Chapter 11

Akane didn’t know what to do. The last time she’d seen Ranma so down was back when he’d lost all his strength due to the moxibustion point Happosai used on him. At least then there was the hope that there was a cure. Akane couldn’t see any way for the old friends to reconcile. She felt a pang of guilt since it was partly her fault…

They had decided to take another day off of school, knowing full well they’d never be able to concentrate on anything after such a bomb was dropped on them. They also needed to figure out what they were going to do about this suit. The last thing they needed with a baby on the way was massive debt from legal fees and awards to be paid.

Akane reached over and grasped her fiancé’s hand, squeezing it to give some modicum of comfort. Ranma looked up at her and gave a small smile, but didn’t say anything. He was glad for her support, but all the support in the world wasn’t going to help him get out of this mess. What were they going to do?

As the dejected pair slowly walked home, they didn’t notice the white duck circling above them turn and fly off. A white duck wearing really thick glasses.

Kasumi was outside hanging laundry to dry when the two teens walked into the compound. She was surprised to see them home already, but noticing the defeated looks on both of their faces she was quickly able to figure out that there was probably another run in with the suitors that ended badly. Since it was Ranma who was looking so dejected, it was probably Ukyo this time.

Quickly she ushered the two into the kitchen and served them tea. When she figured they’d calmed down enough, she gently asked them what had happened. She was saddened that Ranma’s oldest friendship was being destroyed over something that wasn’t entirely his fault, and also that she really didn’t know what kind of advice she could provide that might help. “I’m sorry Ranma, I don’t know what I can do to help you.”

Shaking his head, Ranma waved her off. “It’s OK Kasumi. I’ll think of something.” He stood to leave. “I think I’m going to go out to the dojo, try to clear my head.” He reached out and touched Akane’s face before leaving. Both women were astonished at the open and intimate gesture, Akane feeling somewhat flushed. He wasn’t ready to kiss her in front of others yet, but that simple touch had pretty much the same meaning behind it.

Kasumi shook her head to clear it of the shock she’d just received. Then she remembered something important. She gasped and ran after Ranma, calling his name. Akane soon gave chase, wondering just what the hell was going on. She found out when she reached the dojo. Kasumi looked distraught, and had a hand over her mouth. Their parents were all there sitting formally at a low table. And Ranma…

Ranma was a tower of boiling rage. His face was bright red he was so angry. Akane followed his gaze to see what was pissing him off so much, only to find the short haired Kodachi sitting on the opposite side of the table, a certificate was sitting in the middle of the table, and Akane could just make out the word “marriage” written across the top, along with her hanko stamp on the bottom.

“As you can plainly see,” Kodachi said. “Akane here has already married my brother. It is all perfectly legal and binding. Therefore Ranma no longer has any obligation to her,” She turned to sneer at her rival. “Even if it is his bastard child she carries.” She turned back to the parents. “As such, I offer this check to buy out the Saotome side of the contract to marry the two schools, and instead, Ranma shall be wed to me.”

Genma and Soun’s eyes nearly flew out of their sockets and rolled around on the floor trying to count all the zeroes that followed the one written on the check. Ranma didn’t think his father even knew the name of such a large number. Thankfully though, Nodoka had seen this trick before, and since the previous omiai attempt, she’d been against marrying the Kunos. “I’m sorry Lady Kodachi, but I’m afraid that the contract just isn’t for sale. I’m sure Akane had her reasons for marrying Kuno, but that doesn’t affect the fact that Ranma is to marry a Tendo.” Genma tried to stutter out a rebuttal, but was shot down by a glare and an inch of steel exposed from its scabbard.

However, Kodachi didn’t miss a beat. “Very well Mrs. Saotome,” she said as she plucked the check from the distraught fingers of the two fathers. “I’m sure you and the Tendo family can cover all the legal fees yourselves then. Whom have you chosen to represent yourself in the suit?”

“Suit” asked Soun, twitching slightly.

