-1Chapter 3:

A Wayward Wanderer

Sigh "Lost again." sighed a very confused Ryouga Hibiki as he continued to trek his way through a dense bamboo forest. "I knew I should have went south from Asahidake."

Ryouga continued to plow his way through the forest, slashing his belt like a machete until he finally came into a clearing. He then smelt a familiar scent in the air, blindly following his nose towards the source and completely missing the sign right by the clearing that he just created in the forest read: "Ancient Bamboo Reserve: No Cutting or Vandalizing, Please".

Ryouga's instinct to find food grew stronger until he saw a slim plume of smoke and blindly headed towards it in a mad rush. The sweet familiar scent of the dish was hitting his nostrils at full force and his mouth just salivated in anticipation.

Ryouga rounded a corner and found the source of the very delectable scent on a hot, and best yet, an unattended grill full of Okonomiyaki.

"Wow! It's been ages since I've had one." Ryouga said looking around him like a child inspecting the premise before sticking his hand in a cookie jar. His stomach growled loudly reminding him that he didn't quite have a choice in the matter before he realized that he was running to as if to meet his long-lost lover.

Just as Ryouga leapt for the fresh, sizzling noodle-pancake, he heard a very irate, yet familiar voice, "Oh, no you don't!"

Right when Ryouga was about to touch the heavenly source of sustenance, a very harsh awakening to reality reminded him about a common economic term: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. And he learned it the hard way too, seeing as he paid for his gluttony with a massive migraine.

Ryouga started to writhe in pain, clutched his head as he didn't even see the blow come until a voice momentarily stopped the pain.

"That's what you get for trying to steal from my Ranma-honey's lun-…Oh."

Ryouga blinked at the woman as she ranted before he placed the voice and the shape (since all he could see were shadows behind the big stars that danced before his eyes) fell into place.

"U-Ukyou..?"

"Why I-…Argh! It's only you, Ryouga!" The chef stuck her large spatula firmly into the ground to stand alone and crossed her arms tightly trying to physically restrain herself from beating the Eternally-Lost-Boy once again. "Sugar, if you were hungry, all you had to do was ask! I could have really hurt you, especially with the way you charged at my grill! I though for a second you would have plowed right through it had I not intervened!

"I'm um…really sorry." Ryouga said tentatively as he rubbed the back of his head as a nervous tick. "I was really hungry and thought I smelt something familiar. How was I to know you were all the way up here in Hokkaido?"

Ukyou's expression went from dumbfounded to irked with one eyebrow twitching. Ahem! She cleared her throat and pointed to the sign of the shop she was standing directly in front of which read: "Ucchan's".

Realization finally dawned on Ryouga's features before he replied.

"Ah…when did you move?"

"I DIDN'T, YOU MORON!"

"Then, why is your-"

"ARRGH! - breathe, Ukyou…just breathe…" The okonomiyaki chef said in a litany to herself as a calming tactic. "Ryouga…doesn't this place look…familiar?" She managed between gritted teeth.

Ryouga looked around and then true realization dawned on him "Heheh…Oops. I guess I finally did something right." He stated rather sheepishly.

Sigh "Come inside, sugar. I'll fix ya one of my specials."

Ryouga complied and followed Ukyou through the door as she held the material flaps with "Ucchan" on it waiting for him to walk though, lest he made another wrong turn and got lost again. Ryouga found a seat directly in from of Ukyou's grill and watched her as she diligently took out the batter and set out to work. He sighed as his focus wandered from watching Ukyou add on delectable ingredients for his special - no pork, and plenty of vegetables - to what his reunion with Akane would be like.

He could just picture it as he walked into the Tendou dwelling like a ronin finally returning after a long journey and Akane sitting demurely looking out at the Koi pond.

'Gosh, she never looked so sweet.' he'd think to himself as he approached her while she watched the fish swim.

His boots crunched on the gravel and caused Akane to finally look up and watch her reaction from shock turn to sheer joy at his final return.

"My love…have you returned?" Akane asks with a quiver in her voice, her eyes hopeful for something.

"Yes…at long last, we are united…forever." Ryouga said as he flashed what he considered to be his most gallant smile as he took off his bamboo hat and opens his arms in welcome.

Akane would ran into his arms and her tears of happiness flowed freely down her face. They finally embrace, at long last and she pulled away just enough to look him in the eye.

"You'll never leave me again, will you?" Akane asked almost afraid of the answer

"Never, my love, never." He'd said confidently as he chucked her under the chin and received the brightest and most beautiful smiles she reserved only for him. He would then embrace tightly against his heart, vowed never to let her go again.

"Oh, Ryouga," She crooned as she squeezed him in return and noticed him wiping his own tears of joy. "Ryouga….Ryouga…" Akane's voice chanted reverently.

