Author's Note: June 23: I did some minor tweaking of the chapter here because upon further reading the ending I had felt like I was pushing things too fast. I kind of want things to happen gradually between Ranma and Mamoru and I pushed things a little too soon forgetting that Mamoru has a memory of his past life the consistency of emmental cheese and not gruyère cheese. He wouldn't just know simply because he's Endymion reincarnated but he would hope that it was that possibility until it was certain. So I'm going to flesh that out a bit more.
Before we begin this rather long chapter I wanted to explain a couple of things. The flashbacks that appear in this chapter take place before the first romance of Endymion and Serenity as written by Takeuchi in the first two volumes of the Sailor Moon manga. Any characters bearing any resemblance to the Joketsuzoku, the Musk, and the Phoenix people are intended to be that way as they will be the ancient ancestors of the iconic characters Takahashi created. The names I have given the ancient Phoenix People (referred to as Bird People in the time of the Golden Kingdom) follow Takahashi's pun of naming them after Indian foods and spices. Don't worry if your favorite characters aren't getting much screen time yet they'll show up in subsequent chapters. So sit back, relax, enjoy, and remember to take time in your day to listen to some good music.
Deep within the Byankala Mountains the battle raged on. The army of the Bird People and the elite forces of the Golden Kingdom had been locked in war for nearly a year. The elite unit made of the top warriors and soldiers within the Golden Kingdom held their ground as the Bird People attacked from the air using their weapons and magic against them. The strange black eggs possessed by the Bird People allowed them to capture humans and turn them into monstrous creatures to carry out their will. Anyone turned by the Bird People were considered lost to humanity and killed by destroying the black crystals imbedded in their foreheads.
Orion had been given the great honor of working closely with the Butai an elite force that knew the Byankala like the back of their hand. The men and women who made up the Butai treated one another like brothers and sisters both in and out of combat. It was this level of closeness shared by the Butai that allowed them to be a powerful and effective fighting unit in service to the royal family of the Golden Kingdom.
"We believe the Bird People are being led by a warrior mage named Raita from atop this mountain," Sage, the commander of the Butai, told Orion as he pointed to an unnamed mountain in Byankala range on the charts laid out before them.
Bura Shu, affectionately nicknamed Brush by Sage and the second in command, added her own gathered intelligence to the report they were giving the young prince, "It is also believed that the power of Jusenkyo resides in the natural spring within the caverns of the mountain. We think this is how Raita and his followers gained their birdlike form many years back."
Orion nodded acknowledging he understood the information given to him. The war had taken a nasty turn when raids from the Bird People upon the villages in the valleys of Byankala increased in frequency causing the need for Endymion to join his brother in combat. Diplomacy had failed and action and force appeared to be the only option left for the forces of the Golden Kingdom. Orion believed that combat was the only thing the Bird People understood and vowed to stop them from terrorizing other villages in the valleys. It was a vow he made after saving the life of a young woman whose entire family had been turned by the Bird People.
Qiao stood a head shorter than Orion with eyes the color of a bright blue sky and a head of fiery red hair. She considered herself to be a fighter despite her father's objections to his daughter learning to fight with a wooden sword and shoot a bow and arrow from her best friend's older brother. The day the Bird People overran her village Qiao picked up a real sword for the first time in her life as her family, friends, and fellow villagers were either killed or turned by the Bird People one by one. Qiao had managed to hold the Bird People at bay with her bow and arrows but it was not enough.
The Bird People were about to use their black egg to trap and turn Qiao when Orion and the Butai arrived at the village to do battle with them. As the Butai fought off the humans turned monsters, Orion dealt with a Bird Woman about to send a black egg towards Qiao. The battle was messy and the Butai barely managed to defeat the monstrous villagers. In his battle, Orion had been unable to defeat the Bird Woman but he managed at the very least wounding her to the point of driving her out of the village. In the end, Qiao was all that remained of her village and out of gratitude for her savior she became Orion's unofficial, and very loyal, apprentice.
