Tales of the FoxCat
By Ozzallos

-roll credits to Bon Jovi's 'Last Man Standing'-

Chapter One

"Are you absolutely sure he won't be coming back?" The white robed figure asked with hope, adjusting his coke-bottle thick glasses as if to better discern the truth from the person in front of him.

The Lost Boy nodded with certainty, producing a fanged grin that reeked of malice. "Absolutely. He ate the mushrooms and went from eighteen to thirteen before my eyes."

"Verily?" The older boy next to the male Amazon queried, as if not quite able to believe it himself. "What did thy do next?"

The fanged grin turned downright evil. "I so beat him down."

"Yes!" The raven haired master of concealed weaponry exclaimed, pumping his arm in symbolic victory. The bokken wielding upper-classman's reaction was a tad more sedate.

"Are you sure he is felled?" The deranged kendoist balanced his wooden practice blade lightly across a shoulder. "It would not do for him to reappear after explanations have been given."

"I left him for dead myself." The bandanna'd boy in question replied in a slightly perturbed tone that indicated his annoyance at being doubted.

"They won't find his body, will they?" The Amazon boy asked tentatively. No, his rivals' reappearance would not do at all once the cover story was told. "Where did you leave it?"

The Lost Boy seemed to think on this for a moment, absently scratching his chin. "Um, Mt. Rushmore?"

Ranma Saotome, heir to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts groaned as he pushed himself up from the dirt, spitting out a mouthfull of it as he did. Not that Ranma wasn't accustomed to the tasted of dirt in the his quest to be the best martial artist, just that it didn't go well with the headache that was driving a railroad spike through his head at the moment. The memories leading up to his dirt nap were hazy, but intact. There was the training mission with Ryoga… He cooked something up for the both of them and watched Ryoga become a giant? No, that wasn't right, Ranma mentally revised as he stood up on wobbly legs. The martial artist stumbled and leaned against one of the many trees around him. Ryoga hadn't grown… He himself had shrank.

Realization hit Ranma like a mallet, causing him to take stock of his physical self. Or herself, Ranma rapidly realized, but the curse was the least of her problems at the moment. She was definitely smaller at the moment, and a nearby puddle of water from the recent rain confirmed her fears. She hadn't simply shrank, she had de-aged, to about twelve or thirteen, unless she missed her guess. The girl in the puddle frowned first, then her face contorted with anger as the full implications of what had happened hit home. That honorless bastard had snuck mushrooms into her soup! Most people would think nothing of such an ingredient, but Ranma had encountered these particular mushrooms before. They had age-altering properties, and her last encounter with them had wound her biological clock back even further than her present age.

Small consolation, Ranma grumbled mentally, and tore her gaze away from the puddle. The rest of the memories flowed to the surface quite easily now. Thus disadvantaged, Ryoga made quick work of her handicapped body. Even so, the recount of the fight made her smile darkly. She may have been on the losing end of the physical power curve, but the pig found out the hard way that her vast ki reserves were fully intact and accessible. Her endurance, strength and ability to absorb physical damage, however, were not. Sure, she had made the pig-boy pay in cash for his trespass, but when you're dealing with an opponent as powerful as Ryoga with only a thirteen year old body to do the job, a couple hits were all it took. Pain continued to pulse through every joint, and the black and blue bruises would be obvious to anybody who saw them. Obviously the traitor decided more than a couple hits were required to finish the job.

The diminutive redheaded girl took a deep breath and doubled over with a hacking cough. Blood splattered on the ground and she winced. Great, she thought. Internal bleeding. Normally, she had total confidence in her body's ability to heal all but the most critical of damage, but she now wore the body of an early teen and had been subjected to a beating by one of the best martial artists in the world. Ranma wiped the blood from her lips, smearing it across the now oversized sleeve of her red silk shirt. It too showed signs of extreme abuse. Still, she was confident of her body's ability to heal the wounds. After all, she had come through her old man's training well enough. Ryoga's torture had been intense, but relatively short in duration. The stuff she endured under ol' Pops, however, had gone on for months. The redhead tried to suppress the pain, and moved on to the next priority beyond personal damage assessment…

Like where the hell was she?

