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The trip across the Sea of Japan and China was long and somewhat arduous. Cologne had arranged for a ship to transport them to the mainland, a journey that took a few days. Then it was a hard march across the country to the wilds in the West. The two pregnant women slowed their progress down somewhat, although since both were only one month along, it was more because of the worried father in the group who insisted on taking it easy. Even Akane would say that she was fine to go on, but Ranma would refuse to continue on until they took a rest. In the end they’d taken a series of trains for most of the way, rather than hiking. Cologne grumbled about the cost, but considering how much it increased their progress, she didn’t complain too loudly.
Ranma and Akane were using the time on the road as a sort of honeymoon. Granted it wasn’t very private, but they managed to find enough time for themselves. They learned to set up their own camp or get their own room in a hotel after their wedding night. Akane’s enthusiasm was heard by everyone in the camp, and she had to endure some good natured teasing from Shampoo and Cologne.
“Shampoo wishes that Akane had let her do her duty as shield sister and help with wedding night. Sounds like Akane had a lot of fun!”
“Humph, why not? She’s done it with everyone else.”
That was the other reason this trip was so long. Mousse had finally broken his silence, but it seemed like everything he said was some sort of jab at Shampoo. The relationship between the two of them had been tense ever since the wedding.
Shampoo just ignored the comment, though it was obvious that it had struck a nerve. Akane on the other hand went from being embarrassed about Shampoo’s comment to mad at Mousse in under a second. She was about to give him a piece of her mind, when Ranma interrupted. “Wait, what’s a ‘shield sister?’”
“It’s sort of like a backup to the wedding. Shampoo is there in case you and Akane are having problems in bed. Shyness or impotency or something to that effect,” replied Mousse. “As your shield brother, I was to help in the same way if required. It’s an honorary title to help make sure that the marriage is consummated, ensuring that children will be born.”
Akane’s curiosity got the better of her. “What kind of help?” she asked nervously.
Mousse just grinned
“Yeah that’s not going to happen,” replied Ranma. “For either of you.”
The remainder of the trip alternated between fun and tense. Even with taking the trains, it still took about a month to cross the continent Ranma and Akane spent much of that time getting to know their companions better, and learning basic Chinese.
It was with great trepidation that Ranma and Akane walked into the village that would be their home for the foreseeable future. As far as Ranma was concerned, it was like walking into the lions den, even if that lion had promised not to eat him. In Akane’s case on the other hand, there might just be a lion in the den who resented what she had done to the queen lioness.
As they entered the clearing where the village was located, Ranma felt like he stepped back in time to his first visit shortly after being cursed at Jusenkyo. There was the suspended log where he had fought Shampoo and started the entire mess with her. And… oh hell, there was the table, once again full of food, waiting for the winner of the tournament that was about to start. They just had to show up today of all days didn’t they?
They were greeted as they entered the village by a couple of well armed women. The guards instantly recognized Cologne and stood at attention, saluting her with a fist to a well endowed chest. “Welcome home Honored Elder,” one of them said in Chinese. “We received your notice of your return and have arranged the tournament in your honor.” The guard glanced over at the new additions to their party. Ranma felt uneasy as the look she gave him seemed more like the look a farmer might give a cow before determining if it was to be taken to the slaughter. “I see you have succeeded in your quest at returning with the Saotome boy, but who is the woman with her? Someone you recruited into the tribe while out on your travels?”
Ranma was surprised when he noticed Cologne’s smile falter ever so slightly. Unfortunately, he couldn’t understand a word of what was being said. “Something like that,” Cologne replied. “All will be explained tonight at the council meeting.”
The guard nodded, and gave Akane an appraising look. “Well then, I look forward to testing her mettle during the tournament. She will be entering won’t she?”
“Actually, Akane will not be participating in the tournament, as she is pregnant.”
It was almost as if the guards turned into a completely different group of people. Their faces went from being serious and somewhat suspicious, to happy and excited. There was a collective gasp and then an “Ohhhhhhh!” that came from all of them. Ranma took a defensive stance as they all rushed to dote on the young woman, but they quickly put away their weapons before they got to her, so he relaxed a bit.
Akane found herself in the middle of a group of women who obviously were happy for her for some reason, unfortunately not knowing what that reason was. Shampoo leaned in close to her. “Great-Grandmother just explained to the guards that Akane is pregnant, and they offer congratulations,” she translated.
Akane was stunned at the attention that was being heaped onto her. It was the first time that someone had responded positively to the news of her pregnancy. “Why are they so happy for me? They don’t even know me.”
“Is great honor for woman to be pregnant in Amazon village. A baby is future of the tribe. Means our way of life will continue.”
Akane flushed at the sentiment, embarrassed at the attention all the women were heaping upon her. It didn’t mean she had to endure it by herself though. “What about you? Why don’t you tell them you’re pregnant too?”
“Because Shampoo has been shamed,” interrupted Mousse, speaking up for the first time since he took his vow at the wedding. “Her child is not of her husband’s. Had she not been defeated by Ranma, her indiscretions would not have mattered so much. Single women have children all the time in our culture. Married women on the other hand, must remain faithful.”
