A Naruto / Ranma ½ crossover
© 2009–10 by gsteemso
Not my characters. Naruto belongs to Kishimoto Masashi, a man who appears to really hate his own characters, and Ranma ½ belongs to Takahashi Rumiko.
To sleep is, on occasion, to dream…
In two completely different universes, so unrelated that not even the laws of physics were entirely the same from one to the other, two utterly dissimilar children slept the night away. One of them was a 15-year-old boy named Saotome Ranma, a martial-arts prodigy who’d been training under his father in how to fight and piss people off for as long as he could remember, wandering from place to place. Currently he was just one person among many millions, in a suburb of Tokyo, attending an all-boys’ junior high school — so as not to fall too far behind in his book learning, according to his father. The schoolteacher responsible for this state of affairs, having done his homework, had threatened the man with being blacklisted at every All-You-Can-Eat buffet in the prefecture. A startled Ranma had found himself enrolled within the hour.
The other was a quiet, caring 11-year-old girl named Hyūga Hinata, clan heir to one of the most prestigious families in a hidden village of warriors who considered themselves ninjas, but were much more powerful and usually much less sneaky about their affairs than the ninja of Ranma’s world. She was also a student in a school, but the similarities did not run very deep — the Konoha Ninja Academy mainly taught how to fight and gather information, and most of the students graduated to being legally-adult killers-for-hire at age 12. The adults in that world were not exactly desirous of this state of affairs, but for the ninja, violent death walked the streets and forests with horrifying frequency by the standards of Ranma’s world; and there were never enough replacements for the meat grinder.
Largely by happenstance, the two were both experiencing “night” during the same period — their respective worlds’ progress through time bore no particular relationship beyond always moving in the same direction, though the relative speed of time’s flow usually wasn’t all that different between them. It was no coincidence, however, that they both began dreaming at the same moment during that night. Their subconscious minds were now connected to one another on a very fundamental level.
S/he wandered through a formless corridor, feeling that something wasn’t quite right, but unable to articulate exactly what it was. Occasionally memories from one life or the other would play out around him/her, their new joint perspective provoking thoughts about their memories that they never would have thought before.
Why am I so mean to Ryoga-kun?
Mean? I just tease him. Everyone does that, don’t they? Unbidden, memories of classmates (in both worlds) either taunting or being taunted by him/her swirled briefly through the surrounding void. Raw emotions smote at him/her. Huh. True, I guess he doesn’t always get the joke.
Memories sleeted past.
Who’s that guy?
Smile. Warmth. That’s Naruto-kun. He’s so brave… A rush of overheard moments, all focussed on a shockingly orange-clad boy, inexplicably shunned by everyone around him, who never let anything get him down for long.
Um. Do I like Naruto-kun? For some reason, s/he found this thought distressing. From his/her new perspective, Naruto-kun seemed both unappealingly shrimpy and magnificently imposing. Wow. Ranma-me never saw anyone in that light before. I guess I do like him.
What’s wrong with that? The me in Naruto-kun’s world is almost old enough to be a genin; that’s treated as being an adult, and it’s not like I’m not a girl there.
…Why don’t I have a girlfriend in the world where I’m a boy? People there don’t mature THAT much later.
No idea. Pops always told me that girls were a distraction from the Art — I think that’s why he sent that side of me to an all-boys’ school.
It obviously wasn’t for the education. They don’t seem to care about how bad my handwriting is on that side.
It’s not that ba— er. There was an uncomfortable pause. It IS that bad, isn’t it… At least I know how to write nicely from Hinata-me’s life. I should be able to share knowing stuff across both sides, with a bit of practice. Never having known any different, it never occurred to him/her to wonder why two such unrelated worlds both used modern Japanese language and writing.
How would that work? I can’t live my whole lives dreaming or in deep meditation! How would I spar? How would I eat?
Why not? Everything comes with practice.
S/he watched the flickering memories for a while, his/her mind wandering aimlessly after the fashion of most dreams. Interesting. I’m starting to see myself as both of me at the same time, even in memories from before I knew about me. In concert with the shared thought, the dreamscape generated a wide variety of irregular mirrors around him/her, each showing a different image — some showed either of his/her bodies from various angles, and the rest showed various hybrid combinations of them. Most of the images were nude, but there was no sense of eroticism; only the most narcissistic of people get aroused by looking at themselves in a mirror, and in any case, more than one image showed an unappealing juxtaposition of male and female parts on the same reflection. The blue hair looks good on me. Maybe my boy self should dye it.
Dye? Kinda girly.
So? I am a girl, at least half of me. The ever-shifting mirror images subtly began to show a higher percentage of his/her female self.
What the hell? Where’s Hinata-me’s, uh, thingy?! There was a pause as s/he reflected on his/her horrifically uneven knowledge of the differences between boys and girls, the mirror images focussing sequentially on the two bodies’ various intimate parts as his/her thoughts sifted through the data available. Wow, I look really good for my age, s/he thought absently while looking at a reflection of the girl self’s nude bosom — which, while very modest in size, would have seemed almost unnatural on an 11-year-old in the other world.
Pleased embarrassment. Y-yes, I do. O-on both sides, looking at the male self’s buttocks.
S/he considered the images for a few moments.
Stunned astonishment. Wow, so that’s why touching myselves, um, there feels weird like that.
Disbelief. Pops is an idiot.
