A Ranma ½ fanfic by Aondehafka
Disclaimer: the Ranmaverse characters owned by Rumiko Takahashi, and all that obligatory stuff. This story based on the anime, not the manga. Also, there is something loosely inspired by one of Neil Gaiman's Sandman stories, and some Forgotten Realms elements. I used the same names for the Kuno parents as in Jim Robert Bader's story Knights and Warriors; since I didn't know if those names were ever actually given in the original series or not, I figured I'd use someone else's and hope for the best.
This is my first fanfic to be broken into different chapters. Warning: the prologue is a little dark, but the rest of the story won't be so bad.
Prologue: Close the World, Open the Next
"Mistress?" Kodachi didn't look up. "Mistress, I've brought you some tea. And... some food..." Sasuke's voice trailed off. He stood there for a quite a long time, before setting down the tray and walking slowly out of the rose garden.
Kodachi remained kneeling in front of the largest of the black rosebushes. She was clad in the gown she'd expected to wear at her wedding to her darling Ranma... the same dress she'd worn two years ago, at the opening of the Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics match in which the pig-tailed girl had defeated her for the first time at her own game.
The pig-tailed girl... who was her darling Ranma.
Over and over the events of the previous morning played through her mind. She'd been chasing after her beloved, amused at his constant attempts to play hard to get, when a group of children with Super Soaker water guns had decided the pair of them made good targets. And before her disbelieving eyes, her husband-to-be had transformed into the very person who'd fought hardest to keep the Black Rose away from him.
Kodachi was now facing a truth she couldn't handle. Ranma didn't love her, had never loved her. He didn't return a thousandth of the feelings she had for him. And so she retreated to her rose garden, and waited for the misery to end.
That was yesterday. Four untouched trays of food and drink lay near her, proof of Sasuke's well-meaning but ineffectual service.
Probably it would take at least another day, one part of her mind calmly noted. She'd lost a lot of fluid to tears in the early hours, and was definitely experiencing dehydration, but the Kuno clan were extremely tough and she was not yet close to unconsciousness.
-why do you grieve-
Kodachi's gaze focused on the rosebush in front of her. She frowned in bitter anger. She'd already seen all the unnatural sights she wanted the previous day. This hallucination was no welcome visitor.
-we are real-
-not demons of your mind-
-we are the Kindly Ones-
-we heard your heart breaking-
-we tasted your despair-
-tell us what troubles you-
"Very well," Kodachi's voice rasped. Perhaps playing along would end the hallucinatory episode more quickly. She addressed the rosebush, whose flowers were now glowing strange colors and moving in a wind that did not reach her. "The man I love does not love me. Now begone."
-so quick to reject us-
-so quick to spurn aid-
-we can help you-
-we can grant solace to you-
-we can turn your love's heart to you-
Kodachi's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Do not make promises you cannot keep, phantoms."
-we do not-
-we have power beyond your comprehension-
-we will grant you one wish-
-if you first pay the price-
"I will pay any price for Ranma to choose me," whispered Kodachi, not sure she'd accepted that what was happening was real, no longer daring to assume it wasn't.
-stretch out your arm-
Kodachi did so, and a branch of the bush snaked out to wrap around her limb.
-will you pay the price-
"Yes," she whispered, and the thorns drove into her flesh. The tone of the voices changed then.
-you should first have asked what the price was-
-it is everything-
And Kodachi Kuno screamed as the Furies began to drain her life.
-the despair and doomed love-
-and yet it seems muted somehow-
-she wears a mask-
-she hides her true self-
-she wishes to be appealing to her love-
-let us see the true Black Rose-
By now, she could only whimper... and then not even that as her tormentors concentrated and broke the persona she'd worked so hard to build for Ranma to love her. The Furies dived through the glittering fragments, entered Kodachi's mind, and looked into the core of her soul.
For one fatal instant they stopped dead.
And then they tried to flee, but it was too late.
