A.D.V. Curses and Demons Chapter 14

All Ranma characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi, first published by Shogakugan in Japan and brought over to North America by Viz Communications.

        A Different Viewpoint: Curses and Demons:
                Chapter 14

    Happosai pondered his unconscious captive thoughtfully.  He wasn't really a vengeful man.  In fact, he couldn't help but applaud the cunning with which Gosenkugi had caught him with his own hypnosis incense.  Soun and Genma had done much worse by sealing him in that cave for ten years, and Gosenkugi could still prove useful to him.

    "Yes."  He nodded to himself.  "He'd have made a fine disciple... if only Soun or Genma had shown half as much initiative."  Happosai shook his head sadly.  "He made only one mistake though, trusting that woman...."  The youthful ancient pervert licked his lips.  "She's a fine one though... fur and all.  A half-cat, like Kasumi's boy... not that I'd have held it against her if she'd be willing to... hold me against her, heh, heh, heh."  Happosai chuckled for awhile, then shook his head.  "No, that one is dangerous.  I don't know what exactly she has in mind with this crazy plan of hers, but she's been far too successful this far for it to all have been luck."

    Happosai tapped his pipe against Gosenkugi's head as he thought. "She managed to trick the boy here, and doused him with his own incense... my incense that is, when he let his guard down.  She has some sort of grudge against Kasumi's new husband... and even more against Kasumi herself."  The master of Anything Goes Martial Arts shook his head in puzzlement.  "Now that I can't understand.  Who would want to hurt little Kasumi-chan?"  He wrinkled his nose.  "She made a deal with the Ghost Cat, and captured little Pantyhose with my help... and the incense.  Then she somehow persuaded that idiot Kendoist to go on his mad little jaunt to China for the twin's water, and got Kodachi-chan released from the mental hospital, TWICE!"

    Happosai frowned.  "She knows an awful lot about Jusenkyo, and about Ranma and his little crew... she even knows something about those Sailor girls."  He glanced down at Gosenkugi and tapped him hard behind his left ear.  "Well, what do you think?"  Gosenkugi lay motionless and Happosai rapped him again.  "Don't play dumb with me youngster.  You've been playing possum for almost a minute now.  What's her real plan?"

    Gosenkugi gulped and looked up fearfully.  "I can't tell you... you know I can't!  I'm just as much a slave to her as you were to me."

    Happosai grimaced.  "Don't remind me, if you prefer not eating out of a tube for the rest of your life.  Did she order you not to tell anyone?  Is that it?"
   Gosenkugi nodded quickly.  "She did!  I can't betray her... I wouldn't, even if I wasn't hypnotized, but I can't, even if I wanted too!"

    Happosai snorted dubiously.  "Oh you wouldn't, would you?  That's just the hypnosis talking.  You'd sing a different tune if you were freed of it."  He shrugged.  "Not that that's likely to happen any time soon."

    Gosenkugi swallowed nervously.  "What... what are you going to do with me?"

    Happosai shrugged again.  "I haven't decided yet.  If you do a few things for me... well then, I might think about sparing your life."

    Gosenkugi nodded immediately.  "Whatever you say!"

    Happosai smiled slightly.  "Well, you can start by telling me where  to find your mistress.  She hasn't told you not to do that, has she?"


    Setsuna blinked suddenly as a strange feeling swept over her. "What's going on?"  She stood up from where she had been sitting and looked around in confusion.  "I sense something... something is wrong... what is it?"  Confusion was not something she was used to feeling, but whatever it was that was wrong, she couldn't directly identify.  "I'm not sensing an immediate threat."  She decided.  "If there was some sort of danger to the time stream, I'd know about it."  Setsuna's eyes went wide.  "The time stream!"  All the blood drained from her face.   "I can't sense the future anymore!  Crystal Tokyo has vanished!!!"


    The sun had set over an hour ago and everyone was huddled around the small fire that Kasumi had cooked dinner on.  The temperature was dropping and Kasumi, Akane, and Ukyo were starting to shiver.  Johnathon pulled Kasumi into his lap and hugged her from behind, warming her up as best as he could with his body, his fur doing an adequate job, up to that point, of keeping his body temperature high.

    Akane glared at Ranma and Ranko out of the corner of an eye.  "Why aren't you two cold?  Can't you tell that it's freezing out here?"

    Ranma shrugged.  "It's not all that bad.  We had to go through a lot worse while camping out with Pop.  You learn to ignore a little chill after awhile."

