A Ranma ½ / Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon
© 2004–2009 by gsteemso
Not my characters — Ranma ½ belongs to Takahashi Rumiko and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko.
It was a bright Sunday morning in the tail end of summer, the scorching heat of July and August having eventually given way to the calmer warmth of a sunny day in early September. In a large house near the centre of Furinkan district, Nerima ward, Tokyo, a vigorous and many-sided disagreement was taking place. The thin morning fog which had impeded the locals’ appreciation of the dawn had long since burned off, and the sun was well into its daily transit of the sky, by the time this argument was brought to… well, if not an actual conclusion, then at least a good place to pause for a while. An unofficial truce having been declared amongst the combatants, they all made their way out to the street, mumbling halfhearted goodbyes, and trying not to look like they were hurrying as they headed out to search the Azabu-Jūban district of neighbouring Minato ward. Some of them hid their haste more successfully than others. Behind them, far from unseen but thoroughly unnoticed, Tendo Kasumi went back inside to continue her disrupted housework.
A few minutes later, now that they were more or less alone and had had a moment to think things over, each of the young women who’d been present calmed down enough to realize that they were missing some vital undergarments. In eerie synchronicity, threats and curses upon the bald head of Happosai echoed and resounded from all over the district.
Over in Azabu-Jūban, distributed amongst a variety of fairly unassuming dwellings, a group of teenagers who led double lives as magical world-saviours were also getting ready for the day. On a low hilltop, Hino Rei stood beneath the gateway to the Hikawa Shrine and savoured the fresh morning air. It was already heating up, she noted, as she turned to go back in and return to sweeping the courtyard — one of her duties as the resident shrine maiden. She stopped halfway through her turn and cast a puzzled look at a large black bird that was sitting on the edge of the roof, its unblinking gaze fixed with laser-like precision on… a patch of empty air in front of a blank wall? Okay, that’s a bit odd, she thought.
As she watched, the bird — a raven, an intelligent raven called Deimos, she knew but few of the neighbours would have believed — raked its gaze across the temple courtyard towards the watching shrine maiden, the apparently nonexistent target moving at a steady walking pace. On a sudden hunch, Rei performed that mental convolution necessary to see auras and other incompletely obtruded supernatural manifestations, and gave a small start. Sure enough, there was something there! It was a complicated little knot in the flows of the world, indicative of some sort of very small spirit. The fact of the entity’s presence didn’t surprise her half so much, though, as the strong feeling she got that the whatever-it-was was focusing even more intently on her than she was on it. She noticed, without really thinking about it, that she seemed to have acquired a mild case of the hiccups at some point during the past few seconds, and tried to figure out what she was looking at.
The small figure seemed to have figured out that she’d seen it, for it suddenly made itself visible to normal sight and stood there, pointing jeeringly at her and laughing its tiny head off. Rei looked at it in disbelief. It stood perhaps eleven or twelve centimetres high, its totally hairless skin was a kind of granite-grey colour, and it was wearing a truly astonishing mishmash of a costume. Apart from a simple brass anklet, its clothing consisted solely of a gauzy pink tutu and a loose green mouse-leather vest, open in front, which left room at the back for a double pair of extremely rumpled-looking butterfly wings to grow out of the spirit’s shoulder blades. It was hard to tell, when the creature as a whole was so small, but the wings had a badly moulted look, and appeared to be in dire need of some repair akin to repainting. The thing had unkindly laughing golden eyes, crooked and rather disturbingly yellowed teeth, and oversized batwing ears. It wore no sort of hat to cover its stonelike head, but it did have a rather nice steel stud earring in the upper point of its left ear.
Fan art by J. St. C. Patrick
Rei was stumped as to what sort of creature she was looking at. Given the feel of it and the fact that it didn’t seem at all affected by being on hallowed ground, it was probably some kind of morally neutral nature spirit (of the variety Discworld fans will recognize as an anthropomorphic personification), but what type of concept it embodied was a complete mystery to her.
Suddenly, Deimos’ compatriot Phobos burst out from behind a stone garden lantern, and caught the little nature spirit in her talons. Rei was so surprised that she inhaled sharply at an unwise moment, causing her hiccups to get much worse all of a sudden. On seeing this, the creature laughed even harder from its position under the raven’s feet, apparently even getting a stitch in its side in its paroxysmal levity.
After several long seconds of this performance, the little spirit got tired of being stuck under a large bird, and did something about it. It looked up into Phobos’ puzzled and rather uneasy gaze, gave a snaggle-toothed grin that promised great discomfort, and snapped its fingers. Phobos immediately started hiccupping, with huge body-wracking jolts — which looked very strange on a raven, especially a raven that couldn’t stand up straight in the first place by reason of gripping a Hiccup Imp tightly in her talons.
As Rei rushed forward and Deimos fluttered down to help if need be, Phobos decided she’d had enough, and with a whooshing sound, assumed her humanoid Pretty Soldier Trainee form. The Hiccup Imp looked astounded, and disappeared from sight as the Sailor-in-Training’s now much larger feet spread out to cover it. With an eruption of muffled cursing as Phobos’ greatly increased body mass bore down on it every time she hiccupped, the Hiccup Imp finally decided it wasn’t having enough fun in this place any more, and deinstantiated itself with a faint popping noise. Phobos looked smug, winked at Rei, and resumed her usual winged shape as her hiccups abated. Deimos deposited a page torn from a book in front of the surprised shrine maiden, and the two ravens flapped laboriously back up to the shrine’s roof level, one to the ridgepole and one to the top of the main gate.
Rei looked worried and picked up the piece of paper. Phobos and Deimos, though they looked just like Earthly ravens — at least in their preferred forms — were actually Sailor Soldiers in training, from the planet Coronis, and they were even more attuned to the supernatural than she was. They had obliquely warned her of oncoming troubles on several occasions. If they were being cryptic again, it was unlikely to be good news.
The shrine maiden smoothed out the ragged-edged scrap of paper and began to read. To her surprise, rather than being the usual symbolic sort of thing the ravens left, which would lead her indirectly to the answers she needed, it was a very dry and unambiguous passage from a university-level biology textbook. The gist of it was that, for any resource — however awkward to use — which could benefit a being that took advantage of it, some unusual life-form was likely sooner or later to emerge and do exactly that. Rei turned this over in her mind, but couldn’t see how it related to anything she’d seen recently. After all, even stretching the point, the only thing resembling an “unusual life form” she’d run across recently was that pestiferous Hiccup Imp —
Rei froze, her eyes wide. Unusual life form… Could that be it? The thing was definitely unusual, yes, but did it really count as a life form? It was only a spirit. She slowly relaxed again and absently put one hand to her chin, thinking hard. If the Imp could be considered a kind of living being, one that would somehow pose a problem for the Pretty Soldiers to deal with, the passage on Deimos’ page fragment implied that it was using some sort of natural resource that it hadn’t before.
What THAT might be, the shrine maiden had not the faintest idea.
In his musty-smelling room at the Tendo home, Happosai was sitting happily in a heap of bras, thinking with relish of all the wonderful things he’d be able to do with his very own “magical panty team”, as he and his rather lecherous assistant Angus Mackinaw [deceased 1836] thought of groups like the Pretty Soldiers. This could be even better than having Ranma’s girl form all to himself!
Even with almost 120 years’ rather unenthusiastic practice, the shrivelled old pervert could barely contain his excitement as he awaited the return of the succinubus he’d sent to find them — both his wayward heir Ranma, and whatever magical-girl underwear was in the boy’s neighbourhood when he was finally tracked down.
Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka was getting progressively more confused as the morning wore on. Happosai had provided it with an unwashed pair of Ranma’s boxer shorts, left over from the last time the ill-starred aquatranssexual had been stuck female, and it was using low-powered sympathetic magic to guide itself toward the by now rather smelly things’ erstwhile wearer. However, this only worked when Ranma was a girl — and every time the succinubus did catch a hint of resonance between the boxers and Ranma, some unlikely coincidence would spring up and almost immediately cause it to lose the trail. It’d known from the start this would be an onerous task, as it hadn’t fed in eight months and was severely short on energy, but this was getting ridiculous. It was almost like the very world around it was conspiring to hide its target —
The succinubus stopped, and smacked itselves between the rightmost pair of eyes with the scrawnier of the two arms on that side. “D’oh!” it chorused, feeling stupid. It must really be getting weak, to not notice the Murphy’s Law Gremlin’s handiwork when the succinubus kept getting stopped cold by the stuff — repeatedly, and for more than an hour. The blasted creature’s gnarled little thumbprints were all over this situation.
“Are you all right?” someone behind it asked, solicitously.
Startled, Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka spun around as fast as its famished state and awkward physiology would allow. “Eh?”
“You looked really upset just now. Anything I can help with?” asked the blonde teenager who’d addressed it.
The succinubus was astonished, and not a little touched by this gesture on the part of a complete stranger, but it didn’t dare get into a conversation with the girl — it was so low on power that anyone who really looked would soon penetrate its flimsy glamour, and it wasn’t sure it would be able to get away if threatened. It had been able to teleport to and from Happosai only because the power to do so had been supplied, as was usual with summonings and invocations, by the old pervert’s spell. “Ah, we were just looking for… someone, and we realized we were doing it wrong,” it chorused cautiously. “We don’t think you could help, but thanks anyway.” It surreptitiously crossed five pairs of fingers, plus a pair of toes for good measure, and hoped desperately for deliverance.
She gave it an odd look. “ ‘We’?” she asked, puzzled by its eccentric phrasing.
Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka stared back at her with a quadruple-barrelled deer-in-headlights expression. “Uhh… did w— did I say ‘we?’ I meant ‘I,’ of course…” It squeezed shut three of its four eyes, gritted one of its two sets of teeth and tried not to bite through the relevant tongue with the other, and waited miserably for the shriek that would signify its glamour had finally failed.
At the last possible moment, against all probability, salvation came in the form of an annoying dingly noise from a device in the girl’s purse. “Oops, that’s my alarm clock! Gotta go!” the girl lied, with the ease of long practice, and casually turned to leave; she would of course have moved faster, had it been an alarm signal her communicator had just made. By a strange twist of irony, this carrier of suspiciously anachronistic technology was none other than Aino Minako, the Sailor of Venus in plain clothes — and one of the people Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka was seeking, though neither party was aware of the fact. “Sorry I couldn’t help you, but I’m sure you’ll find your friend soon!” She ran off down the street, in the direction of the Outers’ house, and disappeared around a corner. The succinubus sagged with relief and, before anyone else could doom it by trying to help, sidled quickly into a nearby dark alley. (That was a more complex operation than it sounds. You don’t know the meaning of ‘coördination’ until you’ve seen a near-humanoid, with four uneven legs arranged in a horizontal row, try to sneak unobtrusively sideways.)
Once it was safely hidden, Anthrateel-and-Jorvezh’ekka vented a little frustration by quietly calling down a multitude of empty curses upon Happosai and the Murphy’s Law Gremlin, the twin sources of its current troubles. It carried on in this vein for a few minutes, and was just beginning to feel better when a small, gravelly voice piped up from somewhere around its leftmost knee.
“Oh, really? Now that I call unfriendly,” the voice said with a sardonically amused tone which, while not actually hostile, seemed to leave the possibility open. The succinubus’ four mismatched eyes widened with horror. Only one entity of its acquaintance sounded even remotely like that.
“Gack! Bnirflad! What a, er, pleasant surprise to see you! What brings you to these parts?” it asked in its usual grating chorus, making a frantic but doomed effort to act friendly to the Murphy’s Law Gremlin. They both knew Bnirflad was only there in person because the succinubus had been unwittingly trying to bypass the gremlin’s probability distortions by brute force alone, something even most deities would normally have trouble achieving.
“I’m actually here on a very old, but still active, protection contract,” the short, grumpy creature replied. “With the Golden Crystal backing me” — and isn’t that a change, thought the gremlin snidely — “you’ll never, and I do mean NEVER, get near any of the people you’ve been sent after. At least, not in a way that would let you subject them even to something as mild as your summoner’s little eccentricities.” It would have gone on to clue the succinubus in on the chance encounter with the plainclothes Sailor Venus that the twofold creature had just unknowingly botched, purely to enjoy the humorous facial expression that would have resulted — but Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka’s overcrowded face was already looking pretty entertaining just from what Bnirflad had told the misshapen being thus far, so the gremlin decided to save that for later.
“Oh, no! NO! What will we do? We’re gonna starve to death out here!” the succinubus wailed cacophonously, shedding suspicious-smelling tears [because they were a potent aphrodisiac, that’s why — “feeds off sex,” remember?] and suffering dreadful visions of beating itselves to death against a metaphorical wall of skewed probability, rather like a housefly committing slow, unintended suicide in a closed window.
Bnirflad gave the lust spirit’s question some thought. It enjoyed making people’s lives difficult, often to the point of actual fatality, and wouldn’t have minded watching some good old-fashioned death throes — but the pathetic creature before it was a special case. The succinubus, while it hadn’t been a project of the gremlin’s when originally created (by the Demon Lord K’ffjuu!ka’s hostile amalgamation of a succubus named Jorveyzh’ekka and an incubus named Anthrateel), was the ultimate tool for upsetting people in situations involving gender insecurity. The gremlin found itself thinking of all the pranks it wouldn’t be able to pull without engineering the construction of a replacement succinubus, and shuddered. That sounded like way too much work.
The Murphy’s Law Gremlin reached a decision. “Well, I’ll tell you what…” it said, in its best used-car salesman tones (oily, in addition to being gravelly, rather like a rural highway in Alberta). “If, and only if, you agree to perform a service for me at some point in the future, I might be persuaded to let slip a helpful hint or two…”
“So… we’d owe you one?”
“You’d owe me your lives,” said Bnirflad, with an evil grin.
The succinubus shuddered, but could see it didn’t really have much choice. “All right,” it acquiesced reluctantly. The gremlin beckoned the succinubus down to its level, and began whispering in its bottommost ear. At first, Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka looked absolutely gobsmacked by what it was hearing. As the whispering continued, first hope and then a huge, two-mouthed grin dawned across its grotesque face, like sunrise on an especially lumpy asteroid.
Back in Ranma’s guest room in the Outers’ house, he and Ami were having a quiet conversation about dreams. Ami was trying to see if she could identify Ranma’s problem without necessarily relying on her Silver Millennium gadgets — if she was serious about becoming a doctor, it was a skill she would need to practice whenever possible. She was encountering difficulties in getting any kind of details out of him, though.
Honestly, this is like pulling teeth! she thought, wanting to roll her eyes. At least he’s talking at all, now that we’ve closed the door so no one can hear… if I can call repeated statements of “It was, you know, just really weird and messed up!” talking, that is. Gathering herself up, she tried again to extract a more useful starting point from the exasperating martial artist seated before her. “Ranma, I know I’m a bit younger than you are, but it’s my goal to become a doctor. I take patient confidentiality very seriously. You can tell me the details. Even if some of it seems weird or embarrasses you, I promise it will go no further than this room, and it really won’t matter to me what it’s about. Hardly anyone can control their dreams, you know.”
