Chapter 3

Ranma spent what remained of the school day sulking in his bedroom, where he kept himself hidden from both Lala and his mother. While his mother didn't think it a manly thing to do, he felt justified in doing it after the kind of day that he'd had thus far. And if what had happened with Akane hadn't been bad enough, her kick had sent his nude form to the courtyard of an all-girls high school, where he had been treated to a horrifying mix of loathing and lust. Even now he wasn't sure how he had been able to escape in one piece, other than by sheer luck. His only consolation was that the all-girls school in question hadn't been St. Hebereke.

Lala had been looking for him, of course, but he had hid himself every time she had checked his bedroom, because he hadn't been in the mood to deal with her in a calm and rational manner. And it certainly hadn't helped when she had begun to use some dog-looking invention of hers to sniff out his whereabouts. It had taken him the better part of an hour to find a way of masking his scent, all while running around town to avoid being spotted by her. Afterward, about the same amount of time had been spent washing off a concoction of smells from his body. As for the outfit that had replaced the one he'd lost at school, he planned to have it burned when the opportunity presented itself.

By the time that Lala had decided to play a game on the Super Famicom, to pass the time while she waited for him, it was well into the evening and his mother had begun to make dinner. Even though he was rather hungry, due to missing lunch, and his mood hadn't really improved that much, he decided that it would be better to deal with Lala before he ate. That way she wouldn't contradict him at dinner, which was when he planned to tell his mother about the misunderstanding and put things right.

When his mother was in the kitchen and Lala was in the process of finding another game to play, he made his move. Fortunately, despite Lala's enthusiastic — and thus somewhat loud — greeting, he managed to lead her outside without drawing his mother's attention. With a few simple words to express his intentions, he had no trouble bringing her to a place where they could talk. The bank of the canal was close enough to a railway to require speaking a bit louder whenever a train passed by, but it was close to his house and private enough during the early nighttime hours to suit his needs.

As he prepared to say what needed to be said, Lala stood by with her arms crossed behind her back, which was facing him while she took in her new surroundings in a carefree manner. However, she soon proved that she wasn't entirely clueless about the situation, when she asked, "What's wrong, Ranma? Saying, 'let's talk outside,' and sounding so serious all of a sudden." Before he could reply, she made it apparent that she had another concern on her mind, when she looked over her shoulder and gaily added, "Let's hurry back so we can play a game together."

"Look," Ranma began calmly, as he tried to ignore Lala's current behavior, while also trying to not think about how she might react to what he had to say, "I wanted to talk to you alone so we could straighten something out." He paused to take a calming breath, and also to make sure that he had her undivided attention. "Like I said earlier: what happened this morning was a mistake. What I'd said had been meant for someone else, not you."

He relaxed upon being able to admit that much, though he found Lala's thoughtful expression — after she had turned around to face him — very curious... on the verge of worrisome. He'd expected her to be upset to some degree or another, seeing as getting a calm and rational response was rather something novel in his experience. Any of the other four girls that he knew would have been in tears, or attacked him either physically or verbally in anger — perhaps even two or three of those things at the same time. However, Lala was proving to be made of a completely different mold of girl than what he was accustomed to.

"So, you don't love me, Ranma...?" Lala finally replied, who wasn't showing any sign of how she was feeling, much less how she would react upon getting confirmation.

Not knowing what to expect from her, Ranma tried to act nonchalant about it. "That's right, so—"

"I'm fine with it," Lala interjected with a chipper smile, as she raised her hands to her chest and clenched them determinedly, "so it doesn't really matter."

Ranma hadn't expected that kind of a reply, so he could forgive himself for the few seconds that he spent staring at her in bewilderment before he shook his head and vehemently argued, "Of course it matters!"

Peke, whose whorl-eyed face managed to express some degree of aggravation, chose that time to enter the conversation. "Lala-sama..."

Lala looked up at her hat. "Yes?"

"I think I'm beginning to see your true intentions..." Peke voiced her suspicion, more for Lala's sake even though it had been intended for Ranma's ears.

Lala turned her back on Ranma and clasped one hand on her hat while she whispered loudly behind the other with an angry tone. "Hey! What nonsense are you talking about, Peke!?"

"True intentions!?" Came Ranma's response, worried that he might be dealing with someone who was like Nabiki. "What's that supposed to mean!?"

Lala turned back around, her smile reapplied. "Nevermind that. Let's get along, now, Ranma!"

