Disclaimer: All Gintama characters herein are the property of 空知 英秋 Hideaki Sorachi Sensei and associates. No profit is made from this endeavor. No copyright infringement is intended.
The country? The skies? You can have them. I’m busy just protecting what’s right in front of me. I don’t know what’ll happen to me in the future, but if something has fallen at my feet, then the least I can do is pick it up.
坂田 銀時 Gintoki Sakata
“Oi, Kagura?! Shinpachi? Where the hell are those two?”
When he had awoken late that morning, groggy, head full of cotton, and a distinctly acrid flavor on his tongue, Gintoki immediately wished for the day to be over, already anticipating a slew of burdensome trials that would leave him exhausted—and probably broke—before he even had time to fully process what was happening. Ma-itta-na, maybe a sick day was in order.
Not having bothered to extract himself from the disheveled sheets of his futon, he’d spent the next quarter-hour struggling to recall what particular ordeal had occurred the previous evening to induce his hungover state upon waking, only assuming that his two pesky Odd Jobs subordinates were to blame.
Despite the accusatory trend to his thoughts, Gintoki knew Shinpachi Shimura and Kagura to be a trustworthy duo, for the most part, whose constant presence provided him with a camaraderie that he’d believed beyond his reach after the war.
Of course, those sentiments could change, and probably would, if the two brats failed to appear within the next few seconds.
“Weren’t those slackers supposed to be here by now? Always late, so annoying,” Gintoki griped into his pillow; never mind that he, their boss, had just woken up a little while ago and was still in his futon.
Heaving a loud sigh, as if to expel all the air from his lungs along with his discomfort, Gintoki willed his addled brain to catch up with the rest of him.
He kept his eyes closed while conducting a slow mental inspection of his current condition and found that his entire body felt quite heavy and dyspeptic, not unlike a barrel of saké, his limbs as stiff as his bokutō Lake Toya—and scratchy?—that couldn’t be good. His attention briefly flitted to a rather persistent twitch coming from somewhere in the rear that he didn’t have courage enough at the moment to investigate.
Something was off, and being all too familiar with the show’s eagerness to thrust him and his supporting characters into the most irritating and ridiculous scenarios only served to increase his unease. Not to mention they’ve got a complete amateur writer working on the scri—Gintoki also found that he was having difficulty finishing his thoughts.
Muttering something stupid to himself, Gintoki grudgingly shifted his weight to sit up only to flop back down onto the futon, as though his body had failed to recognize and produce the casual move. Ah-re?
Blinking his eyes open in shock, Gintoki attempted a quick glance down to assess the problem but found himself incapable. He then tried to sit up again and received the same result.
Like an idiot, he performed the move several more times, desperately launching himself into an upright position and falling flat again and again and again until finally, sweaty and quite winded, he stilled his movements.
A sense of dread sunk to the pit of his stomach just before the panic set in—What the hell is this?! Why can’t I get up?!
“This is bad! Kagura-chan, what are we going to do?” Shinpachi stalled on the stairway leading to the Odd Jobs office, a look of apprehension spread across his features.
The summer sun was high in the sky, and they had just spent most of the morning running through the dusty, sweltering streets of Edo in search of Sadaharu; the oversized canine constituent to team Odd Jobs had gotten loose, bowling them over and racing out of the building like a bat out of hell as soon as they’d slid open the front door.
The same sliding door at which Shinpachi was now directing a very harsh glare, as if to blame it for all the fuss of the last three hours.
They had barely registered that the dog was gone when their eyes landed on the utter devastation that lay but a few feet away from where they stood.
The entire room was in shambles, as though it had been picked up by a giant Amanto and completely upended; Shinpachi had briefly wondered whether or not that idiot Kaientai trader Sakamoto-san had returned and driven his spaceship into the building. Again.
Kagura had already taken off after her beloved mongrel, not sparing another glance behind at the mess, when Shinpachi decided that it might be easier to face their stingy employer with the main culprit in hand.
Of course, as if intent on making Shinpachi suffer for his perfidious thoughts, Sadaharu had somehow managed to elude them—not a simple task for such a large beast—and they’d been forced to return without; they already risked stoking Gin-san’s ire by being so late.
Giving his head a rough shake to try and dislodge the mental image of a snarling Gin, Shinpachi started at the brief yelp he heard from within the now-closed office. It could only mean one thing. And if Gin-san was already up, then they had less time to prepare for— “Idiots! Wha—?! What the hell happened here?!”
Cringing visibly at the tone, Shinpachi turned to see Kagura stride to the door in three steps, a piece of half-eaten nori dangling down her jaw, “Wait a minute, Kagura! We don’t even have a plan yet! How are we going to explain this to Gin-san?”
“What are you yammering on about, Shinpachi? It’s too hot out here for your stupid complaints. We’re not even sure why the smelly old man is yelling. He just got up, so he’s probably having a hard time on the toil—ah!” Kagura immediately slid the door shut after having opened it for only a few seconds.
