I didn't plan on writing more of this, but it seems there was another chapter available. Probably the last one.

It's pretty quiet here. I'd almost say relaxing, if it wasn't for the pain.

I'm used to pain.

Every day, almost without exception, the delicate flower of femininity that's the youngest Tendo sister will try to kill me. I let her, because to stop her would simply make a bad situation worse. At first I thought either her sisters or her father would talk to her, make her see what she was doing, but I've long since stopped believing that will ever happen. I'm not sure what's wrong with her but something clearly is. I would imagine that losing her mother at such an early age affected her badly. The damage from what that idiot Tatewaki did certainly pushed her further down that path.

But I still let her hit me. In my mind I know I should stop her, that I'm only reinforcing this sort of behaviour, but in my heart I still can't bring myself to hit a woman. Even when that woman is trying to kill me. Oh, sure, I've fought women, I know some incredibly dangerous ones, but there is a large difference between defending yourself from a serious warrior like Shampoo and a psychotic little girl like Akane. I just can't seem to push myself past that difference. Even with Shampoo, I hold back so much. Perhaps if I didn't she'd have left me alone by now. Perhaps not. I'll never know.

When I first met her, for a few hours I saw a side of her that I've hardly ever seen since. There have been brief flashes of the nice Akane, the one that in another life she might have become, but they've been getting further and further apart for months. Since that whole thing with Saffron I haven't been able to work her out at all. Oh, I know I have a tendency to say things that provoke her. Sometimes it's on purpose, just to retaliate for something she's said. Sometimes it's just an accident. I'm not good with dealing with females, ironically enough under my own circumstances.

Good old Pop pretty much made sure I'd get no experience with the so called fairer sex. Whoever said that never met the Amazons, that's for sure. But ten years on the road with a complete misogynist telling you several times a day that girls are weak, girls are useless, don't be a girl, weak, weak, weak, takes it toll on you. Even when you can see from the brief contact with other people that it's all crap, you can't help but get some of that attitude under your skin. I know girls aren't weak. I know they're not useless. Almost every female I know is a strong self-reliant person, sometimes to a fault. But still, I can't keep myself from sometimes saying something that, even as I hear myself saying it, makes me cringe inside. Something stupid.

Even under those conditions, for her to respond so violently speaks of some inner issue that certainly isn't my fault. I'd judge that perhaps a quarter of the times she hits me it's due to some provocation from me, either deliberate or accidental. I know full well I have a tendency to talk before thinking through what I'm about to say. I do my best, but it's a personality flaw that I find very difficult to overcome. One day, perhaps, I'll be able to get rid of it.

The rest of the time, and the percentage has been getting steadily higher for months, it happens because she's completely misinterpreted something she's seen, or heard, or simply imagined. Always in a way that paints me in the worst possible light of course. I merely look at a female other than her and she goes insane. I'd put it down to jealousy and possibly even be a little flattered, but she's made it perfectly clear for a long time that she has no intention of marrying me, or at least of ever liking me. I suspect that if the marriage had gone as planned she would have gone through with it, either from loyalty to her family or simply to give herself even greater justification for hitting me at the drop of a hat.

At one point I really did think I loved her. When she thought I was a girl and asked me to be her friend, for a short time I was genuinely happy, happy for the first time in years. A friend. I haven't had one of those since I was a small child.

How I long for a friend.

But as soon as she found out the truth, everything went to hell. And it's pretty much been a downhill slide ever since. I should have just walked away, honour or no honour, as soon as I heard about that stupid arranged marriage deal. But I couldn't. To do so would reflect badly on me, my family, even the stupid Tendo family. So I stayed.

Damned honour.

It's become more and more clear to me in the months and years since then that the entire concept, at least the way it's seen in our culture, is broken. How the actions of someone like my father, a man to whom in most cases 'honour' is merely a convenient way of pushing your debts off to the next generation, can bind me and Akane to something neither one of us has any interest in is a mystery. The only way it works is because I let it.

