"I don't like this. He's taking too goddamn long." Masato muttered to nobody in particular.
Masato had a history of talking to himself. Some people called it a psychological problem. But the truth was, he talked to himself, because he understood himself.
Not entirely, of course, but for the most part. Masato just found no pleasure in talking to others, unless it was required. To him, nobody but himself could provide a good, entertaining conversation.
Nobody except Mesaki Mazuhara.
Masato had known Mesaki for three years now. And he was one of Mazuhara's few men that could boast a personal relationship with him. As friends.
Whether Mazuhara would do things for his friends was not the question. It was whether his friends could do something for Mazuhara.
As it was, Masato could. He was a martial artist of high caliber. He had studied his entire life, and often won competitions. Though it was true he was nowhere near the caliber of martial artist that Saotome was, he could handle his own.
But he had a weakness. It was a weakness many men had. The weakness for the opposite sex.
Masato was a ladykiller. Literally. He could remember on two separate occasions he had had to kill his mate, for one reason or another. But Mazuhara had protected him. Even during the trials, he stood up for him. And that's why Masato owed him so much.
But he still suffered from his weakness. Perpetual attraction to the opposite sex. He got it from many sources. Prostitutes, young school girls looking for a good time. Even, at times, he had forced it upon some.
Maybe that's why he was so distracted by the girl across the street.
He knew she was looking at him. He couldn't explain how or why, but he just knew.
Finally, having nearly given up on Saotome, he walked across the street to the hotel lobby entrance.
"How you doing?" He asked her.
The girl sheepishly blushed and muttered under her breath. "Fine."
"Nice night, eh?"
She nodded again.
"My name is Masato, mind if I ask yours?"
She widened her eyes for a moment. After she calmed again, she answered. "Umm. I'm Ranko."
"Ranko. Nice to meet you."
"So, what are you doing out here? Waiting for someone?"
"You could say that."
"Oh yeah? Boyfriend?"
She coughed for a second. "GOD no."
"So you're single, then?"
Masato smiled. "You, uhh.. got a room in the hotel?"
"Tell ya what, cutie. Give me your room number, and I'll be up there as soon as I've checked on something."
She looked at him confusedly for a second, and then answered. "1007."
Ranma was out of breath. "Okay, he's on his way up. Look dead."
"Already? How did--"
"Nevermind, it doesn't matter."
"Why are you all wet?"
"Just look dead!"
The old man lay down on the bed, arms stretched out wide and stuck his tongue out.
"Not like that, you idiot! Try and look like you've been poisoned!"
Ranma shook his head. "Just... look like you're asleep, okay?"
The door creaked open. Ranma heard it and quickly sat down beside the man, hands in his face.
"Is it done, Saotome?" Masato asked.
Ranma shook his head. "Leave me the hell alone."
"You listen to me, Saotome. You work for us. You answer me when I ask you a question."
"It's done, alright?! Just look at him!"
Masato eyed the man suspiciously.
"Let me check his pulse." He said.
Something inside Ranma clicked.
"Goddamn it! The guys already dead, just leave him alone!"
"I've gotta check, Saotome. I don't want to waste any time."
"Smell the goddamn air, why don't you? That crap you made me give him is gonna make both of us sick if we hang around here any longer!"
Unnoticed by Masato, the old man on the bed twitched.
"I don't want to waste any time, either Masato. Just... Just call Mazuhara and get him to let them go."
Masato narrowed his eyes. He gave a quick look at the old man and then smirked. "Fine, Saotome."
The phone rang.
Mazuhara smiled. "That should be Masato with the information I need."
Akane looked over at the new arrival of the room. Her sister sit in a chair opposite her, next to the man from the press. They exchanged glances every time Mazuhara spoke.
"Mazuhara." He greeted as he answered the phone. He smiled. "Ahh, Masato. How do things fare?"
He smiled. "Perfect. Bring Saotome back here and we'll take care of him."
He frowned. "Masato, I care not of your simple conquests. The girl may wait."