“You mean like, what’re they called again… lucid dreams? I heard a kid at school talking about those. It sounded like a neat idea, but I completely forgot about it ’til now because the fiancées started fighting over me again and I had to go break it up.”
“Well, yes, but that’s beside the point. Now, will you please start at the earliest point in the ‘really messed up dream’ you can remember, and then just describe what happened from then until you woke up? You’ll probably feel better for having gotten it off your chest.”
Ranma paled, but shut his eyes resolutely and began, speaking in a thin, quiet voice:
“I was just dreaming random jumbles of images and feelings, at first — you know, the usual stuff that your mind spits up right after you doze off. Then as they went on, they sort of started being… I dunno, sorta… like each other, a bit.”
“How were they alike?”
Ranma had to stop and think about that for a moment. “Um, they were all about… people, I guess. Animals that’re really somebody with a curse’re still people, right? And they mostly were upsetting.”
“What was upsetting about them?”
“Well…” Ranma knew he was on the edge of something important here, but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. It was almost like, well, like he didn’t want to let himself know the answer… “Hmmm.” Ranma had never received much training in introspection or meditation — Genma’s unforethoughtful influence again — but he knew what kind of thoughts were THAT shape. “I ain’t afraid o’ nothing!” he muttered to himself, and began what was effectively a battle of wills with his subconscious.
Ami, who had very good hearing, looked surprised. She opened her mouth to ask how fear was involved, but then closed it again as she realized Ranma was a bit too… busy, she guessed… to listen.
Ranma was discovering that when your mind has had years of practice at hiding something from you, there is at first not a lot you can do to stop it. He had managed to wring out an answer to Ami’s question, though. “People keep… getting too close, if that makes any sense.” He looked puzzled, and a bit worried. Was he becoming antisocial or something? That was bad, right?
Ami looked faintly puzzled, too. “So the people in the bad dream invaded your personal space?” she asked, to verify what sounded like the root of the issue.
Ranma looked blank. “Personal space?”
Ami was quite surprised. “You know, the space around you that it’s uncomfortable to have other people get inside. Didn’t you ever hear about this when you were little?”
“It’s okay, we’ll just talk about it now, all right? No corpse, no foul, as my neighbour likes to say.”
Ranma gave her an odd look at that turn of speech, but nodded.
“Look, let’s stand up. Yes, just where you are is good. Now, look — if I’m way over here by the window, it’s comfortable, or maybe even a little too far away to be convenient for conversation, right?” She waited for his nod. “Now, pay attention to how comfortable you feel, relative to how far away I am.” She slowly drew closer to him as she spoke, stopping just under arm’s length away. “Now, if I were to get much closer than this, it would start to feel kind of awkward and uncomfortable, right?” Another nod, accompanied by an expression of deep thought. “That’s because this bubble of space, about 30-60 centimetres around you in all directions, is what we call your personal space. It’s considered very rude to get closer than that to someone if they don’t want you to. You can tell whether someone wants you to be closer or farther away by their body language, and sometimes by them just telling you.”
Fan art by ChaosTeacup
Ranma looked thunderstruck. “So THAT’S why I get so upset when Kuno or Shampoo or somebody grabs me! I don’t want ‘em in my space but they come anyway! Wow, I never thought about it like that before, but it sure makes sense.”
Ami smiled and nodded, then paused, looking pensive. “Wait, what do you mean, ‘grabs you’? Do people try to lead you around by the arm, things like that?”
“Well, sort of, I guess — a few times, anyway. Mostly they just sort of glomp onto me with both arms and put their hands in places I don’t want ‘em to. They often do it hard enough I fall over. Either way, if they’re really on a roll they’ll grab on with their legs an’ feet, too. ’S like getting held down by a giant octopus, only not as friendly,” Ranma finished, thinking sourly of the many times he’d had to fight Pantyhose-taro’s bizarre monster form since the creep had given it tentacles, which he’d done by pouring cursed water from Jusenkyo’s Spring of Drowned Octopus on his own back. Ranma grimaced. What kind of psycho would do something like that, anyway?
“That’s… oh, I don’t know where to start with this…” Ami had a bad feeling about where this conversation was heading. Based on Ranma’s responses so far, particularly the bit about hands in unwanted places, the people he knew before coming to Azabu-Jūban had done a lot worse to the poor guy than just standing too close to him. “Let’s see… have you ever heard of ‘good touch’ as opposed to ‘bad touch’?”
“Uhh…” Ranma appeared to be thinking hard about how this could relate to the “good distance, bad distance” concept they’d just discussed. “No, but I think I’m gettin’ the picture. I dunno as I agree there IS such a thing as a ‘good touch’, mind you.”
Oh dear, Ami thought to herself. This may take a while.
Downstairs, Hotaru was working on a picture for school, done in surprisingly well-executed pencil crayon. The assignment was to draw a picture of her family. Michiru and Haruka were sitting across from her, posing together; she would add Setsuna standing behind the two after she finished drawing them. Though she was managing fairly well at staying focused, all three of them had occasionally to stop themselves from worrying about Ranma, who was really starting to grow on them. While no one would have accused him of being terribly competent socially back at the end of his ten-year training trip, he’d still gotten along all right with the Tendos, and later Ukyo. Now that he’d had a year of interacting socially with the same extended group of townsfolk to knock off some of the rough edges, he actually stood a better than even chance of being quite likeable when he met new people. Of course, how well that impression would hold up as those people got to know him better was still open to debate.
Ranma was staring at the wall with an expression of ferocious concentration. “So, like… when, say, Shampoo or somebody grabs me… there, she actually thinks I’ll mistake it for a ‘good touch’ so I’ll want more of it?” His expression shifted to one of horrified disgust, as he assimilated the idea he’d just voiced.
“So I’d guess from what you’ve told me so far, yes,” agreed Ami sadly. “If I had to guess why… Well, she comes from a society that looks down on men, right? She’s probably been taught that all men want is sex. She probably thinks that if she can persuade you to have ‘relations’ with her, you’ll be brainwashed into liking her best out of the fiancées.”
Ranma was turning green. “Why would anyone want to do… that… anyway? It seems like that’s all anyone ever wants to do with me. ’Cept they more wanna do it TO me, than WITH me. Violent grabby girls when I’m a guy, perverted other guys when I’m a girl… Eeeewwww!” He had to sit down at this point, feeling weak-kneed with horror. “About the only one who don’t grab me wrong whenever they get the urge is Akane… and whenever SHE thinks of something perverted, she hits ME for it, whether I know what she’s screechin’ about or not!” He looked comically indignant amid his disgust.
Ami was even more worried now. The people he’d been dealing with over the past year had so soured Ranma on personal contact that he couldn’t even see the attraction any more? This was not looking good. “Ranma, I know it’s been really bad for you for a while now. From what you’ve told me, people either grope you or hit you when they get close, neither of which is the least bit enjoyable. I want you to think back, though… remember what you told me about the first time Shampoo saw you as a male, when you defeated her again? You said she got really close to you but she didn’t grope you. Remember how cute you thought she was? I want you to focus on how she made you feel back then. What’s different?”
Ranma turned her request over in his mind. He didn’t much like what the answer said about everyone he knew, but… “I guess, well, now that I come to see things with you helpin’ — I think she’s as much of a pervert as Akane always says I am, but I didn’t know it yet, then, so I didn’t know to be — um. Er…”
“Cautious?” supplied Ami. Heaven forbid anyone imply he might be scared of something, even with justification. His parents have a lot to answer for.