“Why yes, didn’t you know?” Kodachi feigned surprise. “It seems that dear Miss Kuonji has decided that she wants compensation for the yattai that was stolen by your husband and son all those years ago, in addition to pain and suffering she has experienced since finding your son again, and being led on by him.” She smiled evilly as she closed the trap. “If Ranma were to be married to me, I could provide him with a legal team, and money to pay the legal fees that would be incurred over the months, or even years, that the suit is going.” Smiling even wider as she watched the grown ups sit there like fish gasping for air, she pushed forward another sheet of paper, a contract by the looks of it. “This is a contract formally changing the betrothal over from one of the Tendo daughters to myself. It states that we will be wed as soon as Ranma turns 18 in a few months. If you’ll just apply your stamps here, we can be rid of this entire mess.”

Even Ranma wasn’t fast enough to prevent what happened next. Terrified of going to court and potentially losing, or even having to pay someone so that they didn’t lose, Genma whipped out his hanko and quickly signed the document. Ranma was on him in an instant ready to strangle his coward of a father, but couldn’t get his hands around the panda’s neck due to a sword being pressed into the skin, drawing a thin line of blood.

“I thought we’d already decided not to force our son to marry this woman Dear,” Nodoka said, her voice dripping with venom.

Rather than acquiescing to his wife’s desires as usual, Genma actually used what little spine he had to motion to his friend. “Hurry you fool! Sign the damned contract! If Ranma marries one of your other daughters, you’ll be caught up in the suit as well! You’ll lose the dojo!”

Soun blanched. The dojo had been in the family for generations. His ancestors would be so ashamed of him if he were the one who had lost the livelihood of the Tendo line due to a small misunderstanding that didn’t even have anything to do with him. Ignoring the warning glares his daughters were giving him, Soun applied his hanko to the contract as well.

Quick as a blink, Kodachi had snatched up the contract barely after Soun had lifted his stamp from the surface, and folded into her purse. She started laughing long and loud in that grating voice of hers, finally the victor. Ranma was too stunned at how quickly it had all transpired that he hadn’t been able to move to prevent her from taking the contract.

He was about to completely go against all of his morals and hit a girl, who wasn’t even attacking for that matter, in an effort to get the contract, when Kodachi abruptly shut up and pitched forward. Standing behind her, rubbing her knuckles, was Shampoo, obviously the reason Kodachi was now unconscious. “Stupid girl giving Shampoo a headache,” she murmured to herself.

“Thank you Granddaughter, she was beginning to give me a headache as well,” came a voice from behind everybody. Cologne was standing in the doorway, Mousse in tow, rubbing her temples. “I swear, why doesn’t somebody lock up that entire family in an asylum somewhere?”

Ranma was speechless. He’d just been saved by the Amazons. However, he wasn’t completely useless. He quickly rummaged through Kodachi’s bag and pulled out the contract, forcing a little ki into his hands, he made the contract burst into flames, before sighing in relief. “Thank you Cologne,” he said bowing low. He turned to Shampoo and bowed again. “And you Shampoo. You just saved me from a fate worse than death.”

Shampoo felt a surge of emotion as Ranma thanked her and finally treated her with the respect she felt she was due, but quickly tamped down on it. He was no longer hers, another woman had laid her claim on him while she was out sleeping with half of the town. She had no right to hope. “Is nothing Ranma,” she replied. “Shampoo would not wish that woman on worst enemy.”

“Indeed, but she is not the reason we came,” added Cologne. “After our last encounter, I had Mousse keep an eye on you two to make sure that Kuno wouldn’t press the issue more drastically. It seems that he has, and that he has gotten others to press as well.”

Ranma clenched his fists and looked away. “I don’t know what to do. We’re trapped in a corner, and don’t have anyone on our side. There’s Ukyo’s lawsuit, Kuno managed to somehow get himself married to Akane behind her back, and now this.” He laughed without humor. “Damn good thing you guys aren’t still in on it, or else we’d be in real trouble.”

Cologne nodded, thinking things through now that she had all the information. “Well Ranma, I’m afraid that my previous suggestion of running away seems to be the only solution left to you.”

