A Rose By Any Other Name

Disclaimers/Acknowledgements: The usual one about not owning any of the characters. Additionally this is the original title but, by complete coincidence, its also a chapter name in one of fischgeist's stories. I emailed him and he didn't raise any objection, so hopefully he's alright about it. Massive respect to him anyway for his inspirational writing.

Oh, and there are some changes to Rumble Roses "reality", but they are IMHO very minor ones. Hope you enjoy my first shot at an RR story.

Ch 1 Girl from Yokohama

From inside the locker room the sounds of the crowd came faintly, a low rumble like distant thunder. The girl sat alone on the bench. A light grey hood framed her face, almost doll-like in its prettiness: large hazel eyes, nose slightly upturned, lips full and glistening with a pale pink shade of lipstick, a shock of dark brown hair. Clear skin, glowing with health. The firm jut of the chin contrasted with the other softer features, perhaps suggesting an inner determination. The expression on her face seemed far away, as if the noises outside meant nothing to her.

I'm nervous. That was as much as Reiko would admit, even to herself. Reiko was hardly ever afraid. Fear was something for other people, those without her confident, optimistic approach to life. To be afraid of going into the ring was an alien feeling. Yet everything around her was different; she was in a land far from home, facing an opponent she knew only by her formidable reputation, in front of a crowd of probably hostile gaijin.

There had been no need to fear for so long that she had forgotten what it was like. As the undisputed, undefeated Japanese Women's Wrestling Champion she stood so far above her opponents that every match was almost a forgone conclusion. The few of them that could match her for speed and agility could not live with her superior strength and size; an advantage derived from her half-gaijin ancestry. Only one of many benefits of a background rich in fighting tradition, backed up by years of relentless training.

The memory of her mother: a warm presence in her early childhood, an inspiration as one of Japan's first international wrestling stars. Following her death in a mysterious accident, her American father had faithfully fulfilled his wife's wish that Reiko and Fujiko should be brought up in their mother's home country. But his methods of parenting were often out of keeping with a culture that normally cultivated a more modest and self-effacing role for women. Reiko had grown up part wild-child, part spoilt princess, brought up on tales of the exploits of Kamikaze Rose, as her mother had been known in the ring. Taunted at school for having foreign blood, she had seized the hair of her first tormentor, dragged her to the ground and put her in a head lock so painful that no one ventured to raise the subject again.

So it continued throughout her childhood. She always wanted to prove she was the strongest, the most agile, the most beautiful. And her father, a successful businessman, could afford to provide his daughters with an expensive education, access to the best training facilities, and a good supply of attractive clothes and make-up. Reiko entered competition after competition, on the one hand excelling in athletics, karate and jujitsu, on the other winning beauty pageants.

It was a combination that might have made her insufferable as a person, but fortunately Reiko possessed a certain natural kindliness and charm which retained both the affection and respect of her friends, even if they sometimes gasped at her unconventional behaviour. Entering the Japanese Women's Wrestling League was not something respectable young females normally aspired to. Reiko caused even more controversy with her daring outfits, but no one could deny her extraordinary abilities which quickly established her as a rising star. Soon she had a loyal fan base nationwide, turning up again and again to support the woman apparently no one could defeat. Overcoming the previous champion at the age of only eighteen, and retaining the title for a whole year, made her the crowned queen of Japanese resuringu.

That was all in the past. Even for someone as hungry for success as Reiko, treading a succession of opponents underfoot began to lose its attraction. She often encountered opposition beaten before the match started, pleading with her to pretend to hurt them in exchange for guaranteed submission. This went against Reiko's sense of fairness, and sometimes she would punish these faint hearts even more severely. Reiko liked to think of herself as compassionate; nevertheless she knew that being a wrestler involved causing pain and humiliation to others, and she was always the consummate professional.

The time had come to follow her mother onto the international stage by entering the famous Rumble Roses Tournament in the USA. Finally she could pit herself against the best in the world and perhaps compete with women much closer to her in physical development. It would be a challenge worthy of all her years of training.