    Ukyo shivered harder, holding her arms around herself.  "Well, that's all fine for you two, but Akane and I are going to catch a cold if this keeps up."  She glanced at Akane thoughtfully and the two girls exchanged a meaningful look.  Ukyo winked to Akane, then turned to Ranko.  "Since you're feeling nice and warm, why don't you share some of that heat with us, Ranko-chan?"  She glanced at Ranma.  "You two, Ranma.  Akane and I are cold, wouldn't it make sense to share body heat?"

    Ranma and Ranko both blinked, looking incredulous.  "What?"  They asked in unison.  "Are you serious?  Right here?"

    Akane nodded to Ukyo, then turned to her husband.  "Ukyo's got a point.  We're cold, and this fire isn't enough to keep us warm all night."  She motioned for Ranma to come over to her side.  "Johnathon and Kasumi already have the right idea, right Johnathon-san?"

    Johnathon scooped Misty off the ground and placed her in Kasumi's lap, then hugged both of his wives a bit closer.  "It is getting chilly.  We're higher up in the mountains than yesterday, and we don't have the tents anymore...."

    Ukyo nodded.  "I can't sleep very well if I'm shivering all night. Come on, let's all get closer."  She scooted over to Akane and sat with her left hip pressed up against Akane's right, then put an arm around Akane's shoulders.  "There.  Now Ranma, scoot up behind the both of us, OK?"  Ranma gulped, looking from one girl to the other uncertainly.

    Akane waved him over.  "Come on, Ranma, this is the only way we're going to keep warm tonight."

    Ranma swallowed and moved behind Akane and Ukyo so that he was kneeling right behind them.  "Um... now what?"

    Akane reached back and pulled one of Ranma's arms around her waist. "Now put your arms around us, silly."  Ranma swallowed and slowly hugged both girls from behind around their waists, still kneeling.  Akane and Ukyo exchanged a grin, and Akane nodded her head at Ranko.

    Ukyo nodded back and waved Ranko over with her free hand.  "We need you two, Ranko, get over here."

    Ranko got up and came around the fire, looking a bit confused. "Um... what am I supposed to do?"

    Ukyo patted her legs.  "Sit down in my lap, OK?"  Ranko swallowed nervously, but did so, facing out toward the fire.  Ukyo pushed the petite red head's shoulder lightly.  "Now swing your legs over top of Akane's... that's right...."  Ukyo helped Ranko into position and pulled her back into the hollow between her and Akane's bodies.  "Now just stay there."

    Ranko froze, her cheek up against Akane's right breast, while the back of her head rested against Ukyo's chest as well.  "Um... are you sure this is OK?"  Ukyo and Akane exchanged another glance and nodded.

    "It's fine."  Akane said soothingly.  "Now, why don't we see if we can get some sleep like this."

    Ukyo looked back at Ranma.  "Just lean back and take us with you, Ranma.  You lay in the middle and keep us warm, and Ranko can lay on top, OK?"

    Ranma didn't move.  "Er... really?"

    Akane craned her neck around to look at him.  "Yes, really!  Now go ahead and lay back."  Ranma swallowed and started backing up, pulling Ukyo and Akane over on top of him as he did so.  When he had finished, Akane lay on his left, Ukyo on his right, both girls half on top of him, and Ranko lay between them.  Ranma's head stuck out of the top enough for him to breathe, and while the weight on him wasn't inconsiderable, it wasn't really all that uncomfortable either.

    Ukyo and Akane had turned to lie on their sides so they could drape themselves over Ranma, and hold Ranko in between them.  Ranko tried not to squirm, although it felt very strange laying on top of three other people like that, it wasn't all that bad... especially not with both Ukyo and Akane hugging her at the same time.  She glanced over at Johnathon and Kasumi guiltily, wondering what the two nominal adults (Misty didn't really seem to count in her cat form) though of the situation.

    They seemed to think it was a good idea, as Johnathon had laid down next to the fire himself, with Kasumi lying on top of him and Misty curled up at their side.  "Good night everyone."  Johnathon said quietly.  "Try and get some sleep.  I want to make up some time tomorrow."

    Ranko found herself blinking as the sun peeked over the horizon, not quite sure when exactly she had fell asleep.  She found herself laying diagonally across Ranma, Akane, and Ukyo, who had collapsed into a slightly more natural sleeping position.  Akane and Ukyo's legs were tangled up with Ranma's and her own, and they were both holding her twin tightly.  The red haired girl blushed brightly as she realized that sometime during the night her one of her hands had somehow wandered inside Ukyo's tee-shirt, and was currently trapped there by the weight of her and Ranma's bodies.