"Answer my question!" Ranma demanded.

He was so intent on trying to figure out and resolve the latest development with Lala that he didn't notice someone approaching from the embankment on his right until he heard them shout, "Lala-sama!"

The person in question turned to face the new arrival and — with some evident surprise — exclaimed, "Zastin!"

It only took a second of looking at the man bearing that name for Ranma to conclude that he had just encountered yet another character. What with the armor and cape, for all he knew the guy could have been plucked right out of a swords and sorcery setting. Considering the bone and black theme he had going, he was probably a villain — one that dogs found savory, apparently, if the one gnawing on the man's calf was any indication. He absently noted the man's tail, which was like those of the other two men, except its length appeared segmented instead of smooth.

He also noticed that he looked a bit harried. However, it didn't take long for him to collect himself, by which time he chuckled lightly and said, "It has been a long day for me. Arrested by the police, chased by a dog, getting lost on the road... It's an underdeveloped planet, after all."

"In other words," Ranma thought to himself, "you're an idiot with a bad sense of direction. Great. As if having one person like Ryoga around wasn't enough already. Why do I have a bad feeling about this?"

"But!" Zastin suddenly exclaimed, in a dramatic fashion. "Enough of this! Let us return to Deviluke together, Lala-sama!"

"No way!" Lala replied, before she pulled down one of her lower eyelids and stuck her tongue out at the person that she was disagreeing with. "I'm not going back! In fact, there's a reason why I can't!"

Zastin remained calm and didn't react adversely to Lala's behavior, no doubt due to being familiar with it. "...That being?"

Lala pointed at Ranma, without turning her attention away from Zastin, and said, "I have fallen in love with Ranma, who lives here. I will marry Ranma and settle on Earth!"

While Ranma was made speechless by her declaration, he wasn't all that surprised after the way that she had responded to him when he had cleared up the misunderstanding earlier, and considering what Peke had eluded to shortly after that. It was depressing, really: to think that there was yet another girl who was only thinking about herself, and willing to take advantage of him in the process. Had there been any room for him to show interest in her before, for seeming somewhat atypical in some ways to what he was used to, he would have been rather disappointed right at that moment. However, considering his prior experience with the other girls in his life, he was more inclined to wonder if he should stop caring and just resign himself to having an unhappy marriage with any one of his prospective wives.

"I see," Zastin said, after he had done some thinking of his own, with his elbow resting in the palm of one hand and his chin being lightly stroked by the fingers of the other. "So that's the case."

Ranma would have normally voiced some kind of objection, but he opted to remain silent since doing so had rarely ever done him any good in the past. In fact, sometimes it just made things worse, and — at the moment — he wasn't in the mood to do anything more beyond feeling sorry for himself; not after what he'd experienced so far that day. Besides, it wasn't like Zastin's response had settled the matter one way or the other: understanding — gullibility, in this case — didn't necessarily mean agreement and/or allowance.

Zastin continued, after a brief look of consideration. "I can tell that your highness deeply cares about the Earthling who tried to save you."

"You just took her word for it," Ranma groused in thought.

"Now that you know the whole story," Lala argued, "you can go back and tell it to papa! I'm not going back, and I don't feel like meeting any more suitors!"

Zastin's demeanor suddenly became more serious. "No. I'm afraid that I cannot do that."

Ranma perked up upon hearing that. Maybe there was some hope, after all?

"I, Zastin, am here on his majesty's orders to take you back home, Lala-sama," Zastin went on. "I will not be able to face him if I am to return now, easily approving of your choice to marry some unknown Earthling."

With a measure of indignance, Lala asked, "What do you propose to do, then?"

Ranma looked on warily as Zastin reached behind his back and said, "Allow me, Lala-sama."

Suddenly, Zastin charged forward and swung down with whatever he had pulled out from behind him. Ranma jumped away, though not soon enough to avoid the flying debri caused by the explosion that immediately followed in the wake of his evasive maneuvering. When he landed, he looked at the spot where he had once stood and saw a long and deep gouge in the ground. Nearby stood the person responsible for it, who was now holding a sword whose blade glowed and hummed with energy.

"I shall be the judge," Zastin declared, as he regarded Ranma with an intense stare, "to see if you are worthy of Lala-sama's hand."

"Aw, man..." Ranma thought, with no small amount of exasperation.