“That’s right boy! The old Saotome Secret Technique!” Genma choked out. His wife still had her sword pressed up against his jugular, and judging by the look on her face, she was trying her damnedest not to succumb to her desires and remove his head from his body. If nothing else, she didn’t want to make a mess for Kasumi to clean up.

Face screwed up in determination, Ranma was about to loudly deny that he was going to take the coward’s way out and run away, when he felt the hand of his fiancée on his shoulder. He looked over at her, and watched her sadly shake her head. “It’s just become too much Ranma,” she said sadly. “With the baby on the way, we can’t afford the lawsuit, or for Kuno to attack us again.”

“But what about you?” Ranma argued. “I’m fine with going on the road, been on the road most of my life.” He gestured around the dojo. “This place is your life. Can you leave it? Maybe I should just go myself.”

Akane decked him. “It’s just a home Ranma, I can live without it for a while. Nobody said we’d have to go forever anyway, just until things have cooled down. Probably a few months after the baby is born. Besides…” she teared up. “I don’t want our baby to grow up without a father.”

Ranma sighed. She was right. And hell, he wanted to be around for the little guy too, knowing himself what it was like to grow up with only one parent. “OK, so we go. Where do we go? And for how long?”

“Joketzuko,” came the suggestion from behind him. Ranma turned to find that Mousse was the one who made it. Of course it was kinda hard to tell at first since he was speaking to a practice dummy. “Have Akane become a member of the tribe, and Ranma can come with her to the village.”

Cologne was surprised that Mousse would make such a suggestion, and yet it both made sense, and lead to a result that she had been after for a long time now. The idea certainly had merit. “Yes, I think that would be an excellent idea. The two of you would become members of our tribe, and may stay as long as you like. You would have a home, food, and help for when the baby comes. We would also do our best to protect you should anyone find out where you have gone.” She smiled evilly. “And if they were to set foot on our turf, you would have license to defend your family as you saw fit.”

Ranma was taken aback at the offer. He’d always been adamant about not joining the tribe, but the offer had always been to join it as husband to Shampoo. This would be as husband to Akane. It also had the added benefit of being in a separate country altogether, somewhere it would be harder for Kuno to track them down. And once the baby came, who else would know better about childbirth than a tribe of women?

The alternative was for the two of them to go off on their own as if on an extended training trip. Always moving from one place to another, living off the land, the only shelter from the elements would be a tent. And once the baby came… Ranma didn’t even want to think about what might happen if Akane went into labor while off in the mountains all alone.

Ranma turned to his fiancée. She seemed to be going through the same thought process he had, and came to the same conclusion. It was the best idea anyone had come up with so far. “On one condition,” Akane said. “When the baby is born, she belongs to Ranma and I, not the tribe. I’ll appreciate any help, but we will raise our child as we see fit, not how anyone else thinks we should.”

Cologne scowled. “Do you think us barbarians? Of course you will raise your own child. The Amazons never took to the teachings of Mao Ze Dong. The family is sacred to us.”

Akane gave Ranma a nod. “Alright then,” he said. “It’s settled. When do we leave?”

Cologne nodded. “As soon as possible. I will arrange for the café to be sold in our absence, and we can leave in two days. I suggest you keep your goodbyes to a minimum lest someone finds out where you are going.”

Ranma put an arm around Akane to comfort her, finally knowing that he was doing something to protect her. He noticed that everyone was watching in great interest, still not quite used to seeing the two actually express affection for each other. Everyone except Shampoo, that is, who noticeably turned away. That was going to be a big problem he could tell. What did Shampoo think about this arrangement, and was she going to try to use it to her advantage. Ranma got the distinct impression that he was jumping out of the proverbial pan and landing in the fire.

