Dark Huntress Reiko: Soul Mates
A fanfiction by Lisa Grey
(Stolen -) Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 and the characters associated with it belong to Rumiko Takahashi and whomever she has sold the rights to. This work of fanfiction is not intended for monetary gain, but was written just for the fun of it.
This story in an AU/Divergence that leaves the canon behind as Ranma falls toward the Nyannichuan. This story contains Lesbianism and brutal battle scenes. In this story, characters don't act the same as in the original story due to different experiences and more time to grow up. This story is definitely R+A (my personal favorite pairing). If you can't deal with any of these concepts, you shouldn't read this story.
This story, inspite of the title, doesn't contain much Dark Huntress action, instead, it's more of a love story and a precursor to possible later episodes.
The work has only been proofed by myself so there may be errors that escaped my notice. Hope you enjoy it...
"Aarrrrgghh," Ranma yelled in surprise as the giant panda wearing his father's gi burst from the water to perch on a bamboo pole. "What the hell is that?" Ranma exclaimed not understanding what was happening.
Before he could recover his presence of mind the panda attacked, knocking Ranma into another of the numerous springs dotting the valley.
As Ranma plunged toward the Nyannichuan, the sun had set in Nerima and a young girl lay in her bed quietly crying. If someone had been in her room listening closely, they would have heard her repeating the same prayer, again and again.
"Please, please, Kami-sama," the sad girl pleaded. "Please let there be someone out there for me. Please let there be a perfect soul mate for me."
It so happens that the Kami-sama was listening. Knowing what a tormented life the poor girl had, He took pity on her. It so happened that the girl did have a soul mate. Unfortunately, if things were to progress unaltered, it would only lead to more pain for both of them and their relationship would always be strained. The Kami-sama decided that He would answer the girl's prayer. It would mean more pain for her soul mate, but then, her soul mate was always willing to spare the girl by accepting her pain.
As for the girl, she was filled with a sense of peace and somehow she new her prayer would be answered. Content, she drifted off to sleep.
The waters closed over their latest victim. As they began to alter the boy's form they tasted his soul. They knew the flavor. This one was special. They began to do as they'd been instructed, but before they had completed the job, the victim leaped from the pool.
Frustrated, the waters reached out their influence into the valley. Again they tasted the soul they been set to watch for. The waters nudged events slightly to ensure the soul returned to them to complete the transformation.
Ryoga was startled by a scream of incoherent rage. Suddenly, a large panda burst from the bushes and was bearing down on him. Having been standing on a precipice enjoying the view, there was nowhere for Ryoga to go. Ryoga prepared himself for battle.
"Come back here and take you beating, Old Man," screamed a petite half naked redheaded girl as she burst from the bushes in hot pursuit of the panda.
Ryoga was so stunned he was unable to react when the panda pulled him off balance and into the redhead's path. At the last instant, the girl noticed him, but it was too late to change her course. Ryoga leaped into the air to avoid the immanent collision. Unfortunately, the girl did the same thing and they met in mid air. Her momentum carried them over the edge of the cliff. Before they could fall the girl twisted them around so that he was between her and the safety of the cliff top. Coiling her legs, she delivered a powerful two-footed kick that nearly crushed Ryoga's chest, as a result, driving him back over the cliff to safety. However, the girl's resultant trajectory carried her down and away from the cliff face toward the floor of the valley hundreds of feet below.
Ryoga could only watch helplessly as she fell without so much as a scream, seeming to float through the air as her mounting velocity was swallowed up by the enormity of the landscape around her. At least, Ryoga saw, she would land in one of the several pools dotting the valley floor. Not that it would make much difference from this height, but at least he wouldn't have to see her body splattered in a gory mess across the ground.
Ranma twisted in the air to face the ground. She knew that she was unfamiliar enough with this body that she had little chance of a painless landing. It would have been easily possible in her male body, but she just wasn't used to how this body moved. As she steeled herself for the pain, she noted detachedly that she was heading for that same stupid spring that had done this to her. She would have laughed if she had breath to do so.
'That spring took away my life,' she thought. 'Maybe it will finish the job.'
Though the wind ripped passed her eyes making them tear and obscuring her vision, she saw she was headed for the bamboo pole sticking up out of the spring. In spite of her moment of fatalism, her survival instinct kicked in and she twisted at the last moment to avoid being impaled. This, unfortunately, left her hopelessly out of position for any sort of 'safe' landing. She braced for the pain and tucked as well as she could before slamming into the water.
The waters closed over the soul again as its now female body crashed into them. They embraced the soul's body and broke her fall to a survivable impact. Her head smacked into a rock at the bottom of the pool, stunning her and abrading her scalp. The waters tasted her blood swallowing it, even as she swallowed the waters.
Though the soul was strong, the blow to the head was made her lose consciousness. She would drown and that's not what was supposed to happen. The waters buoyed her up and placed her in the shallow edge of the pool were her face was out of the water but her body soaked in it as she slept.
Ryoga Hibiki, the Lost Boy, quite possibly possessing of the worst sense of direction on the face of the planet, was charging through the woods trying to find a way to the valley floor to check on the redheaded girl. Though he feared the worst, he couldn't just walk away, not after she sacrificed herself to save him.
A person carefully picking their way from the cliff top to the valley floor would take about 25 minutes to reach the springs. Ryoga, in a dazzling display of speed, arrived at the pools in 30 minutes. It took him another five minutes to find the spring the girl had landed in.
Seeing the girl unconscious but evidently unharmed, Ryoga charged into the water, unaware of his peril. Fortunately for the Lost Boy, the waters of this particular pool had infused their full charge of magic to the redhead as she lay quiescent in their liquid embrace. The magic would return in a day or so, but for the moment, they were as harmless as they appeared.
Ryoga looked the girl over carefully to make sure it was safe to move her. Incredibly, everything seemed intact, so Ryoga gathered her into his arms and carried her to the small shack located near the springs. As Ryoga approached the shack a large man wearing a dingy white gi and a pair of glasses burst from the building.
"What have you done to my son?" the man demanded.
"I haven't done anything to your son," Ryoga retorted. "This girl fell off the cliff after we ran into each other. She sacrificed herself to save me. I think she's just unconscious. Please let me in so I can lay her down."
"Oh, yes, sir," said another large man as he stepped out the door of the shack. "You bring girl in. We fix up." This man was dressed in some sort of uniform and had a kindly presence. Ryoga nodded and stepped around the first man who was irritatingly familiar.
Placing the girl on a futon, the Lost Boy stepped back and let the uniformed man check her over. The other man slipped around them with a steaming kettle and before anyone could do anything, he dumped the hot water on the girl. Nothing happened other than the girl was now soaked and scalded with hot water.
"Oh, Sir, this not good," the uniformed man said. "Young sir not change back with hot water."
"Change back?" Ryoga asked, confused.
"Yes," the Chinese man said solemnly. "This not girl. This boy that fall in Nyannichuan, spring of drown girl. Very tragic tale of girl who drown in spring 1500 year ago. Now who ever fall in spring cursed to take body of girl. Cold water activate curse. Normally, can change back with hot water. Is possible that young sir swallowed the water. That can lock sir in cursed form until magic water leaves body. You say girl fall from cliff top?"
"Yes," Ryoga confirmed. The man began to check the redhead out more closely. Examining her head he discovered the blood where she hit the rock at the bottom of the spring.
"This not good," said the man. "How long was in spring?"
"About 35 minutes," Ryoga said.
"Then is nothing can be done," The man shook his head sadly.
"What do you mean nothing can be done!" the other man yelled. "Change my son back now! He has to carry on the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts and he can't do that as some weak little girl!"
"Saotome?" Ryoga perked up. "As in Ranma Saotome?"
"Yes," the man in the gi said. "That is my son, Ranma Saotome. Now why can't you change him back?"
"This one very sorry, sir," the other man said. "Young sir lay in spring with open wound for more than twenty minutes. Magic now taint blood, change now permanent."
"You mean Ranma Saotome, the super macho jock, is now permanently a petite little girl," Ryoga asked with a huge grin. The Chinese man nodded and Ryoga began laughing like that was the most hysterical thing he'd ever heard. "Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," he gasped between peals of laughter.
Several hours had passed and the three men still waited for Ranma to awaken. Once Ryoga had gotten over his initial amusement, the reality of Ranma's situation, coupled with the fact that Ranma had sacrificed him...er...herself to save Ryoga from a similar fate, caused Ryoga's satisfaction over Ranma's fate to pale.
Having spent the last couple of hours listening to Ranma's father moan about how ashamed he was of his weak son, and how now he had no heir because he wouldn't leave the Saotome ryu in the hands of a weak girl, Ryoga was reassessing his opinion of Ranma. Genma's behavior explained a lot about why Ranma was the way he was. The lost boy was currently finding it hard to hate his nemesis, even feeling a little unfamiliar compassion towards the erstwhile boy.
A soft feminine moan captured every eye in the room. Ranma put her hand to her head and moaned again. Her blue grey eyes cracked open then squinted shut in evident discomfort. Steeling herself the little redhead opened her eyes again and looked around. Seeing her father, she seemed to relax a little.
"Hey Pop," she said. "I had the worst nightmare. I dreamed that you got turned into a panda and I..." She trailed off as the sound of her voice finally penetrated her awareness. With her eyes wide with fear, she held up her hand and looked at it, then picked her head up and looked down at her body. High feminine voice, check; slender delicate hand, check; very unmistakable breasts, check; 'Yup, it wasn't a dream.'
Suddenly the girl screamed in horror, causing all the males in the room to wince. She then looked over at her father, looking like she was about to charge. Then her eyes widened even more.
"Hey! How come you ain't a panda, Pop?" she demanded. "There's a way to change back, ain't there! I wanna know how and I wanna know right now!" Her voice became louder and more shrill as she spoke.
"It won't work for you, Boy," the elder Saotome said.
"Is that so? And why not, old man?" she demanded, eyes narrowing dangerously.
"Normal curse trigger with cold water and reverse with hot water," the guide explained. "This one very sorry, but young sir no have normal curse. Young sir fall back in spring with open wound. Magic in water taint blood and make that permanent form now."
You mean I'm stuck like this? Forever?" Ranma asked with dread, looking right at her father.
"Yes, very sorry," the guide confirmed. Ranma met her father's eyes and he turned away from her.
"I...see," Ranma said faintly. The girl rose off the futon and went over to her pack and removed an object before desolately walking outside.
Ryoga got up and followed her quietly. Ranma walked some distance away from the cabin, oblivious to just about everything around her. Reaching a clearing in the woods she dropped to her knees. Ryoga expected her to begin sobbing, having come out here so nobody would see her. He wasn't disappointed. He could hear the quiet sobs as Ranma knelt in the clearing. He wasn't expecting her next act. She fumbled with whatever it was that had been taken from her pack and Ryoga soon made out what it was; a tanto. Still unaware of Ryoga's presence, Ranma readied herself to plunge the blade into her abdomen.
Unable to believe his eyes, Ryoga instantly grabbed Ranma's arm. Even as a girl, Ranma was still hideously strong, but Ryoga was stronger. They struggled for a moment as Ranma redoubled her efforts to drive the blade into her body, but Ryoga used his other hand to deliver a punch to her jaw. Ranma released her grip on the blade as once again consciousness fled her.
"Here we have village of Chinese Amazons," the guide said pleasantly. "Tribal elders very wise and know much lore. If any can help girl change back, they can."
Genma looked back at his 'son'. The girl was staring straight ahead at nothing. She shambled along being herded along by the Hibiki boy. She'd been catatonic since the boy returned with her unconscious form cradled in his arms that night she found out she was stuck as a girl.
Genma had been angry that the boy had stopped her. It would have been easier that way, for her and for Genma. Since then, he'd felt guilty about that. Some long disdained fatherly feelings had begun to percolate up through the disgust he felt what he looked at the broken girl that was his son.
"Please, sirs, you come," the guide directed as they approached an official looking building.
The entrance to the building was guarded by two large, yet attractive women carrying various nasty looking and, more importantly, well worn weapons. The guide spoke to the women in Chinese and one of them nodded and entered the building. A short time later, in a display of amazing agility, an ancient and shriveled crone hopped out, perched on the top of a gnarled wooden walking stick followed by several other younger women, including one with purple hair. She and the guide spoke to each other at length in Chinese, before she hopped over to Ranma with a sad look in her eyes.
She briefly examined the catatonic girl before commanding, "Bring her, Xian Pu." The old woman hopped off toward another building as the purple haired girl took Ranma by the hand and guided her along in the old woman's wake. Genma and the Hibiki boy started to follow the women, but the guide stopped them, gesturing to a bench.
