Some might get the wrong idea when they see "kami" and how it's used. It shouldn't be confused with "god," in the sense that it's a creator-of-everything or just a powerful being. "Kami" can refer to various kinds of entities, usually spiritual in nature, both significant and insignificant.
Anyway, you'd be right to assume that this story was inspired by how commonly Ranma is associated with a horse in fan-fiction, even in terms that go beyond his name. That, and how often the subject of friendship — or the lack thereof — comes up.
Even though Ranma 1/2 and My Little Pony crossovers haven't become common at this time, and there's no telling if they ever will be, I didn't want to do something obvious or simple with them. Rather, I hope to do something that might remain unique even in the event that these two series meet more often in the future.
A young man drew some attention from the other people who happened to be going about their own business on that particular urban street, in part due to the fact that most people didn't go about their business within city limits while hauling a large pack on their back. It probably didn't help that he was grumbling to himself a bit too loudly in obvious discontent.
"Stupid old man," Ranma muttered to himself. "'Let's use your Spring break to put in some training,' he says. Ha! Not even two days in and I'm already wasting my time trying to find him. I swear, if this is because of another food-eating contest..."
As absorbed as he was, in imagining what he was going to do with his father upon finding him, he didn't notice someone perk up with interest as he walked past them. Nor did he feel their inquiring stare on his back as he put more distance between them. However, he wasn't so out of it that he couldn't tell when someone nearby was trying to get his attention.
"Excuse me!" A somewhat weak and raspy-sounding voice called out to him. "Young man?"
Ranma paused and looked behind him. The source of the voice, who was slowly making their way over to him, was an old man who was dressed as a Shinto priest. He was shorter than Ranma by a head, stooped a bit, and showed his age in his movements — yet not to the degree that would require him to use the broom that he held as a walking stick. He was bald, with a respectable-sized beard, and his eyebrows were so thick and bushy that they managed to conceal his squinting eyes from view. Behind the old priest, Ranma noticed the iconic red torii that explained said old priest's presence.
When the old priest thought that he was at a close yet comfortable distance, he ceased his approach and asked, "Could you tell me your name?"
Ranma looked the old priest up and down guardedly. "Who's asking?"
"Oh-ho-ho!" The old priest laughed good-naturedly. "I really must apologize. I found you so interesting that I forgot myself." He gave a respectable bow in greeting. "I'm Haruyama Fujita."
Ranma turned to face the old priest, pausing to consider whether he should ask a question before relinquishing his name. With the kind of problems that he'd had as of late, he could never be too careful about sharing his name with someone. In the end, though, he decided to do what was proper instead of doing something that would require an explanation that he was in no mood or mind to share.
"Saotome Ranma," he offered.
"Hmmmm?" The old priest hummed thoughtfully, as he tilted his head and looked at Ranma curiously. "In what way do you spell it?"
Not seeing how that could relate to any of his fears, Ranma told him that his surname was read as "quick maiden" and his given name as "war horse."
The old priest's brow wrinkled a bit as he frowned. "That's strange..." He shook his head, as if to clear it. "Sorry to bother you. I guess I was mis—"
At that precise moment, the occupant of a passing car — which was filled with a rowdy bunch of delinquents — tossed out a cup that was half-filled with a watered-down and somewhat tepid cola. Ranma made a large enough target because of his backpack, but the suddenness and proximity of the throw was what ultimately made it impossible for him to notice it before it was too late.
"—taken," the old priest finished, before he stared in shock at the redheaded girl that had replaced the young man. So great was his surprise that his eyes were wide enough to lift and peek out from underneath his prodigious eyebrows.
As the sound of laughter faded away with the car, Ranma merely sighed and adjusted the waistline of her pants before addressing the shoulder straps of her backpack, in a way demonstrative of having done so before many times.
"My," commented the old priest, as he tried to collect himself. "I certainly hadn't been expecting that. Come," he motioned for Ranma to follow him, "you may cleanse yourself at my home. Which is just as well, because what I'd like to tell you is probably best said in private, anyway."
