A GRIT Fanfic By Blade
The vempyre advanced towards her, holding up his black medallion. I tried to move, to protect her, but all I could manage was that feeble shout, which the vempyre didn't even seem to notice. I had failed, and could only helplessly watched the drama play out, as I had so many times before.
The talking, the bargaining, the pleading, it was over. Epsilon lowered the medallion towards her...towards the woman I loved. She screamed, and my scream answered her, a scream that would go on for time everlasting...
I sat bolt upright in my futon. For a moment I looked around wildly, then realised it had only been a dream. Only a dream...I let my head sink into my shaking hands. Every night for five years I had relived this, yet it still affected me like the first. But no tears came; I would not allow them to come. This was the price of my failure.
With a sigh, I raised my head and glanced at the clock. It was almost time to get up anyway. Smoothly rising to my feet, I grabbed a bathrobe from the closet, wrapped it around myself and stepped quietly outside. A quick check in the komatsu assured me that the other houseguest was still asleep. I smiled faintly. Konatsu in the komatsu. How appropriate. Of course, Ukyou would still be in bed- she didn't get enough sleep as it was. This left the shower to me; a fortunate circumstance, as the dream had left me soaked with sweat.
Walking into the bathroom, I slid the door shut, undressed, and climbed into the shower. The water was hot, almost scalding, and I sighed as it beat against my body, relaxing the tight, knotted muscles. But I did not linger to enjoy it. Quickly washing up, I stepped out of the shower, dried myself off and put on the robe again. I wasn't really refreshed, but at least I was now more alert.
Returning to my room, I opened the closet. Everything inside was black. In five years, I had worn nothing else. The colour of mourning...the colour of hate. The colour that, until recently, had defined my entire being. Ukyou didn't understand, of course. Several times she had tried to persuade me to wear something else, but I would always refuse; politely, but without explanation. And I would watch as she threw up her hands and say I was impossible, hearing, in my mind, those same words coming from a different mouth, long ago...
I dressed, pushing those thoughts from my mind. There was no use dwelling on the past. All that remained was the future...and what to do with it. Taking position in the centre of my spartan, meticulously clean room, I did my first morning exercises: a series of simple katas that invigorated me, driving away the last of my morning tiredness and giving me a pleasant tingle as the blood woke up and flowed through me. After that I moved on to some more complex stretches, testing all my muscles, making sure that everything moved smoothly and precisely. Such were the precautions a martial artist had to take. In a battle, any twitch or imperfection in a movement could prove fatal.
I knew Konatsu would be doing the same, albeit perhaps not so meticulously. Not Ukyou, though. She'd probably just do some stretches and that would be it. Martial arts didn't mean that much to her; they had simply been a means to an end, long ago. Actually, I was the same way...but my end had not been accomplished yet.
As I walked out of my room and started down the stairs, the mouthwatering scent of Ukyou's okonomiyaki wafted up to me. At first, after coming here, I had refused to let her cook for me, saying I was imposing on her enough as it was. But after a week or so, she had persuaded me to relent. Cooking wasn't a chore, she assured me; it was her life, what she loved to do most. I had only agreed out of politeness, but since then I had never looked back. It wasn't the okonomiyaki itself- though that was heavenly-but her obvious pleasure at my enjoyment of it that made her meals so incomparable.
Stepping into the kitchen, I nodded to Konatsu Kenzan. The kunoichi had undoubtedly figured out, in the three years since he had come here, that Ukyou had no real romantic interest in him. But he continued to work here, probably because he had nowhere else to go. Ucchan's profit margin had grown considerably over time, and Ukyou was now able to afford to give him a modest salary in addition to room and board. However, he hardly ever spent anything, and sometimes I wondered what he was saving for. Perhaps he planned to get a place of his own. That would be good; while we did not exactly dislike each other, we did make each other uncomfortable, and I would not be particularly sorry to see him leave.
Ukyou noticed my entrance and called out a cheery greeting. My reply was less than enthusiastic, but she was used to that by now. Opening the cupboard, I reached for a plate...and just as I touched it, a steaming okonomiyaki appeared on it like magic. I whirled in surprise, to find Ukyou grinning at me. Unable to help myself, I smiled back...slightly. She winked and went back to her cooking.
Picking up the plate, I carried it over to the small table reserved for the staff, shaking my head. Ukyou's cheerfulness, optimism, and sense of humour never ceased to amaze me. Despite all that had happened to her, she retained a generally sunny disposition that was in uncomfortable contrast with my own gloominess and black moods. I envied her ability to handle things like that, sometimes even resented it. But most of all, I admired her for it...for that, and many other things.
