Disclaimer: These characters belong, more or less, to Rumiko Takahashi

I am butchering these fairy tales. It amuses me. So, if you mind a little OOC, or you haven't heard a lot of fairy tales and not knowing which ones I'm using bothers you, don't read it. They're a little more obscure than Snow White, and I'm taking a lot of liberties.

Chapter 1

The Princess Akane was, by all accounts, a spoiled brat. Of course, she got that reputation mainly because she refused to marry. Her refusal caused quite a bit of heartache for her father, who'd already lost so much in his life. His oldest daughter had run away with a miracle man, which is sort of like a doctor only more capable, and his second-oldest daughter had been carried away by a dragon when she was twelve.

The second-oldest had been rescued, at least temporarily. Her father himself and one of his most trusted friends, King Saotome from a neighboring kingdom, had found her inside the cave where the dragon hoarded his treasure. The girl had informed them both, quite firmly, that she had no desire to be rescued and would scream so the dragon would know they were there. With a skeptical look at the slumbering, scaly beast, they'd simply returned home and written her off as dead.

Akane was the only child he had left. In an effort to see his grandchildren before he died, he'd sent a very flattering portrait of her to all the kingdoms within a month's travel. For two years now, the Princess had been flooded with marriage proposals. It was said that most men looking at her picture went mad with love, and others went mad with love at the first sight of her.

This was, of course, all rubbish. The Princess was pretty enough, and a kind girl, but she wasn't exactly a Helen of Troy. No one went mad from the sight of her picture. The truth of the matter was, it was a competition. The most popular pastime of the era was to try to win the Princess Akane. She was plied with gifts, her every step was followed, she was put in countless sonnets. She knew very well none of it was actually out of love for her. Most of them couldn't even tell the color of her eyes. It was all to compete with each other.

After a few years of being followed, simpered at, and generally annoyed at all hours of the day and night, she began to have a serious hatred for the masculine gender. They were, after all, ruining her life. Why in hell would she want to marry any of them?

And so another plan of Soun Tendo's backfired horribly.

When Prince Ranma arrived at the Tendo Court, he knew the rumors about the unbelievably beautiful Princess Akane. He knew he was supposed to fall madly in love with her at first sight. When he saw she was just another girl, he was completely disgusted. If he'd come to marry her, or rather to try, he would probably have simply turned around and gone home in a disgruntled huff. But he wasn't there to court her. He wasn't even a "he" at the moment.

Ranma and his father had gone on a trading trip across China, doing some very profitable business with spice merchants along that way. On their journey, they'd fallen into some cursed springs. . . which meant that King Genma became King of Pandas when he was splashed with cold water, and Prince Ranma became a little red-haired Princess. He hated it, he hated his father, he hated the stupid Tendo Court and he wanted to go home.

However, on his mother's side they tended to take gender roles very seriously. His mother had threatened himself and his father with making them commit ritual seppuku if the trading trip made Ranma any less of a man. With breasts, menstrual cramps and a tendency to sing soprano, he was a lot less of a man. With spilt intestines dancing through his mind, Genma had run to his old friend Soun for help.

Which left Ranma standing in the courtyard, in the rain, disgusted with Court in general and that rotten Princess specifically. What was so great about her, anyway? Why were these men going bankrupt to entertain her? What a let down.

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Once upon a time, before kingdoms were actual boundaries and anyone with a castle and some lands could call himself a king, there was such a ruler called Kuonji. The two things he loved most in the world were his wife, who had the brightest blue eyes ever seen and hair the color of the rich, dark earth, and a donkey he'd been given by his father. King and Queen Kuonji had a little girl, who was a very smart, pretty child but who was pretty much left to her own devices. She grew up with the other castle children, made friends among the kitchen staff.

One of the cooks in the kitchen became a kind of surrogate father for the little princess, whose name was Ukyou. When he discovered her climbing trees in her skirts, he insisted she wear pants. When he found her sitting idly in the courtyard, he taught her how to cook. . .. and the bullying scullery boys taught her how to fight. When visiting dignitaries and royal families met her, they took her to be a young boy, perhaps a page.