The only honour there is my own. Basically it's me holding to a promise I didn't make. He was the one that made the deal with Tendo, he is the one that stole Ukyo's dowry, yet I have to deal with the fallout. Even in Shampoo's case, ultimately it's his actions that pushed me into fighting her, which led to that whole inane kiss of death/marriage thing. Something that has no binding on me, I'm no Amazon, or citizen of China, yet here I am chased for thousands of miles by a blue-haired warrior bimbo. Someone that I even kind of like, even though I'd never marry.

Under difference circumstances I think I could have been her friend. She is an excellent martial artist in her own right, far better that Akane will ever be. She is persistent, quite smart, and determined. All good things, if only they were aimed at something other than me. She's very good looking as well, something I'd like far more if she didn't push it literally in my face at every opportunity. I have never been able to work out whether she simply doesn't realise how incredibly rude and pushy she is, or just doesn't care. It doesn't matter, I suppose. The end result is that every time I see her I want to hide, just to keep the embarrassment away.

The fact that Akane invariably takes Shampoo throwing herself at me as me doing something 'perverted' is just par for the course nowadays. She throws that word around so much yet I suspect she doesn't have a clue what it really means. She uses it as a universal term for any form of physical contact between a man and a woman. I think a psychiatrist would find the inside of her head a very interesting place.

Mine too, in all probability. I've certainly got good cause to have some pretty weird gender issues. But overall I think I've held it together fairly well all things considered.

Oh great. It's raining. Now I'm lying in a puddle as well. At least my body shrinking a little like it does has left a gap under all this crap so it's not pressing down as much, except in a couple of places. Whatever is stuck in my side has moved a bit with the change and it's hurting more.

I should probably do something about that. But to be honest I just can't be fucked to even move. I'm so damn tired.

Tired in my head, tired in my heart, tired in my soul.

Perhaps I should just lie here until the bleeding stops. I guess that's one way to get all this crap to stop.

Presumably sooner or later they'll dig me out. Then it all starts again.

The stupid thing is that, buried under tons of stone and wood with something stuck in my side, tickling my kidney, it's actually the first time I've had to think without being interrupted for months. I can't really recommend it as a meditation aid though.

Pushing a little ki down into the hole the object has made in me, I can 'see' it. It would be very difficult to describe to anyone else how that works. It's a piece of wood, a big splinter that seems to be from probably the floorboards in the Dojo. That last explosion, along with that idiot Ryoga flinging his own brand of trouble around, smashed up a lot of the building. I was so exhausted from trying to keep the damage to a minimum I must have lowered my guard at exactly the wrong moment. This chunk of wood must have been going like a bat out of hell even so, things like this normally more or less bounce. Anyone else would have been cut in half.

As I look deeper and 'zoom in' for want of a better description I can see it's mostly plugging the hole, so I'm not losing all that much blood. Like being stabbed with a knife, the usual advice is to leave it in place until you get medical aid, for exactly that reason. Still hurts though. Infection might be a problem but I do seem to be pretty resistant to that sort of thing. All the practice of my life style I guess. If I was prone to getting sick from cuts and wounds I'd be dead a hundred times over by now. The sensible thing thing to go would be to push all this stuff off me and get some help.

I really don't feel like being sensible right now. At least this way I don't have people shouting at me.

I wonder if I can use ki to heal myself? It is literally life energy, after all. I've found so many things I can use it for since I learned to harness it. It's almost magic. Not actually magic, of course. I know what that's like as well, the number of spells I've run into is incredible. You wouldn't believe that there could be so many different types of magic around the place. The fact that they all seem to be drawn to me, one way or the other, is pretty irritating though. I'd love to know why, maybe then I could put a stop to it.

That's interesting. I've never really tried looking inside my own body with this 'ki sense' before. I know I can use it outside, my abilities for that have been growing steadily for years, but for some reason I've never thought of other uses. Seems a bit silly. But I've been concentrating so much on it as a martial arts technique it never crossed my mind it could be a medical technique as well. Now that I try, though, the results are fascinating. That's my heart, I can hear it beating, and with some concentration I can visualise it as well. What happens if I look closer?


That's a valve. This is really weird. I can see it opening and closing, and there's another one. I remember seeing what a heart looks like in biology, but this is better than any of the pictures in the textbooks. The little flaps on the valve move pretty quickly, they're sort of blurring in this weird ki vision.

