Categories > Anime/Manga > Oh! My Goddess! > The Raven 2: Rocky Ground


by Narsil 0 reviews

Category: Oh! My Goddess! - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-02-07 - 4761 words - Complete


Five years later:

An eleven-year-old Raven smiled as she sat up in bed and stretched. Even waking up early, she was in a bubbly mood. She was finally getting real control over her powers and the emotions that made them so dangerous. Her life as Ranma that she had been reliving in her dreams had been easing off, slowing down as Ranma's age had passed her own, and her former self and his father had wandered into some absolutely beautiful country in China. (Finding herself attracted to the girls she saw in her dreams had been weird, and the Talk resulting from asking Momma Mara about it even weirder; she wondered sometimes if being attracted to boys when she got old enough would feel the same way.) Her tutors were impressed with her progress (easy, when she enjoyed reading, mostly, though the demonology wasn't much fun).

And best of all today was her birthday, and all her favorite people would be joining in one big party! Mamma Urd and especially Mamma Lind and Aunties Skuld and Peorthhad become comfortable enough around Grandma that Raven's empathic ability allowed them to be in the same room at the same time with her for more than afew minutes. So this time, no party with the goddesses (including Mama Urd) on her birthday and one the next day with the demons(again including Mama Urd) plus Auntie Bell, the last few years. Grandma had explained why demons and gods didn't get along soon after her dream of the Cat Fist training. (Raven shied from the thought of that night - the hatred for her father that it had engendered had set back her training in controlling her emotions - and so her powers - to practically the very beginning.) Still, she was happy that her adults in the two camps had reached the point that they could get along in spite of the fact that one group tried to change bad people into good people while the other wanted to punished them.

Hopping out of bed, the dusky-toned girl rushed to use the bathroom, then threw on her robe over her pajamas and dropped into her meditative pose, floating in the air with her legs crossed, open hands resting palms up on her knees. She closed her eyes and took deep even breaths as she murmured, "Azarath Metreon Zinthos. Azarath Metreon Zinthos. Azarath ..." In the calm the mantra helped create, she carefully relaxed the walls she'd built over the years around the power that surged in her core, reached out as it flared, guided it, shaped it as she felt its cool embrace as it rose to surround her ... then felt her stomach drop as the world vanished around her. She hung suspended for a split-second, then 'oomph'ed as she dropped and her butt smacked down onto the floor - but this floor was tile rather than carpet-covered wood. She kept her eyes closed tight as she fought the power cloaked around her back deep into her core, once again strengthened the walls that kept it bound.

Her inheritance once again safely locked away, she finally opened her eyes to find herself looking at her Auntie Bell standing at the kitchen stove she'd insisted be installed for her visits. Raven had long ago decided that some people had weird ways of meditating, however nice they were - but she wasn't going to complain about the results. "Hi, Auntie Bell!"

"Good morning, Raven, happy birthday," Belldandy replied with a fond smile as Raven stood up and happily took a seat at the table where an enormous American-style breakfast - Raven's favorite, at least the meat part of it - was laid out, across from her 'aunt'. "That was very impressive. When did you learn to travel like that?"

Raven broke off shoveling bacon, ham and sausage onto her plate. "Uh ... just now," she replied, blushing.

"Oh, my." Belldandy's expression turned serious. "What have your mothers told you about unsupervised practice?"

The birthday girl's eyes fell. "Don't."

"And with good reason. You did very well, but what if you had gotten lost? Father only knows where you might have ended up." Belldandyquickly circled the table to hug the now distraught Raven. "It's your birthday so I won't say anything to your mothers, but I expect you to tell Lind the next time you train."

Raven sighed, but nodded. "Yes, Auntie Bell, I'll tell Mama Lind."

"Good. Now eat up while the others are getting here, it's going to be a big day."


Raven squealed as the wrapping around what she'd already known would be a book tore away to reveal a National Geographic book on journeys of a lifetime. She opened the book and paged through it, staring at the pictures of all the amazing places on Midgard. Someday she was going to go there, to see the beaches and mountains, jungles and cities for herself....

Setting aside the book, Raven turned to the last two presents, the ones from her adopted grandparents. Grandma Hild's was a thin, rectangular box longer than she was tall, and Grandpa Kami-sama'swas a thin, square box four feet on a side.

Glancing back and forth between the two, Raven decided on her grandmother's first, seeing how she was actually present. A minute later the wrapping was off and the box open, to reveal a long, sleek ... spear? Most of it looked like a spear, at least, though with a couple of ... techno-somethings... attached to the end of the shaft. Raven double-checked the name - yes, it was from Grandma Hild, not Auntie Skuld. Besides, she'd already opened Skuld's gift, and while she still didn't know what it was(to say that the Norn of the Future's "explanation" had been confusing was an understatement), it had at least come with an inch-thick operating manual; this didn't have any manual at all.