"The one called Ranma," Zastin continued calmly, with his sword held at the ready, before he charged forward and yelled, "I will force you to show me your true strength!"

Ranma began to dodge a flurry of sword swipes, bending here and twisting there, and feeling the heat of the blade each time it passed near any part of his body. His mind was racing in order to figure out a solution to his current situation, which had turned out to be so bad as to leave him with a lose-lose dilemma on his hands: either he won to "prove" his worthiness as Lala's future husband, or he could lose and risk having one of his extremities lopped off, if not outright dying.

Not for the first time did he wonder why things always seemed to turn out so unfavorably for him. How he yearned for those simple days, when all he had to worry about was his idiotic father and improving his martial arts skills. To think that he had once thought any of that as being a burden — he had been so naive back then.

"Damn it!" Ranma thought, becoming frustrated. "I need time to think!"

He decided to use the Saotome "secret technique" to buy himself some time. Of course, when he turned around and ran away, Zastin was of the mind to stay on his heels rather than stand around and wait for his return. So, as Ranma tried to lose him amongst the buildings and other obstacles of civilization, he still had to dodge his attacks on occasion. As a result, a lot of other things got cleaved into pieces in his stead, such as vehicles, the facades of buildings, vending machines, utility polls, and even the briefcase, clothes and hairpiece of some random salaryman.

"Why are you running away, Earthling!?" Zastin called after his quarry. "How can I approve of you if you keep running!?"

Suddenly catching sight of an oncoming car as he passed by a street corner, he leapt high into the air to avoid it. When he saw Ranma stop and look back at him, he assumed that he was checking to see if his trap had worked. As if he couldn't have seen that car coming a mile away...

He descended to the ground in an easygoing manner. "Stop trying to run away to fool me," he said, before he glared at Ranma determinedly and added, "because I will make you fight!"

In reality, Ranma had stopped because he was alarmed by the fact that Zastin was going to land on a railway track while a train was making its way toward them. The last thing that he wanted was for things to turn out the same way as they had with Shampoo, because he had knocked her out by accident. Plus, there was no telling if the Devilukian would survive being hit by a train, so his conscience was a part of the decision-making process as well.

"Idiot!" He yelled at him. "It's dangerous to land there!"

"Dangerous?" Zastin questioned after he landed, looking smug. "Hmph. Do not get too excited. I will not fall for the same trick twice."

Before Ranma could say or do anything more, Zastin was plowed into by the train. The blow sent him spinning wildly into the air, until he landed and rolled into the perimeter wall of someone's home, where he slumped to the ground, motionless.

Ranma approached his prone form with both caution and concern, hoping that he wasn't dead and that it wouldn't count as his victory in either case. Seeing the dog still alive and gnawing on his calf, he didn't know if that was a good enough measure by which to judge the man's condition.

Without warning, Zastin was on his feet and in his face with a primal roar, with blood gushing from head wounds and pouring down his face. Surprised, Ranma yelped and backpedaled away, which was fortunate for him because the sword was the next thing in motion and its wielder had seemingly gone berserk.

"I have not lost!" Zastin proclaimed, who swung his sword like a madman as he once again gave chase to a retreating boy who wore his hair in a pigtail.

"Give it a rest, already!" Ranma yelled back as he ran. He was just about at his wits end trying to find a solution to his predicament, so he could come out of it either in one piece or unattached maritally — and not for the first time.

Fortunately, Lala chose that time to intervene by sticking her foot out to trip Zastin, who fell flat on the ground. He was understandably upset when he got back up to his feet to confront his princess. "What are you doing, Lala-sama!?"

"You're being unfair," Lala accused. "You're Deviluke's number-one swordsman. You know very well that Ranma doesn't stand a chance against you."

From a short distance away, Ranma wiped his brow as he glared at the two aliens and thought, "As if that's the real issue."

"But, Lala-sama," Zastin tried to reason with the person in question, "marrying your highness means succeeding the Devilukian throne, becoming the king of Deviluke, and ruling over the numerous planets within its territory! A weakling does not deserve all of that!"

Ranma took offense to that last statement, and he felt himself becoming angry. A lot had happened to him that day, but perhaps the least volatile of them had finally pushed everything past the threshold of his tolerance. Not that those responsible for how he currently felt — that mainly being Lala — took notice as they continued to argue with each other.

"That's why," Zastin went on to explain, "his majesty gathered potential suitors from all over the Milky Way for you, Lala-sama!"

