Tattoon Ranma

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 and Tattoon Master are someone else's inventions so go pester them!

< >: Thoughts

Chapter 11

Part 2

Bonds

Eric sighed as he prepared to close another part of his former life as Ranma Saotome, forever. With final resolve, he walked past the front desk of the police precinct and entered the jail where his father and Soun were being held before they would be later transported back to Nerima... where they would stand trial for their numerous crimes.

Currently, both men were still unconscious and were laid out in separate cells. As he stood and gazed upon the two disciples of Happosai, the X-scarred martial artist just barely kept his hatred and contempt for them in check. They had come to Hiroshima to force their will upon him, as they always had. They had expected him to meekly follow their plans, disregarding any of his opinions as unimportant. When trouble appeared, they would simply let him deal with it, while they hid behind a mockery of honor, which was just an excuse for their cowardice. No matter what crimes one, the other, or both had committed, it was always Ranma who was expected to take the blame and shoulder the burden. To them, he was nothing more than a dumping site for all of their problems. Well Eric was not going to let them ruin his life any more. The bond between him and these two idiots must be severed.

"Are you sure you'll be alright?" Detective Nagata asked, as he was about to leave Eric alone with the two dimwits.

"I'll be fine." Eric replied. "Oh yes, about this discussion I'm about to have with them..."

The officer nodded at the underlying meaning. He then left the holding area and closed the door behind them.

Balla's significant other nodded as he stood and glared in silence at two of the most pathetic men on Earth. No, they didn't even qualify as 'men' in his book. They were both cowardly shadows of human beings that would rather have others, particularly Ranma, take responsibility for their actions. Now it was time for them to take the long-overdue consequences of their many crimes.

At that moment, both Soun and Genma began to regain consciousness. Both men were in considerable pain from their encounter with Eric. Genma in particular was feeling some serious agony throughout his body, after taking the worst of the exchange. The police doctor had bandaged up most of his body, and he found that he couldn't move much. However, his vision was still working and his eyes widened when both he and Soun saw where they were. For a career thief such as Genma, it was his worst nightmare come true as he saw the steel bars of his jail cell.

For Soun, it was also a shocking revelation to find himself on the wrong side of the bars. He was one of the most prominent citizens in Nerima. People looked up to him. He was the master of the Tendo Dojo of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts! To be in such a place was... unthinkable!

It was then that both men saw Eric standing nearby with his arms folded across his chest and gazing upon them with a hardened expression.

"RANMA!" Both men cried out.

Eric snorted a bit before responding. "Ranma? I told you before you two attacked me that I ain't this Ranma dope."

"Stop talking this nonsense!" Genma shouted as he tried to get up. However, his body howled in pain each time he tried to move. "How could you do this to your father?!"

Eric snorted again. "Father? What father? I don't have any father named Genma. Hell, I pity this Ranma guy for having a father who is nothing more than a fat piece of shit!"

"What are you talking about?! You're my son and you'll do as I say! Now get me out of here!"

Eric shook his head. "I ain't going to aid and abet a known criminal, and I sure as Hell ain't going help him escape police custody."

"What are talking about?!"

"What I'm talking about is this." Eric replied as he began counting off Genma's crimes on his fingers. "Genma Saotome, wanted for several HUNDRED cases of petty theft and breaking and entering."

"What are you talking about, Ranma? You know that stealing is part of the training!"

"You are also charged with several dozen cases of assault, INCLUDING the attack you made on me."

"You're talking nonsense! Now get me out of here or..."

"There's also a warrant issued for your arrest for your connection to the infamous Underwear Thief, whom by the way has also been arrested and charged."

"I don't care if... w-w-what did you say?" The Panda Man stuttered.

Soun was also shocked. "T-The Master was...?"

The teen nodded and said, "He was arrested and is now awaiting trial for his many crimes."

Both men were ecstatic at the news and would have jumped for joy if they weren't so badly injured. As such, they settled for cheering.

"OH HAPPY DAY! THE MASTER IS GONE!"

"No more panty raids! I don't have to worry about anyone else finding out about him living in my home! No more groveling! No more helping him steal underwear!"

"We can finally relax with him gone!" Genma said with glee.

