Note for the uninitiated: This is an answer to a question that was posed on an in-character blog. If you are not familiar with the Touhou universe and characters, this story is likely going to be difficult to understand to its fullest. A good starting point to understand it however would be to read some parts of the wiki entries about Yukari and Ran, the two characters this is about, and about what a Shikigami is in the official works.
The actual answer now follows.
Oh dear, let me see. I mean, these are some of my earliest memories, so I probably won't remember everything without a hitch, but I'll try my best!
I suppose it would be good to explain my whereabouts before I actually met Yukari for the first time. Needless to say I was still a fox back then. I think it was around late Summer or Fall and it was quite chilly. At the time I was in a bit of a pickle since I didn't have much success finding any food. After a long while of travelling the woods looking for edibles, I stumbled upon a house.
I didn't really think too much about it. I quickly found what smelled like a store-room and made my way inside through an open window. An empty stomach makes it difficult to think, so I acted a bit carelessly, I suppose. The room smelled very dusty. There were several bags and crates filled with food and various other things around. The sun shone softly into the room through the windows. It didn't feel right to be in there, but I was simply too hungry, so I started digging around in the bags.
Suddenly I felt as if I was being watched. Looking around the room I couldn't make out anything however, so I went on. The dried meat I had found didn't taste fantastic, but at least it was something to eat. After a while I heard a noise outside and then a very strange feeling overcame me. My fur stood on end and as I turned around I found a dark figure looming over me. A single eye gleamed in the darkness, its stare piercing right through me. Then a strange weight and drowsiness pushed down on me and before I realised it, I had passed out!
I awoke to a soft humming. It felt strangely comforting and warm. I slowly opened my eyes and found myself in a small room, on top of a shelf. The room was fairly small with paper windows to one side and a closed sliding door to the other. Along the walls were some kitchen counters, cabinets, and a stove. A human was working at one of the counters. Still confused about what exactly had happened, I decided it would be best to try and escape. Being caught by a human didn't seem like a good situation to be in.
As soon as I had gotten down from the shelf and made a step towards the door, a hand grabbed me from behind and yanked me upwards. The grip was strong, but not to the point of hurting me. I was turned around and looked into the face of a woman. She had blonde hair tied to a knot behind her head and wore a simple, white apron over a short-sleeve kimono. Her eyes were a vibrant yellow and she looked at me with a very stern expression. She proceeded to say something, but I couldn't understand what it was. Looking into her eyes it felt as if I was being drawn into them. The blackness of her pupils seemed to go on forever and ever.
When I came back to my senses I was back down on the floor. Confused, I quickly dashed behind the shelf. I didn't quite know what to do. She didn't seem like an ordinary human– something was off about her. Still, she didn't seem to want to cause me any immediate harm either. I decided to wait for a bit longer and escape later when it was safer to do so.
After a while the room started to fill with a delightful smell. Peering around the corner I saw that she was still busy cooking, though now had moved over to the stove. Not long after she set down a plate onto the table in the middle of the room. The smell was teasing me a lot and it didn't take long until I dared to move closer. The woman was pretending to be asleep on the other side of the table. I'm not sure whom she was hoping to fool with that. Still, the dish just looked too inviting, so I quickly snatched a piece.
Before I knew it I had devoured the entire plate. It felt wonderful to finally have a full stomach again. I have to admit that I had acted quite carelessly, as I started to feel drowsy pretty quickly. The setting sun shone calmly through the paper windows, and everything felt warm and cosy. Not before long I had fallen asleep.
I awoke to a soft and tranquil light shining into the dark room. Looking around, everything was tinted in a strange and eerie blue. Shadows wandered about as the leaves of the trees moved quietly in a soft breeze. Not a single noise could be heard and it felt as if the moonlight was trying to suffocate all sound. I couldn't even hear my own breath or heart, it was just completely silent all around. I got up as carefully as I could, afraid to disturb the silence.
The kitchen door was now slightly open and I managed to squeeze on through. I found myself in a hallway that seemed to go on forever, its end vanishing in the darkness. The whole atmosphere felt very intimidating, almost as if there was something hidden in the shadows. I carefully started down the hallway, hoping to find an exit somewhere. The blackness followed behind me, soon swallowing the door to the kitchen. To each side there were doors every now and again, but all of them were shut tight and no matter how I tried, I couldn't open any of them.