I wonder...

That's a really interesting thought. When I use some of the more advanced techniques, like the chestnut fist, I'm moving so fast that by rights I shouldn't even be able to see my hands. I have no idea how it works, I wish I knew more about the science behind it, although I suspect science might have some objections to me being able to do it in the first place. But leaving that aside, I know that I can see my hands. Everything seems to slow right down when I'm in a good fight, it all moves almost like I'm dreaming, and the harder I push myself the slower it gets. If I could do that without being in a fight, sort of stretch time for my own senses.

That would be amazing. Now, how would I go about doing that I wonder. Maybe if I can remember that feeling, the effect it produces...

Oh, wow. I think it's working. My heart seems to be slowing down but I'm sure it isn't. I don't feel anything wrong. If only I had some sort of external reference. Ah, that dripping water seeping through the stuff lying on me. I can hear it somewhere off to the right. Now, is it slowing down?


Amazing. I would never have thought you could invent a new technique just lying on your back under ten tons of rubble. Perhaps I should have tried this before? Yeah, right. Like I'd ever have the luxury of just lying around, rubble or no rubble. Akane would probably just say I was being lazy.

Can I speed it up again? OK, that seems to work. Weird.

I wonder how long I've been lying here. I'm surprised no one has bothered to dig me out and blame me for the whole thing yet. How bad is the damage to the Dojo, it feels like half the side is lying on me. I can't see much light through all the wood and stone. I guess it's still dark. Feels like I've been here for a couple of hours, but I was pretty out of it for a while at first, and playing with my internal time sense probably hasn't helped. Should I dig myself out? No, screw that. For the moment I'm better off where I am.

How sad is that, when being buried alive is preferable to dealing with your own damn family and so-called friends.

I'm just going to stay here and see how long I can have to myself. If I wasn't in pain I'd quite like it. The idiotic thing is that the pain I'm in now is less than the pain I end up with almost every day. This is just physical. It hurts so much more when it's psychological and spiritual.

'Want to be friends?'

Oh yes, so very much.

But that turned to shit. I really have to wonder what the point is sometimes. I get up, usually because I've been thrown out the window, get forcibly changed into a girl, fight my own father to the point that one of us gets knocked unconscious, have breakfast and usually a fight with my alleged fiancée, more often than not end up with head trauma from that same fiancée, go to school, have one or more fights with idiots, learn practically nothing because I'm so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open, go home, argue with family some more, possibly have more head trauma, go to bed, sleep for a few hours.

And repeat.

And on top of that basic pattern, you can add fights with various outside crazies, half the time because one or other of them wants to marry me, kill me, or sometimes both at the same time. Uniquely, I can even have both men and women wanting to marry me. Oh joy. To be wanted so much.

Not to mention all the insanity of Akane getting kidnapped on a regular basis by the weirdest collection of lunatics you could possibly imagine. Then, of course, I have to go wandering around all over the country, or possibly the entire hemisphere, to get her back. Usually being rewarded by yet more head trauma.

I don't think she's ever actually thanked me. Half the time I'm not sure she even noticed.

Even if it's not her attracting trouble, it's someone else. The only constant seems to be me. Sometimes I wonder if I should even get involved. Maybe I should just step back and let events take their natural course.

Of course, I get the blame for pretty much everything. I suppose I am basically ultimately responsible, in the sense that I'm the catalyst for all the stupidity. Shampoo wants me for some idiotic reason that only makes sense to an Amazon, so she unleashes a giant ghost cat of all things, and Akane get kidnapped by it. In a rational world Shampoo would get the blame, but in mine? Oh no, it's my fault somehow.

In a really rational world there wouldn't be ghost cats in the first damn place. But the world I live in left rationality a long time ago.

God, it's so irritating.

The really annoying thing is that I could probably stop most of it if I just stopped it. What is it that Shampoo says in that perky little voice? 'Obstacle is for killing.' Sometimes I wish I was a bad person, the person so many people seem to want me to be. It would be easy.

Shampoo, you're an obstacle. So are you, Ryoga, and you, Akane, and oh god, you are such an obstacle you insane Kunos. Obstacles standing between me and some sort of actual life.