"Yes! This is exciting news son!" Soun said to Eric, thinking that he was now here to get them out of jail. "Now, with the Master about to receive justice, you can marry Akane and..."

"No." The sullen martial artist said, cutting off the Tendo patriarch.

"W-W-What did you say?"

Eric let off a low growl. "It appears that you have a very short memory, Tendo-san. You seem to have forgotten the position that you are in! I am NOT this Ranma person that you think I am, and by your own words, you've just admitted to harboring not one, but TWO known felons!"

"W-What?!" Soun gasped.

"In addition to hiding two known criminals from the law, you have also admitted to aiding the Underwear thief in his crimes. That's being an accessory! Furthermore, you did not report these crimes to the authorities, which is also punishable by the law. In addition to the assault charges that I'm filing against the two of you, you're both going away for a LONG time!"

Both men became shocked to their core as Detective Nagata reentered the holding center... with a microphone.

"Did you get their confessions, Detective?" Eric asked with a bit of a smirk.

The officer nodded. "We got it all." He then addressed the two men. "Genma Saotome, you are hereby under arrest for the charges of repeated petty theft, breaking and entering, assault and assisting the Underwear Thief. Several families are also charging you for blatant breach of contract!" He then turned to Soun. "Soun Tendo, you are under arrest for harboring two known felons and assisting in their crimes. You are also being charged with one count of assault. You shall both be transported back to Tokyo to await trial."

"What is this?!" Soun demanded in outrage. If he weren't so injured, he would have gone into his Demon Head. "This is absolutely absurd! I demand that..."

"Oh we're DEAD serious, Soun Tendo." Nagata said. "We've received enough proof from Kobayashi here, plus your confessions today, to ensure that both you and Saotome will answer for your various crimes."

Both men became struck dumb with shock. They couldn't believe that Ranma would turn on them. Since when did he grow a backbone? Wasn't he supposed to do, as honor demanded? No! This couldn't happening! The Schools must be joined! It was their dream! It was their future!

However, Eric was not interested in their futures any more. He wanted his own future, a future of his own making. If that meant totally cutting his ties with his past, then so be it!

"If you don't need me any more, Detective, then I'll be going now."

The officer nodded as Eric turned to leave.

"RANMA! COME BACK HERE! THE SCHOOLS MUST BE JOINED! IT IS A MATTER OF HONOR!" Soun shouted.

Eric paused before exiting the holding area. Without turning around, he gave his final say on the matter. "Honor? What honor? You don't have any and neither does that friend of yours. And I told you before, I ain't Ranma. Besides, why should I listen to a cowardly shadow of a man, who leaves his own children to fend for themselves when they needed him most? (1) Why should I listen to someone who hides behind others when trouble comes brewing? Why should I listen to someone who uses honor as an excuse, so he doesn't have to deal with the problems that he, his master, or friend had caused? Why should I listen to someone who won't take responsibility for his own actions? You have no idea what honor is Tendo, so stop pretending that you do. And if there's one thing that really PISSES me off... it's a fucking HYPOCRITE!"

With those words, Eric left the police precinct, not once looking back as the connection to Soun and Genma was permanently cut.

----------

Somewhere else...

Ryoga was in a very intense mood as he prowled the streets, looking for the bane of his very existence. He was eagerly anticipating for the moment when he finally found him. With the power he now possessed, he would finally put an end to all of his suffering. High above him, dark clouds began to form.

----------

At their apartment, Balla's senses began to go on the alert as she began to detect that a dark and hostile power was near and it was coming for her beloved. She immediately stopped what she was doing and went to go in search for either the source of that dark power or Eric. At the back of her mind, she began to suspect that her sister Kandor might have had something to do with it.

The sensation was a familiar one and the High Priestess of the Tattoon Tribe shivered a bit as she recalled back to the last time that she had felt such a dark energy. Her sister had gone against the tribal laws and had learned about the Dark Shadows, which were the flip side of the elemental magics of her people. For that reason, she had been banished from the Tattoon and Balla had never seen her since then. The blonde-haired girl started hoping that Kandor had not taught those secrets to an outsider. The Dark Shadows being wielded by a member of the Tattoon was hazardous to both the user and the one being attacked by them. If an outsider had knowledge of them, then it almost always proved to be... fatal.

