"Of Life and Love": Start         Previous: Chapter 10       Next: Epilog

 Revelations, Part One: "Of Life and Love"

Chapter Eleven:

"Okay, you get the water - I'll get the firewood," Ranma grinned as she headed off for the strand of trees. Ryoga went to the springs to get water for dinner. As Ranma walked, she practiced the techniques Ryoga had been teaching her, keeping her mind on partial alert, searching out the differing ki patterns around her. There were a lot of patterns in the woods. Ranma watched them and wondered what they all were. Ryoga could tell whether a pattern was a bird or a butterfly with a single glimpse. Being newly trained, it was taking Ranma more time to identify them. All she could really tell was that they weren't a threat. It would take more study to get to know all the patterns.

Uhh... Ranma blinked. And looked around. What the heck is that one? It wasn't a threat to her... Ryoga. Stopping in her tracks, Ranma turned around and looked at Ryoga. Ryoga was still walking towards the spring. But... he knew. Ranma could see it in the way he held himself. He knew that something was watching him and was prepared. Okay, he knows what's going on. With a grin, Ranma settled to watch. I like this new way of seeing things.

A boar came charging out to attack Ryoga.

What is it with Ryoga and boars? Ranma watched, curious and attentive, but not worried.

Ryoga waited until the boar was a foot from him and then he dove out of the way, rolling out towards a sturdy stick on the ground that was about the length of his umbrella. The boar charged by, snorting in frustration. It skidded to a halt and turned for another charge. Ryoga grabbed the stick... and froze.

Ranma's breath drew in with sharp and sudden fear. That damn tree! She ran forward. No...! Covering the distance with several rapid bounds, she attacked the boar, driving her feet into its side and throwing it back to slam into a rock wall and fall stunned to the ground. Then she ran to where Ryoga still lay on the ground, "Ryoga!"

"Ranma! Stop!!" The fright and fear in Ryoga's voice hauled Ranma up sort.

"Ryoga?" Ranma took another hesitant step forward.

"Don't MOVE!" Ryoga stood up from where he was, dropping the stick to the ground. He walked toward Ranma and then knelt down several feet from her, "I was expecting a wild boar running at me, not you. Can you leap from where you are to just past me?"

Of course. Ranma complied with the rather strange request.

Ryoga sighed in relief. Then he grimaced, "Okay... now how do I fix this?" He stared at the ground intently, as if it was going to move away on him.

Move away? Ranma glanced down, suddenly remembering the training they'd done that day... That very eventful day... Ranma's heart knotted up inside her and Ryoga looked up, reaching a hand to touch her gently on her ankle. Ranma shook her head, getting away from the memory of the tree. But just before the tree... Ryoga had sensed the unstable ground after the earthquake. And then there was the earthquake that Ryoga had caused with his depression... Glancing from the ground to her love, Ranma asked, "Ryoga - what did you do?"

"I'm not quite sure," Ryoga admitted. He reached back and picked up the stick again, carefully poking at the solid ground in front of him. "Humm..."

Ranma blinked a couple of times, "Ryoga - you're not reacting to the stick now. But just then, you did. I thought... What's going on?"

Ryoga put the stick down again and leaned back to look at her, "You're right - I was distracted by the trees. When I touched the stick... I suddenly felt them all around me, particularly the one the stick came from. And I missed my opportunity for attacking the boar. But I wasn't that totally out of it. I knew the boar was still coming at me." He sighed, and stood up, putting his arms around Ranma, "I'm sorry I scared you. I'm sorry... Ranma, sweet - I feel the trees, but it's not so bad. I can still function. Really."

With a sigh, Ranma returned the hug, letting her fears drain away in his care. And then she pushed him slightly back as she turned... The boar had gotten up and was charging them again. Before Ranma could move to defend, Ryoga put an arm in front of her, motioning her back. They both backed up cautiously. And when the boar ran across the ground at them, the ground crumpled in, collapsing down, dropping the boar into a crack of ground. The boar squealed in fright. Shaking his head, Ryoga jumped down into the pit and tossed the boar out. When the boar hit solid ground again, it turned and ran away, as fast as its four hooves would go.

Ryoga climbed out of the pit and dusted his hands in satisfaction, "It worked."

