A Clean Slate
After losing the challenge to Shan Pu for the prize of food, Ranma finds himself facing a choice of two deaths. Either choice will certainly change his life in a big way. RanmaXShampoo (AU story)
Disclaimer: All the usual I do not own any of the characters nor am I writing this to make a fast buck kind of stuff. We all know who owns them and who has the rights to them.
Author's Notes: Greetings and welcome. Feel free to look around and I hope you enjoy the story. I just want to mention a few things before we begin.
1) I'm more of a storyteller than a writer so please be kind to any spelling or grammar mistakes you may come across
2) If you are the type of reader who dislikes noncanon or OOC type stories than you might want to skip this one. I tend to mold the behaviors of the characters to help them fit into the story at the time and as for canon since I'm not Rumiko Takahashi obviously this story shouldn't be considered as anything close to canon.
So I hope you enjoy the story and please feel free to R&R but remember, I'm new at this, be gentle
Ranma stood there with a dumbfounded look on her face not sure how things ended up at this point. It was only yesterday morning that she had been a happy 16 year old boy traveling across China learning new martial arts techniques with his father. But by the time the sun set last night the two Saotome men had fallen into cursed springs and now had the forms of a panda (in the case of Ranma's father, Genma) and a rather healthy looking redheaded girl (in the case of Ranma). The guide at the cursed springs told them of a nearby tribe of Chinese Amazons who knew much of the springs and might have a cure for their curses so they set out to the village.
They arrived at the village in the early afternoon of the next day and were invited to watch the Amazons compete in a tribal martial arts tournament. It was during this event that Genma made the social blunder of eating the prize, a rather generous amount of food, which was to go to the winner, who was now rather upset at having her prize eaten by someone other than herself.
Genma talked Ranma into challenging the irate Amazon, a rather striking lavender haired beauty named Shan Pu, to a fight for the food and to save Genma's panda hide.
However, Ranma having been a girl for only less than 24 hours found that the set of nice firm C cup breasts she now sported threw her balance off and she had not had the time to learn to compensate for them being too busy walking to a village trying to find a way to get rid of said breasts.
Needless to say that to Ranma and Genma's amazement, Ranma lost and now found herself in her current situation. Facing said Amazon beauty, now looking pretty smug, and being offered a choice between something called the Big Death or the Trial of the Little Deaths.
Neither of which sounded too appealing to Ranma who looked up into the lavender eyes of the Amazon and said,
"I choose neither one."
The sound of many Amazons face planting into the dirt could be heard for miles.
"What you mean you no choose either?" demanded the slightly stunned Amazon in broken Japanese.
"Look, how can I choose which one to take when I don't even know what they are?" Ranma pleaded "I mean I could choose one only to discover that the other choice would have been better."
Shan Pu looked at the little redhead with a kind of forced bemusement on her face when suddenly a rather old, really old actually, looking woman hopped up on a gnarled wooden staff and spoke up in Ranma's defense.
"The outsider girl has a point Shan Pu." The old woman named Khu Lon happened to be Shan Pu's great grandmother and the only person in the village who scared the warrior enough to make her listen to reason. "You must explain her options if you wish her to choose. It's the only honorable thing to do."
Shan Pu gave a sigh "Yes Great Grandmother." She than turned back to the outsider girl. "Look you have two choice, Big Death we take you to village center," She pointed to a cleared out area in roughly the center of the village where there stood a tall wooden pole with a set of shackles connected to it near the top of the pole, "and then we take many spears and give you lots of hard pokes until you dead."
Ranma was right; she didn't really like the sound of that one.
Shampoo motioned to two nearby Amazons who grabbed the redhead under each arm and dragged/lifted her to a nearby building. As they entered the building Ranma noticed that it was one large room dominated by a large padded table with more shackles set one at each corner. The table was surrounded by a frame of beams and pipes set with pullies, more shackles and eyelets for connecting things to.
Looking around and seeing all the various scary items hanging from the walls or lying displayed on slanted shelves, including various whips, clamps and things that looked a lot like the piece of male anatomy she had had yesterday morning, told Ranma that she defiantly wasn't going to look forward to anything that happened in this room.
Meanwhile, Shan Pu walked over to the table and gently caressed its padded top with a long slow stroke of her finger and shot Ranma a half lidded sultry look and whispered in a smoky voice.
"For Trial of Little Deaths, Shan Pu tie you on table and do many too too nice things to you body. Trial last from sun up to sun up, if girl ask for mercy between then girl become Shan Pu's slave for life." A fate that Shan Pu seemed to want if the look she gave Ranma was any indication "If you no ask for mercy whole time you have trials, than village let you go."
Ranma looked at Shan Pu with eyes so wide she looked European "You mean my choices are to either let you try and seduce me for a whole day or let you kill me out right?"
"Good, Girl understand choices." Shan Pu gave a huge smile "Now you make choice."
Ranma thought long and hard, to be honest she'd rather not die but to do 'THAT' with someone she barely knew and as a girl no less scared the hell out of her. In the end it wasn't much of a choice.
In a soft quiet voice she answered "Quickly"
"What you say?" Shan Pu asked leaning in to hear Ranma's answer better.
"I said please kill me quickly." Ranma's voice quivered only slightly as she replied
"You mean you take Big Death over Little Deaths?" Shan Pu's face briefly broke out in disappointment as she realized the choice that Ranma made.
"Yes," Ranma's blue eyes, filled with fear but also with fierce determination, locked onto Shan Pu's surprised filled lavender ones. "My virtue and my body are mine alone and I will not just throw them away to save my life. Let me die with my virginity and honor intact."
"You virgin? For true?" Shan Pu was stunned to hear Ranma say that
"Yes, it is true."
"Is too too terrible waste but if that you choice." Shan Pu's voice had a slightly regretful tinge to it. She had been hoping that the girl would take the trials instead. She then barked out a series of commands in Chinese and the Amazons holding Ranma drug her out to the center of the village to the pole. There they clamped the manacles to her wrists, leaving her barely able to stand on tippy toes. Shan Pu approached as the Amazons finished securing her to the pole.
"Since you choose Big Death, when sun set below those rocks," Shan Pu pointed to a cluster of rocks overlooking the village. "We come back with spears to give you hard pokes." Shan Pu turned to leave "I go now tell Elders of you choice. But if you wish to change mind and take trials you just say so."
A dejected Shan Pu entered into the council chamber, she had to admit that the outsider had much warrior spirit but she'd been hoping that the hot looking red haired girl would try her luck with the trials.
"You look sad Great Granddaughter." Khu Lon said from up on her council seat.
'I am Great Grandmother." Shan Pu looked around at all the assembled Elders "The outsider has chosen death over the trials. Too bad really, I was rather taken by her."
"Why has she chosen death?" another Elder asked
"She says that her honor and virginity mean more to her than her life." Shan Pu shrugged her shoulders. "So she has chosen to die with honor than face the Trials."
"She shows great warrior spirit indeed." Yet another Elder spoke up.
"That is true; she shows much courage and strong will." Khu Lon replied "She would make a fine Amazon."
The others nodded in agreement.
The first Elder spoke up again "And yet her aura seems different somehow. It does not read properly."
