Sometimes, Life doesn’t go your way, sometimes it does. The key to surviving and remaining SANE is often to just keep from focusing on the BAD days, and instead to keep thinking about the GOOD times. Or, as they say, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Of course, with some people, they have that one day, that ONE BAD DAY, which they will never forget… and, with time, NO-ONE else will forget it either. For them, when life gives them LEMONS, they earn that Chemistry degree… My old alma mater really appreciated my PRACTICAL display of my knowledge of home-made bombs. It was a BLAST! - Doctor Harleen Quinzel, The Joker (In His Own Words)
It was a little known fact that, within Konohagakure, on a supposedly random day at least once a month, to the point deployment of ANBU could not monitor or control it, there was an informal ‘event’, with no schedule or plan to it, despite being prepared in advance, where nothing went right for Naruto Uzumaki. All Naruto knew was that it always began when he went shopping, handing in his food vouchers, so he could pick up rice, eggs, bacon and other things that he needed for a healthy diet… only for most of it, if not all, to be lost due to an accident.
Sometimes, as the assistant was carrying it to the racks for delivery, the bags inexplicably broke or the delivery address was incorrectly recorded. Once or twice, there had been a printing error on his vouchers meaning he couldn’t even pay for it. Or even, once or twice, accidentally one or two of the bags ended up getting mixed up with almost identical bags that held rotten food. Either way, he ended up, nine times out of ten, going to a local shop and picking up several sachets of red bean soup and some instant ramen packs. They didn’t spoil half as often.
He didn’t really notice that only he still used the voucher book system, ostensibly because he was not in a paying job, and most of the orphans were in the orphanage, and anyone else had parents, but the issuing office could easily sneak spelling mistakes or incorrectly printed symbols onto the vouchers, or that they could charge whatever they liked to the money put aside for paying for Naruto’s groceries, as long as it almost matched the value of the koku, which was the average price of groceries within the Fire Nation for a particular period.
Added to that was the fact they were practising fire jutsu drills in the classes, and Sasuke’s sparring always involved overly flashy techniques that set fire to his outfit and invariably also destroyed some of his equipment. Which was even more expensive for him. So, as he used some of the little amount of non-ramen groceries he had which had managed to get to his house to at least make something good out of the day, he slumped on his couch, hearing the boards fail before it began collapsing, thankful the table hadn’t collapsed as well.
Going for his duct tape, he sighed. Repair costs were added to his rent, so he’d had to tape up, patch up and generally pretend his furniture wasn’t getting worn out. And Naruto was sure the landlord was scamming him about how much the rent was in the first place. Naruto then frowned as he noticed a battered looking tankobon that had been stuffed into the bottom of the couch by a previous owner. Admittedly, He was not surprised, since even the ‘good’ furniture had signs of falling off the back of the trade convoy, and that was when he originally got it.
The cover was dominated by a single romanized word, ‘JOKER’ and had, beneath, the text ‘The Joker Pranks Back!’, and something about it being translated from the DC Comics imprint. On the inside cover, he read a simple message telling him to start from the back, since the comic was written in reverse, with the panels left to right. Flicking the book over, and opening it to the front page, he read out the text to himself, ‘A Rogue’s Guide To Gotham (As Told By The Joker)...’
The image below was a man with green hair and a huge smile on his pale face, as well as some kind of purple suit that was completely inappropriate for any kind of stealth of subtlety, sat in the middle of what seemed to be piles and piles of high-denomination ryo notes, seemingly enjoying himself with a girl in a red and black outfit that he felt was much more suitable for stealth. There was no other reason he was intrigued by her look. Even if she made Sakura look like a flat-chested boy in comparison.
“Nice girl, limitless ryo… Guy must be doing something right...” Naruto mused, turning the page to see the man stood seemingly in a spotlight, his smile more forced, as if he was talking straight to Naruto.