Ranma rolled her eyes at his obliqueness, even as she inspected the formerly solid ground. "Okay - second time - what did you do, Ryoga?"

"I don't know, exactly..." Ryoga glanced at the ground. "It has to do with the earth."

"No kidding."

The corner of Ryoga's mouth twitched up, "Okay. Before, when I was working on the Breaking Point, I had to focus pretty intently to see the routes to break rock to sand. And looking that intently... was like looking at the ki pattern of the ground - separate and unique, but each molecule had a different pattern. There's no way I can comprehend it. So... I kindof unfocused while tracing the pattern, and then could feel the right way to do it. And while I had my ki focused on the earth and my thoughts unfocused... I could feel more than just what I needed for the Breaking Point. I could feel the earth. And the earth pulled me into it so I was seeing things as the earth saw it."

"The earth?" Ranma looked at the ground under his feet. And shifted his weight uneasily. The earth is aware?

Ryoga shrugged, "Sortof the earth. Not like... Well, it was..." Ryoga threw up his hands, "Anyway, I was just getting the idea about the earth, hadn't really explored it when..." Ryoga cleared his throat, "Nevermind." He looked nervously at Ranma, but Ranma was concentrating on the need to know and was steadfastly not thinking of the rest. Noticeably not thinking of the rest. Ryoga cleared his throat again, I'm sorry, but it's all connected. "Just now, when I was reacting... Ah..." So what did happen? "Okay," Ryoga tried to sort it out, "Now, as opposed to then, I have the link to the trees - and after the last couple of days, I've pretty well figured that one out. And when I was linked with the trees through the stick, and felt the danger still coming towards me... I also linked with the earth. It's not the same as the trees... but the link is similar. And... I..." Ryoga paused again, what did I do? I wanted to stop the boar, had no time to do it in...

"You Broke the earth," Ranma said, having analyzed it as Ryoga was figuring it out. "That day, when you were tackling me..." he shivered but kept talking, "you had no warning, no preparation... but managed the sand trick. That wasn't your Breaking Point alone. It was also your connection with the earth. Feeling what the earth could do under the right circumstance and then urging it to do so." He glanced at the pit in the ground, "This wasn't a Breaking Point... but it worked on the same principle of your connection and then the manipulation. Because of your connection, you didn't expend as much energy as you would have trying to do it as if each point was a separate Breaking Point. Instead, you used the energy from the earth itself." Ranma twitched a grin, "You told the earth what to do, and it did it."

Ryoga stared at Ranma. And swallowed. "Uh..." he glanced at the pit, "If you say so..."

Most of what he does is more instinctive than learned, though the learning accentuates the instincts. Ranma studied Ryoga, understanding a bit better what their differences were. And he admired Ryoga for his adaptive instincts. Even as Ryoga admired Ranma for the analyzation he did. My rival and my friend. My only equal. Ranma bit his lip, my love. And then he slipped into memories of under the tree as he had been trying so hard not to.

A jangling along nerve paths... Ryoga turned to Ranma and put his arms around her, "I'm sorry I hurt you. I'm sorry I made you worry. Ranma - I will always come back to you, I promise. I will. Nothing: no boars, no people, no danger, and no hurt; nothing will ever keep me from fulfilling that promise." Ryoga's voice was strong and firm while still gentle and loving. He spoke only the truth. "Believe me. Believe in me and in our love."

"I do," Ranma whispered, pressing herself into Ryoga's strong chest, his living chest, his breathing chest, with the heartbeat strong and steady, "I do." Ryoga, "You are mine and I am yours. It's all right, everything is all right, as long as you are alive. You are alive, and I love you. Ryoga, hold me. Hold me close, so I remember that you are alive."

And Ryoga's arms around her tightened even as he bent his head over her, and he wrapped her tightly in a woven pattern of love and care, with his ki and with his self. Within the weave, Ryoga put his admiration and respect and loyalty and friendship and love for Ranma. He included the ki that was Ranma and the ki that was himself. He put it all together as he held her close as she asked, and he was reassured by the same even as Ranma was. 

"Ryoga, let's go back to the tent now," Ranma whispered into his chest, "We can do the chores later."

