Chapter: 14

 

"I'm sorry to hear Ranko is sick," Akane looked up at
Ranma who was doing flips along the fence-top, "maybe I
should fix her something nice for supper and take it to her."

"Not if you want her to recover." Nabiki muttered,
walking slightly ahead of her baby sister.

"What?" Akane glanced toward Nabiki, "Did you say
something?"

"Ummm . . .that's really nice, Akane" Ranma
answered, "but Ranko doesn't like visitors when she's sick."

"Well . . .what if I make something and _you_ take it
to her?"

"That's it, get someone else to do your dirty work."

"What did you say, Nabiki?" Akane's turned her head,
trying to keep track of both conversations.

"I said, it's probably best not to disturb her." Nabiki
answered, thinking quickly. *Poor Ranma, having to live with
the knowledge he killed his own cousin.* She'd have to find
time to warn him. Or would it be more fun (and profitable) to
get pictures of 'The Meal'? But, would you market it under
horror or comedy?

"It's going to be a little strange, not seeing Kuno at
school."

"They pinned the leg back together," Nabiki offered,
"and the hospital says he should up and goose-stepping in four
or five months."

"Nabiki," Akane frowned at her sister, "Kuno-
senpai's not that bad."

"He's not the little boy you played samurai and
shogun with, he's a vicious right-wing bastard and I'm only
sorry he didn't break his----" she stopped at the hurt look in
Akane's eyes. "Ok, I'm sorry. Maybe he just rubs me the
wrong way," her lips twisted sourly, then relaxed. "He's
probably not so bad," But her eyes said she didn't believe it.

She turned to look over her shoulder at Ranma, who
was doing back flips. "What about your pal Ukyo? When's
he going to be back?"

"He ain't my pal," Ranma retorted, doing a triple
backward dismount to land in front of Nabiki.

"Showoff." Akane muttered, smiling involuntarily as
Ranma grinned cheekily at her, over Nabiki's shoulder. He
was so unselfconsciously cocky, it was hard not to like him, at
least a little bit.

"I ain't sure, but it's probably gonna be a month or so
at least, before he figures out how we sca---- uhhhh . . .figures
out pop and me never left Japan." He fiddled with his pigtail,
"heck he might never figure it out."

"He was kind of cute," Nabiki observed thoughtfully,
"but a little too intense for my taste." She looked around as
they passed through the gates of Fuurinkan. Seeing Kimiko in
the distance she waved. "This is where I leave you. You two
kids have fun." She winked at Ranma, who had the grace to
blush, and trotted off.

"There's a meeting of class presidents this
morning,"Akane informed Ranma, "to decide where to go on
our next class trip, so I won't see you again until lunch." She
turned toward the library, leaving Ranma alone in the
courtyard. He looked around for a moment, shrugged and
headed for homeroom.

*****

Leaning back against a tree, Ranma folded his hands
comfortably across his stomach and sighed. Life was good.
The guys weren't as appreciative of Ranma as they were of
Ranko ( thank Kami-sama) but the girls had more than made
up for it, especially in Home Economics class. He sighed
again, thinking about steamed egg custard with chicken,
grilled beef and noodles, cream----

"You're drooling."

Ranma started out of his day-dream to see Nabiki
standing over him, grinning.

"I thought martial artists were supposed to be alert?"
Nabiki observed, plopping down next to Ranma. Akane
followed suit on his other side, though much more carefully,
sitting with her bad leg bent at a slight angle.

"I'm alert!" Ranma protested, flushing slightly at
Nabiki's raised eyebrow. "I was jus' meditatin'."

"Yeah?" Nabiki said doubtfully, wiping the side of his
mouth with a tissue. "If you say so."

Akane opened her bento, then paused with her
chopsticks poised above her lunch. "Would you like
something? I've got lots." Ranma turned to face Akane and
missed Nabiki's sudden look of fright.

