Author's notes:

Hey there! Unlike my other two stories (featuring Final Fantasy 7 characters), I'm calling this rating R to an easy M for violence, nudity and serious potty-mouthedness. Hey, it IS Bankotsu, what the heck do you expect? Think "God of War", Inuyasha style. If I missed some formatting, I apologize.:)

SO this story is not for kids. It's not for kids. Did I mention it's not for kids? You have been warned.

I have many credits:

--Various song sites.

--Info on the Sanzu river:"Complete guide to Anachronisms in Samurai Champloo" by Paula O'Keefe.

--My Japanese aunt (through marriage, now deceased) who one of the main characters is named after. It won't be hard to guess which one. She always tried to get me to taste sushi when I was a little kid and I was afraid of it because I was a dumb kid. She'd be so proud of me now!

UPDATE 12/17/05--song lyrics from this chapter removed.

Also, I have to disclaim myself and say I don't own Inuyasha or anything in the Inuyasha universe, Rumiko Takahashi and Sunrise do.Which means I don't own Bankotsu either. (makes grumbly sounds.)

Wayward Ransom, Chapter 1.

Heat, blood, sweat, steel. Struggling like a rabid animal. Poison, vertigo. Gasping for air as he fought to rival hell, air to curse the ten pairs of dirty hands that held him down on the step in front of the cottage. Blackest hair, tangled and unbraided, trailing down the singular step, to meet the flow of blood from impaled knives. A face, once darkened with a deep golden suntan, now pale and flushed with the sickness carried by the arrow. Arms pin behind him, held in place by tight cords of an unknown material. Demonic material? Possibly.

The single arrow piercing the back of a leg. What a terribly dishonerable thing to do...hit a warrior as his back is turned, occupied with someone else. This is not a match, or a fight...it is the culmination of a hunt. A successful hunt. A trap.

Whispering chilling curses under his breath, teeth firmly clenched, stripped of armor and shoulders bared, writhing, he hisses one last time at only man he could see through narrowing vision, the man who confiscated the mighty banryuu, and with the help of others, handed it off in turn to others, and who now holds the cold katana blade to his hot neck. "You!...One thousand! One thousand!"

Another man steps forward, his strong fist clenches the deepest black hair and pulls it back, craning his neck backward over the step. He whispers insults into his prey's ear; no matter, they can't be heard anyway. Too much pain and agony and betrayal. The horrible sight he saw in the cottage, repeating itself, going around and around and around in his head, in a death embrace, dancing with the vertigo. Too much!

The katana is raised.

The katana falls.

The man crouching at the crown of his beautiful victim's head, his hand hidden under a mass of once-luxurious hair, is more than pleased.

"The young demon is dead."

Memories always tended to creep into his mind, no matter what he did. Terrible memories were all that were left right now.

Coming to consiousness, and trying to push aside the horrible memories leading up to his own execution, his deep, searing cobalt eyes opened just enough to see a pair of geta, a pole rhythmically dipping in and out of his line of sight, and a bright, sunny-looking shoreline in the far distance.

He had just been battling the half-demon. He could have swore that was only a few moments ago, but estimated due to his situation, that he was here in this awful, humid, reddish place a lot longer than that. He closed his eyes, breathed silently through gritted teeth, and ignored his body's screams for comfort. He could barely make out some sparse conversation...sparse, but useful.

The two men standing over him watched the distant shore approach. One was clearly an armed guard, holding a short, spear pointed staff; the other a spindly, ancient-seeming warrior, pushing the raft forward through the water with a pole, the pole hissing anew every time it touched the liquid. The older man, in all other cases, really didn't need an escort or a bodyguard; usually he could take strongheaded passengers down himself with his skill despite his gaunt appearance. He had carried hundreds of wayward passengers across the Sanzu alone with some simple rope and a threat. But he was forewarned...this one was different. This one was trouble, and the many bindings that attached his body to the floor of the raft spoke volumes as to how much trouble there could be. Even worse than some of the others before him who didn't reach the other side quite peacefully. It was fair warning enough that the ones that were the most trouble seemed to know this man. Nonetheless the old ferryman made sure they all crossed, whether they liked it or not.

The armed guard contemplated their sleeping, well-bound passenger. He had been stripped of all his armor, even of his shin and forearm guards. He was left only with a pure white gi, the shirt wide open, so no unseen magic or weapons arrived with the prisoner. The gi stood in sharp, almost blinding contrast to his dark, tanned skin and hair, and made both appear even darker than they actually were. His long jet-black braid ran in a river, from his turned head, over his left arm and well onto the floor of the aeons-old wooden raft. His arms were bound above his head by individual, thick metal cuffs, which were firmly soldered by one additional, thick link each onto a low metal projection coming out of the floor of the raft, which left no leeway to even sit upright. He had arrived from the world of the living, but due to his own willfulness, he would have to be taken by force to the other side of the Sanzu...the permanent world of the dead for all those who touch its shore.

"But what kind of person would not want to go to the other side? What kind of person wouldn't want to rest eternally? What you...and I...what we are doing is a service to them, in my eyes."

The older man sighed. The pole hissed softly as he spoke. "Sometimes children have to have good decisions made for them; this one is no different. But I've heard of many different reasons why they end up so. Some never receive the proper ceremonies. Those are the most cooperative. The more difficult ones do not appear instantly on the other side after death because are afraid of the unknown. Some have died by means too violent to make the crossing easy on themselves. Some are just evil, and power-hungry, and desire to try and take back all they realize they could not have in death."

"Where does this one fit in?"

"That is unknown to me. It doesn't matter to me anyway; I simply do my service and ask no questions."

"That's a good philosophy. In fact, I should...and will...adopt it as my own!"

Though the destination shore was still quite a distance away, it started to envelop the raft in the most faint of whitish light, and in a sense of calmness and comfort...in utter contrast to the hellish, tropical heat exuded by the opposite shore of the river...the shore of the living. Their service for this individual was coming to a close, and was suprisingly, rather uneventful.