The city streets were bustling with activity at the days lunch hour. The many businessmen and women littered the streets with warm bodies, many talking on their phones, others looking for a place to eat, but each one oblivious to the world around them.
But none of them noticed the ragged looking young man as he staggered down the sidewalk as if in a trance.
Nor did they notice his charred clothing, or the bloodied tourniquet he had fashioned from one of his bandannas.
But then, the bleeding has mostly stopped, save for a few of his larger wounds.
Still, he limped and staggered through the streets with no destination in mind. His mind was already working too fast for him to comprehend. There were emotions that he had never experienced. Feelings that he could not express.
Depression as he'd never felt before.
Finally, the lunch hour crowd began to dull, and he found himself walking among a smaller crowd, though equally oblivious to his condition.
Suddenly, he stopped. The faceless blurs avoiding him like a river parting. What had caused him to pause he could not discern, nor did he care to, but he did.
Falling to his knees was an option he was considering, to die in the street alone. He deserved that fate. He deserved to lie in a pool of his own drained blood. After what he had caused, he deserved it all.
But something nagged at him. Something wouldn't let him drop to his knees and die.
"Ryouga?" a voice penetrated through the haze of his mind. It barely registered at first, but he soon found himself turning towards the source.
It was a girl. No. It was someone he knew.
The face was there, as was the person. But the name couldn't escape his lips.
The girl placed one hand over her mouth and gasped. "Oh my God!" she exclaimed. "What happened?"
The nagging feeling that had prevented his dropping to his knees suddenly flooded away from him.
Like a sack ton of bricks, Ryouga hit the ground and fell unconscious. The last thing he heard was a frantic yelling on behalf of the girl.
Desperate Youth Edit
"And how are we today, Mr. Saotome?" Yume, one of the day nurses asked as she entered Ranma's room carrying a chart.
Ranma sat on the edge of his bed and languidly stretched his legs. "Great!" he exclaimed, then suddenly retracted them, rubbing his calf muscles frantically.
Yume chuckled wholeheartedly. "Charlie Horse?"
Ranma nodded and experimentally tapped the bandage at his side, where he had been shot.
Ranma winced. "A little."
"Well, two more days, Mr. Saotome, and you'll be able to go home."
"Ucchan's already out," he said. "Why do I hafta stick around that much longer?"
"Ms. Kuonji was shot in the shoulder," Yume smiled. "Once, and she had it treated right away. You, on the other hand, Mr. Saotome, suffered three gunshot wounds. It's a wonder you didn't lose as much blood as you should have."
Ranma just flexed his muscles and smiled. "What, me?"
A moment later, he brought his right arm down and started to rub the muscles.
Once again, Yume laughed.
Yume wrote a few things down on a small chart. "So your fiancee isn't visiting you today? I could have sworn I saw her come in this morning."
Ranma shrugged. "Nah, she hung around for a bit. She said she wanted to do some shopping. Her sister should be stopping by, though."
Yume raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Aren't you the ladies man?"
Ranma blushed furiously as Yume laughed again. "I'm only teasing, Mr. Saotome."
Ranma looked back up at the nurse. "Anything new with my Pop?"
Yume flipped through a few pages on the chart before answering. "He's still in no shape to move about," she replied. "But he's already gone through three nurses and two doctors. He's quite an infuriating man, isn't he?"
Ranma laughed. "That's Pop. But think about it, how would you feel if you woke up after a three week nap and found out both of your legs were broken? Especially if you're a martial artist?"
Yume nodded and smiled. "Well, we'll release him in a few days as well. He just needs someone to watch over him."
Ranma nodded. "Mom'll probably do that."
Ranma leaned back in his bed. It had been four days since the incident with Mazuhara had happened. Four days since Ranma had been declared a hero. Strangely enough, only two days after that, his father had awoke from his coma, and started to yell at his nurse.
Four days. Ranma scoffed. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
He stretched his legs once more, yearning for some physical workout. After lying in a bed for four days, he desperately needed it.
