The train Ranma and her mother arrived on leaves the station and they make their way through a crowded platform. Most of the people dressed in business attire are the early start of the crowds getting off from work. Weaving through the crowds, they make their way down the stairs to emerge on the street. Ranma has never been to the shopping district known as Juuban that is just a couple of blocks up the street. Turning to her mother Ranma inquires, "Which way mom to the shrine?"
Nodoka Saotome gives attention to her new daughter who was originally her daughter before Genma's tragic deal with an ogre caused Ranma to be born as her son instead. Ranma looks completely uncomfortable in the elegant kimono. She knows Ranma has been avoiding thinking to much about the recent changes but sooner or later Nodoka expects having to help her deal with the emotions of the deaths and loss of what she considers her true gender. Nodoka gives her an encouraging smile and nods, "It's about three blocks up this street then a couple of blocks to the right."
They start walking along the street with Ranma looking around trying to learn the area. She sees many shops and western flavored restaurants. She immediately grins uncontrollably as she sees an ice cream shop among the stores. Nodoka seeing the smile on Ranma's face can't help but laugh lightly. "After the shrine do you want to stop by there for a treat dear?"
Ranma gazes up to her mother's face as she gets visibly excited. "That sounds great mom," she says. She returns to her earlier neutral mood though and asks, "Where's the house at too? I never knew there was another Saotome house."
"Actually, it was your grandparent's but sadly I allowed it to become run down since mother died about seven years ago. Your grandfather passed away about thirteen months before her. She loved him so much her spirit just withered away after his death. I wish you could have met them while you were old enough to remember them."
"What were they like? Actually, what are any of my relatives like? I don't think I know of any because of pops," Ranma asks her mother. They are crossing a street when a raven hair girl jostled by the crowd bumps into Nodoka causing her to stumble and fall but Ranma reacts quickly to steady her mother.
"Pardon me for nearly knocking you down," the girl says after they are on the increasingly crowded sidewalk on the other side. She then looks a little closer and recognition shows in her eyes. "Saotome-san, how are you today?"
"Well hello Rei, we were just on our way to your shrine actually. Ranma and I wanted to pay our respects to the passing of a dear, sweet young woman that was a good friend of Ranma's and was like a niece to me," she tells Rei as the three of them continue walking on the way to the shrine.
Rei looks sadly at the two and offers, "I'm so sorry to hear that and you're welcome to spend as much time that you need there. If you'd like, I can make some tea afterwards and we can talk." Mrs. Saotome smiles at her nodding. Rei notices the young girl with Mrs. Saotome has a heavy burden of grief and guilt etched into her eyes though she is putting up a brave front. "Saotome-san, I thought you said before that Ranma was your son."
A look of brief panic shows on the girl's face before Mrs. Saotome answers, "She was my son but believe it or not recently we have been witness to the tragedy of magic, curses, onis and even more crazy things. I'd appreciate it Rei if you would be Ranma's friend." She looks over to Ranma, "That's if you'd like to make friends with her dear. I know your father made your life hard to make and keep friends, but I've known Rei for years and she's a wonderful girl. She works at her grandfather's shrine and it's close to our house. In fact our house and the shrine are only separated by a park."
Rei decides to help the girl after watching her try to work out her thoughts on it, "Hi, I'm Hino Rei, pleased to meet you."
Ranma pauses in thought for a minute before smiling and returns, "I'm Saotome Ranma. Hi Rei, nice to meet you too." Ranma hopes maybe for the first time in awhile she might actually make a true friend. It doesn't hurt that she has already heard a bit about her change and doesn't hold it against her by calling her a pervert or considering her a freak.
"I've seen people working on the house so are you moving back into your parents' house?" Rei asks and as Mrs. Saotome nods. "I guess Ranma will be attending Juuban High School, I have several friends that go there if you want to meet them Ranma. I guess they're probably a couple of years behind you but they're really nice girls though a couple of them are a bit boy crazy."
Ranma upon hearing 'boy crazy' suddenly remembers that to the rest of the world she is only a girl now and that means having to put up with boys trying to get her attention, which causes her smile to dim. A loud roar followed by the panicked and frightened screams of people as they run from a book store interrupts her thoughts.
Ranma's long years of training snaps her body into a ready stance as she assesses the commotion seeing the last of the people fleeing the store. It appears to be a normal book store until large store front window explodes outward showering the ground with shards of glass for dozens of feet. Ranma steps protectively in front of her mother and Rei. "Mom, you and Rei get out of here. I ain't dressed for a fight but whatever it is I'll try to stop it or slow it down and lead it away from the people here if I hafta."
"Ranma be careful, you know Doctor Tofu didn't want you to fight until you're healed," Ranma's mother voices her concern.
"I know mom, but I've got no choice. I don't consider myself a martial artist any more but it's still my duty to protect the weak. Now go on, get to safety, I'll be fine. I'm Ranma Saotome and I never lose."
Her mother appears torn for a moment then concedes, "Ranma, remember your sword," as she turns pulls Rei along with her.
Rei is shocked at the girl and her mother. Ranma is planning to try to fight a monster, probably a youma in fact, and her mother is letting her sacrifice her life. She looks at Mrs. Saotome, "You can't be seriously thinking of letting her fight that can you? She'll be killed!"
Nodoka continues pulling Rei along away from Ranma, "She's been training as a martial artist almost since birth and there's no way you or I can prevent her from dealing with whatever it is. Now please Rei, we need to get out of her way so she can focus on the fight. She's still not a 100 right now. She was forced to fight and kill a couple of ogres not even a week ago and still needs to heal but that won't stop her." As Nodoka finishes convincing Rei not to resist her they move down the street about a block where they can see Ranma facing the store.
Rei glances back up the street watching as Ranma strips part of her clothes off trying to gain some semblance of freedom of movement. She tries to think of some way to find a place to change but Mrs. Saotome grips her arm tightly in nervous concern. "I think one of us should go call the Police. We just can't let her fight alone."
Removing as much as she can without compromising her modesty, Ranma pulls out her sword and using the technique her mother taught her extends it back to its true size. She had dropped the obi from her kimono but kept the small sash that was over it and is using it to hold the scabbard on her left hip. She kicks off the Getas deciding to fight in the Tabi making sure she knows where all the glass is so it doesn't cut up her feet in only socks.
She sees a dark shape moving around in the store and appears to be pulling down shelves of books after another. She judges the height to be about six feet tall walking on two powerful legs with strong looking arms. She can only make out that much detail while it is inside the now powerless store. The figure reaches down to the ground after ripping out the latest shelf of books examining one book in particular. Ranma sees a small swirling of green lights from the pages of the open book until the figure shuts it and picks it up. From the light, though Ranma saw the face of the figure. His face was pale, unnaturally pale. Ranma guesses you would call it a handsome face, not that she considers it handsome, but the man's face was too perfect.
She feels what she can only describe as a warning from her sword as her right hand rests on the hilt. Trusting her interpretation of sword, she draws it out and gets into a defensive sword form she learned from a dojo in Saga several years ago. Her sword springs to life with a steady white glow with traces of green patterns of light flowing over the surface of the blade. She feels some of the aches and soreness of her injuries fade and after fifteen seconds, the green patterns fade from the blade leaving her not healed but much healthier.
The man looks up at a glow from the corner of his eye and sees a young girl about 16 or 17 wearing a disheveled kimono with a number of undergarments and strips of the kimono torn off and lying beside her. The glowing sword captures his full attention as he feels the energy of the blade across the distance of nearly forty feet. "Sunlight's Wrath," he whispers. He stands up while putting the book he has into his long coat staring at her. He notices her beauty and idly considers trying to change her. "First things first, Detlev," he tells himself.
