I don't own Ranma ½, and I don't own Touhou. I also don't own at Touhou, because I'm horribly out of practice and have the reflexes of a dead krill.
Ranma lay in his bed, reflecting on his life. He'd lived well these past 90 years, with a few obvious exceptions. He'd made friends, found love, had kids, mastered ancient martial arts techniques and used them all on Ryoga – all the good things in life. He'd even found a cure for his curse some decades back, and won a tidy sum from Nabiki in the process.
And now, he was resting peacefully at home, waiting to rejoin his wife, in what he knew to be the last few moments of his life. He wasn't sure how he felt about that.
As darkness overtook him, he turned his mind away from the past and towards the future. His last thought before he closed his eyes forever was to wonder what awaited him in the afterlife.
"Ran-kun!" someone yelled. Then, the all-too familiar feeling of breasts in his face.
Ah, right, that was what awaited him. How could he forget?
The Return of Cherry Blossoms and Pigtails and the Lost Electric Boogaloo: The Movie
"Oh, Ran-kun! You're back! Why, I remember the last time we saw each other like it was just last week!" exclaimed Yuyuko while continuing to smother Ranma within her chest.
"It was last week, Yuyuko-sama," said Youmu from behind her.
"Ara? It was? Time-travel is so confusing!"
"You were not the one time-traveling, Yuyuko-sama."
"Oh, that's right!" She finally let Ranma go, and he gasped for breath with relief. "What's wrong Ranma? You know you don't need to breathe anymore, right?"
"I don't?" Ranma forced himself to stop breathing, and looked down at himself. "Huh, I guess you're right. This is gonna take some getting why am I a teenager again?" He stared down at his body in shock.
"Oh, that's simple," answered Yuyuko. "I liked you better like this than as an old man, so I had Yukari change your age when she brought your soul here! Frankly, I wanted you to be 10-years-old again, but Youmu insisted that you'd be upset about that for some strange reason." She turned to her bodyguard. "I still don't understand why. I mean, he was adorable back then! Why would anyone be upset to look like that?"
While Yuyuko's back was turned Ranma silently mouthed 'thank you' at Youmu, who nodded in response.
"See!" Yuyuko continued. "Even you agree that he was adorable, and you've never even seen him at that age. Well, I'll just get Yukari over here, and she'll fix that right up!"
"NO!" yelled Ranma. "Uh, I mean, uh, you don't have to… go to the trouble?"
"Nonsense, Ran-kun, it's no trouble at all! Yukari will be doing all the work, after all."
"Uh… Yuyuko-sama, didn't you have something else you wanted to do with Ranma when he got here?" Youmu put in, coming to Ranma's defense.
"Hmm? What do mean, Youmu?"
"You know…" the swordswoman hedged, trying to think of something "That… uh… thing… you said you've been wanting to do. With Ranma. When he got here." Ranma felt a sudden wave of doom roll over him.
"Hmm… Oh! That's right! Thanks, Youmu-chan." Yuyuko pulled a bucket out of nowhere and splashed Ranma with frigid water. "Ran-chan!" she yelled, tackle-hugging him once more. "Oh, I did miss… Ara?" She pulled herself off of the still decidedly male Ranma. "Why didn't you change? "
Ranma fidgeted with his pigtail. "I, uh, cured my curse a while back. See, one day I got a letter from-"
"What? What did I say?"
"Why… Why would you do that? WAAAH! I liked Ran-chan!"
"Well, well, you see, I…" Ranma looked desperately to Youmu for help, only to be met with a cold stare and a slightly unsheathed katana. "…I'm sorry, Yuko-neechan."
*sniff* "Really? You really mean it?"
"Yes! Of… of course I mean it!"
*sniff* "Then… I forgive you! I'll just have Yukari fix that when she comes by to… umm… Why was I going to call her? Oh well, it couldn't have been important. Now come on, I want to show you around!"
"Well, that's one crisis averted," Ranma muttered to himself as Yuyuko dragged him away by the arm.
"And over here's some cherry trees."
"And over there are more cherry trees."
"And up there is the ancient, world-destroying demon cherry tree I woke up that one time."
"There is no need to yell, Youmu-chan! I'm right here, after all."
Youmu took a moment to regain control of herself. "…I think there's something we should be showing Ranma that's more important than a bunch of cherry trees, don't you?"
"Hmmm… I can't think of anything. Can you give me a hint?"
Youmu sighed. "Starts with a 'K'…"
"It's important to him…" She prodded, pointing at a dazed-looking Ranma (his eyes had glazed over three groves of cherry trees back).
"…Nope, I got nothing. But, hey, I just got an even better idea! Let's take him to meet 'her'!"
Youmu twitched. "Yes, Yuyuko-sama, that's a great idea. Let's go right now."
"Oh, I'm sure it can wait until I've shown him a few more cher-" Yuyuko suddenly found herself in Youmu's arms, being whisked through Hakugyokurou at high speeds with Ranma in tow. "Ara?"
A few short seconds later, they came to a stop in front of a tall, ghostly brunette merrily sweeping some stone stairs. She looked up as they appeared. "Oh my, hello Yuyuko-san, Mu-chan."
Another twitch "…I asked you not to call me that, Kasumi-san. And why are you cleaning again?"
"Now, now, Mu-chan," Yuyuko admonished. "You shouldn't be so rude. Besides, think of all the free time you have now!"
"I can think of little else, lately…" She turned to Ranma (now supported entirely by Yuyuko) and gave him a shake to wake him up. "Hey, your wife's here. Say 'hi' or something."
She blinked when she realized Ranma was no longer in front of her. He had gone through her before she had even finished her sentence, and had collided with Kasumi, babbling incoherently. Youmu shivered involuntarily. Ghosts simply couldn't do that to her. She turned her attention to the reunited couple."Sumi-chan!"
"I missed you so much!"
"I missed you, too!"
"You have no idea how hungry I was when you left. No one could ever match your cooking! Well, that and something else I was hungry for…"
Kasumi giggled girlishly as Ranma clutched her closer. "Ran-kun, you naughty boy! Not in front of the others…"
"I'm sure they don't mind. It's been so long without you, Sumi-chan. I… I… Gah, screw it!"