She looked up. Whatever it was, her mothers were not happy, Skuld(now grown into a young woman, matured by the pressures of living on Midgard) was burning with envy, and Belldandywas ... amused? And her grandmother felt like she'd just played a wonderful prank on somebody/. Turning to the star-tattooed platinum blonde Daimakaicho of Niflheim, she asked, "What /is it?"

"It's aracing broom," Hild informed her.

Raven eyed Hild suspiciously. She knew her grandmother loved her, but she also knew her sense of humor - this time the prank might be on her. "A racing broom? Have you been reading Harry Potter?"

Skuld, Mara, Urd, and even /Belldandy/snorted, though Lind looked confused. But then, the Valkyriehadn't been one for reading bedtime stories to a younger Raven. For a moment, Hild considered mentioning the quidditchgame she had set up once (with slightly modified scoring), before hastily quashing the thought. Raven would insist on seeing the recording, and with two teams of demons - and their innate toughness and regenerative capabilities combined with their typical demonic sense of fair play ... Maybe when she's older.

"No, no, it's the real thing, the fastest in existence." Hildassured her, before glancing over at Belldandy."Though quick thinking and fancy maneuvering count for a lot. I know you've outgrown your playmates, but with Gluhende Herz you can race with your Auntie Bell. She's really quite good."

Raven looked back down at the racing 'broom', a broad smile spreading across her face, before the smile turned back into a frown and she looked back up. "So why are my mothers so unhappy?"

Hild laughed. "I think they would have preferred I gave you some drums," she replied, then winked at Urd, her daughter rolling her eyes in response. "Relax, daughter, Gluhende Herz has some added features now - a wind shield and a body lock. They cut down on its speed a little, but when Raven rides it she isn't going anywhere she doesn't intend to."

"Indeed not, Mistress. My new mistress will have nothing to fear."

"It talks!"

"Yes, Ido," Gluhende Herzreplied. "I am a fully sentient artificial intelligence."

"But ... but you're a gift? !" An outraged Raven lifted her gaze toHild and opened her mouth for a hot rebuke, only to pause when her new 'broom' replied.

"Do not be angry with Mistresss Hild, it is my nature to need a master to obey."

"But ... but ..." Raven looked uncertainly over at Skuld. She was finding talking with something that she couldn't feel to be ... unpleasant, like she was missing half the conversation.

The young goddess nodded. "It's all right, all AIs are programmed for obedience when created, though some may eventually exceed their programming. They need to be, they are like children in adult bodies."

"Okay ..."Raven said doubtfully, not sure she understood the explanation. But Skuld was the techno-goddess, if she said it was all right it must be, right? And at least she'd only used two sentences this time....

She put aside the thought for later, and brightened as she looked over at Belldandy. "So Auntie Bell, when can we race?" she demanded.

"Later this afternoon," Belldandy replied. "We have your birthday cake and ice cream first, and you still have your grandfather's present to unwrap."

"Oh, yeah." Raven ran her hand along the long 'handle' before reluctantly turning to her last present. The wrappings were quickly ripped off and the box pried open to reveal ... a mirror? She looked back up at Belldandy.

Belldandy smiled at her adopted niece's unasked question, but the girl could sense a hint of ... regret? Remorse? A twinge of old pain of some sort, anyway. "Yes, it does more than just show your reflection," the Norn said."When you ask, it will show you any mortal on Midgardwhich you knew in your previous life."

"But why would I care about any of them, surely you don't mean Genma," Raven protested, shuddering. With the Cat Fist training, the man she now refused to acknowledge as her father had ceased to be 'funny' - she hated and despised him, and only her mothers pointing out that Ranma didn't know any better kept her from despising her former self for putting up with him.

"There is one you might like to see," Belldandy disagreed."What about your mother? Ranma's mother?"

"Ranma's mother?" Raven's mind flashed back to the earliest memories she had from her former self, of a beautiful redheaded Oriental teenagedgirl in traditional Japanese dress, singing a lullaby as she tucked her little boy into bed. "Show me Ranma's mother!" she ordered the mirror, still in its box on the floor.