Finishing the okonomiyaki, I walked into the restaurant proper and set up the chairs. Ukyou had fired up the main grill, and she gave me a "thumbs up" sign. I unlocked the door and set up the shop curtain outside. Many small restaurant owners would have insisted on doing this themselves, but Ukyou was not so proud of her restaurant as she was of her own skill. And many others recognized that skill as well: even as I stepped back inside, I saw people heading for the now-open door. Forcing a halfway-pleasant expression on my face, I drew out a pad and prepared to take orders.
The day passed fairly quickly, as it usually did. I waited tables most of the time, cleaned up the restaurant when few patrons were around, and occasionally made a delivery or two. Finally, after the last of the supper crowd had drifted out, Ukyou closed up the shop and informed us she would be going out. As she went up to her room, I exchanged a glance with Konatsu. There was, of course, no doubt about whom she was going to see...and it was just as certain how it would end. I wondered, once more, at the optimism and hope that was always on her face when she went to see her "Ranchan". What was she secretly wishing to see? Ranma, her best friend, contented and happy? Or Ranma, her ex-fiancee, finding that life with Akane was not what he'd hoped for?
Perhaps even Ukyou herself didn't know the answer. But whatever she was looking for, she didn't find it on those frequent visits. She would return, and even on those occasions she managed to act outwardly cheerful, there would always be something in her eyes...a hopeless, lost look so alien to her it wrenched my heart, even as it filled me with an enraged urge to gut Ranma Saotome...
Strangely, in all of this, I never attached any blame or guilt to Ukyou herself. Some did, I knew. The Heavensruns, Akane, even Konatsu all wondered why Ukyou couldn't get over Ranma and get on with her life. They didn't say it aloud, of course, not around me, but I could tell. The way they acted around her, snippets of conversation I had heard before they noticed me and changed the subject...it was obvious. Akane had even made a few attempts to talk with her about it, at the restaurant, but her discomfort at talking with her old rival on this particular subject had been apparent, and the discussion would always get politely aborted. Ranma was the person who really should have broached the subject, but I imagine Akane would have had trouble even getting him to admit there was a problem, let alone persuade the Gutless Wonder to do anything about it. Which was why I hated him, of course.
The turn my thoughts had taken was making me angry, and I knew watching Ukyou go to see him wouldn't help, so I decided to go out myself first. Konatsu did the evening cleaning anyway, so I stepped outside and grabbed the hose which Ukyou kept there for my deliveries.
A quick twist later, and I lifted into the air on nearly soundless jets, heading for my usual training area. Even as I flew, though, my thoughts returned to Ranma. I hated the younger Saotome with a passion, a passion that few around here could understand. Despite my assertions to the contrary, they usually dismissed it as jealousy, just like most of Ranma's other rivals. Those with enough brains and familiarity to know that wasn't so-like Akane-simply didn't know what to think of it. But it was really quite simple: I hated Ranma because he had ruined Ukyou's life. Honestly, I didn't really blame him for leaving her behind originally; even if it took some kind of weird kid to pick food over his supposed friend, he was still too young to really be blamed. But for what he had done when they were older...there was no forgiveness, no excuse. Because in his own idiotic stubbornness, he could not admit that he loved Akane, he had kept Ukyou hoping and dreaming for three years.
The others were no comparison. Kodachi was insane, and Shampoo would have loved anybody if they had beaten her in combat. Akane probably got as much aggravation, but she gave as good as she got, and she eventually married Ranma anyway. And the other two got over Ranma quickly and found new loves. Ukyou was left with nothing. Nothing but a lost childhood and a shattered dream.
I would have killed Ranma for that, but I had long ago made a vow not to kill any other being save one, Epsilon. So I settled for trying to humiliate Ranma instead, defeat him in combat, make him grovel, put him through some of the pain he had put Ukyou through. Of course, the fact he had been a martial artist all his life, while I had only been serious about it in the last five years, had put a crimp in that plot. But I knew he would fall eventually. All it would take was one plan he didn't quite make it through, one time the odds were stacked just enough in my favour, one occasion his friends weren't there early enough. It would come. All I had to do was wait.
I landed in my training spot, a secluded grove about a hundred kilometres outside of Tokyo. It was a medium-sized clearing in the forest, with six training dummies set up in random positions throughout. These dummies had been a gift from Ginseng; they would quickly regenerate from any amount of damage, ready to be blasted, chopped or shredded again.