Yuyuko sighed happily as Ranma assaulted Kasumi with a tickling on a near Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken level, the housewife shrieking in glee at her husband's playful actions. "Aww… they look so happy together, don't they, Youmu-chan? C'mon, let's leave them alone for a bit."
Youmu turned around, her face a sickened grimace, and put a hand up to her mouth. Her ghost-half had gained a slightly greenish hue. "Yes, that sounds like a wonderful idea, Yuyuko-sama. Let's leave. Now. Right this moment. And never speak of this again. Ever."
She'd need a lot of antacids to recover from this experience.
And so they left, Kasumi's gleeful cries resounding through the spring air. "Ran-kun!" Yuyuko called over her shoulder. "When you're done, come find us again!"
Manic giggling has his only response.
A few hours later found Ranma strolling up to Yuyuko and Youmu, a wistful smile on his face and a faraway look in his eyes. He came to a stop a few feet from them, and they broke off their conversation and turned to him.
"Ah, Ran-kun! I suppose you're wondering why I asked you to come, right?" said Yuyuko.
Ranma nodded distractedly, his expression never changing.
"I was hoping you'd like to be my bodyguard along with Youmu-chan. A second guard might cut down on the number of random disasters in this place." She glanced at Youmu's dubious expression, "Well, it might! …Okay, maybe not, but I'll be happier anyway."
Again Ranma nodded, still with the same expression.
"Great! I'm so happy you agree! But first, I need to ask you a few questions."
Ranma nodded vacantly once more.
"Umm… I don't think he's actually paying attention to you, Yuyuko-sama," Youmu chimed in.
"Really? Well, that's not very polite." Yuyuko waved her hands in front of Ranma's face to no effect, then moved on to poking, prodding, and hugging. "Nothing's working, Youmu! See if you can do something."
"Alright…" The swordswoman racked her brains for a bit before hitting on an idea. "Now… what was it that that annoying boy said…" She cleared her throat and announced, in a surprisingly good impression of Tatewaki Kuno, "Halt, foul miscreant!"
The reaction was immediate. "Dammit Kuno! Why won't you just leave me… umm… What am I doing here, exactly?" He reviewed his hazy memory of the last few minutes and rounded on Youmu. "Don't ever do that again!"
"Gladly," she replied, "I feel a little dirty now…"
"Are you back with us now?" Yuyuko asked. "Good. As I was saying, I want to ask you a few questions. Not for anything important, really. You see, last week, when we were visiting you 72 years ago, I heard about this fun game called 'Job Interview', and I wanted to try it out!"
Ranma stared at her, silent, desperately trying to block out some of the more horrible memories of the job interviews he'd had over the years.
"Now then…" Yuyuko continued. "What was I going to ask… Oh, I remember! What's your favorite kind of sweet?"
"Uuuh…" Ranma articulated. "Mochi? I… don't think that's the kind of question you ask during a job interview."
"Really? Darn. I'll have to come up with new questions now. Hmm…" Yuyuko started tapping her chin, deep in thought.
"Can I ask a question? I've got one for him," Youmu chimed in.
"Oh, of course you can play too, Youmu-chan. Ask away."
"Alright." She turned to Ranma. "When we visited last… When we visited, you said that you don't fight girls. You don't still feel that way, do you?"
"Huh? Oh yeah, I did think that back then. Seems stupid, now…" Ranma muttered to himself. "Anyway, no. I got over that decades ago when-"
"I've got a good one!" Yuyuko suddenly called out. "What kind of special skills do you have?"
"What?" asked Ranma, startled. "Oh, skills, right. Umm… I'm a master martial artist, and know a number of powerful attack skills and longer-ranged ki attacks."
"Hmm… They've already got one of those at the Scarlet Devil Mansion."
"I would hardly call Meiling a 'master' martial artist, Yuyuko-sama," Youmu put in.
"Good point." She turned back to Ranma, motioning him to continue.
"I can move just as fast as Youmu. Or at least, as fast as I saw her moving when you visited."
"What?" blurted the half-ghost. "How? Normal humans simply can't move that quickly!"
"Well, when you beat up Kuno, I saw how you did it, and was able to copy you after a few years of trying. Speaking of which, I can learn any martial arts or ki attack after seeing it once or twice."
"Well…" Yuyuko hedged, "since most of the people in Gensokyo use magic or spiritual power or whatever, I don't think that'll come up much. But it's still useful, I suppose. Anything else?"
"Well… I've almost figured out how to fly, at least for a little while."
They stared at him. "You do remember that you're a ghost now, right?" Youmu asked. "You've been floating since you got here."
"I have?" Ranma looked down, and found himself hovering a good foot off the ground. "How did I not notice that? Anyway… there is one other thing I can do. I can turn invisible at will."
Yuyuko shook her head. "That's not as useful as you might think. A lot of people around here can just sense your presence."
"Yeah," added Youmu. "Even I can… where'd you go?"
Before Youmu had even begun speaking, Ranma had entered his Umisemken – perfected by decades of training and experimentation – and rendered himself all but utterly undetectable.
The two women looked around for some trace of the invisible martial artist. After several seconds, Yuyuko pointed off to their left. "Found you!"
"Not quite," came Ranma's voice – from exactly where he'd been standing before. He was balancing a sheathed katana on one finger. "Think it's useful now?" he asked, smirking.
Yuyuko applauded as Youmu stared at the sword for a moment then checked her own blades to see that one was missing. Expression blank, Youmu walked slowly to Ranma. Sensing something wrong, he offered the katana back to the swordswoman. "Sorry…" he said sheepishly. Youmu took the sword without a word, and walked off, leaving the two ghosts behind.
"…I take it I did something wrong?" asked Ranma, staring after her with concern.
Yuyuko sighed. "Don't worry, you couldn't have known. That sword used to be her father's, so she's kind of touchy about, is all."
"Oh geez. I gotta go apologize!"
"Go ahead, let's pick this back up tomorrow."
With that, Ranma rushed off after the half-ghost.
The next day found Ranma wandering around Hakugyokurou, totally lost, desperately looking for some sort of landmark among the endless identical gardens.
"Why does one place need so many cherry trees?" he mused to himself. "I mean, I get the whole symbolism thing, but this is just-" he was interrupted when he walked smack into the thin air in front of him. "What the…?" he muttered, rubbing his nose.