“Kagura, what’s wrong?” Shinpachi furrowed his brow at the girl’s insouciance and looked past her shoulder, slightly annoyed at being denied entry after his earlier reluctance had been so carelessly shoved aside.
Reaching to grasp the handle himself, Shinpachi thought he heard a muffled squeak and shuffling coming from just beyond the entrance. Eh?
Turning back to check on Kagura and noticing her wide, glassy stare, a bewildered expression fixed in place—not a major deviation from the norm—Shinpachi faced forward and slid the door open a mere two inches. Then he gently slid it back shut.
As if in an unspoken agreement, the pair slowly turned and began their descent to the street below just when a large object burst through the sliding door, shattering the panel to splinters.
“Oi, weren’t you guys going to come in?” A dangerously low voice growled softly from behind the two side characters, frozen in fright.
“G-G-Gin-san! G-Good morning!” Shinpachi had yet to move, now certain that he absolutely loathed the front door and thus felt no sympathy for its sudden, untimely demise. “W-We came here earlier, actually, b-but we thought you were st-still sleeping, so we went for a nice walk….”
Shinpachi knew he was rambling, but there was nothing for it. Considering the state of his nerves and the heavy silence behind him, he would just have to do his best to convincingly talk their way out of— “Gin-chan, why do you look like a big, fat bear?”
Shinpachi was going to strangle Kagura, slowly.
“Ah-ha-ha! Kagura, wh-what are you saying?!” Shinpachi turned panicked eyes in Gintoki’s direction, “Gin-san doesn’t look like a bear at all, and he’s not fat! That’s just his fur—I mean, hair! It’s pretty hot these days. R-Right, Gin-san? Maybe we should all consider getting haircuts!”
“No, no, Shinpachi, that can’t all be hair.” With a thoughtful moue, Kagura slowly circled Gintoki, who was now vibrating with barely-suppressed rage, and Shinpachi debated his chances of surviving Gintoki’s wrath by either running away or using Kagura as a shield. “Look at how much the bottom expanded,” Shinpachi inched away, “and he’s walking on four legs—ah-re? Gin-chan, if you’re a bear, why do you have duck feet?”
Facing Gintoki with this question, Kagura pointed down to what appeared to be a set of four webbed feet. Leaning over for a peek, momentarily suspending his plan to flee in favor of satisfying his curiosity, Shinpachi found Kagura’s indelicate observation quite apt.
In fact, upon closer inspection, several of Gintoki’s newfound features conflicted with Kagura’s suggestion that he was somehow, now, a bear.
He was certainly an enormous creature with a barrel-like torso blanketed in scraggly brown fur—so that “natural perm” was just as determined in this form as it was when he was still a lackadaisical bum; zan’nen, Gin-san.
But the top of his head was too flat to be a bear’s, Shinpachi decided; the body, from which protruded a couple of stumpy forelegs and two slightly longer hind legs, was too low to the ground, the overall effect contributing to a rather stocky build for the once tall and toned ex-samurai.
The whole ensemble actually made Gin-san look more like an overfed guinea pig, but Shinpachi knew better than to say such things out loud—unlike one clueless Yato who had slipped off into the cool interior of their office, unnoticed, some minutes ago, leaving the other to fend for himself. Zurui!
Cursing Kagura beneath his breath, Shinpachi considered this new kuma-Gin. A thought niggled at the back of his mind; there was something familiar about this creature, and he was almost certain he’d seen something like it before, somewhere.
Looking back down at the webbed feet, Shinpachi couldn’t help but notice that they gave the impression of a giant rodent sporting some odd-looking rubber booties that might have been more effective during a typhoon.
A sudden nudge on his shoulder had Shinpachi jumping a foot in the air, and turning his head, he found himself inches away from a short, blunt muzzle.
Slowly drawing his eyes up past elongated incisors to meet enormous crimson orbs, half-lidded to resemble the look of a dead fish, Shinpachi fervently hoped that, regardless of Gin-san’s new hairy identity, he wasn’t hungry and looking for a meal in the form of one of his employees.
Shinpachi’s eyebrows shot up and disappeared into his fringe when Gintoki began rubbing his muzzle into the cloth of his keikogi, “Ah-no, Gin-san, what are you doing?”
Momentarily dumbfounded, Shinpachi let his response trail, as Gintoki proceeded to rub his snout along the poor boy’s front. Clearly, Gin’s anger had vanished along with Kagura.
Then it came crashing down, the realization finally clicking in Shinpachi’s head, and with arms flailing wildly to shove the beast away, he cried out, “The hell?! Gin-san, stop! I know what you are! You’re not a bear! You’re a—”
“Capybara! Yes, I’m a baka-kapibara! Just look at what that stupid amateur writer did to me!”
“Heh—eh, so it’s actually kapi-Gin, not kuma-Gin.“
“What did you say?!”
“Kagura, stop going back to read my thoughts in the script,” Shinpachi sighed, as he stooped down to clear away some of the debris near a spare room that was often used by Kagura and Sadaharu—or that hentai Sarutobi whenever she feels like stalking Gin.
