"Ranma! Save us!" The demand came, the moment that he returned from school, prompting a sigh as he took in the sight before him.
It wasn't at all an out-of-the-ordinary request, either. Hardly a week went by without someone yelling for him to save them. This time, however, was a little different somehow. He had saved a lot of people, including almost every one of the Tendos, his father, his mother, the other fiancees, his rivals from time to time, and a number of people just out and about Nerima who simply fell under the 'Innocent Bystander' category, and he was used to saving them from clearly present and unmistakable things. Rampaging martial artists, angry dragons and phoenix gods, stampeding buffalo, giant ghost cats, even Happosai if he absolutely had to.
On such scales, what seemed to be a little girl usually didn't even register.
"What's wrong?" Akane asked just before Ranma could, inadvertently allowing Ranma to step back and assess the situation, something he was rarely allowed to in other situations such as this, only dimly listening to Soun wail about being challenged to a fight, the stakes being food and Sake, and how the little girl was eating more than Ranma and Genma combined and was going to break the dojo's budget, and the fathers hadn't managed to make her leave, and on and on and on...
"I'll take care of it then. You should know by now that Ranma doesn't fight girls, Dad." Akane decided, jerking Ranma's attention away.
"Wait, what?" He wondered aloud. "I don't fight girls? What gave you that impression?"
"Of course you don't fight-"
"Shampoo." Ranma stated flatly, raising a single finger as though to tick off the name, then added a second. "Ukyou. Cologne. Kodachi. Azusa. That noodle delivery girl, Kaori. Pink and Link. Rouge. And that's just the memorable ones."
"But-!" Akane insisted, sure of herself and not willing to back down in the face of logic and evidence.
"Look, have I ever once actually said anything like 'I don't fight girls'?" He asked plainly. "No. So don't put words in my mouth! 'Sides, this one's a little much for you, I think."
"She's a little girl." Akane stressed, fists clenching slowly.
"She's oni." Ranma deadpanned, getting a raised eyebrow and a smirk from the little girl in question.
"What gave it away?"
"The horns." Ranma deadpanned again. "Also, that you're drinking heavier than my old man usually does, and I'm not seeing any real effect, but mainly the horns."
The oni nodded somberly, drawing attention to the horns in question and forcing Akane to wonder just how she hadn't immediately noticed something so blindingly obvious.
"So, you gonna give it a shot?" The oni wondered aloud.
"Don't rush me... I'm thinking. I don't suppose that if I ignored you, you'd just go away eventually?"
Akane's elbow and Soun's heel, coupled with a bellow about how he had to accept all challengers, and ignoring that the oni wasn't actually doing any challenging at the moment, showed exactly what they thought about that idea.
"Yeah, that's about what I figured." Ranma mumbled through a mouthful of floorboard. "So yeah. I guess I am."
"Alright! I'm Suika, of Ibuki clan, and if I win.... hm. Do you have anything I might want?" She wondered.
"Aside from the five hundred yen in my other pants? Not really." He admitted.
"No help for it then. So if I win, I'll just do the traditional thing, and carry you away!"
"That's how it is, huh?" Ranma grumbled. "So, what would happen after that?"
"Huh? After?" Suika wondered. "I think I'm supposed to eat you. Or ravage you. Or both, maybe. You look tasty though, so I'm sure we'll have fun finding out however it goes!" She said cheerfully.
"Ranma.... you lolicon!" Akane yelled, having gone steadily more incandescently red since the word 'ravage' had entered the equation, and punched him into a wall.
"Yeah..." Ranma said after stepping back through the hole, cracking his knuckles. "Can't say I'm keen on being eaten. But then, I'm not planning on losing, either. I'm Ranma Saotome, of the Saotome-ryu, and if I win then you have to call it square with Mr. Tendo and leave, okay?"
"Sure, why not! I don't plan on losing either, though. Ibuki clan takes great pride in our strength."
"Well then, let's-" Soun managed to get out before Ranma threw himself to the side and out of the house, barely dodging a punch that seemed to leave the air rippling around it for a moment before Suika leapt after him, the afterimage she had left behind wavering then fading away.
From the first pass, Ranma knew this would be a difficult fight. Suika was, all things considered, roughly as fast as his girl-form, and if he was judging accurately then she had enough power behind those fists to knock the wind out of Ryoga for a little while. Given that he had, foolishly in retrospect, never actually gone through the Breaking Point training himself, if he allowed the oni to land a blow then it would seriously mess up his day. He was having to go all out right from the bat.