Compared to Saffron, none of you would stand a chance. It would be so easy to just convert all these obstacles into slag-lined craters and move on.

But to do that would kill me, the me inside, long before they died. I don't want to die. At least not before I've actually lived.

I seem to be on a real feeling sorry for myself kick here. I should probably stop, it's not 'manly.'

Ow. Laughing with a pile of bricks on your breasts is uncomfortable. Note to self, remove bricks, then laugh.

The bleeding seems to have mostly stopped. Looking inside I can see a few leaks, and prod at them with a tendril of ki. Fuck! OW! That really hurt. OK, a little more carefully. Right, not exactly comfortable, but that seems to have sealed everything up. It's going to hurt like a bitch when I pull it out though. I think I see a way to force things to heal, but I don't want to practice on a wound that deep. There's a cut on my face, I can feel the blood running down my cheek. That'll do.

Right. What do I remember about biology again?

Not much. Damn. OK, jump right in at the deep end, just like usual. I really should stop doing that.

Can I project a bit of my ki aura just in that place? Oh, look at that. Amazing. I wonder why none of this ever came up in any of the techniques I studied? It seems it would be useful. Or have I invented something new? Whatever, it seems to work. Right, wind up the power a little and... ouch. Too much. Now I have a burn instead of a cut. Back to square one. At least it's not bleeding.

Try again. Don't get so impatient. A little more, and just a bit more... Damn it. OK, third time lucky.

Shit. This is more tricky than I thought.

Hah! Got it. Take that, complete lack of medical training. Let's try that on another one. I don't have a shortage of cuts. Lucky me.

Well, except for that one in my side everything else seems to be healed up now. I have no idea how long it took, though. I can see a little light coming from somewhere off to the side, so it must be around dawn. Where is everyone? Surely they should have pulled me out to start hitting me before now. Weird.

Oh well, shouldn't look a gift pile of rubble in the mouth, despite everything this is one of the quietest mornings I've had in months. Sadly enough. I may as well get some sleep, sooner or later they'll come and yank me out.

I wonder what time it is? It's still light, and I'm still buried. I must have been asleep for several hours, and it's stopped raining. The puddle I'm lying in has drained away, but I'm still soaked.

They can't possibly have forgotten about me. Can they?

I wish they would.

Damn. It's raining again. And starting to get dark. I've been down here for nearly an entire day. An entire day of pain and dampness, and it's still one of my better days. My life is so wrong. But it's giving me time to think. I'm not sure now that's a good thing.

Looking at it I think the only person in the entire household who I care about now is Kasumi. I never had an offer of friendship from her, but it just seemed to happen. In many ways we have similar problems, in that neither one of us is living the life we'd like. I love learning about the art, and to be honest would like to learn about other things as well. Science, and literature, and music, almost anything really. I don't know that I want to formally train in any of those things, but it would be fun to at least be able to look at them. I'd do more at school, or at least do it better, if I wasn't so damn tired all the time.

Poor old Kasumi is trapped as surely as I am. The only other person who seems to understand putting someone else before your own desires. I'll happily admit she does that much better than I do, but that very fact makes me very sorry for her. She's completely buried her own life, all it could have been, under that surrogate wife and mother impression she does so well. If it wasn't for the fact that I can literally feel her emotional state she'd fool me as well, but I know she hates it underneath. I don't think even she knows how much she hates it.

If something doesn't change, eventually the mask will become reality though. The real Kasumi will be lost forever, leaving a beautiful house cleaning robot just going through the motions. That would be a shame. She deserves so much better.

Sometimes I wish that she'd been the one that accepted, or was pushed into accepting, the role of fiancée. I could see coming to genuinely love the person I know is under all that rigid control. But I could never accept forcing someone so gentle into a relationship with someone like me.

Not like that was ever likely to happen. I saw in her eyes how this damn curse affected her, that first day. It wasn't with the violence of Akane, or the naked mercenary lust of Nabiki, but it was shock and a certain amount of disgust. I can't blame her. To her credit, it didn't take long before she'd come to terms with it and realised it was pretty much only an outward change. Oh, yes, there are all sorts of internal changes as well, other than the obvious, but they don't affect who I am. All my senses change a little, my hearing is better, I'm considerably faster, a little less physically strong, things like that. But my inner personality is always the same.

