The Game of Life
a Shortfic by Dot

Akane opened her eyes to find Ranma watching over her, and reacted on instinct.  “You pervert!” she screamed, feeling her blood boil, and the ever-so-familiar mallet—where in the world did she get them from, anyway?—made a smooth arc towards making Ranma pancake.  “What are you doing in my room?”

Ranma blocked the mallet she sent crashing his way with ease.  “Please, Akane.  Not now.” Akane felt her grip on her mallet go limp as Ranma set a gentle hand on her cheek.  “Just let me stay here for a little while longer, and then I’ll leave you alone.”

Akane’s heart hammered in her chest as Ranma’s contemplative eyes bore into hers.  “R-ranma?”

“One year,” it came out as a mere whisper.  “I can’t believe I’ve been here for a whole year.  Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?”

“W-what are you talking about?”

Ranma looked away.  “I’m not really supposed to tell you, but—”

Akane grabbed Ranma’s shirt and pulled him close.  “Please! Tell me!”

“Well,” Ranma took in a deep breath.  “Do you remember that wish you made before I came to your house?”

“Wish? What wish?” Akane thought back to the tearful nights she spent after Kuno had first announced to the entire school the terms of dating Akane.  “Oh, you mean when I wished for a different life?”

Ranma nodded.  “And then that lady at the strange store sold you that game?”

“Yeah! I never did get around to really starting that game.” Akane thought of something.  “Wait a minute! I never told you about any of that! How do you know about it?”

Ranma lowered his eyes for a moment.  “You did start playing that game, Akane, just without realizing it.”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand!”

Ranma walked over to the window, opened it, jumped onto the windowsill, and extended his hand.  “I’ll show you.”

After some hesitation, Akane took it, and let out a yelp as Ranma flew into the air. “Where are we going?” she shouted above the whistling wind.

“You’ll see!” Ranma shouted back.  As they rose higher, the winds became so harsh that Akane had to squeeze her eyes shut.

Since when did Ranma learn how to fly? she wondered as they continued to soar upwards.  Finally, Akane felt Ranma stop and steady her with his arms.

“Open your eyes.”

Akane did, and gasped.

The world was square.  And flat.  And, if Akane concentrated hard enough, she could make out an enormous spinner in the distance by the early morning light.

“The game began the moment you made that wish,” Ranma explained.  “Everything that’s happened since then, everyone who’s shown up, and every place you’ve gone, part of that game.”

Akane boggled at this.  “Everything?”

“Yes, everything.  It was all created for you.”

“Do—um—” Akane gestured towards the game board.  “The rest of them know this?”

“No, I’m the only one.” Ranma sighed.  “But now—”

Akane followed Ranma’s gaze and gasped again.  Below them, close to where the Tendou residence sat, was a large square marked “FINISH”.  “So, what happens when we get to ‘finish’?” Akane asked.  Getting no answer from Ranma, she blanched.  “No!”

“Yes.” Ranma blinked away the tears that were threatening to form at the edge of his eyes.  “I’m sorry.”

“No! No! NO!” Akane screamed.  “I don’t want it to end! Everything—and everyone—” She looked at Ranma, and her voice broke.  “Ranma,” She grabbed Ranma in a tight hug.  “I don’t want you to go!”

“I’m sorry,” Ranma repeated, this time unable to stop the tears from streaming down his face.

Akane pushed Ranma back a bit and wiped her eyes.  “What do you mean you’re sorry?” She demanded, letting her grief and shock fuel her anger.  “You can’t just stand there and do nothing! That’s not the Ranma I know! Even if you couldn’t succeed the first time, you would try to figure something out! So why are you looking so helpless?”

Ranma lowered his eyes again.  “Because I’m not the one who can decide what happens next.” He looked back up at Akane.  “You are.”

“M-me?” Akane stuttered, taken aback.

“There is a way.” Ranma paused, as if deciding whether to pulge what he knew.

“What?”, Akane exclaimed, a spark of hope erupting in her heart and flowing into her eyes. “Ranma, tell me! Please!”

Ranma continued, a reluctant look still on his face, “There’s a way to keep the game going indefinitely.”

“Really? How?”

“But would you really want to, Akane? To put up with all the insanity we’ve gone through day in and day out for the rest of your life?”

“Yes!” Akane replied without any hesitation.  “I don’t ever want to go back to the way things were!” She shot Ranma a shy look, and added: “Besides, you can be an okay guy when you’re not a perverted, insensitive jerk.”

Ranma blushed for a few seconds, then looked serious again.  “You sure about this?”

“Absolutely.” Akane was resolute.

“All right.  Hang on tight.” Ranma waited for Akane to grab onto him again before closing his eyes and holding out his right hand.  The ‘finish’ square began pulsing and glowing, and Akane felt an invisible force pushing her back.  Akane had to shield her eyes as well from the blinding light and hang on with an even stronger grip.

When she opened her eyes, she was back in her room with Ranma.  “What happened? What did you do?”

“I looped the game board back onto itself,” Ranma answered, looking a bit tired.

“So that means—” Akane was cut off in mid-sentence by a loud crash from downstairs.

“Where is Airen? Shampoo bring yummy lunch!”

“Quack! Quack!”

“Stupid Mousse! Leave Shampoo alone!”

“Hey! HEY!” Nabiki’s irritated voice cut in above the din.  “Some people are trying to SLEEP, you know!”

Another loud crash sounded.

“Where in the world am I now?”

“Look around. Where else could this be?”

Ranma and Akane looked at each other and smiled.

“Want to join them?” Ranma asked.

“Of course!” Akane beamed.  She hefted the mallet she had dropped earlier and assumed the angriest stance she could manage.  “RANMA, YOU BIG DUMMY!”

Ranma made a playful face at her before making a dash for the door.  “UNCUTE TOMBOY!”

“My dream is to play with…all of them. Forever and ever.” -Lum, Urusei Yastura 2: Beautiful Dreamer