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Femslash February Collection

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Playing Fair

(Day 1: Attractive)

One of the things that Shinobu could reliably opine on regarding Ryuunosuke Fujinami was that she didn’t play fair.

For the longest time, Shinobu had only seen Ryuunosuke in her usual school uniform, or cut-off jean shorts and a T-shirt. Occasionally she’d be in a nice suit, like the one she wore for their date, or the one she wore during Christmas at the Mendou mansion.

But this was something completely different, to be seeing Ryuunosuke wearing a dress and makeup. She wore that ridiculous Victorian-style dress that Onsen-Mark put her in, the one that looked like something out from an old Hollywood musical. It probably was, since she remembered hearing about Onsen-Mark raiding the drama department. She even had an umbrella and a beautiful hat, too! And a pair of white boots with a low heel and pointed toe, which Shinobu could only figure was Ryuunosuke’s limit on feminine accoutrements.

Shinobu had gone for a nice dark blue dress, cut low on the shoulder, but had long sleeves to compensate, and a pleated skirt that fanned out over her legs, along with dark blue high heels. Her hair was held back by her ear with a blue hairclip, studded with pink pearls, and a broad blue choker hugged her throat.

Shinobu thought that her outfit would be classy and elegant enough to make her standout, to see the beauty beneath the plain old schoolgirl everyone thought she was. But next to Ryuunosuke, she feared that she was already being overshadowed.

Ryuunosuke caught her eye, and she turned to smile at her. “Shinobu!” She rushed over, and Shinobu’s heart started to race. She couldn’t stand next to her! Not here! She could end up drawing away all of the attention of the boys!

But Ryuunosuke was already right in front of her before she could even do anything, a fond smile on her pink-painted lips. “Where’ve you been, Shinobu?!” Ryuunosuke’s voice still sounded so boyish, even as she was dressed so beautifully. “I’ve been waiting ages for you! I thought you weren’t gonna make it!”

Shinobu felt a funny feeling in her chest as she gazed into Ryuunosuke’s eyes. It felt like it did when she first saw Mendou coming down from his heavy bomber, on his first day at Tomobiki. That shining beauty, radiating from her smile, that would enrapture all those it shined on.

It wasn’t the first time that Shinobu had realised that she found Ryuunosuke hot, but those times was when Ryuunosuke was wearing boys clothes. She was dead certain that Ryuunosuke could never produce the same effect again in a dress. But now, Ryuunosuke had proved her wrong.

Later, Onsen-Mark would take Ryuunosuke to a wrestling show. Shinobu found herself tagging along, mostly because she wanted to watch over Ryuunosuke and make sure that nothing had gone wrong. Predictably, it did: Ryuunosuke’s dress got shredded to pieces, and everything ended in a big brawl.

By the end of everything, Ryuunosuke was left only wearing rags, her makeup was smeared, and she looked less like the beauty that she had seen a couple of hours before. And even then, Shinobu couldn’t stop staring at her, and couldn’t get the bubbling heat in her chest to go away every time she looked at her.

Shinobu found it all incredibly frustrating, and the worst part of it was that she was sure that she could ever settle it.

Onsen-Mark was lost in the chaos, leaving Ryuunosuke to walk home by herself. Shinobu wouldn’t hear of it, however. She didn’t want Ryuunosuke to get into any trouble, or run into any unsavoury people in the street, especially her father.

So it was that the two ended up walking back to school together, Shinobu’s black coat wrapped around Ryuunosuke’s bare shoulders. But Shinobu could tell that Ryuunosuke was clutching the coat around herself because of something other than the chill.

“It wasn’t fair…”

Shinobu turned to look at Ryuunosuke, “What is?”

Ryuunosuke looked back at her balefully. “Just tonight. I thought that I could had finally figured out how to be a proper girl, and then everything gets ruined.” Her face turned forlorn. “I don’t think I can ever get a chance like this again.”

Shinobu gazed at Ryuunosuke for a moment, before sidling over and hugging her gently. “You’ll always have a chance. Don’t worry about it. Being a woman takes more than just a pretty dress and makeup.”

Ryuunosuke froze in her arms, her eyes wide with surprise. She stood there, stock still, long enough for Shinobu to worry that maybe she overstepped her boundaries, before she carefully hugged back.

“Hey,” Ryuunosuke asked, a moment later. “Did you think that I was pretty back there?”

Shinobu smiled, letting the warmth in her chest overtake her. “I thought you were the most beautiful girl in the world…”

Chapter Text

Safe From Nightmares

(Day 2: Fear)

In the middle of the night, Shinobu was stirred from her sleep by the sound of distress. She turned her head towards the source of the sound, looking towards the futon beside her bed.

Ryuunosuke was thrashing about in bed, face drenched with sweat, murmuring sounds of distress: sure signs that she was currently in the middle of another nightmare. Probably something involving her father, as always. It was pretty rare that Ryuunosuke had nightmares since she started living at the Miyake household. But when she did, they were the kind of horrible experience that stays with her for the rest of the day, at the very least.

Shinobu knew that she could help a little bit, but their current living situation of Ryuunosuke living in the Miyake family household made everything slightly awkward. She would’ve liked to have slept together with Ryuunosuke until morning, to make sure that the nightmares wouldn’t come, but she knew that her mother would get rather upset if she came in the next morning and found them snuggled together in bed. It took ages before Shinobu’s parents agreed for Ryuunosuke to share a room with Shinobu, even though they knew she was a girl right off the bat.

Shinobu slipped out of her bed, grabbing the empty glass resting on her beside table. As quietly as she could, she made a beeline for the kitchen, towards the sink. She turned on the tap, and washed the glass under a steady stream of hot water, as thoroughly as she could before the water turned too hot for her hands. As soon as the glass was as clean as she could tell, she turned off the hot water, shook off any stray droplets, filled the glass with cold water and crept back up the stairs to her room.

When she stepped inside her bedroom once more, Ryuunosuke was already sitting upright in bed, breathing heavily. Shinobu couldn’t help but feel glad that Ryuunosuke was already awake, giving her the opportunity to chase the remains of the nightmare away. “Ryuunosuke-kun? Are you alright?”

Ryuunosuke took several deep breaths before turning to look at Shinobu. “Y-yeah… I’m fine.” She gripped the comforter between her hands, her knuckles turning white.

“Another nightmare?” Shinobu asked softly, kneeling down beside Ryuunosuke. “Did you dream about your father again?” She held out the water towards Ryuunosuke, offering it to her. “Don’t worry, he’s miles away by now. He won’t hurt you anymore.”

Ryuunosuke took the water gratefully, and drunk it all in one gulp. “I know that, Shinobu. It’s just that…” She sucked in another breath through her teeth. “Sometimes I go to sleep, and I end up seeing that face looking at me.” She shuddered deeply. “He’s just there, everywhere I turn. No matter how far I run, I turn another corner and he’s there, and he’s shouting at me, and he’s always there…”

Shinobu shuffled forward, placing her hand on Ryuunosuke’s arm. “But he isn’t there anymore, Ryuunosuke. He’s gone now! He can’t…” But the end of the sentence died on her lips at Ryuunosuke’s haunted eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said softly, “I forget sometimes…”

Ryuunosuke reached around Shinobu’s shoulders to pull her closer. “I know. You couldn’t understand. Even if I really wish you could.” She rested her head gently on Shinobu’s shoulder. “I just wish that the nightmares would just go away.”

Suddenly, Shinobu moved, and Ryuunosuke squeaked as she fell over, her head landing in Shinobu’s lap. Ryuunosuke found herself staring up at Shinobu smiling down at her in that infuriatingly sweet way that made her heart melt. Meanwhile, Shinobu had already wrapped her arms around Ryuunosuke’s shoulders, a soft hand reaching up to thread fingers through her hair.

“Could I chase the nightmares away for you, then?” She asked, in the softest, most loving voice she could muster.

Ryuunosuke was silent as Shinobu ran her fingers through her short black hair. “Shinobu? What’s going on?” The feeling of those fingertips sent chills through her spine with every movement, soft, slow and deliberate. Ryuunosuke could feel herself turning to jelly with every stroke of Shinobu’s fingers.

“How does that feel, Ryuunosuke-kun?” Shinobu said, her voice quiet. “Are you feeling better already?”

“Y-yeah…” Ryuunosuke’s blush was practically visible, even in the dim light of the moon and the lamps outside. “I guess so…” She turned her head in, settling into the valley made from Shinobu’s lap. It wasn’t long before her eyelids were heavy once more, and she slipped off into a thankfully dreamless sleep.

Shinobu smiled down at Ryuunosuke as she went back to sleep, and eased her gently off of her lap, back onto her pillow. She drew the covers over her gently, and crawled back into her bed.

As Shinobu went back to sleep, Ryuunosuke slumbered on. She didn’t wake up again until the first light of day.

Chapter Text

Around and Around

(Day 3: Carousel)

Night had fallen on the amusement park, leaving it to be bathed in the light of electric bulbs and neon tubes of many colours. In the encroaching darkness of dusk, everything took on colours that they lacked in the light of day.

Not just places and the things within of course; Shinobu’s bright white dress turned from shade to shade as she and Ryuunosuke walked through the attractions. But even as the colours of the dress changed, the girl wearing it never seemed to stop sparkling.

Ryuunosuke was just wearing her usual shorts and T-shirt, and the contrast made her feel plain in comparison. But that didn’t really matter to her; she never liked being the one to stand out. Shinobu, on the other hand, liked to stand out every once in a while.

Shinobu twirled around to face Ryuunosuke, the neon light from a nearby waltzer colouring her a deep blue. She shimmied back and forth as she walked backwards, facing Ryuunosuke, making the edges of her skirt move around her legs in hypnotising waves. Ryuunosuke was having a hard time trying to keep her eyes off that skirt.

But then something caught her eye, in the distance behind Shinobu: a giant carousel bathed in golden light, painted in red and gold, twirling around to the sound of its organ. Ryuunosuke was transfixed by the sight: she had never seen anything of the such up close before. She’d seen carousels before, but only in the distance from her father’s Hamachaya.

Shinobu noticed Ryuunosuke’s expression, and looked over at the carousel. When she looked back at her, there was a broad smile on her face. “You want to ride?”

Ryuunosuke nodded, and together the two made a beeline for the carousel. As they got closer, the carousel loomed large above them. The music of the fairground organ was almost deafening as it played music that sounded familiar, but which neither of them could place. Music that sounded older than the both of them, but so universal that it felt like they heard it so many times before.

As the carousel stopped and the riders got off, Shinobu hurried on, tugged Ryuunosuke on with her. Paying the tout with two shiny hundred-yen coins, she led Ryuunosuke around the side of the carousel, looking for a suitable animal to ride on. It wasn’t long before they found something suitable, a majestic-looking horse of wood that was painted in shades of white and pink.

Shinobu quickly mounted the horse, sitting side-saddle. Ryuunosuke got on behind her, shifting slightly so Shinobu could arrange herself in a more comfortable position. Ryuunosuke gripped the golden pole tightly, and wound her other arm around Shinobu’s waist, a hand on her side to keep her supported against her.

The carousel started to move once more as the two girls got settled in, their steed starting to rise upwards on the pole. Shinobu giggled a little as Ryuunosuke gripped her tightly, her fingers tickling lightly against her side.

The world revolved around them as the music played on, the carousel picking up more speed. The two held to each other tightly, Shinobu pressing her head against Ryuunosuke’s bound chest and snaking her arm around to grab the back of her shirt. Shinobu could hear Ryuunosuke’s heart beating in time with the beat of the music, and felt herself melt inside.

Ryuunosuke gazed down at Shinobu, pressed tightly against her body, her eyes closed. The warm wind that blew past them ruffled Shinobu’s bangs. For Ryuunosuke, it was a moment that strongly reminded her of how beauitful Shinobu really was.

Ryuunosuke leaned forward and kissed Shinobu lightly on the lips as the music continued to play on. Shinobu smiled once more, and leaned up to kiss back, before settling herself back against her chest once more. After that, Ryuunosuke couldn’t help but smile all the way through the rest of the carousel ride. She was rather disappointed that the carousel eventually came to a stop.

As they disembarked, Shinobu leaned on Ryuunosuke’s side, an arm around her waist in order to keep her supported as they walked away together. Ryuunosuke was still grinning a little as they turned to walk away.

Behind them, one of the operators gave them a wave. “You two lovebirds have a good night!” Ryuunosuke looked back in surprise, partly at being referred to as a lovebird, but just gave the man a silent nod.

Then the two girls walked off, in search of another attraction that might catch their interest.

Chapter Text

Bon Odori

(Day 4: Lights)

The wooden tower stood high in the park, illuminated with both bright fluorescent lights as well as strings of colourful electric lanterns that hung off of its frame. On top of the tower were a pair of taiko drummers, readying up for the music to start playing. On the deck below were a small group of musicians and singers, gathered around to begin the Bon Odori.

Ryuunosuke moved through the crowd forming around the tower, being dragged along by Shinobu’s insistent grip on her hand. The two had managed to sneak away from the Hamachaya stall her father had set up for just a minute, which was surprisingly easy as the Hamachaya wasn’t getting many customers anyway. Ryuunosuke figured that the people were probably scared off by her father’s aggressive approach to touting.

Shinobu was beautiful tonight, as she usually was. She wore a pastel pink yukata with designs of sakura branches printed on it, which reminded Ryuunosuke of their date together at Mendou’s blossom viewing party a while ago. But now the blossoms are gone, and the light chill of spring was replaced with the humid heat of mid-summer. Ryuunosuke felt somewhat dull next to Shinobu, wearing just a T-shirt and shorts, especially all amongst all of the girls and women who were also wearing the prettiest yukata she had ever seen.

Ryuunosuke knew about the Bon Odori, and even dreamed of taking part, but her father always said no. He thought that dancing in general was incredibly unmanly and that no real man would ever want to dance. All of the men that did dance in the Bon Odori, according to him, were talked into it by their wives and girlfriends, or men desperate to find a woman.

Of course, Ryuunosuke was a girl, not a man; in her mind, she was perfectly capable of dancing the Bon Odori, even if what her old man said was true. Whenever she and her father were working at a Bon festival, she would watch the dancing out of the corner of her eye as she worked. She didn’t dare to try and do the dances herself, though. She could only dream of how her father might react to seeing that.

But now, as she and Shinobu moved into a spot next to each other in the circle of people surrounding the tower, Ryuunosuke knew that this would be her chance to do the dance for real. She looked over at Shinobu straightening her yukata briefly, and gave her a fond smile. She couldn’t think of anyone else she would want to dance with other than her.

The first song was announced, “Tokyo Ondo”, as the song began. Almost immediately, the dancing began. Ryuunosuke inwardly sighed with relief as she followed the dance steps, thankful that they had started with a familiar song. Even so, she couldn’t help but notice that the dance looked kind of awkward as she did it; like she was trying to do karate moves in the middle of that circle. Nobody seemed to notice, though: maybe they were all to busy dancing to care.

Ryuunosuke still felt out of sync, however. She was following the moves of the dancers around her, not doing the moves herself. But when the song ended, and everyone applauded, she was surprised to hear Shinobu pipe up next to her, “was that your first dance? You did so well!”

Ryuunosuke looked at Shinobu in surprise. “You really think so? I thought I kept screwing up…” She could feel a warmth rise in her chest as Shinobu smiled at her in response.

“For your first Bon Odori, you did really well.” Shinobu said brightly. “We should keep on dancing, then you can get the hang of it for sure!” She looked up as the next song was announced from the tower. “Oh, this is a good one” She looked over at Ryuunosuke. “Just follow my lead, okay? This one is pretty easy to pick up!”

Ryuunosuke nodded hesitantly, but joined in with the dancing. She made sure to follow Shinobu’s moves, quickly getting the hang of how the dance should go. The two of them danced on, moving in the circle, around and around the tower, regardless of the heat, and of their troubles. They could just dance on.

At the end of the song, Shinobu was sweating from the heat and the exertion, but she was still smiling bright. Her face was glowing from the light of the electric lanterns over their heads. Ryuunosuke couldn’t help but smile back.

Chapter Text

Droplets

(Day 5: Pool)

Shinobu wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but she loved to swim. And when she was underwater and everything was coloured that shade of blue, she could feel somewhat at peace. Of course, it was hard to do something like that at the school pool, but she always savoured the times when she could dive below.

Shinobu rose above the waterline, looking around the pool. Everyone around her were enjoying themselves, but she couldn’t help but notice the one person who wasn’t. Ryuunosuke was sitting at the poolside, her obnoxious father standing guard over her. Ryuunosuke was looking at the swimmers in the pool with no small amount of jealousy in her eyes; of course she would be the only one force to sit aside during swimming, because of her father’s stupid demands on her choice of clothing.

Shinobu gave Ryuunosuke a sympathetic look, and swam on. Her heart ached for the girl, constantly forced by the wayside or dragged away by her controlling father. The old man never failed to make her sick to her stomach.

But partway through another lap, she looked to see Ryuunosuke arguing with her father again, looking pretty close to coming to blows. Shinobu could only sigh inwardly with resignation, but still kept a close eye on Ryuunosuke, waiting for the eventual coming to blows.

It did come, but from an unexpected source: Ataru and Megane snuck up behind Ryuunosuke’s father and shoved him into the pool. But their crows of victory could only last for a second before the man suddenly sprang out again and pounced upon the two. Ryuunosuke dashed forward to halt him in his tracks, but slipped forward and toppled into the pool, making a gigantic splash that soaked the three men.

Shinobu quickly braced her feet against the wall and pushed forward, swimming out until she reached the spot where Ryuunosuke fell in, and then dived down to the bottom. Thankfully, Ryuunosuke was managing to recover as Shinobu got to her; the two managed to swim back up to the surface once more.

Shinobu peered over the side as Ryuunosuke emerged beside her: Ataru and Megane had Mendou rush over, and the three of them were dog-piling Ryuunosuke’s father, all but beating the hell out of him. Onsen-Mark was wading in to try and break up the whole brawl, but that was obviously a losing proposition.

Ryuunosuke came up behind Shinobu, hiding partly behind her so that her father wouldn’t notice. Shinobu looked back at her for a moment, and then murmured, “You better get out quick. I don’t want to think of what that sarashi might do to you when it’s wet.”

Ryuunosuke just nodded, and the two of them swam to the steps as sneakily as they could before climbing out. The two of them quickly made a beeline for the showers, ducking down to stay out of sight from the chaos. It wasn’t that difficult to do, as everyone was still too focused on breaking up the brawl to notice the two sneaking away.

Once Ryuunosuke was inside the changing rooms, she pulled up her shirt, unwinding her sarashi off her body as quickly as she could. The wet cotton pooled at her feet, slopping wetly on the tile floor. She took several deep calming breaths, leaning against the wall of the room heavily.

Shinobu quickly picked up the sodden cloth strip, winding it around her hands into a small roll, before twisting it hard to squeeze the water out. “I can’t believe that your father couldn’t let you wear a proper swimsuit! Didn’t you live by the beach before you moved here? Is he really that delusional?!”

Shinobu turned around to face Ryuunosuke, but stopped dead. Ryuunosuke didn’t seem to be listening, preferring to look out the window with a distant look on her face. Her shirt was still rucked up from getting the sarashi off, revealing her taut belly. Shinobu could see the remaining droplets of water running down her face from her hair, some running down her toned abs.

Shinobu ended up staring at Ryuunosuke, transfixed by the sight of glittering droplets. She couldn’t will herself to look away. As if it was the first time she had ever seen Ryuunosuke, and she found herself feeling warm all over.

Then Shinobu noticed that Ryuunosuke was staring at her, and she wrenched her gaze away, feeling completely mortified. “You… You better get changed, Ryuunosuke-kun,” she said, her voice extremely strained, “quickly!”

There was a hesitant pause, before Ryuunosuke replied with a muted “okay” (as if she was totally disappointed at Shinobu’s reaction?), and begun changing. Shinobu cringed slightly, feeling a mixture of guilt, disappointment and worry. She couldn’t even bear to turn around to change herself back into her uniform.

Eventually, Shinobu heard Ryuunosuke open the door and step outside. It was then and only then that she started to get changed. Even then, the sight of Ryuunosuke with water dripping down her naked belly wouldn’t leave her mind for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

Defrosted

(Day 6: Heat)

It was going to be another hot day in Tomobiki. 30’c at the highest, 25’c at the lowest. Ryuunosuke was already sweating through her shirt as she wheeled her little food cart down the road, carrying her ice shaving machine and six large bottles of syrup, each with a different flavour. If not for anything else, it certainly was going to be a good time to get some shaved ice.

Ryuunosuke parked herself at the corner of one of the busy shopping streets, and started setting up shop. She had taken the small cart off her father, who was busy cleaning the school store or something (she never truly found out what he was doing, only that he didn’t seem to care that she left with the cart), along with the syrup bottles. Ran had told her that she knew somebody who could get her all the ice she wanted, just as long as she knew where she was going to be on the day.

Ryuunosuke looked around the street. There were a few people there already, but no sign of any ice waiting for her. Maybe they were still delivering it?

Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud rumble coming from the sky. Ryuunosuke looked up in confusion; wasn’t it supposed to be cloudless, today? She was surprised at the sight of a dark, swirling cloud that was forming in the sky above the square, crackling with lightning and growing by the second. As the cloud grew, a cold breeze blew down like a wave, a buffer against the hot summer sun, followed by a wave of snowflakes travelling along the wind.

Then, in an instant, a large crystalline block of ice burst out from the cloud, leaving trails of cloud vapour behind as it plummeted towards the city streets. Ryuunosuke barely had time to wheel her cart back before the car-sized block slammed into the sidewalk next to her, shattering into large pieces sliding onto the concrete and smaller shards zipping through the air, smashing through store windows, shattering car windshields and taking the head off a store mannequin.

