Subject: [PMFFML] [FFML-R] [repost][Ranma][Fanfic] Three Souls, One Heart Chapter 11-12
From: "David A. Tatum" <desaix@sysnet.net>
Date: 2/5/2001, 11:21 PM
To: <FFMLRefuge@listbot.com>

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Here's chapters 11 and 12.  Tomorrow, I'll finish up the the reposts and
post a new chapter (yes, I DID finish the new chapter already.)  I'll deal
with all the c&c that I've been getting, and then, probably, I'll switch to
one of my other fics (I'm trying to finish up all the half-finished
chapters I've written in the past several months (more than a year,
really)- which means Kenshin: Guide in the Wilderness, Slayers Titled, or
Patlabor: Personal Files is next.  Well, maybe one of the others, but I
doubt it... and no, Tylor's Fury is NOT one of the fics with a half-chapter
written.  I deleted the half-chapter I'd written for that, backtracking to
hopefully start over fresh).  When I'm done with all the half-chapters,
well, what I WANT to do is to return to my Princess Mononoke fanfic, but
we'll see how things turn out.  I might return to this fic, instead...
(probably not, but it is a possibility)

Well, that's all for now.  Enjoy the fic...

Chapter 11

Akane awoke the next morning with a sudden chill.  Sleepily, she sat up. 
For some reason, she felt that something was missing- something important. 
A quick glance at the
other side of the bed showed what, exactly, that something was.

"Ranma?" she wondered, tossing the comforter onto the floor and leaping out
of bed.  Grabbing her robe, she wrapped it around her and stepped out of
her room.  "Ranma," she called quietly, searching for him.  Akane was
getting a little concerned- the previous couple of nights, Ranma had either
outslept her or waited in bed for her to get up first... but yesterday,
they had finally done MORE than just sleep in the same bed.  Did the sudden
change in their relationship scare him?  Did he wake up that morning,
realize what he'd done, and run away because he couldn't handle it?  Where
had he gone?  "Ranma!" she cried out, desperation starting to appear in her
voice.

She checked the bathroom, the kitchen, and Ranma's old room, but didn't see
anything.  "Great," she muttered to herself worriedly, not knowing where
else in the house he might have gone.  "He just had to run off... I guess
I'd better go chase him."  Akane stepped out the door of the house- and
then instantly turned around and went right back in.  "But not until I get
dressed..."

Ranma foremost on her mind, she dashed back to her room, running for her
closet.  She didn't get there, though, as she tripped over her comforter
and went crashing into the pile of cloth.

Akane tried to get back up, but couldn't- her legs were tangled up, and
something moving underneath the covers kept throwing her off her balance.

"What?" she asked herself, and then tore the covers off the ground and
tossed it onto the top of the bed.  Staring down at the figure underneath
the bed, Akane blinked.

Ranma blinked as well, trying to get the sleep out of his feminine eyes. 
"Huh?  What's going on, Akane?"

Just hearing his voice brought tears to Akane's eyes, and she hugged him
tightly to her body, ignoring how his female breasts were being crushed
against her own.  "I woke up, and you weren't there, and you weren't
anywhere in the house, and I thought you'd left me, and... and..."

"Hush," Ranma whispered comfortingly, returning her hug gently.  "I'm here,
don't worry.  I won't ever leave you... don't cry."  His face, though,
showed his utter confusion.  What was going on?  And why wasn't he in bed,
anyway?  He came up with two possibilities- he rolled out of the bed in his
sleep (which he sincerely doubted, considering how sound a sleeper he was)
or Akane had unknowingly shoved him off the bed.

When Akane had come to her senses, she relaxed her hug and sniffed. 
Leaning back, she smiled to reassure him.

Ranma reached up and delicately wiped a tear from her eye.  "Now what made
you think I might have left you?  And why would I have done something like
that?"

"I thought... I thought you might not be able to handle what we did
yesterday and ran off...  I mean, I woke up, and you weren't in the bed,
and I didn't see you, and..."  Tears started to form in Akane's eyes again.

"Well, none of that happened, so just relax..."  Smiling slightly, he
nodded to the bed.  "If either of us have a right to suspect the other of
second thoughts, I think it would be me.  I mean, you're the one who pushed
me out of the bed and buried me in blankets..."

Akane blushed.  "Er... I guess we need to get a bigger bed if we're going
to keep sleeping together."

Ranma's eyebrow twitched.  "If?  Akane, I don't ever want to spend another
night without you in my arms."

Akane giggled happily.  "That might not be possible, but I'll think about
it.  I don't know, though- I mean, that bed IS rather small- I might not
want to share it all the time."

Ranma stuck his tongue out at her quickly before helping her to her feet. 
Donning a robe of his own, he brushed a strand of hair out of Akane's
mildly reddened eyes.  "Come on, let's go clean you up and get ready for
school, okay?"

*	*	*	*	*

Ryouga was searching his backpack for something as Ukyou came down on her
way to school.  She blinked at him before heading over to the fridge
pulling out some batter she had made the previous night for a few breakfast
okonomiyakis.

"What are you looking for?" she asked, turning on the grill.

Ryouga sighed.  "Akari's phone number.  I know I put it in here somewhere,
but I just can't find it.  I hope she isn't too worried- I just realized
today that she hasn't heard from me since that day we got on Kunou's boat,
and thought she might want to be reassured that I didn't drown."

Ukyou raised an eyebrow.  "I thought you were after Akane again?"