    Slowly she tried to pull out the offending appendage without waking anyone, but Ukyo stirred awake almost immediately. Feeling Ranko's hand under her shirt, she glanced down wide eyed, then calmed down as she remembered the events of the previous night.  Putting a finger to her lips, Ukyo slowly rolled away from Ranma so Ranko could get her hand free.  Ranko did so in relief, glancing worriedly at Akane to see if the short haired girl had noticed.

    Ukyo rolled her eyes and spoke quietly.  "Don't worry about it, Ranchan.  It's not like you did it on purpose... and even if you had, I wouldn't have complained... and neither would Akane."

    Akane stirred at her name and looked up blearily.  "I wouldn't what?"

    Ukyo glanced over at Akane calmly.  "You wouldn't complain if Ranko decided to put her hand in my shirt, would you?"

    Akane blinked herself awake, her eyes going wide, and sat up, or attempted to as she found out suddenly just how tangled up her legs and arms were with the others.  "She did what?!?"  Ukyo frowned in annoyance at Akane, who stopped herself in mid rant and forced herself to calm down with a nod to Ukyo.  "No... no of course not... I wouldn't have any reason to complain."  She gritted her teeth and forced a smile.  "Don't worry about it, Ranko.  You can do anything you like with Ukyo, OK?"

    Ranko shook her head from side to side.  "I didn't do anything! Really!  It's a misunderstanding!"

    Ukyo frowned slightly at that.  "Not that Akane has any say about what the two of us do... right Akane?"

    Akane blinked again, trying to clear her head.  "Oh... right.  Of course you're right, Ukyo."  She patted Ranma on the chest.  "I've got Ranma, and you and Ukyo are going to get married soon."  Akane nodded, trying to make herself believe it.  "I don't want to get in between you two getting together... OK?"

    Ranko looked into her ex-fiancee's eyes deeply.  "Akane...."

    Ukyo sighed, then started untangling herself from the pile. "Good... I'm glad that's settled."  She glanced over at Akane and the shorter girl shrugged sheepishly.  < Settled?  Not by a long shot!>

    A few hours later, as the group hiked further into the mountains, Akane joined Ukyo at the rear of the group.  The two girls slowed down a bit so they could have some privacy.

    "I know, I know...."  Akane started.  "I screwed up with Ranko... you surprised me with that question of yours you know."

    Ukyo sighed.  "Akane... we're trying to get Ranko to feel less guilty, aren't we?  You've got to stop glaring at her whenever she's with me."

    Akane nodded quickly.  "I know.  I'm sorry... it's just... hard.  I can't help but feel jealous... I love her!"

    Ukyo put her hand on Akane's shoulder.  "We both do... which is why we're doing this, so she doesn't feel bad every moment she's with me."

    Akane nodded firmly.  "For Ranko."  The short haired girl frowned. "So... do you think it's working?  I mean, as long as I don't mess up again."

    Ukyo looked thoughtful.  "I'm not sure... we may have to turn it up a notch if we really want her to accept this."  She looked seriously at her nominal rival.  "How far are you willing to go with this?"

    Akane hesitated, then her gaze grew determined.  "As far as it takes.  What's your plan?"

    Ukyo swallowed.  "Well... I have some sake in my pack I use for cooking... I was thinking we could... you know... trade...."

    Akane blinked, then started to get angry.  "Are you kidding?  Why would I...?"  She paused in mid word and glanced up the trail at Ranma, then at Ranko.  "Well... maybe...."

    Ukyo followed Akane's gaze.  "Don't you see?  If Ranma was... er... with me, and Ranko with you... then Ranko wouldn't have any reason to feel guilty about not being with you....  Get it?"

    Akane crossed her eyes, trying to think.  "I think that makes sense.  You want to sleep with Ranma, so Ranko won't feel guilty about betraying me?"  She frowned.  "I don't really like the sound of that. Ranma's my husband, after all."

    Ukyo nodded.  "I know... and I'm not trying to steal him away from you... just get Ranko to stop feeling so guilty.  Besides, I know you want Ranko to yourself again, if only for a night."

    Akane swallowed.  "Maybe I do... but will they forgive us if they know that we did it on purpose?"

    Ukyo wrinkled her nose.  "Not if we make it look like an accident. That's what the sake is for."

