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A Ranma ½ / Sailor Moon crossover story
by jimra

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.

Chapter One: Lessons in Twilight

Part One: Of Death…

Once Ranma had dug a grave for the panda, Nephrite set up camp from supplies he found in the girl’s discarded backpack and built a fire.  The red head hadn't moved from kneeling next to the burial site since she'd filled the grave, tears still dropping quietly from her eyes.  Since Queen Beryl had told him not to worry about time, he'd decided to stay with Ranma for a while.  Within the girl he sensed a remarkably strong will, and Nephrite wanted to know more about her.  Also, he sensed in her a potential to use negaforce, a rare thing for a human indeed.

Once the fire was going, Nephrite filled one of the two kettles he’d found in the backpacks from a nearby stream and set it on the new coals.  Finally, Nephrite walked over to the mourning girl and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"I know you're in pain," he said quietly.  "But please, trust me when I say that everything is going to be alright."

Ranma looked up at the dark general, anger and grief warring in her eyes.  "How can you say that?!" she shouted, certainly beyond reason in her pain.  "I haven't known anybody but my father since I was really little!  What am I going to do… without… him…?”  Ranma trailed off, obvious to the dark general that she was weakly trying to hold back her tears, and she failed as the sobs escaped her clenched teeth once more.

Nephrite, for his part, was baffled.  Why was she talking about her father?  It was only her pet panda that'd died, or so he thought.  His face still showing puzzlement, Nephrite returned to the fire, his mind pondering her words.

Some time later, after the sun had set behind the western mountains, Ranma finally stepped into the firelight.  Nephrite was quietly sipping his tea when she sat down, exhausted from her grief.  After a little while longer, she spoke in halting, sorrowful, and embarrassed tones.

"Listen," she said, her voice barely audible over the crackling flames.  "I'm sorry about earlier.  I know you were just trying to help, but you don't know everything.  Let me show you."

With that, the red head picked up the kettle from the edge of the fire.  Nephrite reached for the canister of tea and a cup he’d gotten out of her backpack while she’d buried her panda, but Ranma surprised him.  Instead of making tea, she lifted the kettle high and poured the contents over her head.

Nephrite's eyes widened as she changed.  The girl grew nearly thirty centimeters, filling out the overly large gi she wore.  Her breasts vanished into the strongly muscled chest of a man, and her hair turned from bright crimson to jet black.  Ranma lost all the softness associated with being female and replaced it with the harder lines and more defined muscles of a man, all in a blinding instant of change.  Finally, Ranma sighed.

"It's good to be back in my original body again," he said quietly, and then looked at Nephrite.  "And I guess I owe you an explanation."

To the negawarrior's credit, he recovered from the shock of seeing Ranma change from female to male very quickly, but that did nothing to help his curiosity at this strange turn of events.  Never in his twenty millennia of life had he seen the like, and only witnessing other such strange events allowed Nephrite to recover as rapidly as he did.

"I wouldn't say that you owe it to me," Nephrite replied in an easy voice.  "But I would certainly appreciate it."

Ranma nodded to the man that had almost certainly saved his life when he’d suicidally tried to face those amazons alone, and he began his story.  "Oyaji and I are martial artists; we study the Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu by traveling around Nippon and China to train at different training grounds.  All the training was tough, but this latest one was the worst: Jusenkyo."

Ranma paused for a moment to see if Nephrite had heard of it, but the man showed no sign that he recognized the name.  "Jusenkyo is the Training Ground of Accursed Springs, the ‘Pools of Sorrow’,” Ranma continued in a tone of despairing humor, the very memory causing more pain to his still overburdened mind.  “As the guide tried to tell us before we idiotically jumped onto the poles to train, there are more than one hundred springs there, and each one has its own tragic story… and bears its own curse."

The pigtailed martial artist took a breath before continuing, taking a moment to recall the events of a week ago and push back down his sorrow.  He'd felt like he'd lost everything when he surfaced in the Nyaniichuan, but losing his father now had made things much, much worse.  Even his curse paled in comparison to losing his father like this, and Ranma could only function by purposely forgetting the events that happened earlier in the day.