Ryuunosuke stared at the massive pile of broken ice, clear and flawless and already starting to melt, long enough that she almost didn’t notice the other object bursting from the dark cloud, a red airbike carrying two figures, one of which she instantly recognised as soon as she laid eyes on her.

“Benten?!”

Benten waved at Ryuunosuke as she landed her airbike right beside the broken block of ice. “Hey there, girl! Is this gonna be enough ice for ya?”

“Enough ice?” Ryuunosuke said. “This is way too much! This is enough ice to make shaved ice for a year! It’s way too much for me to store in my cart here!”

Benten grinned at Ryuunosuke. “Well, maybe we should get to work, then? You wouldn’t wanna waste this, trust me!”

The second figure slid herself off from the back seat of the airbike, and stepped up towards Benten and Ryuunosuke. “It’s quite alright. I can have Benten keep the rest you don’t need in cold storage until later. It’s the least I could do as your business partner.”

Ryuunosuke turned to look at the other woman, only to find herself lost for words. She was a beautiful woman, of course, but she had a curious elegance in the way she carried herself in her snow-white kimono. Her face and hands was pale with light blue eyes, and her hair was long and bluish-white held up in a high ponytail, but Ryuunosuke couldn’t tell if her hair was ice, or had ice in it.

It took a few minutes for Ryuunosuke to realise that she was staring at the woman, and a couple more to realise that she had noticed, and was staring back. Almost immediately Ryuunosuke turned her head away, her body going ramrod straight. “Yeah, that’s fine, thanks.”

“You’ve never met Oyuki before, have you?” Benten asked, her head tilting. “We went to school together, along with Ran and Lum. We all pretty much go back a long way together.”

Oyuki smiled softly. “That we do. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Fujinami-san.”

Ryuunosuke just sighed and pulled out a large cooler from the cart. “Yeah, thanks a lot”. She began filling it with the blocks of ice. Eventually, the cart was set up properly with Benten’s help, and Ryuunosuke flew the little banner with the red “kouri” kanji over the cart.

She looked back towards Benten, who was already loading a small-hover trailer with the remaining ice, and Oyuki, who watched Ryuunosuke setting up her cart for sale. “Okay, you can go now. I’ve pretty much got this.”

“That may be so, Ryuunosuke-san.” Oyuki said. “But I have to stay here with you, as your business partner. I brought you your ice, remember? So you have to hold up your end of the bargain.”

Ryuunosuke looked confused. “Business partner? For a shaved ice stand?”

Oyuki’s face didn’t change at all, let alone bely any emotion. “The last time that I loaned somebody something for their own commercial use, it led to a sherbert bird running loose in Tomobiki and assaulting citizens. I would rather not want to deal with another repeat of that incident.”

“Yeah, I get that…” Ryuunosuke said, remembering what she heard of the sherbert bird incident. “But since when is plain old ice some kind of valuable thing on a place like Neptune?”

Oyuki smiled in a manner that didn’t seem to indicate amusement or politeness. “Naturally made ice is of little value on Neptune. But naturally made ice is very impure. This ice is personally made with pure water, in special conditions.”

Ryuunosuke stared at Oyuki, unsure if she knew what she was hearing. “Personally made? By yourself?”

“Of course,” Oyuki said, “It wouldn’t be personally made if I didn’t make it myself.” Oyuki waved a hand, wafting cold air from her slim fingers. “That’s why I want to stay here and protect my assets, Ryuunosuke-san.”

Ryuunosuke couldn’t find any more argument, especially considering that there were people gathering at the cart, waiting to get served. Instead she took her place inside, and started to work.

True to her word, Oyuki stayed at her side as the day went on, watching Ryuunosuke intently as she worked. She sat by herself on a tiny folding chair from Benten’s airbike, a large parasol stood over her head to provide shade for herself and Ryuunosuke. She was surprisingly easy to ignore, when there were enough customers, but there were moments when Ryuunosuke would lock eyes with Oyuki, and she would get distracted again. By the time the sun and the heat were at their highest, Ryuunosuke was finding it increasingly difficult to get those intense ice-blue eyes out of her mind.

After an hour or two, Shinobu had appeared at the stall, wearing a pretty white dress and a large floppy sunhat. She smiled brightly as she came over to the cart. “I didn’t expect you two to be here today.”

“You don’t expect me to be selling shaved ice?” Ryuunosuke asked.

Shinobu laughed. “Not you, but Oyuki-san over there.”

Oyuki smiled at Shinobu. “I’m the one providing Ryuunosuke-san with the ice. I’m here to help protect my stake in this business.”

Shinobu nodded, and bought herself a cupful of ice with some strawberry syrup, and Ryuunosuke watched her as she left, her dress swaying behind her as she walked.

“You seem to like her,” Oyuki said quietly. “Wasn’t she Ataru’s ex-girlfriend?”

“Yeah,” Ryuunosuke replied nervously. “I guess. But she has a boyfriend now.” She couldn’t help but spit out the word “boyfriend” like it was a bad piece of fish. “Now I don’t even see her without him around, and I…”

Ryuunosuke’s words suddenly died as she realised what she was saying: even an idiot could tell that she sounded incredibly jealous of Shinobu’s boyfriend. She looked over at Oyuki nervously. “Actually, just forget it. It’s just rambling.”

Oyuki just gave Ryuunosuke a smile. “We all get a broken heart sometimes, Ryuunosuke-kun. Even me.”

After an hour, the lunchtime rush hit; Ryuunosuke worked as hard as she could in the sweltering heat. She couldn’t believe that the business was going so well. She could even see some repeat customers from earlier in the day, alongside the rather large throng they were already getting.

“Ryuunosuke-kun, aren’t you going to eat anything?” Oyuki asked, for the first time since they opened shop. “It’s just gone past the lunch hour.”

“Don’t feel like it.” Ryuunosuke said. “There’s some onigiri I packed down with the coolers if you’re hungry.”

She turned back to serve the next customer… Only to quail and move back as that customer turned out to be her father, staring directly at her.

“Ryuunosuke, aren’t you going to greet your father?” The man’s face was stern and disapproving, which wasn’t much of a change from the way it usually was at any other time she saw him.

“Oh, you’re Ryuunosuke’s father?” Oyuki said. She pulled out the small bag with the onigiri inside. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you from my friends. You know Benten, Ran and Lum, don’t you?”

Mr. Fujinami looked at Oyuki, with the kind of blank expression on his face that usually denoted that he didn’t really care. “And who might you be?”

“I’m Oyuki,” Oyuki said, “Ryuunosuke-kun’s business partner. Princess of the planet Neptune.” She gave Mr. Fujinami a polite smile. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”

Mr. Fujinami just looked at Oyuki in silence for a moment, before turning back to Ryuunosuke. “How dare you ditch your old man this way! You’ve turned your back on the Hamachaya!”

“It’s not like the Hamachaya was any good when I was there!” Ryuunosuke said bitterly. “Now get out of line if you don’t wanna buy anything!” Inwardly she braced for another fight. She wanted to stand her ground there, in front of the tiny little cart with Oyuki’s personally made super-pure ice.

Behind Mr. Fujinami, several voices shouted out in assent: “The boy is right! Get the hell out!”

“Loser!”

“Jerk!”

“Fashion victim!”

Mr. Fujinami turned around to face the crowd gathering in front of him. For a moment, he stood completely still, not moving. One particularly burly looking man quickly got in his face, shouting so loud even Ryuunosuke’s ears rang. But then he suddenly punched him hard in the face, sending the entire pile toppling backwards to the ground.

Mr. Fujinami turned back to Ryuunosuke, grinning. “Well, would you look at that? No more line!”

Oyuki’s eyes hardened, focusing directly on Mr. Fujinami. “Fujinami-san, I’m not going to tolerate you trying to ruin our business like this.” As she rose from her little folding chair, a cold chill swept around Ryuunosuke and Mr. Fujinami. The people around them quickly sensed that danger was coming, and made themselves scarce.

Ryuunosuke placed her hand on Oyuki’s shoulder. “Don’t bother. I’ll handle this.”

Oyuki blinked, surprised. Of course, for Oyuki that meant her eyes widening slightly. The cold chill quickly faded away. “Do you really think so?” She looked over at Mr. Fujinami for a moment, before sitting back on the chair. “Fine, then. I’ll have these onigiri while you take care of him.”

Ryuunosuke just nodded, and approached her father, cracking her knuckles. “I don’t expect you to come quietly. But I ain’t letting you stick around and ruin my business!” She assumed a fighting stance, fists at the ready.

“You’re still years away from being worthy to inherit the Hamachaya!” Mr. Fujinami sneered, sinking down into something like a White Crane stance. But being Mr. Fujinami, he probably didn’t know jack about White Crane Kung Fu.

Ryuunosuke darted forward, punching at Mr. Fujinami, but he could dodge her blows effortlessly. She ducked forward, turning around into a sweep kick, only for him to leap over and try to deliver a diving kick at her head. She quickly twisted away from, rolling across the floor.

Mr. Fujinami leaped at Ryuunosuke, fist pulled back, but she was ready. She ducked beneath her father’s punch, and surged forward, delivering an uppercut to his jaw. The feel of her knuckles hitting bone was so incredibly satisfying that Ryuunosuke almost forgot why she was fighting him in the first place. It was the moment where the thrill of the fight overtook everything.

Mr. Fujinami slammed onto his back hard on the pavement. But before Ryuunosuke could turn away, he rolled himself around, raising himself to his feet once more. “That was a good punch, Ryuunosuke… You’re proving yourself to be a strong man, worthy of the Hamachaya…”

“I keep telling you,” Ryuunosuke said angrily, “I’m a girl! I’ll always be a girl! And I’m not going to go along with your stupid little games anymore!” She stepped forward, fists clenching. “I can live for myself, now! No-one else, especially not you!”

Mr. Fujinami turned to give Ryuunosuke a sick smile. “You say that, but who prepared that onigiri you’ve been keeping in the cart all that time, so you wouldn’t go hungry?” He pointed over at the cart.

Something about his words gripped Ryuunosuke, however. For most people, having your lunch made for you would be something nice and appreciable. But Ryuunosuke knew that her father wouldn’t just make onigiri and leave it in the cart. Especially not if he didn’t know that she was planning on borrowing the cart before she did it.

Ryuunosuke turned to look at the cart, and saw Oyuki collapsed on top, a half-eaten onigiri held limply in her hands. Her eyes widened in horror as clouds of steam started to seep out from under her kimono. “Oyuki-san?!” Her face seemed to have gone bright red, and drenched with water. And her hair, which looked almost solid before, now draped limply over her face, the ponytail almost completely loose.

Ryuunosuke turned back towards her father, but it was already too late: his fist smashed into her face as soon as she turned around, sending her slamming against the cart, knocking the onigiri out of Oyuki’s fingers to land in her lap.

“Pathetic!” Mr. Fujinami grinned as he stood over Ryuunosuke. “I thought that my special Ghost Pepper Onigiri would have taught you a lesson directly.” He looked over at Oyuki, gasping for air. “But it sure seems to have taught her just fine!”

Ryuunosuke looked down at the broken onigiri, revealing a strange dark red substance that definitely didn’t look like salmon or cod roe to her. Almost immediately, the rage rose up within her, and all she could think of was teaching the old man a lesson.

Mr. Fujinami grabbed the side of the cart, only for Oyuki to grab his arms. He could only smirk as Oyuki rose up to glare at him, even though her grip felt so strangely hot, like she had put her hands in scalding hot water.

“I told you that I’m not going to tolerate you trying to ruin our business!” Oyuki said, her voice hoarse and deep. “You’re going to regret crossing me like this!”

Mr. Fujinami cackled as he glared down at Oyuki. “Really? And what do you, pray tell, plan to do to me? You definitely don’t look too good right now!”

Oyuki just scowled, and raised her hands up in front of Mr. Fujinami’s face. And before he could even react, two wide jets of hot steam suddenly shot out from her palms, scalding his face.

Ryuunosuke could only watch as her father staggered backwards screaming and clutching at his face. He stumbled to the floor, rolling around, his face red raw. Nothing serious, but probably would need some medical attention.

Oyuki leaned heavily on the cart for balance, her eyes glassy. “It’s such a hot day, isn’t it…?” She gave Ryuunosuke a demure smile, even as her hair fell about her face as an utter mess.

Ryuunosuke quickly got to her feet as Oyuki slumped against the cart, grabbing her body. She flinched back as she felt near-burning heat on her palms, forcing her to grab her by the folds of her kimono. Panic gripped her tightly as she held on to her limp body, and she looked around, desperate to find help.

It must have either been sheer coincidence, or perhaps just fate, that Lum happened to be floating down the street towards the cart just as Ryuunosuke was at her most desperate hour. “Ryuunosuke! What’s going on…” Then she noticed Oyuki’s limp body, and swooped down to the cart. “Is that Oyuki?! What’s she doing here?!”

“Lum!” Ryuunosuke circled around the cart towards the oni girl. “Oyuki and me were running this shaved ice stand, but my old man had hidden some Ghost Pepper Onigiri and she ate them and now she’s dying and I dunno what to do and…” She started to hyperventilate, tears streaming from her face.

Lum quickly cracked Ryuunosuke hard on the head with a small wooden hammer. “Calm down, Ryuunosuke! Oyuki’s not dying, she’s just really overheated!” She looked over at Oyuki, a worried expression on her face. “Although if we leave her like this she’s definitely not going to have a good time. An overheating Neptunian is gonna be really dangerous, for themselves and others…” She gave Ryuunosuke a grave look. “We gotta cool her down, quick!”

Ryuunosuke clutched at her throbbing head as Lum called her saucer over. Before she could even look up, the large shadow of Lum’s saucer hung over their heads. Lum raised her arm up and snapped her fingers, and suddenly the three of them were bathed in a beam of light. Ryuunosuke found herself and Oyuki being gently lifted them up into the saucer.

Ryuunosuke found herself carrying Oyuki in her arms as Lum started filling a bath with cold water. She could only gaze down at the princess, her eyes shut tightly, her face flushed and hair loose. She could feel her heart ache as she gazed down. She was careless and she hurt somebody who didn’t deserve it through the carelessness.

Lum quickly floated back over to Ryuunosuke. “The bath is ready! Help me get this kimono off and get her inside!” She tugged at Ryuunosuke, helping lead her into the bathroom.

But Ryuunosuke stared at Lum, eyes wide. “Get the kimono off?”

“Well, yeah!” Lum replied. “What you want to just dunk her in here fully clothed?! That’s just gonna make an even bigger mess!”

Before Ryuunosuke could stop her, Lum had already pulled loose Oyuki’s obi, unravelling it from her body. Ryuunosuke swallowed hard as the silk pooled around her feet, leaving just the kimono to cling limply to Oyuki’s body. Ryuunosuke looked up at Lum once more, her face burning redder than ever.

Lum tilted her head at Ryuunosuke. “Are you alright, Ryuunosuke? You’re looking pretty flushed right now.”

Ryuunosuke shook her head violently. “It’s okay! It’s gonna be okay!” She could hear her voice cracking as she spoke. She shut her eyes and tugged the kimono from Oyuki’s body, her skin feeling burning hot. Ryuunosuke winced at the heat before quickly lowering Oyuki into the cold bath, only stopping to make sure that she didn’t hit her head on the edge.

“Careful, Ryuunosuke…” Lum said as she bent over the bath. “Keep her upright so she won’t drown.”

Ryuunosuke opened her eyes nervously. Oyuki lay inside the tub, her body still steaming, even as she lay in ice cold water. But her face was calm once more, almost at peace. Ryuunosuke sighed in relief, even as she kept her eyes firmly on the girl’s face, not even daring to move lower.

Lum quickly stood up. “Looks like she’ll be okay… I better get to the pilot’s seat and bring this saucer round somewhere safer… Not to mention pick up that stupid cart.” Before Ryuunosuke could say anything, Lum was already out of the bathroom, leaving her alone with Oyuki. Ryuunosuke glared at the door shutting behind Lum, before kneeling next to the bath.

How did Ryuunosuke get into this stupid situation? All she wanted to do was have a business of her own, one that wouldn’t be ruined by her father, or any of the other weirdness that happened in Tomobiki. And now she was stuck watching over one of Lum’s friends who her father nearly damn killed with his stupid pranks…

“Is she gone already?” Oyuki said quietly from beside Ryuunosuke. “I would have expected more of a fuss from Lum-chan…”

Ryuunosuke jerked her head up, and looked over at Oyuki, stretching languidly in her bath, which was steaming even more. “Y-you’re awake! You’re okay?” She sat there, her body rigid. She felt happy, but also nervous, being close to such a pretty woman without her clothes on.

“Of course I am…” Oyuki said softly, smiling at Ryuunosuke. “I’m deeply grateful for you and Lum-chan rescuing me. I could have never expected such gallantry from most of my other friends…”

Ryuunosuke flushed deeply, down to the roots. “It was nothing, okay?” She turned her face away, wanting to look somewhere else than anywhere in Oyuki’s proximity. “I didn’t want you to die out there, especially because of me!”

“My, such a modest girl you are,” Oyuki giggled softly. “I hope you don’t blame yourself for what happened to me. I knew as much about that onigiri as you did, after all.” She moved closer to Ryuunosuke, leaning over the side of the tub, and Ryuunosuke swallowed hard, keeping her gaze away. “You’re a shy one, aren’t you? So much different from the impetuous youth that Lum and Benten speak of so much…”

Ryuunosuke tried her best to keep her gaze averted, even as Oyuki came closer. She wasn’t going to look at Oyuki, she wasn’t, she wasn’t, she would not even try… She was going to ignore how her heart was hammering, the beat felt all over her body, as well as how close and breathy Oyuki’s voice was becoming…

“It’s quite alright, Ryuunosuke.” Oyuki said quietly. “I understand if you don’t want to seduce me, or be seduced. But you’re welcome to ogle me at the very least, if you wish.”

The heat of Ryuunosuke’s blood spiked up, and she turned to glare at Oyuki. “Who the hell do you take me for?! A sleazy piece of trash like Moroboshi?! Huh?” But the glare melted in the matter of minutes it took for Ryuunosuke to take in Oyuki, leaning in close to her, her pale body so close that she could just touch…

Ryuunosuke swallowed hard once more. “What… Why are you so close to me…?”

Oyuki only smiled at Ryuunosuke. “Because I want to be, Ryuunosuke-kun. And I think you want me to be close to you, too.”

Ryuunosuke couldn’t argue with that. She slowly turned around to face Oyuki once more. “You really think so?”

Oyuki’s only response was to wrap her arms around Ryuunosuke’s shoulders, and draw her in for a loving kiss. When she pulled away, Ryuunosuke’s face was completely pink, which made Oyuki smile. “Care to join me for a bath? I think it should be just about hot enough now.”

Ryuunosuke blinked. “Hot enough?” She looked down at the water curiously, then stuck her hand in. She yelped and pulled her hand away. “It’s hot! But it was ice cold just a moment ago!”

Oyuki just smiled. “Well, all the excess heat from those onigiri had to go somewhere, didn’t they?” Then her eyes turned languid. “Well, aren’t you going to take a bath with me, or not?”

Ryuunosuke hesitated for a moment, but quickly stripped off. She got into the bath next to Oyuki, slowly easing into the hot water. As she did so, Oyuki settled in against her, an arm around her shoulders.

“Do you feel better now?” Oyuki asked, running her fingers through Ryuunosuke’s hair.

“Yeah…” Ryuunosuke replied, blushing deeply.

“Good.” Oyuki smiled, and leaned in to kiss Ryuunosuke’s lips again.

When Lum returned to the bathroom, she was surprised to see Ryuunosuke and Oyuki sharing the tub, curled around each other in a close embrace. Lum just sighed, and grabbed the bundle of clothes on the floor. “I’ll just go and wash these,” she sighed, hefting them up in her arms.

“Hey, Lum?” Ryuunosuke asked nervously. “Is the cart okay?”

Lum smiled nervously. “Of course, Ryuunosuke. If it wasn’t, Oyuki would probably kill me…” She quickly left the bathroom with the bundle of clothes, trying to ignore the very intense stare Oyuki was giving her.

Chapter Text

Sweet Things

(Day 7: Cotton Candy)

“Lum-chan!” Ran’s voice floated through the air like sugar sweet music to Lum’s ears. Usually Lum dreaded hearing her voice, but she could never bear to let her friend be alone for long.

As Ran skipped into the room, Lum found herself smiling, even though she didn’t really know why. She often smiled whenever Ran was near, even when it was obvious she was planning to try and hurt her. Even through there were moments when her smile was strained, she was surprised how few moments where it was truly forced.

Lum stepped into Ran’s saucer, still smiling at her friend. “How are things, Ran-chan?” She was privately thankful that her Darling was dragged off somewhere by Mendou and Megane, which meant she could have some time to herself. And time for Ran, of course.

“Oh, everything’s just fine, Lum-chan!” Ran sang, stepping forward to draw her friend past the threshold. “I’m just doing some cooking for tomorrow. That’s when Rei is coming over for dinner!” Then she blinked for a moment. “Oh! I should probably check on my cupcakes!”

Lum watched Ran dash back into the kitchen, and breathed a deep sigh. She was well and truly happy for Ran now that her and Rei have managed to build some kind of loving relationship with each other. Ran didn’t even try to plot any scheme to try and humiliate or hurt Lum for months, she had been so happy lately. It was much better than when she was always so bitter,

A small white dining table rose up from the ground, complete with a pair of chairs. Lum quickly took a seat at the table, just as Ran came in with a tray full of goodies in her hands: a large pot of tea with small jugs of milk and a bowl of sugar cubes, a plate full of cookies, some cupcakes topped with icing in colours of pastel pink and yellow, and a chocolate gateau topped with Black Forest cherries.