Ryouga sighed.  "I was, when we were shipwrecked and it looked like I'd
never see Akari again.  But that was stupid... I knew it was over when I
realized I cared more about the cure than I did about Akane.  Or should
that be when I nearly got killing mad at Ranma when I found out that he had
sacrificed our cure just to save her from becoming a man.  If I hadn't been
so shocked at myself, I think Ranma would have been in serious trouble."

Ukyou sighed, and nodded.  One more weapon in the campaign to claim Ranma's
heart was no longer available to her.  "Oh, well."  Thinking back, she
glanced at him as she tested the grill's heat.  "Not since before our boat
trip, you say?  You'd better find that number quick- most girls hate it
when their boyfriends don't talk to them often enough."

"I will," Ryouga proclaimed as Ukyou poured the ingredients onto the
grill's surface.  "But it might take a while- I can't find anything in this
bag."

Ukyou bit back her reply, and got a spatula ready to flip the okonomiyaki
when it was ready.  "Do you want one or two?" she asked casually.

"One... I'm not too hungry," he answered, pulling some junk out of his
pack.

"Coming up," she said, turning the okonomiyaki over.  Glancing over at
Ryouga again, she saw the huge pile of stuff he had already retrieved from
his bag.  "Um, do you want me to get Konatsu to help you search through all
that?"

Ryouga shook his head.  "Don't bother- I'll find it eventually."

Ukyou sighed again.  'Yeah- in another couple of days,' she thought to
herself.  "Here you go, sugar, one breakfast special, right off the grill."
 She tossed the disk of food towards him, and he caught it with his mouth,
chewing it up and swallowing absentmindedly.  "So... outside of calling
Akari, got any other plans today?"

Ryouga shrugged as Ukyou poured some more batter on the grill.  "Konatsu
offered to train with me, but that's about it.  Not much to do around
here."

Ukyou nodded.  "Would you mind helping out around here when I get back? 
It's not much to do, but it's something, and I'll even let you keep tips."

Ryouga shrugged, tossing three of his trademark umbrellas behind him. 
"Sure, why not?"

Ukyou flipped her breakfast with a spatula.  "And could you clean up when
you're done looking for that number, sugar?  Your stuff is covering the
floor..."

Ryouga blinked and glanced around, noticing all of his stuff lying about. 
"Oops... right.  Will do."

Ukyou pulled the okonomiyaki off the grill, slid it into a travel box, and
smiled.  "Thanks, sugar.  I'll be back after school."

Ryouga raised an eyebrow.  "You leaving already?"

Ukyou nodded.  "I need to talk to Ranma, and he's been coming to class
early the past few days, so..."

"Right... well, see you later," Ryouga said.  With a smile and a nod, Ukyou
was gone.

*	*	*	*	*

Akane relaxed against Ranma in the bathtub, his arms loosely draped around
her.  She knew that if they stayed like they were, they'd be late for
classes, but the way she felt she didn't care.

Ranma nuzzled his chin against her hair.  "Ya know, it's both a good thing
and a bad thing that the Oni's finally gone," he whispered.  "It's a good
thing because I can do this without worrying about being speared, but it's
a bad thing because those horns looked so cute on you."

Akane smiled, feeling a little mischievous.  Slipping out of Ranma's arms
and turning to face him, she cocked her head suggestively.  "Sure I can't
convince you I'm plenty cute without them?"

"Oh," Ranma gulped.  "I'd say I'm pretty convinced already, but if you
think I need more, well..."

Akane considered it for a minute, but then sighed in disappointment.  "We'd
better not start something we can't stop."

Ranma sighed as well.  "True, we do have classes today.  It's a shame,
though- you can be really cute when you wanna be.  It would have been...
interesting... to see you trying to be your cutest."

"Interesting?" Akane pouted teasingly, moving in on him.  "Is that all?"

Ranma smiled, putting his hands on her shoulders, stopping her.  Glancing
her up and down, he answered, "Perhaps interesting is the wrong word. 
Perhaps I should have said..."  He stopped and frowned.  "Um... Akane, did
I put that mark there, or have I just not noticed it before?"

"Mark?  What mark?"

"Er... that one," Ranma said, rubbing the spot in order to see if it was
just dirt.

Akane slapped his hand away.  "Hey, I said not to start something we
couldn't stop!" she protested, then glanced down where Ranma had been
touching her, blushing slightly at the intimate location of the spot. 
"It's not anything I've noticed before... but it looks too distinct to have
happened when we were... together... last night, and I don't think you
could have made it any other way."  She looked back up at him and smiled
shyly, unconcerned.  "You must have been looking real closely to notice
something that small."

"Er... well, uh, they are kinda worth looking at," he stammered in reply.

Akane's smile grew, and she slid back into Ranma's lap while facing him. 
"Pervert," she whispered affectionately, and started kissing him under the
ear and down to his shoulder.  Ranma's hands were running circles along her
back, and Akane was tempted to just forget about school and spend the day
with him.  She knew they couldn't afford to spend a whole day away from
school, though, and so opened her eyes and started to push away.  She saw
something on Ranma's shoulder as she went, however, and stopped.

Ranma noticed this, and pulled her back in concern, turning her head to
look into his eyes.  "What's the problem?" he asked, concerned.

She pointed to his shoulder.  "That mark- you've got the same mark as I
do."

Ranma blinked, twisting his neck to see what she was pointing at.  "Weird. 
You don't think it would have anything to do with us... er, last night?  I
don't know any other of us cursed people who've... done the deed, yet-
maybe some additional effect of Jusenkyo?"

"Could be, but I would expect it would have shown up before now if so,"
Akane answered.

Ranma nodded.  "Same here.  But my curse has surprised me before, and what
else could it be?"

