Heads, I win; Tails, you lose

"Only Son-in-Law could have three Amazons fall for him. Life is good." Cologne left her perch to return to the Nekohanten to plan. The arrival of the twins had clearly brought forward the Amazon council's plans for young Ranma. Obviously, they would need to return soon with either Ranma as a husband, or his head in a bag. Now how to get Ranma to marry them quickly…

Shampoo and her twin sisters talked among themselves on the way back to the Nekohanten, discussing their mutual fiancé, particularly the traits often sought in a good husband. None of them really wanted to make Ranma's life miserable, but other men who hadn't proven worthy of their time deserved no such treatment. They also resolved to train more, to be stronggood enough to match their future husband.

When they arrived, they met their ancestor in the kitchen. "Shampoo, I have another delivery for you. Ling-Ling, Lung-Lung, please come with me." A delivery box flew into the blue-haired girl's hands, along with two names. A delivery to her Airen.! Shampoo left quickly, very happy to see Ranma again so soon. Ling-Ling and Lung-Lung followed the elder to the bedrooms, to set up for their stay in Nerima.

Kasumi opened the door for Shampoo, who quickly started looking for her Airen. Her quick search ended when Nabiki asked what she was doing there. She was quickly followed by Akane, who emerged from the kitchen. "Shampoo bring too, too delicious noodles for Airen's father."

The words hardly left her mouth when the bespectacled man strode in, gleefully anticipating the treats within the box. Sure enough, there were a pair of bowls; however, there was also a sheet of paper. Genma looked confusedly to the Amazon, who gave the page to him.


It is time we ended this game with your son. Come to the Nekohanten tomorrow at noon so we can work out a solution to his problems. Enjoy your meal.

Cologne, Elder of the Joketsuzoku.

"What does it say, Saotome?"

"Cologne wants to talk about the boy, Tendo. Something about a solution to his problems."

Soun lit up, thinking that the Amazons were renouncing their claim on Ranma. "This is great news, Saotome. We can get rid of the Amazons so my little girl can get married. Oh, happy day."

Apparently his interpretation of events was accepted by his youngest daughter, who went back to cooking. Meanwhile, the messenger went to the dojo to deliver the second meal.

Ranma was busy performing kata at high speed, boosting his speed and endurance for the Amaguriken. Shampoo watched for a few minutes, happy to see her Airen in action. Once he was finished, he went over to Shampoo. "Hello, Shampoo."

She quickly latched onto him. "Shampoo bring too, too delicious noodles for Ranma. Also bowl for panda-man."

"Thanks, Shampoo. What's the deal with your sisters anyway?"

The Amazon waited until Ranma had started eating before she answered. "Ling-Ling and Lung-Lung defeated by Airen in front of Great-Grandmother. Sisters stay with Shampoo, train with Shampoo, marry Airen with Shampoo."

His eyes bulged at the last statement. Spitting out such excellent food would have been against the Saotome School unless it was poisoned, which it wasn't. Ranma did, however, choke on his ramen. "W-w-w-what?!"

"Ranma defeat Shampoo, Ling-Ling, Lung-Lung, now get three strong Amazon bride. Ranma happy, yes?"

He noticed quite quickly when Shampoo pressed herself closer, looking ready to wrap her arms around him again. "Err… umm… S-Shampoo…"

"I think it's time for you to leave, Shampoo." Nabiki came into the dojo, looking rather unhappy. Ranma knew he was going to pay for this.

The Amazon was not impressed with the interruption, and gave Ranma a seductive, hopeful look before taking her delivery box and leaving, via a new hole in the back wall.

"Obviously our fathers are celebrating for the wrong reason, Ranma. You know you're going to pay for it, don't you?"

The next morning, Ranma took to the fences on his way to school. There was far less chance of getting splashed by women who wash their paths the traditional way there. It still didn't mean he had no chance of being splashed, and she had to pound Kuno into the ground to get to school. Akane didn't even notice the small favour her fiancé gave her.

Genma played anything-goes shogi with Soun until it was time for him to talk with Cologne. Lung-Lung gave him a deceptively sweet smile when she passed him making her first delivery.

"Ah, Genma Saotome. It's good to see you so promptly today. I take it you have read my note?"

"Yes I have, Cologne. You said you had a solution to the boy's problems. You're taking your great-grandchildren back to China?" The old woman cackled gaily.

"Of course not, Genma. Son-in-Law will marry my Shampoo, Ling-Ling, and Lung-Lung. He defeated them in battle, so the law says they must be wed." She brought a pair of bowls of ramen with her, leaving Shampoo to cook. "Negotiations like this are best carried out over a meal. The problem is that if the three girls return without Son-in-Law, they will be severely punished. Ling-Ling and Lung-Lung will most likely be pushed into Jusenkyo for their first offence. You yourself know the difficulty of keeping your normal form. Shampoo, on the other hand, will be given much worse." Genma gulped, knowing that Ranma wouldn't abandon anyone to that fate willingly. "What I propose is a challenge match between your son and my great-granddaughters. If Son-in-Law loses, we shall take him straight back to China for the wedding."

"And if the boy wins?" Genma was confident his son could beat all three Amazons, even 3 on 1.