"The curse works like this," Ranma stated in a slightly stronger voice.  "When someone cursed by Jusenkyo is splashed with cold water they take on the cursed form given to them by the pool and hot water changes them back.  I fell into the spring of drown girl, and Oyaji fell into the spring of drown… panda."

Ranma tried to control his emotions, but even mentioning his father brought waves of depression and despair crashing over him, forcing him to face that which he still tried to ignore.  Tears silently made their way down his cheeks, and he turned away from the other man in humiliation, knowing how much is father would have been shamed by such a display.  Nephrite speaking to him finally brought his attention back to the here and now, though he still hid his face from his savior.

"I see.  So the panda was actually your father.”  Nephrite's voice carried sympathy, but none of the pity Ranma dreaded from the older man, eliciting some hope from him.  "I know the pain is still fresh in your mind; perhaps you should try to rest."

Ranma nodded silently, and without saying another word, the pigtailed boy stood and walked into the tent.

As Ranma walked away, Nephrite pondered the boy’s story, a strange look on his face.  Here was a young man, a fighter by appearance, declaration, and evidence, who had a great deal of negaforce potential and a very unique outlook on the world.  Unfortunately, several things kept Nephrite from the idea that he should train the boy: first, it took years to become a negawarrior, even for those who were gifted, such as he and his fellow three generals were.  Second, the boy’s heart was wounded horribly, and Nephrite well knew the crippling depression that such a loss could cause.  He completely understood Ranma’s feelings, though perhaps he didn’t know their full depth.

The strangest part was the dark general’s wish to remain with the boy, despite his own scouting mission on Terra.  Somehow the girl turned boy, or boy turned girl, Nephrite supposed, had already found a way to make Nephrite care, without even trying.  Deciding to at least observe for the next few days, the grey-clad man leaned back and sipped his tea, his mind lost in contemplation, though no amount of thought could drown out the sobs as Nephrite’s new companion cried himself to sleep.

He was back at Jusenkyo.  Ranma looked at the pools with not a little fear; he knew what they could do.  Of course, that wouldn’t help.  The young martial artist had just about gotten a good handle on his anxiety when a large furry paw landed on his shoulder.

“Ghaa!!”  The gi-clad youth jumped three meters into the air, twisting to face the threat as martial instincts drilled into him for over ten years of his life kicked in.  Landing in a defensive stance, Ranma faced the threat… and screamed.

“Growf?” asked the panda, the sign in its paw reading, ‘What’s wrong, boy?’

Ranma’s mouth hung half way to his waist and his eyes were as big as saucers at the sight of the panda, and it wasn’t because he knew that his father was dead.  That was obvious from the panda’s visage.

Standing his usual enormous height, the panda was in horrible shape.  Not only was the arrow that slew him still lodged in his gut, but portions of the animal’s skin were now hanging loosely, exposing the slowly, but perceivably, rotting flesh beneath.  Half of the panda’s fur had fallen out, and the beast’s jaw hung at an awkward, painful-looking angle, probably from the fall after the arrow struck.  But worst of all were its eyes.  The small black orbs weren’t there, and now, small blue flames burned fitfully in the hollow, sunken sockets.

The only thing that hadn’t changed was the panda’s behavior, and it demonstrated this as the sign spun to reveal a new message on the back.  ‘I said,’ the sign read, ‘what’s wrong, boy.  We finally made it to Jusenkyo and now you don’t want to train?’

“O-Oyaji…”  Ranma’s fear finally bled away with the mildly familiar behavior, and he looked away as he felt his eyes begin to burn with unshed tears.  ‘Something musta blown in my eyes,’ he thought, even though not a breath of wind was felt.  Somehow, even with the sure knowledge that his father was dead, he still couldn’t accept the unmanly gesture of crying, especially in front of his father

Taking a deep breath, Ranma started turning back toward his late father.  However, he froze again, this time in a combination of fear and anger, as a new sound reached his ears.

It was a war cry.  More specifically, it was the undulating war cry of those damned women.  Turning toward the sound, Ranma’s face contorted into a ghastly rictus of rage and hatred.

Then he saw them.  Like his father, these were the women that had died in the fight, their wounds still oozing thick, coagulating blood as he watched.  In some, the instrument of death still hung from limp, torn skin, while others had necks bent at odd angles or several bones where there should have been only one.  They all shared the pale, greenish skin of the newly deceased, but it was the eyes he found most disturbing.

