Foreword by Switch, of the Nikholas F. Toledo Zu crew Keener might come to some of you as a new name. But to us, his name has always been tied to this work, Suicide Blast. It might be due to his insistent postponement of its conclusion, or because he finds it expedient to have Ryouga learn, if I may be so bold to say, the end of the Depression Blast, the Shishi Houkoudan. "So it's a new attack," you might say, "Ranma will just have to learn to find a way to get around to beat him." That's just the point: Ryouga knows that - Ranma will have to fight fire with fire - to fight death on its own terms. What we, the readers, will find, is that chi can always, in Ranma, be used to blast away - here, it can be used to illuminate the innermost. A Keener use, you might think - or might not. Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 belongs to Rumiko Takahashi for creating it, Shogunakate for publishing it, Viz for bringing it here, and finaly, though by no means, leastly... the fans, your love makes it grow. Special, and sadly belated thanks to my WONDERFUL prereaders: Zen, Nuitari, Switch, K-chan, JD Farber aka the Haggis King, Gary Kleppe, Duece, Andrew M. Petalik and Cindy Toler. 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... Hiroshi couldn't quite figure it out. The cologne and aftershave he was wearing was all the rage amongst most of the top athletes. Why, the fact that he even needed aftershave should have let loose an unending tidal wave of babedom. Then there was his outfit, disheveled in that oh so rebellious fashion, popular among the pretty boys of his favorite manga, that was still somehow methodically well maintained and clean. This was extremely important to its overall effect, saying he wasn't the sort to leave underwear scattered about the house. It just didn't make any sense, he could even do that leg up on a chair while sipping your beer and looking debonair that had eluded his friend Daisuke thus far... why was he still having so much trouble? His musing might have garnered some positive effect, his far-off stare being mistaken for actual interest in what the girl was saying. Unfortuantely, open eyes and shut ears have a tendency to focus on the wrong things at the wrong time. "Baka!" cried the young woman, a fist knocking him to and from senselessness like a bucket of cold water, gender change optional. His optics regained clarity in time to see another potential girlfriend storming away. What did he do wrong this time, he wondered, slightly exasperated. "Just a guess, but most likely you were leering at her breasts... or worse, some other girl's." A voice called from behind. "Being a male, I was focused on the same, so I'm not sure which." Hiroshi sighed, "And I wasted some of my best lines on her too." "I could tell, smooth, and oh so effective. Come on Casanova, there's something you might want to see." Daisuke smiled as he helped his friend up to his feet. "Not interested," Hiroshi lied. Already he could see people starting to run to the empty field, clambering to get a view of some rather familiar characters. "I've got a lost love to chase down and impress with my manliness and just how white my teeth are." "It can wait, believe me. Let's go." Daisuke gestured over his shoulder as he made his way to the building crowd. "Humph, fine, what's the big deal anyways?" "Ryouga's back. Him and Ranma are having a little chat. Boy, does he look pissed." The black haired straight man sat down at a perfect vantage point, both combatants in plain view. "Is that all? Ryouga always looks pissed." Hiroshi pouted, sitting beside his companion. Turning, he got a real good look at the lost boy. "Oh man..." A Mad Bad Bishonen Lad Production.... "Ryouga, if you'd just calm down for a sec. We don't have to go through all this cra..." Ryouga's eyes stopped Ranma cold. "Two weeks," he said, emphasizing with a pair of outstretched fingers. "You've got two weeks to prepare." He kept his sight steadily fixed on his opponent. He knew better than to look at Akane. The pigtailed martial artist sighed, pushed Akane behind him, and got into a lazy stance, determination suddenly strengthening his voice. "Look, I dunno what's got you all out of whack, but if it's a fight you want, I'm ready right now." Ranma cracked his knuckles menacingly. "Maybe you'll listen to reason after I've beaten some sense into you." "Ready, Ranma? You're ready?" Ryouga's face went calm as he looked down into his open hand. A slight grimace worked its way around his lips. "You..." A small pinprick light appeared in his palm. "Are..." The blue shard swelled slightly, forming a small blue sphere. Tendrils of white energy erupted from its surface, reaching out and crackling like a miniature sun. Radiated light danced about Ryouga's features, to some kaleidascopic music only he could hear. "Not..." Slowly, he let his hand come up, palm facing the field beside them. The boy's hair began to writhe and leap about on the wildly twisting air currents, caused by the ball as it spun and popped. Ranma backed up, the glow piercing his eyes and the force increasing 'til it even blew his own black locks about. "READY!" with a snarl, Ryouga let loose the orb. And the world exploded. Suicide Blast Part 2 Sweat glistened off of Ranma's