"Well she and the panda had the Jusenkyo guide with them, perhaps she has a curse?" Shan Pu added her two cents to the conversation.
"A definite possibility it would seem." Khu Lon scratched her chin thoughtfully "But if she has been touched by Jusenkyo then it is our duty to watch over her."
"Agreed Sister." Answered the first Elder, "It has been the sacred duty of our tribe to watch over all Jusenkyo victims since the founding of our village three thousand years ago."
Khu Lon called out to several nearby warriors "Bring the outsider girl's panda to us immediately."
Noting the looks of her follow council Elders Khu Lon replied "The girl may not be the only Jusenkyo victim."
Genma could barely restrain himself from running as the Amazons herded him into the council building at spear point, the Jusenkyo guide trailing behind the group. Genma had watched as the Amazons walked his son to the village square and chained him to a pole. Genma was sure that that was not a good sign. Genma gave a yelp of surprise as he was hit with a splash of hot water as he shambled into the center of the council chamber, turning him back to his human form.
"So panda truly is a cursed male." This statement came from one of the group of shriveled old prunes that Genma saw sitting on tall seats. "Hmmmm must be the village council, look like a bunch of old biddies." He looked at them not noticing that they were staring hard back at him as well.
"You are the girl's father?" the prune on the highest chair spoke in fluent Japanese.
"Yes, I am the boy's father." Genma stated.
At the male's statement all the Elders raised a mental eyebrow now understanding that the young girl awaiting death was in fact also a cursed male.
"Why do you say Boy when you came to our village with a girl?"
"We had a slight training accident and we came here seeking help." Genma finally noticed the intense stares he was getting from the prunes and was beginning to look for a way to make a fast getaway.
"When did you have this 'accident'?" the prune demanded
"Ummm, yesterday." Genma began to sweat as the stares grew even harder in intensity.
"The fool allowed the girl to fight in a body she was not use to?" a new prune spoke to the others in Chinese a language Genma did not understand so he continued looking for the closest exit.
"That would explain why the girl fought so awkwardly even though she showed that she possessed skill." Khu Lon nodded her head "I wonder what else the fool is not telling us?"
"Should we use the Oracle Chair?" the first prune asked with some nervousness and for good reasons. The Oracle chair allowed people to watch the life of whoever sat in the chair, replayed at fast speed. Unfortunately it could also result in brain damage to whoever was in the chair.
"Sure why not?" replied Khu Lon "It's only an outsider male."
The other Elders easily agreed with that statement and with a command barked out in rapid Chinese, four of the biggest women Genma had ever seen entered the council room carrying a very heavy stout wooden chair.
The chair had leather straps for the sitter's wrists and ankles just like in a picture of the electric chairs used in American prisons. That comparison caused Genma to blanch to a pale white color. The was also some kind of large clamp like thing used to hold a person's head in place while a strange mask with crystal lens was fitted over the person's face.
Genma's question as to what the chair was for went unanswered as he soon found himself flung into said chair and strapped in before he knew what hit him. He was getting rather concerned when the mask was snuggly fitted around his head but as he was starting to state his protests the head prune mumbled something in Chinese and Genma's body arched and strained hard against the straps as some form of mystic energy rushed through his body in a rather unpleasant manner and light began to shine from the mask through the lens.
In a manner similar to a movie projector Genma's whole life was shown against the back wall of the council chamber and it wasn't a good show for Genma. Every lie, every con, every theft, every one of Genma's sins were shown to all in the room.
To say that all the Amazons watching were appalled by what they saw would be an understatement of epic proportions, especially in the ways that Genma interacted with women. The Amazons growled as he left his wife to take their son away to train but they gasped in horror and paled as they watched everything that Genma had put the child through. They were silent as they watched the rest when the image finally caught up to the present.
The Amazon Elders began to rant among themselves in Chinese as the warriors unstrapped the now weakened and panting Genma from the chair and dumped him onto the cold floor.
"Did you see what he did to those girls?"
"He's a student of Happosai's?" that alone convinced one Elder that death was to kind for him
"Look how he treated his own wife."
"Did you see how he tortured his own child?"
Khu Lon sat quietly while the other's ranted and raved at each other expressing their shock and anger at all the male had done in his life. Yes, she was just as angry but she also saw something else, something concerning the girl now hanging in the village center.
His methods were crude and most often inhumane but the child had learned well and from what Khu Lon had seen of the child in action through Genma's eyes she knew that she was very skilled indeed.
"If the girl had been in her uncursed body, Shan Pu would never have stood a chance." She said out loud with a long low whistle.
"What was that Khu Lon?" asked one of the Elders who heard the comment.
Khu Lon looked at her council sister. "We all agree that the training methods used on the child were harsh and incredibly stupid?"
All the Elders and all the warriors in the room nodded in agreement as Khu Lon continued "But as we saw, they've made the child a very skilled warrior. In fact I believe that had she been in her male form or perhaps even had some time to adjust to her female form, I doubt that anyone in this village who is not either an Elder or the tribal War mistress could have beaten her."
That brought shocked looks to the faces of all the warriors in the room when another Elder spoke up "I must agree with Khu Lon, the girl possesses a very strong aura that will only strengthen as she gets older and gains experience and she did move with the grace of a skilled fighter. In fact her attacks in the fight were made with skill but it was her seeming unfamiliarity with how her body moved that caused her to lose."
At that Shan Pu spoke up again "If it's true that she is such a strong warrior it would be a waste to kill her but what else can we do?" Shan Pu gave a shrug "She chose death over the trials and we can not reverse that choice or she might just kill herself anyway."
"That is a valid point Shan Pu," Khu Lon conceded "but remember that as a male granted a female form she has been chosen and blessed by our Mother Goddess. It should be the Goddess' decision for the girl's fate."
All the Elders nodded at once in agreement and Khu Lon continued "It is the will of the council that the outsider girl be placed into the Sleep of Ages to be judged by our Mother Goddess."
She then pointed at the slowly recovering Genma "It will make her appear dead to the male, he we will chase from the village to face whatever fate lies before him."
"We will be doing the girl a favor by ridding her of him." An Elder chuckled
"Indeed we will be." Khu Lon smiled in reply "If it is the will of the Great Mother and the girl returns to us, we will welcome her with full sisterhood. If she does not return we will bury her with the honor that her courage has earned for her."
This time everyone in the council room nodded in agreement.
Another Amazon entered the room and called out to Khu Lon "Honored Elder, the sun is near the rocks, it is almost time to begin."
"Thank you Mi Sao, please assemble a squad of warriors with spears and meet us at the village center." Khu Lon ordered the young warrior who ran off to comply. She than pointed a finger at Genma and ordered "And drag that male to the village center so that he may witness what his foolishness has wrought."
At that Genma was grabbed roughly under each arm and dragged off, knowing for sure that whatever fate awaited his boy was probably waiting for him too.
As they watched the warriors haul Genma away one Elder turned to Khu Lon and asked with a questioning voice "Why the spears? I thought we agreed on the Sleep of Ages?"
"The male does not know that." Khu Lon chuckled "Let him sweat a bit."
"Always with the theatrics you are Khu Lon." The speaker shared the chuckle.