Like the panda, none of the women had normal eyes, but the Joketsuzoku had sickly green flames in their eye sockets.  Even without actual eyes, Ranma could feel the accusation in their gazes.  ‘You are supposed to be a martial artist,’ the message rang in Ranma’s head.  ‘Use the least force necessary to win a battle.  Never cause serious harm, never kill.’

The young martial artist’s breath quickened as their eyes spoke in his mind; the accusation, the… truth, made the air feel dense, heavy.  Ranma’s breath came in ragged gasps, his eyes burning.  The Joketsuzoku just stood, their accusing gaze bearing down on the youth.  A few tears seeped from his eyes to crawl slowly down his cheeks, even though he was not at all unhappy with their deceased state.

Ranma looked down, his thoughts in turmoil.  He had killed.  That was the simple truth; there was no escaping it.  He no longer had his innocence, that much demonstrated by his lack of remorse for the act of ending their lives, and his life as a martial artist was truly over.  Beyond losing his father, he had lost his title, his place as heir to the school and clan, and most of his honor.  Such a violation of the code, using his skills to intentionally kill, especially with such a complete lack of mercy, was enough to forever remove him from the world he had known with his father.

The youth turned to look at the panda, hoping for some acceptance from the decaying animal who had been his father, but all Ranma could see in those blue flames was betrayal.  ‘You betrayed everything I ever taught you,’ the panda’s gaze drilled into Ranma, the message clear.  ‘In a fit of rage not worthy of a Saotome, you threw away everything I held dear, everything I passed on to you.’

Ranma fell to his knees, his emotional control broken.  Tears streamed from the young man’s eyes as he knelt under the gaze of the dead, but there was no release from the pain.

‘You are not worthy to call yourself a martial artist.’  The accusation rang clearly in Ranma’s mind; even though he couldn’t see the ghostly stares, their eyes bore into him.

‘You are not worthy to call yourself a man.’  With this, Ranma’s form shifted, and a small, red headed girl wept, surrounded by her ghosts.

Some time later, Nephrite heard the sound of crying once again emanating from the tent where his companion slept, and when went to check, he found Ranma, in his female form, curled into the fetal position, still asleep but crying.  Occasionally, the girl would whimper or mumble something too quiet to hear, but the anguish and pain in her voice was readily apparent.

The dark general knelt silently next to small, sleeping girl, checking her for any physical ailment using the tiny amount of the lifeforce he still had after the fight.  Finding no problems, Nephrite walked to his own bedroll, borrowed from the pack once belonging to Ranma’s father, deep in contemplation.

Of course, Nephrite knew the most likely cause of Ranma’s distress: between losing his father and having his first kill, all in the same day, Nephrite would have been in bad shape, too.  Killing was never easy, especially the first, and the loss of a family member, particularly one’s only guardian while still a child, was awful.  The brown haired man was no stranger to death: he had been a soldier longer than man’s current recorded history.  However, he could still remember his first kill.  The memory was burned into his mind so completely that he would never forget no matter how long he lived, and the memory seemed to swell into his vision as if it had a life of its own and was summoned by the simple act of being conscious of it.

Nephrite had only just finished his training to join the Knights of Terra when a small rebellion had erupted in one of the more remote areas of the planet, and three battalions were dispatched to put down the violent unrest.  The dark general rolled onto his side as the memory played in his mind like a full recording, restless in the face of an even now still painful recollection.

When his unit arrived in the town where the leader of the rebellion had taken refuge, the other two battalions had already moved in.  It was a horrible sight, one that would haunt the dark general for the rest of his life.  The bodies of men, women, and children lay scattered about the streets as the soldiers of Terra attacked.  Such a brutal attack for those that looked so innocent in death sickened the brown haired man, but training took over and outwardly, he remained dispassionate regardless of feeling sick within.  In the background, above the roaring of burning homes, Nephrite could hear the screams of the dying.  The battle was savage and indiscriminate on both sides, no quarter asked for or given.

As he watched the nightmare of battle unfold before him for the first time, Nephrite moved mechanically into position, thanking the gods that his unit was on guard duty at the edge of the LZ rather than in the pitched fighting… involved in the killing.  Seeing battle for the first time was a terrible thing, but not nearly as bad as actually killing.

