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Endings

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Ranma ½: Endings and Beginnings
by Randy "Ran-san" McCullick

Book One of the DoctorRanma Chronicles

Part 1: Endings

Nerima.
This is where I was born, and this is where I died.
For most of my life. I never felt at home, never…
And Then I met the uncute tomboy, the girl who I was forcibly engaged to.
And through the misunderstandings, and the zany adventures we had,
I finally began to feel peace and contentment…I thought it would never end.
That's what I thought.
But then came the Plague. Then came the Daleks and the War.
This is the story of my death.
This is the story of my rebirth.
This is the story of the End of the World.

Chapter One
Outbreak

I suppose that before we start, introductions are in order. My name is...er, was...Ranma Saotome. I was the heir to the Saotome school of the Musabetsu Kakutō Ryū, my family's martial arts form. Translated, it'd mean "School of Any Style", or with a little humor, "Anything Goes". I think for the sake of personal preference, I'll choose the latter. When I was five years old, my father, who was definitely in the omniverse's "Top Ten" list for "worst dad ever", decided to take me on an extended training trip across Japan and parts of China. For the next ten years, I had no home, no fixed abode. During this time, my father beat the Art into me...not maliciously, mind you. You see, my father was woefully lacking in a little thing called "common sense". He had less of it than your average Aperture Labs scientist. To him, results far outweighed any consequences...or my safety. I nearly died hundreds of times from one of his more or less offbeat training methods or harebrained techniques.. But I didn't die. And anything that didn't kill me made me stronger.

By the end of the ten year trip I was one of the best fighters my generation, with only three drawbacks. One, an early failure managed to instill in me a pathic fear of cats. And not just a minor fear, mind you. More of the "Whoa, Nelly" of fears. And if it got too bad my personality would go all Jekyll and Hyde and I'd become a cat in mind until I fell asleep. Sort of like The Incredible Hulk...but with a cat mind instead of a big green body. So not really like the Incredible Hulk at all, come to think of it.

Secondly, ten years of traveling with only my father for company had left me woefully socially inept. I never really had many friends. Those I did have were usually only fellow martial artists, whom I could relate to on that level. Only a couple really stand out. One turned out to be a girl, although I didn't know it at the time, as we were both around seven. The other wound up wanting to kill me...and I don't remember many others. Not to mention the lack of culture I received. At the time, I wouldn't know a Gundam from Mr. Spock. Which made it really hard to interact with any normal kids my age. Thinking back, it's a good thing I didn't really run into any.

The third, and by far the chief issue in my mind was the grand finale of this trip. My father, whom I should mention is illiterate in any language but Japanese and even then I'm not too sure, found a brochure written in Chinese that all he could make out on was something about a "Legendary Training Ground" called the "Pools of Sorrow", Jusenkyo. Now, I don't know about you, but if I read about something called the "Pools of Sorrow", my first instinct would be to stay the hell away from it. But not my old man...oh no! He has to go and drag me halfway across Asia to check things out...without doing any further research mind you. As it turns out, the "Legendary Training Ground" is only "Legendary" because it's cursed. Anything that falls in the spring there takes the form of whatever originally drowned in the spring. In my father's case, he turned into a panda. And I, with a splash of cold water, turn into a girl. Hot water changed us back, but only until the next time we get hit with cold. Now among other things, my father was a bit of a misogynist, really. Calling someone a "Weak, worthless, girl" was one of his favourite insults. You can imagine the impact this had on my psyche. Now I turned into my father's worst insult...it probably would have shattered my ego if it wasn't already the size of...well, Peru, more or less. But because of the threat to my being a "Man amongst Men" as my father wanted, I had to take my manliness up to 110% to compensate. In other words, I went from Jock, to Uber Jock.

The fourth issue...yes, there was a fourth, I had forgotten...was that to survive on the road while on this trip, my father had to do some rather...questionable? No...heinous? Nah...immoral? Yes, I think immoral will do...immoral things to get by. This included things ranging from petty larceny, to dine and dash, to...and this is my least favourite of the lot...selling his son...that would be me. Hello!...in marriage to several different families. Remember that girl I mentioned earlier that I met when I was seven? Fiancee. And I didn't find out we were engaged...or even that she was a girl...until I was sixteen. All in all, I'm glad the Jusenkyo happened last on our trip, and not earlier on, because if it had, I shudder to think how many boys I would have been engaged to.