Hardly anyone seems to realise that, or care. Kasumi knows. Weirdly, I think Ryoga does as well, on some level. He certainly doesn't treat me differently as a female than as a male. At least, he tries to kill me whatever gender I am, so I guess that's treating me the same. His own curse experience probably made him realise the truth of it, even if it's only unconscious. Doesn't stop the bastard from teasing me about it though. If that was all he did I could live with it, but the constant shouting 'Die' and the attacks get very wearing after a while.

All over bread. What an idiot.

Again, I'm blamed for something that is all really his own fault. He basically forfeited the challenge when he didn't turn up on time. I certainly didn't have to wait for three days. Following us to China and ending up in the spring was all the result of that event, yet somehow this becomes my fault. I know how hard it must be for him, at least my curse leaves me human, but it certainly hasn't stopped him taking full advantage of it to get intimate with Akane. God, if she wants someone she can use 'pervert' to describe, she should look a bit closer to her own damn bed.

They deserve each other. It's going to be amusing when she finally finds out.

I bet I get blamed for that as well.

The curse. Bane of my life. But, if I'm honest with myself, no, it isn't. Not any more. In fact, it hasn't been for a while. I've never told anyone, I can't see how I could without being thought of even less, but by this point I don't really care. Male or female, it's still me, and it's only the reaction of other people that's difficult. It was certainly shocking and upsetting at first, but it didn't take long to see that it really wasn't all that different.

Yes, one form has bits that the other form lacks, and the other way around. One form is shorter and slightly weaker than the other, but also faster with slightly better senses. It all balances out. I'm one of a very small number of people who can actually know that for sure. Herb is the only other one I know, and he comes from a culture so misogynistic it makes my father look like a saint. The only part of being female that I really don't like at all is that mess every month, and I doubt very much whether any natural-born female likes it any more than I do. They just grew up knowing it would happen.

Kasumi helped there as well. I had an idea what was going to happen, I'm not stupid. As soon as I had a chance when we got here and I went to school, I looked up various books on sexual development in the school library. I wanted to know what the differences were, and there was no way I'd ever ask Pop. Not that he'd have told me anyway. Probably just beaten me senseless for asking. But reading about it and having it happen to you are two different things altogether. It was still a shock when it happened for the first time.

I doubt whether even she realises that the timer is running all the time, so to speak, even when I'm male. I have no idea how that even works, I don't even have the necessary parts most of the time, but still every month I can feel it. It's good if I can stay male for those days, it's much less trouble, but the way my life goes that's normally impossible.

It does make beating the panda that much more enjoyable though. I wonder if he'll ever realise that he gets pounded that much harder every month? Probably not, he's not the most perceptive of people.

I'm resigned to being this way for the rest of my life. I have been for some time. But it's not easy, truly accepting it. Despite everything I tell myself logically, emotionally I can't escape the attitude my parents tried so hard to drum into me. Weak girl. Useless girl.

Damn it.

It's all so idiotic. I know it's all crap, I just can't stop thinking it. Weak girl, balls. Akane is as strong as an enraged gorilla at the best of times. Now, after all the fights I've had, all the training, all the ki use, I'm a lot stronger than that, although I doubt she or anyone else really understands that. I have to hold back so much even when I'm a girl to stop myself simply killing any of them with a single punch. Sometimes, every now and then, I toy with the idea of not holding back. It would be kind of funny to see Ryoga's face when I broke every rib in his body while I was female.

But I can't. That would just make me like the rest of them, and that's not what I want to be. They are, almost without exception, wonderful examples of exactly what not to be.

One of the weirdest things is that of all of them, the only ones that seem to really understand me in any way are the old ghoul and the deviant. Both of them are very old, both of them are incredibly skilful, both of them are in many ways very unpleasant people. Cologne is the most manipulative person I have ever met. Happosai is undeniably a complete pervert, in the true sense of the word, not the one Akane uses. Yet, she has come through for me time and time again, even if she was doing it mainly to preserve what she sees as a resource, and he has helped as well. I have a weird sort of respect for him.