"Please, we wait here for elder's return," the guide instructed.
Two hours later the old woman approached the men where they sat.
"I am Khu Lon, elder of this tribe. You are her father?" the old woman asked Genma in unaccented Japanese.
"I am Genma Saotome, the boy's father, yes," Genma replied. "Is there anything you can do for him?"
"Saotome-san, I'm afraid you now have a daughter," Khu Lon explained. "Her form was thrice locked. We've never seen anything like it. Other than the locks, which prevent any other means of transformation, she appears to be free of Jusenkyo magic. We wouldn't even have known that wasn't her natural form were it not for the fact that she still possesses a great deal of male chi. It is slowly being replaced with female chi but it will take several months to a year before all traces of the male chi leave her aura. As to her state, her self-image appears to be shattered. She must rebuild it in a new form now or she will remain, as she is, unable to relate to the world in her current form. I sense a strong spirit within her, and I have every reason to believe that if she is given proper support, she will come through this. For now we have given her some herbal tea that will help her cope with the shock of what's happened and allow her to get some much needed rest."
"So that's it then?" Genma said tiredly. "The last ten years have been wasted. My son and heir is gone along with my dreams of preserving the Saotome School of Anything Goes. No girl will ever be taken seriously as a master of the art in Japan."
"I'm afraid that is most likely the case," Khu Lon said. "In the mean time, we welcome you as guests of the village as long as you respect our ways. I will arrange quarters for you and your companion, and provide you with a Japanese-speaking chaperone to keep you from running afoul of our laws. Until the quarters are ready, there is a tournament being held today for warriors of the tribe to show their skill. Feel free to attend. Wait here and I'll send the chaperone to take you there."
"Thank you for your hospitality Elder Khu Lon," the Hibiki boy said politely.
Genma watched as the warrior women did battle with each other while balanced on a massive log over a shallow pond. They were good. Some almost as good as the Boy and though Genma would never admit it, he'd been unable to beat the Boy without cheating for several months now. Genma glanced over at the Hibiki boy beside him and his face took on a thoughtful look.
"I'm leaving tonight," Genma said as he and Ryoga finished their meal in the room they'd been given the use of.
"Leaving?" Ryoga asked. "But the Elder said Ranma needed to rest for a few days."
"I don't plan on taking h...her," Genma said. Ryoga looked at him sharply, his face full of consternation. "Don't look at me like that, boy. This is for the best."
"How can you say that?" Ryoga demanded. "You're her father."
"It doesn't matter," Genma said tiredly. "Don't you see? This is a village full of female martial artists. Do you think she will be able to get the same respect at home as she can get here? Do you think she will be taken seriously, no matter how good she is? How do you think she will be treated? Do you think it will help her deal with being a girl to be treated like a second class citizen, especially having known male privilege? No, boy, here is the best place for her."
"I guess you're right," Ryoga grudgingly admitted.
"Of course I am," Genma said. "Now I have a question for you."
"What question?" Ryoga prompted.
"It seems I need a new heir to pass on the Saotome Ryu on to," Genma explained. "How would you like to become my student and be that heir?"
Though Ryoga felt guilty about essentially taking Ranma's place, he couldn't turn down the chance to learn such a powerful style as Anything Goes. In the small hours of the morning, long before sunrise, Genma and Ryoga left a note addressed to Khu Lon, asking that she care for Ranma, and slipped away into the darkness.
As the only family she knew was leaving her behind, Ranma lay locked in a dream of combat. She stood in a dojo, squared off against herself...her male self. The male Ranma was mocking her for being a weak girl. Ranma was getting more and more angry as the insults became more and more personal. Finally she could take no more and attacked.
The male Ranma didn't even bother to block. He just dodged her attacks as if they were nothing all the while continuing to taunt her. Tears of frustration began to stream down her face, giving her male image more ammo to jeer at her with. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't touch him. Finally, she collapsed from exhaustion. As she lay on the floor of the dojo sobbing and listening to him laugh at her, she was suddenly pulled from the dream into the waking world by the purple haired girl.
Ranma had that same dream every night for the following two weeks. It was always the same except she could swear that she was getting closer and closer to connecting every night. She was sure of it when he had to begin blocking her strikes instead of dodging.
Her days where spent in a barely noticed haze of apathy. Every morning the purple haired girl would come awaken her and take her to bathe. She would eat breakfast mechanically, then the purple-haired girl would take her out and walk her around the village, all the while chattering to her in broken Japanese. At lunchtime they would return to the old woman's house and have lunch. After lunch the girl would go and Ranma would be left to the servants or sometimes the old woman herself if she wasn't busy that day. On such days, the old woman would patiently but fruitlessly try to engage Ranma in conversation. Then there would be dinner, after which she would be given more of the herbal tea followed swiftly by sleep.
One night the dream changed. She again fighting the male Ranma but as she fought her attacks gained more and more speed until finally she forced an opening and delivered a powerful kick to his chin. His head snapped back and his body when flying several feet before skidding to a stop flat on his back. Almost instantly he was on his feet shaking his head.
"So you wanna play do ya?" he asked, glaring at her angrily. She just beckoned him to attack with a triumphant smirk and a "bring it on" gesture of her hand.
Suddenly, he was all over her. The blows were coming hard and fast from every angle. She was fast enough to block them but even the blocks hurt. He kept up the intensity of his attack, using his strength and reach advantages to their fullest. Soon she began to tire and he had her. Stunning her with a blow to the head, she became aware of his hands around her throat as her feet were pulled off the floor. She felt the hands slowly constricting, crushing her neck bit by slow bit. She looked up in his hate-filled eyes and he grinned cruelly at her.
"Now you die!" he spat at her.
This was it. She knew she would die right here. She started to surrender herself to death's comforting promise of oblivion, but then, from somewhere deep inside she heard a voice screaming at her to fight, to survive. Tapping into the strength the voice offered, Ranma made a choice; she would fight, and she would live. Bracing against his powerful arms, she smiled at him, and then kicked him in the groin with every ounce of strength she could muster.
She instantly found herself dropped to the ground where she fell to her hands and knees coughing. He was curled up on the floor several feet away, whimpering, clutching his crotch, and vomiting. She struggled to regain her feet before he could recover and was soon standing over him. Angry now, and knowing if she gave him the slightest chance, he would recover and kill her, she laid into him, punishing his prone form with brutal kicks and punches.
A feeling of power began to well up from within her and she began to glow with an azure light. As the power grew she began to feel a pressure, as if the power needed to be released. Following her instincts, she punted the male Ranma up into the air. As he reached the top of his arc, she held up her hands, wrists together palms facing him. A ball of ki appeared several inches from her palms. When she judged it large and intense enough she willed it to strike her enemy.
A ball of intense blue energy flew from her hands and she screamed out, "Dragon's Crushing Blast!" He looked up and saw the terrible energy just as it struck him and he screamed. It was a long sustained scream of the purest agony. His body seemed to collapse in upon itself and fade from existence. As he faded, so did the scream until at last there was silence.
She fell to her knees, drained and alone in the dojo. As she looked at the place he had vanished from she suddenly knew what had happened. She'd just killed Ranma. She had just killed the male side of her that couldn't deal with being a girl and wouldn't allow her to live that way. As in all the other dreams, she fell to the floor of the dojo sobbing. This time they were not tears of shame and frustration, but tears of grief as she mourned the passing of the boy she was.
Once again the purple-haired girl was there when Ranma woke up. This time was different though. This time Ranma woke up sobbing. The bigger girl instantly gathered Ranma into a tight hug.
"Is okay," the Amazon girl said soothingly. "Xian Pu here. Xian Pu have you." She held Ranma, gently stroking her fiery hair until the girl slowed. Sensing she was ready, Xian Pu released Ranma and leaned back to look at her.
Ranma gave Xian Pu a weak smile and looked away in embarrassment. "Sorry 'bout this," she said in a voice raw from the emotional release as much from lack of use.
"You no be sorry," Xian Pu said smiled brightly. "Is okay to cry."
"Because I'm a weak girl now?" Ranma said with a hint of bitterness.
"You is no weak girl," Xian Pu said, her eyes narrowing. "Xian Pu know you is strong warrior. Is okay you cry because you go through too too tragic experience. But Xian Pu sense, even when you living inside head, you is too too strong to let destroy you. We go take bath now. Great Grandmother be too too happy to see girl have rejoin us."
Ranma took some coaxing to get her to bath with Xian Pu. The former boy was finding that the sight of an attractive girl still had an effect on her. In a way that was a relief, but it made her uncomfortable with the idea of bathing with a girl, as if she was doing something perverse or something. Xian Pu was insistent though. Ranma was finally forced to give in when the young Amazon explained that she was a girl now and that she had to get used to bathing with other girls. Knowing that the male side of the bathhouse was no longer an option, Ranma was forced to bow to the inevitable, in spite of her discomfort.
So it was that a little while later, a still red-faced Ranma and an amused looking Amazon emerged from the bathroom. Ranma didn't think she'd been more mortified in her life as Xian Pu taught her about the care and maintenance of her now female body. Even now she felt like a pervert wearing a bra and panties under a sleeveless black silk shirt and black silk pants. The outfit itself left it very clear that there was indeed and very well formed and shapely female body under it.
Ranma followed the other girl into the dining room as the young Amazon warbled something in Mandarin that Ranma didn't catch. A very small withered old woman looked up at Ranma before smiling at the vitality she found in the blue-grey eyes.
"Welcome to Joketsuzoku, village of the Chinese Amazons," The old woman said warmly. "I'm Elder Khu Lon. It's good to have you back with us, Ranma"
Ranma winced at the use of her name. It didn't seem to fit her any more, as if she'd given up the right to it. After a moment's thought, she spoke.
"Thank you, Elder, for your kind welcome," she said. "However, I'm not Ranma." The old woman looked at her appraisingly to detect any hint of psychosis. "I was Ranma. Don't worry, I'm not crazy. It's just that Ranma was a boy, a boy that died in that spring. I had to let him go to move on with my life, so I think a new name would be appropriate."
"What name would you be known by now, child?" the elder asked, satisfied the girl was sane.
"I always liked the name 'Reiko'," the redhead, now Reiko, said.
"Ah, Gratitude, a nice positive concept. So be it! Lets hope that your new life gives you more reasons to feel grateful than your old life, hmm," the elder smiled. "It's nice to have you back with us, Reiko."
Reiko spent the next couple of months learning about the Amazon village and the native language of Mandarin, which she picked up surprisingly fast. She was discovering that she was very intelligent now that she had someone besides Genma controlling her education. He'd kept her ignorant of a great many things.
Another thing she learned was that the warrior women in the Amazon village were expected to do little else but train. As a guest of the village, Reiko was expected to do less than that. Reiko did insist on helping out though. Her mornings were spent with Elder Khu Lon learning everything Khu Lon would teach her. Perhaps the hardest thing for Reiko was learning good manners and feminine carriage. Those skills where quite painfully learned under Khu Lon's gnarled stick. Her education with Khu Lon was followed by (far less painful) sparing with Xian Pu until late afternoon. After training she would go over and help out the village healer.
One day Xian Pu was busy working on tribal business, and was unable to train with Reiko. Reiko decided that this would be a great opportunity to try something she'd been thinking of ever since the dream. Thus she found herself positioned in front of a post with a tightly woven, head sized, ball of straw atop it.
Reiko took a few deep focusing breaths, bowed her head, as if to direct her attention inward, and began center her ki. As she did this she became aware of Elder Khu Lon approaching her. The older woman stopped about ten meters away and said nothing, so Reiko continued what she was doing.
Positioning her hands as they were in the dream, wrists together, fingers splayed out from the center, she willed her ki to gather at a point just in front of her hands. Slowly a ball of energy began to gather. Unlike in the dream, this energy was more pink than blue and it was swirling with a fluid silver as well. When the ball reached about the size of a Western basketball, Reiko was sweating heavily. She willed the ball to attack the straw target in front of her and as the ball shot forward, she screamed out, "Dragon's Crushing Blast!"
The ball of swirling pink, blue, and silver energy streaked forward and struck its target. When it encompassed the straw head of the post, there was a pause of several heartbeats as the ki blast seemed to gain intensity. Then the ball and the target imploded. The straw and the top of the post burst into flames from the heat generated by the compression of its fibers and as the compressing force subsided, they burst outward in a shower of flaming debris and a thundering boom.
"Very impressive, child," Khu Lon said with a smile as she approached where Reiko had fallen to one knee, breathing heavily. "You are very powerful for one so young. If you would join me in my study, there is something I wish to talk to you about." Reiko nodded, still panting, and heaved herself to her feet to follow the Elder inside.