"Humor me, I'm old." Khu Lon flashed a smile and hopped from her chair onto her staff and pogo'd out towards the village center, the other Elders bouncing right along behind her.
Ranma watched as the sun touched the tips of the rocks and knew that his time was almost up. "There is still time." He told himself "I could always ask for the trials instead of this instant death thing."
Ranma sadly shook his head "Be honest Ranma, judging by the look of Shan Pu's face she's probably skilled enough that there would be no way for you to pass the trials, than you'd have to be her slave for the rest of your life."
"But would that really be that bad a thing?" a voice inside Ranma's head piped in "I mean she is really cute and she does have a hot body with a really nice set of…"
"Stop That!" Ranma interrupted that train of thought "Look, yeah she's cute but I'd kind of like to get to know her before I did anything like that with her. I think momma would want me to save myself for my proper spouse instead of throwing my virtue away just to save my own skin."
"You're probably right." The voice reluctantly agreed "That would be something Pops would do."
Ranma looked up as he heard approaching noise and saw a group of Amazons marching towards him, each carrying a long spear.
"On the other hand," the voice piped up "Those spears look pretty sharp. You know I think we have a good chance of making it through the trials instead."
"Oh will you just shut up?" Ranma silenced the voice in his head with mental snarl.
The old woman who had spoken up for Ranma earlier hopped up to her and asked her in a kind voice "What is your name child?"
"Ranma, Saotome Ranma." She answered with only a little tremble in her voice.
"Thank you dear, we just want to get it correct on your tombstone." Khu Lon did her best to hide her smile as a small "EEP!" escaped from Ranma.
As the spear carriers formed upped in a half circle around the pole facing Ranma with their spears in the ready position, Khu Lon addressed the gathered villagers who had arrived to watch the poking.
"The outsider girl Ranma has been found guilty of trespass against the village." She called out in a rather surprisingly loud voice. "By order of the council she is sentenced to death."
Neither Ranma nor Genma actually spoke Chinese but both figured that they really didn't want to understand this speech in the first place. They watched as the Elder motioned to the Jusenkyo guide and he turned to face them "The Matriarch has asked me to translate this to you."
"The girl has faced death with courage and honor."
(You very much brave girl)
"In tribute to her bravery she will not suffer death by impalement."
(You no get poked to death) Both Ranma's and Genma's faces lit up at that.
"Instead she shall suffer the Touch of the Silenced Heart."
(You heart get stopped instead) and both their faces crashed at this.
"To honor her she shall be buried in the Tomb of Heroes so that all may remember her actions this day."
(They put you body in nice place so that all may see you honor)
Khu Lon reached out and lifted Ranma's face with a gentle palm of her hand looking deep into her eyes. "This is your last chance Child; do you wish to face the trials instead?"
"No Elder, this is my choice and I'll live with it." Ranma gave an embarrassed grin "So to speak."
Khu Lon smiled as she reached out with a rigid finger "Than may the Great Mother embrace you child." She than touched a series of points on the redhead's body.
Ranma's eyes rolled back in her head as she slumped forward, only the chains on her wrists preventing her from falling face first into the ground. An Amazon wearing a thick robe rushed to her side and placed a finger on Ranma's throat and listened with an ear on her chest.
"There is no pulse and she draws no breath. The sentence has been carried out." The Amazon declared.
With an unusual show of emotion and strength Genma flung his guards off to the side and rushed to his son's body, checking for himself if there was a pulse. "Live Ranma live!" he pleaded "The schools must be joined!"
Finally a sharp blow to the head from a spear shaft sent him crashing away from the body leaving him a weeping heap and constantly mumbling how "Nodoka is gonna kill me".
With care the Amazons freed Ranma's wrists and lowered her gently to the ground where they placed her on a stout linen sheet. Six warriors, with Shan Pu at the head reached down and reverently lifted the sheet and began to slowly carry Ranma's body towards the council hall.
Genma watched them leave and he turned to the guide with tears in his eyes "Where are they taking the boy?"
"Customer's son be buried in high honor. Body go for public viewing before burial."
Khu Lon hopped over to the pair and Genma abruptly turned to her with a scowl. "I want the boy's body so that I can take it home to Japan so that his mother may find some closure." And hopefully distract her from killing Genma for getting her son killed in the first place.
Khu Lon whacked Genma on top of his head with a sudden swing of her staff "No, you have ruined the girl's life at least grant her peace in death." She scowled back at Genma "Or do you plan to trade her corpse for rice and pickles?"
Genma backed down with a nervous look. "At least you didn't use the spears on the boy."
Khu Lon looked amused "Oh no male, the spears weren't for the girl. They're for you."
Genma's eyes widened with fear and he suddenly found himself nose to nose with an enraged Matriarch "It is only due to the courage of your daughter that I give you this much. Outside of the main gates is a road, follow the road until it forks." She continued to lock eyes with Genma "Take the right fork and it will eventually take you to a small port town where you can catch a boat back to Japan."
She said something to the spear carriers who smiled rather evil smiles and began saying something in Chinese that sounded to Genma like counting.
"Oh no Mr. Customer, Elder tell warriors that when they count to fifty they may give you many many hard pokes if they catch you in Amazon territory." The Jusenkyo guide warned Genma in a hurried tone. "They already at number fifteen er sixteen er seventeen."
By then Genma was long gone with the Amazons in hot pursuit. They never caught him and it was often a point of wonder in the years to come how someone so big could run so fast.
Meanwhile as Khu Lon was unleashing a pack of angry spear carrying Amazons on Genma, Shan Pu and the others had carried Ranma's body into the council hall and carefully laid it onto a cot set up in the main hall.
Shan Pu looked down at the still form before her and let her gaze travel down the girl's form. "She's very beautiful and with such nice skin too. Her breasts are bigger than mine and just as firm." Shan Pu wasn't sure to be jealous about that or not but her thoughts were interrupted as the Elders began to pogo back into the hall, a laughing Khu Lon bringing up the rear.
"I tell you Nair, you should have seen the male run." cackled Khu Lon as she approached the still form of the girl. "Good, I see that she is deep in the Sleep of Ages."
"I'm sorry I missed it Khu Lon." The Elder called Nair responded with a broad smile that turned into a sad smile as she gazed down at the body of the outsider girl. "Yes, she is now with the Great Mother, her fate lies with her now."
Khu Lon called out to two nearby warriors and sent them to retrieve two pitchers, one filled with hot water and the other with cold water. She sent Shan Pu to go fetch some soft towels which she did with some reluctance, not wanting to leave the red head's side.
After the three had returned Khu Lon had the warrior with the hot water pour some on Ranma's body.
The warriors gasped as the body of the red haired girl seemed to flow as it suddenly grew several inches taller with a more defined muscle mass and the hair changed from red to black.
Shan Pu was amazed at the change as she let her eyes roam over the now boy's naked body. She was very impressed by what she saw, a long whistle being her only response to the sight before her.
Another warrior, a shorter girl with the tight figure of a trained athlete and bright orange hair pulled up into three pigtails reached out with a trembling finger and prodded Ranma's well endowed manhood and spoke with awe and wonderment filling her quivering voice "His rod of manhood is very large. Surely it would be most painful to ride upon it?"
