Naruto Fan Fiction / Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction ❯ The Disorderly Princess and the Fiery Steed ❯ Chapter Two ( Chapter 2 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
The Disorderly Princess and the Fiery Steed

A Naruto / Ranma ½ crossover
© 2009–10 by gsteemso

Chapter Two

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.

Jusenkyo Valley, Qinghai Province, China:

Three figures moved easily down a rural road, barely more than a trail, through a heavy mountain rain. They were a large panda; a short, redheaded girl with pale blue eyes that would have seemed unremarkable, were it not for their eerily white pupils; and a portly man in a Red Army workers’ uniform. The latter was the Jusenkyo Guide, who hadn’t felt inclined to introduce himself to the panda. It was the cursed form of Saotome Genma, whose crudeness and inconsiderate manners had offended the Guide as few others had managed in such a short time. Had he not met the likeable young woman well beforehand, she being the cursed form of the panda’s son Ranma, he might have been inclined to give the pair as little guidance as he could get away with, in hopes they might offend someone and be removed from his realm of responsibility.

The group was headed towards the nearest settlement that was safe for a girl to approach, that being the village of Joketsuzoku. Going the other way, into the traditional lands of the Musk, didn’t bear thinking about when there was a female in the party; no one had seen any of the animal-men in hundreds of years, but rural areas like Jusenkyo have long memories for danger.

Joketsuzoku was home to a matriarchal warrior people of the same name, which appeared to translate roughly as “Tribe of Hero-Women.” Genma hoped he could con some supplies out of the villagers; to his way of thinking, if things went wrong, there was no realistic way any group run by weak women could possibly pose a threat to him.

The Guide suspected the general trend of the panda’s thoughts, which had been pretty clear from the conversation over lunch earlier. The large Mr. Customer was genial enough, but his prejudices were appalling. His behaviour towards his son’s cursed form was very high-handed; and the Guide was honestly relieved that the boy hadn’t seemed to take it personally.

Ranma and Genma noted a slight disturbance in the trees off to the left as they passed through a gap in some boulders; Ranma surmised it was a Joketsuzoku sentry, and Genma ignored it as irrelevant. If there was any trouble, the boy could get them out of it. It would be good training.

Nestled in the bosom of the female boy to keep warm, a tiny leveret peered out of her gi, amazed at how enormous everything looked when he was in his cursed form. The girl’s friend and travelling companion Hibiki Ryoga had initially balked at riding in his current position, but it rapidly became clear that the only alternatives were to freeze to death or risk being crushed in one of the packs, so as best he could, he’d just ignored the soft, intoxicatingly-scented girl-flesh that surrounded him on three sides and got on with things. It was only his old buddy Ranma, right?

By the time they reached Joketsuzoku, he’d nearly convinced himself it was no big deal.

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Hyūga Clan compound, Konoha, Land of Fire:

Hyūga Hiashi blinked rapidly. The Hokage was summoning him in regards to a possibly criminal technique applied, on clan authority, to his own daughter?! Well, he was damned if he’d go into a meeting like THAT half-prepared. “Summon Sealwright Gozoshi,” he curtly ordered the Branch House guard outside his reception room. The two looming jōnin from the Hokage Tower, standing behind him, looked on impassively.

Moments later, the guard returned in a swirl of leaves. “Sir, he’s not answering his door and no one’s seen him since the evening before yesterday!”

Hiashi’s cheek twitched. “Force the door. Search his quarters!” he snarled. What the hell was going on here?

A squad of grim-faced Hyūga gathered around the nondescript door of a small top-floor walkup at the back of the compound. With a discreet pulse of directed chakra, they activated their White Eyes. “No trap on the door,” muttered the lead guard, and with a “get ready” hand sign to his squad, kicked it open. They were immediately met with a faint but disturbing smell they couldn’t quite place. Concerned, the group used their White Eyes to look through the interior walls into the rest of the cramped three-room apartment. Suddenly, things made more sense.

Solemnly, they filed into the sleeping area and gathered around the cold body of the late Master Sealwright Gozoshi.