Ranma watches the man walk up to the blown out window and steps outside through it. His heavy black boots crunching as he walks over the glass shards. He is wearing all black, his black jeans going into his boots showing knives tucked into each boot. He wears a black belt with a golden belt buckle that shows a black heart chained down by golden chains almost looking like the heart is struggling to break free before her eyes. He wears a black dress shirt with the upper two buttons undone showing his equally pale chest. A long coat stops inches from the ground. Ranma notices he is not sweating from the coat though it is still warm outside today. His body appears in great shape as the muscles in his legs, arms and even chest attest. His hands are strong with fingernails a little too long for a man.
She tenses as she makes eye contact with his grayish blue eyes. Those eyes look like they are piercing into her soul and she struggles not to look away in shame of her past deeds. Setting her face as casually neutral as she can, she takes note of his blond hair slicked back looking like he has just waked out of the shower. She stops herself from thinking further on that path as unbidden images of him about to step out of the steam from a shower into clear view. She sees him smirk as she forces the image away. "A strong one I see. Of course she wouldn't have picked you otherwise," he comments to her calmly in a rich voice with a European accent.
Ranma displays confusion for a moment trying to understand his comment, "She? You talkin' about my sword?" Ranma blurts out.
He lets out a genuine laugh, "Ah, I see she hasn't even talked with you yet. I swear if my lord and master not have me on this mission I'd take you from her and claim you for myself. I've always loved pissing her off. She's got a vanity problem you know and I just enjoy seeing her knocked a peg or two whenever I can." He starts to walk away when Ranma shifts her stance signaling to him that she will not be letting him to walk away.
Giving a melodramatic sigh, he looks at Ranma again, "I guess you're planning on stopping me? You're not even fully recovered from whatever last fight you had and you've got no clue what she's dragging you into."
"I've got no idea who you keep calling "she" but I want answers even if I hafta kick your ass and I'll take that book you took also," Ranma says in frustration.
The man smiles back, "Feisty to match the hair color, you definitely have the spirit she likes but as to me telling you who she is? Nope, it just makes you look cuter with that look of frustration and besides, I'd hate to spoil the surprise. Oh, and you're not ready yet to stop me and definitely can't take this book Miss Saotome."
Ranma's surprise clearly shows on her face, "How do you know my name?"
He suddenly crouches low to the ground raising his hands up ready to fight, "I know your family name but not your first. When she does finally gets around to meeting you then you will know how I know. Do me a favor beautiful and let her know Detlev says "Hi" and that I will take you from her. I just know that will start her blood to boiling."
"Saotome Ranma, and if you're finished blabbing nonsense we can start with me showing how to really fight."
Detlev stands up straight for a minute looking up as in thought, "Hmmm, I guess now is as good of a time as any for your first lesson." He suddenly squats down, grabs two of the four knives in his boots, and whips them towards Ranma in a single motion. The knives fly accurately towards Ranma in a blink of the eye.
Just as fast as Detlev moves Ranma pulls up her blade to deflect the knife targeted at her left arm while bending to the left as the other knife just flies past her right arm.
"I'm impressed my lovely, I thought she picked you only because of your beauty and not for your skill. I doubt it was just your skill though. As I said, she does have a vanity issue," he says as he draws out the last two knives and stands ready with his left arm in front with the blade pointing up. His right arm bends closer to his chest with the blade pointing up and to the left. He stalks forward watching her movements trying to learn her form to find the weakness of it.
Ranma slips into an attack posture and makes her first offensive strikes. She uses a series of downwards strikes but finds each strike parried with one or the other knife. She tries to increase the power of the strike but he still blocks each blow with just a single knife. She disengages from the attack and slips in a different defensive stance with the sword.
Detlev takes notice she has just changed style on him causing him to wonder just how much training she does have. His grin just widens as he launches his offensive strikes on her and starts to enjoy the fight. He increases his speed trying to find an opening in her defense but her sword counters each blade.
Ranma shifts forms yet again and launches another flurry of attacks at him. She feigns a strike to the right and he moves to block it only to have her left fist slam into his face. His head never moves from the blow and Ranma yanks back her hand in severe pain. "What the hell, did the old ghoul teach you the Bakusai Tenketsu?"
Detlev pauses passing up the chance to counter-attack, "What could a ghoul teach me, they're just slaves."
Ranma gets a confused look on her face, but it fades instantly as she is under direct attack again by faster and faster strikes. Unconsciously Ranma notices her blade still glows white but now a pattern of yellow mixes in as she blocks and dodges faster and faster approaching then surpassing her Kachū Tenshin Amaguriken speed.
Grinning at the fun he is having, Detlev keeps increasing his pace of attacks to find out the young lady's limits. As she avoids each blade his desires for her grows. Stepping back to give her a moment of rest he decides he will give her a taste of his true abilities. "You are very good and though this is incredibly fun, I must leave now but I will leave you with a small gift. My master's mission comes first, but I promise you we will meet again. I will make sure I give you my full attention then my dear."
Ranma feels slightly winded, but she forces herself to prepare for defense again. His agility impresses and worries her since she detects he still isn't going full speed. Watching him closely for any signals, she is staggered when a wave of dark energy crashes over her senses and he is suddenly behind her with a knife at her throat. She feels his breath as he leans close to her ear and fights to suppress the urge to shudder. "You can't hope to compete with me until you're trained by your new mistress. I already long for our next meeting my delectable warrior," He whispers to her then lightly bites her neck drawing small drops of blood then with almost a kiss and almost a lick he tastes her neck and blood. As Ranma shivers in fear, he taps the back of her neck and she collapses in his arms. Gently laying the unconscious Ranma on the ground he lingers for a moment before bowing to Nodoka and Rei who are still watching then turns and walks away before vanishing from sight.
Almost in a panic, Nodoka rushes to her daughter with Rei only a step behind her. As she kneels down relief floods over her as she sees Ranma's slow and steady breath. She leans over brushing the sweat from Ranma's brow and looks up to Rei, "Rei could you be a dear and help me carry her to the shrine? I don't see any injuries so it appears she's only knocked out." Nodoka quickly picks up all the strewn remnants of the kimono and bundles them up under her left arm. She stands up and between them; they pick up Ranma and drape one of her arm over each of their shoulders carrying her along the street the last block to the entrance of the shrine.
They slow down as the stairs leading from the street to the shrine takes more effort. Finally reaching the top of the stairs, they pause catching their breath. "Saotome-san do you know who that man was and how did Ranma fight like that? Is it the sword? Is it magical?" Rei asks Mrs. Saotome trying to figure out just who or what this girl Ranma Saotome really is.
Unable to suppress a smile of pride with her daughter's skill Nodoka replies, "She does have our family sword which does possess magic but that wasn't the work of her sword. She's an incredibly skilled Martial Artist trained to be the best by her father. Her father turned out to be the ultimate idiot with some of the brainless training techniques he put her thru. I'll let her tell her story in her own time needless to say it may take her a bit to get confident enough." Checking to verify that Rei is ready, they start walking the final distance to the temple.
The rest of the walk is easy after the stairs and they quickly reach the temple itself. Rei leads them to an empty room with a futon and soon Ranma is lying on it. "I'll get us some tea and bring back a wet cloth for her," Rei says as she leaves the room. As she enters the kitchen, her grandfather is sipping a fresh cup of tea.
"Ah Rei, I didn't expect you to be late today. Did you go somewhere with your friends this afternoon?" he asks when he looks up to her.
"No grandfather, I ran into Saotome-san and her daughter near here but there was some kind of an attack at The Fable Bookstore up the block," Rei answers while fixing the tea and retrieving three cups then opening a drawer and removing a dish towel to wet it.
"Oh no, was anyone hurt?" he asks in concern.
"Doesn't appear anyone was, Ranma, Saotome-san's daughter fought with the man to make sure no one would be hurt. I've never seen anyone fight as she did on skill alone. According to Saotome-san Ranma has been training her whole life." Rei finishes wetting the towel and folds it neatly.
"She ok?" he inquires noting the towel she is preparing.
"Yeah, but whoever that man was he knocked her out so we brought her here to rest. I put her in the spare room next to mine," she says as she places everything on a tray. "I don't know how long she will be out but I think we should offer them to stay the night."