Ran smiled at Lum once more as she set the tray on the table. “I picked out all of your favourites, Lum-chan! Just for you!” She looked as sweet as the treats in front of her, with her cotton candy pink hair tied back in a baby blue bow, and her pink and white dress with the skirt that billowed out around her thighs. And the way she smiled at Lum gave her a funny feeling inside that refused to go away.

The two drank tea and ate cakes, chatting to each other about how their days went, especially as how everything had calmed down lately. They talked, and laughed, and sighed together for what felt like hours. By the time the tray was empty and the pot was drained, Lum was sure that it was evening.

Suddenly, the dining table and chairs sank away as Ran picked up the empty dishes and cups, and carried them back to the kitchen. Lum was a little bit too slow to react as her seat disappeared beneath her, and she toppled back into a large squishy couch that rose up in the table’s place. For a moment, Lum squirmed around in confusion, wondering what was going on.

When Ran returned, she quickly flew over to Lum, helping to straighten her out on the couch once more. “Are you alright, Lum-chan? I didn’t expect Floor-san and Table-san to act so naughty!” Before Lum could react, Ran wrapped her arms around Lum’s shoulders and hugged her tightly.

Lum held Ran back, feeling somewhat smothered in baby pink and white lace, the sweetness engulfing her like a vapour cloud of pure evaporated sugar syrup. It was almost like dessert in humanoid form. No wonder Rei seemed to like her so much nowadays…

Ran’s fingers raked through Lum’s green hair gently. “It’s good that you’re okay, Lum-chan. I don’t want to see you hurt. Not unless you deserve it, anyway.” She leaned forward and kissed Lum’s cheek gently. “But you don’t deserve that right now.”

Lum felt a slight trickle of fear at Ran’s words, but tried to squelch it. If Ran truly was plotting something, she wouldn’t have had invited her into her home for so long. But then, why was Ran acting so familiar?

Lum wriggled a little bit in the overly squishy cushions of the couch. “Um, that’s good to hear, I guess…” She curled her arms around Ran’s waist gently, keeping her friend close. “I’m happy that you care about me so much. I don’t like it when you hate me.”

Ran nodded, smiling. “Of course, Lum-chan.” She combed her fingers through Lum’s hair gently. “I’d rather see Lum-chan happy right now, because then Ran-chan would be happy too!” She pressed her thumb against Lum’s pink lips gently, running the tip softly over them.

Lum’s breath quickened as Ran’s fingers traced over her lips. “Ran-chan? What are you thinking?” She squeaked as Ran’s thumb slid past her lips into her mouth, pressing against her tongue gently.

“Don’t say anything, Lum-chan.” Ran said, a hard undertone to her sweet voice. “I just want to enjoy this.” She straddled Lum’s lap, letting her thumb stroke lightly over the Onigirl’s tongue. “And don’t even think of shocking me. I made sure that Couch-san would absorb it all, because he wouldn’t let me get hurt.”

“But you wouldn’t trust me?” Lum asked around Ran’s thumb, which meant it came out more like “buh ooo woodun dusst eee?” She couldn’t dare to try and check. She didn’t want to hurt Ran over anything. Not unless this was truly some insidious plan, anyway.

Ran leaned in closer, her sweet breath washing over Lum’s face. “I never really told you how cute you are today, Lum-chan.” She kissed Lum’s cheek once more, and added several more along the line of her jaw. “But I’m sure that everyone says that anyway.”

Lum gasped softly as Ran’s thumb slid out of her mouth, only for her lips to mash up against hers. She went limp against the couch, parting her lips open further to fully accept Ran’s kiss. Lum’s tongue peeked up for a moment, hanging hesitantly in the gap between.

Gently, teasingly, Ran’s tonguetip tickled at Lum’s tongue, with light deliberate strokes. She didn’t just slide in aggressively as Lum thought she would. Lum wondered for a moment if Ran was planning on making her beg.

Then Ran pulled away, her eyes half-lidded. “How long has it been since Darling last kissed you?” She wet her lips for a moment, running her tongue along the smeared pink lipstick. “You felt hungry today.”

“A couple of weeks ago?” Lum said quietly, feeling like her voice was far away. “I definitely remember kissing him at school, I think it might’ve been last week…”

“Poor thing,” Ran replied, “Darling has been neglecting you again, hasn’t he? Maybe Ran-chan will fix that…”

Lum didn’t say anything, she just let Ran kiss her again. The only thing she was truly worried about was what her Darling would do if he found out.

Chapter Text

On Top of The World

(Day 8: Ferris Wheel)

The two girls quickly hopped inside of the car as it swept low along the ground, long enough for any rider to step on and off. The attendant was somewhat surprised, but quickly bolted the door shut as the car rose back up again, out of reach.

Akane sat on the bench nervously, keeping her eyes fixed on the ground around the ferris wheel in search of the familiar green outfit Ranma was wearing, Ukyou’s yellow hair bow, or the telltale shade of Shampoo’s purple hair. Ranma had fled with Shampoo and Ukyou giving chase, and Akane wasn’t sure that he would be coming back anytime soon.

After so many versions of the same thing happening over and over, Akane couldn’t bring herself to be angry anymore. She was just tired, and slightly worried for Ranma’s well-being. But only slightly worried. Ranma could handle himself, after all. At least, that was what he kept on insisting to her.

Akari sat next to her, kicking her feet idly. Katsunishiki was around the ferris wheel as well, as Ryouga had ran off after Ranma and his two other lovers. Knowing his poor sense of direction, Katsunishiki would have to be quick, to make sure that Ryouga didn’t find himself halfway across the city by accident.

For the next few minutes, the two girls were completely alone, while the ferris wheel continued to turn. As their car slowly rose higher, the lights of the amusement park receded below, spreading out beneath their feet.

“I don’t see Ranma anywhere…” Akane mumbled to herself, trying to peer among the gathering of people around the attractions. “I would have at least thought he’d pop up somewhere by now.” Her eyes widened as she noticed Katsunishiki emerge, supporting a rather injured looking Ryouga on his massive porcine body. “Katsunishiki found Ryouga-kun, at least…”

“Looks like it’s just us two for now…” Akari said softly, hands folded in her lap. “At least until Ryouga-kun gets here.” She gave Akane a reassuring smile. “At least we have this ferris wheel to ourselves.”

Akane blinked at Akari’s words, but let it slide. “Yeah, I suppose so. Her gaze went upwards with the rise of their little car, looking out towards the twilight horizon, at the lines of tall buildings and the city streets illuminated by cars, their lights twinkling in the darkness. "How far up are we, anyway? I can already see most of Tokyo, and we aren’t even halfway up.”

Akari watched people scream as they sped along the nearby roller coaster, which the car afforded her a great view of. “I don’t really know. I think the ride said it was about 350 feet tall?”

“So we have some time, then?” Akane said quietly. She watched Ryouga and Katsunishiki make their way over to the base of the ferris wheel, thankful that the large size would mean that Ryouga could never miss it. But then Ranma suddenly popped out of nowhere (or from what looked like a garbage bin, but they were so high up Akane couldn’t tell either way).

“I think Ryouga-kun’s found Ranma…” Akane said quietly, as the two below began to argue with each other. “Maybe they’ll be waiting for us after we’re done here.” She slumped back against her seat, eyes turning to the moon, full and bright in the night sky.

She was rather surprised when Akari shifted up a little closer against her. She looked at the other girl in confusion, a blush forming on her face. “What is it?”

Akari just smiled at Akane. “You were looking kind of bothered, so I thought I could cheer you up.” She placed her hand gently on Akane’s, squeezing softly. “I’d like to see you smile more. You definitely look cute when you smile.”

Akane could feel her blush deepen as she frowned at Akari. “Who told you that? Ranma say anything to you?” She kept her hand perfectly still, even as Akari’s thumb stroked over the skin lightly.

“Ranma?” Akari asked, blinking innocently. “Well, not really. I just think you’re really cute, that’s all.” She kept stroking Akane’s hand gently. “And I think you’re either angry or sad all of the time, and it hurts me to see you like that.” And now she was smiling again. “I want to see you smile more.”

Akane looked down at Akari’s hand covering her own. Then, slowly, she turned her hand around to grasp it, threading their fingers together. “Thanks, Akari-chan.” She squeezed Akari’s hand gently, and looked back out at the horizon. She tried to ignore the warmth growing in her heart, but it was hard to do when Akari’s thumb kept stroking along her palm gently.

Ranma and Ryouga could still wait down below. Or at least, they could go for a ride on the wheel themselves…

Chapter Text

Small Comforts
(Day 9: Camping)

Akari watched Akane busy at work from the small red tent she had helped set up, just barely big enough for two or three people to share. Ryouga and Ranma had their own tent not far away, but they were off sparring somewhere in the forest.

This left the two girls to their own devices for the most part. Akane decided to spend the time gathering firewood and cutting it up, while Akari set up the bedding and the other necessities.

Akari had done her work for the most part, while Akane was busy chopping up the firewood into small enough chunks to work with Akari could help but watch as Akane chopped, not with an axe or a knife, but with the edge of her bare hand. It fascinated her, that such a small girl could be as strong as Ryouga was, to be able to reduce large logs to matches in a matter of minutes. It was the kind of strength that she wished for in a husband. After all, that’s how she met Ryouga, and from him Ranma and Akane.

Akari couldn’t help but blush softly at that thought. She couldn’t keep thinking of that now, not with Ryouga with Ranma and… she shook her head to try and clear it of all the intrusive thoughts, and crawled back into the tent. She didn’t want Akane to know that she was having strange feelings about her. She didn’t want to make their friendship awkward.

But a moment later, Akane poked her head inside. “Akari-chan? Are you feeling okay?”

Akari all but squealed, sitting bolt upright on a sleeping bag. She sat there for a long moment, back rigid, heart racing.

Akane gave Akari a worried look. “Akari-chan? Is something the matter?” She crawled further inside the tent, leaving her hiking shoes outside, moving up closer to Akari. “Is it about Ranma and Ryouga-kun?”

“N-no!” Akari blurted out, shaking her head. “Nothing like that!” She turned around to face Akane. “I keep telling you, that doesn’t bother me anymore.” She looked away, the blush still on her face. “I mean, it must hurt for you, but I kind of felt that maybe Ryouga was always out of my reach…”

“What do you mean, out of your reach?” Akane asked, frowning slightly. “You were practically perfect for him, weren’t you? Ranma always said that you were.” Her frown deepened as old memories suddenly rose to the surface. “Of course Ranma would know… That’s why he ended up with Ryouga-kun now.”

Akari’s eyes widened in shock. “Ranma-san said all of that? Really?” And then her face fell, and she looked down at the floor again. “I’m so sorry, Akane-chan. I didn’t think that maybe Ranma-san would’ve ended up hurting you, too…” She reached out, placing a hand on Akane’s hand. “Maybe there’ll be real love in the future for you, too.”

Akane’s frown didn’t leave her face. “But that’s just it. I loved Ranma. I loved that jerk for years, even when he drove me crazy and we did nothing but fight all the time. How am I supposed to replace that?” She gazed down at Akari’s hand on hers, feeling the softness enveloping her own worn and roughened fingers. “I don’t know if I could ever do that.”

Akari was silent for a moment. Then she inched her way closer to Akane on her knees. “You don’t know because you never tried, Akane-chan. Maybe it’s time for you to try now?” She felt nervous about doing so, because she could see the thousand ways that such a statement could backfire. But when Akane looked up at her, tears gathering in her eyes, she could feel something squeeze down on her chest and not let go.

“Akari-chan…” Akane said quietly. “Why are you telling me this?” The tears started spilling down her cheeks. “Is it because of something I said?”

Akari just shook her head, placing her other hand on Akane’s. “Not really. But I do think I might have fallen for you, quite some time ago.” Her eyes shimmered in the early evening light. “I just wanted to tell you that. Now that I have, I’m happy, even if you reject me.”

Akane launched forward and wrapped her arms around Akari’s shoulders, hugging her tight. Her tears left large damp spots on Akari’s shoulder as she clung to her. Gently, Akari wrapped her arms around Akane, and pulled her closer.

After a couple of hours, Ranma peeked his head in through the entrance. He looked like he was about to say something, when he noticed Akane and Akari curled up together in a tight embrace. Silently, Ranma slipped back out of the tent, and decided to go find Ryouga. At least he would be happy now, and not guilt-ridden for choosing Ranma over her.

It was still kind of surprising that everything worked out so easily, though. He was expecting far more violence than he got. Maybe that was just a net positive, though.

Chapter Text

Insomnia

(Day 10: Alone)

There was little you can do when it’s so late on a Sunday night that it could be better described as a Monday morning, and you can’t sleep. Thankfully, Ryuunosuke was given a mobile phone by Shinobu, so she had that to use.

The phone was a tiny little flip phone that was probably obsolete since before she was out of diapers, with an actual physical keypad instead of a touchscreen. The screen was just big enough that it could comfortably show messages and pictures, but little else. It didn’t even have 1seg on it, and Shinobu told her that pretty much any phone nowadays could get that. She was surprised that the thing even had a camera to take pictures with, let alone send them as messages.

But Ryuunosuke was happy with it, mostly because it could call people, and send messages, and that was all she really needed. The fact that her father hadn’t tried to pawn it off in the weeks that she owned it also made her happy, because that meant it could well and truly be hers, without fear of having it taken away from her like everything else she tried to get.

And the other reason the phone was kind of special to her, was because it was bought for her by Shinobu and her family. Which meant it had her number on it. Well, numbers; not only her personal mobile number, but also her home number, in case she needed to contact her and her family when she was at home. But Ryuunosuke rarely called Shinobu’s home phone. She didn’t really need to; Shinobu was always texting her with stuff all the time. Sometimes she would send Ryuunosuke pictures she had taken from her own phone; mostly things she had seen while wandering about, with the occasional selfie.

Ryuunosuke gripped the little phone in her hands, pulling the covers around her head to block out the blinding light from the screen. She squinted a little, her eyes taking a while to adjust against the glare, before she called up the messages and started composing a new message to Shinobu.

I can’t sleep. You up?

Ryuunosuke hit send, and quietly snapped the phone shut. She lay there for a long moment in silence, curled up in her bed. She knew she couldn’t tell if Shinobu was up or not, but she knew that Shinobu kept her mobile by her bedside during the night, because she told her that she used it as an alarm. Even then, it was currently too damn late for anyone to be up…

Ryuunosuke’s thoughts were suddenly derailed when her phone buzzed in her hands. She flipped it open to see the big blinking “!” over the messages icon in the phone menu, and her heart leapt into her throat.

Yeah, I’m up. Is something the matter? What’s wrong?

Ryuunosuke stared at the message for a good long while. She had been worried so much about Shinobu getting the message that she didn’t think about how Shinobu might have responded. She racked her brains for an appropriate response, before typing it into the tiny keypad.

I just wanted to talk with you, I guess. It’s okay if it can wait until morning.

You miss me that much? It’s only been a couple of days since we last saw each other!

Ryuunosuke felt her gut twist slightly at Shinobu’s message. She was right, of course. It was pretty ridiculous that she would do something like this so late at night.

I know, I’m sorry.

It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up over it. You can talk to me whenever you like. Are you feeling okay?

Ryuunosuke wrote out a response. She deleted it. Wrote another. Deleted that. She wrote and rewrote her message so many times she wondered if it was worth really going down this path. But then she wondered if it would keep her awake all night. Eventually, she cautiously typed out a reply and send it.

I don’t really know. I don’t feel happy, I don’t feel sad. I just feel tired of everything? I don’t really know the words?

Ryuunosuke stared at the message. Even though she said it, it still made her feel like a fool trying to spit it out. She wondered if Shinobu was looking at the message, and thinking the same thing as well. The phone buzzed again after a long silence, and Ryuunosuke went to check her inbox once more.

I know how you feel. Sometimes I feel the same way too. Please, stay strong until I can see you again at school. I love you.

Ryuunosuke stared at the message silently for a long time. Then she closed the phone, and clutched it tightly against her chest.

Not long after, she sank into a long, dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

Victory's Spoils
(Day 11: It's Okay)

In the end, there was nothing Ryuunosuke could do. The oni girl had barged into her life so easily that everything was turned upside down in the space of a single day. Scratch that: in the space of a couple of hours.

Nobody saw it coming, not even the Oni: how the human boy their computers had chosen to be Earth’s champion not only won the game so easily, even though they didn’t have the natural ability to fly like Lum did; how the human boy was actually a girl, forced to act as a man by her domineering father; how quickly Lum had fallen for the girl either way, which said more about her past romantic entanglements than anything else could.

Now Lum was humming as she fluttered about the tiny little storage shed she called home, cleaning all the corners with a fluffy feather duster. She looked kind of cute in her little apron, worn over her usual tigerskin bikini and boots. Her shiny green hair held back by a white kerchief tied around her head.

Ryuunosuke didn’t want to think about how cute Lum was, however. She was too busy worrying about what Lum was going to bring down on their heads. She didn’t know how it worked on Lum’s home planet, but she knew that she was getting strange looks from some of the boys in their class. They already knew that she was a girl, they probably couldn’t have missed it from all the arguing that she and her father would do.

Ryuunosuke didn’t know what Lum thought, but she could easily tell what her classmates were thinking. They were looking at them both like some ridiculous comedy of errors that needed fixing. Girls shouldn’t be dating girls, or calling them darling, or kissing them on the lips. Girls could only do that to boys. That’s what Ryuunosuke knew, because that was what everyone told her for years.

Ryuunosuke’s thoughts were derailed when Lum landed roughly against her back, and wrapped her arms around her neck. “What’s wrong, Darling?” She rubbed her cheek gently against Ryuunosuke’s, giving her a kittenish smile.

For a moment, Ryuunosuke could feel something inside her grow uncomfortably warm, like her heart was rising up out of her body at Lum’s touch. It was a feeling she was all too familiar with: the feeling she got when that certain girl in class would smile at her. Like Keiko, Yukie and Kanako in middle school, or Miki and Kumiko in elementary school.

All those loves she had before, now gone elsewhere, probably with the real boyfriends they deserved to have. Not like her, who was just another girl who just happened to be more like a boy. She was just somebody forced to be something she wasn’t.

“Darling!” Lum said, more insistently. “Come on, what’s wrong?” She gently caressed the hair along the side of Ryuunosuke’s head. “I’m your fiancee, so you can tell me what’s going on…”

Ryuunosuke turned to look at Lum, her gaze hard. “You know that nobody here is gonna accept that.” She pushed Lum’s arms away from her. “As far as anyone cares around here, girls only marry boys! Hell, the only reason why my old man still lets you live here is because he thinks you won’t get in the way of me becoming a man among men!”

“But that’s silly!” Lum said, almost giggling. “You’re a girl, aren’t you? You even said so yourself!” But the smile soon faded from her face when Ryuunosuke just scowled at her. “Darling, you shouldn’t worry about those silly people, or your father, or any of those other jerks.” She tugged off the kerchief, letting her hair loose. “I love you, and I don’t care if no-one else thinks I should.” Her brows furrowed, her body crackling with electricity. “And those people can just go to hell for all I care!”

Ryuunosuke was silent for a long moment. She wanted to shut Lum out again, to hide away somewhere. But she knew that Lum wouldn’t take that kind of shit. But even as the doubt was eating away at her, she wanted to believe.

“Is that for real?” She asked quietly, raising her head up to look at Lum. “You know that there’s gonna be a lot of people out there who would be itching to disagree with you. Especially in our class.”

“Well, let them come!” Lum said, inching her way closer to Ryuunosuke. “Let them know what happens when you mess with an Oni girl!” She pointed up at her horns imperiously. “You get both of these, in your gut!”

Ryuunosuke’s eyes softened. “Really?”

Lum just smiled, and closed the gap, all but crawling into Ryuunosuke’s lap. “Really, Darling. You don’t know how much I love you…”

Ryuunosuke wrapped her arm around Lum’s shoulders, letting her nuzzle in close. She knew that this was going to be hard from now on. But if there was one thing that could reassure her, it was having a girl like Lum firmly on her side.

Chapter Text

Lost Girls

(Day 12: Rewind)

Phoenix often got some odd fans who tried to meet with her backstage after a show, but she wasn’t sure she had anyone like Janet.

She met Janet after her show in Dayton, Ohio: she literally emerged from the stage door and saw her there, breathless but smiling with all of her teeth showing, a program clasped tightly to her breast. It was a long time since Phoenix had fans waiting for her backstage for autographs, so she signed it dutifully.

“Your singing was so beautiful,” Janet had told her, a strange gleam in her eye. “It was like I was living every word you sang. Who wrote that song?”

“His name was Winslow Leach,” Phoenix replied, handing the signed program back to her. “I guess you could call him a friend, but…” But anything that she wanted to say about the man, the musician, the monstrous Phantom, all got tangled up in her mind. In her mind’s eye, all three were one and the same, casting a long shadow over her that she could never truly escape.

Somehow Janet noticed the shadow as well, and the smile faded from her face. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up any bad memories…”

But Phoenix smiled and drew her coat tighter around her, to shield herself from the cold. Something about the way Janet looked at her seemed to draw her in. “That’s okay. If you got some time, maybe we could go somewhere?”

Janet stared at Phoenix for a long while, before suddenly exploding into giggles. “Of course!”

They fled the cold to a small all-night diner in town, sitting in a small booth opposite each other with a pot of coffee on the table in between them. Phoenix felt slightly overdressed next to Janet, but then she didn’t exactly plan on meeting her like this.

As the hours went on, the two of them got to know each other. Phoenix knew a little about the Denton case, or at least, what the public had told everyone (and Janet was willing to go with that story, omitting any mention of aliens, reanimated corpses and rayguns). And Janet was more than familiar with Phoenix’s rise as the star of the Paradise, and it’s sole survivor amongst the star performers.