“Right, Before we begin, I bet you got suckered by that picture of one of my better times… The sexy girl, well, she was my psychiatrist… She was hot for me, then she was crazy for me, then she had this crazy idea to turn bisexual and dumped me for a naturalist… Oh yes, and the several billion in cash?… Some BAT got at me about how much I withdrew from the local bank… Lost, well...” He stated, as the next panel showed a table with a much smaller, but still impressive stack of notes, as the man stated, his hand half-covering his mouth, “Most of it. And this is after paying off the lawyer… And they call ME a criminal!”
The manga was a Who’s Who of an eclectic group of people who all stayed at a place named Arkham Asylum, who worked alongside this ‘Joker’, with each of them seemingly being fairly successful, and would have been more successful if it wasn’t for a group working for a killjoy named, for some reason, ‘Batman’. Naruto mused about how this ‘Joker’ was able to have so much fun, and be so successful in his pranking, and got a good idea how he looked and acted, before calling out ‘HENGE’…
The next moment, he let out a laugh that made the windows rattle. Oh yes, He was going to paint the town… Now, where did he leave that paint? This was going to be fun! Meanwhile, within his mindscape, A white-haired woman smiled about the fact he’d found the comic book, while also glancing through a much larger collection, discreetly helping his henge take on a personality all of it’s own. She didn’t like influencing people, but this was for a good cause…
What kind of kitsune would Naruto be if he couldn’t prank properly?!?
The following morning, Hinata woke up, going into her closet, blinking, and checking several security seals and finding them untouched. However, when she looked again in her closet, she found most of her normal outfit, but her jacket, her one lifeline, was completely missing. Instead of her jacket, slowly turning on a turntable placed under a stasis seal, was...
After polishing off one of the cinnamon rolls, she looked round for the jacket, eventually deciding that she’d have to deal with the problem when she got back from the Academy, sealing the box of cinnamon-flavoured decadence into one of her equipment scrolls. No sense to waste good food. When she entered, she avoided Naruto, who was needling the Uchiha heir about his endless desire for revenge, taking her usual seat. A paradigm shift occurred in the world at that moment as a loud fart noise caused everyone to look in her direction, causing the worst blush ever. You could have heard a pin drop.
“Naruto is the only person who does pranks, and he’s never even done a minor one against Hinata until today.” She overheard Shikamaru mutter, “Plus she’s not wearing her jacket. Something is going on...”
Hinata steeled herself, avoiding the inevitable tears and tantrum. When class ended, she’d find out why Naruto did that, and her father would...
“Oy, Hina-hime, How long were you hoping to hide such a lovely figure? I’d almost think you didn’t want to be noticed...” Naruto’s voice stated in a quiet tone, her plans to punish Naruto for his prank evaporating as she realised what he’d called her, before he declared to Sakura, “Oy, Washboard, Look at what a proper girl looks like! Well, Does she need to hit me to prove a point? She didn’t even hit me for the prank seal… She actually has a sense of humour, unlike you, who only seems to find something funny if Sasuke tells you it’s funny!”
Everyone could hear the loud sound of teeth grinding, Sakura getting up, ready to turn Naruto into a pretzel. She wasn’t just slightly angry, she was furious. Both Hinata and Shikamaru guessed that the prank hadn’t been the fart seal, Hinata mentally adding that she’d figure out if Naruto also made her jacket turn into…
No, Bad Hinata, stop thinking about the pastries. Still, Instead, it was set up to roast Sakura over open coals in a hugely public setting. She could see that Iruka was holding back the class from beginning. This was one ‘prank’ that he’d not stop.
“I’ll tell you what. You and Hinata, sparring match, Been saving these for a rainy day. Winner gets a date with me...” Naruto stated, as he took out a reservation for one of the upmarket restaurants, Iruka frowning, but accepting the offered wager, Hinata’s eyes narrowing. She knew exactly what to do, and she discreetly began the early steps of activating her Byakugan as she stepped into place. She had a really good reason to finish this fight in victory.
