Ranma fought hard to keep back the tears. Men don't cry, men don't cry. Yet still a few formed and slowly moved down his cheek. He hated feeling like this, he knew how to make it go away, yet every time he thought of it, he shuddered and tried to deny it to himself.
He had these episodes as long as he could remember. And after Jusenkyo he realized just why, but still refused to acknowledge it. He was not a pervert, he was not. He was a boy, no, a man amongst men. He had to be. He was to be strong, he was not a weak pathetic girl. No, he was not.
He glanced over at his sleeping father and let out a sigh. It always happened at night, when he could not distract himself with the art. When his mind was not occupied with other things, when he was given time to actually think and feel.
He slowly arose, moved to the window and climbed to the top of the roof. Up here he always felt a bit better. Alone, only him and the stars. But this night it was not enough, and suddenly he just could not stop it and he let out a sob, then started crying.
He wanted to be a man amongst men so badly. He wanted to be what his mom wanted, he wanted to be what his pop wanted. But he knew inside that he was not, even if he could pretend and figured if he pretended enough the feelings would go away and he'd somehow find a way to be happy.
At least until Jusenkyo and the curse that had ruined it all. All of those efforts, all of the attempts to act manly, all undone by falling into a magical spring.
He remembered when he came up, gasping for air, realizing for the first time in his life that everything just felt right. Only to realize that he had breasts, that he had been turned into a girl, everything pops had called weak and pathetic. Yet while he did feel physically weaker, he did make up for it by being more agile and fast.
He had hated pops so much. Here Ranma had been spending so many years on getting rid of the emotions and because the stupid panda could not read Chinese, they had ended up fighting at the cursed springs.
A raincloud passed over the Tendou dojo and suddenly Ranma found herself in her other form. She hated this, yet loved it at the same time. The feelings of wrongness almost went away instantly, but she was also everything she had been taught was bad and perverted.
She let out a sigh and continued her sobbing. She was a weak girl, a pathetic girl. Boys don't cry, man up. But this night her body would not obey her mental commands.
She looked down at her hands. Much more slender, more feminine, no hairs visible and it just felt like how it should be. Why? Why did she like her cursed form so much?
At first she thought it was a part of the curse, that you'd love your new body more than your old. So when she found out that others seemed to dislike theirs she had been worried. At best the panda simply seemed to just accept it, still preferring human form. But it had not really been until she met Herb that she realized the difference.
When Ranma-chan was in a girls body she always felt more comfortable and did not feel the same burden. As months passed she had grown her wardrobe and her many schemes usually involved her being in girl form. But up until Herb that had only been the curse.
But as she saw Herb she saw someone hiding away, someone truly uncomfortable with the cursed body. And it was the same curse, yet completely different reactions. And it had crushed Ranma's illusions.
She had to a man, she had to unite the schools, she had to marry a girl, had to father children, carry on the Saotome name, be a Man amongst Men. Better to be stuck in a marriage with no love than be a pervert or a freak. Ignore how it was Ryoga who was the first one to really make her heart beat faster, even if she had never been able to express it back then. She had been able to express it a few times, even if she had to be in disguise, even if she had to say she was doing it for a scam. Stupid pig only had eyes for Akane and Akari anyway.
Her thoughts drifted to her mother. Nodoka Saotome, with all of her ideas of what was manly, how manly Ranma was. Ranma wished she could truly be what Nodoka wished for, yet she knew she could not. That stupid contract just kept messing up her life. Maybe if it had specified honourable, strong martial artist Ranma could let a bit more of herself out. But no, a Man amongst Men was the only option. And what exactly was a Man amongst Men anyway? Except of course a man?
Slowly a few memories came up. No, they had to go away, she did not want them, but obviously her conscious commands were ignored. "I'm a girl, daddy." Drifted into her mind. She must have been 7 or 8 back then, when she told Pops. Before Daddy became Pops. Before Ranma was thrown into the pit to make her a man. Each toss the words were "You are a boy, Ranma." Until she had been willing to do anything, say anything to make the pain stop. "I'm a boy! I'm a boy! Daddy!"
She grit her teeth. She hated those memories. Many of them had faded away with time, but over the last few years they had become more and more frequent. The worst one was probably the one of her shopping with her mom, looking at a pretty dress and saying that when she became a big girl she wanted that one. It was one of the last times she had seen her mother for more than 10 years, the training journey started a few days later.
It was so unfair. Why did she have to be a perverted freak? Why couldn't she just be Ranma the Boy and be happy about being Ranma the Boy? Instead of feeling that she had to proclaim her manhood so often, just to convince herself.
"Ranma-chan, would you like a cup of tea?" she heard from below. It was Kasumi's gentle voice. Beautiful, gentle and nice Kasumi.
"Hai," Ranma replied, crawling down from the roof, only to be embraced by Kasumi.
"It is okay to let out your tears, little sister," she oldest of the Tendou girls whispered into Ranma's ear, both making Ranma feel better inside, yet also quickly putting up the defenses.
"I'm a boy!" the cursed martial artist exclaimed as she liberated herself from the embrace.
"Of course you are, Ranma. We all know that. But know that if you ever need to talk my door is open." Kasumi said with a smile, before heading towards the kitchen.
Ranma let out a small sigh. Maybe, just maybe, she would one day talk to Kasumi. But not today. No, today she was Ranma Saotome, the Man amongst Men, and men did not talk about their emotions.