The two women found themselves opening up to each other so easily that by the time that the coffee pot was empty, neither really wanted to leave. It was an odd sensation; two women shaped by similar past experiences, meeting each other by chance in Ohio. Like some kind of strange destiny.

Eventually, the question came out: “How are you and your fiance doing nowadays?” Phoenix wasn’t sure what would be achieved just by asking it, but she really wanted to know. The proverbial elephant in the room, just waiting there for one or the other to mention him.

Janet fiddled with the spoon resting against her cup. “Brad is doing just fine. We’ve been married for a couple of years now, but the relationship is kind of…” She shrugged hopelessly, giggling a little. “…a little bit open.”

“Open?” Phoenix asked. She could feel her heart starting to race. “As in…” She was afraid to follow up on those words, especially in such a public place.

Janet’s smile was kind, but Phoenix could detect a hint of sultriness there. “Well, Brad does it too. Actually, I think he does it more than I do.” She rested her chin in her hand, leaning forward. “Of course, I’ve never done it with a woman before.”

And then Phoenix felt a soft brushing along the top of her foot. Janet must have slipped a foot out of her shoe and… Oh.

Now Phoenix’s heart was definitely racing. “Maybe we could go elsewhere tonight?” She asked, breathless. “I think it’s getting a little bit late to be hanging around out here.”

Janet giggled once more, her hand lightly brushing over Phoenix’s. “Where are you staying tonight?”

The two women hailed a cab as soon as they got out from the diner. They sat together the whole of the way, slightly apart, keeping their desires controlled as long as they were in the presence of other people.

But as soon as Phoenix opened the door to her suite and stepped inside, Janet was right behind her, wrapping her arms around her waist. She buried her face in the fake fur collar of Phoenix’s coat, tugging at the buttons keeping them closed.

Phoenix smiled a little at Janet’s feverish fingers. “How long have you been holding out like this?” She lowered her shoulders, letting Janet peel the coat off her body, then stepped forward out of her white heels, turning to face Janet.

Janet was flushed a deep pink, like the cardigan she wore. “Ever since you asked me about Brad,” she said. “But honestly? I really fell for you when I heard your songs.” She held Phoenix’s coat to her breast. “You have a beautiful voice.”

Phoenix smiled and stepped forward, and Janet dropped the coat at her feet, reaching out to pull her closer, so she could kiss her lips. For the rest of the night, there was no-one else in the world more magnificent than either of them.

Chapter Text

The Tea Party

(Day 13: Stuffed Animal)

When Akane awoke in her bed, she didn’t expect to see Akari sitting at the foot of it, playing with her stuffed animals. It took her a while to remember that she had invited her over because she needed some company while she was cramming for entrance exams. No wonder her head felt like someone had taken a jackhammer to it.

She raised herself up slightly, watching Akari play with her little stuffed pig (given to her by Ryouga after he moved full time to the Unryuu farm), and a small stuffed lion. Her back was to Akane, pretty much unaware that she was awake and watching curiously. It looked kind of like they were all holding a playful conversation, Akari giving them all their own specific voices.

Something about a tea party? Akari was having tea with her stuffed animals? Akane’s headache faded away, replaced with a warm glow in her heart. She pressed her head back against the pillow, turning to hide against the softness. Akari was so cute that it was driving her crazy! She couldn’t even stand to watch her!

But eventually, she did. She turned around to watch Akari again, trying to listen in on what Akari was talking about. She shifted herself as unobtrusively as she possibly could, to avoid interrupting Akari’s playtime.

“You’re such a gracious host, Leo-san!” Akari said, accepting another cup of tea from the little stuffed lion. “I never thought that lions could be such nice people!” The way that Akari said that made a giggle rise up in Akane’s throat, and she had to clap her hand over her mouth to avoid letting Akari know that she was awake.

Leo-san was also very courteous to Kuro-san the stuffed pig, supplying it with a suitable amount of rice crackers for her to eat. At least that’s what she heard Akari was saying. Privately, Akane wondered if pigs could eat rice crackers. What do pig farmers use to feed their pigs?

But Akane’s wonderings on the finer points of pig farming was suddenly derailed when she heard Akari–or rather, Kuro-san–suddenly speak up: “I just love being here! Akane-san is such a lovely person, and she always takes such good care of me!”

Akane could feel her face start to burn as Akari went on. When she wondered what Akari was talking about, this was definitely the last thing she expected to hear. She crept closer, her ears straining to hear what Akari was saying after a revelation like that.

Apparently, Leo-san was in agreement with Kuro-san about her, with was probably just because Akari was talking through the both of them. Both of them were so fawning of Akane that just listening to them made her red in the face, and want to burry it back in the pillow. How could something that was so childish come out so endearing?

Akari just giggled, petting Leo-san and Kuro-san gently. “I’m so happy that you love Akane-chan so much! I love her too!” And then Akari turned around and saw Akane sitting on the bed, watching her with a face flushed deep red. And suddenly, Akari’s face was turning a similar hue, and she looked like she was so completely embarrassed.

“Akane-chan…?” Akari asked, her voice weak and barely audible. “How long were you watching me?” She looked so completely mortified that Akane didn’t want to answer her at all, let alone tell the truth. She just felt guilty just seeing the tears of embarrassment gathering in her eyes.

“Only just the past couple of minutes,” Akane said, unable to meet Akari’s gaze. She didn’t want to see how Akari reacted. But Akari just sat there, looking down at the plushies sitting before her, completely silent.

Akari looked over at Leo-san and Kuro-san for a moment, before looking back at Akane. “I saw that you were asleep, but I didn’t want to leave you alone.” She looked between the stuffed animals again, her voice quavering a little as she spoke. “So I had a play with some of your stuffed animals, but I didn’t notice you were awake, so…”

Akane was also silent for a moment, before she inched her way closer to Akari. “Well… you know I love you too, don’t you?”

Akari paused for a moment, but then she just smiled and nodded. As Akane crawled closer, she reached out and drew her into her lap, letting her head rest against her thigh gently, as a pillow.

Akane sighed deeply, as she felt Akari’s fingers thread through her short black hair. Once again, she let her eyes slip shut. She let a smile grace her lips as she curled in against the other girl’s lap, letting herself drift away once more.

Across from her sat Leo-san and Kuro-san, watching over her quietly.

Chapter Text

Chocolates

(Day 14: Valentine's Day)

Ryuunosuke waited in front of Shinobu’s door, her heart hammering in her chest. She gripped the small bouquet of roses in her hand, tight enough that she risked breaking the stems. This was the moment that she had been waiting months for.

It was the day before Valentine’s Day. When the girls come out in their droves to hand their beloved boys and crush objects something nice, usually something they made themselves. Of course, Ryuunosuke remembered last year, when she received piles upon piles of chocolate from her classmates, and even girls from other classes.

But she also remembered how her father pretty much lied and finagled all of the chocolates out of her grasp; she never saw one bit of that chocolate she was given. Following all of that, she was reluctant to enjoy this year without fear of her old man ready to try and steal them from her again.

And then Shinobu came up to Ryuunosuke the week before, and asked her to come visit her at her home. Ryuunosuke accepted almost immediately: she knew that Shinobu must have had an idea in mind for her. Of course, that didn’t stop everyone around her from thinking that Shinobu had asked her out on a date…

And of course, this also included her father. He decked her out in her old date outfit with the shirt, tie and sweater vest and thrust a bunch of red roses in her hands. She was pretty sure that he was watching her intently from round a corner or behind a car or something.

Slowly, she reached out and rapped her knuckles on the door, then stepped back. When the door opened, her heartbeat quickened as she saw Shinobu stand there in a pretty pink dress and a smile on her face.

“Ryuunosuke-kun, you brought roses for me?” Shinobu looked so excited as she took the roses from her hands. “That’s so nice of you! Thank you so much!” She turned to her mother waiting in the hallway, and quickly handed the roses over to her. “Come in, make yourself at home!”

Ryuunosuke stepped inside quickly, leaving her shoes in the entryway. She tried to keep her cool as Shinobu’s mother passed by, giving her a polite smile as she looked for a vase to put the roses in. But she was bouncing on her toes slightly as she followed Shinobu into the kitchen.

The first thing that Ryuunosuke noticed as she stepped into the kitchen was the chocolate. A pile of various bags of chocolate chips sat on the table in the middle of the kitchen: milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate. Some bowls of cut up strawberries, raspberries and cherries sat next to them, as well as a cup of what looked like chilli peppers next to a tube of wasabi. Pop music played softly from a small radio sitting on the counter, next to the fridge.

“I thought you and your father wouldn’t have the money for roses,” Shinobu said as she pulled out an apron from one of the kitchen drawers and put it on. “Those flowers cost a bomb down at the local florist!”

“I know,” Ryuunosuke replied, “they’re stolen.” She grabbed an apron for herself, quickly tying it on like Shinobu did with hers. “My old man wouldn’t spend a yen on anything if he can’t just take it for himself.”

Shinobu gave Ryuunosuke a sympathetic look. “Well, I hope you don’t have to worry about him today. My father’s keeping watch in the living room, with a golf club.” She tightened the strings on her apron. “If your father even puts a toe past our door, he won’t show him any mercy.”

Ryuunosuke nodded, tightening her own apron. “So we’re in the kitchen, there’s a bunch of chocolate and fruit around… Are we just gonna be making chocolate today?” She was still playing it cool, but she felt slightly lightheaded.

Shinobu just smiled at Ryuunosuke. “Of course! Haven’t you learned how to make chocolates before?”

Ryuunosuke just shook her head. “No, not really. My old man said it was poisonous, remember?” A scowl crossed Ryuunosuke’s face for a moment. “I didn’t even get anything for White Day last year, either.”

“That’s funny,” Shinobu said, pulling out some saucepans from the cupboards. “I heard that a lot of boys were getting you some chocolates last year.” As Ryuunosuke’s scowl deepened, Shinobu’s face fell. “Don’t tell me your father got to them before you…”

“Dunno how he did it,” Ryuunosuke said bitterly. “I was just wondering why all of the boys were getting chocolate that day. Or why the other boys were asking me if I got anything.”

“Well you don’t have to worry about that today,” Shinobu said, as she went over to pull out a massive bottle of what looked like cream from the fridge. “We’ll make so much chocolate truffles that we can give out to everyone! Not just the boys, too!”

Ryuunosuke nodded as she looked among the various ingredients on display. “And this stuff?” She pointed at the wasabi and cut up chillies.

Shinobu giggled a little, giving Ryuunosuke a sinister smile. “That’s a little something for a surprise.” She pushed the dangerous ingredients aside. “So, shall we get started?”

It started with Shinobu teaching Ryuunosuke how to temper chocolate: how to carefully melt the chocolate down until it came out smooth enough to use to coat the cut-up pieces of fruit without it going all crumbly. Ryuunosuke caught on quickly, swiping the pieces of fruit through the melted chocolate and spooning them onto the racks with precise motions.

Then came something a bit more fun: making truffles by mixing heavy cream with chocolate over a low heat, and letting the mixtures cool in the fridge. As the truffle mixtures cooled, they moved on to pouring chocolate into ice cube trays to make into shells to put the rest of the fruit pieces in, before filling them in with chocolate to make into cubes.

By the time they were done with that, the truffle mixtures were set; they took them out, and scooped out chunks to shape into balls, to cover with cocoa powder or with the same melted chocolate as the fruit.

The two girls were dancing around the kitchen as they worked, moving to the beat of the music from the radio, producing so much chocolate that Ryuunosuke wondered what they were going to do with it all. They even made some chocolates with chillies mixed in the chocolate and wasabi as a filling, marked with green coloured streaks of chocolate on their shells. Ryuunosuke didn’t even want to know who would get those chocolates.

And then, after all that, they were finally done. The two girls stepped back to look upon their finished work, all the various chocolates and truffles of various kinds. It was an impressive tableau, more so than any one schoolgirl can usually manage.

They both exchanged a glance, clothes, faces and hands stained with melted chocolate and cocoa powder. Both of them having shared such a work with each other. They both shared a happy smile, happy that they could produce something so good together.

But their happiness was quickly derailed when angry shouts came from outside the kitchen. And when the shouting was accompanied by loud crashes and the smash of broken glass, the two quickly realised what might be going on.

Quickly, Shinobu grabbed one of the baking sheets and placed the chocolates inside, stacking them in haphazard patterns. After that, she hung a tea towel over the sheet and shoved the entire tray in the fridge.

She had just managed to shut the door as the kitchen door suddenly burst open, and Mr. Fujinami stepped inside. “What is going on here?!” His eyes fell on the table, still full of almost-empty bowls of chocolate, now hardening into thick shells covering the bottom. “Chocolate? You’ve been playing around with chocolate again, boy? Didn’t you remember what I told you about that?”

Ryuunosuke opened her mouth to answer, but Shinobu nudged her roughly. She looked down at Shinobu, surprised and confused. But then she noticed the small plate she held in her hands, full of chocolates covered in streaks of bright green.

“Well the truth is,” Shinobu said, her voice so sweet that Ryuunosuke knew she was putting it on, “Ryuunosuke wanted my help in order to make something for you, Fujinami-san…” She raised up the green coloured chocolates. “This is a token of our appreciation for you as a father…”

Mr. Fujinami looked down at the chocolates. For a moment, he was completely silent, before he looked up at Ryuunosuke, tears streaming in his eyes. “So you have finally learned to love and respect me as your father…”

Ryuunosuke tried not to gag as she forced a smile for her father. “Yeah, I guess so…”

Suddenly, Mr. Fujinami tipped the entire contents of the plate into his mouth, munching on all of the chocolate like some demented hamster. He chewed on the chocolate for all of about twelve seconds before he suddenly froze. His eyes bugged out, the streams of tears going from trickles to outright waterfalls, and his face turned redder than a tomato. And then the half-chewed chilli chocolate and wasabi started oozing out of his mouth, dribbling down his chin to splatter over his front, staining his undershirt brown.

Ryuunosuke watched in silent satisfaction as her father dashed out of the kitchen, screaming and crying, clutching at his mouth and throat. If it was anyone else, she would have probably thought it exceptionally cruel. But it was only a fraction of the payback her father deserved.

With Mr. Fujinami gone, the two girls were left to sort through the rest of their chocolates in peace. Most of them were boxed up in small pink heart-shaped boxes, tied with ribbons. But there was still enough left over to fill two bowls with.

Shinobu smiled as she handed one of the bowls to Ryuunosuke. “Here, this is yours. Think of it as an early Valentine’s Day gift from me.”

Ryuunosuke stared down at the bowl full of chocolate. “You’re not kidding? This is really mine?”

Shinobu just nodded. “Of course! Don’t worry, I’m sure it won’t turn you into a boy or poison you, or whatever else your father told you.” Her gaze turned tender for a moment. “I mean, I enjoyed having you here. I want you to have something nice once in a while…”

Ryuunosuke nodded back, trying to fight the tears gathering in her eyes. “Thanks, Shinobu. You don’t know how much this means to me.”

“Of course I do!” Shinobu’s smile was even wider and happier than before. “I love you, remember? That’s what Valentine’s Day is all about!”

Chapter Text

Clair de Lune

(Day 15: Music)

“Honestly,” Sakura said as she put another plaster on Ryuunosuke’s cheek, “Don’t you have anything better to do than get into fights?”

“No. Not really…” It was an honest answer, but Ryuunosuke still felt kind of crappy about it. She was sure that Sakura would think that she was making fun of her. She knew that Sakura didn’t deserve that kind of crap.

Sakura’s brows furrowed, and she pressed extra hard on a sore scratch on Ryuunosuke’s face, making her wince. “I suggest that you find something. Preferably somewhere where your father can’t get at you.” She got up from her chair, dragging it away from the bench where Ryuunosuke is sitting on. “You’re still young, you know. And you’re not going to get that youth back. It’s best to enjoy it while you still can.”

Ryuunosuke rose from the bench, shoving her hands in her pockets. “Yeah, thanks a lot.” She didn’t even look at Sakura as she left the nurse’s office, she just walked out into the hallway, and started wandering.

As Ryuunosuke walked the hallways of the school, she could see the cloudless skies outside darkening, turning red as the sun dipped lower and lower towards the horizon. It was late spring, encroaching on summer, the days growing longer and warmer. At least Ryuunosuke had the summer to look forward to now.

Classes were over for the day, and everyone was either headed home, or gone off to their afterschool clubs. Ryuunosuke knew her father would probably be manning the school store, expecting her to come back to him. Which, in her mind, was the best reason to go wandering as far away from him as she could.

As she passed by the door to one of the music rooms, she peered in through the windows. It was mostly empty, save for all the musical instruments and chairs… And Shinobu, standing in front of a grand piano against the far wall of the room. She seemed to be looking the piano over, examining it. For what, Ryuunosuke didn’t know, but it seemed that she had a lot of interest in it.

Ryuunosuke eased the handle on the door open, pushing her way through as quietly as she could. She stepped to the side as she closed it behind her, keeping the handle down to make less noise.

However, Shinobu must have already noticed, as she turned to see Ryuunosuke as she came in. “Oh, hello there Ryuunosuke-kun…” She sat herself on the stool in front of the piano. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

Ryuunosuke let go of the handle, and walked towards the piano. “Yeah, well, Sakura-sensei said that I should try and get into less fights. So I figured I would come here.” She stood next to Shinobu, looking over the piano. “This looks pretty impressive for a school like this…”

“I heard it was a gift from Mendou-san,” Shinobu said, lifting up the cover over the keys. “He shipped this all the way from Switzerland, I heard. So sometimes I like to come in here and make sure that it’s all kept in tune.” She tapped some of the keys, listening to the notes they made.

“You play the piano, Shinobu?” Ryuunosuke squatted down, looking up at her, her eyes wide and curious. “What can you play?”

“Oh, this and that…” Shinobu said, blushing softly. But then she shifted over slightly, and patted the spot next to her. “Would you like to listen to a song?”

Ryuunosuke wordlessly sat at the piano next to Shinobu, and watched as she continued to pluck at the keys, forming a simple, quiet melody. It was certainly pretty, though Ryuunosuke didn’t have the knowledge to figure out what it was.

“I think maybe some Debussy?” Shinobu said, pondering for a moment, playing the melody once again. After a moment, she nodded, playing the melody once more. “This is called, ‘Clair de lune’,” she said in explanation as she continued to play, slightly louder, and a lot more confident.

Ryuunosuke was silent as she listened to the music Shinobu brought out of the piano. It was airy and gentle, kind of whimsical and melancholy at the same time. She didn’t even know that it was possible to do that with music, but Shinobu was doing it easily, as if she had practised it so many times before.

“This is my favourite piece to play,” Shinobu said, as she increased the pace, her fingers dancing across the keys. “I think it’s based on a poem. That’s what Mendou-san told me, anyway.”

As Shinobu continued to play, Ryuunosuke watched Shinobu’s face. The way her eyes shut, not even bothering to look at the keys even when the music became complicated. the way the bangs of her hair swung with the swaying of her head, the ends brushing over her shoulders.

For some reason, Ryuunosuke could see why Shinobu loved the song so much. It swung from fast and complex to slow and gentle in a heartbeat. It was melancholy, but also somewhat happy as well. Or maybe that was the other way around?

There, listening to the music, Ryuunosuke felt her troubles slip away from her. Like everything that she suffered through was suddenly inconsequential and far away. All that mattered to her right then and there was Shinobu, and the music she was playing.

Shinobu’s eyes opened as the music sped up once again, and she looked towards Ryuunosuke. She leaned towards her slightly, as the music headed towards what Ryuunosuke realised was the climax. And Ryuunosuke, somehow seized by the spirit of the music, leaned forward and kissed Shinobu’s lips.

It was the lightest of touches, but it lingered for a long span. Long enough for the music to slow down once again, becoming soft and gentle once more. Ryuunosuke leaned back as the last few notes played out, Shinobu’s half-lidded eyes never leaving hers.

Shinobu’s fingers slid off the keys as she played the last note, letting it hang in the air around the two girls before fading into silence. For a long moment, the two of them sat there, looking at each other.

Ryuunosuke broke the silence first, her cheeks reddening. “You’re pretty good at that, Shinobu.” She could feel the awkwardness weighing down on her as the silence dragged out.

“What makes you say that?” Shinobu asked quietly, her voice soft.

Ryuunosuke chuckled a little bit, half out of nerves. “You didn’t stop playing when I kissed you. Didn’t even miss a note.”

Shinobu smiled and nodded. “You have a point.” And then she leaned in to kiss Ryuunosuke’s lips once more.

Chapter Text

Our First Night

(Day 17: Hold On)

Ryuunosuke stared down at the futon rolled out beside Shinobu’s bed. When she imagined living at the Miyake family home, she was expecting to take a guest bedroom or sleep in the living room if they didn’t have one. She had no idea that her parents would think that she could share the same room as Shinobu…

Did the Miyake family already know that she was a girl? They must have, because there would probably be no way she would be in Shinobu’s bedroom otherwise. They never broached the topic when Shinobu introduced them, even though Ryuunosuke could see the suspicion in both their faces. Do they trust their daughter’s word that much?

Ryuunosuke sat on her futon, cross-legged, resting her chin in her hand. She tried to ignore the way her heart was beating so fast, loud enough to fill up the space between her ears. She had to think of what to say when Shinobu returned to the bedroom from her shower. She had so many questions to ask her, and so little time. Like if Shinobu was serious about her sleeping in the bed next to hers from now on…

Ryuunosuke heard the door open, and turned around to kneel on the futon, ready to ask Shinobu something. But then all questions died on her lips as she caught sight of Shinobu as she stepped in, clad in only a damp white towel that clung to her figure. Ryuunosuke froze up as Shinobu stepped through the door and over to her dresser, picking up a hairbrush and a set of pajamas on the way. She noticed Ryuunosuke staring at her, and blushed softly, which make Ryuunosuke’s heart skip a beat.