So after all this, my father and I came back to Japan. He introduced me to his friend Soun Tendo, informed me that one of his daughters would be my fiancée...while not telling me about the other ones, nor about the gigantic stain on our family's honour he had cut across Japan. That's the thing about families and honour, really. It's like soup. One bad ingredient and the whole pot is ruined. And my father was one hell of a rotten tomato. After all this, he thought I should just be able to fit into modern Japanese society like a missing puzzle piece...it was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn't work. At least not without some serious, erm, "adaptation". Now, normally, I'm an adaptive person. It's a part of my art. It's why I managed to survive that damnable Neko Ken training with my sanity intact...well, mostly intact...alright, somewhat intact. I think. But regardless, normally I can adapt to change in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. But this time, I think I finally had gotten fed up with the constant bollocks that my father had fed me over the course of the last decade and I had enough. So I put my foot down and I refused. Refused my fiancée, refused to change...pretty much refused anything. It didn't help that of the three fiancée choices I had, two elected the third, who almost promptly slammed a table into my head. I had decided enough was enough. I was going to leave, go back to China, get a cure, and get on with life.

Fate had other plans, however. I wound up spending a year in Nerima. Well mostly. I mean, we went to the beach when it was hot in the summer. I'd go on the occasional training trip for a few days. Then was the trip to Nekonron, China when Akane...that was my chosen fiancée's name...got abducted, The trip to Toma's Island when all the girls got abducted. The trip to Ryugenzawa when Akane ran off after a phone call...then the trip to mount Horai to fight Herb when my curse was locked...not to mention the whole trip to Jusendo when Akane got abducted again...blimey, that happened a lot...anyway...I began to term that whole roller coaster ride I like to call "The Year from Hell" because new insanity was happening daily. Either Akane was getting abducted, or some Martial Artist would show up to challenge me, or one of my father's shady deals came to light and blew up in my face...and somehow, through it all, I fell in love this tomboy of a girl who I was trying my hardest not to. That's the contrary nature of humans. You tell a human not to think of purple. What's the first thing they think of? Purple! Not that I'd admit it, mind you.I think it took Akane nearly dying at Jusendo for me to admit it to myself.

Our parents noted the attitude change and tried to essentially hold what in the Deep South would be called a "shotgun wedding", I think. Only no shotguns. And Akane and I hadn't actually, er, slept together...so not much like a shotgun wedding at all...but "sleazy bribe" wedding doesn't sound as good. That's what it was though. A barrel of "Spring of Drowned Man" water...my cure...for wedding Akane. However, when the news got out. Chaos ensued. Some of my rivals had curses, too, and they wanted the cure. Not to mention my "other" fiancées weren't exactly happy, and decided to crash the wedding with explosive food...yes, actual food with gunpowder in it. On top of that, we also had to deal with Akane's suitors. Did I mention she had suitors? A couple, mostly nutters, but yeah. And they came with live steel...all orchestrated by the younger of Akane's older sisters. Who was kind of...okay she just was a money grubbing bitch who had taken great pleasure in helping make my life hell for the past year. She was essentially the Devil...if the Devil wore short cut-off jean shorts. "Daisy Dukes" I think they're called. Now, there's an image that will stick to the inside of your eyelids. The Devil in Daisy Dukes...yeesh!

And that's about where our story begins. It was about a week or so after the failed wedding…the ending of the "The Year from Hell". About two weeks after Jusendo and the battle with Saffron on Mt. Phoenix. Two weeks after I killed a demi-god to save the woman I…cared for. It was the day after the best night of my life…my first actual date with Akane. Mind you, Akane and I had gone out before...usually to something like the movies, but never pre-planned, and sometime forced on us against our will. And they usually didn't end well. So this was our first actual date date. We had spent a whole week conspiring on how to pull it off. Thanks to some assistance from unlikely sources, namely a newly contrite Nabiki and Ryoga, we had done it. The other fiancées and loonies had gone hunting for us out by Tomobiki, while Akane and I had gone east to dinner and movie in Nerima proper. We had talked, laughed, and generally enjoyed each other's company for the first time since we'd met without the violence or chaos that usually surrounds our lives. We had come home that night and Akane had kissed me outside the door to the Tendo home. It was our first real kiss, and it was…perfect. No one stopped us…no one came seeking our death, and the moment was framed by a star shooting across the heavens. It was absolutely spectacular!

For the first time since I had come to Furinken a little over a year ago, I think I was starting to adapt. It was as if the universe was apologizing for the year that had happened before.

I should have known better, I really should.

It wasn't apologizing for what had happened before.