And yet another.
"Bring Saotome here and I'll allow you your choice of the two I currently hold in my possession."
A final pause.
"You have one hour to bring him here, Masato. Do not fail me."
He hung up.
"Stay here, Saotome." Masato said. "I'll be back in twenty minutes, and then we'll allow you your precious Akane."
Ranma blinked. "Where are you going?"
"Does it matter? If you must know, I'm going to get myself some ass."
"You'd do that while there's a man lying dead here?"
"Doesn't Mazuhara want us back there, or something?"
"What he doesn't know won't hurt him. Now if you'll excuse me, Saotome, I'm off to get lucky with a sweet young thing."
Ranma smiled. "Oh, you mean 'Ranko'?"
"Ranko, room 1007?"
"How did you know that?" Masato stared at him.
A moment later, the man in the bed sat up. "How'd I do?"
"Perfect, old man. Go call the police now. I'll take care of this one."
The old man nodded. "Right-O."
"Saotome, what the hell is this?"
"You ever ask what Ranko's last name was?"
Masato blinked. "Your sister... Clever, Saotome."
"You know what's even more clever?"
Ranma brought himself into a defensive stance. "I don't even have a sister."
Masato remained calm. He pulled the phone out of his pocket.
Ranma had to act quickly. If he managed to even dial Mazuhara's number, it would tip him off. He was too far to take it from him by force. There was only one other means he could use.
"Moko Takabisha!" He yelled. A large ball of channeled ki released itself from his form and blasted the phone from Masato's hands, while simultaneously knocking him against the wall.
"What... What the hell was that?" He asked himself.
He hadn't even seen it coming. Whatever it was that he had done, he had done it from across the room. It was almost as if he had lobbed a cannonball.
But it wasn't. His suit was charred. His hands felt blistered as if burned in a fire. He looked back at Ranma. It dawned on him.
He got up. "So, it seems you have other talents as well, eh Saotome?"
Ranma smiled. "Damn straight."
"Looks like I'll have to get serious." Masato brought himself into a defensive position.
"Wait." Ranma put his hand forth. He suddenly calmed.
"What now, Saotome? Scared to fight me?"
"No. I just want this over with as soon as possible, and I think I know how."
"Oh yeah, how's that?"
Ranma smirked as he pulled a small water bottle from his pocket.
"What are you going to do? Squirt me to death?"
He poured the content over himself.
He was now a she.
Masato dropped his jaw.
"Okay," The old man walked into the room. "They're sending up security, but the police will take a little longer to get here." He looked around. "Where did that kid go?"
Ranma looked over at him. "When the cops get here, tell them Warehouse Seventy-Two, at the docks. Let them know there are innocents."
The old man blinked. "Who are you?"
Ranma smiled as she looked back at Masato, who was staring in disbelief. "Ranma Saotome."
As the security guards entered the room and tackled Masato to the ground, Ranma leapt past them, and out the door.
The guards were careless.
"Utterly dreadful." Cologne muttered to herself. If she saw the guards of the village treating their duties this lightly, she would have to treat them to a lesson of Jusenkyo.
But as it was, Happosai and Cologne were doing just fine keeping themselves hidden from the guards of the warehouse.
Cologne worked out what to do. From her surveillance of the building, there were eight guards outside. Easily detainable. Inside there appeared to be four, along with the leader, a fool man who appeared to have gotten mixed up in something he didn't belong in, and two of the Tendo girls.
Then there were the guns.
Happosai and Cologne both knew the consequences if they were to attack too prematurely when there were guns involved.
As it was, with so many armed men inside, there would be no way they could disarm all of them before one of the children, or the fool man was shot.
Cologne needed a sign. She looked over at Happosai, who seemed to be concentrating on something, much the same as she herself was.
And then he pointed.
Cologne turned to see what he was pointing at. A figure in the distance. Over 100 years of living does inhibit one's eyesight somewhat. But the figure in the distance was easy to make out.
It was Ranma.