"Excellent idea Rei, maybe I can get her to be a shrine maiden here," he tells her with a gleam in his eye.
Rei just shakes her head as walks out of the kitchen and to the room where Ranma rests with her mother sitting near. Mrs. Saotome sitting on her heels holds Ranma's left hand. "Here's the tea and the compress for Ranma," she hands the cloth to Mrs. Saotome then sits after setting the tray down.
"Thank you dear," she takes the wet cloth and gently wipes Ranma's face. She then places it on her forehead. Rei offers her a cup of tea and she accepts it.
"I talked with grandfather and he agrees the both of you should stay the night here. There's another futon in the closet and I would feel much better if Ranma rested here tonight just to make sure she is ok," Rei tells her.
"Why thank you dear and tell your grandfather thank you for me and Ranma. Just tell him though that I won't dress up as a shrine maiden for him and I doubt he could convince Ranma either," Mrs. Saotome says with a smile.
"Well, I don't know grandfather can be relentless on trying to convince young girls to be shrine maidens," Rei says.
"Nope, not a chance'n hell I would dress up like that," comes a voice they thought was still resting. Ranma slowly sits up and takes stock of herself.
"Now dear, don't hurt yourself. You just woke up," her mother tells her. She checks over Ranma again to make sure she isn't trying to hide the pain in bravado.
Ranma smiles to her mother, "I'm fine mom really. The sword musta help my body heal faster before the fight." Her smile fades though as she thinks back to the fight. "I'm not sure how he did it, but I'll not lose the next time. I just gotta figure out how to counter his speed and whatever he did to cause me to black out." She accepts a cup of tea from Rei and thanks her. "I guess I need to do more training now on my speed and figure out how to use the sword better," she tells them as she pats the sword in the scabbard still in the cord around her waist.
"Ranma," Rei asks, "who was that man? He wasn't a youma we get around here so often."
Ranma puts her cup down and answers her, "He called himself Detlev, and whatever he is, he ain't human that's for sure. He had no ki at all."
Rei has a worried express on her face, "How can you be so sure he isn't human?" She saw the obvious skills Ranma has but she doubts she could detect ki that quickly from a fast paced fight she witnessed the two have.
"I'm positive; I can sense ki from my training. I sense mom's, yours, and hmmm, the old man outside the door seems pretty strong with ki but nothin' like the old ghoul or the old pervert," Ranma tells Rei and feels a bit smug at the surprised look on her face.
"Well, Rei, you did say she was extensively trained in Martial Arts all her life so it shouldn't be that much of a surprise she can feel ki in opponents. I am surprised you could sense me even when dampening my ki. You're something special now aren't you?" Rei's grandfather says while walking into the room. "Saotome-san it's a pleasure to see you again. I take it that this lovely lady is your daughter?"
"Good evening grandfather Hino," Nodoka replies with a smile, "and thank you for the offer to rest here tonight. This is my daughter Ranma, Ranma this is the priest for Cherry Hill Temple."
"Hi, I'm Ranma and thanks for letting me rest here," she greets him. She turns back to her mother and asks, "He's your grandfather?"
"You're welcome; I could never let beauty girls like yourself and your mother leave tonight after a fight. I insisted your mother call me grandfather since I have known her from birth. That man must have been something to have defeated someone was skilled as you."
"Hey, he didn't defeat me!!" Ranma states emphatically as her pride still feels slighted from how the fight ended, "He just used some weird trick and he won't get so lucky next time."
Smiling at the girl, he soothes her feelings, "My apologies, I only heard about some of the fight so I came to the wrong conclusion. I'm glad to hear you'll defeat him next time. It would be dangerous for people if he were to come around again without your prowess here to defeat him."
Ranma looks a little embarrassed and quietly response, "Well, I haven't completely figured his technique out just yet but I will before the next time."
The priest looks over to Mrs. Saotome questioning, "I was sure Ranma was boy and she definitely isn't one now."
A brief moment of panic then fear that then settles into resolve as she regains her composure. She takes a deep breath and tries to decide the best way to explain the changes in Ranma. Ranma lays her hand on her mother's arm, "Don't worry mom, I got it this time. I figure I need to get used to telling it." Her mother smiles encouragingly to her.
"You want the quick version or long version?" she asks the priest and Rei.
"The quick will be fine."
"Ok, about 5 days ago I learned that I was a girl, then pops made a deal with an ogre to make me a boy before I was born, was trained by pops since I could walk, taken on a ten year training trip at 6 years old. Trained in many ridiculous methods that probably should have killed me, went to China, went to Jusenkyo, cursed training grounds, picked up girl curse, hot water boy, cold water girl, went back to Nerima, had lots of fights, ogre comes back to take pops and me, ogre splits my two forms apart, ogre dead, my male form dead, pops dead, and that pretty much takes us up to now with me apparently back to being a girl from now on. There's more but that's about the shortest it's gonna get."
Both Rei and her grandfather look stricken after hearing the short version of the girl's brief retelling of her story. Neither can fathom how so much could happen to one person and still remain sane after all the tragedy her life was. Rei moves over to her and sit down by her, "If you need someone your age to talk with I'm here any time you need me. After all, we're going to be friends right?"
Ranma smiles at her and nods her head, "Thanks Rei, I don't have many friends and the ones I do have usually want to kill me half the time."
Rei just shakes her head, "part of the long version I guess?"
"Yep, there's so much in the long version I'd probably needs a few weeks to even tell it all." Ranma suddenly springs to her feet and scans around looking for something while the rest of them have no idea what is causing her to react like that.
Slowly Rei's grandfather senses a presence and immediately bows low on the floor. Rei not sure why her grandfather is bowing is about to ask when she sees a beautiful woman walking towards the room. Rei suddenly senses what her grandfather does and she too bows low to show respect.
Ranma watches the woman carefully as she overwhelms Ranma's senses. Ranma glances at her mother as she drops to one knee and bows her head. Ranma hasn't sensed power like this since Saffron and hers dwarf even his power. There is something familiar about her power, somewhat similar to Saffron's though his felt more like a rage fire while hers feels a little different. Hers feels almost like bathing in sunlight and Ranma is sure she has felt it somewhere else too. Trying to recall where else she felt something like it she feels her sword reacting. Ranma places her hand on the hilt and suddenly finds the answer. The power from the sword was the same, no where as powerful but the same exact feeling.
Nodoka with her head bowed is the first to talk, "How may your humble servant be of service?"
Ranma taken aback by her mother looks closely at the woman. She is tall for a Japanese woman and easily the most beautiful woman she has ever seen. Her black hair is free and flows down her back to just past the middle of her back. Her skin is flawless and her eyes are startling green. A smile graces her lips as she looks on them all. Her smile dims slightly as she observes Rei but it regains it brightness when she smiles fondly at her mother. She turns her eyes to Ranma, warmth shines in her eyes, and her smile shows a hint of mischievousness.
She looks back to Nodoka, "Nodoka dear, please stand up. Your line has never been my servants; you're virtually my descendants. I came to meet the newest member, Ranma." She turns to the priest and miko who are still bowing. "My good priest, may I impose on your temple and beg for a bit of privacy with mother and daughter?"
The priest without even looking up just answers, "Whatever you have need of we will provide." He and Rei then back out of the room with their eyes fixed to the floor until they are out of sight.
She sighs briefly then turns back to Nodoka and Ranma. "Please Nodoka stand up and introduce us."
Standing up she happily turns to Ranma, "This is my daughter Ranma, the one we thought lost and our heritage would end with me. Ranma dear, this is our family's secret heritage, the goddess that gave one of our ancestors a sacred duty as well as instilling a part of herself that has past from mother to first born daughter for more then 1200 years. This Ranma is the goddess Amaterasu-sama."
Ranma looks shocked as her mouth just opens and closes without sound. The goddess before her is wearing a causal white sundress with a yellow sun on the upper left with rays of sunlight radiating from it to the right side of the dress. She wears yellow low heeled shoes. Somewhere in Ranma's mind, she just can't wrap her mind around the casual and modern dress of the goddess.