The mirror's reflection of the ceiling vanished as the glass filled with glowing mists before clearing to show the same girl, only now ... now she was a middle-aged woman, her hair faded to auburn and streaked with white, lines around her eyes, still dressed in a kimono. She was setting food on a low Japanese table as atiny, wrinkled ancient being identifiable as a woman only by her long white hair pogoed toward her on a staff. The old crone was followed by two running children about Ranma's age, one with hair the same color as Mama Urd, the other's hair sea-green. Behind them a beautiful woman, younger than Ranma's mother, in a house dress with long brown hair brought up the rear. They all sat down beside a third woman already there, brown hair in a stylish shoulder-length cut, dressed in tight shorts and a T-shirt, about the same age as the woman doing the herding and close enough in appearance to be her sister. But Raven had eyes for only one of the people shown. "She's so /old/," she whispered, staring down at the silent image of her mother.

"Well, it has been thirty years since Ranma was born," Mara pointed out, crouching beside her daughter. She reached down to touch the glass over the green-haired girl."This one is your sister, the others are friends that your mother and sister live with."

"I have asister. I have a sister! Why didn't you tell me! ?"Raven demanded.

The others glanced around as several flower vases on nearby side tables started to shake, surrounded by a faint dark light. Lind stepped over and knelt to lay a hand on her daughter's shoulder. "Easy, Raven, calm yourself," she murmured.

Raven closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she sought the calm of her center, and after a moment the vases steadied. "Sorry," she muttered, than asked again, more calmly, "Why didn't you tell me about my sister?"

This time it was Urd that replied, kneeling and reaching around from behind to pull Raven into a hug as the image in the mirror vanished."There was no point in telling you earlier - you couldn't visit her, and your grandfather decided only now that you have gained enough control over your powers that you won't break the mirror by accident."

"But I can visit her now, right?" Raven asked hopefully, only to shrink slightly at the regret all the adults instantly radiated.

"No, Kitling, not yet, mortals simply aren't as tough or replaceable as your possessions here, and you've just shown that your control isn't perfect yet." And it's going to get worse, when you start remembering your time in Nerima. "Now, why don't we have the cake and ice cream, then you can take Gluhende Herzracing with your Auntie Bell while we put the mirror up in your meditation room." She smiled when Raven brightened, then turned the girl around and pointed a warning finger at her. "Just remember, your mother and sister's lives are private - if you find yourself watching anything embarrassing, /stop/!And unless people are in danger, what they do in private stays private, you do /not/talk about it with anyone else. Understood?" Raven nodded vigorously,and Urd stood, offering a hand to pull her daughter to her feet. "Great! So let's eat, you're making Skuldwait for ice cream."

"Hey!" the hollow teardrop-tattooed young woman protested. "I'm not that bad anymore!"

"Yes, you are," the rest of the goddesses chorused, and Raven couldn't help but laugh at the mix of their good-natured humor and Skuld'schagrin that washed over her.


The next day:

Nabiki walked into the house's dining room, this time dressed in practically formal blouse and slacks. She smiled at the feast laid out on the table and took adeep breath through her nose, sighing at the tantalizing smells permeating the room. Kasumi and Nodoka had outdone themselves, but that wasn't why the former Mercenary Tendo was smiling - that was reserved for the reason for the feast. The day before had been Raven's birthday, it was a weekday so the children were at school, and so they were going to have a very important visitor for lunch. Others may have hosted divinity unaware, the three women were well aware of the nature of the guest that would be joining them.

The earth-haired woman glanced up at the clock on the wall. Any moment now .../And there was a knock at the door to the bathroom down the hall. It looked like the clock was running a little slow, Belldandy was always /exactly on time. Nabiki strode over to where she would sit at the traditional low table and turned to face the door.

A minute later, Nodoka led the beautiful, apparently tattooed, apparently young woman into the dining room, Kasumi behind them with the last of dinner and Elder Ku Lon bringing up the rear. Nabiki bowed deeply, held it for a long moment, then glanced up at the blushing goddess.

"I told you that isn't necessary," Belldandysaid, frowning sternly, though the twinkle in her eye told Nabiki she was on safe ground.

"True,"Nabiki replied, grinning, "but I've learned my lesson - respect to whom it's due."

Belldandy's blush deepened as she sighed, but she let it go. This particular dance had been going on long enough to be routine.


As Kasumi had insisted upon from Belldandy's first visit on, the conversation during the meal was dedicated to their own lives - Nabiki's latest successes as a day trader and suggestions for how Belldandy'shusband Keiichi could invest his earnings as a highly sought-after motorcycle mechanic and part-time racer; the discovery of a love of speed on the part of both Belldandy's eldest son (expected) and Kasumi and Nabiki's adopted daughter (a complete surprise); the love of music shared by Ranma's sister and Belldandy's daughter; the latest stories from Kasumi, Nodoka, Ku Lon and Belldandy, highlights of the last year of parenting and their worries of the teenage angst and rebellion coming all too soon as hormones began to stir.

