Ranma 1/2 in Konoha's Court
"RANMA NO BAK....!"
Ranma crouched before the blow that... never happened? Uncurling slightly, the boy looked up to see, not the Tendo house where he'd been abused for the past year, but an infinite expanse of starry night, with smooth stone under his feet stretching out to the horizon in all directions and glittering with its own internal stars.
"Wha..?" he just barely began to say, before sensing a presence behind him and snapping about in an instant defensive stance.
Only to be staring at himself.
"No, I'm not actually you." the figure replied, and the Neriman martial artist could see for himself the truth of that statement. The double moved all wrong. Sloppy.
"I'm just wearing this form for a minute to disguise who I really am," the double continued conversationally. "And time outside does not move while you are here."
Ranma took a moment to look around. This place was nothing like anything he was familiar with. There were no buildings, no grass, no plants or animals of any kind. In truth, it felt like standing on the surface of an impossible huge glass marble. Still, he was no stranger to the odd or unusual. "Why'd ya bring me here?" the pigtailed martial artist challenged.
"Because of a bet," his double replied. "A couple of us cosmic entities were hanging around watching a few of you more interesting mortals, and a disagreement arose among us over which of you had the hardest life."
Ranma stood up straight and rubbed his head where Akane's expected blow had NOT fallen, and grumbled a moment too low to hear, although 'uncute tomboys' could be picked out. The lack of available exits, or any real hope of one, kept him around and listening even though he suspected he wasn't going to like what he was about to hear.
Call it a feeling.
"So we decided to hold a contest to find out," the double declared. "You, and a few of the more interesting players from your world, will be switched with another hero and a few of the more interesting players of his."
"HEY!" Ranma shouted, fists thrust down to his sides and he suddenly leaned forward in the intruder's face. "Don't I got no say in this!?? What gives ya the right to go meddling around with my life? I get enough of that from the Old Man!"
"Exactly," his double continued reasonably, having suddenly appeared a safe distance away and on another side. "That's the interesting part, you get to leave all of your troubles behind, for a time, and try on an entirely new set... well, new for you, anyway. The same for the hero you will be replacing. He gets to leave his hard life behind, and all its troubles, and see if he can handle yours better. The one who holds out the longest wins."
"And just why would I want to go along with this?" Ranma cracked his knuckles.
The double pieced him with a look that reminded him of Nabiki at his most dangerous. "Think of it as a challenge, Saotome."
Ranma gulped, suddenly apprehensive.
The figure went on with an airy wave. "Look at it this way, we are willing to pay you for resolving our bet for us. First, I'll give you a set of techniques to help you in your new world - just what the hero you'll be replacing had, of course. I wouldn't want to be seen giving you an unfair advantage. Then, should you hold out longer than the one who'll be replacing you, solving his problems better than he solves yours, you'll get another set of gifts. Think of it as a prize, of sorts."
"Hmph," Ranma snorted, cockiness reasserting itself. "Yeah, well, if I win this thing then you gotta cure my curse!"
"Granted," his double replied, completely unruffled.
Ranma's eyes bugged out over how easy that was to get his agreement.
His double then turned his head and froze for a moment, as though listening to a voice only he could hear. After a moment he shook himself, and reoriented on Ranma, "Well, it seems you are due another bonus at the start. The hero you'll be replacing made a successful argument with the entity dealing with him for an extra starting advantage, and so you'll be due an equivalent one yourself, just to keep things fair. What would you like?"
"Can you cure my curse now?" the teenage aquatranssexual asked eagerly.
In reply the figure slowly shook his head. "No, I'm sorry. That's already been locked in as your prize for winning this contest. You'll have to ask for something else now."
Ranma thought about it a moment, scratching his head. "Well, I dunno. What sort of things will I need?"
"An excellent question!" his double replied, and instantly the glassy surface beneath their feet filled with images of a quasi-modern village surrounded by trees. The double smiled, "And, incidentally, you just helped me win a small side bet I'd made. Most entities were sure neither of you would ask any questions at all about the worlds you'll be going to."
"The person you will be replacing is called Naruto Uzumaki," the being explained. "He is a ninja of the village of Konoha, and this is a snapshot of his life, right about the time you will be taking over for him."
Images played in the stone beneath their feet that basically played out the first episode of the Naruto animated series.