"I've got asparagus-plum pudding, broiled pineapple
with sunflower-seed-carob-Limburger sauce----"

Nabiki was slowly turning an interesting shade of puce
while a stray dog, hoping for a handout, got too close as the
wind suddenly shifted and fled, howling, from the school
grounds.

"Uhhh . . .thanks Akane," Ranma looked wistfully at
the contents of the colourful bento, "but I'm really full.
Home-Ec class," he explained, patting his stomach with a
satisfied look.

*Thank you Kami-sama*, Nabiki thought in heart-felt
relief, making a mental note to burn incense at the Hiakawa
shrine on the way home.

"Oh . . .well, if you're sure," Akane held Ranma's
eyes for a moment more, just to make sure he wasn't actually
delirious from hunger and on the brink of collapse, before
digging into her lunch. She was chasing a bit of white-fish
pickled in garlic-marmalade around the bottom of her bento
with her last piece of blueberry-mustard-bread, when a shadow
fell over the group. She looked up to see a figure dressed in the
checkered kimono of a Yama-bushi. Unlike most of the fierce
warrior-monks, this one wore a beehive straw-hat or tengai, in
place of the more traditional small, round black-cap.

"Excuse me," a man's voice, low and husky, came
from beneath the tightly woven straw covering, "but I'm
looking for Saotome Ranma." The steels rings topping his
staff jingled merrily as he walked forward. " I was told that he
was eating lunch at this hour."

"Ummm . . ."

"What do you want with him?" Nabiki quickly
interrupted Ranma.

"I would like him to take a message to my father."

"Who's your old man?" Ranma asked, moving from
his comfortable seat with a groan. Nabiki just put her head in
her hands. *No subtlety at all.*

"You are Ranma? Son of Genma?" The monk turned
toward Ranma as he spoke.

"Uh . . .yeah."

"Tell my father that his last command and wish has
been fulfilled."

"Where is your father?" Nabiki asked, feeling uneasy
about the whole situation.

"My father?" The Yami-Bushi produced a flask and
raised it to his mouth, tilting the basket-hat back as he did so.
"In HELL!" He pulled the flak away and blew a huge cloud of
flame toward Ranma.

"Aaaaaaaaa!"

A little logy from his meal, Ranma was slow getting
out of the way.

"Awwww----crapcrapcrapcrap!" Fuming he tore off
his shirt and pants and stomped on the smoldering remains.
"That was my favorite shirt!"

"Nice boxers, Saotome." Nabiki called from behind a
tree.

"What's your problem? I don't even know you!"
Sinking into a leopard stance, Ranma waited for the strangers
next move.

"Hi, my name is Akane. What's your name?"

The monk jerked at the unexpected voice and whirled
around to see a school girl, standing with her hand stuck out,
Western style.

"My name is _DEATH_!" His staff spun once and
thirty inches of razor-sharp steel slid from concealment and
locked into place. Caught completely flat-footed, Akane
watched the slim blade shoot straight for her jugular, before
the world spun crazily and she found herself in the branches of
a tree; waiting for her stomach to catch up.

" . . . 'My name is Akane' . . ." Ranma yelled, shaking
Akane like a rag-doll. "Are you CRAZY!"

"It's always worked before," Akane replied in a small
voice, oblivious to the fact she was now pressed tightly against
his bare chest. "I don't know what happened."

"Great," Ranma snapped, trying to still his galloping
heart. "That'll look swell, carved on your tombstone. Here lies
Tendo Akane----It always worked before." He could still see
that damned blade about to rip out her throat, and he swallowed a
sudden surge of bile.

"Are you saying I'm stupid!" Akane pushed away
from Ranma, almost going over backward off the limb.

"Of course not!" A little vein began throbbing in his
forehead. "You're not smart enough to be stupid, you
MORON!"

"Why you----"

"The justice of heaven is slow but sure," the monk
thundered from below, "flee not from the righteous anger of
the gods, but humbly accept chastisement and hope for
redemption!"