Amaterasu laughing lightly turns to Nodoka, "I think we need to reboot her. She looks like she's locked up."
Nodoka looks to Ranma and has to fight not to giggle herself. Ranma has a shocked expression with her mouth still repeatedly opening and closing with no sound other then her breathing. Her eyes have a far away look as all of her attention focuses in a mental loop, goddess Amaterasu, modern dress, goddess Amaterasu, modern dress. Nodoka gently shakes Ranma's left shoulder to bring the mentally lost girl back from her mind.
Ranma blinks a few times while looking at her mother then looks back to the recently introduced goddess then back to her mother. With a pensive look, she asks her mother, "I'm sorry mom; I guess I musta taken a hit to the head when I blacked out. I missed your introduction."
Her mother just sighs while shaking her head, "You didn't mishear the introduction, this really is Amaterasu-sama."
Ranma sighs knowing her life's continuous rollercoaster ride is upside down yet again. She looks over at the goddess again and bows with deep respect to her. "Forgive me Amaterasu-sama for my doubt."
"Please Ranma, stand up, I take no offense. Besides, I want you to treat me more like a very young grandmother instead of a goddess. After all, a piece of me passes down your blood line each generation. I charged your ancestor over 1200 years before your birth with a duty to seek out and destroy evil whenever it becomes to strong for mere humans to handle. The sword you now carry is part of that charge and contains another piece of me." She sits down and gestures to mother and daughter to sit also. "I have much to explain to you so please make yourself comfortable."
Ranma and her mother sit down beside each other facing the goddess. "Amaterasu-sama is this…" is all Ranma gets out before the goddess politely interrupts her.
"Ranma dear, please no –sama. I want you to consider me your grandmother if you would. If you feel uncomfortable with that then just Amaterasu-san but I really hope you will call me grandmother," she pleads with the young redhead.
Looking uncertain for a minute Ranma finally continues slowly, "Grandmother," then pauses as she tests to see how that feels to her referring to a goddess like that and finds it feels acceptable. "I get the feeling you're the "vain mistress" that whatever named Detlev was talking about. What am I getting dragged into now?"
Nodoka audibly gasps at the almost disrespectful question from her daughter. Amaterasu signals to Nodoka that she is fine with the question by patting in the air. She turns her attention back to Ranma. "Vain huh? I suppose he has a bit of a point but it's not as if I can help it. Probably no more than you can," she teases Ranma good-naturedly. Ranma looks stricken for a second until she realizes the goddess was just joking with her. "What else did he say to you?"
Ranma takes a moment to think it through before responding, "He talked about my mistress without saying who you were and how vain you were. He kept spouting off how he was going to take me from you. He said to say hi to you for him and that it would make you mad."
Amaterasu does lose all her cheerfulness as Ranma relays the basics of the encounter. "I have no doubt he will try Ranma, but I have complete faith in your skill, training and character for him to corrupt you. I'm truly sorry I could not have come to you sooner then now but let me just say it involved rules that are to prevent another war between heaven and hell. I can't go fully into the rules of heaven and hell but even I have to abide by them. Did you happen to find out what Detlev was doing there?" she asks in concern.
"He was after some book and said something about his master sending him to get it. I got no clue what the book was but it seemed magical. I mean I've had too many run ins with magic items and that book felt like them to me." Ranma gets a concerned look on her face as something else from the fight started to make its way back to the front of her consciousness, "Um, grandmother, was he a vampire?"
The goddess blinks for a second then gives the girl a small reassuring smile. "No dear, there's no such creature as a vampire, but his kind is at the origins of the myth."
Ranma is visible relieved at the start of the answer but turns to apprehension by the end of it. "Would I become like him if he bit me?"
"No, No, it doesn't work like that dear. You have no reason to be concerned. Vampires are the myths told of his kind but not every vampire legend is true of them. You do need to guard yourself against giving in to his presence and offering yourself to him. A part of their essence is sex appeal so you must remain true to yourself and not give in. You would essentially be acquiescing to be his lover/bride until he tried of you then he would dispose of you. I'll train you in your powers since you and Nikkou No Ikari have awakened to each other. I fear you will need everything I can do to assist you as much as I can. There is a terrible fight coming soon, all too soon."
Ranma thinks of how the sword feels whenever she feels the power from it. She noticed before how much she feels like she is standing in sunlight when its power flows through her. "Sunlight's Wrath is a good name for it," she thinks to herself. "Now I know its name."
Amaterasu shows a brief glimpse of worry on her face as she thinks of which book Detlev might have been after. "Ranma, you did say the book was magical, can you describe it any further?"
Ranma sits back for a moment replaying the book back in her mind. "Well, other then a swirl of green light from it when it was open it looked just like any other book." Amaterasu files that information away for now until she can confer with one of the archivists in heaven.
"So what am I exactly? Please, Please, Please tell me I'm not like those ridiculous Sailor Senshi in those silly outfits," Ranma begs her.
With a bit of amusement she laughs then answers, "No you're not one of those magical girls, you're my chosen warrior. You're my physical manifestation of divine will of protection for this world. My chosen is always from your line but the calling is only one in roughly five generations. I feared I lost my chosen when you were forcibly born a male. You foolish father condemned the world to its death by that. I pled with Kami-sama himself to let me intercede to correct that but he refused. I begged him for him to correct it but he simple said if he did or allowed me to do it then heaven and hell would war again and it nearly destroyed all of existence last time. I still watched over you as I could and helped as much as I could get away with but as your life tells you, it wasn't enough." Amaterasu sadly drops her eyes to the floor in front of Ranma. She shows a look of guilt on her face now.
"I have a confession. I want to beg your forgiveness Saotome Ranma. I didn't plan it, but when your father dragged you to Jusenkyo, I saw an opportunity to correct a wrong. It was an opportunity giving me a chance to reclaim your line. I didn't have the time to talk to you about it. I wasn't even allowed to approach you about it." She looks up into Ranma's face that shows dread on it. The goddess' eyes show such sorrow and guilt. "Ranma, you were never intended to pick up a curse. I'm the one that caused the troubles you lived through."
Ranma stares at her in stunned disbelief. She is only a girl now because of the goddess that wants her to treat her not as a goddess but as a grandmother. All the calls of prevent, freak, all the unwanted groping by boys and girls alike. All the troubles that stemmed from the moment she gained her curse were the fault of the one in front of her. She didn't know what she should be thinking of this revelation. Her and her father's run from Shampoo as she tried to kill her. The troubles she had with Akane since she was actually a boy, and with Nabiki selling pictures of her in various states of undress. The unwanted attention of the Kunos and attacks of them, troubles too numerous to name them all was to preserve a goddess' servant's line.
She continues to think back to the Tendos and that horrible night. If she was just Ranma then he would probably have already been married to Akane by their fathers and living somewhere else. He possibly could have been else where with the ogre tracked him down. The ogre might have claimed him with his father but if he wasn't at the Tendo's then kind, sweet Kasumi wouldn't have been killed. He wouldn't have failed her. Suddenly all the weight of guilt of that night comes crashing back down on her. The tea her mother has been giving since that night from the Amazons has cleared from her system now. It never made the depression go away; it would only give her a bottom to stand on so her head was just at water's level in her vast sea of sorrow. It helps her accept the sorrow to work on it, but now that it isn't there, she feels the sorrow rushing over her head as she sinks deeper and deeper beneath the surface.
Ranma breaks down and curls up on the floor crying hard. She feels again how completely worthless all her bravado was that night. "And not just that night," she challenges herself remembering the fight this evening too. The last week has shown how incapable she is when it matters. All her fights before were just overblown sparring. They were not real fights, and she failed as a martial artist. She is so lost in her misery she doesn't even feel her mother collect her and lay her daughter's head in her lap trying to rock the poor girl.