Cords of thought in the shape of thorn branches wrapped around the spirits. Kodachi's hand closed convulsively on the actual branch, which was desperately trying to let go of her. "Do you like pain, Kindly Ones?" she whispered. "You liked mine, just now." The spectral thorns ripped into her oppressors.
The Furies thrashed, but could not free themselves. Their power over the physical realm was enormous... and meaningless in spiritual combat. She'd hidden the depth of her psychosis well. It was far too strong for them to break through, now that the inhibiting mask was gone. They were trapped like beetles pinned to collector's cards, pierced... but still living.
-we will grant your wish-
-only spare us-
Kodachi detected a false note in their offer. "You LIE!" she snarled.
-we cannot force your love to choose you of his own free will-
-this is what you desire-
-but it is a paradox-
-yet we have great power-
-we can break his will-
-and bind his heart to you-
-only free us and we will do this-
The Black Rose regarded her captives. This was true, she sensed. They were obligated to grant her a wish if she paid the toll, and the price had just been renegotiated. "Not good enough."
-what do you want of us-
Kodachi's eyes narrowed. "All your power. And all your knowledge."
-you are mortal-
-this would break you-
"But I am broken already," Kodachi answered, smiling sweetly. "If you are incapable of finding a way to bring Ranma to love me freely, then give me what I need to do it myself."
-free us and this is yours-
"I'm afraid you have the order of the exchange reversed." When the Kindly Ones didn't respond quickly enough to this, Kodachi ground the thorns in deeper. A bit more, and she'd be doing permanent damage. The Black Rose shivered a little at the thought.
-take that which you desire-
A flood of power and especially knowledge hit Kodachi. The Furies were ancient, and had uncovered many of the secrets of creation in the millennia of their existence. Kodachi couldn't even begin to apprehend the information available to her on a conscious level. The Furies had known this, and expected her to be reduced to a mindless vegetable -- just like the last person to make that wish. Instead, after a brief period of disorientation, she closed the surplus information away from her conscious mind, began to instinctively search the different strands of probability for scenes in which Ranma had chosen her, and tried to find a way to bring them from possibility to actuality. This took almost an hour, even processing at her newly-enhanced near-computer-level speed.
Eventually she had a plan that had almost an 80% chance of success. It was ambitious beyond belief, and it would bring her much more than Ranma if it worked as it should... but then she realized she wouldn't be able to muster the power to activate the critical first phase. What the Kindly Ones had donated to her was just slightly insufficient.
-we kept our bargain-
-now release us-
Her attention was drawn back to the Furies, still in her grasp and drained of all active strength. It was clear they were frightened nearly to incoherence by her continued survival. Kodachi smiled She would show them just how far the Black Rose would go for love. "For Ranma, I would do far more than hurt you, miserable demons. I would burn the world if that was what it took to create a new one just for the two of us. I will even give up myself and all that I am, to be a new person that Ranma can love. But I'm afraid I do need a little more power for my plan to work." She smiled, and slowly drained all their life force. Their dying curses were quite inventive, but powerless.
Kodachi gasped as the new surge of energy hit her. Yes, this should be enough. She paused one moment, saying goodbye to the Black Rose, then filtered a tiny fraction of the power through the tissues of her body. Two fairly significant changes took place, though she was careful not to make them something that would pass on to her children. Kodachi then began to form a template of energy in the air before her -- a triple helix, oddly contorted, that spiraled in toward a central point. She took a deep breath, knowing that if what she tried next failed, the entire planet would be torn apart in a subspace anomaly. Meddling with the underlying laws of the universe wasn't something that a mortal should attempt.
It had been a long time since Kodachi had considered any limitations to apply to her. She focused all her stolen power into the spiral, except for one scrap hidden deep within her, and collapsed it into the central point.
And time turned backward eighteen years.
Moemi Hamabusa looked sympathetically at her husband. He'd obviously had a hard day at the hospital. "Do you want to talk about it?" she asked gently.