    Akane shivered, hugging herself with her arms.  "Somehow I know something is going to go wrong with this... but OK... I accept.  I hope Ranma and Ranko can forgive us."

    Late that afternoon, Ranma, in the lead, spotted what appeared to be a cabin off the trail a few hundred feet.  "Hey, look at that!"  The pig tailed youth exclaimed.  "You think anyone lives there?"
   Johnathon came up and took a look.  "Could be.  Maybe we can buy or trade for some clothing... if anyone lives there."

    Ranma nodded, grinning.  "Sure!  Maybe they'd even put us up for the night!"  He started in that direction, leading the rest of the group towards the small building.

    As they got closer Ranko sighed.  "I looks like no one's lived here for years."  She gestured to the obviously poor condition of the roof and walls.  "This place is deserted."  It was quickly evident that she was right.

    Ranma opened the front door to an empty room, dust and bare walls greeting him coldly.   "Ah man... Sis is right.  This place is as empty as Kuno's head.

    Johnathon shrugged.  "Well, at least it's shelter.  We can get a good night's sleep tonight, and get an early start in the morning.  What do you think?"

    Akane glanced at Ukyo then nodded quickly.  "That's a great idea, Johnathon-san.  Why don't we go in and see what it's like?"

    The small group filed into the cabin and looked around.  There was a small kitchen with an ancient wood burning stove.

    Ranma checked the cupboards and found them empty except for a small animal's nest.  "Ah man."  He griped.  "Couldn't they have left anything behind?"

    Johnathon chuckled.  "Well, at least they left us a stove.  That'll keep this place warm tonight, eh?"

    Ukyo nodded happily.  "It's great!  I'll get a fire started, OK? Ranchan, could you cut me some firewood?"

    Ranko nodded.  "Sure Ucchan.  I'm on it."

    The petite red head ran outside, and Ranma after her.  "I'll help Ranko."

    Kasumi came out of the back of the cabin.  "There's two other rooms back here.  We can all have our own, isn't that nice?"

    Ukyo and Akane exchanged a glance and a nod then Akane turned to answer.  "That'll be great, Kasumi."

    Outside, Ranma and Ranko were walking side by side, looking for some firewood.  "Ukyo and Akane seem awful friendly lately."  Ranma said with deliberate casualness.  "What do you think they're talking about?"

    Ranko frowned.  "I don't know... but I think it's about you and me."

    Ranma nodded.  "What do you think it's about?"

    Ranko frowned.  "I overheard Akane and Ucchan talking... about me. I think Akane wants me back, and I'd bet they've got something sneaky planned for tonight."

    Ranma blinked.  "You're kidding?  What about Ukyo?  There's no way she'd let Akane just take you back like that, is there?"

    Ranko stopped walking, causing Ranma to have to stop and face her. "I... I'm not so sure anymore.  I think Ucchan feels real guilty about breaking us up.  She really does love me, I know that now... but she knows I can't forget Akane that easily... so she might think that letting Akane have me back is for my own good or something."

    Ranma looked seriously at his twin.  "So what are you going to do?"

    Ranko looked back, equally seriously.  "What do you think I should do?"

    Ranma started to speak.  "Well there's no way you should...."  He frowned and shook his head.  "Nah... I know what I'd prefer you do, but... no, I don't got the right to tell you what to do here."

    Ranko sighed.  "Forget it, I agree with you.  I shouldn't let Ucchan do this for me, and I'm not going to try and share Akane with you.  We gotta stop this."

    Ranma swallowed, but nodded.  "OK, we agree... but how?  If we come out and tell them we've figured out what they're planning, they're just going to deny it"

    Ranko wrinkled her nose.  "Well... we just got to stay sharp.  Now that we know what's up, we should be able to avoid it."

    Ranma nodded.  "Sure, no problem."  He frowned.  "What do you want to do if we catch them in the act?"

    Ranko blinked.  "Of getting me and Akane back together?  Well... they're just trying to do what they think will make me happy... if anyone has reason to be mad it would be you."

    Ranma shook his head.  "No... I can't get mad at Akane for loving you... or at you for loving her.  I've been thinking, about if it had happened to her... getting turned into two people and all.  If there were two of her and one of them had to marry someone else...."

    Ranko nodded after a moment.  "Yeah... I guess I see your point." She held out her hand.  "Listen, Ranma, I don't hold a grudge against you for getting Akane.  If only one of us can be with her, you're the one.  Just take care of her."

    Ranma nodded firmly.  "I will."