After nuzzling her bright red hair for another long moment, Ryoga agreed, and he swung Ranma up into his arms to carry her. Ranma squeaked briefly as her feet left the ground. After a moment, she realized what he was doing and relaxed and looked around curiously, "I kindof like this perspective." Being held in Ryoga's arms... trusting Ryoga to hold me in the air and not let me go. Knowing his care and his strength that holds me up in more ways than one. Yes, I do like this.

Ryoga laughed and kissed her as he walked, "I rather like holding you like this." He grinned down at her. 

Ranma smiled back, looking into his wide brown eyes and getting lost in the depths within... Ranma blinked and wrenched her gaze off his eyes to look around, "Ryoga... where the hell are we?"

"Oops," Ryoga stopped and also looked around.

"Ryoga - let me down," Ranma sighed, then shook her head when he did so. As she felt the spring grass under her feet, Ranma laughed, "Oh, my wonderful love. I do love you so."

Ryoga glanced at her sourly, "And what's that suppose to mean?"

Blue eyes twinkled merrily and Ranma stepped out into the small glade and whirled around in a circle. "Exactly what I said." She breathed in the sweet air and found the flowers that were producing the beautiful scent. Breaking one gently at the stem, she walked back to Ryoga and tucked it behind his ear. And then leaned forward again to smell it, nibbling lightly on the edges of his ear, "Ryoga, love. This is perfect. Absolutely perfect." Ranma backed off, and did another whirl in the glade, smiling happily.

Through different eyes, Ryoga looked again. The glade, with Ranma in it, was beautiful. Just as Ranma was beautiful. Ryoga stopped looking at the glade and focused on Ranma, losing himself in the sight of her. Just as he used to watch Akane. "Ranma, you are so free."

"Huh?" Ranma blinked at the phrasing even as she grinned at the adoring, worshipful look Ryoga was giving her. And then Ranma abruptly twirled around again, sliding into half-kata, half-dance performance to hide her face from Ryoga as she remembered where else she'd seen that look of his. Akane. We can't get away from you, can we? You are always there with us. Ranma had always been jealous of that look that Ryoga gave Akane, recognizing in it some quality of care that he'd never acknowledged. He always used to worry that if Akane ever recognized the strength of Ryoga's care, that she'd fall at his feet and leave Ranma - for how could Ranma compete when he didn't know what that much emotion felt like? Love. I never really knew what it was. Not in this manner. Then Ranma grinned, as he realized that even when he did go back to Akane, he could never give her that same sort of look - Ryoga's total adoration and worship was the way Ryoga's love was expressed, not Ranma's. And how do I express my love? Ranma turned back to Ryoga and brought her movements still, greedily roving her eyes over his body. She reached down to her belt and untied it, letting it flutter to the ground. Then she waited.

Ryoga stepped forward, letting his eyes rove as much as hers. He walked closer... and veered to one side. Ranma blinked as she watched him go by. But Ryoga had detoured for a purpose as he knelt next to another plot of flowers and swept several of them up into his arms. He brought them back and stood in front of Ranma, "You don't mind, do you?"

Flowers... Ranma gazed at them in Ryoga's arms. The last person to give her flowers had been Kuno. Ranma grimaced at the thought.

Instantly, Ryoga dropped the flowers, letting them fall in the air, "Sorry, I thought-" He broke off his apology as Ranma whirled into the speed of her Chestnut Fists to catch the flowers before they hit the ground.

Kneeling on the grass, Ranma looked up at Ryoga with adoring blue eyes, "Ryoga-love, they're from you. Never from anybody else would I accept flowers, but from you they're precious. Just as you are." Ranma stood, holding the flowers, "Ryoga, my precious, priceless, incomparable friend. I love you so much."

Ryoga grinned as he leaned down to kiss her nose, "I'll never get tired of hearing you say that." He glanced around the glade and then back to her, studying her carefully, "Are you sure you're real? The thought that you love me... is so incredible." His hands went up to her shoulders and caressed her gently.

"It's real," Ranma breathed as she closed her eyes just to focus on the feeling of being held. Ryoga's hands on her shoulders were a tingling sensation of delight. She knew exactly what Ryoga had meant with his statement because it reflected her own so well. With one major difference. I had no idea that I could love anyone this much. No wonder he thinks it's unreal - so do I! The fact that she could love someone... And that Ryoga loved her... Ranma opened her eyes again and gazed into his.