"Why did you walk into the barrier?" came a voice from behind him.
"Are you lost?" asked a second.
"You're new here, aren't you?" joined a third.
Ranma turned to see a trio of girls floating behind him, similarly featured and dressed. Based on the instruments scribing lazy circles around each of them, he guessed that they were in some sort of band. "Uh, yeah, I'm lost. Can you help me find someone?"
The three looked at each other, their expressions unreadable. After a moment, the black-clad blonde said, "Sure, we can help you."
"Great! I'm looking for-"
"Nu-uh-uh!" interrupted the one with white hair and red clothes. "First, you gotta do us a favor."
"We're the Prismriver Sisters, by the way," added the third, this one blue-haired and dressed in white. "I'm Merlin, and that's Lunasa and Lyrica!" she said, pointing at each in turn.
"Umm… Ranma Saotome. What kind of 'favor'?"
"It's nothing much," assured Lunasa.
"We're just looking for a singer!" continued Merlin.
"What? I don't really have the time right now, sorry. Maybe later? It's not like I can sing, anyway."
"Come on! It'll only take a few minutes," pleaded Lunasa.
"You'll never know unless you try!" continued Lyrica.
"Yeah, dying can really change your vocal chords," finished Merlin.
Ranma considered for a few moments, and Lyrica added, "Besides, this is the only way we'll help you."
Ranma sighed, knowing he'd been out-maneuvered. "Okay, what do you want me to sing?"
"We'll get to that in a bit. You can't sing looking like that!"
"Wha-" And they were upon him.
"What do you think of this one, Lyrica?"
"Nah, it doesn't quite work. Here, try this instead."
"GAH! What are you doing!"
"Hush, Ranma. Oooh, nice choice, Merlin!"
"Thanks! But where should we put it, Lunasa?"
"Right there should be just fine. Now, what do we do about these?"
"Oh, I know! We'll just do this and that…"
"What are you three up to this time?" Yuyuko called, floating towards them. "Something fun?"
As one, the three poltergeists pulled out of their huddle and away from Ranma with a 'TA-DAAA!' and a musical fanfare. The martial artist stood there - blushing furiously despite his lack of blood - in a flattering, forest-green dress. It was similar to the uniforms worn by the Prismrivers, except infinitely frillier. There was even a matching bow on his pigtail.
Yuyuko stared, open-mouthed, and Ranma suddenly started having horrible flashbacks about a hammer-wielding maniac from his teenage years.
Then she yelled "Ran-Chan!" and shot towards the unwilling cross-dresser, hitting him with a high-speed glomp. Ranma's flashbacks were replaced by different – but no less horrible – ones about a crazy Amazon.
The three poltergeists collapsed into fits of laughter.
Oblivious to the sisters' antics, Yuyuko exclaimed, "Oh, I'm so glad you're back Ran… Ara?" She gave him an experimental squeeze. "…Oh, you're still Ran-kun. Oh well, at least you're trying!"
"L-look, Yuko-neechan, this isn't what it-"
"Shh!" Yuyuko interrupted. "You don't need to say anything! Oh, I was so worried that you weren't really sorry about ending your curse, but I shouldn't have doubted you!" The violin circling Lunasa started playing a touching, emotional solo. "That you'd go so far to make me happy… You… you… you really do care!" Yuyuko bawled out.
After taking a few moments to compose herself, she continued, "And you even convinced the Prismrivers to help you! Normally, they just play tricks on everyone."
"You don't say," hissed Ranma through gritted teeth, glaring at the offending girls. They stuck their tongues out at him and flew off.
"Yuyuko-sama!" came a voice from the opposite direction, a voice that somehow managed to worsen Ranma's already considerable horror at the situation. "Have you seen Ranma? The three of us were supposed to… Who's this?" asked Youmu, striding up to them.
Ranma blushed again and tried to flee, but was held back by Yuyuko. "Don't you recognize Ranma, Youmu-chan? He and the Prismrivers cooked up this wonderful gift for me!"
Youmu stared at Ranma, open-mouthed, as recognition dawned on her face.
Then she fell over laughing.
"It's not funny!" ground out Ranma, his blush deepening even further.
"Yes it is!" Youmu managed to gasp before once more succumbing to gales of laughter. Even her ghost-half seemed to be laughing at him.
"Oh, Ran-kun! This is the best present I've had in a long time! But… you can't fight in that, can you?" He shook his head mutely. "I thought not. Go change, and come back, I've got more training for you. We'll have plenty of time to dress you up once Yukari gives you your curse back!"
"…Yes, Yuko-neechan." The ghost princess turned away as he left, hiding tears of happiness.
A few hours, one awkward conversation with Kasumi, and eight wrong turns later, Ranma finally returned to Yuyuko and Youmu. He wondered if this was what Ryoga felt like all the time. "I'm back!" he called as he approached.
"Ah! Ranma!" Yuyuko answered. "We were getting worried!"
"So, what we were going to do today?" he asked, reaching them.
"More of the interview. Today, I want you to spar with Youmu-chan." She indicated her bodyguard, who stood a little straighter. "I need to see how you do in a fight, so I know which stage you should be in."
"Don't worry," Yuyuko assured him. "Some incident or other will happen soon enough, and then it'll make perfect sense."
"…If you say so."
"All right! Take your positions!" Yuyuko instructed. The two combatants took ready stances.
"I certainly hope you've improved since we visited," said Youmu, smirking. "If this ends too quickly, we'll have to find someone weaker for you to fight."
"Or stronger," Ranma taunted back. "I've got ninety years of martial arts training and secret techniques under my belt, now."
"Let's see if it's enough!"
"Go!" Yuyuko shouted. And with that, they began, charging each other with blinding speed.
Ranma was true to his word - he moved just as quickly as Youmu as the two of them exchanged blows, striking, weaving, and dodging faster than the human eye could track.
Yuyuko, of course, had no trouble following the match, and called an end to it after several minutes. "That was very impressive!" she applauded Ranma as the martial artist panted heavily. "Almost as good as Youmu! I'd say you're Stage 5 material." She turned to Youmu, who was also panting, though not as heavily as Ranma. "What do you think?"