----------

Eric sighed as he continued to walk home with his hands in his pockets. He was glad that the business with his former father and his friend had been concluded; yet he still felt... empty. Those two had gotten what they had deserved, especially Genma. Though the former Saotome wondered just where did that leave him. Ironically, the craziness that had been his life in Nerima was all he had ever known. One by one, he was taking out the prime factors of that chaos.

Eric had not even planned to do that to any of them when he had abandoned that life. Hell, all they had to do was just forget about him, and everything would have been fine. Hadn't they gotten the message when he said that he quit? Didn't his departure with no intention of ever coming back give them a clue? Didn't they hear him say that he didn't CARE any more? One would think that last blow-up before he left would have been the clincher. Damn they were more obsessed about him that he had ever imagined! And now they were here in Hiroshima, eager to drag him back to that insanity! Couldn't he ever get a break?

However, it seemed that the gods of fate and misery had decided not to give up on their favorite punching bag. Furthermore, it also appeared that none of his suitors were willing to give up on him either. And wherever they went, those other morons were sure to follow. Damn them all! He just wanted peace of mind and a fresh start. Was that too much to ask?

Eric had considered just packing it up and leaving again, but that would only prolong the torment, not end it. They would follow him, just as they always did. It was an obsession with them. Whether it was out of honor, Amazon Law, some misconception, delusion, revenge or whatnot, they would ALWAYS follow. With Ryoga, killing Ranma had been like his hobby or something.

<Well, at least I don't have to worry about that moron for a while.> Eric thought as he assumed that the Lost Boy was still recovering from his injuries during their last fight.

It was at that moment that his danger-sense went off and he immediately turned about and leapt back. The spot where he had previously been was blasted apart as a dark shape struck it, causing large chunks of pavement to go flying.

"RANMA, PREPARE TO DIE!"

----------

Somewhere else...

Balla immediately dodged to her left as a blast of high-pressure wind shot past her and tore up the concrete. She got into a ready stance as a few of her tattoos came into view. She looked about for her attacker, then spotted a figure standing atop a street lamp. She immediately recognized her assailant.

"Kandor?"

The red-haired girls nodded as the thrust out a hand and released another blast of wind. "Yes, dear sister!"

KABOOM!

----------

"WHAT THE HELL?!" Eric growled as he saw his arch-rival, no... ARCH-ENEMY glaring at him as he stood some fifteen feet away.

"I finally found you... Ranma Saotome." Ryoga snarled as a strange symbol appeared on his forehead.

Eric gritted his teeth as he saw the mark. Deep within his very being, he knew that at that moment, the Ryoga he was facing was no longer the same person as he once knew. He was colder, harder and emanating a kind of dark power that would chill anyone down to the bone, and it was all directed at Eric. Genma's former son did not know how Ryoga had recovered from his injuries or where he got this power, but he knew one thing. It seemed that their final battle had come and one of them was not going to walk away.

----------

"Kandor! Please stop this!" Balla cried out as she dodged another blast from her sibling.

"Do you know how long I've waited for this?" The Tattoon renegade asked as she continued to attack her young sister. "All those years, I've lived in your shadow! Well now it's payback time!"

The High Priestess continued to evade the anger-fueled attacks of her sister, not fighting back as she tried to reason with her. For all of Kandor's faults, mistakes and feelings of resentment, she still loved her sister.

It was at that moment that the symbol on her forehead suddenly started flaring erratically, which caused her to lose her focus. As a result, Balla was a fraction of a second too slow in evading Kandor's next blast. This clipped the High Priestess in the shoulder and caused her to go tumbling to the sidewalk.

<Ow! Something's wrong! I'm feeling Eric's pain! Something must be happening to him!>

----------

Eric winced as he was thrown backward by a blast of dark energy from the Lost Boy. He hadn't expected Ryoga to have such mastery over his Tattoon abilities. The energies he was emitting were like living shadows, which caused a cold, numbing sensation whenever they struck him.

"THIS TIME, YOU WILL PAY FOR ALL MY SUFFERING!" The directionally challenged Ryoga ranted as he sent another barrage of Dark Shadows at the bane of his existence.

Eric however, didn't just stand there and take it. He swerved to avoid the attack, then rushed in to deliver a hard haymaker to Ryoga's face. The blow caused the Lost Boy to go sprawling. He glared down at his foe, in which he considered as the most pathetic person on Earth at the moment.