Amaterasu seeing the devastation and sorrow her revelation to Ranma brings the young girl begins to weep with her head bowed to her knees as she too curls up. She never meant to cause the girl such hardship and now it has hurt Ranma to her very soul. She had made an impulsive gamble when she had seen the sliver of hope. That gamble she forced on Ranma for what she told herself was the greater good but was it just really for that reason or was it for her vanity? She has taken pride and exhibited for all in heaven to see as throughout the centuries as one of her Chosen would use her powers again and again to protect creation when the other gods could not. Was it her vanity that forced her hand and to complicate the boy's life? Were there other options in heaven?
Amaterasu doubts herself for the first time since she had fled to a cave because of something her brother had done once. Slowly she feels a presence of reassuring gentleness from behind her and the troubles wither from the radiance of the presence. Amaterasu gives a gentle thanks to the presence as she recomposes herself and sits back up with tear streaks evident on her face. She moves close to mother and daughter and lays a hand on their backs in comfort.
Nodoka takes a quick moment to look at the goddess then turns her efforts back to her child. She knew at some point they would again deal with Ranma's pains but didn't expect it at this moment. She strokes the red hair trying to will the sorrow from Ranma. She is glad when the touch from Amaterasu seems to lessen the torment in Ranma. After a minute or so Ranma's cries subsides and she lies with her head on Nodoka's lap. She digs out from the bundle of kimono discards a small piece of cloth and hands it to Ranma as she sniffs.
Ranma accepts the cloth and tries to straighten herself up a little. The feeling of peace from the goddess a few minutes before helped hold back the worse of her sorrows allowing her to regain her emotions. She sits up still wiping her face with the rag and looks at the goddess seeing the tracks of tears down her face from her eyes. Ranma feels overwhelming sadness, and she begins to panic again at the thought of her weakness causing sorrow in another again and a goddess at that.
Amaterasu cautiously leans forward and hugs her. "I'm sorry for the pain I caused you Ranma."
"I, I… can't blame you Amaterasu-sama, it's not my place to question the reasons of gods," she tells the goddess.
Amaterasu notices the formality Ranma uses and sighs internally as she fears she has lost the trust of Ranma. She worries she has lost her chosen in the time of greatest need. "No Ranma, you can always question me. I want you to question me. I want you to feel you can trust in me that I am not just using you as a tool. I don't want to be like all the others have been in your past." She holds Ranma's eyes, "I made a mistake in changing your life as some many have done to you. I am truly sorry for destroying your life, and I will never interfere with your life without talking with you first. I really love you and your mother like my child and I just hope that someday you can feel a little of the same for me."
Ranma gives her a weak but honest smile and hugs the goddess, "It's ok grandmother. You didn't set out to take away my happiness. It just seems that my life always attract troubles."
When the hug ends, Amaterasu sits back on her heels, "Well, my promise still stands; I will always talk with you first. Getting back to the topic though, we will need to start your training tomorrow. I will talk with the priest here to ask for permission to use some of the grounds behind it and out of sight for our work if that sounds fine with you."
"I'm not sure I'm good enough grandmother. I failed the last two times. Isn't there someone else better for you to train? Maybe those magic girls," Ranma says as all of her self-confidence is still feeling non-existence.
Shaking her head the goddess smiles at Ranma, "There is no one better then you, Ranma-chan. You are a great martial artist, you are a great soul, and you, Ranma, have always stood up to protect even your enemies. No Ranma, you are the perfect person to be my chosen if you will accept it. I said no more meddling in your life without permission and I mean it. I would feel honored if you would take up the mantle of Amaterasu's Chosen."
Ranma looks in deep thought as she gives her answer, "I've lived my whole life with the creed of 'It's a martial artist's duty to protect the weak' and if I can help to protect others by taking up the mantle then I will glad accept it."
The goddess looks serious once again at Ranma, "Now Ranma, I know you blame yourself for Kasumi's death," and she sees the pain that memory once again invokes. She quickly picks up to prevent it from going farther though, "I asked a good friend of yours to come to speak with you. She's been feeling horrible about the responsibility you have place on yourself."
Ranma looks at the goddess with a puzzled look, "A friend to see me?" She wonders who it could be as she has so few friends. There is Ukyo of course, but she hasn't seen her since before the disastrous night. Shampoo has stopped trying to get her devotion since then and has been behaving like a friend. Ranma isn't sure if it is just because she can no longer marry her and if that was the reason then why she isn't trying to fulfill the Kiss of Death. Not that she wants that trouble again. That was just about it for real friends it seems to her except Nabiki's behavior today. She genuinely acted as a friend at the funeral.
"Can she come in to see you? She has really been worried about you."
Ranma nods, "Of course," and smiles hoping it was someone she really considers a friend.
The goddess stands up and pulls Ranma to her feet with an offered hand then turns to the door, "Please come in, she wants to see you too dear." Ranma begins to sense the same aura of gentleness and peace she has felt before and one she never expected to feel again. A woman with long brown hair and her hands clasped before her walks in with a wonderful smile on her face. "Oh my," is the only words spoken as she stands there.
"Now Ranma-kun, that's my line"
Ranma stands there staring at Kasumi who looks almost exactly as she was a week earlier. She then rushes forward with such speed Einstein rolls over in his grave as multiple laws of physics are invalidated. Ranma gives Kasumi an unrelenting fierce hug not wanting to let go for fear the girl would vanish as being a dream.
Kasumi brightens her smile even more as she returns the hug. "It's good to see you too Ranma."
"Where have you been? We all thought you were dead. I even saw you die. How? That doesn't matter, you're back now and that is all that matters. Your family will be so happy to see you again. We all are. I've missed you and was so worried." Ranma just babbles on while clutching tight to Kasumi.
Kasumi's smile droops a little now as she slowly pulls away from Ranma holding the girl by the upper arms to let her stare into Ranma's eyes. "Oh Ranma, I can't come back, I did die. I got help from Amaterasu-san to come speak with you."
Ranma's happiness evaporates instantly as Kasumi's words shatters her brief hope. Kasumi is almost certain Ranma is going to deny it when Ranma pulls her back into a hug. "I'm sorry Kasumi. I wasn't good enough to save you. If only I trained harder, if maybe I had left the dojo so none of ya were in danger. I …."
Kasumi lays a finger on Ranma's lips to silences her. She pushes Ranma's face up to gaze deep into her eyes. "Ranma, can you do me a favor?" Ranma gazing deep into the gentleness that is endless in her eyes can only nod. "I want you to promise me you will stop blaming yourself. You didn't fail me Ranma. You did more then anyone else could ever do to protect me. It makes me sad to see you tearing yourself up inside for it. I could never blame you and I want you to let go of that guilt. I want the Ranma I came to love back. I want the uncultured, brash, kind hearted, quick to protect everyone, quick to put a foot in the mouth, and the true and honest soul to be back." Kasumi then leans down and places a gentle kiss filled with deep passion on Ranma's lips.
Ranma's pigtail stands out in shock as her mind shuts down. Deep within Ranma, a spark of light has shimmered to life in the darkness. The darkness tries to snuff out the spark and slowly the light dims then flares to life in blinding brilliance shredding the blackness that was her despair of Kasumi's passing leaving in its place a beautiful field with a stream nearby and a tree providing shade not far from the water. Kasumi sits against the tree smiling back.
Kasumi breaks the kiss after a couple of minutes and smiles at Ranma. She sees a confused but happy Ranma just staring back. "I wished now I did that a long time ago. It was even better then I had hoped, "she tells the near catatonic girl. She hears a giggle and looks up at Amaterasu to see the goddess' mirthful expression. Standing by her, Nodoka just blinks in surprise then she too begins to giggles.
Ranma returns to her senses and blushes looking down at the floor. Kasumi has to raise her head again so she can see Ranma's face. "So no more guilt about that night anymore right, Ran-chan?"
She takes a deep breath, "I promise Kas-chan. No more guilt. But I won't promise not to miss you." Ranma then hugs her again. "Oh god, I really am turning into a girl with all this hugging," she laments.
"You mean oh goddess don't you Ran-chan?" Kasumi teases back. Amaterasu erupts in laughter and walks up the girls. She pats Ranma on the back and Ranma looks back at her.