If there was one thing Ranma had always hated about living on the road as a child, it was packing. The few times where they had stayed at one dojo or another, there was always the hope that this might be the last time, that they might actually settle down for good. But hope was always shattered when they inevitably packed up and moved on to the next one. It had gotten to the point that Ranma no longer unpacked when they arrived so that he wouldn’t have pack it all away later. After having spent a few months at the Tendo dojo, he’d finally decided to unpack his meager belongings. Now he was packing them again, in order to go somewhere he’d vowed never to go again. Of course, the situation had changed, and now he was going there so that he could be with Akane.

Akane. She was up in her own room packing, not having moved in permanently with her lover yet. While it was rather hard for Ranma to leave this place that had become a real home for him, this had been her home for her entire life. She was giving up everything for him. He’d never understand why she was willing to sacrifice everything for him, but he’d damn try to make the sacrifice worth it.

He heard the door open behind him, and his fiancée was standing in the doorway. She had a big camping backpack slung over her shoulder, already full of the things she was going to bring. She was lit from the rear, so Ranma couldn’t see her face, but he could see the heavy bag trembling. It took him a second to realize that it was because her shoulders were trembling as she silently sobbed. He rushed over to her, took her heavy pack, and pulled her into a tight hug, letting her sob into his shirt. Akane let loose as soon as she was in his arms, bawling loudly, each sob sounded as if it was ripped from her body. Ranma did his best to soothe her, but figured after a while that she just needed to cry it out.

It took some time, but Akane finally calmed down. “I’m so sorry Akane,” said Ranma as he stroked her hair. He didn’t know what else to say to her. There had to be something he could say to her that would help her cheer up, at least a little. Then it struck him. It was something so easy, he didn’t know why he hadn’t thought of it before. “Lets get married.”

Akane looked up at him, her face stained with tears. “What? Married? We tried that already remember? They won’t let us because you’re not old enough and I’m technically already married.”

“Well yeah, as far as the government is concerned we can’t get married, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get a priest to do the job anyway. It won’t be legal, but…” Ranma couldn’t finish his thought as Akane had plastered her lips to his. When they finally came up for air, Akane had tears in her eyes again, but this time she had a smile on her face.

Unknown to the two lovers in the room, they were being watched. Kasumi and Nabiki had followed their sister out to the dojo, trying to figure out a way to cheer her up, and found that her fiancé had beaten them to it. Nabiki looked up at her older sister, and noticed that she too had tears in her eyes. She gave her sister a quick hug. “I think they’re going to be fine Onee-chan.”

Kasumi retuned the hug. “Yes, they will. But I’m afraid that things are going to get much harder for them before they get any easier.”

The next day Akane sat in the dojo with her sisters, dressed in her mothers wedding kimono. Kasumi had helped her find it in the attic that morning, and both of her sisters had helped her dress. Akane was glad to be having the wedding here at home so that she could have that moment with her sisters. She didn’t know how long it would be before she saw them again, if ever.

She shook her head to expel the thought. She would see them again, possibly in as little as a year or two. The government would eventually figure out that Kuno had somehow forged their marriage, and Ukyo would eventually get over Ranma and get on with her life. They’d wait for the all clear from home, then go back, sign all the papers, and inherit the dojo as a family.

Family. That word was more and more becoming something she was associating with Ranma and herself and the child that was growing inside her. She was certain that she could feel it. Feel her child’s ki, feel its life growing stronger every day. Their child was going to be very strong indeed.

At least they’d be a family if he ever got here. She looked over at the priest sitting in the front of the room and gave him a shrug. The priest rolled his eyes and checked his watch. This wasn’t the first time he’d been called for a wedding at the Tendo dojo after all. He still wasn’t certain it was gong to go through this time either. At least the bride seemed willing this time.

Akane could just about kill Ranma for being so late. This was his idea after all. Where the hell was he? She hadn’t seen him since late last night, and he hadn’t slept in his bed. She knew because she had been there waiting for him to join her. A small part of her mind wondered if he’d been out with some of his other girls last night. She quashed the thought down. He loved her. He only slept with her. And it wasn’t as if she’d ever let that be boring. So where the hell was he?