She looked towards Happosai and nodded. It was time to take out the trash.
The first signs of dawn broke over the horizon as Ranma returned to the warehouse. His heart was pounding.
"Saotome." Mazuhara greeted.
"Nabiki?" He asked, giving an incredulous gaze in her direction. He suddenly narrowed his eyes. "We have a deal, Mazuhara. Let them go."
Mazuhara looked past Ranma. "And where is Masato?"
"I don't know."
Mazuhara narrowed his eyes. "He should have entered the building after you had." He looked around for a moment, then looked towards one of his men. "Where is he?"
"He sent me back here. He said he had someone to take care of at the hotel."
"Saotome," he scowled. "If something has happened to Masato, you will pay dearly."
Ranma shrugged. "I did nothing to him. Remember our deal, Mazuhara. Release him." He pointed at the reporter.
Mazuhara shrugged. "You heard him, release him."
Akane's sudden screaming tipped Ranma off that something was up. As Mazuhara punched her in the side of the head, Ranma crossed the distance between them. He threw Mazuhara towards the ground and screamed at the top of his lungs.
The two men holding the reporter were knocked down to the ground as he looked up and about in amazement. Two blurs came about and knocked several other men in the warehouse to the ground as well. As the blurs slowed down, Cologne and Happosai were easily visible.
Mazuhara pulled out a gun from his inside pocket and aimed it at Ranma. "Damn you, Saotome!"
Ranma smirked. "You think you can get me before THEY get you? You'll have to empty that thing out before you even graze me, Mazuhara."
Mazuhara smiled. "Not quite, Saotome." He pulled his aim towards the figure strapped to the chair beside Ranma. As he saw Mazuhara pulled the trigger, Ranma put all of his weight into a fierce kick, which sent Akane and the chair she was in sprawling across the room. The bullet went searing through Ranma's calf, barely missing the bone.
It took Cologne and Happosai seconds to disarm him and send him to the ground. It was that moment that the police piled into the warehouse.
"Took you long enough." Ranma muttered at them, cradling his leg. He began to get up.
"It's best you stay down, boy." Happosai remarked.
"Shut up, ya old freak."
Happosai began to protest, but felt Cologne's firm grasp on his arm.
"Do not interfere, Happi. He is too headstrong, and what he does affects my life as well."
Happosai stared at her in confusion for a moment, but then realized what she was saying. He nodded in agreement.
Ranma limped over towards Akane, amidst a small swarm of police who set about arresting most of the people in the warehouse.
He set himself down beside her and removed her gag.
She smiled at him. "Ranma, I--"
He put his finger to her lips. 'Shhhh.' He said. "Just be quiet." He proceeded to fix her chair so she would be sitting up, and then untied her.
She felt a few tears flow down her cheek. "Ranma, I... I'm sorry, I--"
"Akane. Don't worry about it." He smiled at her. "You're safe, and that's all I care about." He brought his lips to hers, and closed his eyes as he embraced her into a deep kiss.
She returned it just as eagerly, letting tears of joy flow from her eyes unrelentingly.
As they broke the kiss, neither spoke a word for several moments. Ranma placed his arms around her and embraced her. She did the same. He then managed to whisper into her ear. "I love you, Akane."
More tears flowed from her eyes as she heard the words. "I love you too, Ranma."
A few moments later, a police officer approached the two embracing teens. "Ranma Saotome?" He asked.
Ranma looked towards him and nodded, noticing Nabiki exit the building, accompanied by two police officers.
"I'm sorry, I was under the impression that she was Ranma Saotome." He apologized. "Ranma Saotome is a woman, is she not?"
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you a few questions."
"Can it wait?"
Suddenly, a commotion interrupted Ranma's conversation as he heard several shouts, and two individual bursts of a gun. Ranma looked over to realize that somehow, Mazuhara had gotten away from the police long enough to grab two automatic weapons from on of his unconscious guards. Two policemen lay down on the ground.