exposed chest. A telltale welt burned its way across his rib cage and his breathing was erratic and hindered. Still, the fire in his eyes spoke volumes. He would not give up, not here, not now. This fight he would not lose. "Any more tricks, old Ghoul?" "The tricks end here, Son-in-law." Cologne said, mentally chiding herself for the habitual referral to him as family. Ranma had staggered into her restaurant only a few hours ago, battered and weak, yet defiantly asking for training. Of course he had denied her first offer, techniques in exchange for a marriage to Shampoo. The boy was lost to her. Love had finally taken hold over the boy's soul as well as his heart. There was no use arguing over it anymore. Besides, only Mousse knew where her charge had headed, and he wasn't being very open about the whole affair. "There will be no quarter given in your fight. You will be facing a dead man, A dead man who has put his neck in the noose himself. You cannot fight him, he is beyond you. The only recourse left is to send him the rest of the way to hell's embrace." "No!" screamed Ranma, his aura burning bright with rage and denial. With a wordless cry, the young martial artist lashed out at a nearby boulder; stone smashed to rock, crushed to pebble, ground to dust. "I ain't gonna accept that." He wiped a gravel-encrusted hand across his face, washing away the tear in a smear of dirt. Then, shoulders falling and brilliant glow fading to a faint glimmer, he continued quietly. "I can't accept it. Killing my friends was not why I learned this stuff. I-I wanna be the best, sure, but I wanna think I learned it to protect the guys I care for, not hurt them." Shaking his head slightly and smiling bitterly, "No matter how pig-headed they may be." Cologne sighed and lit her pipe. The boy had the very soul of the Tiger, but his heart was still very much the fragile affair shared by most of humanity. She mused this over while Ranma simply looked at her, eyes pleading. They had been fighting for two hours straight, all for him to earn the privilege of having her as Sensei. No one else could teach someone fast enough or train them hard enough to be ready for what he had to do. But the boy was asking too much. He wanted her to teach him how to fight death itself. The Amazonian Matriarch had seen other warriors fall under the sway of the Jisatsu Bakuha, as they called it here in Japan. A man who denied himself life courted death in more ways then one. Nothing short of the eternal slumber they sought could stop them. And this particular warrior was thousands of time more powerful than most. She had seen the depths of that one's emotions when she had first witnessed the Shishi Houkoudan. Why couldn't Ranma accept that his friend was already dead? Because it just wasn't his nature to give up. Cologne had never known someone like Son-in... Ranma. There was power in that belief, power in one who didn't take no for an answer. He would leave a battle, run from what he couldn't quite match, but always he returned, fresh and determined to win. Even now, his body beaten by the best she could dish out without killing the poor boy, his eyes said only one thing... You will not defeat me. I came here to learn how to help Ryouga and nothing in Heaven or Hell is gonna stop me! "It begins," she conceded. "Show me what you intend to try." ...oooOOO( )( )( ) "So then what happened?" Ukyo asked, beating an egg with the absent ferocity of an angry cook. Most people will tell you not to drive angry, emotions blindsiding you as surely as the oncoming traffic. Good chefs will also tell you the same applies to cooking. One of the fine lines that separated Akane and Kasumi was in that special spice of the heart... that and knowing the difference between sugar and salt. "He fires the glowing ball to the side, like he's just blowing it off. Then this... thing, about the size of a coin, goes barreling like a bat out of hell, only it's taking most of hell with him. Just it running above the ground tears this ditch through the field." He demonstrated by taking a one yen piece from his pocket and rolling it toward the other wall. "And when it hit the opposite side," The coin smacked the side of Ukyo's shop. "Boom!" Hiroshi exclaimed, hands gesturing in an expansive motion, acting out the explosion in body language. "What was that he called it, Daisuke? Jiason... Jisumo...?" "Jiatsu Bakuha, a suicide blast. Did you notice something weird about the way he keeled over?" Daisuke asked, grimacing as he watched batter get... well... battered. "Yeah, look, he blows a crater the size of the school gym, just stands there as this aftershock right out of Akira throws most of us about like cardboard buildings in a Gojira flick. Heck, even Ranma grabbed some sky." Hiroshi noted the sudden silence and the deep transfixion of Ukyo's eyes on his own, "I told you, he came out of it fine. Ryouga shot this Kamikaze thingy away from everyone. Anyways, he's not even phased, just rides the wave, and doesn't flinch as he's pummeled by shrapnel. Then... he just hits the ground, clutching his chest." The young man grabbed his chest dramatically, called for Camille and hit the ground. "The guy was coughing up blood like he'd just drowned in the stuff, and his face... his face. It