It was four hours later when his first kill was forced upon him by a small group of rebels trying to breech their defensive line.  Nephrite was talking to an old buddy from basic when the other man’s head suddenly exploded, the blast from an electrostatic plasma bolt ripping through his skull.  Despite the blood and grey matter slowly sliding off of his face, Nephrite reacted instantly, dropping to the ground and aiming his own plasma-crystal rifle out at his enemies.

Nephrite grimaced as the memory continued, his reverie crystalline in his mind’s eye.  He remembered not thinking at that point; ignoring the fact that his friend was dead, he’d let his training take over once more.  He could feel the hum of his weapon’s crystalline power source as the he began to spray his threat zone with bright yellow-orange bolts of superheated gas encased in magical energy, his eyes only focusing on his enemies after the area was already glowing with molten impact craters.

Even after he saw the rebels, the barrel of his weapon didn’t cease its constant stream of deadly darts, and Nephrite ignored the beginnings of the high pitched hum that indicated that the weapon was beginning to overheat and might even destroy itself.  Instead, the wildly flying projectiles became more focused.  Nephrite slowly narrowed his weapon’s firing pattern on his enemies, methodically zeroing in on their position while making sure they couldn’t flank him.

By the time the first of the rebels fell, a cauterized hole blasted through his chest by a superheated gas projectile, Nephrite was coldly calculating the trajectory of each shot, though the weapon’s overheat warning keened in the air, louder and louder.  Three more rebels fell to his concentrated fire, but as the last rebel tried to move from his doomed cover, Nephrite’s eyes widened as he recognized the weapon.

The dark general’s face contorted slightly as he stared up at the night sky; he could still feel his rage from that day so long ago, albeit muted.  On that day, however, Nephrite’s face froze into a mask of absolute fury, his eyes blazing with hatred.  The rebel was holding a longer weapon compared to his companions: a sniper rifle.  Nephrite knew immediately that this one was responsible for his old friend’s death, and the brown haired man stopped firing to take aim, even as the overheat warning reached a sharpness that warned him that any further firing might cause the weapon to explode.

‘I still don’t know why he stopped when I quit firing,’ Nephrite thought as he relaxed on his bedroll.

But that was the case.  The rebel stopped as the plasma bolts ceased their burning impacts all around him, and rather than immediately seeking cover, the man turned.

Nephrite’s eyes widened as he saw an old man with white hair and kindly, grandfatherly eyes set under a deep, bushy brow.  Later, Nephrite had found out that there was no rebellion, just a town whose ideals ran counter to the crown’s wishes, but at that moment, he didn’t think.  Fury and hatred at the one who would take his best friend’s life filled Nephrite, and he coldly took aim at the elderly man’s head, not a thought to the possibility of his weapon detonating.

It was very satisfying to pull the trigger, and when the man’s head was ripped from his body by a glowing bolt, Nephrite smiled.  His friend was avenged.

Later, after Nephrite and what was left of his unit returned to their base, he began to reevaluate his actions.  Sickened at his feelings, Nephrite almost gave up being a soldier.  Only talking to his sergeant, a man named Kellis, had kept him with the Knights of Terra.

“Son,” Kellis had said.  “Everyone who’s had to kill knows exactly what you’re going through.  Never like it, but never shy away from it when it needs to be done.  And never forget the dead.”

The dark general smiled as he recalled all the advice the veteran had given him, all the times that Kellis was able to give the younger man a sense of self respect and pride in the face of the horrors of being a soldier.

Ranma was probably going though the same thing Nephrite himself had felt after his first kill, and Nephrite intended to deal with it in the exact same way Kellis had.  The veteran Knight hadn’t said anything directly about Nephrite’s strange behavior after the deployment, but he subtly made the younger man feel more at ease until Nephrite had the courage to talk to him.  That approach seemed best.

Now having a plan to help Ranma through his grief and his first kill, Nephrite decided to indulge in something he had rarely done during his incredibly long life span and allowed sleep to claim him.

Ranma woke just before dawn, her dream still vivid in her mind and her emotional control shattered, much to her continued shame.  Uncurling, the pigtailed girl ran a hand across her eyes and cursed.