The lunch lady bellowed, “Last crunchy bread of the day!” and hurled a small packet at the seething crowd of boys on the other side of the counter. There was a blue-clad blur as a uniformed Ranma bounced off Ryoga’s head and snatched the bread out of the air on his way out the door.
Ryoga looked utterly crushed for a moment, before a volcanic fury erupted. “RRRRRRANMAAA!” He charged after the ponytailed bane of his existence.
Ranma paused in the act of opening the package, noticing Ryoga’s furious charge in the wrong direction at the other side of the schoolyard. “Huh, I wonder what’s eating him?” He dithered for a moment before grimacing and giving chase. He rationalized his being concerned, which he was aware could be viewed as lacking in machismo, on the basis that Ryoga was much more fun to spar with when his temper wasn’t running away with him.
He caught up with his friend a couple of blocks away, when Ryoga stopped to bellow, “WHERE THE HELL AM I NOW?!”
“Hey buddy, what’s up?”
“GYAH! How’d you get behind me?”
“I followed you to see what was wrong. You looked really upset.”
This took the wind right out of the Lost Boy’s sails. His evil enemy was stopping to help him? “W-what? YOU STOLE MY LUNCH!”
“Huh? It was free for the taking and I haven’t eaten since the squid bread at lunch yesterday! Stupid greedy old man…” he muttered.
Ryoga went briefly cross-eyed and blinked a few times, his train of thought going off a cliff. It never would have occurred to him that anyone else would be starving too, especially not an incarnation of evil like Ranma. “Er… Me neither,” he confessed miserably. He figured he was NEVER going to live this down.
Ranma boggled. “But I led you home after school yesterday and picked you up there this morning!”
Ryoga looked everywhere but at him, radiating shame. “My parents haven’t found the place in weeks. There’s, ah, no food there.”
Ranma was horrified, but had just barely enough sense not to embarrass his friend further by showing it. “Tell you what, from now on, we can share it, OK?” He broke the rather stale bread in half in its package, tearing it open in the same motion, and handed the biggest chunk to Ryoga. “You get the big half ‘cause you missed yesterday. But I get it tomorrow!” he added with a grin.
“You wish! I’ll fight you for it,” laughed Ryoga, cheering up for the first time in months. His empty stomach growled in agreement.
“Okay.” Smiling, munching, and dodging each other’s halfhearted punches, they headed back to school.
“Right, class dismissed. Be on time for weapons practice after lunch, now! Practice field three!”
The funnel-shaped lecture hall immediately dissolved in a free-for-all of ten- to thirteen-year-olds, mostly centred on the girls who were trying to show off for Sasuke, which was most of them. In the back, Hinata pulled a lunchbox out of her bag and set her jaw determinedly. It had taken her months to work up her nerve for this. She marched down the steps and around to the middle tier of the room, where Naruto was waiting impatiently for his cup ramen to soak up the hot water he’d just poured into it, and introduced herself to him with a shy smile. “Hi, I’m Hinata. Can I eat with you?”
Naruto gaped in astonishment. “S-sure you can! Pull up a chair!” He looked around and spotted one on his other side that had been abandoned by one of Sasuke’s fangirls. Well, if she wasn’t using it… He grabbed it and flipped it around to where Hinata was shyly standing. “Here you go!”
“Thanks, Naruto-kun.” She sat demurely and set her lunch out on the writing ledge. “What kind of ramen do you have today?”
“Um…” he looked uncertain, and ducked down to rummage around in the dark footwell for a moment. “Ah! The wrapper! Says… ‘Beef and MSG flavour.’ What have you got for lunch? Do you like ramen too?” It completely escaped him that she’d already known a lot about him for someone he barely recognized.
“Just rice and miso soup, but the spices make it taste really good. Ramen’s okay, but I’m not allowed to eat it very often. Not very nutritious, my clan elders say.”
Naruto looked horrified. “They don’t let you eat ramen? But, but, it’s RAMEN! That’s terrible! Are you free for a little while after class? I know a really good ramen stand I can show you, they’ll let you eat it whenever you want!”
Hinata blushed bright red and, struck momentarily speechless, grew a big, silly grin. Is— is he asking me on a DATE? WAHOO!
He wasn’t, of course, being a twelve-year-old boy — but she was only (depending how you measured it) eleven-and-a-half or a socially stunted fifteen herself, so it was an understandable leap of logic.
“…Hinata-chan? Are you okay? Hinata-chan?” Naruto was craning his head, trying in vain to catch her gaze with his own — no easy task given that she didn’t have visible pupils or irises, that being a characteristic of the White Eyes bloodline limit. Insofar as it was possible to tell, her eyes seemed to have gone completely out of focus. And what was up with that expression? Was she laughing at him? With the ease of long practice, he hid the hurt away inside and tried to shrug it off. That was harder than usual, though; no one had just walked up and asked to talk, eat, or otherwise spend time with him in several years. That’s a very long time to a child. “You don’t have to see it if you don’t want to. It was just an idea,” he muttered dejectedly, staring morosely at the grain of the writing surface.
Hinata blinked and replayed that, coming back to Earth rather abruptly. ACK! Oh no! She waved her hands frantically, “No, I’d love to come! I can spend as long as you want t-together…” she trailed off abruptly, her face flaming red again and her traitorous forefingers poking themselves together without her conscious input, as she wondered if she was being too forward.
