AN1: English is NOT my native language, thank you.
Thanks a lot to Hiryo from #fukufics for editing this chapter.
Episode 05 Revelations and truths
The night was anything but peaceful for Ranma Saotome, even helping her mother to make dinner as 'Ranko', and playing a board game with her did nothing to distract her of her worriers. If she lost the bet with Rose... then everything would be over. Ranma was scared, and this time she didn't have anyone to talk about it, or at least calm her down. And it's not like any training or fighting would help, if there was a kind of battle Ranma had no clue how to win, was one that happened in the mind.
Ranma got naked and stared at the redhead looking at her from the mirror. Since talking with Red, Ranma had become more accepting of her girl's body. But being a girl all the time... that would make her insane. No matter how useful being a girl was sometimes, Ranma didn't feel like that girl was... him. In a way, it was like being sick, as a girl Ranma was weaker, but also got special treatment, but being like that all the time would be a nightmare.
"Ranma... is this my fault?" Asked the redhead in the mirror.
"Uh? What? Rose? Or are you Red?" Ranma was shocked that her reflection was talking to her.
"I am Red. Why did you two had to fight? I know Rose can be just plain annoying, she thinks she is the best warrior ever and likes to boss around, but it's not like you aren't like that yourself. Or maybe it's because you two are so much alike? Or is because she was an Amazon warrior?"
"Red, I am not angry with you. My problem is with Rose, she not only betrayed my trust, she has also been manipulating me and she tried to bribe me, and when that didn't work, she threatened me. She claims she doesn't want me to be a girl all the time but... you need to be a girl to be a magical girl. I am really tired of everyone just using me for their selfish goals. Don't I have the right to do what I want to do?"
"Ranma... if... if you become a boy all the time... does that mean I will die? Or that I will be locked away like you did to me before?"
"Locked away? What the heck are you talking about?"
"I... I wasn't born with the Jusenkyo curse, I have always been a part of you. But, since the stupid panda keeps rejecting everything girly... you... you locked me away."
"I... I don't remember doing that..."
"It.. it happened during the Neko-ken training, your dad kept pushing you around to get over it, to not be a girl. Then somehow you though that if you just locked away all that your dad thought that was girly, then he would stop throwing you to the pit and letting those cursed cats hurt you."
Ranma just stared at Red, not knowing what to say. If Red had always been there, if she wasn't just a part of her curse... then...
Tears, Ranma Saotome was crying, where those Red's tears? Or her own tears, did it really matter? Ranma hugged herself, since she couldn't hug her reflection in the mirror.
"Red... I promise, even if I get rid of the curse... I won't hurt you or lock you away."
Memories, Ranma's head was flooded with memories she thought lost. Memories from before the Neko-ken training, memories of her mother playing with a very young Ranma Saotome. She also saw arguments, her dad, and mother yelling at each other, the stupid panda scolding her mother, saying that Ranma would never be a man if she kept babying him. In those memories, her mother was a real mother, always being there for young Ranma. But... her stupid dad, he had to ruin everything! She ever saw her dad bribing 'him' with candy so he signed that stupid contract.
"What... what is this?" I thought I had lost every memory before the Neko-ken."
"You just locked them away, like you did with me. Thanks... now you know why I hate mommy, she... she let him do that to us, she let him take us away... "
Ranma sat down over the bed, not knowing what to do. This was just too much to take at once. Maybe she could go and kill the damn panda? No, as tempting as it was, it wouldn't solve anything.
Then Ranma got dressed with that ninja outfit, there was something else she got from Red, now that she had accepted that part of herself back, she also got all the memories Red had about Rose, including Rose talking to Red about herself and Ranma saw all the training the two redheads did together. From the memories, Ranma could see Rose wasn't that bad, but she was stubborn, and always got what she wanted no matter what.
"Just like Shampoo." Ranma thought, "Only she is way more dangerous than Shampoo, maybe even more dangerous than the old ghoul."
Before, Ranma had no clue what to expect about her... no, his battle with Rose. But now, with Red helping him, Ranma had a chance. Ranma sat on the ground in the lotus position, trying to meditate.
"This is my mind Rose, mine! You aren't the one in control, I am!" Ranma then covered her mouth. Nodoka knocked the door "Ranko, are you okay? Why are you yelling?"
Thinking quickly, Ranma, changed back to regular clothes, hid the ninja costume and opened the door "Sorry, I was... reading a book and I got a bit enthusiastic with it."
"Oh." Nodoka could tell Ranko was lying, but decided to not press on for now. "Well, is a bit late, why don't you try to sleep?"
"Right, sleeping sounds good. Thanks for worrying about me auntie." Ranma-chan hugged her mother. Then decided her mother wasn't a bad person, just a bit insane, stupid contract!