‘I can’t believe I was crying in my sleep,’ she thought, but her wounded dignity crumbled before the memory of her dream.  ‘I’m not worthy of being a martial artist or a man.  I’ve betrayed everything Oyaji believed in, everything he taught me…’

Sighing, Ranma slowly rose from her bedroll.  Nephrite was already up and cooking breakfast over an obviously rebuilt fire, and the pigtailed girl was surprised at this, especially considering that she remembered going to sleep before the man.

Not saying a word, Ranma walked away from the campsite toward a nearby stream that Nephrite had used for water the day before.  Taking off her gi, Ranma quickly bathed in the frigid water, her thoughts still repeating the same depressing things, memories of her dream.

Once Ranma was finished bathing, she dressed and returned to camp.  Nephrite was just scooping their breakfast of rice and miso soup from the pots over the fire.  When Ranma sat down, Nephrite silently offered her one of two kettles of steaming water, but she simply looked at it until Nephrite set it on the ground, a slightly troubled look on his face.

Ranma ate her breakfast mechanically, not meeting Nephrite’s eyes when he glanced in her direction.  After the bowl was emptied of the surprisingly good camp fare, the red head set the dish on the ground, and without a word, she stood and walked to the far side of the clearing.  Forcing her mind to concentrate, Ranma began her morning kata, trying hopelessly to find her center.

Ranma hadn’t changed back into her male form in three days, and this, quite frankly, was worrying Nephrite.  Perhaps Ranma enjoyed his female form more than he thought, but the dark general was relatively certain that, in his first impression of the child, his prospective student preferred her birth form to the cursed one.  Since she was still female, Nephrite could only assume that she was still upset about her first kill and the death of her father.

Following his decision from a few nights before, Nephrite hadn’t initiated a conversation regarding Ranma’s first kill, but he was beginning to believe that his decision was a mistake.  It didn’t look like the boy turned girl was ever going to talk to him, preferring to wallow in her own depression and pour her life entirely into training, and while those training sessions were impressive, Nephrite didn’t think it was the best way.  That was when a fragment of memory came to Nephrite unbidden, a couple of simple lines once spoken by his mentor in his days as a Knight of Terra.

“Nephrite,” asked Kellis in his usual gruff tone.  “What the hell happened now?”

The dark general didn’t remember what the situation was, but Kellis answered anyway.  “Look, son.  Sometimes they just need a swift kick in the ass.  Ya can’t let somebody just ignore the problem.”

Nephrite smirked.  Since Ranma wasn’t handling her grief and guilt well and refused to talk to him about it, Nephrite would just have to snap her out of it.  The girl was an excellent fighter from what Nephrite had observed of her training sessions, and a good fight might be just what she needed.  ‘It might not go well at first,’ thought the negawarrior, ‘but it’s necessary.’

Confident in his decision, Nephrite knelt and began to meditate, listening to the girl continue to pour everything into her training.  Once night arrived, he would make an energy raid on one of the nearby villages and refill his reserves; then, Ranma would realize that he was not alone in his struggle to control his sorrow and shame.

Two days later, Nephrite learned from the stars he studied each night that it was time to act, that this day was the optimal time to snap the boy out of his trance of martial training.  Ranma was still showing all the signs of classical depression, and the dark general had had enough of waiting, regardless.  Walking over to where Ranma was doing her usual morning kata, Nephrite could tell that the pigtailed girl hadn’t even tried to deal with her guilt and grief, just pouring everything into her training and living in constant mushin without dealing with her pain.

Without warning, Nephrite attacked.  A surprised Ranma barely dodged his first attack, a vicious flying kick aimed at the pigtailed girl’s head, but shock was quickly replaced with a mixture of anger and challenge on the redhead’s face as she replied to the negawarrior’s kick with a fast punch combination.

Nephrite leapt back as Ranma attacked, rebounding off of a tree to jump high over younger one’s head, but the pigtailed girl was ready for the move.  A brief smile crossed her face as she leapt to meet the negawarrior in the air, her hands and feet blurring as she attacked.  The two fighters hung in the air for a short time, defying gravity as each attempted to break through the defenses of the other, but neither succeeded before the pull of Terra finally reasserted its control over their motion.