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Ranma and Ryoga were standing in a crowd, listening eagerly to the Guide’s explanation of the annual village championship tournament they had the good fortune to be witnessing. They were impressed by the casual strength displayed by the contestants, though they were rather underwhelmed by the girls’ actual skills. “Seriously, that chick’s leaving openings you could throw Pops through,” said Ranma quietly. Ryoga, still in leveret form, nodded from his position in her cleavage. He had to admit the contestant was pretty though, even if you couldn’t say the same of her huge, mannish-looking opponent.

Suddenly, the Guide noticed something missing. “Sirs? Where panda Mr. Customer got to?”

Ranma looked behind her. Sure enough, there was a notable shortage of malodorous wet panda in the immediate vicinity. “Ah, shit,” she griped. “I thought the air was smelling nicer these last few minutes.” She craned to try and see over the crowd, but even her male half was of strictly average height, and she’d lost quite a few centimetres to the curse.

“Oh dear,” said the Guide in disbelief. “I see him. What he eating there?”

Ranma looked where the Guide was looking, just as a random shift in the crowd revealed a sign next to the gorging panda. In the rather archaic local dialect, it read “First Prize.” Ranma groaned. “Crap. He hasn’t been around for more than a day and he’s already being a pain in the ass. Trust that idiot not to pack enough food.”

Moments later, the final match ended, and an incredibly shrivelled old woman wearing an elaborate cloth headdress jumped up on the log to hail the new village champion, as the Guide explained in a whisper. The crowd went wild. The girl, who had long purple hair and had fought using two large, colourful maces, turned to invite everyone to share in her prize. Of course, it was then that the crowd realized a wild panda had somehow gotten to it first. A confused murmur went up as everyone started asking one another how to respond to this. It wasn’t exactly a normal occurrence.

“That’s no ordinary panda,” said the old woman in the headdress, in the local dialect. “No normal panda would eat human food, and especially not so near a crowd. That must be an outsider with a Jusenkyo curse!” she shouted. An ugly roar rose from the onlookers, who surged towards Genma brandishing weapons.

Of course, only then did he realize there was anything amiss. He looked around in surprise, shocked to discover there was nowhere to run, and frantically pulled out a sign. BOY! Where are you? flip Come and defend your hard-working father!

Ranma hid her face in her hands. “Please tell me the idiot didn’t just drag me into this,” she groaned.

“Wish I could, young sir,” answered the Guide sympathetically, before switching to Chinese. He called to another incredibly shrivelled old woman, this one much closer than the one on the challenge log, “Honoured Elder Dishsoap! I need to talk with you about that panda!”

She turned, and recognizing him, immediately leapt over to the group. “Well, hello again, young Rhubarb. I take it the panda is a customer of yours?”

“Yes, Elder, unfortunately. He got himself cursed yesterday, and through his stupidity, caused the cursing and near death of another customer in the process. I had honestly hoped to be rid of the man before we got here,” the Guide confessed — speaking freely, as he knew the Japanese boys wouldn’t be able to understand the local dialect.

Behind him, the panda went down under an angry mob armed with heavy nets, still frantically waving signs with one paw and trying to cram in a last few morsels from the prize table with the other. Ranma and Ryoga, who were trying in vain to follow the conversation using their rudimentary Mandarin, were too busy to notice, and wouldn’t have much cared anyway — it had become abundantly obvious in the three months they’d travelled together that Ranma was better off without the old fool, now that he was old enough to look out for himself.

“And what about the blind girl and her bunny?”

“Springs of Drowned Girl and Leveret,” explained Rhubarb. “She claims she’s not actually blind, though don’t ask me how she can see out of eyes like those. They’re really a pair of teenage boys. The rabbit is the one who almost died because of the panda; he’s not big enough to keep warm without help when it rains.”

“I see. Plainly, we will have to hold a second trial for the greedy one, assuming we don’t just do away with him for the first insult. Inflicting a Jusenkyo curse that could kill the victim is no laughing matter.”