“Yeah! Like that. So I could just enjoy her… um…” Ranma looked bewildered. “I — I liked her buttin’ into my ‘personal space’? What’s that mean?” He suddenly realized that had been in the dream, too, though the lingering horror of Kuno Tatewaki declaring everlasting love for him, at around the same time in his life, had largely blotted it from his waking memory.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. If you actually want it to happen, someone being close to you can be very enjoyable… even someone touching you, if you want them to.” With a Herculean effort, she managed to refrain from blushing; for a severely repressed 16-year-old like herself, this conversation was a ridiculously intense test of professional detachment. “It doesn’t mean you wanted to marry Shampoo. It doesn’t really mean anything, except that you thought she was friendly. Oh, and that she hadn’t gotten herself acting friendly classified as a threat in your mind yet. It was probably also a bit confusing for you because you’d only ever seen her trying to kill you, up until then.”
Ranma nodded slowly, his eyes unfocused, as he tried to get a grip on these new ways of thinking about people. It had been a long time since he’d thought in terms of physical proximity being pleasant… or had it? The end of the “really messed up dream” suddenly returned to the focus of his thoughts. Akane… he thought. “You know… somehow it’s different when it’s Akane,” he confessed shyly.
“I think that’s because you care more for Akane than for any of the others who want you. If she didn’t have this strange conviction that you’re a pervert, the two of you would probably consider it normal to hug each other ‘hello,’ and stuff. You might even have kissed by now — you two have been engaged for a year, right?” When he didn’t answer her, Ami craned around to look at Ranma’s expression. He looked absolutely blown away, probably by the idea of voluntarily kissing anyone. “Well, enough of that. Now that we’ve gone over all this stuff, what else can you tell me about your dream?”
Ranma needed a few minutes to marshal his thoughts, and struggled valiantly to say something that made sense. “Uh… well, basically, all the perverts I’ve ever had in my life tried to grab my, um, ‘parts’, one after the other, and it didn’t make no difference to them whether I was a guy or a girl. I guess there were a few nice spots, too, like what we were just talking about with Shampoo, right after she decided I was her husband. ’Course, in real life, that went sour when she wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer… Did I tell you she snuck naked into my bed and, later on, my bath — and both times Akane thought it was my idea and pounded me?”
Ami shook her head “no,” and gestured sympathetically for him to continue.
“Well, they did. Um. I was talking about the few not-horrible parts of the dream, right? Yeah, well, the really weird part came right at the end. To tell you about it and make sense, I’m gonna have to back up a bit, though. Let me tell you about something that happened a couple of months ago in the far northwest of China, during the whole Phœnix Mountain mess…” Ranma proceeded to tell Ami of the bathhouse incident with Captain Kīma and the Kinjakan.
Ami was suitably horrified on his behalf. “She just laughed at you and flew away, after posing as Akane needing your emotional support? How awful!” she exclaimed sympathetically.
“Yeah, well, in the dream it didn’t happen that way. Kīma rattled on the window and just sorta faded away, and the Akane who was n-n-naked” — Ranma blushed — “in the bath with me really was Akane… it was, you know, kind of a special moment, right?”
“I think I get the idea, yes,” she replied drily. “So, was that how the dream ended? That’s not strange at all, you know.”
“Uh. Well, not exactly… I, er, kinda woke up all at once when something really gross and perverted happened to me…” he trailed off, flustered.
“… Okay… You mean, something gross happened in the dream?” Ami was totally lost.
“No. In the dream we reached out towards each other, totally normal, right? — and our fingers were just about to touch when… it happened…” Ranma was blushing redder than his girl side’s hair, and was too embarrassed to continue. He managed to choke out, “Bed — sticky — totally gross —” before words failed him completely.
Ami, utterly baffled, had to turn this over in her mind for almost two full minutes before understanding dawned, whereupon she blushed even redder than Ranma, her eyes going so wide that her eyebrows almost disappeared into her bangs. Aspiring doctor or no, there are some things a repressed teenage girl who is alone in a bedroom with an attractive guy simply is not ready to discuss… at least, not without a lot of embarrassment.
Ranma, seeing the sudden change in her demeanour, was horrified. “I knew it was something perverted! I’m really sorry. You prob’ly think I’m disgusting now. I can just grab my stuff and go, no need to upset anyone else…” he babbled desperately, hot but unshed tears of shame making his eyes itch.
“NO! Ranma, wait!” Ami hurled herself in front of the fleeing martial artist, only beating him to the door because his first instinct was to dive out the window — which turned out not to open wide enough for him to fit through. Ranma’s luck being what it was, she ended up cushioning his resultant collision with the door with the whole of her body. Fortunately, she missed being hurt by the doorknob; unfortunately, the impact shook the door within its frame with a bang like a gunshot, and both of them hit their heads pretty solidly into the bargain. They slithered to the floor in a bewildered heap, flopping away from the point of impact as they went.
Naturally, this meant that when the other three girls in the house burst in to see what was wrong, they saw Ranma lying sprawled on his back with Ami flopped awkwardly over him, face down and with her arms up around his sides. Both were stunned, and making faint moaning noises. The three Outers stared down at this tableau in complete disbelief. Since when did Ami, the extremely chaste bookworm, act like this⁈
After a few moments of being completely flummoxed, everyone started moving again, and the two bruised people on the floor were helped over to sit on the edge of the bed. When they were again capable of focusing, Michiru caught both of their gazes and asked, very seriously, “Now… what was that all about?” In unison, they gulped and looked nervous, only then coming to realize what they must have looked like.
Over at the Minato Zoo, the Kuno siblings had managed to gain entry once more, due mainly to the fact that no one who’d worked there the previous night had left a good description of them. Attendance had gone way up after the Sailor sighting the previous afternoon. Everyone was hoping to see a repeat performance. The Kunos, oblivious to the excited chatter all around them, made their way to the area near the tiger house where Ranma-the-cat had played Chase-the-String with the Pretty Soldiers.
“Well, my disturbed sibling, we are at the place we were told of. Whither do you suppose the vile sorcerer would have dragged the pig-tailed girl from this area?” Tatewaki puzzled aloud, scanning the crowd for any hint of the helpless damsel in question. “He would have had to use subtlety, as surely not even the fiend’s black sorcery could hide a blatant act of evil from so many persons…” He wondered briefly if it was normal for a zoo to be so heavily attended, but then dismissed the thought as irrelevant to one of his lofty station.
A couple of steps ahead of him, Kodachi had stopped walking as well, and was looking at the few nearby rooftops with a calculating expression. She affected not to hear him, and quietly addressed herself aloud as though he were not there. “Hmm. The Tendo twerps said the red-haired harlot chased my poor Ranma-sama away over the aquarium.” Which wasn’t, in fact, very close to what the Tendo daughters had told the Kunos at all, but Kodachi tended to live in her own little world. “That’s that roof there…” She began walking briskly toward the end of the building she was looking at, intending to go around it; while both Kunos could easily have followed the trail directly across the rooftops, some inkling of the need for stealth if eviction from the premises were to be avoided had penetrated even their warped minds.
A few moments later, Tatewaki turned and noticed her disappearing into the crowd. “Eh? Hey! Make allowance for the noble Flaming Swordsman of” puff “Furinkan to” pant “accompany you!” he wheezed, rushing to catch up as best he could with all these damn peasants in the way. Suddenly, he caught a glimpse of red through some trees a little way off to one side — red of a very familiar hue, and at head height! “What! Pig-tailed girl⁈” Unable to effectively dodge slow-moving zoo attendees and think at the same time, the delusional kendoist was forced to stop again to consider this latest input. He caught another flash of red, still at head height, through the same stand of trees, and made up his mind. “I’ll save you, my love!” he cried in what might have passed for a heroic manner, had he not been so obviously as dumb as a sack of hammers, and headed at speed back along the path to the nearest break in the intervening hedge.