I don't know how long I walked. It could have been mere minutes or entire hours, my sense of time was completely gone. At some point I finally saw light. Hurrying towards it I found a side way. The left hand of it was a wall of paper windows through which the moon shone brightly. Tiny specks of dust glimmered in the air, dancing in the silence. The dark silhouettes of trees moved around ominously. I thought I heard a faint sound of rustling leaves, but I might have been imagining that. I considered trying to scratch open one of the windows to make a way out, but decided to first see if there was a way out further down.
And indeed, further down I could see an open door. But the closer I got to it, the heavier the air started to feel. Faint flashes of light streamed out into the corridor and it started smelling very strangely, as if I could taste the energy in the air. As I got close enough I could hear a faint buzz and crackling. My hair stood on end, but driven by curiosity I cautiously got closer to peer inside. What I saw is very difficult to form into words.
It was like looking into a piece of shattered glass. Reality seemed to be fragmented, broken apart. Little pieces that didn't belong, that didn't fit, almost like holes punched into the world, floating about. The holes changed shape and form too in a weird, twitching rhythm. All I could hear now was a loud buzzing and crackling with a low humming undertone. The stench in the room was unbearable, yet I couldn't get myself to move. I was petrified, frozen stiff. And amidst all this madness, in the very centre of the room the woman– no, the thing– floated; her long strands of hair twisting and flowing around the place like waves of a stormy sea. She seemed very faint– almost surreal, like someone from out of this world. Suddenly her body shook an arched, twitching oddly. She opened a single eye, an eye that I would never forget. A pupil of pure blackness, surrounded by a fiery hot yellow iris and a gleaming white. Her glance pierced like an arrow right through me. For the next few moments time seemed to have frozen. I could clearly see her expression changing slowly, shock making its way across her face. Her mouth opened, thunder cracked, and then.. the room exploded in an enormous boom! My body shook and the fissures trembled. It took all my strength, but I managed to rip myself out of the trance and threw myself out the door, racing away as fast as I could. Without looking I dashed down the corridor, windows passing by, turning right, running, another corridor, turning left, windows passing by, turning right, left again, and suddenly bushes.
My heart still pounding heavily I continued running, shrubbery and sharp branches scratching me open as I dashed through the woods as far as I could, going who knows where– anywhere but there. Blinded by fear I didn't see where I was going and suddenly I felt the ground escaping from under my feet. I soared through the air. For a brief moment I felt weightless and all sound was gone. My muscles ached and my lungs burned in my chest. The starry sky shone above me. Then darkness.
I must have fallen pretty far as it had knocked me out completely. I only remember a few specks from what happened after. I had fever dreams for a good while, but the aching in my bones slowly started to recede. I felt something changing within me. It started to seem as if I was hollow. Something escaped me and was being replaced by something else, but it didn't feel quite right.
Then suddenly things started feeling exponentially hotter, as if a flame had been ignited inside me and it was burning me up. I felt my body changing too; I grew bigger, heavier and much stronger, healthier. I felt completely energised, as if I could tear apart anything I wanted, simply letting it crumble beneath my fingers. A lust for destruction brew up. Oh how fun it would be! The little fox smashing the world apart! Finally I opened my eyes.
I had transformed completely. My body had changed into that of a human's, yet I felt completely normal– no, better than that. I felt perfect, divine! Nothing could stand in my way now. I pushed against the wall and my hands simply tore a hole in it as if it were nothing. I giggled. Oh it was absolutely marvellous, the best I had felt in all my life! My senses had been heightened as well, I could feel everything around me: the ants below the floor, the birds on the trees outside, and.. something else. Something much bigger, something that stood right in the doorway to this room.
I looked up and saw the eye. It stared at me relentlessly. For a moment I hesitated. But what a joke! As if that would be a match for me now. I giggled again and then abruptly threw myself at her, swinging my arm for a precise punch.
To my surprise she caught my fist completely without any effort, even almost gently. With a flick of her wrist she threw me flying into the wall. Thinking that I must have underestimated her I decided to try again, no holding back this time. But even this attempt failed. She watched my every move in complete silence, not moving a single part of her body except for her one hand. The next attempt failed too, and the next, as well as the one after that. What.. in the world was she? I tried again a few more times until I was completely exhausted. All this power I had gained.. useless! It was absolutely futile to try to fight against her. Wheezing and panting from the effort I let myself down onto the floor. I couldn't bear looking at her, but I could feel her stare in my back for a good while longer. And then, just as she had appeared, she disappeared again. I was… alone.