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As he walked with dignity and without at all rushing, whatever anyone said, through the streets of central Konoha, Hyūga Hiashi massaged his forehead with the knuckles of one hand. This day was turning into an unmitigated disaster. Something had apparently gone disastrously wrong — almost a year after the fact! — with the Great Spirit Reinforcing he’d authorized to be performed on his daughter and heir, and the only one who knew anything about it had apparently passed away from natural causes a day and a half before the whole mess blew up in his, Hiashi’s, face. Some days it just doesn’t pay to chew through the restraints, he mused sardonically. If all of the foregoing was not enough, now he had the damned Clan Elders breathing down his neck about it, too. In light of that unpleasant reality, it was almost a relief to be leaping to answer the demands of the damned senescent Hokage like some wet-behind-the-ears genin.

A subtle cough from his Branch House escort alerted him to the fact that they’d arrived at the Academy. “They’re waiting for you in the infirmary, sir,” one of the two hulking jōnin who had been sent to bring him here said politely.

Hiashi nodded, and knowing he was expected, body-flickered straight up to the room in a swirl of leaves.

“Ah, Hiashi-kun, so glad you could join us,” greeted the Hokage.

“What has happened here, Milord Hokage? The pair of jōnin who came to alert us that there was a problem were not cleared to tell us much.”

“Well, in all honesty, it was rather hoped you might be able to tell us what your clan had done to this poor girl,” said Sarutobi with a hint of steel in his voice. “Jiraiya-kun, show him the chakra scan, will you?”

With some difficulty, Hiashi concealed his sudden escalation in worry. If the Pervy Sage had been called in on this, it was probably even worse than he’d thought — the man was Konoha’s undisputed top expert on the sealing arts. He accepted the dossier with a polite nod and addressed himself to the contents. “What in— Is this some sort of foolish joke?” He was not impressed. This data set was preposterous!

Then he caught sight of the small figure on the cot opposite. “Who is that supposed to be? I thought you said my daughter Hinata was the victim!”

“She was,” answered Sarutobi sternly. “As you can see, she has somehow suffered a complete physical transformation, and would probably appreciate the support of her family and her clan in this difficult time.” He considerately pretended not to see the tears coursing down the poor child’s cheeks.

“Hinata? Is this true?” gasped Hiashi, horrified. He approached the cot, and examined the girl’s face carefully. She still hadn’t been released from her restraints, except for one arm, and had no choice but to stoically meet his gaze. “My gods. It is you,” breathed Hiashi in disbelief. “What has happened to your eyes, girl?”

“I’m… not physically a Hyūga any more, father,” she said despairingly. “I’m so sorry I have let you down…”

Hiashi stood in shock for a moment. After that short interval, though, the clan leader shouldered aside the father in him, and he reluctantly accepted that only one course of action was now open to him. “Hinata, my daughter, I tell you plainly that you have not let anyone down. On the other hand… I wish I did not have to do this, but the Hyūga rules of succession are very clear: the heir must be able to command the White Eyes herself. Never before has a designated heir managed to lose their birthright halfway to maturity in this way, but I already know what the Elders will say: From this day forward, you are stripped of your status as heir to the Hyūga. I am sorry, my daughter. Looking on the less horrible side, though — since you have not yet been shown how to control others with it and no longer have the White Eyes to protect, I can probably convince the Elders you needn’t be branded with the Caged Bird seal.”

Hinata continued to cry in silence as her world was torn out from under her.

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A group of four Joketsuzoku Elders, together with a small honour guard of regular warriors, surrounded the heavy iron cage. A bucketful of scalding water was hurled through the bars onto the tightly bound panda lying face down within. “YEOWCH! Why’d you make it so HOT?” bellowed Genma. “Damned crazy old women…” he muttered scornfully, under his breath.

“I heard that, greedy-guts,” replied one of the Elders drily, in perfect Japanese. “You are not in a position to be hurling insults, as you should have figured out by now if you had any sense.”

“Where’s my son? What have you monsters done with my only flesh and blood?” Genma asked self-righteously, trying to generate some sympathy in his captors. Old grandmothers were a bunch of softies, right?