"I dunno... but maybe Iria might.  Hold on."

As Ranma nodded, Akane concentrated in an attempt to reach the former
succubus which resided in her body.  She soon found it not very hard at
all, as Iria was desperately trying to talk to her as well.

'Sheesh!' Iria complained, 'I've been trying to break through since you
woke up this morning!  Ranma's REALLY had your attention so far today.'

Akane blushed faintly.  'Well, you DID want me and him to get together.'

'I'm not saying it's a bad thing.  It just gets a little annoying when I
have something to say.  And actually, I've been wanting to tell you about
those little tattoos you're about to ask me about.'

'Then you know what they are?' Akane asked.

'Not exactly.  They were made by the Oni as he was leaving- he said it was
a gift of some sort.  I think they're wards in the demonic tongue, but
lower ranked demons such as myself weren't schooled in identifying ones
like these.  It looks to me like some sort of protection ward, though.'

'Protection wards?  Protecting us from what?'

'I'm not sure.  They were usually used by powerful demons to keep other
powerful demons off of THEIR target, but that doesn't seem to make sense-
there are no other demons I know of after you two.  It wouldn't effect me
because they weren't concerned with weaker demons, generally.'

'That worries me... how do these protection wards work?'

'I don't know... I don't think they're in any way harmful, though,' Iria
replied.  'But these wards aren't the only thing I wanted to let you know
about- the Oni was the one that turned Ranma into a girl last night.  He
didn't let us know that one of the conditions was that the two people
making love both had to be women, and made you splash him in the middle of
your foreplay.'

Akane paused for a moment and blinked.  'Well... I guess that makes sense. 
I mean, considering what happened when Toma let his men loose on his harem,
the Oni should easily have been able to find another couple which might
agree to help it, if it didn't need the couple to be two women.'

'You're... not mad?' Iria asked tentatively.

'Mad?  No, Ranma and I needed to try it out anyway- even if we DID decide
we didn't like it.'

'Hmm... making love to Ranma has really calmed you down.'

'HEY!' Akane protested, showing a flare of her temper.

'Um... I could give you some ideas that would make it better for you two
when you have to make love as girls in the future,' Iria said, trying to
distract Akane.

'We don't want to do that ever again,' Akane said, shaking her head.  'I'd
better let Ranma know what's going on before he gets worried.'

'Okay... I'll talk to you later.'

Akane blinked, and found she was still leaning against Ranma in the
bathtub.  "Well, I know what it is, now," she said.

Ranma nodded.  "Good- what are they?"

"Protection wards of some kind left by the Oni.  Iria says they're
harmless."

Ranma sighed in relief.  "Well, that's good."  With the crisis over for the
moment, Akane relaxed into his shoulder and closed her eyes.  Ranma shook
her slightly.  "Hey, get up- we should get going.  While you were talking
to Iria, my mother peeked in through the door as if she expected us to be
out already.  I think we're going to be late for school."

Akane sighed.  "I wish we could just stay here, but we missed half of a day
of classes yesterday already, and we really shouldn't be missing ANY this
early in the year."

"Ah, we miss school all the time.  We could always say something important
came up..."

"Like what?" Akane asked, releasing him.  "What excuse could we use that
they wouldn't have heard from us before?"

Ranma thought for a moment, taking time to look at his fiancee carefully. 
Suddenly, much like Akane had in her Mythology class the previous day, he
felt the desire to do something rather... impulsive.  "We could elope," he
suggested, his voice level enough that it could either be taken seriously
or as a joke.

Akane was almost certain that he was joking, but felt a small kernel of
hope that she was wrong.  "Are you... serious?" she asked, stunned.

Ranma nodded slightly.  "Maybe....  I don't think any marriage ceremony our
families might try to put together would ever work out, simply because my
father's an idiot and Nabiki hates me.  And it might make it easier to deal
with Kodachi and Ukyou when the time comes, if we were already married."

"But... what about our families?  I know what it feels like, sort of, to be
involved in a ceremony like that... as the bride... and I don't want to
experience it without the people I love around me."

"Well... we could always hold a ceremony afterwards- maybe after we
resolved some of the feuds which would tear the wedding apart otherwise.  I
want Ukyou there, and maybe even Shampoo... I can imagine you might want
Ryouga to attend..."

"That pig?" Akane growled, tensing up.

"... or not.  At any rate, Nabiki would probably have to concede the fact
and wouldn't actively be trying to destroy it.  My father... well, he'll
still be an idiot, but it would be stupid to think that getting married
would solve all our problems.  Still, don't you want to?"

Akane's face softened, and she looked up into Ranma's eyes.  "Of course I
do- you know that.  You know how I feel."

"So... is that a yes for eloping?"

Akane grinned.  "Depends- will you take me on a honeymoon?"

Ranma blinked.  "Um... I don't think I'll have the money for anything
elaborate until Nabiki gets back, but we could always go on a camping trip
or something..."

Akane kissed Ranma on the nose.  "Never mind- I'll wait till after the
ceremony for the real honeymoon.  But... well, I'd love to elope with you. 
Let's get out of here- I want this done so that we can celebrate."  With
that, she started to rise out of the water and headed to the towel rack to
dry off, Ranma right behind her.

"Celebrate?" he asked, curious.  He followed her into the changing room and
donned his robe after applying some deodorant.

"Well, I can pool together enough money for the marriage license and
another few hours at that love hotel, so I was thinking that I could take
you on a honeymoon this time, and you could take me on one NEXT time...."

