Chapter 17: An Indecent Proposal

Ranma staggered over to the freaky headed High Lord. He wasn't completely feigning weakness. Manipulating Ryouga's chi had been exhausting. The alien was tall and the head was all vein and bulgy looking. If he hadn't since learned what a living hell this creature and his fellow cohorts had made of the Atlantis continent, he would have dismissed it as silly looking but harmless. "I am glad my lord was able survive the despicable assassin's attack."

"What... what was that thing?" one of the surviving Powerlords stuttered. "That was no human! How did you hold him off?"

"He was a god or godling," Ranma answered honestly. His brow furrowed as he tried to recall the possible lines he had had written the other night. He would have shuffled through his speech pages, but he thought that that may look suspicious. "I am not absolutely sure of the difference. As for how I held him off, it was pure skill. Although he massively outpowered me I was at least able to avoid it. I just regret I lacked the power to put a halt to his depravities!"

"You have saved my life," the Highlord finally spoke. "I will offer you a boon."

"I only did what any citizen of Atlantis would do," Ranma said solemnly. Inwardly he was cheering. This was it!

"Excellent, then we won't discuss anything as crass as rewards," the creature continued with its default rictus toothy smile. Ranma's expression froze.

"Of... of course," Ranma stuttered as his prepared speech went off the rails. "It is a pleasure just to serve a High Lord as great as you." Behind them a loud scraping sound was heard. Turning he saw a massive trunk of a monster body. Already the central eye had fully regenerated as well as several of the tentacles. The main body of the creature was mostly unharmed. He sighed to himself. What did it take to kill this thing? There was no way it withstood Ryouga's enhanced chi beam naked. It had to have some sort of additional spell barrier. He supposed killing Splynncryth had been a long shot. Splugorth were supposedly the roach equivalent of the Intelligences.

Following behind him was an armored man Ranma guessed was a Sunaj. It wasn't as obvious as the others he had met since the overblown insect heas was missing. Instead it almost looked like an almost featureless black helmet. It looked like that Annihilus, character from that comic Desuke read. But with a horn jutting out of the chin. He was pretty bedraggled, half a cloak and the tattered remains of fabric clung to his scorched armor and his left arm ended in a cauterized stump. Ranma only noticed it peripherally but he skirted the around the martial artist in a large circle.

"Nagrath Rak, you should reward your savior," a strange voice reverberated through the area. "I only wish I myself had someone as competent to act as my bodyguard. Right, Ren?" Ranma thought there was some subtext there. After all the Highlords were the Splugorth's highest class of minions. Was there some question on why they hadn't stopped the rogue godling?

"Yes, my lord. Extremely competent," the battered Sunaj hoarsely coughed out.

"Heh, heh. Of course, I was joking. What do you want?" the Highlord replied with a forced chuckle.

"As I said, I want nothing more than to serve you," Ranma stated with relief. Saved by the local supernatural horror.

"Then let it be so," said the Highlord with a tap of his staff. "I induct you into my household. You shall be my estate's most elite guard!"

Estate guard? Not a personal guard? That wasn't quite what he wanted but he supposed that would have to be a starting point. "Thank you, my lord. This is everything I could have wanted."

"I have told T'Lan to interrogate the godling's manager," the eerily resonate voice stated. "You and Ren will support his investigation. It will have the highest priority. We must track down this assassin. As long as he goes free, others may get the idea that they can attack us without repercussions." The giant eye turned towards the martial artist again. "Once things return to normal we can have a meeting. I want to get to know the human that can ward off repeated attacks of that scale."

"Sure thing," Ranma lamely said, hand behind his head. "We can have tea and talk sports... or whatever intergalactic warlords chat about..."

"We talk about power," the Splugorth stated as his eye turned to his Highlord minion and he spat out explicit instructions. Ranma existence was obviously dismissed. One of the remaining Powerlord stomped up to Ranma.

"Our lord is busy dealing with the aftermath. I will help you get situated within the household. We have a small wing of the building converted to host humans."