Khu Lon studied the pretty redhead that sat in the chair across from her. Though she was small in stature, she was lithe, buxom, and incredibly powerful. Her aptitude and skill in the martial arts was second only to the sharp agile mind that lurked inside that flame-haired head. That she was rejected by that moron that called himself a father, based solely on her gender, only reaffirmed that the reasons for the Amazon culture were still valid.
"Reiko, you are a very powerful young woman," Khu Lon began as blue-grey eyes met her regard attentively. "I would like to take over your training and teach you the advanced techniques of Amazon Wu Shu."
"I would be honored to be your student, Elder," Reiko said earnestly.
"There is a price though," Khu Lon continued. "The law only permits the advanced techniques to be taught to outsiders under certain circumstances. Reiko, it's my honor to tell you that the tribal council has extended an opportunity for you to join the tribe with complete warrior status."
"Honored Elder?" Reiko asked.
"We would like you to join the tribe," Khu Lon smiled. "You must understand what a tremendous honor this is. Very few Jusenkyo victims are ever offered a place here. In fact, the council is so impressed with you that they are even willing to waive the usual requirement made of the few Jusenkyo women that do get the invitation. In most cases, if you became a woman via Jusenkyo, then you have to bare a child to prove your womanhood. We will not require that of you."
"Elder, I am very flattered, but I'm afraid I can't accept such an honor, generous though it is," Reiko said, bowing her head.
"Why not, Child?" Khu Lon asked, not seeming too surprised.
"Honored Elder," Reiko said solemnly, "as much as I am enjoying my stay with your people, and as much as I'm not the same person I was when I arrived in China, Japan is my home. I should like to return there eventually."
"Is that the only reason, Child?" Khu Lon asked with a knowing grin.
"No, Elder, but I do not wish to give offense," Reiko admitted.
"Tell me what your other reasons are," Khu Lon chuckled. "I will not take offense."
"Elder, I could not be an Amazon because I find that your culture treats men worse than mine treats women," Reiko explained. "Having been both male and female, I believe in equality between the sexes, and I would much rather fight for it in my culture than in someone else's. But the most significant reason I do not wish to be an Amazon is the kisses of marriage and death. I will not marry someone, particularly a man, simply because he can beat me in combat. Nor do I wish to kill someone for that reason either."
"I can respect your reasons," Khu Lon nodded. "There is one other way that would allow me to train you in our most powerful techniques. If you swear an oath to always be an ally to the Amazon tribe, I can train you."
"What does that mean?" Reiko asked.
"It means that when you return home that you will offer any assistance you can to visiting Amazon's; a place to stay, a meal, information. It also means if we go to war we can call on you to assist us if we need to. Do not worry, Child, the oath works both ways. We would not ask you to break any laws, or do something you felt was wrong. The tribe would be obligated to help you in any way we could, which includes not lightly, or detrimentally, inconveniencing you."
"I think I can live with that," Reiko smiled. "I do owe you and your people for taking me in all this time."
"Excellent," Khu Lon grinned. "We must get you ready then. There will be an oath ceremony this evening and your training will begin tomorrow."
"Xian!" Reiko called out happily to the other girl.
"Reiko!" the Amazon rejoined with equal enthusiasm. "Today is the big day! Are you ready?"
"Yes, I am," Reiko smiled, hugging the purple haired girl. "This is so exciting. We will finally be granted adult status."
"Aren't you girls celebrating a little early?" Khu Lon commented as she came in the dinning room. "You still have to challenge and defeat an adult warrior before you are granted adult status."
"Great grandmother, you know we are strong and skilled warriors," Xian Pu replied. "We will not lose our challenges."
"Perhaps," Khu Lon scoffed, "but if I know you both, and I do, I know you won't be happy fighting someone easily beaten." Reiko smirked, but said nothing.
Reiko and Xian stood in a small group of young women who had come to challenge for their adult status. Before them, in the stands surrounding the challenge log, were gathering all of the warriors eligible to be challenged as well as quite a few spectators.
The ten girls who would be challenging had already held matches between themselves so as to decide the order in which they would fight. Reiko, as the best of them, would fight first, followed by Xian. However, the weakest of them would get first pick of who to challenge.
The other girl's quickly made their choices, already having decided who they would pick. Xian chose one of the best instructors, a seasoned warrior who finished in the top five in the last adult tournament. Then it was Reiko's turn to choose. She stepped up before the stands and calmly surveyed those gathered. She grinned as the suspense built. Sweeping the gathered warriors with her eyes, her blue-grey regard settled on a large woman with sky-blue hair.
"Sun Chi!" Reiko roared. "I challenge you!"
There was several moments of dead silence before it was shattered by a collective gasp followed by much murmuring. Sun Chi was the tribe's foremost warrior. She was undefeated for as long as she had been fighting in the village tournament and was, by right of battle, the village war leader, answering only to the tribal council.
As if that wasn't enough of a challenge, Sun Chi's hatred for Reiko was well known in the village. The woman loathed Jusenkyo women, and even though she spoke out vehemently against it, she took it as a personal insult when Reiko declined the offer to join the tribe. Not only did Reiko choose the most powerful opponent available, she chose a well-motivated adversary that would relish the chance to maim, or even kill her.
The blue haired woman stood and displayed a grin that was anything but nice. She gracefully glided down the bleachers to loom over Reiko. Sun Chi was a massive woman. Though not unattractive, at 198 cm, she towered over Reiko by at least 38 cm and out weighed the redhead by nearly 55 kilos, double Reiko's weight.
"I'm going to enjoy taking you apart, Sissy boy," Sun Chi growled. Reiko just smiled sweetly at her.
"I'll enjoy having you try, Scrunci," the little redhead replied. "Shall we go all out? Last one standing?"
"By all means, you arrogant little fool," the larger woman smiled and replied with false affability.
What Reiko had just done was to essentially take the gloves off. Their battle would not be limited to the Challenge Log so it was no longer simply a matter of the first one off the log. Now it was more serious. Defeat would belong to the one that could no longer stand and fight. That also meant that all attacks were legal, no matter how lethal. The Elders would shield the arena to prevent damage to the village and protect the spectators. The simple fact was, this fight was going to hurt...a lot.
The two warriors faced off against each other on the Challenge Log as was traditional. Each nodded their readiness and the officiating Elder called for them to begin. The combatants did nothing for several seconds then suddenly, Reiko leaped high into the air as a cloud of darts embedded themselves in the support structure behind her. The arc of her leap carried her with in striking range of her opponent. The redhead struck out, lightening fast, with a kick that was, as expected, blocked. Reiko wasn't finished though, because suddenly Sun Chi found herself in a tempest of kicks and punches. The older warrior smirked as she easily blocked each blow. Reiko smirked back as Sun Chi was forced to give up ground under the smaller girl's onslaught.
The first victory was Reiko's as Sun Chi reached the end of the log and was forced to flip to the ground while tossing several throwing stars at her opponent to distract her. The second victory went to Sun Chi as Reiko didn't quite twist out of the way fast enough and one of the stars laid open her forehead. First blood went to Sun Chi.
Reiko leaped off the log and Sun Chi pulled a short sword and moved to intercept the redhead while she was vulnerable in the air.
"Flaming War Hammer Strike," Reiko yelled, manifesting a hammer of chi and tossing it at her adversary. It streaked toward Sun Chi with deceptive speed, it burst into white hot flame striking the older woman squarely in the breastplate. The resultant fiery explosion knocked the warrior back across the arena before she rolled to a stop in a smoking heap. Sun Chi was up quickly though, frantically stripping the glowing red breastplate off and casting the burning metal away from her.
With a glare at Reiko, she charged across the arena and went on the offensive. Reiko soon found herself overwhelmed by Sun Chi's furious attack. She was able to block most of it but Sun Chi used a Kachuu Tenshin Amaguriken that left Reiko's torso battered and bruised. Distracted momentarily by the pain, Reiko didn't see the powerful kick Sun Chi launched. Reiko felt her ribs snap as the kick connected launching her on her own trip across the arena to land in a heap.
"Um...ouch," Reiko groaned climbing to her feet. She didn't have time for much else though because Sun Chi launched a swarm of shruiken at her.
"Inertial Inversion Shield," Reiko yelled putting her arms straight out to her side. The shuriken struck a faint 2-meter in diameter shimmer in the air before Reiko and suddenly their course was reversed back the way they had come.
Sun Chi was caught out as she had been following her shuriken in to attack. She couldn't completely avoid all of her own weapons and received numerous shallow cuts over her body and one of the shuriken buried itself deeply in the outside of her left thigh. Reiko, having received those much needed vital moments to recover, leaped to attack, denying her opponent her own time to recover.
She launched her own Amaguriken, delivering hundreds of blows to Sun Chi's body, ending with a powerful punch to the face, which caused Sun Chi's nose to explode in a mass of gore. Sun Chi spun around from the blow, but instead of going down, a pair of bonbori appeared in her hands as she used the momentum of the spin to land a vicious pair of blows to her adversary.
Reiko grunted as she felt her left forearm fracture and another rib break as the bonbori landed launching her airborne. She screamed as she landed badly and finished the job on her forearm, breaking it completely and forcing the bone out through the skin. She lay on the ground moaning as Sun Chi limped over to her, readying a finishing strike.
Reiko knew she was in deep trouble. The fight was all but over. She knew she had one chance left, but it would only work if Sun Chi cooperated. Sun Chi, in her arrogance did exactly that. She hobbled over and stood straddling the prone and whimpering Reiko. She drew one bonbari up to unleash a two handed finishing blow. She was certain of her victory when something odd happened. The foolish redhead suddenly stopped whimpering and grinned at her. Sun Chi suddenly had a sense of foreboding.
"Flaming War Hammer Strike!" Reiko yelled, holding her fist toward Sun Chi.
The Amazon warrior screamed as she was struck again with the burning chi hammer, this time with no breastplate to protect her. This time the explosive impact launched her a hundred feet in the air, trailing smoke and flame.
She landed heavily about 8 meters away from Reiko and didn't move. Reiko slowly and painfully forced herself to her feet, fighting waves of nausea and dizziness. Struggling through the pain and fatigue, she moved over to check on Sun Chi.
Reiko stood over Sun Chi's unconscious slightly smoking form. Blood from the cut on her forehead ran down her face and dripped from her chin. Her left forearm was broken, with the bone sticking out of the skin. Blood dripped from the fingers of her left hand. She could tell she had at least two broken ribs and her body was already beginning to darken with some ghastly bruising. Her breath came in shallow pants.
She looked down at her fallen foe. Sun Chi had definitely come out better damage wise. Blood also covered her face from her shattered nose. She also had extensive bruising over most of her body along with numerous painful looking burns from Reiko's chi strikes. There was a shuriken buried in her left thigh and she was bleeding from several shallow cuts. Her right shoulder appeared to be dislocated, likely from that last fall, but other than that she didn't have any broken bones.
Reiko looked over to the Elders, waiting for them to call the fight. After a short pause to make sure Sun Chi wasn't getting up, Reiko was declared the victor. Upon hearing the battle declared over, Reiko swayed on her feet and her knees buckled. Dropping to her knees, she began to fall forward as the world swam around her. Just as she lost awareness, she noted that Xian had caught her, preventing her from falling face first in the dirt.
Reiko smoothly completed her most complex kata and held the ending position for a slow ten count before straightening and turning to Elder Khu Lon and bowing.
"I love to watch you do kata," the old woman smiled. "You flow like water with the grace of the wind, a true prodigy of the art. Tell me, was there any pain today?"
"No, Honored Elder," Reiko replied. "My injuries are completely healed." Reiko's face took on an apprehensive look.
"What is it child?" Elder Khu Lon asked with a smile.
"Elder, I think it might be time for me to begin my journey home," Reiko said. "Not directly home mind you, but a training trip. I was hoping you could suggest some places I might go to further my skills in the art, particularly in chi manipulation."
The old woman sighed. She knew this day was coming, but she had grown to love the energetic little redhead like her own daughter. Reiko was well liked by most of the village and she would be sorely missed by more than a few. Her irrepressible charm had become much looked forward to as she flitted about on various errands around the village, leaving smiles in her wake. The Elder also knew that Reiko's innocence coupled with her very joy and exuberance would make her standout in the world of men, demanding that someone beat her down. Khu Lon would not want to be the man that tried it, but as formidable as Reiko was, one still did not stand against the world for long, no matter how powerful.