Part Five: I Must Be Dreaming…Again
Quaint, that was a very polite way of saying Mamoru Chiba lived in a modest one bedroom apartment with barely enough room to hold four guests. It was also the polite way of saying that Mamoru Chiba did not have the extra bed necessary to house overnight guests. What Mamoru Chiba had was a bedroom, a small kitchen, a living room, and most importantly a western futon couch to go with his coffee table and more traditional looking couch.
Mamoru had purchased the western futon couch after Chibiusa had fallen asleep in his bed during her first visit back to the Twenty-first century. She and Usagi had a fight that had the small pink haired girl running to Mamoru for protection. Mamoru had found himself unable to say no to letting the girl stay with him for a few hours and then took responsibility for her when she fell asleep on his bed. After an uncomfortable night on his hard modern styled leather and metal couch, Mamoru decided he needed something better to sleep on if Chibiusa ever decided to sleep over again. Never did he think the convertible futon couch would become the summer bed of his foster mother's biological son.
"Well, here we are home sweet home. It's not much but it'll do for the next couple of months," Mamoru said as he gave the grand tour, "I hope you don't mind using my western futon couch while you're here. I got it to sleep on after the first time I babysat Usagi's little cousin overnight and my leather couch proved to be not the best thing to sleep on."
Ranma looked over the futon couch and gave a small chuckle. Sure it was a futon, but at least it was a futon off the floor. "Hey, anything beats the old futons the Tendos own," he commented with another chuckle.
Mamoru laughed in response to Ranma's comments on his sleeping arrangements within the Tendo household as he set out to make a pot of tea. There was something about sharing a cup of tea with a guest and potential friend that made it easy for a person to open up and chat about nearly anything. What was true in western tea drinking countries like England was also true in Japan. Tea was something Mamoru had come to love during his time with Ranma's mother. Tea was something that naturally went well with Kasumi's homemade daifuku.
"Why don't you put your pack in the bedroom and we'll learn a bit about each other over some tea," Mamoru suggested.
Awestruck was the only word to describe how the Sailor Senshi felt about what they had witnessed on the subway platform that morning. After having lunch with Mamoru and Ranma at the very elegantly kept neighborhood McDonald's, the girls decided to spend the rest of their afternoon at the temple. The topic of conversation was without a doubt going to revolve around what they had seen Ranma do on the subway platform. It was something no ordinary human should have been able to perform; even with the fourteen years of martial arts training Ranma said he received from his father.
"No ordinary human, not even someone as skilled as Ranma is, should have been able to take down a creature like that," Rei commented as she set out the tea set for her guests.
Slight worry began to show on Usagi's face as the possibility of Mamoru's guest not being human and connected to a new threat crept up in her mind, "You're not suggesting that Ranma's not entirely human are you?"
"The possibility of that being true is something to consider Usagi. My readings from this morning have me quite puzzled. The creature is definitely not related to any past threat we've faced. Add to that some very strange biological readings from Ranma and I wouldn't be surprised if he does turn out to be from another world like the star senshi," Ami said sharing her findings from the attack.
"Well, whatever he is Ranma did some stuff you only hear about in martial arts manga and anime or those special effects heavy action films. Heck, he did stuff I'm sure not even Jackie Chan can do," Makoto remarked her inner martial arts fanatic showing.
From her spot at the table in the temple tea room Minako replayed the morning's events in her mind. There was now the distinct possibility that the senshi might have a new threat on their hands. The moment the girls appeared to have a normal life again someone or something stepped in to remind them they were not normal teenagers. Minako had lived with that fact since she was thirteen and Artimes first gave her the transformation rod that made her the hero of little girls everywhere and the electronic frustration of her princess, Sailor V.
"Guys we have to face the fact that we just might be on the verge of another enemy either trying to take over the universe or kill Usagi for something that happened in the past. I'd like to think this was some random left over Daimon or Youma but things have been way too quiet in Azabu-Juban since the Three Lights left Earth. We're going to have to use every resource we have to figure out if a new threat is around the corner and like it or not that means involving the Outers and Michiru's mirror," Minako said jumping into her role as the commander of Usagi's inner guard.