Not seeing any harm in the invite, and being both curious and concerned about something that needed to be said in private, Ranma followed the old priest back to his residence on the shrine's grounds. It was a fairly small and modestly-equipped house from what could be seen, which hadn't been much because she had been more keen on getting herself cleaned up before she went from being wet to being sticky.
After her bath, and a change of clothes from his backpack, he met the old priest in the living room and sat across from him at the table. Outside, he could see his clothes — that the priest had washed for him while he had washed himself — drying on a line. He soon noticed some rice crackers and a cup of tea waiting for him, which he graciously accepted.
The old priest leaned forward and peered at him closely. "You are once more a man?"
"Yeah," Ranma replied, before taking a bite out of a rice cracker. "It's a curse I picked up. Cold water activates it, and hot water reverses it."
"I see..." Said the old priest thoughtfully, as he stroked his beard. "And do you transform into a horse, as well?"
Ranma gave him an odd look. "What kind of question is that?"
"Just bear with me," the old priest said in a placating tone. "I need to ask you a few questions concerning your name. Only then will I know what to tell you."
Ranma wasn't sure what to think of that, but he figured that there wouldn't be any harm in humoring his host. So, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "I just turn into a girl, if that's what you're asking."
The old priest nodded his head. "Would you say that you're fast? Or have you become significantly faster recently?"
Ranma took a sip of his tea and took a moment to consider his answer. "Well... I've always been fast, compared to most. But it wasn't too long ago that I had to become a lot faster, and in a much shorter amount of time than any other part of my training had accomplished."
"And is there much conflict in your life?" The old priest inquired, in all seriousness. "Contention, strife, antagonism and the like?"
"Oh, definitely," Ranma answered immediately, who crossed his arms and looked disgruntled as he thought about all of the evidence to support his response. He'd been against the arranged marriage with Akane at the start, and even now they still antagonized each other. Then there was having to deal with their parents whenever they decided to impose themselves in matters regarding the status of their relationship. Of course, there were also the rivals of both a martial nature and those relating to love, and being in the middle of the girls that were contending to have him for themselves, even if only two of the four had any legitimate claim on him.
The old priest sighed and closed his eyes, not that Ranma could see the latter. "Then it's as I first thought."
Ranma was brought back to the present, and a weight settled into his stomach at the old priest's tone. It was the kind that said that he probably wasn't going to like what he was going to hear, and that it was almost too late to do anything about it, if not too late already.
"What is?" Ranma inquired, who was eager to learn what the old priest's business with him was all about.
The old priest took a sip of his tea before he spoke. "Well, I have a good sense when it comes to discerning the presence of a kami, and you caught my attention because," he paused to give Ranma a significant look, "you nearly feel like one."
Ranma stared at the old priest for a time. "You gotta be kidding me."
"It could just be a coincidence," the old priest admitted. "Still, you feel more like a kami to me than you do a human, and I don't know what else could be used to explain your being in such a state. In my experience, either you are or aren't one of the two, not somewhere in between."
Ranma mulled over what he'd been told as he ate a rice cracker. It wasn't until he gulped the last of it down that he said, "Okay, let's assume it's possible: can you explain how this happened?"
"To begin with," the old priest began, who assumed the bearing of a teacher who was conveying something important to their student, "one must understand that language has power. For kami, particularly in the case of those who personify or govern an aspect of nature, it's common for their name to relate to or literally reflect what it is that's in their nature to do."
"Take the kami of this shrine, for instance," he continued. "Inari-sama's primary governance concerns agriculture and the harvest, and the name suggests such a connection. Even if the name were to come after the fact, the important thing to remember is that the power of language lies in conveyance: if a person can define the name, can it not work the other way, where the name defines the person?"
Ranma frowned a bit as he digested the old priest's reasoning. "I think I see what you're trying to say: that people can change themselves so they can exemplify the definition of a role." His frown deepened a bit. "But that can't apply to me because I never wanted to be a girl." To himself he added, "Among other things."