The policeman questioning him suddenly pushed them away just as Mazuhara opened fire upon them. The policeman was ripped apart by the bullets.
Happosai was first to react. He was facing away from Mazuhara, which turned out to be a folly. A bullet grazed his leg, sending a fine mist of blood out around him. He jumped out of the way just in time.
"Damn you, Saotome!" He shouted as he continued to fire.
Ranma pulled Akane to her feet and began to retreat to the safest place possible, going as fast as he could with his wound. The bullets whizzed by his ear as he yanked on Akane's hand.
Cologne was jumping about, trying to get the best advantage possible. She grabbed bullets out of the air, and dropped them to the ground. Suddenly, she noticed Mazuhara's second gun was aimed at Ranma and Akane. She moved swiftly to intercept.
Happosai managed to catch a few bullets in the air and return them with his pipe. It wasn't doing much good, no matter how strong the old martial artist was, he couldn't match the force of a gun, and the bullets ended up either bouncing off the reporters chest, or causing him to flinch. That was all he needed.
Ranma had to act quickly. He knew there was no way of him finding cover before either he or Akane was shot, so he pulled Akane to him, and covered her with his body. He stood absolutely still and looked onward, as he realized several bullets were heading toward him, he closed his eyes in anticipation.
A few moments later, he opened them again. The reporter was still shooting, but the bullets weren't getting through. Ranma finally noticed Cologne.
"What are you waiting for, boy?" She yelled at him. "Get her to safety!"
Ranma noticed a moment later that Cologne was literally grabbing bullets out of mid-air and dropping them to the ground.
Ranma didn't need anymore convincing, he and Akane ran out of there as fast as he possibly could. Finally behind a crate, he had Akane sit behind it.
"Stay here, Akane. I've got to--"
"Ranma, no. You can't!"
"Akane, I've got to take care of this. All the police have already been shot. It won't be long until the other guys realize what's going on and take advantage of this." He looked out towards Cologne and Happosai.
"I have to, Akane."
Akane looked towards the ground. "Promise me."
"Promise me you'll come back."
Ranma smiled. "Akane, I promise." He cupped her chin, and brought her into another deep kiss. After letting go, he got up and looked towards the action.
He smiled. "Of course."
He ran out into the action.
Damn them all.
Years of planning, millions of dollars spent.
And he had to risk it all for the service of one young boy.
He truthfully did not expect to live. But he would sure as hell kill Saotome and his bitch fiancee in the process.
The old ones too, if he could manage to get a bullet through. It had confused him at first. It took him a moment to realize they were actually picking them out of the air. He hadn't seen things like that happen before, and was having trouble believing it.
But it was a slight setback. He would kill them all.
"Damn you, Mazuhara!" He yelled. It wasn't as if the sound of his voice could rise past the sound of the gunfire, but just getting the message across would be good enough.
"Take him down, boy!" Cologne yelled. "We'll cover you!"
Ranma blinked for a moment. He was having a hard enough time dodging the odd bullet that would slip past Cologne's defense. How could he get all the way up to him?
He thought. Moko Takabisha? Was a ki blast stronger than a bullet? No. It couldn't be, his ki blast would manage to knock someone out at most, but never kill. At least, he had hoped.
The Moko Takabisha would be deflected. Probably cause alot more pain.
Then it dawned on him.
"I've got him!" He yelled. "Cover me!"
"Go boy!" Happosai yelled.
Ranma started his attack. A simple spiraling motion, surrounding Mazuhara.
Then it happened.
Happosai got careless.
The bullet ripped through his throat. The old martial artist gurgled on his own blood for a few seconds before he finally fell limp to the floor.
It did not go unnoticed.
"DAMN YOU, MAZUHARA! I'LL KILL YOU!"
Cologne saw what was happening. "The spiral boy, keep in the spiral!"
Ranma sneered. He couldn't believe it. The old man was a pain, but when it really came down to it, he was an invaluable help.
"I'll avenge you." He said under his breath.