For a long time I just lay there. I was confused and my mind was racing. Everything felt different, was different. Even though that brief fight had made me quite exhausted, the muscles in my body were still tingling with energy. While I could move around and control my limbs just fine it still felt unusual. My senses had been altered too. I could feel things around me, sense where they were and how they moved without actually seeing, hearing, or smelling them. Most of all however, I was completely conflicted on how to feel. On one hand there was an enormous feeling of grandeur, power, and might, as well as a nagging feeling for destruction in the back of my head. But on the other I had been absolutely destroyed by her. I was certain now that she was not human at all. She had to be a creature similar to what I had become.
I sat there thinking for a while. I wondered if I had turned out particularly powerless, or if she was particularly powerful. Were there many other creatures like us? How did they come to be? Did she have anything to do with my transformation? What was her intent? Hundreds of questions that I didn't know any answers to rushed through my head.
As evening drew near, it became cooler. I started to shiver. This new body didn't have any fur to keep in the heat. I noticed a stack of clothes in the middle of the room. They felt very warm and comfortable, and smelt absolutely wonderful. I spent several minutes figuring out how to put them on. After many failed attempts I finally found out a way that fit and didn't feel incredibly awkward. The clothes were quite a ways too big for me however, making it a bit difficult to move around. I tripped a few times trying to walk around.
Remembering the night before I didn't dare to set foot out of the room this late. I used some of the spare clothes as additional layers to protect against the cold breeze coming through the holes in the walls. I felt stupid for my previous behaviour. There had to be a better way to go about things. Pondering this, trying to ignore the nagging feeling in the back of my head, I slowly drifted off to sleep.
I awoke later than I was used to. The sun was already high up in the sky and its light poured through the cracks like liquid gold. For a long time I simply lay in my makeshift bed, watching the beam of light slowly crawl over the floor. I felt much calmer now, but that nagging feeling persisted nonetheless. Suddenly my stomach began to growl and I felt very hungry. I decided that it was time to find something to eat.
I stepped outside my room and found myself on a veranda. I looked around cautiously and as I didn't hear anything I quickly dashed over the railing and off into the woods beyond. Enjoying my newfound freedom I wandered about in search for food. However, the woods around these parts seemed to be just as abandoned as where I had come from. I was barely able to scrounge up anything at all, and the few plants and insects I was able to find tasted horrible now. My tastes had changed too– how unfortunate. After a long and exhausting search I managed to find some berries that tasted alright, but that would barely fill me at all.
And so night came. I had a barely filled stomach, my clothes were muddied and torn, and I felt exhausted and awful. The weather didn't give me a break either as it continued to get colder. I found shelter in a tiny hole underneath a large tree. It kept me safe from the howling wind and would keep me hidden, at least for now. I slept very badly that night.
The next day didn't fare any better. I became frustrated and exhausted myself further by wasting my energy destroying trees in a fit of fury. I did stumble upon a small river, but there were no fish in it. I became increasingly paranoid too. I felt watched, but could never find anyone or anything. As I lay in my small cave waiting to fall asleep, I formed a decision. I had to return. She had to have something to eat at least. Whatever might happen could not possibly be as bad as this, I thought.
Finding my way back was not difficult. There was some magical barrier that always led me back to the house if I strayed too far off, so I just had to walk straight ahead for a while. After I arrived I first tried the store room, but it was locked and I didn't fit through the window anymore. I considered making an entrance for myself, but that would probably not put me on good terms with the eye, so I instead went to look for the kitchen. I carefully made my way through the house and memorised its layout. It didn't look anything like what I remembered it to be from that night. It was laid out in a simple C-like shape with a spring and garden in the middle of it.
A lot of the doors were open now. I could make out a library, a study, multiple bedrooms, a storeroom, what appeared to be a ceremonial hall, and finally the kitchen. I sneaked in and sniffed around for food. I could make out a very faint scent coming from the topmost shelf. However, it was out of my reach so I had to try to climb up to it.
For the first few shelves this plan worked out just fine, but then as soon as I tried to put my weight on the third it cracked, broke in two, and threw me off balance. With a loud bang I landed on the ground, taking most of the shelf with me. Jars shattered, metal pans clanged, and bowls spilled all over the floor, making sure to hit me along the way.