Naruto gave her a faintly puzzled look, then quickly pasted on a smile. He could tell there was something fishy about this, but the idea that she might have a crush on him was completely beyond his experience and never even occurred to him. Whatever was going on, though, it looked like she was going to be his friend for a while. Best just to enjoy it until her parents found out and told her to stay away from him, like all the other kids had been. “Cool! Wanna practice our taijutsu after you eat?”
She blinked and realized that, yes, he seemed to have bolted his ramen so fast she hadn’t seen him do it. “Okay! I should warn you, though, I’m not very good at the Academy style. My clan has its own taijutsu style I’m supposed to use, but it’s not very useful for friendly sparring unless you pretend, because of the chakra burns.” And that’s without even starting on all the stuff I picked up while dreaming of being a boy in another universe. That still sounded weird to her, even after all these months, though it felt as natural as breathing by now.
“That’s okay, any practice is better than none, right?”
That resonated with the part of her that had spent a decade becoming The Best at his world’s taijutsu. She smiled radiantly at him. “Sounds about right, yes.” Her dream was right — she did like Naruto.
Saotome Genma yawned, scratched his gut, and untangled himself from his bedroll. Looking over to where his son should have been gracelessly snoring in the bedroll that took up the other half of the small tent, he was surprised to find it already put away and the boy nowhere to be seen. “Where is he?” he muttered. He could already tell he was alone in the campsite, now that he thought to check for nearby chi signatures.
A while later, he had checked the school and that unstable Hibiki boy’s house, to no avail. “Hmmm.”
Then he heard it.
“Hah! Too slow! Nyaaaah!”
“RANMA! I WILL HAVE IT!” The ground shook with a small explosion from up the street.
“What the hell?” wondered Genma, wandering up the road towards the commotion. Sure enough, there was a badly damaged vacant lot a few doors away, and the two boys were going at it there hammer and tongs. Genma couldn’t make out anything they might have been fighting over, though. Had Ranma already pawned it and eaten the proceeds? He was so proud of that boy! Couldn’t let him know that, though. He might get complacent. And he wouldn’t even need to break up the boys’ friendship, because his son had done it for him! Truly, he was a genius at training the boy. All it had taken was a few days of the boy going hungry!
In light of this chain of deduction, Genma was understandably horrified when, on noticing his presence, his son called out “BREAK!” and the two boys stopped fighting! What the hell?
“Hi Saotome-san! Going to eat all Ranma’s food again?” Ryoga was less than impressed with his friend’s slob of a father. His own might have been out lost most of the time, but he was a good man when he was around.
“Oh, he did that last night, and spent all our money on sake so we can’t get any more. That’s why he woke up so late today. Notice the bloodshot eyes?”
“Ah, I see!”
Genma spluttered indignantly. “Oh, why am I cursed with such a disrespectful son!”
“One, you trained me that way, two, you earned my contempt fair and square by being a greedy boozer, and three, you just missed our morning spar for the second day in three weeks! What happened to training me to be the best, eh?”
Genma glowered, flexing his fists. “I can see I need to put you in your place, boy!”
Ranma and Ryoga looked at one another, gave each other a sharp nod, and leapt as one at the older man, who barely got his guard up in time.
Unfortunately for Genma, while he may have been able to beat Ranma two fights out of three through sheer sneakiness, that fact made him sufficiently overconfident that TWO opponents of the boys’ calibre were much, much more of a challenge than he was expecting. He was most dismayed to discover that Ryoga had apparently been TRAINING under Ranma, not trying seriously to kill him. Oh, the shame of having such a dishonourable son, who would teach before being certified! Oh, the pain of having his arm popped out like that!
Genma blacked out.
Three months later, on a fine spring morning, Ranma and Ryoga emerged triumphantly from the woods of northwestern China into the hidden valley of Jusenkyo, its floor dotted with pools of water studded with bamboo poles. Oddly enough, the name seemed to translate roughly as “Spell-Bearing Spring Place.” Without asking a local, there was no way to know whether the connotations of the first part were positive (“charmed”) or negative (“cursed”), and in any case, it was such an eccentric name that the boys never imagined that detail might actually matter.
“Ha! We made it!” crowed Ryoga, taking in the scenic vista before them. Travelling with a friend was great. He actually got where he wanted to go!
The months of cheerful company had worked a wondrous transformation on the Lost Boy. He was no longer a mass of anger and depression, and had proven to have a rarely seen but wicked sense of humour underneath it all. He still tended to be rather oblivious, though, and was laughably shy around girls. Ranma had tried to set him up on three different dates as they travelled, and in every case Ryoga had passed out in shock when the girls’ interest finally became clear to him. The necessity of trying to wake him up had always prevented Ranma getting any dates of his own off the ground, much to his annoyance.
“Looks like there’s a house on the far side. Some sort of caretaker, maybe?” Ranma pointed. He couldn’t help but wonder what idiotic reason his old man would have had for coming here, had Ranma not looted their campsite of technique scrolls and other training material and ditched him in Tokyo. It plainly wasn’t a normal training ground, considering the reactions they’d gotten while trying to find it.
“Maybe whoever’s there will know why people always either laughed at us or tried to steal the training-ground guide whenever we asked them to translate it,” suggested Ryoga.
“Yeah. The first time I would have been happy to just forget about it and find a different training ground, but EVERY time? There’s something fishy here, and I’m curious.” If it weren’t for that factor, they would have just stayed someplace easier to find for training. There had certainly been enough opportunities as they hiked across the vastness of China, which was after all one of the largest countries in the world.