Suddenly, her voice started to melt away from its fluffy tone filled with love to that of a more forceful tone of annoyance.

"Ryouga! Ryoua!"

He was now in question as to the sudden change in tone when suddenly his bright sunny day in the Tendou's yard melted into a small enclosed room whose rocks melted into stools and tables. Ryouga was started to freak out that his delightful world was melting before his eyes. When he looked back towards Akane, a very irate Ukyou looked straight at him, wielded her mini spatulas and whacked at him continuously on top and both of his head mercilessly.

At that point, he was already out of his reverie and was now being brutally assaulted by her attacks and didn't quite stop her until a good 10 seconds of being beaten.

"Okay, enough, ENOUGH!" Ryouga shouted as he tried to avoid the hits when he finally realized it was more productive to grab at her writs. "I was already awake!"

"Well, how was I supposed to know, you Jackass! I thought you were just watching me cook but you had this goofy grin on your face and you were even crying at one point. At first, I thought my kind gesture to feed you really touched a nerve and made you emotional until you had a very vacant look that started to give me the creeps. When I called your name, you just ignored me so I thought I'd get your attention the only way I knew how."

"Well, you didn't have to hit me so many times!"

Ukyou had a very tight smile and just grabbed three boxes besides her and shoved them in front of Ryouga's line of sight.

"Here, just take these and…go." She said tersely, her patience wearing thin as it is.

"These all for me?" Ryouga asked in innocently and in surprise.

"No, one box is for Ranchan and the other is for the Tendou's, don't you wolf them all down." She explained in a calmer tone and then managed to smile genuinely. "I think I made more than enough for you: No pork with lots of veggies, one with mainly mushrooms, just as you like it. It also has a new sauce I recently came up with for your orders."

Ryouga was a bit taken aback by her sudden generosity despite her usual short temper.

"You made a special sauce for me?" Ryouga asked sheepishly as he looked at the boxes he held with both hands and them back at her.

Ukyou's eyes just widened briefly as a slight blush crept upon her cheeks. She really didn't think much about the gesture as she was always making innovations to her recipes, but she usually swayed all of it towards Ranma's taste. Now, she felt self-conscious about how she tried to break away from her normal routine as she branched out.

Ryouga also noticed the slight blush on her face and she looked down to shy away. He felt his own face getting warm when he realized that someone was slowly pushing him out the door.

"Um…thank you."

"You're welcome, now, out!" Ukyou said firmly as she gave him a final shove out the door and pointed in the right direction he should take.

Ryouga, true to his nature, started to walk in the total opposite direction having not paid attention to Ukyou's gesture.

"Ryouga, you're going the wrong way, you dummy!" She shouted and watched as he made an abrupt about-face mid step and started to head in the right direction.

Ukyou just shook her head with her hands to her hips as she watched the Eternally-Lost-Boy make his way down the road. 'He'll probably get there two day from now'.

Meanwhile….

Ryouga sighed at what had just happened a moment ago in Ukyou's shop and shook his head. Maybe it was all in his head. He stopped briefly and took out one of his spare bandanas to wrap the boxes as a makeshift bag but decided to just place it underneath to have a brief snack and tie it at the top when he was ready to leave. 'It wouldn't hurt to eat one now while it's still hot and fresh. As long as I continue to face straight and remember not to make any turns, I'll be just fine.'

Ryouga found a huge naple tree to sit under as he placed the boxes down and took a break. As he opened the first box, his keen senses kicked in and loved the aroma of fresh okonomiyaki he'd been ignoring up until this point. His mouth started to salivate in anticipation of finally eating - especially after his first failed attempt - when suddenly a certain smell caught him off guard and halted any further advances towards eating.

Sniff Sniff

'Pork. Blech!' he thought to himself, almost lost his appetite as he turned his head away in disgust; closed and reached for another box.

"That must be for the Tendou's." Ryouga said to himself as he pushed their box further away from him.

Ever since he fell in to the Spring of the Drowned Black Pig, he lost the ability and taste to eat anything that even resembles a pig. He reached the next box and opened the flap to see a heart shaped okonomiyaki designed with more tiny hearts drawn in with Ukyou's special sauce while in neat cursive, a message was written in the middle that read: "I Luv Ranchan".

