Here's a brief attempt at battling my writers block. Don't expect too much, I wrote this . . . well, today, after all, without too terribly much in the way of forethought. I might run with it, I might not, just hoping to get my motivation back up, really, so let's see how it goes.

Also, since this is such a little speck, I didn't bother getting it beta's so it's probably rife with horrible mistakes.

Enjoy if you will, Tolerate if you won't

---

It was with a small burst of joyful laughter, that the young girl passed through the tall wooden gates which protected the village. Only a few steps behind her, her father stopped a single step across the threshold. Then in a motion filled with nostalgia, the older, balding man closed his eyes and leaned back slightly, taking in a long, satisfied breath. For just a moment, his spectacles glinted in the early morning sun and his head scarf was rustled by a playful breeze that chose to welcome them back with open arms.

"Ahhhh, it's been seven long years, Boy, but we're finally home! We're finally back in Konoha!"

Immediately, Ranko rolled her sapphire blue eyes and scowled at her old man. "Geez, Pop! How many times do I gotta remind ya not to call me 'Boy' when I'm in my henge?"

Laughing happily, Genma rubbed the back of his head. "Don't be silly, Ranma! We're home now! You can finally drop that disguise of yours and just be yourself."

Ranko's eyes widened at that. She'd almost forgotten that she wouldn't need her disguise now that she was home. Making a quick hand sign, she quickly dispelled the technique. In a puff of smoke, the young girl, looking no more than twelve years old vanished. Replacing the red haired, blue eyed girl was an equally young boy; the changes ranged from extremely minor to impossible to miss. Though the boy's hairstyle, clothing and bearing were all exactly the same, his height had increased several inches, his hair had darkened to jet black . . .

But most important of all were the eyes. The corneas surrounding his dark pupils were now blood red, a single tomoe slowly rotating throughout the red expanses in each eye.

The young boy sighed in relief as the jutsu was finally released. He often forgot what a constant drain on his chakra it was to maintain his henge, his sharingan and using his henge to disguise his sharingan simultaneously for all hours of the day. Despite the fact that he'd just appeared to gain several inches, it felt as if he'd suddenly shed several pounds of weight.

"Ahhhhh, much better! So where to first, Pop?"

Genma looked around, taking note of the guards stationed by the gate, the familiar buildings of the village, and of course the most notable land mark of all, the massive mountain in the distance bearing the monolithic carved faces of both the former and current Hokage for all to see.

"Well, first thing first, Boy, we should really go see your mother. It has been seven years after all, I'm betting she's frantic to finally see you again."

That thought brought a wide smile to Ranma's lips. After spending nearly half his life out on the road with his father, he could scarcely even remember his mother's face; it was beyond his young mind's ability to express just how much he was looking forward to seeing his mother again. A fraction of a second later, Ranma burst into motion.

"Whatdya waitin for Old Man!" With that, Ranma vanished into another puff of smoke, literally this time as the young man was completely gone when the smoke cleared.

Genma smiled in appreciation of the proficiency with which his son performed the shunshin no jutsu . . . At the same time, though -

Genma counted down from three in his head. Just as he counted off the final digit in his head-

A cloud of smoke suddenly appeared before him, dispersing to reveal Ranma, a sheepish look on the boy's face. His son rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment.

"Ummmm . . . Heheh . . . Where exactly do we live again? I . . . kinda forgot."

Dropping an affectionate hand on his son's shoulder, Genma could only shake his head in amusement.

---

Nodoka of the Uchiha clan fidgeted nervously on the cushion as she waited for the arrival of her beloved son and husband. Genma had sent a letter saying they would arrive that day, and the guards at the gate had already noted her husbands appearance at the main gates and had rushed to the Uchiha compound to inform her.

She ran her fingers through her dark red hair yet again, readjusted her kimono unnecessarily for the tenth time since she had seated herself in the center of the Uchiha meeting hall facing the main entrance of the compound.

seven years . . .

It had been seven years since her husband had taken their only son out into the world; she wanted everything to be absolutely perfect when she finally laid eyes upon them again. Absently, as she thought of her long absent family, her hand lowered to her side. Her fingers trailed down the lacquered sheath of the long katana which rested on the floor at her side. It had been a gift from Genma on their wedding day; of course her soon to be husband hadn't realized how wildly inappropriate such a gift was, so it was a stroke of luck that she had had a ryo coin on her to exchange for it.

The distant memory of that panicked exchange brought a smile to her painted lips. It had been hard to allow him to take her son as he had, even harder for her to convince the clan elder to allow him to, as Ranma showed the potential to be a prodigy of the Uchiha clan . . . But Genma had promised much, enough to raise even the interest of her father.

She certainly hoped that her wayward husband hadn't failed to live up to his word . . .

There was a gentle wrapping at the thin door before her which was quickly followed by the meek voice of one of the servant girls that serviced the Uchiha clan. A moment later, the door was slid open and at long last Nodoka saw the faces of her husband and of her son again.