There was a loud thud against the door, followed by a scraping sound. All four people in the room looked up as the door was slowly opened, and in staggered Ranma followed by the fathers. All three men were uproariously drunk. Akane moaned in exasperation and put her head in her hands. She looked her fiancé in the eye, or at least tried to while he swayed. “Mind telling me why you felt you had to get drunk the morning of our wedding?”

“He didn’t get drunk this morning,” came a scratchy voice from outside. “The lightweight is still drunk from last night!” Happosai followed his students into the dojo, sober as a priest on Sunday. “After I heard about your approaching nuptials, I decided I had to give the boy a bachelor party! Especially since you’re going to that wretched village tomorrow. I couldn’t have the poor boy go off into the world feeling as if he’d missed something before he got tied down after all!” He cackled.

Akane wanted to strangle the old man, but she had bigger concerns at the moment. “Ranma, you need to concentrate for me here.” She gently slapped his cheek. Then for good measure, gave him a hard whack across the face. “Better? Good, sit over there.”

The slap did help to sober Ranma up somewhat, though his head was still spinning. How had the older men convinced him to drink so much last night anyway? Something about a new technique, but he already knew drunken boxing…

Right, the wedding. Gotta do the wedding. Akane needs this wedding. H’okay, you can do this. Ranma took a deep breath and tried to find his center. It helped him to balance himself slightly, but the room was still spinning. He hoped he didn’t projectile vomit onto the priest.

The wedding started fine. The priest did his introduction, and they managed to get through the vows easily enough, though Akane’s gas got the better of her while she was saying hers, and Ranma’s was rather slurred. When it came time to drink the sake though, Ranma’s alcohol soaked mind recalled something about pregnant women not being allowed to drink. He took it upon himself to keep her from doing so, by insisting that he drink her sake as well. This of course led to more slurring on Ranma’s behalf. It also led to his already queasy stomach deciding enough was enough, and emptied its contents all over the priest. Having had enough, the priest quickly wrapped things up, said “There, you’re married,” and went off to have a drink himself.

Ranma leaned over to Akane to give the bride the kiss he knew was supposed to happen at the end of a wedding. Akane took one look at his face, and moved out of the way, lest he decide he needed to puke again. This resulted in Ranma kissing the floor as he fell over, passed out.

Akane sighed again. Great, she was married. She glared over at Happosai who was happily sharing a drink with the priest. He must have felt the daggers she was shooting him, because he looked over at her innocently. “What? It’s not my fault he can’t hold his booze. I didn’t even make him do anything heavy.”

Akane rolled her eyes again, knowing that to Happosai, a “light” drink was an entire bottle of scotch. Well, it could have been worse. At least they got through it this time.

The march through the woods the next day was tense. Cologne had insisted that they take an overland route to the ship waiting for them on the coast. The less they relied on others to travel, the less people would be able to follow them by asking around after all. Cologne was leading their motley parade through the forest, hopping along on her cane in order to stay ahead of the taller travelers. Behind her trudged Shampoo, obviously still feeling the effects of her morning sickness. Three thousand years of Amazonian knowledge of pregnancy didn’t seem to be enough for her to keep her breakfast down. Akane followed her ex-rival, no worse for wear, a fact that rankled Shampoo to no end. If anything, pregnancy seemed to be agreeing with Akane, and she was immensely enjoying the effects it was having on her skin and hair. Of course the fact that she was gassy all the time was something she could do without.

Ranma and Mousse brought up the rear, the men carrying most of the bags for the entire party. Mousse hadn’t said a word since they left. Ranma was willing to bet he hadn’t said more than two words, except for suggesting this trip, since it was revealed that the love of his life was pregnant with another man’s child. He’d even heard from Cologne that he had tried to challenge Kuno for Shampoo’s hand, but Kuno had refused on the grounds that he didn’t know what Mousse was talking about. Mousse had nearly just beaten him up anyway, but he’d been waylaid by thirty ninjas as soon as he pulled out his first weapon.

