert. But was simply
filling the void enough? If so, then why was it still so damn hungry?

    It was just like when Ranma had dressed up as his "fiancee". Ryouga
had been willing to let Akane go just for the selfish need of someone he
could have as his own. She was someone with whom he wouldn't have any
fears of rejection. Akari's love was a bit selfish too, here was a
boyfriend and a pig all in one, a dream come true for someone like her.
Still, he knew what she did out of innocence, he did out of fear. A fear
for the hole inside of him, a hole he tried desperately to feed with her
love. But it couldn't be fed with just one person's love... and
another's fear. Soon, it would swallow them both, body and soul.

    He gently pushed her away and excused himself, saying he needed
fresh air.

...oooOOO(  )(  )(  )

    Looking up into the stars, Ryouga wondered at how it was going to
feel. Painful, of course, this things tended to be, but after that...
sweet and total peace. How to do it though?

    The methods open were many and varied, some that hurt, others that
were little more then closing one's eyes and never opening them. Still,
he was being selfish enough as it was, and guilt stabbed deeper then any
knife. No need in spreading his pain to others; in fact, that was half
of why he was doing this. Maybe he could just fall off a mountain.
They'd never know what had happened to him then. If they ever did find
him it would just be some tragic accident, a fitting end to a tragic
life. How hard would he have to throw himself to make sure it was fatal?

    Ryouga laughed at himself. All his training, his desperate attempts
to fill the void with something, had made his life a very hard thing to
end. Ironic that the one thing that had gotten him through his personal
hells to begin with, before he met Akane, was also prolonging the agony
of his existence. He'd just have to use those strong hands of his,
strong enough to end a life. Yes, definitely strong enough for that, but
why hadn't they been strong enough to at least hold onto a little
happiness?

    While looking down at his coarse palms, the martial artist caught
sight of a small blue ball that had formed there. Strange, he hadn't
called upon the Shishi Houkoudan. He didn't even feel that bad.
Actually, the hole inside him silently waiting to be given its fill, his
mind as calm as the night's breeze and a peace long since lost, now
found, he was as happy as he could ever remember being. Why had he
summoned a physical representation of his pain?

    Still, the ball of light was small, more like a snowflake than a
massive build-up of heavy chi energy. He'd simply fire it off and
continue with his thoughts. A strange little idea formed in his head and
he aimed the sphere at Akari's pens. That would be one way for him to
leave without making her cry, flash-fry one of her prized piglets.
Better to feel angry then betrayed; that was one thing he knew a lot
about. Of course, a fragment of force this small wouldn't even make it
to the pens before fizzling out.

    He let the force go, straight at a rather cute little piggy that had
peeked up over the fence. Human presence meant food, one way or another,
and piglets are consummate gamblers.

    The sphere hurtled from his hands with more force than any Ryouga
had ever been able to summon before, almost knocking the martial artist
to his knees. As it streaked through the air, the pressure of its
passage tore an incredibly deep gash into the ground. The pig had just
enough time to duck out of the way as the energy slammed into the pens.
Matter in the middle of the explosion didn't burn, didn't explode, it
just vaporized.

    Ryouga's dumbfounded stare was cut short as he felt his chest
squeezing in on itself. He hit the ground, unable to even scream.
Squeals of pain erupted from the pigpens as he tried desperately to get
up, rolling in agony, tears soaking his face and the earth below him.
When he finally found his voice again, he moaned until his lungs burned,

digging huge furrows into the sod below him. Akari, having heard the
commotion, not to mention having a part of her house blown apart by the
aftershock, came stumbling out. Just what the heck was going on?

    She gagged slightly at the smell of cooking meat and stared in
horror as her beloved pets writhed in pain. Who could have done this? A
moaning sound seemed to answer her question as she turned to see her
beloved stumbling towards her, his hand smearing dirt on his chest.

    "Ryouga-sama, are you okay?" Her mind raced between concern for her
two greatest loves, but one won out a thousand times over. She ran to
Ryouga, mentally cursing herself for her pause.

    His head cradled in Akari's lap, he tried to focus his thoughts. He
had felt his heart tighten. Years of training his body far beyond the
normal levels of human endurance had given him a great sense of his own
physical health. Even more so, he had sensed his own spirit weaken, his
own power diminish, releasing itself in physical form. He realized that
the blast had torn into his life force.

    Akari looked down at Ryouga in shock and concern as he started to
laugh uncontrollably, tears coming again, staining his face with mud.
Even with the weak light of the stars, she could see that he looked
horrible. The light in his eyes had seemed to dim, his face had a
gauntly, almost starved look about it, and his lips were more blue then
pink.