“Yeah.” The boys carefully made their way across the training ground towards the house in the distance. “Ranma! Watch out for that—”
“Hahahahah, klutz! I can’t believe you fell in a pond on such a cold day! What happened to Mr. Martial Arts?” Ryoga froze as his brain caught up with his eyes. WHAT THE HELL? “R-ranma—?”
The person standing in the shallow water was dressed the same as Ranma had been, but was unmistakably a girl. There was something weird about her eyes, too, though Ryoga couldn’t quite make out what it was. She seemed to realize something was off about her shape at the same time he did, and pulled open her gi to look. Two beautiful, perky C-cup breasts were revealed in all their dripping glory. “Huh. Now there’s a thing.” She seemed to be in shock.
“Ranma? Is that… you?” Ryoga fought to retain consciousness in the face of the stunning revealed flesh before him. The gods only knew what horrors would befall him if he keeled over into one of these pools. Plus, if that was really Ranma… ick. Just ICK.
Thanks to the part of her that had always been female, if only ever seen in dreams, Ranma had some idea what to expect, but just had to check anyway. She pulled out the waistband of her gi’s trousers, and gingerly stuck the other hand down her front to check on a teenage boy’s most important body part. Yup, it was gone. Yeek. She began to look horrified as the reality began to sink in.
“Ranma! Stay with me buddy! You gotta get out of there before something worse happens!”
She shook herself and dazedly pulled herself onto the bank, her now bright red ponytail sticking to her face with the water. With shaking hands, Ryoga gently helped her close up her gi — somehow managing to not pass out from the blood rushing to his face — and then pulled a blanket out of his pack. She wrapped herself in it gratefully, still in shock. She may have gotten used to being a girl in her mind, but she’d always been a boy at the same time! This was something else altogether! She began to shiver uncontrollably as a sick feeling crawled through her gut. Was she going to be stuck like this? “Need to meditate,” she muttered, closing out the world. Hinata would know what to do about being a girl.
“Ranma? Ranma! …Shit.” Ryoga was completely at sea. He knew that when Ranma went straight into deep meditation like this, nothing short of outright injury could rouse him (though, strangely enough, he often woke up from it with bizarrely effective new training ideas). What should he do?
He’d just have to try to get help and hope to hell he didn’t get lost this time. He turned, absently taking a step, and unexpectedly found himself face to face with the wooden door of the caretaker’s hut or whatever it was. “HELP ME! Please, help!” he cried in his inexpert Mandarin, banging frantically on the door. He would worry about how he’d gotten here later.
The Guide opened his front door, his worker uniform jacket already halfway on. “What’s going on? Has someone fallen in a spring?”
“Yes! My friend! We were crossing the valley to see who lived here and he slipped and fell in and now he’s a GIRL! I think she’s in shock! Please help us!” Ryoga didn’t even realize he had reverted to Japanese.
“You not worry Mr. Customer, I bring hot water and we fix, yes? Where you friend at?” replied the Guide in the same language.
Ryoga looked hopelessly at the multitude of springs, most of which were at least partly obscured by mist and the hundreds of bamboo poles that rose out of the pools. His face went horribly pale. “I don’t know! I have a family curse of getting lost all the time and I don’t know where I left her!” He was starting to hyperventilate.
“Mr. Customer! You friend be all right! I know where is Spring of Drowned Girl, we start looking there, okay? Curse not permanent, you friend still boy in head. He only LOOK like girl. You come now, I show you.”
Ryoga sagged in relief. “Th-thanks.” He gratefully followed the guide out across the valley floor again, being very careful not to slip like Ranma had. Poor Ranma!
HINATA! HELP! Ranma struggled to maintain her calm as she meditated. Her calm. He was a girl for gods’ sake! This was one fucked up training ground.
In Hinata’s universe, the shy girl had keeled over unconscious in the middle of class when Ranma fell in the spring, much to her classmates’ distress. Ranma wasn’t getting any answers either, because the reverberating shock to Hinata’s system had put the Hyūga heir out like a snuffed candle. In the Academy infirmary, the two medic-nins on staff were trying to figure out what had happened to her, and getting some very strange readings. “She’s suffering from moderate chakra depletion, but not enough to cause this. And is that YŌKI?! What the hell?”
The chief medic-nin quickly performed a high-ranked privacy technique, causing the walls to glow briefly with chakra. It would be a disaster if anyone learned what he thought they had just discovered. “The Hyūga will do a lot to keep their position, but I’d never have guessed they would try to secretly create a jinchūriki. The Hokage will need to be informed. This could be bad, very bad!”
“I don’t think it worked, if that’s what they did — there doesn’t seem to be a foreign entity in her system, just diffuse yōki throughout her entire body. Do you think they actually went so far as to fuse her with a demon?”
“Turn her into a half-demon hybrid? No, I just can’t believe that of her. She’s always been such a kind-hearted child when she’s in here asking about healing techniques — you can’t fake that joy when you heal someone. Maybe they tried something of the sort and it simply didn’t work? Anyway, she seems to be stable, for now. Keep a close watch over her, and don’t let ANYONE in here! I’ll go tell Hokage-sama about this myself.” He disappeared in a swirl of leaves, landing under a camouflage genjutsu in a full sprint in the street outside.
Ryoga cried out in relief as he spotted a familiar gi, topped with a tousled mop of damp red hair, in the distance. “Ranma!” He hurried over to her as fast as he could without risking an involuntary swim, kneeling to check her pulse. “She’s asleep, I think,” he told the Guide, looking concerned.
