Chapter 23

 

Akane's frantic voice on the answering machine had
been like an electric shock, blasting away the residue of the
blind-monk's drugs and chi. Coming out of the erotic haze,
the eldest Tendou daughter was momentarily paralyzed with
shame and humiliation. Moving with speed and efficiency that
amazed Kasumi who was used to thinking of her as a spoiled,
irritating butterfly, Kodachi forced black coffee down her
throat, arranged for someone to take notes at her cram
school, bundled them both into a car and been on the way to
the hospital in less than half an hour.

Kasumi loved medicine, the intricate workings of the
human body, gaining the skill to ease suffering. She was less
enamored of hospitals, knowing there had to be something
better than peeling green-painted walls, the smell stale urine
coupled with the groans and tears of people afraid or in pain.

Making her way down the mildewed corridor of
Nerima Plum-Street Clinic, she edged past a woman,
obviously in labor, only to find the hall blocked by two elderly
men in blue-striped hospital pajamas playing kaiawase.

"Pardon me," Kasumi murmured politely.

Without looking up from his contemplation of the
array of small white shells, one of the men pulled his IV stand
out of the way. Tapping the back of one shell, his opponent
turned it over. The small picture painted inside didn't match
the one already exposed and the second man cackled in
victory.

"Thank you." Kasumi squeaked through the small
passaged, followed closely by Kodachi and her servant
Sasuki, leaving the two old men to continue the Japanese
version of Memory.


"Akane!" Seeing her sister huddled in the corner next
to a blanket wrapped figure laying across several chairs
Kasumi hurried forward, pushing through the increasingly
dense crowd in the waiting room. "I just got your message,"
she stopped short as she recognized the bruised features of
her middle sister. The left side of Nabiki's face was swollen to
twice it's normal size, and she was alarmingly still, her
breathing fast and shallow.

"Nabiki?" Gently she touched the ugly yellowish-black
swelling. "What happened?" She asked Akane. Under her
fingers the pulse in Nabiki's neck was rapid and thready, her
skin cool and clammy.

"I got home" Akane looked blindly at Kasumi, never
letting go her death grip on Nabiki's hand. "-----there was an
ambulance. Neechan was---- and they took her away." Tears
welled up in her eyes and her body shook. "The doctor said
she has a first-stage concussion. To just wait and she'll be
better. But in the ambulance they said she had a ruptured
vertebra. And she won't wake up----" Fear choked her voice
and her mouth opened and closed soundlessly.

Hiding her own fear Kasumi ran expert hands over
Nabiki's head, wincing at he large lump, hidden under hair
slightly matted with blood. More frightening was a soft-spot
in her skull, the size of a hundred-yen coin. Pealing back
Nabiki's eyelids she hissed in shock.

"What is it?" Kodachi asked softly, placing a hand on
Kasumi's shoulder, not liking the way the blood had drained
from her face.

"Her pupil is blown." Kasumi said grimly. Kodachi
looked and could see the left pupil was completely opened,
leaving only a tiny ring of white showing, in marked contrast
to the right eye which was closed slightly against the harsh
hospital lights.

"W . . .what does that mean?" Akane croaked, throat
sore from crying.

"It means I want to talk to the doctor that looked at
her," Kasumi smiled, hiding her fear. "I'll be right back. You
stay with Nabiki-chan in case she wakes up."

"My lady, what . . .?" Kodachi hurried to keep up with
Kasumi's determined stride."

"Not now," Kasumi dismissed harshly.

Not at all perturbed, Kodachi followed silently as
Kasumi searched for one of the many doctors that should be
making rounds.

"Sensei!" Kasumi stopped a white-coated figure as he
hurried across the room, clip-board in hand.

"What! I'm very busy, young lady."

"Please sensei," Kasumi said, almost stuttering under
the effort to control her emotions. "my sister has a subdural
hematoma. She needs emergency surgery."

"Thank you for your diagnosis, _doctor_," the balding
man snapped sarcastically, eying the young girl in the ill fitting
mismatched clothing distastefully, "but this is not a televison
drama. Let the doctors do their work and you stay out of their
way." He turned to go and Kasumi grabbed his sleeve in
desperation.