Nodoka held her pose, her poise perfect, as she tried to burn this image into her memory. The tableau held for an eternal moment as she gazed adoringly at the two males that stood just beyond the doorway. The man, stockier now and wearing a headscarf, wore a proud expression on his face, as well as something else that danced at the back of her eyes that would have made her blush had she been ten years younger.

The lion's share of her attention, however, was drawn to her son. She drank in the dark hair, the bright cheerful face, the proud bearing -

And then before she could even blink, Ranma was in her arms!

A joyful laugh escaped her throat at the rapid and unexpected movement. Even with her sharingan she had nearly missed her son's rapid movement through the space between them. Instantly she wrapped her arms around the boy and pulled him close. Not even a lifetime of reading poetry would allow her to fully express the joy she felt at holding her son in her arms at that moment-

"Wait a moment!" Were it not for her perfect perception she would have thought it a trick of the light, but she was still compelled to push her son back to arms length, cradling his face in her hands. "You . . . You have the sharingan!" she exclaimed excitedly.

Her young man waved off her amazement with a casual turn of his wrist. "What, that? That's no big deal, I've been able to use my sharingan for years now, right Pop?" he replied, turning to look at his father with that last part.

A second later, Genma began to tug nervously at the neck of his gi, as he shifted nervously towards the door. The joyful smile slowly dropped from Nodoka's lips as she regarded her 'beloved' husband.

"Genma, dear, the sharingan is usually awakened by stressful situations . . . such as battle. Exactly what have you been doing with our son?"

Genma was sweating bullets now, and even Ranma was a little concerned at his mother's pointed question, when-

"He is doing exactly as he promised," rang out an authoritative voice from outside the room. A moment later, the side door slid open and Setsuna Uchiha, elder of the clan and Nodoka's father, strode into the room. The tall, dark haired man wore a severe expression on his face and was wearing the traditional robe of the Uchiha clan, complete with the red and white fan decorating the back. The moment he entered the room, Nodoka pushed her son up to his feet and hurriedly smoothed out his clothing as best as she could at such short notice.

Ranma straightened up as well, meeting the Elder's appraising gaze with a defiant stare of his blood red eyes. The three tomoes of Setsuna's sharingan stood in contrast to the single tomoe in each of her son's eyes as the two appeared to size each other up for an uncomfortably long moment . . .

And then a smile spread across her father's face.

"You have good eyes, boy, befitting of an Uchiha." He then turned to Genma. "It looks like you've made admirable progress so far, Son-in-law."

In near perfect synchronization, Nodoka, Genma and Ranma all swelled with pride at the high praise. Ranma then moved to hug his mother again, but was stopped as the Elder raised his hand.

"There will be time for us all to get re-acquainted later in the day. Right now you are expected at the Academy. There is only a single week before the Genin Exam and you need to establish your ranking in your class."

Without even waiting a single moment, the young serving woman that had been crouched down by the door suddenly rose to her feet and moved to bow down before the pigtailed youth. "Please, Young Master, would you follow me? I will assist you in preparing for your day at the Academy."

Nodoka tittered with amusement as Miu dragged her flustered son from the room.

They waited patiently until the door was slid closed behind the departing pair, smiling fondly as they did; an instant later, the smiles dropped from all of their faces and Setsuna and Nodoka both turned to stare intently at Genma.

"Now, Son-in-Law," Setsuna started, a deadly serious tone in his voice -

"Let us discuss the true reason behind your training voyage . . ."

---

Ranma tugged at the collar of the dark shirt that Miu had bedecked him in before she'd shuffled him out the door. First of all, it was dark blue, which was very much not his color, it had that goofy fan on the back that he kept seeing all over the place since he got back into the village, and worst of all, it was itchy as all heck! He didn't like the idea of fighting girls, but if Miu tried to steal his red shirt from him again, he might be forced to resort to violence.

Sighing regretfully, he looked up to stare at the large door standing before him. A pair of darkly clad men, also adorned by that goofy fan he now wore, had escorted him all the way from the Uchiha compound and had deposited him right before said door. Beyond the wooden edifice was the ninja class that he, by all rights, should have been attending for the past couple years, rather than being out on the road. Of course, his Pops was a good teacher, but he could only imagine all of the amazing things that he'd missed out on here, being trained by the elite teachers of Konoha . . .

Well, no time like the present. Moving with perfect confidence, Ranma reached out and slid open the door with a loud crack and strode into the room with a swagger in his step. The room looked very much like any of the other classrooms he'd seen over the years, with large wooden benches facing a desk at the front of the room.

Standing at the front of the room was a shortish man with dark brown hair swept back into unruly spikes as if he'd been caught in the wind. The man, obviously the teacher was also sporting a short goatee and had diagonal lines tattooed at the corners of his eyes. His outfit consisted of a black gi outfit with grey trim and a matching belt tied around his waist. The moment Ranma walked into the room, the older man turned to regard him.