“What’s wrong, Ryuunosuke-kun?” Shinobu asked.

It took Ryuunosuke a couple of seconds to properly register the question, and she quickly span around to the far wall. Now she wanted to look anywhere else rather than Shinobu; it was like she was the sun at high noon, and it would burn her eyes out to look directly on her.

Shinobu just giggled softly, and started brushing her hair. “You’re still so shy. I can’t blame you…” For a while, there was nothing but the sound of the hairbrush going through Shinobu’s deep brown locks.

Ryuunosuke did her best to stare out the window, and not look behind her. “Can’t blame me for what?” She shifted uncomfortably on her futon. “Only perverts peek on girls when they’re changing.”

“Not if they’re girls though,” Shinobu said, continuing to brush her hair. “I know you’re a special case and all, but you’ve already come so far already. You don’t have to keep being a gentleman now.”

“What do you even mean by that?” Ryuunosuke asked. She could already hear part of her insist that she knew exactly what Shinobu meant, but she squashed that part down inside of her as far as it can go. She didn’t want to chase that thought around, not in Shinobu’s presence, not during their first night together.

“It’s okay Ryuunosuke-kun,” Shinobu said from practically behind Ryuunosuke, causing her to wheel around once more. “I don’t want to pressure you into anything you don’t want to.” She paused for a moment, and giggled, blushing deeply. “I can’t believe I said something like that! That’s something you might say!”

Ryuunosuke just sat there, blinking in surprise. Even she could catch the innuendo, but it was still surprising coming out of Shinobu’s mouth. And also kind of hot, too. But she didn’t want to admit it: she just squelched it down along with the thought about knowing what Shinobu had meant earlier. Maybe she could file it all in a box labelled “things you don’t want to think about when sharing a bedroom with your longtime crush object.”

And then Shinobu sidled up closer to her, and Ryuunosuke was finding it pretty damn hard to think at that moment. “What’s wrong, Ryuunosuke-kun? My mother isn’t going to check on us for another few minutes.” She gave Ryuunosuke the most languid and beguiling look, the one that Ryuunosuke wasn’t even sure Shinobu could even pull off without embarrassing herself.

Ryuunosuke’s eyes widened, and her face went from Tomato to Fire Engine. “S-S-Shinobu?!” If her eyes were any wider, they could probably pop out from their sockets.

“I know you want me, I knew for the longest time…” Shinobu said, clutching her towel at her chest, and panic gripped Ryuunosuke. Please don’t let her be doing what she thought she was going to do. “I need you so much… I need you right now.”

And then Shinobu tugged her towel away from her, and Ryuunosuke skittered back, bringing her arm around her eyes.

“Shinobu! Don’t do this! We’re both girls!”

And then Shinobu burst out laughing. “I can’t believe you said that, Ryuunosuke-kun!”

Ryuunosuke lowered her arm and looked. Shinobu was wearing a tube top and pajama shorts. While the outfit left nothing to the imaginaion, it also left her shoulders and everything below the tops of her thighs bare. Which meant that it was perfectly hidden beneath something like a bath towel.

Ryuunosuke only gaped at Shinobu. “You tricked me!” Then she caught herself, realising what she had said. “Wait, no… Forget about that…”

Shinobu giggled once again, and slid forward to hug Ryuunosuke gently. “It’s alright. I just wanted to tease you a little bit.” And then she leaned up and kissed Ryuunosuke’s cheek gently. “You’re more fun than I expected.”

Shinobu slipped away from Ryuunosuke and climbed into her own bed. “Good night, Ryuunosuke-kun.” She reached out and turned out the bedside lamp, leaving the room in darkness.

Ryuunosuke was left in the dark, her heart thudding in her chest. Now, all manner of confusing feelings were swirling around inside of her. Now she wasn’t sure if she could sleep tonight.

Chapter Text

Home

(Day 18: Tears)

“Ryuunosuke-kun?”

Ryuunosuke straightened up, quickly wiping the tears from her eyes. She turned towards the half-opened door, and Shinobu peeking out from behind it. “Uh, yeah?"She winced when the words came out hoarse. "What’s up?”

Shinobu paused for a moment. “Dinner’s ready.” She pushed the door open wider. "Are you alright?“

"Y… Yeah. I’m fine.” Ryuunosuke stepped towards the door. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

Shinobu nodded, and turned to head back down the stairs. She could feel the questions knocking about inside her head, seeing Ryuunosuke in the bedroom alone like that. But she couldn’t just ask her like that.

It was a couple of months that Ryuunosuke had been living at the Miyake family home, and she had already become part of the family. All, if any, apprehension was gone the moment Ryuunosuke helped clean the entire kitchen, even behind the fridge. They didn’t even mind her rather odd upbringing even when Shinobu’s mother patiently guided her through washing bed clothes.

Shinobu was surprised how quickly that Ryuunosuke had taken to her mother. She was also surprised that her mother had taken so well to her as well. It was like Ryuunosuke looked up to her, like she’s was the mother she never had.

An idea popped into Shinobu’s mind: that maybe Ryuunosuke was crying over her absent mother. It would make sense, since Ryuunosuke hadn’t exactly had a stable family life for much of her seventeen years. She remembered Lum talking about something similar when Ryuunosuke stayed with the Moroboshi family for a while. Ryuunosuke wanted to stay, but her father was on TV almost every day, screaming for her to come back home.

Shinobu wanted badly for Ryuunosuke to open up to her, but there were still places where she was still closed off. Her father would say to leave her alone when she was like that, that she needed the time and the space to think for herself. But all Shinobu could see was the hurt that was still there behind Ryuunosuke’s eyes. And she wanted so to badly to try and take it all away somehow, to make it all right again. But her father had told her that a person couldn’t be fixed like a broken pot. They needed understanding and patience.

Shinobu set the table while her mother brought out the food, carrying the large plates effortlessly in her hands. Ryuunosuke entered the dining room not long afterwards, her face still slightly puffy.

“You need any help, ma'am?” she asked as Mrs. Miyake carried a hefty pot full of rice in her hands.

“Of course not, Ryuunosuke-kun!” She replied. “Just help me with the dishes later, and that would be fine. I wouldn’t want you to do too much work around here. Otherwise my husband would probably start slacking off…”

Shinobu giggled softly, then gave Ryuunosuke a smile when she sat down next to her. “Mom’s right, you already pull your weight more than enough around here. You deserve to have a break more often.”

Ryuunosuke nodded, even though she didn’t look convinced at all. “Yeah, okay.”

She was quiet through most of dinner, and Shinobu found herself stealing glances at her whenever she could. That same melancholy expression was on her face all throughout. Shinobu could tell that something was still weighing on her.

After dinner, Ryuunosuke and Mrs. Miyake started cleaning the dishes, while Shinobu helped with clearing away and cleaning the table. Shinobu didn’t see Ryuunosuke around again until a couple of hours later in the front garden, staring up into the sky.

By that time, Shinobu had already had her bath and changed into her pajamas. But she wrapped a coat around herself against the cold night air, opened the door and snuck outside, stepping up to Ryuunosuke as quietly as she could.

Ryuunosuke turned around to see Shinobu walking towards her. “Hey Shinobu. What’s going on?”

Shinobu battled with herself to figure out whether to tell Ryuunosuke about the crying. Eventually, her empathy won out. “When I was calling you down for dinner earlier… Were you crying?”

Ryuunosuke flushed with embarrassment. “You saw me doing that?” Then her eyes widened as she realised what she had said. “I… I mean…” Her eyes darted around, and Shinobu knew that she was thinking of some kind of cover story.

Shinobu just reached up and took Ryuunosuke’s hand. “It’s okay. I know that you’ve been hurting for a long time. But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.”

A cold wind blew through, Shinobu yelped and pulled her coat tighter around her. “It’s cold!” She looked up at Ryuunosuke. “Won’t you come inside?”

Reluctantly, Ryuunosuke let Shinobu guide her back inside, and up into their bedroom. Ryuunosuke found herself sitting on the small folded futon like a low couch, next to an expectant Shinobu.

“I guess you’ve been worrying about me a lot?” Ryuunosuke asked nervously. “I dunno how to say it. I guess I was just feeling down? Like I’m here and everything is going fine, and I’m wondering when something is just gonna go wrong.” She gazed down at her interlaced fingers. “It feels like everything in my life has gone wrong for so long, now it’s going right, I’m just waiting for when it’ll go wrong again.”

Shinobu blinked. This was not really something she expected Ryuunosuke to feel. But then she knew that Ryuunosuke was pretty downtrodden for most of her life. Why wouldn’t she feel this way?

She reached out and grasped Ryuunosuke’s hands once more. “It’s okay, Ryuunosuke. You don’t have to worry anymore. You’ve got us.” She felt a lump forming in her throat as she spoke the next three words. “You’re home now.”

Ryuunosuke blinked in confusion. “Yeah, but… But my old man’s probably gonna be back soon and…”

Shinobu shook her head. “No, Ryuunosuke. Not with your father. Not anymore.” She squeezed Ryuunosuke’s hands harder. “This house… my house… is your home.”

For a moment, it looked like Ryuunosuke was going to pull her hands away. “Stop it, Shinobu…” She turned and looked away, her eyes squeezed shut.

But Shinobu held on tighter to her hands, as tightly as she could.

“I love you, Ryuunosuke. I don’t want you to leave me.” Shinobu could feel her voice fading. “Please…”

Ryuunosuke’s face creased tightly. And then she leaned forwards and wrapped Shinobu in a tight hug, trying not to sob loudly against her shoulder. Shinobu moved forward, hugging back just as tightly, pressing her head into the crook of Ryuunosuke’s shoulder, the tears streaming from her eyes.

“You’re home now.”

Chapter Text

Trial Run

(Day 19: Pick A Prompt)

(Sapphic September 2017, Day 15: Dresses)

Daria had spent close to two hours–incrementally, of course, not all at once–wondering how exactly Stacy Rowe managed to talk her into accompanying her to Cashman’s for the afternoon. After all that, the only answer she could really come up with was that she was losing her edge.

And because of that, she was standing in the middle of several racks of colourful dresses, watching Stacy browse through the racks. Occasionally she would take out something, holding it against herself to see how it looked; how it made her look. Something in Stacy’s eyes when she did reminded Daria of Jane when she was examining the canvas to place her next brush stroke, or Trent looking for the right rhyme.

But this was Stacy Rowe, right? One of Quinn’s friends, and probably on the second or third tier. And she was thinking of her in the same breath as Jane?

Daria wanted out as soon as possible. She feared that maybe the alien surroundings were starting to warp her mind. She could probably slip out while Stacy wasn’t looking, and it wasn’t like she would actually miss her. She wasn’t Fashion Club material like her sister was.

But Stacy put back some of the clothes, and ran up to Daria, an expectant look on her face. “Hey Daria? I think I’m done here. You find anything interesting?”

“Only the door out of here.” Daria said. She did feel a little guilty saying so, but it still came out the same if she put any contempt in it. “At least you seemed like you were enjoying yourself.”

To Daria’s surprise, Stacy didn’t seem all that offended. But the way her face fell made Daria slightly more guilty than before. “Oh… I’m sorry.” She clutched her new clothes a bit more tightly against her, and Daria worried that she might have another breakdown or something.

“Look, I didn’t have much better to do,” Daria said quickly, in order to head things off. “Not with Jane having to help her mom with her pottery today. Or whatever it is Quinn and whatsisface is doing…”

“No, I know that.” Stacy said quickly. “I just didn’t want you to feel like you were getting bored, that’s all.” She looked at Daria in such a puppyish fashion that she worried that someone was going to clip a leash on her.

Daria shrugged a little. “Look, you just wanna get some pizza with me?” She gave Stacy what she hoped would be a friendly-looking smile. “I swear, I won’t judge you if you get it without the cheese.”

And it was then that Stacy managed to smile. “Yeah, I’d like that!”

Surprisingly, Stacy didn’t get the cheeseless pizza, but just a couple of the regular slices. She nibbled at them daintily as they talked, holding the slices with a napkin over them as she did so. She explained to Daria that it was to soak up the grease, to keep it from staining her hands and clothes. Daria found it ridiculous, until she remembered all the times she got grease stains on her jacket, and then it wasn’t as ridiculous as she thought.

“So, I think we both know why I’m here with you,” Daria said in between sipping her soda, “but I don’t know why you invited me on this thing in the first place. Wouldn’t your Fashion Club friends just come out in hives knowing I’m sharing a table with you?”

“Well, I guess so,” Stacy said quietly. “But they don’t know I’m here. But I guess it’s not like they’d really care, right? After all, I’m just another also-ran next to Sandi and your c..” Then her cheeks turned flame red as she bit back what was obviously a reflex.

Daria couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at that. “I guess not…” She smirked slightly at Stacy’s embarrassment. “By the way, I don’t mind if you say I’m Quinn’s sister. It’s not like anyone else but her really cares, right?”

Stacy shook her head. “No… I just don’t want to… Quinn…”

Daria tilted her head slightly. “What is it about Quinn…”

Stacy’s lip trembled for a moment, and Daria wondered if she was moving in a dangerous space once again before she finally spoke. “Have you ever felt something for a girl that you thought might be something other than friendship?”

Daria paused for a moment. “Other than deep apathy or contempt?” Then she mulled over the question for a moment. “I guess I had a crush on a girl once, when I was twelve. But that was a Gibson Girl from some history book from the library…”

Stacy’s eyes widened in surprise. “So you do like girls?” Excitement spread across her face so quickly, and she smiled at Daria in such a way that she wasn’t sure if she was being seen as a friend, or somebody to latch onto.

“I guess?” She paused for a moment to collect her thoughts. “It’s not like I ever really imagined myself as dating material. I’m surprised that there are people who are even into me, let alone girls.”

Stacy blinked at that, somewhat surprised. “But what about Jane?”

Daria snorted. “She’s only interested in guys. Yeah, I know she looks the part, but come on.” She paused once more, and looked at Stacy. “So wait, does that mean you like girls?” And then realisation hit her like a brick to the face. “Like Quinn?”

And then the excited look just melted off of Stacy’s face. She must have probably realised that she had revealed a lot more than she expected to with her line of questioning. And that look on her face, just as she figured it all out, spoke volumes.

It was times like this that Daria was glad that she was so well-acquainted with disappointment. She sat back in her chair, finished her slice of pizza, and then looked at Stacy. “I’m guessing nobody else knew?”

Stacy shook her head silently, her gaze lowering to the patterns in the tabletop. “I couldn’t let them know. Not even Quinn. I mean, Sandi doesn’t approve of dresses that are bigger than a size three, I don’t even want to know what she might think of lesbians.”

Daria nodded quietly. “Mom once cornered me in the bathroom because she thought that I might be a lesbian once. She said that I would always be her daughter, and she would always love me, but I should be open to something in order for me to have a child…”

Stacy recoiled from Daria like she had vomited all over the table. “Ewww! That sounds horrible, Daria!”

Daria smirked once more. “Still, it’s better than getting tossed out of your house or being shipped off to some camp.” Then her smirk disappeared as Stacy looked down at her half-eaten pizza, a downcast look on her face.

So Daria studied Stacy’s face. She was pretty, of course. Her sister probably wouldn’t be friends with anyone that was less than mildly attractive. Though she wasn’t exactly the kind of pretty that Daria saw in that Gibson Girl, she could admit that there was something there.

And of course, Stacy liked girls. And as far as she was concerned, so did Daria.

“Hey, Daria?” Stacy asked as she looked up at her again. “If you and I were to… Well, if we could both…”

“We could sit around and eat pizza together,” Daria said quickly, sensing what Stacy wanted from her. “Or do whatever it is you would do on a date with some boy. I guess we could do with some kind of trial run.”

Stacy nodded so fast that she looked like a bobblehead. “Yeah, a trial run! I mean, we could just take it slow and steady and…” She paused for a moment, taking several deep breaths in order to compose herself once more.

“Yeah, I think we’d better take it slow.” Daria said, shoving her pizza away from her. “As a start, I think I’ll pay for both of us next round, okay?”

“Okay!” Stacy said, in between deep breaths. “And maybe we could pick out dresses together next time! I think I found some that would look really cute on you!”

Daria just rolled her eyes, but couldn’t stop herself from smiling a little.

Chapter Text

Parents' Day

(Day 20: Children)

“I can’t believe you’re going through with this…”

“Whaddya mean?” Ryuunosuke asked, walking in step behind her son Tohru. “You seriously think I’m going to skip Parents’ Day at your school? Seriously, what kind of mother do you take me for?”

Tohru said nothing, he just hunched over further and walked on. Just trying to shut her out again, like always. His short black hair, buzzed at the back and sides, rustled slightly in the wind.

Ryuunosuke furrowed her brows and followed behind her son. She didn’t like it when he would clam up and ignore her, just going on his way like she didn’t exist. She tried to be supportive, and she tried to be open, but it seemed sometimes that he had a brick wall around him that not even her father could get past, no matter how hard he tried.

So today, Ryuunosuke was going to try and make an effort to show interest in her son’s school life. She had gotten herself a new suit, a nice dark blue three piece with the white shirt and the black tie, and a nice formal bra instead of the usual sports bra she relied upon for so long.

The suit was something that she was familiar with, if not exactly feminine. But then again, she wasn’t feeling much like a dress today. But she put some blue eyeshadow and lipgloss on her face, just so people wouldn’t think she was a man.

Ryuunosuke reached forward and tugged at Tohru’s collar, making him stagger slightly. “Are you gonna keep giving me the silent treatment, or are you actually going to talk to me for once?”

Tohru just scowled at his mother, and jerked forward out of her grip. He started walking faster, hoping to outstrip her pace and get to school before she could.

Ryuunosuke groaned, and started running. She didn’t want to deal with her son acting up again, not on what was supposed to be such an important day.

Shakkou Academy loomed up in front of the Fujinamis, the very picture of a modern Japanese high school. It was built in the years since Ryuunosuke had graduated from Tomobiki High, on the ashes of that very same school; the circumstances of its destruction on the graduation of the cursed Class 2-4 were never exactly known for sure, but what was known was that the old school had burned down to cinders, leaving little left but slightly singed students.

The Mendou family stepped in to build a replacement, which they hoped would cast off all of the bad memories and unfortunate incidents that had marred Tomobiki-cho for the longest time. But Ryuunosuke had heard the rumours of some strange force that seemed to inhabit the school, which seemed to entwine around the citizens of Tomobiki-cho.

The fact that her son shared the same class not only with the son of her beloved Shinobu, but also the son and daughter of Lum and Moroboshi Ataru, and even the son of Mendou Shutarou himself did not escape Ryuunosuke. She could tell that something strange was going on.

Tohru sped through the gates of the school, not even stopping to acknowledge Shinobu as she stood beside them. Shinobu was left staring after the boy in confusion, wondering why he was in such a hurry. And then she turned to see Ryuunosuke stop next to her, panting slightly, trying to catch her breath again.

“Ryuunosuke-kun…” Shinobu stepped up to Ryuunosuke, a smile on her face. “Good morning!” She looked over at Tohru, now beside the school entrance, double over and gasping for breath. “Have you and your son fallen out again?”

“Yeah…” Ryuunosuke said quietly. “Yeah, I guess so. I was looking forward to coming here today, and he’s acting like I’m some millstone around his neck. He usually doesn’t act like this. Not at the Hamachaya, anyway…”

Shinobu just shook her head. “Tohru-kun’s always been a stubborn boy, Ryuunosuke-kun. Sometimes even I find it hard to get through to him.” She looked back towards Tohru, making his way inside the school. “At least he’s not going to care much about today. At least, not as much as you would.”

“What, you’re not looking forward to today?” Ryuunosuke gave Shinobu a funny look. “You don’t want to see how well your son’s doing in school?”

“Oh no, it’s not Shiro I’m worried about!” Shinobu answered, a pensive look on her face. “I’m just dreading the other parents coming here.”

Ryuunosuke wanted to ask Shinobu exactly what she meant by that, before a metallic thrum started to resound through the air. She looked up to see black clouds swirling in the sky, lightning shooting out in all directions. She shrank back slightly as she watched the black clouds swell and flash, turning into a strange vortex in the sky.

And then Ryuunosuke realised what Shinobu had meant. She didn’t need to see the sleek, tiger-striped UFO burst out from the vortex, followed by a gleaming golden ship, and a spaceship shaped like a bone-white coloured horn. She only had to remember her own school days to understand the dread that Shinobu was feeling at that very moment.

Fujinami Tohru, on the other hand, just stared up at the sky and watched the procession of spaceships above him. As far as he was concerned, he just wanted to get everything over with as quickly and as peacefully as possible.

But the sudden weight of someone on his shoulders dashed all hopes of that happening.

“Toh-ru-kun!” The green-haired boy sang as he rested on Tohru’s shoulders. “I saw you speeding in here and leaving your mom behind. You don’t think you should go back and greet her properly?”

Tohru stayed perfectly still, his fists clenched at his sides. “Moroboshi. Get off my shoulders.” He kept his gaze perfectly level, staring straight ahead. “Right now.”

“Listen to him, Kokeru-kun!” A voice called out from beside him. Miyake Shiro was running up to the two boys, hoping to try and stave off any potential violence that would erupt. “He’s already been upset all week about today, I don’t want you adding to it!”

Moroboshi Kokeru just sighed and slipped off of Tohru’s back. “Y'know, there’s a lot of people who would kill to have me on their back, Tohru-kun…”

“Don’t give him any ideas, Kokeru-kun!” Shiro said. “You should probably go find your mother now, before the bell rings.” He ran up to Tohru’s side, looking up at him through his straight-cut bangs of light hair. “And are you just going to ignore everyone for the rest of the day, Tohru-kun?”