When things had finally calmed down I heard a soft giggle coming from the door. The eye stood in the door and suddenly burst out laughing. My cheeks burned hot as I flushed in embarrassment and shock. I scrambled out of the messy pile of broken kitchenware I had created and hid in the corner behind a plant. Meanwhile she had managed to contain her laughter, but proceeded to smirk at me as she went on to clean up.
I observed her cautiously. She gave off a very different impression now, felt familiar even in a way. She was calm and moved with a particular grace. Her yellow eyes seemed warm and comforting, and there was not a trace of animosity against me. Yet, there did remain something strange, something that resonated within me. I couldn't really understand what that feeling was and it puzzled me greatly.
After she had cleaned up the mess, she began to cook. A familiar smell started to fill the room that made my mouth water. I sat down at the table, ready to start at any moment. It felt like an eternity as I waited in anticipation for the food to be served. Not a second after the plate was set down on the table I had a piece in my mouth. Never in my life had I tasted anything this good before! It was absolutely amazing. I got into a real food frenzy!
But all too soon it was already over. The plate was empty, and I felt completely stuffed. My transformation apparently hadn't helped me any with my food-coma problem, as I immediately started feeling sleepy. Lying on the warm kitchen floor with walls to protect from the cold wind and a stomach full with food seemed like heaven after the past three days. I looked into her face as I slowly dozed off. Her eyes shone soft and warm like the setting sun.
The time that followed was a strange one. I had a lot to learn– having been an animal, I didn't have much of an understanding of human behaviour and day-to-day life. I had also never lived with someone else before nor had had any meaningful relationship with someone human-like. This led to a handful of misunderstandings and problems between her and myself. Not being able to speak her language didn't help any either.
Still, for all the trouble I caused, she seemed very compassionate and forgiving towards me. In retrospect, I'm quite certain that this was mostly due to my looking and behaving like a child. Perhaps it reached some part of her that was still human. Generously she sew, cleaned, cooked, and cared for me all day. I'm sure I wasn't easy to deal with, but children never are. I tried to make up for it by learning as quickly as possible and keeping myself together as well as I could. Sometimes it still wasn't enough however. Every now and then I was overcome with the same fury from before and the nagging feeling in the back of my head sometimes got the better of me, so I ended up destroying things or even attacking her even though I didn't really mean for it.
And so things took their course. For a while everything seemed to go by just fine. We got along and I learned a lot. She gave me my name, Ran (indigo), after her own, Yukari (purple). She also began to teach me how to understand her language. But then I gradually started to become more and more tired every day. My problems started intensifying as well. It felt desperate in a sense, as if it was a reaction to my getting weaker. However, the only thing that that ended up achieving was to make me even more exhausted every day, not to mention causing severe destruction to several parts of the house.
I don't remember how long it took –perhaps a bit more than a month– until I barely got out of bed anymore at all. I felt incredibly tired, as if I could continue sleeping and dreaming forever. My dreams were very calm and tranquil at first, but then they too seemed to become exhausted and turned bleaker, more still every time. I would call out for Yukari often to keep me company. She seemed very concerned about my health and shut herself into her study for entire days. Often times she would also spend hours sitting by my side, simply holding my hand, thinking.
One day I remember in particular. It was already noon when I woke up and it was overcast. Everything seemed bleak and cold. I shivered and retreated further beneath the blanket. My head felt empty and I didn't think about much. A few snowflakes that had gotten lost along the way landed on the veranda outside and vanished. Sometime later I was reawakened by heavy footsteps. Yukari entered my room, dressed in thick winter clothing. She kneeled down next to me and looked me in the eyes with a stern expression on her face. I got lost in the depths of her eyes once again and what she said came to me as if in a dream.
I still couldn't understand her language at the time, but I got the feeling that she was getting ready to leave. I was terrified, but I kept quiet. As she left the room she looked back at me one last time. And then she was gone, just like that.
I jumped up and yelled her name, but the only thing that answered me was the snow that had begun falling faster and faster, quickly turning into a howling snowstorm. I called for her a few more times, but my cries were dampened, swallowed by the storm. Feeling alone, forlorn, and cold I crawled back beneath my blanket and waited.