Ranma hitched up the packs he was carrying higher on his shoulders and caught up to Akane. “How are you doing?” he asked. He winced when his wife just ignored him. It seemed that Mousse wasn’t the only one who was mimicking a mime. The only word she’d said since they started the trip was “Here,” as she handed Ranma her heavy pack as they departed.

He looked up as he heard the unmistakable sound of someone using a staff as a pogo stick approach. Cologne was the only one in their party who actually seemed to be happy, which got on everyone’s nerves. She was getting Ranma for the tribe after all, even if Shampoo wasn’t the one marrying him. Still, with all the strife he’d put her through, Cologne couldn’t resist poking the bear. “Whatever is the matter Ranma? You were married yesterday! Why aren’t you bowlegged and exhausted?” Ranma glared at the older woman, but it was nothing compared to the one eyed death stare Akane gave her over her shoulder. Cologne just cackled. “Your wife isn’t all that bowlegged either! Is something the matter?”

Ranma sighed in frustration. “Happosai decided he had to throw me a bachelor party last night. Someone spiked the sake.”

If anything, Cologne’s smile grew wider. “Ranma, I hate to tell you this, but sake already has alcohol in it. You can’t spike it.”

“Trust me, he managed somehow. I was still drunk when I showed up at the wedding in the morning after only having two drinks.”

Cologne burst out laughing. Ranma even thought he heard a snicker from Mousse, but when he turned to look, the man’s face was perfectly straight. Finally the matriarch decided to have mercy on her new tribesmen. “Well, perhaps we can do something about that.”

Ranma gave Cologne a skeptical look. He still wasn’t quite used to Cologne being nice to him. “What do you have in mind?”

“Well, now that the two of you are going to be a part of our tribe, as a matriarch, I have the power to wed the two of you.”

Ranma was so startled, he nearly stopped in place. Akane, who was eavesdropping, was so startled that she did. Ranma found this out when he ran into her, knocking the both of them to the ground. Ranma was the first to regain his bearings. “I don’t get it, you want to marry us now? What about Shampoo?”

Now it was Cologne’s turn to look downcast. “Shampoo is pregnant with a child who is not of her husband. As far as you’re concerned, her fate is sealed. She demonstrated that she did not care for you by laying with another. Perhaps there is another man out there for her, but it will be hard. Especially with a child on the way.” She gave Ranma a hard look. “It isn’t everyday that we get an outsider male show up at the village and defeat one of our girls, you know. Most Amazon women have to attract their mates through other means.”

Ranma had the decency to look sheepish at that comment. He then glanced over at Akane, who was still in his arms from the crash. She certainly looked intrigued at the proposal, if a tad skeptical. He gave Akane a meaningful look, and she gave him a tiny nod. “All right, we’re in. What do we do?”

Cologne smiled. “Good. We can start immediately. Shampoo and Mousse can serve as your seconds.”

That brought the couple up short. “Wait… What seconds? Why do we need seconds?” Akane asked.

Cologne waved her off. “It is merely for the ceremony, similar to a best man or maid of honor in a western wedding.” She stood on a stump by the path, and motioned for the four teens to stand in front of her.

Shampoo, who seemed to know her role better than Akane did, pulled out one of her bonbori maces and handed it to the bride. “To protect your family,” she said.

Akane looked at the weapon in awe, and then up at her former rival. “Thank you, Shampoo,” she said breathlessly.

Mousse then reached into his robes and rummaged around for a moment. Finally he came up with a bouquet of flowers, which he handed to Ranma. When Ranma gave him a quizzical look, Mousse just shrugged, a smirk crossing his face. Cologne too was trying to hold back her laughter. “I’m sorry Ranma, but that’s how it works in an Amazonian wedding. The male gets the bouquet.” Ranma scowled at the older woman, but said nothing. He turned his scowl on Akane when he heard a giggle escape from behind her hand.

Cologne cleared her throat to get everyone’s attention. “Very well, now we may begin.” She held out her arms, tilted back her head, and let out a bloodcurdling scream of a war cry. Ranma and Akane jumped, while their seconds joined in. Akane leaned in towards Ranma to whisper to him. “Maybe this wasn’t the best idea after all.”