And then, apparently sensing they were at a sort of stalemate, Suika upped the ante and things began to get ridiculously difficult with the new tricks she brought to bear. After all, just growing really big for a short time or throwing a really big rock really fast was one thing, and even the fireballs and breath had some precedent.
Throwing around what could only be described as temporary, miniature black holes, which wrecked the Tendo's yard, and turning herself into mist just as he was about to land a solid hit, and turning back to counterattack and force him to scramble out of the way... that was just plain unfair. Within a minute, the landscaping could almost be considered beyond repair, and he had twice had to quickly pat out fires that had caught onto his second favorite silk shirt before simply discarding it.
For his part, he had picked up that his chi-blasts still had some effect on her while she was mist, and could work with that, although Suika tended to dodge them with almost depressing ease if she was embodied at the time. He'd barely needed Genma's shouted advice to sink into the umi-sen-ken and start making like a ninja.... and then, after getting off barely two sneak attacks on the oni, things had gone just straight to hell.
Her thought process was clearly obvious, considering what it lead to. She couldn't see Ranma anymore. Therefore, he could be hidden and attack from anywhere in the nearby area. So, everywhere in the nearby area was someplace he could potentially be, and should be attacked to see if he was there. So what could be a better idea than attacking everything in the general area all at once, to minimize the chance of missing and getting countered?
The next minute or so had been an implacable hurricane of energy, and he'd been forced to drop out of the umi with an unfortunate, glancing blow early on, followed by dozens more just like it, leaving him heavily battered by the time one of the orbs caught him full on and slammed him into the stone wall. It had been inevitable, given that he doubted he could produce as many of his own chi-blasts all at once without passing out from the strain, and Suika didn't even seem a little bothered by the effort, suggesting she could hold it all day if need be.
And then, adding injury to insult, she had dropped the technique the moment he was hit, charging in behind it to deal a crushing body blow with a flying headbutt before he had even started to bounce from the initial impact.
Result, a moment of blinding agony, a deep impact crater in the wall to fall out of, and, upon coughing into his hand after dropping to his knees, enough blood to be taken as evidence of serious, possibly debilitating internal injuries that would have to be dealt with really soon.
"I win!" Suika declared cheerfully before Ranma stood, wobbling heavily, blood pouring from the corner of his mouth.
"Not yet..." He rasped, muscling his way past the pain, knowing that this was a bad idea but forced into it by his own code and bravado. "I haven't lost... until I lose consciousness.... and can't fight at all."
"Okay." Suika agreed, immediately followed by another burst of blinding pain as her fist was buried deeply into his stomach. The world swam before his eyes as he collapsed once more to his knees.
"All right." Suika said, the words seeming distorted, as though she were talking from the bottom of a well. "I'll be carrying you away now!"
There was a sharp, metallic click and a weight settled about his neck, before the whole world went black.
Upon regaining consciousness, Ranma kept his eyes closed for a few moments, certain that whatever he was going to see when he opened them would be both unpleasant and distressing.
He was right.
On the one hand, there was a distinct lack of fire, brimstone and wailing dead, which suggested that he hadn't been taken to hell itself, which was a plus, given that since he was dealing with an oni that wasn't at all outside the realm of possibility. In fact, the woods that they were in were slightly familiar to him, which suggested that they hadn't gone terribly far at all, and hopefully only a few hours had passed, as it was only now just approaching sundown.
On the other hand, there was going to be fire, and in the relatively near future. A large bonfire, to be precise. A large bonfire which, in point of fact, he was suspended directly above, chained securely to a crude, but effective suspended metal pole, much like a boar on a spit. In one way, a very minor way, that could be looked at optimistically, as he had just realized that he was naked beneath the chains, and it was starting to get a little chilly. In pretty much all other respects, it was definitely a Bad Thing.
Suika walked past his field of vision, wearing one of those funny chef hats and carrying a small barrel of, if his nose wasn't deceiving him, barbeque sauce. This was sufficient cause for alarm to shift Ranma from 'worry' right past 'full blown, frantic, and desperate panic' and to a sort of zen-like calm on the far side.
"Hey." He said pleasantly, mind whirring to find a way to talk his way out of things. "I... don't suppose you would consider not eating me? I would consider it a really huge favor..."
"The recipe says you have to be marinated. Here, drink this." Suika said distractedly, focused on a small book in her hand as she poked the mouthpiece of her gourd almost into Ranma's throat, twisting the pole he was chained to around in order to get the correct angle.
