"We're home!" came the sound of Ranko's voice from the doorway as she kicked her shoes off & dropped her backpack on the step.

"Hey, Ranko-chan, where is everyone?" Akane glanced at her from the doorway where she was just untying her shoes. "I thought they'd be happy to see us after being gone the better part of 2 weeks."

"I know. I thought at least Kasumi would be here to greet us," she nodded to Akane. "Ah well. Maybe they're out." Ranko held her hand out to Akane, helping her up from her sitting position.

Akane smiled & took the offered hand. "It's nice to be able to finally get along with you, Ranko-chan."

Ranko nodded her head, eyes forming little crescents. "'Bout time, isn't it?" she snickered. Akane joined in with her own giggling. Hand in hand, the two walked into the family room... to be met with firecrackers, confetti & smiling friends & family members.

"SUPRISE!!" was the general loud greeting, followed by separate questions from everyone all at once:

"Welcome home, it's been so long!"

"Did you really go through with it, Ranma?"

"I'm so glad the two of you are safe!"

"Ranma, really girl only? What Shampoo do now?"

"Same as the rest of us, sugar. Deal with it."

"Happy day! Saotome no longer holds claim to my beautiful Shampoo!"

"WHAAAAAAAAH!! My little girl's heart must be broken!!"

"WHAAAAAAAAH!! My son is a girl forever now!"

"ENOUGH!!" came the response from the two travelers in unison, which brought everyone to a shuddering halt. Ranko was rubbing her temples, while a vein in Akane's head was throbbing.

"Yes, I really -am- just a girl. I told you I was going to find a way to make this permanent, and I did," she snapped at everyone. "Get used to it, Pop. I'm a girl for good, and I happen to like it that way. Accept it."

"You disgrace your father!" Genma tried to scowl from behind the rivers of tears down his face. He produced a kettle and started pouring it over the redhead's head.

"YEOWCH! HOT HOT! STOP IT!" she squealed in a still-girly voice. Gasps came from all around the room, with the exception of Akane. "Ranko-chan, are you okay?"

"Fine," she muttered, glaring at everyone. "What're you staring at?!"

"I don't think any of them believed you were going through with it." Akane grumbled and moved to sit down at the table, grabbing one of the sakura mochi Kasumi had made.

"No kidding," was Ranko's dry & sarcastic response, as she, too, sat down opposite Akane and started pouring herself a glass of water.

"Ranma! Why do this?" Shampoo launched herself at her former 'husband', causing Ranko to lurch and fling the pitcher across the table in Akane's face. Silence.

Nabiki was the first to recover. "So... I lost a brother-in-law and gained a half-brother?" Hm.. wonder how much money I can make from this.

"Don't even think about it, Nabiki," Akane-kun scowled, trying to finger-comb his now blonde hair out of his eyes.

"RANMAAAAAAA!!" Demon-Soun loomed over the poor scared Ranko. "HOW COULD YOU LET MY AKANE-CHAN FALL INTO A SPRING?!"

"DAD!" Akane-kun snapped at his father, which instantly made Soun shrink back into a corner, sniffling, simultaneously halting all the other unasked questions people had. "I did this willingly to myself. Ranko-chan has nothing to do with it, so back off." Calmly he moved from one side of the table & sat down next to her.

Kasumi rushed gracefully into the kitchen for a hand towel to give to her sis-- no, brother.

"Thanks, Kasumi," he smiled.

"Oh well. Here we go again," Nabiki deadpanned, picking up a cracker and chomping on it.

"Would you like some tea?" Kasumi asked.

Everyone else was shocked to stone for the rest of the evening.