Ranma was about to agree with her, when the three Amazons suddenly stopped. “We welcome the goddesses whom we have called to witness this union of this woman with her man. If any woman care to challenge the bride in a battle to the death for the man, speak now, or hold your tongue.”

It seemed to Akane that Cologne paused for an inordinately long time as if to allow someone to actually answer the rhetorical question. Of course, when it came to an Amazonian wedding, the question probably wasn’t rhetorical at all. Still, she looked over at Shampoo to see what she would do. The girl in question said nothing, and instead studied her feet. Akane sighed in relief at that.

“Since there are none who wish to challenge the validity of the union,” Cologne continued, “then may the vows be said so that it may be blessed by all the goddesses in the heavens. Akane, daughter of… er…” She hesitated. “What was your mother’s name child?”

Akane felt a lump form in her throat. “Kimiko,” she supplied.

Cologne gave her sympathetic smile. “Akane, daughter of Kimiko, do you take this unworthy man to be your husband? To plant his seed in you so that you may give the tribe daughters? To love and support you in your later years, until the Reaper comes for your souls?”

Slightly embarrassed at the vow, Akane nonetheless nodded her head, nad gave an enthusiastic “I do.”

Cologne then turned to Ranma. “And you, Ranma, son of Nodoka.” Ranma had to hold in a laugh at the fact that his father was being left out. “Do you take this warrior to be your wife? To give her daughters so that the tribe might grow stronger? To love and obey her through your later years, until the Reaper comes for your souls?”

This time, Akane couldn’t hold her laughter. Ranma looked rather indignant at the “obey” part, and was seriously considering arguing the point, but the fact that Akane was no longer mad, made the entire thing worth it. “I do,” he said, somewhat grudgingly. He felt his qualms melt away as Akane gave him a radiant smile. He was about to lean in for the kiss that he assumed was to come, when instead, Cologne addressed the other two teens.

“And do you, Shampoo, daughter of Lipstick, and Mousse, son of Talcum, do you two promise to… do your duties as seconds in this wedding?”

“I do,” came the reply in stereo.

Both Ranma and Akane felt a chill run down their spine as they heard the vow their one time rivals were being asked to take. Even worse, the fact that Cologne hesitated, and quite possibly changed the wording, made the couple wonder if they might have just walked into some kind of trap.

“This marriage is blessed, for already you carry the child already. It shall be written into the lore of the amazons on the birth of you're first daughter. You may go and consummate your union.”

About an hour later, Ranma and Akane were in their tent after having taken Cologne’s suggestion to heart, not that they weren’t embarrassed beyond belief when she made it in the first place. What’s worse, was as they tried to enter their tent, Shampoo and Mousse tried to follow, claiming that it was part of the vow that they took as seconds that they needed to witness and support the first coupling. The newlyweds both started to glow an interesting shade of blue, making them decide that perhaps discretion was the better part of valor.

Akane lay on top of Ranma, basking in the afterglow. Ranma was gently stroking her hair as he caught his breath. “I’m sorry about yesterday,” he said quietly.

Akane looked up at him in surprise. “Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?” she asked.

Ranma looked indignant. “What I can’t apologize for something I did?” He was silenced as Akane giggled, and kissed him on the mouth. “Besides,” he continued. “I think you’re the doppelganger. My fiancée was an uncute unsexy tomboy, my wife doesn’t fit that description at all.” He laughed when Akane couldn’t decide if that was a compliment or insult. She decided to smack him anyway.

Akane was about to relax and go to sleep, when a thought nagged at her. “What is it exactly we let Shampoo and Mousse promise to do anyway?”

Ranma sighed nervously. “I dunno, but somehow I get the feeling we’re not going to like it.” He gave Akane a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. I’m sure it won’t be that bad. And if it is, we can threaten them like we did tonight. Now lets get some rest. We’re gonna need it for tomorrow.”

Akane Gave her husband a searing kiss. “We can rest later, for now, lets do our duty as Amazonian newlyweds.”

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