Slowly, Ryoga's hands moved from her shoulders around to the front of her shirt, delicately tracing her shoulder bones and then her neck. Holding Ranma's gaze the entire time, his hands lingered for a moment, then undid the first tie.

Locked on the warm brown eyes, Ranma drew in her breath sharply. He hasn't even touched my bare skin yet! And the feeling... Ranma swayed where she stood, overwhelmed.

Ryoga hadn't made it past the first tie when the strength of Ranma's reaction caught him into the same wave and he shut his eyes as he gasped, his blood pulsating quickly and loudly through his body. "Ranma..." he moaned, "sweet Ranma..." With an effort, he opened his eyes and took his hands off her shirt. The blue eyes staring into his implored him to return. It took all his strength of will to reach down and gently take the flowers out of Ranma's hands. He picked one out and tucked it behind her ear, to match the one on him. Then he carefully laid the rest down on the ground beside them. When he straightened up, Ranma's hands were there waiting for him.

First, the belt... Ranma wasn't as inclined to take things as slow as Ryoga, but her fingers were trembling so badly that she was forced to be. Ryoga's hands joined her at his belt and together they undid it. Then Ryoga started to go back to her shirt but Ranma knew well that the moment he reached the second tie on her shirt that she would be lost, situated as the tie was directly on her breasts. Her very sensitive breasts. So she forestalled him by quickly running her hands under his shirt, tugging it upwards and over.

Ryoga gasped again, and this time it was he who swayed, his eyes shutting again as he felt her hands going up his chest... "Ranma, love," he forced his eyes open again, "I'm sorry, but I don't think this time we're going to have much of a span for the loving."

Trembling as badly as he, Ranma spoke softly through the pressure in her throat, "Love, I want you so much right now - I don't think I have the patience to wait. The after is just as good as the before. Take me now, Ryoga. Please, don't you dare try your control on this one." She dropped his shirt down to the ground as she stared up at him.

Ryoga's mouth twitched up as he gave in, "Okay... You asked for it..." He ripped her shirt open in one quick move and leaned his head over to kiss her revealed breasts.

Rising up to her tiptoes as the electric thrill shot through her body, Ranma was delighted with his response. She wiggled out of the remnants of her shirt and then dug her hands into his hair, wrapping her fingers around his bandanna as something to hold onto as she leaned back, driving her breast further into his mouth and her hips towards his.

Not pausing in his attentions to her chest, Ryoga moved his hands to her back and held her securely as he lowered her to the ground. He knelt above her and moved his mouth to hers, bringing his hands from her back to her neck and cheeks, holding her as he kissed her.

Greedily, Ranma kept her hands tightly in his hair as she slipped her tongue into his mouth and dashed it around, tasting him and feeling him. Their tongues brushed against each other, going over and under and around, feeling the roughness of every little tastebud and the smoothness of the muscle. At this moment, it was easy to comprehend how the tongue was the most sensitive organ in the body. Even the heat and need in her groin paled under the experience of having Ryoga's tongue on hers, hers on his, their saliva and passion mixing together.

After a long minute had gone by, Ryoga pulled his mouth off of hers, emitting a low cry of craving and desire that came from the depths of his chest and his heart. He pushed his hips down on hers... And blinked his eyes open in frustration.

Ranma felt it too, and opened her eyes to meet his. She giggled even as she unhooked her hands from his bandanna and reached downwards, "Having the shirts off doesn't do much good if we don't do something about the pants."

Impatiently, they both attended to those small impediments and then turned back to each other. "Where were we?" Ryoga asked with a grin. Then he moved into position as her legs went up to wrap around his bottom. They plunged together with an explosion of feeling that was almost more borne of relief than it was of passion, so impatient they both had been to feel this togetherness. They stayed together for a very long moment without moving, just absorbing the wonderful rhapsody of joy weaving throughout their bodies from where they were joined. Ryoga sighed his contentment and happiness.

"You're not going to stop there, are you?" Ranma asked, grinning wildly as she already knew what the answer would be.

Ryoga grinned back at her. His answer wasn't in words. And yet, as they moved, the words came with the actions as neither of them were inclined to be quiet. They both wanted to express their love for each other in every way possible. Even if the words weren't too thoughtful, they were heartfelt.