Jin sighed deeply. "A little girl was born today with both albinism and hemophilia. The delivery was touch and go, and she still may not survive. Telling her parents was the hardest thing I've done so far as a doctor. They gave her a warrior's name, and she'll definitely need all the fight she can muster. Poor little Kodachi."
Kodachi at age five...
His little sister might be entranced by this, but Tatewaki was bored. He didn't know why Dachi liked to watch their mother practise all the time. It might have been Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics, but it was nowhere near as exciting as when their father trained in the kendo forms. He couldn't wait for Father to start teaching him. He felt a little sorry for his sister; Kodachi had wanted to learn to do what their mother did, but she'd been told it was only for big girls, and she wouldn't be able to start learning until she was at least twenty. Neither child realized this was their parents' way of dodging until Kodachi would be old enough to realize her condition made such things impossible.
Kodachi at age seven...
Godai Kuno held his daughter as she cried. His poor little Dachi was so tired of living as if wrapped in cotton wool, like some fragile treasure that would break at the slightest pressure. Unfortunately, that was more or less the case.
"Daddy?" she sniffled. "Will I ever have adventures like Tokiko?" That was the heroine of the bed-time story he'd read with her the past few nights.
"Maybe someday, little one," he said, hating himself but unable to stop the comforting false promises. "Maybe when you're older."
"Maybe when I don't bleed forever from cuts Tachi wouldn't even notice." She'd accidentally cut herself today, which had meant stitches. Kodachi hated it. "I wish a magical prince would come and heal me, like Shakujo did for Tokiko." The only remnant of a future that would never be kindled to life at this. A long-dormant pulse of energy awakened, imprinted a compulsion into her father, and expired.
Kodachi at age eight...
Hitome Kuno looked in at her daughter. She was sleeping like a little angel, bathed in the warm glow of a very special night-light. Hitome breathed a deep sigh of relief. That had been the worst nightmare she'd ever had. She'd dreamed that Kodachi had been born normal, which was not in itself bad; in fact some of her most pleasant dreams over the last year had been of teaching her little girl the basics of Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics. In those dreams Kodachi had had black hair like her own, instead of snow-white.
And in those dreams, since Kodachi was perfectly healthy, her husband had never gone off on his quest. A quest to find a cure for their little girl. He was determined to find a way to succeed with magic where medical science was powerless. She remembered the arguments they'd had when he first told her of his decision to relinquish control of Kuno Pharmaceuticals to subordinates and leave on what his wife considered a fool's errand. But he had announced in front of the children that he would find a cure for Kodachi, and after seeing her daughter's joy, she couldn't refuse him. Hitome had hated him, then, for what he had done. She'd never believed there was any chance for success.
Now, though, at least she had hope. Though her husband had yet to find a cure, he had brought back many gifts for his family that quickly ended her disbelief in magic. She now dared to believe a cure might exist, somewhere, and her husband would never give up on searching for it.
Far better the way things were than what she'd dreamed tonight. She shuddered at the memory. Her husband had still been the active head of Kuno Pharmaceuticals, and he had recently fired an overpromoted executive. This particular man had not chosen to accept his fate with resignation. Instead he had hired an assassin, who had crept into their home and brutally murdered her in front of her children, then told them it was their fault their mother had to die. The dream had ended with the knowledge that no member of her family would ever recover from that experience.
But it had just been a dream. Hitome gazed upon her daughter's colorless form, and the softly glowing crystal globe that floated in midair, and smiled. Her father's first gift to Dachi was still her favorite. It had let her know for sure that magic wasn't just in stories. And someday, maybe she'd have adventures of her own.
Kodachi at age nine...
The man in front of her didn't look like a magical prince. More like someone's kindly old gaijin grandfather, Kodachi decided. His skin was wrinkly and his hair was white, but his eyes were bright and clear. He wore long red robes. Kodachi supposed they could be magical, but armor would have been much more impressive. And his long staff just looked like plain wood.