"You get used to it." Nair replied in a casual tone but secretly even she was impressed and wishing she were only 150 years younger.
Shan Pu reached out with a lightning quick hand and delivered a loud smack to the hand of the warrior who was currently touching the boy's shaft. "No touching now, that belongs to me." She warned with a soft growl.
The other girl responded back with a growl of her own "Why do you get to have him?"
Shan Pu looked at the girl with a smug face and replied "Because I was the one who defeated him I mean her in the first place. Besides, it was my prize that her stupid panda father ate so she owes me."
Khu Lon interrupted the two before blades could be summoned and used in the council hall. "Now stop that!" she said in a stern voice "Shan Pu was the offended party so she has the right of first claiming." The other warrior pouted as the rest sprouted depressed looks on their faces.
"However, it all means nothing if the Great Mother decides against her." Khu Lon continued. "Now go and let the poor child rest in peace."
The Elder than took the pitcher of cold water and splashed Ranma causing him to return to her girl form, much to the delight of Shan Pu who preferred redheads any way.
Khu Lon spoke to Shan Pu as she watched the other warriors walk dejectedly out of the room. "Dry her off. Shan Pu you must act as her anchor, give her something to lock onto so that she may use it to return to us from the Great Mother's fields."
"Yes Great Grandmother." Taking a fluffy towel, Shan Pu began to slowly wipe the water off of Ranma's body.
"Great Grandmother?" she called out.
"Yes Child." Khu Lon answered as she pogo'd for the exit.
"Ranma is a strong warrior isn't she?" Shan Pu looked up at her great grandmother her eyes on the brink of tears. "She will return won't she?"
"She is a very strong warrior Child." Khu Lon comforted her great granddaughter "And as long as you give her a strong point to find herself home with, she'll be back to you soon."
With that the Elder exited the building as Shan Pu leaned down and pressed her lips gently to the girl's. "I do not know what you did to me Ranma, but my heart cries out to you and my soul misses you terribly." She whispered softly. "Please return home and be with me."
Than sitting back up, Shan Pu begins to sing in a warm gentle voice.
Ranma found herself walking through a field of tall grass and wild flowers. The sky was the brightest blue she'd had ever seen and the sun shone warmly against her skin. Ranma basked in a sense of calm and tranquility that she had never experienced before. She twirled around in a small circle amid a sea of flowers her arms spread wide open and a smile so big it seemed as if it would cover her whole face. Ranma was home.
"Welcome Ran ma." A voice called out to her in a soft musical tone.
At the sound of the voice Ranma felt even more relaxed and at ease. She looked around and saw before her the source of the voice. It was a tall lady of strong beauty with a gentle face and the most caring eyes that Ranma had ever seen. Her gauze like dress seemed to drift as if gently blown by an unseen breeze as did her long unbound brown hair.
Ranma could only stare in awe as waves of unconditional love washed over her. To be honest, Ranma could barely remember her own mother, being only five when her father took her away to train, but what she felt now was exactly how her mother felt to her in her dreams.
Ranma took short almost hesitant steps towards the woman, somehow knowing that she the Great Mother of the Amazons.
The Great Mother held out wide her arms offering Ranma a safe and warming embrace. With a cry of joy Ranma ran directly into the awaiting arms and found herself swung about in the air as she felt herself seem to shrink to the body of a child and she giggled with happiness.
"There you are my brave girl." The voice spoke filled with motherly pride.
"Was I brave? Really?" little Ranma spoke in a child like voice "I was really really scared."
"I know you were my Dear, but you didn't let anyone see that you were scared." Ranma beamed at the pride in Mother's voice.
"You did what you felt was right and you stuck to your choice no matter what might happen." Mother gave her a light tickle in the ribs causing Ranma to squeal in delight. "It takes a very brave and strong warrior to do that."
"But Ranma is not strong and not a good warrior." Ranma said in a sad little voice.
"Why do you say that, Child?" Mother asked in a concerned voice.
"Because panda father always tells Ranma that girls are weak and that girls can't fight and girls aren't allowed to be brave and that girls are only good to make babies and clean houses." Ranma stopped and took a deep breath "And he says that because Ranma is a girl that Ranma have no real value as a warrior."
Mother sat Ranma down on her knee and looked at her with a look of deep concern on her heavenly face. "Now look here young lady. Panda father was a stupid baka. Some girls are exactly what he says they are but not all of them. Many girls are brave and strong and are good warriors and you missy." Mother swept Ranma up for a big hug "will someday be a great warrior."
"Really? Honestly?" asked a wide eyed Ranma with a voice filled with wonder.
"Yes Child, Honestly." Mother smiled at her warmly "It is the truth."
Than Mother sat her back on her knee and looked at Ranma warmly. "But first my Child you must make a choice for your life."
"For my life?" asked a puzzled Ranma.
"Yes," Mother said "You see Ran ma, you are on a new path and what you do with your new life is up to you."
"Up to me?" Ranma ran the thought over and over in her head. "I have never really made my own decisions before."
"Actually Ran ma, you already have done so at least once." Mother smiled at the confused look on the girl's face. "When you chose death over giving away your virtue."
Understanding suddenly blossomed on Ranma's face. "I understand Mother. What choice must I make now?"
Suddenly the grass pulled away from Ranma revealing three dirt paths leading away from where she stood.
"I have judged you Ran ma and found you worthy for the choice of rebirth." Again a wave of love and pride washed over Ranma. "What you do with that rebirth is up to you."
"What choices do I have Mother?" asked Ranma who now seemed to be back to her older self.
Pointing to the path on the far left Mother began "This realm of mine is meant only for Amazons and even though you have come before me for judgment you are not truly one of my children." That thought saddened Ranma as Mother continued "If you choose this path, you will go to your final reward as determined by those whose faith you follow."
"Knowing that I have found you worthy I have no doubt that the others will judge you just as kindly and I am sure that whatever awaits you from them will bring you much."
"Much what?" Ranma wondered.
"That I can not answer." Mother answered with a frown then she waved a hand at the far right path.
"Choose this path and you will be returned to your old life and reunited with your father. You will still have your curse, I'm sorry but that is your destiny." Mother interrupted Ranma before she could ask about her curse. "You will be free from any crimes against the village and will be free to live the life that your father has planned for you."
"Planned for me?" Ranma did not like the sound of that. "In what way?"
"He has not told you yet, but your father has arranged for you to take a wife, the daughter of his old friend and training partner."
"A wife??" Ranma squeaked.
"Yes, a wife and a dojo to run eventually. I will warn you that this life is filled with conflict and problems. You will have several women constantly fighting for your affections. You will find that friends have become foes and the martial arts will be all that you know." Mother shook her head sadly "You will know great pain both physically and emotionally and your heart will break."
"Does anything good happen in this life?" Ranma asked sarcastically.
Mother smiled "Of course, due to all the conflict you will find yourself in you will become one of the best martial artists in the world. After the pain you will find true love although perhaps not with who your father intended, but even I do not know with whom for sure."
"There will be joy and happiness and you will be a fine father and husband someday." Mother gazed happily at Ranma "And you will find your mother again someday."
