Chapter : 4
Yu gin gu Zong
(Snare the enemy by letting him go)


"Tell me pop," Ranma asked sourly as he watched
Soun and Nabiki clear the center of the doujou. Akane was off
in the opposite corner, meditating or something, he saw. "Are
all your friends insane?"

"Don't be sarcastic boy," Genma slapped his
ungrateful son on the head. "All you've got to do is----"

"Beat the crap out of a girl." Ranma's face twisted in
disgust. Ripping someone off for a little cash was one thing,
but he didn't hit people who were helpless, and in his mind,
girls were right at the top of _that_ list. "I ain't gonna do it
pop. Let's just forget this scam and hit the road."

"Now listen, boy," Genma dragged Ranma out the
doujou door, and away from prying ears. "You don't have a
choice. We _have_ to have a place to stay. Someplace where
no one would think to look for us."

"That's anyplace that's not a bar." Ranma said
sarcastically.

"Ungrateful whelp," Genma smacked him on the head.
"Besides, you'll be doing her a favor by beating her." Ranma
looked a little skeptical at that. "Look boy, it's better _you_
beat her now, than let her keep thinking she can do martial arts
and she gets into a fight with someone who will _really_ hurt
her." Sensing his son wavering he went for the clincher.
"You're the best there is, you can beat her easily, _without_
really hurting her . . .can't you?"

"Oh hell yeah," Ranma was insulted that Genma
would have any doubts. "But I ain't gonna hit no girl.
Specially not no cripple." He'd rather take his chances on the
road than do something like that.

"You don't have to _hit_, hit her," Genma argued
persuasively.

"What th' heck is _that_ supposed to mean?"

"She's a girl," Genma pontificated, as if revealing the
secrets of the universe. "She's probably done a little light
sparring, maybe won a few powder-puff contests, and now she
thinks she's a martial artist."

Ranma's face cleared as the light began to dawn and
he grinned at his father.

"So . . .ya think I should _explain_ the difference
between sparrin' and fightin'?"

"Right, boy," Genma sensed victory. "All you have to
do is keep her from hitting you," Ranma snorted derisively at
the thought of anyone, especially a girl, laying a hand on him,
"and hit her a few times. Nothing hard," he hastened to
explain as Ranma's face clouded over again, "just enough to
get her attention. Maybe push her down a few times. Until she
realizes . . .until she's forced to _admit_, that you're better."

"Heh . . ." Ranma cracked his knuckles. "That
shouldn't take mor'n a minute or two."

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

Ten minutes later Ranma was revising his estimate
upward, again. Shaking feeling into his hand he watched
Akane sink back into her modified Mountain-Bear stance.

*Crap! Iron Belly Shang*, who would have thought a
nothin' girl from a nothin' little doujou would know
something like that. Or would have _trained_ herself hard
enough to master the technique. He'd meant to tap her lightly
in the stomach, to knock a little of the fight out of her. It felt
like he'd punched a fire hydrate. He massaged his fingers, out
of sight behind his back, hoping Genma wouldn't see and
realize he'd been careless and hit without really being focused.

But he'd been trying to not "hit, hit her", he thought
sarcastically, just like Genma had suggested. He should have
known better than to listen to his old man. Moving more
cautiously, Ranma circled his opponent, looking for an
opening.

Akane shuffled to keep Ranma in front of her, using
small sliding steps that were designed to keep him from using
a leg sweep. He thought momentarily about attacking her left
leg, the one with the knee brace, but dismissed the thought
immediately. It wasn't like he was _really_ fighting her.

Suddenly he threw himself forward, catching himself
on his hands and spinning his lower body around like a
cracking whip, to sweep both her legs. The arrastao was a
common maneuver in Capoeira, but almost unknown outside
that Brazilian martial art. As Ranma hoped, it caught the girl
completely by surprise and down she went.

Almost immediately he realized his mistake. She might
be a little slow on her feet, but there was nothing wrong with
her reflexes. As she went down her left hand snapped out,
grabbed his leg in a Crane-Fist and twisted, as she tried to tear
the muscle from his calf.

Pain ripped through his body, which reacted instantly
from thousands of hours of training. He jackknifed forward,
and slammed a Nine-Dragon Fire-Palm into her chest, just
below the heart, followed immediately with a reverse elbow
strike and an axe-hand to the temple. Even as he was
slamming strikes to her body and head, his free leg kicked
hard, as he arched his body back and away, tearing free of her
grip.

Landing clumsily from his back flip, he automatically
crabbed to the right to put some distance between them, as his
conscious mind caught up with what he'd done and wondered
if he'd killed her. Panting heavily from shock and favoring his
injured leg, he watched, astounded, as Akane regained her
feet, slowly and with much less grace than Ranma. But she
showed little sign that his attack had any effect.

