Path of Peace

By RankoSaotome

Disclaimer: Ranma Saotome and the Nerima Wrecking Crew are copyright of Rumiko Takahashi. I, in no way, shape, or form, own any of the characters used in this art of fandom.

Author's Notes: I live... apparently...

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Part 10 I'm a Man and a Woman

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Going with the silver flow;
Of river wide and current deep and slow;
I rest my wings made to soar;
But can I fly anymore?

The river, it goes ever on;
Can heart keep pace;
Rushing swollen till dawn;
Now, I shake off weariness;
And go to meet what I can't guess

The heart has;
These secret currents deep and without guide;
To find out;
Where they will lead I take the plunge eyes wide

I like to know where you're from;
And where you are going to want to travel on

Now I stretch out my wings again;
And take back what I have said

The heart has;
These secret currents deep and without guide;
To find out;
Where they will lead I take the plunge eyes wide

Opening Song to Suikogaiden, Volume 1

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It had been a week and a half since the revelation that she was pregnant, and frankly, Ranma was still at peace with herself. She had been surprised at how little time she'd needed to figure out that she wanted to have the baby. She had thought that there would be a mental and spiritual war between her male and female sides, but... She found he was oddly understanding.

From the female, she got the will of a mother.

From the male, her martial arts code; Protect the weak and helpless.

They were in perfect agreement. You could not get more helpless than an unborn baby. Her male side seemed to be weakening more and more slowly, as if it were fading. Then, when she would think the female side would get stronger, it would pool its strength, to support the male side. She felt odd by that, not able to understand why when she was now fully a woman.

A woman. Not a girl as she had been... Mousse turned her into a woman that day not so long ago. And now, she was a woman carrying a child, if undeveloped for now, and she could not raise a single feeling of distaste for it. In fact, she felt strangely content and even revelled in the knowledge that she would, in a matter of nearly a year, be a mother. She didn't even know whether her child was male or female, yet she knew that no matter what, her love for her child would be unconditional, a polar opposite of how it was with her own parents.

She would be there for her child, whether in rain or sunny weather, come storms and floods, come good times and bad, even if she had to face death to do so. She would not be her own mother nor her own father, if only using their example of what not to do. In that way, she thanked her parents for being irresponsible idiots.

Right now, though, she was sitting before Tadauri-san, though he'd told her to simply call him Rando, having just come out of her meditation for the day. She'd been in her trance for well over two hours, if the simple clock she peered at from the corner of her eyes was to be believed.

"How do you feel, Ranma-chan?" The name did not even phase her, though it had annoyed her to no end a while before when she was still with the Tendos. She simply hated being called it then, but now, she accepted the reference with grace, though it was still taking some getting used to.

"Confused... I feel as if the cloud over my mind has only cleared in a few spots, but placed overcast on areas that were clear prior. For every question answered, it seemed that the puzzle I was carefully building was getting bigger still, and the pieces smaller and far more vast in numbers."

Rando nodded as he stood. Ranma noticed, but remained silent, knowing very well he was contemplating some advice or a possible solution. She'd learned quickly that simply waiting and remaining silent was far more helpful than getting angry or demanding answers. The back of her right hand still stung from the last time he'd rapped her knuckles with a wooden stick for misbehaving, and that had been last week.

"Maybe you are approaching it wrong. Maybe instead of simply seeking answers, you must take time to understand your questions as well." His words were confident, straight, and sensible to Ranma, who could only turn thoughtful at the possibilities. And yet, she still puzzled over the deeper meaning, that maybe her questions weren't as simple as she thought.

"Let me ask you something, for example. You have told me much of your past. Right now, do you think you are a man or a woman?" She looked up, her eyes half-lidded, though she said nothing, just simply gestured to herself.

"I don't think a man would have breasts... Or... menstruation cycles..." She deadpanned, though she said the last part in a low voice. Still, it did bring a chuckle from the old priest's lips, and earned her another rap on the knuckles from his stick. "Ow!" She cried in indignation, cradling her already wounded hand in the crook of her arms to avoid further punishment from the divine oaken paddle.

"Behave, young lady. It may have been funny, but you know very well I do not like when you take up that tone of voice. Understood?"

"Yes, Rando-kun..."

"Good, now, here is another question to make you consider it more seriously. What do you believe my question means? Is it just a matter of gender, or is it something deeper? There are many more things to being a man or a woman rather than your physical form, after all. Consider this, Ranma-chan, and perhaps you may be able to solve the question."