*	*	*	*	*

Ukyou sighed, slightly concerned.  Ranma had not shown up that morning, and
no-one she had talked to had seen him since he and Akane left for lunch the
previous day.  If he didn't show up soon, she'd head over to his house and
see if anyone there knew where he was.  Maybe at lunchtime.

Resolved in her decision, she turned her attention back to the mythology
teacher, who was droning on about Okuninushi's marriage to the storm god's
daughter.  That was when the wall exploded and three Chinese Amazons
stormed in the classroom.

"Where are Ranma Saotome and Akane Tendou?" Cologne demanded.

The teacher, who was as immune to shock as all the other teachers at
Furinken, merely checked her attendance booklet.  "It appears he was listed
as absent in homeroom today, and he hasn't shown up here since then."

Cologne nodded and turned to go.  Ukyou, however, was not going to let them
just leave like that.  Jumping up from her seat and grabbing her weapons,
she leapt over to the Amazon matriarch.  "Hey, why are you after Ranma?"
she asked angrily.

The old woman regarded the young one carefully.  "You won't like it."

"I already don't like it that you and Shampoo are after him," Ukyou
answered.  "Tell me."

Cologne sighed.  "Yesterday, my granddaughter confronted Ranma on the open
road.  Akane struck back- aided by the Oni we have all been looking so hard
for.  It appears as if those two have struck a deal with it.  Why, I don't
know, but to make any sort of deal with a being such as that, regardless of
the reason, could be considered betraying all of humanity."

"What?" Ukyou cried, gawking.  She couldn't believe her ears.

"You heard me, child.  Ranma and Akane have betrayed humanity by aiding an
evil spiritual being."

"Hmm... interesting," the mythology teacher considered.  "Perhaps Ranma and
Akane deserve extra credit for that..."

"I don't believe it," Ukyou complained.  "Ranma wouldn't betray humanity-
at least not intentionally.  There's more to this than what you're saying."

"We are going to discover the truth of what happened," Cologne continued. 
"If you wish, you may come with us, but I caution you that we are hunting
the Oni.  If we discover it inside someone there, well... you may not like
what we do."

"I still think I'll go- I don't trust you," Ukyou said.

"Very well- but don't say I didn't warn you," Cologne sighed and shook her
head.  'She might as well find out that Ranma's made his choice.'

*	*	*	*	*

"I now pronounce you... husband and wife."

*	*	*	*	*

The phone rang.  "Hello?"

"Hello, Akari?"

"Ryouga?  Is that you?" Akari asked, shocked.

"Yes, it's me."

"Ryouga!  You're alive!  Are you okay?  I haven't heard from you in so
long, and I knew you'd gone out on that boat during that hurricane, and-"

"I'm all right, Akari.  It's a long story- why don't you come down here and
I'll tell you all about it."

Akari grabbed a pencil and piece of paper.  "I'll be right down- where are
you?"

"I'm in Nerima- Ranma asked Ukyou to put me up while I'm here, so I'm here
at the Ucchan.  Oh, bring Katsunishiki to protect you- there's something
dangerous in the area you should know about..."

*	*	*	*	*

Nodoka was taking clothes down off the clothesline when, behind one of
Ranma's and Akane's sheets from the previous night, three young people and
one old matriarch appeared.

"Oh, dear- I didn't hear you come in," Nodoka apologized.  "Can I help
you?"

"Where are Ranma and Akane?" Cologne demanded.

"Last I saw them, they were running off for school," Nodoka smiled.  "They
were in a hurry, too- they didn't even remember their books."

"They never made it," Ukyou said.  "I was looking for them, but apparently
they skipped today."

"They did?" Nodoka gasped happily.  "Oh, Ranma must be acting manly with
Akane again!"

Ukyou choked.  She knew exactly what Nodoka thought manliness meant, but
couldn't picture him doing that with Akane.

Shampoo, on the other hand, knew exactly how things had changed.  A tear
dripped down her cheek as she realized her dreams of being with Ranma were
now over, and in the worst way possible.

Mousse had no idea what Nodoka was talking about.  Cologne didn't either,
but she didn't care.  "Are you aware that Akane has been possessed for the
past couple of days?"

Nodoka smiled and nodded.  "Yes, by that honorable Oni who I had that
informative conversation yesterday.  She isn't anymore, though- Ranma
fulfilled their deal with it when he was manly with Akane last night."

Cologne looked at Nodoka like she'd grown a third arm.  "Um... do you
happen to know what the bargain was between Ranma and the Oni?"

Nodoka laughed.  "Oh, it wasn't between Ranma and the Oni, though it
wouldn't have worked if he hadn't agreed to it.  The Oni asked Akane to
remove a curse that my husband's old sensei, Happosai, placed on it.  The
curse required that the Oni possess a woman when she made love to a man."

"WHAT?!" Ukyou cried.  "And Ranma went ALONG with this?"

"Well, he wanted to use a ward to remove the Oni from Akane, but apparently
that was rather dangerous to her.  I'm not sure of all the details..."

"That's okay," Cologne sneered.  "I think we have enough for me to know
Ranma isn't treacherous, just stupid."  Turning to the others, she said,
"Come on, back to the Nekohanten.  We have to make plans."

"Good bye," Nodoka said to Cologne, seeing her start her way out of the
house.

"We'll be back later to talk to Ranma," the Amazon matriarch said.  "He'd
better be here."

Chapter 12

Nodoka smiled, pouring herself a cup of tea.  Suddenly, she felt an intense
tugging coming from her feet.  It traveled all the way up her body, through
her head, and finally the Oni was free.

"I'm afraid there is a problem," the Oni, slightly stronger than it had
been after leaving Akane that night, said.  "I'm no longer going to be able
to help you punish your husband for his treatment of Ranma."