"Are you nuts!" Forgetting about Akane, he stared
down at the murderous monk slashing at the tree trunk in a
frenzy. It looked to him like redemption involved lots of pain
and sharp pointy things. "What's your problem?"

"I am justice," The monk stepped back from the tree
and stared up at the two martial artists from behind the
featureless mask of his tangai. "I am mercy," he linked hands,
fingers writing in a complicated pattern, like a basket of
snakes, "I am honor," stomping his feet, he started a heavy
rhythmic dance around the base of the tree. "I am truth."

"What th' hell is he talkin' about?"

"Don't ask me," Akane leaned over the branch,
holding onto Ranma for support, "he's your friend."

"Wait a minute, I ain't never seen this guy before."

"He knew your name. And Uncle Genma's." Akane
pointed out.

"Yeabutt----"

"Justice, for all your crimes, Ranma. For what you
did to me and my family. Justice for you and your evil father,
after you. Na mwou san man dwou mu wou nan," the chant
rose from the dancing figure. "E bwou la di. Hae dwou shi,
swou nang nan, da jre twou----"

"Now what's he doin'?"

"How should I ----" Akane grabbed her throat.

"Huh? What's wr----"

Like a serpent, the ancient words of mystery wrapped
around Ranma's throat also and began to constrict.

"Chywei Si! Chywei Si! Hung Hung. Ru wa la. Bwou
la ru wa la. Bwou la ru wa la."

The powerful mantra, like an invisible silk garrote,
began to squeeze the life from the two martial artists. Clawing
at the invisible death around her throat, Akane gouged bloody
furrows in her flesh, desperate for air. As blackness closed in,
she could see Ranma in even more desperate straights, his
tongue already black and protruding.

"----SHOU PAN JA!" The monks voice rose in
triumph. "SHOU PAN----"

"Mahaprajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra----" Nabiki's
voice cut over the monk's chanting.

"Na Mwou San Man Dwou Mu Twou Nan----"

"The Bodhisttva , free and unrestricted seeing
practices the deep wisdom paramita----"

"Swou nang nan," the monk's voice was sounding a
little strained.

"At that time he clearly sees all five skandahs are
empty and is delivered from all distress and suffering."

"Da Jre Twou. Nan. C . . .Chyw . . .e." The monk was
clearly in trouble and Akane could feel a slight easing of the
invisible cord around her throat as Nabiki continued her own
chant.

"Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness,
emptiness is no other than form . . ."

Half fainting from pain and an unnatural fear that
seemed to ooze from the very air, Akane slipped from the
branch to land with a soft thud on the ground.

"DI . . SH . . .SHAI . . ." Driven to his knees, the
monk was laboring for breath, but Nabiki was down on all
fours. Sweat drenched her body as if she'd just been
swimming.

"Fo . . .form. Form is . . .emptiness . . ." she gasped,
collapsing in a dead faint.

Taking heart from Nabiki's collapse, the monk slipped
a wafer into his mouth and began chanting with renewed
strength, focusing on Ranma, laying unconscious across the
tree branch.

"DI SHAI CHA! SHRA LI YE. SHO WA Heeeeeee!"

The monk jackknifed with a shriek of pain as Akane
staggered up behind him and compressed the last three
vertebrae of his spine with a foot-ball style kick that lifted him
from the ground.

"Jerk!" She croaked, kicking him in the side of the
head, just for insurance. She caught a movement out of the
corner of her eye and lunged forward just as Rama's limp
body slid from the tree. Akane felt something give in her leg as
she took Ranma's weight and they both went down in a
tangled heap.

"Are you alright?" She wriggled out from under and
turned Ranma over. "Hey?" His head flopped limply, like a
broken doll.

*Oh god----He's not breathing!* She felt sick and her
vision greyed out for an instant. *What do I do? What . . .*

**Check for bleeding.**

She could hear her first-aid sensei speaking. *There's
no blood. What next? What----*

**Check the airway and pulse.**

*Pulse? Pulse?" She panicked again, when she
couldn't find a pulse, then forced herself to calm down.
Taking a deep breath she felt along his carotid very carefully,
but still couldn't find anything. *No Pulse . . . not breathing.*
Ignoring the pain in her leg, she shifted until she was by his
head, tilted it back, pinched his nose closed and covered his
mouth with hers.