"Sensei, Please. I am a student----"

"Get your hands off of me," the doctor pushed her
away roughly, making her stumble. "Security!" He called
sharply. That was the problem with working in a small clinic.
You had to deal with such a low class of people.

"Incompetent piece of dog shit." Kodachi steadied
Kasumi with one hand, the other fisted on her hip.

Kodachi's tone was so conversational that it was an
instant before her words registered.

Flushing angrily the doctor stepped forward. "Who do
you think you are!" Where was security, he wondered. He'd
take great pleasure in having these two hauled out in
handcuffs.

"I _know_ that I am Kuno Kodachi," she smiled thinly
at the doctor, a thousand years of Samurai tradition glinting in
her hard eyes. Tradition that she commanded and peasants
obeyed. Or died. "And that you are no longer employed
here."

"The Kuno Endowment? Kuno Import and Export?
The Kuno Trauma Center . . ." He swallowed hard, quailing
at the look on her face. "Kuno Holding Company, Limited?
That Kuno?" He felt a sharp prickling at the nape of his neck
and shivered, expecting to feel the sharp edge of a katana at
any moment.

"Sasuki," Kodachi squeezed Kasumi's waist
reassuringly, never breaking eye contact with the doctor.
"Call Matsukuro-sensei at Tokyo Medical." If possible the
doctor went even paler at the mention of the director of
Japan's premier research center. "Tell him what has happened
and to send whatever resources are needed to treat Tendou
Nabiki. No expense is to be spared." She thought for a
moment. "Call the airfield and have the Boeing readied for
immediate flight to America or Europe. Outfitted with
whatever Matsukuro-sensei says is required for medical
transport if Nabiki-san can get better treatment overseas. Or
to bring gaijin doctors here. And have the helicopter put on
five-minute standby." That meant flight checked, pilot and co-
pilot strapped in and engine turning; at ninety-five thousand
yen per minute for jet-fuel. The tiny retainer didn't raise an
eyebrow but began speaking rapidly into a satellite phone.
"And you," Kodachi's voice cracked like a whip and the
doctor flinched. "Go get a real doctor."

Watching the doctor vanish down a corridor, Kodachi
lead Kasumi back to where they had left her sisters. Almost as
they arrived, the doors burst open and a trauma team charged
down the corridor, expertly moved Nabiki onto a gurney and
whisked her away.

"How is she?" Noriko panted, arriving just in time to
see Nabiki disappear. "I got to your place as quick as I could,
but the house was empty and the door was wide open." She
paused to steady herself, then went on more calmly,
rummaging through her purse. "Nabiki told me where the
spare key is kept, in case of emergencies. I guess this counts.
Here," she handed a key to Kasumi, "I didn't know what else
to do so I locked up. I would have been here sooner but it
took me a while to find out where they'd taken Nabiki-chan."

"Thank you," Kasumi took the key, turning it over
and over between her fingers. "Nabiki is . . .she is very
sick----how did you know something had happened?" Kasumi
asked, suddenly aware of what Noriko had said.

"We were talking. She called me on the phone and
asked-----" She stopped suddenly, knowing Nabiki didn't like
her business discussed with anyone. Not even, or perhaps
especially with family. "We were talking," Her brief hesitation
hadn't gone unnoticed, but Kasumi ignored it for the moment.
"She sounded strange . . .kind of out of it. Then she said to
call an ambulance because Kuno had broken her----" Noriko
sucked in a breath as she realized what she had said, but there
was no way to unsay it. She looked over at Kodachi, afraid of
what she would see, but it was Akane's face that frightened
her.

"Kuno?"

Never had Noriko imagined a single word could be
imbued with such . . .anger was too tame a word. Akane's
face had gone still, like a Nou mask, but fire blazed in her
eyes and Noriko flinched back with a small whimper.

"Akane-chan," Kasumi touched Akane's arm gently.
"Nabiki . . .with a head injury like that she might not have
known what she was saying."

"What did she say." Each word was forced from
Akane's mouth, clipped and sharp . "Exactly what did she say
about Kuno."

"That . . ."Noriko took a deep breath, working
furiously to remember exactly what was said." She said . . .
'Noriko . . .call an ambulance. Kuno broke my head'. I think,"
she added hastily. "It was kind of hard to understand her. She
sounded like she was drunk."