Landing at opposite sides of the clearing, both combatants launched themselves into yet another vicious melee, practically flying across the intervening ground.  Limbs blurring in punches, kicks, and strikes, warrior and negawarrior fought without holding back, their faces now showing nothing but the concentration of well matched fighters.

For nearly three minutes they continued this blinding pace of attacks, blocks, and dodges, but at an unknown signal, the two leapt backward for a brief rest. 

Ranma stood in a low stance, heavy breathing and sweat-glistening skin accentuating the redhead’s inherent sexual appeal.  Nephrite mirrored the girl’s pose, his long brown hair soaked and hanging limply.

Then, once again at some mutually agreeable signal, the battle resumed.  Rushing forward, Ranma’s battle aura flared a bright blue-green as the redhead continued her assault, but Nephrite was done with fighting mundanely.  Drawing negaforce through his mirror, the dark general began to manifest the black aura that was the trademark of a negawarrior as he met Ranma once again in the center of the clearing.

Instead of a blur of motion, this clash was a war between blue-green light and inky darkness.  The power being released as the battle between ki-infused martial artist and annihilation-powered negawarrior was staggering, and had there been any spectators, they would have been blinded by the intensity of the energy.

After nearly a minute and a half constantly trading blows, Ranma finally managed to slip through the older man’s guard with quick jab to the chin.  She quickly followed up with a tremendously high speed knee to the gut forcing the stunned Nephrite to double over.  Finally, an elbow strike to the back of his head dropped the negawarrior to the ground.

Now, most people would think that their adversary was out of action after such a combination, possibly permanently, but Ranma obviously didn’t think so little of her opponent.  After laying the dark general out on the ground, she immediately jumped back and faced him, watching for him to rise and continue the battle.  She didn’t have long to wait.

An intense burst of darkness flashed from Nephrite as he drew deeply on negaforce, its combination with lifeforce from his reservoir and subsequent annihilation singing in his ears.  Burning with a black, flame-like aura, Nephrite looked at Ranma with inhuman blue glowing eyes.  The pigtailed girl gasped, freezing for a moment, and that was all Nephrite needed.

In the fraction of a second that Ranma was stunned, Nephrite rushed forward to pummel the pigtailed girl with fifteen darkness-infused punches and strikes, ending with a powerful reverse punch to her sternum.  The red head flew back from the final strike, and the clearing was filled with the sound of a tree falling as Ranma’s body slammed into a tree, the impact snapping the trunk in two.  As it crashed to the ground, Ranma fell to the ground in a rolling, twisting, and unconscious heap.

Nephrite allowed the rest of the power he’d gathered for the sparring match/fight to bleed away as his pigtailed friend rolled to a stop.  The negawarrior took a deep, calming breath, and then went to check on Ranma.  The girl in question lay on the ground looking bruised and battered, but her pulse and breathing were strong.  Satisfied that Ranma would be alright, Nephrite gently picked the girl up, cradling her suddenly fragile-seeming form carefully, and headed back to their camp site.

The path from the thick darkness of unconsciousness back to the waking world was never a pleasant one, but this was something Ranma was well acquainted with from her long training journey.  As was the case every time the pigtailed youth had awoken from that state, the first sense to return was touch, and with it, pain.  The waking girl sucked in a breath through clenched teeth as signal upon signal from her aching body reached her brain.

Once she’d force down the pain, Ranma slowly became aware that she was lying on something soft, perhaps a bed of hay or a bedroll, and that there was the tightness of bandages on her skin in several places.  ‘I’m gonna kill Oyaji for this!’ thought Ranma.  ‘This time he went too far!’

Of course, due to the universal law of irony, that was when memories returned, and the pigtailed girl’s next sensation was that of tears of sorrow rather than pain squeezing their way out of her eyes and sliding down her bruised cheeks.

The next senses to return were taste and smell, and Ranma became aware of the horrible taste of old blood and bile in her mouth, and the smell of wood smoke filled her nostrils.  She swallowed, almost painfully, but it didn’t remove the offending tastes as her mouth was dry.

Next, she became aware of the snapping and crackling of a fire, and with that prompting along with the smell of smoke, she felt warmth to her right.  A slight groan escaped her desiccated throat as motor control tried to return, but the movements were slight and each one caused a small jolt of pain.