"That… that sounds about right."
"Oooh, but now there's a problem… I'd hate to have to relegate one of you to a mid-boss…"
"We could just fight at the same time," Youmu suggested.
"No, that's what the Prismrivers do. Hmmm… what to do, what to do."
Ranma finally caught his breath enough to speak up. "Umm… I don't really understand what you're talking about but… Why don't you just add another 'stage', or whatever? Y'know, with me in Stage 5 and Youmu in Stage 6, or something like that?"
The two women gaped at Ranma for a few seconds then burst out in simultaneous howls of laughter.
"What!" Ranma demanded indignantly.
They kept laughing a few moments more then stopped abruptly. "You mean you were serious?" Youmu asked, clearly horrified.
Yuyuko let out a small 'hmmph'. "I don't know what things were like in your world, but around here, we have standards," she said.
Ranma rubbed the back of his head in confusion. "Umm… Sorry?"
Yuyuko sighed. "You have a lot to learn, Ran-kun. Well, that's enough for today. You two are dismissed." She walked off.
Youmu glanced at Ranma, then rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Really, what were you thinking?"
"I didn't know!"
"…No, I suppose you wouldn't. In any case, I'm glad we had that spar. It gave me something to do."
Ranma scratched his head. "I thought you were constantly busy? I remember you saying that when the two of you visited, anyway."
Youmu sighed. "That was before Kasumi got here. Now…" She suddenly rounded on Ranma and grabbed the front of his shirt. "She cleans constantly! Even when everyone else is sleeping, there she is, sweeping the steps or washing the walls or… or something! There's nothing left for me to do anymore!" She realized with a guilty start that she'd lifted Ranma off his feet despite their difference in heights, and let him go. "I'm going crazy with boredom!"
"Yeah…" Ranma commiserated, "She did get kind of… obsessive-compulsive toward the end. Why, I remember this one time when she-"
"Unless this story is about how to make her stop," Youmu interrupted, "I really don't want to hear it. I swear, that wife of yours is going to be the death of…" Youmu suddenly paused in her rant, and slowly smiled.
"…Yes?" Ranma prompted.
"Ranma!" Youmu pointed at him dramatically. "Go do husbandly things with Kasumi!"
Ranma's face broke into a wide grin, and he dashed off at top speed, yelling, "Suuumi-chaaan!"
Youmu blinked after him then shrugged. "Seems like he's developed a libido since I met him. Good for him." She grabbed a nearby rake and got to work, whistling all the while.
Lunasa flew stealthily through the air, her target in sight and her payload at the ready. Her younger sisters were at either side, flying in tight formation with their own payloads as they approached the unsuspecting brunette.
Soon, they were upon Kasumi, her back turned to them, sweeping away at fallen cherry petals as she hummed merrily to herself. The three poltergeists raised the buckets they carried above their heads, taking careful aim.
Suddenly, a bright red aura burst into existence from Kasumi, reaching up in a pillar ten feet tall. The force of it blew away fallen leaves, sent branches swaying, and blew the Prismriver's hair and dresses backwards. It was all the three of them could do to remain airborne.
"Oh my!" the ghostly woman said sweetly, turning to them as her aura started to die down. "You should be careful with those! You wouldn't want to get the place all dirty after I just cleaned it, would you?"
The sisters exchanged terrified glances, and Lunasa spoke up nervously. "Uh… you mean… Us? No, we would never do that. In fact, we were just… passing through, is all!"
"Oh? Then why are you all carrying buckets of mud?" Kasumi asked quizzically.
"Buckets? What buckets?" Lyrica asked innocently. Then she realized that they were all still holding their would-be mud-bombs above their heads, and hastily amended herself. "Oh, these buckets! Heh heh… uh… These are just for… ummm…"
"Exercise!" put in Merlin. Her sisters cringed at such a transparent lie.
Kasumi looked at her, confused. "But you don't have muscles," she pointed out. "How could exercise help you?"
Lunasa racked her brain, trying to come up with a way to save their cover story. "It's… a balance exercise! We're trying to see how quickly we can fly without spilling the mud!"
"Oh my, that sounds difficult! I suppose you'll be doing a full lap around Hakugyokurou? I'll keep track of your time for you!"
"No, no! That's not-" began Lyrica, but was interrupted.
"These three aren't bothering you, are they, Sumi-chan?" came a voice from behind them. They whirled around (careful about the buckets) to see the boy from earlier behind them, cracking his incorporeal knuckles.
"Oh, no," Kasumi assured him. "They were just telling me how they were going to fly all around Hakugyokurou without spilling those buckets."
"Really?" asked Ranma, disappointed. Then he grinned at them evilly. "I'd love to see that! Make sure you come back here when you've done a lap or twelve."
The sisters nodded, and reluctantly set off, overhearing Kasumi say, "Now, Ran-kun. About that dress…" as they left.
"New rule," said Lyrica once they were out of ear-shot. "We leave Kasumi alone."
The other two nodded vigorously.
The next day, Ranma, Yuyuko, and Youmu met once more.
"Today, we'll be doing something a little different," Explained Yuyuko. "A visualization exercise!" Ranma stifled a groan. "I want you to imagine that someone's invading Hakugyokurou."
"Um... alright, I'll-"
He was interrupted when a brunette in red and white came marching up to them. "Hey, Yuyuko, I want to talk to you!"
Yuyuko stared for a moment, before exclaiming, "Wow Ranma, you're good at this! Wait, let me try!" She scrunched her eyes closed, put her fingers to her temples, and started muttering "Manjuu, manjuu, manjuu, manjuu…" After a few moments, she opened her eyes with a wide smile, which quickly became a frown of disappointment. "Aw, I'm bad at this… I know! Ranma, you call up some manjuu!"
"I said I need to talk to you!" the newcomer started to interject. "Something weird's happened to-"
"Not now, Reimu. Ranma here's about to make some sweets!" Yuyuko turned to Ranma expectantly.
Youmu put a hand on Reimu's shoulder. "You know what she's like when she gets like this. Just wait it out."
Reimu sighed, crossed her arms, and sat on the ground to wait while Ranma desperately tried to explain that he couldn't summon sweets out of thin air.
~-~-15 minutes later-~-~
"So, you're saying that you can't call up manjuu at will?"