The stranger watched Ranma watch the show, and when it had concluded he said, "You will be taking over for him on one of the defining moments of his life - the day he gets his team assignment. Everyone will believe you have always been him, forget his name to use yours instead..."
Ranma glared at the stranger sharing his appearance doubtfully, interrupting his monologue, "Yeah, but ya ain't never said what I'm supposed ta DO as this guy!"
The stranger smiled again. "You won another bet for me, Ranma. No one up there would believe you'd ask that question. Your goals are twofold, just the same as his goals. You will have to overcome his problems, and reach his dream. That's all, and while you do that he will be in Nerima trying to solve your problems and reach your dream."
The stranger leveled a glance at him, "Don't forget, you are there to solve his problems, just as he is taking your place to solve yours. Leave everything your father did to you behind. It doesn't count where you are going. Those are his problems now, not yours."
"So what are the problems I gotta be solvin now?" Ranma asked with narrowed eyes.
"Good question!" the stranger replied, and the scenes in the viewing stone changed. "First, through no fault of his own, the village hates Naruto. With things as they are they will never accept him. On October tenth twelve years ago, the day Naruto was born, a gigantic nine tailed demon fox attacked the village, causing vast destruction. Hundreds died. The Fourth Hokage, leader at the time, also lost his life stopping the attack. He sealed the demon into his infant son. The villagers believe the demon and the boy to be one and the same, and they also blame the child for the death of their beloved Fourth Hokage."
"This man," the images within the stone shifted, "the Third Hokage, who took the office back after his successor died, is responsible for having released to the village the secret of Naruto being the container of the demon fox, which spawned the hate. He also kept his true parentage a secret, which is the only thing that might have stopped the hate. However, in spite of this, he sees himself as a close friend of Naruto, and has put upper limits on what people are allowed to do to abuse him. Naruto calls him 'Grandpa' and they have ramen together once a week. Once he dies, the secret of your parentage could never be revealed in a way that could convince anyone. Getting him to do that is one of your goals."
The other being wearing his face cocked his head at Ranma. "The other major obstacle is no one is willing to give Naruto any training. His goal is to be Hokage, the most powerful ninja of the village, yet neither his academy instructors (who actively sabotaged him), nor his team leader (who completely ignores him) will give him any training of any kind. And don't even ask the Hokage, as he'll refer you back to those who aren't doing those jobs."
Ranma nodded. Getting techniques was something he thought he could handle, but the people hating him part... he wasn't so sure of.
"Ya said something about 'other players'? Who are they?"
Once again the double smiled. "The others coming from your world are secret. They are having their own briefings as we speak. They will pursue their own goals, which may or may not clash with yours. But whether they succeed in their missions most often will have no bearing on yours. Some will be asked simply to find you, and to keep that challenge fresh none of you will be granted information on the others to start with."
"That's not what I'm askin," Ranma waved the information off, though quietly he was making sure to remember it. That 'may or may not clash' bit had already convinced him that some of the players he recognized would be put in the 'clash' department. "I was asking about this Naruto guy. He's got that teacher, Iruka. Who else will be around?"
The double nodded, and the images changed, showing faces that would be familiar to Naruto. "Minor players are too many to count. Most are against him." Faces of his landlord, food retailers, minor ninja and a host of villagers flashed by, before stopping on a one eyed guy in a mask. "Naruto's teacher, Kakashi, is actually one of your greatest obstacles. Then there are your future teammates: Sakura, who abuses him, and Sasuke, who has all of the advantages you don't for reaching Naruto's goal. He has the popularity you won't, and once his bloodline awakes he will be able to copy any skill instantly simply by watching it done. It can also predict an enemy's movements before they happen, see through any illusion, cast unbeatable illusions of its own, distort space time, burn through anything, dispel bad odors, make excellent coffee and clean windows to sparkling brightness at a glance."
The stranger wearing Ranma's face paused to let that sink in before adding, "He is also your greatest rival, and will inevitably turn traitor to your village and try to kill you and destroy your home - Oh, and for you to win this thing Konoha can't be destroyed by anyone. But even after he does all this, the villagers would still far rather he become Hokage than you."
Ranma scowled, staring down at the gigantic pouting face showed in detail in the clear stone beneath his feet. "So, it sounds like this is the guy I gotta beat. Do ya got something for me to help me do that?"