The doors and windows rattled in their frames as gusts of wind grazed the house. It had turned much darker now and combined with the howling of the wind it felt very creepy. I couldn't fall asleep for hours that day. I was scared like I had never been before in my life. What if Yukari wouldn't come back anymore? What if the house would break under the wind? What if I ran out of food? I didn't know how to cook! And in the state I was in I probably wouldn't be able to before passing out even if I did! I also thought I saw shadows of creatures moving around outside, hushing by before I could make them out. Big, scary shadows of creatures that would surely eat me up at a moment's notice.
Only late at night the storm finally calmed down. Just a few snowflakes fell here and there now and the only light came from the bright moon. Looking at the moon felt comforting somehow; its light tickled my nose. Finally exhaustion won me over and I passed out to sleep.
From here on out I only awoke when I felt too hungry or thirsty. I lost a lot of weight too, feeling myself getting thinner and lighter over time. Every now and then I would wake up and find the food replenished and everything cleaned up. That gave me a bit of courage that Yukari was still watching over me. I remained like this for a week or two perhaps. And then I didn't awake anymore.
My dreams were almost like still images now. Muted views of me sitting somewhere, seen from afar. I dreamed of various landscapes, grassy hills, rocky mountains, deep and thick woods, abandoned and torn apart villages, cold and dark caves. Everything without a sound and without me being able to move myself. The colours were muted, the smell only distant.
And then everything started to become more and more faint. Slowly but surely it all started to blend out into whiteness. A white as bright and gleaming as you could imagine, purer than anything I had ever seen on this world. A calmness overcame me and I felt at ease. I had nothing more to worry about. It was all over. Finally I felt myself getting lighter too, fading and drifting away into nothingness.
Suddenly something touched me lightly. It felt like a hand gently tapping on my shoulder. The tapping became more noticeable and abruptly the hand grabbed me and started pulling me downwards. I struggled, but the hand held on more and more tightly, dragging me farther down. I felt myself getting heavier again, returning to reality. More hands appeared and held on to me, pulling faster and faster. The faster I went the more feeling returned to me. I could feel burning in my chest, I could feel wind rushing by as we accelerated. Suddenly the whiteness vanished and gave way to a gigantic, white sphere surrounded by blackness. The moon! I turned around and saw a huge forest with a mountain range in the distance. Lakes and rivers cut holes into the thick trees. I could see the world from above.
I continued falling, being dragged downwards at an enormous rate, rushing through the air. Suddenly the trees moved out from below me, giving way to a large clearing, a familiar house in its midst. I was rushing right towards Yukari's residence. Fear returned to my mind and I instinctively closed my eyes thinking that I would impact onto the ground in a moment's notice. The heat in my chest flared up, scorching my skin and pushing to burst out. And then I hit.
At first it felt just as if I had been slammed into a wall, my body being crushed under the force of impact. Then my skin exploded, ripped apart. Every spot was gleaming hot as the fire from my chest escaped. Never before had I known such intense pain, every part of my body that touched anything felt as if it was going to be ripped off.
It all lasted barely a few seconds and then the heat was gone. The fires stopped and in its stead came a soreness all over my body, as if it had been torn up. I shivered and tears streamed hot over my face. I could feel the ground again in all its roughness. The air smelt hot and heavy, but real nonetheless. I opened an eye and even though my vision was blurred I could make out the study.
Shuddering and shaking I slowly lifted myself up. All the tiredness from the days before was gone. I felt sore and hurt, but I was alive. The study was in complete disarray. The floor panelling was broken where I was laying, tables where thrown on their side, the door blown out of its railing. Wood splinters and torn pieces of parchment were strewn over the floor. I noticed strange markings and symbols on my chest. They looked black like ash, burned into my skin. I looked behind me and saw Yukari lying on the floor, smiling faintly at me.
I later learned that Yukari had saved me from death in the last second. I had been expending my energy all this time without being able to regain enough of it. Running out of energy would spell a certain end for any youkai. Fortunately enough she had found a way to lend me her own energy so that I could go on living. In exchange for this, I am obligated to do whatever she wills. Even though it seems like that would be quite a demanding return on my part, I don't mind. Of course, I wasn't quite able to oblige it for the first few years anyway, having to learn to speak and help out first.
Despite everything though it has worked out for hundreds of years now. Even if Yukari can be a big nuisance at times, I still admire her wisdom and insight. I'm looking forward to the next few hundred years.
Written by shinmera