Nodoka scrunched her toes, trying to readjust the empty space in her
slippers so that they would no longer be compensating for the tiny horns
that had been acting as a set of sixth toes.  "And why is that, Mr. Oni?  I
hope you aren't worried about those Amazons showing up.  You made a
promise, you know..."

The Oni nodded.  "Yes, I know.  I hope you will release me from it, or else
I may be punished for violating an oath.  Cologne worries me a little- I
think she knew I was here, but wasn't willing to say for some reason.  But
that is not my major concern- no, I have a previous deal conflicting with
it."

Nodoka blinked.  "Oh?  What conflict is that?"

"Well, Akane included in my vow a promise to never harm her, Ranma, or any
member of her family," the Oni answered.

"Ah, but my husband is not a member of her family," Nodoka pointed out.

"That was true when I made the promise to her, and it was still true when I
first made the promise to you, but it is not true any more.  Halfway
through your conversation with Cologne, the powers granted me to prevent
conflicts in my contract with Akane told me that she and Ranma swore vows
of matrimony, bringing both you and Genma into her family..."

Nodoka's eyes widened.  "They... WHAT?!"

"Ranma and Akane are now married.  They swore vows and signed the legal
documents needed... congratulations, Mrs. Saotome, you now have a new
daughter."

Nodoka was shocked.  She'd pretended to be overly happy about Ranma and
Akane's new sex life in order to shock the other fiancees, but she truly
was delighted that they were drawing so much closer.  But this news...

"But... why?  I realize Ranma is attracted to Akane, and she to him, but
after seeing what you showed me about their relationship and upbringing, I
didn't think they could possibly love each other enough to want to get
married voluntarily- especially after I found out that Akane has done
nothing about Ranma's fear of cats."

The Oni snorted.  "I can't believe you think that...  Akane loves Ranma and
he loves her, I assure you.  Enough to almost sicken me, at times... and
Ranma has been spectacularly loyal.  Other women have been trying anything
they could think of to land him in the sack, yet he has resisted each
attempt despite being quite attracted to most of those women.  And Akane
might have been oblivious to certain things, but when she noticed that
Ranma needed help, she did everything she could think of to help him.  I
agree with you that she didn't do enough, though," it said with a snort.

"I... well, maybe that's true... but without their families present?"
Nodoka said, grasping at straws.  "I mean... I wanted to be there..."

"I do not pretend to know their motives behind what they do, just that they
have done it.  I am sorry, but I should leave now- if I don't soon, then
the Amazons may return and attack me."

Nodoka opened her mouth, many questions on her mind.  However, she soon
realized the Oni would not be able to answer any of them.  "I... very well,
then.  Good-bye, Honorable Oni.  I hereby release you from your promise..."

*	*	*	*	*

Akane sighed, watching Ranma put on his shirt.  The honeymoon would
continue in her bedroom that night, but she didn't really want to leave the
hotel room right then.  "We've been here twice in two days...  I'm going to
miss this place."

"I just wish our home offered us as much peace as this one room does.  I
think if we could rely on our not being interrupted at just the wrong time
there, we wouldn't feel too bad about leaving here."

Akane nodded.  "True," she agreed.  "What ARE we going to do about that? 
Your fiancees and enemies, my suitors, both of our parents- any one of them
will just burst into our private moments whenever they feel like it.  We're
married now, but will that get them to leave us alone?"

Ranma shook his head, buttoning his last button.  "No.  Maybe our parents
will slow down- AFTER they're certain we're really sleeping together- and
Shampoo has given up, but... well, Kunou will be even more determined to
kill me, and... you remember how Ucchan acted when she first showed up in
Nerima?"

"Vengeful, determined to kill you, obsessed?  At least until you called her
cute..."

"Right.  Now that I'm unreachable, she'll be mad enough to kill me, too. 
And, well... there's Nabiki..."

Akane frowned.  "Ranma, why does she hate you so?  And how do you KNOW that
she hates you?"

Ranma snorted.  "Like I'm supposed to know why.  All I know is that she
does... I can't really explain it, but I'm pretty sure you'd realize that
she did if you knew all of what she's put me through."

That didn't exactly satisfy Akane, but she took it in stride.  It was
obvious Ranma wasn't going to say any more than that, and besides... she'd
rather discuss other things.  "Okay, so what do we do about it?  Our
marriage is just going to make a lot of things worse for you- the pig and
the wannabe samurai will be even more out for your blood, and Ukyou might
be as well if she ever finds out.  Plus, our fathers are going to be
overbearing until our wedding celebration, and... well, what are we going
to do?"

Ranma thought for a moment.  "I dunno.  Maybe if we had a little more time
to think about it, we could think of what to do with the Kunous, and I
could let Ukyou down a little easier... but our parents?  They'll be
hounding us to hold the formal celebration from the moment they hear we've
gotten married, and that'll attract EVERYONE who might want to attack
us..."

Something of a plan formed in Akane's head.  "Ranma?"

"Hmm?"

"What if we didn't tell anyone we were already married?  Not our parents,
not our friends, no-one..."

Ranma shook his head.  "Now that it's happened, I don't want to hide this
from the world.  I love you, Akane, and you are my wife- if anyone wants to
object to either of those things, they'll have to deal with me."

Akane sighed.  "I wasn't thinking about hiding it forever- just until we
dealt with all the people who we know will try and stop us.  Our family,
which already knows we're sleeping together, isn't going to smear our honor
by accusing us publicly of anything improper.  Then, when we manage to stop
everyone from pursuing us, we let people know that we're married, and hold
the ceremony."