"Naruto had unbeatable energy reserves and regeneration. You won't," the stranger told him with a shrug. "Those are considered essential to his character and so are going with him. You get to be hated as if you had the demon in your stomach, but won't actually have it."
"So what do I get?" the martial artist repeated.
Once more the stranger shrugged. "You get to keep your own set of advantages. You are considered a premier martial artist - something that Naruto never had, but Sasuke's eyes will be able to copy those at a glance and instantly and invariably defeat them."
"So? I'll just have to come up with something new," Ranma boasted, pointing a thumb at his chest confidently.
The figure chuckled, crossing his arms. "Anything new you come up with he will also be able to copy and defeat instantly. On this issue I'm already betting against you. You can't win."
"Oh yeah?" The got Ranma's danger up, and he pointed at the guy wearing his face. "But you said I get some kind of a bonus to start with, right? So what I want is some ultimate defense against this guy's super eyes!"
The figure wearing Ranma's face scowled, and looked like he wanted to open his mouth to deny the request. But then he stopped, as if listening to thin air again. Finally he frowned and threw down a set of scrolls bound with ribbons. "Fine!"
"This," he pointed angrily to the first one, "describes your grandfather Happosai's ability to stand in plan sight and simply vanish from view. It is called Chi Invisibility, and takes more energy the more people you become invisible to. As a side effect of learning the technique your chi energy becomes permanently cloaked. You can show your aura if you want to, but other than that no one can sense your body energy."
"This," he pointed to a second scroll, actually a bound book, smirking nastily, "is a training manual for initiation from what we call a Shadowrun world. Their mages can learn to cloak their magical energies so they cannot be detected. This describes the technique."
The double stood and scowled angrily, crossing his arms. "The combination of chi, or body energy, and mana, or magical energy, is the basis for all techniques in Naruto's world. As you already know, each can be used separately, but in Naruto's world they are always used combined, and it is the primary special power of the Sharingan to see this energy. But to avoid its illusion casting power you need the third scroll. It describes psionic techniques to shield your mind much like the other two. Once you've mastered all three, you'll be immune to the Sharingan. But seeing as how you're Ranma 'I hate magic' Saotome, I doubt you'll have the guts. You certainly don't have the experience, or underlying skill."
The real Ranma's eyes narrowed at the figure, solemnly resolving right there to prove the guy wrong.
The figure sneered back, taunting, "And even if you do learn what most mages don't about magic, you won't have a single spell - or psionic power beyond the basic shield. Face it, mortal, you're going to lose because you're just a dumb jock. And no dumb jock is ever going to defeat an Uchiha, even if the Sharingan doesn't work on you. It will work on enough other people that he'll have every skill he needs to totally destroy you!"
"You said you were going to teach me the techniques this Naruto guy knows?" Ranma ground out, resisting the urge to shout or try to pound him. Something in his gut warned him those might not be the best choices right now. He wanted to hurt this creep, but already his agile mind had settled on making the jerk lose his bet as the best way of doing that.
Besides, NOBODY beat Ranma Saotome!
The double stepped to the side, and behind where he stood was revealed a pillar, waist high, on which glittered several jewels. "Touch each jewel to learn what's inside. You have here what Naruto knows: general background information, the town of Konoha, the people he knows, his history, pranks, the ninja techniques he uses: Replacement, Shapeshift, and his Sexy variant of it, plus Shadow Clone; also how to mold chakra as he does - which is pathetic, as you know from watching that segment earlier. You get to use the Shapeshift skill instead of the Disguise of other ninja because that is what Naruto uses, but you're on your own with the Shadow Clone. He can make hundreds, but you'll probably never make more than four at a time. You enter the world when you've touched all of these jewels."
And with that, the false-Ranma was gone.
Ranma Saotome never loses.
A Saotome could also never refuse a challenge. Of course, with that 'leave everything your father did to you behind', and those being that Naruto guy's problems now, not his, maybe Ranma could afford to turn down a challenge or two.
The trouble was, this didn't look to be one of them.
As near as he could tell, the place he was in was infinite. He could run forever in any direction and just die tired. There wasn't any food here, or anything else save for those three scrolls and the short pillar with the jewels on it, and he'd enter this Naruto guy's world the moment he'd touched all of them.
Ranma had been in enough traps before to recognize a set-up when he saw one. That guy could just as easily have made more touch-jewels to teach the anti-Sharingan things as give him a couple of scrolls for them. But it was also in Ranma's experience that scrolls could be stolen, lost, or otherwise damaged.