Realizing he had no choice in the matter, and hoping to get the obstruction out of the way so that he could get back to negotiating a change of dinner menu, he rapidly gulped down the sake threatening to drown him. He only realized his error after several seconds, at which point he realized that he had imbibed slightly more than twice of what the gourd's volume should have allowed it to hold and the steady stream of alcohol showed no signs at all of slackening. Several further seconds after that were spent in continued drinking, as the only other option was choking and hacking painfully as he tried to keep the liquid away, after which Suika nodded absently to herself and tugged the gourd back away and took a swig of her own, then put it away somewhere Ranma couldn't see.
Now, Ranma couldn't honestly say that he had never drunk alcohol before, or that he had never been drunk, but it was generally not by his design as he preferred not to drink at all, holding a deep seated fear of waking up in someone's arms, wearing half, or less, of a wedding tuxedo, or worse, a wedding dress. As such, his thoughts had rapidly gone fuzzy and disoriented, even as he fought off as many of the effects of the substance as he could, while at the same time focusing his ki towards self-healing... well, just about everything in his torso region, really. Provoking another hit to an already injured area probably hadn't been his brightest move ever, he had to admit.
He was losing mental coherence, he realized, worrying about his internal healing over the far more pressing and immediate problem of being cooked over a fire and eaten. Absently, he noted that he would have to cut Ryoga some slack with the bacon and porkchop jokes. If he survived. He should probably get back to work on assuring that he did.
He was bound in such a way that he couldn't break the chains or pole, but he had enough of his internals fixed that he could move without any real fear of worsening his injuries. He started up an odd sort of full body motion that, for a few moments, didn't seem to bear fruit. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. Then, after a short period of the repeating motion, just enough momentum had built up that the iron pole began to move as well, up and down, at first merely the barest of twitches, but rapidly increasing. Up and down. This trick would hinge on the support poles being 'Y' shaped, rather than like the head of a sewing needle, but the fact that they were made of wood meant that it was likely they were. Up and down. Just a little more, and the pole would be high enough that... there. Ranma twisted himself violently to the side, the pole moving with him, and could almost taste the escape as it cleared the supports and began falling.
Only to freeze in place. Ranma somehow knew, even without looking, or indeed being able to move his head enough to look, that Suika had absently caught the heavy iron pole with a single distracted hand, with no real effort behind it, and was right now replacing it back onto its props. Absently, giving no more particular thought to the escape attempt than brushing away a bothersome insect.
"That could have gone better." Ranma admitted, with only the slightest of drunken slurs. Now that he paused to think through the mental fuzziness, his hasty escape attempt had been doomed from the beginning. With his hands and feet bound as they were, even if he'd made it to the ground, the best he would have been able to do would have been to roll awkwardly away and hope that he could maneuver between the trees, at a rate where he wouldn't even be able to escape if Suika limited herself to a lazy walk.
Suika absently sprinkled him with a handful of something green... maybe paprika. Or maybe sage, or something. Nice, either way. He was going to taste great, when this was finished.... He was completely smashed, he realized. There was probably a really good reason why he shouldn't be at all happy about that fact but, for the life of him, he couldn't quite put his finger on exactly what it was.
Suika slapped him in the face a couple of times with a small brush laden with... he carefully licked his lips, unsure at first what it was, and twitching occasionally as she ran it over what flesh the chains didn't cover... oh, right, the barbeque sauce. Nice. Hickory. Good to know that she was at least splurging on the good stuff... he shook himself lightly in a vain attempt to shake off the fuzzy confusion and warmth that the sake had left in him, but noted that she was now staring at the book and frowning.
"It says I'm supposed to have dressed you by now... Should I put your clothes back on? Or are you supposed to be wearing something special...? I don't get it." She pouted.
Ranma opened his mouth, paused to think, then closed it again. He worked it back open and closed a few times, trying to get a handle on what he was going to say before the oni made a decision on what to do and this sudden, sparkling window of opportunity left him.
"Ssss.... Ssssoooo...." He said slowly, trying his hardest to limit the drunken slurring to a minimum, but not entirely sure he was succeeding. "I... tak't you're nnn.... noot 'zactly th' best cook rounnd..."
She glared balefully at him and he hastened to continue.
"S'just... s'just, s'just... just'min't, lemmeee wait f'r the trees t' stoop whirlin'. I... I drunk I might be think." He confided somberly, blinking rapidly. "Anywaaay, s'just... s'just, I'm not that bad with... with something. What're we talking about again?"
Ranma stared incomprehensibly at Suika for a moment before light dawned behind his eyes.