Akane sucked in her breath harshly and the fire in her
eyes blazed. Without a word she turned heavily and headed
for the door. As she did so, Kodachi moved in front of her.

"Move," Akane grated, the word harsh and brooked
no argument.

"You are strong and brave, yet Tatiwaki is no mean
warrior," Kodachi replied, not budging. "Moreover, you are a
grappler while my brother favors the blade. Also has he long
studied the art of your school against the day he might fight
you seriously. If he has done this foul thing, and I think it
possible, you must not face him alone, for he will surly not. I
will follow and stand at your left side." Akane looked shocked
and Kodachi chuckled, if a little sadly, at her expression.

"He is my brother, and I love him. But I do not love
the things he has done of late. I do not love what he is
becoming." She shook herself as if throwing off an unpleasant
memory. "Better that he is humbled by an honorable enemy
than to rise higher with dishonorable friends."

"Thank you,"Akane replied, her stony face relaxing
slightly, "but stay here with Kasumi-neesama. I'd feel better is
she had someone with her, and you can make sure Nabiki is
taken care of."

"I feel kinda sorry for Kuno-senpai" Norkio muttered,
wincing as the swinging doors banged against the wall in
Akane's wake. Then she thought about the pathetic bundle
she'd seen disappearing into the bowels of the hospital as
she'd arrived. "Fuckit. I hope she rips Kuno's spine out
through his ear and strangles him with it."

****
****

Akane got out of the cab, shoved a thick wad of bills
at the driver, and walked away without bothering with her
change.

It was misting slightly, not enough to wash clean the
streets, but enough make the air thick with the smell of sweat,
automobile exhaust and refuse waiting to be picked up from
corner bins.

Limping slightly, the damp and strain of he day
making her joints ache, Akane made her way through the
throngs of salary-men, school-girls in sailor-fuku and mothers
with tired looks and tired babies on their hip, into a darker
area of town. One populated by goth-girls in gold-lame and
patent-leather, androgynous figures dressed like characters in
JUMP and a couple of motor-cycle punks in white jump-suits
with Elvis side-burns and dark-glasses. They were trying to
pick up girls to the sound of 'Blue- Suede-Shoes" blasting
from a state-of-the-art digital stereo lashed to the back of a
Suzuki sport bike, whose ownership was problematic since a
drill bit was still sticking from the ignition. A line of men and
women in orange-robes banged Indian tambourines, chanting
Hari-Krishna as they handed out bowls of rice-curry to a long
line of homeless men. In the midst of this foaming river of
humanity lay an oppressively sterile space in front of a plastic
and steel fronted building. A large sigh proclaimed that this
was the headquarters of the "Cherry Blossom Society", below
that a smaller sign read: "Youth Patriotic Assembly: Today."

Moving heavily up the short flight of steps, Akane was
stopped by two men dressed in black-leather suits of a
military cut. Silver buttons embossed with the Imperial
Chrysanthemum and Rising-Sun armbands accentuated their
martial appearance.

"I would like to see Kuno-senpai," Akane requested
politely.

By her bearing and speech she was pure Japanese of
good breeding, if a mere female, so Satoru made an effort to
be polite.

"Youth meeting," the heavyset man growled, jerking a
thumb at the sign above his head. "Get lost."

"It's a family matter."

"Family, huh?" the heavy man chuckled, eying her
belly and wondering why Kuno-san had been plowing this
particular field. Maybe a mercy-fuck for some friends fat
sister. "Well then, you just go ahead in." He bowed, then
chuckled again as the door rattled, but didn't move, when
Akane jiggled the door-handle.

"Oooops. Looks like it's locked," He grinned widely,
showing a mouthful of yellow teeth. "Ain't that a shame,
Dai?" His companion didn't reply, continuing to scan the
street below with empty snake-like eyes. "Sure is a shame,"
Satou taunted, "but it's locked and barred from the inside.
Otherwise I'd just let you go-----"

Akane took a step back, turning slightly as if to leave,
then sprang forward explosively, a Ki-shout erupting from her
throat as she slammed a Black-Dragon hammer-hand into the
join of the double doors. The case-hardened lock exploded
with a crack under the impact. The locking-bar across the
interior of the doors held, but the mounting-bracket was
ripped off the bolts securing it to the wall, the whole assembly
tumbling down the interior corridor with a tremendous
metallic clang.