Oh how he hated the sons of Endymion. Raita seethed as he viewed the morning's fight between his Kaijuu and the younger prince Orion. If his plans for domination over the Golden Kingdom were to come to fruition then the younger prince, Orion, had to be eliminated. The prince had been a thorn in the side of the Bird People not once but twice. Orion had connections to the Bird People that spanned the ages. Raita had seen in the pool how Orion had forced his successor, Saffron, into rebirth leaving the Bird People without a proper king.
Raita's thoughts of revenge were interrupted as the sound of footsteps fell upon the stone floor. The winged figure kneeled before the exiled king looking up at him with green eyes the color of moss. The long high peacock blue ponytail fluttered slightly in the soft breeze within the cavern as the figure's streamlined armor reflected the light of room off it. The figure's wings were a bright green tipped in a deep rose.
"Imarti, my loyal warrior, the time has come to bring down the sons of Endymion for what they have done to us. The time has come to make the landlings of the Golden Kingdom tremble before the might of the immortal Bird People," Raita told the female warrior.
Imarti placed her right fist across her chest and lowered her head in salute to her king, "My lord I will track down the sons of Endymion and with my dark Shikimori Eggs I will give rise to new Kaijuu ready to do your every bidding. This time Endymion's sons will not have the Butai to battle alongside them and they shall fall by my hand in your name."
With a sneer upon his face Raita let out a malicious laugh at the thought of Imarti's Kaijuu terrorizing the people of the landling's kingdom. "Go Imarti. Invade the kingdom of the landlings and see that you do not fail me in destroying Endymion's sons."
The Cat Café was quiet that afternoon. It was too quiet for the likes of its owner and her staff. Mousse sat at a table ladling duck sauce into squeeze bottles for the tables while Shampoo was tasked with filling the salt and pepper shakers. It was a job neither teen was too happy to be doing but they knew it had to be done. Shampoo readily did the task because her great-grandmother had explained it helped maintain a good business and with a good business they would have the money to spend on items that would help make Ranma a member of their village. Mousse did the task out of fear of being struck over the head with Elder Cologne's walking staff or turned into a duck as punishment for failing to listen to her. Sense of duty and great fear were the driving factors in anything the two Chinese teens did for the Cat Café each day.
"Shampoo miss having Ranma around. Nerima is a too too quiet of a place without Airen here for the summer," Shampoo commented with a sigh using improved tourist Japanese.
"I told you when you came back with the news about Ranma from Kasumi Tendo that it wouldn't be right to try and find him in Azabu-Juban in the Minato ward just yet granddaughter. If the eldest Tendo is correct about Ranma's parents then we must proceed with caution," Cologne advised while separating her cooking spices from her medicinal and mystical spices in the day's delivery.
Cologne knew there were other reasons for proceeding with caution where Ranma was concerned. She had yet to tell Shampoo and Mousse but there was a very strong possibility that Shampoo would legally not be allowed to marry Ranma as set out by their village laws. In her morning meditations that day Cologne had seen several images that both disturbed and puzzled her. First, there was Ranma's female side dressed in sleek Chinese armor with what appeared to be a piandao at her waist and a bow and arrows across her back her with her hair pulled high into a bun. Then, there was the woman with hair a very close color to Shampoo's in the same double bun style dressed in the traditional clothing of the Joketsuzoku warriors. However, where Shampoo had violet eyes she had rose colored eyes. Finally, there was the image of Ranma. This was the vision that puzzled Cologne the most.