"Well, Mr. Saotome," Yume said, finishing her chores for the room. "I'd best continue my rounds."
Ranma yawned and waved at Yume as she left the room, then leaned back in his chair.
"Are you aware of the patients name?" the triage nurse asked.
Nabiki nodded. "His name is Ryouga Hibiki. I'm not sure of his address, but I'd like to cover him through my family's insurance."
The nurse paused. "Is he listed on your policy?"
Nabiki shook her head. "No, but I don't think that's a problem." She eyed the nurse thoughtfully.
Abruptly, the nurse typed in a few things into the computer. "He's being treated right now, afterwards, would you like a private room, or a communal room?"
"Room 206," she said.
The nurse blinked. "206? But that's--"
"Ranma Saotome's room. Trust me, he won't mind sharing."
The nurse sighed. "Very well, then." She typed the excess information in, and gave a small sheet of paper to Nabiki. "He'll be moved up after his wounds are treated."
Nabiki nodded towards the nurse and made her way towards the elevator. That had been the easy part. Fortunately, the hard part was getting Ryouga to the hospital. It wasn't as hard as it should have been, the hospital was only half a block away, but Ryouga weighed more than a mule, and for someone like Nabiki, it was only that much harder.
Fortunately, Nabiki knew how to get peoples attention.
The three kind souls who took time out of their busy schedules were a godsend.
However, had they chosen NOT to be a godsend, Nabiki would have made their lives very, VERY miserable.
But now Ryouga was on a stretcher, being treated by doctors. That was all that mattered now.
As the elevator doors opened, she headed straight towards Ranma's room. Boy did she have news for him.
"Forceps," Doctor Kadowaki said, putting her hand out in expectation. The nurse immediately placed a pair of forceps in her hands, if a bit clumsily.
Doctor Kadowaki raised one eyebrow. "Some wrong, Nene?"
The nurse shook her head. "No, it's just... He's all..."
"Burnt," the Doctor finished. "Not only that, but..." She grunted as she pulled something from the mans shoulder.
"Shrapnel," she said, holding the small piece of metal in front of her. "This man either stepped on a land mine, or he just barely made it out of a heavy explosion."
"There was that explosion on the news last night," Nene said. "You think he's got something to do with that?"
Doctor Kadowaki shrugged as she pulled another piece of shrapnel out. "Err, you might want to suction that," she said, motioning towards the small pool of blood collecting on the mans shoulder.
Nene did so, and whistled. "What's this world coming to? First that Saotome boy, and now this?"
Kadowaki scoffed. "I'm used to treating cuts, stab wounds, car accidents. But bullet wounds and explosions? Forget the world, that's already screwed beyond recognition... what's JAPAN coming to?"
Nene shook her head. "His pressure is pretty low. It's a miracle he survived long enough to be found."
Another nod came from the doctor's position. "Miracles do happen. But this man is almost pure muscle. He's got excellent endurance. If it wasn't for that, I think he would have died hours ago. He's just lucky he got burns with these cuts, or he would have bled to death. The burns cauterized most of this."
"ECG looks okay," she said. "We almost ready to stitch?"
"Yeah," Doctor Kadowaki said. "Just gotta clean these out a bit."
"Jock itch? I've got the perfect solution-- *click* --Today on Shinjuku Heights, 90210-- *click* -- o/~ I'll be there for you, when the rain o/~ -- *click* But Shiro! I love-- *click* -- LOOK AT HIM GO! HE'S ROUNDING THIRD-- *click* --Ryouga Hibiki. Who is believed--" *click*
Ranma paused for a second. Did he hear that right? He switched the channel back.
"To repeat, viewers," the news anchor said. "A preliminary investigation on the explosion in the Aoyama district reveals at least two dead, and one missing. Miss Rin Tosaka, the daughter of the now deceased restaurant owners, Kaoru and Mika Tosaka is presumed to be in the company of Mr. Ryouga Hibiki."