"Nah Kas-chan, that would be oh grandma," Ranma tells them with an unrestrained smile of happiness. Everyone in the room begins laughing at it as Ranma joins in with them.
As the laughter dies, they move to sit back down again with Ranma sitting with her mother to her left and Kasumi sitting to her right holding Ranma's right hand in Ranma's lap. Amaterasu wishes the two young girls could have had the life together if things were different.
Ranma looks at Kasumi patting the clasped hands with her left hand. "So I guess after you leave again I'll never get to see you again?" she asks her sadly.
Kasumi smiles at Ranma as she replies, "Oh, I intend to visit you whenever Amaterasu-san can arrange with my tutors to give me some free time. I know it will be good to take a break from all those lessons. There's just so much to learn."
Ranma looks confused and looks over at her grandmother as she begins to explain, "I got permission from Kami-sama himself that Kasumi is granted the privilege of visiting you while she is still training. It seems Kami-sama was charmed by lil' ol' innocent Kasumi."
Ranma looks back at Kasumi as she just looks up above their heads at a non-existent fly buzzing around while she is whistling. Her mother smirks, "It's always the quiet ones."
Amaterasu chuckles at that and Kasumi just looks at Nodoka with feigned hurt, "Auntie Saotome, how could you even think that of me? I'm hurt by that."
Nodoka laughs even more, "That innocent act won't work after that kiss you gave my daughter earlier. Not that it didn't make me happy to see it." Kasumi just laughs.
Ranma tries to get the conversation off the kiss and back on Kasumi's visits, "So I get to see you still Kasumi? How often?"
Kasumi returns her gaze to Ranma, "As often as we can arrange it but I can't tell right now. My studies started only a couple of days ago." She looks over to the goddess for help in providing an answer.
Amaterasu taps her index finger on her lips a few times in thought, "Well, angel training usually only takes three months but father already added a few other classes to your course load. Very rare for him to ever have a new angel trainee go through classes on Relations with Midgard, Divine Magic 101 and Introductory to Goddesshood, Actually, that has been the only time he has ever done that. It's obvious he wants you on the fast track. You're going to be pretty pressed on time for six months but I think at least one day every other weekend is doable." She looks at Ranma for a moment and asks, "That's not too often for visits is it?"
"Too often? Are you nuts? Too bad it's not more often," she replies then her brain catches up with her words and she looks sheepishly, "I mean, yeah grandmother, that is fine though I wouldn't mind as often as you can arrange it. Wow, hey, slow down a minute here." Ranma looks between Kasumi and her grandmother repeatedly with a questioning look. Her gaze falls onto Kasumi, "You're an angel now?"
She shakes her head, "No Ranma, I'm not an angel yet, just a angel trainee. I still have to pass the final exam in three months before I can be an angel."
"Oh please, Kasumi, we both know that is a given already. You already practiced all the skills while you still were mortal. You only need to memorize the procedures and that is usually the easiest part for trainees," the goddess informs the other with a smirk on her lips. "That's why you've got the other courses; father knows potential when he sees it."
Kasumi just blushes and lowers her head in embarrassment. She feels Ranma pats her hand in support and her blushes actually deepens. "So Kasumi, when are you going to get to visit your family? They've been falling apart from what Nabiki told us today."
Kasumi quickly looks at Ranma then shakes her head, "I'm sorry Ranma, I'm not allowed to visit them." Ranma is about to ask why not but Kasumi pre-empts the question, "Mortals are not allowed to receive non-work related visitation from me. As much as I would love to talk with them again the rules don't permit it."
"But you're here visiting us now and you said you would be back every two weeks so I don't understand."
Amaterasu steps in, "The heavenly hosts can only interact causally with non-mortals which all of the Tendos are mortals. You Ranma, you are not a mortal in a sense. You have a piece of a goddess in you, same as your mother. Technically, you both are non-mortals though currently you both are still mortals. There's a whole committee that rules on who is and isn't a mortal every century but the Saotome line has always received full committee consent as non-mortal. Usually father puts several deities on it that received protection by one of the Saotome Chosens over the centuries that feel a debt of gratitude. So that's why Kasumi has visitation privileges with you but she is unable to visit her mortal family."
"We've protected gods?" Ranma asks incredulously.
"Oh yeah, I would say your ancestors have prevented the death of about two to three dozens deities. That's no small task so as my Chosen you carry a lot of clout when dealing with gods and demons."
"Aren't we supposed to kill demons?" Ranma asks feeling her responsibilities keeps growing larger and larger.
"As a general rule, you don't kill a demon just because they are there. There is a truce and with the doublet system in effect there rarely is a risk to it. If a god was to die their doublet demon would die immediately too. That's also why you have clout with hell, every god or goddess saved by the Saotomes has a demon saved too. You shouldn't have to worry too much about all that for a while at least," Amaterasu continues.
Ranma dreads asking another question not sure she is ready for it, "What is a doubled system?"
"Doublet," the goddess corrects gently, "and the doublet system is a connection from a god or goddess to another demon. It prevents a war since we don't know who we are paired with so if we kill a demon we might die too." She hadn't planned to get this detailed yet but she wasn't going to risk Ranma feeling she was hiding information from her.
"Ok, then since I don't have to kill demons who am I fighting?" Ranma asks trying to understand the workings of being a Chosen in a few minutes.
"It can be a demon or god, just means usually you don't kill them but destroy their minions if they have any then defeat them or weaken them enough that one of us can take them into custody. Even if one of us break the rules and treating the world we can not interfere directly."
Ranma blanches by the end of the explanation. "You don't mean I have to fight gods and demons?" she asks in concern.
Amaterasu shakes her head trying to reassure her chosen, "Oh no, usually it is elements not from heaven or hell. A few exiles cause problems occasionally. Or demis that feel since they are not true deities or demons the rules of heaven and hell do not apply to them. They decide it is their right to do whatever they want. Actually, you already dealt with one troublesome demi."
Ranma perks up at that, "Saffron." She states it instead of asking. She feels a little relieved if most of her work will be more mundane non-mortals.
Amaterasu just nods. She looks at Kasumi, "Forgive me Kasumi, I hadn't planned on going over some of Ranma's duties tonight, but I want her to feel I'll answer her questions. Please don't let me come between anything else you wanted to talk about with Ranma."
"No need to apologize Amaterasu-san, we both are here for Ran-chan's sake. I do have more to talk with you about if I can, Ranma," Kasumi asks her. She looks troubled and Ranma doesn't like to see that look on Kasumi's face.
"Sure Kasumi, whatever you need to say I'm here," she prompts Kasumi to begin.
Kasumi takes a deep breath, exhales it slowly, and starts her concerns, "I'm worried about my family, Ranma. I've watched them several times and grief is destroying them, well, destroying father and Akane. Nabiki is grieving for me but she is maturing quickly and she is cooping well."
"Yeah, she was trying to be a real friend earlier at the ceremony. She couldn't stay long but she left me hoping this new Nabiki really can be my friend," Ranma confides to Kasumi. "She told us that Tendo-san and Akane weren't doing well. Akane I guess is taking it the worse according to Nabiki. She feels Akane is blaming me for your death so she doesn't have to deal with the guilt she has. If it helps Akane to blame me I can live with that I guess."
Kasumi shakes her head quickly and holds Ranma's hand tightly with both of her hands while firmly bouncing their hands up and down a few times. "No, you can't accept blame for it. Akane will never deal with her grief otherwise and it will keep building in her. I've seen how she is burying the guilt deep inside of her. All it will do is slowly poison her soul destroying her leaving her a bitter, raging, and distrustful person. I really fear for her Ranma. I don't know what will happen with her but it scares me. I don't know what any of us can do for her but…" Kasumi begins to cry softly and leans into Ranma to cry on her shoulder.