The spiral continued, thankfully. It didn't have to last much longer. Happosai was gone. Dreadful, but he would be remembered in death. Cologne let a vague tear drop from her eye. It had been long since she had let feeling interfere in her life. But it was not an easy thing to witness.
"Continue the spiral, boy," she muttered as she continued to pick bullets out of the air.
It was obvious from the facial expression of the man with the gun, that he was not happy. And unhappiness leads to pain, she often found.
This was not an exception. Several police officers were wounded, possibly dead. Her childhood... Friend was lying dead on the ground not several feet away from her. And she may never see her great-granddaughter again.
It was becoming too much. She closed her eyes for a split second, to clear her eyes of the tears that were welling up. A split second too long.
The bullet caught her in the ribcage. It shattered ancient bone and settled in a place next to her heart. She fell over, arms still moving like a blur.
It was too late.
"HIRYU SHOTEN HA!"
It was just in time.
Mazuhara looked in confusion. He had stopped firing after the wind had picked up. Nothing was visible past the spiraling force of the wind.
"A.. Tornado?" He muttered.
He dropped his guns as he was picked up by the wind, rising up, higher towards the ceiling. As he realized there was no ceiling, he stared in awe.
He closed his eyes as he realized. He was being brought to the afterlife. A place in heaven just for him, because he died. His dreams of a perfect world unrealized.
As the searing pain went through his leg, his eyes shot open.
No. He wasn't dead. He was alive. He was still in the warehouse. The ceiling had somehow been ripped off.
He was being caught in a tornado of his own bullets.
Another one caught him, this time in the side, embedding itself deep inside of him. He doubled over.
Another one, passing right through his left cheek, and exiting through his right. He gasped as he started to choke on his own blood.
Yet another, hitting him in the arm.
Time seemed to slow. The ebbing pain becoming more and more searing by the moment.
He barely saw the final bullet. He saw a black shape, but that was it. As it entered through his eye socket and burrowed deep into his brain, he fell dead.
Ranma coughed. He hadn't gone without injury in the tornado of bullets. A bullet entered his side and his forearm, and he was having trouble keeping consciousness.
He coughed again as he looked towards the several prone figures on the ground. One of them more familiar than others.
"Come here, boy." Cologne called to Ranma.
Ranma crawled over to her.
"That was foolish of us, you know, Boy."
Ranma nodded. "I'm sorry. Are... Are you going to be alright?"
Cologne nodded. "It'll take a lot more than a bullet wound to take me out, Boy." She began to get up, and then collapsed back down.
"You truly love her, do you not?"
"Akane?" He said. "Yes. Yes I do." He looked down towards the ground. "I'm sor--"
"Don't you dare say you're sorry, Boy."
Ranma looked at her in confusion.
"There is a way out of the law."
"The kiss of marriage. There is a way to break it. Shampoo must follow it, it is Joketsuzoku law."
"Yes. You're in love with Akane Tendo. That is it. If Shampoo hears these words from your mouth, she will abide to the law."
"Why do I tell you this?" She laughed. "I'm not an old troll, Ranma. I do care. I do have feelings. Some would rather you not admit your feelings for Akane, to tell the truth, I was more inclined to have you marry Shampoo at the beginning. But that was before I saw it, Ranma. And that is why I eased up and allowed you time to bond with her."
"I... Cologne, why are you telling me this now?"
She smiled. "Tell Shampoo I will await her in the afterlife."
"What?" He looked at her. "Cologne, no. You can't die. Not now. Not after all of this!" He looked towards Happosai's prone body several feet away. "You can't. First him, now you? No. You can't die, Cologne."
Cologne looked Ranma in the eyes as she began to close them. "Ranma. Live a full life. I have, and I have no regrets. I have died a warrior, and I will be remembered a warrior."
Ranma let tears seep out of his eyes. "Cologne, no. Stay with me. Stay with me Cologne!"
Cologne's life slowly seeped from her, giving way for the next.
Ranma sat there for three more minutes, until the medic had come in for him. He soon met Akane in the ambulance.