sort of... drew in on itself, like it was suddenly too tight for his own skull." Daisuke shook his head, staring in the distance. "Guy looked worse then Gos did when he had pneumonia." "Humph, it's none of my affair anymore. Eat up guys. It's on the house." Ukyo gave them a terse smile, eyes daring them to say no thanks. Daisuke and Hiroshi looked at the mangled, shattered remains of school lunch a la pissed chef. Sighing, they got out forks and dug in... where they could, chiseling what they could not. ...oooOOO( )( )( ) "No! No! No!" Cologne cried in exasperation, tossing her stick to the side. "That will not work! You cannot use the Rising Dragon Ascension against someone who knows nothing but the final calm of eternal peace." "But it's just about my best shot. Don't worry about it. Ticking off Ryouga is one of my special skills." Ranma gave her a small smile. "You could say I've been practicing that little maneuver since we were kids." "This is not Ryouga you fight, boy! How many times must I tell you that? He has tossed everything into the flames of his pain, burned it all to ash untill only the calmness of the grave remains. You won't make him mad, you'll just give him a better target!" "Then what the heck am I supposed to do? You said it'd be too dangerous to get near him for any of that shiatsu stuff." Ranma was getting frustrated. The new battles had been practice sessions only but each time he had met with defeat. A defeat punctuated by Cologne pointing a finger at him and saying... boom, you're dead. Cologne sighed. One way or another, the boy was going to get hurt during this fight. He had refused the options she had given him on the same grounds that she would not use them on Ranma. His opponent was just too damn determined to be stopped by any technique short of one that promised the final reward. But that's not really what either of them wanted. It was the strangest sort of battle. Not a fight to the death, but one to the life. For the boy, defeat or triumph was to be found in the last heartbeats of his opponent. "I'm afraid there's only one option I can see for you. You must find the same peace that he has. You must transcend your body and fight with nothing more than your soul." "I can't do that either. Death ain't an option. Maybe I could just chunk it all before, back when the loneliness used to eat me alive. Back when I couldn't even see my mom or after some of that cat fist stuff. But I got people who care about me now. I can't do that to them, I can't give up, not as long as," he gulped and continued slowly, "Akane cares for me." Ranma seemed to shake that thought out of his head, tears slowly welling in his eyes. "There's gotta be another way." "Not one that doesn't lead to your death, and Ryouga's as well." "Damn it, crone! You're askin' me to just give up. I can't do that. I won't give up on Akane... or Ryouga!" Ranma's aura flared again. Was it her imagination or did it glare a tad brighter when he mentioned Akane? "You don't have to," Cologne smiled, resting on a rock and examining him anew. It seems she was always doing that, and always finding something new, each time she looked. "But you just said..." "I said you need to transcend your pain and find true peace, as Ryouga has. I did not say that you must find it in the same place as he has. There are many paths and not all of them easy. You must find the right one for you, and you must hurry. A destination must be reached before you meet the boy again, otherwise," Cologne pointed her outstretched hand in his direction again. As she opened her mouth to say boom, she realized she was pointing at thin air. Suddenly, she was off the ground and being swung about. "Thank you! I'll find that path no matter what it takes!" He began dancing with the elder about in his arms. Cologne was about to call for his respect when she caught a glimpse of his eyes. Though the boy was smiling and laughing, his eyes told of more fear then she would have thought possible for Ranma. Still, if even a part of him laughed, for even a few moments, she would not rob him of that. The boy would have time enough for tears. ...oooOOO( )( )( ) Akane continued chopping vegetables for Kasumi. Ever since Ranma had proposed to her, she had been filled with an all-new desire to find her way about the kitchen. Not that she was really going to have to cook for their family; her soon-to-be husband was quite good, even better if you attacked him with chi maneuvers while he was doing it. Still, she would not have her children wondering which one of them was their mother. She groaned inwardly at the thought; love was turning her into a giggly little girl, filled with dreams of playing house. A smile lit her face and she blushed at the thought of it. Then her memories drifted back to yesterday. She remembered again what all the housekeeping in the world couldn't make her forget. Ryouga's eyes, as they begged for... for what? Release? She had seen animals at the kennel like that once, their bodies hunkered and quivering against the cage. But, when you reached out to them, they were all teeth and saliva. Just what had happened to him? The days' events came flooding back... "Ranma!" Akane screamed. He had landed on top of her, shielding her from the worst of the shockwave. She