Switching back into my human form, I opened up on the first with a simple Kieiken blast, slicing one of the dummies' heads off. Then I turned, sweeping my arm around with a Kon Tatsu Hikari Ha wave that sliced three more in half. I ran towards the remaining two. Leaping into the air, I demolished one with a Bukidoken bolt, landed in a crouch, and then leaped into the next one with a Kon Tatsu Raiken thunder fist, blowing it to bits. After pausing a moment to catch my breath, I turned around to face the now-regenerated dummies. I clenched my fists, precisely tightening the muscles in my wrists which triggered the claws in my wristbands. Then I rushed forward once again.
For several hours I did this, repeatedly demolishing the dummies in ever more complex ways; sometimes physically, sometimes with various ki attacks. This method of training was not very conductive to improving defence, but I had never been much of a defensive fighter anyway, nor cared for the skill. That was the province of my old friend Kei...after finishing off the last dummy with a quick Ramsori Ha flurry, I decided to head back. I was getting tired. Walking over, I picked up the bucket that I left to collect rainwater here...then stopped, and looked at the regenerated dummies, narrowing my eyes. I had done most of the last couple of passes physically, and I still had a lot of power left, even with the drain from the Ramsori Ha. Perhaps one more move...
I was standing at the edge of the clearing, the six dummies arrayed in front of me. Having made my decision, I put the bucket down and turned to face them. My eyes closed with concentration; I felt sweat break out on my forehead. I had never tried this with much less than full power before, but Ginseng said that I would be able to do more as I continued to practice, pushing at the limits of my ki reservoir. Time slowed to a standstill as I struggled to build up the power. It seemed to take hours, but finally I felt the vast well forming, a seemingly bottomless pit of energy, opening to me in order to do my bidding.
There was no turning back now. I took a step forward and launched myself into the air, the sheer force of the power arcing around me keeping me aloft. Reaching deep into that well, deeper than I ever had before, I sucked out all I could, and when it seemed I could hold no more without bursting, I thrust it skyward with a cry of triumph. The vast energy ripped through me, filling my body with a searing heat that was painful yet incredibly, almost erotically pleasurable at the same time. The ecstasy of the ki. And then it left me suddenly, and I fell to earth, drained but exultant. Looking up, I saw the dummies blasted to ashes, destroyed by the lightning I had called from the sky.
I smiled, slowly getting to my feet. Never before had I managed to do the Chou Raiu Jutsu, my most powerful technique, after having already exerted myself to that level. The fight against Ranma didn't count; I had stolen so much energy I could have tossed it off a dozen times with ease. This time, it had been entirely my own doing...I felt a thrill of triumph at that. My power was indeed growing. If I could take Ranma off-guard with _that_ move, it would be all over. Of course, the move would be useless against Epsilon, when we inevitably met again...but so was almost everything I knew anyway.
After a few minutes to catch my breath, I headed back to Tokyo. My good mood slowly faded as I approached. Ukyou would undoubtedly be back by now, and I would have to see that look...as if I didn't have enough things plaguing my dreams as it was. Well, it was quite late, I noted, glancing at the moon. With any luck, she had already gone to bed.
Landing outside the restaurant, I used the steam generators built into the mecha to change back. I was eternally grateful for Tarou for teaching me that trick, although I envied how easily he had mastered the new powers at his command. Tarou had had his curse since birth; he was as familiar with that body as he was with his human one, and the two "improvements" he had made over the years had been quickly and smoothly incorporated into his sphere of knowledge. I, on the other hand, had only had this curse for a few months, and I still found new abilites and quirks in it almost every day.
Letting myself in, I closed the door behind me and noted with some surprise that the room was occupied. I took a closer look...and stopped. There was Ukyou, sitting in a booth, head pillowed in her arms. After a moment, I could tell that she was not crying, but asleep. Not crying anymore, anyway...Konatsu must have gone to bed before she had fallen asleep, since he would have undoubtedly noticed this.
I wrestled with the decision before me for a moment, then finally gave in. I couldn't just leave her here; it was already quite cold in the restaurant area, and she would be stiff as a board tomorrow. Acting before I lost my nerve, I walked over to her...I hesitated, but she didn't awaken, and I gently scooped her up. I half-expected her to wake up and bash me, but she merely stirred slightly.
She was surprisingly light, I couldn't help but notice. The stress she had been under lately had probably caused her to lose weight...and she didn't eat much, either. I mentally resolved to try and encourage her to have a more healthy diet; the last thing she needed was to get sick.
I carefully walked over to the stairs, but just as I started up them, Ukyou murmured something incomprehensible and turned a bit, putting her arms around me. I stopped again, almost involuntarily. It was not merely the fact that the identity of the person she was _really_ dreaming of holding was indisputable, but also the almost overpowering compulsion to return the embrace that gripped me. Step by step I resumed walking up the stairs, focusing only on what I was doing, trying to ignore everything else...