Then before going to bed, Ranma have herself a last look in the bathroom, and checked to see how she was doing down there.
"Dry... the period is over." Ranma should feel happy but... that also meant Rose could attack at any moment. If she went to sleep, she didn't know when she would wake up or what things Rose would do to her.
"Don't worry Ranma, go to sleep, I will keep her busy." Said Red's voice in her head.
"Wait, no, this is my fight!" Ranma said more for pride than anything else, but Red didn't answer her.
Jadeite was naked and feeling somewhat cold. He was inside the giant pink crystal located in the secret room of the Omega base, his mind fighting to stay awake, because he knew his transformation won't start until he felt asleep. Thankfully, Purple Crow was gone since Jadeite didn't want any man staring at his naked body, even if it was Prince Endymion himself. It had been hours, at first his leader had told him to stop fighting it and just fall asleep, but after an hour he got bored and left, knowing that 'Jade' won't be able to stay awake forever.
"Oh well... it's for a greater good, right?" He thought and finally let his consciousness leave to the dream world. The last he noticed before falling asleep was his heart beating faster and a pleasant felling of warmness all over his body.
Red and Rose stared at each other in Ranma's mindscape, this time they both where in what it looked like the top of a flat hill, a storm was raging in the sky. Both redheads took defensive stances.
"Even if Ranma accepted you, you still can't defeat me Red." Rose said, her aura full of confidence.
"Who says that I need to win? I just need to keep you busy long enough for Ranma to complete his quest."
"What happened with that about never losing? Uh?" Both girls started to circle each other, without attacking, each one waiting for the other to do the first move.
Red grinned, "That was some of the stupid things Ranma-kun ended saying after he sealed me away, but now..." Red's fists covered in fire, but she still didn't attack.
Rose looked at her incredulously "You want to attack me with fire? You know it won't work."
Red moved faster than eyes could see and punched Rose stomach, taking advantage of the taller Redhead lowering her guard for a split of a second. Rose stared incredulously at the hole in her clothes and what looked like a first-degree burn.
"How?" Despite her surprise Rose quickly back flipped away and let her whole body cover in fire as a defense.
"This is the realm of Ranma's mind, and right now Ranma-kun hates you and accepts me. Even with Ranma rejection you, The Burning Rose may be too strong for me to defeat, but the playing field has evened out."
Rose smiled "I see, I guess it's time I stop holding back." The amazon redhead cracked her knuckles.
The storm raged, as the two redheads danced again, none of them could see the silhouette of a phoenix watching over them.
A little girl ran around one of the hallways of the royal palace, she was about ten years old, her hair silver and tied into long twin pigtails. A redhead stopped her.
"Lady Rose, please hide me!" The little girl pleaded.
"Okay, what is it this time Little Rabbit?" Rose said, crossing her arms.
"I don't like sword practice!" The little girl pouted.
"Lets me get this right. You are asking me, a Martial Artist, and an Amazon, to help you avoid learning how to use a sword.'"
The little girl seemed to think of what she just said for a moment then looked at Rose with Puppy dog eyes "Please?"
"Rabbit-chan, you are the heir to the Moon Kingdom, which means a lot of people want you dead. Someday, you will have no one to defend you, and learning how to use a sword can be the difference between living and dying."
"You think I don't know that?" Little Rabbit protested "But... why we can't just talk and get along? Why we have to fight?"
Rose rubbed her chin "I am training the Mars princesses so one of them will become Sailor Mars, the Senshi of Fire and War. I am the worst possible person to ask why we can't all get along. I am a warrior, I live to fight. But if you really want to me to answer your question, I guess is because there will always be people who won't listen, people you will have to fight to prevent them causing harm."
Little Rabbit looked down, was she going to cry? Lady Rose hugged her "I know it hurts, not everyone has a warrior spirit, but sometimes we must do things we don't want to for a greater good. Do you think I want to be stuck teaching a bunch of prissy princesses when I could be down on earth with my Amazon sisters fighting a glorious battle?"
"I don't think... I will ever understand people like you. How can you live to fight, to hurt others? How can you be happy inflicting pain?"
"Little Rabbit, it's true that I enjoy to fight, but instead of doing it for my own pleasure, I do it to defend the people that are precious to me. If I didn't fight, those who I love would get hurt or killed."
"There... there has to be another way!"
"Of course there are other ways, fighting should always be the last choice, not the first. But... no matter how hard we try, there will always be wars. A Galaxy of everlasting peace is but a fools dream. One that might be worth to die for, but still impossible."
"I will find a way!" Little Rabbit seemed determined, Rose had never found her being so serious before.
The conversation was interrupted as the royal guards finally found the runaway princess. A look of betrayal filled the princess eyes, but she said nothing and didn't struggle as the guards carried her back so her sword lessons continued.