Ranma's eyes popped open as the news anchor shuffled through some papers.
"He is believed to be holding Miss Tosaka against her will and is considered possibly armed and dangerous. The police are in the process of tracking him down, and should have--"
"Ranma!" Nabiki called as she entered the room.
Ranma jumped a good three feet, and shot his gaze towards Nabiki. "What the hell?!" he exclaimed.
"Wow, Saotome. I'd have thought you would have heard me."
"I was distracted!" he said, then pointed to the TV. "The news anchor said--"
"Can it, Ranma. I've got more important news. I just found Ryouga."
Ranma's eyes popped open. "WHAT?!"
"Don't get overexcited, Saotome. He was hurt badly. Like he walked through an incinerator barefoot or something. They're stitching him up right now."
"Wait until I'm finished, Ranma. I've arranged for him to share this room with you."
Ranma wasn't getting through. He did the only thing he could. He turned up the volume on the TV.
Nabiki winced as the volume overrode her own voice. "Ranma, what's--"
"If you see any of these two people, please contact the police immediately," the news anchor said as a photograph appeared on screen. Nabiki looked towards it and gasped. It was Ryouga, undoubtedly. He wore a cooking apron and held a small spatula in his hand, but it was him. The girl, although she didn't recognize her, was smiling at him.
"What the hell?" Nabiki said.
"It just showed up on the news. They think he kidnapped this girl."
Nabiki fumed. "Well, why didn't you tell me this before?!"
Akane carried a small bag over her shoulder as she entered the hospital. Catching a quick smile from the nurse at the triage, who she knew quite fondly now, she made her way towards the elevator.
"Miss Tendo?" the triage nurse called
Akane looked over. "Yes?"
"I expect you're going up to see Mr. Saotome. Can you tell your sister that the new patient will be there in about two minutes?"
Akane blinked. "New patient?"
The nurse merely nodded, and then diverted her attention to the moderately wounded young man sitting in the intake chair.
With an unsure feeling, Akane entered the elevator and pushed the button to the second floor. The doors closed with an audible click.
Although an incredibly short ride, she found time enough to consider this new development. A new patient? Nabiki had something to do with it, but why would she allow Ranma's room to be shared. She was the one who arranged the private room to begin with...
The the possibility hit her. It obviously meant someone she knew was hurt. Hurt badly, to be deserving of a room.
As the elevator doors opened, she went on a short jog to Ranma's room, and threw open the door.
"Who's hurt?!" she asked.
"Akane? What the hell?" Ranma exclaimed.
"Nabiki, who's hurt? The nurse said 'the new patient' will be up in a minute or two," Akane practically yelled.
"Keep it down, Sis. This is a hospital," she replied. "And it looks like we've got more to worry about than just his getting hurt. He's a wanted man."
Ranma nodded. "What should we do?"
Nabiki shrugged. "I don't know. I already gave his name to the triage. It's only a matter of time before the police catch on it and show up here with handcuffs."
"Hello?" Akane interrupted from the doorway.
"Yeah," Ranma continued, ignoring Akane. "But the question is, did he do it? I mean, he's thick headed and all... But to kill two people and kidnap a third? You saw the picture. He looked HAPPY there."
Nabiki nodded. "And the whole explosives thing. Doesn't fit his personality. But it still doesn't mean he didn't do it."
"Him? The only way HE could blow people up is if he did it by complete accident."
Unnoticed by both, Akane fumed in the doorway. She was about to speak up again, until-
"Excuse me, miss. We have to get this gourney through here," the voice from behind her stated.
She turned around, almost ready to blow up at the new voice until she saw it was an orderly. Then she saw prone form the person on the gourney.
Almost immediately, she dropped her bag and put her hands to her mouth. "Oh my God, Ryouga!"
"Hmmm," Nabiki pondered. "Looks like they cleaned him up."
Ranma scoffed. "At least they used warm water."