    Back in the cabin, Akane took Ukyo into room farthest away from the kitchen.  "So... what's the plan?"

    Ukyo peeked out the door and noted that Johnathon and Kasumi were well out of earshot, then closed it.  "OK, here's my idea.  We're all going to have a room to ourselves tonight, right?  One for you and Ranma, one for Johnathon and the Kasumis, and one for me and Ranko, right?"

    Akane nodded.  "Right, and?"

    Ukyo winked.  "So, you say you're taking this room, and I'll go for the other one, and Johnathon-san, Kasumi and Misty can have the kitchen. Then we get Ranma and Ranko to drink a little too much sake, and when they're not looking, the two of us switch rooms.  Get it?"

    Akane blinked.  "Oh yeah!  If we keep the shutters closed, they wouldn't be able to see to be able to tell us apart... unless one of them notices your hair is longer than mine...."

    Ukyo frowned.  "Well... I'll pull it back... and lay down.  If they're good and drunk they won't notice anyway."

    Akane wrinkled her nose.  "I'm not sure... I mean... even if they can't see us, won't they be able to tell we're different?"

    Ukyo shrugged.  "They say everyone's the same size laying down. Anyway, I've heard about things just like this happening all the time. A case of mistaken identity, that's all."

    Akane sighed.  "Well... I guess I'll go along with it.  If they do recognize us, we can just say it was an accident, right?"

    Ukyo nodded.  "That's the spirit.  This is for Ranko's sake, remember?"

    Akane frowned.  "I hope it works... this just feels... wrong.  I don't like going behind Ranma's back."

    Ukyo sighed.  "What would he say if you asked him?"

    Akane's eyes went wide.  "I couldn't ask him!"

    Ukyo shrugged.  "Well there you go.  You're not really betraying Ranma, anyway.  They're both one person... sort of.  You love them both, right?"

    Akane nodded.  "I do... but I still feel bad about this."

    Ukyo nodded.  "I understand.  If you don't want to do this, we won't."

    Akane hesitated.  "No... I can't stand to see Ranko suffering like this.  Ranma will understand... and I'll tell him... afterward, I promise."

    At dinner that night, Ukyo proposed a toast to their getting to Jusenkyo successfully, bringing out her stash of sake.  Akane followed that up with another toast, to Ranko and Ukyo, which Ukyo followed up with a toast to Ranma and Akane.  Johnathon and Kasumi only sipped at their helpings of rice wine, while Ranma and Ranko drank with as much gusto as they ate.  Neither youth had much tolerance for alcohol, and they quickly started to get groggy.

    < They are up to something!>  Ranko realized.  < Now how am I going to stop them?>  She pondered for awhile, staring at Akane and Ukyo foggily.  < Ah hah!  I have an idea!>  She stood up shakily and gestured to Akane.  "Hey, Akane, come outside with me for a minute... I want to talk to you."

    Akane blinked and glanced over at Ukyo, who quickly nodded.  "OK, lets talk, Ranko."  The two of them went outside, and Ukyo stood as well.  "Why don't we catch a little air too Ranma, alright?"

    Ranma hesitated, then nodded.  "Er... sure, Ukyo, I guess."  < This must be it.  I wonder what Ranko is planning?>

    Outside, Ranko had pulled Akane back behind some trees.  "Hey... Akane I was wondering...."

    Akane was starting to blush.  < I don't believe it!  Is Ranko actually going to try and seduce me herself?>

    Off on the other side of the house, Ukyo and Ranma sat quietly, pretending to watch the stars.  Ranma nervously waited for whatever Ukyo was going to do, and Ukyo kept a close eye on the front entrance to the house.  When she saw the girl wearing a Chinese shirt go into the cabin, she slowly stood up.  "OK... I'm going to get some sleep.  See you in the morning, Ranma."

    Ranma nodded.  "Sure Ucchan."  < OK... she's definitely up to something.  I bet she's going to switch rooms with Akane or something. Heh, I'm just too smart.>

    He waited for Ukyo to enter the cabin, then got up and went after her.  < I'll just go in Ukyo and Ranko's room instead.  If I'm right, Akane will have "accidentally" gone in there.  Ranma slipped inside the room quietly, not wanting to let Akane know what he had suspected.  He could barely make out a body laying on it's side near the far wall, and he went over and sat down behind it.  Ranma ran a hand over the girl's side, just in case, and noted the silk of a Chinese shirt.  Reassured, he lay down behind her and draped one arm over her, content to let her sleep.