Khu Lon had determined that Reiko's erstwhile father had taught the child very little about the world. Even had she still been a boy, Reiko would have had difficulty assimilating into the society. As a girl, she had assimilated well into the Amazon culture, interacting with the people of Joketsuzoku favorably, well, after Khu Lon's compulsory training in manners and deportment that is. The fact was that Joketsuzoku was a far cry from the rest of the world. Khu Lon doubted that Reiko would take well to being treated as if she was of no consequence other than to be decorative and compliant to men. The girl would need someone to help her learn to deal with a male dominated society without becoming a target.
"I know of a few such places," the Amazon matriarch replied. "Would you mind if Xian Pu and I joined you on your journey?"
"I have to WHAT?" Ryoga exclaimed. "What if I don't like any of them? I won't do it!"
Ryoga had just been through 2 years of the most intense training of his life. He felt like a finely honed instrument, powerfully strong, fast, and agile, heir to a powerful school of martial arts, and thanks to the monks at that old Tibetan monastery, his sense of direction had been vastly improved, though he still got lost if he didn't pay attention to where he was going. Now, he just found out he had to marry a girl he'd never seen to join his sensei's school with its sister school.
"You have to," Genma informed him smugly. "You signed a contract when you became my heir. This was part of the contract. Besides, you might actually like one of the girls. Anyway, too late to back out now, we're here!"
The two men pushed open the gates of the walled grounds of the Tendo Dojo and proceeded up the walk to the main entry. Genma clapped a nervous Ryoga on the back and knocked on the door. A few moments later, Ryoga's nervousness doubled as the door was slid open to reveal a gorgeous kimono-clad girl who wore her hair in a cute chin length bob. Her eyes fixed on Ryoga with a decidedly hungry gaze. The moment was interrupted when another man with long black hair and a mustache appeared behind the girl.
"Saotome, old friend, it's so good to see you again," the man said with, perhaps, an excessive amount of emotion.
"Quite, Tendo, quite," Genma said.
"Come in, come in," Tendo said. "Is this your son, Ranma?"
"Unfortunately not, Tendo. Ranma...is no longer with us," Genma said with a dramatic show of sadness. "However, he is the heir to the Saotome School of Anything Goes. Let us sit and I'll explain."
"...and that's how it happened," Genma finished with dramatic tears. "Ranma died while saving Ryoga."
Ryoga looked down at his hands in his lap, unable to meet anyone's eyes. They all assumed it was because of the guilt he felt about Ranma dying to save him, but in truth it was the guilt from telling such lies about his erstwhile nemesis.
"So, to make up for Ranma's loss, Ryoga offered to become your heir?" Tendo sobbed. "Oh how noble of him! Well, son, this is my oldest daughter Kasumi. She's 21. This is my middle daughter, Nabiki. She's 19. And this is my youngest daughter, Akane. She's 18." Pick one and she'll be your fiancée."
"Don't even think about picking me," Akane spat acidly. "I'll pound you to paste every chance I get and if you touch me, I'll rip'em off and feed'em to you." Ryoga winced.
"I think Nabiki would be the best choice," Kasumi suggested. Said girl looked as Ryoga appraisingly.
"I'll accept the engagement, Daddy," Nabiki said. "But only on these conditions. Firstly, we don't marry until we're ready. Secondly..." Nabiki rattled off several conditions to the engagement to which the men reluctantly agreed to. "So, Hibiki," Nabiki grinned taking Ryoga's arm, "where are you taking me to celebrate our engagement?"
Ryoga laughed nervously and scratched the back of his head with his free hand.
Two years later...
"Hello there. Welcome to the Kinomiya home. I am Hiro Kinomiya," a pleasant man who appeared to be in his forties smiled at Reiko, Xian Pu, and Khu Lon.
"Hello," Reiko returned. "I'm Reiko, and these are my Chinese Amazon friends, Shampoo and Cologne. We are traveling to learn new martial arts techniques and we have heard you are a powerful master of the katana. I would like to learn from you, if I may?"
"Hmmm," the man looked thoughtful, scratching his auburn hair. "It's been a while since I had a student. I tell you what, you can spar with my wife. If it looks like you have potential then I'll train you."
"Thank you so much," Reiko smiled sweetly at him.
"Don't thank me yet," Hiro laughed, "My wife is almost as good as I am. Please wait in the training hall over there. I'll be along in a few minutes."
Reiko and the Amazons entered the training hall. Several minutes later Hiro joined them in the company of a lovely woman who appeared at least a decade younger than Hiro. She was introduced as Setsuna Kinomiya, Hiro's wife. Reiko performed the proper pleasantries and the two women got down to the business at hand, sparring.
After a little over an hour of sparring, Hiro called a halt as Reiko picked herself off the floor yet again.
"You have talent, young one," Hiro smiled as the redhead.
"Yeah, talent as a practice dummy," the girl quipped, rubbing the many bruises placed on her by Mrs. Kinomiya's bokken. It was obvious the girl wasn't used to being outclassed.
"Now, Reiko," Cologne chuckled, "Mrs. Kinomiya is extraordinarily skilled with her weapon. I would have a hard time with her myself. Don't feel bad. I think if Master Hiro will train you, you can be just as good if not better. Remember, I was your sensei, and if not for my 300yrs of experience, you would have surely surpassed me by now."
"You flatter me, Honored Elder," Reiko said, blushing.
"I suspect she is only making an accurate assessment of your skill," Hiro chuckled, then turned more serious. "Never have I seen someone outside my family show such potential in the family art. Now tell me Reiko-chan, what is your family name so that I may properly register you as a student of the Kinomiya Ryu?" Reiko's shoulders slumped and her head bowed.
"I have no family name," the girl said sadly. "My father abandoned me in China after a training accident made me an unsuitable heir to him."
"But you're so skilled and your aura is so powerful," Hiro said. "How could he possibly think you're unsuitable?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you, sir," Reiko said in a subdued tone.
"You might be surprised what I would believe," Hiro said mysteriously.
"Okay, since you are going to be my sensei, you deserve to hear my story," Reiko said. "Is there some place we can sit down? It's a rather long story."
"Of course, dear," Setsuna smiled. "Come on in the house and I will get you and your friends some tea, then you can tell us your tale."
"Jusenkyo, you say?" Hiro Kinomiya asked. "Your father took you to train at Jusenkyo?" Reiko nodded. "Child, I hate to say this but it's probably the best thing that could have happened that you are no longer with him. There's no telling how much more badly he would have screwed up your life. I take it you refused to jump in the Nannichaun and that's why he left you behind? I don't see any evidence of Jusenkyo magic in your aura."
"We've never seen anything like it in all the centuries our people have lived near Jusenkyo," Cologne spoke. "Her form is thrice locked and there is no curse."
"I was a boy before," Reiko explained. "After Pop knocked me into the Nyannichuan, I was in a berserker rage. I was chasing him, intent on bodily harm when he shoved a boy in my path. The boy and I collided and went over the cliff above the springs. Being a master of aerial combat, I positioned us so I could kick him back to safety. Unfortunately, since he was far more massive than I am in my present form, the kick sent me far out away from the edge. I landed back in the Nyannichuan, where I struck my head on a rock and passed out."
"She lay bleeding in the water for 30 minutes until the boy got down the cliff to her," Cologne continued. "The chances that such a chain of events could happen to anyone are quite unlikely. I believe it's the will of the kami that she be as she is."
"You seem to have adjusted well, dear," Setsuna commented.
"Thanks to Elder Cologne and Shampoo," Reiko said with a smile to the Amazon women. "If not for them I would probably be dead. Pop had some pretty backwards ideas about women. I was raised to be super macho. Pop's most venomous insults were things like, 'you're acting like a weak little girl' or 'you cry like a girl'. That part of me wouldn't allow me to live female. I had to kill it before I could rejoin the rest of the world. I've since learned how backwards Pop's ideas were."
Setsuna Kinomiya's bokken went flying and she made an unlady like grunt as she landed on her posterior several meters from her opponent. She grinned at the redhead as the girl walked up to her and offered her a hand up. Taking the hand she pulled herself up off the floor.
It had been seven months since the vivacious redhead had come into their home, bringing with her an energy that was lacking before. The girl was a prodigy of the art, learning like a sponge soaking up water. She was now regularly beating Setsuna in their spars and holding her own more than not with Hiro, even beating him on occasion.
"Good fight, Little one," Setsuna smiled. "Come into the tearoom. I'll get us some tea and then Hiro and I have something to ask you."
"Yes, Ma'am," the girl bowed politely to her, then to the dojo, before gliding out the door.
Grinning in amusement, Setsuna shook her head in amazement at the feminine poise and grace the former boy possessed as she moved into the kitchen to prepare the tea.
When Setsuna joined them, Hiro, Reiko, and their Amazon houseguests were all sitting around the table talking about some of the things Reiko had learned in her travels.
"The first place we went was to a Tibetan monastery that we had heard could help me get control of the Nekoken," Reiko was saying. "Thank the kami that it was successful. I lost a lot of the power, but at least now it doesn't control me. On the plus side, I'm not afraid of cats anymore and I did gain new abilities. My night vision is amazing. I can see in the dark almost as well as I can during the day. My reflexes are much faster and my balance even got a bit better. I lost my ki claws all together, but I'm learning to manifest something like them via my ki training."
"Reiko-chan," Hiro began, seeing Setsuna had finished pouring the tea while Reiko had finished her story, "Setsuna and I, well, unfortunately, we are unable to have children. Because of this, I have no heir and I am the last of the Kinomiya clan." Hiro took Setsuna's hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "Reiko-chan, how would you feel about us adopting you and making you the Heir to the Kinomiya clan art and holdings?" Reiko's eyes went wide and she gasped.
"I'm honored, Hiro-san," Reiko said, "but why me?"
"Because you are the first student to come along that is truly worthy of learning the true Kinomiya calling," Hiro explained, "because you are as honorable as you are powerful, because you are intelligent, well mannered, and beautiful, and because you are the most mentally resilient person I have ever met, surviving the Nekoken, you father's abuse, and the dramatic change in your gender with grace and dignity and without going insane."
"We would really like to adopt you as our daughter and have you carry on the Kinomiya heritage," Setsuna added. Reiko dropped her gaze to her teacup.
"I can't tell you how deeply honored I am by your offer," Reiko said sadly, still looking down. "But I don't think it would be right for me to accept."
"Why not?" Setsuna asked gently.
"Because...well...because," Reiko hesitated before steeling herself, "because I'm a lesbian. I couldn't bare the thought of being with a man. Not only would that bring dishonor to your clan, but it would also mean I can't have kids."
"Nonsense," Setsuna disagreed. "First off, there is no dishonor in being attracted to other women. There might be those would think differently, but their opinion doesn't matter. Those that count would still respect you. And that's all before taking into account your history."
"And as for having kids," Hiro grinned, "while it's a pity that the world will lose such good genetics, we didn't want a brood mare. What we want is a warrior to take up the family calling and an heir to pass on the family art to. You can always do as we have done and find a worthy student and adopt them."
"What exactly is your family calling?" Cologne asked.
"Understand, we don't tell just anyone this," Hiro said. "If it were general knowledge we would be put in mortal danger. The Kinomiya clan has hunted evil creatures of darkness since the kami charged us with the task hundreds of years ago."
"That would be a noble career for someone of my friend Reiko's abilities," Shampoo grinned.
"Indeed, Great Granddaughter," Cologne agreed. "Reiko, I think you should seriously consider the Kinomiyas' offer."
"What's to consider?" Reiko grinned. "I wouldn't be ronin anymore. I'd get to fight powerful evil. I'd have a family and a purpose. What more could a martial artist want? Hiro-sensei, Setsuna-san, I accept your offer. I would be proud to bear the Kinomiya name."
Suddenly Reiko found herself enveloped in a crushing motherly glomp.
"Reiko, daughter, I know you will bring great honor to our clan," Hiro Kinomiya said as he joined his wife in embracing their new daughter.
"What have you got there, Daughter," Hiro asked as Reiko raced in excitedly waving a piece of paper.
"This came in the mail today," Reiko gushed. "It's an invitation to a huge international martial arts tournament that's going to be held in Nerima, Tokyo. I thought maybe I should go to represent our dojo and maybe draw in some students."
"I see," Hiro laughed. "And it wouldn't have anything to do with stroking your ego by establishing you're the best in a very public venue?"
"Well, I, um," Reiko blushed, causing Hiro to chuckle more, "Well, I am the best. So what if everyone knows it? We could generate some interest in the dojo and I could start taking students."
"Reiko-chan, you know we don't actually need students, right?" Hiro reminded her. "You know the government pays rather large bounties one each evil creature we take out. It's not like it used to be, where we had to support ourselves. Now the Department of Supernatural Threats gives out registration numbers to those of us who are gifted enough to fight such evil and we are well funded."