"I told you, I'm sick of it!" Lala retorted, as she got into Zastin's face. "Papa's more concerned about finding a proper successor than he is about me!"

Zastin wasn't about to back down in the defense of his liege. "No, that is not—"

"Would you two just shut up!?" Ranma suddenly screamed.

Lala and Zastin both turned to regard Ranma, whom they'd forgotten about. He was facing them with his feet parallel with his shoulders, his hands clenched into fists at his sides, and his eyes staring daggers at them. Most notably, however, was the fact that he was surrounded by an angry-red battle aura of considerable size.

"You're not the only one being forced to marry someone!" Ranma informed Lala, as he felt the need to vent his long-suppressed feelings on the matter. "I never asked for or wanted any of it, but did my father listen to me? No! It's always about what he wants. It's okay to mess around with my life if it makes him happy. I shouldn't have to marry anyone until I'm ready, and I'm sure I love them. I... I just want the freedom to make my own choices and live my life the way I want to! Is that so much to ask!?"

By the end of his tirade, his battle aura had petered out and he was left panting a bit due to his latest exertion. With his mind now more clear, he was a little surprised by his outburst, though he knew that it would have only been a matter of time before he had shared those words with someone — if he had ever found someone to trust them with, that is. However, he hadn't known how else to avoid having yet another fiancée, other than by appealing to Lala as a fellow victim. As he regarded the recipients of his words, he really hoped that they would have the desired effect. Lala certainly seemed touched, but...

"Ranma..." Lala breathed, with a slight blush on her cheeks and admiration in her eyes. "I'm so happy."

Ranma looked at her with an incredulous expression on his face, wondering how he'd managed to get the opposite reaction to what he had wanted.

"Although you said that you don't love me," Lala continued with a small smile, and her hands clasped at her chest, "you actually understand my feelings so well. It's just like you said, Ranma: I want to be free to live my life as I please. There are so many things I want to try... And I'd like to choose my own partner in marriage."

Ranma remained quiet, not knowing where she was going with what she was saying. He hoped — of course — that it wouldn't involve anything that would complicate matters any more than they were already.

With a look of regret, Lala closed her eyes and kept going with what she wanted to say. "To be honest, I was only pretending that I wanted to marry you, so they couldn't force me to return and see more suitors."

"I knew it..." Peke thought to herself.

"But... Now I see clearly," Lala said, before she opened her eyes and gazed meaningfully at Ranma. "Getting married to you for real, Ranma, isn't such a bad idea." She shook her head and smiled. "No, that's not right: I do want to marry you!"

Seeing that his efforts had managed to make things worse, by making Lala's feelings for him real, Ranma began to panic a bit and wave an arm at her in a warding gesture. "N-now, wait just a second!" Not being able to think of any other recourse, he turned his attention to the man responsible for getting her home. "Hey! Don't you have anything to say against this!?"

Much to Ranma's dismay, Zastin said, "I have lost, Earthling," as tears streamed down from his closed eyes, and his raised hand was clenched with emotion. "On my honor, I have to disobey the orders of his majesty. I never noticed Lala-sama's feelings. No... I never acknowledged them before." His eyes clenched together more tightly. "You made me realize that. Indeed, I have lost."

He turned around and began to walk away from a devastated Ranma. "I do not know if Lala-sama's numerous fiancé candidates throughout the galaxy will consent to this, but I shall inform his majesty of this matter." He then ceased his movement and looked over his shoulder. "I am glad to leave her with you. As the only one truly capable of understanding Lala-sama... is you!"

Ranma watched as the man that should have been on his side of the matter began to recede into the distance, which included the dog that had been attached to his leg since his arrival. However, before long, Lala had stepped into view and took his hands into her own, which had given him a bit of a start. When he tried to pull away, he found her grip on his hands deceptively strong and resistant to his desire to put some distance between them.

Whether or not Lala noticed, she looked at him softly and said, "I won't force you to marry me." Ranma's struggling ceased upon hearing that, who decided that it wouldn't hurt — at that point — to hear her out. "I know what it's like, but..." She began to look at him entreatingly. "You're the only one who hasn't shown interest in my papa's throne, or me for my body. That's why I can't see myself marrying anyone but you, so... Will you at least give me a chance?"