"Ryoga! Oh! Oh! More!"

"Ranma! Ranma! Oh! Ranma! You! It's you!"

"It had better be! Ryoga! There... Right there! Eiyyyaaa!"

"Oh Ranma! You feel so good. So wonderful! So amazingly good! Oooo!"

"Ryoga! Can't you go any deeper? Oh, Ryoga! Yes...!"

"Ranma..." Ryoga's breath was a gasping hoarseness as he spoke, "Sorry - can't wait-" The guttural low cry emerged from his throat again and metamorphosed to her name in joy, "Ranma!!!!!!!!!!"

"Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeess!!"

They had both wanted each other so much... As Ryoga leaned back, crying out in his ecstasy, the warmth of his seed penetrated deeply into Ranma and his cry of joy and his passion set Ranma off and she arched on the ground, clinging to Ryoga, crying out in her climax to mingle her voice with his. The rhapsody was made complete as their songs joined in perfect union. Their inferno of passion wrapped around them both even as they were wrapped around each other, burning, flaming, the conflagration shooting up to the skies and beyond. They lay together, panting, out of breath, wholly wrapped in each other and the glow of their love. Even as their minds spiraled together, they continued to hold each other, gently stroking and touching, keeping their bodies together as their hearts were.

 

Eventually, they both came down to the world. The sweet smell of the flowers mingled with the scent of their passion and their release. "Ummm... Ryoga, can we bottle this fragrance? I swear, I'll wear it every day for the rest of my life."

"My sweet love..." Ryoga nuzzled her hair, breathing in, "If you did that, I wouldn't be able to do anything other than make love to you all hours of the day, smelling your love."

"I wouldn't mind that." They were both on their sides, facing each other. Ranma stretched, running her feet along his legs down to his toes and her arms down his waist and thighs, "Oh, that was so good!"

"As wonderful as you are," Ryoga agreed, delighting in the feel of her pressing against him. He brushed his hands over her sides, resting his bottom hand in the curve of her waist and his top on the swell of her hip. "I love you so much."

Ranma grinned - the feeling was as mutual as the words were and she replied in kind, "I'll never tire of hearing you say it. Your love is so amazing and wonderful - Ryoga, you are so alive! You are even more alive than you were before you were dead."

One dark eyebrow rose as Ryoga puzzled out that statement. Then he gave a rueful grin - as was typical, Ranma was right. The depressed, closed person he'd been before... was about the most opposite comparison with how he felt now with Ranma. Ranma hadn't just given him life - he'd given him a reason to live. Ranma had reached out to Ryoga and pulled him to him... pulled him to her, wrapping him so tightly in her care that Ryoga felt Ranma in the soul of his being. He knew her ki now, knew it so well that he would never lose it and would always be able to find it again. Would always be able to find Ranma. His love. The one who loved him. "Ranma, how could you possibly think you haven't given me any gifts? That it was all on my part? Ranma-sweet - you gave me my life, you gave me your love, you gave me your body, and you give me life. Your care, is what makes me live."

Tears dripped out the side of Ranma's eyes as she gazed at him, "I had never cried before I lost you... I don't think I'd ever felt enough emotion to. Now... Now, I'm crying all the time - and they're mostly tears of joy. Ryoga... I love you so much. I am so happy that you are alive. I'm so happy that you care. I'm so happy that you're happy." She grinned, "It took me awhile to figure that one out. Ryoga, I love you. And I know how much you love me. It takes my breath away, knowing how much you care."

"Ditto," Ryoga resorted to slang as he literally had only enough breath for one more word, lost in the brilliance of Ranma's eyes. He brushed the salt remnants of her tears off her face and kissed her gently.

Their hands and bodies gently, slowly, and surely moved on one another as they affirmed their love for each other in leisurely delight. They took joy in the mildest of the pleasures they felt in their bodies and took care not to become overwhelmed with the greatest. Even as they stroked and caressed with touch, they spoke and shared with words, both expressing their love in all the ways possible. As they had earlier, but this time with less urgency and quite a bit more thought. But no less sincerity or depth. The brief words they'd cried out in their passion had come from their hearts, just as the sentences they exchanged now did.