"Yeah, but Father, I do actually want to be a sensei," Reiko explained. "And if our cover is running a dojo, then it would look pretty odd if we never had any students."
"Okay, okay," Hiro smiled, "You've convinced me. Anyway, I think it will be good for you to get out and meet some people your age and establish some contacts." Hiro grinned mischievously. "Maybe you'll even find that special girl that captures your heart. I expect you to tell us all about her and bring her home to meet your parents as soon as you get serious."
"Faaatheeer!" Reiko said, rolling her eyes, and then they both burst out laughing.
"I love you Reiko-chan," Hiro said after the laughter subsided. "I must say the last year and a half since we adopted you has been amazing, and I know your mother feels the same too."
"I love you guys too," Reiko smiled. "I've never had an actual family before, I mean besides Cologne and Shampoo. Being raised by that moron was like being raised by a drill instructor, only with less concern for my well-being. You and Mom have made me feel loved and appreciated. I can't tell you how much that means to me."
"Tournament, you say?" Cologne said thoughtfully. "Perhaps Xian Pu and I will join you. She can compete as well and maybe find some good husband material."
"Elder, this is Japan," Reiko laughed. "No Kisses of Marriage or Death if Xian fights in the tournament."
"Of course not, Child," Cologne grinned. "However, that doesn't mean there can't be a rematch if she finds someone she fancies."
"Elder, you're as bad as Father," Reiko giggled. "He said, and I quote, 'You need to get out and meet some people your age. Maybe you'll even find that special girl that captures your heart.' Geez, and it's not as if he can expect grandkids even."
"Oh, you could be surprised," Cologne laughed mysteriously. "We just want our children to be happy and nothing can make a person quite so happy as being in love."
"Where is Shampoo, by the way?" Reiko asked.
"She's out in the training hall sparring with Mrs. Kinomiya," Cologne replied.
Reiko stepped out of the Nerima HSR terminal and adjusted her pack. Though she had carried the pack for years, she wasn't used to its familiar weight resting on the swords she had slung over each shoulder. Her father had insisted that she carry the Kinomiya clan honor blades since she was representing the clan in the tournament.
The katana and the wakizashi, though decorative, were also highly functional and carried several enchantments that would allow them to kill evil things that ordinary weapons wouldn't harm. The tassel-less hilts were made up of a dark grey silk thread wrapped around deep midnight blue sharkskin representing the family colors. The midnight blue lacquered sheaths carried the family coat of arms carved out of lapis and slate inset into the highly polished wood. In her pack, Reiko also carried more practical sheaths incase she were to go hunting.
As she donned her sunglasses, Reiko smirked. They were causing quite a stir. Looking to her side, she saw Shampoo step up beside her. Both girls were wearing white tank tops with Kinomiya Dojo printed prominently on the front, particularly prominent because of how well endowed the girls were. Both girls also wore jeans that appeared to be quite tight, though they were made out of that new stretch denim so didn't restrict movement like regular denim that tight would. Reiko's bright crimson hair and Shampoo's equally vivid lavender hair made it impossible not to notice the pair. Cologne pogoed up on Reiko's other side. Perched on her staff, the extremely aged woman also drew her share of attention, although not quite the same kind as the girls were getting.
The trio moved off down the street causing a large knot of gawkers, mostly male, as they moved through the crowd. They had just entered the lobby of their hotel when a woman's voice called out to Reiko.
"Miss? Excuse me, Miss?" a woman called to the redhead. Reiko turned to see an elegant looking woman dressed in an immaculate kimono.
"May I help you, ma'am?" Reiko asked.
"I'm sorry but you look really familiar to me," the woman began. "Do you mind if I enquire as to your name?"
"I am Reiko Kinomiya, of the Kinomiya Dojo, Hokkaido," Reiko said with more than a touch of pride and bowing slightly.
"And you carry the Kinomiya family blades too!" the woman said, noticing the swords. She then grabbed Reiko by the shoulders and hugged her. "Cousin! I thought it was you! You look just like a Kinomiya."
"Strange that you should think that," Reiko laughed. "I'm adopted. Hiro and Setsuna Kinomiya adopted me a year and a half ago to make me their heir since they can't have kids of their own."
"Hmmm, how curious," the woman said, clearly confused. "Except for your bright red hair, you look exactly like I did when I was your age. You could have been my twin sister."
"Father said he had cousin living in Tokyo, but he didn't remember much about her," Reiko said, curious. "Could you tell me your name?"
"Oh how rude of me," the woman said. "I'm Nodoka Saotome, formerly, Nodoka Kinomiya." Reiko froze in utter shock.
"Mother?" she whispered softly. Suddenly, faster than the eye could follow, Reiko dropped her pack and glomped the woman in classic Amazon fashion. "Mother!" Reiko sobbed into the woman's breast, "I was told you were dead!"
"I'm sorry, Dear, but you are mistaken," Nodoka said gently, patting the sobbing girl comfortingly on the back. "I only ever had a son and he died in a training accident." Reiko got hold of herself and stepped back, still holding on to Nodoka's hands.
"Mother, I am...was your son, Ranma," Reiko said. "I didn't die in a training accident, but I was permanently changed into a girl, thanks to some stupid cursed springs in China. That's when that moron Genma abandoned me."
"She speaks the truth," Cologne said. "She lay bleeding and unconscious in the Spring of Drown Girl long enough to absorb the full charge of magic from the spring. Her form is now irreversibly locked and nothing can ever magically change it again. Know this, Reiko is the most gifted and powerful warrior it has ever been my honor to know. I, Cologne of Joketsuzoku, am greatly honored to meet her mother."
"I'm Shampoo, and I'm also honored to meet my warrior sister's mother," Shampoo bowed to Nodoka with a smile.
"I know of my husband's curse," Nodoka said after studying the redhead for a long moment. "Also, your resemblance to me is quite incredible. I think the only explanation for this is that your story is true. Genma has much to answer for. How dare he abandon a child of mine!" For a moment, Nodoka quivered with rage before she visibly got a hold of herself. Smiling, she pulled Reiko to her. "My child, it's so good to see you again. I've missed you so."
"Mother," Reiko hugged back tearfully. "Can...can you...accept me as your daughter?"
"Don't be silly, Dear," Nodoka said to her daughter. "I will always accept you. You are my child no matter what."
"Thanks, Mom," Reiko sobbed in relief.
"Well, we'll leave you two to get reacquainted," Cologne smiled, touched by the scene. "We'll get checked in and take your stuff up to your room. Meet us back here this afternoon so we can go get you and Shampoo registered for the tournament."
The mother/daughter pair sat at a table in a sidewalk café sipping tea as Reiko told her mother about all the things she had been through in the last 16 years since the 6 year old boy Ranma had left with Genma on the training journey.
"You seem to have adjusted quite well and you behave so naturally," Nodoka said in wonder. "Tell me, Daughter, how did you learn feminine behavior?" Reiko laughed amusedly.
"Elder Cologne taught me mostly," Reiko grinned. "Quite painfully, I might add. Mother Kinomiya refined my manners a bit for Japanese culture, teaching me how to be a strong and independent woman without disturbing the patriarchy too much more than necessary."
"You appear to be a fine young woman," Nodoka said. "You shouldn't have any trouble at all finding a nice young man to marry."
"Um...Mother...I'm not interested in getting married," Reiko protested.
"Nonsense, Dear," Nodoka dismissed. "You are 22 years old now. You should be thinking about starting your own family. I know several handsome young men I could introduce you to. I know just the one to start with."
"MOTHER!" Reiko said angrily, using a Ki technique to make her tone and presence more authoritative. Noticing she had drawn other attention from the surrounding café staff and patrons, Reiko lowered her voice but not her intensity. "I do NOT like men. I may be a girl now but I find the idea of dating, especially marrying a man repugnant. The very thought makes me feel like vomiting. Am I making myself clear?"
"But, Daughter," Nodoka protested looking horrified. "Do you intend to spend your life alone and childless? What about an heir? You have a responsibility as heir of the Kinomiya clan to provide an heir as well."
"If it's a choice between being with a man, or being alone, then I would choose to be alone," Reiko stated resolutely. "As for an heir, Father found one, even if we didn't know until today that I actually am a Kinomiya. I told him of my position on men when he offered to adopt me. He dismissed it as not a concern. In fact he sent me off to this tournament in hopes of me finding someone decidedly NOT male who might catch my interest." Nodoka gasped.
"Reiko!" Nodoka said, scandalized. "Are you telling me you're one of those...lesbians?" Her tone dripped with disapproval and she practically spat the word 'lesbian'.
Reiko averted her eyes and nodded, momentarily feeling ashamed. It passed quickly however, and she snapped her gaze back up to boldly meet her mother's clearly appalled regard.
"Mother, while it's clear you disapprove, given the circumstances, you must understand my position just a little, even if most others think I'm a pervert," Reiko said flatly. "I am what I am and you have a choice: Accept me and love me for who I am, or be ashamed of me and abandon me just like Genma did."
Nodoka stared wide-eyed at her daughter for several moments thinking about what the girl said. She was also thinking about how strong and independent the girl was. She seemed utterly unafraid to be who she needed to be. Nodoka suspected that's probably what allowed her child to survive her many trials with her sanity intact. Surprisingly, Nodoka felt not a little pride for her daughter. Coming to a decision, Nodoka left her chair and grabbed her daughter in a glomp worthy of an Amazon sobbing out, "I lost you for 16 years. Now that I have you back, I would never abandon you. I love you, Reiko, my daughter."
"I love you too, Momma," Reiko said through her own tears.
"You know, Reiko, your fa...Genma had his heir as well as the heir of his friend enter this tournament," Nodoka mentioned as they stood in the registration line.
"Good," Reiko grinned wickedly. "Mom, please don't mention me to them. I don't think he will recognize me since I'm so much different than when he last saw me. Perhaps we should have a nice little surprise for him...after I beat the snot out of his heir and win the tournament." Reiko cracked her knuckles.
"My goodness," Nodoka said, a little surprised at her daughter's aggression. "Aren't you a little too sure of yourself?"
"Friend Reiko isn't too sure of herself," Shampoo laughed. "She's just that good. She beat our village's most skilled warrior to win her adult status four years ago, and she's much better now than she was then."
"Next!" the registrar called out and Reiko approached.
"Name?" the man said.
"Reiko Kinomiya, of the Kinomiya Dojo, Hokkaido," Reiko said.
"What style do you practice?"
"I'm a master of Tai Chi, Jujitsu, and Chinese Wu Shu," Reiko listed off. The man started to ask the next question when Reiko continued, "I hold multiple Dan rankings in Karate, Judo, Kendo, Tai Kwan Do, Akido, and Kung Fu. I also hold various black belts in more obscure styles." By now, the man was clearly dubious. After all, how could such a small young woman be that good?
"I'll just put down 'Various'," the man chuckled uncomfortably. Reiko shrugged. "Now have you read the rules for the tournament?"
"Then please sign this waiver and provide your entry fee and you'll be all set," the man told her. "Registration lasts another three days. After that the first round match schedules will be posted here. Because of the number of competitors, the initial matches will be held in various locations, so please make a note of where you need to be." Reiko acknowledged his instructions and signed the paper.
Shampoo finished her registration a short time later and the four women went to dinner. After dinner, Nodoka had to take her leave to join her husband and his friend's family.
Reiko's first match was almost unfair. The gulf between Reiko's skill level and that of her opponent was huge. Reiko put him down quickly, but held back enough that she didn't totally crush his ego. Her next match wouldn't be for a while so she was sitting in the grass off by herself. Shampoo's match was at a different location and Momma Nodoka had to attend with Genma and his 'heir', so Reiko was alone today. Reiko had reclined back on her towel and closed her eyes, letting her mind wander when a voice snapped her out of her reverie.
"Hi, I'm Akane Tendo," the voice said.
Reiko opened her eyes and shaded them from the sun. Standing next to her was a girl with short midnight blue hair. Reiko sat up smoothly and offered the girl her hand.
"I'm Reiko Kinomiya," the redhead said with a sort of half grin. "Pleased to meet'cha." Akane took her hand and smiled.
"Would you mind if I sit here with you?" Akane asked.
"Not at all," Reiko replied. "I'd like that." Akane grinned and sat herself down next to the redhead.
"So are you here alone too?" Akane asked.
"Yeah, well, my friends have a match at a different location today," Reiko explained.
"Oh," Akane acknowledged. "My sister's fiancé has a match elsewhere today and my family is with him." There was a slight bitter hint to her tone. "They think he's so great just 'cuz he's monstrously strong and can take a hit like a brick wall. I could beat him though if the jerk would fight me." Akane laughed sheepishly. "Sorry about that. I didn't mean vent on someone I just met."
