# Another Day


Another Day

"NO!"

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
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
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
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
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
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...

"No."

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;
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...

The End

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
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.

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 kumonryuu@hotmail.com, SVP.

State of Mind

(By Merril Bainbridge)

Where do I go from here
Or am I just like a clock spinning round
Everything seems unclear
Confusion is raising its head and I can't make a sound

And I feel it
Tearing at my soul while I'm asleep
I feel it
Driving me to something I'll regret

What if I make the change
What if I lose all my courage this time
Everything seems so strange
Try but I can't seem to make a decision that's right

And I feel it
Pounding like a drum inside my brain
I feel it
If it doesn't stop I'll go insane

I feel it
Tearing at my soul while I'm asleep
I feel it
Driving me to something I'll regret

I feel it
I feel it
If it doesn't stop I'll go insane...
I feel it...