still couldn't quite see right, her eyes burning with the afterimage of Ryouga's chi. "Ranma, wake up, get off of me, say something!" "Hey," he smiled weakly, "I'm not on top of ya cause I like ya or nuthin." Carefully, he pulled himself and her up. Turning slowly, he looked to Ryouga. "Just what the hell was that?" he asked, voice forcibly calm. "That? Thats something I like to call the Jisatsu Bakuha, Ranma, like it? I made it myself." Ryouga smiled, a proud gleam dancing about his eyes, almost manically. Then, he went down... hard. "Oh god, Ryouga!" Ranma and Akane rushed over to the young martial artist as the boy vomited a red ichor, blood and phlegm falling in spats about the ground. She covered her face with both hands, stepping back and shaking her head, horrified. He was in another world of pain, one that young ladies, smiling parents, laughing children and butterscotch sundaes had no place in. Even worse, it didn't seem new to him; it almost looked like home. "Get away from me!" he hissed, landing a fist on Ranma's jaw that sent him flying almost half the length of the field. Ranma painfully sat up, pulling himself out of the rivulet he had dug on impact. Damn, Ryouga was strong, he thought. Akane reached out to him but looked down nervously to the bandanna-clad boy, tears making their way down her lower lids, over her cheeks and falling off a quivering chin. "Ryouga, stop it! Wh-why are you doing this?" Ryouga reeled from the impact. He had hardened his body to the point that most four door vehicles hardly gave him pause, but his heart... no, he didn't have one of those anymore. Idly, he sifted through the powder left from his encounter with Akari. Was there anything left? He looked at those pleading eyes, meet them with his coldest stare and smiled slowly, mockingly. "Go to him Akane, you've already made your choice. Your body is his now. Just remember that it once belonged to me." He saw the incomprehension on her face, the doubt entering her mind. He could end it though. End this whole stupid charade, apologize and go weeping into Akari's arms. Was there anything left? Then, a year later, maybe longer... he'd be back here again, bleeding from a wound that just would not heal. And here before him was his assailant, still holding the smoking gun in the form of a perfect face, and a warm smile that promised home, yet always slammed the door when he started to walk in. He was like some wretched mistress, wondering when the man of the house would throw his wife out at her approach instead of the other way around. There couldn't be anything left. "And you might as well stop calling me Ryouga. P-chan will do." He would be the monster, there was nothing left of his heart. He'd let himself be slain like a beast and let them have their blasted happily ever after. "You know, Ranma, there really is nothing better on a cold night then some brainless girl's chest. Don't you agree?" Ryouga felt the hot wave of battle aura cresting in Akane, he saw her fist clench, saw the energy gathering and prepared for impact. This was it, in one pulverizing left hook, the door was going to be forever nailed shut. He'd have no choice but to go forward, alone, but free. Then she looked up, eyes filled with... with... it was supposed to be anger, damnit! Why weren't they filled with anger? He needed her anger! Why couldn't she just give him what he wanted, for once in his existence? "Oh Ryouga, I'm so sorry, I never knew." Pity! "Damn you Akane! Damn you to hell!" Ryouga screamed and leapt as far backwards as his powerful legs could propel him. Pity! He turned, running with the frantic scrambling steps of a warrior who was defeated to the very core of his being... there had been something left, a shard of heart still intact amongst the glassy powder... and she had stabbed him with it... pity. ...oooOOO( )( )( ) Ranma collapsed on his futon, clothing still on, blanket still off. He was drained to his very core, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and any other allys he could think of. Mentally; there was another one. Whimpering slightly, he wondered just how it was possible to feel that closing his eyes was more then he was currently capable of. With a supreme act of will and just a little help from Kami-sama, he got his lids to enfold him in darkness. The door slid open silently, Akane creeping in on tiptoe. She carefully removed his shirt and shoes and tucked his blanket under his chin. Don't work too hard, I need both of you to make it out of this in one piece, baka. She smiled at the last and bent down, brushing a lock of hair from his softened features. There wasn't a doubt in her mind. Ranma would win; she believed in that with all her heart. She placed a gentle kiss to his forehead and left as quietly as she had snuck in... give or take a stubbed toe and an expletive or two. Ranma slept on nosily, unknowing of the golden glow that was softly encircling his body. The End of Part Two To be continued of course... Ending song: "M.A.S.H." Theme song, "Suicide is Painless" Suicide is painless, It brings so many changes And I can take or leave it if I please, Paraphrased Neitszche (I think) "the thought of suicide is a great comfort, it has kept many a man company through many a long dark night."