All of this changed when the Queen died.

Ukyou was perhaps fourteen at the time- old for a princess to have no suitors, but then very few people knew she existed. Even fewer knew she was a girl. When her mother died and her father went mad with grief, she was forced to wear fancy dresses and go to court. In fact, she was essentially thrown into a position of inscrutable power from a position of no power and very little interest. She hated it. She hated every single corset-bound second.

In order to assuage the king's grief, his courtiers tried to find him a wife. They showed him every portrait of every young woman of noble blood. Yet none suited him. None could compare to his wife, with her deep, bright blue eyes and her hair dark as the rich earth itself. None had his wife's cute little nose, her full figure. Something was always wrong.

One day, a cursed day, he saw his daughter Ukyou in the palace garden, mulling over some financial state affair. In his madness, he thought she was his dead wife. He ran to her and fell at her feet, laying his head in her lap and sobbing his eyes dry.

Ukyou, of course, was rather confused by this. Her father had never shown much affection for her, and this open display of grief touched her. She soothed him, patting his head, and shoulder. At long last, his tears stilled and he looked up at her with strange, disturbing eyes.

"You have come back to me," he whispered. She shook her head, confused.

"I never left," she protested. He began to sob again, but this time he kept his eyes on her face.

"Why did you trick me, then? I thought you were dead. Oh my love, my wife. . ."

"I'm not your wife!" Ukyou shouted, angry and more than a little frightened now. He stood up, every line in his body tense and rigid.

"Then we must be married at once!" he declared, reaching for her. With a squawk of surprise and dismay, she ducked under his arm and ran from him. She ran in the uncomfortable dress until she reached the main hall. She burst through the doors and began, immediately, to scream.

"My father is INSANE!" she cried, looking for help in the faces around her. "He thinks I am mother and insists we get married at once!"

Most of the courtiers privately thought this would take care of a lot of problems. The ummariable Princess Ukyou would be taken care of, the old king would regain his sanity. It was perfect, except for the absolute disgusting bit of incest thrown in.

The king chose that moment to burst into the main hall. Ukyou backed away from him, glaring with all the might she could muster. She wanted to be armed. She really, really wanted the giant spatula her surrogate father had made for her. She really wanted anything sharp and hard. And she really, really wanted out of her corset. If it came to force, she didn't want to be restrained. But then, how could she strike her own father? How could she strike a king?

"I am NOT going to marry you!" she seethed. He blinked at her, obviously hurt by what he thought was his wife's rejection.

"Yet, anyway," one of the courtiers interjected, seeing the king's sorrow. Ukyou rounded on the courtier, pulling him up to eye level – the man was rather short -- by his collar.

"What do you mean, yet?" she said between clenched teeth. The convenience of it all struck her suddenly, and she looked in the face of each courtier, finding there what she most feared: a thoughtful apathy. They were going to let him do it. She would get no help from them.

"Stall him. Keep him happy. Trick him," the courtier suggested in an undertone. She let the man down. Fine. If they weren't going to help her, she'd help herself.

"I will marry you after you have given me proper gifts," she said, because it was the first thing she could think of.

"What do you want?" he asked, gallantly. Just what did princesses and queens usually demand for gifts? Nothing useful, that was certain. Jewelry, perhaps? Too easy. He could have that done in a month. What would take forever?

Gowns. She looked down at the richly embroidered gown she was wearing and knew it had taken a half-year to make. She would ask him for a gown that would take much longer than that.

"I want a gown. And not just any gown. I want a gown that. . . has all the colors of twilight," she demanded, gazing at the crazed eyes of her father. He nodded, and was gone.

In eight months, he returned to her with a magnificent gown that held all the colors of twilight, muted and beautiful in silk. She then asked him for a gown that held all the splendor of the night. Eight months later, he returned to her with a rich gown of the darkest blue brocade, sewn all over with miniscule diamonds. She then asked for a gown that shone like daylight, and six months later received a gown of pure spun gold, with rubies and yellow sapphires sewn in. Desperate, she asked him for the one thing she knew he would not give her.