"No, it's okay," Reiko reassured her. "Men can be real jerks sometimes, especially when it comes to female martial artists. They usually regret that sort of behavior with me." Reiko grinned nastily. "The jerk is going to have to get over his aversion to fighting women in this tournament, otherwise he might as well have saved his entry fee."
"I guess he might actually have to finally fight a girl," Akane agreed. "I saw you fight. It was really nice of you to hold back so much with that guy. I can tell your really great." Akane blushed a bit. "What style do you use? It looked a bit like a form of Jujitsu, but it was hard to tell with how much you were holding back."
"I'm a master of Tai Chi, Jujitsu, and Chinese Wu Shu," Reiko told her. "I hold at least dan or blackbelt ranking in about 10 other styles."
"Wow," Akane said. "I hold several dan rankings myself, though not as many as you. Mine are in Karate, Kung Fu, and Jujitsu. So you're from Hokkaido?" Akane asked, making a show of leaning back and looking at the back of Reiko's discarded gi top.
"Yeah, that's where my family is from," Reiko said. "I've actually lived all over the place. I spent my childhood on the road training in the art."
The pair spent most of the day together when while they waited for their afternoon match. By the time the tournament was wrapped up for the day, the girls were well on their way become the best of friends.
"What do you have planned later?" Akane asked.
"I was thinking I'd grab a bite to eat and veg out," Reiko replied.
"Would you like to join me for dinner? I know this great little place that has the best food," Akane asked brightly.
"Sure, I'd like that. We don't know our way around too well yet," Reiko explained. "Do you mind if I bring my friend Shampoo?"
"Not at all," Akane smiled after a ghost of something like disappointment flashed in her eyes.
"Great, if you want, you can come by the hotel and we can hang out by the pool until dinner," Reiko suggested. "It's the Nerima Hilton, room 519."
"Great, I'll just run home and get my suit and be there as soon as I can," Akane said, clearly excited.
Akane couldn't keep the silly grin off her face as she practically skipped down the sidewalk. She was going to see that incredible redhead in a skintight bathing suit! She couldn't believe how excited that made her feel.
Akane had long known her taste in lovers ran to the female side of the gender divide but she had never developed the courage to act on it. Instead, she dedicated herself to her training in the art. In high school, she'd gotten her father to begin training her again by threatening to stop practicing the family art and seek out other sensei.
Something about Reiko was different though. Maybe it was because she was also very much dedicated to the art, but Akane felt strongly connected to the little redhead. Perhaps she would find the courage with Reiko. After all, it was clear that Reiko didn't care for guys very much; given the icy manner she had rebuffed their efforts to chat her up at the tournament. As long as they were talking Martial Arts, she was friendly and pleasant, but if they dared to flirt with her the girl reacted with derision and disgust. Maybe Reiko was the One, her perfect soul mate. Maybe that's why Akane felt so drawn to her.
Akane shook her head ruefully and reined her thoughts in. She really didn't know that much about Reiko. She probably had a steady boyfriend or even a fiancé back home and was just tried of guys hitting on her. She was certainly drop dead gorgeous enough to capture a lot of male attention.
Which brought Akane's thoughts full circle.
'I can't wait to see her in a bikini,' Akane thought to herself, silly grin re-plastering itself to her face as she walked into the hotel lobby.
Finding the elevator she quickly depressed the button to take her to the fifth floor and the stood nervously shifting from foot to foot as the elevator made the journey. Soon she stood nervously before the door to room 519.
An incredibly old and shriveled woman answered the door when Akane knocked. The dark haired girl couldn't help be stare at the crone stood balanced on a staff, bringing to Akane's mind a prune on a stick. The pair looked at each other for a few moments before the old woman spoke.
"May I help you with something, child?" she asked.
"Oh, um, yes, sorry, I'm here to see Reiko," Akane said with a nervous smile. "Is she here?" At that moment another voice was heard.
"Great Grandmother, who is it?" an absolutely stunning lavender haired Chinese girl asked then didn't wait for an answer. "Ooo, you must be Akane! Reiko is in the shower. She asked me to keep you company until she's out. I'm Shampoo and that is my great grandmother Cologne. Come in, come in. Can I get you something to drink?" Shampoo winked at her. "Reiko has done nothing but talk about you since we got back."
The three women chatted about the tournament among other things while awaiting the redhead. Akane found out that Shampoo and Cologne where Chinese Amazons and had at first trained, then trained with, Reiko for some years.
The martial arts prodigy in question finally made her appearance. She had her hair in a French braid like at the tournament, only now she was wearing earrings comprised of some sort of faintly blueish crystal hanging from a stud and a pendant of the same clear crystal hanging on a silver chain. Reiko wore a sea foam green bikini top and around her waist was a tropical print sarong that complimented the top. When Akane caught sight of her, the dark haired girl's mouth suddenly went dry and her breath caught in her throat. Akane swallowed several times to find her voice.
"Hey, Akane," the girl grinned at her. "Glad you could make it. I see you've met my friends. I'm sure they told you all about me. It's all lies, I assure you."
"Hey, Reiko," Akane said after finding her voice. "They've said nothing but nice things about you."
"Yup," Reiko giggled, "lies. I knew it. Do you need to change?"
"No, I have my suit on under my shorts and tee," Akane replied.
"Well, then," Reiko grinned, striking a sexy pose that made Akane's mouth go dry again while other places weren't so dry. "Shall we go torture the boys with things they can't have?"
"Yes, let's," Akane laughed.
The four women proceeded to the pool deck.
Shampoo smiled knowingly. She'd been watching all night and it was clear that the Tendo girl was quite taken with Reiko, well, to everyone but Reiko that is. The Amazon frowned a little at her friend's low opinion of herself, at least where martial arts wasn't concerned.
"Hey, Akane," Shampoo called out, catching up to the girl as she left the hotel.
"Hi Shampoo," Akane smiled at the vivacious Amazon girl.
"I wanted to go for a walk and I thought I'd walk with you for a bit," the lavender haired girl answered the other girl's unasked question.
"Okay, sure," Akane nodded.
"So, you like girls, romantically?" Shampoo asked. Akane's eyes widened with a deer in the headlights look and blushed a deep red.
"Uh...w...what makes you say that?" the Tendo girl stammered.
"I saw the way you watched Reiko," Shampoo grinned. "Don't worry, I don't mind. Such expressions of love are not uncommon between the warriors of our tribe. Reiko is quite lovely. I've thought about taking her myself before."
"She's totally gorgeous," Akane agreed wistfully, then blushed as she realized what she said. Shampoo laughed lightly.
"Are you going to pursue her?" Shampoo asked.
"I...I...don't know," Akane stumbled. "Does she like girls that way?"
"Oh yeah," Shampoo winked, then sobered. "Look Akane, I'm not going to give you a 'you hurt her and I'll kill you' speech, but you should be aware of something before you get too involved. Reiko has had a great many horrible things done to her by her first sensei, in the name of training. Some of them were very traumatic and because of that, Reiko, apart from martial arts, doesn't have a high sense of self worth. In martial arts, she the best, and she knows it. She is totally confident in herself. On a personal level, she doesn't feel like she's worthy of being in a relationship. She feels she is damaged goods. Since she first came to us, Great Grandmother and I have worked to improve her outlook, and we were largely successful. Her adoptive parents helped a lot there too. She's happier now than I've ever seen her, but I still see flashes of her low self-esteem. I guess what I'm saying is that before you get involved, you should know that she will require a lot of nurturing and reassurance."
"What happened to her?" Akane asked.
"It's not my story to tell," Shampoo told her. "Suffice it to say that she was traumatized to the brink of insanity more than once by criminally abusive training methods."
"That's horrible," Akane said.
"Yes," Shampoo agreed, "but she survived by the grace of whatever Kami watching over her. She survived and, as they say, that which does not kill you makes you stronger."
The quarterfinals were the first round to be held in one arena. It would be the first chance the remaining fighters had a chance to watch all the others fight. Akane drew Shampoo and the two girls that considered themselves friends would face off against each other.
"I won't go easy on you just cause we're friends," Akane warned.
"Good," Shampoo grinned, "I'd be really insulted if you did."
The signal was given to fight and the two girls began to circle each other warily. Without warning, they simultaneously charged each other. Shampoo was very fast, but Akane seemed to be equally fast. As the fight wore on, Akane proved to be the stronger of the two while Shampoo was more graceful agile. In the end, Akane's blows took their toll, sapping Shampoo's mobility. She fell to the shorter dark haired girl and Akane moved on to the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals, Reiko faced Akane's future brother-in-law. Much to Reiko's shock, he also turned out to be Genma's chosen heir to the Saotome ryu. Reiko didn't know quite what to feel about this. In a way she wanted to punish the boy for usurping a position that was once hers. In another way...well...she wanted to punish the boy to embarrass Genma for his decision to abandon her. Okay, so she wasn't that conflicted, the boy was in for a world of hurt, one way or another.
"Welcome to the semi-final round of the World Martial Arts Championship Tournament," the announcer said. "In our first fight today, we have Ryoga Hibiki, heir to the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts, representing Nerima's own Tendo Dojo." The crowd cheered loudly in support of the hometown competitor. "He will be facing off against the lovely and dangerous Reiko Kinomiya, master of the Kinomiya Ready For Anything School of Martial Arts, representing the Kinomiya Dojo in Hokkaido." Reiko, being young, beautiful, and very skilled, had attracted quite a following. Boys cheered for her because they found her taut and toned body combined with her deadly grace to be irresistibly attractive. The girls cheered for her because she was strong, skilled, and independent. The cheering Reiko received was noticeably louder than that which Ryoga had.
It immediately became clear that Reiko was far faster than Ryoga. He had a solid defense, but he was unable to touch Reiko offensively. Unfortunately, while Reiko could land an attack at will, she found out the hard way that it would cost her. The boy was hideously strong, she discovered as she landed a probing attack and had to block his counter before she regained some distance. Even the blocked blow made her arm go numb for several seconds, while her own attack seemed to have little effect. Judging from his smirk as Reiko shook the feeling back in her arm, Hibiki was thinking he had this one in the bag.
They went back and forth several times, Hibiki seeming to take whatever punishment Reiko could deliver, but unable to land any attacks himself. Finally, Reiko realized she was going to have to take things up a notch. She didn't like causing lasting injuries, but unless she took that chance it would be a stalemate. Her opportunity arose when the boy over extended himself in a powerful punch. She ducked under it and caught his wrist, punching quickly upward, she was rewarded with a sickening crunch as Ryoga's elbow was dislocated, as he screamed in pain, she quickly took advantage of his distraction and landed a brutal kick to his chin, mercifully knocking him unconscious.
As she watched the medics tend to Ryoga, Reiko felt more than a little guilty about the brutality of her tactics. In spite of her desire to punish the boy because of that fool Genma, she hadn't really wanted to hurt him too badly. A martial artist doesn't try to injure her opponent. Still, Reiko hadn't been a true martial artist for some time now. She practiced martial arts, but she was a true warrior and it was the warrior's job to react to threats with brutal efficiency. Still, she felt remorse for injuring the boy.
Reiko finally had to face Akane in the finals. She smiled at her friend as they faced off against each other.
"I'm sorry, Akane-chan," Reiko grinned at her friend.
"For what?" Akane demanded.
"Cause this is most likely gonna hurt," Reiko replied.
"Well, I'll try not to hurt'cha too bad," Akane smirked.
Grinning like maniacs, the girls joined in savage battle.
Akane opened up with a spread of blazingly fast punches, probing Reiko's defenses. Reiko was impressed as she was unable to dodge all of them. The taller girl proved to be very nearly as fast as she was. She was, however, able to block the strikes she couldn't avoid. She also learned that Akane was nearly as powerful as Ryoga. If she ever got in a solid blow, Reiko would be in trouble.
Grinning even more broadly the redhead launched a probing attack of her own, instantly putting the other girl on the defensive. Akane managed to block most of the impossibly fast strikes coming in at her, but a few slipped through, tagging her on her abdomen, upper torso, and shoulder. The impacts had stung, but Akane took them without so much as a flinch. She could take a punch almost as well as Ryoga.
It was becoming a long match. They had been going at it for almost an hour when Reiko finally got a lucky break. Akane connected with a glancing side kick to Reiko's shoulder. Reiko was spun around and used her momentum to drop into a foot sweep before Akane could get her other leg back to the mat. Akane saw it coming and used her own momentum to try a spin which would pull her grounded foot up out of the way and land her on her currently airborne foot. It almost worked, but Reiko's leg grazed Akane's foot as it was pulled away. This fouled her balance and caused a minute stagger as she landed. Before she could regain her footing, Reiko was on her with horrifying speed. The smaller girl yelled, "Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken!" and stated pummeling Akane's torso with hundreds of punches a second. Akane could do nothing but rock with the blows that lasted about 3 seconds. When they stopped Akane staggered back and then doubled over when the pain hit.