"BLECH!" Ryouga felt a wave of nausea at wash away his appetite once again. He'd always known about her unrequited love for his pig-tailed opponent but this seemed even a bit too fluffy for even her! Ryouga was pretty sure if she had enough room, she would have ended the message with 'OXOX, Ucchan". Ryouga scoff as he realized he had discovered a new method to derail his hunger if the time ever comes. All he ever needed is a way to preserve one of these "Ranchan Special" okonomiyakis on one of his aimless wanderings and when his stomach starts to demand sustenance, all he ever needed to do is just have one peek in the box and he'd be cured for the time being. Of course, logically, if he was hungry, all he had to do was wolf down the okonomiyaki and he'd cure his hunger in the most conventional way but it wouldn't sustain him for long. After all, this was the man that thought it would behoove him to train Ranma in Rhythmic Gynmastics in order to make him lose his match with a certain Kuno, but ended up aiding in his victory.

Ryouga looked down at Ranma's box and took a whiff when he realized that it smelt a bit sweeter than he would have preferred and his mind kept on wandering back to the one that Ukyou mentioned she made just for him. Once again, his mouth started to water as he thought about the dish and couldn't be distracted any longer. Quickly, he set aside Ranma's one next to the Tendou's and opened the box designated to him.

"Mmmm…"

His senses were bombarded by both sight and scent of what he would call the epitome of okonomiyakis. All that needed to be completed was the actual tasting! Ryouga quickly got out a pair of hashi's he carried throughout his travels and clapped his hands over it muttering a quick "Itadakimasu!" and dug right in.

He took the first bite and was so delighted not just by the sheer joy of finally getting food in his stomach, but also because of food that he was fortunate enough to partake in. The batter was cooked just the way he loved it with the edges slightly browned and crispy while the noodles melded into a batter that was not too dry and not to wet but juuust right. All the vegetables were tender but still had a nice crisp in each bite and perfectly drizzled by Ukyou's family recipe. To say that it was delicious was an understatement but he couldn't wait to get the one below the first.

Ukyou said she made it with mainly mushrooms, one of his favorite toppings to eat though not quite traditional, but good none the less. Ryouga lifted the second compartment within the box to find yet another two delectable looking okonomiyaki waiting for him but was taken aback when he saw writing on it as well: "Don't Get Lost. Gambatte!" It was drizzled in her new sauce she had mentioned earlier and made a border around the okonomiyaki of more mushrooms.

Ryouga couldn't help but smile at the kind gesture and swiped a finger across "Gambatte" and left nonsensical "Sayobokki" in its place. He chuckled at the nonsense word that was left behind and sampled some of the new sauce on his finger.

'Mmm…not as sweet, but a salty with a bite. This is an awesome sauce! I'll have to ask her to make an extra batch and save some in the back whenever I visit.' Ryouga thought as he cut into his custom made okonomiyakis, as he savored every morsel and scraped the sides for all sauce. None of it was going to be wasted and as his hunger was satiated, he couldn't help but smile. For now, he was going to sit under the shade and rest after a really good hardy meal.

'Thanks, Ukyou.'

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Ryouga looked around as he tried to find any landmark that would scream familiarity to him but was out of luck. He'd been wandering for the past hour after his nice little nap under the shade and totally forgot his resolve to walk straight and not get lost. So much for that, but now he needed to find his way back to Akane and deliver these treats.

Ryouga made a left turn and a breeze came and brushed upon his face when a familiar aroma drifted past as well.

Sniff sniff … "Heeey, I know that aroma! I can recognize Kasume's cooking anywhere. If I just followed my nose I could probably make it in time for supper!"

True to his word, he followed the only reliable sense of direction and ran full speed down the road. In the past year, he'd been welcomed to the Tendou home like family especially after that final fight with Saffron and Herb. Luckily, no big threat has attacked Nerima since and the only worries that have been on his mind were finding his way around as well as facing his denial about Akane and Ranma.

After their wedding debacle, the two seem inseparable despite their usual bickers and banters but he can read between the lines. Ranma at times look at Akane as he, himself did when Ranma thought no one was watching and vice versa. It killed him each time he noticed it but only helped him break his own delusions of his relationship with Akane.

He's acknowledged the fact that he may still be smitten from that first kiss she gave him as P-chan and yeah, it may be silly but he took it to heart. Her kindness to him in his human form as well as his pig form only created an infatuation that was still as strong as that day. Hence the reason for his apparent denial of what is plainly displayed before his eyes but baby steps. He could still admire her from afar though nothing will come of it, and though he hated to admit it, Ranma was the closest person to a friend that he had right now despite their own differences and competitive streaks. Yes, Ranma was a bully sometimes and he sometimes asked for what comes to him, but he was still there for him as support and a great sparing partner- all name calling aside, of course. He doesn't want to hurt either of them when it all comes down to it .

Sigh "Akane, we will be reunited again!" Ryouga turned another corner recognized certain structures and thanked the gods that his nose is still trust worthy and kicked his running up another notch.

