The Third Choice

By Edward Simons

Based on characters and situations created by Takahashi Rumiko. Ranma 1/2 and characters copyright Shogakukan, Kitty Animation Circle, and Takahashi Rumiko. Love Hina and characters copyright Kodansha, Bandai, and Akamatsu Ken. This story written 2002 - Edward A. Simons


Too many things in my life come in threes. When me and Pops first came to the dojo I was supposed to choose one of the three Tendo girls as a fiancée. Then I found out Akane was only the first of three fiancées. Then there were my three rivals - Kuno, Ryouga, Mousse and all the trouble they caused.

And the whole mess started three years ago when I first came to Nerima. Three years that I loved and hated, but they were never dull. Only one thing hasn't happened three times. I almost married twice, once to Shampoo thanks to that magic red thread, once to Akane.

Ucchan says the third time it should be to her. She's teasing and yet she isn't and she doesn't even realize it.

That's part of my problem. I like all three of my fiancées, I even...I care about them, okay. They're all kinda cute, and I have a duty, an obligation to all three. And have they sorted out between duty and friendship and love? It's not easy to do, even if it wasn't for all the weird stuff that happens here in Nerima.

It would've been easy after that whole mess with Saffron, after I nearly lost Akane. I was ready for that second wedding.

Well, I thought I was.

I remember Mousse bellowing for us to hurry up before we started bickering again and it all fell apart. I didn't realize it then, but if that's all it would have taken for things to fall apart then we weren't ready for marriage. Then there's the other things about that wedding. I don't mean Ucchan and Shampoo almost blowing me up. They didn't know I was willing and they were sorry and they fended off that fruitcake Kodachi till I recovered.

I don't even mean losing my cure again. I've lost it so many times already, although it hurt to lose it again.

It's why I lost it. The Jusenkyou guide sent it to me as a present, his way of saying thanks for saving the springs. But Akane's dad grabbed it, hid it, didn't even tell me about it, and he was gonna hang on to it until I was good and married to Akane. Even Nabiki's better than that.

And Akane knew about it. She knew. She told me before the wedding, but it wasn't exactly the first thing out of her mouth. And before that she said if I didn't go through with the wedding I was gonna regret it.

Yeah. I don't know if she meant the cure and I still don't know. I asked, and she got mad at me for not trusting her. But now I had a reason, she gave me one.

Then there was her Dad's little lecture about how we needed to sort all our romantic problems before we tried another wedding and Akane telling me to listen cause it was mainly my fault.

Right. I'm knocked out, I wake up just before the wedding that I didn't know was supposed to happen, and it's my fault for not sorting anything out yet? Besides, I hadn't arranged any of the engagements.

But Akane was partly right. I hadn't sorted anything out. I never trusted Pops, not on stiff like this, I sure didn't trust Akane's dad anymore, and I couldn't afford what Nabiki wanted to charge. So I asked my Mom for advice.

Big mistake. Mom didn't know about Ucchan or Shampoo before then, but she figured they had pretty good claims, too. It might be a stupid law, but Shampoo's claim was based on the law where she came from. Ucchan's family handed over the dowry and that probably counted for a lot more than Dad and Mr. Tendo's promise since they'd already broken promises just like that to Mr. Kuonji and Mr. Chardin.

I couldn't marry all three girls, at least under Japanese law. Mom started hinting about seppuku being the honorable and traditional way out. That won't work. It gets me out of deciding, but even I can see it would be followed by a couple more suicides and maybe a few homicides as well.

Then Mom mentioned a third choice. I could pick a fiancée, but I knew I wasn't ready. I could commit seppuku, but I wasn't ready for that, either. Or the third choice.

Tokyo U. Don't ask me why, I've never studied in my life, but when Mom said if I can get into Tokyo U she wouldn't insist on me making one of the other choices yet, I jumped at the chance. I told her I'd try for a law degree. Mom thinks its so I can sort out which girl has the best legal claim.

She's wrong. It's so when...if I decide I'm ready and if I want to marry one those three girls I can come up with good legal reasons why I don't marry the other two. Maybe that way they won't get hurt so much, and maybe, just maybe, whoever I don't marry will accept it.

I figured getting into Tokyo U would be a snap. I've fought ghosts and monsters and a so-called god, how hard could some puny little entrance exams be? But Pops gave me about as much training in studying as he did in dealing with girls. Now I'm a second year ronin; a student who didn't pass their college entrance exams two years running.

And if it goes to three years, let's just say Mom's been sharpening her katana a lot lately.

The girls? Akane always had good grades, she's a sophomore in a school with a good theatre program that she really likes, and we get along a lot better now the pressure's off a little and we aren't forced to spend most our time together. I actually look forward to seeing her on the weekends. Shampoo never was interested in school. She's running the restaurant now and Cologne's gone back to China, so I don't feel like I'm walking into a trap every time I go there. Ucchan? I thought she'd get into any school she wanted, she's sure smart enough, but her restaurant keeps her so busy. She doesn't have much time to study so she's a ronin, too. At least she helps me study between the battles and the other outright weirdness that infests Nerima.

But she's a fiancée, too, and I wonder if Ucchan's doing it as a friend or as a fiancée. Even if I asked, I'm not sure she knows.

And then I though of Mom's mom, Grandma Urashima. She owns a boarding house named after herself, Hinata House out in Kanagawa Prefecture. Out there I'll have the space I need to sort out my feelings about my fiancées and the time to study so I get into Tokyo U.

I wrote three letters, telling my three fiancées I'm going away, but I ain't telling them where. I did tell them I'll call or I know they'll search till they find me.

It ain't perfect, but it's a good plan. It ought to make my life simpler, and I sure need that.

So why do I feel like this is the biggest mistake I've ever made?