They kept their physical explorations to only with bodies and hands, neither one wanting to move away from watching brown eyes staring into blue eyes looking into brown eyes gazing into... The only times they looked away from each other was when one or the other would move closer for a gentle kiss, then as they moved back, the eyes would lock again.

"Ryoga - would you please blink a bit more often?"

In startlement, Ryoga did so. And felt the dryness of his eyes... Oops. He apologetically blinked several times rapidly, bringing his hands up to her neck and cheeks as he caressed her.

Ranma giggled, "Thank you." She hadn't really thought he was dead - she couldn't possibly think that with the way his hands had been moving on her, and she'd been fascinated with the spark in the brown eyes... but still... it had reminded her. The remembered pain was buffered and swept over with the strength of Ryoga's love.

Even when Ryoga finally entered Ranma, it was still a slow and considering movement, him taking the time to really feel the warmth and tightness of the canal he was penetrating. He could feel her internal muscles clenching around him and her moisture flowing over him... With a long sigh, his eyes closed in utter bliss.

Ranma didn't notice as hers were already closed with the same feelings. Ryoga... within her... The girl's body was made for him - it truly was. As he moved slowly past the nub of her delight it sparked a gentle flame throughout her already well-pleasured body. The feel of his length deep within her, his width barely fitting as she stretched to accommodate. It felt good. It felt so amazingly good. She sighed with him as they both quivered with the rapture.

As one, they moved apart and together, the sensations repeating and blossoming each and every time they did so. "Ryoga... so wonderful..."

The difference between male and female internal physical reactions was a bit more obvious this time as Ranma's pleasure stayed in the utter contented bliss she was feeling and Ryoga started feeling more and more urgency as he moved in her. His breath grew heavy and rapid even as he moaned, rolling them over so he was on top and could thrust faster and harder.

Ranma blinked her eyes open and watched Ryoga even as she moved with him, wrapping her legs around to aid him. I guess I really am a girl... The look of absorption on Ryoga... Ranma now knew well that look and those feelings - a guy's reaction to the physical pleasures. At the moment, Ranma's pleasure was still in the low swells of delight their slow and gentle touches had been giving her, quite unlike her earlier frenzied need for the physical pleasure. Now, Ryoga was moving in her... lost in the physical need. Yet they had been matched just a few minutes ago. I am a girl. Right now. I know damn well that I can experience the same incredible pleasure - Ranma segued thinking about the differences: the girl's body had the incredible climax that took over her whole body and mind, filling her with pleasure that sent her to the stars and back again; the guy's body had an intense explosion of pleasure that rocked his body and stunned the mind; impatiently Ranma got back to her original thought - and yet... I'm not ruled by the pleasure in this body. Not like Ryoga is now. He was with me on the same exploration and gentle caresses, but after he entered me his body's needs took command. Ryoga arched his back and came, ejecting his seed into her again before he folded down, kissing her and telling her how wonderful and magnificent she was. Ranma smiled to hear it, delighting in the joy in those sparkling brown eyes. Living eyes. Loving eyes. Well, when I seduced him the first time, I was counting on the fact that a guy's body is so easily aroused. Ranma grinned, I just hadn't known that my girl's body could be aroused. I'm so happy it can be. So very happy.

Ryoga watched Ranma thinking... and could guess at some of her thoughts. If she'd been staring at him with hungry eyes, he would have done his darndest to bring her to a climax. But instead, she was happily amused at him and content to have seen his joy. Ranma... we are both learning... "I do hope you've been taking notes."

"Huh?" Ranma blinked wide sapphire eyes at him.

Ryoga grinned, "For Akane. When you marry her, I want her to have the most incredible wedding night... You better darn well be paying attention so you can show her the same joy."

Akane... Holding Ryoga close, Ranma blinked again. She... hadn't actually thought about it. "Akane?" But... "Ryoga..." She wanted Ryoga... She wanted... Ranma wanted Akane. Akane that he loved so much without knowing he did. He had known he cared. Now he knew he loved her. Yet he loved Ryoga... He wanted Ryoga... He wanted Akane. Right now, he was with Ryoga...

Ryoga saw the confusion spread in Ranma's eyes and he shrugged very slightly to himself. They'd been putting off thinking about the future because of the moment, but it couldn't be put off forever. "Ranma, sweet," Ryoga stroked his love gently, "We'll always have each other in our hearts - please don't hurt Akane by not telling her how much you love her."