Ryouga came into view of the dojou and would have run past it except for the fact that something didn't feel right. Like a magnet, his eyes flew towards the new hole that gapped through what was once the doujo wall. He chalked up the damage as another fight between Ranma and Mr. Mallet but as he continued to investigate the damage, movement just outside the new 'exit' caught his eye. He placed the boxes of goodies down when he saw someone with stark white hair and a battle aura that ominously glowed and radiated silver around his being. He was leaned over something and it was then that Ryouga noticed an extra pair of legs that extended beyond the stranger; it was female.

Ryouga's legs automatically moved faster as he had a feeling he knew who the female was and his stomach lurched at the thought.

"Akane, hold on!" Ryouga yelled as he rushed desperately to her aid before it was too late when he noticed that her legs had stopped moving. "Nooo!" 'I'm too late! Whoever he is, he's going to pay for hurting her!'

Ryouga rushed the assailant and pulled his right fist back and aimed a massive punch against him. The unknown nemesis continued to choke Akane until the punch knocked him back a few feet, releasing her in the process. Akane gasped for air when she was released and her chest heaved after being deprived for so long.

Ryouga extended his hand towards her and she blinked at him in confusion. He could tell that her mind still buzzed from the lack of oxygen but she extended her hand in acceptance none the less; she was pulled her with an upward jerk and she set on her feet. He used his other arm to guide her steady so she doesn't fall. He was unsettled on what a close call it had been as he rubbing her back to soother her. When Ryouga felt that she would be okay, yet he seethed as he walked over to the unconscious form of her attacker for a closer look.

Ryouga's heart beat started to speed up as he started to recognize the clothing on the unconscious person. The perpetrator's white hair was loose over his face as he laid inert on his back. It obscured Ryouga's view though deep down, there was something pulled at his gut and told him he already knew every angle of his face. He wanted to be sure that it was him, he wanted to see him with his own eyes. Ryouga roughly swept the white mass from the young man's face with a sharp intake of breath only to confirm his suspicions. There laid Ranma Saotome, the very same person whom he considered a good friend earlier that day but now all Ryouga felt was a feeling of sudden hatred as his body tensed and tied to keep those feelings from jumping out.

"I never thought I would see the day that you'd stoop so low, Ranma!" Ryouga spat out with more vehemence than he'd ever said anything.

To say that he was livid would belittle what Ryouga felt at that moment. He looked down at him with piercing abhorrence that radiated from his being like ki; clenched his fist at his side thankful that Ranma had not awaken at this moment as he wanted kill him. He wasn't sure what to think about what had just transpired a few moments ago but all that mattered now was Akane's safety. Akane groaned behind him and he quickly rushed to her side as her head was in pain. Ryouga offered his arm for support and it took her a few seconds to realize it was there for her assistance. Akane finally opened her eyes and shook off her stupor

"Wha-What happened?" Akane asked shakily, and rubbed her neck unconsciously. It was red and looked like it would bruise in within an hour.

"I was just about to ask you? You looked like you were about to faint just now but why was he-" Ryouga inquired but was cut short.

"It's not what it looks like! Ranma didn't do anything!" Akane said urgently clutching at his forearm that she used for support

"But I just saw-"

"I know, but I think there's something wrong with Ranma!"

"You mean, besides the obvious." He said under his breath in a dead-pan fashion without her notice and nodded for her to continue.

"It's…almost as if he was just possessed." Akane tried to explain unconsciously grasping Ryouga's shirt tightly as she was trying to do the same for words. "He-he-his eyes were not his own and he was in pain; He'd suddenly attack and be normal the next moment and murderous the following."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down, Akane" He paused her to try and grasp all that she had try to explain without taking a single breath. "What do you mean he-"

Before Ryouga could complete his question he was shoved aside so suddenly.

"Look out!" Akane shouted as she jumped the opposite direction after she shoved him out of harms way.

Ranma barreled straight for them! Luckily they were safely clear of his path and saw as the area they were once standing in was now a big gaping crater that used to be the Tendou's lawn.

"How the-That's it!" Ryouga shouted from gaping shock that transformed into anger. He felt it rise again in his body as it made him tingle just for the right opprotunity to be unleashed!

"Die, Saotome!"

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Ranma was floating aimlessly, oblivious to his surroundings when a familiar voice echoed and snapped his consciousness awake.

"…Ryouga!" Ranma called out, but no one answered.

Ranma got up and righted himself into a standing position and realized that he was surrounded by darkness. No buildings, no trees, no life.

Nothing.

"Where am I?"

Ranma started to run not knowing where he was going or how he would get where ever it was he was headed but something was urging him to push forward. It didn't seem like he was making any progress as the darkness continued with no end in all directions. His senses finally kicked in when he realized that he was not exhausted or even broke a sweat from the endless run nor was he going anywhere. Ranma finally decided to sit down and rest thought he probably could continue to run forever and closed his eyes of the nothingness around him.