Youmu and Reimu had long since stopped paying attention, and were instead engaged in a game of cards.
"Not cherry manjuu or raspberry manjuu or chocolate manjuu, or any other kind?"
"Aww… How about you summon some mochi instead, then?"
~-~-Considerably more than 15 minutes later-~-~
"Let me get this straight. You can't summon manjuu, or mochi, or any other kind of sweet. For that matter, you can't summon food of any sort."
"You also can't summon flowers, or works of art, or tools, or world-shattering super-weapons, or clothing, or anything else, either. In fact, the only things you can summon are shrine maidens."
Ranma sighed. "That's right."
"…Well, that's a useless power"
He hung his head. "I know. I'm sorry, Yuko-neechan"
"Don't worry," Yuyuko said, patting Ranma on the head. "It's not your fault. We'll just have to make do with your other skills."
A duet of light snoring drew their attention to the other, long-forgotten girls, both fast asleep. Reimu was stretched out on the ground, while Youmu was using her ghost-half as a spectral pillow, her arms wrapped around it and clutching tightly.
"Oh!" Yuyuko exclaimed. "Reimu, what are you doing here?"
At the sound of her name, the shrine maiden began to stir, gradually sitting upright. "Huh? What was I… um…" She blinked several times before shaking her head in an effort to wake herself up. "Oh, that's right! Yuyuko, I wanted to talk to you," she said, getting to her feet as Youmu began to awaken as well. "There's something weird happening to the Barrier between Gensokyo and the Real World, and I've got a hunch that you've got something to do with it!"
"Me?" Yuyuko asked innocently. "Why would you think it was me? It's not like I've been taking trips through time and space lately."
Ranma tried to make himself invisible, remembered that he could turn himself invisible, and then kicked himself for not thinking of that back when he was wearing the dress.
Reimu, meanwhile, ignored his shenanigans as she gave the ghost a flat look. "I can never tell when you're joking," she said at last. "…Wait, what do you mean 'lately'?"
"Oh, nothing!" Yuyuko giggled, and then gained a thoughtful look. "Hmmm… Now, what could have happened to the Barrier… OH! I remember now! The reason I called you here-"
"You didn't call me here," Reimu interrupted.
"-was so that you could help me train my new bodyguard, Ran-kun!" Yuyuko finished, indicating the boy in red and black.
"You didn't call me here!" Reimu forcefully repeated. "And this is more important than training some ghost I've never even met before! …Besides, what's wrong with your old bodyguard?"
Youmu fumed at the (presumably) unintended insult, but Yuyuko simply replied, "There's nothing wrong with Youmu-chan, I just want Ran-kun to be my bodyguard, too. Pleeease help me train him? I'll make it worth your while!"
Reimu sighed. "Look, the only thing I want from you is information about the Barrier. Since you apparently don't have any, I'll be going." She turned to leave.
"Who said I don't know anything?" Yuyuko asked.
Reimu paused and slowly turned back around. She could feel a headache coming on. "…You're the one who said you didn't know anything, Yuyuko"
"Me? Nonsense, I just heavily implied it. I actually know exactly what's wrong with the Barrier!"
Reimu gnashed her teeth. "Then. Why. Didn't. You. TELL ME?" she ground out, fingering her talismans.
"Why, blackmail, of course!" Yuyuko answered brightly. She pointed at Ranma.
Reimu took a few slow, deep breathes. "…So, let me get this straight. You're withholding information about the Barrier – putting all of Gensokyo and the Real World at risk in the process, I might add – and you won't give it to me unless I fight your new favorite ghost. Do I have that right?"
Reimu entertained pleasant thoughts of beating the information directly out of Yuyuko, but decided against it when she realized that she'd probably end up fighting the boy anyway, and Youmu as well. She turned to the martial artist with a sigh. "OK, Renkon, let's get this over with."
"His name is 'Ran-kun'," Yuyuko corrected.
"It's 'Ranma'." He took a ready stance, but noticed a card flying towards his head. "What is…" he reached out to catch it. Suddenly, some instinct screamed 'AVOID!' He pulled back his arm and ducked low, managing to avoid the projectile by a hair. Smirking, he made to charge the shrine maiden.
He'd gone a full two steps before the sealing amulet did a complete 180 and smacked into his back, sending him twitching to the ground.
Reimu walked over to him. "You're not very bright, are you?" she asked, poking him with her prayer rod.
"I wa-wasn't re-ready…" he managed.
"Ran-kun!" Yuyuko yelled sternly. "Stop embarrassing me and be serious!"
With an effort, Ranma got to his feet and once more took a fighting stance. "Don't expect that to work twice. Let's fight for real, this time." And with that, the two began to battle in earnest.
Half a minute later, Ranma was twitching on the ground again.
"So, what do you think?" Yuyuko asked as the shrine maiden approached, dusting off her hands. "I think he has Stage 5 potential."
Reimu thought for a second. "…Yeah, maybe. He needs more practice first, though, and a few more spellcards. Plus, he needs to remember that ghosts can fly. Now then, the information?"
"Hmm? Oh yes, the Barrier. You see, lately, I've been taking trips through time and space!"
Reimu's eye started twitch wildly. "You said you hadn't been doing that!" she shouted.
"No, once again I simply heavily implied it."
"No, this time you really did say it. 'It's not like I've been taking trips through time and space lately' were your exact words!"
Yuyuko gave her a blank stare. "…Ara? Umm… oops?"
Reimu tapped her foot impatiently. "Explain. Now."
Reimu rubbed her temples. "So, Ranma's a 90-year-old, 3-day-dead martial artist from the Real World? One who, eight years ago, was one of your young childhood friends from back when you were alive, 1,000 years ago?"
"And, after visiting him in his home last week, you decided to bring him here - now - when he died 70 years from now, and rejuvenate him to his current age? And you did the same to one of his friends – who just happens to be his wife in the future – when she died 55 years from now?"
"Uh-huh. Simple, isn't it?"
"And all of this time-traveling through the Barrier has put enough holes in it to make it look like a ratty rice paper door?
"Most likely, yes."
Reimu said nothing for several seconds. "…This is all Yukari's fault. I'm sure of it."