The clothing Ranma wore in the vision was unlike anything she had ever seen him wear. The top of the outfit reminded Cologne of a western naval officer's jacket with its banded collar. The entire outfit was black, formal, and sleek with accents around the collar, cuffs, and front of the shirt's top in gold and dark blue. There were pauldrons and a plackart in a gold plated metal along with greaves, poleyns, and sabatons in black to match the knee length leather boots on his feet. Draped over his shoulders Ranma wore a long black cape lined in the same dark blue as on his uniform. His hair was in the ever familiar braided queue yet it was longer than she remembered. In his hands Ranma held a rather impressive looking staff with a flat blade on one end and a nasty looking spear tip at the other.
What puzzled Cologne further was the fact that her visions included a faceless man dressed in the style of the Musk, several females in the shadows in what looked like short skirts, the figure of a man dressed similar to Ranma, and the Byankala mountain range. Ranma, the mystery man, his female side, her ancestor, and the ancient Musk all had a very strong connection to the Byankala. What all this meant and why she knew it would ultimately decide Shampoo's future with Ranma was a great mystery, one that she was determined to figure out.
He was dreaming. It was not the dreams of being late to high school and realizing you forgot your pants when you got to school. It was not being locked in the Crown after Motoki forgot he was still in the building. The dream Mamoru Chiba was having felt exactly the same as the prophetic dreams that plagued his sleep when he first discovered he was Tuxedo Mask. However, the dream Mamoru Chiba was experiencing that night was being shared by the young man sleeping on his western futon couch. Ranma Saotome was having his first prophetic and utterly confusing past life memory leaking dream.
If there was anyone Orion wanted in battle with him it was his older brother Endymion. While the Butai were a very competent fighting unit, Orion and Endymion had an unspoken language that allowed the brothers to be quick and accurate. However, the brothers would not be going into battle alone. As much as Endymion did not like the idea, the village girl Qiao had insisted on joining them in their raid to take back the springs of Jusenkyo from the Bird People.
"She's untested in battle Orion. I like her but she's just too young for this. She's still a child," Endymion reasoned with his brother.
Orion ran his whetstone over the blade of his guan dao focused solely on the blade's edge as he gave his reply, "Look I'd wish she'd remain an innocent child using her bow for hunting sika and her blade for skinning and cutting meat. However, Qiao seems intent on following the warrior's path and she just will not leave my side. Even if I said no she'd still follow me into battle."
Endymion let out a sigh at the thought of an innocent girl from a valley farming village who was never meant to be a warrior going down the path of the soldier. In his mind, only those trained to handle the death and destruction war brings were capable of dealing with the mental strain being a soldier brought a person. The Butai, the Shitennou, Queen Serenity's Senshi, and his little brother were trained from an early age to deal with the ravages of war. Little Qiao, from what he had witnessed, still woke up in the middle of the night needing to be comforted by Orion or Brush.
The trio set out before dawn the next morning to begin their attack upon the Kaijuu under the command of Raita's loyal follower Imarti. Orion had not seen the Bird Woman since the attack on Qiao's village and was very eager to ensure she did not have the opportunity to raid any more villages within the valleys. Endymion could tell his little brother might do something rash if given the opportunity. Orion was a very good warrior but he was prone letting his ego get the better of him at times.
"Okay you two we're going to do this mission very simple and very straightforward. I don't want either one of you doing anything stupid. Father would have my head if something happened to you Orion," Endymion told the pair.
With his usual goofy smile plastered across his face Orion assured his older brother everything would go according to plan, "You worry too much Endymion. You forget; I'm the best around."
Endymion responded by letting out a chuckle and rolling his eyes at his little brother's boasting. Qiao looked at the brothers slightly confused by their back and forth with one another not used to being around both princes at the same time.
"You don't have to worry about me your highness. I can take care of myself," Qiao tried to assure Endymion.
An ambush awaited the trio as they reached the springs. What was thought to be a surprise attack turned out to be a nightmare. Imarti and her Kaijuu expected the brothers and their young charge to try and regain the springs for the Golden Kingdom. From the moment their presence was made known the Kaijuu forced the trio into three directions separating them from one another. Endymion was able to hold his own just fine with his sword skills and quickly took out the first of the Kaijuu. At the same time, Orion was able to drive the spear tip of his guan dao into the forehead of a nearby Kaijuu killing the monster.