Shocked that she doesn't flinch, Ranma holds her offering her quiet support. Ranma thinks on what Kasumi said and she couldn't deny any of it. Ranma now worries for Akane's well being as well. "When I talk with Nabiki again I'll ask her what we can do to help Akane. Nabiki can always come up with something."
"Thanks Ran-chan, I'm proud of Nabiki," Kasumi says as she moves more into Ranma and places her head on Ranma's shoulder and neck while placing her left arm behind Ranma's back and reaches up with right hand to grasps the right hand of the arm draped across her shoulders. "After the police left that night, Nabiki was the only one that thought to clean up the table in my absence. She even cleaned up the kitchen too." Kasumi smiles while her eyes shimmer with unshed tears.
"I found it touching she did that for me. She even apologized to me that night for never helping. I would love it if you could tell her that big sister is touched by that. If you don't mind I would appreciate it. I think Nabiki would appreciate it too." Kasumi tilts her resting head to look at Ranma with a gentle smile.
"How could I turn down a request like that from a beautiful angel?" she asks back.
Kasumi brightens her smile more and corrects her, "Beautiful angel in training."
Ranma chuckles lightly, "Ok, fine, fine, how could I turn down a request like that from a beautiful angel in training? Happy now?"
Kasumi just nods her head as she enjoys being close like this.
Ranma looks over to her grandmother, "Can I even tell Nabiki what Kasumi said or is that against the rules?"
Her grandmother just thinks briefly then nods, "I guess you could call it going all the way up the line without breaking it. It is more of a technicality but I doubt father would hold it against any of us. Technically Kasumi can tell you anything she wants, well within reasons, there are a few rules that might prevent either of us telling you some things but I promise granddaughter, if I can't I will let you know I am forbidden instead of leaving you wondering if I'm telling you the truth. Anything Kasumi tells you that you want to tell someone else is up to you unless it is something she tells you in confidence."
"Anything else you want me to pass along Kas-chan?" Ranma asks.
"Hmmm, I think we need to wait for until you talk with Nabiki first. I wouldn't mind if you spoke with Doctor Tofu. I know we were attracted to each other but it would seem I have a different destiny. Could you tell him for me that it would make me feel better if he moves on with his life?" Kasumi asks Ranma as she reluctantly sits up.
Ranma earnestly answers, "Of course Kasumi, I know he has been sad since that night. It seems he is on the outs with Akane and your father. Nabiki told us he stood up to their treatment of us and Akane blew up on him too."
Kasumi sighs sadly, "I saw that, I wouldn't let Amaterasu-san take me until the others went to bed, well, Amaterasu-san finally dragged me off to heaven while Nabiki was cleaning up the kitchen. I just felt so touched by that."
Ranma's surprise makes her face easy to read as she looks over to her grandmother, "You come to get the people that die?"
"It was a special case. Father and I felt Kasumi deserved our attention so I came to escort her to heaven. You know how much regret Kasumi strikes in you when her smile stops. She cowered a goddess of my stature refusing to leave until she was sure her family was safe," the goddess informs the others.
Kasumi just pouts cutely, "They're my family, and even if I was dead I still worried about them."
"And my dear Kasumi that is why we all love you and why father wants you in the heavenly hosts so quickly," Amaterasu smiles back. "Well, it is getting late and you will have much to think over tonight granddaughters. Ranma, would you mind coming with me to see about setting aside a practice place and time for your lessons?"
"You betcha," she says enthusiastically, "I'm all ready for it." Ranma bounces lightly on the balls of her feet. She turns to Kasumi and gives her a hug, "Thanks for coming to see me Kasumi. You really made me feel better and I can't wait for your next visit."
Kasumi returns the hug with equal emotions in it. "I can't wait to get back here for the next visit. You will be on my mind. I want you to be careful ok?" She releases the hug then walks over to Ranma's mother and pulls her into a quick hug. "It's good to see you too Auntie Saotome. I know Ranma's in good hands with both you and Amaterasu-san."
Nodoka who spent most of the evening on the edges of the events hugs the young lady in return. "If I have any troubles with her I'll let Amaterasu-sama know so you can come straighten her out," she smiles.
"Now granddaughter, I have Ranma calling me grandmother I expect you to call me that also," the goddess snaps back.
Nodoka just sighs before answering, "I'll try grandmother, just a habit I guess you'll force me to break?"
Amaterasu stands to her full regal height and looks down at Nodoka, "You will break that habit, I command you to refer to my by grandmother." She then grins at her. "I guess your time is up Kasumi, I'll touch back with you later, and then we'll set your breaks for visiting Ranma with your tutors."
"Bye Ran-chan, I'll be back soon," she says as she waves. She slowly fades from sight as a pillar of light raises around her then shots up.
Amaterasu turns to her granddaughter, "Let's see that priest now." They walk out of the room as Nodoka sits back down to rest. She feels emotionally drained from the evening but she also feels the burden of her worries for her child has lightened considerably. Kasumi's love for her daughter gives her a pleasant feeling of happiness that someone will show Ranma the love and support she needs. She notices it is early evening now and tidies up the room while pulling out the second futon. Once she is happy with the state of the room she heads into the other part of the temple to see if anyone has started dinner and if she could help.
Amaterasu and Ranma walk into the room where they feel the priest and his granddaughter Rei are with the miko tending a large flame. Ranma immediately begins to ponder why such a large flame is not making the room too hot to be in. The room itself isn't remarkable expect for the fact that it is so clean. There is not a trace of soot on the walls or the ceiling as the smoke escapes through the small vent.
The priest and miko turn around to see the goddess and Ranma enter the room. They kneel before the goddess. "How may this humble servant help you?" the priest asks.
"Please rise both of you," Amaterasu says with a small smile. When both stand back up she continues, "I came to ask if you have a quiet and isolated spot behind your fine temple Ranma and I can use regularly for her training?"
The priest replies to her, "This temple is your house; you may use any part of it you wish."
She shakes her head, "No, I'm not here to take over this temple. I have need of a private place for Ranma's training as my Chosen and we do not want to inconvenience your service to this temple."
He nods sagely while thinking, "I see, a new Chosen… a new dark threat approaches then. Yes Amaterasu-sama, there is a small clearing near the fence line with the park. It is almost in the same direction to the Saotome home. There however is no gate close to the clearing."
"That clearing sounds perfect," she hands him two keys. "I placed a special gate there and those keys are for the two of you if you need to go through it. No one else will be able to go through it without a key." She looks at the flame for a moment then turns back to Ranma. "Ranma, tell me what you feel of this flame?"
Ranma relaxes and her eyes sharpen as all her senses explore the room and the flame in particular. She notes again the dampened heat of such a large flame and it emits no soot or smoke. She picks up a small amount of ki roiling in the flame making it appear to be living. As soon as she senses the ki, the flame turns its attention to the redhead. Ranma gets the feeling the flame is actually living and watching her now with expectations. She isn't sure what it is expecting but it feels like it wants her to touch or speak with it. She can't make sense of how to do whatever it is waiting for. Ranma also now feels something more from the flame. She feels a tiny aura of sunlight that she is coming to associate with her grandmother.
"The flame isn't burning, I mean it is burning but it isn't. There's a lack of heat from a flame that big. It's alive too and looking at me. Wanting me to do something but I'm not sure what. Finally, I feel a little of what I believe is your power in it too. The same feeling I get from you and my Nikkou No Ikari," Ranma tells them as she details her findings. "It's kinda creepy to have a flame watching you like that."
Her Grandmother just nods through the descriptions with pride as her new Chosen has a far greater grasp on her senses then any previous Chosen. At the creepy comment she smirks, "Careful dear or you might hurt the sacred flame's feelings. It just wants to be your friend you know."
Rei senses how the flame she has had a connection with for so long seems to ignore her after Ranma began her investigation. The flame definitely wants to commune with Ranma. She also feels the flame shrink back in sadness as soon as Ranma tells of the creepy feeling. Rei tries to link back with the flame to reassure it but the flame refuses her connect.
