Chapter: 13
Jie dao Sha ren
(Kill with a borrowed knife)


"Alright Choe," Akane checked the younger girls
position on the weight bench, "I want you to do eleven
repetitions each: bicep curl, dual overhead extension, tricep
extension and finish with the bench press."

"I can do more weight than this," Choe protested,
moving the weights experimentally.

"No," Akane disagreed, "Stick with eight kilograms to
start. You want to build slowly to your threshold. And you
don't want to get over bulky," she grinned at the other girl,
"like me." Akane patted her stomach, oblivious to how the
action drew interested eyes to her washboard abs, clearly
outlined under the blue second-skin of her swimsuit.

"Yes Captain." Choe gripped the rubber coated
barbells and started alternating bicep curls.

Looking around, Akane decided the rest of the club
was productively occupied and turned to Ranko. "Sorry to
keep you waiting, but some of the girls don't do their weight
training if I don't keep after them."

A couple of swimmers, working with the Leg Press
machine, stuck out their tongues at Akane while a third, using
free weights, went so far as to pull her eye at Akane, who just
grinned.

"That's OK," Onna-Ranma looked around, a trifle
wary. He'd never spent much time in a regular gym and all the
machines and equipment in clean orderly rows was as alien
and fascinating to him as it would be to a Martian. "You
wanna do a couple of laps?"

Akane looked the other girl up and down with an eye
trained to judge athletes. "Distance or sprint?"

"Whatever you want." Ranko answered, innocently.

"How about ten kilometers?," Akane watched
Ranko's expression carefully.

"OK by me," the smaller girl answered serenely.

"Then you're better than I am," Akane headed for the
pool area, "because I'm hopeless in the shorter distances."
Standing at the edge of the pool Akane removed her brace and
did a few stretches. "Do you want to call it?"

Ranko stood with her toes hanging over the edge of the
water and rotated slightly at the waist. "That's OK," she
glanced at the discarded brace, "I'll give you a head start."

Akane turned to the petite redhead and smiled warmly.
"That's awfully nice of you," she grabbed Ranko by the back
of the neck and the seat of her one-piece, "but as a guest, you
should go _first_." With that, she hurled the squalling girl half
the length of the pool, launching herself immediately after in a
powerful flat dive that landed her only a fraction behind
Ranko, who was already stroking hard for the other end of the
pool.


Onna-Ranma lapped Akane in the first kilometer and
settled into a relaxed crawl, knowing he had a comfortable
lead. Halfway into the third kilometer he noticed Akane
coming up slowly behind him and put on a bit of speed,
smirking inwardly as the other girl fell behind. By kilometer
six he wasn't smirking any longer, because the dratted girl
refused to fall any further behind, and was gaining
fractionally. He put on another burst of speed and gained half
a lap, which lead evaporated before he'd finished another
complete length of the pool, as Akane came close on his heels.
He reached for another burst of speed---- but it wasn't there!

Straining every muscle, onna-Ranma slipped through
the water like an eel, but the distance was too great for him to
maintain that kind of effort and he watched in amazement as
Akane forged past on the next lap. By kilometer eight Akane
had a three lap lead and was fast making up a forth.

*Th' heck with this!* Onna-Ranma thought in disgust,
slightly winded from trying to sprint a marathon. *She
would'na had a chance if I was a guy.* He rolled onto his
back and stroked to the side of the pool, turning to watch
Akane finish the course, trying to find her secret. It didn't take
long.

*She's a damn machine* He watched her arms move
with piston-like precision, forcing her steadily if ungracefully
through the water.

*Stroke-stroke-kick-* Onna-Ranma counted the
movements, watching ropes of muscle ripple beneath her skin,
*stroke-stroke-kick-stroke-stroke-kick-breath.* Six times her
arms came out of the water, thrusting back with all the power
of her massive shoulders, augmented by a steady, if slightly
unbalanced kick. *She must have lungs like a damn whale*,
he thought, eyeing her lungs closely as she hit the far wall,
flipped and pushed off strongly on her return lap. She wasn't
fast, but she didn't slow down either. Just that tireless,
machine-like movement.

"Why'd you quit?"

Onna-Ranma started as Akane's voice broke his
reverie and he saw her treading water, looking at him
curiously. He stared back, fascinated at the way her pectoral
muscles flexed and relaxed with each lazy movement of her
arms.

"I said, why'd you quit racing?" Akane asked again,
oblivious to Ranko's fixed stare.

"Huh?" Onna-Ranma blinked back to reality. "Oh, I
knew when I was beaten."Ranko gave the other girl a friendly
smile, the one he'd practiced everyday in a mirror for months.
*Dammit, I could 'a beat her if I was a guy* he watched her
reach his side with two powerful strokes. *Girls can't do
nuthin'* he thought disgustedly, frowning at his puny arms
and grotesque chest.

"How 'bout a hundred meters, next time."He offered,
vowing to spend more time training. He wasn't going to let
some girl beat him.

"Only if you give me a ninety meter handicap," Akane
retorted with a grin.

Onna-Ranma gave her a narrow eyed look. "That
don't . . .doesn't seem quite fair, to me."