And, if that entity guy wanted him to fail against the Sharingan, something would conspire so that the scrolls for teaching how to beat it would go missing somehow. Probably right after his arrival, if experience was anything to judge by.
Well, one of the first principles of the Saotome school was, 'If you don't like the rules, cheat!'
This guy didn't expect him to master any of those three techniques for mastering his mind and making that Sharingan thing useless. But if there was one thing Ranma was, it was a fast learner whenever he was faced with a challenge to overcome.
He sat down with the scrolls, reading them right there.
After all, didn't the guy let slip early on that 'time outside didn't move while he was there?' He could get an early start on his training, and hopefully sidetrack whatever plot that guy had to get rid of these scrolls before he could read 'em.
Three hours later his head ached. The chi technique was no problem. He had that in the first five minutes, or at least he thought so. It was hard to tell if you're invisible when the only person looking was yourself.
On that thought, the pigtailed martial artist had an idea. He could CHECK to see if that was working right! And maybe get an advantage on learning this magic stuff at the same time!
If he touched that jewel that taught how to use the Shadow Clone, he'd have someone to tell him if he was going invisible or not. Also, to use that technique he'd probably have to touch the other jewel that taught him how to use the energy it was based on. And THAT could solve him being stuck on this mana stuff!
After all, didn't the guy let slip that this chakra stuff was both magic and chi mixed together? He could focus his chi no problem. But he was stumped on learning how to shield his magic energies because he had no idea what he was doing, no place to even start.
However, just over there was a glinting jewel that all he had to do was touch and he'd know how to mold this chakra stuff. Then he could compare that to focusing his chi, and that would tell him how to use this mana stuff by practicing with whatever was left!
Even if all he could use was the energy, no spells, that could give him enough of a handle on what the magic scroll was talking about to be able to shield that energy from the stupid copy-eye thingy.
And so it proved.
Touching first the jewel teaching what that Naruto guy knew of chakra molding, Ranma knew in a heartbeat everything it taught, and the jewel itself went dark. One thing he knew instantly was this Naruto guy was nothing special in that area.
Ranma knew enough about his chi to have created his own form of attack with it. He was an acknowledged expert, and this Naruto fellow... wasn't.
Still, that stuff was part chi and part... whatever. Ranma didn't particularly like magic, in fact it was behind most of his sorest troubles; but he also refused to be anything but the best when it came down to whatever he devoted his time to, and since he was in this contest he was going to win it! Since that meant using chakra, he'd use chakra. And if half of it was magic ... well, that just added magic to the list of things Ranma was going to be best at!
Isolating his chi out of this chakra energy was simple. That left him to practice focusing on what was left, and those parts of 'chakra molding' that didn't apply to chi had to apply to this mana stuff, so he practiced and refined what he could of them, using the comparison to his chi techniques to give him ideas to work on. This was going to be a part of his fighting style, and Ranma Saotome was not going to be a sloppy fighter!
An hour later, his control of the other part of chakra was a great deal less pathetic. He could use them together or bring them out and focus them separately. And it was about all he could do without a teacher or more materials to study.
Then it was time to touch the Shadow Clone jewel to check to see if he'd achieved mastery of the Chi Invisibility technique before tackling those other books for a second time.
Once more he touched a jewel, thankful the guy had pointed out which was which as he was explaining them, and once again the knowledge flooded into his mind - suddenly there, just like he was recalling where he'd left a shopping list or that he ought to do something.
Ranma formed a handseal and with a puff of smoke suddenly there were two of him again, only this time the double moved like him. Then it vanished again.
"WHAT?!?" the original yelled. "They're supposed to last longer than that!"
Suddenly his clone reappeared, and began rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. "Ah, sorry about that. I just thought, you know, we were supposed to test that chi invisibility technique."
"I was supposed to be testing that!" the original shouted.
"Sure," the clone shrugged, smiling happily.
"Right, now watch closely," Ranma carefully formed his chi, and then vanished.
"You turned invisible alright," his clone nodded, peering around for him.
"Good." Ranma reappeared, then dispelled his clone, reabsorbing the energy. As soon as he'd done so, however, the memories of that exchange from its perspective flooded into his mind, and Ranma was bright enough to recognize what that meant.