Ranma also senses the flame's reaction. She takes a step towards it and the flame emits the feelings of being trapped. She takes another step holding out her right hand towards it. It still emits feelings of being trapped and hurt feelings but now Ranma gets the hint of hope from it. She pushes a little of her ki towards it but the effect is not what she was hoping for. The flame shrinks in size drastically and almost in pain from Ranma's ki so Ranma stops pushing her ki.
Rei panics as the flame she knows so well begins to die before her eyes. She is ready to shove Ranma back when the girl stops whatever she was doing and the flame grows back in size a little. Relief floods through Rei and she tries once more to commune with the flame but it still refuses to acknowledge her. It acts as though Ranma was the only person there instead of four. "Well, three people and one goddess," she tells herself.
Ranma frowns as the flame doesn't recover to its former size and it still looks to her expectantly. She runs a number of possible courses of action through her mind. She can try physically touching it. Its lack of heat should keep from burning her. She can try mentally speaking with it though how she isn't sure. Finally, she thinks back to the feeling of sunlight from it before. "Maybe that is the answer it is looking for," she thinks to herself. "It's obvious that sunlight power is from Amaterasu and her power is connecting to the flame. She's said several times I have a pieces of her and her power inside of me and inside Nikkou No Ikari too."
She quickly decides she is on the correct path now and thinks harder on the question before her. "I feel sunlight when Nikkou No Ikari shows its power; I feel sunlight flowing through me when I feel the tingle of its power. The feeling was so small the first time I used the sword. It took a while during the fight to keep growing. Was it as small a feeling the first time as I feel now with the flame? I didn't even feel anything from the sword when I first drew it. Well, maybe I just wasn't paying attention to it and didn't notice it due to the fight. So maybe the flame is looking to connect with me like the Nikkou No Ikari did. But, how do I connect with it? Touch it? It's not like the sword. It's not physical."
Amaterasu feels Ranma's mental debate and evaluation of the flame. Ranma's quick battle trained mind evaluates, judges, runs through scenarios, and picks likely actions. It churns at the problem with incredible speed. Amaterasu's pride of her swells as Ranma gets closer to the final answer. Without any prompting Ranma is nearing the understanding of the lesson Amaterasu is hoping she would learn now.
Ranma stops her current thought path for a moment. "Ok, I had to touch the sword to connect with it, and after the fight mom said something about the sword and I waking each other. So when I felt the power, the sunlight, it wasn't just one way was it? Think back Ranma, when you felt the tingle, was there anything else. Think now, feel now, what was the exact sensation?" she plays and replays the scene again and again. "Wait, there wasn't just sunlight, I felt a bit of water, like a river. Maybe some life too? Something familiar. Was the life an animal? No, not a person either and definitely not grandmother."
Suddenly she hits herself, "The field with Kasumi while she kissed me and it ripped my guilt apart. That was the place. So is it Kasumi? No, it was there before her wasn't it. It was hidden though. That's it, when I woke the sword; it woke that place within me. That's where grandmother's power resides. So where is it in me?" As she works hard on puzzling out the answer she concentrates oblivious to everything around her. Her forehead has beads of sweat not from the flame but from the intense mental effort. The others watch her unsure what is going through her mind except for Amaterasu.
Deep within her mind, she is sure she almost has the key, "Where is it." She searches her being for the place. It easily feels to be in her heart when Kasumi sat beneath the tree but she realizes that is just where it plays out much like a movie screen. She looks through every place within her body but doesn't find the true location. Next, she searches her ki but that too reveals nothing. Finally, she examines her spirit, her soul looking for it and soon finds it. Within her soul is the piece of Amaterasu almost filling her whole soul with sunlight. "Ok now what? I know where it is, how do we connect? My touch was the conduit for Nikkou No Ikari but there isn't anything solid in the flame. My soul needs to touch the flame? But how do I do that? How does my soul touch a flame?"
Rei continues to watch Ranma as she stands there staring at the flame. After what feels to be five minutes, Ranma suddenly moves closer to the flame. As Ranma is about to step into the fire pit itself Rei moves to stop her but her grandfather holds her back by holding her left arm. She looks to him quickly and he shakes his head. "She will be fine, she is about to awake another part of herself. She must awake the connection from flame to open herself up to Amaterasu-sama's power. We have the rare privilege of seeing a fabled Chosen accept her calling." Rei sees the goddess smile at that but says nothing on the matter.
Ranma steps into the flame itself and feels no heat or pain from it. It feels like it is wrapping itself around her like a warm blanket on a cold morning. She still doesn't feel the connection awake from her soul to the flame. The flame's sunlight power washes over her body but doesn't appear to be about the reach her soul. Quickly analyzing it, she knows that somehow she has to permit the flame to enter her. She tries to breathe deeply inhaling the flame itself. She restrains her body's automatic response to cough as the flame fills her lungs and she feels it reaching towards the place in her soul but it still doesn't seem to be able to reach far enough yet. She opens her mouth now to allow more of the flame to fill her. Slowly she feels herself lose the sensation of her body and feels like the flame itself. They roil within the boundaries of the flame, dancing together and caressing each other. Ranma feels the flame touch her soul and both sense the same spark of power and touch each other. Ranma finds herself back as herself in the field with the shade of the tree casting shades across her. She hears the stream nearby. The area is beautiful and the same as when Kasumi was there but sadly she isn't sitting there currently. She walks from the tree towards the river then stops. She looks to the sky and though it is day time there is no sun in the blue sky.
As Ranma notices the lack of sun, she feels herself bathed in sunlight. "Well done granddaughter, well done. You've been the only one to learn to call my power without my assistance to teach them. You are very special, Ranma, and I hold you very dear to me. Now let my light bathe you in its power," as the voice of her grandmother, the goddess ends she sees in the sky a point of light as small as a star at night shimmers. Slowly the light grows in size and as it grows the feeling of light touching Ranma grows too. Soon the star is now a full size sun in the blue sky and Ranma feels the rays touch the whole scene. She also feels the warmth of the sunlight fill her body and through that sunlight, she feels the presence of Amaterasu stronger then ever.
Rei's concern refuses to leave her as she stares in disbelief as Ranma stands with her arms outstretched and head back with the flame swirling around her madly. The redhead's hair breaks free of its pigtail and the flame's swirling causes her hair to wave as if in a strong wind. Her hair seems to be longer then it should be from the small pigtail she had. That is when Rei and her grandfather has to shield their eyes and look away as Ranma shines as bright as the sun with the light keeping her from being seen. After a few seconds the light fades away leaving them blinking their eyes to adjust them to the normal light again. Rei looks over to Ranma and she barely makes out the girl.
Ranma comes back to her senses and walks from the flame. It reluctantly lets her leave but Ranma senses happiness from the flame. She walks up to her grandmother and looks at her in the eyes. They both smile at each other and Amaterasu tells her, "You did wonderful there granddaughter. You now have your position as Chosen confirmed and access to my powers through the sacred flame."
"Thanks grandmother, but I do have one question for you."
Amaterasu's face shows a puzzled expression, "Sure Ranma, what is your question?"
"You remember when I asked you if it would make me a magical girl like those silly dressed Sailor Senshis?"
"Yes Ranma, I said you would not be like them and not in a fuku," she answers.
"Well I'm happy I'm not in one of those fanboy inspiring, pervert drawing and nose bleed inducting sailor costumes no serious fighter would be caught dead in; I have to ask this. WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!"
"What you don't like it? You're my Chosen so your battle outfit must reflect on both my and your beauty."
Unconsciously Rei mutters quietly, "I don't think our fukus are that bad."
And thus ends chapter two, Ranma has learned some of her heritage and some of her awesome burden. Kasumi is back and what better destiny then angel? Ok, maybe a goddess but that isn't an entry level job. Ranma has a new admirer but when does Ranma ever not have a new admirer, fiancée, or obsessed sword wielding loon? A bit sleepy here and I am bypassing a third proofreading of this chapter so I can get it posted today. I think I caught all grammatical errors and re-worded any confusing lines unless I am just sleep and dreaming I have done the proofing. Until next chapter.