“Oh, have no fear, your estimable offspring would already be married to three fine warriors by now if it weren’t widely known that giving him the Kiss of Marriage would net them you for an in-law,” another old crone chuckled malevolently. “Oh, if I were seventy years younger…”

The other three Elders looked moderately exasperated. “You know, Loofah, men can have uses OUTSIDE the bedroom on occasion,” one of the two who had hitherto been silent commented with a small smile.

“One woman’s opinion, Talcum,” replied Loofah loftily.

The former panda turned green at the mental images this exchange provoked, until he managed to shake it off with the thought that it was that disrespectful boy’s problem, not Genma’s. Huh? Wait just a minute here…! “What do you mean, MARRIED? The boy is honour-bound to marry a Tendo daughter and carry on the Schools! I didn’t spend the last thirteen years training him twenty-four hours a day just to have him tied down in some backwater village no one’s ever heard of!” he roared indignantly.

“Oh, REALLY, now,” said an icy voice, a voice Genma most definitely did not want to hear in such proximity to the outraged announcement he’d just made. Ranma, still in girl form with bunny-Ryoga peering out of her cleavage in case of cold water accidents, stepped into view around the corner of the cage. “So I’m suddenly ENGAGED with no warning? Would you even have told me before we got there? You bastard! Everything you’ve done these past couple of years has either been to feed your fat gut or to screw up my life — usually both at once! In case you didn’t get the message when I ditched you in Japan, I’m damned if I’ll go ANYWHERE with you!”

Ryoga made a faint hiccuping noise of agreement, nodding vigorously. He being so small, no one but Ranma noticed.

She stood and seethed for a few moments, regaining her centre only with difficulty. She reflected absently that Hinata must be upset about something, too. Better meditate soon and see if they could help one another.

“Boy! Spending time in that weak body has obviously corroded your sense of honour! This is a matter between our two clans, decided before you were even born!”

“Yeah? Then why didn’t you ever MENTION it before?” glared Ranma. “I mean, pretending to give a damn about your only son woulda been nice. Feh. I dunno why I’d expect you to start now.” Travelling with the Lost Boy and his occasional unexpected bursts of wit had sharpened Ranma’s verbal fencing skills considerably… not that that was saying much, considering the average six-year-old could talk rings around him at the beginning of the trip, but he really had made remarkable progress.

He was now at the level of a precocious nine-year-old. Hinata would be so proud.

“I think it’s a good thing you were listening in for that, dearie, but we need to prepare for the fool’s trial now,” said Loofah. “You can tear strips off whatever’s left after we’re done.”

“Oh, right… Sorry, Elder.” Ranma withdrew again, heading off to spar with some more of those nice girls who kept looking at her and giggling.

“Trial? What trial? So I ate from a buffet, so what? Have the boy wash dishes or something. It’s his duty to look after his old father.”

Talcum spoke up angrily. “You ate the first prize for the tournament, and befouled what you didn’t stuff your face with! We’d be well within our rights under the Outsider Laws to demand your head for that insult. Fortunately for you, your child doesn’t want you dead — though I honestly can’t see why not! He’s offered to supervise your period of slave labour in exchange for our sparing your worthless hide.”

“Actually, that’s a thought — as fat as he is, his panda skin is one of the biggest I’ve seen, at least around the middle. We could sell the pelt after we kill him,” opined the fourth Elder, mostly to watch the Outsider sweat; they were well aware that most of his bulk was muscle, which was why his panda form had been so tightly bound.

“Can’t we talk about this?!” asked Genma desperately, his eyes wide.

“What’s to talk about?” responded the Elder who’d spoken first. “There’s no doubt whatsoever about who you are or what you did. How many rude Outsiders with panda curses do you think there are around here? The only question is the exact nature of your punishment. It will be more of a sentencing hearing than a trial.”

“Ergh,” mumbled Genma, gripping the bars of his cage with dismay. This wasn’t looking promising. They might kill him, or — worse — make him work! As Genma had learned so well under Happosai’s hellish tutelage, an honest day’s work was only very tolerable when it was your own idea and not someone else’s, particularly when that someone else had a grudge against you.