"My mother?" Ranma whispered "But Pops said she was dead."
"Genma lied to you Ran ma so that you would not wish to quit your training and return home to her."
"That…That…" Ranma ground her teeth as she thought of something nasty to call her father 'that BAST…."
"You watch your language young lady" Mother scolded Ranma
"I'm sorry Mother." Ranma hung her head. "So if I choose this life than everything is mostly out of my control and I will have as much pain and sorrow as I will have joy and happiness."
"I'm afraid that is correct. You will have much Joy but there will always be conflict and sorrows and you will have to endure both before you truly find happiness."
"And the middle trail?" asked Ranma
"If you choose that path, you will reawaken back at the village. You will be welcomed into the tribe and be granted full Amazon warrior status and know that Shan Pu prays for your return and wants nothing more than to spend her life with you." Mother smiled warmly at Ranma. "You will learn martial arts techniques that will make you a great warrior and you will learn many other things as well. And I will alter your curse for you. As I said, it is your destiny to be cursed so I can not take it away, but I can change it to something more usable."
"If I become an Amazon how will my life be?" Ranma inquired
"It will be a good life. Shan Pu will make you a good mate and together you will have many strong daughters. Your family will be blessed with health and prosperity and you will have earned the respect of all of the villagers."
"But Mother, what is the downside?"
Mother beamed at Ranma "Very good question Child. To learn the skills to become a great warrior, the training will be hard and in many cases painful. There will be several times when great enemies shall attack the village and you and those you love may face death. You must give up the dreams of your father. You will never have a dojo to teach in. You will never have many women chasing after you. Very few outside of the village will ever know how skilled you really are. And in a few years you will bear a strong daughter of your own.
"A child?? ME??" the panic in Ranma's voice grew stronger with each heartbeat. "But I'm a guy!!"
"No Ran ma," Mother spoke in her stern voice "If you choose the middle path you will be a woman, who will turn into a male only on certain occasions."
"What occasions?" a shaken and pale Ranma asked in a small voice.
"I can not say unless that is the path you choose."
Ranma gazed into Mother's deep eyes "So my choices are One: Move on to the afterlife of my ancestors. Two: Choose a life of struggle in the hopes of gaining recognition and happiness or Three: lead a life of happiness but face powerful enemies and have no recognition of my skills outside the village all at the cost of my manhood."
"Those are indeed your choices Ran ma." Mother answered in a solemn manner.
"If I choose the middle path, can I still see my mother?" Ranma asked in a hopeful voice.
"Of course you can, it will be in a couple of years but you will see her again." Mother smiled.
Ranma thought for a moment before making up her mind. "Mother I shall walk the middle path."
Ranma again found herself glomped in a big hug and filled with joyful happiness in the comfort of Mother's arms.
"You have made me very proud indeed my Daughter." the musical voice of Mother warmed Ranma's heart "You will bring great honor to your sisters in the tribe."
"You said that you would change my curse Mother, in what way?" Ranma asked
Mother pulled Ranma in close "Well first off Child, you will be female only but can become male when." Mother began to whisper into Ranma's ear.
Ranma began to turn beet red "really?" she whispered hoarsely.
"Yes, and then when Shan Pu desires." More whisperings.
Ranma turned an even brighter shade of red "I was wondering how that would happen."
Mother chuckled musically as she stood the bright red Ranma back on her feet and traced a line down Ranma's face with her fingertip.
"I name thee my defender Ran ma. You will act as my champion and protector of my children." Mother said solemnly "Act always with courage and honor and with wisdom."
"Courage and honor I think I got covered Mother." Ranma grinned "But I'm not too sure about wisdom."
Mother's musical laughter filled the air "You will do fine Daughter. Now when you see Shan Pu, I want you to say something to her."
"What is that Mother?"
'This." And Mother leaned down and whispered into Ranma's ear again, this time bringing a wide smile to the girl's face.
"I can do that." Ranma nodded happily
"I knew you could." Mother smiled "Now go my blessed Daughter and remember that you now bear my mark and are my champion, my eyes are always upon you Ran ma."
Ranma gave Mother a final glomp and trotted down the middle path, suddenly finding the air filled with the sounds of someone singing. "Sounds like Shan Pu." Ranma smiled at the thought and she picked up her pace and ran down the middle path.
It had been four days since Ranma's body was placed in the council chamber. In all that time Shan Pu barely left Ranma's side, only to answer nature's call or when chased away by the Elders so she would go take a bath. At all other times, she sat there and sang softly to the girl she had come to think of as her mate. She had just stopped singing to take a drink of cool water when a gasp from another warrior standing guard near the body caught her attention.
"What's the matter, Ting Ting?" asked Shan Pu.
Pointing with a shaky finger Ting Ting said in an unsteady voice "Her face Shan Pu, look at her face."
Expecting the worse Shan Pu slowly turned to look at Ranma's face and her eyes grew wide as she saw a line that stretched from the start of Ranma's hairline and ran down her face, across her right eye and down her throat. The line was blue in color as was the shorter line that went from under Ranma's left eye to her chin.
"Ting Ting!" Shan Pu yelled out "Go get the Elders quickly!"
Ting Ting took off and soon the sound of hopping Elders quickly filled the room.
Khu Lon was the first to hop up to the girl's sleeping form. "She bears the mark of the Great Mother; she has been accepted by the Great Mother."
Khu Lon looked around at everyone in the room and cried out happily "Rejoice Sisters, we have a new sister for the tribe."
As the cheers started to ring out, the lines on Ranma's face began to shift and flow not unlike two snakes imprinted upon her face. Soon the lines had changed and now appeared as a long blue line that ran across her cheeks just under her eyes and across the bridge of her nose. At that sight, the cheering suddenly stopped as a reverent hush filled the room.
"She bears the sign of the Defender." The Elder named Nair spoke in soft awe. Suddenly the Elder gave a violent twitch and than stood perfectly still as her eyes took on a golden glow and she spoke with a voice not her own.
"I have returned to you my chosen daughter. I have named her my defender and my champion. It is my wish and my will that she be given the rite of rebirth and given a new name for her new life. It is my wish and my will that she be trained and taught in all manner of things and she be taught the most secret and sacred of all Amazon techniques as she will need them to protect the village from the dangers that are to come."
"Daughter Shan Pu, come forth." The voice commanded
"I am here Great Mother." Shan Pu bowed before Nair's possessed body
"My Daughter, I give unto you my champion that you may take her as your mate."
Shan Pu smiled in gratitude upon hearing that.
"Together the two of you will bear many strong daughters and bring much honor and glory to our tribe."
"Thank you Great Mother." Shan Pu bowed again and returned to Ranma's side, unable to keep the big grin off of her face.
"Finally remember this, my daughters, my new champion may be skilled and gifted but she is still new to our ways, try not to overwhelm her with too much too fast." That brought out chuckles from around the room.
The lights finally faded from Nair's eyes and she slumped slowly to the floor, soon to be scooped up by a nearby warrior.
All eyes turned to look upon Ranma as she suddenly took a very loud deep breath and her blue eyes slowly opened taking in the faces of those in the room. Eventually they found Shan Pu and locked on to her lavender eyes. In a dry raspy voice Ranma spoke to Shan Pu.