Finally the meal was finished, chopsticks laid across plates, Ku Lon bowed out over the usual protestations from Nodoka and Kasumi (giving Belldandyher own deep bow as she left). Kasumi, Nodoka and Belldandy(at her insistence over her hosts' by now proformaobjections) quickly cleared away the dishes while Nabiki headed for a special safe in the bedroom she shared with her sister and returned with an old-fashioned photo album. She put the photo album in the middle of the table as the others rejoined her, and the mortals looked expectantly at their guest.

"So how is Akane doing?" Kasumi asked, leaning forward eagerly.

"She is healthy, and growing into a fine young girl," Belldandyreplied. "Emotionally she is going through a rough patch, but she is well loved and supported. She should be fine." The goddess's eyes fell to the table. "I wish I could tell you more -" she began as she did every year.

As she did every year, Kasumi leaned across the table to lay a gentle hand on her immortal friend's arm. "We understand - if we knew more the temptation to seek her out would be too great to resist. It is enough that she is well,and that we may meet again."

Belldandy looked up, eyes shiny with unshed tears. "You will meet again, I know it," she replied, "and we are all keeping an eye on her, even if our ability to intervene is limited by the free will of both her and those around her."

She wiped at her eyes, took a deep breath, and produced a manila envelope. "And here's the last year's photographs of Raven." Opening the envelope, she pulled out the photos and spread them across the table, and pointed at the latest one, of Raven in flight, hunched low on Gluhende Herz to lower air resistance with her short hair blowing in the wind. "Our children aren't the only ones that have suddenly acquired a taste for speed," she said with a smile at Nabiki and Kasumi. "She only received her racing broom today, and already she's pushing hard enough to scare her mothers. Urdis very unhappy with her mother."

Nabiki raised an eyebrow. "Racing broom? I knew Harry Potter had been translated into every language on Earth, but I didn't realize it had reached Heaven," she quipped.

The other three laughed, though Nodoka's was a little forced -the similarities between Harry's and Ranma/Raven's situations, as slight as they were, had made it impossible for her to read those books to the children, leaving the task to Kasumi.

"I assure you, we have had racing brooms since long before Rowling-san wrote her epic," Belldandy assured them when the laughter died to chuckles.

The goddess arranged the photos in chronological order, explaining the events surrounding each one as Nabiki jotted down notes that would be expanded into entries in the album's companion journal, then burned - nothing to do with Raven was to be entered into any electronic format, however well protected from hacking or even unconnected it might be, and the photo album and journal stayed in their safe except when the children were occupied somewhere else. The pictures were as varied as usual, though mostly similar to previous years - a ten-year-old Raven sitting cross-legged on open air, eyes closed and upturned open hands resting on her knees; Raven sitting at a by now familiar kitchen table frowning studiously as a finger traced lines along a page of a large spread-open book; Raven laughing as the purple-haired goddess that had saved Akane's life threw the young girl in a pool, and the companion photo of Urdand Mara doubled up with laughter as the young woman Skuldhad grown into returned the favor to Lind with a push; the dark nimbus that signaled Raven's power surrounding floating weights, much heavier than the previous year; others of a typical life of a young girl - almost.

Nabiki touched one photo as Belldandy came to it, one of Raven in a dark blue leotard, her legs spread wide to brace her in place, her crossed arms upraised with dark light running along her forearms, shielding them. "This is new," she said, voice questioning.

"Yes, it is," Belldandy agreed. "Lind wasn't certain Raven was ready for combat training, but Raven insisted. No surprise given her previous life, she has been doing well in spite of what little time they have practiced. She came up with her bracers herself."

"Of course she did," Nodoka said distractedly. She was smiling wistfully down at the spread of photographs. While she had focused on each photo as Belldandy had come to it, her eyes kept drifting back to the pool scenes. The others glanced at her, and Kasumi scooted over and put an arm around the older woman's waist as Belldandycontinued.

By the time Belldandy again reached the photo of Raven on the so-called broom, Kasumi was frowning. "Bell-chan, these are all wonderful," she said hesitantly, "but where are the photos of Raven's friends?"Now that she thought of it, had the number of photos of other children her age been decreasing over the years? And while she hadn't had many opportunities over the last few years to peruse the photo album and journal - not with two curious little girls in the house - she couldn't remember the name of a single one of the children in earlier years.