“Did you speak, O moronic brother mine?” Kodachi asked, briefly distracted from her single-minded transit of the crowded plaza surrounding the aquarium. She had the indescribable feeling that the average IQ in her vicinity had just risen sharply, an impression which she had long since come to associate with a notable shortage of her eccentric elder brother. “Oh, where has the fool gotten to now?” she wondered disinterestedly, looking back the way she’d come. Fortunately for her effectiveness at searching, both Kuno siblings were tall for their ages. She didn’t see him yet, but — “WHAT⁈ Do I see red hair, yonder⁈ So, the witch returns to the scene of her misdeeds! YOU WILL PAY, HARLOT! OHOHOHOHOHOHO!” She ripped off her dress in a storm of black rose petals, revealing her trademark leotard, and bounded over the astonished crowd in the same direction Tatewaki had just gone.
(Hey, for her that was stealthy. She went around the hedge instead of over it, and didn’t even gas-bomb any of the inconvenient commoners who were obstructing her passage.)
Several kilometres away, Kino Makoto (better known to the world at large as Sailor Jupiter, though very few indeed knew that both names belonged to the same person) was counting weirdoes on her way to the Pretty Soldiers’ meeting. Probably the most ridiculous sight she’d come across so far this morning was an impossibly large pig, sitting on some guy in long white robes and cokebottle glasses, while a pretty girl in a kimono tried — apparently without success — to get a sensible reply to variations on the question, “Have you seen my Ryoga-sama anywhere?” The situation was made even more surreal by the fact that the dazed-looking teenager in the glasses, to judge by all the nasty-looking weapons scattered about with chains leading back into the youth’s voluminous sleeves, seemed to have arrived at his position under the gigantic porker by losing a martial arts duel against it.
Makoto shook her head at the memory, and continued carefully along the street, pausing briefly to allow plenty of space for an overweight panda to roof-hop across the roadway a few houses ahead of her. She couldn’t read the sign in its paws because of distance and speed, but she wasn’t missing anything — the painted message had smeared in the wind, such that even Genma would have had trouble figuring out what he’d scrawled by this point. As he barrelled through the air above the street, the stealthy-in-his-own-mind panda touched down briefly on the hood of an unlucky taxicab heading sedately towards Makoto, sending the vehicle smashing nose-first into the asphalt and bringing it momentarily to a dead halt before it could pass her. The driver, who was based out of Furinkan district, didn’t even bat an eye as he got the car moving again, though he did take advantage of his traumatized passenger’s gibbering incoherence to discreetly add a few thousand yen to the fare. Those repairs wouldn’t pay for themselves, after all.
Some blocks even further away, Usagi carried a sleeping Luna over one shoulder as she and Mamoru walked down the sidewalk together. They were enjoying the morning breeze, on their way to the Outers’ shared home, when they noticed a tall pretty-boy type with a haughty expression, walking along a cross street with… surely those weren’t pantyhose wrapped around his waist? The young couple exchanged disbelieving looks across Luna’s back, and by unspoken consent crossed the road to get a closer look. They caught up behind the corner, just in time to hear him ask an old man who was sweeping the sidewalk, “Hey there, old-timer, can you tell me where to find those magical girls that hang around this part of town?”
The old man said, “Magical girls? You mean the Sailor Soldiers? Well, I can certainly understand a strong young fellow like yourself wanting to find THEM. D’you know, they’re so nice to us they show everyone their panties whenever they go over?” His grin as he shared this tidbit was truly creepy. Totally oblivious to the young couple around the corner who had apparently turned to stone at his words, he continued, “I heard Mrs. Nobakogi trying to tell someone the other day it’s actually just the bottom part of their body suit, but we know the truth, don’t we! Yessir, it’s an old man’s fondest dream in life to get hold of one of those magical panties. Until then we just have to make do with snatching Mrs. Nobakogi’s when she sets the basket down on her way to the laundromat. Say, you want to see my collection? I see by your stylish waist-sash there,” here he waved at the pantyhose wrapped around the younger man’s waist, “that you’ve already started your own—” He was cut off by Pantyhose-taro’s fist bouncing off the top of his head.
“It’s NOT LIKE THAT!” the younger man protested, scowling. “I only need those panties to bribe another old pervert like you into changing the horrible name he gave me when I was born.”
“Of course, of course, you just happen to be wearing ladies’ underwear as a fashion statement TOTALLY UNRELATED to being a pervert — happens all the time.”
“So what’s this awful name of yours then, young man? If I can introduce you to the rest of us, mmm, enthusiasts for the liberation of magical underwear, I’m sure they’ll let you share in our information.”
Pantyhose-taro’s expression froze. He was having a terrible inner conflict between hiding his shameful name, and following this promising lead to finally getting the damn thing changed so he wouldn’t have to any more. Ultimately, the hope of change triumphed. “I’m named… Pantyhose-taro,” he ground out reluctantly.
The oldster’s eyes opened wide. “Wow!” he breathed reverently. “What a glorious name to have! Why would you ever want to change a name like that?”
Pantyhose-taro’s patience reached its limit, just as a blocked downspout above the two collapsed, spilling mucky water over him and triggering his curse. “MOOOOOOOO!” he roared at the unsympathetic heavens, the eel and the giant octopus tentacles on his towering form’s back thrashing in angsty rage.
“Gosh, a genuine tentacle monster! Yes, young fellow, you’ll fit in perfectly. Right this way!”
The cursed Chinese fighter blinked, so surprised that the flame of his anger guttered out. Okay, that was different. What’s a “tentacle monster,” anyway? He’d always thought he was pretty unique, and yet here was this annoying old fossil, acting as though things that looked like his cursed form were common enough to sort into categories… Shrugging his huge Yeti shoulders, he followed the elated old pervert as the man skipped merrily away around the corner, heading back past Usagi and Mamoru.
Behind him, unnoticed, the hitherto happy couple exchanged shocked looks over the faintly snoring Moon Cat. After some discussion, Usagi continued on to the Outers’ house with this latest intelligence and the still-asleep Luna, while Mamoru found a concealed spot in which to become Tuxedo Mask and swiftly followed the pair of panty-seeking perverts. Whatever mischief those two ultimately got up to, it couldn’t possibly be helpful.
Back at the Tendo home, Happosai was still waiting on Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka. The old pervert’s patience had run out some time ago, but with Genma and Soun out looking for Ranma with the others, there was nothing handy for him to vent his frustrations on except his precious collection, which was hardly a realistic option. He couldn’t even go check out the neighbours’ clotheslines for new silken treasures to liberate, in case the dratted spirit escaped its contract while he was distracted. Sometimes it sucked being such a responsible adult.
Despite the fact that it was not currently manifested anywhere and therefore had no body to do it with, Bnirflad the Murphy’s Law Gremlin fell over laughing. Happosai possessed better entertainment value than a misplaced chimpanzee, at least to an entity that by nature read the minds of whomever it was observing, the better to inflict maximum irony on its victims.
The succinubus itself, meanwhile, was searching through Cologne’s private storeroom, in the cellars of the Cat Café. Getting in hadn’t been a problem — neither succubi nor incubi had ever paid much attention to unwarded walls or doors, usually travelling relative to energy flows and other beings rather than to the unliving background of physical reality, which they tended not to notice. Cologne’s storeroom had been warded, so Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka had had to enter through the ceiling, but that hadn’t really made much difference to the twofold lust spirit.
“Aha!” it chorused with glee, holding up a small hardwood cask filled with something that sloshed. Faded Chinese characters on the lid could just be made out in the dim light of the storeroom. Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka tittered giddily, somehow tucked the cask out of sight despite the fact that the succinubus was totally nude, and left the same way it had come.