Ranma, after staring into Lala's eyes, soon found himself nodding his head without thinking. He'd like to think that he had been suckered by one of the many methods that girls used to manipulate guys, but he knew better. They were practically in the same boat, what with having fathers who had forced upon them obligations that were more for their own benefit than theirs. Besides, it wasn't like he was committing himself to anything that he couldn't back out of later, since she was only asking for a chance despite what he had said about his own situation regarding having one's marriage arranged. In the end, actually being given an option for once, instead of being forced, had to count for something.

Akane probably wouldn't be all that understanding, though...

In response to his answer, Lala squealed happily and gave him an enthusiastic hug, which quickly made him forget about that last thought. Not because he was in the arms of a very attractive girl, but because he hadn't been hugged with so much force since he'd received the same treatment from Ryoga, and it felt like his head was going to be ejected from his body at any given moment.

The next morning, Ranma awoke to the feeling of there being something strange in one of his hands. With a slight squeeze, he discovered that whatever was in his grasp was both round in shape and fairly yielding. Upon opening his eyes, he was surprised to find himself staring at Lala's sleeping visage. The sight might have been breathtaking if he hadn't needed to fear where his hand might be.

He began to sweat. "If Lala's here, then my hand might be..."

When he looked down, he was greatly relieved to find his hand cupping Peke's head instead of an intimate part of Lala's body. He returned his attention to Lala's face, and he couldn't help feeling attracted to her. Then he shook himself mentally, and he told himself that it wouldn't be wise to fall for her charms: he had enough problems as things were, and he didn't need to add on to them.

Slowly, carefully, he removed his hand from Peke's head and began to slide his way out of bed. Unfortunately, being as focused on the task as he was, he forgot that his bed wasn't as close to the floor/ground as it had usually been throughout most of his life, and the noise caused by his fall was enough to awaken the uninvited guests that he'd found in his bed.

Lala sat up and groaned deep in her throat as she performed a morning stretch, with the blanket falling away to reveal her nudity as a consequence. Beside her, Peke appeared more alert as she stood up and took in her surroundings, looking much the same as Ranma had last seen her when she had been in her humanoid form, with the sole exception being that he couldn't see her wings.

The Devilukian princess, still groggy, noticed a certain someone who was now sitting on the floor. "Ah... Mornin', Ranma."

"Why are you in my bed?" Ranma calmly but pointedly asked, with a frown on his face, before adding, "And naked, for that matter." Not even Shampoo had gone that far. Fortunately, though some of his peers would have disagreed, he'd been exposed to more than enough female nudity that the mere sight normally didn't have much of an effect on him. Having a female body on occasion had something to do with it, too, of course.

"Eh?" Lala replied, looking as if the answer should have been obvious. "But I wanted to sleep with you..."

Peke hung from her shoulder with one hand as she declared, "And it's difficult for me to stay as Lala-sama's costume all of the time!"

"Ranma?" Came the voice of said person's mother as the door opened. "Are you awake, yet?"

Ranma turned to look at his mother, who was now standing in his doorway. She glanced between him and the nude girl sitting on his bed before she smiled pleasantly and said, "Try not to be late for school, okay?"

After his mother closed the door behind her exit, he slapped a hand over his face and muttered, "This just isn't happening to me..."

"Oh, yeah!" Lala suddenly exclaimed, who seemed to be excited about something. "I have something to do, today!" She looked at her costume robot expectantly. "Peke?"

"Of course!" Came the response.

Before Ranma knew it, Lala was wearing Peke and flying out of his bedroom window. Before he could say anything, she stopped in mid-air, turned around to look back at him, and said, "I'll be out for a while, Ranma. See you later!"

"Hey... wait!" Ranma tried to call after her, but she was already flying away at a good clip and — apparently — hadn't heard him. He lowered his head and sighed, wondering what she could be up to, since she was supposed to be new to Earth and he didn't know where she could or would need to go. Well, unless she was heading to a spaceship, or something like that...

Not seeing the point of dwelling on it any longer, he got up and went about his morning routine. As he did, he looked back on what had happened last night, after he and Lala had gotten back to his house. Over dinner, Lala had left nothing out when she had explained to his mother everything that had happened: his accidental confession to her, and how she had taken advantage of it; what had happened with Zastin, which had required revealing herself as a princess in the process; how she'd had a change of heart, but sparing his mother the specifics of what he had said to her to inspire it; and, finally, that he'd agreed to give her a chance to marry him.