"May you find eternal peace in Elysium's golden fields," Orion said in prayer as the Kaijuu disintegrated into dust.
Mamoru and Ranma's dreams had been showing the two men images from the same vantage point until that moment. While Mamoru's dream continued to show things from his viewpoint as Endymion Ranma's dream split into two rapidly jumping from Orion's viewpoint to that of Qiao. Every emotion felt by both combatants in the battle with the Kaijuu Ranma felt. Orion's confidence and calm upon the battlefield as he used both his guan dao and his bare fists to bring peace through death to the once human Kaijuu. Then there was Qiao's intense fear as she desperately tried to keep the Kaijuu from killing her.
For Qiao it was a losing battle. She had managed to injure a few Kaijuu with her bow and arrows and somehow killed one with her piandao through sheer luck. However, her right arm had a bad gash making it nearly impossible for the young girl to pull back the string on her bow. Out of the corner of her right eye she witnessed Orion's battle aura grow in intensity as he used it to take down a rather vicious Kaijuu. Out of the corner of her left eye she saw Endymion drive his sword into the jewel of a Kaijuu that resembled a mountain spirit.
Qiao was quickly brought back to her own fight when she felt a sharp claw rake across the front of her armor as though it were mere paper. The sting of the attack caused the inexperienced fighter to cry out in pain as she inched ever closer to the springs of Jusenkyo.
"I won't die on this day," Qiao vowed through clenched teeth as she painfully pulled back the string of her bow, "You can't make me."
With great pain Qiao let her arrow fly. However, the pain of her injuries caused the young girl to miss her intended mark and hit the Kaijuu in the shoulder. The Kaijuu roared in pain before it began lashing out at Qiao with its claws. Qiao desperately tried to dodge the attacks of the Kaijuu failing as its claws connected with her face and shoulder.
"Orion, Qiao's in trouble!" She heard Endymion call out to his brother.
The desperation and fear Ranma felt were no longer coming from Qiao but Orion as he desperately rushed to try and save the life of his young charge. However, Orion would be too late to save Qiao and Ranma would never know what emotions were running through him as the viewpoint switched to Qiao's vantage. Ranma was about to witness his or rather Qiao's very death from her own eyes.
The Kaijuu Qiao had been locked in combat with pressed its advance lashing out once more with its claws. Desperate to stay alive, Qiao drew her piandao from its sheath and tried to strike back at the Kaijuu failing to connect with its flesh. As she continued to swing wildly at the Kaijuu, Qiao felt the sharp claws of the Kaijuu slice into her hand causing her to cry out in pain while her piandao went flying well out of her reach.
Sheer terror fell across Qiao's face as the Kaijuu went in for the final blow. The Kaijuu had calculated its attack to push the village girl ever closer to the springs with each blow. With a sweeping uppercut, as she desperately tried to block the attack, the Kaijuu sent Qiao flying into the spring behind her. The young girl struggled to get above the water but the injuries to her arm, midsection, and shoulder would not let her. Qiao could feel death's darkness creep over her as she saw one final flash of light above the surface of the spring.
Ranma bolted awake with a scream panting as he desperately tried to catch his breath beads of sweat running down his forehead. Quickly looking around he remembered that he was not in the Tendo house and made his way to the small bathroom in Mamoru's apartment. The dream was very vivid and what he had seen felt so real to Ranma. Once in the bathroom, Ranma turned on the faucet to the sink not waiting for it to get warm and splashed his face with the cold water several times. It was not long before Ranma was wet enough to feel the familiar change overtake his body. Looking into the mirror Ranma saw not the female face he had come to accept as a part of himself but the face of the girl that saw him as her hero, mentor, and someone she would follow to the ends of the Golden Kingdom and back.
"I guess the old guide wasn't kidding when he said your story was tragic," Ranma said to her reflection.