    In Ranma and Akane's room, Ukyo had hesitated for several seconds before slipping out of her clothing and putting it down on the floor to lay on.  < He may not be able to see me when he comes in... but there's no way Ranma will mistake my clothes for Akane's if he... undresses me.>  She lay down and waited, shivering in anticipation until the door cracked open.  In the faint light, Ukyo could make out a feminine figure in shorts and a halter-top before she closed the door behind her.  < Ranko?  Darn it, I knew it!  Akane must have chickened out on me and sent her to the wrong room.>  She sighed.  < Oh well... it's probably for the best anyway... I shouldn't have gone and betrayed Ranko like that.  I don't know what I what thinking!>

    Ukyo shivered as she heard footsteps coming up to her.  < How will Ranko react to finding me like this?  We've never... gone all the way before.>  She took a breath.  < I'll let her decide tonight.  It's time that we did this.  Maybe... maybe if we can just do this, Ranko will stop feeling so guilty about how Akane feels.>  The footsteps stopped, and Ukyo felt the other girl sit down next to her.  She closed her eyes, and gasped silently as a hand touched her stomach, then slowly ran its way up her chest.  Ukyo reached up and grabbed hold of the hand, and moved it over to her right breast.  < Well, Ranko?  Yes, or no?>  The hand squeezed her breast lightly, and another hand came over to run down her chest and slip between her legs teasingly.  Ukyo gasped again in shock.  < That's definitely a yes!>

    Ranma felt Akane's head go back into his shoulder, and her feet touch his ankles, as if she was measuring his height with her body. They lay there for several minutes like that, neither one moving. Slowly, Ranma reached over to the buttons holding her shirt closed, and started to open them one by one.

    "Ukyo?"  The girl in his arms whispered questioningly as he started pulling her shirt open in front.  "We have to talk."

    Ranma hesitated.  "Akane?"

    Ranko shivered in reaction as Ukyo's hand pulled her shirt open.  < Wait a second... that doesn't sound like Ukyo....>  She froze, not daring to breathe.  "Ranma...?"

    Ranma blinked.  "Akane?  You sound funny.  You coming down with a cold or something?"

    Ranko's lip curled into a snarl and she pushed away from the body behind her, sitting up, pulling her shirt closed.  "Ranma you idiot!" She whispered fiercely.   "I'm Ranko!  Can't you tell the difference between me and Akane?"

    Ranma gulped, sitting up as well.  "Ranko?  What were you doing in here?"

    Ranko sniffed at him.  "This is my room, stupid.  What did you think?"

    Ranma blinked.  "Oh yeah... OK, what are you doing wearing that shirt?  Akane was wearing that!"

    "Shh!"  Ranko hushed him quickly.  "I traded clothes with Akane.  I wanted to see what she and Ukyo were up to, so I figured Ukyo would think I was her if all she could see was the shirt."

    Ranma snorted.  "Well I'm obviously not her!"

    Ranko rolled her eyes in the blackness.  "I noticed.  Weren't you supposed to sleep in the other room with Akane?"

    Ranma nodded.  "Sure, but I figured out that Ukyo and Akane probably planned on switching rooms with each other, right?"

    Ranko hit her self in the head.  "Darn it.  I didn't think of that."  She shook her head.  "So Ukyo's in the other room... but if that's right, where did Akane go?"

    Ranma and Ranko stood up quickly, Ranko hurriedly buttoning up her shirt.  They ran out the door and opened the door to the next room together.  Inside, two naked girls halted their sweaty activity abruptly at the intrusion.

    "Ranma?"  One asked, sounding extremely guilty.   "I can explain."

    "Ranma?"  The other asked, sounding confused.  "What are you doing in here?"  Ukyo glanced at the dark shape next to her.  "Ranko, there's no reason for you to explain yourself to Ranma or Akane, alright?"

    Akane swallowed in shock.  "Ukyo?  Is that you?"  She pushed herself away, glancing at Ranma and Ranko in the doorway, then back at the girl she had just been energetically seducing.  "Oh my."  Ranma and Ranko looked at each other, then at Akane and Ukyo again, then back to each other.  Then they both started to laugh, snickering softly at first, then louder and louder.  As their laughter started to echo outside the room, Akane shot to her feet in embarrassment and rushed forward. "Quiet!  Do you want Johnathon and Kasumi to find us like this?"  Ranma and Ranko blinked, glanced at each other, then started to chuckle even louder.