"We'd be hiding it for our entire lives.  At SOME point, our rivals and
parents need to know that we got married, or else they won't stop- but I
was hoping to soften the blow before they found out."

Akane thought about that for a moment.  "Okay.  I think I've  got an
idea... we tell Auntie Saotome... er, that is, 'mother,' about our
marriage.  We ask her to secretly arrange for the wedding celebration,
making certain that she doesn't let on to anyone else we know about the
wedding until we're ready to hold it.  While she handles that, we take care
of 'softening the blow' for the others?"

Ranma frowned.  "I still don't like it...  What if one of our rivals finds
out we're having sex before we tell them."

"Well... as long as they don't go spreading rumors about us, we try and
keep the problem between us and them.  If they go trying to ruin our honor
with it, we let them know we've gotten married, and pray our parents don't
find out and try and take over the wedding celebration from us."  Akane
grinned lasciviously.  "Don't worry, we can still sleep together."

Ranma rolled his eyes.  "Like I'd care if I couldn't sleep with a tomboy
like you," he said teasingly.

Akane, however, failed to note the humor in his voice.  "Wh- what?  You
mean you-"

"Whoa!" Ranma cried, seeing the tears forming in her eyes.  "Akane, calm
down- I was just teasing you."  He grabbed her into his arms.  "I told you,
I don't want to spend another night without you in my arms, and I meant
it."

"Then why did you just say that?" Akane growled angrily, shoving away from
him.

Ranma sighed.  "Akane, learn to take a joke.  If you can't, we're going to
be having a lot more fights than we should as a married couple, because I'm
gonna be teasing you a lot.  And I expect you to tease me, too."

"You shouldn't be teasing me about things like that," Akane sniffed.  "Even
if you don't mean what you say, it hurts."

Ranma sighed, looking at the clock.  "I'll try, Akane, but I'll probably
slip up a lot.  Sometimes my mouth works like my martial arts- if I see
anything I can take advantage of, I strike."  He picked up his school bag
and gestured with it.  "Ready to go?  They're about to kick us out."

Akane grabbed a hand full of condoms and stuffed them in her purse.  She
felt a little guilty about taking so many, but she decided she would rather
feel guilty taking some free condoms from a love hotel than feel
embarrassed buying them in a convenience store where she'd be surrounded by
other customers and store clerks who could see exactly what she was
purchasing.  "I guess.  So... are we going to keep our marriage a secret or
what?"

"I guess we can try it your way for a while."  He put his arm around her
and led her out the door.

Once out the door, Akane shrugged his arm off her shoulders playfully. 
"Hey, we just had a fight- we have to make up before you can cuddle!"

Ranma blinked.  "We did?  I do?"

Akane nodded, smirking.  "Sure we did- you expect me to just forgive you
like that for the tomboy comment?  No way!"

"Er...."

"Now, let's see- what can I get you to do to make it up to me, hmm?"

As Akane started listing the ways Ranma could satisfy her whims, he sighed.
 'Ya know, I think I liked it better when she just hit me and got it over
with,' he thought.

*	*	*	*	*

Ukyou was boiling mad.  She wanted to find Ranma and Akane so that she
could... she could... well, she wasn't entirely sure what she would do when
she found them, but she was certain that whatever it was would be a hell of
a lot more productive than wasting her time with the China gang as they sat
eating in the Nekohanten.

"Why aren't we out looking for them?" she growled.

"Them?" Cologne asked, knowing exactly what Ukyou was talking about.  "Them
who?"

"Ranma and Akane, of course!  We need to stop them!"

The Amazon matriarch favored her with a placating smile.  "Stop them from
what?  If what Mrs. Saotome told us is true, they have already slept
together.  Nothing we could do would change that."

Ukyou gawked at her.  "B- but..."

Cologne's expression hardened.  "If you want, you can deal with them later.
 Shampoo has already given up, however, and I suggest you do the same...
but for now, we have more important things to worry about- like that Oni."

Ukyou snorted.  "Bah!  How do you expect us to find it?  Since Ranma and
Akane apparently gave it what it wanted, the Oni probably traveled half-way
across Japan by now, already."

"It was at the Tendou dojo as recently as a half hour ago.  I doubt it's
gotten far," Cologne said over Ukyou's protests.

"And another thing, we need to... er, what was that?"  Ukyou blinked.

"While we were at the dojo, I was able to sense the Oni's presence.  I
believe it was inhabiting Mrs. Saotome at the time, but I couldn't be
absolutely certain.  At any rate, it was there when we left, and I doubt an
Oni could run very far in just a half hour- assuming it has even tried to
escape.  I doubt it would, considering it has an apparently willing host
right now."

Shampoo chose this moment to enter the conversation.  She had been moping
about silently since hearing Nodoka confirm that Ranma was beyond her
reach, but that did not mean she was inattentive.

"If Oni in dojo, why we no get it when there?" she asked.

Cologne smiled.  "What makes you think I didn't try?"  Everyone looked at
her oddly.

"I may have bad eyesight," Mousse said, entering the conversation.  "But I
don't think I would have missed a battle between you and a powerful being
from the spirit world."

"You wouldn't.  There wasn't one.  However, I did issue a spiritual
challenge with my chi.  There was no answer, and thus no battle, but I did
try."  Cologne frowned.  "It probably knows I saw it- I doubt it would have
missed what I did."

"Why would Oni ignore great-grandmother?" Shampoo asked.