"S'right isn't? Anyway, s'just, I'm actually... pretty... pretty good? I think... Pretty goodinthe kishen m'self. Can... c'n cook good. C'n cook bett'r, best 'f 'm not being cooked." He stressed, perhaps stretching the truth about his culinary ability a tiny bit, but chalking it up to a good cause.
If she was in the habit of eating things prepared over a campfire... or, in his case, bonfire, then it wasn't exactly like he'd need to be breaking out the cookbooks someone had 'liberated' from the Chardin's and studying foie gras anytime soon, anyway.
"But you look so yummy." Suika complained. "And I'm hungry now."
"C'n say f'r sure... y'll find sooomeone elsh's good cook'sme?" Ranma asked, really hoping that she didn't bring up-
"That Tendo girl, who was doing all the chores while I ate..." Suika mused.
"Sh's not tha' great." Ranma lied immediately. "'Sides, jus' cooks tradi.. tradish'm... tra-dish-nal food mos'time, dunno much else 'ceptafew things. Know's loshmore, I do." He might have to break out the Chardin's books anyway, at this rate. "An'... andon'you haft' fight someone t'carry'm off...? Kashmi don' fight. Sho y'r stuck w'me, shtill."
"I guess you have a point." Suika decided, thinking. "Oh! I just had an idea! I let you be the cook now, and carry someone off later, and you can cook them for me! Does that sound good?"
Ranma worked his mouth a few times as the proposition sunk in. What? He could... but then... what? The haze seemed to lift slightly as he considered his quandary.
In order to not be killed and eaten now... he would have to agree to essentially any terms the oni set. Which could very well involve him later desecrating the bodies of others in such a way that she would enjoy eating them more.
Ordinarily, Ranma would have balked here, his pride and morality forbidding him to agree to such terms, even with the weighty consequences to himself. However, he was currently just on the right side of a very fine line that separated him from being either so smashed as to be completely incoherent, or simply unconscious. With enough alcohol in their system, many would say things they would ordinarily never say, and do things they would normally never do.
Ranma was no different, and in the face of this critical decision what came to the fore was not his typically pseudo-heroic, relatively moral choice of lifestyle. No, it was the other bits... the part of Ranma that would steal without a thought, if the profit to him was deemed sufficient, would take shameless advantage of any and all of an enemies weaknesses, would find no depths of dirty trickery too far to sink if there was even the flimsiest justification, would happily throw someone else to the wolves to save himself. All the self-serving, hidden parts of himself that left no doubt that he was, indeed, Genma's child. And those parts wanted to live far more than they particularly cared about the lives of others.
"... Yeah." He decided, curtly. "'mean... n'gonna... y'know... kill'm m'self. Not g'n doit. But... y'being s'much stronger'n me right now... s'not much I c'n do 'f you..." he rationalized, uncertainly and squeamishly. "An... 'nafter they're... y'know... done... s'not like they'll care, right? Imean.... 'm preeeetty sure they'd f'rgive me. If they weren'.... y'know... dead."
"I guess that's fair enough." Suika agreed, either oblivious to or uncaring of Ranma's moral dilemma. She brightened as a thought seemed to strike her. "And this means I get to ravage you more."
Ranma carefully contemplated her phrasing, sobriety seeming to suddenly, if only temporarily, fly in on swift wings.
"Now y'mention 't... what d'you mean by... 'ravage'...?" He asked warily, almost dreading the answer.
"Oni slang." Suika explained briefly, fiddling with something around his legs which, he assumed, was probably a lock of some kind. "It's sort of like 'ravish', but a lot more unnecessarily violent. Though you were pretty banged up, so I went a little easier on you. Why did you think I was suddenly hungry, after enjoying the Tendo hospitality?"
"..." Ranma astutely replied. Now that he thought about it, with the overriding, sharp, stabbing pain of battered internal organs mostly faded away, he had begun to register countless other relatively minor, unexplained aches and pains. Not comforting. On the other hand, not that different from his previous experience regarding relationships with the opposite sex. Confusing, and often painful on his end.
"Waaaaiiit.... does this.... make me a pervert now?" He asked, honestly worried.
"There's two answers to that." Suika explained, irritation clearly coloring her voice as she tossed a pair of locks aside and let his feet loose, moving to his wrists. "A simple one and a simpler one. Simple answer is 'don't worry about it, older than I look, and you don't get a choice anyway'."
Even as he subconsciously realized that that was more than enough, and that pressing further might not be wise, the moment of sobriety had already begun to slip away, and his treacherous mouth opened again.
"Ssso... wha's the simpler answer?"