Akane raised an eyebrow. "What difference would cold water make?"
"Umm... none, I guess."
"Now the question remains... How long until he regains consciousness and tell us what the HELL is going on?"
Ranma shook his head. "I'm almost positive Mazuhara had something to do with this."
Akane gasped. "Ranma, Mazuhara is DEAD."
With a nod, Ranma continued. "But not all of his little henchmen are."
"So you think the Paved Future is behind this?"
Ranma nodded again. "There's no way Ryouga could do something like that. No WAY."
"Not on purpose, anyway," Nabiki said.
"Now stop that, Nabiki. I don't think Ryouga would EVER be capable of that, accident or not," Akane replied. "I refuse to believe that. He's an honest, caring person!"
Ranma coughed involuntarily at that remark, and Nabiki just stared up at the ceiling.
"Excuse me, Mr. Saotome?" someone asked from the doorway.
The three of them looked over to see Yume, Ranma's regular nurse standing there. She seemed rather edgy about something.
Ranma raised an eyebrow. "Yume?"
"There are... some men here to see you and the new patient," she said, and then moved to allow the people in.
As Ranma feared, the uniform and the blue jacket with the word 'Police' written across the back gave the identity of them men away.
"Mr. Saotome," the first one said. It was a greeting. They had no other interest here, that much was obvious.
He turned to the nurse. "Can you wake him up?"
Yume nodded, and walked over to Ryouga, took something out of a small vial and waved it around under his nose. After a moment, he started to move, and opened his eyes a moment later.
"Ryouga Hibiki, you are under arrest for the murder of Kaoru and Mika Tosaka. If you tell us where Rin Tosaka is, the judge may go easier on you. Now, where is she?"
Ryouga groaned a little, still looking like he was between worlds. Slowly, he began to utter a word.
The policeman brought his ear closer, trying to make out the word.
But Ranma's superior senses could make it out the first time he said it.
"He said she's dead," Ranma replied, heart pounding.
The policeman looked up at Ranma, then down at Ryouga. "Bastard," he said with a sneer. "Get him out of here. Move him to the prison facility."
"Wait! You can't do that!" Akane exclaimed.
Nabiki agreed. "No, you can't. You still don't have any actual proof he did it!"
"He's the only survivor," the policeman replied. "And you heard him say himself that he killed the girl!"
"You know DAMN well he never said that!" Ranma exclaimed.
"It doesn't matter," he said, turning to the nurse. "Get him ready for movement."
Yume looked over at Ranma for a moment, and then down at Ryouga. "I.. well, we can't."
The policeman raised an eyebrow. "Why not?"
"He's still hurt far too much for movement. If you move him now, he might die."
"Well, wouldn't THAT be a shame," the policeman said. After catching several less-than-friendly glares from people in the room, he sighed. "Fine. We'll move him in the morning. BUT we're posting two men outside of the room."
Yume watched as the two men left the room, waited until she was sure they couldn't hear her, and then continued.
"You two had better go home for now," she told Nabiki and Akane. "I don't like him much. I'm sorry I could only buy you one day."
Ranma waved his hands in front of her. "That's fine. I think it'll have to do for now." Ranma sighed and then looked out the window. "It's starting to get late, guys. Maybe you'd better go home."
Nabiki nodded and walked over towards Yume. Akane went over to Ranma and gave him a light kiss.
"Call me," she said quietly.
Ranma nodded and then let them leave. "Thanks, Yume," he said as the nurse started to leave the room. Yume nodded.
"He can be moved, but be careful, and only do it if there are no other choices," she mentioned.
With a nod, Ranma allowed her to leave the room.
Looking over at the unconscious form of Ryouga, he sighed. "Now what the hell are we going to do with you?"
The night passed by quickly as Ranma's thought processes overtook him. He thought of several options besides escape, but none could be a surefire way to work. Ryouga was perpetually unconscious, which meant he'd have an especially hard time moving him while trying to remain stealthy.