He's the grand-master of my school of the art, and it's a well-deserved title. His knowledge is incredible, and his power undeniable. I'm pretty sure I'm more powerful than he is, though, after everything I've been through. He knows a lot of things I'd love to learn, but if it came to it I think I could take him. The collateral damage would be impressive though.

Oh look, the rain has stopped again. And still no one has come looking for me. I can hear them shouting in the house, Akane is shrieking like a demon again. I wish she'd just shut the hell up for once.

This is starting to get a little boring. Maybe I should get up.

Oh god, now Soun is wailing and mom is shouting at pop. I'm staying right where I am. Impaled on a bit of broken floorboard or dealing with that. I know when I'm on to a winner.

I wonder what else I can do with ki? Let's try that internal time speeding up thing again.

Weird. All the sounds are slowing down, getting steadily lower in pitch. That's one way of getting some peace. How far can I push it?

That must be Akane, her voice gets pretty shrill when she's angry. Now it sounds like a bass drum. I can't even hear the others. How much faster am I going inside my head than outside? Fifty times? A hundred?

This will be very useful in a fight. Gives me time to think.

I've never had time to think before. It's kind of nice.

Now, what should I think about?


That's just sad.

Fine, martial arts it is. What else can I do with ki? I know I can use it to make myself stronger and tougher, that's what I do all the time anyway. It's just reflex now, I don't even think about it. I can fire blasts of it from my hands. I seem to be able to use it to heal myself. I should see if I can do that to other people when I get the chance. I can create a visible aura with it. It can be used to make pockets of space to put things in, like weapons.

Thinking about firing balls of ki, I wonder if I could project it as a steady beam instead. The principle should be pretty much the same. I can visualise the process, remember the feeling of calling up the ki and forming it into a ball. One thing that's always been annoying about that is how slowly it travels. Maybe if I can push it out as a solid stream I could make it go faster. I think I see what to do. It will be interesting to try.

Along the same idea, I could make all these techniques more efficient if I didn't call out some stupid name first. I wonder why we do that? I guess it sounds cool, but thinking about it it's kind of silly.

Screw it. I'm not bothering any more. I'm tired of that as well.

What am I going to do when I can be bothered to get up? I've pretty much given up on them coming to get me. I'll bet they just assume I ran away. If they haven't found me yet, they won't until someone moves all this rubble, and they don't seem to be in a hurry to do that. It would almost be funny to let them find my body a week later, although I guess the smell would tell them before that.

No. I'm damned if I'm going to die under here. I'm just resting.

Let's see if they're still shouting. Slow down a little, and... Oh, look, they are. What a surprise. Sounds like Kodachi has joined the fun.

Yes, this is definitely the right place to stay for a while. That bit of wood is pretty uncomfortable though.

I wonder if I can slow things down as well? Same idea, but in the other direction.

Woah. That's pretty freaky. All the little beams of light coming through the stuff on top of me are visibly moving. I guess that's the sun moving. They're all talking really fast and sound like they've inhaled helium. Push it a little further and I can't hear them any more, everything's gone too high pitched. Again, peace.

Pity I can't stay here forever.

Wow. I've never seen night fall that fast. It just went black all of a sudden. I must be running about ten or twenty times slower inside than outside. At least this will be useful when I'm waiting at the train station or something. It would make the more boring bits of school easier to bear as well.

I should practice to see how fast I can speed up and slow down. It's really weird, but might come in handy. So, speed up again to normal. Then faster. Then back to normal, then slower again. Interesting. Try again.

Well, that was fun. Now what?

It's daylight again. No idea what time, I've completely lost track. It must be about forty eight hours since the wedding attempt. Still no one has come looking for me, at least out here. I wonder how long it will take them? I'm half tempted to stay here until they do find me, but I'll probably starve to death waiting. They're not exactly the sharpest set of knives I've ever heard of.

Nabiki is pretty bright. No, I should be honest, it's not like she can hear me. She's very smart. But she's also a complete bitch a lot of the time. If it wasn't for the fact that it would cause more problems to the household that it would solve I've never have let her get all those photos. It's so embarrassing. Kind of funny, the fact that I'm pretty sure she thinks she's playing me, that I don't know about them. But embarrassing. The thought that there are people out there perving over pictures of me half naked, male or female, is not very nice.