"Ryoga..." Ranma stared up at the one he loved. The one she loved. The gender change was confusing as it hadn't been for a very long time as Ranma tried to think of both Ryoga and Akane in the same thoughts while in the girl's body after just having had sex with Ryoga. It wasn't working too well. Ranma shook his head. Her head. She'd think about it later. At some point when they weren't as wrapped up together. Ranma physically unwrapped her legs and arms from around Ryoga and kissed him gently, "Ryoga, I do love you. And I love Akane... but, let's go back to camp now. I promise I'll think about it. But not now. I'm sorry, but not now."

Rolling off of Ranma, Ryoga watched her in fascination.

"What?" Ranma knew there was something more than just the usual.

"Ranma," Ryoga's voice held the same wonder his eyes showed, "You just made a promise. And meant it."

Briefly, Ranma thought about being indignant of what that implied. But then she shrugged to herself - it was true. Before she and Ryoga had traded their promises... and she had cared so deeply about Ryoga keeping his... Ranma hadn't held the spoken word to be worth much. He had seen too much as his dad and he moved from town to town - and the broken promises weren't all on his dad's side. Despite the multiple fiancee fiascoes and a few other incidents, his dad actually was pretty good about keeping his word. The times he didn't... Ranma had always known that his dad would put Ranma's safety and keeping above anything or anyone else. Even the Cat-Fu... His dad made a show of it now, playing off Ranma's shame, but then... back then, his dad had cried for days in remorse and bitterness. "That was the last time I cried," Ranma suddenly remembered.

"Huh?" It was Ryoga's turn to be baffled, even as he searched around them for their clothing.

"Oba-sama... The lady at the village... Pop and I stayed with her for months and months after the Cat-Fu training. She was the only one who could bring me out of it. Then... she died. She was old... She died and I cried. Then we moved on again and I never cried again after that."

Ryoga stared at Ranma. And then tears fell down his face as he felt the pain that Ranma must have felt then. Though Ranma's voice had been calm as he talked about it. Ranma...

"Huh?" Ranma blinked as he looked up at Ryoga, "Ryoga... what...? Hey, Ryoga, it's okay - it was a long time ago." He sat up and touched Ryoga's shoulder gently.

Putting his arms around Ranma, Ryoga held him close, "I love you. I promise, I will always come back to you. Always. There is nothing - nothing at all - that can ever keep me from coming back to you. I will try to be there whenever you need me, but I can't promise that. But you have my pledge and vow that I will return to you always."

Ryoga... Ranma's breath drew in sharply at the crystal sharp clarity of the vow. It was true. Ryoga's promise held the truth that she knew in her bones and in her blood and in her soul. Ryoga would always come back to her. "I love you, Ryoga. I love you," Ranma returned the depth of feeling in her own truth. It wasn't a vow or a promise - it was the absolute truth. "Ryoga, I love you."

They held each other tightly for several long minutes. When they finally let each other go physically, they were both content in their hearts' closeness.

"Okay," Ranma sighed as she put on her clothing, tying the ripped shirt the best she could, "I guess it's time to try and find our way back..." her words trailed off as she looked around them. She picked up the flowers strewn on the ground and then stood up. And walked to the cliff edge and looked down at the canyon and the valley. I give up already. Ranma shook her head. They weren't in the glade anymore. Wherever the glade had been. It had been real - the flowers proved that. But now... they were back at the valley again. Ranma could see their camp down below. Ryoga, my love - I haven't the foggiest idea how you do it, and I know you don't either... and I give up on trying to figure it out. I really do. It's not logical, it'll never be logical. It's just... Ranma's mouth quirked up as she grinned, "It's Ryoga. It's simply Ryoga."

"Um?" Ryoga finished putting on his own clothes and came over to her, slipping an arm around her waist, "Beautiful view." He grinned as he looked between her and the valley, "And without you, I doubt if I would have noticed how beautiful. You make the world beautiful with your presence."

Ranma looked at him with a sidelong glance and shook her head again. He didn't even notice. He didn't even notice... "Let's go back to camp, my love." With another thought, Ranma added firmly, "I'll lead."

Ryoga smiled affably, content and happy to let her lead.

 


 Notes to Chapter 11:

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