Akane gave Mousse a hard look. She understood why he was upset of course, but his words and his tone of voice seemed to indicate something more. “And what about your actions?” she asked him. “You wanted to take Shampoo away from her ‘husband,’ and even slept with her yourself.”
“I made sure to wear a condom!” came the heated reply. It was a bit of a sore spot with Mousse that he had indeed slept with Shampoo on a number of occasions, now that Cologne had reversed the mind wipe Shampoo had placed on him. “I was trying to convince her to divorce him for me. I would have castrated myself before I allowed her to get pregnant by my seed before she left him.”
The guards looked upon the heated debate with interest, unable to understand the words that were being said. They were, however, able to understand the look Mousse was giving his former paramour, and the significance behind it. Everyone in the village knew about his infatuation, and seeing him spit venom at the woman now was quite a development.
“In any case, let us escort you to your home Elder. It has been left as you left it since your departure.” The guard led the way into the village while her companions continued to congratulate and dote upon Akane.
That evening, Cologne addressed the entire village at the opening of the tournament. A cheer went up as she took the podium off to the side of the suspended log where the battles would take place. Ranma, Akane, and Shampoo were all standing off to the side of the podium, waiting to be introduced. She held her hands up for silence, and began to address the crowd.
The newest members of the tribe were at a loss as to what was being said. It was obvious that they would have to learn to speak Chinese rather quickly. Akane leaned in close to Shampoo. “What is she saying?” she asked.
“Great Grandmother is thanking everyone for their support of our struggle in Japan, and declaring that the mission was a success.” A bigger cheer went up at this declaration. Ranma groaned and hung his head, once more feeling like nothing more than a piece of meat. “This was a bad idea,” he murmured.
Cologne continued to speak. “Now Great Grandmother is telling tribe about Akane, and about how you have been accepted into the tribe. She is telling of your history as a warrior, and of your pregnancy. Now entire tribe know that you will have a healthy and strong baby.” Akane blushed bright red again at the cheer that rose up from the crowd at the news of her pregnancy. She doubted if her blood was going to leave her face for the remaining seven months if they kept this up.
The mood of the crowd took a decided turn as Cologne continued her speech. Shampoo herself became choked up, but continued her translation. “Great Grandmother is now telling tribe that while Ranma has agreed to join us, it is because he is married to Akane, and not Shampoo.” She paused to take a shuddering breath. “And now is telling everyone about Shampoo’s baby, and her shame.”
Akane started to tear up herself. She had to admit some sympathy for her former rival. Life back home was going to be hard for her now that everyone knew the parentage of her child. She reached over and gave the crying woman’s hand a squeeze in sympathy.
Shampoo looked down at the hand in question, undeniable surprise in her eyes. She looked up at Akane’s face, and seeing a friendly smile, she broke down in tears. That of course set off the other hormonal woman, and Akane broke down as well. The two women shared a hug, prompting a reaction from the crowd. Shampoo was supposed to be shunned by everyone until the baby was born. Didn’t this newcomer know that?
Cologne looked back at the two crying women, and had to hold back a smile. Perhaps Shampoo’s period of shame wouldn’t be so bad after all. She addressed the crowd once again. Shampoo started crying harder once she heard what her grandmother was saying. She answered Akane’s questioning look. “Great Grandmother tell tribe that Shampoo is Akane’s shield sister. Is great honor for Amazon to help the marriage of a friend. Grandmother is helping to save some of Shampoo’s honor, but Shampoo does not deserve this. Shampoo knows that Akane didn’t have a choice when she was married.”
This of course set Akane off once more. “I know we haven’t been the best of friends in the past Shampoo, but now that we’re going to be living together, maybe we can start over? I know I could use a friend while we’re here, and I think you could too.” She hugged her former rival. “And I’m honored to have you as my shield sister. As long as you know that I can take care of my marital duties just fine without you.” Shampoo laughed at this, but nodded her agreement.
Ranma couldn’t quite hear what was being said between the two young women, but they were smiling. He let out a small sigh of relief. They were getting along. The last thing he needed was for there to be tension between the two. Heavens knew what two hormonal pregnant women would do to each other. While there were certainly advantages to staying in the village, he had come up with a contingency plan to convince Akane to leave if things got too hairy for one reason or another. Between the cheering crowd, and now this, it looked as if he wasn’t going to have to do that after all.
“This be home of Akane, yes?” asked the guard. She had led Ranma and Akane to a small hut in the residential area of town. It was tiny, but it had separate rooms for the kitchen, toilet, and living quarters, and it was surprisingly modern as well. Ranma realized that in his previous visits to the village that he’d never actually been inside one of the huts before. He’d assumed that the simple mortar and stone buildings were one room affairs with dirt floors, and no indoor plumbing. It turned out that they had a foundation, wood floors, a full kitchen, and even electricity generated by a small generator out back. The only thing that was different from the house he’d been living in for the last year was the lack of a bath, but that had been a luxury to begin with.