It was apologizing for was going to happen next.


I remember hurrying down the stairs that morning, eager to get at my breakfast before the Old Man ate it. I also wasn't looking forward to his and Mr. Tendo's reaction to the date last night, but I wasn't going to let that stand in the way of one of Kasumi's breakfasts. In my hurry, I almost failed to see Akane coming in from her morning jog. I managed to keep from running into her but when we stopped, my face was inches from her. And time stopped. All we could do was stare at each other, a blush running to our cheeks as last night's kiss ran through our minds. Both of us considering doing it again...well, at least I was...but at the same time worried about the rest of the household's reaction if we did.

"You know, if you two keep that up, you'll be married by the end of the day."

I looked up to see Nabiki smirking at us from the top of the stairs. I had, in a fit of guilt-created anger over the failed wedding, verbally blown up rather spectacularly at Nabiki early last week. I had shot through all her arguments and self-rationalizations, and finally got through to her just how much of a complete and total bitch she'd been to myself and Akane over the last year...even longer to Akane. In order to make it up to myself and Akane, she'd masterminded "Operation: Date" when she learned of our intentions.

However, her recent unpleasant self-revelations hadn't slowed her ability to deadpan snark at the drop of a hat. I have to respect that in a person, just a little. Now she had caught us dead to rights. Old Nabiki would have taken a photo...blackmailing us to keep her from sending it to Ukyo or Shampoo, both of whom were still in my "dog house" for going crazy at my wedding. I had been extra cold to them all week. However, THIS Nabiki simply smirked at us from the top of the stairwell, amused but nothing more.

Now, had I been in this situation a week ago, I'd have been stammering about not wanting to marry the Tomboy. And had this been a year ago, I would have been punched out by the girl in front of me for daring to get this close. Even had this been a month ago, I would have been yelled at and given a cold shoulder all day. However, after last night's date, that feeling was gone. I simply gave Akane one last blushing look, which she returned, and headed into the dining room.

The old man and Soun were already dancing when I got to the table. I ignored them and sat down at my place. Akane did the same. It wasn't long before they realized Kasumi wasn't going to feed anyone until they were properly seated and sat down.

"Itadakimasu!" We began our breakfast.

"Excellent as always, Kasumi." Soun said after a few bites. He turned to me. "So, son, when are you going to marry my daughter?"

I twitched. This was the same man that a week ago announced that all wedding plans were off until I "took care of my personal issues"...meaning my other fiancées. "Weren't you th' one ta put that on hold?"

Soun was taken aback. "Well, I thought by the way you and Akane were getting along, you had already taken care of things."

I snorted. "Tell me how, Mr. Tendo. Shampoo ain't the type to take "no" for an answer. In her mind, we're already married, an' I'm just being stubborn. If I tell her I'm gonna marry Akane and that's final, she'd be trying to kill Akane within minutes! How am I supposed ta get her ta just give up and go home? Tell me that!"

My father frowned at me. "Boy, sometimes you need solve your problems on your own."

I snorted again. "Yeah, Old Man," I muttered, "Ya always say shit like that. It's your fault Ucchan's involved in this at all. If ya hadn't stolen her dad's damn okonomiyaki cart..."

"What was that boy? It was your choice, not mine."

Already sick of this conversation, I wolfed my food down and excused myself from the table, went to the other side of the room, and turned on the TV. I wasn't really paying to much attention to it, I just wanted the noise to drown out any further conversation. I was still seething at the two useless idiots in the other room, especially my father who dug me this hole and expects me to be able to wave my hand and make it go away.

"...And again, we're advising people to stay indoors and not go out today. Meteorologists at Tokyo Kanku Kishodai are saying that the heavy fog covering most of Tokyo, Chiba and Kanagawa is the result of a meteorite striking Sagami Bay at approximately 10:30 PM last night. The impact was approximately 20 kilometers north of Oshima Island. While not large enough to cause more than minor tidal raises, the impact did send several tons of water and steam into the atmosphere. While not harmful, this dense fog is causing visibility problems as far north as Shinjuku and Arakawa. Citizens are asked not to drive, and to stay indoors unless it's absolutely necessary. To repeat again, we advising..."

Akane came in the room and sat down beside me. "That's funny, I didn't see any fog when I went out this morning. Then again, we are as far away from the sea as possible while still being in Tokyo."