In a forest, that much was obvious. But where that forest was, she hadn't a clue. Ranma had trained at damn near every major martial arts site from Tokyo to Beijing, and this wasn't one of them. At least she still had the bastard's footprints to follow, she noted with satisfaction upon finding Ryoga's trail. She silently thanked God that the previous rain had been a light one, just enough to activate her curse, but not wash away her lifeline. Ranma followed the trail another fifty feet before being led into a clearing, where they abruptly terminated. She found the nearest tree and leaned against it in exhaustion. Great. Just great. The Lost Boy got himself lost into thin air like a damn ninja. Ranma looked out across the clearing and the open view it afforded. Blue skies, light fluffy clouds and a clear horizon. All of which narrowed down her location to a few million places on the planet Earth. All in all, it was a beautiful day for Ryoga's ass-beating… If she ever found him again. The martial artists dark musings were interrupted by a curious sight as she continued to take in her surroundings.

Was that… Mount Rushmore in the distance?

Goddamn Ryoga left me for dead in America? Ranma's brain boggled with incredulity. How he'd even gotten her here was a question best left for scholars and sages. After all, anybody who could get lost in a hallway closet could likely get lost to anywhere as well. Ranma picked over the faces on the granite face in the distance. That one was probably Washington… Maybe Lincoln off to the left. Between the two was Donald Trump, and she didn't know who the last one was for the life of her. Ranma mentally congratulated herself and her retention of history studies. Three out of four wasn't too bad. Maybe Ms. Hinako's English lessons would come in handy after all… At least, those she hadn't slept through.

Ranma Saotome reviewed her options silently. She could continue to try and pick up what was left of Ryoga's trail, or she could go see Mount freakin' Rushmore. The latter seemed the more appealing of the two ideas, as Ryoga's trail was only going to get colder and the possibility of tracing it more remote… The ass had found his way to America after all. God only knew where else it'd lead. She looked at the stone faces in the distance one more time. Mount Rushmore, on the other hand, was a major tourist attraction, which meant people to help her with her injuries and give her food. After all, who would refuse to help a cute, beat up thirteen year old girl? Ranma looked at Ryoga's footprints one last time. Yep. Better than limping around out here in the wild coughing up blood.

Besides, she was gonna need to be in top form when it came time to hand Pig-boy the beating of his life. Maybe stop in China along the way back and call in a few favors from Herb. Ranma smiled ferally as she turned toward her new destination. He had actually tried to kill her. Locking his curse wasn't at all out of the question at this point, right?

Oh yes, Ranma thought grimly. Honor between us is official dead.

America was weird, Ranma was observing as she walked through the town at the base of Mt. Rushmore. Every film she had seen of the United States indicated either a metropolis on par with downtown Tokyo or some town out of the wild west. Therefore it came as somewhat of a surprise to find that America- or at least this small corner of it -looked quite a bit like Japan... The deeper into the town she journeyed, the more eerie it became as the local language appeared to be Japanese, from spoken word, to the signs over the various stores she walked by.

Ranma Saotome's brain mentally noted the discrepancies, which in turn kicked up her alert level another notch. She may have had a younger body at the moment, but that didn't prevent her from accessing the numerous and formidable ki abilities at her disposal, and she soaked in the ambient power levels of the villagers surrounding her. What she found not only surprised her, but caused her to notch another level of alert to her reconnaissance. The village was chalk full of high energy levels, and she reflexively suppressed her own to avoid standing out. Things were getting too weird, and she began to sense she was walking an unseen tightrope. Wherever she actually was, she was doubting it was the United States with each step she took. Ranma nearly stumbled as she rounded a corner, spying a trio of... Ninjas! ...as they walked by.

The redhead tried to keep her observations covert, studying the psuedo-ninjas carefully... 'Pseudo' because their was as much 'shock trooper' in their gear as there was traditional ninja styling. Was that body armor? It took everything Ranma had to keep from outright staring. The trio passed without so much a glance in her direction and she pressed her power levels down further as full realization rained down around her. Ranma studied the enormous granite faces hanging above her. Mount Rushmore my ass, she groused internally. Wherever she was, she was in it, and in it deep. The town she had stumbled upon was like some Japanese ninja parody gone horribly wrong.

And people were starting to stare.

No, it wasn't because she was one of the best martial artists of her generation. It was because of all the facts she was initially counting on to gain her aid were now totally inappropriate for the situation she was facing. The last thing she was wanting now was excess attention, and her wounds and tattered clothing were succeeding in gaining it admirably.

"Are you okay, little girl?"

Ranma froze as the inevitable question came from her right. She turned slowly and found an older woman peering at her from the counter of a ramen stand. No, she wasn't a ninja, but she the threat she represented was still quite substantial.