She'd better be careful. One day someone official might notice that the subject of her little enterprise is under age. That'll drop her in it.

But what else can I do? Pop and I are huge drain on the Tendos, and despite everything they are letting us live here. I give Kasumi as much as I can, to keep it out of Nabiki's hands, but I know it's not enough. If that mercenary would put it all into the household everything would be fine, aside from the moral issues of running a blackmail and soft porn business, but I know she keeps a lot of it. I'm going to have to talk to her about that I think.

Maybe I should take that woman I met down-town a couple of months ago up on her modelling job agent offer. She said something about registering a legal claim on the likeness of a person. I'll bet that would put a crimp in Nabiki's plans.

God. Me, a model. No chance. I know how good looking my female side is, but I really can't see it as a job. That's even more embarrassing than what Nabiki's doing.

What the hell am I going to do?

Three fiancées that I know about, I'm damn sure there are a lot more based on Pop's character, or lack of it. Amazons wanting me to go and live in some primitive village in China. Ukyo wanting me to marry her and run a restaurant. Not even run it, just sit at home while she runs it. Akane apparently wanting to kill me, and at the same time stop any other female coming within a hundred meters of me. Ryoga wanting to kill me. Mousse wanting to kill me. The Kunos wanting to kill me and marry me at the same damn time.

My life is so fucked up.

I'm tired. I think I'll have a nice relaxing nap here in my muddy puddle.

Damn, I'm hungry. It's dark again. I must have slept through the entire day. It probably isn't doing me any good having a chunk of wood sticking out of me, but I really can't be bothered to move. I wonder if that's a bad sign?

More shouting. And it's raining yet again.

I hate the rain sometimes.

I wonder what they're shouting about now? They're all in the house, I guess they don't want to get wet. I can hear Akane, and Shampoo, and all the parents. Can I reach out that far with this ki vision?

Look at that. I can't see them, really, but I can feel them. Their own ki, I guess it must be. That's obviously Cologne, it's pretty impressive how much she has. Shampoo has much less, but still more than Akane. That must be Mom, it feels female. Soun and Pop, I guess. Definitely Happosai, it makes me feel slimy just looking at it. Ryoga has quite a lot, a fair bit more than Shampoo, but touching that suddenly makes me want to kill myself.

If that's how he feels all the time I can kind of understand why he's such a dick.

Nabiki. Very cold.


I could look at that all day.

I feel better just brushing against her ki. There's a surprisingly large amount of it. The weird thing is that I can feel it coming from the entire house to a degree. It's like she's put herself, almost her soul, into the wood and stone of the entire building. I guess she has in a way, she's the glue that holds the household together. If she ever leaves them they'll fall apart unless they change.

But she has to leave them, or it will kill her. Kill what makes her Kasumi.

She's coming out, into the garden. She feels so down. I wish I could cheer her up somehow. She deserves so much better.

It's not raining any more. The entire circus is spilling out into the garden. I can feel her tensing up as her sisters come up behind her. I can hear Akane still complaining. I can't believe some of the things she's saying.

Oh, you absolute bitch. You know damn well that's not true. Or that. I should get up and tell you.

But what good would it do? You hear what you want to hear, and ignore everything else. Anything I say you'll twist to fit what you want to believe. What's the saying? My facts won't change your preconceived notions? Something like that.

No. You didn't just say that. You can't have just said that. Even you.

Fuck you. And your little pig too. I can't take this any more. I won't take this any more. Honour be damned. I've done everything I could to balance all the competing things pulling me this way and that, and all I get is abuse, physical and mental. I've fucking had it.

I don't believe it.

Kasumi! Of all people, you pushed Kasumi far enough to hit you? Oh, Akane, you don't have any idea what you've...



Speed. Aim. Push.

Thank god. It worked. They're both down, but they're both alive. The blast probably scorched them a bit, but no long term damage. I've been under all this crap long enough. It certainly shows me where their interests are. I know what I need to do.