I nodded, paying more attention to Akane sitting beside me then I was to the television. Memories of last night's date and kiss kept finding their way into my head, and I was having a hard time concentrating on anything. I don't know how long we sat there, just enjoying the closeness of each other. Nothing truly intimate, just a togetherness that we hadn't really found a way past the awkwardness to express before. Not properly, anyway

The peace was not to last, however. It was broken by Kasumi shrieking from further in the house. "G-GRANDFATHER HAPPOUSAI!"

I started up and looked at Akane. "I wonder what the old perv did now?"

She shrugged, and we both hurried in the back to take a look.


Happousai looked horrible. By 'horrible', I mean 'Black Death' kind of horrible...not 'perverted letch' kind of horrible, which was unusual when talking about the Old Goat. His skin was pale; ashen and waxy. He was sweating, and was trembling or shaking...from chills or weakness I couldn't tell. The only time I'd seen the old letch so much as have a cold before was back when he suddenly come down with a dreadful illness that was predicted by one of our classmates, and I swear at that time he didn't look anywhere near as bad as he looked now.

I put my hand on the old man's head."He's burning up!"

Kasumi recovered from her shock. "I'll get a thermometer."

I looked over at Akane "'Kane, ya know that foul goop ya cooked up last time?"

She looked at me angrily for a moment, then calmed when she realized that the foul goop I meant actually was foul goop. "Yeah?"

"You better go get that recipe an' scrounge up the ingredients. I think we're gonna need another batch."


Akane spent the rest of the day making a new batch of the horrible smelling remedy she had made for Happousai before. My father and Mr. Tendo had rapidly decided to make themselves scarce and headed for the bars after that. I had run out to a 7-Eleven and picked up some "cold and flu" surgical masks to be safe. We usually used the cloth ones when someone was sick, but I decided getting the 3-ply masks would be better, as it would at least stop some of the horrific smell that came from Akane's remedy.

Happousai's temperature was over 40 degrees. Over the course of the day, we tried feeding him, changing his clothes, and even giving him an ice bath. You can imagine my joy at having my female form in ice water with the old pervert. However, he didn't do a thing. He just sat there and shook. He didn't ever talk or try to cop a feel. It was at this point I began to get worried. Not that I cared anything for the old nuisance, mind you. He'd made my life hell since he showed up. But I didn't really wish him harm. Not like this, anyway.

Even Akane's remedy had no effect, and we quickly tossed it away. By the end of it, I went to bed tired, frustrated, and worried. I hated the old goat, but no martial artist deserves to die like this. I hadn't changed back all day. I hadn't the time, and I was far too tired to even look for hot water. I just laid there on the futon.

There was a knock on the door. "Ranma are you okay?" Akane.

"No. I'm worn out, humiliated, and I don't think I did a bit a' good today."

Akane opened the door and came in. A moment later, she had her hand on my shoulder. "I know. I just wish that Tofu-sensei was here."

Doctor Tofu had left Nerima abruptly over 6 months ago. No warning or advance notice. Just one day someone went up to the door and had seen a sign saying the clinic was closed indefinitely.

"Yeah. The Doc mighta found a way t' fix this."

"Well, get some sleep, Ranma. If he's not better by tomorrow, we'll call Tokyo General."

I hesitated a moment before giving in. "...Okay."

"Good-night, Ranma."

"G'nite, 'Kane."


"Ranma! Ranma!"

I stirred in my sleep, and I'd been tossing and turning all night. Pop had decided to spend the night in the dojo in case whatever Happousai had was contagious. Finally, I awoke to look up into the faces of Akane and Kasumi. I didn't like what I saw there. Concern. Worry. Fear.

"Is it...?"

"He's awake. He's asking for you." Kasumi said.

I swallowed and headed downstairs into Happousai's room.


If anything, Happousai looked worse than before. His skin looked bloodless, his breathing shallow and ragged. The air about him was a funeral air. I knew he didn't have long.

I couldn't stand it. I tore off my shirt and grabbed his hand, putting it to one of my breasts. "Come on, you Old Goat! It ain't like you ta go down without a fight! You'd stay alive, if only ta piss me off more! Take it! It's right here. Ki smorgasboard! Take what you need an' fight!"

The yellow eyes opened a crack. "Ranma...zzat you?"

"Yeah, it's me. I'm in my girl form an' I'm offering you all th' ki you can absorb. Fight it!"

The wizened old head shook. "Can't...all scrambled me up inside. Can't focus enough to absorb..." He broke off into a cough.

I let his hand drop. There really was nothing that could be done.