“We change Mr. Customer back while he asleep, that way he not panic when he wake up,” said the Guide. “You watch, you need tell him how this work.” The man unwrapped Ranma’s blanket and carefully poured some hot water from a large kettle over the girl’s head. “Any hot water work, you no need boil it. You see? Mr. Customer is boy again. It only last until next cold water, though, that turn Mr. Customer back into girl. Nobody know cure that always work. There is Drowned Boy spring, but no one know where is and some of time, curses just make creepy mix-up anyway. Very tragic story.”
Ryoga looked nauseous. “Why does this happen? What kind of sick freak would disguise a place like this as a training ground?”
“No one know, it just HERE. Have been for many thousand years, maybe even before there people here. No one know who first make, but people and animals been having tragic story here for more than three thousand six hundred year. Maybe longer, many spring not known any more due to tragic story of house fire that kill Guide two hundred forty year ago.” He watched Ryoga’s face sympathetically. “You get up now, Mr. Customer, we take you friend back to house, yes? No want be around Cursed Springs in rain if can avoid, that very dangerous. Ground get slippery.”
Ryoga looked up at the gathering clouds and shuddered. “Yeah.” He slung Ranma’s insensate form easily over his shoulder, much to the comparatively out-of-shape Guide’s relief, and they carefully made their way back to the cosy house at the edge of the valley.
The Third Hokage, whose name was Sarutobi Hiruzen, and Jiraiya the Toad Sage gathered around Hinata’s unconscious body with the two Academy medic-nins, Menjudore and his assistant Bunzo. The two older men’s eyebrows rose as they felt the girl’s yōki levels for themselves. “This is… disturbing,” commented Sarutobi, pensively running his fingers through his white goatee. His agile mind turned over the facts, trying to divine whether there was a Hyūga threat to the village hiding in this mess.
“I don’t think this is any kind of demonic infusion or containment technique we’ve ever seen before,” commented Jiraiya thoughtfully, staring at Hinata’s peaceful expression. “There are no seals anywhere on or in her body — it almost seems like the yōki is just incidental background noise to her, but we can all see there’s too much of it not to have been caused by something.”
“The strangest aspect from a medical perspective is that it doesn’t seem to be harming or even affecting her in any way we can detect,” put in Menjudore. “Normally the stuff acts like a corrosive poison. A jinchūriki only gets away with having it in their system because of the demonic regeneration.”
“We all know she’s in the same class as a jinchūriki — could this be some sort of escape plot by Naruto’s prisoner?” Sarutobi asked Jiraiya quietly. The Nine-Tails was the only known demon in the village.
“Not a chance,” reassured the Toad Sage. “The signature is totally different, and I had a hidden Shadow Clone look in on their class as we came in — the kid’s not showing any leakage from his fuzzy little passenger at all.”
“That’s a relief,” commented Bunzo.
“Be that as it may, it seems there must be something else going on,” observed Jiraiya. “What is the girl’s elemental affinity? Have they been tested yet?”
“I’ll check the records.” Bunzo shuffled out the door, returning a few minutes later with a thick dossier. After skimming through it for a few minutes, he observed, “Someone’s been slacking. That class doesn’t seem to have been tested yet.”
“Oh, really?” asked Sarutobi dangerously. “We’ll soon see about that.” With a half-seal and a puff of smoke, he made a Shadow Clone and sent it back to the Hokage Tower to notify Interrogation. “I will not have incompetent instruction here, especially not of a class with so many clan heirs in it.”
Jiraiya spoke up, “I think we’ve learned all we can from direct examination of the subject, at least for the moment. Bunzo-kun, please fetch us some affinity-testing paper.”
The junior medic-nin poked around in a drawer for a minute and extracted a stack of small, stiff paper squares. He handed one to the Sage, who set it next to Hinata and carefully performed a tiny chakra transfusion from the prone student to the paper square. It slowly, fitfully split up the middle, but stopped halfway. Jiraiya looked more closely at it, and realized it had gotten too damp to split further. The paper was no longer sensitive to chakra — it was ruined.
“Interesting. We know this test can’t reveal multiple affinities — the paper only responds to its closest inherent similarity with the subject’s aura, and it was alternating between splitting and getting damper. The only way that could have happened is if her affinity was wobbling back and forth between Wind and Water.”
Menjudore looked astounded. “I’d swear I never heard of any ailment that could do that, and I studied some really bizarre diseases to get my Pædiatrics Mastery. You wouldn’t believe some of the weird stuff that can happen to a child’s chakra coils. Adults are more resilient.”
The three older men performed a variety of sensitive tests on Hinata’s chakra network, Bunzo fetching supplies as needed, but they couldn’t find anything unusual except for the strange oscillation in her elemental affinity. “It almost looks like some outside force we aren’t detecting is acting on her chakra coils,” observed Sarutobi. “I don’t want to risk using chakra to wake her up with that going on, but I think we need to ask her what she knows about this. Bunzo-kun, a glass of water, if you please.”
The water was duly fetched, and Sarutobi carefully flicked a few drops in her face. Her limbs twitched a bit but she didn’t wake.
Jiraiya looked intent, like a bloodhound that had just found a scent. “Do that again,” he said urgently, this time maintaining a handheld diagnostic technique next to Hinata’s head.
“Oh? All right.” Flick. Flick. “What do you see?”