And there was one more reason. Her sister, Fujiko, a wrestler like herself, had gone to America intending to enter the same competition. She hadn't heard from her for a long time, another mystery, like her mother's death, which needed solving.

It was only now, as she tried to prepare herself mentally for the contest, that she wondered if she gone a step too far with this match-up. With her usual impetuousness, Reiko had chosen to fight her debut exhibition match against the popular and successful Texan wrestler, Dixie Clemets. Known as the Three-Count Cowgirl, Dixie was renowned for her size, strength and aggression. For the first time Reiko was going to take on an opponent who could physically dominate her. And that was what had led to this reverie, this feeling of apprehension. Am I really good enough? Will I be beaten? How badly can she hurt me?

"Desu ka?" Reiko's trainer, Mae, stood at the locker room door, looking concerned. Opening it dramatically raised the level of crowd noise, now more closely resembling the clamour of a pack of wild animals, baying for blood.

"Genki desu." Reiko briefly indicated she was untroubled, though she wondered if Mae could read her well enough to know differently. As long as my opponent can't sense it. I must not show any sign of fear.

Rising to her feet, she performed a series of shadow punches. It helped her regain her mental balance. This was going to be an exciting time, and the adventure was about to start. She gave a determined smile, mirrored with some relief by Mae. Reiko Hinomoto had always believed in herself and her will to win.

Around the stage, the crowd's excitement was reaching critical level, as they watched the door from which the contestants would emerge. A pause in the background music indicated something was about to happen. The commentator's voice came, urging the crowd into an energetic response. "From Japan, Zero Fighter, REI-KO HINOMOTO!"

A cloud of smoke obscured the doorway. As it cleared, Reiko could be seen, facing away from the audience, still wearing her grey hooded robe, with the image of the Rising Sun visible on the back. Reiko's entrance music, "Look to the Sky" began and, on cue, Reiko cast off her robe, which floated away. She turned to face the audience, now revealed to be wearing a shiny red bra top and shorts, leather or perhaps PVC, with matching high boots and a collar. The outfit showed off her curvaceous 34-26-33 figure to its best advantage, and, in a teasing gesture, the zipper of the shorts had been undone half-way down.

Reiko strode confidently down the entrance walkway. The response from the crowd was warmer and more enthusiastic than she had expected; evidently they welcomed the introduction of a new girl to the circuit. She heard shouts of "Osu, tatakae, Reiko!" It sounded like some Japanese fans had turned out to support her. Reiko acknowledged them with her signature gesture of drawing her index finger across her nose. Breaking into a run, she vaulted the ropes into the ring, bringing more applause.

Feeling more at home now, Reiko began her warm-up ritual, bouncing on her toes, shadow boxing and kicking karate-style. It also served to whip up the crowd. Sensing the right moment had come, Reiko went into a posing routine, twisting her body, and thrusting out her hips and bust. Reiko had few illusions about one of the main attractions of women's wrestling. She knew that many fans were excited by watching beautiful women grappling with each other. She had no problem about playing to this desire. It came with the territory. They were probably hoping her partially unzipped shorts would get pulled off at some point. So far it hadn't happened.

Finishing her routine, Reiko pointed dramatically skywards. There was a massive explosion of fire works. As the cheers rang out, she mentally prepared herself for the first sight of her opponent.

"From Texas, Three-Count Cowgirl, DIX-IE CLE-METS!"

Pushing the entrance doors aside as if entering a saloon bar, Dixie Clemets walked in like she owned Red Valley Arena. Which was pretty close to the truth. This was her home turf, a desert setting in the southern USA, brimful with die-hard fans. At the age of 26 she was the longest established wrestler in the Rumble Roses Tournament, and had gained a following to match. A chorus of "Dixie, Dixie, Dixie!" rose to greet her, along with the pounding heavy rock of her signature tune, "Yankee Rose."