Later, his mother had taken him aside and had told him, "I know that you are in a difficult position, but making tough decisions is a part of being a man. I just want you to know that I would be proud of you even should you decide to make the worst possible choice, as opposed to not making a choice at all." Then she had smiled dreamily, with a faraway look in her eyes, and added, "Of course, with that being said, I wouldn't be surprised if you chose to become the king of the entire galaxy."

While his mother hadn't said it in so many words, or explicitly, he was pretty sure that becoming the king of the entire galaxy was the manliest thing that he — or any other man on Earth, for that matter — could possibly do, to her way of thinking. So it was little wonder why she hadn't been adverse to seeing Lala naked in his bed, and assuming the best-case scenario.

As he turned his thoughts toward Lala, and what he was going to do in regard to her, he barely had the presence of mind to say goodbye to his mother as he left the house for yet another day of school. After what had happened yesterday he wasn't exactly keen on going, but he didn't bother trying to get out of it since any excuse that he could make would only temporarily delay the inevitable.

Lala found herself standing before a small hut that was suspended by four palm trees on the school's roof. When she had asked to see the principal at the school's administration office, this was where she had been directed to go. Since she knew little about what was considered normal for Earthlings in general, she walked up the stairs and knocked on the door without a second thought.

"Come in!" Came an accented, masculine voice in response.

When she entered the hut, what she found inside was a very spartan office. Aside from a desk, and a chair for whoever sat behind it, there wasn't even a place for anyone else to sit. The only other thing to be found was the man who sat behind the desk, whose skin was deeply tanned and whose smiling facade was partially hidden by a pair of shades. By contrast, he wore bright and colorful attire, and what she assumed to be some festive hat in the shape of one of Earth's trees.

"'Ey, dere!" The man — whom she assumed was the principal — greeted her. "How can da big kahuna be helpin' you, keiki?"

It took Lala a few seconds to figure out exactly what he had said, though perhaps a bit too literally. "You're not the principal?"

The "big kahuna" laughed good-naturedly and slapped his knee. "O' course I am! It be takin' a big kahuna ta be a principal, yeah!"

"Oh, I see," Lala replied, who smiled at having found her quarry. "I was told to see you if I wanted to attend your school."

"Is dat so?" The principal replied, who now appeared to be keenly interested in his guest even as his easygoing smile transitioned into a grin that would have worried most onlookers. "But dun you know dem school rules?"

Lala cocked her head to the side and tried to think if Ranma's mother had ever mentioned anything about rules. When she couldn't recall any, she asked, "Rules?"

A corner of the principal's shades glinted in the light. "Fo' a sistah ta be becomin' a student in dis school, she be needin' ta get dat bowl cut!"

"Okay!" Lala readily acquiesced.

The principle looked disappointed and lifted his arms at the elbows, with the palms of his hands up, as he shook his head. "Oh, dat's too—" Then it registered to him that she hadn't disagreed with him. But he had to make sure, so he asked, "You okay wit it?"

Lala smiled and nodded her head. "Mm-hm!"

The principal stood up from his chair, on shaky legs, and took said chair with him to Lala, where she sat down after he had given her a gesture to do so. Then he had her remove her hat, which she held in her lap so Peke didn't return to her humanoid form, thus leaving her naked. Finally, he pulled out a pair of scissors and the hollowed-out half of a coconut, with the latter being placed on her head.

As he slowly moved the scissors toward Lala's long, pink tresses, his hand shook. He hesitated before he made his first cut, fearing that there might be some kind of trick, but nothing happened other than a lock of hair falling to the floor. It was the same for the next cut, then the next, and soon tears of joy were pouring out from behind his shades as he went about his work with confidence. When he had cut the exposed hair short enough, he took out an electric razor and shortened it the rest of the way, down to the scalp.

When Lala stood and turned to face him, and noticed his tears, she regarded him with some concern. "Are you okay? Did I do something wrong?"

The principal removed his shades, wiped his eyes, and collected himself as he put his shades back on. "Sorry, keiki. I jus' being so happy." He returned his attention to her with a determined expression on his face. "Fo' bein' such a good keiki, dis big kahuna gon' help you git evahthing sitchidated, yeah!"

With that said, he rushed her to the administration office, where he took a personal hand in getting Lala registered for school. In fact, she could start that very morning, granted that she had a school uniform — which, technically, she did. The principal had also allowed her to choose which class she would be in, and — with the knowledge that Ranma's mother had given her — she had chosen 2-F.