"You've gotten sloppy P-Chan! A while ago, you would never have left yourself THAT wide open. I don't know where or who you learned Tattoon Power from, but even with it, you still won't be able to BEAT me!"

"STOP CALLING ME P-CHAN!" Ryoga raged as he got back to his feet and launched another Dark Shadow attack.

As the tendrils of black energy were launched, Eric's own tattoos began to emerge. Sending out bursts of light and wind, he countered each of Ryoga's blasts, then came in close to deliver several more blows, this time in the form of kicks to the abdomen. As such, his foe doubled over then snapped back up as Eric kneed him in the face.

"Always the same Ryoga! You never change! You learn a new trick and keep using it over and over! You forget everything else and think the new move is enough to beat me!"

"SHUT UP!" Ryoga screamed as he suddenly flared with a dark aura that caught Eric off guard, throwing him back. As he staggered back, Ryoga took on an evil smile as he began building power. "So you think my new trick won't be enough to beat you, eh? WELL TRY THIS ON!"

He then let loose with a blanket of darkness, which surrounded Eric and enveloped him in a column of shadows.

"NOW YOU WILL TRULY KNOW HELL!"

----------

Balla screamed as she suddenly felt a flash of pain, then a cold numbing feeling then more pain. As such, she wasn't able to defend herself against her sister's next attack, which threw her against the wall of a nearby shop.

"What's the matter, sister?" Kandor taunted. "Can't focus? Could it be the fact that your beloved husband is also feeling pain?"

"What?!" Balla exclaimed in shock as she got back to her feet. "What have you done to Eric?!"

The redhead shrugged as she replied. "Personally, I haven't done a thing. Of course, the same can't be said for one called Ryoga, who's probably pounding the daylights out of your precious Eric with the Dark Shadows."

Balla's eyes widened in further shock as she remembered the Lost Boy's last rampage and his hatred of her beloved. "What?! You taught someone like Ryoga the Dark Shadows?!"

Kandor shrugged again as she advanced on her weakened sister. "It was really easy. I mean, I thought no one could hate someone as much as I hated you, but this Ryoga guy puts my hatred to shame. The way he goes on and on about destroying Ranma, I mean Eric was absolutely pathetic. He'll do anything to beat him, so it was simple to get him to agree to learn the Dark Shadows. He didn't even ask if there were any consequences."

"You know that the Dark Shadows will consume him!"

"You know that, and I know that, but he didn't even bother to ask or care. However, he won't be consumed until he's exacted his revenge on Eric, and I've had mine!"

With those words, Kandor disappeared from sight, leaving Balla to prepare herself for her sibling's next assault. With concern for Eric flooding her mind, Balla couldn't completely focus, giving her sister the psychological edge. That and the fact that her bond with her husband was causing her to feel his pain.

----------

Ryoga grinned as he sensed each time that his Dark Shadows ripped into his foe. He had begun to feel a dull, numbing throb in the back of his head, but had dismissed it as a minor inconvenience. This was his final revenge against the one who had made his life a living Hell and he savored each and every moment of Eric's agony.

Inside the column of shadows, Eric felt himself being buffeted by high-impact air currents, as if he was in the midst of a tornado. Each blow felt as if a wrecking ball was hitting him. Sometimes, it would cut into him like a knife, causing bloody gashes to appear. Most of all, it was cold, colder than ice. And he knew that he wouldn't be able to survive for much longer.

----------

Balla screamed out as she found herself in the grip of Kandor's telekinesis, which caused her body to float above the ground and spread-eagled. The elder Tattoon magic user had appeared behind her sister and was now using her powers to rip into the High Priestess. Invisible knives of force cut into Balla, ripping her clothes and causing intense stabs of pain.

"You know what I've learned about the outside world?" Kandor remarked as she continued torturing her sister. "I've learned that it's unforgiving and that if you want something, then you have to TAKE it! Honor is nothing but an excuse that prevents people from getting ahead. People don't care about each other. They only care about themselves."

"You're wrong!" Balla insisted, biting back the pain. "Not everyone is like that!"