"My dear, your Daddy has told me a lot about you. He said if any little girl deserved to be able to have adventures, it was you."
"Can you really cure me?" Kodachi asked shyly.
"Well, that depends. What do you want from me?"
"I want to be able to run and jump and do Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics like Mother and stay out in the sun as long as I want without burning and go on adventures and never ever have to worry about getting hurt again!" Kodachi could see her outburst had taken the old man by surprise, but she'd thought he might be offering her a wish, and she'd already planned out what wish she'd make if given the chance.
"I think I can do MOST of that," he said to her. "If you want it, I can wake the dragon in you."
"What's that mean?" Kodachi knew from stories that some dragons were good and others weren't. She'd never known one was in her!
"It's an expression for increasing the amount of chi energy in your body. It's not a real dragon -- it just fills you full of power. Once I've done it, you'll heal almost instantly from just about any wound, and never get sunburned again. You can learn to use the energy to run longer and jump farther, and lots of other things, but that will take practise." He took note of her confusion. "Don't worry, little one. I'll leave some scrolls with your parents for you to read and learn from. For now, all that will happen is you won't get hurt anymore." He winked at her. "But eventually you'll be able to do something like this."
Kodachi's eyes widened as she began to float in the air. Her brother looked a little envious, so Elminster levitated him too. Off to one side, Hitome forced herself not to dash over to protect her daughter. Her husband put his arm around her. "Don't worry, dear. She's safe in his care. Elminster would never allow a child to be hurt."
"Can he really cure her?"
Godai thought back to the evidences he'd seen of the archmage's power. "Beyond a shadow of a doubt," he replied. "The old man may know the meaning of the word limits, but he hasn't experienced them in either of our lifetimes." 'Or our fathers', or their fathers', or...'
"Did you have to pay a... very high price for his aid?" his wife asked haltingly.
"It will be fairly expensive, but it's nothing the company can't handle." Kuno Pharmaceuticals had been one of the most profitable firms in Japan for eight years now.
"You mean... he's only asking for money?" By now, Hitome had read many legends of magic, and the price of a wish was usually much less mundane in the stories.
"More like services. We'll be purchasing several thousand square miles of land in the American West, and helping a group of people obtain American citizenship and settle there." Someday he'd tell his wife about how he and a band of allies had raided the underground cities of the Drow in that other world, stealing the dark elven children before they could be sacrificed or corrupted by the evil of Lloth. The infants had been adopted by childless light elven couples, and the new families would find a new life in a literal New World, aided by Elminster's disguise magic.
"I can't wait to start training our little girl. And Tachi will be so glad you can spend more time on his kendo lessons." Hitome looked wistfully at the husband she'd seen for less than six months total time in the past two years. "Do you think you could wait at least a few months before going back to your position at the company?"
"I'm not going back at all. Why should I? They're doing fine without me, and even if they weren't we have enough money saved to live the rest of our lives on. My long journey has taught me there are only three things truly important to me... and you're all here in this room."
A second chance. How many people would give everything for that? Even better if you can make others pay the price for your shot at redemption (no, I personally don't believe that, but you'd better believe the Kodachi we're familiar with would).
After the point of restart (Kodachi's birth), everything not somehow affected by the ripples of the newly-introduced change will happen again as it happened before, due to the law of relativistic inertia. Occurrences of déjà vu will be unusually common, though.
Nobody has any true memories of the way things have gone previously (although Hitome's dreams are accurate glimpses of the original timeline. Don't expect any more of those now that time has progressed past the point where she once died). The Black Rose could have kept the knowledge, but understood she needed to make a clean start. So what will Kodachi and Tatewaki be like this time around, with a stable and supportive family instead of a devastating childhood tragedy? And what impact will this have on the life of our favorite pigtailed martial artist? Read on and see!