“Yes thank you for showing us Soap,” Akane replied. Soap was chosen to be their guide while they were getting settled in, mostly because she had a rudimentary understanding of Japanese. She bowed to Ranma, then placed a hand on Akane’s stomach, and said something in Chinese. This had already happened to Akane many times while they were watching the tournament, so she knew that Soap was saying a blessing for her child, but it was embarrassing every time, especially since she didn’t really show yet.
“Well, here we are,” Ranma said he eyed the room they were standing in. “So, uh… wanna break in the bedroom? Or would you rather I make something to eat first?”
Akane sighed in exasperation. “Honestly Ranma, all you think about anymore is sex and food. In that order.” She walked over towards the bedroom, pulling off her shirt and bra as she went, making Ranma’s jaw drop as she walked past. “Well? Are you coming?”
“But you just said…”
“Ranma, my hormones are all over the place right now, and if you don’t come and make love to me right now, I’ll…” her threat was interrupted as a red and black blur wooshed by her and rematerialized into her naked husband lying on the bed.
“So are we doing this, or what?”
Mousse downed the last of his whiskey, then motioned to the bartender to fill it back up. The man just shrugged and poured his compatriot another drink. He’d seen that look on a man before, dejected and angry at the same time. It was obvious this guy had just been dumped by his girl, He could tell when the man had walked in the door. So he’d gotten out his special watered down whiskey to make sure the poor sap didn’t poison himself. He’d wait until the younger man was good and soused before he tried to give the guy any advice, lest Mousse object to his interference with sharp implements.
The door burst open and in strode the slender yet strong figure of a young woman. She was tall, had long green hair, and wearing the armor of the Village Guard. The long poleax she was carrying completed the image of a woman who would sooner kill you than give you the time of day.
The bartender frowned as the woman strode purposefully up to the man who was drowning his sorrows. It was rare that a woman came into this bar. Not that they weren’t allowed to, but the Dog House had always been a refuge for the men of the tribe, especially after they had been dumped. It was more the atmosphere of the bar that kept the women out rather than any rule. It was dark, the roof leaked, the floor was dirt and straw, and the air was full of tobacco and opium smoke. Most women, even the hardiest of the warriors, refused to enter the place on principle.
The woman sat down next to the long haired man drinking the watered down whiskey. She set her poleax down and leaned it against the bar, and motioned for a glass and some of what Mousse was drinking. Of course she didn’t get the same thing Mousse was drinking. The last thing the barman needed was for the Guard to come in and investigate him for price gouging.
The woman eyed Mousse briefly, before downing her drink in one gulp. Slamming her glass onto the bar, she exhaled noisily. “No wonder you men come here all the time if you are served such fine alcohol!” She nudged Mousse with her elbow as if sharing an inside joke. “I should tell the other women in the Guard about this place! Some of them are even single and on the hunt for a suitable mate. Or in a pinch, a good roll in the hay!”
Mousse shifted his stool away from the boisterous woman, trying to enjoy his obviously watered down drink in peace. Unfortunately, it seemed as if she wouldn’t take a hint. Instead the woman clapped a hand on his shoulder and addressed him as if noticing him for the first time. “You certainly look like you could use a good roll yourself. What do you say? Buy me a drink and perhaps I’ll show you what a warrior is like in bed!”
“What do you want Conditioner?” Mousse asked.
The jovial and slightly seductive smile on the woman disappeared as she realized that her subtle ploy wasn’t working. “Fine then, I have a different proposition for you. The entire village is buzzing about the new arrivals and the situation that Shampoo is in, but it seems that since this Akane is willing to forgive Shampoo, that is ok for them to forgive her as well. I even noticed a few women giving Shampoo the prenatal blessing!” She leaned in closer. “You may have noticed that I won the tournament today. In fact I’ve been champion ever since Shampoo left I’ve been the champion in every tournament, which is how I managed to receive the honor of sergeant in the Guard already at my age.”
Conditioner stood, and turned Mousse around in his seat to face her. “I worked my ass off in order to get to where I am today, while that slut had everything handed to her on a silver platter. And now that she’s finally made a fatal mistake, she’s weaseling her way out of her punishment! I want to see Shampoo go down, and I think you can help me do that.”
Mousse turned around in his stool and took a drink. “Sorry not interested,” he said sourly.
“Why not? Everyone knows how you felt about her before she left, and its obvious that she completely shunned you in favor of some random jerk who she felt would be a good fuck. He wasn’t even her husband! Surely if she was that desperate for a man she could have given you a chance! A man who fawned over her, who would do anything for her. A man like you is hard to find Mousse, and she let you slip away without even a sympathy fuck.”
“I’ll have you know I slept with Shampoo a number of times,” replied Mousse, wondering why he was even remotely defending his former paramour. Sullenly he added “I just didn’t remember it until recently.”
Conditioner’s eyes widened. “Really? She fucked you and then used Formula 411 on you so that you’d forget? Honestly, if her husband wasn’t satisfying her, there are other ways she can scratch that itch that don’t take advantage of the men.”
Mousse must have been more drunk than he thought, because the things Conditioner was saying were starting to make sense. He gave the woman a cautious look. “If I help you, what’s in it for me?”
Conditioner’s smile once again grew seductive. “I’m sure we can work something out.”
End Chapter 12