It wasn't until the principal had left her, and she was free to make her way to the classroom that she had chosen, that she was able to check her new hairdo in a bathroom mirror. In her opinion, it looked somewhat okay so long as she wasn't wearing her hat, which was the main reason for why she wanted her hair the way it used to be instead of having it stay the way it now was. Well, she'd given it a chance, so she didn't see anything wrong with changing it back.

Fortunately, she had a quick and easy way to make her hair long and even again. She took out her D-Dialer and summoned a helmet-shaped device, which had a pair of open shears attached to it as an ornament. The handles of said shears straddled the top of it, making the blades stand out in a way reminiscent of a type of dipole antenna that could be found on top of television sets. She had named this particular invention "Snip-snip Hairdo-kun."

After her hair was back to the way it used to be, and she had Peke scan the girl's school uniform so she could take on its form, she left the bathroom and continued on her way, looking like a student who belonged to Furinkan high school. Instead of being a hat, Peke had become an oval-shaped hair clip, in order to better suit the uniform that she had become.

Ranma did his best to ignore the tension in the room, and whatever anyone might have been murmuring between themselves. Aside from Akane ignoring him, he was almost certain that half of his classmates were glaring at him, or at least staring — including Ukyo. He'd love to explain everything to all of them, but Akane wasn't in the mood to listen to him and he highly doubted that he'd get very far with anyone else because they would likely jump to some stupid conclusion before he could finish, thus preventing him from putting everything into proper context. Of course, now that the situation had changed from how it had been yesterday, and he'd agreed to give Lala a chance to marry him, he highly doubted that anyone would be understanding even if they did allow him to say everything that needed to be said — Akane and Ukyo, in particular.

Telling Nabiki was out. Even with the prospect of making money off of the information, he doubted that she would sell it without phrasing something that could be misinterpreted in a way that would no doubt cause him grief. Considering how Tatewaki had attacked him upon arrival, shouting something about freeing his infernal thrall from serving such as himself before he'd kicked him into unconsciousness, there was no telling what Nabiki had said for him to come to that kind of conclusion.

The only good thing was that, despite whatever his father may have heard, concerning himself and Lala, it hadn't been enough to get him near his wife. Unfortunately, that probably wouldn't stop his father from catching him when school was let out. However, even if — for some reason — he didn't bother to do that, there was little doubt in his mind that his father would race back home to confront him and his wife if he ever learned about Lala living in the same house as him.

It was all very troublesome... And since he really wasn't in any mood to deal with his father, he considered trying to avoid him when he made his way back home after school. He'd feel a lot better explaining things when he was ready, and on his own terms. He'd also like to do the same with Akane and Ukyo, since it was a matter best attended to in private instead of at school.

He turned his attention to the front of the room when the door opened, and a familiar child — possibly a young teenager — began to walk toward the lectern at the head of the class. Since the principal was spiteful, and Ninomiya still intended to reform him somehow, she was also the homeroom and English teacher for his second year. Not that he really minded anymore, since she was usually nothing more than a minor nuisance every now and again.

Once Ninomiya was behind the lectern, she cleared her throat to quiet the class before she said, "This was rather sudden, but it seems that we have a new transfer student."

Ranma, who was now staring at the still-open doorway, thought, "It couldn't be..."

Ninomiya turned to look in the same direction and prompted, "Won't you come in and introduce yourself?"

"Okay!" Came the bubbly reply.

"It is," Ranma groaned inwardly, having recognized the voice.

In her excitement, Lala knocked Ninomiya out from behind the lectern before she cheerfully shouted, "Woo-hoo! Ranma! Now I'm a student at this school, too!"

Ranma began to sweat as a renewed yet more intense and hostile feeling of being watched began to impose itself upon his senses. Underneath his desk, he crossed his fingers and hoped that she didn't mention anything about her living arrangement.

"My name is Lala Satalin Deviluke," said person gladly shared with the class, "and Ranma and his mother were nice enough to let me live with them!"

There was a great outcry upon hearing that, with the loudest among them being Akane and Ukyo. All around him Ranma could feel the heat of rage and the chill of killing intent, and his danger sense was going crazy as it tried and failed to alert him in a way that was fitting to the amount of danger that he now found himself in. But it didn't need to tell him what he already knew.

He was a dead man.