*One . . .Two . . .* With her left hand she felt his chest
rise as she exhaled.

*One . . .Two . . .* she felt the artery in his neck. Still
nothing!

"Start . . .Starting CPR!" Akane wondered if anyone
heard her panicked call, if there was anyone else nearby who
was trained. She positioned herself slightly below Ranma's
sternum and began compressions.

"One and Two and Three and Four and Five!"
Shuffling forward she blew two quick breaths into his lungs.

"One and Two and Three and Four and Five!" then
two quick breaths. She checked his pulse. Still nothing.

"One and Two and Three and Four and Five!" She
was forgetting something . . .two quick breaths and back to
compressions.

"One and Two and Three and Four and . . ." Fifteen!
You did 'five' compressions if you had someone to breath,
otherwise it was 'fifteen and two' "Five and Six and
Seven----" Dimly she sensed people gathered around her now,
but no one was offering to help and she dismissed them as
unimportant. Two breaths and check the pulse. Noth----a
pulse! Thready but----she forced a calm breath and checked
again. A pulse . . .but he still wasn't breathing.


*One . . .Two . . .* she was starting to get a little dizzy,
trying to be heart and lungs for another person. *Breath.
Please breath.*

*One . . .Two . . .One . . .Two . . .* She felt a slight
quiver and gasped as two strong arms pulled her close, and
two lips pressed against hers, taking her open mouth as an
invitation. For an instant Akane was taken by surprise. That
probably explained why she didn't try to fight back.

"Does this mean you've changed your mind about the
engagement?" Ranma croaked, pulling her to him.

"Aaaaaa!" Akane jumped back so quickly she fell
backwards in the dirt. "You jerk!" She rasped, sounding like
she'd been gargling with sandpaper. "I thought you were
_dead_!"She struggled to her feet, then sank back with a
suppressed groan of pain as her abused leg protested.

"Not . . .not yet," he gingerly touched the massive
bruises around his neck. "What . . ." he looked around and
saw the crumpled figure of the monk. "You?" He nodded in
the direction of the smashed-in side of the basket-hat covering
the monk's head.

"Yeee," she squeaked. Clearing her throat she tried
again. "Y . . .yeah. But only after Nabiki----" she suddenly
remembered her sister and twisted to look over her shoulder to
see Nabiki leaning dazedly against a tree. "Are you Ok?" She
grated. "What happened? How did you learn how to _do_
that?"

"Heh," Nabiki pasted a cocky grin on her face as she
tried to rise to her feet, "Tendo Nabiki, Mistress of the
Mystic Arts . . ." Akane shot her a dirty look and she
shrugged. "I saw almost exactly the same thing on 'Bride With
White Hair II'." Akane's jaw dropped and Nabiki chuckled
weakly, sinking back to the ground. "I told you, you should
watch 'Samurai Night Fever' with me. TV is very
educational." Her eyelids drooped, tiredly. "I'm gonna take a
li'l nap, now." Her head fell forward while a soft buzzing
sound passed her lips.

"She beat that guy with stuff from a _movie_?"
Ranma hacked, trying to swallow past the barbed wire lining
his throat.

"Only Nabiki." Akane sighed. "What are we going to
do about him?" She jerked her head toward the monk, only to
find he had staggered to his feet and was limping away. "Hey
you!" she croaked , sounding like a frog with a sore throat.
"Wait----"

The monk pulled off his rosary and, shouting a word
of power, hurtled it at her. Her knee gave way as she tried to
scramble clear and the hissing burning thing would have hit
her if Ranma hadn't grabbed her and rolled behind a pine as it
exploded.

"Tell me," Akane gasped, as ribbons of fire shot up her
hip, "do you know anyone who _doesn't_ want to kill you?"

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

1