"Night, Night," she heard Reiko say, then felt several taps on her head and neck. The next thing she knew, she was waking up at the first aid station feeling a little stiff and sore but otherwise refreshed.
After being checked out by the doctor, and enduring being tearfully fussed over by her father, Akane was cleared to leave. Coming out the door she saw a very cute, but very anxious looking redhead standing in the hall.
"Akane-chan, are you okay?" Reiko asked nervously.
Akane smiled, thinking about how adorable Reiko's anxiety made her. She walked over and gathered the girl up in a hug.
"I'm fine, Reiko-chan," Akane reassured her. "That was a good fight. I almost thought I had you a few times. Congradulations! You made it to the championship round! I'm so happy for you!"
"Yeah, it was a good fight," Reiko smiled. "Best I've had in a long time, other than Daddy and Elder Cologne." Reiko bowed to Akane. "You were a worthy adversary. And for the record, you are way better than that Hibiki character. The masters of your school are fools if they don't see that."
This statement earned the girl an even colder glare from Soun Tendo who was just barely restraining himself from tearing into the redhead for hurting his baby.
"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the World Martial Arts Championship Round," the announcer said. "This round will decide who is the greatest fighter in the world. Now entering the arena is the Master of the Yumura school of martial arts, Hirohito Yumura. Standing nearly 2 meters tall at 195cm (6 ft 4 in) and weighing in at 114 kilos (250 lbs) has proven to be as unstoppable as a force of nature in our tournament. He currently sports an undefeated record in any tournament he had participated in." People applauded the large man as he calmly entered the fighting area. "Our next fighter sets up a classic David and Goliath battle. Hailing from Hokkaido, she is the master of the Kinomiya school of Ready For Anything martial arts. Please welcome Reiko Kinomiya!" The crowd cheered loudly as the tiny redhead strode out. "Reiko stands at 165cm (5 ft 4 in) tall and weighs in at 55 kilos (120 lbs), but don't sell her short. As unlikely as her appearance would lead you to believe, she is a true warrior and has proven herself one of the most formidable fighters in the world."
Reiko snorted at what the announcer was saying as she studied her opponent. He was indeed massive, but she could tell by his movements that he was very skilled with speed and agility that belied his bulk. She could well believe that he was undefeated…until after their fight, that is.
As soon as the announcer had finished hyping up the crowd, the fighters squared off against each other. The signal was given to begin and the battle was joined. It became immediately obvious that the pair were evenly matched. Reiko discovered that Hirohito's massive muscles were like armor plates. Though her strikes were powerful enough to shatter steel, he seemed to shrug them off as if they were nothing. Likewise, the big man found that Reiko just seemed to flow around his lightning fast strikes. He swore he had her several times but all he struck was an after image. He had more reach than her, but she had a slight edge on skill that made up for it. It was soon obvious that this was a battle of endurance. Though not boring by any stretch, the battle went on for several hours. Clearly the loser would be the first to succumb to the fatigue.
3 hours and 45 minutes into the fight, Herohito's larger muscle mass betrayed him. The large man began to slow down and his form began to slip as his muscles burned through his energy reserves. Reiko, too, was approaching exhaustion, sweating heavily and sporting several bruises where she'd allowed blows to land in order to land her own, but a large grin graced her lips as she saw her opponent falter.
Reaching deeply, she tapped into her own reserves and made her move. Easily out maneuvering his deteriorating guard, she charged in and struck a series of pressure points on his arms, further weakening them, before she leaped on his back and put him in a classic sleeper hold. He could do nothing as the blood flow to his brain was restricted and he slowly fell to his knees before consciousness fled him. Reiko gently lowered him to the mat and stood shakily over her fallen foe. The crowd went wild as the officials called the fight finished and Reiko the victor. Reiko smiled a little before she too collapsed from exhaustion across her opponent.
The medical teams rushed out onto the mat. Smelling salts were opened and the fighters were rehydrated and rested for a few minutes. After a few minutes to recover some strength, Reiko was hauled up and presented a trophy and a check. As she stood with a big silly smile on her face, basking in the cheers of the crowd, Hirohito, having finally made it to his feet approached her.
"Kinomiya-san," he said as she turned to him. He bowed deeply to her. "Allow me to say it was a great honor to have faced a true master of the art such as you."
"You were a very worthy opponent, Master Yumura," Reiko said also bowing deeply. "It was a pleasure to have striven against one as skilled and powerful as you."
"You did well for the dojo, Son," Soun said to Ryoga happily. "You finished in the top 8 in the world."
"I still say he's an embarrassment," Genma moaned. "Imagine, the heir to the Saotome School of Anything Goes being beaten by a little girl. It's disgraceful." Ryoga, whose arm was in a sling, looked down in shame.
"Disgraceful?" Akane demanded heatedly. "What's disgraceful about losing to the world's best fighter?"
"And let's not forget, Father," Kasumi reminded, "Akane made it to the finals. We should be happy with both of our fighters for their outstanding performance."
"Indeed," Soun agreed. "So Saotome, where is Nodoka? Will she not be joining us for the celebration?"
"Of course, Tendo," the bald man said. "She said she had something to take care of and then she'd be along as soon as she could."
As if on cue, they heard the front door open then close and shortly there after, Nodoka appeared at the entry to the tearoom where everyone was gathered. Greetings where made and Nodoka smiled with an odd glint in her eye.
"Everyone, I brought someone for you all to meet," Nodoka said happily. She reached around the corner and pulled a familiar redhead into the room. "I would like to introduce you all to my daughter, Reiko Kinomiya." To say everyone was shocked by this would have been a massive understatement. There was a collective gasp and everyone began to look at each other.
The girl stood, clearly uncomfortable with everyone's scrutiny. Her bright red hair flowed loosely down her back. Her lithe athletic body was sheathed in a black silk Chinese style dress that stopped just below her mid thigh. A shimmering red, blue and gold dragon, embroidered on the dress, coiled itself around her body in an almost possessive protective manner, its head coming over her shoulder and resting just over her left breast. Her movements were reminiscent of those of a cat, though hers seemed almost more graceful and fluid. Gone was the fierce warrior everyone had seen at the tournament and in her place was an almost timid, extremely beautiful girl.
"But, Nodoka," Genma said slowly, "we never had a daughter."
"You are correct, Husband," Nodoka said with a glare at Genma. "WE didn't."
Genma was now fully confused as he looked between mother and daughter. The resemblance was clear, as was the family name, but Genma refused to believe Nodoka had cheated on him. Lost in his dismay, he nearly missed two other new arrivals. He looked up and saw the ancient old woman balanced on a stick and suddenly he realized the truth.
"Ranma?" Genma gasped in shock. Ryoga, who was battling his hormones, trying not to ogle the gorgeous redhead in front of his fiancée, suddenly turned white as a sheet.
"No, old man," Reiko said, timidity gone as she fixed Genma with an arctic glare that was a colder twin to the one on Nodoka's face. "Ranma is dead. You saw to that when you abandoned him in China."
"Now see here, boy," Genma sputtered, "I did the best thing I could and left you in a place where you could be respected and not treated like a second class citizen." Reiko sighed sadly.
"I know you did what you thought was best," she said, "but that doesn't change how badly it hurt to know that what I thought was my only family, the only parent I had, was too ashamed of me to want me around." Genma bowed his head in shame.
"I'm so sorry, son," Genma said softly. "Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?" The glacial glare returned to the redhead's eyes.
"I'm not your son, old man," Reiko scorned. "I'm not your daughter either. You gave up any rights to be my father when you abandoned me in China. I really should thank you though. Because I got away from you, I've become far better at the art than I ever would have with you. I learned a lot more than the art too, something you neglected. I never realized how ignorant you kept me until you weren't around to prevent me from learning anything but the art. I realize now that all I ever was to you was a meal ticket to be kept ignorant and controllable."
"How dare you talk to me that way," Genma bellowed. "Don't make me have to put you in your place, little girl."
"Don't make me laugh, you pathetic waste of skin," Reiko said in total contempt. "You're so far beneath my level you wouldn't even last as long as it took to heave your fat lazy body to your fat little feet." Genma turned an unhealthy shade of purple and began to leap to his feet.
"That's it," Genma bellowed. "It's time to show you who your master is." Genma then faded from view. An instant later Genma was on his butt in front of the open shoji leading into the yard.
Reiko grinned tightly still holding out the arm she'd struck Genma with as he used the Umisemken to attack her. She cupped her extended hand. A small spark of white light appeared above her palm. It drifted over to hover in front of Genma's face where he sat before the open door leading out into the yard.
"Oh now that's so scary," Genma said sarcastically. Reiko just smirked as the point of light detonated violently sending Genma flying across the yard and through the wall to land in an unconscious heap against the neighboring wall across the street. It wasn't lost on anyone that the force of the blast was tightly focused any did no damage to the house or anyone in the room besides the target. Reiko arched a finely shaped eyebrow as if to enquire if anyone else wished to challenge her skill.
"Arrogant fool," Cologne smirked. "He's had that coming for so long now..."
"I'm Soun Tendo," Soun said, standing before Reiko and bowing respectfully. "Welcome to my home, Master Kinomiya." Reiko smiled and returned the bow.
"I'm honored to be here, Master Tendo," the redhead smiled warmly and introductions followed.
Reiko was sitting out on the engawa getting some air when a teacup appeared in front of her. She smiled her thanks at her benefactor as she took the tea. Akane sat down beside her.
"It's a special herb tea that will help with the soreness from the fight," Akane explained.
"Thanks Akane," Reiko said.
"You really used to be a guy?" Akane asked after finally hearing all about the ridiculous things Genma had put his child through.
"Yeah, I really did," Reiko said. "If you don't want to be my friend anymore, I understand." The self-loathing in Reiko's tone made Akane want to cry for her friend.
"Reiko," Akane said softly, "look at me." Reiko looked up at Akane hesitantly. "Reiko, you're my friend, okay? It doesn't matter what you were, what you are now, or even what you might be. You're my friend and that's all there is to it." Reiko smiled a little at the reassurance.
"Thanks Akane," the redhead said softly.
"So how complete is the change?" Akane asked.
"It's complete," Reiko said ruefully. "I have a period every month just like any other girl and all the equipment is functional. Presumably I could even get pregnant." The redhead shuddered a little at the thought of what would have to happen for her to get pregnant.
"What are your plans now?" Akane asked.
"Well, I'm was planning on teaching the Kinomiya Ready For Anything School of Martial Arts back home in Hokkiado," Reiko said. "But that was before I found my birth mother here in Tokyo. I think now I'll maybe build a dojo here so I can be here to get to know her. Anyway, there is more need for people like me here in Tokyo than back home. I won a great deal of money in that tournament. I should be able to have a nice sized home and dojo for mom and I, as well as my friends. I have a feeling I'll be seeing more than a few Chinese Amazons who wish to train under me. How about you? What are your plans?"
"Me," Akane said thoughtfully, "Well, Father planned for Ryoga and I to teach the Anything Goes style here at our dojo. So is there anyone back home? Do you have a boyfriend?" Reiko snorted in disgust.
"The thought of me having a boyfriend makes my skin crawl," Reiko said with a shudder.
"Me too," Akane said so softly Reiko almost thought she had imagined it. Her gaze snapped over to Akane waiting for her to continue.
"Akane?" she prompted the pensive girl, now almost convinced it was her imagination.
"Reiko," Akane said, her gaze full of pleading and apprehension, "Can I talk to you about something I've never told anyone before?"
"Akane, you're my friend," Reiko said. "You can talk to me about anything you need to. It's not as if I'm in any position to be judgmental."
"Okay, can we go for a walk?" Akane said nervously. "I can't talk about this here."
"Sure," Reiko said patting her friend's hand supportively.
The two girls walked slowly down the street. When they were out of eyeshot of the Tendo home, Akane began to talk.
"Reiko, I was never interested in guys," Akane said. "And in high school, thanks to a nut job upperclassman, I was attacked everyday by a bunch of boys that believed I would date them if they could beat me in a fight. This happened every morning the whole time I was in high school. Where before I was indifferent, because of that, I came to hate guys. All my friends seemed to be getting boyfriends. Reiko, I felt so alone. I was too scared to open up to anyone because I was terrified of who I was and being ridiculed because of it."