"…"

Nothing could be heard except for his own inhale and exhale. Suddenly he felt that urge to run again but resisted the temptation to get up and follow urge. There was something that was pulling him, as if trying to say he needed to be somewhere but he had no idea where. Ranma focused on his breath once again and felt that pull get stronger and stronger, until it was almost tangible and swirled around him. He continued to let the energy build up until he almost felt claustrophobic and when the pressure was finally strong enough to determine a definite direction or source, his eyes snapped open and found a wispy silver web cloistered around his body and enabled him immobile.

The web almost seemed alive as it pulsated around him and constricted him into a smaller dwelling.

"This doesn't look good."

Ranma looked around and watched in awe as the energy around him swirled furiously but started to panic when he noticed all the openings within the web were reducing in size. He tried to get up from his lotus position only to find his space was confined to the point of him standing on his knees as he pushed and struggled against the swirling force.

"What gives?! I was just running a while ago!" Ranma continued to push at the energy confines but only felt his own body being push back by the shrinking cage.

"If I don't find a way out, I have a feeling there will be no escape."

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Ryouga's fist glowed brightly with his dark blue ki as he zeroed in on his nemesis with enough force to kill. Ranma was crouched with his back to him, yet as soon as he heard Ryouga's proclaimed death sentence, he craned his neck as he looked over his shoulders through the curtain of white hair to focus on his foe's attach.

Ryouga was taken aback only for a millisecond as Ranma not only looked at him with eyes that glow gold but as he was stooped, Ranma flexed his fingers that looked as if they morphed into claws!

"What's going on here?" Ryouga thought as Ranma suddenly impelled off the ground towards him in a speed that he wasn't even sure was humanly possible!

Ranma came for him head on but as Ryouga was going to land his glowing fist on him, Ranma was suddenly behind him. He seemed to have vanished as Ryouga turned to face him when a sudden sharp pain in his stomach made him crumple before he realized he was hit with a hard blow from Ranma's fist. Ryouga flew into the doujo wall and created another unauthorized entry yet again today.

'That hit was worse than Cologne's training in the rock quarry! It felt like a whole rockslide collided with my stomach all in one blow without the Kacchu Tenshin Amaguri Ken! How did he get so strong?" He thought as he rubbed his stomach and tried to make sure it didn't have a gaping hole in the middle. His senses alerted him as something was amiss and he needed to be on the look out now.

"Where'd he go?" Ryouga asked in alarm and looked frantically from side to side. 'If he's that fast, he probably would have kicked my ass moon and back without me noticing.'

Ranma was finally spotted as he was closing in on Akane. Ryouga had to think fast as Ranma raised a razor sharp claw poised ready to strike. Akane saw Ranma and stood in a defensive stance with fierce determination. Ryouga knew that she would be in the gravest of danger if he was having problems keeping tabs on Ranma let alone avoid his blows. Hell would freeze over before he'd let that stop him from saving her. Quickly, he whipped off his bandanas, one after the other, and threw them like shuriken towards the perpetrator.

Ranma, almost sensing he was under attack, slashed at each one, and shredded them into confetti in an instant. That was all the time Ryouga needed as he rushed in and kicked Ranma square on the jaw.

"Run, Akane!" Ryouga yelled in haste, as he prepping his belt and he took it off his pants to whip it into a staff. 'I have to buy her time to get away!'

Ryouga put up a good fight against Ranma's razor sharp talons and swift movements but it almost seemed as though Ranma toyed with him as he deflected all of his attacks without any effort. When Akane was a good distance away from their bout, Ryouga threw his belt at Ranma for a distraction so he could get close enough to use Bakusai Tenketsu to keep him at bay. The first few blast seemed to be effective as he seemed unaware of the attacks but they too seemed to be child's play not too long as he jumped from each blast with as much ease as a billy goat that scaled off of rough terrain. Being irked at this point, Ranma noticed that Akane had gotten away and growled viciously at Ryouga.

Ryouga had to dodge a swipe from Ranma's claws as it tore at the ground below with a similar effect as the Bakusai Tenketsu and was momentarily distracted just as Ranma was a few moments ago.

"Shit!" Ryouga cursed after the realization and rushed to Akane's aid as she was still in imminent danger. 'That look in his eye leaves no doubt whether or not he would kill her!'

Ryouga watched in slow motion as Ranma glowed a silvery white, unlike his normal battle aura of blue, and only dread for the outcome filled his mind. There was the imminent possibility of him not being able to make it in time to save Akane and his heart sank with each though that plagued his own misgivings and pulled him into a miserable state. 'Life without Akane at all would be bleak and cold; worst of all, it would be all his fault!'