A few minutes later, it drifted into Happosai’s musty room. The shrivelled old lecher perked up on seeing it, but quickly lapsed into a sulky frown when he saw it wasn’t apparently carrying anything.
“What happened?” he demanded of it, petulantly. “You were gone for hours!”
“We’re very sorry, O Dreaded Master, but the parties you had us seek were protected by very powerful magic which we were unable to overcome,” it droned, in tones which somehow contrived to be simultaneously discordant and disinterested.
Happosai looked surprised. “Even the boy?” he asked. “Why would he have been covered?”
Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka bowed its head contritely. “We don’t know, Master. Maybe he was with the magical girls you described? Finding him would then have found them, and there was some fearsome protection against that eventuality…” It shuddered slightly in remembrance.
“Hmm.” Happosai, his incipient tantrum forgotten, turned this over in his mind for a few minutes, before shrugging and deciding to give the dratted spirit a task it could actually DO this time. “All right then, since you couldn’t do what I wanted before, to pay me for those irreplaceable girl-scented treasures the summoning spell ate, I want you … to … um. No, that wouldn’t work… or… nah. How about… No, maybe not. Ah! I know!” He put one foot atop a heap of bras and raised his arm in a heroic pose, as he relayed the final results of his genius to the waiting succinubus. “Find for me the woman with the biggest natural bosom on Earth, and bring me all her lingerie, especially what she’s wearing!” he finished triumphantly.
Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka took on a thoughtful expression, insofar as Happosai could determine amidst its surfeit of facial features, and was motionless for a few minutes. “Yeah, that one could work,” it concluded finally. “Looking at all the women in the world should only take us about 200 years or so, too!” it added, smiling serenely with one set of facial features and with vacant cheerfulness with the other. Since the two sets of features were all jumbled together on its single face, this was a bit disconcerting.
Happosai did a double take. “Come again?”
“We met our half of the deal to the best of our ability — we brought back intelligence on your targets, even if we weren’t able to grab the targets themselves. According to the terms of the magical contract, you are now obligated to provide us with ‘someone who is of both genders in one body’ as payment.”
“Now hold on just a—”
“And, seeing as you’ve mislaid the only one of those you had handy and we don’t want to hang around this nuthouse any longer than we have to, we’ve decided to help you!” Both of its grins now stretched from ear to misaligned ear and looked absolutely terrifying, which was quite an achievement for mouths whose original design goal was seduction.
“Help me?” echoed the panty thief dumbly, momentarily too off-balance to act.
“Sure. Like this!” In one quick motion, Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka whipped its pilfered cask out from… somewhere… and poured the contents over Happosai’s head.
“What was that⁈” The ancient martial artist made an abortive blocking motion, but knew it was too little, too late — even as the cask gently spun around on the floor, revealing the label on the lid:
“Spring of Drowned Girl⁈” Happosai felt around her new body from both within and without, trying frantically to adjust her unaccustomed and yet horribly familiar new chi patterns into something that would help her get out of this mess. Even as she did so, she noticed that she seemed to have gotten a lot younger. Under the circumstances, this came as a decidedly mixed blessing.
She was quite correct about her partial rejuvenation, too. In a particularly cruel twist of irony, the Pools of Sorrow tended to try for the best possible result (as limited by the subject’s health and DNA) when they created their victims’ new forms — which, for those with human curses, often meant people found their cursed form more attractive than their original one. In Happosai’s case, all of this meant that he was now a moderately — very moderately — attractive thirtysomething woman, and even possessed a nearly complete head of hair. She was still absurdly short of stature, though.
Grinning hugely, the succinubus whipped out a dribbling garden hose and a king-sized steaming kettle, and got ready to pounce. “SWEETO!”
Happosai, her eyes bulging, appeared to have turned to stone. Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka paused. Something was a bit off about this…
“Heh. Nearly forgot!” With a strangely intriguing and totally indescribable shifting, the misshapen being assumed the rivetingly attractive feminine form it had inherited from the succubus Jorveyzh’ekka, so many centuries before. (Incubi and succubi are designed to be sexually irresistible, meaning they can alter their appearance at will, but it does require effort on their part. This meant that the world’s only succinubus was quite capable of spending all the feeding time it wanted in one form or the other, provided it could use both forms in succession on the same partner — or, even better, in alternation.)
After a shocked pause, Happosai reanimated and blinked a couple of times. “Eh?” That was horrible, but there’s a pretty lady there now! I must have imagined it before, right? She failed to register that the hosepipe and the kettle were still present. Of course I’m right, I’m just that amazing. Only thing missing now is some silky darlings for her! “WOOHOO!” Recovering with remarkable swiftness, her unwanted femininity temporarily forgotten even as she took full advantage of her newfound youth, she pounced at the alluring bosom in front of her, snagging some of the nicer specimens of nearby lingerie as she went.
Contrary to the usual script in these situations, she was met halfway by the succinubus’ own pounce, and they rolled into a heap of miscellaneous women’s underwear, hands and lips already busy. Within minutes, Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka’s unique pheromones and Happosai’s rejuvenated horniness had combined to so thoroughly seduce the ancient Grandmaster that, after half an hour, (s)he was lost in shared pleasure and was no longer registering what form either of them was in.
They were busy for a long time — the succinubus had been starving, and even at his/her age, Happosai had chi to burn and a martial artist’s stamina.
Back in the guest room at the Outers’ house, Hotaru, Michiru, Haruka, Ranma, and Ami were sitting in a row on the edge of Ranma’s bed, talking about his racy dream. The conversation was conducted with a great deal of blushing and embarrassment all around; the four powered-down Pretty Soldiers liked Ranma, but had only known him less than a day, and two of them had never expected to have a conversation like this with any sort of male, even if he was sometimes a she.
“I know you all keep telling me it is, but… how can anything so gross and messy possibly be normal?” Ranma asked plaintively. The girls looked at each other, silently begging one another to answer so they wouldn’t have to.
After an awkward moment, Michiru spoke up, her blush renewed. “It happens to everyone, Ranma-san,” she began tentatively. The impersonal honorific helped her keep calm. “Girls, boys, anyone who gets old enough to hit puberty.”
“It’s true,” agreed Ami, trying hard to pretend she was a real doctor in order to forestall seriously freaking out. “It’s actually a good sign — it means your, uh, parts are all working properly.” She paused, her brow creasing, as something occurred to her. “Um, at least I think so — now I come to think of it, you’ve told us how embarrassing it was, but that’s all. Dreams like that are also supposed to include an, um, o-orgasm… ah, er, didn’t yours?” She cleared her throat nervously.
Ranma froze, blushing almost purple. “Eeep!” He looked at the way the four girls were all staring at him with wide, expectant eyes and a matching quartet of nuclear blushes, and tried to shrink into his shirt. “W-well… yeah,” he choked out, “but I, um, uhh… Isn’t that, like, really bad and perverted?” He looked down at his hands, not wanting to see the expressions of distaste he expected them to have while talking about what, in his mind, was truly gross, disgusting and crude behaviour. After all, the only other people he’d ever heard discussing this sort of thing were Hiroshi and Daisuke, in the locker room at school, and just look what everyone thought of them!
Haruka, in fact, did look appalled, but she was upset with the people who had conditioned Ranma to think that way about part of himself, not with him for being “disgusting.” “Of course it isn’t!” she declared firmly. “Everyone who’s hit puberty is supposed to get those too, though I understand some unlucky girls have trouble in that area.”