"I'm going in now," she said politely, stepping
delicately around the twisted wreckage of the two doors and
walking slowly but deliberately toward the sound of Kuno
Tatiwaki's voice.
****
****


Half a block away, Ranma watched Akane vanish into
the building with a feeling of disgust. If the idiot girl had
waited another _five_ minutes he would have made it to the
hospital in time to pound some sense into her thick head
before she went off in search of honor or justice or something
equally stupid.

As he approached the building, the two guards moved
to block his approach and something hot and primitive boiled
just under the surface as he heard shouts and crashing deep
inside the building. Dammit, Akane belonged to _him_! He'd
put too much effort into this con, and she wasn't worth a bent
50 Yen piece to him dead or even seriously hurt.


"Where th' hell do you think you're goin'?" As Ranma
trotted up the steps the heavyset guard reached for him. From
the callouses on his hands Ranma pegged him as a Karate
man, and not a very good one. The whip-cord lean man with
the dead eyes was more interesting. Ranma watched his hands
move toward a faint bulge under his jacket, making a mental
bet.

Escrima! Ranma smiled slightly as the man produced
the two sticks of the Filipino fighting art. Even before the
sticks were clear of their sheeth, Ranma flicked his hand, as if
brushing away a fly, and the man screamed, hands going to his
bleeding eyes. Continuing his move, Ranma fisted his slack
fingers, slamming his hand like a cracking whip against the
heavyset mans throat. With a gurgling gasp he fell to his
knees as Ranma snapped around in a reverse crescent kick to
the side of the blinded Escrima man's head, slamming him into
the side of the building. Two quick kicks relocated each
man's knee-caps slightly closer to their hips than nature
originally intended.

Rule ninety-seven of the road, *Never turn your back
on someone who can run faster than you can.*

The entire operation had taken under five seconds and
Ranma chided himself for being sloppy as he hurried toward
the sound of shouting angry voices.

Following the sound along the hallway Ranma made a
sharp left down a short dog-leg and found himself at the back
of a large auditorium; which seemed to be filled with a
migrating heard of enraged pigs. After a moment the scene
resolved itself into a mass of mostly teenage boys, dressed
alike in black leather. A grunt and squeal was followed by a
figure flying through the air to land with a crash in a pile of
overturned chairs. The action was repeated several more
times as Ranma walked, unnoticed, from the back of the room
and made his way through the throng to where the crowd was
thickest. The baby-fascists were not at first inclined to let
another stranger past, an impediment Ranma overcame with
the simple expedient of a rabbit-punch to the kidneys from
behind. Quick, efficient and a soft target.

Rule 22: Don't break your fist, breaking their heads!
Look for a soft spot or a hard rock

One pimply faced boy had his arm around Akane's
throat, attempting a sleeper hold, while a second swung a
short club at her belly.

With a look of annoyance, as if being pestered by a
pack of yapping puppies, Akane peeled the arm from around
her throat and snapped an elbow into the boy's now exposed
gut----

All the air left his lungs in an explosive burst.

Grunt.

Grabbed him by neck and crotch-----

All the colour left his face as a steel clamp closed
around his testicles and he gave out a sound that would not
have been out of place in a calf being castrated with the edge
of a sharp rock.

Squeal.

A quick flick of the wrist and pimply-face went flying.

The club-wielding boy's weapon hit her belly and
bounced. Before he had time to compound his error and try
again, a hard right snapped out and caught him on the point of
the chin, bouncing his brain around in his skull like a tennis-
ball at the Wimbledon finals and he collapsed like a burst
ballon.

Ranma caught a glint of steel and tapped a young
man, holding a long-serrated blade low down against his right
thigh, on the shoulder.

"Uh uh," Ranma shook his head, smiling gently.

With a growl the boy stabbed upward, to slide the slim
blade between Ranma's ribs. Stepping forward and to his left,
Ranma slapped the young man on the inside of the elbow,
grabbing the knife-holding wrist on the outside. Reversing his
movement, Ranma pivoted right, re-directing the path of the
thrust in and down, pinning the boys man-hood to the inside
of his own-thigh.