The first things you noticed about Dixie were her height and her long golden hair, falling over shoulders squared with determination, eyes cornflower blue like a southern summer sky. Most of all her sheer presence, an aura of energy as if she were more fully there, more fully alive than a normal person had a right to be. She wore a Stetson tilted forward, her tight-laced top showing large areas of her generous bust and belly. Her wide-flared pie-bald trousers were cut away at the front, revealing pants stretched across thighs which looked as though they could break wild horses, and probably had. The whole rodeo-style ensemble was completed by huge cowboy boots and a belt with two holstered silver pistols.

Reiko couldn't help a flutter of apprehension as she observed Dixie's size and muscularity. Videos didn't due justice to seeing her in the flesh. Dixie was into her routine now, gesturing to the crowd, and performing some simple sideways dance steps. She did not look in Reiko's direction. This moment was all about her. Completing her dance, she leapt athletically over the ropes. Once in the ring, Dixie took up a gunfighter pose, whipping out the silver pistols and twirling them in the air, before catching them and letting off a volley of shots, accompanied by firecrackers. Pushing up her Stetson with one of the revolvers, she milked the thunderous applause.

The entrances were now over; it was time for the pre-fight face off. Some of the crowd had become more aggressive, calling out to the fighters. "Get her Dixie!" "Make the little Jap girl cry!" "Come on, Yankee Rose!" And just one voice, "Stand up to her, Reiko!"

Reiko now got to see her opponent close up. Dixie appeared to possess well-defined features of classical beauty, the expression in her eyes amused, almost dreamy. But Reiko could sense she was being weighed up. After a pause, in which both women regarded each other carefully, Dixie took centre position in the ring.

"So you're the daughter of Kamikaze Rose? Darlin', you've got a lot to live up to." The soft southern drawl seemed to flow into Reiko's ears like a warm breeze. She felt surprised and discomfited at Dixie's immediate mention of her mother. Of course the Texan had been around a while, but couldn't actually have wrestled against her, unless she had been very young. Then she realised that Dixie had exactly calculated this would unsettle her. She decided not to be intimidated.

"That's exactly what I plan to do. If my mom's up there somewhere looking down ..." here Reiko pointed to the sky "... I want to make her proud of me."

Dixie nodded, as if she'd expected this response all along.

"Easy to talk big now. Folks here ain't impressed with talkers. Don't care much what rep you've got abroad either. This is the Rumble Roses tournament you're in. No easy victories here, sugar."

Again Reiko realised Dixie had picked on this ploy deliberately to undermine her confidence. Only this time the barb had sunk home. Reiko knew she'd had it all too easy up to now. And Dixie probably knew she knew. She had to come up with a response though.

"I don't want an easy victory."

Dixie smiled broadly for the first time. Reiko felt a shiver. The Southerner had something about her so magnetic, so beguiling, she felt herself almost against her will respecting, even liking her. She shook her head and tried to concentrate. Yes, Dixie was without doubt an impressive, attractive woman. But one who she had to beat, had to cause pain to.

Dixie was speaking again, the lazy southern accent now with a sharper edge.

"That's fine and dandy, hon'.'Cos you ain't gonna get a victory, easy or otherwise. Instead I'm gonna hurt you real bad. You'll be cryin your li'l heart out before I've finished with you." Dixie let the grin fade in sinister fashion, lowered her voice threateningly. "You'll be begging me to stop, I promise."

Reiko felt cold rage. Any feeling of empathy with Dixie abruptly vanished. The woman couldn't disrespect her like this.

Raising her fists, she said in an icy tone, "I will never do that."

Dixie gave a short laugh. "Let's see then, shall we?"

Reiko decided to let her opponent have the last word. She was, after all, the challenger. Nodding to show she was ready, she turned back towards her corner, punching the air in front of her. Her first Rumble Roses match was about to begin.

Japanese Terms

gaijin (foreigner)

resuringu (wrestling)

desu ka (how are you?)

genki desu (fine, thanks)

osu, tatakae! (hey, fight!)