"Can I get my things?"

"I will follow you back and deal with all issues," the Powerlord grated out. His eyes skimmed over the carnage around him. "So long as you protect our lord as well as you have today, you will have our utmost respect." Ranma nodded. Apparently, this is what it took to get the high-level minions to respect you. "You likely have servants or consorts. There will be plenty of space for them as well."

"Great, lets go pick up my, companions."

"So, did we win," Shampoo asked.

"I don't think anyone won," Syushra replied nervously, glancing at the Powerlord to the side.

"That's absurd," the Amazon snorted. "The rules state being knocked out of the arena is a loss. Stupid lost boy got knocked out, so he lost. Just because husband humored him afterward doesn't make him the winner!"

"Shampoo!" Akane scolded. "These poor people just suffered a huge tragedy! Have some sympathy!"

"They were weak and died," the other girl said with a shrug. As far as she was concerned the world was better off without the man-eating monsters in it. Ranma sheltered Akane far too much. The Powerlord glowered at her. Shampoo smirked at him while cracking her knuckles.

"Now there," Ranma chuckled nervously. "We're all on the same side here. Why, sometime when we're bored, we can all go off and randomly kill some innocents!"

"Ranma! Your worse than Shampoo! This is no time for jokes!"

"Anyway, get your things together, Lord Nagrath Rak has graciously allowed us into his household."

"Ranma! Are you implying I can't make pockets to store my things?" Akane spat, still in a prickly mood.

"Huh?" Ranma stared at her in confusion. "Since when can you do that?"

"Stop making fun of me, I came and showed you it last week! You even had the nerve to pretend I wasn't there."

"Right. Good job. Maybe you can carry your own crap next time we go out shopping." Akane must have been talking to a clone. Unless he was injecting his consciousness into one, they weren't even particularly realistic. Hadn't she noticed she was effectively talking to a mannequin?

"Are your consorts ready to go?"

"We are not his con..."

"We are!" chirped Shampoo in clear approval of the term and stating she was ready to go.

"Send a messenger when they decide on who won," Ranma told his manager. "I mean it was obviously me... due to what Shampoo said... but if they really think Ryouga's going to come back to claim his prize, more power to them."

"I'll mention that to the prize committee."

"You know," Ranma said in thought as he stood at the door to his suite in his new home away from home. "These guys look familiar."

"Well, they should," Akane said with a smile. "They are all Japanese. Funny that they all have the same hair color." She would never look down on non-humans but it was nice not to have to watch your every move to ensure you weren't misunderstood my another culture.

"No, that's not it," he said thoughtfully. "Its their clothing style. Their armor too."

"Welcome," a middle-aged man in an officer's uniform approached and greeted them. "I had thought the portal to the Shogunate closed. Has the Highlord decided to invest in retaking the homeland?"

"Oh right. You guys," Ranma said flatly. These were the leaders of the Shogunate that ran when their invasion backfired.

"You're not?" the man asked, taken aback. "But you're obviously Japanese... are you from one of the villages?"

"We just come from an alternate Japan," Ranma replied, cutting off the girls. "Notice the fun colors? Not dyes. The Highlord's minions mentioned you guys."

"I had heard of such things... I suppose we'll have to get used to these things since we are next to the Highlord's travel hub."

"Yeah, they'll have to hike it for a while until they can build a replacement."


"It got destroyed earlier today. You probably felt the earthquake."
"Really?" the officer said in dismay. "They didn't even tell us that kind of news? We truly made a bad deal."

"Not so good here, huh?"

"You may regret joining us," the officer said grimly. "Humans have it poorly in Atlantis. Even as part of the Highlord's household we don't dare leave this area unless it's under the direct command of the Shogun. We've lost... good men."

"How did you end up here then?" Akane asked.

"The Shogunate was trapped in between the Oni and one of our neighbors," the man began grimly. "They were using us as a buffer zone to keep the Oni from their borders. We were trying to turn the tables on them, but they made alliances with their neighbors and surprise attacked us. We had no choice but to abandon our home and retreat." He sighed sadly. "The Highlord offered us refuge but it comes at a very high price." Ranma looked at him oddly. From what little he knew of the political situation everything the man said was mostly true, but twisted in such a way that it made his head spin.