"Not necessarily," the old priest disagreed. "Many people never know who or what they are becoming; or, if they do, when exactly they become it. Even if you didn't consciously choose the path you've taken, a part of yourself may have influenced you just enough to make you go in that direction. Reflect for a moment, and see whether or not that may be the case."
Ranma regarded the old priest — who was smiling at him encouragingly — with a doubtful expression on his face, but ultimately decided to follow his advice. He stared down into his cup, where he saw his agitated visage reflected on the surface of his tea. He turned his eyes away from the sight, because it reminded him that he didn't really want to put into question a part of what he was making himself think about.
Had he ever wanted to be a girl? Certainly he had wondered what it would be like to be someone else, during the times when he couldn't help feeling left out. Because his father had been raising him to become a man, and the heir of his school of martial arts, he very rarely had the opportunity to socialize with his schoolmates outside of school, where there had been a lot more time for having fun, as well as ways of having it. And with how frequently his father had made them move around, he'd eventually given up even trying to socialize and make friends, despite having a yearning to do the exact opposite. Perhaps if he hadn't been a boy that could be shaped into a man, or a gender that made a proper and traditional heir, things might have been different, more like he'd desired. But a girl...?
There was no question that he had wanted to be fast. He had endured his father's excesses in regard to food — to his dismay — for many, many years. He'd hated it so much that he had sworn to never forget any such offenses. Had he been faster than his father, he could have enjoyed all sorts of snacks, and come away from dinner feeling truly satiated instead of merely having "enough." And then there was the distinct possibility that he could have given the beatings he felt his father deserved, had he been fast enough to get through his defenses, not to mention being able to escape harm himself.
Who in their right mind would want two unwanted fiancées, a girl who wanted to drag him back to a village that hadn't caught up with modern times in order to practice a form of eugenics, another girl who'd likely try to drug him and — as a likely consequence — rape him, parents who didn't know how to quit getting into personal affairs not their own, three rivals who'd sooner kill him for the girl they each "loved" — girls, in Tatewaki's case — instead of wooing said girl(s), a mother that was ready and willing to cut off his head if deemed unmanly, and so on and so forth? Besides, it wasn't like he could control how others thought and behaved.
He highly doubted that any of those things had been due to any unconscious nudging on his part, though he figured that the old priest probably wasn't looking at it in the literal way that he was, what with the whole, "you feel more like a kami," thing. While he wasn't any kind of expert on things mystic and spiritual, he was pretty sure that he wasn't unconsciously manipulating his fate in ways both grand and unseen. Granted, the chance of having "otome" in one's name, encountering a real body-transforming curse, and landing in the one spring — out of many — that could be connected to his name was very low. But, if something fantastical were really at work, shouldn't he have fallen into the spring of drowned horse as well? And the likelihood of it being more than a coincidence was greatly reduced because there was nothing else out of place or outstanding, even though his problems — especially as a whole — were likely to be very uncommon.
Still, it was the thought that counted, so he could appreciate the old priest's concern. If said concern turned out to be a real problem, he might just be able to avoid becoming a horse thanks to being forewarned. It was bad enough to become a girl with a splash of cold water, but to lose one's humanity, too? Hopefully, though, he wouldn't have to worry about such a thing: he had enough on his plate as it was.
"I'm not seeing it," he said with a shake of his head, as he returned his attention to the old priest. "Though I appreciate having it brought to my attention. Knowing my luck, I honestly wouldn't be surprised if you happened to be right about this."
The old priest waved the comment aside, in a show of modesty. "This old man's interest had simply been piqued, is all. Although, I do hope that nothing regrettable happens, in any case."
"Well," said the old priest a few seconds later, before he got to his feet and pushed his back in with an audible pop, "since you have to wait a bit longer for your clothes to dry, would you mind accompanying me for lunch?" In a more light-hearted tone, he added, "It will be my treat, though don't expect anything fancy."
Ranma smiled gratefully. "Sure."