Ranma blinked, looking up at her in wide-eyed amazement. “Really⁈ You mean you’ve had one too?” he blurted innocently. The girls all choked up and stopped moving for an instant, as did Ranma when he realized what he’d just said.
Michiru spluttered for a brief moment, then dissolved into a helpless fit of rogue giggles as she glanced sidelong at her lover, Haruka.
Hotaru hid her face in her hands, and wished she’d had the sense to leave earlier — doing it now would draw the others’ attention, and she wasn’t sure she’d survive the embarrassment. On the other hand, she didn’t see how she could possibly get any MORE embarrassed… Nah, best not to risk finding out. It didn’t help any that she was getting very hot and bothered from the explicit subject matter, and in the manner of all shy youngsters who are new to the whole “horniness” thing, she was reluctant to move very much because of the embarrassing stimulation from her clothes that would result.
Haruka, of course, just gave a knowing smirk with one eyebrow raised, and asked Ranma, “Well, now, wouldn’t you like to know?”
Michiru snapped out of her giggle fit and swatted Haruka on the elbow. “Play nice, or no ‘games’ later on!” she ordered, with mock sternness.
“Okay, okay, keep your hair on! Yes, Ranma, Michiru and I have given one another lots of lovely orgasms, and I’m sure Ami knows all about them too.”
On Ranma’s other side, Ami squeaked faintly and tried desperately to pretend Haruka hadn’t just said that. I’m too shy for this! she thought. What if he asks me about it directly? NOOOOO‼‼ I’m too young to die of embarrassment!
Ranma himself blurted out, “What about Hotaru-chan? She’s old enough, isn’t she?” before he could stop himself.
Haruka turned to stone beside him, Michiru immediately entered brainlock with her eyes and mouth jammed wide open, and Hotaru found out — to her horror — that she COULD, in fact, get more embarrassed. Lacking any immediate means of escape, she nodded a very timid affirmative to Ranma, before latching onto Michiru’s shirt and hiding her face in the older girl’s back.
Ami, who was quietly losing all hope of regaining her composure, sought desperately for something to say to relieve the awkward silence that had fallen. Unfortunately, she uncharacteristically blurted out the first thing that came to mind, in tones of astonished disbelief — which was, in its entirety, “That wasn’t your first ever orgasm, was it, Ranma?”
“Um. Maybe?” Ranma wasn’t sure whether it would be worse to answer “yes”, or to lie by denying it. Truth be known, he hadn’t even been sure what an orgasm was, until the unambiguous references in the current conversation to what he’d experienced overnight.
The awkward silence got even heavier.
“…Guh?” asked Haruka dazedly, beginning to recover.
By this point, Ami was far beyond help. “But, but, doesn’t it work properly when you masturbate⁈” she asked, more than a little desperately. An expression of absolute denial that she could have just said such a thing settled onto her face, and it was her turn to enter brainlock.
Ranma looked blankly at her and, seeing she was temporarily unavailable, asked Haruka and Michiru instead: “What does ‘masherbake’ mean?”
Downstairs at the Tendos’ place, Kasumi was having trouble focusing on her housework. Something about the house’s ambient chi patterns, the “wa” (overall aura) of the place, had changed fairly significantly. There was a lot more chi flowing around than usual, and most of it seemed to be rather… charged, to put it mildly. Erotically so, in point of fact (Kasumi blushed). Oh, was it ever!
Shrugging, she decided it wasn’t really that surprising, considering whose room the disturbance appeared to be coming from. She was a bit puzzled by the moans of ecstasy, though. Where had Happosai managed to find a woman who would so much as let him come near her, much less make love to her? She blinked in disbelief, and a near-terminal dose of bewilderment, as a second voice replaced the first. TWO women moaning joyously in the old man’s room made even less sense than ONE did, but for obvious reasons, Kasumi was hardly about to go in and investigate.
Understandably, the thought that Happosai might be one of the ecstatic women never occurred to her, which was fortunate for the long-deceased tatters of the old goat’s dignity, if nothing else.
A kilometre or so away from the Outers’ home, Rei was headed over for the meeting just like the other Pretty Soldiers, but she was making slower progress than anyone else because she was keeping a sharp eye out for signs of Hiccup Imp infestation. She was beginning to doubt her conclusion that the Imp was what Phobos and Deimos had warned her about, as she had not seen any further signs of it manifesting, at least thus far. Without really paying the thought much heed, she reflected that it seemed to be harder to spot things like that these days; it was like there was, somehow, more “interference” — background noise — around than there had been several years before, when as a child she first learned to see beyond the mundane physical layer of reality.
She stopped again at a street corner, under a huge old tree. Something had caught her attention, but what? She absently noted that the tree seemed unusually strong in chi, for something that wasn’t particularly venerated or otherwise focussed upon. Ah, there it is! she thought with satisfaction. The tree had a very minor kami, in Western terms a genius loci, living amongst its roots and branches. With a preoccupied air, she bobbed a brief courtesy bow towards it and continued on her way, trying vaguely to remember the last time she’d seen one that didn’t live in a shrine or sacred grove.
After a moment, she was struck by the realization that she hadn’t. Ever! Her brow creased in puzzlement as she turned this over in her mind, trying to match it up somehow with that blasted Hiccup Imp’s earlier appearance at the shrine. She couldn’t see any connection, but somehow she was sure there was something significant in the fact that she’d encountered two unusual instances of the supernatural in as many hours. Hmmm… come to think of it, there’s some kind of trend there, she decided. The further back she plumbed her memories, the fewer supernatural entities she could remember seeing around. She had to wonder — had she simply got better at noticing the things as time went on, or were they really becoming more common?
She resolved to ask Ami about it as soon as she arrived, and increased her pace. She wasn’t sure it was relevant, but she knew from the ravens that something weird was going on, and she didn’t want to risk missing it.
Back at the Minato Zoo, Kuno Tatewaki was encountering something of a problem with reality. He stood at the break in the hedge where two paths met and stared in disbelief at the crowd in front of him… every single member of which, without exception, possessed a head of vividly and unambiguously red hair. “Pig… tailed… Girl?” he mumbled weakly, trying to search for a familiar face in the sea of unfamiliar peasants. Since he’d always tended to focus more on girl-Ranma’s hair and effortlessly sexy curviness, which was part of the reason he’d never noticed Ranma’s face didn’t change much between forms, he was having difficulties.
“I SHALL TRIUMPH THIS TI— what in the…!” Kodachi stumbled to a halt behind her brother, momentarily speechless. “What is the meaning of this⁈” she snapped after recovering, irritated at herself for gaping like a commoner.
“I do not know!” replied Tatewaki, with unusual directness. “I see a few people with pigtails, but none of them is the right one…” He was having real trouble making any kind of sense of this.
Neither of them noticed a banner hung over a nearby decorative gate. It read:
WELCOME INTERNATIONAL MEMBERS
East Asian Chapter, Local 14
Sherlock Holmes luncheon located in the Garden Pavilion
Tuxedo Mask lurked behind a chimney, and watched as his quarry stopped at the front door of a mid-sized prewar home across the street. Small details of its construction, and the nature of the surrounding neighbourhood, led him to guess that the building was divided into small apartments within, and that those apartments were probably lived in by retirees. After a few minutes of gesticulation on the front step, the old man disappeared alone into the building, returning after a few minutes with a bucket of hot water and a large number of other old men. They all watched with interest as the huge, betentacled Yeti-bull hybrid with absurdly undersized wings poured the bucket over its head, reverting to a nude young man. The old perverts grumbled disgustedly and hurriedly turned away, allowing Pantyhose-taro to dress himself, and then the whole group went inside again. Tuxedo Mask quickly noted down the address, date and time for Sailor Pluto to investigate, and after a few minutes of nothing more happening, turned to leave.