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Finally released from the restraints, Hinata sat in the Academy infirmary hugging her knees to her chest, with tears trickling down her cheeks. She didn’t care any more. As if losing her blood limit, birthright and developing bustline weren’t bad enough, now she had been informed by a heartless delegation of decrepit Clan Elders that she was to be expelled from the Hyūga altogether! In their words, “Why should we pay to raise a child who can’t even use chakra, never mind use any of the hereditary Hyūga abilities? The orphanage will provide.”

She hadn’t even known about the disastrous effect of her unexplained body swap on her chakra coils until that moment, thanks to the Hokage’s desire to not dump too many shocks on her at a time. A pity the Elders hadn’t cared for such niceties. Despite her father’s best efforts, the only reason she’d escaped the Caged Bird seal was that she no longer had a chakra system for it to do anything to, which would render applying it a waste of time. Some silver lining that was.

She suddenly realized that not even her Naruto-kun would recognize her as she was now, and began to cry even harder. She was now nameless, homeless, and no one who might have been willing to help her would even know who she was!

Stressed beyond what any nearly-twelve-year-old should be expected to bear, she fell into an exhausted sleep, slumped against the wall behind the cot. Tears continued to flow even in her tormented slumber.

She never heard the commotion outside. Naruto’s best and perhaps only true friend had passed out in front of him and been taken to the infirmary, with no explanation ultimately forthcoming, and no stupid chūnin guard was going to stop him from visiting her! Just as soon as he got himself untied again…

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The Joketsuzoku Elders had thanked the Guide and sent him home to his daughter, who was really a bit young to be on her own for too long. After watching Ranma easily dominate several friendly spars and then — due mainly to Hinata’s influence — not be obnoxious about his superiority, the Elders had promised to see the two boys safely on their way in the Guide’s stead, invoking an ancient part of the Outsider Laws concerning hospitality to allied travellers. Of course, this meant the boys would need to be allies of the tribe — which, since one of them had been honoured with a girl curse, was easily possible. It seemed a win-win solution, as far as the Elders were concerned. Boys as skilled as the two at their young ages would probably become formidable fighters over the next few years, and it only made sense to ally such strength with the tribe. If either or both of the two could be induced to marry their bloodlines into the tribe outright, so much the better.

About the criminal panda no promises were made, nor asked.

Ranma carried the tiny lapine in her cleavage back to the small guesthouse they’d been lent, still steamed at her father. An arranged marriage?! To some old crony’s daughter. Gaaaah. With Pops’ track record, she’ll probably turn out to really be a male cross-dresser or something. Heh, it sure was funny when he got picked up from a bar by that girly-lookin’ guy in drag. I dunno what all they did together before he figured it out, but he didn’t dare get sloshed for nearly two months after that. Kept waking up screaming, too, she thought with an evil grin. It had been well worth the interrupted sleep.

“Aaahhh, what a relief,” boy-Ranma said happily, luxuriating in front of the woodstove after pouring a cup of hot water over his head. He gave the tiny long-eared ball of fluff on the other chair a funny look. “How come you haven’t changed back?”

The leveret gave him an innocent look and affected not to understand the question.

“Bah. I’m going to start calling you Ryoga-Ohki if you don’t spend more time human when you can.”

Ryoga looked offended, and tried to retort with a suitable sound effect. Unfortunately, the most human-audible noise the average rabbit ever makes is a kind of hissing sound, and he just wasn’t able to coax a “Miyah!” out of his underdeveloped vocal cords. After he thought about it some more, he decided it was probably just as well; if he accidentally sent Ranma, who’d never specified what it would take to do so, into the Cat-Fist while Ryoga had the body of a baby animal, the guy would probably try to lick him clean as though he were a kitten. He shuddered with revulsion, and decided maybe changing back would be a good idea after all.