"Ranma..." The Old Man's eyes widened and he grabbed my hand in a manic grip. "...you are the best Martial Artist of your generation. Better than Soun. Better than Genma. Better than me at your age..." he broke into coughing. "When I pass you are the next Grand Master. Learn all you can, pass it on. Keep the school...alive."

I nodded, tears in my eyes. "I will."

He relaxed his grip and sat back for a moment. Then he broke out in tears. "No! It's not fair! I'm not ready yet! I don't want to go! I don't want...to..."

He fell back and was still. Happousai, founder of Anything Goes was no longer in this world.

Behind me, I heard Kasumi let out a sob.

I reached out and closed his eyes. "Good-bye, Old Goat."

I stood and reached for my shirt. In front of me, I heard Kasumi starting to call for an ambulance to come and take the body away. In the dining room, I could hear the fathers' starting to celebrate the Master's death. I just walked solemnly into the bathroom. I didn't feel like partying. Not that I was sad for the old freak, but seeing death that up close and personal...it's disturbing.


That was not my only shock that day. After my bath I decided I didn't feel like staying around and decided to take a walk. Akane decided to join me, and together we left home for...well...were we planning to figure it out as we went along. It wasn't a date. Not really. After the last day we both needed to leave the house to clear our heads.

Unfortunately, fate was once again going to make such things impossible.

We had gotten less than a block from the dojo when I was nearly run over by a fast moving bicycle. This was Shampoo, my Chinese fiancée. More of a not-so-common-law wife, actually. Shampoo is from village of the Joketsuzoku, the "Tribe of Women Warriors" – an Amazon, for all intents and purposes, though supposedly without any of the Ancient Greek influence. The Joketsuzoku have a law. Any female that defeats one of their warriors receives the "Kiss of Death" and gets hunted to the ends of the earth until they are killed. It does make me wonder about the Mediterranean influence, however, because the whole thing sounds rather Sicilian to me. Males on the other hand, receive the "Kiss of Marriage" if they defeat a woman warrior he becomes their husband, their 'airen'. I'm pretty sure they made this one up themselves, and I'm pretty sure neither the U.N. nor Interpol recognizes it as a law outside the Joketsuzoku village. Try telling that to a purple haired bimbo glomp machine and her 300 year old ghoul of a Great-Grandmother, however.

Shampoo wasted no time in grabbing on to me. "Airen!"

I was still angry at Shampoo regarding the failed wedding and her usage of explosive food during that incident. I turned to glare at her. "I told you, Shampoo, I'm not-"

Any statement I had died when I saw her face. This was not happy bubbly Shampoo happy to see her "Airen". No, it was worried...and scared. "Airen come quickly to Nekohanten! Hiba-chan!. She-"

The look on her face said it all. I glanced sideways at Akane, sort of an "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" look and she nodded. Together, the three of us took off for the restaurant at a dead run.


Shampoo quickly let us into the Nekohanten, and went in the back and up the stairs, out of the restaurant level, and into the living space above. We made our way quickly to Cologne's room at the front, and we shocked by what we saw. But only mildly. As we had seen the exactly the same thing that morning.

Shampoo's Hiba-chan, or Great-Grandmother, Cologne, lay in her bed. All the color was gone from her body and she was shaking like a leaf. Next to her in a chair, Mousse, glasses down for once, was trying to feed her some broth...unsuccessfully. He looked up at the three of us when we came in and shook his head, sadly. Much like myself and Happousai, Mousse had no real love for Cologne. However, also like me, it was obvious he had put those feelings aside for this. This wasn't a fit way for a master of the Art to die.

Shampoo walked up to the bedside. "Hiba-chan?" She called softly. "Shampoo bring Airen just like Hiba-chan requested."

The eyes, yellow with sickness, opened and focused on me. Even now, as ill as she was, she still radiated a serene wisdom. Had I known of Star Wars at the time, I would have been shocked to notice how close she looked to Yoda in Return of the Jedi.

Ever the paragon of tact, I walked right up to the bed. "Geez, Old Granny, you look horrible."

Akane gave me a glare. Shampoo and Mousse just stared at me in shock. Cologne, on the other hand, gave off a sound. Had she been well, it would have been one of her trademark cackles. Instead it was kind of a snorting chuckle that trailed into a cough. "Leave it to...Muko-dono...not to sugar coat things. I'm dying...if you hadn't noticed."

'Muko-dono' was Cologne's nickname for me. Essentially, 'Son-in-law'

"Yeah. I kinda figured."

"Before...I go...however...I had things to...discuss with you."