"What's all my fault this time?" Ranma and Youmu looked up from their note-taking (time-travel was so confusing), and the three women and one man turned to face the voice.
A blonde woman was coming towards them, her parasol leaning casually against one shoulder. She moved with an eerie grace, though it was not nearly as uncanny as her smile. Another woman, this one fox-eared-and -tailed, walked behind her and slightly to one side, her arms crossed within the sleeves of her kimono.
"Ah, Yukari! I didn't think you'd get here so quickly!" called out Yuyuko, waving as the two approached. "I expected you to wait until nightfall, at least."
"Well, normally I would," replied Yukari pleasantly, "but I needed to move the plot along."
Ranma stared at her, bewildered. "Plot? What? Is this like those 'stages' you were all talking about?"
"No one knows what she's talking about when she does that," Youmu assured him. "She says she's using her boundary-manipulating power to 'break the fourth wall', or something like that."
"…And grouping people into stages as if this were a video game isn't breaking the fourth wall?" he replied incredulously.
"What's a video game? And, no, that's perfectly normal."
Reimu glared them into silence, and turned to Yukari. "You have a lot to answer for!" she declared, pointing dramatically. "How could you be so careless wi-"
She was cut off by the fox-woman's sudden cry of "Chen? Cheee~eeen!"
With the drama thoroughly destroyed along with her patience, Reimu swung her gaze over to the other woman. "What's the problem, Ran?" she asked through clenched teeth, resisting the urge to just blast the kitsune and have done with it. Sure, Yukari might simply ignore the assault on her shikigami, but she might also decide to portal Reimu to the Hell of Blazing Fires for a few days, and that was something she did not need.
"Chen's wandered off again!" Ran explained, looking around fretfully. "I know she can take care of herself, but last time she went off alone around here, she got beaten up by a couple of thugs." At the last word, she shot a vicious glare at the shrine maiden, who returned it in kind.
"Why don't I go look for her?" Ranma volunteered, eager to get away before Reimu became even more frustrated and started attacking people indiscriminately. The fact that Yuyuko might remember to ask Yukari about his curse at any moment had nothing to do with it whatsoever.
"Would you?" said Ran. "She's a young girl, with brown hair, a green cap, and a red dress. She must be over there somewhere." She gestured back the way she came.
"On it!" he called as he dashed off.
Reimu took a deep, calming breathe. She faced Yukari again. "How could you be so careless with the Barrier? It's practically falling apart!"
"And how is that my fault? It's not like I've been taking trips through time and space lately."
Ah yes, there's that headache. "You're doing this on purpose, aren't you?"
"Well, of course. But I'm not lying."
"According to Yuyuko, you traveled through the Barrier not ten years ago, brought back Ranma, and sent him 1,000 years into the past!"
"…You have a very loose definition of 'lately'. In any case, I didn't do that ten years ago. I did it 1,000 years ago, when Yuyuko first said she was lonely."
"It was still incredibly un…" Reimu paused, scratching her head. "Wait, why would you jump a millennium into the Real World's future just to find a playmate for her?"
"I'm… I'm not sure…" Yukari absently twirl her parasol and put her free hand on her chin, considering. "I guess I was just… drawn there. Like it seemed right on some level so fundamental as to be unquestionable."
Yuyuko let out a high pitched squeal that forced everyone (except Yukari) to cover their ears. "EEEEEEEEEEEEE! Did you hear that Youmu-chan? Ran-kun and I were destined to be together! Isn't it wonderful?"
"Yes… wonderful…" replied the unenthusiastic half-ghost, rubbing her ears.
"Can we get back to the matter at hand, now?" asked a thoroughly annoyed Reimu.
"Probably," answered Yuyuko, "but I doubt it will last long this time, either."
Before Reimu could even open her mouth to speak, Ran cocked her head to one side and asked, "Does anyone else hear that?"
"…Yeah, I do…" Yukari answered, mimicking Ran's motions. "It sounds almost like… someone screaming?"
"Huh?" said Reimu, stopping just before she launched a barrage of amulets in Ran's direction. "Hey, you're right! But, what could…?"
Her question was answered when a red and black blur appeared in the distance and rushed toward the group at incredible speeds. Youmu, Ran, and Reimu got ready to ward off the possible attack as the blur reached them-
-and zoomed straight past without so much as slowing down, the wind from its passing bowling Youmu over. The girls had barely enough time to see a second, smaller, red and brown blur flapping out behind the first before they both disappeared into the distance once more.
They all stared after the retreating blur, and Reimu wondered aloud, "What the hell was that? Only Youmu and the Crow Tengu are that fast, and they never leave the Youkai Mountain. …Well except for that annoying reporter, but she'd be taking pictures if she were here."
Youmu's eyes went wide with realization. "Erm… There is one other person who can go that fast, now…"
Reimu's eyebrows shot up. "Who?" she demanded.
"Let's find out!" said Yukari. With a snap of her fingers, Yukari opened one Gap fifteen feet to the group's left, and another fifteen feet to their right. The blurs (still screaming) immediately shot out of the left Gap, ran straight through the middle of the group again, and entered the right Gap, reappearing out of the left Gap and repeating the process without end.
With the blurs now trapped within earshot, the gathered women could make out a second voice, this one a young girl's. It was saying, "What are we running from? Why won't you tell me?"
Ran stared open-mouthed. "Is… Is that Chen?"
"I think so," answered Yukari. "And that means that the other one must be Ranma. Ran, if you'd grab your shikigami?"
"Uh… Oh, yes." Ran shook her head to get her mind back into gear. Positioning herself along the blurs' path, she waited until just the right moment. As the blurs flashed by, she reached out, managing to grab and pull off the smaller of the two, which resolved itself into a young two-tailed cat-girl. They both fell to the ground in a tangle as Chen's momentum knocked them over.
Immediately, the other blur broke off of its path, leaping from the rut it had created and diving behind Reimu before coming to a stop and becoming a pigtailed martial artist.
"This is just pathetic," observed Reimu, glancing at Ranma's cowering form as Youmu quirked her eyebrows.
"What's wrong, Ran-kun?" asked Yuyuko worriedly, hurrying over to him. "Is some hideous monster invading? That blue-haired celestial, maybe?"