    Flushing bright red, Akane grabbed both of them and dragged them into the room, closing the door behind them.  "Ranma, Ranko, please! Stop laughing already!"  She hissed in her loudest whisper.  "Please!" She sniffed, sounding like she was ready to cry.  "Just stop."

    The pig tailed twins stopped instantly at the threat of tears. "Don't cry, Akane."  Ranko started uncomfortably.  "We're not laughing at you... exactly."

    Ranma frowned.  "Not that you deserve any better.  You were planning on sleeping with Ranko behind my back, weren't you, Akane?"

    Akane swallowed hard, then hung her head, nodding slowly.  "I... I'm sorry, Ranma... I... I know I've betrayed you... and you don't have any reason to forgive me."

    Ranma wrinkled his nose.  "I do understand, Akane... I think.  I mean... Ranko and me are the same person, so you loving her is part of you being in love with me."  He shook his head.  "That don't mean that it was OK to do this... just... I can understand why you did it."

    Akane looked up slowly.  "Ranma... I... I am sorry."

    Ranma sighed.  "I know."

    Ukyo was staring at Akane in horror.  "What happened?  I thought... I thought....  Akane!  What were you doing in Ranko's clothes?"

    Akane blinked.  "What?  Oh, Ranko wanted her shirt back, so I agreed to trade clothes with her.  I didn't realize that would make you think I was her."

    Ukyo groaned and flopped onto her back.  "Kami!  My first time and it's with my fiancee's ex-wife!  Why did I have to come up with this stupid scheme?"

    Ranko looked at Ukyo questioningly.  "Ucchan?  This was all your idea?  Why?"

    Ukyo gulped, realizing that she had said too much.  "Oops..... Well, I guess there's no point lying about it now."  She sat up, pulling her clothing out from under her.  "Ranchan... Ranma, sit down.  I think we're long past due a good talk."  The twins sat down as Ukyo and Akane started to get dressed again, and waited for her to speak.

    Ukyo swallowed the last bit of her nervousness and cleared her throat.  "Actually, Ranko, this has been building up since the wedding... longer really, but you know about everything before.  You still love Akane, and every moment you spend with me you've been acting like she's looking over your shoulder.  You're making yourself miserable, and that doesn't make me feel too good either.  Akane and I have been talking, trying to figure out a way to get you to accept being with me... and we ended up coming up with this crazy scheme."

    Ranko blinked.  "But how was me sleeping with Akane supposed to make me feel less guilty about being with you?"

    Ukyo looked uncomfortable.  "Well... I was going to get Ranma at the same time....  If you both got switched... accidentally, then we thought you might relax about being with me."

    Ranma scratched his head.  "I don't get it."

    Akane sighed.  "It sounded good at the time....  Ranma, I think I let myself agree to this because I missed Ranko.  I love both of you, I never wanted to have to choose one of you."

    Ukyo was silent.  "I just wanted you to be happy, Ranchan.  You were so miserable being with me, I was willing to try anything to get you to accept things as they are."

    Ranko was quiet for several long moments.  "Are you sure it's not just because you'd have gotten to be with Ranma if things had worked out like you planned?"

    Ukyo didn't answer right away.  "Ranko... I owe you the truth... I won't lie to you....  Yes... that did have something to do with it... I love you both, Ranko, and Ranma... and I've always been attracted to Ranma...."  She lowered her head.  "But... it's not that simple."  She looked up, staring at Ranko in the darkness.  "I've always told myself that I could be a normal girl for you, Ranchan, even though I've spent most of my life pretending to be a boy.  I thought that meant loving you as a guy, so I never really thought about what it would be like with your curse...."

    Ranko looked away with a sigh.  "I understand, Ucchan.  Why should you have to be stuck with a girl?"

    Ukyo shook her head violently.  "No!  That's not how I feel!  It's true I never considered what it would be like with you as a girl... but now that I have... it doesn't matter!  I had to get past everything I was taught as I was growing up to figure that out... but it's true.  I love you Ranchan, boy or girl."  She looked away.  "I was willing to... be with you tonight.  More than willing, eager.  I wanted to make love to your girl side tonight.  When Akane came in, I thought she was you... and trust me, I didn't hesitate."

    Akane nodded wryly.  "That's true enough.  I was a bit surprised, actually.  I thought Ranko would have resisted a bit more."