Cologne thought for a moment before saying, "I'm not entirely sure. 
Perhaps it was sensing something else that effected it more powerfully, and
was too distracted or confused to safely enjoin me in battle.  Or perhaps
it had been too weakened by Happosai's curse to confidently engage me.  Or
perhaps I made a mistake in issuing the challenge, or it didn't recognize
it as a challenge due to the differences between the protocol of demons
that the Amazons deal with and the demons of Japan.  Regardless of the
reason, it ignored the challenge, and so we must consider additional
action."

"Great-grandmother no explain why we no fight Oni- we know it in airen's
mother, so why we no just hit her and no bother with challenge?"

"Because, child, I want to find out if what the Oni said was true- that
Happosai was able to place a curse on it, and that Ranma and Akane removed
it from him.  I also want to find out WHY it was dangerous to place a
spirit ward on Akane.  If I were to harm Ranma's mother, I doubt he would
be very willing to answer my questions."

Turning over what Cologne had said in her mind, Ukyou sighed.  "I suppose
it would be forgivable for Ranma to... do it... with Akane if he thought
her life would be in danger.  But he's going to have to do a lot to make it
up to me..."

Shampoo looked over at her.  "Shampoo see Spatula-girl no know when to give
up.  You no have chance be first wife."

"So you're just letting him go?  Doesn't seem like you...."

Shampoo's eyes twinkled.  "It not.  Shampoo no let Ranma go- just realize
he no hers.  Yet.  Can no go home without Airen, but perhaps Shampoo
convince Pervert-girl let Ranma take second wife."

Ukyou looked at her like she'd grown a third arm.  "That's sick.  You'd
sleep with him, knowing he'd probably slept with another woman only days or
even hours before you?"

Shampoo smiled.  "Good man rare in Amazon village.  Not uncommon find many
women marry same man- what difference if other wife not Amazon?"

Ukyou just shook her head.  'She didn't even realize what I was saying... 
Two women with one man?  Yuck... I'm not going to share my Ranchan with
anyone.'

"None of this matters now," Cologne boomed.  "Come, we must find Ranma and
Akane... and perhaps we may want to collect Ryouga, as well- if this thing
with the Oni ever does come to a battle, we'll need all the help we can
get."

*	*	*	*	*

"Well, we're effectively out of money, now... at least until Nabiki gets
back home," Akane said, looking at the few coins from her and Ranma's
pooled financial resources- the change from two separate trips to a love
motel and the movie they had just departed from (a rather sappy one
imported from America and poorly subbed that Ranma had to 'endure' with
Akane as part of his penance).  "Barely enough left here to buy a can of
soda from a machine."

Ranma looked slightly relieved, remembering that the other thing Akane
wanted him to 'endure' watching for her was a live performance of some
Kabuki theater- which he knew would really bore him to tears.  At least he
was able to stay awake through the movie- there were a couple of
half-decent jokes he could laugh at, and the music was mildly entertaining.
 He suspected Kabuki would put him to sleep rather quickly.

"Then do you want to go home?" he asked hopefully.  A nice, relaxing (or
possibly exciting, depending on your attitude going in) bath, a delicious
meal prepared by his mother, and a night of, er, Akane would certainly be a
delightful end to his wedding day, if Akane decided to head back.  'Well,
my first wedding day,' Ranma reminded himself, thinking of the ceremony his
mother would have to plan for them.  'Though it will probably be a good end
for the second one, as well.'

His new wife raised a defiant eye with a humorous twinkle at him.  "Oh, you
aren't getting out of your punishment that easily.  You'll STILL have to
promise to take me to see the Kabuki theater, once you can afford it, and
there were a couple of things that I wanted you to do for me that didn't
require any money at all..."

Ranma sighed, but smiled at Akane.  "Yes, dear.  I promise," he said in a
voice which made it obvious he was only humoring her.  "So, which do you
want to do first, the walk in the park or the hospital visit?"

Akane glanced at a nearby street sign and thought for a moment.  "Let's go
to the hospital first- I haven't visited Marie or Hideki in several days,
and it's on the way to the park from here, anyway."

Ranma put his arm around Akane.  "Sounds like a plan.  Le-"

He was unable to finish.  Instead, he was forced to dodge the strike of a
bokken wielded by an angry young would-be samurai.

"Ranma Saotome, how dare you-" he began, but was stopped before he could
finish by a rather powerful blow delivered by Ranma's free arm.  Kunou went
flying and collapsed into the wall of a nearby restaurant, slid down to the
ground, and fell unconscious.

Akane sighed.  "Oh, great.  He's been quiet since we got back- why does he
have to show up on our wedding day?"

Ranma shook his head.  "I dunno, Akane, but I've got an idea how to get him
off your back.  Actually, I've had it for a while, now, but this is the
first time I've ever felt like actually trying it."

"Oh?  What idea is that, and why haven't you done it before now?"  Akane
sounded dubious- Ranma's plans were usually pretty ridiculous.  They rarely
worked right, but every now and then they succeeded in doing what was
planned.

"Well-" Ranma began.

"Ohhhhh...." Kunou moaned, slowly sitting up.

Ranma turned to him, mouthing the words 'play along' to Akane.  "Hiya,
Kunou... welcome back to the land of the living."

"Ranma Saotome," he growled.  "Must you stand there and gloat?"

Ranma smirked.  "Yep.  Say, Kunou... there's been something that's bothered
me since the first time I met you.  I heard you once said that whoever
defeated Akane could date her- what if the person who defeated her was not
someone who either you or she approved of?"

Kunou frowned.  "Well, I could not go back on my word- I would not be
allowed to stop the man from dating her.  If, however, she decided that the
prospect of dating someone other than myself was too repulsive for her,
than I could act as her champion and drive the fellow out- though she would
have to bond herself to me in order to give me my right to act."