"Ahh, you must be the new student, I'm Sarutobi-Sensei. Now, why don't you come in and introduce yourself?" Sarutobi-Sensei motioned for him to come join him at the front of the room.

As Ranma moved to stand before the teacher, he quickly scanned the class before him. Most of the students seemed to blend together, but several of them caught his eye as looking interesting. There were two blue haired students, a girl with short cropped dark hair sitting next to a long haired boy whose hair was quite pale in comparison. Sitting not too far away were another three students that caught his eye. A blonde girl with her hair tied up in a high ponytail. A boy with wildly spiked white hair (of all things), and beside that boy, a deathly pale young man with straight black hair that reached past his shoulders.

He wasn't sure what it was, but the third boy definitely piqued Ranma's interest the most. Something about that golden eyed boy seemed to speak of impressive talent and focus . . .

Ranma shook his head a moment later as he found himself standing beside his teacher and waved to the class.

"Yo, I'm Ranma Saotome, nice ta meetcha!" he greeted enthusiastically.

Sarutobi-Sensei looked at him oddly. "Ahh, surely you mean Ranma Uchiha, right?"

Ranma returned his teacher's odd look. "Ummm, no? Uchiha is my mom's maiden name. Why would I be using that?"

The older man lifted a piece of paper from his desk and examined it carefully. "It says here that your registered under the name Uchiha . . . And that your father's last name is also Uchiha." Sarutobi-Sensei dropped the paper back to his desk. "The Uchiha clan is one of the most prestigious in the entire village, Ranma. It's quite normal in these cases for powerful individuals to be absorbed into such powerful clans through marriage."

Ranma frowned at that. "But Pops never mentioned that when we were traveling around all of the nations on our training trip . . ."

Even as he mulled over that thought, he failed to see that his thoughtless words had sparked hushed debate amongst the rest of his class.

"He's been traveling to the other nations?"

"But aren't we at war with . . . Y'know, all of them?"

"So he's trained in other nations? It's not that impressive!"

"Wait a second? Uchiha Ranma?!"

Ranma perked up at the rather loud declaration of his name. His attention was immediately drawn to the back of the class as a rather cute girl with long brown hair suddenly jumped up and pointed at him dramatically.

"Ranchan!? Is that you?"

Ranma stared at the girl curiously for a moment. ". . . Do I know you?"

Instantly, the poor girl deflated like a popped balloon. "You . . . You don't remember me, Ranchan? It's me, Ucchan! Ukyou Yuhi?"

Ranma squinted his eyes as he examined the young girl carefully. "Ucchan . . . . Ucchan . . . You can't be Ucchan. I remember Ucchan! He was my best friend!"

"He? He!? What do you mea-Mmpf!" Luckily for Ranma, the two students sitting on either of the crazed girl wrestled her back into her seat, all the while shooting fearful glances at Sarutobi-Sensei. For his part, Ranma could only shrug at the girl's crazy accusations. As if he wouldn't have known one of his best friends when he was five was a girl? Yeah right!

"Ahem!" Sarutobi-Sensei cleared his throat loudly to draw everyone's attention. "Well, Uchiha-"

"Saotome!"

His teacher groaned in disgust and muttered something under his breath that sounded strangely like "Oh lord, not another one . . ." Sarutobi-Sensei then gestured to the middle row, to the space between the dark short haired girl and the pale skinned boy. "Ranma, why don't you take that seat between Akane and Orochimaru? Both are model students so I'm certain they'll be able to help you catch up from your extended absence."

Shrugging absently, Ranma nodded and a single leap took him across the class to land on the long work bench that stood before the bleacher like seats that the students were sitting on. Several of the students 'aww'd' at the minor feat, but he didn't pay them any mind as he hopped down onto his seat and sat down.

Almost immediately, Sarutobi-Sensei turned around and began to draw a diagram on the black board. It looked to be some pretty basic visual representation of the chi system and how it worked. It looked like pretty rudimentary stuff, probably just review for the upcoming test, so Ranma more or less tuned it out to begin taking in his surroundings.

A moment later, the boy to his side leaned towards him, an equally bored expression on his exotic face. Taking it all in, the slitted eyes, pale skin, tiny nose, Ranma almost got a . . . serpentine vibe from the boy, but wasn't phased in the least. He'd seen much weirder over his years on the road, after all. He leaned a bit closer to the guy, Orochimaru if he remembered correctly.

"You look to be quite the interesting individual, Uch - Saotome. We should be friends."

Ranma sized up the odd looking youth for a moment . . . Before nodding happily to himself.

"Sounds good to me!" he whispered back loudly.

With that, Ranma leaned back, folding his arms back behind his head and ignoring the faintly disapproving glance that the blue haired girl to his left was giving him. His first day of school and he'd already made a new friend?

It looked like things were only going to get better from here.