When he came to her chamber that night and draped over her the skin of his beloved donkey, killed at her request, she knew she had lost. She took the dresses and the donkey hide and fled. And, of course, she took with her the giant spatula her father figure form the kitchens had made for her.

She trekked across kingdoms for months, living off the land, disguising herself by draping the donkey hide over her fair form. Eventually, she came to a kingdom ruled by a man named Kuno, at whose castle she found work in the kitchens. She was glad to be off the road. She hid herself under the donkey hide, whipping up fabulous okonomiyaki for the castle staff and nobles. The dresses she kept secret, wrapped in burlap, in a hollow tree not far from the castle.

A day came when the King and Prince living in the castle threw a ball, meant to last three nights. The kitchen was a mass of preparations, and Ukyou felt not the slightest twinge of desire to attend. Until she saw some of the guests, that is. Or rather, one of the guests.

He stood out from the crowd only in his seeming indifference. He wasn't daydreaming, just unimpressed. He wore his thick black hair tied back in a ponytail, and his eyes, almost the same color as her own, scanned the crowd without really seeing anyone. He looked oddly familiar, and she wanted to go talk to him. She couldn't, however, enter the party with a donkey hide draped over her. So she went to the hollow tree and took out the simplest of her dresses, the twilight dress, and donned it. With an effort at grooming herself, she was positively radiant.

She walked into the ballroom and a few people stopped to stare. She could see the familiar stranger. . . but just as she began to walk towards him she was intercepted by the Prince Kuno.

"Aren't you a vision of loveliness!" he exclaimed. She eyed him warily. She'd heard tales about this one.

"Yes, aren't I," she replied loftily. He didn't seem to notice as he took her arm and steered her towards the dance floor.

"I must have a dance!" he smiled in a way which, she supposed, was intended to be charming. Suddenly he stepped back, looking mildly abashed. "Forgive me. I forgot myself for a moment. I am the Prince of this Realm, Defender of Mother Justice in all Her Forms, Lover of the Earth and Seeker of the Stars. They call me Red Lightning, for I strike and my opponent sees his own blood," he bowed elaborately, "Tatewaki Kuno, aged seventeen."

"How . . . nice," Ukyou grimaced, but her statement was ignored as he swept her into his arms and they joined the dance. She spent the rest of the night being handed from one dance partner to another, none of them very good and all of them horribly arrogant. Kuno was the worst, however. Before she knew it, dawn had come and the party was over.

The next night, the second night of the ball, she got out her dark brocade dress and went again to the party, hoping to find the mysterious stranger. She didn't find him, but she did find a whole horde of nobles, male and female, who were simply bursting to find out who she was. It was fun, and when the third night rolled around, she got out the gold dress and went one last time. After all, when would she next get the chance to secretly mock so many people at once? If only they knew that she, who they thought was supernatural, had prepared the very food they were eating?

When she left he ball, she sensed she was being followed. She stopped and looked around, but no one was there. She ran on to where she'd hidden the dresses, and was almost back in her rags, holding the donkey hide in her hands when she realized she had, indeed, been followed.

"You've kidnapped the Lady with the golden dress!" Tatewaki Kuno gasped, staring at her. She sighed.

"No, I am the Lady with the golden dress." When he didn't believe her, she showed him the three dresses. At long last, he cleared his throat and looked up at her.

"Well, in that case. . . the . . . bell, tolling at the temple of Gion reminds us of the transience of it all. I was wondering. . . if perhaps you'd like to marry me?" he asked, completely ignoring the look of stunned horror on her face. "I would, of course, be your slave, love you until the end of time and all other such requisite things."

"Ahhhhh," Ukyou gulped, not entirely sure how to respond to that. She HAD received worse offers. "No, thanks but no thanks. I think I'd rather. . . just work in the kitchen."

"In that case," he smiled, turning away form her, "Tomorrow we will depart for the kingdom of the fair Princess Akane Tendo, whom I have loved for many years."

"Oh, really?" Ukyou asked, eyebrows raised. Boy, was she glad she'd turned that one down. What an utter idiot this prince was.