“Yeah,” Tohru answered without missing a beat, “that’s the idea.” He looked over at Tohru, putting on as tough as an expression as possible. “I don’t want to deal with having my mother breathing down my neck all day. If I mess up, I’m never gonna live that down.”

“Aren’t you just holding yourself to an unreasonable standard?” Shiro asked softly. “It’s not going to end up like that, trust me.” He reached out and placed a hand on Tohru’s shoulder. “Listen, we can go and greet our moms together, okay? You and me?”

For a moment, Tohru considered refusing, and just going down to his classroom. But Shiro was giving him that look again. The kind of caring, kind look that easily melted through any of Tohru’s defences and left him unable to resist. Instead, Tohru hung his head low.

“Fine. We’ll go and do whatever.”

“Well, that’s as good as an agreement we’ll get,” Kokeru said, looping his arm around one of Tohru’s. Shiro took Tohru’s other arm, and before he knew it, he was being frog marching back to Ryuunosuke and Shinobu at the gate.

Shinobu waved to Shiro as the three boys came closer, giving him a smile. “You look so handsome, Shiro-kun!” Then Shinobu went over to Tohru, who was looking rather uncomfortable as she smiled down at him. “And so do you, Tohru-kun!” She adjusted his uniform slightly, making sure everything was straight. “You’ll make us proud today, won’t you?”

Tohru was about to answer, when a strange and familiar sound reached his ears. It sounded like the weird noise Kokeru made when he flew, but it was higher, quicker, more light…

Kokeru turned around as he heard the noise, and raised his arm up high, looking up towards the sky behind him. “Hey Mom! We’re right here! Come on down!”

Everyone else looked up to see Lum touch down in front of the three boys, Ryuunosuke and Shinobu. Every pair of eyes in the school courtyard, male and female, fixed on the oni princess as she stepped up to meet her son. She certainly cut a striking figure in a flattering tiger-skin cheongsam with the skirt coming up just above mid-thigh, and black stiletto heels. Her hair was done up in twin braids that twisted up behind her head into an elaborate bun.

Tohru barely had the chance to register Lum’s arrival before he, Kokeru and Shiro were suddenly squished up against her in a vice-like hug that squeezed all the air out of his lungs. He couldn’t even struggle to get out, because his arms were tangled up between his friends.

“I missed you boys so much!” Lum squealed as she squeezed the boys tighter to her. “And you look so handsome, too! You’ve grown so much!” If it wasn’t for the special alloy weave in her dress, she might have accidentally given her a current of electricity as well.

“Take it easy, Lum!” Ryuunosuke said. “You just saw them last Friday!” She stepped forward to pull Tohru back by his collar, pulling him away from Lum’s grasp. “You’re gonna get weird stares again!”

Sure enough, some of the people around Lum were giving her funny looks. And the three boys and their mothers could tell that there was a lot of jealousy in the air surrounding them. Jealousy for Lum, still looking young and beautiful even as a mother. Or jealously for the boys, being given so much affection by such a beauty as Lum.

“Where’s Ataru-kun?” Shinobu asked warily, moving slightly closer to Ryuunosuke on impulse. “I thought he would take the opportunity to come here to see his son at school…”

Lum’s expression turned sour. “He’s on some book tour again, across the city. And he said he was going to Remu-chan’s piano recital tonight.” She looked down at Kokeru. “It looks like it’s just going to be your mother today, Kokeru…”

Kokeru just snorted, shrugging. “So what else is new?” He wriggled out of Lum’s grip, and made his way to the school entrance.

Tohru and Shiro exchanged confused glances before running after Kokeru.

Ryuunosuke and Shinobu watched their kids run to catch up with their friend, before turning to Lum, whose smile was almost completely gone.

“You want to come along with us?” Ryuunosuke asked hesitantly. “I mean, I ain’t exactly Moroboshi here, but…” Her words died in her throat as she looked up to see a familiar looking man striding up to them.

He looked as handsome as he ever was, growing into it like a steadfast oak tree. Dressed in a finely made black kimono and hakama, he looked like the very picture of a refined upper-class Japanese gentleman.

“Lum-san, it’s been too long before I could see you again.” Mendou Shutarou smiled as he stepped up to Lum. “Has Ataru left you behind to chase women once more? If he has, maybe I could provide you with an escort?”

Ryuunosuke stepped forward, narrowing her eyes. “She already has escorts, Mendou. Why don’t you go blow your hot air somewhere else?”

Shinobu smoothly stepped up beside Lum, taking her hand gently. “What Ryuunosuke-san means to say,” she said hurriedly, “is that we are perfectly able to provide Lum-san with an escort ourselves. Shouldn’t you be seeing your son at the gate?”

“Why should he, when I’m right here?” Mendou Haruna asked as he stepped around his father, katana strapped to his side. He wore a crisp white version of the Shakko Academy uniform, much like her father did at Tomobiki High. Though in Haruna’s case, Shakko Academy’s uniform was a blazer, shirt and tie, instead of the more traditional gakuran of Tomobiki High.

He looked up at his father expectantly. “If you’re done here, father, we can go ahead and head straight to class. Preferably as soon as possible.”

“Of course,” Shutarou answered. The two quickly turned around and headed straight for the school entrance, leaving Lum, Shinobu and Ryuunosuke standing at the gate once more.

Ryuunosuke and Shinobu looked between the receding backs of the Mendous, and then each other. Something about the Mendou kid was funny, but neither of them could place exactly what it was…

“Well, I think we’ve been standing here long enough,” Lum said brightly, turning to Shinobu and Ryuunosuke. “Lets go in already, before we end up tardy!”

Inside Classroom 1-4, the air was thick with tension. Tohru could feel it as soon as he stepped inside, weighing down on him all the while. He cursed the fact that he was assigned a seat at the back row of the classroom, because that were the parents would usually stand.

Class Rep Fuko was at the front of the class, trying desperately to make sure that nothing would go wrong on her watch. But even she could feel the dread gathering in the air. After all, it was the first parents’ visiting day for what many at Shakko Academy consider to be the next generation of those people.

Even Shiro, who liked to keep a smile on his face no matter what was going on, wasn’t smiling so much at that moment. And Kokeru just seemed to be waiting for the whole thing to pass through so he could go on to something else.

The door opened, and the teacher strode in, striking a strong figure in his tiger-skin jumpsuit. He barked out the customary “Stand!” and “Bow!” as he put his text book on the desk. And then he looked straight ahead, and his eyes fell on Lum.

And before he could even react, Lum suddenly shouted “Ten-chan!” gleefully, making everyone around her jump. “I didn’t know you were teaching this class!”

Ten-chan, or Ten-sensei as most of his students called him, grimaced as his cousin Lum bounced up and down behind the students. He thought he could get through teaching his nephew without any incidents, but Lum blew through all of that in a flash. He looked over at Kokeru, noticed him smirking at hime, and grimaced even further.

Nevertheless, the lesson began. And surprisingly, it went smoothly from there. Even when Kokeru seemed interested in anything else other than the lesson, or when Tohru nearly knocked his chair back when standing up to answer a question. But nothing got interrupted, nothing exploded, and nobody was electrocuted or set on fire, so it was mostly a successful lesson.

As one, the students all rose up from their seats to leave Ten-sensei with their parents. Tohru gave his mother one last look before he trudged out of the classroom behind Shiro and Kokeru, heading to the cafeteria for lunch.

Ten leaned against his desk, rooting the assembled parents under his gaze. “So this is the part where I’m supposed to talk about your children and how they’re doing, right?” He smirked as he crossed his arms. “But I’m wondering if that’s the last thing in your mind right now.”

Lum just huffed and raised her hand. “I want to know about my son…”

He looked over at Lum, still smirking. “Well, your son is actually testing pretty well, Lum-chan. He’s sharp as a tack, for all I know.” He paused for a moment as Lum’s face lit up. “But he seems to be more interested in chasing girls around and sleeping than actually studying in class.”

As Lum’s face crumbled, he turned to look at Ryuunosuke. “Your son is doing okay, Ryuunosuke-san. He only got into three fights this last week. And at least he didn’t start any of them.” Ryuunosuke exhaled in relief, slumping a little against her seat.

“Your son’s doing well too, Shinobu-san. Of course, he keeps hanging around Moroboshi and Fujinami. Maybe you should get him tutoring them or something?”

Shinobu gave Ten a funny look, before turning her focus to Ryuunosuke.

As Ten went on through the students, Shinobu leaned in close to Ryuunosuke and whispered in her ear. “Tohru is still getting into fights? How come?” She gripped Ryuunosuke’s hand gently. “Are you having trouble with your son?”

Ryuunosuke looked up at Shinobu. “Nothing worse than usual.” She squeezed Shinobu’s hand gently. “‘sides, with what Ten’s telling me, he’s kinda improved a bit, right?”

Shinobu rose to her feet. “Do you want to go somewhere and talk?”

Lum turned to look at Shinobu and Ryuunosuke. “What’s going on?”

Ryuunosuke rose up next to Shinobu. “It’s okay.” She mumbled as Shinobu turned to leave. “It’s just something’s just come up.” Before Lum could even answer, Ryuunosuke and Shinobu quickly left the classroom.

Shinobu led Ryuunosuke to an empty music room, and sat herself in a corner, leaving her heels next to the piano. She looked up at Ryuunosuke with large, open eyes, urging her to come sit with her.

Ryuunosuke sat herself next to Shinobu awkwardly, leaning against the wall. “So what is it? What’s eating at you?”

“I’m worried about you, Ryuunosuke…” Shinobu looked at her with helpless eyes. “I saw Tohru running away from you, and trying to avoid you, I hear he’s been getting into fights… Is there something wrong at home?”

Ryuunosuke shook her head. “Nothing that you haven’t already seen.” She paused for a moment, then looked at Shinobu. “I mean it. I ain’t fighting with Tohru or anything. It’s just that…”

Shinobu pressed her fingertip to Ryuunosuke’s lips. “Don’t say anything else. I know you’re telling the truth.” She blushed, and let her finger drop down. “I know how hard it’s been ever since Nagisa passed away. You had to raise Tohru by yourself, with only your father as an example of parenting…”

“I didn’t raise Tohru by myself,” Ryuunosuke said quickly, interrupting Shinobu. “You were there, helping me raise him. He looks up to you. He even called you Mom a couple of times…”

Shinobu blushed even further. “Oh please, don’t mention that again. I bet that he probably doesn’t hear the end of it from you.”

Ryuunosuke shrugged. “Never really get the chance. I don’t even see him around the Hamachaya lately.” She caught the concerned look on Shinobu’s face. “Is that a problem?”

Shinobu looked down at the floor in front of her. “I don’t know. Maybe he just needs some space? I know that sitting around with all my old classmates made me want to scream after five minutes.”

“What, like he just wants to be alone?” Ryuunosuke asked, curious.

“Well, I know it’s kind of hard,” Shinobu answered. “Don’t you feel sometimes that you’re kind of boxed in, living here in Tomobiki-cho with all your friends from high school, just spinning your wheels endlessly?”

“All the time,” Ryuunosuke said. “And is that how you feel?”

Shinobu just nodded. “I’ve been feeling that way ever since before I graduated from high school.” She looked up at Ryuunosuke. “You’re pretty much one of the few reasons why I keep going. You, Tohru, Inaba and Shiro… Even Lum-san and Kokeru…” She shivered a little, pressing shoulder against Ryuunosuke’s.

Ryuunosuke reached her arm around Shinobu’s shoulders, pulling her close. “I know how you feel, Shinobu. I know how you feel…” She squeezed her gently. “Even after all these years…”

Shinobu smiled slightly, but said nothing. She knew what Ryuunosuke was trying to say. Instead she curled in close against her, closing her eyes.

Five minutes later, Lum burst into the music room, dragging Tohru behind her. “There you two are! I’ve been dragging this boy all around the school looking for you!”

Ryuunosuke and Shinobu stared at Lum for a moment, then exchanged exasperated glances. Then they both gave Lum a glare that could make even the toughest Oni flinch.

“What are you doing with my son?” Ryuunosuke asked, her gaze hotter than the inside of a burning kiln.

The fact that Lum barely seemed bothered by the looks of indignation spoke volumes about her. She just hauled Tohru up in front of her. “I wanted to make him apologise for all the trouble he’d been causing you, so I found him and brought him to you.”

Ryuunosuke looked at her son for a moment. Tohru looked away, trying to avoid her face. Then she looked at Lum again. “Yeah, thanks for that. I needed to tell him a little something, too.”

Tohru stepped forward, only turning back to give Lum a dirty look, before standing before Ryuunosuke. “I’m sorry that I have been avoiding you all week, and making you all worried and shit… And probably a couple of other things too.”

Ryuunosuke smirked a little at Tohru’s words, before turning fully to look at her son. “It’s okay, Tohru. You’ve been a pretty good son, anyway. Even if you do keep fighting all the time.” Her smirk grew even wider as Tohru flushed horribly and looked away. “Look, I know I tried to raise you the best I can. And I know that this place can get you down. I know how you feel.”

She got to her feet, stepped towards her son. “I didn’t raise you like my dad would, expecting an heir to the Hamachaya or anything like that. I wanted to raise you because I love you like a mother should. I raised you so you could have a happy life.”

Tohru tried his best to look away, even though everyone could see the tears in his eyes from miles away. “Yeah, I know. I just wish I knew how to make it stop.”

Shinobu got to her feet quickly. “You can’t. You just have to ride it out. But we can do that together.” She looked between Tohru, Ryuunosuke and Lum. “All of us can, together.”

Ryuunosuke nodded. “You should listen to Shinobu. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know what I would’ve ended up being.” She reached out and grabbed Shinobu’s hand tightly. “And I dunno what she would’ve done without me, either.” She looked at Tohru seriously. “So what d'ya say? Together?”

After a moment, Tohru looked at his mother, the tears rolling down his cheeks. “Yeah, together.” He stepped forward towards her mother, bowing his head low. “Together.”

“So does that mean that Tohru can call Shinobu 'Mom’ now?” Lum asked innocently.

Tohru’s head suddenly snapped up at Lum’s question, his face flushed once more. He gave Lum a horrified look, before running out of the room as fast as his legs could carry him.

Lum just stared at the door Tohru dashed out of, her face full of confusion. “I thought he would have been happier about that.”

Shinobu just laughed at Lum’s reaction. “He’s only a boy, Lum. He’ll come around eventually.”

Minutes later, Tohru collapsed into Class 1-4, panting heavily. Within minutes, Kokeru and Shiro were by his side, helping him to his desk.

“I heard Mom grabbed you and dragged you off,” Kokeru said, concern in his voice. “What happened?”

“Nothing,” Tohru said in between pants for breath. “I think me and Mom made up. Kind of?”

“That sounds great!” Shiro said. “Mom and Mom had been really worrying over you.”

Tohru grimaced, blushing even further. “Dude, did you just call my Mom 'Mom’?”

Shiro sighed, shaking his head. “What else could I call her? I thought we were like brothers!”

Tohru sighed, and nodded. “Yeah… The way things are going, that’s probably gonna be true.”

Chapter Text

Playing in the Shower

(Day 21: Games)

“Man, that was a hell of a Setsubun this year!” Benten laughed as she made her way inside Lum’s UFO. “I haven’t worked up this much of a sweat for a long time!” She let her trusty machine gun land with a thunk on Lum’s tigerskin rug, before making her way to the bathroom. “I’m just gonna run a bath and get myself clean again. Care to join me?”

Lum just huffed as she pulled off her cape, draping it in a wicker basket for the laundry machines. “Don’t just drop your stuff wherever you please! I like to keep things tidy around here!” Her words were answered only with a loud clatter coming from the direction, probably the sound of Benten’s bikini armour hitting the deck. Lum just growled and pulled off her horned helmet and placing it in storage with the rest of her Setsubun gear.

Another year, and another Setsubun that ended inconclusively. That seemed to be the trend going since years gone past. Her Darling was still trying to ally herself with Benten, and being a general pest and millstone around her neck. It seemed like she would never be able to get herself a decisive victory at this rate, let alone one that would give her such glory as the Oni past have had. All Lum ever seemed to get at Setsubun was nothing but trouble and frustration.

Lum sighed and stripped off the large shoulderpads, placing them next to the helmet, before stripping off her bikini and boots to put in the laundry. She floated over to the bathroom, following the humid warmth coming from beyond the door. In the hallway, she could see a trail left of Benten’s clothes: a boot, then an armguard, then the other boot, the armoured skirt, the other armguard, and her bikini top.

Lum scowled as she picked up each article of clothing. Now she knew that Benten was just trying to taunt her! She even left her panties on the knob of the bathroom door! Was this really the standard of living that the Gods of Luck Gang had?

Lum angrily floated over to the laundry machine and dumped Benten’s bikini armour on the floor in front of it. If Benten wanted her armour clean, she could do it herself. Then she finally turned around and floated back to the bathroom.

When she pulled the door open, Lum was hit with a blast of hot steam, that quickly made her face and hair feel damp. She turned to see Benten bat at the edge of her bath, watching the hot water fill up slowly. Her eyes were so firmly fixed on the bath that she probably didn’t notice Lum even open the door, let alone come in.

Lum let the bathroom door swing shut behind her as she stepped closer to Benten, her eyes moving over the goddess’ body. Her skin was still dry and grimy with sweat, dirt and scorch marks from the battle. Surprisingly, even with the violent life that she led, Lum couldn’t notice a single lasting scar on Benten’s body. Her skin was still as smooth and soft-looking as that of a baby.

Lum quickly turned her eyes away from Benten. She was already put off by Benten’s slobbishness, she didn’t need to let things get even more awkward than they already were. She just wanted to get clean and prepare plans for next year. She floated over to the shower and turned the knobs, until a steaming downpour of hot water cascaded down from above.

Lum stepped under the shower, and let all of the stress melt off her body with the rush of the hot water over her head. She let the sound of the water fill her head as it ran down her body and splashed against the walls and the floor, drowning out the world around her. For a moment, there was nothing but her; Benten was completely shut out, the world was miles away, and so was all of its problems. There was nothing but Lum and the water.

And then Benten stepped up behind her and broke the spell so easily, just by prodding her in the small of her back. Lum sprang up like a cat, crackling with electricity. But Benten pulled back just out of reach of Lum’s lightning, and stepped away from the water around her. She just laughed as she saw Lum’s look of irritation. “You sure looked like you were enjoying yourself there, Lum!”

“Are you trying to make me mad at you, Benten?!” Lum snarled. “Because it’s working pretty good!”

“Hey, take it easy, will you?” Benten smirked, cocking her hips a little. “You’re probably gonna blow a fuse in this place if you go off in here.” Then her eyes moved past Lum, to focus behind her. “Maybe I could help you soap up?”

Lum gave Benten a skeptical look. But she turned around nevertheless, reaching over to turn down the pressure in the shower so Benten could get behind her. It also meant she could ground herself and discharge safely, so she wouldn’t accidentally shock Benten.

“Be careful, okay?” Lum said. “I can let go of these pipes anytime. And if you make me let go, you’ll be very sorry.”

Benten snorted. “Seriously, what do you take me for?” She reached over and grabbed the shower gel from over Lum’s shoulder, popped it open, and squirted a large glob into her hands. She worked the lukewarm gel in her hands just enough to start building a lather, before she placed her soapy hands on Lum’s back.

Lum squirmed as Benten’s hands rubbed up and down her back, trying her best not to arch out. She could feel the lightning escape her fingers, running down the pipes of the shower, safely elsewhere in her UFO. She let herself rise off the ground, moving her legs up and around Benten.

Benten grinned, firmly working Lum between her fingers. As she did so, her hands moved up and along her shoulders, and then back down again. “You feel really tense. You went all out back there, didn’t you?”

“Mmmm.” Lum felt her face grow warm as Benten’s hands roamed across her back. “Don’t stop…” She murmured again as Benten’s hands rubbed across her belly, caressing over the wet skin gently. “Mmm, where are your hands going?”

Lum got her answer when Benten’s hands suddenly moved up, cupping her breasts gently. She squeaked softly as fingers kneaded them firmly, working them so much that she feared that she might get hurt.

“Benten!” Lum said in a warning tone. “Be gentle! Or I’ll really let go!” But then she squeaked as Benten tweaked her nipple, causing her to gasp and arch against you. “I-I’m warning you…”

“Is that supposed to discourage me?” Benten asked, tugging gently at Lum’s nipples. “That’s so cute.”

Lum groaned, and squirmed out of Benten’s grip, turning herself around to face her. “I’m serious, Benten! Don’t treat everything like it’s some kind of game!” She kept her grip on the pipes, even as she glared at her dark-haired friend. “If you’re gonna do this, at least have the decency to not mess me around!”

Benten grinned, and moved in under the shower with Lum, pressing against her body. Lum gasped as Benten rubbed against her, bodies slick with water and soap. And Benten was still smiling, which only made it more aggravating.

“Maybe we should just skip to the kissing, then?” Benten asked, before she leaned in and kissed Lum deeply.

Lum’s eyes closed, and her lips parted, her body relaxing to let Benten take every inch of her. The only thing she didn’t let go of was those pipes, still dispersing the electricity that Lum was sure was leaking out of her by the megavolt.

When Benten pulled away, Lum was left limp and panting. “Are you really stopping now?” she asked, and she was sure that Benten could notice the disappointment in her voice.

Benten just chuckled. “Hell no! I gotta get myself clean too!”

Chapter Text

In Your Wardrobe

(Day 22: Wardrobe)

Daria didn’t know how she managed to get talked into having Stacy in her room. Well, Stacy didn’t even need to do talking. She just looked at Daria with those big, round, pretty eyes of hers and looked as pitiful as possible until she relented. Daria thought she would have been resistant to this kind of thing, especially from somebody not even her own sister took seriously. Maybe it just goes to show that even she could be surprised.