"Seems more than fair, to _me_."Akane laughed.

Onna-Ranma opened her mouth to reply, but a sudden
crash from the exercise room, followed by feminine screams
interrupted her and she came out of the water like a guided
missile, landing lightly on the wet tiles. She turned to help the
other girl out of the pool, only to see Akane place her hands
flat on the lip of the pool and surge out of the water with one
convulsive heave and immediately head toward the shrill cries.
Onna-Ranma made a slight detour to snatch Akane's knee
brace from the tiles, then sprinted after her. He hit the edge of
the doorjamb just in time to see another weight machine
smash into the floor with a tremendous metallic crash, like an
explosion in a boiler factory. Most of the swimming club,
about fifteen girls in swimsuits and sweats, were being
crowded into the corner by half-again their number of greasy
punks in pin-stripped suits, while a few more of their number
amused themselves by various acts of vandalism.

*Aww, crap* Onna-Ranma thought disgustedly. *Not
these little shits again.*

Akane limped forward, ignoring the Sokiaya
wannabe's, until she stood between them and her club
members.

"Is everyone alright?" She glanced over the huddled
group of girls, her lips tightening as she saw blood staining one
girls face and sweatshirt. "Sachiko, take Choe to the nurse's
office please, it looks like her nose is broken."

The tiny girl looked startled for an instant, then
apprehensive as she looked at the solid ring of boys
surrounding them. She took Choe's hand and made a tentative
step forward, only to be blocked by three of the boys. "You're
not takin' this damn Chosen-jin anywhere!" One of them
pushed Sachiko roughly and she would have fallen if onna-
Ranma hadn't moved quickly to catch her.

"This area is reserved for the Swimming Club," Akane
said evenly, "I'm going to have to ask you to leave, please."

"Please?" A tall, muscular boy, mocked. "Now ain't
that polite." several of his friends sniggered at his mimicry.
"You tell 'em Goro!" One of his friends shouted.

"An' if we leave? How 'bout a nice lil' kiss to say
thank you?" Goro pursed his lips in a grotesque exaggeration,
thrusting his hips forward in a vulgarly suggestive manner.


Akane's expression didn't change, but Ranma could
almost see her aura flare, then subside, as she forced her anger
back down. It was an impressive display of control, but
Ranma had seen people like that before. They were as volatile
and unpredictable as a bear with a rotten tooth. Anything
could set them off and you walked very softly unless you had
a death wish.

"We're through for the day," Akane said pacifically,
her nostrils flaring infinitesimally. "So everyone shower and
change before the first bell." She looked at Choe, who was
holding the edge of a towel against her bleeding nose. "Go on
to the nurse now. I'll let your teacher know where you are."

"Nurse?" Goro's lips drew back in a sneer. "She don't
need a nurse, she needs a veterinarian." Choe flushed
miserably as the rest of the boys laughed.

Ranma flinched as Akane's aura leapt like a solar
flare. Was everyone nerve dead that they couldn't feel that?

"We don't want any trouble," Akane said in a tone so
deliberately neutral that Ranma felt a chill. "So why don't we
all just go to class. I'll clean this up later."

"You don't want no trouble?" A glob of spittle hit
Akane's cheek with an audible sound. Ranma flinched from
the blinding heat of Akane's aura, amazed that Goro wasn't
reduced to a little pile of burning shit.

"You _got_ trouble!" There was a moment of
horrified silence, then Akane took the edge of a towel and
wiped her cheek. "Everyone run along now, the first bell is
about to ring." She said quietly. "And you go to the nurse,
Choe."

"I . . .I'm alright," Choe began a little nervously. "I
don't----"

"You shut your mouth," Goro's aim was improving.
"you dirty Korean!" The blob of mucous hit between her eyes
with a splat.

An arm like an hydraulic piston shot out and steely
fingers closed around Goro's neck, lifting him clear of the
ground.

* Sha Ji Neou Tao* Onna-Ranma noted the finger
placement critically. Strong execution, but no finesse. On the
other hand, there _was_ a certain symmetry in using 'Twist-
the-head-to-kill-a-chicken' on a complete asshole like Goro.

"I think you owe Choe-san an apology." Akane said
softly. Goro's knees hit the tiles with an audible crack as his
forehead slammed into the ground at Choe's feet, proving the
adage; 'if you grab them by the balls, their hearts and minds
will follow.'

"Your apology?" There was such an utter lack of
emotion in her voice that three of Goro's adherents wet
themselves.

"Uhhhh . . .you might want to loosen your grip a
little," onna-Ranma remarked, "I think you're crushing his
little neck."

Goro sucked air in with a great whooping sound as the
vice around his throat eased fractionally.

"SORRYi'msosorry," he babbled frantically,"
pleaseforgiveme. I'msorrysosorry.I'm REALLY, really----"

"That's enough." Goro's flood of words stopped as if
they'd been axed. "Now, I think you owe Choe-san for a new
shirt." Goro would have reached for his wallet, if his body
hadn't been numb below the collar bone. Akane seemed to
realized his problem and thoughtfully removed his wallet for
him, along with the pocket, pant-leg and a few centimeters of
skin, all of which parted like rotten tissue as she simply
grabbed a fist-full of tailored Italian suit and pulled.