Finally, Ranma’s eyes opened, and she looked up into a starry sky.  However, that didn’t last as Nephrite leaned into her field of vision.

“What the hell were you thinking?!”  Ranma shouted, or at least that’s what she intended.  Unfortunately, her throat and vocal cords didn’t want to cooperate, and it came out as a hoarse whisper that sounded more like, “Wada ‘eller oo hining…’

“Now now, Ranma,” Nephrite replied to Ranma’s unintelligible words.  “I know that was pretty harsh for a sparring match, but I’ll tell you my reasons once you can actually reply.  For now, just drink some of this.”

With that, Nephrite gently slid his hand behind the girl’s head and lifted it toward a cup he held in the other.  Ranma, deciding that an argument could wait until she could at least speak, made no protests as Nephrite helped her to drink the deliciously cold water.  The liquid soothed her dry throat and washed away the sickening taste in her mouth, but after only a few moments, the brown haired man pulled the cup away from her lips.  “Not too much at once, now,” he said gently.  “I don’t want you to get sick.”

The red head nodded slightly, somewhat annoyed at his condescending tone, and a moment later the dark general let her drink a bit more.  This went on until the cup was empty, and Nephrite went to refill it.  However, by the time he returned, Ranma had fallen into a deep, healing, and most importantly, dreamless sleep.

Seeing the young one asleep, Nephrite downed the cup of water in his hand and went to sit next to the fire.  Gazing at the red head, he thought, ‘I’m sorry about that, Ranma, but you really need to be snapped out your depression.  The only way I could think of to do it, after watching you for all these days, was by giving you a good fight.  Something to work off your depression.’

The negawarrior sighed, and then winced.  Ranma had fought even better than he had anticipated through his observation of her technique, and Nephrite could feel every blow the pigtailed girl had landed.  ‘Hell,’ thought Nephrite ruefully.  ‘I can feel quite a few of the attacks I blocked, too.’

After a few more moments of gazing at the red headed girl while she slept, Nephrite leaned back on his own bedroll and put himself into a healing trance, setting himself to wake at first light.

When Ranma finally woke, the sun had already climbed three time’s its breadth into the eastern sky.  Realizing she had overslept, the pigtailed youth tried to jump to her feet, but a good dose of pain from her abused body relegated her to a sitting position on her bedroll.  Closing her eyes against a bit of dizziness, she started when a voice said, “Good morning.”

Snarling, the red head’s eyes flew open, and she whipped her head around to face the speaker, someone who could really use a piece of her mind.  That, however, was a mistake.

When Ranma’s eyes opened again, she was getting a very close look at her bedroll.  Sitting up, slowly this time, she turned to face her betrayer and took a few deep, relaxing breaths since she couldn’t really apply the ass kicking she wanted to give Nephrite in this condition.

“Good morning,” Nephrite said again.  Offering her a bowl, he continued, “Would you like some breakfast?”

Glaring with the eyes of death itself, Ranma nonetheless took the proffered bowl and inhaled the contents at nearly double her normal speed before handing it back to the dark general.  Without saying a word, though his eyes betrayed his amazement at her eating speed, Nephrite began to refill it with another generous helping of rice, miso, and fish.

“Why the hell did you do that?!  I thought I could trust you!!”  Ranma would have shouted, hell, she wanted to scream, but she knew that any kind of anger or outburst would be counter-productive to her goal of beating the absolute shit out of Nephrite.  Consequently, her words came out as a whisper, albeit a loud one.

“If you’re referring to our little match yesterday, I had to snap you out of your depression,” the negawarrior replied calmly, handing the bowl filled with food back to the red head, “and I know you’re not the type of person who would be helped by just talking about it, especially since you weren’t speaking at all.”

The pigtailed girl paused long enough to inhale her second helping (about two seconds) and handed the bowl back for a third before saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Nephrite sighed as he took the bowl and began filling it with a third helping.  This wasn’t going to be easy, even if his plan to get the boy turned girl to speak had succeeded.  “Ranma,” he said quietly.  “We couldn’t have this conversation if we hadn’t fought yesterday.  In fact, if it hadn’t been as intense as it was, I doubt it would have done any good.”