"So you like girls?" Reiko asked more as a confirmation than a request for information.
"I like one," Akane laughed nervously.
"Does she know?" Reiko asked.
"I don't think so, but she will soon as soon as I gather the courage to tell her," Akane said softly.
"Do you think she likes other girls?" Reiko asked conversationally.
"Well, I know she definitely doesn't like guys at all," Akane giggled.
"Well then you shouldn't be afraid to tell her," Reiko said decisively. "Akane you are beautiful and sweet, and you're a great martial artist. Any one would be a fool not to appreciate your interest and return it." Akane blushed deeply at the praise she so longed to hear. "So tell me about this girl that's captured your heart."
"Well," Akane thought for a minute. "She incredibly gorgeous and exotic. Even though we haven't known each other for long, I feel deeply connected to her. I feel like I could tell her anything. I was completely comfortable with her after only five minutes after we met. It's like I've known her all my life. I can't look at her without my heart doing flip-flops in my chest."
"She sounds wonderful," Reiko smiled.
"You are," Akane said softly, afraid to make eye contact. Consequently, she had walked on several paces before she realized Reiko wasn't beside her.
"W…what was that?" Reiko asked when Akane stopped.
"I said, it's you, Reiko," Akane said, still faced away from the other girl. "You are the girl I'm interested in." Not hearing a response, Akane turned to look at her friend. Reiko stood looking at Akane, her blue eyes wide with terror and longing.
"Oh Akane, no," Reiko shook her head violently. "Please don't be interested in me. You deserve someone better than me. Someone better than some used-to-be-boy sex changed freak. You deserve someone that doesn't loathe who they are, who doesn't cry themselves to sleep some nights because of it."
"Reiko, do you think I don't hate myself, cry myself to sleep at night?" Akane asked softly. "Do you think I'm any different than you? Rei-chan, you've had a really tragic life. You deserve to be happy now. You deserve someone to love you unconditionally and be there for you. I'd like to be that someone." Reiko turned away, tears in her eyes. Akane approached, putting a hand on the smaller girl's shoulder.
"Rei-chan," the blue haired girl said, "look me in the eyes and tell me you don't feel the connection we share. Tell me you don't feel like we are two pieces that complete the puzzle."
"Dammit Akane, I was a boy, and you don't like boys," Reiko protested weakly.
"Yes, Rei-chan, you were a boy," Akane agreed, "but you're not anymore. You said yourself that you let the part of you that was male go long ago. You move like a girl, you talk like a girl, you behave like a girl, you even smell like a girl, and Kami-sama knows, you damn sure LOOK like a girl. You may not have learned to love yourself yet, but you can't say you haven't accepted this is who you are."
"Akane, I'm scared," Reiko confessed. "I want what you are offering so badly, but I'm terrified that if I let myself fall for someone...for you, I'll get hurt again. I don't think I could handle that." Akane pulled the redhead into her arms and held her tightly.
"Aww, Rei-chan, you know there are no guarantees in life, but I say this, the connection I feel to you is so strong that I believe you are an answer to a prayer, my perfect soul mate. Please, Rei-chan, give me a chance?" Akane entreated. Reiko, tears now flowing freely, relaxed into Akane's embrace and nodded against the taller girl's shoulder.
Suddenly, Reiko found herself pressed up against a wall being thoroughly kissed. Akane's mouth eagerly devouring Reiko's lips. Akane's hands slid up and down Reiko's spine sending pleasant chills in their wake. Reiko's knees sagged in desire causing the taller girl to have to support her. When they finally came up for air both girls were flushed with long repressed passion.
"Um...wow," Reiko mentioned.
"That's just a taste of what's to come," Akane grinned, causing Reiko to blush even more deeply. Looking down demurely, Reiko gave a little grin as she detected the raggedness of Akane's breath and the slight quiver in the other girl's knees. The pair began to walk back to the Tendo home arm in arm.
"What are we going to tell them?" Reiko asked.
"Tell them?" Akane asked, stunned. "Why should we tell them anything?"
"Come on Akane," Reiko said. "Do you seriously want to sneak around and hide? Besides, Momma Nodoka already knows I like girls and I suspect she'll figure it out pretty quickly. My parents in Hokkaido know as well. In fact, they were hoping I would find a girlfriend while I was here." Akane looked thoughtful.
"Okay, we'll tell them we are dating," Akane relented. "But I want to tell them something else too."
"What's that?" Reiko asked, curious.
"I want to tell them that you've agreed to take me as your first student," Akane said with a smile. Reiko laughed.
"I'd be honored," Reiko said then looked uncomfortable. "Um...Akane...there is something else you should know about me."
"What should I know?" Akane prompted with a smile.
"Well, you see, I'm not really a martial artist...anymore, you see," Reiko said nervously. "My family, the Kinomiya clan, we have a duty to perform. We are warriors, a sort of demon hunter. We fight against creatures of darkness that prey on humankind. I hunt them down and destroy them." Akane looked at Reiko wide-eyed for a minute before shrugging.
"Will you train me so I can fight by your side?" Akane asked.
"If you want," Reiko said.
"Then it's not an issue," Akane smiled, giving the other girl a squeeze. "Just don't think I will sit home and wait while you go into danger. If we are going to be together then we face everything together."
"Agreed," Reiko grinned. "Now are you ready to face the music? We're back."
The two girls entered the house and joined everyone back in the tearoom, kneeling close together.
"Everyone, we have an announcement to make," Reiko said, then looked at Akane, tilting her head for the taller girl to continue.
"Well, um..." Akane began nervously. "Rei-chanandIarekindadating and she has agreed to take me as her first student."
"You wanna run that first part by me again, I didn't quite catch it," Nabiki said.
"She said, we're dating," Reiko stated looking around the room challengingly.
"OOO, I'm so happy for you my friends," Shampoo said hugging the girls.
"Yes, it's good that you have finally let someone into your heart," Cologne smiled. "You've been lonely for far too long."
Nodoka looked between the two girls. "Akane," she said finally, "You will not hurt my daughter."
"No, Auntie, I care about her too much to hurt her," Akane said giving the redhead's hand a squeeze.
"Good, see that you don't," Nodoka said then smiled. "I approve of your choice, Daughter."
"I'm so glad you finally accepted who you are, Akane," Kasumi smiled. "I was starting to think that you'd never let anyone close to you and you'd be lonely forever."
"You'll forgive an old man for not being as enthusiastic about this as everyone else," Soun said sternly. "You both know you are choosing a difficult path here, and that society won't be kind to you."
"Mr. Tendo, I have very little choice," Reiko said. "I'm already on a very difficult path. You know who I was, what I was. I've already been forced to adapt to being female, but I have to draw the line at being with guys. Female body or no, that's one thing that didn't change. I'm just not interested in guys, and I just don't care what society thinks anymore. And I suspect Akane has as little choice in this as I do." Akane nodded.
"Very well," Soun sighed. "I can't say I fully approve, but given that, if things had gone differently, there's a good chance you may have ended up engaged to each other anyway, I can't really stand in your way. What will you do now that the tournament is over?"
"Well," Reiko began, "since I found Momma Nodoka here, and given that there is much more need of me here in Tokyo, I've decided to use the money from the tournament to buy some property and build a house and dojo. I'll train people in the Kinomiya ryu."
"And once Rei-chan teaches me about her school, I can teach with her," Akane enthused.
"I'm afraid that's out of the question, Akane," Soun said.
"Why?" the midnight blue haired girl demanded.
"Because you must teach the Tendo branch of the Anything Goes School," Soun said.
"Perhaps there is another way," Nabiki suggested. "Perhaps the schools can be affiliated. I happen to know that the people on this block have wanted to sell for a long time. They would likely take any remotely reasonable offer. Reiko, you could buy the property and own the rest of our block. Then we could build a large modern dojo for both schools."
"You know, that doesn't sound like a half bad idea," Reiko said thoughtfully. "Mind you, I would own the new dojo and it would have the Kinomiya name on it."
"Of course," Nabiki agreed. "It is you that's the world champion after all. I'll see what I can come up with. I also know some good contractors that will give you the best rates you can get."
"Why are you being so helpful?" Reiko asked.
"Because I like you," Nabiki laughed. "You make my little sister happy."
At this point the residents of the Tendo home all tensed up as they heard a familiar cry of, "What a haul! What a haul!" This was followed shortly by a little dwarf of a man with a huge sack on his back landing in the middle of the table.
The man caught site of Reiko and his eyes sparkled for a moment before they glazed over.
"Hootcha!" he sang. "Pretty Girl! Come to papa my dear!"
At this point the little man leaped into the air heading for Reiko's breasts, but then something odd happened. The man stopped in mid air, dropping to the table to stare at Reiko in awe.
"What the matter?" Nabiki demanded. "Aren't you going to fondle her, old man?" She was really hoping to see the old pervert get beaten to a pulp.
Happosai just shook his head violently without saying anything.
"Why not?" Nabiki asked.
"Because he wants to live out the day," Cologne chuckled. "Hello Happi. I glad to see you are still smart enough not to try your antics on your betters."
"I haven't lived this long by antagonizing people as powerful as she is," Happosai agreed. "I could probably give her a good fight, but in the end, half the ward would be leveled and she'd be wearing my guts for garters."
"Did you hear that, Saotome?" Soun said excitedly. "Someone the Master fears!"
Genma nodded slowly, wide eyed with fear, because said person clearly considered Genma in pain an enjoyable and desirable condition.
"Grandfather Happosai, please meet Akane's girlfriend, Reiko Kinomiya," Kasumi smiled.
"Well, it's been an eventful day," Reiko said with a yawn. "I think it's time we get back to the hotel."
"You could stay here tonight," Akane suggested. "You could stay in my room." Reiko blushed.
"That's a great idea," Shampoo said. "Reiko, you should stay and get to know Akane." Shampoo winked suggestively. "Great Grandmother and I will return to the hotel."
"Okay, 'Kane-chan," Reiko smiled. "But you'll have to loan me some shorts and a t-shirt to sleep in."
"Sure, come on," Akane said excitedly jumping up and grabbing the redhead's hand. "I'll get them for you." She took off down the hall practically dragging the smaller girl off her feet. Reiko looked over her shoulder and waved to the others as she was being dragged off smiling.
"Here we are Rei-chan," Akane said pulling Reiko into the bedroom. "Gimme a sec and I'll find you a tee and some shorts."
Akane began to rummage through her dresser while Reiko looked around Akane's room, taking in all the trophies and awards the dark haired girl had won. The room was an odd mix of feminine and what most considered to be traditionally masculine. Reiko smirked as she thought about how people must view her own room which was spartan and austere, all clean lines and solid colors, broken only by the occasional print fabric for accent and the large canopy bed whose canopy was a deep rose color trimmed with pink, green, and cream print.
"Here you go Rei-chan," Akane smiled, handing her an over-sized pale pink t-shirt and a pair of dark grey stretchy cotton shorts.
Reiko took the things with a word of thanks and moved over to the desk chair sitting them down. Shifting her hair over her shoulder and out of the way, she reached back to unzip her dress when her hands were gently deflected.
"Allow me," Akane purred as her hands slowly pulled the closure down, exposing Reiko's creamy smooth skin, skin that was rapidly developing goose flesh due to Akane's breath on her neck and hands lingering on her back.
Akane's hands slipped under the now unzipped edges of the dress and they stroked up and out, pushing the silk off the redhead's shoulders until it slithered to the ground. Reiko gulped as she felt the band of her bra pop free before it too joined the dress on the floor. She felt herself spun around to face the smiling dark haired girl and her lips were once again captured in a very through kiss.
"I love you Rei-chan," Akane whispered to the dazed girl as she broke the kiss. With that, Akane began to get dressed for bed herself.
Reiko absently brought her hand to her lips before shaking herself out of the spell of desire she had been under. Grinning, she quickly pulled on the tee and shorts Akane loaned her, picking up her bra and dress, folding them neatly and leaving them on the chair. She then slinked across the room to the bed as Akane held the covers open for her. Slipping between the sheets, she lay on her side away from Akane, so as to give the other girl as much room as possible. It was her bed after all. She was rather surprised when she felt Akane's arms slip around her and pull her in tightly. Reiko was amazed at the strong feelings that where flooding her as she lay in Akane's warm embrace. As the other girl's warm breath tickled the tender flesh of her neck, she realized she felt secure and protected for the first time in her life. She sighed with a contentment that she'd never felt before as she lay there spooned up to the larger girl.
I love you too, 'Kane-chan," Reiko softly said to the girl holding her.
'Life is so good,' Reiko thought as, wrapped in the warmth of Akane's love, she drifted off to the most restful sleep she'd ever had.