Now Stacy was poking around inside of her wardrobe, looking for God knows what. Daria didn’t particularly think that Stacy would’ve found anything in there interesting, but she seemed to be taking quite a while browsing through her collection of mustard yellow shirts and black skirts, as well as her three pairs of combat boots (one for normal use, one for looking more presentable, and one as a back-up pair).

Daria was wondering if Stacy was going to root through her bookshelves for a moment before she turned to look at Daria. Daria could already tell from the look on Stacy’s face that she would have a lot to say. She sat up on her bed, figuring that it would be best to get it over with quickly.

“Have you properly tabulated all of my sartorial choices enough, Stacy?” She asked. “I think that maybe later you could analyse our family photo album, too. Maybe you could compare me against Quinn…”

“Oh, Daria…” Stacy laughed, in the kind of way that reminded her of Quinn trying to sidestep any trouble with Sandi. “I just wanted to see if you really wore the same outfit all the time. I mean, Tiffany wouldn’t want to go near you because she thought you never washed your clothes.”

“And here I thought she was afraid of catching some of my intelligence,” Daria said, which actually made Stacy giggle. A genuine giggle, not the “I’m just humouring you” giggle she would have expected. “So you’re not planning on trying to give me a makeoever, are you? Turn me into Quinn or something?”

The smile melted off of Stacy’s face, and suddenly she was very interested in the carpet. “N… no. Not really…” She pulled her arms over herself, like she was trying to protect herself, like the human version of an armadillo curling into a ball.

It wasn’t the first time that Daria felt regret for saying something hurtful. But it was probably the first time she felt it for hurting Stacy. She swung her feet off of her bed, and raised herself up to sitting position. “Okay, that was probably going too far.”

“But it’s true, isn’t it?” Stacy asked. “I mean, I still kind of love Quinn, but…” She sniffled slightly. “I didn’t want to hold you up against her all the time. I thought that you didn’t want to be compared to her all the time.”

Daria cringed inwardly as Stacy sniffled. “So I just did what you was trying all this time to avoid doing to me. Perfect.”

“I didn’t want you to think that I was using you to replace Quinn,” Stacy said, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I thought that it would be, like, really insulting? I mean, you’re not all that much like Quinn…”

Daria tried to suppress the urge to get up and hug Stacy tightly. That was probably still a little bit too out of character for her, no matter how much Stacy might need it. Instead, she just said “Yeah, I’m not cute enough to be Quinn.”

“B-but you’re not ugly!” Stacy said, a little too quickly and loudly. “I mean, even though you don’t wear makeup, and you dress in drab colours, you’re still really pretty! You’re just… different.”

“Well, yeah.” Daria folded her arms. “That’s supposed to be the idea, right? I’m nothing like my sister.” She paused for a moment, as a thought popped into her head. “Though there was that one time I was raiding her wardrobe to dress like her. But then that was pretty much because I wanted to see how she would react.”

Stacy blinked at Daria, slowly. “You mean, you actually…”

“I’d hate to burst your bubble,” Daria said with a smirk, “but there are some depths that I am capable of stooping to.”

“I wouldn’t see it as stooping.” Stacy said in a muted tone. “I tried to do the same thing. Back when I was…” She swallowed hard. “Not as confident.”

Daria tilted her head. “Raiding Quinn’s wardrobe?”

Stacy turned her eyes away from Daria, suddenly too ashamed to look at her. “I thought that maybe if I looked just like her, everything would be better. I even tried asking her opinion on hair dye.”

Daria winced slightly. “No wonder Quinn warned me about you trying to raid my wardrobe. You honestly didn’t think that there was something creepy about that?” When Stacy didn’t answer, Daria just sighed heavily. “Okay, now that we’ve done airing out our dirty laundry, maybe we could…”

But Daria was interrupted when Stacy suddenly surged forward and hugged her tightly around the shoulders. Daria just sat there, staring into space, as Stacy clung as tightly as she could.

Daria sighed, and fell backwards onto the bed again. She inwardly smirked as Stacy fell with her with a squeak. “Maybe you should stop poking around in wardrobes for a while. Just stick with your own, for now.” She reached up and played with one of Stacy’s pigtails. “It’s not like it’s going to really change anything, right?”

“That’s just ‘cause you’re so stubborn,” Stacy answered in a teasing tone. “But you do look cute in dark colours. Cuter than Quinn would.”

Daria groaned. “Well, there’s a silver lining for you…”

Chapter Text

Bases Loaded

(Day 23: Power)

It was going to be another frustrating session of Phys Ed. That was all Ranma could think of, waiting at third base for the next hit.

Normally, Ranma would be in boy form with the others, doing laps around the track. But one of the girls in the class wanted Ranma to make up the difference in the softball field instead. And so Ranma found herself damp and all but shoved onto the diamond.

All of these things Ranma could look past. But what was really grinding at her nerves was that Akane was on the opposite team. And they were winning.

Of course, Ranma was no slouch. Last inning, she caught two fly balls and tagged one out, leaving them without even one point. But it was obvious she wasn’t just pulling her weight, but dragging the rest of her team behind her. All of the better players were rallying behind Akane.

Now Ranma was at third at the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded, after thinking she could just bunt and speed around, only to see the ball speeding towards Akane just as she got there. She was stuck, and Kumiko was two strikes in, with two already out. If she missed, that was the end of the game for Ranma. And Akane would be the winner.

Akane was busy watching Kumiko at the bat, her gym clothes already damp with sweat. She didn’t seem to care that Ranma was just behind her. Her mind was fully on the game.

A thought popped into Ranma’s mind: why not take it off the game? That’s what you’re good at, right? Since Akane is so close and all. So close you can touch her…

“The second that ball is in the air,” Ranma suddenly blurted out, “I’m headed for home. And I know you can’t stop me.”

“And when the catcher catches the ball, she can tag you out.” Akane replied, not even turning to face her. “You seriously think you can beat that ball? Maki-chan has a good arm.”

“She can’t be that good,” Ranma replied. “She’s pitching like 85? I could outrun that pitch easy.” She moved back, folding her arms. “Besides, Kumiko could just bunt and…”

“Kumiko wouldn’t bunt, Ranma.” There was a hint of irritation in Akane’s voice. “She’d just swing and miss again.”

“What, you don’t think Kumiko can hit?”

“She didn’t hit the last four pitches!” Akane replied, now well and truly irritated.

“And just ‘cause of that, you think she wouldn’t hit this one?” Ranma asked. “Beside, it wouldn’t matter if she hit it or not, I’m still stealing home!”

“Do it, and you’ll be tagged out faster than you can blink!”

“Who’s gonna tag me out?” Ranma asked, a note of smugness in her voice. “Who’s the master of martial arts around here?”

“This is softball, dummy!” Akane wheeled around to glare at Ranma. “This isn’t martial arts, this isn’t life and death! This is a game!” She pointed at Ranma’s nose, her eyes narrowing. “And don’t give me that crap about how good you are at martial arts. So are me and Kuno!”

“Seriously?” Ranma asked, raising an eyebrow. “Clumsy old you? I’m surprised you still…” The crack of the bat suddenly snapped Ranma’s thought in two (which was probably a stroke of luck, because it was probably something that would really make Akane mad at her), and she looked behind Akane to see the ball racing towards them at shocking speed. Or rather, at the back of Akane’s head.

“Akane…!”

And in the next moment, Akane’s hand shot out behind her and grabbed the ball out of the air with her bare hand. Not even turning her head: her eyes were still focused on Ranma’s face.

Akane brought the ball around her and prodded Ranma’s chest with it. “What was that?” And then she looked at her hand, and the anger quickly disappeared as she realised what she was holding.

“OUT!”

Ranma stared at Akane in shocked silence. Her mouth worked uselessly for a few seconds, before she could finally force words out. “You didn’t even notice you caught the ball?”

Akane blushed deeply, and Ranma thought it was the cutest thing ever. “No, I guess not.” The rest of her teammates rushed up to Akane, cheering loudly, and Akane turned around with a bright smile on her face that made Ranma’s heart beat faster.

At that moment, it didn’t really matter that Ranma had completely lost her moment to even the odds, without even noticing. Or that Kumiko had actually hit the ball, like she had (kind of) predicted it would.

Akane was smiling and happy, and she had just caught a fly ball bare-handed, without even looking at it. And at that moment, that was what mattered.

Chapter Text

A Cold Bath on a Hot Summer Night

(Day 24: Weather)

It was another hot August day in Tomobiki. The radio said that it was going to be approaching 40'C that day, and Ryuunosuke was feeling every degree as she sat in the shade of the Miyake family home. It was the kind of day that would make her pray for the rain. But as she looked out at the sky, she couldn't even see a single cloud.

Ryuunosuke heard the click of the door opening, and turned her head to see Shinobu stepping inside, carrying bagfuls of ice and some bento lunches. She almost scrambled over to the girl like an overly happy dog, eager to see her master home.

"I thought there was space in the freezer, so I bought some extra ice!" Her voice was somewhat musical, even in the sweltering heat. "These were the last five bags, too. I really got lucky today!" She stepped out of her sandals, brushing off her short white and pink dress, and gave Ryuunosuke a smile. "You really seem pleased to see me."

"Well, why wouldn't I be?" Ryuunosuke asked. She quickly got to her feet, to take the shopping bags from Shinobu. "So where am I gonna stick these? In the icebox, right?"

"Maybe leave a couple of bags," Shinobu said quickly. "I think I might have a use for them."

Ryuunosuke nodded, and took everything else to the kitchen. "What kind of use?" She called out to the hallway.

"Just come over to the bathroom when you're done!" Shinobu called back. Then all Ryuunosuke could hear was slippered feet on wood, headed for the bathroom. So Ryuunosuke quickly put everything away, and headed straight there after Shinobu.

She stepped inside to see Shinobu kneeling by the bath, waiting as it filled with water. For a moment, Ryuunosuke wondered if it would be a good idea to be running a hot bath on such a hot day, but then she noticed something: the two bags of ice Shinobu was saving sat by the edge of the bath, and they weren't melting.

"Is this your plan?" Ryuunosuke asked. "Running a cold bath at home?"

"Not exactly cold," Shinobu said, "but close enough." Her eyes were still focused on the tub. She nibbled on her bottom lip as the bath filled up, and Ryuunosuke couldn't stop staring at her as she did so. It didn't help that she was wearing that dress from *that* date once again. Maybe because it was too warm out for anything else.

Ryuunosuke had often wondered why Shinobu still kept that dress. She thought that maybe following the first time, which ended up screwed up beyond recognition, she would have ditched it. But she wore it again, every once in a while. Ryuunosuke talked with Shinobu about it, and she admitted that she didn't have much in the way of proper date clothes; she still thought it was cute enough to keep wearing.

But every time Ryuunosuke looked at Shinobu in that dress, she could only think of that moment when she freaked out and... She grit her teeth and tried to forget the bad memories. Shinobu forgave her for that. She could have done anything else, but she forgave Ryuunosuke for trying to attack her in public. She even let Ryuunosuke make out with her now!

"Ryuunosuke-kun?" Shinobu asked softly. "Would you like me to get you a swimsuit from upstairs? I think I might have something that can fit you."

Ryuunosuke blinked. Swimsuit? Was Shinobu planning on having them share the tub? The thought made her light-headed. She staggered back slightly, trying to calm herself once more.

Shinobu blinked and stepped closer. "Are you alright, Ryuunosuke?" She reached up and cupped Ryuunosuke's face in her hands. "You're not getting heatstroke are you?"

"No..." Ryuunosuke murmured. Shinobu's hands were cold. Very cold and damp. Even that was enough to soothe her, for the short moment before her hands warmed up again. "Maybe we could skip the swimsuits?"

Shinobu giggled softly. "Don't be such a pervert, Ryuunosuke-kun!"

"Sorry..." Ryuunosuke murmured. "It's just seeing you in that dress, makes me think funny things..." She turned her eyes away, expecting Shinobu to let go. She knew from experience that trying to press the issue wasn't going to lead to anything other than pain, after all.

But Shinobu didn't let go. "Oh... this old thing? You're still hung up about that?" She leaned in and kissed Ryuunosuke's lips gently. "Then maybe you should help me out of it?"

Ryuunosuke stared at Shinobu for a moment as she smiled at her. She didn't realise the girl was that capable of being smooth! So smooth that Ryuunosuke couldn't help but pull Shinobu in for a deep kiss, holding her gently by her hips.

Shinobu made a happy noise against Ryuunosuke's lips as she kissed back, grabbing a tight hold of her ratty T-shirt in the process. And then Shinobu's hands went under her T-shirt, wriggling in to find the end of her sarashi so she could tug it undone.

Ryuunosuke couldn't let Shinobu take the lead yet, so she took the collar of Shinobu's top and pulled it apart and down her shoulders. Shinobu's bra was probably snowy white, but was now darkened with all the sweat it collected during the day. But Ryuunosuke made short work of it in seconds, unlatching it one handed to let it drop off her breasts.

Shinobu gasped as Ryuunosuke pulled the bra away from her and cupped one of her breasts, squeezing it gently. "Ryuunosuke..." She squeaked, her body twitching as Ryuunosuke pinched her nipple gently. "Not so rough..."

"Sorry," Ryuunosuke mumbled. She felt her sarashi unravel from under her T-shirt to fall at her feet, but she didn't worry. She'd let Shinobu at her in a minute. But right now, she wanted to take the lead. She leaned in close and captured one of Shinobu's nipples in her mouth, suckling on it firmly, and let the tip of her tongue dance over the nub.

Shinobu's legs immediately buckled, and she sank backwards. Ryuunosuke followed her down to the floor without even taking her mouth off her breast, laying her down gently on the tile as she kept suckling. She felt Shinobu's fingers raking through her hair and she wondered if that would feel kind of gross, because she only washed her hair last night, but it still felt so good that she applied more pressure to Shinobu's nipple.

Shinobu was moaning openly now, her voice high and musical, keeping Ryuunosuke latched on firmly to her. The sound of Shinobu's moans aroused Ryuunosuke all the more; her hand pulled up Shinobu's skirt and slid in between her legs, caressing the damp patch of cotton over her nethers. And as Shinobu's moans grew louder, and her thighs opened more, Ryuunosuke was all the more spurred on.

Slowly, Ryuunosuke slid her fingers inside of Shinobu's panties, and delved into the wetness beneath. She listened to Shinobu moan and whimper, and felt how she would clench against her fingers. She measured her pace, gauging just how much and how long she could drive Shinobu to the edge for. And then she drove Shinobu over.

Shinobu cried out, clawing at Ryuunosuke's shirt, her body arching out against the tiles. She jerked upwards once, twice, before sinking back down again, spent. She barely even reacted when Ryuunosuke slid her fingers out and tugged off her panties, then picked up her discard bra to dump in the laundry with her own clothes.

But then Shinobu got up weakly, panting from the high that her girlfriend had brought her to, so she could finally tug off her dress. She threw it towards Ryuunosuke, who caught it so casually that she wasn't even looking at her direction. Shinobu just smiled, and slipped carefully into the cold bath, squeaking a little at the change in temperature.

A moment later, Ryuunosuke made her way over, after dumping her own clothes in the hamper with Shinobu's. She stepped into the bath, wincing at the cold. She shivered for a moment, before sliding herself down into the water.

And as she slid down, Shinobu moved herself over to snuggle up against Ryuunosuke, wrapping a lazy arm around her shoulders. She smiled as Ryuunosuke's hand rested on her head gently, stroking through her hair.

"Have you got it out of your system now, Ryuunosuke-kun?" Shinobu's other hand was stroking over Ryuunosuke's belly gently, making her shiver.

"Not really..." Ryuunosuke answered, leaning back against the bath. "I'm still waiting for you to return the favour, Shinobu."

Shinobu smiled, as her fingers trailed down Ryuunosuke's belly, and slid down between her thighs. "That's what I like to hear." Her smile grew wider as Ryuunosuke moaned and arched out against her touch.

Chapter Text

The Frog Hour

(Day 25: Garden)

The rain was really coming down as Ryuunosuke grabbed her ratty umbrella and stepped out into the courtyard of the school. She knew the old thing couldn't last for much longer, but it had stood up to a storm like this and still worked. Add to that the fact that Ryuunosuke couldn't afford to get anything better for the rain, and it was understandable that you had to take what you could get.

Ryuunosuke had something that needed to be doing while the lunch break was still on: a couple of the girls from the School Gardening Club had asked her to check on some of the plants around the back of the school during the lunch hour. And since she never really had time to herself otherwise, she accepted.

It didn't take long before Ryuunosuke found the Gardening Club's greenhouse, and the flowers she was asked about: a small collection of young sunflowers sitting in large pots outside, that were currently withstanding the torrential rain. They were bending this way and that with the wind, and rattling with each droplet of water that hit them; even though they looked like they were holding up well, it didn't look certain they actually would last the entire day under a storm like this. Ryuunosuke grabbed a pot and lugged it into the greenhouse, placing them in a suitably empty spot that provided a sufficient amount of sunlight.

The first pot was soon joined with the others, as Ryuunosuke lugged each pot into the greenhouse. She left her ratty umbrella behind, not even minding that her uniform was getting soaked. But as she placed the last one in, she was surprised to see a green frog emerge from amid the leaves of the flower to stare up at her with big black eyes. Unlike a lot of girls she knew, Ryuunosuke was pretty alright with frogs, but she was surprised that there was one right in the middle of the school garden. It was also unusually large for most frogs she had seen, to the point that she wasn't sure if it wasn't actually the biggest frog she had ever seen.

"Where'd you come from?" Ryuunosuke asked the frog, almost rhetorically. She wasn't sure that it understood her, but she had seen stranger things before. The frog even seemed to look at her directly, as if it had heard what she had asked it. Even then, the possibility seemed so ridiculous to think about...

Ryuunosuke's thought processes were interrupted when the frog leapt directly at her, and smacked its foreleg into her face. And the next thing she knew, she was a frog as well.

Of course, Ryuunosuke didn't know this at first. All there was a bizarre rushing sensation, and then darkness and the feeling of being trapped inside something cold, heavy and wet. Not only that, but now everything felt utterly strange to her now, as she pushed her way out of her now massive clothes.

Ryuunosuke emerged from her clothes, blinking in the light. She looked around in confusion, wondering why everything was so tall. And then she looked down at herself, and saw her new green-skinned body.

And then she began to panic.

Ryuunosuke hopped around the pile of clothes in a panic, before leaping away, bounding across the tarmac. She needed to find somebody, somebody that could at least help! Or at least not scream and run, or try and dissect her or something!

Ryuunosuke hopped over to a pair of schoolgirls sat beneath some awnings for shelter, chatting with each other. But when she leapt right up to one of them, she misjudged and landed right in her lap.

The girl screamed her head off, and Ryuunosuke leapt away, not wanting to get smashed to goo in a panic. Thankfully, there was an open window she could quickly dive inside to avert trouble.

The window turned out to lead into one of the girls' changing rooms. Quietly, Ryuunosuke was half-thankful that Phys Ed didn't start until much later. Now, all she had to do was find out exactly where she was so she could return to class.

Unfortunately, that was the exact moment that the door opened, and several girls stepped inside, chatting amongst themselves. And then Ryuunosuke remembered that some of the first year students had Phys Ed after lunch on certain days. Like today.

Undeterred, Ryuunosuke hopped forward as high and as quick as she could. She dove between the small gap between two of the girls, leaving them screaming in fright as she took off down the hall. Ryuunosuke could only be thankful that she was still pretty strong and fast, even as a small green frog.

Ryuunosuke quickly bounded up the stairs and up onto the shoulder of Miss Sakura, who was walking up the stairs, presumably somewhere else. But wherever it was, it had to be close. She kept herself as quiet an unassuming as a frog on a beautiful woman's shoulder could be, crouching low and clinging on.

To Ryuunosuke's surprise, she saw her father walk up to Sakura, clutching a pile of sodden clothes. Her sodden clothes, she quickly realised. Which meant that he found them, and is probably...

"Miss Sakura," Mr. Fujinami said, "we have a rather disturbing problem. My son seems to have gone mad, stripped off all his clothes, and is now rampaging naked around the school!"

Scratch that, he has definitely gotten the wrong idea.

Sakura, for her part, seemed completely disbelieving. She just blinked at Mr. Fujinami and looked at the pile of sodden clothes. "Right." She grabbed the wet clothes from Mr. Fujinami. "I'll look into it as soon as possible."

"You will look into it now, woman!" Mr. Fujinami said, earning a nasty look from Sakura. "Or are you too busy playing with your new friend here?!" He pointed towards Sakura's shoulder, where Ryuunosuke was sitting.

Oh no.

Sakura looked at her shoulder, spotting Ryuunosuke sitting there. And then she shrieked in an uncharacteristically high pitch, before trying to slap her off. But Ryuunosuke was quicker, leaping full force at her father's face and bouncing off as Sakura stumbled backwards.

Ryuunosuke flew through the air as gracefully as a somewhat large frog could be, leaving her father falling to the floor as she sped off down the hall. Now she was truly desperate. If Sakura reacted this badly to frogs, then was there even any chance of someone who could even help her? Cherry maybe? Or maybe he'll just try and put her in a stew...

Ryuunosuke bounded around a corner, and almost leapt in fright as several schoolgirls were bowled over like pins trying to avoid her. She would have bounded on, if she didn't catch a certain face out of the corner of her eye, causing her to land on the floor.

Shinobu!

Ryuunosuke turned to look at Shinobu, sprawled out on her butt on the floor. She knew it was a longshot, but if she could figure something out, maybe Shinobu could help her. But she still actually needed to figure something out.

Meanwhile, Shinobu was shrinking back against the wall, trying to scramble backwards, her face frozen in fear. And the look of disgust and fear on Shinobu's face made Ryuunosuke all the more desperate to think of something.