And, with all said and done, Rando walked away, leaving the redhead to ponder his meaning. Of course, Ranma opted not to stick around, retreating for the roof, a place she'd been many times since her arrival in Nerima, granted it was a different roof. Staring up at the sky, she could not help but to think back.

'What makes a man and a woman, huh?' She thought, her gaze remaining upon the sky. Looking back, she acknowledged, she'd relied on Mousse in her fragile state a little too much, something very unlike herself, and she continued to watch the sky. And there, she thought back on all the people she knew, and known, and compared.

'No two people are alike...' She eventually surmissed with a nod. 'There is no single feature, other than anatomy, in which two people are alike... So... is there any characteristics that define the two genders?' She wondered, watching the clouds move along as she considered further. 'Not physically, Rando-san said... Emotionally is the same... And personality... Is there really no characteristic that defines the two? Is there really no line between us... or is there...?'

For all her faults, Ranma was no idiot. She knew the world was cruel and unforgiving, and that rape was a truth to women. But, also, weren't men sometimes also subjected to rape, despite the belief otherwise? Didn't men bleed the same as women, have the same brains, the same life to live to the best they could? The wish to be somebody special? The want to be more than their parents wished? To leave a unique mark on the world?

"We're really... not all that different, are we...?" Deep down, she admitted it to herself, and suddenly, as if by the magic she knew so often, a thought dawned. "There's only a few physical differences... All this... is not something women suffer alone... Men do too... Perhaps at lower levels, but they do..." And, suddenly, she could not find enough feeling in her to fear, nor to smile, nor to cry or even to laugh. For once in her life, Ranma felt her mortality, and knew, without a doubt, that Ryouga was not the one to steal her innocence, her life.

Was she ever innocent? Was her life ever really her own? Or was she merely on borrowed time all her life, since birth? Where was the mark she would be leaving on the world? Could she even leave a mark, unsure of her own identity? Was this a battle she could win?

At the final, a small spark erupted, one not seen in a while. And as the little Ranmas and Rankos of Ranma's body hurried in their deminative, chibified manner, the spark lit once more, then grew. Slowly, a flame once entinguished by rape, relit, and the little chibis cried out in success. The flame grew, and the cries grew louder and more excited. Soon, it happened.

"My... name is Ranma... And I... don't lose."

The will to fight, to live, and to survive, had been revived.

"I am not a man or a woman... I am a man AND a woman. I am ying and yang, and no one can steal that from me. Not Ryoga, not Akane, not Genma, nor Nodoka. Nabiki cannot steal it, Akane cannot insult it. It cannot be coddled, and it cannot be broken. I am... I am myself. And damn be to anyone who tries to tell me otherwise!" Ranma screamed to the heavens as she stood, the shrine priestess' form being engulfed in something rarely seen these days... Her battle aura, a bright blue once more.

"I will settle it all. I realize now my fight isn't over yet. And to all of Nerima, be warned... I will build a place to call my own, my mark on the world... Both for me, for my beloved, and for my child! Nerima, this is not over! My name is Ranma, and I DO NOT LOSE!!!"

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Somehow, this fic has taken an unexpected turn when I first began it. I have recieved words from many that this Ranma is not Ranma, and it could be handled better. Thus, I have pondered long and hard on how to recapture the feeling that this is Ranma and not an OC named Ranma. And it hit me of what I had here. This may be considered not just an OC, but as a Ranma who lost his way, lost his path in life. So, by writing in a simple question, I tried to see where RANMA would take the question, if he'd been lost from his way. He would, in typical Ranma style, refind the will to fight, even if it made no sense. Because, hey, that's how Ranma is. It doesn't always have to make sense to him to fight back.

But on how this fic lost its way is simple. In the beginning, I had a beginning and an ending. But no middle. Oh, sure, I had an outline of things that should happen, but going through the personalities of those Ranma knows, none of them would give up so easily. So, with that in mind, I begin here, where Ranma will not wait to be confronted, but move to confront, unusual for Ranma's character, but I hope to begin to recapture the spirit of Ranma Saotome, while keeping alive the Ranma he has become in this story. I hope the upcoming Ranma will resemble the Ranma of the canon once more as she begins to regain her path enough to close the Ranma Saotome chapter of her life, and begin to forge her own as Ranma, a mother.