"Wo ai ni Airen."
Tears flowed freely down Shan Pu's face as she heard Ranma say those wonderful words. With trembling hands she reached out and cupped Ranma's face and leaned in until their foreheads touched and in a tired and trembling voice she replied.
"Wo ai ni Airen." The she kissed Ranma's lips in a lingering kiss filled with all the love that Shan Pu could put into it. This kiss went on for a couple of minutes when a rather loud gurgling sound erupted from Ranma's stomach causing both girls to grin and giggle and ruining the moment.
With a laugh of her own Khu Lon gazed at the two "Well, it seems as if our new sister needs to eat."
Nair replied with a chuckle "And judging by the smell, a bath couldn't hurt either."
That comment caused Ranma to blush slightly.
A still smiling Shan Pu started to help Ranma to her feet to lead her to the baths when she was suddenly stopped by a wooden staff blocking her way.
"No no Great Granddaughter you know the rules." Khu Lon gave her great granddaughter a bright smile "As your betrothed, Ranma may have no more physical contact with you until the binding ceremony." At this Shan Pu's face planted into the floor.
"In fact," the tribal Matriarch continued, "Ranma shall be moved into the bridal hut until the ceremony. But first as per the Great Mother's will, she must undergo the ritual of rebirth."
"Khu Lon motioned to two of the warriors in the room, "Mi Sao, Coo Chi, take our new sister to the bathing hall and see that she is carefully washed and given clean clothes. Then escort her to the bridal hut."
Khu Lon watched as the named warriors approached Ranma and helped her to her feet. As they walked the still unsteady girl out of the room Khu Lon called out "Consider yourselves as her Virtue Guard until the ceremony."
"Yes Matriarch." The girls replied with a smile as they guided their new sister towards the bathing hall.
"Virtue Guard?" Shan Pu asked in a slightly stunned tone.
"Of course Child," the Elder leered at her great granddaughter "I know you too well. While you more often than not follow the tribal traditions, I've seen the way that you look at the girl." She chided the girl gently "You know the traditions as well as I and you know that they must be followed, especially since your Airen is the Great Mother's chosen one."
Shan Pu gave a big sigh as she began to exit the council hall and head dejectedly back to her home "I know Great Grandmother, it's just that I want to be with her as much as I can."
"I know Child," Khu Lon smiled in a sympathetic way "But by following the traditions you bring both yourself and her much honor. Besides Shan Pu, YOU have a binding ceremony to prepare and get organized."
Shan Pu's eyes widened a bit, "That is too true Great Grandmother. There is much to do. I want my Airen to have a good ceremony."
Ranma found herself sitting in a small two room hut, still blushing from her bath. It wasn't the fact that she had just had a long hot bath and had been naked in front of two strangers that had her blushing. It was the fact that she wasn't allowed to actually wash herself and that the two strangers had apparently enjoyed themselves as they cleaned her body that was what had Ranma blushing. Ranma was still standing there blushing as Khu Lon hopped into the hut.
"Apparently you enjoyed your bath?" Khu Lon asked in a teasing manner having noticed the blush as she entered the hut.
"Ummm Elder, I can bath myself you know." Ranma managed to stammer out in a shaky voice.
The Elder chuckled at that "I know Child but you are soon to be a bride and by Amazon traditions that is a sacred calling. A bride is to be pampered and protected in all things."
"You mean anytime I want to take a bath, those two," Ranma pointed at the door knowing that her grinning gropers were standing guard right outside the door. "Are gonna wash me and I have to just let them do it?"
"Hmmm, I take it that they were a little too enthusiastic in their duty?" Khu Lon shot the door a stern glare while Ranma rapidly nodded in the affirmative. "I'll have a talk with them about the need for restraint in a little bit."
"So what's gonna happen next Elder." Ranma asked
Khu Lon sat down on the small bed and patted beside her motioning for Ranma to sit down next to her, which Ranma complied with.
"There will be a great many things that will happen in the next few days for you Child." Khu Lon gave the girl a soft smile. "Tomorrow evening you will be taken to the temple of the Great Mother and given the Ritual of Rebirth. I'm afraid that some parts of the ritual will be rather embarrassing for you."
"Embarrassing?" Ranma eep'd out in a small voice.
"Indeed." Khu Lon pointed to the simple dress that Ranma was wearing, having been given it by her two guards after her bath. "That is the dress of a corpse Ranma; it is what we bury our dead in." That made Ranma shiver.
"During the ritual the shroud dress will be removed and you will be naked before the tribe," Khu Lon noticed the wide eyed look on Ranma's face and gave her knee a reassuring pat. "Then you will be dressed in the manner of a child and be given the name that you will be known by in the tribe."
"I won't be Saotome Ranma anymore?" Ranma whispered.
"No Child, Saotome Ranma died in the village center several days ago. She was a trespassing outsider and is now gone." Khu Lon continued "With the Great Mother's blessing you have been reborn into a full Amazon and need a new name for your new life."
Ranma smiled remembering the warmth and love she felt as the Great Mother told her the same thing as she embraced her.
"After you have received your new name, you will be adopted into one of the houses of the village, that way you can receive full sisterhood."
"I'll be adopted?" Ranma asked hesitantly.
"Of course, we can't have a child of the village without a family, now can we?" Khu Lon smiled again at the redhead "They will love you as if you were their own flesh and blood, and in the eyes of the tribe, you will be."
Khu Lon watched as emotions danced across Ranma's face. Ranma could only remember having one parent and that was her father who seemed to really only care about forcing Ranma to be the best martial artist in the world. Ranma couldn't recall a single act of kindness or fatherly love and her memories of her mother were simply distant blurrings fading with the passing of years. To have a real family was more than she could simply comprehend but it was something that she desperately wanted and needed.
"As your family, they will teach you everything you need to know about being an Amazon and of Amazon culture and traditions." Khu Lon told the girl "And you must learn these lessons well for they are simply the first steps you must take as you prepare for the destiny that the Great Mother has chosen you for."
Ranma nodded slowly "I understand Elder. I will not disappoint the tribe."
"I know you won't." Khu Lon could see that Ranma had meant those words and she began to realize just how lucky her great granddaughter had been to find such a worthy Airen.
"Now for the hard part of all this." Khu Lon suddenly turned very serious which caught Ranma's attention. "It is a strict custom that when two Amazons desire to be joined in the binding that they must prove that they love each other and are not just giving in to their base emotions."
Khu Lon could see by her face that Ranma did not totally comprehend what she was being told. "Too often young Amazons feel the call of their natural passions with whoever their current partner is and while Amazon culture has no taboo on relationships of a physical type between females it takes the Binding Ceremony very serious indeed."
"In other words," Khu Lon made sure she had Ranma's complete attention and understanding "Once you and Shan Pu go through the Binding Ceremony, the two of you will be bound together forever, even after death. The Binding Ceremony joins the two Amazons together in the eyes of the Great Mother for all time. We do not enter it easily for once done it can not be undone."
Ranma nodded in understanding "But how do we prove our love Elder?"