"There you go again. Do you know how much I hate that optimism of yours? Well, here's what I think about it!" She began increasing the intensity of her attack, causing Balla to scream out louder in pain.

<Eric... >

----------

<Hmpf! He's still alive. Well he won't be that way for much longer! This for everything that I've suffered! All the things that made my life miserable! This time for sure...>

"RANMA PREPARE TO DIE!"

Inside the column, Eric gritted his teeth when he heard that stupid rant of Ryoga's. His battle aura began to glow red as he started gathering power.

<THAT DOES IT! I'VE HAD ENOUGH! I'M NOT GOING TO LET THAT BASTARD WIN!>

At that point, his Primary Mark glowed and changed shape, attuning itself to its counterpart...

<Balla...>

----------

At the same time, Balla began feeling new strength as some of her tattoos appeared. She trembled as she sensed Eric's resolve and determination.

"I... feel... the connection! I'm... here for you, Eric! You can beat him! You can win! WIN ERIC! WIN!"

At that moment, Balla's body surged with power, causing a backlash that threw Kandor back. The red-haired girl was stunned at the sudden turn of events, which became even more intense as more of Balla's tattoos appeared. Soon, the blonde was covered from head to toe with mystic markings.

"The... tattoos..." She gasped as she felt the immense power being emitted. "The... full power."

----------

Ryoga was taken completely by surprise as a blinding white light suddenly engulfed the column. He felt his control over the Dark Shadows fade away, then glimpsed a figure emerging from that brilliance. He trembled as he felt that the end was near...

----------

Balla glared at her sister as the full power of her Tattoon abilities came to the fore. As she prepared to unleash it, she decided to give her sibling an object lesson.

"Kandor... you've misunderstood the teachings of our tribe! The goal is not to exert control over others, but to form bonds. From those bonds we draw on our greatest strength! And my husband has given me strength like no other! But since you cannot understand that one simple fact... you can NEVER... BEAT ME!"

Kandor snorted as she was royally pissed off at her sister's so-called righteousness. She let loose with a mind-blowing blast of energy, but before it could travel even a third of the way toward its target, Balla countered with a blast of wind that made a hurricane seem like a gentle breeze.

Ballaís sibling was caught in the backlash and only remained long enough to voice out her displeasure.

"BALLA! YOU ALWAYS WIN! THAT IS SO UNFAIR!"

In another moment, she was sent into LEO as Balla's counterattack swept her up like a leaf.

After dispatching her sister, Balla immediately powered down a bit before disappearing from sight. She had to see if Eric was all right.

----------

"What's happening? Where are my Dark Shadows?" Ryoga cried out as he covered his eyes to protect him from the glare.

Eric stepped out from the light and approached the pathetic Pig-Boy. "The light drove them away, P-Chan."

"Don't call me P-Erk!" Ryoga was cut off as Eric delivered a hard blow to his stomach.

"You just don't get it, do you?" Eric growled. "No matter what kind of power you have, I'll ALWAYS beat you! And do you know why? It's because unlike you, I don't blame my problems on everyone else! And you're nothing but a pig!"

"SHUT UP!" The Lost Boy tried to raise more of his Dark Shadows, but that's when Eric went ballistic!

WHAM!

Broken jaw... again.

SNAP!

Broken arm... again.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

Eight RBIs (Ribs Bashed In)

"It's not over yet..." Ryoga groaned.

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!

"It's over, P-Chan! I'm NOT playing this game any more!" Eric snarled as he broke both of Ryoga's legs.

Ryoga fell back and tried to summon up the last of his strength for a final Dark Shadow assault on Eric. However, that was when he felt that something was wrong. The Dark Shadows began to behave erratically. He tried to force them to do as he commanded, but the magic wouldn't listen. At that point, he felt total loss of control as the shadows began enveloping their wielder. His body began to blacken, as his flesh was being consumed by the evil that had spawned the shadows. He soon began screaming out and writhed about in agony. Just as he was about to be totally eaten up by the darkness, Balla appeared from out of nowhere.

"Balla? What are you doing...?"

"No time to explain Eric!" The High Priestess said as she saw what was happening and began acting to save Ryoga's life. She immediately made several of her tattoos appear and focused her power. For one long and agonizing minute, it seemed that nothing was happening as Ryoga was almost completely covered by the Dark Shadows. Finally, a different mark appeared on the Lost Boy's forehead, just as he was enveloped by his own dark power. Suddenly, a flare of white light burst forth, piercing the darkness and dispelling it, leaving only...