"This should take care of it," Akane plucked a wad of
bills from the wallet, "and I think Goro would like to get you
something nice, to make up for the trouble he's caused you."
Goro bobbed his head frantically, willing to give them every
thing in his wallet, in his bank account, his baby-sister's
virtue, if that terrible girl would just let him go.

"It would be nice of you to clean up this mess," Akane
glanced at the rest of the boys, still speaking in a mild
conversational tone, "If you've got time that is?" As one, the
crowd of 'no-longer-so-toughs' stammered their complete
willingness to restore the exercise room to better than new
condition.

"Thank you," Akane let Goro drop from her fingers
and turned to the swim club. "That was first bell. We'd better
hurry if we don't want to be late for class."

***************


Maybe this girl stuff wasn't too bad, onna-Ranma
thought to himself as he trotted down the stairs at the end of
the day. Guys just gave Ranko stuff, and he didn't even have
to break a sweat settin' up a scam. And Home Economics
class was like being held prisoner in restaurant. For once even
_he_ had gotten more than he could eat. Yep, there might
actually a positive side to being a weak, silly----

"----INSANE!"

----insane female. Ranma jerked to a stop as his fore-
brain caught up with reality and he ducked into an empty class
as he recognized Nabiki's angry tones. A moment later the girl
in question and her younger sister rounded a corner.

"You don't have any faith in me, do you?" Akane
snapped.

"Faith isn't going to keep Kuno from killing you, you
stupid girl!" Nabiki was rapidly losing it. "You haven't done
any Kendo in over a year, and that bastard _sleeps_ with a
sword."

"We're not using live blades."

"Kuno's not going to hold back and you're not any
less dead because you get your skull split with a bokken rather
than a katana."

"He challenged me," Akane replied heatedly, "because
of what I did to Goro and the rest. It's a matter of honor."

"Dammit! This isn't the middle ages and you're not
Miyamoto Musashi."

"I think Kuno sees himself in that role," Akane
murmured. "I've always wanted to be Tomoe Gozen."

"She DIED!" Nabiki screeched, just as they passed
Ranma's hiding place.

"Don't be so melodramatic," Akane retorted. "Only
her husband and brother died at Awazu. No one knows when
_she_ died. And Kuno's my friend. He's not going to try to
kill me."

"You are _so_ pig-headed," Nabiki's voice faded in
the distance. "You just wait until I get hold of Kasumi. You
might not listen to me . . ."

*Well, damn,* Ranko stepped from her hiding place, a
hard look on her face. *That idiot's gonna screw up my meal
ticket.* She fiddled with her pig-tail in an unconscious
mannerism that even Genma hadn't been able to completely
eradicate with years of a rattan cane. "Now if I were a right-
wing asshole, where would I be, right now?*

******

It had taken longer than he liked and Ranma had been
afraid that Akane would find Kunou before he did. Or rather,
before Ranko did. Akane, broken or even severely bent, would
spoil his and pop's entire setup. It was much harder to scam
people when they were upset and Akane bleeding all over the
kitchen would probably spoil the mood.

At first, he'd intended to simply get some hot water,
find Kuno and shove that stick of his so far up his arse he'd
look like a unicorn. But then he remembered his father's rule,
*Never clean up your own shit, boy, only dogs eat their own
vomit. Wait a while and some stupid SOB will clean it up and
pay you for the privilege.*

He didn't have time to wait, but the basic principle
was sound. Much better to deal with Kuno by proxy.

He heard voices and checked the fit of the blouse he'd
snitched from Akane's locker. She was pretty broad in the
shoulders, but it still wasn't enough to allow for Ranko's
more 'generous' endowments and the material was strained so
tightly across her chest you could bounce a fifty yen piece and
get change. As long as she didn't take any deep breaths there
shouldn't be any problem.

*There he is.* Ranko watched Kuno, surrounded by
his entourage, step onto the fourth floor landing and she
started trotting up the steps. Just looking at the arrogant
wannabe-Samurai reinforced her initial impression that Kunou
was a sneaky, ruthless son-of-a-bitch who would use any
underhanded trick to win.

*Wonder if he's related to pop?*

She passed Kuno, without giving him a glance, as he
reached the third floor.

Timing was everything.

Tokuyama Hiroshi, Kuno's sub-lieutenant, was
watching a basket full of puppies wrestling under Ranko's
shirt, when the perky little girl smiled at him and took a deep
breath.

Two severely taxed buttons failed with an audible pop
as the sudden release of tension bounced them off Hiroshi's
head. Unencumbered by support garments Ranko's 'goodies'
made a break for freedom, Hiroshi swallowed his tongue and
missed the step. He catapulted down the stairway to slam into
Kuno's back like a cannon-ball and the two of them tumbled
down the steps to land in a crumpled heap.

"Senpai! Kuno-senpai!" One of the senior students
ran to the fallen kendoists side. "Someone call a doctor!
Senpai's leg is broken."

*Oopsie.*

Ranko tied the ends of her blouse together beneath her
breasts and walked off, hands in her pockets, whistling
tunelessly.

******************************************************

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