The sound of Ranma's cry had abruptly woken Mamoru from his own dreaming that night. Through the crack in his slightly ajar door Mamoru, or rather Endymion as the crown prince happened to still be in control, could see the light coming from his bathroom. Looking at the small bedside clock Mamoru noted that it was nearly half past five and the sun would be rising soon. Mamoru wanted to go to the bathroom and see if Ranma was okay. Ranma, that name did not quite fit the young man sharing his apartment for the summer holiday. Sure he was a wild horse in this life but where Endymion was concerned he was not Ranma he was Orion his younger brother, second prince of the Golden Kingdom, best friend, training partner, and a damn fine warrior.
Sighing softly Mamoru got out of bed, retied the drawstring on his pajama pants, ran his fingers through his hair, and gave his shoulder a scratch as he made his way out of his bedroom. Reaching the all too small bathroom at the end of what really could not be considered a hallway; Mamoru saw a sight that had him stunned beyond belief. There standing in his bathroom wearing men's boxers and a tank top with her hair in the same braided pigtail as Ranma's was the village girl Qiao. Quickly Mamoru checked the living room to see if Ranma was okay and to ask him how the girl appeared in his apartment when he saw no sign of the teen on the western futon couch. It was at that point things became clear to the university student as he and his past self pieced together the puzzle before him. Ranma had been to China during the later stages of his training trip, his father had turned into a panda when knocked into the Tendo's koi pond, there was a red haired girl from his past standing in his bathroom, and Ranma was nowhere to be found. It all made sense. Ranma had found the mystical springs of Jusenkyo and fell victim to their magic.
"I take it you had a pretty intense dream too Rama," Mamoru said gaining Ranma's attention.
Startled by Mamoru's voice, Ranma went into defensive mode instinctively denying she was Ranma Saotome, "What? I...I…I…I'm not Ranma. I'm a girl."
"Ranma, we're the only two people in a locked apartment fifteen floors up. Your father turned into a panda before my eyes the day I first met you. There's no one in the living room right now. It doesn't take a genius to put two and two together to figure out that it's you," Mamoru remarked challenging Ranma's denial.
Ranma signed and resigned herself to the fact that Mamoru had figured out one of her more embarrassing secrets. The way he approached her about it told the cursed martial artist that she had nothing to be embarrassed about. Looking the taller man in the eyes Ranma could see that he was concerned for her. He could tell she had been dreaming and that those dreams were eating at her from the inside out.
"For two years I thought this face was the face I would have had if I had been born a girl. For two years I learned to live with this face ass my very own every time I was hit with cold water. But after waking up from those dreams I can't see anything but the face of a dead girl from some ancient Chinese village in the valleys of the Byankala Mountains," Ranma told Mamoru.
Mamoru saw the fear and confusion written upon the face of the girl before him. It was not hard to feel sorry for Ranma in his female state. Mamoru knew all too well what it was like to be assaulted by vivid dreams of the past and to have a flood of memories you weren't certain were your own hit you all at once. The attack in the subway the morning before had definitely triggered some long dormant memories within Ranma's subconscious mind the same way Queen Beryl's attacks on Tokyo had brought forth his own memories.
"Let me guess you've been having dreams about a young red haired Chinese teen that followed you around like a lost puppy in the middle of a war? You saw yourself but you were not yourself and answered readily to the name Orion? And if I'm right I was in your dream as well but you were calling me not only Endymion but brother as well?" Mamoru gently prodded trying to get Ranma to open up to him.
Ranma stared at Mamoru in shock. How had he known what had happened in her dreams? How did he know about Qiao and her being called Orion? How did he know about Orion's older brother Endymion? How? The question played itself over and over in his mind.
"How did you know?" Ranma managed to get out.
"Because," Mamoru began as he let out a sigh, "I think had the exact same dream you did. I don't know if it means anything yet but I do know some people who can at least help you make sense of that dream."
In the back of his mind Mamoru hoped and prayed what he thought had happened that night was true. And if it was maybe just maybe the memories of one of his lives could be whole again.