In response, Ranma pointed a shaking finger at Chen and whined, voice quavering, "Caa~aa~aat."
"Mweor? Me?" asked Chen, walking over to him. "But I didn't do anything!"
Ranma merely whimpered, stumbling backwards with every step Chen took.
"Hmmm…" said Yukari thoughtfully. "I think he may be ailurophobic." The others stared at her blankly. "…Scared of cats. Do none of you know Latin?" More blank stares. "Right, stupid question."
Ran pulled Chen back before she could frighten the boy any more. "…Still, what could make anyone that scared?" she wondered aloud.
"Now see here, Ran-kun," admonished Yuyuko. "There is no reason for you to be so scared of Chen! She's a good girl!" She began pushing the terrified ghost towards the object of his nightmares.
"Yeah, I won't hurt you," assured Chen, trying to look as non-threatening as possible (and succeeding admirably). Then she leaned towards him, pitching her voice so that only Ranma could hear it. "But if you hurt Ran-sama, I will end you!"
With that, Ranma fainted.
"Mreow? Was it something I said?"
Yuyuko sighed, looking at the limp, spectral form in her arms. "I guess we'll have to take this a bit more slowly, next time." Then she glanced at Yukari, and said, "Or, we could do this the easy way, in-"
"Chen!" Ran scolded, "You know better than to interrupt people!"
"But… but it wasn't me!" insisted the flustered nekomata.
"Well, who else would it-"
Suddenly, Ranma sprang to life with another yowl, landing on all fours, his back arched like an angry cat. He hissed at the gathered (and confused) women.
Chen gaped openly. "Are you making fun of me?" she demanded.
At her words, Ranma focused his attention on her. With one final hiss of warning, he leapt at her, hands curled into claws. Chen gave a yelp, fleeing as some primal instinct took control of her legs, and Ranma gave chase.
"You leave Chen alone!" yelled Ran, and began running after them as the others looked on, still in confused shock. After only a few yards, however, she was forced to turn and begin fleeing herself as the pair doubled back towards her at ridiculous speeds.
"Youmu! Do something about this!" ordered Yuyuko as the trio ran circles around them.
Youmu nodded, and placed herself in the others' path, swords ready to draw. "Stop this insanity right now!" she commanded.
She was immediately trampled by all three of them. And then again as they made a second pass. By the third, she had gotten to her feet again and joined the two fleeing shikigami.
Reimu finally got over her confusion, and began laughing. "This… heh… This is the funniest thing I've… ha… seen all month!" she managed. Glancing at Yuyuko and Yukari, she noticed them edging away from her. "What? I'm allowed to GYAH!" The runners slammed into Reimu from behind, sweeping her along with them as they fled.
"…Hey, Yukari, what happened to Ran-kun, anyway?" Yuyuko finally asked.
"It looks like he's crossed the boundary between human and feline," answered Yukari after a moment's consideration.
"There's a boundary between those?"
"There's a boundary between everything. You know that"
"My tails!" yelled Ran, running past the chatting woman. "Chen, get him off my tails!"
"Uh… Alright, Ran-sama, I'll… MREEOW! Get him off my tails!"
"…It seems he's crossed the boundary between tame and feral, as well. Or perhaps sane and rabid." commented Yukari.
"Well that's not good…" Yuyuko suddenly got an idea. "Although, I think this solves my stage problem! We can make him an Ex Boss!"
Reimu stopped in front of the two, drawing a Spellcard. "Take this! Power Sign: Yin-Yang King!" She sent a gigantic, Ying-yang patterned jewel glowing with divine power rocketing towards Ranma.
"HIIISSSSHHH!" With a quick swipe, the berserk martial artist shattered the attack, not even slowing.
"My yin-yang! He broke my poor little yin-yang!"
Yukari considered her friend's suggestion. "Hmmm… no, I don't think he has enough attack variations when he's like this. He'd work as an Ex Mid-Boss, though."
"Aww, but those are always the boss of a previous stage! Now I'm right back to square one!" Yuyuko whined.
"NOOO!" screamed Youmu, tugging her ghost-half from Ranma's mouth. "Don't eat that! I need my soul!"
"Why not just have Ranma and Youmu take turns? Like a tag-team." Yukari suggested.
"But isn't that too much like the Prismrivers?"
"Nah, just make sure they don't fight at the same time."
"Well… OK. I guess that will work." Yuyuko agreed.
Yukari held out her hand as Ranma leapt towards her, hissing. A foot away from her, he crashed into an invisible wall, sliding down it until he hit the ground. "Bad kitty!" Yukari scolded as Ranma picked himself and started scratching vainly at the barrier. The four rather disheveled women he'd been chasing took the opportunity to hide behind some nearby cherry trees.
Suddenly, another woman came floating towards them, carrying a basket. "Someone told me that we have guests, so I made some pastries!" called the ghostly brunette. "I hope you… Ran-kun?"
At his name, Ranma turned to the new-comer, feral eyes dilating with surprise. Quick as a flash, he was rushing towards her.
"NO!" Yuyuko yelled, speeding after them. "DON'T!"
But she was too late. When Yuyuko was still a few yards away, Ranma reached Kasumi, leaping at her and knocking her down, her basket sent whirling into the air – and began purring and rubbing himself against his surprised wife.
"NOOO!" Yuyuko wailed, falling to her knees as sweets rained down among them. "They were still so young! They had- Oooh, this one's still good *chomp* -sho mush potemshul!"
Yukari strolled up to join them, and, sensing that the danger had passed, the other women cautiously approached them as well, all of their clothing in a state of complete disarray. Chen's hat was ripped to shreds.
As Chen neared him, Ranma whirled to face her, arching his back and hissing once more. Chen dashed behind Ran with a frightened mewl and hid among her many tails.
Watching the exchange, Yukari sighed. "Ran, I think it would be best if you took your shikigami and left for the time being."
"Yes,Yukari-sama," Ran bobbed her head in agreement. She fished Chen out from behind her and began leading her away by the hand.
"I'm sorry I caused so much trouble, Ran-sama," said the nekomata miserably, her ears and tail drooping.
"Don't worry, Chen," assured Ran, lifting her up to ride on her shoulders. "It's the crazy ghost's fault, not yours. Now come on, let's go get you some takiyaki."