"Then all marriage claims on Ranma will be declared null and void without needing to punish the girls." This sounded like music to Genma's ears, so he quickly agreed, but wanted to have a contract in writing. He didn't like the smile on the crone's face. They settled on a time and place for the fight – 4 pm the next day at Furinkan – and Cologne wrote out the contract.

Ranma Saotome shall face Shampoo, Ling-Ling, and Lung-Lung of the Joketsuzoku in a 3 vs. 1 fight at Furinkan High School on Tuesday the 14th of April at 4 pm. If Ranma wins, all marriage claims made before the fight shall be declared null and void. If the Amazons win, Ranma shall be taken straight back to Joketsuzoku as their husband.

Cologne, Elder of the Joketsuzoku

Genma Saotome.

They signed two copies of the contracts and kept one for themselves. Genma went to train to help his son win the upcoming fight, sure that the fight would end the Amazons' claim on Ranma. After he left, Cologne chuckled, then let out a hearty laugh that scared most of the customers. She went back into the kitchen to tell Shampoo the good news.

Ranma was quite bored by the end of the school day; he was eagerly anticipating one of Kasumi's meals and some extra training time. He was sure he could improve his amaguriken speed, and even create an amaguriken-style kick. Such plans were for the future, as he was stopped just inside the door by his father in panda form. 'Come with me, boy. You need to train hard for your fight.'

"What fight, Pops?" Ranma knew that he was being used as bargaining chip again. The intense look coming from the panda reminded him of many times when he had to save his father from various fates.

'You will fight for your freedom from the Amazons tomorrow.' Ranma looked at the sign, and asked his next question.

"You mean if I win tomorrow, I won't haveta marry Shampoo?" He was hopeful, as this would reduce the number of fiancées without dishonour. The affirmative sign sent him celebrating before getting stuck into his training.

Dinner was again speed training, but the Saotomes' were smiling throughout. Nabiki the ever-curious; asked them why they were so happy.

"Because Nabiki, if Ranma wins a challenge match against the Amazons tomorrow, he wins free from his engagements to them." This naturally caused a stir among the Tendos, amid some celebrating from the youngest. Genma managed to keep the contract secret and stated that Ranma would be staying after school to warm up for the fight. The bald man knew how Ranma liked to prepare for his matches. After dinner, the pair went back to training.

Ranma was excited at the prospect of a challenge match. Kuno was a good punching bag, but that was almost as useless as Akane smashing bricks in the dojo. Ryoga hadn't shown up in a while, and Ukyo was happier than himself about the coming fight. She intended to keep her grill hot, with all the potential customers coming to watch. News about Ranma traveled quickly around Furinkan, thanks largely to Nabiki's impromptu betting ring. The final bell rang, sending students clamouring for the doors. Ranma took to the athletics field to warm up. Many of the students chose to follow him, and fill the stands to watch the proceedings.

Five minutes before four, the four female Amazons arrived, each carrying their favoured weapons. The younger ones admired their fiancé's form as they readied themselves for combat. Cologne, noticing the crowd watching on, spoke up clearly. "Ranma Saotome, you will be fighting Shampoo, Lung-Lung, and Ling-Ling in a three against one match to unconsciousness or surrender. Should you win, you win freedom from all current marriage claims on you. If you lose, you shall be taken to China to be married. Do you accept these terms?"

With great confidence, Ranma replied, "yeah, I do."

"Very well. The match will start on my signal… Begin."

The twins raced to the sides, attempting to flank the pigtailed boy while Shampoo rushed straight ahead. Ranma leaped over the top, before sending a quick jab to the back of her neck to knock her out. He again jumped, this time to avoid the twins' attacks. They didn't collide as he hoped, but still came together enough so he couldn't be severely outmaneuvered. The trident and staff flashed many times, but didn't hit anything more solid than air. The twins couldn't use their Dance of the Fire Dragon, as they hadn't replaced their tape, and were slowly being driven back. Ranma continued focusing on his speed, finding small holes in his opponents' defenses and exploiting them with light hits. Eventually, the two were frustrated enough to lose most of their skill accuracy into powerful strokes that were easily dodged before Ranma finished them off.

As the green-haired girl fell, so did a silence. Then, once everyone realized what had happened, a cheer rose from the crowd. Applauding exceptionally loudly were Ukyo and Akane, both believing what Ranma did about the challenge. Cologne woke the three fallen combatants before speaking to the audience. "As the victor, Ranma has been released from all engagements made before the fight. Congratulations, Son-in-Law. I hope you enjoy married life with my great-granddaughters." Before Ranma heard the last sentence, he was passionately kissed by Lung-Lung.

"Wo ai ne. Wo da Airen." She was swiftly followed by her sisters. Ranma, along with everyone else watching were stunned. Genma looked both shocked and betrayed. Nabiki attempted to protest.

"Cologne, didn't you say that Ranma's engagement to Shampoo would be voided if he won today?" She had the support of her family, along with Genma, and surprisingly Ukyo.

"Of course, child." Pulling out the contract. "I said that all engagements made BEFORE the fight were broken, including your sister's. Since Ranma is still an outsider male, and he defeated the three Amazon warriors in a challenge match, the engagements to Shampoo, Lung-Lung, and Ling-Ling are renewed;. AFTER the fight. Genma, I believe there is a saying that you should be able to recogniseunderstand: 'heads, I win; tails, you lose.'"