Ranma watched as the bunny apparently had a minor coughing fit, looked disturbed for some reason, and then pulled a tiny scrap of index card out of… somewhere. He squinted. It read HOT WATER in very wobbly little kanji. “Heh. Figured out Pops’ sign trick already? That was quick. Sucks that babies are so uncoördinated, eh?” He snickered at the leveret’s cute little Glare of Death and said, “Okay, okay, keep your fur on. Here.” He held out a cup of water he’d had waiting on the woodstove, and tipped it over the rabbit’s head once Ryoga was sitting straight.

They’d found out early on that changing back in the wrong position was uncomfortable at best, and at worst… Well, neither of them EVER wanted to be reminded of the time Ryoga had accidentally encountered hot water — and where had it come from, anyway? it certainly hadn’t been Ranma or the Guide — while dozing face-down in girl-Ranma’s cleavage, worn out from putting on a tooth-rotting display of “cute” for the Guide’s little daughter Plum.

Fortunately, Plum had still been in the other room when things went haywire. Ryoga’s sudden expansion had blocked the remaining water from reaching Ranma as he erupted butt first from the shredded remains of her undershirt, shoving her backwards. The shocked pair ended up with a nude Ryoga straddling a topless Ranma on the floor, Ryoga’s fully activated wedding tackle jutting towards her horrified face from the midst of her flushed bosom, as he supported himself with his hands to either side of her head. They’d both screamed like little girls, and scrambled away from one another so quickly it had resembled teleportation.

They were still a bit miffed at the Guide for laughing like that.

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Back in his office, Sarutobi frowned thoughtfully at his scrying globe. It appeared the news of young Hinata’s misfortune had already leaked throughout the better-connected parts of Konoha, thanks to the Hyūga Elders’ ostentatious behaviour whenever they considered themselves to be on official business, such as their visit to the Academy. Ironically, the rumours were spreading all the faster because everyone liked to see the white-eyed snobs get taken down a peg occasionally. The poor child would soon be almost as much a pariah as her friend Naruto if he didn’t do something to help her.

After some thought, he wrote out a lengthy order, and dispatched it to the Academy by genin messenger. The example of Rock Lee showed that one did not need functioning chakra coils to be an effective ninja. Hinata would be given a chance, but it would be up to her to succeed.

On a whim, Sarutobi indulged himself with a momentary look in on Naruto before getting back to his endless paperwork. Oh, this ought to be good… he chuckled inwardly. I wonder how he managed THAT?

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The chūnin assigned to guard the infirmary from snoopers gave a bored glance towards the corner where he’d dumped the demon brat. What the—! The cocoon of summoned ropes, still tied together, was completely flat. The ropes were empty! “How the hell’d he do that?” Everyone knew the brat was a lousy ninja — his only working ninja ability was the illusion technique, Transformation. There was no possible way he’d secretly learned to perform a Body Replacement, and even if he had, there wasn’t anything he could have swapped with tied up in his place.

Behind the confused chūnin, who was busy verifying the integrity of the ropes, the insect-sized figure of Naruto calmly (well, for him anyway) squeezed himself through the gap under the infirmary door. No one had ever noticed that his Transformation was not illusory, and he was blissfully unaware that what he’d just done should have been impossible. “Heh! Suck on that, dumbass!” the tiny figure squeaked triumphantly, once he was through. With a handseal, he released the Transformation and poofed back to his normal size in a cloud of smoke.

Huh? Where’s Hinata-chan? Now that he could see over the furniture, he was baffled to discover that the only patient in the room was some purple-haired girl he’d never seen, though she was dressed quite a bit like Hinata. She looked about ten or so. Had she just started the Academy? Naruto had never heard of someone starting this late in the year.

Looking around in bewilderment, he walked over to look more closely at the slumped figure. Hey, she’s crying in her sleep! Naruto didn’t know what to make of that. Wait a sec here. Those aren’t just LIKE Hinata-chan’s clothes, I think they ARE them! She’s too small for them, and… what’s this…? Naruto squinted at the girl’s face. She had a face just like Hinata’s, too, apart from a slightly warmer complexion. Somehow he didn’t think this was the bratty little sister Hinata had occasionally mentioned. Naruto was beginning to sense that something was very wrong here.