"Little girl?" Then the came the even worse question. "Where are your parents?"

Luckily, she was somewhat prepared for just such an eventuality. "Look! Hally's Comet!"

Ranma pointed skyward and the woman followed the point of her finger. "What's a comet? Where'd you go little girl?"

The redhead was asked that same question no less than four more times before extracting herself to the monument in order to gain herself some thinking room without the constant threat of being mothered into a compromising situation. The top of un-Rushmore also afforded her an excellent view of the town itself, which Ranma noted was as odd as its inhabitance. Like the ninjas that wandered around it, the place was an odd fusion of retro-feudalism and trailing edge technology, compared to the Tokyo she had only recently left. Ranma clutched her side once more. The decision to shrug off help hadn't been easy, especially against the prospect of free food, but one thing Ranma knew was tactics, and she had enough sense to realize she was treading through a minefield. Planning generally didn't treat the martial artist kindly, but if there was a day to do some...

"Look at all that!"
"You'll pay for this!"
"Stop this doing this everyday!"
"Hey, Stop causing this!"

Ranma peered over the edge of one of the granite faces to find a blond spiky-haired boy, hanging from a rope that she hadn't noticed until now. On the ledge further below were the people causing the commotion, several of the upset weird ninja. The boy himself was speckled with paint, undoubtedly a result of the can of paint he was holding. The cries to order were largely ignored by the boy, who continued in his strangely abstract artistic endeavor with a smile.

"They look kinda pissed."

The spikey haired boy froze, looking up into a pair of blue eyes that weren't there five minutes ago. What the heck was a girl doing up here? "Hmmf!" The smirk reappeared. "They're just mad because they can't so something like this! But I can! I'm incredible!"

Naruto Uzumaki watched as the redhead arched a skeptical eyebrow. "I ain't so sure about that."

"What do you mean?" The smirk disappeared and he eyed him with an air of hostility.

The girl looked beyond him, as if she were seeing through the crowd below. "They're all pumping out some decent power levels." She paused, cocking her head in consideration. "I could take out a couple of 'em maybe, but it'd be dicey in this--" The redhead blinked before cutting her commentary short.

An angry frown spread across Naruto's face. "Hey! I'm the best there is! In fact--!"

"What the hell are you doing during class time!" And angry voice bellowed and a younger man separated himself from the hostile crowd. "GET DOWN HERE YOU MORON! And who the hell is that up there with you!"

The redhead's eyes widened and Naruto began to panic, flailing around wildly. "Yikes! That's Iruka Sensei!"

Ranma stared at the ninja below and decided it was time for a tactical withdraw. The last thing she intended on was becoming an item of interest to the village authorities, and the local truant officer was definitely a bad start down that road. "Sorry bro, gotta go!" Even as Ranma turned back from the ledge, she felt a ripple of power at her back, causing her to spin around from her crouch. Before her stood stood one of the combat garbed ninjas, this one with gray hair, a mask covering his left eye and half his face. The fact that he had found her was bad enough, and the fact that he was packing some serious power didn't help. All of which led her to one, decisive conclusion... "Aw, shit."

"And exactly who do we have here, Mmm?"

Kakashi Hatake studied the girl he had escorted to the local hospital with piercing interest. Of course, one had to wonder where she had gotten such a hard beating, but that wasn't the his primary concern. What had captured the Jounin's attention was her walk. Even injured, she moved with a grace that indicated skill and training... years of it, if he were any judge. She wasn't radiating any sort of power to speak of, but that meant absolutely nothing to him and his observations. In fact, her power levels were suspiciously low when contrasted against what he was seeing in the girl. Sure, it might be her injuries, but the odd looking redhead was carrying herself like a tightly coiled spring, which in turn caused him to keep some measure of guard up.

No, this girl wasn't what she seemed at all.

"This is pretty bad, even for one of your students, Kakashi..." The nurse on duty commented as she applied another bandage to one of the girls' many wounds. "Whatever training you were engaged in, I'd advise not doing it again."

"She's not a student." The ninja remarked, causing the nurse to pause ever so slightly in her ministrations. She was almost able to carry on as if what was said was inconsequential, much to her credit. Kakashi could almost see what was chruning through her head at the moment... If the girl wasn't even a Genin or trainee, then the wounds she was currently dressing indicated a series of disquieting events surrounding her.