Neither the old men and Pantyhose-taro nor their tuxedo-clad observer across the street noticed the curtains twitching in the house next door, which was probably just as well. Sailor Moon and her husband had been disturbed enough to learn there was a group of dirty old men after her underwear… they really didn’t need to know that a parallel group of dirty old women was plotting to get his undies as well.
Meanwhile, despite near-crippling levels of embarrassment, the four girls on Ranma’s bed had managed to explain the more important concepts behind masturbation to him.
“…So you see, Ranma, almost everyone does it at least a little. It doesn’t make you a pervert unless you start doing it in public, okay?” Haruka was blushing so hard she thought her face would catch fire. Over the years of her posing as a male, she’d cracked her share of bawdy jokes with the guys at the racetrack, but Ranma was so much more… well, hardly innocent, but disarmingly naïve — and Hotaru was old enough now that she needed to hear it too. Her own daughter! No car race was ever this hard.
Ranma looked a bit shell-shocked as he tried to assimilate what he’d just learned. After a few minutes, logical connections started to be made in his mind, and he got even redder, looking out the corners of his eyes at the girls on either side of him. He tried to speak, but ended up with a minor coughing fit instead.
“What is it, Ranma-san?” asked Ami cautiously. She was sure she couldn’t take much more of this level of embarrassment. At least she’d outgrown the hives this type of thing used to bring her out in.
“I, um, doesthatmeanYOUalldoittoo?” he blurted nervously.
Michiru had by this point passed through “embarrassed” and emerged in some outwardly relaxed state on the other side, her mind shielding itself through an unbreakable conviction that This Conversation Was Not Happening And She Therefore Did Not Need To Worry About It. “We sure do!” she answered cheerfully. “Sometimes Haruka and I help each other, too. That’s part of being lovers,” she added with a Mona Lisa smile. Haruka gave her a surprised look, not expecting her always elegant girlfriend to speak so bluntly about this sort of thing, especially when she’d been so flustered by it earlier.
Hotaru, still too embarrassed to get up and flee, tried to plug her ears with her fingers. This was way too much information about her adoptive parents.
Ranma froze, flushing so darkly now that his face turned almost black. “Erp!”
Michiru looked quizzically at him. “What’s wrong?”
He twitched in place, seemingly too embarrassed to move. Finally, Haruka took pity and said, “How ’bout you whisper it in my ear? That way you don’t need to say it out loud.” She leaned down and listened patiently to his awkward mumbling. “Ah, well, that’s normal too,” she said carefully. “You’re 17 and male — almost ANYTHING involving girls and their ‘parts’ should get you, ah, excited like that.”
Ranma looked hopeful but skeptical. How could anything like this be acceptable? Most of his fiancées would have booted him through the ceiling for being a pervert on much slighter provocation. The alternative was possibly even more disturbing; Shampoo, for instance, would have looked at him the way he tended to look at large amounts of free food, and probably followed it up with getting entirely too close to him. There’s that “personal space” stuff again, he thought fleetingly.
“Oh, so that’s what you’re having trouble with!” said Michiru with a brilliant smile, still in heavy denial that any of this was really happening. It was strangely liberating. The smile turned a bit naughty. “How do you feel about THIS, then?” she asked, sweeping a startled but pleased Haruka into a toe-curling kiss. The two were lost to the others for almost a full minute — the conversation, while downright mortifying to participate in, had gotten all five of them pretty turned on. When they eventually surfaced, they found Hotaru and Ami staring in puzzlement at the hunched-over form of Ranma, who had gone deathly pale.
“What happened?” asked Haruka, surprised.
“I, I’m not sure!” stammered Ami. “I tried to put a hand on his shoulder to steady him, but he just got worse!”
“Again! It happened again!” choked out Ranma, hunched over his lap and staring in fascinated horror at the floor. “Twice! Now my boxers are all goopy!” They would HAVE to call him a pervert now. He felt so dirty. It hadn’t helped when Ami had touched his shoulder; she was pretty in her own right, and her short blue hair reminded him of Akane.
“Eeep!” squeaked Ami, realizing after a moment why he must have twitched so hard when she touched him. Still, somewhere under the miles-deep flood of embarrassed chagrin, she felt oddly proud of being able to make a good-looking boy react like that. This thought was immediately dog-piled by her subconscious before she really became aware of it.
“Oh, is that all? Sounds normal enough to me!” said Michiru happily, smiling broadly at nothing in particular. None of that inconvenient “reality” stuff in here, no sirree.
Seeing that everyone else was having a bit of trouble coping with this latest incident, Haruka sighed and took over the discussion. “I guess you’re still a bit easily excited, what with you being new to all this and so on. You’ll probably get less hair-triggered over the next little while, as you get used to it all. I think we’ve covered all the stuff that needed covering — why don’t you go have a shower to clean up?”
Ami dragged her thoughts back into some kind of order and confirmed Haruka’s suppositions. “Yes, your ‘parts’ are definitely working properly in your boy form, at least,” she agreed. “While you’re in there, you should probably try to reach an,” she coughed nervously, “orgasm in your girl form as well, just to make sure.”
“Just make sure you clean that stuff off before you turn girl, otherwise you might get yourself pregnant!” Michiru chimed in cheerfully — by this point, she was feeling very lightheaded.
Hotaru, Ranma and Ami all went bug-eyed and proceeded to pass out, having received one shocking idea too many for the day.
“Nice one, love — I think you broke them,” observed Haruka with some surprise. She wouldn’t have thought it was actually possible to knock someone out through embarrassment. “…Love?” She looked back at the unexpectedly silent Michiru and discovered that her lover had finally gotten lightheaded enough to lose consciousness herself, so she was no longer with them either. “I see,” she sighed, and began to move her limp companions to more comfortable positions on Ranma’s borrowed bed.
Back at the zoo, the situation was deteriorating. Tatewaki had had, for lack of a more accurate term, a brainwave. He may not have been certain precisely what his Pig-Tailed Goddess’ face looked like, but he knew exactly what her glorious bosom felt like! Hadn’t he enfolded her in his manly arms on so wonderfully many joyous occasions? The fact that she always screamed and smashed him across town right afterwards was surely just her way of playing hard to get.
Suiting action to thought, he immediately began seeking out and embracing teenaged, redheaded girls of approximately the right height. “Oh, my poor pig-tailed girl! When did your lovely breasts shrink so?”
“EEEEK! HEEELP! YOU SICKO!” WHAM!
Kodachi looked on in disbelief, and smacked her face into her palm. “I’m not going NEAR this one,” she growled, showing unexpected good sense, and immediately left the area.
Meanwhile, due to concussed double vision, Tatewaki had accidentally grabbed a large, burly man, and was being beaten violently into the ground by him and everyone else who’d seen the Kuno scion in action. The lone zookeeper on scene decided the “indiscriminate molester” was only getting his just desserts, and calmly walked away to call for security.
END PART SIX
Latest revision as of Sat. 2008/04/19
Thanks are due to my most excellent wife for her help with supporting characters, such as the God of Perversion, the Cosmic Justice Gnome (neither of those yet shown), and the Hiccup Imp. Oh, and the “No corpse, no foul” line, too.
The concept of Ranma’s own semen getting her pregnant, however astronomically improbable such an event would be given the way I’ve used the idea here, is lifted straight from a classic Ranma ½ fic by Gary Kleppe. It had the rather improbably overextended name of Hearts and Minds: Prelude Ten: Saotome Ranma: Lili’s Child, and even after all these years, it can still be found on the author’s website at 〈http://www.garykleppe.org/ comics.html〉.