"Listen to this," Akane began, "'Ranma Saotome, a young martial artist from Nerima Ward, almost single-handedly brought down a dangerous criminal organization last night. The organization, which called itself 'The Paved Future' had several 'front companies' including Ikanisa manufacturing and Masamoto Enterprises. Cleverly outsmarting several of the criminals and bringing them to justice, Saotome made his way through the organization, eventually rescuing his fiancee. Though many innocents were killed, including several police officers and two of Saotome's acquaintances, he caused no casualties. Most of the criminals were arrested, with the exception of Mesaki Mazuhara, who was killed by his own bullets. The circumstances of his death still remain a mystery by the police, but it is being ruled as a suicide.'"
She paused to catch her breath. "'Consequently, several government officials and high ranking politicians were arrested in conjunction of the previous arrests. Investigations are still underway. Young Saotome now lies in a hospital bed, recovering from his ordeal.'"
Nabiki spoke up. "You're a hero, Saotome. How does it feel?"
Nabiki shook her finger. "Come on now, Ranma. You can't tell me you don't see where I'm going with this. Ranma Saotome, the movie. Ranma Saotome, the action figure. Ranma Saotome, the actor! With me as your agent, we could make a fortune!"
"Nabiki?" Akane asked.
"Shampoo's here?" Ranma asked, sitting himself up in the hospital bed. He had a cast on his leg from where he'd been shot, and a bandage on his side.
Akane nodded. "I met her on the way up. She said she had to stop somewhere else in the hospital before she saw you."
A moment later, Shampoo entered into the hospital room. "Hello, Ranma." She said.
"Uh. Hi uhh... Shampoo..."
"You love Akane, yes?"
Ranma thought for a moment, and then remembered Colognes words. "Yes."
Shampoo closed her eyes for a moment, and then opened them. She smiled. "Is good. Good that Ranma with someone he loves."
Akane smiled and sat next to her fiancee.
"What are you going to do now, Shampoo?"
She shrugged. "Go back to village. Many want to hear word of how Great-Grandmother died. She have place on Wall of Honor."
"Wall of Honor?"
"Yes. She elder who die in battle. One of greatest honors of Joketsuzoku."
"I also have this for Ranma. To remember me by."
Akane walked over to Shampoo as she gave her a small box. "Is present. Not open until Shampoo leave, okay?"
Ranma took the box from Akane and nodded.
"Will you come back? To visit, at least?"
She looked up in the air for a moment. "You both good friends, now. I come and visit whenever I can."
Akane walked up to her and gave her a hug. "Come back soon, Shampoo. Please."
Shampoo smiled. "Yes. Will. I go now." She turned around and walked to the exit. "Ranma?" She asked without turning around.
"Did. Did Ranma ever love Shampoo?"
Ranma was at a loss for words. He wrestled with several answers, but couldn't bring them out.
Shampoo shook her head. "Nevermind. Shampoo not want to know. Is better not knowing."
Ranma let his mouth close. "Good-bye, Shampoo."
Shampoo turned around one last time and smiled at them. "I see you as soon as possible, okay?"
Ranma and Akane both nodded.
A few minutes later, Akane turned to Ranma. "Do you think she'll come back?"
Ranma shrugged. "I hope so. It'll be nice to have her as a friend instead of someone who will slobber all over me."
Akane nodded. "I think so too."
"Should I open this?"
Akane nodded. "What do you think it is?"
Ranma began to untie the bow and open the lid of the box. What he saw inside made his heart jump, for a moment. And then, as he calmed down, he laughed.
"What is it?"
Ranma pulled the object out of the box. It was a small stuffed cat.
Akane laughed and took the cat from him. "Cute little fellow, isn't she?"
Ranma nodded. "I love you, Akane."
She looked back at him and hugged him.
"I love you too, Ranma."
As they brought each other into a deep kiss, the world seemed to fade away. They were no longer simply Ranma and Akane, but lovers. Embracing each others warmth.