*Uh oh.* Either she really _hadn't_ been hurt by his
reflexive flurry of full power strikes, or she could hide her pain
even from his trained senses. He wasn't sure which worried
him more.

"Break!" Soun called, to his relief. Genma's brilliant
plan to put Akane in her place was working---- about as well
as his plan to sell oil leases in Red Square. That particular
scheme had bought them box seats at a hanging. Only
Genma's ability to run faster than a bat-out-of-hell-with-it's-
tail-on-fire had kept them from being turned into crow food.

The Tendo patriarch walked slowly over to Ranma
and examined him, paying particular attention to his right leg.
He then went to his daughter, repeating the process, with
particular attention to her head, carefully probing the scalp
with gentle fingers.

"Can you continue the fight," he directed this question
to Ranma.

"Uhhhh . . .yes?" Ranma answered, not sure what
Tendo-SAn wanted to hear and deciding on the truth.

"Can you continue?" This directed toward his
daughter, who answered with a short nod, never taking her
eyes off Ranma. It reminded Ranma of the time in Kolhapur,
India, when he'd been running from some villagers who were
under the impression that Genma owed them three hundred
thousand Rupee. While fleeing for his life he'd stumbled
across an old mossy-back buffalo with one calf and no sense of
humor. She'd had the same look in her eye then, that the
youngest Tendo did now, just before she tried to unzip him
from crotch to clavicle. Looking into Akane's eyes he wished
he were back in the field with the buffalo.

Soun looked between his daughter and his prospective
son-in-law, a thoughtful look on his face.

"I declare this match a draw."

"What!" Akane looked at her father in disbelief. "I'm
not hurt. I can still----"

"Whether you are hurt is not the issue." Soun began.

"It's not fair!" Akane raged. "I'm not going to----"

"Be . . .silent." Soun spoke sternly and Akane's mouth
snapped shut, a hurt look passing briefly across her face. "You
will marry when I say, and to whom I say----" Soun grated,
pain wrenching his heart at the look on his daughters face. But
he _had_ to protect her, from herself as much as from the
world. "You will obey me . . .or leave my house."

*Oh crap* Ranma thought, watching Akane's face
close up. As a martial artist (and son of a chronic drunk) he'd
learned to read body language very well indeed. And, unless
someone did something, in about half a second Akane was
going throw Soun's threat back in his face and walk out the
door with nothing but the clothes on her back. And Saotome
(girl-beater) Ranma and Saotome (home-wrecker) Genma
would follow about three seconds later.

"Great fight, Tendo-SAn" Ranma interrupted,
slipping between father and daughter, bowing to Akane. "I
gotta admit, I think I'm pretty lucky to get a draw out of this
match." He held out his hand, smiling his best naughty-little-
boy-smile, guaranteed to reduce the average female heart to
mush.

Akane's heart was apparently un-mushable, as she
stepped away from him, with a look of contempt on her face.

"Liar."

"What?" Ranma was offended. That was one of his
very best smiles. Honest, charming, sincere ----Genma has
made him practice it in front of a mirror for hours until he got
it just right. "What d'you mean by that?"

"You weren't fighting me for real." Her glare should
have struck him dead. "You were just _playing_," she spat,
trembling with rage. "You don't take me serious----"

Ranma grabbed her by the arm, shutting her mouth
with shock as he dragged her toward the door. "Excuse me."
He muttered to Soun, in passing.

"What the hell do you think you are doing!" Akane
jerked free of Ranma's grip. "Pervert!"

"Pervert?" Ranma was insulted by the injustice of it
all. He was trying to keep the stupid girl from saying
something she would regret. Something he'd had plenty of
practice with, traveling with Genma for the last ten years.

Bad enough that she called him a liar----but to call him
a pervert! "Like I'd wanna marry a shrew like you." His good
intentions vanished on the winds of ill-usage.

"Shrew? Shrew!" Akane growled. "I'm a shrew
because I call you a liar, for lying? I'm a _shrew_ because I
call you a pervert? For grabbing me!"

"Hey! I was grabbin' ya and fallin' all over and stuff
a minute ago" he jerked a thumb back toward the doujou, "an'
ya didn't call me a pervert _then_!"

"That was different,"Akane huffed, "we were
fighting."

"Man, that's just stupid. You mean unless a guy is
tryin' to beat your brains out he's perverted if he touches
you?" This was scary. These Tendo's were starting to make
his old-man look _normal_.


"OH," Akane stamped her foot, but Ranma yanked his
out of the way in time to keep his instep from being crushed..
"So _now_ I'm stupid!"

"No, you aint' stupid now," Akane started to relax
slightly. "You musta _always_ been stupid, cause to do the
dumb stuff you do takes practice."