But nonetheless, he'd planned it. The police officers peeked in every twenty minutes to check on them. The shift change took place at 11 PM. He figured the best time to pull it off would be between 1:30 and 2 AM, and set forth to organize the escape.
At around midnight, he started to time his actions. Spend ten minutes separating the bars on the windows, which was a lot harder than it seemed. The thick steel bars were tougher than any brick wall Ranma could break through with ease.
But the bars were so tough that a bulldozer wouldn't be able to bend them.
So after three unsuccessful sessions of trying to bend, then pretending to sleep, he finally resolved to break the bars right off of the wall.
That only took him two minutes.
The escape would take seconds, really. All he had to do was take Ryouga onto his shoulders-- Ranma didn't dare try to wake him up-- and jump out the window. Even with Ryouga's added weight, it would be no trouble. He was only one story from the ground. Below the window was a solid surface, and only a block away was the train station.
From there, he could make his way to Nerima and--
He paused. Then what? He couldn't go home, the police would surely look there first.
Then there was the school. No, too many people know his face. Someone would see him and squeal.
Ranma's thoughts started to work harder than he imagined, trying to fight off the growing weariness in his tired body. He managed to fight it off with ease, but once he got really tired, he knew the sleep would overtake him. He had been off of the painkillers for a day or two now, and the effects were drastic.
He had been almost constantly drowsy.
Ranma grabbed the small stuffed cat on the stand by his bed and stuffed it into his pocket. As much as he hated cats, he respected Shampoo well enough not to leave it behind.
Suddenly, he heard the telltale footsteps outside of his door, and a brief exchange of words between the policemen and the new voice.
He could make out a few words, but it was hard to hear through the door. What he had gathered was that the new man was an orderly.
Ranma immediately jumped into his bed, and covered himself with blankets. A moment later, the door creaked open.
Ranma peeked out of the corner of his eye. The orderly was new, he could tell that much. The first thing he did was walk over to the cupboards under the sink at the side wall, and then kneel down.
Although he couldn't see anything because of the obstruction Ryouga caused, he figured he was gathering some of the linen and various supplies in the cupboard.
Ranma paid no attention to the apparent length of time the man spent there, and just patiently waited for him to leave. Once he did, he waited for the police to check in on them one final time before preparing the escape.
Almost as soon as the door was closed, Ranma leapt silently to his feet and changed his clothes. Ryouga's clothes were still burned, but freshly washed. While he couldn't very well change him where he was, he could still take the clothes and allow him to change elsewhere, when he was conscious.
He grabbed the small stuffed cat on the stand by his bed and stuffed it into his pocket. As much as he hated cats, he respected Shampoo well enough not to leave it behind.
Now, for the final task.
Ranma wrapped Ryouga in one of the wool blankets on his bed, leaving his head out in the open and allowing him to breathe. It would draw less attention than if he were carrying a man in a hospital gown through the trains.
Finally, he hefted him up on his shoulder, and sat in the window. With a light push, he found himself standing on the ground outside of the hospital. It took him all of one second to break into a jog and get away.
Ranma ran the two blocks to the train, paid for the ticket with the money he had left in his pocket, and hopped on.
As the doors closed and the train pulled away from the station, a loud noise was heard. It rocked entire neighborhood and caused death and destruction where it lay.
The fire crews arrived in minutes to pick through the remains of the ruined wing of the hospital and pull the survivors out. Thankfully, most got by with scratches, bruises, light burns and mainly minor injuries...
Some, however, were not as fortunate. Two policemen and a elderly patient were pulled from the wreckage dead.
The calming, serene sound of the sweeping was Mousse's only company in the now-empty Nekohanten. Cologne was dead, and it was Shampoo's duty to have her buried in the greens and etch her name on the wall back at the village...
However, it was Mousse's job to finish up all the loose ends in Japan. Which meant selling the property, and making it suitable for prospective buyers. He had already had several people look at the place the day earlier. None of them seemed truly interested, so Mousse had forced himself to wake up early and do some extra cleaning.