And then Ryuunosuke hit on something: could she still speak? She could still understand Japanese, but she was a frog, and not a person. But if she didn't try and say something, Shinobu would run and she'd be back to square one. She had to try it now.

Ryuunosuke took a deep breath, and croaked, her throat swelling out. And then she croaked again, managing to make it sound like "Shii". She wanted to croak as loudly as possible, loud enough that Shinobu could hear her.

"Shii... Shii... Shii-noo..."

Shinobu's eyes widened in shock. "Is... Is that frog trying to say something?!"

"Shii-noo-buu! Shii-noo-buu!"

The girls could only gape in shock as Ryuunosuke croaked out Shinobu's name as best she could with only her frog throat. It gave Ryuunosuke a warped kind of pride that she was able to legibly croak someone's name like that, after only a couple of minutes as a frog.

Shinobu stared at the frog, not really comprehending what she was hearing. "How do you know my name?!" She moved forward hesitantly, moving closer to Ryuunosuke. "How do you even know me?" She tilted her head curiously. "Are you like Kitsune?"

Ryuunosuke felt glee as Shinobu came closer. Now all she had to do was convince her it was her! "Ruu... Ruu-no-skay! Ruu-no-skay!" She croaked her name out as hard as she could, not even paying mind that her throat felt totally sore.

Shinobu's eyes widened in horror. "Ryuunosuke?!"

"That's Ryuunosuke?!" One of the girls asked, shrinking back. "That's impossible! How can Ryuunosuke be a frog?!"

Shinobu shook her head frantically. "I don't even know! But then how does it even know our names?" She looked back at Ryuunosuke, hestiation still on her features. "Um, frog-san... Ryuunosuke?"

Ryuunosuke nodded frantically. "Ruu-no-skay! Ruu-no-skay!"

Shinobu screwed her eyes shut, and brought her hands forward. "P-please pardon me!" And before Ryuunosuke could even react, Shinobu had scooped her up in her hands, and gotten to her feet. She cringed slightly as Ryuunosuke squirmed slightly in her hands, and Ryuunosuke probably couldn't blame her, because she felt all sticky and damp.

Ryuunosuke was brought almost nose to nose with Shinobu, and the sight of her face made Ryuunosuke damn near have an out-of-frog-body experience. Shinobu was so pretty that to be this close to her was driving her crazy. It took her all of her mental strength to be able to remain lucid when this close to Shinobu.

"We have to take you to Sakura-sensei!" Shinobu said quickly. "O-or Cherry! He would know what to do!" And then she turned around and sprinted for the nurses' station, leaving her confused friends behind, Ryuunosuke firmly clutched in her hands.

On the stairs, Shinobu was stopped by a large gaggle of boys stampeding up the stairs, behind Mr. Fujinami, still carrying the bundle of Ryuunosuke's discarded uniform. She blinked as Mr. Fujinami dashed up to her.

"Shinobu-san!" Mr. Fujinami barked out. "Have you seen my idiot son anywhere?"

Shinobu paused for a long moment, before she shook her head. "No, not really! I haven't seen her since lunch. Why?"

"Because as far as I know," Mr. Fujinami held up the uniform in his clenched fist, "he's stripped himself of his uniform and is cavorting around the school, naked as a jaybird!"

Shinobu gasped and jumped back, a blush blooming across her face. "R-really?! That sounds horrible!"

"Well, we haven't exactly seen Ryuu-chan around here yet," Ataru quickly added emerging from the group of boys. "But if she's left her uniform here, she can't have gotten far!" He turned to the rest of his friends. "Come on lads! We won't stop until we turned this school upside down!"

And with a loud roar, Mr. Fujinami and the boys raced up the stairs in a lustful frenzy, leaving Shinobu staring after them, blinking in shock. Then she looked down at Ryuunosuke, still held in her hand. "So you really must be Ryuunosuke!" She turned and dashed back down the stairs. "Come on! If there's anyone who can help you, it's Sakura-sensei!"

But when Shinobu opened the door to the nurses' station, she was shocked to see that Sakura wasn't there. Unknown to her, Sakura had to recuperate in the break room after her too-close encounter with Ryuunosuke.

Shinobu sat down heavily on one of the beds, still holding Ryuunosuke in her hand. "Now what do we do? I don't have any clue..." She looked down at Ryuunosuke glumly. "I'm sorry, little froggy... I really wish I could help you. If only things were as easy as they were in fairy tales..."

Ryuunosuke gazed up at Shinobu morosely. She wanted to reassure her, tell her that it wasn't her fault she couldn't help. But she was just a frog, and her voice was still raw from croaking out Shinobu's name. She hopped up into Shinobu's lap, raising herself up on her hind legs carefully.

"But then maybe... Maybe there's a chance..."

Ryuunosuke croaked in surprise as Shinobu picked her up around her middle and lifted her up. The little frog's eyes all but bugged out when Shinobu's lips drew closer and closer, until they pressed against her forehead.

And in the next second, Ryuunosuke found herself laid on top of Shinobu, both of them bowled over. She looked at the hands planted on either side of Shinobu; human hands.

"I'm human again! I'm cured!" She grinned widely, a giddiness taking her over. "Shinobu, how did you figure it out?" She gazed down at Shinobu, who was blushing incredibly profusely.

"U-um... It was nothing really..." Shinobu averted her eyes, poking her fingertips together. "I was just thinking of this old fairy tale I remembered, about a prince who was a frog, and the princess who changed him back to human." She brought her hands over her face, to cover her blush. "With a kiss."

Ryuunosuke blinked in surprise. "Wow, that sure sounds like a crazy story..."

Shinobu just nodded, blushing even more. "Um, Ryuunosuke... Could you maybe get off my lap... And maybe we could find you something to wear?"

Ryuunosuke blinked. Off Shinobu's lap? Was she...

Ryuunosuke looked down. Oh.

Oh.

Ryuunosuke scrambled off Shinobu, diving beneath the covers to hide her nudity. "I'm so sorry, Shinobu! I completely forgot I was naked!" She all but burrowed beneath the bedclothes."Please don't hurt me or anything!"

"I-it's okay, Ryuunosuke!" Shinobu leaned forward to hug the quivering lump. "I'm not mad at you, I'm just... never mind! I'll get you some new clothes!" She slipped away, heading out into the hallway as Ryuunosuke shivered beneath, completely overtaken by embarrassment.

Ryuunosuke was still the same when Shinobu returned, carrying a small bundle with her. Shinobu smiled, and gently patted the lump. "It's okay, Ryuunosuke. I brought you some new clothes. I'm sure you'll like this!"

Ryuunosuke peeked out from underneath to see what Shinobu was holding. Her eyes widened as she saw a sailor uniform, and she raised herself back up again, almost whipping off the bed covers protecting her modesty. "Wait, you can't give me this! I haven't earned it yet!"

Shinobu shook her head. "Maybe you don't think so, but I do. Even if it's just for one day..." She squeaked as Ryuunosuke leaned in and lightly pecked at her lips, before taking the uniform... Her uniform from her to wear.

"Thank you so much..."

When Ryuunosuke and Shinobu entered Class 2-4, they were surprised to see Ataru and Lum and the others sat around. Ryuunosuke quickly made her way over, Shinobu following up behind, and gave them a wave. "Hey guy, what's up?"

Ataru's head snapped around to look at Ryuunosuke with shocking speed. "Ryuu-chan! You're wearing a sailor uniform!"

"Don't get excited!" Ryuunosuke said, "It's only for today!" She narrowed her eyes. "I heard you and my old man have been all around the school looking for me. Well, I'm here!"

"Ryuunosuke had a little accident while we were doing some job for the Gardening Club," Shinobu added helpfully. "We had to find a new uniform for Ryuunosuke to wear until we could find her old one again. I figured that old sailor uniform would do..."

"Oh yeah..." Ataru grinned. "About that search, well, we kinda had this weird run-in outside, and Ryuunosuke's pop ended up looking like this..."

Ataru reached behind him and pulled out what looked like a truly huge and warty looking brown-skinned toad. For a moment, Ryuunosuke was somewhat confused, until she noticed that the toad was glaring at her in a somewhat familiar fashion.

"Pops?!" Ryuunosuke's mouth dropped open. "Is that you?!"

The toad croaked with as much contempt as it could muster.

Shinobu could only cringe at the sight. "Maybe we should wait for Sakura-sensei to help find a cure for him..." She backed away from the toad, a look of disgust on her face.

Ryuunosuke just nodded, and made her way over to her desk, Shinobu following behind her. She knew she didn't want to see her father stay a toad for long. But to be honest, she felt sorry for anybody who would have to kiss him.

Chapter Text

Sweet Dreams

(Day 26: Dreaming)

Ryuunosuke must have been yawning for like the third time that morning. But she had felt so groggy that it was hard to keep her eyes open. She didn't know if there was some strange hypnotic quality to Onsen-Mark's English teaching, or if the constant working at the school store the night before made her so tired.

"Fujinami!"

Ryuunosuke's head jerked upward. "Yeah?" She inwardly cursed herself, even as her eyelids drooped down again. "Sorry, I'm kinda having trouble here..."

After getting chewed out by Onsen-Mark for several minutes, Ryuunosuke was kind of glad that it was lunch time when he was done. Of course, she noticed Ataru stuffing his face behind his books while Onsen-Mark was ranting at her, because of course he would be. She was just surprised that Onsen-Mark didn't notice from ten feet away.

Later on, Ryuunosuke was surprised to see Ataru suddenly crouch down in front of her. "Hey, Ryuu-chan! You having trouble sleeping or something?" He paused for a second, and smirked even wider. "What am I saying? Of course you would!"

"What are you getting at, Moroboshi?" Ryuunosuke snarled, raising herself up in her chair. "If this is you trying to flirt with me again, I swear I'm gonna..."

"Nah, I'm not trying to flirt right now..." Ataru said, grinning. "I'm only trying to help, you see? Here, let me show you something." And before Ryuunosuke could protest, he spread several little round berries across the top of the desk. "See these?"

Ryuunosuke peered down at the berries. "What are those?"

"Something I sneaked away from Lum when she was busy. Jariten said they were something called dream berries." He plucked one of the tiny berries up in his fingers. "You eat one before you go to sleep, and then you would have a really pleasant dream. One that not even wild horses could wake you up from!" He rolled the berry over to Ryuunosuke. "I'm offering these to you, free of charge!"

Ryuunosuke just stared down at the berries. "These aren't going to make me go schizo or anything, right?"

Ataru gave Ryuunosuke a weird look. "What? No. These are the real deal! No side effects or anything!" He jerked as the classroom door suddenly opened, and quickly ran back to his desk, calling back, "Just try one tonight!"

Ryuunosuke scooped up the berries and peered down at them for a moment, before she shoved them in her pocket. She was still somewhat suspicious, but she was really in need of something to help her sleep.

That night, Ryuunosuke was still peering down at the berries with suspicion. She had been having some bad nights recently, so Ataru's promise of a good night's sleep sounded tempting. But she knew that anything Ataru touched, or anything from Lum usually ended up with a lot of trouble and pain.

But then Ryuunosuke looked over at her father, sleeping like a log, and felt a pang of jealousy. Enough for her to toss one berry in her mouth, swallow it like a pill, and then curl up underneath the covers to try and get to sleep.

And the next thing she knew, she was curled up on a massive bed of silk cushions. And Lum was laying next to her, an arm draped over her side, her face up uncomfortably close.

Ryuunosuke jerked upwards into a sitting position, looking around the unfamiliar surroundings. She was no longer in the old school storage shed that she and her father would call home, but what looked like a beautiful ornate palace. She wasn't sure that if it was Indian, Arabian, or Chinese, but it was certainly all gold and glittery.

Ryuunosuke's eyes darted around in confusion. What the hell was going on? Where's her father? Where's the school? What was Lum doing here?!

"Darling..." Lum murmured, curling in a bit closer. Ryuunosuke looked down at her in confusion, not only because of what she was saying, but because she also noticed what she was wearing: an outfit of white cotton veils that looked like they were the minimum amount to be officially considered a dress, rather than a bikini or lingerie. A golden necklace and bangles adorned her body, a contrast to the pure white of her clothes.

Ryuunosuke could only stare down at Lum in confusion as she stirred awake, and rose up to a sitting position. "Lum...? What are you doing here?! What's going on?" She shifted back slightly as Lum turned to face her. "This is some kind of joke, right? Like this is something my old man came up with to make me more manly! Right?"

Lum just smiled at her, a soft and sultry smile. "Darling, you say such the silliest things..." And before Ryuunosuke could react, she already wrapped her arms around her shoulders, dragging her into her embrace.

Ryuunosuke's mind whirled in confusion. Not only did she have no idea where she was, but now Lum was cuddling up to her and calling her "Darling?" She looked down at Lum, nuzzling in against her neck. "Um... What happened to Moroboshi?"

Lum opened her eyes, and looked up at Ryuunosuke.

"Moroboshi Ataru? Your fiance?" Ryuunosuke could feel the sweat drip down her face the longer she looked into Lum's uncomprehending eyes. "The guy who played tag with you over Earth? The guy who runs around harassing girls? You remember?"

Lum shook her head, concern taking over her face. "Darling, are you alright? You don't seem to be yourself this morning..." She looked past Ryuunosuke, a smile on her face. "Oh, maybe you can help!"

Ryuunosuke turned around to see Shinobu rising up from amid the cushions, eyes blinking drearily. She turned to look at Ryuunosuke, and gave her a smile, before sliding her way over. "Ryuunosuke-kun, is Lum being clingy again?" And Ryuunosuke couldn't help but notice that Shinobu was wearing a pink bunny girl suit, with black fishnets and black shiny heels.

Lum pouted at Shinobu. "I am not being clingy, Shinobu!" She tightened her grip on Ryuunosuke. "I want to give Darling the love she deserves!"

"Aw, come on, Lum!" Benten's voice floated over from behind Ryuunosuke's other ear, and she turned to see her slide in closer, just as skimpily dressed as Lum and Shinobu. "Everyone knows you're always trying to jockey for position every night, when you're sure Ryuu-chan is sleeping. Maybe you should let someone else sleep next to her tonight..."

"It should obviously be me!" Kurama shouted as she pushed her way past Benten, her face creased with frustration. "It has been much too long before I could even get close to Ryuunosuke-kun! I have been pent up for weeks!"

"Oh, can I be next to Ryuunosuke-oniisama tonight?" Ryuunosuke turned again, and saw Asuka right next to her, dressed in a soft cotton yukata. Her starry eyes were filled with adoration as she gazed at Ryuunosuke. "I promise I'll be gentle with you!"

Ryuunosuke's heart started to hammer in her chest as more and more girls climbed out from beneath the pillows, all of them beautiful and looking at her with such loving eyes. Kanna, the ballet dancer she helped train once; Oyuki, wearing just her ice swimsuit; Ran in a lacy white negligee, bouncing up and down happily; Ryoko Mendou, wearing a light cotton yukata with an enticing look on her face; a pretty red-head with white roses in her hair in a deep red shift; another red-head who looked a few years older, lips daubed with red; a short-haired brunette with strangely blank eyes; a strangely beguiling young woman with long black hair. And so on, and so long and so forth.

Ryuunosuke found herself surrounded by beautiful women both familiar and unfamiliar. She had to back away from them all, trying to ignore the rising sense of panic that rose up within her.

Unfortunately, she found herself stumbling back into another soft body, and felt a pair of long arms wrapping around her shoulders. Ryuunosuke looked up to see Sakura smiling down at her in a way she had never seen Sakura do before, and her heart beat all the faster for it.

"You're being surprisingly skittish today, Ryuunosuke," Sakura said softly, reaching up to caress through Ryuunosuke's hair. "Maybe you need somebody a little more... experienced this morning?"

Ryuunosuke swallowed hard, and tried to think of a reply. But by then, Lum and Shinobu suddenly sidled up on either side of her. And then all she could see were the many adoring faces of passionate girls, all of them gazing down at her, needing her so much...

Ryuunosuke lurched forward, trying to push her way out of the grip of the girls. "Wait just a damned minute, will ya?!" She raised herself to a sitting position...

Only to find herself back in her futon, in her bedroom, her father glaring at her angrily.

It was a dream... Ryuunosuke groaned and flopped back into her bed. It was all a damned dream. And then her eyes fell on the small brown paper bag she hid her dream berries in. And then everything slid into place, with one certain unmistakable possibility making itself know.

Ryuunosuke ignored her father's contemptious glare, and tried to go back to sleep. Seconds later, she was back in the room with all the girls, but now she was considerably more ready to assert herself than before.

The next morning, Ryuunosuke arrived at class looking considerably more energetic. More energetic enough that she managed to wake up before her father did, bolt down breakfast, and head straight into class.

Ataru quickly made his way over to Ryuunosuke's desk, grinning from ear to ear. "Ryuu-chan! How were the dream berries, you old dog?"

Ryuunosuke just shrugged. "Okay, I guess." She held up the paper bag. "Did you grow these?"

Ataru grinned even more. "Of course! Who else would make such a lovely dream if it wasn't me?"

Ryuunosuke nodded, and looked over at Lum, floating ominously behind Ataru’s head. “Yeah, it was definitely him, Lum.” She fought the urge to smirk as Ataru blinked in confusion, and turned around to see his fiancee glaring down at him, sparking with electricity.

“Darling,” Lum began dangerously, “Is this what you’ve been doing with my dream berries? Trying to spread your own sordid fantasies around the place?!” She floated closer, her expression turning more and more fearsome.

Ataru babbled as he backed away, trying to explain himself. Eventually, he just turned and bolted for the door outside, Lum floating after him.

Meanwhile, Ryuunosuke sat at her desk, pondering to herself what kind of bizarre and enticing dream that she would end up having tonight, all because of those damned berries.

After all, it was all just a dream, so it was probably okay to enjoy it as it happened, right?

Chapter Text

The Best View

(Day 27: Sunset)

Ryuunosuke stared up at the red skies of the early evening, sat on the balcony of the clock tower at Tomobiki High. The sun was hanging low in the sky, dipping towards the horizon, leaving the skies to turn darker. The silence helped to clear her head, and take her away from all of the trouble that she had to suffer through.

Behind her, the trap door inside the tower opened. Ryuunosuke turned her head to see Shinobu climb her way inside, closing the door behind her. She was gazing at Ryuunosuke with such soft eyes that Ryuunosuke felt her heart constrict just looking at it.

As it was, Ryuunosuke managed to play it cool enough for a single "Hey." Before she turned back around to contemplate the sunset. And maybe try and hold down the urge to scramble over and hug her tightly.

Shinobu smiled at Ryuunosuke, and stepped out onto the balcony, kneeling down next to Ryuunosuke. "I figured you'd be here," she said quietly. "I heard your father screaming for you for the past five minutes. I think he still might be right now."

Shinobu paused for a moment. Sure enough, if Ryuunosuke could strain her ears enough, she could hear her father bellowing her name. At this rate, everyone either just ignored him when he was off on one of his crazy moments, or actively tried to keep Ryuunosuke away from him. None of them worked harder than Shinobu, of course.

Ryuunosuke looked at Shinobu again, a look of worry on her face. "You sure nobody was following you?"

Shinobu nodded. "Not even Ataru-kun would let somebody tail me these days. I'm sure that even he is trying to keep your father away from you these days." She sidled a little closer. "You know that sometimes he sympathises with you?" She gave Ryuunosuke a nervous smile. "I think it's because of all the problems he's been through himself."

"Yeah?" Ryuunosuke asked, her brows creasing. "That doesn't mean I'm gonna start snuggling up with him any time soon." She turned back towards the reddening sky. "If anything, I'd rather have Lum than him."

Shinobu just snorted. "I'd bet. Ataru-kun would be more than happy to let you have her for a while. I'd just imagine he'd like to watch, or something." Shinobu giggled when Ryuunosuke gave her a look of disgust. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought that up." She sidled closer to Ryuunosuke. "Forgive me?"

Ryuunosuke was silent for a long moment. Then she tipped over sideways and flopped into Shinobu's lap, making her squeak in surprise. "Now I forgive you." She couldn't help but smirk a little, so she turned her face away so Shinobu didn't see it.

Shinobu just sighed and petted Ryuunosuke's hair gently. "You're really playing with fire today, aren't you?" But even though there was exasperation in her voice, a smile was playing on her lips. "Your day can't have been that tiring, can it?"

"Nah, I just wanted to lay in your lap for a bit." Ryuunosuke chuckled a little to herself, earning a light slap on the arm from Shinobu. "Ow! That actually hurt!" But then she just snorted again, and turned around to make herself more comfortable in Shinobu's lap, grinning slightly.

Shinobu smiled back, raking her fingers through Ryuunosuke's hair gently. The sun was steadily creeping lower towards the horizon, but there still was some time before night would fully fall. All of the other students would probably either be in clubs, or heading home. Shinobu planned on staying for as long as possible, of course. It wass the next best thing to just taking Ryuunosuke down to her house to stay for a while.

As for Ryuunosuke, she was just content on being in Shinobu's arms. The warm feeling she got from having a pair of loving arms encircle her was second to none in her mind. She let her eyes slipped closed, and let herself drift away, the warming spring breeze brushing over her.

Shinobu watched the sky silently. "The sky's so pretty today," she said. "No wonder you like spending time up here." She shifted a little, slowly enough to avoid jostling Ryuunosuke.

"Yeah, I guess..." Ryuunosuke said quietly, opening her eyes to look out over the school courtyard. "But I gotta admit, I like it best when I'm with you."

"Of course you do," Shinobu said, smiling widely. "It's the sort of thing that's best with the one you love." She leaned over and kissed Ryuunosuke's forehead gently, and turned to admire the sunset.