Soon there were three Ranmas sitting around, each studying different scrolls. The one on Happosai's chi technique had a few pointers he'd never heard before, and the others were going much better now he had a handle on more energy types. The magic one still wasn't easy, and he found the psionic one hardest of all, but he learned them all the same. And, as a consequence, discovered how to focus his magical energies better by having followed the principles in that initiation manual.
There were differences between those techniques, more than just whatever energy they covered. The chi stuff made his that part of his aura simply vanish, hiding like it wasn't even there. But the one for made initiates could hide his entire magical aura, OR disguise the stuff as though a normal person, or a mage at a lower level. And the one for psionics didn't hide your energies so much as form them into a shield so your enemies couldn't get in.
By comparing and contrasting the different methods, Ranma, who'd once copied Ryoga's chi attack by simple observation and experimentation, then modified that for better suiting his own use, was able to figure out through trial and error how to apply the benefits of each to all of the other energy types.
From the psionic 'form your energy into a shield' type he was able to learn how to form the other energies into protections also. He didn't know what the magic field stopped, as he had so little to test it against. But forming his chi into a shield protected his body from physical assaults, which was a good thing that it caused a grin to split his face once he'd learned that property of it.
Shadow Clones were dispelled by a hit. But now they'd have to break down the chi shield around a clone before they could hit it. It was an expensive option, sucking down lots of chi to stop the damage, but well worth having available for when you really needed it.
And he also learned how to cloak each of his three internal energy forms, either to stop them from being seen entirely, or to set them to another level to appear untrained.
As a precaution, he mastered each scroll thoroughly, even memorizing the techniques they taught just in case he had to patch up those shields later. Then, finally, once his stomach was growling so much he figured he'd been there for at least a day and a half, the boy decided he'd learned what he could and wrapped up the scrolls, dismissed his clones at last...
... and got knocked out by the sudden influx of knowledge.
Waking up again after an indeterminate amount of time, and thirsty as anything, the boy sat up rubbing his head from where he'd fallen.
"Ow! Couldn't the guy..."
His voice trailed off as his bright blue eyes lit on the short pillar, still topped with jewels, two of which no longer sparkled. His complaints about how much that technique hurt to dispel died in his throat.
He was in a trap. He knew the guy had set him up to fail. Ranma's mind was already in the 'find any way out of defeat you can' mode, and his normally hidden brilliance had already surfaced. But he wasn't out of the woods yet, and knew it. The whole test was rigged.
That Shadow Clone technique was useful, but he'd never be anywhere near as good with it as that Naruto guy, who'd made hundreds of clones in that brief clip he saw. But for Ranma, the primary disadvantage was that 'getting knocked out by knowledge' thing at the end.
Right there, on a pedestal before him, were glittering a few jewels that taught knowledge quickly and painlessly.
The Shadow Clones knocked him out if they learned too much, and gave him a headache.
Already in 'escape from the trap' mode, his hidden genius running full power, the boy got up and made a clone. It nodded to him, and went over to the pedestal, selecting a jewel. Since Ranma already knew a variation of the Replacement technique from his own world, he decided that was the most expendable one, so he had his clone touch it.
Then he reabsorbed the clone.
As expected, the knowledge came with it. However, instead of the 'freight train striking your brain' feeling of a clone that had learned too much, it was the gentle 'recalling something you never knew' sensation, overlaid just a touch by the freight train.
Ranma's stomach was growling, and he didn't have terribly much time. But he waited a minute while sorting those feelings out before making another clone.
It touched the Shapechange power before he reabsorbed it.
'Good', Ranma thought, scowling in concentration. He was able to diminish the 'freight train' feeling that time, and taught him enough to maybe eliminate it entirely in the future, with a little practice and experimentation he didn't have time for just then.
There followed a rapid succession of clones touching jewels and getting absorbed as he refined his technique for absorbing knowledge the jewel's way instead of the clone way.
Not thinking about the consequences, he made another clone to touch the last jewel and at the moment of contact he vanished.
There have been Ranma/Naruto crosses before. I've even read a few. But in my opinion they all lacked a certain... something.
Finally I think I nailed that down. They kept the Naruto universe feel, whereas I prefer the cheerful insanity of the Ranma series. Many also overlook the one cardinal rule: Whatever he does, Ranma is The Best at it!
So, since I'd been looking to get back to doing work on something lighthearted for a while now, I thought I'd give it a go.