Ranma eagerly took a full, proffered bowl from Nephrite’s hands and downed it with the same gusto she’d shown with the first two before replying, “What are you talking about?  You had to beat the hell outta me to talk to me?!”

After taking the bowl back to fill it with a fourth helping, Nephrite said, “Listen to yourself, Ranma.  Before our fight, you hardly said a word.  You barely ate, you slept fitfully, and you still haven’t switched back to your birth form.  Talk about classical signs of depression, and a bit more, considering the curse complications.  By the way, should I just give you the pot?”

Ranma had already finished her fourth helping, and the red haired girl nodded eagerly to Nephrite’s last question before answering the dark general.  “I wasn’t that bad!  I was just throwin’ everything inta my training!”

Snagging the two pots from Nephrite’s hands, Ranma poured the remaining miso soup into the rice container and started devouring it at a speed that even Nephrite didn’t think she could manage, and while she did so, the older man answered, “Oh please!  That’s just pure idiocy, and you know it.”

After a moment of silence (other than Ranma’s munching), Nephrite sighed.  “Are you going to talk about what’s bothering you, or do I have to spell it out?”

Unfortunately for the dark general, Ranma was too busy licking the last of the miso covered rice from the bottom of the pot to hear what he said.  After a moment, she set the clean pot on the ground and sat back with a contented sigh followed by a wince.  “Whadja say?”

Growling a bit in frustration, Nephrite repeated himself, and Ranma sat quietly for a moment in silent contemplation.  Finally, she seemed to reach a decision and spoke in a quiet, sad voice.  “Alright.  I’ve… I’ve been having horrible dreams.  And they’re right.  I’ve betrayed everything Oyaji ever taught me about the code of a martial artist…  I— I slaughtered women…  I have no right to call my self a martial artist… no right to call myself a man…”

As the young boy turned girl spoke, her words became harder and harder to hear, her voice growing softer as her depression reasserted itself.  By the time she said the word ‘man’ she was speaking in a barely audible whisper, and as her unhappiness threatened to return full force, Nephrite spoke angrily.

“Ranma!  If you’d just listen to yourself you’d realize why I had to do this to you to snap you out of it!”

It was like the clouds cleared and the sun shone through as understanding dawned on the pigtailed girl’s face.  Looking at Nephrite, a few tears managed to escape from her eyes as she spoke, her emotional control almost broken under both the realization and the depression.  “How— how do you deal with it?  How can you lose the only person you’ve ever really known?  How did you k-kill… wi-withou-out feeling like th-this…?”

Nephrite sighed as his anger abated, and when he spoke, his voice was gentle and calm.  “It’s never easy to kill, especially the first time, and it never should become easy.  A long time ago, a man who helped train me told me something about killing.  He said, ‘Never like it, but never shy away from it when it needs to be done.’  I’ve taken those words to heart; they embody what it is to be a soldier and a warrior.  Maybe you aren’t a martial artist anymore, but you are still a man.  And now, you can claim the title of warrior as well.”

Ranma sighed, but after a moment she said, “Lemme think about this stuff…  I have to come to terms with this myself.  In the mean time, do ya have any hot water?”

Smiling and nodding in agreement, Nephrite pulled the already heated kettle from the fire and handed it to the soon to be once again pigtailed boy.

Author’s Notes: Welcome to the rewrite of Chapter One, and as anyone who’s been keeping up with the story from before the rewrite will realize, I split it in two.  This may or may not be warranted, but I didn’t think I gave Ranma enough time to deal with his grief in the original, hence the rewrite.  Also, this time, Nephrite doesn’t ask Ranma to be his student until the second part of Chapter One (rather than in the prologue, somewhat rushed), a better amount of time to observe our protagonist in action and allowing him to heal a bit more before asking him to accept a life-changing event like becoming a negawarrior.

Now, a great deal of argument, I’m sure, will occur due to Genma’s portrayal, but I need to remind anyone who remembers Genma as a greedy, heartless bastard (everyone raise your hands), that this is Ranma’s golden image of him after his death.  No one wants to remember ill of a dead family member.

As always, I want to thank my prereaders for their insightful advice and proofreading skills.

Nothing else to say, so thanks for reading.  Later.

chapter 1b
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