As Ranma stepped around the screaming bleeding boy
he noticed several of the crippled boys friends rushing to his
aid. Economy of motion, he thought, checking to make sure
he hadn't mussed his new shirt, take out four with one blow.
Glancing up he saw Akane grab an attacker by the arms and,
with a scream of rage, clear a circle around her with his
screaming body. Watching her sweaty, disheveled appearance
he shook his head in disgust.

"Are ya gonna be playing around much longer?" He
moved to stand just outside the range of her improvised flail.
"It's almost time ta eat an' I missed lunch."

"What!" Surprised Akane let go of the swinging boy
who hit the floor, bounced and slid until a concrete pillar
stopped his progress with a meaty thud. "What are you doing
here?" Panting slightly, a frown crossed her face. "I don't
need any help."

"Hey," Ranma shrugged, holding his hands palm
outt. "Not my business. But since I'm kinda your sensei I
wanted ta see if I'm teaching ya good or not."

"If I'm teaching you correctly," Akane automatically
corrected. Turning away she didn't see his small grin of
triumph.

Oh yeah, he thought. She was hooked. And if she
started going through the laundry, matching his socks, he'd
know she was landed.

"KUNO!"

Not Kuno-senpai, Ranma noted. He wondered if
bokken-boy was smart enough to notice the omission.

"KUNO!" Akane stomped to the edge of the stage. "I
want to talk to you."

Kuno Tatiwaki stepped from behind the lectern,
resplendent in over a million yen worth of custom tailored silk
and hand crafted Italian leather, tastefully accented by a
stickpin with a diamond Imperial Chrysanthemum in the
center of a ruby Rising Sun.

"You are disrupting a meeting of the Patriotic
Society," Kuno pronounced, "This shows a lack of true
Japanese spirit and could reflect badly on your family."

Ranma winced. Nope, not a clue.

"Nabiki-oneechan is in the hospital," Akane
announced with only a minor quaver in her voice. "They're
going to operate. She may-----" Her voice broke and her
throat worked as she swallowed, "she may . . .she's hurt
really bad," She sounded like a bewildered little girl as she
looked up at Kuno. "Onnechan isn't a martial artist. She
doesn't know how to fall or to throw a punch or . . . you
didn't need to----- Why?" The last was a heartfelt plea for an
explanation, something that would make it all a mistake.

"It is not your place to question a man's will," Kuno
leapt from the stage landing lightly despite the walking cast on
his leg. "nor to interfere with the building of the New Japan as
your foolish sister did. And justly suffered the consequences
of her actions."

Ranma felt his jaw drop as he watched Kuno with all
the horrified fascination of a spectator at an oncoming train
wreck. He'd heard of a death wish, but never actually seen
one before.

"As your father and elder sister may, yet." he paused,
staring coldly at her.

Akane's face went bone white and tears streamed
down her face. "Unforgivable." She whispered, hoarsely.

*Oh shit,* Ranma thought, having a pretty good idea
of what was going to happen next. *we're at DefCon 4* He
thought, recalling a movie he'd seen about the end of the
world. *the bombers are over the target* He wondered if
Kuno would shut up now or-----

"Return home and tell your sister to be thankful for
my forbearance." he dismissed, turning his back
contemptuously on Akane.

*And this is why it's always such a bad idea to piss
off Godzilla.
* he thought, biting back an almost hysterical
laugh as he felt Akane's aura flare like the aurora borealis.

"There can be no forgiveness," her entire body
trembled and a member of the Patriotic Youth standing on the
stage wet himself as he got a good look at the expression on
her face.

"Coward!" Akane spat, taking a heavy, limping step
taward Kuno's back. "Turn and fight me."

"I don't fight women," he dismissed.

"Unless they can't fight back," she hissed. "Fight me!"

"Go home. Samurai do not brawl."

"Samurai?" She laughed harshly. "Burakumin!" A
gasp went through the room and even Ranma was shaken.
Calling Kuno an untouchable was an insult that had to be
answered, with death if necessary. And no court in Japan
would convict.

A rumor, the merest hint of connection with the
underclass and a family was ruined. No company would hire
you, no respectable person would talk to you. A wife didn't
even have to get divorced if she even _suspected_ her
husband had _that_ kind of past, and no one expected her to
keep any children of such a union.