"Have the parents been informed?" The blond nurse inquired casually as she spread suave over a bruise. The redhead winced ever so slightly, but remained silent. Even more disturbing was that she knew nearly every child in the village in one capacity or another, and she was sure she hadn't seen this one before. The answer came all to predictably.

"She's not from the village either." Nurse Aoki simply nodded, accepting the fact as she continued her work.

"Well, at least we found a little girl under all that dirt." She commented brightly, only to be greeted by a guarded, emotionless look. Not good. "Well, lie back there while I have a word with Hatake sensei." The girl simply did as she was told, lying back in the hospital bed she had been seated upon during the course of her examination. Aoki pulled Kakashi to the side.

"I'm not ruling out some sort of trauma beyond the wounds." She lowered her voice as the two found another corner of the room. "The beating could be consistent with child abuse, and rape isn't out of the question at this point, though I won't know that until I get a full examination form her."

The Ninja shook his head. "Possibly, but not all those wounds are the passive sort." The white robed nurse cocked her head in curiosity. "I'm not a physician, but I've seen battle wounds too many times too miss them."

"Continue, please..."

"I'd guess she took the majority of the damage lying down, but a few of the wounds almost have to be combat related." Kakashi explained and the nurse nodded thoughtfully.

"All of which begs the question as to who did it." Aoki finished.

"And why." Kakashi agreed.

"Well, I can keep her here under observation while she recovers," Aoki explained, casting a look at the redhead across the room, who in turn was staring at the pair intently. "At least until you find out who she is. Maybe I can get some clues talking to her."

"Appreciated. Keep me informed then." The one-eyed Ninja inclined his head gratefully and left the nurse to her own devices. He'd also have to remember to assign the room a guard in case the person who beat the girl up returned... or she tried to leave before they found out who she was.

Ranma Saotome hit the ground with a slight wobble, sunlight pouring across her face once more. The nurse had been nice enough, but after all the time spent around Nabiki Tendo, she recognized subtle probes for information when she heard them. Mistaken for a thirteen year old girl was bad enough. Mistaken for a thirteen year old girl in a place she sincerely doubted should exist was quite another matter. The total lack of information could get her killed if she just spilled her guts to any random person, especially around people like that Kakashi person. Ranma hated to admit it, but she probably couldn't go toe to toe with somebody like that in her present body and state. He had power and moved like he knew how to use it. What was more, she was certain he had seen beyond the hurt little girl routine. Sure, the guard at her door could have been left for her own safety, but Ranma was somehow doubting it. Luckily, escape proved a simple matter.

And God only knew what they'd do when they found out about the curse.

The redheaded girl eyed the rooftops and felt an instinctual need to gain their height as drill into her through over fifteen years of Anything Goes training, but suppressed the urge for two reasons. While it would give her more mobility, the rooftops also afforded more visibility as well. She was better off sticking to the busy surface streets for anominitys' sake. Second, roof-hopping would only aggravate her nicely bandaged injuries at this point. Even so, Ranma recognized the need for a better lay of the land, and the best spot for that was back atop un-Rushmore.

Ranma began to trace the path she had used earlier to ascend the monument, ensuring that she wasn't being followed along the way. The trip up to the granite heads also gave her enough time to reflect on another disturbing development… Her body was quiet. For the first time in nearly three years, the shift to her cursed female form wasn't accompanied by the annoying 'itch' that followed the transformation. It always felt like the body didn't belong to her when Ranma took on the cursed form, and that feeling- more than anything -was a primary cause for her incessant need for hot water. The body wasn't natural to 'himself' and it went to great lengths to let him know it wasn't. Walking around as a female was always accompanied by a buzzing itch, an annoying distraction that Ranma had learned to screen sometime ago. While she couldn't outright ignore the feeling of her own skin squirming, she had learned to work through it.

Now it was gone. Totally.

For the first time in three years, the curse almost wasn't. Ranma leapt up another stair pathway, nearing the top of her goal. Hot water would probably still work, but one of the imperatives to quickly revert back to a guy had been removed entirely. The only analogy the martial artist could come up with was that it felt more like wearing a silk shirt than the scratchy wool sweater of old. Of course, her gender sense was still that of a guy and she would always prefer that over the alternative, but somehow it had become far less disquieting to wear the girl, and Ranma wasn't sure if that was a good or bad development.

