Gohan stared, slack-jawed at his mother. There was just no way he heard her right. She couldn't be serious.
"You're kidding," he said, waiting for her furrowed brows to rise in happy arches, and her frown to curl up into a smile. His heart hammered frantically in his chest as Chichi's expression didn't change.
"She's not joking!" His brain screamed at him, sounding off sirens in his head and sending him into a panic. He managed to stumble into one of the kitchen chairs before his legs gave out.
"No, just...no. There's no way I can do that, Mom. I can't!" He ran both of his hands through his hair. Nothing made sense to him anymore. Everything was normal when he went for his daily walk that afternoon. What went wrong? He had went for a swim in the lake, visited his friend Lime in the nearby village, and had even squeezed in time to meditate with Piccolo beneath a waterfall. What came next threw any sense of normalcy in his life straight out the window.
When Gohan returned home, he noticed his mother standing gravely at the kitchen table, clutching an opened envelope in her hand. She could've made him some lunch then eased him into the conversation about his future, but she didn't. She went straight for the throat. She told him he needed to become a mail-order bride. Their lives depended on the money he would receive for his bride price.
"You have to, Gohan," Chichi calmly replied, taking out the papers within the envelope. She handed the papers to him. His stomach tightened as he read through the papers. It was a collection of past due credit card payments and threats from loan sharks. It was hard to believe they were this deep in debt.
"Are you sure we owe this much, Mom?"
Chichi nodded." You passed Orange Star High's exams with perfect scores, but I didn't have enough money left in my savings account to pay for your full tuition. I managed to charge the first year onto my credit card."
"I could've enrolled in another school, a cheaper one! You didn't have to do that! You're going to owe so much money in interest now!"
"A decent education is expensive these days. With your bride price we can afford the rest of your school tuition and pay off our debts," Chichi stubbornly responded.
"Forget school! I can get a job!"
Chichi bristled. "You will not neglect your studies and become a stupid delinquent like your father's friends! Besides, you've already tried having a job, remember? You were too strong and kept accidentally destroying things and scaring people."
Chichi picked up her wedding dress from the table and held it up in front of Gohan.
"We have no choice," She repeated." Your little brother needs me at home, so I can't work. Goku didn't leave us much money to live off of after he died. You need to get married. Your bride price will be enough to get you through high school and get us out of debt."
"Can't we ask Bulma or Grandpa for money?" Gohan asked.
"This isn't Bulma's problem, and we've already borrowed so much money from your Grandpa. I would feel awful asking them for money."
Gohan nodded. Although Chichi sounded confident, Gohan could see the worry and fear on her face. Unless they wanted to sell their land and house, which none of them wanted to do, then Gohan needed to become a mail-order bride. They were out of options.
"Okay. I'll get married."
Goten walked into the kitchen at that moment and crawled onto Gohan's lap. Gohan steadied the sleepy six year old with one hand, worried that the boy might fall over.
"Did you have a good nap, squirt?" Gohan asked.
Goten nodded, then sleepily asked." When you get married, does that mean I'll have another big brother to play with?"
Gohan's entire body froze as he came to the realization that there was a high possibility he'd have to marry a man. After all, it was mostly men looking to buy mail-order brides.
It was Chichi who answered Goten's question.
"I wouldn't mind having a son-in-law, but you never know. There could be a woman out there looking for a husband."
"Unlikely," Gohan sourly mumbled. He carefully set Goten on the floor then snatched the wedding dress from his mother." You could've at least bought me a suit."
Originally posted July 16, 2016.
Edited March 18, 2021.