Kuno snapped around, a snarl curling his lip. He held
out his hand and an underling slapped his bokken into his
open palm.

"I will leave you crippled, as an example to all who are
enemies of the New Japan!" With a cry he leap forward,
wooden blade sweeping in a viscous cut down and across
from the upper right side. At the last moment, Akane moved
forward and to the outside, right hand going to his shoulder,
left hand to his waist. She dropped her hips and pivoted
sharply, adding to his momentum, launching Kuno into the
air.

Panther like, the kendouist twisted in the air, stumbling
on slightly because of his injury as he landed facing Akane. He
eyed her narrowly for a moment, then toed off his expensive
Italian loafers to stand bare-foot on the floor. One hand went
to the buttons of his jacket, then paused. At Akane's
fractional nod he stripped off his jacket and tie, tossing them
on-stage.

Ranma groaned in exasperation. *Idiot! Kick him in
the nuts while he's tangled in his coat!
* But Akane simply
stood, waiting.

"Hey!" A boy on the stage yelled. "This ain't a fair
fight. Kuno-senpai has an injured leg!"

Without breaking eye contact with Kuno Akane
reached down and unbuckled her knee brace, tossing it aside.

*Moron! Break his leg again, then stomp on th'
break!
* Ranma wasn't sure he could stand to be around all
this Samurai nobility without throwing up.

Holding his bokken lightly, hilt just above his waist,
Kunno eyed his opponent for a moment, then moved like a
striking snake, the tip of his sword aimed for a point between
her eyes.

Turning, Akane slapped the blade aside in a side-
handle-circle, her other hand stabbing for his throat in a spear-
point-hand. Without stopping his forward movement Kuno
brought the hilt of his sword up to block her hand, slid past
her and stabbed backward with his thumb against the hilt and
the flat of the blade laying along his arm. But Akane had
continued her turn, and slammed the blade down and away
with a broom-sweeps-clean. Instead of moving away, she
continued _inside_ of his reach, grabbed him by the shoulder
and waist and again Kuno went flying.

*This could take a while* Ranma hooked a chair with
his toe and pulled it to him. Rummaging through the pockets
of a semi-conscious body he pulled out a wallet, thick with
Yen. A couple of thumps roused the boy and sent him
scurrying away towards a row of vending machines visible
through a side door. A few moments later he came back, arms
full of cans and packages. Ranma selected a box and pulled
the string that activated the chemical heating element in
bottom. While he waited for his rice-curry to heat he popped
the top off a bottle of beer with his thumb, and settled back
with a sigh as Kuno went sailing through the air once more,
stumbling slightly as he landed. *At least the beer is cold.*

Ranma was just peeling back the lid, sniffing
appreciatively at the spicy aroma of his meal, when Kuno hit
the wall with a thud. He hit the wall twice more before Ranma
was chasing the last bit of rice around the bottom of the bowl.
Ranma winced at Kuno slammed into the wall yet again,
seeming a little dazed as he came back to ready position.

*Man, that's gotta hurt. He's gonna' get a
concussion-----
* Ranma's blood went cold. *just like Nabiki.*
Quickly Ranma replayed the fight in his head. Akane hadn't
hit Kuno once. She'd passed up opportunities to hit him, just
to set him up for a throw. The _same_ throw each time. Not
one from their ryuu either, but one that would be used by a
fighter whose primary training was kendo.

Kuno hit the wall again. His hesitation coming back
out was more pronounced this time.

*Jesus, Buddha and Vishnu!* Ranma watched Kuno
move slowly back out to meet Akane. She was throwing him
like he threw Nabiki, Ranma realized, and always onto his left
side. Baring divine intervention, Akane looked prepared to
keep throwing Kuno until either the wall or the kendoist
broke.

Kuno seemed to come to the same realization as he
abruptly pulled a concealed blade from his bokken and slashed
a killing blow at Akane's exposed throat.

Ranma came to his feet with a rush, then stopped as
Akane's hands lashed out from waist level, her belt uncoiling
to almost three meters, the weighted end smashing Kuno's
forearm to splinters. Stunned, Kuno froze as his blade hit the
floor and skidded out of sight under a row of chairs.

With a flick of her wrist Akane brought the weighted
end back to her, then set it spinning with an evil moan as it
blurred through the air.