"You JERK!" Akane's eyes flashed in fury and her
hands flashed towards his collar, the intention to strangle him
clear.

Ranma was faster, trapping both of her hands in one of
his.

*Her wrists . . .they're so tiny* He thought, amazed at
how little and helpless she felt in his grip. A sudden and
unaccustomed surge of protectiveness welled up in him.
Which was probably why he didn't sense the pile-driver knee
rocketing toward his groin, until it was almost too late. At the
last instant preternaturally quick reflexes allowed him to take
the blow on his thigh. His leg collapsed under a blow that
would have destroyed the future of the Saotome clan, and he
went down, taking Akane with him, to land in a tangle in the
yard.

"I thought you said you were too young," Nabiki
commented evilly as she sauntered out into the dusk,
wondering why all the best stuff happened when she didn't
have her camera.

"Ah . . .young love," Genma rhapsodized from the
door of the doujou.

"Oh dear," Kasumi said worriedly. "I hope you have
protection."

"Protection!" Ranma squeaked, hastily untangling
himself. "Wha'dya mean, protection!"

"You can be married tomorrow afternoon." Soun
offered, hoping Akane would still be dazed from her fall.

"Married!" Akane pushed angrily at Ranma. "Get
_off_ me, you big jerk!"

"Hey!" Ranma batted at Akane's flailing fists which
were beating him into the ground. "In case ya didn' notice,
_you're_ on toppa ME!"

"That's right," she ignored his "oof" of pain when she
stepped on his stomach on her way up. "blame _me_ for your
perversions."

"I ain't a pervert!"

"And I'm NOT marrying you!"

"Who would want ya to?" Ranma shouted, forgetting
the purpose of their being at the Tendo's. "Ya crazy ----"


"What my son means," Genma said smoothly, subtly
kicking Ranma on the shin to shut him up, "is that a man
would have to be crazy not to want to marry you."

Ranma rolled his eyes. No one in their right mind
would believe that corny----

"Oh Saotome," Soun fell on Genma's shoulder,
weeping. "What a beautiful sentiment."

He was right. All of his fathers friends _were_ insane.

"Thank you Tendo"

"And so beautifully expressed."

"I've often thought I should have been a poet."

"Akane," Soun turned to face his daughter, "don't you
see why Ranma would make you such a good husband? For
the father is the mirror of the son, . . ."

*Oh, _that's_ a big help daddy.* Nabiki thought
sarcastically. Ranma was suddenly looking _much_ less
attractive. Bad enough to have Genma for an in-law. The
thought that Ranma would _become_ Genma----a slight
shudder ran through her.

" . . .as the father is, so the son will be." Soun finished,
looking at Genma and seeing his friend as he'd been ten years
earlier.

Kasumi felt a trifle nauseated. It would be a sin to let
that beautiful boy grow up to be like that . . .that . .oaf. It was
possible his nature had already been warped by living with
Genma all those years, but it was also possible that the right
woman could re-shape him.

Akane had limped back into the doujou while Soun
was speaking and ripped a tanto off the wall.

"Akane . . .Akane dear," Kasumi said worriedly as she
noticed Akane's actions. She made a tentative move toward
her sister. "I've got some tea brewing. And some of those
sweet biscuits you like so much."

*Oh hell* Ranma quickly reviewed his repertoire of
disarming procedures and hoped there was a good hospital
nearby . . .for both of them. It always looked so easy in the
movies. But unarmed against a knife? That was a sucker's
game, unless you were fast and ruthless. And lucky.

He could break her arm (or her neck, a small voice
whispered, but that wasn't really an option here, was it?)
while in the same amount of time she could carve her initials
on his liver. The Saotome-Final-Technique had been
developed for _just_ this sort of situation. For as Genma had
so often taught him . . . "He who runs away----lives." The
fighting another day was strictly optional.

"Akane?" Soun's eyes got wide as he saw the blade in
his daughter's hand. "Now Akane, you don't want to do
any---- "

The blade flashed and everyone jumped, as the long,
thick braid flowing down her back leapt into her hand.

"This is what I think of marriage to _you_!" She threw
the rope of midnight black hair to the ground at Ranma's feet
and stalked away.

Women sometimes cut their hair at the death of a
husband or lover, a token they would never take another man.
It also had less positive connotations, a symbolic suicide, that
indicated war to the death and no quarter.

Ranma wondered if it was too late to become a monk.
There was this little monastery in Tibet that had been
abandoned since 1366 . . .

"Well," Genma said jovially. "That went well."

"Stupid old man."

"Owww!" The man in question rubbed the back of his
head.

"Kasumi?" Nabiki stared bug-eyed at her sister who
was rubbing her hand and wincing in pain.

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

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