However, he woke up earlier than expected.
It was three in the morning, and Mousse was busily cleaning the parts of the restaurant he had missed in his earlier sweeps. As it turned out, silence made a big difference. With no distractions, Mousse found himself able to focus all of his attention on cleaning.
That is, until the noises started.
With a decreased visual acuity, Mousse had to compensate for it by training his ears to hear and recognize nearly any sound. Therefore, the scraping and thumping from outside was no mystery to him. It was quite simply, a man dragging another man.
Normally, Mousse would have ignored it. What was it of his business to go out and tell them to keep quiet, especially since they didn't know Mousse could hear that well. However, it was kind of hard to completely ignore the noises when they reach closer to the restaurant with every step.
Then the grunt.
Mousse dropped his broom in shock. The grunt... it was Saotome's voice. He was sure of it.
He ran to the door and swung it open. Ranma stood there, carrying another form on his shoulders.
"Mousse, help me get him in," he said.
Mousse did so without question. He took the unconscious form of Ryouga by the arms and helped Ranma move him inside. Laying him down on the wooden floor, he looked over him. The hospital gown and bandages did nothing to hide the extent of his wounds.
"Saotome... what happened?" he asked.
Ranma leaned up against the wall and sighed. "They said he was in an explosion... Hell, they said he CAUSED the damn explosion. The cops were gonna take him to a prison facility in the morning. If I hadn't--"
"Wait," he said. "He's in trouble with the law?"
Ranma shook his head. "He didn't do it, Mousse. He couldn't have. He doesn't have it in him. At least, he couldn't have done it purposely... I just... I can't let the cops have him until I'm sure."
Mousse stood up. "Why did you bring him here?"
"I didn't know you were here. I figured it would be the only place I could go where the cops wouldn't find me or Ryouga. Look, that's beside the point," he said, sighing. "The point is I think whatever happened to Ryouga has something to do with what happened to me."
"The Paved Future?" Mousse raised an eyebrow. "But they were all arrested. It said so on the news--"
"You think an organization as simple as the police could pick up all the members of a group that large? It's not easy. Even for the government."
Mousse sighed and looked down at Ryouga. "Did he have an IV?"
Ranma nodded. "Yeah, I had to disconnect it to get him here."
"Do you know what it was?"
Ranma shrugged. "Discombobutol or something. All those drugs are Greek to me anyway."
Mousse walked swiftly into the kitchen and brought out a small, dried herb with a wooden bowl. He poured water into a glass and then began to grind the herb up.
"What are you doing?"
"Cologne's stash," he said, not looking up. "Shampoo left it behind when she left for China. This might help his situation better than any... Professional drugs." He said the last words with no small amount of contempt.
"Will it get him back on his feet?" Ranma asked.
Mousse shrugged. "It's hard to say. He'll regain his health a bit faster than in the hospital, but his wounds won't heal much faster. Pretty much all it will do is make it so he can walk sooner. It might still take a day or two before he's able to go out though."
"That's a hell of a lot better than a week at the hospital..."
"Or a prison facility."
Ranma nodded, but didn't answer.
Mousse sighed as he finished grinding the herb. He poured the contents of the bowl into the glass of water and mixed it around.
"Tilt his head back," Mousse said, gesturing to Ryouga.
Ranma did just as the slightly blind man said, and allowed him to pour the glass down his throat. Ryouga choked and sputtered a bit of it, then swallowed without any further trouble.
A moment later, Mousse stood up. "Help me bring him upstairs. He should stay in a bed until he can walk again. You should catch some sleep too."
Ranma nodded and helped Mousse bring Ryouga upstairs. It took only a few moments to get Ryouga safely tucked in to Shampoo's old bed, and when it was done, Ranma soon found his way into Mousse's bed, and fell straight asleep.
Mousse, however, continued his sweeping and cleaning downstairs. After all, he did have an open house to attend to.