'Huh,' Iria thought.  'You know, Akane, his plan actually made sense.  If
someone you hated beat you, the only way out for you would have been to
engage yourself to Kunou.'

'Hmph,' Akane replied angrily.  'Maybe so, but it had one fatal flaw: I
can't think of anyone who I would pick Kunou over- even Happosai would be
easier to accept.  At least I wouldn't have to put up with all that crappy
poetry.'

"But if Akane made no such request, then you would have to accept it, and
NOT interfere with the two of them dating?"

"Yes, I suppose," Kunou said doubtfully.  "But I cannot imagine Akane being
willing to date anyone other than myself, so she'd surely ask me."

"Hmm," Ranma pondered.  He turned to face Akane, a twinkle in his eye. 
"Say, if I beat you in a formal challenge and demanded the right to date
you, would you ask Kunou- or anyone, for that matter, to intervene and stop
the date?"

"Of course not!  I'd rather date you than him, any day!"

Kunou looked stricken, but Ranma smiled.  "Oh, good.  Akane, I hereby
challenge you to a contest in Anything Goes Martial Arts.  If I win, then
Kunou must accept you and me dating.  If I lose, then... well, I guess
Kunou won't have to."

Akane frowned.  "Are you sure you want to do this, Ranma?  I know you can't
bring yourself to hit me, and I don't think Kunou will accept you dodging
every blow of mine as you beating me..."

Ranma's smile grew.  "Yes, I'm sure."

Akane nodded.  "Then I accept your challenge."

Ranma turned to face their observer.  "Say, Kunou- do you want to referee? 
I want to make sure this battle is acceptable to you?"

Kunou nodded numbly, and Ranma took a position facing Akane, settling back
comfortably and nodding his head to indicate he was ready.

A look of determination crossed her face as she took her fighting stance. 
'Okay, a sparring match.  Haven't had many of those since we got back...
but I can't afford to beat him, and I don't see how he's gonna beat me.  I
don't even know how to convincingly throw the match- what does Ranma think
he's gonna do, anyway?'

"Ready?" Kunou called nervously.  It had only just started to sink in to
him what was going on, but he couldn't see any way of preventing it with
his honor intact- he'd let the crowds at Furinkan make their attempts at
Akane without interference every day before Ranma had arrived, so
interfering now would make him hypocritical.  He could not let Saotome get
away with this- but what else could he do?  "Begin!" he cried.

Akane threw a couple of weak punches Ranma's way, which to her surprise he
blocked.  She looked into his eyes, which seemed to show disapproval.

"Akane, just go all out.  I'm not sure Kunou will think this match is
official if you don't."

Taking a few steps back, she nodded, grimacing with determination.  "All
right, here I come!" she announced, and charged in.

This time, her blows were at full strength and Ranma was dodging them.  He
smiled as Akane got more and more into the fight, throwing her punches
harder and faster.  Before they got too far away from Kunou, he leapt over
her and waited for her to turn around.  She spun swinging, but Ranma snaked
in past the blow and was right up in her face.  He smirked, gave her a
quick kiss (infuriating their referee) and rolled behind her.  As Akane
recovered from her missed punch, Ranma grabbed her from behind and put his
arm around her neck in a slightly modified sleeper hold.

Akane struggled ineffectually for a moment.  Ranma, deciding enough was
enough, lean in and whispered, "Relax- I don't think you can get out of
this.  Just let yourself fall asleep, and we'll go visit Marie and Hideki
when you wake up."

Sighing, Akane decided to listen to Ranma and relaxed.  "Okay," she
whispered back.  A few minutes later, she continued with, "But you'll owe
me another favor."  Then, smiling, she fainted.

Ranma gently laid her on the ground and rolled her over.  Alarmed at a
small bruise forming on her neck, he checked her pulse.  Once he was
convinced she was fine he smiled.  "Okay, Kunou- I fulfilled your stupid
little condition.  I beat Akane fair and square- and she's already said she
wouldn't ask you to stop me from dating her.  Are you going to live up to
your end of the bargain, or," and here Ranma's eyes got fierce, "Did I hurt
her for nothing?"

The would-be samurai's anger flared, forcing a train of thought bordering
on dementia into his mind.  "Your defeat of her could only be brought about
by evil sorcery!  For that reason, your match is forfeit!"

Ranma's fury increased.  "And why is that?"  Kunou froze, his jaw forming a
word that would never come.  "Look, Kunou- I'm not admitting to using any
evil sorcery.  I don't have any evil sorcery- or any magic of my own, for
that matter.  If I did, my life would probably be a LOT easier....  At any
rate, whether I beat her using 'dark sorcery,' pure skill, or just plain
ordinary luck it wouldn't matter.  Anything Goes Martial Arts- which is
what I challenged Akane to- means just that: ANYTHING goes.  Dark sorcery
included.  Akane accepted the terms of her own free will, and you had no
objection at the time, so you shouldn't have any objection now.  I won, and
now you have to leave me alone.

Kunou opened his mouth and closed it a few times, but eventually gave up. 
Sighing, he turned.  "Very well, Saotome... you may date with her.  But if
you ever mistreat her, I shall kill you."  He slowly walked away.  Ranma
was astonished at his quiet departure, until, at the top of his voice,
Kunou called out, "But wait!  If Akane is no longer in my grasp, then the
true path is clear!  Now I must find the pig-tailed girl, for surely now
that I can devote my whole self to her she will date with me!"

Ranma shook his head at the would-be samurai's fleeing back.  Some things
never changed.

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