"Takiyaki? YAY! You're the best, Ran-sama!" Chen hugged Ran's head as she strode off.
As they left, the Prismriver Sisters floated up to Yuyuko and the others from the opposite direction. "Hey, we heard screaming from over here," explained Lunasa.
"What did we miss?" asked Lyrica.
"Must have been a great party!" guessed Merlin, looking at the group.
Youmu simply glared at the three of them, but Reimu burst out, "What did you miss? Just this psycho," she indicated the offending ghost, "tried to kill us, is all."
The poltergeists' eyes went wide. They looked at the martial artist – still purring in Kasumi's lap – and then at the others, particularly Reimu's and Youmu's torn clothing. Then they huddled together. Lunasa whispered, "New rule number two: We leave Ranma alone, too." Her sisters nodded silent agreement.
Yuyuko finished gathering all the non-ruined pastries, and turned to Kasumi. "Now that he seems to have calmed down a bit, how do we get him back to normal again?"
"Oh, that's simple," said the ghostly housewife, rubbing her husband's hair affectionately. "He just needs to fall asleep, and he'll wake up just fine. It should only take an hour or so…"
"No it won't," declared Yukari. She snapped her fingers, and Ranma gave a start, sitting up straight.
"What… where… what was I doing again?" he asked, looking around. "Kasumi? When did you get here?"
"Oh my! That was fast. Don't worry Ran-kun, you just had one of your 'episodes'. But everyone's alright," assured Kasumi. Reimu and Youmu grumbled under their breath at the last part.
"What, really? Man… I haven't had one of those since-"
"I don't care!" Reimu shouted. "Just don't do it again when I'm here!"
"It's not like I can control it…" he mumbled.
"Oh, Kasumi, now that this is under control, could you go make some more of this delicious manjuu?" Yuyuko asked. "I don't think there's enough left for everyone."
"Why of course, Yuyuko-san." Kasumi strode off, humming quietly to herself, and Ranma made to follow her.
"You stay!" Yuyuko commanded, and Ranma stopped short, a sinking feeling in his stomach. The ghost princess turned to Yukari. "Could you give him back his curse? He got rid of it a few decades ago, it seems."
"Curse?" Reimu asked, suspicious as Ranma groaned. "What curse?"
"Certainly!" Yukari ignored Reimu. She turned to Ranma, smiling. "Now, just hold still…"
Ranma signed resignedly and complied. With one more snap of her fingers, Yukari opened a Gap above Ranma's head, and deluge of water poured out, immersing him. When it stopped, he was red-haired, about a foot shorter, and decidedly a 'she'. She started to wring out her clothing.
"Ran-chan!" Yuyuko shouted, and dove into the once-again-female's bosom.
The Prismrivers gaped at the sight, along with Reimu. Suddenly, Reimu declared, "That's it! This is officially too weird for me. I'm going home. Yukari, make sure the Barrier is fixed by tomorrow." Not waiting for a reply, she turned and strode away.
Unbeknownst to the rest of the group, Lyrica shot an evil grin at her elder sisters. She floated silently over to Yuyuko, and whispered something in her ear.
Yuyuko's eyes went wide, and she turned to her bodyguard. "Why, Youmu-chan! You should have said something!"
"What?" she asked. Then she noticed the poltergeist floating at her master's shoulder. "No! whatever she said, it's a lie!"
"Now now, Youmu-chan, there's no need to be embarrassed! It's perfectly naturally for girls your age to want to experiment!" She turned to Yukari once more, and Youmu dashed off at top speed – and hit one of Yukari's barriers before she'd gone ten feet. "Could you give Youmu-chan a curse, too?"
"Of course!" Once again she snapped her fingers, and a Gap appeared above the dazed swordswoman's head, trapping her in another deluge.
When the water cleared, she was over a foot taller, her hair was white rather than silver, and she was noticeably more muscular. Even her ghost-half was looking manly. She looked at herself, horrified, as Ranma winced in sympathy and glared at the laughing poltergeists.
"Oh Youmu-kun, you look so handsome!" Yuyuko cooed, floating over to her. "But you can't go around wearing a dress anymore, now, can you? Let's go get you some new clothes!" She dragged Youmu off.
Still laughing, the Sisters turned to leave. Behind them, Ranma grew her own evil grin. "Could you…?" she asked Yukari, indicating the three of them.
Yukari merely smiled and snapped her fingers one final time. A trio of rather masculine – but no less harmonious – screams came from the direction of the Prismrivers.
"That was pretty vindictive," Yukari said to the chuckling martial artist. "I approve!"
"Now come on, let's get you all prettied up for Yuyuko!" She grabbed his arm and led him away. "Hmm… I wonder how Ran would look male…"
This is the first fanfic that I've actually written, though Irritus wrote that stomach-churning bit between Ranma and Kasumi near the beginning. I'm posting it on Irritus's account because it's a sequel to one of his fics (which was my idea to begin with, btw). Please review, and tell me what I did well and what I need to improve.
I'll likely post any other fics I write on Irritus's account, as well, unless I decide to make my own.
Also, for those of you who don't know, 'takiyaki' is a fish-shaped Japanese pastry.
"I thought we were getting takiyaki!" whined Chen.
"We are," replied Ran, "but you need to be fitted, first. You can't very well go out in public looking like that."
"But does it have to be him who does it? He's weird!"
"'He' is standing right next to you!" snapped Rinnosuke Morichika, taking Chen's measurements. "And the reason it's me doing it is because I'm the only shopkeeper who doesn't run screaming at the sight of you."
"But you've been at this forever!"
"Don't exaggerate, Chen," Ran admonished her ward. "It's barely been half an hour."
"It feels like forever…"
"All done!" Rinnosuke announced. He disappeared into the back of his shop for a while, Chen growing more impatient with each passing minute. Finally he returned, bearing a hat identical to Chen's now-ruined old one. He plopped it down on her head.
"Oh, Chen, that looks perfect on you!" Ran exclaimed.
"Yes. Perfect. Great," Chen answered unenthusiastically. She turned to Rinnosuke. "Now… Where's my takiyaki?"
The shopkeeper rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Umm… I looked, but it seems we're out of it…"
And then Rinnosuke's store exploded.