Bell sighed."You don't see any photos of her friends because she doesn't have any." She stared down at the photographs for a long, silent minute, thenlooked up at the three waiting women. "You need to understand that while gods may look like mortals, we aren't mortal - we don't grow the same way, /develop/the same way. You mortals mature physically at a more or less set rate over afew years, and hopefully your emotional maturity keeps pace well enough that, with the proper societal reinforcement, you each are able to deal with that growth.

"But for gods, it works the other way around - physical maturity is determined by emotional maturity, and we are not in any hurry to push our few children to grow up. They have all of eternity ahead of them, what are a few centuries of childhood?"

"But that doesn't make any sense!" Nabiki protested. She pointed to the photo of Skuld pushing Lind into the pool. "Your sister has been in these photos from the beginning, and she was a young teenager in the earliest ones while here she looks as mature as any of the rest of you."

"True," Belldandy agreed, "but by the time you first met her, little sis had been living on Midgard for years. Dealing with mortals in all your pain and glory always speeds up the maturation process. And for the last ten years she's been living in the same house as /my/children, and half-mortal offspring follow the mortal pattern for maturation -that has also pushed Skuld to mature faster as well, just to deal with them. If the previous centuries are any indicator, by living on Midgard, she has taken centuries off of her childhood."

She paused for a moment to give the three mortals the chance to absorb what she'd just said, then continued, "What this means for Raven is that she has matured at the normal mortal rate, if not faster because of her memories of her time as Ranma- and her friends didn't. It will take them centuries to reach the level of maturity that she will reach in a few years. Once Raven realized what was happening, she simply stopped making friends her own apparent age as she left behind the earlier ones and stuck to the adults in her life."

"That's terrible," Nodoka whispered. "She must be so lonely."

Nabiki chuckled, shaking her head, and tapped the picture of Raven getting thrown in the pool. "That doesn't look 'lonely' to me, Momma Nodoka," she disagreed, then frowned. "Still, I'd think that would leave her rather badly socialized." She looked over the photos again, then slowly said, "She looks like she has good control over her powers, isn't she mortal-safe by now?She could visit us, get to know our children, her sister...."

But Belldandy was shaking her head. "You are right, her control is excellent, she is safe around mortals now. But her returning memories of Ranma's life have just reached the point in the training journey where they are about to arrive at Jusenkyo, and all the madness starts. The memories seem to have slowed down to one day as Ranma per night, so over the next two years she is going to be reliving the chaos that led to her death ... and then spend the year after that reliving what followed. We are not certain what level of impact that will have on her control of her emotions and the powers they are tied to, but there /will/be an impact." She looked at the suddenly stricken, sick expressions. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

Nodoka forced herself through the shock and took a deep breath. "No, you have nothing to be sorry for," she said firmly. "The dishonor is ours, even if my daughter is still paying the price." Her eyes fell to her hands, clenched tight fists crumpking the fabric of her kimono. "When she comes out the other side of what lies before her, she is going to hate us for what we did to her, and we will deserve it."

Belldandy was again shaking her head. "No, you don't deserve it, not anymore. You aren't the woman you were before, none of you are. Nor will she hate you when she is finished remembering, not with what you have become since then."

"But the last time I saw her, she refused to even look at me. After reliving all that again, how can she not hate me?" Nodoka asked, voice quavering, fighting not to cry. Kasumi's arm around her waist tightened, pulling her against the younger woman, offering what comfort she could.

Belldandy hesitated for a moment, then said, "Father gave Raven a special gift this year, a mirror that would allow her to watch any mortal in Midgardthat she knew as Ranma. We showed you to her - and the rest your family at the same time, including her sister. The mirror doesn't allow her to listen, but just watching you she will know that you are not the people you were, none of you. The girl that forgave Akane for what she had done will forgive you as well."

"May it be so," Nodoka said, wiping at her eyes, but sitting straighter.

"It will be," Belldandy said, so firm in her belief that, at least for the moment, the others had no choice but to believe her. Then she glanced at the clock on the wall and sighed. "I am sorry, but it is getting late, the children will soon be out of school, both yours and mine."

"Of course,"Kasumi said, instantly shifting into hostess-mode and rising to her feet at the same time as Belldandy, the other two a heartbeat behind them. They made their farewells (Nabiki again bowing deeply, grinning atBelldandy's resultant blush), and then the Norn of the Present headed for the full-length mirror in the bathroom and was gone for another year.


Author's Note: The bit about the different way Asgardian children mature is purely mine, but is my answer to a bit of a problem in the OMG! manga - Skuld. Throughout the series, Skuld has been growing in both power and maturity, just like any kid would. But she's the Norn of the future -meaning she's been around for a long time - and her skills with really high tech far outstrip her sisters. These facts do not mesh well. So, this is my attempt to make them play nice together.
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