“Her ambient chakra aura convulsed when you applied water, in exponential proportion to how much you added.”
“Hmmm. What about the ambient yōki in her body?”
“Same effect, I think. The two were not holding any particular relationship to one another, so it was hard to tell.”
“Well, only one thing left to try,” commented Bunzo. Not thinking it through, he grabbed the glass of water and splashed Hinata’s face with the entire contents before the others could stop him. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt her… well, sort of.
“By the gods!” Faced with this, the other three quite forgot to chastise him for his foolhardy action.
Hinata had turned into a prepubescent but otherwise similar-looking young girl with bright violet hair, a slightly rosier complexion and — Sarutobi checked, on a hunch — normal blue-irised, dark-pupilled eyes, with no sign of her hereditary White Eyes! Oh, and she was still unconscious.
“I think we can safely say this isn’t something the Hyūga would have meant to happen,” observed Jiraiya. “Her White Eyes aren’t merely disguised, they’re completely absent!”
“That’s not all,” added Menjudore grimly. “While there is still a low level of chakra suffusing her body, she has no chakra coils, only a complex but similar network circulating with moderate levels of yōki. She’s still technically human, but for all practical purposes, she’s been turned into a low-level demon!”
Later that morning, now that the rain had stopped again, Ranma and Ryoga were taking a refreshing run around the valley — keeping well away from the actual training ground, of course. “Whaddaya mean, it’s not so bad because I make a pretty girl?!” Ranma bellowed, his outrage only half in jest. “That’s not funny!” He refused to admit any pride whatsoever in being as good-looking when female as when male. That was private.
“Yes it is!” Ryoga called back, laughing, just managing to keep out of his friend’s reach. Being whom he was, his course was sufficiently erratic that Ranma’s blows kept just barely missing him, even though Ranma was a bit faster on his feet.
“I’ll make you eat those words!” Ranma jinked left at the same time as Ryoga did, much to the latter’s surprise, prompting the Not-so-Lost Boy to take to the trees just in time to escape Ranma’s righteous vengeance. The chase rapidly climbed up the hillside at the entrance to the valley, soon coming out on a rocky, treeless trail along a vertiginous cliff edge with a magnificent view of the distant Place of Cursed Springs, far below. It would have been a breathtaking vista if they weren’t busy trying to spar on the treacherous terrain.
All of a sudden, just as Ryoga was finally getting the drop on Ranma, right at the cliff edge, the unexpected form of Saotome Genma came rocketing out of the underbrush. “You’re getting sloppy, boy!” he bellowed, tackling the figure whom he mistakenly thought was his son right off of the mountainside. No boy of his would walk out on his training before the end!
“GYAAAAH! You idiot! We’re gonna either break all our bones or get cursed when we hit the bottom of this!” roared an infuriated Ryoga, clocking Genma a vicious blow to the jaw that sent the two flying in different directions over the decreasingly distant cursed training ground.
“A curse? What kind of gullible idiot does he take me for?” wondered Genma, aiming for a big, open spring that he knew would give him a nice soft landing.
Ryoga sneezed in midair, causing him to bobble his landing and strike a cursed spring instead of the big, soft-looking bush overhanging it that he had been aiming for. Fortunately, he also missed the bamboo training stakes that stabbed skyward a little further over.
There were two large splashes.
Ranma, meanwhile, had gone pale as a ghost and was frantically running back down the trail, hoping he would not be too late to help his friend. Oh, and his father, but honestly, as far as Ranma was concerned that idiot deserved whatever curse he had brought upon himself. With any luck, neither would have been knocked unconscious by the impact. After all, neither deserved to drown, which would in Ranma’s opinion be a stupid way to die for strong fighters like them.
A few minutes later, Ranma was hunting along the edge of the valley below the cliff where they’d encountered his father, when the skies suddenly let loose again. “Marvellous,” she groused as she adjusted her dripping clothing. This curse business was going to be a real pain in the ass, she could tell.
Some way further along, at the fringes of the actual training ground, she discovered an exhausted, waterlogged, black-furred baby rabbit, sprawled insensate next to a dark little spring overhung with bushes. The pool seemed to radiate coldness, and on examination, the rabbit turned out to be too chilled even to shiver. She could tell it would die if it didn’t get warm soon. At the same time, while she knew rabbits could swim, it seemed rather unlikely that one this tiny would have done so by choice. That pretty much confirmed that this was a curse victim. “Ryoga?” she asked tentatively, trying to sweep some of the water out of its fur with her hands. It didn’t respond, laying like a dead thing, though she knew it wasn’t quite gone yet — she could just barely feel its dimly wavering little aura. The poor little thing was less than half the size of her hand, which in her current form was itself noticeably smaller than she was used to.
The frigid mountain rain got heavier.
“Crap. I just KNOW this is going to come back and bite me.” Sighing, she carefully picked up the unconscious little bunny and tucked it into her undershirt, in the warm space between her breasts. She tried not to think about the weird sensations this evoked, which felt highly unnatural to a person born male; her Hinata side, of course, wasn’t nearly this chesty, which meant it was a wholly new sort of unwelcome experience. She wrapped her arms around her bustline and kept walking, trying to work up enough warmth to save the baby rabbit while keeping an eye out for her father at the same time. Fortunately, the cursed water in the bunny’s fur had been sufficiently diluted by the heavy rain not to affect her now.