Pausing to take in the rest of the room, Shinpachi evaluated his work so far. No thanks to either Kagura or Gin, who had retreated to the toilet for reasons Shinpachi refused to contemplate, the office was looking to be at least semi-habitable.
The holes in the screens were patched to the best of Shinpachi’s ability, the tatami mats swept clean, the furniture righted. He did note a few more scratches and scuff marks—no, wait, are those bite marks?—near the base and around the sides of the coffee table, but brushed them off in favor of reattaching the newly drawn front door.
The only real loss had been the main desk, which had been broken in two and seemed to bear a strange impression, as if something quite large and spherical had attempted to sit on it.
“It was probably that Sadaharu—no, it was definitely all Sadaharu’s fault!” Gin emerged from the toilet and began rearranging the furniture to make room for his massive behind.
Shinpachi threw up his hands in exasperation, “You were here, too, Gin-san! Why didn’t you stop him then? And why are you a capybara?!”
“How should I know?!” Gintoki gave a nervous twitter in response to the last question, “That baka-inu is always causing problems anyway! He probably did something stupid and somehow turned me into a capybara!”
“Shut up, you baka-bara! If you had gone out to find us more work like you were supposed to instead of playing pachinko and then getting wasted, you wouldn’t be in this mess! It’s your own fault, you old man!” Kagura fumed in Sadaharu’s defense, “And what’s with the ‘supporting chara—’, ‘side chara—’ business?! We do more work for less screen time than you, you lousy—!”
“Ah—ah! Gin-san, what are you doing?!” Shinpachi interrupted Kagura’s tirade, “I just fixed tha—! Don’t—! Don’t chew on the furniture!” He had taken hold of one end of the coffee table; the other end was caught between Gintoki’s sharp incisors. Neither had paid attention to the bit of information Kagura had supplied, busy as they were in Shinpachi’s efforts to save what was left of the table and Gintoki’s instinct to demolish it.
This was the very scene into which proprietress Otose stumbled upon entering the Odd Jobs office. She was followed closely by robot waitress Tama and barkeeper Catherine, both of whom were momentarily rendered speechless at the sight of a large rodent attempting to skewer Shinpachi with one of the legs from the table.
Over the past week, Otose had sent Catherine, and then eventually Tama, to hound Gintoki into making rental payments without any success, so she decided to approach the lazy bastard herself. “I made an exception for Sadaharu, but if you’re planning on keeping a new pet, I’ll have to raise the rent.”
All activity ceased. Then a frantic Shinpachi turned to face the newcomers, “Otose-san, this isn’t a pet! Well, it’s a capybara, but it’s not a real capybara! It’s baka-bara Gin-san! He got turned into one overnight.”
“Don’t call me that! I don’t want that for a nickname!” Gintoki spat out another of the table legs with a growl. “Besides, it was Sadaharu’s fault! Sadaharu’s!”
“Ho—oh, what a de-li-cious look-ing ro-dent,” Catherine licked her feline lips, sending a shudder down Gintoki’s spine.
“Oh, I see.” Tama considered this new look to Gin and responded with a few bleeps of her processor, “The information has been stored.”
“Don’t store that information! It won’t be permanent!” Gintoki huffed in annoyance.
“So, what then? I don’t particularly care what problems you’ve gotten yourselves mixed up in this time. The rent is past due again, so I’m here to either collect or kick you out.” Otose stood resolutely by the door, intent on making Gintoki pay regardless of his shape or form.
“Yah, well, you see, Otose-san—”
“Don’t tell me you forgot that your extension ends today,” she focused on Gin. “You stumbled into the bar piss drunk after hours, yelling about how you won big at the slots. Even if that’s not true, you still have to pay up.”
“Ah! Come to think of it, something like that did happen….” Gintoki paused, completely missing Kagura’s eye roll, as the pieces slowly started to fall into place.
He did remember spending all day at the pachinko parlor and then coming back after an evening at Snack Smile. So, okay, he’d embellished a bit about winning it big, but he’d had enough to at least buy a few drinks—”Pay the rent!” Otose interjected—and have a fairly enjoyable night out.
Gintoki did indeed return to Snack Otose late after having drunk his weight in saké. Maybe it was a mistake to brag so much, but it couldn’t be helped since he’d still been on a high from his visit to the hostess pub.
After reaching the upstairs rooms, Gintoki remembered seeing something sitting atop the coffee table, and upon picking it up, realized that it was some sort of fruit, like a large purple raspberry.
Wading through the hazy fragments of his memory, Gintoki watched himself appraise the fruit before taking a large bite out of its fleshy substance. Tch, it didn’t even taste very good.
The transformation had been quick and seemingly painless, and the fully-inebriated Gintoki was left completely unaware of the physical changes to his character, taking no notice of the cowering dog in the corner of the room. Ah….
Silence descended on the small gathering in the Odd Jobs office just before the dam broke under a wave of incredulous exclamations.
“YOU IDIOT, YOU DID IT TO YOURSELF?!?!?!?!?!”