“You are in range of my divination...” Hinata stated coldly as soon as he declared ‘Ippon!’, and less than a minute later, Sakura was being taken out on a stretcher, completely paralysed, having not even had time to throw a single punch. She might have been furious, but Hinata had been determined, as she headed to collect her prize. Oh yes, and sneak a cinnamon roll while the class got into order.
“Wasn’t Sakura the top kunoichi in class?!?” Hinata heard as the adrenaline wore off, and she realized Naruto had completely turned what everyone assumed had been his first prank on her… into an epic-level prank on Sakura, as well as, in his own way, beginning his courtship of her.
“Prove them wrong. Prove that You are the top kunoichi in class...” Naruto whispered as they finalised the date, giving her the task of beginning the next step of the prank. And, strangely, Hinata was ready to do just that. And she wanted to do it this time.
A few days later, Sarutobi looked at the reports from Iruka, Hiashi sat in with them.
“She did the truncated training form of the Eight Trigrams Sixty Four Palms from COLD?” Hiashi stated, shocked, “And all because Naruto wagered a date with him?”
“He seemingly did a prank on her, but he was actually using her as a ringer for an even bigger prank...” Iruka stated, “I don’t know how he arranged it, but, well, she was a middling to poor kunoichi before that day. Since? She’s got the best grades in the entire class. Naruto somehow arranged for her to deliberately be the most effective kunoichi going, effectively pranking the supposed top kunoichi in her class!”
“How so?” Hiashi asked, knowing that he couldn’t have possibly arranged something that audacious. Hinata had always been shy, pulling her strikes and never sparring properly.
“Even we’re not sure how, but she completely faked to everyone how good she really is,” Iruka stated, Hiashi looking thoughtful as he confirmed she was now sparring as a Hyuga should.
“I will admit that she has an odd habit of hanging round Naruto…” Hiashi mused, genuinely surprised at what seemed to be one of the most audacious pranks ever by Naruto… To make his oldest daughter play the fool until the perfect time to embarrass EVERYONE, even her own family. Later that evening, he tried to stop her snacking, only to end up on his back on the floor. Yes, this was not the same Hinata, and those were definitely Hyuga techniques.
Meanwhile, Hinata was on cloud nine. Naruto gave her discreet, but real, praise every time she excelled, and she was loving it. Her jacket never turned up, and she was earning jealous looks from the other kunoichi, as well as suggestions she dump Naruto, the ‘dead last’.
“So, You want me, the greatest kunoichi in my class, to be like Sakura, whose only skill is that she can memorize the books from rote...” She’d offered, slightly louder than she needed to, “I think I already know what I would get out of being his fangirl, ‘Hinata, just stand back and let a real fighter take on the bad ninja’. Just ask Sakura. Naruto, He knows I can knock a ninja out in a minute flat. When we fight, we fight. When you follow Naruto, you get praise and encouragement. When you follow Sasuke, You follow Sasuke...”
The even more fun thing about that was that Sasuke couldn’t deny it, and actually did the exact opposite, saying that the kunoichi were beneath him, and unintentionally gave the statement a double-meaning. That they’d be a route to expanding his clan, not a combat partner. She was finding it FUN to poke Sakura’s buttons, to beat her down and then cheerfully move to Naruto’s side. What shocked her most was what she found herself doing after the most recent one, as her face moved to beside his cheek and she kissed him. Yes, she decided, That was how you finished a proper humiliation…
She wasn’t to notice that Naruto froze, stunned, as a voice in the back of his head cackled about the nature of dominoes. He’d only planned to flirt a bit with Hinata to push Sakura’s buttons, get her riled up, due to Hinata being the class wallflower. Instead, he’d found his ‘Harley’. Making her jacket disappear had shown him her knockout figure, she was playing off him so so well, and she was really silk hiding a core of steel. Now, he just needed to work on slipping her a costume...