After a while, the rabbit warmed up enough to start shivering, and gave a convulsive sneeze, expelling more icy water into the fabric of her gi. The sudden motion of its wet fur against her body tickled horribly, but she managed (with some effort) not to drop it in her surprise.
Some while later, she came across a large spring with a rotund, unconscious panda in a faded training gi floating face up in it. “Huh. You know, somehow that shape suits you, Pops,” she commented, grabbing a nearby fallen branch and trying to pull the animal to the edge of the pool.
“Ah! Mr. Customer! You hold on there, no want fall in second spring! I have pole with hook for this! You wait short moment!” called the guide, from a fair distance off. He had gotten a bad feeling and come out to check the various Springs when the heavy rain started so suddenly. That usually indicated the presence of someone with both a Jusenkyo curse and bad karma, a description which for the last fifteen minutes or so had suited Genma perfectly.
Twenty-five effortful minutes later, Ranma and the Guide had fashioned a small lean-to out of an old tarp in the cramped grassy area between the Springs of Drowned Panda, Drowned Hedgehog, and Drowned Sea Turtle; then laid out and dried off the two new curse victims.
“This very bad, Mr. Customer, springs do strange things to head when you nearly dead in one,” said the Guide worriedly. “Here, you need keep you friend where he was, he too weak to risk changing back right now and he die of cold if you not warm him.” He handed the little bunny back to Ranma. “He not in danger other way, he not almost die until out of spring. This one, though…” he trailed off, examining the panda’s head. “Maybe he be okay, it not look like he bleeding or got goose egg.”
“Yeah, Pops has a pretty hard head,” smirked Ranma. “Why do you say we can’t change Ryoga back yet, though?”
“You feel how faint Mr. Customer aura is? Curse use some chi of body to make change, not just magic of Jusenkyo. Try change when you nearly dead like him, it kill you for sure.”
“Good grief!” Ranma looked at the shivering leveret nestled obliviously in her cleavage with horror. They would have to figure out some way to protect rabbit-Ryoga from rain (at least until his cursed form grew up a bit), or he would nearly freeze to death every time he changed — and then be too weak to survive switching back. She suddenly realized that, although he had only been joking at the time, Ryoga had been right. A girl curse WAS getting off lucky. She shuddered, her skin crawling with horror.
“You watch Mr. Customers, yes? I get kettle, we see if you father affected in head.”
A few minutes later, Genma had been changed back and Ranma was holding the warm kettle with the rest of the water against her chest, the better to help Ryoga. “Oh, that good idea, we change him back in minute. When he warm enough to wake himself up, he probably strong enough for change. Eh? Mr. Customer, what wrong with you eyes? Can you see?”
Ranma looked puzzled. “Yeah, I can see just fine. Why do you ask?”
The Guide was cut off from answering, as Genma gave a loud groan and sat up. “What happened?” he asked dizzily.
“You got yourself and Ryoga cursed, is what happened,” snapped Ranma. “What the hell is wrong with you, you moron?”
Genma looked offended. “Cursed? Yeah, RIGHT,” he scoffed. “Who the hell are you to address me so rudely, anyway, you feeble little blind girl? Respect your betters!”
“That you son, Mr. Customer,” said the guide disapprovingly. “You not believe in curse, you step in rain, that change you mind in hurry.”
“Yeah? Watch me,” said Genma, stepping confidently into the drizzle, which straightaway got heavier. He promptly reverted to a panda. “Growf?!” He lost his balance and landed on all fours, looking back at himself in astonishment. There was some kind of big hairy animal behind him! He started scrambling away from his own hindquarters, but since he wasn’t used to moving on all fours in an unfamiliar body, he tripped and nosedived into the mud after only a couple of steps. “Graau!” he complained, sitting up and rubbing his nose. He paused, horrified, at the sight of his front paws. That wasn’t right! “Baawf?” He looked so bewildered at this turn of events that Ranma and the Guide couldn’t help themselves, and burst out laughing. The panda sulked.
“At least he not affected in head by Spring,” chortled the Guide. “No real panda do that. Hahahaha!”
At this point, all the noise, the shaking, and the heat of the kettle finally revived Ryoga. His squirming in an attempt to sit up in the confines of Ranma’s undershirt had her laughing even harder — it tickled fiercely. She fished him out, much healthier now but still bewildered and disoriented, and poured half of the hot water over him, using the remainder on herself. “Aah, what a relief!” the no-longer-a-she said breezily. “That feels so much better!”
“Sorry Pops, that was all the hot water we had out here. You’ll have to wait ’til we get back to the Guide’s house. You’d have changed back to a panda in the rain anyway — Mr. Guide there doesn’t have any more umbrellas.”
“Feh,” answered the panda in disgust, sounding remarkably human.
Ryoga had collapsed to his knees, still feeling very weak, and the Guide had wrapped the last semi-dry towel around his naked shoulders. “Wh-what happened?” he asked blearily. “Why do I feel so sick?”
“Mr. Customer fall in Spring of Drowned Leveret. Mr. Customer curse form very tiny, nearly freeze to death in rain. You friend Mr. Ranma save you life!”
“What’s a leveret?” asked Ryoga, bewildered.
“Baby rabbit or hare. Mr. Customer cursed form so cute! My little daughter Plum, she love you, I bet.”
“Oh, wonderful. I hope I won’t stay that tiny forever!” said Ryoga sourly. He had a vague memory of an impossibly large girl-Ranma looming out of the rain, though everything had gone black well before she actually reached him. He frowned. What was up with her eyes, anyway?