It was with both relief and profound disappointment that I reached the top of that seemingly endless flight of stairs and Ukyou's room. I walked inside with perhaps more haste than I should have, and as I placed her down on her bed, what I had feared finally happened. Her eyes snapped open. They rested on me for a moment, still groggy and unfocused.
"Ranchan?" she whispered, her voice filled with hope...and even joy. I would have given my soul to be able to give her the answer she wanted. But, of course, I couldn't. Sometimes I wondered if I would ever be the one she dreamt of...
She blinked, and her eyes cleared....and widened slightly. "Blade?"
This was it. Well, I had taken the chance. "You had fallen asleep downstairs...I just carried you up here. It was getting cold, and you'd be stiff..." I trailed off, waiting for the explosion.
"Thank you," she said softly.
Now it was my turn to blink. "Y-you're welcome," I managed to reply. I was uncomfortably aware that my hand was on the bed, resting on hers...how had it gotten there? Yet I couldn't pull it away... "It was no trouble."
For a long moment after that, we simply remained where we were. I looked into her sea blue eyes, and I knew she, in turn, gazed into my dark brown ones. What did she see there? Could she see past the barriers, into the torment I carried there that returned to haunt me every night? I didn't know, for all I could see was those eyes, shining in the pale light from the moon, that face, somehow unmarred by all the trials she had endured, and her long brown hair, splayed out beneath her... For one instant, I wanted to tell her everything; about Tonya, about Epsilon; cleanse my soul and beg for forgiveness, for understanding...for acceptance. I wanted to so badly I could barely resist it. But then I stood up, taking my hand from hers. I couldn't burden her with it. Not yet.
"I...I have to go," I said, the rough, raw edge of my voice surprising me. "I'll see you tomorrow," I finished, in a more normal tone. I turned and walked towards the door, but at the threshold, I hesitated once more and looked back at Ukyou. She was staring at me. I read the message in that gaze as clearly as if she had said it aloud. She wanted to know. She wanted to understand. And I needed her understanding. It would be so simple to go back...what lay ahead for me? More darkness, more loneliness, more nightmares. Behind lay happiness, friendship...even love.
Somehow I turned around and walked out, quietly shutting the door behind me. I leaned against the wall and sighed, almost feeling it as the darkness entered me once more, taking that place in my spirit it had occupied for so long. I wasn't ready. What if things progressed between Ukyou and I, and then Epsilon came and destroyed me? Or hurt her? I couldn't take the chance; I would do anything to spare her any more suffering. No, I wasn't ready. Not yet. Perhaps, came the unbidden thought as I walked to my room, not ever.
But that one night as I slept, I was not plagued by the nightmares. Instead, in my dreams I saw, once more, two sea-blue eyes, shining in the moonlight...
Postscript: This fanfic occurred somewhere between the first time Blade fought Ranma and the inception of the tournament. In discussions of Blade's relationship with Ukyou, the point is usually brought up that we don't know much about their lives "off-screen", as it were. Some people have also wondered how Ukyou reacts to Blade's gloominess and depression. I tried to _partially_ answer those questions here, and also, most of all, give a deeper look into Blade's psyche, how he thinks, and the reasons for some of his actions. I would like to give thanks to a few people for helping with this:
Epsilon; Aaron Peori, my co-author, without whom I would probably not be a) a writer, b) a GRITer, or c) alive. However, never let it be said I can't write something myself...
Kuno Christoffel (hope I spelled that right ^_^), for understanding the Glory of the Goddess so well, even if he does stray at times...hey, sempai! This was the closest to a lemon you're ever gonna get out of me, so you'd better enjoy it! ;p
Webdragon, for Namida No Okonomiyaki, a beautiful, moving fanfic that inspired me to write this...
Kun-chan, for that "Konatsu in the Komatsu" line... ^_^
All the GRITers(yeah, even MadP ;p), without whom there would be no GRIT (obviously), and thus I would never have experienced one of the most fascinating activities I've ever partaken in, not to mention making several good friends and acquaintances.
Rumiko Takahashi, without whom there would be no Ukyou. Even if I don't like what she did with the character in certain stories, I still owe a debt for that.
All the people who responded to the first posting of this on RAAM; your comments were highly appreciated.
If you liked/loved/didn't like/hated this, I would love to hear about it! Whether you're a GRITer or not, I still want to hear any and all of your opinions! E-mail me at email@example.com, SVP.