"NOOO!" Ryouga shouted as is own ki flared brighter than a roman candle in an inferno that engulfed him in a dark blue.

Ryouga's thoughts fueled him on plunged him deeper and deeper into a depressive state until he became numb with the void that he felt in his heart. His battle aura grew and seemed to be a vacuum that attracted like energy of sadness or gloom, creating a vortex-like cloud overhead. The clouds mirrored his battle aura, and as more and more energy collected around him, his ki changed from a dark hue of blue to an even darker slate and finally as black as the shadows of despair within his heart itself.

"HAAAAAAAAAAAHH!" Ryouga shouted as the dark energy finally overwhelmed him and the cloud overhead fell onto him all at once, fueling his ki that burned like a blaze fueled by a douse of gasoline, suddenly energy flared and whipped around in ominous proportions.

Ranma's actions jerked to a stop as he sensed a sudden spike of energy from his opponent and halted his attack towards Akane to face the impending danger. With his attention drawn elsewhere, Akane ran for cover as fast as she could knowing what would come next. Her fear was not Ranma at the moment as he, too, seemed to sense the menace just a few meters away, from Ryouga. Akane remembered the first time that Ryouga unleashed the dark attack but somehow this time it was different. The energy that he collected as well as his glowing ki were immense compared to when he last used it on Ranma. She feared for her own safety and though Ryouga wouldn't intentionally harm her, she didn't want to stand around anywhere near ground zero to find out what sort of power Ryouga had channeled for this attack. 'Take care, Ryouga.'

"SHI SHI HOKODAN!" Ryouga roared as he finally unleashed an awesome wave of dark blue ki that blasted Ranma where he stood.

Ranma seemed to be fighting against the wave with silvery shield around him as he clawed at the massive energy as if to dispel it but to no avail. His feet were planted in place but the brilliant beam of energy was too much to handle as trees and the ground below him seemed to uproot and disintegrate. A final push of all the welled up energy that channeled through Ryouga strengthened the blast and Ranma couldn't fight against the tremendous force that backed up the attack.

Ryouga watched as Ranma stuggled against the power of ki attack but finally lost. Ranma's shield of silvery ki dispelled and he roared as the attack finally hit him with full force. Ranma looked at Ryouga with in final glance as his energy was gave way, Ryouga could swear that Ranma's eyes flickered from gold to blue before he went unconscious and was swept up in the air high above the house.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Ranma's struggled against the white wisps of energy that now practically enclosed his form in a small bubble-like structure. Ranma had to sit back down in the lotus position as the web now had no gaps and all that surrounded him was a massive barrier that relentlessly condensed in size. Finally when the white wall of energy came in contact with him, it seemed to have bonded to his skin and wouldn't come off.

"What is this stuff?" Ranma tried to grab at the wisp only to swipe right through it and spread it all over his hand.

The wisps were like light like smoke but were as tenacious as a spiders web as it stretching and stuck to every surface it touched. Ranma was getting frustrated and he thrashed to get the substance off but found that he was getting more entangled with each movement.

"Argh! I can't move anymore!" Ranma yelled in frustration as he found his arms are now bound to his torso and still the silvery bonds became solid and tightened.

The silver wisps were now tauten to the point where it felt like suffocation and fear quickly moved in. His mind whirred with possible escape methods but quickly died as he realized he absolutely could not move.

"No! There's no way I'm gonna die like this!"

Ranma stopped struggling and sat there as he tried to focus on his ki. He had forgotten about his own inner strength as he ran in the void and now that necessity called for it, it presented itself. To his own dismay, it was very dim compared to the normal glow he would find. He focused harder on that energy and found that the very same silvery wisp that constricted his body at this moment was doing the same to his ki. He quickly focused on it, trying to build up enough energy to strengthen it but somehow the silvery energy worked as one inside and around him, squeezing out all of his energy. The silver mass had taken over and there was nothing that Ranma could do. Slowly his breath became haggard and he felt his eyes closing on him along with the last of his energy.

Suddenly, something reverberated his body and he felt the web of rapacious energy shatter around him into millions of pieces and sweet air filled his deprived body. The destruction of the silver wisps seemed to have brought life back into his body as well as mobility. Ranma clenched his fists and pull the rest of the rope-like vices that were tied around his arms and torso and snapped them off like toothpicks. As soon as he was free of the bindings, he leapt onto his feet and watched as the tattered remains of the mysterious silver energy crumbled to the floor and scattered like dust to be forgotten.

Ranma got as far away from that spot as possible not wanting for another web to weave itself around him again but noticed that the dark world around him started to dissolve as though someone pored acid everywhere and it slowly ate away his surroundings.