"Such as?"

"When will you...marry my granddaughter?"

I frowned. "Ain't happening."

Shampoo's look darkened. She stood to do something, but a grey, withered hand reached into the air. At the gesture, Shampoo quieted.

"That is your last...word on it?"

"Yes. Look, Shampoo's nice an' all, but-"

The old woman cut me off with a raking cough. "Troubling. This illness came on...so quickly. Can't use ki. Not even...Amazon remedies...worked."

I nodded. "That's what Happousai said."

Cologne paused. "Happi caught this?"

"He died this morning."

The old woman's laid back in her bed, eyes wide, as she processed the latest bit of news. "So...I won after all."

"What was that?"

"Nothing...not important...Muko-dono. To take down both Happi...and myself makes this...illness...quite formidable. I sense something dark...behind this...something evil. Consider this a dying old crone's...intuition."

She took another deep raspy breath. "You are the most talented martial artist I have ever seen. Perhaps the best the world has ever known...but you are too arrogant...too headstrong...too easily manipulated by others. This is a weakness. You will need to...overcome this to truly...shine as the best."

Abruptly she sat up, as if possessed by an unnatural strength, and grabbed my arm. "Promise me...Muko-dono...Promise me you'll take care...of my granddaughter."

"I told you! I'm not marrying her!"

"Just promise me...you'll take care of her...that you'll protect her from the danger to come."

Unable to say anything at that, I gulped then nodded. I knew Akane would be mad, but if there was danger coming, I knew I'd protect them...all of them.

She sighed then collapsed back on the bed. "Good...so tired now...need to rest."

For a long time...I didn't count the minutes...we stood there by the bed watched as the old lady rested, slowly drawing one breath after another...gasp after laborious gasp. Each time, we thought it was going to be her last. Finally, she gave out a tremendous gasp, looked up past us, at a point beyond all of us. "Hello, Happi." She said, then collapsed on the bed.

Elder Cologne, Matriarch of the Joketsuzoku was no more.

Shampoo gave a keening wail and collapsed against me, sobbing, while Mousse closed her eyes.

I gave an apologetic glance at Akane, but she was looking out the window...a sad, troubled look on her face.


After what was an uncomfortably long time, Shampoo stopped crying and let me go. I quickly excused Akane and myself and left as hurriedly as I could.

We walked, Akane and I, aimlessly for about half an hour. During that time, we didn't say a word to each other. Finally, I wasn't able to stand the silence anymore and I turned to Akane. "So...what's up?"

"What do you mean, Ranma?"

"You! You're all...out of it. It's freakin' me out."

"Oh! Well...it's how Cologne died. Surrounded in bed with family around her...it reminded me...of Mom."

Akane's mother had died of an illness when Akane was very young. Too young to have many good memories of her mother. Normally any memory of her mother would be a thing of joy. However, to be reminded of how she died...that was a memory anyone could do without.

Even though I still had Shampoo's lavender perfume on me, and had just put up with Shampoo doing this for far too long, I grabbed Akane and held her close. After a moment, shock I suspect, she opened up, and I let her cry into my chest as we walked home.

While we travelled the words of caution Cologne had given me were forgotten. If I had remember, if I had acted on those decisions, maybe then I'd have been more ready for what came after.


Akane had stopped and had dried her eyes by the time we had gotten home. To our surprise, the family was gathered around the television.

"Tadaima!" We both called.

Instead of the traditional response, Nabiki yelled. "Get in here, you two!"

Not sure if I could take any more surprises, Akane and I headed into the family room. On the telly, a news report was going on.

"...General reports more and more cases coming in from all over Tokyo. Narita International Airport has cancelled all inbound and outbound flights, and Tokyo Harbor has closed. Tokyo Metro has closed down except for emergency transit only, and The Shinkansen will not be stopping in Tokyo for the foreseeable future. An official at the Ministry of Health calls this a city-wide epidemic, and has declared a state of emergency and city-wide quarantine. Citizens are advised not to leave their homes unless necessary, and to take health precautions such as masks and gloves if they do.

"This just in! Reports from the Imperial Palace reports that Emperor Akihito has fallen ill, and has been rushed to medical attention..."

The assembled family stared at each other in shock. The Emperor was the lifeblood of the Japanese people...a living God. Losing him so soon after Emperor Showa's death would be a shock...one that the Japanese people would take a long time to recover from.

We all knew it, though none of us were going to say it. Things were going to get worse before they got better.


Next Chapter: Plague