I stand before a grave. I need not read the writing upon the stone; I know it intimately. I know whose ashes are lying here.
I turn my back, not wanting to see it any longer, and start walking away through the graveyard, keeping my head down. I don't want to see any markers. To me they all bear just one name.
Before I know it, I'm home and kneeling before the shrine. I ring the bell and light the incense, but the act is hollow. How can you mourn properly when you know it's your fault. Your guilt won't let you say goodbye, won't allow you to let go.
I look up and my eyes fall upon the picture. So beautiful, so alive, so far gone. I want to look away and run, but find myself studying her features again. This face that I know so well. This face that was mine and yet wasn't.
The Hiragana spell out a name. Ranma.
I blink and wake up, drenched in sweat. Again. I know at once that there is no grave, no shrine. What would they bury, and why would they mourn? Nobody knows the terrible truth but me. The truth is that somebody died when I jumped into the Nanniichuan to end my "curse" - and that somebody was me.
For a short time - too, too short - a part of my soul that I didn't even know existed was freed, and I never realized it until it was gone again. Gone back to where it was before, incarcerated, non-existent, in the dark abyss of my mind. Now I am back to what I was once before - all man, all incomplete.
My wife stirs next to me. "Ranma, what is it?" she asks me.
I lie to her and tell the truth at the same time. "Just a bad dream. Don't worry."
She reaches out with one hand and caresses my cheek. She smiles at me and for a moment everything is right. She has that power and it grows stronger every day. But when the moment passes and we go back to sleep - real in her case, faked in mine - my dark mood returns.
I'm married now, but was it worth the price I paid? Was she worth it? Yes, I tell myself, she was, and I'd do it again if I had to. But it doesn't sound convincing. The trouble is that I didn't even pay the price for her, for this. I thought I did, at the time, but I was wrong. None of my problems were solved, and the distance between us was not any less than before. I killed part of myself for nothing.
Every time I take a bath I realize again just how much I sacrificed senselessly, only so I didn't have to admit to myself that I had to solve my problems by working on them, instead of searching for miracle cures. When the others see my reaction I lie to them and tell the truth at the same time. I tell them that I avoid the touch of cold water because it reminds me.
It reminds me that I once was complete.
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