She mounted the head named Donald Trump and was greeted to a curious sight, which in turn led to a bout of annoyance. There was the spiky haired kid again, minus the paint and brush. The annoyance faded as she noticed a pail of soap and rag in his hand. Ah, cleaning detail, Ranma thought with a smirk. She paused for a moment and considered the boy carefully. He apparently didn't have much love for the ninjas she observed in their last encounter, which could make him an ideal source of information. That, and it would only be a matter of time before her escape was noted and she'd need answers by then, preferably ones that wouldn't raise too many questions. There was always the option of abandoning the town outright, but given her condition and lack of resources…

"Feh, that's what you get, baka."

Naruto stopped his scrubbing to stare at the redheaded girl perched above him with a smile directing in his general direction. The spiky haired boy's already dark mood deepened further as evidence by the scowl on his face. "Bah. Like I care. Who are you anyway?"

Ranma mentally calculated the risk in giving him an answer and shrugged. "Ranma Saotome." She purposely left off the rest of her formidable title for the moment. "You're.. Um... Nar..."

"Naruto Uzumaki." The frown lessened. "Whatcha doin' here anyway?"

Oh, just pumping you for information like Nabs, not that you need to know that... "Was bored. Thought I'd have a look around. What are you doin' up here anyway?"

Naruto gave her a piercing stare and shrugged. "I'm gonna be the best Hokage ever!"

The look the boy received at his proclamation was absolutely devoid of comprehension. "What's a 'hokage'?"

Naruto's eyes widened and jaw dropped. "What's a Hokage!" Ranma simply blinked. "Only the best, most important person in the village!" The boys eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Say, where you from anyway?"

Power flared at Ranma's back. This time she didn't even bother to turn around. "That's what I would like to know."

It was the voice of the one-eyed ninja. Crap.

"And what are you doing slacking off, Naruto!" Another voice came. It wasn't an angry tone, but there was no doubt that it was calling the boy in front of him into account, who in turn scowled.

"Not like I have anybody to go home to."

Now it was Ranma's turn to frown. There was considerable spite in the spiky haired kid's last comment. It reminded her all too much of Ryoga. She didn't know the kid from Adam, but the last thing she wanted to see in the world was another pig like the one who had betrayed her. Ranma knew exactly what it took to produce that particular breed of human-- Start with no parents, mix in some spite, add in a little revenge. Cook to 450 degrees, sprinkle with self-loathing and hate, and you have yourself one terminally depressed, self destructive human being who will blame everybody for his problems but himself. Not that Ranma went into such in depth analysis herself, but she recognized the signs instinctual. It didn't help that she had had a hand in their creation with the pig-boy, either. The only saving grace with this Naruto was that he hadn't seen that path to it's inevitable conclusion... yet.

She was probably going to regret this, but... "Aww, what the hell." Ranma groused as she hopped lightly down to the tress Naruto was working on. Three sets of eyes tracked her with curiosity as she picked up one of the many rags soaking in the bucket of soap. She glanced at the pair of adults that now stood above her. "Well?"

One-Eye held her gaze a moment longer and shrugged. "After you're finished then." Ranma returned with a lopsided grin. He knew, but maybe she wasn't in it as deep as she thought.

"And Naruto..." The boy in question tore his gaze away from his new helper. Iruka considered him thoughtfully. "I'll buy you some ramen tonight... If you clean all this up. Maybe your friend too."

Ranma blinked and Naruto lit up like a Christmas tree. "OK! I'll work hard! I will!" The redhead couldn't help but to grin now. Free food was always a good ice breaker.

Iruka smiled. He wouldn't have if he had known the promise he had just made to the two most formidable appetites in Konoha, and the impact they would have on his wallet.

Well, now I know what a 'Hokage' is, Ranma thought as the man known as Iruka explained it over a round of hot ramen. If she weren't still guarding herself mentally, Ranma and her stomach would have been eternally grateful for the hot meal. The part about the fox demon attacking the village had been especially interesting. An ordinary person where she was from might have been surprised at its mention, but not Ranma. That sort of strangeness was simply par for the course after the Phoenix incident and so many others.

"One day I'm going to get the Hokage name..." Naruto replied enthusiastically, "And then I'm going to surpass all the previous Hokages!" The proclamation resonated within Ranma, who couldn't stop the smile from spreading across her face. If there was one thing she recognized in this messed up situation, it was the drive to be the best, and she was beginning to like this kid in spite of herself. Conversation descended into chit-chat as Ranma artfully deflected the probing questions directed at her. She was thankful when talk finally turned to Naruto's impending test tomorrow in... Ninja school? It would have almost been funny to the martial artist if both teacher and student weren't seriously discussing the matter. Iruka and Naruto began to talk on what it took to become a ninja and Ranma was left to review what she had come to know of this town in the last twelve hours. 'Konoha', as she had come to know the town through casual conversation, seemed to be something of a modern feudal japan, where life revolved around the ninja. It was almost too much to believe if she hadn't been walking through that reality for most of the day now.