This stuff is pretty heavy, but I don't see any reason to hold back now. I don't think I've ever been so angry, so why do I feel so cold and empty inside? Akane is standing up, and she's got a very weird look on her face. Damn, this thing in my side hurts. That's got to go. Pulling it out hurts more, and there's a lot of blood, so I push some ki into it. That hurts a lot, but the bleeding stops. I can deal with it properly later.

They're all staring at me like they've seen a ghost. Or something worse.

Walking over to Akane I look up at her. She looks like she stood too close to a firework. That'll sting in the morning. The stupid girl just gapes at me as I stand in front of her. Is she going to say anything? Apologise? To Kasumi if no one else.

No. Of course not. She's just standing there like an idiot, staring at me like she doesn't know what to do. You should know what to do, you fool. Say something. Anything.


Fuck her. Fuck all of them. I've had it.

The best part of three days, and they didn't even look for me. All they can do is argue about which part of my soul each of them deserves. I've met demons from hell who were better people.

Family honour? The only one in my family with honour is me, and I'm keeping it. Disown me? I'm disowning them. The rest of them can go to hell. I'm completely through playing games, allowing them to use me, control me. That stops now. If I never see any of them again I'll be happy. So will they, because the way I feel at the moment I'm liable to remove heads. I don't like feeling like that.

None of them say anything as I go into the house and up to my room. My pack is in the closet where I left it, and it doesn't take more than a minute to put the few things I want into it. Most of the rest of the stuff I own, what there is of it, is in my ki space fold. I'm filthy and my clothes are practically falling off me, but I'm not staying around to wash or even change back. If I spend any more time here I may just convert the entire house into a crater.

Pulling on some clean clothes I look around the room for the last time. Two years, near enough. The longest time I've ever spent in the same place since I was six. And for what? Nothing I can think of.

Back in the garden. Look at them all, standing around like a bunch of statues. Mom. Insane. Pop. Lazy. Soun. Broken. Nabiki. Cold. Shampoo. Hopeless. Ukyo. Once a friend, no more. Akane.

Akane. I loved you once, for a while. I was your friend for about two hours. I've saved your life and your honour so many times, and for what?

I really can't think why I bothered now.

She looks at Kasumi, who is the only one who will meet my eyes. Then she looks at Ryoga. Her little pig. He comes over. I can't handle his shit any more, if he opens his mouth...

That's going to hurt when he wakes up.

He's damn lucky I pulled it at the last moment, or he wouldn't have a head. At least he's quiet now. I doubt he'll be conscious for hours.

Shampoo is saying something inane again. When I look at her she gets an odd expression and seems to be having trouble speaking. Good. I don't feel like dealing with her at the moment. Cologne seems to realise, and stops her coming closer.

Looking around at these idiots, I can't see why I stuck around as long as I did. Not one of them is worth the effort. I've tried so hard, for so long, for them? Why?

Looking back at Kasumi, I'm a bit surprised at the expression on Happosai's face. He almost looks proud? He's standing close to Kasumi. She is looking at him with slight surprise on her face. I walk over and look at him. There is something in his eyes which I've never seen before. It takes me a long time to work it out, I've never had anyone look at me like that.

I'll be damned. It's respect.

I'd never have believed it. He bows.

All I can do is acknowledge it with a nod. If I even open my mouth something bad will happen, I know that beyond doubt. So I won't. After a moment, I look up at Kasumi. It's sometimes annoying being so short as a girl, and Kasumi is pretty tall anyway, so I have to look up quite a lot. Again, she meets my eyes. She is crying, and her smile is gone. I hate seeing her like this. She deserves so much better.

My friend.

I realise she truly is my friend. The only one I have.

I can't leave her here. It will destroy her. I hold out my hand, hoping desperately she will take it, and smile at her. The first smile I've felt like having for weeks. She looks at me, then around at her family and all the other wierdos. After a long moment she glances at Happosai, and he gives her a look that mixes respect and something very close to love. She reaches out and takes my hand, squeezing it hard.

There is something on her face.

It's a smile, but not that thing she displays for appearances sake. This is something different, something real. Something beautiful.

I have the same one as we walk out the gate.