"What the-?" Ranma looked frantically as he noticed that the black was giving way for bright greens and white.

Everywhere he looked, green started to peer as the black melted away from existence and the images around him became more lucid. The green started to focus with more definition and soon formed leaves and bushes. All around him, the definition of the background had become more and more acute and full trees, vines and even wildlife seemed to unfold before his eyes.

Ranma was now in the middle of a full blown forest and suddenly sounds and feeling started to awaken his senses. The sound of growth when leaves unraveled, twigs snapped had crescendo as more and more sounds joined in the cacophony of wildlife that overwhelmed him by its sudden spontaneity. Birds cawed and wings flapped and other creatures jumped from limb to limb off branches of huge trees. The musty scent of fresh flora and undergrowth, the over sweetened heady scent of fruits overripe on trees and various scents of animals that roamed this woodland assaulted his olfactory. Ranma couldn't believe what was happening before his eyes as he rubbed his arm and felt a slight slickness to it due to the added humidity.

"This is unreal." He said in awe but something in the back of his mind was telling him, that something was out of place.

Ranma decided it couldn't hurt to look around in the forest as that same pull that guided him in the darkness pulled at him yet again through this forest.

"I shouldn't be following my gut on this one after I almost got crushed to death for doing just that but…It's like I'm being called or somethin'."

Ranma continued to make his own trail into the vast plant life, careful not to step on something too mysterious and ducked under low branches. Things got a bit rough on the forest floor with uneven footing - granted he can walk on any surface - but decided to take it into the trees. Ranma leaped to grab a hold of a branch like it was a gymnastic bar and flipped onto it with ease. He then jumped from branch to branch as though he were a monkey and grew up in this sort of habitat with uncanny skill.

"Heh, even climbin' trees seem to be like deje vu" Ranma said trying to recall if he ever did race among the trees as he was doing now and chalked up the whole finesse to just being a great adapter.

Ranma alternated as he jumped and ran from limb to limb or swung from one branch to the next. His mind was so focused as he followed his instinct and hoped his gut to lead him to the right place yet he didn't notice that one particular bough wasn't all that sturdy. When he placed his hand upon it, it bent under the weight and Ranma, too caught up in his own thoughts, couldn't stop the momentum of as he swung onto the branch with his full weight when suddenly there was a noticeable: SNAP! He was too preoccupied to find his footing or grasp anything to break his fall. He didn't realize how far up in the canopy he was until he felt the wind picked up speed and the g-force pulled on his facial muscles while the ground approached fast. As he fell, he thought that he saw flashes of himself engulfed by a dark blue energy and Ryouga with energy whipped around him like an electrical current. As Ranma looked down at his hands, he noticed he had claws but before he could do anything about it, the ground was finally before him and he had braced himself for impact.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Ryouga watched as Ranma's limp body seemingly disappeared in the clouds for a few seconds only to watch it reappear as a small dot in the sky that grew bigger as it descended. A loud splash followed by a hollowed thud resounded as he landed in the usually tranquil Tendou koi pond. Ryouga's heart seemed to have stopped as he watched in trepidation on whether or not that monster was going to rise yet again for another round as he did previous times.

There was no movement to be had.

Finally, Ryouga slumped down in exhaustion as he was thanked all the gods in heaven for that particular blessing. Frankly, he didn't know what he would do if his last attack hadn't have been effective as he spent the last of his ki on that blasts. Ryouga didn't have that much energy to stand, let alone initiate another bout of assaults. He would have to muster enough energy from somewhere to get Akane to safety but he knew that he would be at Ranma's mercy beyond that. Thankfully, Akane ran for shelter as she wouldn't have been safe when he unleashed his assault.

"Ry-Ryouga? Are you okay?" Akane's meek voice came from around the corner when she peeked to make sure all was clear before she came to his aid and assisted him to stand; wrapped his arm around her neck and stood slowly as he groaned in pain.

"Yeah, I'll be fine. I always come out of these scraps and bounce right back." He smiled trying not to sound as pained as he felt. "Are you okay, Akane?"

"I'll live." She smiled back reassuringly before shock registered. "Wait! Where's Ranma?!"

"What?" Ryouga asked incredulously not quite believing his ears. "He almost killed you and would have succeeded has I not stepped in yet you still worry for him!"

"Don't you understand? That wasn't him!" Akane pleaded

"What, does he suddenly have a twin I don't know of?"

"Ryouga…Didn't you notice anything…odd about his demeanor?" Akane seemed to be searching for the right words to comprehend the situation. "His eyes and his other physical attributes…they've changed. It was almost as if something or someone has taken possession of his body and actions and what about his strength?! After all these years of training, sparring, fighting and being his friend, Ryouga, couldn't you see he's not himself. How can you explain all the things that went on just a few minutes ago. Didn't you think it was weird that he didn't taunt and jeer you like he would normally do to spur you on?"