"Okay, It's time for you to get going," Iruka informed Naruto after his third bowl of ramen. Part of the ststement was professional concern, while the other part of it was fear of bankruptcy, as both children consumed their bodyweight in food. "You have the test tomorrow, after all."

Naruto paused in his food intake and frowned. Tests. The emotion rapidly evaporated as his inner fire resurfaced just as quickly. "I'll show you I'm the best!" The boy hopped from his seat at the ramen stand and glanced at the redheaded girl before bounding off into the night. "See ya tomorrow!"

The remaining two watched Naruto disappear into the night. An uncomfortable silence settled between them.

"Will he?"

Ranma looked directly at the teacher and found herself focusing on the scar that crossed the bridge of his nose. A blade made that, she noted. On a better day, she could have taken him regardless of the body she wore, but today wasn't that day and there was no doubt as to his combat readiness. She swept the area with her senses and found the suppressed power signature of the one-eyed ninja on a nearby rooftop. They weren't taking any chances. Ranma held her gaze on Iruka for a moment, then purposely looked out into the night where his unseen companion stood watch.

"Sure, why not." Ranma produced a self-confident smile, turning back to Iruka. "'Ruto ain't the only one that don't have anything to go back to tonight."

Iruka stared at the girl. Kakashi was right... There was definitely more to this girl than met the eye. There wasn't much, but every once in a while he'd catch a small spike of power that slipped past her shielding, and there was no denying the skill that hid within her movements. She even knew where Kakashi was out there, and that said a lot. Regardless, the girl had obviously taken a beating.

"Questions can wait for tomorrow." He stated and led the way beck to the hospital. "Until then, you can use the hospital."

Ranma nodded. Nice to know the inquisition could wait till tomorrow.

Dawns rays filtered into the room as the Third Hokage of Konoha studied the battered redhead before him carefully. Five-two, thirteen years old and an exotic air about her. Red wasn't exactly a common color. She was also hiding something, that much was obvious. Even if he hadn't seen her for himself, there weren't many that could put Kakashi on edge, let alone a simple, beat-up thirteen year old girl. The fact that the Copy-Cat ninja had even brought her to his attention spoke volumes in itself. You just didn't bother the leader of the village over some waif, after all. Sarutobi stroked the white patch of hair at his chin and probed deeper. Power. She had it and was guarding it damn well. How much she was hiding was uncertain, but Kakashi and Iruka were right. Even injured, she didn't move like a novice. The girl was a Genin, at least.

"So what can we do for you...?" He let the question trail off with an unspoken request for a name or some other form of identification.

"Ranma Saotome." The redhead replied in a guarded tone. "As to what you can do for me..." She paused for a moment, considering her next words carefully. "Ever hear of a place called Tokyo?" The blank looks from the Hokage and One-Eyed Ninja said it all. "Damn."

"Are you from this Tokyo?" The elder asked, and Ranma simply nodded. "Can you point it out on a map?"

"Maybe." Sarutobi pulled out a long scroll and untied its binding, unrolling the parchment across the table he sat. The redhead frowned as she studied the map. A curse was heard muttered. "This all of it?" The Hokage nodded.

He gave the girl another studied look and pursed his wrinkled lips. "Perhapses we should start somewhere else. How did you sustain your wounds?"

The neutral expression the girl had worn since their meeting faltered. "A friend."

Sarutobi nodded. Her tone said it all. Betrayal. "Is this 'friend' a threat? You must understand that the protection of this village and everybody in it are my responsibility."

She shook her head. "Think he's long gone by now. 'Cides, if he comes back, I'll deal with him myself." There was no mistaking the meaning behind her words. She would 'deal' with him, despite her age or diminutive stature, which inevitably led to the next question that Kakashi fielded.

"Are you a threat?"

The little girl turned back to the One-Eyed ninja, who held a respectful distance from her. Respectful, and ready to counter any threat. "Me? Naw. Just a little lost is all."