    Ranko snickered.  "I did!  Ranma tried to put the moves on me in the other room.  I thought he was Ukyo for a couple seconds, but I wanted to talk first, so I stopped him."  She shivered suddenly.  "Boy am I glad I did!"  Ranma raised an eyebrow but decided not to comment.  Ranko looked intently at Ukyo, trying to make out her expression in the darkness. "Ucchan... are you really satisfied with being with me?"  Ukyo sat up and reached across for Ranko suddenly, pulling her in and kissing her fiercely on the lips.  Half a minute later she let the smaller girl go with a gasp.

    Ukyo gave Ranko a final short kiss before releasing her fully. "Does that answer your question?"  Ranko nodded mutely.

    Ranma looked thoughtful.  "OK, now what are we supposed to do? Akane loves both of us... Ukyo loves both of us... and you're both willing to pull a stunt like this.  Was this it, or is this going to happen again?"  Akane and Ukyo exchanged glances in the darkness.

    Finally, Akane spoke.  "I... I don't know.  I want to tell you it will never happen again but... I don't know.  I... don't know if I can give up on Ranko... if I can ever forget how I feel about her."

    The room was silent for a long time before Ranma answered.  "OK.  If that's how you feel, I won't get in your way.  I can't stop you... and I don't want you to do it behind my back, so...."  He took a deep breath. "You have my permission."

    Akane blinked, trying to understand.  "Your permission?  To do what?"

    Ranma grit his teeth together.  "To take Ranko as your mistress, OK?  Mom would probably think this is a great idea!"

    Ranko spoke up.  "Hey!  What about my permission?"

    Ranma snorted.  "Oh?  You got a problem with that?"

    Ranko blinked.  "Er...."

    Ukyo spoke up.  "Actually, I suppose I should have a problem with it... as Ranko is supposed to be marrying me... but seeing as how this whole thing was my idea in the first place... I'll give Ranko my permission too."

    Ranko blinked again.  "What?  Ukyo, why?"

    Ukyo sighed.  "I love you, Ranko, but I know you love Akane.  Even if... even when we get married to keep our families honor, you're still going to be in love with Akane.  If I really love you, I can't stand in the way of your happiness.  If you want to take Akane as your mistress... I won't complain."  She winced slightly in the darkness, and hoped no one noticed.  < What are you doing, girl?  Shouldn't you at least get Ranma in exchange?>

    Akane was silent for a long time.  < Ukyo... that must have been incredibly hard.  She... she really does love Ranma... Ranko... both of them, I guess, just like me.  It... it's not right for me to just accept what she's offering... but how can I refuse?>  She looked across at Ranma, then came to a decision.  "Ranma... if you want to sleep with Ukyo... occasionally... I... I give you permission.  You may... you may take her as your mistress... if you'd like."

    Ranma blinked incredulously.  "You're kidding!  Akane you've got to be kidding...!"  Ranko and Akane both jabbed him in the ribs at the same time and Akane grabbed him by the ear.

    "Just say yes!"  Akane whispered angrily just loud enough for him to hear.  "It was hard enough offering it once.  Don't make me do it again."

    Ranma swallowed.  "Er... yes... I'll um... accept Ukyo as my mistress."  He scratched the back of his head.  < How in the world did that happen?>

    Ukyo almost squealed in delight.  "You will?!?  Ranma... I can't believe it!"

    Akane wrinkled her nose.  < Oh well... at least it's someone I can get along with.>  "Well... since we've all agreed... why don't you and Ranma stay in here tonight, and...."

    Ukyo glanced at Ranko, then interrupted.  "Actually Akane... not tonight.  I... I think my first time... at least my first time on purpose... should be with Ranko."

    Ranko glanced at Ukyo in surprise.  "Really?"

    Ukyo nodded firmly.  "Really... if you're willing, Ranko?"

    Ranko hesitated only a moment before nodding.  "OK.  I'd... I'd like that, Ucchan."

    Akane smiled faintly.  "Take care of her, Ukyo.  Ranko... you'd better make her happy.  Ukyo deserves the best."

    Ranko gave her ex-fiancee a cocky grin.  "Well we all know who that is!"

    Akane choked off a strangled yell and ended up laughing instead. "We do indeed."  She got to her feet and pulled Ranma off the floor. "Come on, Ranma, you can show me who the best really is."  Ranma shot a challenging look at Ranko before being dragged out of the room.

    Ukyo slid over next to the short red head.  "Well then.... care to show me how the best does it?"

    Ranko's eyes twinkled.  "Was that a challenge?"

    Ukyo's eyes widened.  "And if it was?"

    Ranko grinned.  "Well you should know by know... Ranko Saotome never turns down a challenge."

        End Chapter 14

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