There was a 'click' as the lock was removed, chains rustling as Ranma dropped face-forward towards the heap of wood and leaves. Suika's foot re-directed him midway, aborting his automatic and by this point very confused and hesitant escape attempt. She grabbed hold of the one chain still attached to him, linked to the sort-of manacle thing she had clipped around his neck immediately upon winning the fight, and used it to swing him around and slam him into the ground, flat on his back, knocking the wind heavily out of him.
"Let me demonstrate." She said, using the moment to do something with the chain that secured his wrists in a set of cuffs that he was very sure hadn't been attached to it a moment ago. He was starting to suspect that the chain had some sort of magic to it.
More importantly, as a distinctly and uncomfortably predatory cast fell over Suika's features, he had begun to worry about when, or if, a rescue party was going to arrive from Nerima, and what their reaction would be if.... oh. Oh my. That was...
Under the relentless battering from the alcohol, combined with the new assault, the higher functions of Ranma's mind collectively decided to call it a night, leaving him in a pleasant stupor of sorts and all thought of Nerima... or, really, anything... to be put on hold.
The gathering of the newly formed Wild Horse Rescue Squad was off to a rocky start, to put it mildly.
"This nonsense is completely pointless." Genma affirmed, crossing his hands over his chest.
"Yes, indeed!" Soun immediately agreed. "Ranma is a perfectly capable young man. I'm sure that he gave that demon a sound thrashing the very moment he awoke and is even now headed back from there."
"Wherever the place he awoke in may be. Also, she literally just beat the tar out of him." Nabiki pointed out. The fathers, naturally, simply laughed off the details and facts as they ambled off in search of the nearest bar.
"RANMA!" Ryoga yelled at the top of his lungs. "How DARE you betray Akane by running off with some demon! I'll-!"
"Technically, she kidnapped him." Nabiki pointed out, rubbing at her temples. Ryoga nodded her way at the correction.
"RANMA!" He yelled at the top of his lungs again. "How DARE you betray Akane by allowing some demon to kidnap you! I'll kill you for this!"
Nabiki groaned and just left the room, seeing that she was making no headway and not particularly feeling that she would be any more successful with Akane or the other girls.
"So, you understand the plan, then?" She overheard Mousse say to Kuno as she passed by the door to the room they had sequestered themselves inside, unaware that it was of no assistance whatsoever in hiding their plotting. "After the oni is engaged, we slip past the battle and into its lair, to see if Saotome is still alive. And he won't be, even if he is."
"Verily, such tactics do not become the scion of the house of Kuno. But indeed, such as that sorcerer deserves no better end than secret and ignoble, apparently at the hands of the creature he called forth from the foul netherworlds."
Nabiki frowned but kept walking. Honestly... it was like trying to herd cats. They'd sort-of unite for as long as it seemed to further their personal interests, but the moment it didn't...
"Kasumi!" She said, entering the kitchen. "You know where stuff is. Do we have anything to deal with frustration headaches?"
"Oh my, yes. Just one moment." The elder sister said, bustling through the cupboards and producing three plastic bottles. "Now, this one on the left will alleviate some of the pain for a little while, but not all of it, and it can cause acute nausea and a worse headache later sometimes, I'm afraid. This one in the middle is more powerful, however, you may zone out and find yourself drooling, or simply find significant gaps in your memory later. This one on the right is the best, ridding all of the pain without loss of focus, but if you take them too often then the lovely little blue men in kilts start to come out and perform Riverdance for you."
Nabiki stared for a long moment at the innocuous looking bottles.
"You know what? Forget it. I'm just going to take a nap. I'm washing my hands of this whole mess."
A.N. Currently 4477 of the minimum 15000 word requirement for Ozz's F4. Definitely not counting end notes. Anyway, cut off here because I hit a slight writers block a little further on, and I thought to myself 'you know, this isn't getting anywhere. How can I figure out how to finish this before the deadline?' And then I answered myself 'you know , the contest requires that the fic be complete when you send the link, not neccessarily when you post the blasted thing. Put it up and see if anyone says anything about it that might nudge you along a bit?'
Following this, I nodded to myself and finished my tea, absently noting that I was rather a stunning conversationalist, and quite clever to boot.
In any case, it should be noted that I'm taking significant, even extreme liberties with the characters here. I'm going to claim it as severe cultural differences for Suika, which I'll probably go into a little bit next chapter, and... for Ranma, he's just a little weird this time, maybe? I'll get back to you on that... OH WAIT, I just thought of something perfect, but telling you would spoil it. So you'll see that later, too.
Not quite sure how to classify this. Some degree of humor, horror, parody, etc.... I'll just take the tried and true 'general' tag. That'll do it.