Ryouga thought about all her points and realized that she was on to something. Yeah, he had picked up on some of those finer subtleties, but his anger pushed them in the back of his mind saying: it's not important, what did was unforgivable. Ranma definitely wasn't the same and the more he went over some of his mannerisms, the more it seemed logical. He is usually so full of life and energy but the Ranma that he fought today was cold and almost unfeeling…dead even. Even in his most serious moments, he was never so set on winning that he would seem to lose his compassion towards others. This…was different. He seemed so calculating and the look in his eye seemed merciless almost like an assassin.

It bothered Ryouga to think of the jovial martial artist in such terms but there was no other explanation for it. Not to mention Ranma's sudden upsurge of speed and strength. Ryouga had as much pride as the next martial artist and had a hard time admitting defeat but what he just experienced was humanly impossible! Granted their bunch of acquaintances have had enough strength to create holes in walls, form huge craters with a touch of a finger tip as well as lop off mountain tops but this was unreal! Ryouga had never felt so inept to anyone - excluding the Ghoul and the Pervert - and even his last sparring session with Ranma two months ago didn't create such a gap in abilities as this fight just did. It was wild, feral, and unhindered just as his attitude had been but there was a certain detachment that made him shudder at the recollection. It was like suddenly Ranma was some sort of vessel for a vengeful deity or something but Ryouga wasn't going to rack his mind to try and figure out what spirit Ranma had angered this time to deserve such a punishment. The whole thought was just unnerving.

Akane helped Ryouga walk but as they passed the pond, she head a weak groan. She and Ryouga turned their heads in that direction to see the small framed red-head as she tried to push herself up and out of the pond, her arms trembled violently as she did so. Ranma only got to rise to a half push-up position before falling back onto the muddy bank face first.

"Ranma!" Akane called, made sure that Ryouga was steady before she tried to rush to her side. Before she could take more than a step, she felt a hand on her arm firmly keeping her in place.

"Akane, wait!"

"But he's-"

"I'll check on him." Ryouga said reassured as he straightened his posture so he didn't fall over with the first step he took in that direction.

Ryouga's body was tense as he approached the red-head's prone body, trying not to let his worry get the better of him. At this point, he was sure that he couldn't even block a slow, off-aimed punch even if he wanted to. No movement came from Ranma but he still needed to go up to her to check, mindful of not getting any water accidentally splashed onto him as well.

Ryouga stared down in her face before reaching a tentative hand on her shoulders to wake her when a groan escaped her lips.

"Phew, he's alive!" He called to Akane, 'at least.'

She looked relieved and slowly walked to the pair. Ranma looked so peaceful but Ryouga wasn't one to let looks fool him; he was still on the guard just in case. He grabbed her by the arms and pulled further onto the grass so that she was out of the water. When he had pulled her completely out of the water, Akane peered over Ryouga's shoulders and tried to see if she had any visible wounds or bruises.

"Will Ranma be alright?" She asked with concern as she crouched down next to the unconscious girl form.

"I'm not too sure. We should get Dr. Tofu, and soon."

Another groan could be heard from Ranma as both Ryouga and Akane looked at her intently not quite sure what to expect; help her or save themselves. She blinked a few times before bright azure eyes focused on the two that were hovering over her with worried expressions on their faces. She didn't know why she laid on her back wet nor why she felt like a house fell on her yet she mustered a smile and said warily: Hey, Ryouga…you're back. You owe me…a sparring session, but what…am I doing here, Akane?…I feel sooo…sleepy…"

"Ranma!" Akane shouted in alarm as Ranma closed her eyes warily, obviously thinking the worse.

"Shhh…" Ryouga soothed her as placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "He'll be okay. He's just asleep, that's all. It's been a looong day and I think we should all get some rest."

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

A/N

Hi everyone,

I know, I know, it's been a LONG time since I've updated but I've been a bit stuck in a rut with this one (don't as me why, even though I've got an extensive outline) but I've finally figured stuff out. If your eyes were bugging out about the whole Ryouga and Ukyou interaction in the beginning, I have a whole purpose for it. This story is going to be partial Cannon but I'll be changing a lot of things around to fit the plot but we'll see where the story takes me. I'm well aware of Akari and Kotatsu but my knowledge of the series ended around vol.11 of Ranma ½ and vol. 36 of Inuyashas and I've only got hearsay for what goes on from then until the end. I'll put another chapter up in July sometime but I apologize once again for taking such a long time to update. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me but I hope you enjoyed this chapter.