Ranma opened her eyes, she had wanted to change back into a guy, if only for a few minutes, but it was a risk doing it with her mother nearby. That... that had been another of Rose memories. Honestly she had expected something worse, just because the princess had been a cute and idealist kid didn't meant that Ranma Saotome would become a magical girl. Ranma closed her eyes and tried to sleep again.
"So, what do you think of my daughter?" Queen Serenity asked casually, as if she was talking about clothes or her favorite desserts.
"She is naive, but she has her heart in the right place. She does care, maybe a bit too much. She would be the ideal ruler for a time of peace, but as things go, she will have to face war."
"Will you be there to help her?"
"That's Setsuna's job, not mine. You wanted me to train the next Sailor Mars, and that's what I am doing. Maybe, maybe whoever becomes Sailor Mars can help her to make the hard choices. The house of Mars has always been led by warriors, after all."
"Who do you think will make it? I know is still a bit early, but you always seem to be great at figuring out people battle skills."
"Raven, Mockingbird, and Nightbird show the most potential of all five. But as you said, it's still early."
"So, who is your favorite?" The Queen insisted.
"Not your business. Whoever I chose, it will be based on skill, not favoritism. And after you get your new Sailor Mars, I will be back with my amazon sisters, as we agreed."
"I will miss you, my beautiful flower, why can't you stay?" The Queen hugged Lady Rose, making her blush.
"I don't belong here, Setsuna is already paranoid of my so called bad influence on you, and I think she might get a heart attack if I stayed beyond of what we agreed."
"There are another reasons, right?"
"Besides the fact that I have the obligation of getting married with someone of my tribe and have at least one child, my fire reading has shown doom for your empire. Not that anyone but you would listen to a half-earth scum-."
"Oh, don't worry I have a plan about that."
"And I told you before it is a stupid plan, do you really trust the gates of time so much?"
"I trust my heart."
"And you still wonder why I don't want to stay?"
"If... if you stayed, we... we might be able to win."
"Even if I wanted to stay, all my duties besides training a new Sailor Mars are with Earth. Besides, here I feel like a caged bird. And if you forced me to stay, the bird will no longer sing."
"I don't know if what I feel for you is true love or if I just want you because you resist me. But... when you leave, it will still hurt."
"Please, you have slept with all the adult women who have been or are Sailor Senshi. You are older than anyone in your empire yet you don't look older than thirty thanks to magic, don't expect me to feel compassion for an immortal."
"But, aren't you like me? Isn't the Phoenix immortal too?"
"The Phoenix is Death and Rebirth, I will die one day, and I will be reborn someday, but as a different person with a different life. You honestly can't compare, do you?"
"And yet every person you become will be destined to be the Phoenix, it must be quite a curse."
"Not everyone, just when it is really needed. And one day, someone else will carry the flame of the phoenix, but until then, it's my job."
Ranma opened his eyes again, wait... his eyes? Ranma looked himself over and was somewhat relieved to find "he" was still in female form. Then why was he thinking about himself as male? And that last memory... what changed? Why someone who had stayed out of duty more than anything else had now wanted to help the princess so bad?
The Storm continued to rage over the hill, heavy rain falling over both redheads. Of the two of them, Red looked worse to wear, her left arm was broken and hanging limp, her right eye was swollen and black, she had several cuts and bruises and she could barely stand. Both girls held a sword in their hand. Rose, while still had use of both arms, had more cuts than Red, but overall looked in better condition.
"Red, if you continue like this, you will die, and even if you survive you will be too weak and Ranma will soon forget about you. Please surrender."
"No! Dammit Rose! I won't let Ranma-kun be your puppet, you are worse than Genma, you pretended to be his friend..."
"I am his friend!"
"No you are not! You think I don't know how coming to Juuban was your idea. How you made Ranma refer to himself as female when he is a girl? Heck, I bet you probably influenced his period too!"
"So what if I did that? There are youma attacking every day! The dark Kingdom is back! You think Ranma happiness is worth having every human in the world lose their soul?"
"He... he trusted you. You were the first person he trusted in a long time. And you betrayed that trust!"
"Red... he agreed to this!"
"Only because he trusted you!" Red spat blood "You may believe yourself Earth chosen warrior, the great Burning Rose, the Sage of Fire, but the fact is, you are not!"
"What do you mean?"
"You are just a memory, like me, the only reason you have any personality at all is because the Neko-ken fractured Ranma-kun's mind. I should know! I was the first separate personality Ranma Saotome got! Don't you get it? By manipulating Ranma, you... you are just hurting yourself... hurting us!"