    He had mastered it! Now, of all times, he had mastered the
Depression Blast. Of course, this was the only way he could have
mastered it. The Shishi Houkoudan was a force of pure pain and
inescapable misery. The final use of it was the end of all misery. A
technique designed to end the suffering of those who used it. To master
it meant to master your own pain, to lump it with your life-force and
then fling it all to the emptiness beyond; to go out with a bang as it
were.

    It was perfect. Let Ranma slay the beast, bring the rabid dog to
heel, and, even if he couldn't, the technique would. They'd pat the hero
on the back and shake their heads at the tragedy, then a wedding and a
feast. Memories of the big bad villain washed away with cake and wine.
Ranma was in for a world of hurt, but he had Akane after all. He
deserved a little punishment. They would heal, curse Ryouga for being a
monster and go on with their lives, guilt-free.

    "Ryouga-sama? Who did this?" Akari voice trembled as she looked
pleadingly into his eyes, searching for a smile, a comforting hand to
stroke her hair while he made it all better. He just had to, that's a
part of what love was all about... wasn't it? Ryouga winced, but he knew
his role well enough, and he knew what had to be done.

    "I did, Akari." He braced himself for her anger but she just stared
at him, begging with her eyes, begging him for anything, just not that
emotionless face. Ryouga felt his heart begin to re-form, he felt pieces
begin to take shape, he felt a smile curling on his lips. He smashed the
glass structure with a mental blow, crushing what was left to dust.

    Ryouga bent down and gently kissed Akari on the forehead. "Tell
Ranma, when he gets here, I'm coming for him. Not for Akane, not for
bread, not for any curse, just for him."

    "You're leaving me?" she whispered. Ryouga simply nodded with the
cold expression resting easily. She slapped him, faster and harder then
the young man had thought possible, not that he would have blocked
anyway. She ran back to her house, tears welling up and stinging her
face more then any open palm could, and a kiss still burning on her
forehead.

    Ryouga felt his cheek and bowed as far to the ground as he could,
sinking to his knees and planting his hands firmly on the ground below.
"Gomen nasai," he whispered but knew better then to expect an answer. He
was leaving everyone, he knew there couldn't be any forgiveness for
that.

...oooOOO(  )(  )(  )

    "He said what?" Ranma asked a weak-eyed Akari. "Man, I thought we
were past all that." Sighing, Ranma turned to go, mumbling something
about stupid pig-headed people.

    Akari caught him by his sleeve. "Ranma, this time it's different,
you didn't see him. He's different now. I- I think he's gone over the
edge."

    "Awww, don't worry about it. We do this kinda stuff all the time.
I'll bring him back to ya, just you wait and see." Ranma smiled down at
the girl, then his face changed from confidence to concern as he noticed
her lower lip, quivering.

    "No," she started quietly, "he's not welcome here anymore, Ranma. I
don- don't want to..." Akari had trouble finishing. She screwed up her
courage, set her resolve, and closed her heart against the pain. "I
don't want to see him, not ever again." Finishing in a hoarse whisper,
the young woman retreated into her house.

    Ranma shook his head. Why'd Ryouga have to make everything so damn
difficult. He walked over to his father, the panda.

    Ever since Akane had started cooking again, he had newfound
admiration for the subtle sweetness of bamboo. Now, he was staring at
the destruction Ranma's friend had left behind. At the approach of his
son, he held up a sign. 

    Whistling appreciatively, Ranma surveyed the devastation. No doubt
about it, this was definitely a Shishi Houkoudan blast site. The only
thing was, he'd never seen this much destruction from what looked to be
a single shot. Ryouga must have been almost out of his mind with
depression to do something like this.

     read the new sign. Ranma thought
about it, this kind of destruction was on a Herb or Saffron scale. Could
he really get that serious and not cripple Ryouga?

    But all he said was, "Sure thing Pop, I can handle shake N bake, no
problem." Ranma would find a way to calm him down, even if he had to
beat the hell out of him to do it!


To be continued of course

Ending song: "M.A.S.H." Theme song, "Suicide Is Painless"

Cause Suicide is painless,
It brings so many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please...

Paraphrased Neitzsche (I think, you wouldn't BELIEVE how hard I tried to
quantify that statement... learned ALOT about Nihilism and Superman
though) "...the thought of suicide is a great comfort, it has kept many
a man company through many a long night."