"So lost that you can't find your own village on a map." Kakashi observed, stepping fully into the role of 'bad guy' opposite Sarutobi's good guy.

The redhead rolled her eyes. "Look, if I were a threat, you'd be the first to know it."

"Said the little girl."

Her gaze narrowed sharply on the ninja and suddenly the room flooded with power. Kakashi took a reflexive step back as it slapped against him like an unseen wave. A single eye widened. "Yeah," She bristled with enough heat to back up the elevated power emanating from her. "Said the little girl."

Sarutobi was torn between chuckling at Kakashi and marveling at the surprise his goading revealed. Even he couldn't have suspected the power levels residing in the girl. She had dropped her shields in there entirety, enabling him to see deeper within her. Whatever she looked like, there was no way a thirteen year old should be lit up like that. And her chakra... It was... One dimensional? That was an oddity in itself, let alone that there was something deeper--

The girl turned around and he suddenly found himself captured by her glittering blue eyes that spoke of experience beyond their years. "Find everything yer lookin' for, old man?"

This time it was the Hokage that was taken back. No thirteen year old should be able to detect his probing. "I see."

He did. The redhead knew it. "Look, I ain't no threat. I just had a really bad day yesterday."

"But you're not what you seem." Kakashi remarked in a somewhat less hostile tone.

"Yes and no. All I can say is this is me. Kinda." She sighed, shaking her head.

"A gesture of good will would be appreciated." The Hokage stated, a sentiment with which Kakashi fully agreed. Ranma looked from the old man, to the One-Eyed ninja, then back.

"Alright, fine. Got any hot water?"

Author's notes;

Ok, yes, I should be working on tBoT part 7 or Kunoification, but this is an itch I had to scratch for a few reasons. Regardless, whether it gets more chapters is up to you, but for now, back to work on tBoT part 7 (2.2kW) and Kunoification part 2 (3.3kW).

Chakra vs Ki- For the purpose of this fic, I equate them as to being almost the same. At very least, they are the same base form of spiritual power, but formed and processed at different levels. The best analogy I've come up with so far is Ranma is AM radio versus Naruto's chakra being FM radio; That being you can do things with FM you just can't do with AM because of the differences. This is best rationalized by the fact that that so many more things seem possible with Chalkra (walking up walls, etc) than straight ki. Not to say Ranma's ki is useless, as it is effectively almost the same thing. Even AM radio has its advantages.

Ranma vs Xover- I do plan on balancing Ranma's level against the ninjas of Naruto-world in several ways, if this fic is continued. First, he is now 13 and physically underpowered, though he will retain his 18 year old ki capacity and martial arts skill. Even so, he has never been able to walk up trees and such, and will find a new mastery to engage in as he learns the subtleties of chakra, a higher bandwidth version of ki (see butchered explanation above). Likewise, many of the Ninjas in Naruto's world are weapons specialists. Ranma is not. Skilled, yes, but I do not see the mastery in him that, say, a Jounin has attained and it will be an advantage in their favor. It works in my brain, at least. (no, I don't consider Mousse in this category, being the primary weapon user in Ranma ½. His "skill" seems to be one of quantity over quality). Also, Ranma is now forced to adapt to a 13 year old body, which means not everything will track as smoothly as before until he adapts. I figure all of this will render Ranma's substantial skill levels reasonable enough to interact believably in the Naruto universe.

Finally, I don't consider Ranma the Nerima equivolent of "Fuzzy Eyebrows" since Ranma can projechis power beyond his own body, something Rock Lee cannot do.

Ryoga- Since it's already come up, I'm adding this. No I do not think Ryoga is so honorable as to be above being a murder with the right motivations. Canon has seen more than one instance where Ryoga has been driven into a senseless rage, and the one that is the most glaringly obvious is when Ranma undergoes the HSH training. At first 'honorable' Ryoga did Protect Ranma and even refused to fight him in his weakened state, but convininently forgo honor when he misconstrues Ranma's comments on Akane minutes later. He lapses into a berserker rage without regard to the facts or Ranma's pathetic state, in which he could easily kill Saotome. Ryoga's convinient lapses of honor and common sense have happened more than once through the series. Trimatter and I have discussed this at length and he disagrees, but I'm sticking by my guns here :p

Matchups- Fear not, I won't be doing a Ranma + boyfriend. His comfort in the girl form has nothing to do with the intended matchup I have in mind, and has more to do with a plot device DCG suggested.

Edits- v2: Konoha's spelling corrected, further ANs added.