"And how would you have gone about it uh? You ungrateful brat, Ranma had forgotten you and locked you away! I got you free, I have you training, and I taught you! And this is how you repay me? By going behind my back and making a deal with him so you can betray me?"
"I... I don't want to hurt you. But... Ranma has the right to choose his own path. Please... isn't what you just did when you were alive? Didn't you run away to form your own destiny? Is... is the princess worth killing me? Your student?" Red dropped the sword to the ground.
Rose growled in frustration and attacked, the posture and stance still perfect. Red closed her eyes and felt the slash coming. She didn't feel any sudden pain in her heart or any other part of her body. Yet, she had felt a gust of wind just behind her neck. Red opened her eyes, Rose was gone, her sword stabbed in the ground. As she moved, she noticed the lack of the familiar sensation of her hair touching her back. She touched her head, sensed her hair, it was short. She looked to the ground and saw where the rest of her hair was gone.
Red just stood there confused... had she... had she won?
Ranma Saotome, in his male form, stood in the middle of a forest clearing. It was the middle of the night, with a full red moon and no stars in the sky. Instead of his regular Chinese clothes, he was wearing a white training gi with a black belt, and he was barefooted.
"Where, where I am?" Ranma looked around confused, and then he realized where he was and what it meant. He must be inside his own mind, and Red must have lost, now he had to face Rose.
"Oh, what did the cat bring in?" Rose said appearing at some distance from him. Ranma noticed the black cat ears over Rose head, and the feline black tail she seemed to have behind her. She was also dressed with a training gi, black belt and barefooted, only her gi was red. Normally watching something cat-like would be enough to at least make him nervous, but he just couldn't, there was too much at risk. The air around him drooped several degrees, becoming cold.
"Soul of ice, meow?"
"Stop playing games! We are here to fight!" Ranma shouted angry. Still he didn't attack, his style of fighting was better at counterattacks, and he didn't know much about Rose fighting style, just what Red had shown him with her memories.
"Oh, but isn't doing anything to win the core of the Anything Goes style of martial arts?" Rose said and grinned showing cat like teeth, she was using the same casual stance Ranma used when fighting weaker opponents.
"I knew it! You are just like Shampoo and Cologne, you will do anything to get what you want, no matter how dirty or cheap!"
"I am a Joketsuzoku, what did you expect? About ten thousand years ago the Joketsuzoku where a nation of several warrior women tribes. I was in a war with both the Musk and the Phoenix people. I was the great Crimson General who defeated the First Dragon King of the Musk. And when the Phoenix people proved too strong to be defeated, I sacrificed myself for a truce. But it didn't go as expected..."
"Uh?" Ranma looked at her confused, what was going on? He was ready for a fight and Rose started to tell him her life story?
"You see Ranma, the universe seeks balance, Yin and Yang must coexist as they cannot survive without each other. Instead of dying in the sacrifice, I became the Yin of the Phoenix, like the Phoenix King Saffron became the Yang. I am the female form of the phoenix, the moon of magic while Saffron is the male form, the sun of chi."
"Why are you telling me all this? And why the heck should I care?" Ranma asked, the soul of ice now gone.
"Because Red made me notice something important. I am just a shadow of what you once where, I cannot replace you, my destiny is to eventually fade away. Besides, while I know you would have preferred to solve this in a fight-"
Ranma felt down, his whole body aching, he had just received ten thousand punches all over his body and it was as if every punch had Ryoga full strength behind it. It all happened so fast he just couldn't see it. The only reason he guessed why he didn't have anything broken was that this was his own mind, so he was stronger here. It took great effort and pain, but Ranma finally stood up after almost a minute.
"-You are totally outclassed." Red didn't seem like she had moved at all, but the dirt in her feet told Ranma otherwise.
"So, you are just giving up, just like that?" Despite the protest Ranma felt relieved, this had just proven he still had a lot to go to be stronger than Rose, and even if Rose had been weaker, she still had fire magic, and Ranma didn't have anything to fight that but the soul of ice.
"I am not fighting you, but I ain't giving up either. I decided I will just stop bugging you for a while. Like I did, you need to choose your own path. Bye for now Sailor Mars."
"I ain't a stupid magical girl!" Ranma yelled, and heard the sound of something hitting the grass behind his back. Rose had just disappeared. Ranma looked behind him and saw that his ponytail was now in the ground. He touched the back of his head, yes, he just got a haircut.
"DAMMIT ROSE, THIS ISN'T FUNNY!" Indeed, it wasn't funny, since when a certain Ranko Tendo woke up in the morning she found that her ponytail had been cut out.
AN2: I know some of you wanted an epic battle, but Rose totally outclassed Ranma, so this was the best I could come up with. Besides Ranma might have "won" but Rose got the last laugh. Sorry that the chapter is a tad short.