"Bweeeeeee!"

Balla sadly shook her head and sighed before turning to Eric. "I'm sorry darling. I... couldn't save him completely." She then gazed back at the small black piglet that was wearing a bandana around its neck.

"Would you mind telling me what just happened, Balla?" Eric asked as he too stared at the little porker.

The High Priestess took a deep breath before replying. "I tried to reverse the effects of the Dark Shadows when they turned on him. Magical energy of that type feed on negative emotions, such as hatred and the need for revenge. His hatred of you was so great that the Dark Shadows attempted to consume his body and soul. Let me tell you, that is a fate FAR worse than death. His very essence would have been in torment for all eternity. However, when I got here, he was already too far gone for me to save his body... his human body anyway."

"So that's why...?" He pointed to the piglet.

Balla nodded. "Actually, if I hadn't placed that modified Spirit Curse on him before, then I may not have been able to save him at all."

"Modified Spirit Curse? When did you do that?"

"It was just after your first fight with Ryoga. (2) I had placed a spell on him that would have activated once he had recovered. It was connected with his Jusenkyo curse. Every time he even thought about attacking you or getting revenge, then he would have instantly turned into a pig and stayed that way for a month, regardless of the presence of hot or cold water. I figured that as a pig, he wouldn't be able to cause as much trouble for you."

"I see. So what happened to that spell and how did he know about these... Dark Shadows, was it?"

Balla nodded again. "I think it was because of my sister Kandor."

"I didn't know you had a sister."

"It's a long story and I'll tell you about her later. In any case, Kandor resented me like Ryoga hated you. I had a run-in with her and she admitted to healing and teaching Ryoga the dark arts of the Shadows. I suspect that when she healed him, she rendered my curse inactive."

"So what's all that got to do with Ryoga now?"

"Well, I used the imprint of the Spirit Curse to guide his soul into that of his other self, namely the pig. The light you saw was the dispersal of the Dark Shadows. Unfortunately, they had already totally consumed his human body. When they were destroyed, so was his body. I'm sorry to say, but he is now and forever... a pig. Hot water won't change him back since there is no uncursed side for his spirit to enter."

"BWEEEEEEEE!" Ryoga squealed in dismay as he tried to leap up and bite Eric. However, he fell flat on his face and let off a series of moans and groans. He felt each and every one of the injuries that Eric had inflicted before the Dark Shadows had overwhelmed him.

"Still as ungrateful as ever, eh P-Chan?" Eric snorted as he picked up the oinker by the bandana and held him up. "You know, you should thank my girl that you're still alive! I would have been REALLY tempted to let you die! This was all YOUR fault!"

Balla felt her heart skip a beat when she heard Eric call her 'his girl.'

"BWEE! BWEE! BWEE!"

"Oh shut up, before I decide to turn you into a BLT!"

That threat made Ryoga go silent.

"Eric? What should we do with him now?" Balla asked, as she hoped that Eric wouldn't go through with his threat. Not that Ryoga didn't deserve it.

The x-scarred husband of the Tattoon High Priestess considered the black piglet for a long time then let off a tired sigh as he figured out a course of action. "Balla? Is that Spirit Curse still active?"

"I... suppose so, now that the Dark Shadows have been purged." She made a quick check with her senses. "Yes. It's functioning, though it's redundant now that he's permanently a pig."

"Here's what we're going to do..."

----------

Later, at the apartment...

"Are you sure about this, Eric? I mean, sending Ryoga off to Jusenkyo? What if he finds the Spring of Drowned Man?" Balla asked as the two of them finished eating dinner. She knew about the many pools at Jusenkyo, due to her training as High Priestess.

"I'm counting on it." Eric replied as he began the task of washing the dishes. "You said that the modified Spirit Curse is still active right? Well, even if he does regain his human form, he still won't be able to attack me or get revenge because that would turn him into a pig for a month every time he tries. I left specific instructions in that package for the Guide to dump him into the Nanichuan." <Hmmm, I wonder if I punched in enough air holes? Oh well, the brain needs oxygen and it's not like Ryoga ever used his much.> Eric thought. "In this way, he's going to OWE me, and if that and the Spirit Curse doesn't get him off my case, then that's HIS problem. And if it doesnít work, well thatís STILL his goddamned problem. I'm being more than generous by giving him this second chance. He doesn't deserve even a TENTH as much, considering how much shit he put me through." Eric then tossed the rag into its tray as he finished off the dishes.