Kuno was no coward and lashed out with his sword's
bokken sheath, itself a deadly weapon. With a whip-like crack
Akane ripped open the back of his hand with the barbed end
of what Ranma recognized as a Burmese-flail.

"Son-of-a----" biting back an oath Ranma fell back a
step, even more stunned than Kuno. *Too linear, too slow.
All I gotta do is stay outa her reach and pound her ta pieces.
*
He remembered his condescending appraisal of her skill with
self-disgust. And while he was _safely_ beyond her reach, she
could pop his skull like a ripe tomato. *An' wouldn't th' old
man get a laugh outa _that_!
*

An agonized cry brought his attention back to the
fight, which had turned into a slaughter, with Akane driving
Kuno before her like a leaf before a typhoon. The heavy
weight, moving at better than a hundred-kilometers-per-hour
lashed out to either side of the bewildered kendoist, blasting
chunks out of the wall or floors if he strayed too far from the
path she set for him. Chanting something under her breath,
Akane herded him about the room like a dumb beast, the
barbed hook lashing out, methodically stripping him of his
clothes and dignity until he was a naked, bleeding wreck,
leaking from dozens of shallow cuts.

One of Kuno's followers lurched forward, swinging a
chair at Akane's back. Without looking around she snapped
the weighted end of the flail behind her and he fell back with
a scream, clutching his bruised shoulder. Which could easily
have been broken as Akane proceeded to demonstrate on
Kuno as she smashed his left forearm, then both shoulders in
rapid succession. Whipping the flail around low to the ground
she cracked the weight against his ankle and he fell to the
ground with a strangled scream.

"Unforgivable. Unforgivable," Her chanting rose in
volume as she flicked the whip end against his back and
buttocks, the pain spasming his body along the ground like a
broken-backed snake.

"Unforgivable. UNFORGIVABLE!"

Her shriek of rage matched the sound of the lead-
weight as it spun faster and faster. Suddenly it lashed out to
smash saucer sized divots from the floor on either side of
Kuno's head. Helpless, the kendoist lay sobbing in a pool of
his own blood and urine, knowing that the next strike or the
next would explode his head like a rotten melon.
"OK, I think Kuno's through playin' now." Timing the
movement of her flail, Ranma moved in suddenly, striking the
nerve bundle in her wrist and snatching the flail from her hand
in one smooth motion.

"Hey, hey!" Ranma jumped back, stuffing the flail in
his pocket and holding out empty hands. "It's me, Ranma?
Just calm down." Staring at him with empty eyes, a low
keening sound coming from her throat Ranma wasn't sure
how much Akane understood in her berserker rage. With
sudden inspiration he changed tactics

"Kasumi-san won't like it if a kill him. If ya kill him,
the police are gonna hafta bother Kasumi-san."

A flicker of something passed across her mad-eyes and
Ranma pressed his advantage.

"Ya don't wanna upset Kasumi, do ya?"

"N . . neesama?" A little more light came into the
darkness behind her eyes.

"Yeah, neesama," Ranma agreed. "Why don't we go
see her. After we get ya cleaned up," he muttered to himself,
looking at the dirty sweat soaked hair matted to her face and
her torn, blood spattered uniform. Unresisting she let him put
and arm about her waist and lead her toward the exit.

"Ya might want ta get Kuno to a doctor before leaks
all over th' floor." Ranma said over his shoulder. "An' it
might be better if you didn' mention Akane or nuthin' like
that. If the police came around upsettin's her sisters, what
with Nabiki bein' in th' hospital an' all . . .an' you wouldn't
want to get Akane all upset again." Ranma let his voice trail
off suggestively.


Tokuyama Hiroshi, looked at Akane's foam flecked
lips and mad eyes, then down at his senpai, who resembled a
package of hamburger past it's expiration date and came to a
quick decision. He shook his head emphatically, no! He'd
rather roll in soy-sauce and run naked through the lion
compound at the zoo at feeding time than upset Tendou
Akane. He wondered if it was too late to get a job on his
uncles fishing boat. Hauling cod in the North Atlantic
sounded pretty good right now.

Smiling benignly at such quick understanding Ranma
led Akane gently away, pausing briefly to salvage Kuno's
wallet and stick-pin from the ruin of his suit.

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