"Tradition states that the two of you shall have no contact with each other for thirty days." Ranma's eyes widened "You may not speak to each other or touch each other except only in the case of a dire emergency. If after thirty days, your love still blooms as strong as it did at the start of the time, than you will be permitted to proceed with the ceremony."
"I understand Elder," Ranma spoke in a soft tone, not liking what she had heard but now truly understanding the reasons for it. Two Amazons who joined together were unlikely to have children together unless they used a male and were thus not going to add to the future of the tribe. So while the tribe could excuse that in the name of true love. It would not forgive such selfishness for simple lust.
But then again, Ranma did have her curse even though it had been changed by the power of the Great Mother. And she had told Ranma that both Ranma and Shan Pu would bear strong daughters for the tribe. Although Ranma had reservations about bearing a child herself.
"For Shan Pu," Ranma continued "I will bear the time apart."
"Good Child." Khu Lon hopped back up on her staff as Ranma's guards entered the room bearing several trays of fresh food. "Oh this ought to be good." The Elder cackled to herself as she left the bridal hut.
"Ah come on girls, I can feed myself!" carried out from the hut behind her as the chuckling Elder hopped back home, the frustration clear in Ranma's voice.
The following day was one of sheer frustration for Ranma; her two Virtue Guards had refused to let her do hardly anything for herself. They insisted on bathing her, combing her hair, feeding her her meals. In fact, it was all Ranma could do to convince the girls to let her use the bathroom in peace and alone.
Finally after lunch Ranma was sitting under a large tree having a glass of juice held up to her lips. She flashed her grinning guards a dark look and told them in Japanese. "You just wait, someday you'll be brides and I'll beg the council for the chance to be one of YOUR virtue guards."
"That would honor me greatly Blessed One." Replied the stockier of the two guards, the one Ranma believed was named Mi Sao in fluent though accented Japanese. Mi Sao grinned as she nodded her head towards her partner, the one Ranma knew was called Coo Chi "But in her case, virtue guard would be an honorary title only. There is nothing to guard anymore."
Ranma was shocked to hear an Amazon speak Japanese so clearly outside of Elder Khu Lon; even Shan Pu's Japanese was broken at best. "Wow Mi Sao, you speak Japanese really well."
"Thank you Blessed One." Mi Sao reddened slightly at the praise "A Japanese anthropologist came to the village a couple of years ago and I acted as his guide. I learn new languages pretty quickly."
"That's pretty cool," Ranma admitted "I sure hope I can learn Mandarin quickly. It sucks not being able to talk properly with everyone."
"I am sure that you will do fine Blessed One." Mi Sao reassured her while flashing a bright smile.
"Why do you call me Blessed One?" Ranma inquired.
Mi Sao traced a finger lightly along the blue line that still crossed Ranma's face. "You bear the mark of the Great Mother's blessing. Besides, until you receive your new name tonight, you have no name for me to call you by."
"That's right," Ranma sighed "Saotome Ranma is dead isn't he?"
"Even though SHE violated tribal law," Mi Sao emphasized the word She, "SHE died with much courage and honor. But yes, in the eyes of the village, she was executed for her crimes."
Mi Sao grinned at Ranma now "But you are about to be reborn. You are not that person anymore." Ranma could see the look of fierce pride in Mi Sao's eyes as she spoke "You are now an Amazon."
Even Ranma had to grin with her energetic guardian "Ok, so what do I do now while I wait for my rebirth."
Mi Sao shrugged her shoulders "Actually, since right now you are not considered as anything more than a spirit awaiting rebirth, you're not really allowed to do anything. You just get to sit around and wait for the ritual tonight."
The news caused Ranma to sigh once again "Geez, being dead sure is boring."
Mi Sao nodded in agreement "Yep, pretty much." And the trio went back to watching the clouds float by while sitting under the shade of a large tree.
Finally, the sun had set and Ranma's guards entered into the bridal hut to escort her to the temple.
"Come o Spirit!" happily called out Mi Sao who was dressed in her full war leathers with a wreath of wild flowers braided into her hair. "It is time to rejoin the land of the living."
'About damn time." muttered Ranma as she stood up and followed the grinning Amazon outside. There she noticed that Coo Chi was dressed in a manner similar to Mi Sao including the flowers.
"What's with the flowers?" She whispered to Mi Sao out of the corner of her mouth.
"We are your Virtue Guard." The Amazon grinned "They symbolize your virginity and purity."
That made Ranma blush "You know, I just might not be a virgin and you could have done that for nothing." She whispered back.
"Nope, Elders already checked while you were sleeping." Mi Sao was grinning even bigger as she watched Ranma's blush spread and turn a darker shade of red. "You're the real deal alright."
"Great just great." Ranma moaned "Just go ahead and tell everyone in the whole village."
"We are." Mi Sao could barely control her laughter at Ranma's embarrassment "What do you think the flowers are for. Besides why should you care if anyone knows? You're about to be naked in front of the whole village in a few minutes anyway."
Ranma was fervently wishing that the ground would just open up and swallow her right away as they approached the temple.
Unlike a modern church the Amazon temple was not a standard building, in fact it wasn't a building at all. It was more like an open air theater consisting of a flat area with a altar at one end and rows of wooden benches acting as pews filling up most of the rest of the flat space except the clear areas used as walkways. The flat area was in turn sitting at the bottom of a bowl like depression and the sides of the bowl had been worked into a series of grand stand style seating. In this way, all the members of the tribe could attend any important temple or village functions held there.
Needless to say that this was one of those functions and the temple was filled to standing room only. The Ritual of Rebirth being performed on one who had the tribe's patron goddess' blessing was a rare enough event that even the children and males of the village were allowed to attend.
Ranma froze like a statue as she crested the small rise leading to the temple and saw just how many people were in attendance.
"I have to be naked in front of all of them?" was the thought that kept cycling through her brain. So lost in trying to comprehend the fullness of the situation she did not notice Khu Lon hopping up beside her or the Elder's several attempts at clearing her throat trying to attract the bewildered girl's attention. Finally with a sigh, the Elder settled on giving the girl a slight smack on the head with her staff, that got Ranma's attention.
"Ow!" Ranma cried out as she felt the impact of the staff against her head.
"Now pay attention Girl," Khu Lon scolded firmly "Since the ceremony is in Mandarin you will not be able to understand it. I will be near you and will translate." Ranma was grateful to hear that. "Now as soon as the music starts we will walk slowly down the main aisle and approach the altar. There you will be undressed and the ceremony will commence. Any questions?"
"A ton of them." Ranma whispered "But I guess they can wait. Ready when you are Elder."
"Very good Child." Khu Lon gave the surprised girl a warm hug "You will make a fine Amazon and Airen for Shan Pu." With that Khu Lon gestured to an Amazon Ranma knew as Ting Ting who went off to tell the priestess that all was ready to begin."
With a nod from the priestess the sisters in the band began playing what sounded to Ranma a lot like a funeral dirge as Ranma and her escorts began walking towards the altar with Mi Sao leading the way with Ranma and Elder Khu Lon side by side in the middle and Coo Chi bringing up the rear.