"I have to admit, that was very noble of you to let him live and..."

"No. I wouldnít call it noble." Eric shook his head as he walked out to the balcony to watch the sunset. "I just didnít want that bastardís death on my conscience, even though he signed his own death warrant when he attacked and used those Dark Shadows."

"Well I think it was noble of you." Balla insisted as she walked up and embraced him from behind. She placed her head against his muscular back and let off a sigh of contentment. "Underneath that tough exterior, is a kind and gentle soul, just like I always knew there was."

Her beloved made no effort whatsoever to detach her from him. In fact, he had grown to tolerate, even enjoy her nearness. His right hand came up to clasp hers in a warm, but secure grip. "Balla?"

"Yes?"

Eric paused for a long while before continuing. "Itís going to be rough in the future... real soon."

"I know."

"And... this is really hard for me to say... but I donít know just where I would be... if I didnít have you."

"You know Iíll always be here for you."

"Yeah. I know. And itís because of that fact, that I was able to beat Ryoga today. He had me with those Dark Shadows of his. Then... when I began thinking of you... I felt... stronger than I had ever felt before. I never felt that way with any girl... not with Ukyo, not with Xian Pu... not even with Akane."

Balla nodded as she released her hold on him, allowing him to turn around to face her. She patted the x-shaped scar on his forehead. "Itís because of our bond, Eric. I feel your pain... you can feel mine. However, we can also draw on each otherís strength as well. You gave me the will to defeat my sister and I gave you the extra power to beat that pig. Weíre connected, you and I. Nothing can ever break that. Unlike that horrid Akane person, I have complete faith in you. I accept you with all your faults, because I know youíre not perfect. Who in the world is?" She then began stroking his left cheek.

Eric smiled as he clasped her hand in his right and smiled. "Yeah. Iím not perfect. I know that. So can I ask you a question?"

"What is it?"

"How did a rude, stubborn, obnoxious and boorish jerk like me... end up with a perfect girl like you?"

Balla blushed at the compliment, one of the rarest things for her husband to speak of, especially when it referred to her. "Iím not perfect, Eric, but I guess the gods that be decided that we were meant for each other."

At that moment, Eric did something even rarer. "Well, next time I pass by a shrine, remind me to make an offering, Ďcause I think they did a HELL of a job." He smiled... leaned forward and...

----------

Up in Heaven...

"Hah! I knew it! Pay up Aphrodite!"

The Greek Goddess of Love gave her Norwegian counterpart Urd a rueful smile as she handed her a bottle of her finest wine, (which happened to be a powerful aphrodisiac, endurance and fertility potion), courtesy of her son Eros AKA Cupid.

Urd took the bottle and continued to taunt her counterpart. "I just KNEW that Eric would lip lock with Balla within the week! At least he was a lot faster than Keiichi was with Belldandy."

"Not that Iím sore about losing the bet." Aphrodite said. "I just thought theyíd take some more time. Oh well. It looks like this relationship will be going places."

"Indeed, though they STILL have a long way to go and a LOT of obstacles to overcome." Urd added as she and the Greek goddess continued to watch the pair. "So how long do you think it will be before they get into the sack?"

Aphrodite cocked her head in mock thought, then replied. "About a month from now."

" ĎBetcha two bottles of wine itís sooner!"

"YouĎre on!"

To be continued...

Authorís Notes

Yeah, I know it was a little mushy at the end, but I like mush now and then. As for the final battle with Ryoga, well it was a bit tame, but hey, the Lost Boy can no longer attack Eric/Ranma due to the Spirit Curse. Most likely, heíd still be ungrateful if he ever regains his human form, and I made no promises that he will.

As for chapter 12, the next on the lineup is the Kunos and Ukyo. See you there!

(1) I took this from Rippen Drakuzz's fic, Dark Present No Regrets.

(2) Remember WAY back in chapter four?