“Oh no, only few year. It take longer than real rabbit because Mr. Customer still age at speed of human. That lucky because otherwise you die of old age in maybe ten, eleven year or so. Now, there important things Mr. Customers need know about curses. Young Mr. Customers already hear some of this, but…” The Guide launched into a long summary of the aspects of the curse that would affect Ryoga and Genma. He had already told Ranma the night before what the boy would need to learn about being a girl, when next he found himself in a town with a doctor or nurse; the Guide understandably did not feel himself qualified to discuss what he delicately referred to as “feminine issues,” much to Ranma’s initial bewilderment. (When he finally figured it out, he’d been struck speechless with horror for almost half an hour.)
Hinata opened her eyes. What—?
Oh, she was in the Academy infirmary. Had something happened to her? The last thing she remembered was a dreadful lurching sensation overtaking her as she practised her Transformation technique in class. (Naruto-kun, she recalled with a smile, had made himself look like Teacher Mizuki in a pretty dress, much to the students’ amusement and the male Mizuki’s annoyance.)
She tried to sit up, and was alarmed to discover that she couldn’t move from the neck down! What was going on? “Hello? Is anyone there? I can’t move!” she said, frightened.
“I’m afraid something rather odd has happened to you, young lady,” an unfamiliar old man’s voice replied from somewhere out of sight. She tried to activate her White Eyes so she could see whom she was speaking to, but for some reason it didn’t work. That was perhaps even more alarming than being paralysed. “We are very concerned that something illegal may have been done to you. Do you recall having any unusual medical procedures in the past year or so?”
“What?!” She was utterly terrified, now. What was going on? “Why can’t I move? And why do I sound funny?”
“Do not worry about the restraints. We will release them when we are sure you are acting under your own control. As to your voice, well, that’s related to the peculiar thing that has happened to you. We were actually hoping you would already know something about it.” The speaker moved around into her field of view, smiling reassuringly.
“H-hokage-sama!” She was speechless. What could the leader of Konoha want with an unremarkable young child like her?
“Yes, I am,” he answered with grandfatherly amusement. “Now, this is very important. Do you remember anything unusual, like an unfamiliar medical technique, being applied to you in the last year or so?” They knew nothing had been wrong before eleven months ago or thereabouts, because of the annual physical exam conducted on all students.
“Well, I underwent a secret Clan sealing technique designed to boost my self-confidence about eight months ago, but as far as I know it worked as it was meant to — there have been no strange effects between then and now,” the young girl volunteered. “P-please — I need to know, what’s happened to my voice?”
The Hokage nodded slightly to someone behind her, and there was the sound of swirling leaves as someone unseen body-flickered away.
“Well, I’m afraid we have no idea what caused it, but when we splashed water on you to try and wake you up, you… changed,” he said carefully.
“Ch-changed? How changed?”
“Well, for some reason, your body was completely replaced by a non-Hyūga equivalent,” he admitted. “You seem to still be you, just a different you.” He left unsaid that her chakra system might never be the same, reasoning that she had enough weird news to cope with already.
“Y-you can’t be serious!” she spluttered. “When I was splashed with water? How is that even possible? Sir,” she added, belatedly remembering whom she was addressing.
“We don’t know yet, but rest assured we intend to find out,” said the old man firmly. “I imagine you’d like to see a mirror?”
“Yes, please — I think.”
The Hokage performed some sort of technique and produced a shiny disc of water in front of her face. She gasped.
“I-is that really me?”
“Yes, I’m afraid it is.”
“I have pupils!”
“Like I said, your body is physically no longer that of a Hyūga — you no longer possess the White Eyes,” Sarutobi intoned gravely. “You seem to have gotten a year or two younger, too. I daresay quite a few of us old folks will be wondering how THAT happened,” he added with a smile.
Hinata’s head sagged back into the pillow, its owner too stunned to respond to the old man’s joke. This couldn’t be happening! No longer a Hyūga? Her father would disown her! And if she was truly younger by a noticeable amount, she mightn’t be able to support herself by becoming a genin!
Hinata burst into tears.
END PART ONE
Latest revision as of Sat. 2010/07/17
Author’s note (Fri. 2010/04/02):
I have always found a great amount of contradictory and/or unclear data floating around on precisely what the words are for the various places, people, and cursed springs the Ranma characters encounter in China. By the time I wrote Chapter Three of this story, I had gotten fed up with the whole business, so I looked up the original ideographs myself. The following are the results of that analysis as applicable to this chapter. The Mandarin romanizations are in Pinyin, which has drastically different pronunciation rules than English does. The Japanese readings are how a Japanese reader would interpret the Chinese hanzi — the Japanese-language pronunciations of the equivalent Japanese kanji are utterly and totally unrelated, even though the kanji and the traditional forms of the hanzi look almost identical.
• 呪泉郷 — Ẑòuquánxiāŋ in Mandarin, Jusenkyō to a Japanese reader. Means “Cursed Spring District.”
• 娘溺泉 — Niáŋnìquán in Mandarin, Jōdekisen to a Japanese reader. Means “Girl Drowned Spring.” (Note that ‘drowned’ in this sense can also mean ‘immersed.’)
• 䨲溺泉 — Nóunìquán in Mandarin; has no Japanese reading — at least, there isn’t one in the Unihan database. Means “Leveret Drowned Spring.” (Note that ‘drowned’ in this sense can also mean ‘immersed.’)