Ranma felt a small shiver run up her spine as all eyes turned to watch her as she entered the temple. With small slow steps she and her escorts walked in time to the music forward towards the altar. As they made their way to the bottom of the depression that housed the temple everyone in attendance rose to their feet as they passed.
"The ones sitting here in the temple," Khu Lon whispered to Ranma "Represent the noble houses of the tribe. It is into one of these that you will be adopted."
Ranma said nothing forcing herself to keep her eyes forward looking only at the altar and the priestess standing before it. When she finally stood before the priestess her escorts moved off to the sides and the assembled Amazons sat back down. Even though she wasn't looking around, Ranma could feel the eyes of everyone locked onto her as if inspecting her.
The priestess stepped towards Ranma and with a quick flick of a small knife in her hand cut the straps of Ranma's shroud dress. Her virtue guard quickly stepped forward and caught the dress before it could fall to the ground thus protecting Ranma's modesty for a bit longer.
The priestess then held up a hoop made of woven branches and spoke in a loud voice.
Khu Lon leaned in to Ranma to translate. "She is saying that the hoop represents life and the cycle of death and rebirth." Khu Lon continued to provide Ranma with a running translation as the ceremony progressed.
"Now this wandering spirit comes to be reborn anew." The priestess pointed an outstretched hand at Ranma and approached her while holding the hoop high above her head.
"As the cycle passes along your body o spirit, you shall be granted life again." The priestess turned to face the noble houses sitting in the temple. "Who shall claim this newborn as their own flesh and blood?"
"I Shall." All eyes, including Ranma's, turned to face the source of the voice.
Ranma watched as quite possibly the tallest woman Ranma had ever seen stood up and began to approach her and the altar. The woman stood close to seven feet in height and firm well defined muscles rippled under her robe as she approached. The two things that quickly caught Ranma's attention was the woman's bright jade green eyes and her hair worn as a thick braid that hung down by her knees, the woman's hair was bright red exactly the same shade as Ranma's. To say that she was one of the most stunning women that Ranma had ever seen would be a terrible understatement.
The woman stopped and loomed over Ranma making the redhead truly feel like a child, a soft gentle motherly smile on her face and Ranma could see the love that this woman felt for her soon to be daughter radiating from her eyes.
"I am Ming Sao, Matron of House Sao and I will give birth to the new child." The woman stated in a firm yet warm voice.
"Than prepare yourself Ming Sao for your child soon arrives." The priestess commanded
With an accepting nod Ming Sao allowed her robe to fall to the floor of the temple leaving her standing there totally naked and leaving no doubt that the hair color was natural.
Ranma found herself looking up at what was quite possibly the largest set of breasts she had ever seen, not that she had actually seen all that many mind you. Not only were they large but also very firm almost perky even. Ming Sao was quite pleased with her breasts and secretly smiled as she heard jealous murmurs coming from the crowd.
The priestess handed the hoop to Ming Sao and began chanting as Ming Sao slowly lowered the hoop down Ranma's body. As the hoop reached Ranma's shoulders her virtue guard released their hold on her shroud dress which slid to the floor to join Ming Sao's robe leaving Ranma stark naked as well.
Ming Sao soon placed the hoop on the floor and the priestess stopped chanting and cried out "Behold! Ming Sao has given birth to a daughter and given the tribe a new warrior. By what name shall this child be known in the tribe."
Ming Sao reached out and took her new daughter's hands and pulled her out of the hoop and into a warm embrace as she announced Ranma's new name. "I shall name her Pei Sao and so shall she be known." At that Ming Sao gestured and two attendants appeared, one picked Ming Sao's robe from the floor and helped her put it back on. The other came forward with another simple dress, this one embroidered with flowers and animals and decorated with ribbon in such a way as to indicate that the wearer was a small child. The attendant helped Ranma, now Pei Sao slip into the dress.
"Now may the tribe rejoice for this day Pei Sao has been born into the house of Sao." The priestess placed her hands on top of Pei Sao's head and chanted a blessing in a sing song voice.
As the last words of the blessing faded away, Khu Lon hopped up on her staff and smiled at the still slightly bewildered girl. "Welcome to the tribe Pei Sao. May you bring much glory and honor to the tribe and to your house."
Ming Sao looked down at the ancient Elder and with a smile asked her, "Elder will you join us at our home to help us celebrate the arrival of my new daughter?"
"Of course Lady Sao, it will be a pleasure." Khu Lon smiled at the Matron of House Sao and at her new daughter. "Fear not Pei Sao for you have been born into a truly noble house." Khu Lon softly spoke to Pei Sao "Your mother just happens to be the tribe's War Mistress, a position that I have no doubt that you'll be claiming as your own in the years to come."
Khu Lon spoke to those gathered around the women of House Sao and spoke in a loud voice, "As you know, Pei Sao has been betrothed to my great granddaughter Shan Pu and by tradition should be sheltered in the bridal hut until the Binding Ceremony." She sent a happy smile towards both of the girls "However, on this the celebration of her birth the council will make the following amendments."
The Elder drew herself up as tall as she could on her staff as she announced the will of the council. "First, as Pei Sao is new to our tribe, she shall be allowed to stay in the house of her mother until the ceremony instead of moving to the bridal hut. This will allow her family to teach her the ways and traditions of the tribe. However, her virtue guard shall remain on duty until the ceremony." This bit of news caused Pei Sao to groan while her new sister Mi Sao grinned like a cat in a canary cage.
"Second," Khu Lon continued "The trial of separation for Pei Sao and Shan Pu will not begin until the sun rises tomorrow so that they may share in this joyous celebration. However the two must not be allowed to be alone tonight." Khu Lon shot the virtue guard a sharp glance and both of the girls simply nodded in understanding and grinned.
"Now may we adjourn to House Sao to celebrate their new arrival." With that the happy Elder hopped off towards House Sao and what promised to be a great party.
Mi Sao walked over and put her arm around Pei Sao's shoulder and said with another cat grin. "You know Pei Sao, as the first sister that makes me your older sister."
"I am SO gonna beg to be on your virtue guard." Pei Sao said through gritted teeth knowing full well of the teasing to come.
"Now daughters," Ming Sao said in a playfully scolding tone "Let there be no fighting on this special night." Ming Sao pulled her daughters in close and grinned "Besides Mi Sao, you may be the older sister but Pei Sao as the Great Mother's chosen defender outranks you. You might want to remember that."
Mi Sao swallowed hard as she dealt with that fact but then broke out in a big smile again. "True," she admitted, "But not until she's married."
Pei Sao groaned but soon smiled as Ming Sao pulled her daughters in for another hug and Mi Sao hugged her sister tightly.
"Well as the eldest sister I should be able to do a little teasing." Mi Sao grinned at Pei Sao "But don't worry Little Sister, no one else will."
"That's alright Big Sister," Pei Sao smiled back, "As the little sister, I'm obligated to be as big a pain in the butt as I can."
This time it was Mi Sao's turn to groan.
Ming Sao wore a big smile of her own as she lead her two daughters back to their home and the celebration that was awaiting them. "I now have two daughters," she beamed brightly "Both of whom are destined to bring much honor to my house. Life is very good."
Pei Sao was lost in thought as she approached her new home, thinking about the new life she was beginning and for what her future held for her.
The End (for now)