Lacking any better idea, Naruto reached out and took one of the girl’s hands. “Uh, hello?” he essayed. He was surprised to note that her tears had lessened at the sound of his voice. Taking a wild guess, he asked, “Hinata-chan? Is that you?”

The girl’s eyes popped open in astonishment. Naruto-kun?!

Naruto felt an icy hand grip his heart. Those aren’t Hinata-chan’s eyes—!

He recognized me! I shouldn’t have doubted him. He must like me as much as I like him! “Oh, Naruto-kun! It’s horrible!” She hurled herself gratefully into the bewildered boy’s arms, sobbing her heart out.

Tentatively, he put his arms around her, hoping he was doing it right. This was the first time anyone had voluntarily hugged him that he could remember — Hinata had always been far too shy to actually touch him except during sparring, and he understandably hadn’t picked up on the fact that she very much wanted to. This girl didn’t sound quite right, either, but she seemed to be acting like he was a close friend of hers, which only Hinata could say. Going out on a limb, he asked, “Hinata-chan? What’s happened to you?!”

She just sobbed louder for a few minutes, but knowing he deserved an explanation, eventually managed to choke out the salient parts. “Somehow I, I got turned into a little non-Hyūga girl, and, and, and not even Hokage-sama knows why, and— and the Elders disowned me just ’cause I can’t mould chakra any more! I don’t have a, a family any more… or a home, they said something about an orphanage…” She broke down again.

Naruto’s horrified expression slowly changed to something much uglier. How could any family throw away their own daughter like that? That’s just plain evil! And Hinata-chan’s so nice to everyone, too. Those Hyūga are monsters! Hinata-chan, be sent to the Orphanage? I wouldn’t send a DOG to that place! But what can I do about it? He thought hard for a moment.

I am SO going to prank them. They deserve the nastiest tricks I can come up with, too. The snooty bastards won’t take her back any time soon, though, no matter how sorry I make them; they’re too proud. Too bad she can’t just stay with me. Naruto blinked and went wall-eyed for a moment. …Hmmmm. I’m going to need a bigger allowance from the Old Man. A friend as nice as Hinata-chan deserves to have the GOOD ramen. His mind made up, he pulled back a bit and tried to look at Hinata’s new face. It was going to take some getting used to, her having normal eyes now.

“N-naruto-kun?” she asked worriedly. She sounded very small and unsure of herself.

His heart twisted, and he vowed then and there to do whatever it took to make her smile again. She was his most precious person, even more than Old Man Ichiraku and his daughter at their ramen stand, or Old Man Hokage. He didn't think of her in a romantic way, for he was only twelve, but she was the best friend he’d ever had. “Hinata-chan? How’d you like to come live with me instead of going to the Orphanage? I know one kid doesn’t make for much of a family, but it’s better than nothing.”

Hinata looked utterly blank, her mind shutting down in shock. She stopped sobbing — and, as far as Naruto could tell, breathing. Naruto-kun wants me to be in his family, with a child…!?

“Hinata-chan…?” Naruto, of course, had meant himself when he said “one kid,” and couldn’t predict her line of reasoning at all.

She scared the socks off him by screaming, “YES! YES! Oh, Naru-chan, of course I’ll marry you and bear your children!” and latching onto his neck like a barnacle, her legs wrapping tightly around his waist. Her dream was coming true in the midst of a waking nightmare!

Naruto went chalk-white and stiff as a board, his eyes bulging. MARRY?! CHILDREN?!


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 is the result of that analysis as applicable to this chapter. The Mandarin romanization is in Pinyin, which has drastically different pronunciation rules than English does. The Japanese reading is 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.

• 女傑族 — Nǚjiézú in Mandarin; Joketsuzoku to a Japanese reader. Means something like “Woman Greatness Tribe” or “Female Hero Tribe.” Viz translated it as “Chinese Amazons,” which is accurate in spirit but somewhat misleading with regards to historical context.