"Wow, tough luck," Ranma said weakly.

"You should build up your forces and then march back home and slay your enemies," Shampoo said with typical Amazon sympathy.

"We plan to," the officer said, revitalized. "Humans should stick together. Let us know if you need anything."

"Thanks, we will," Ranma replied with a sickly smile. The place they wanted to invade was the nation where he had made some good friends with. In fact, he was in no small way responsible for their attack failing and these people being exiled here. "Go team us."

"This is the vehicle warehouse. You can choose to take any one of these when out on a mission," the Powerlord droned on. This was the third hour into the tour. The fort, or whatever this comprised this base, was massive. He had thought it was simply a large mansion with a personal guard. He had forgotten the sheer scale the Splugorth minions worked on. When your troops numbered in the billions, a compound housing several thousand was considered a modest endeavor.

"I can't drive," Ranma pointed out. The Powerlord craned its neck as it examined him.

"I thought you were recovered from the battle with the godling," it finally stated. This was the same one that had led him to the compound and his suite. Its not that he could tell the various members of his race by appearances, but his aura was fairly distinctive.

"I mean, I don't have a license," Ranma clarified. There was a pause of several seconds

"A license for what?" the Powerlord finally asked.

"A license to... never mind," Ranma replied with a sigh. He still had too many assumptions. "I don't know how to drive these things."

"I can provide a driver or someone to train you," the bulky minion replied stoically.

The size certainly made things difficult. He had thought that finding out the Highlord's secret room leading to either a sleeping Old One or evidence of aiding and abetting said Old One would be easy once he got access. Just find the one place that off limits and sneak in. Find the diary showing the Highlord is guilty and hand it over to Thoth.

So far, his was having trouble with the first part. The sheer size meant he wasn't clear on which parts of this darn maze of a hideout he needed to sneak in. There were several warehouses of vehicles, a veritable zoo of monster stables and barracks that went on forever.

"Through that corridor is one of the off-limit zones," the alien pointed to a armored door guarded by a small platoon of Overlords and one Powerlord. They all looked the same except the Powerlords were buffer. But that brought up the wrinkle in his plan.

"That's over fifty off limit sections," Ranma pointed out. "How am I supposed to guard the compound if I can't even get to half of it?"

"I am sure you will be able to sense any invasions that crop up," the minion replied with aplomb. This wasn't the first time Ranma had complained about this very issue.

"So, say I need to teleport somewhere," Ranma broached the other possible ingress. "Now that the Palace is gone, are there any say, circles or portal of the Highlord's I can use?"

"That section is off limits," was the repeated warning. With so many sections off limits he could be investigating this place until the cows came home.

"Oh, look a human wandered from their hidey hole," a voice jeered. Ranma turned to look. One of the Shogunate soldiers, in their power armor, was marching down the massively wide thoroughfare. He sped up imperceptibly as the voice called out. It didn't help. A squad of Kattani moved to surround the soldier, blocking off all exits.

"I am on a mission for the Shogun," the man declared. "Let me pass."

"Bah, just another jumped up human that doesn't know its place," growled the leading ape like alien. "Don't worry, we'll show you your place."

At this signal the alien's moved forward to restrain the soldier. A moment later a red beam blasted into two of the armored Kittani and blew them hundreds of feet down the path.

"Seriously, I'm right here," Ranma said crankily, aura glowing visibly and cracking his knuckles. "What did I tell you guys about bothering the humans?"

"What we do is none of your..." one spat out before another beam blossomed from Ranma's outstretched hand and expelled him past his companions, skidding down the way, high tech ceramic composite scraping on stone.

"Wrong answer," Ranma interrupted. "The right answer is, 'get the hell out of here'. Now."

Cursing and moaning the beaten squad limped away. Ranma impassively watched them go. It wasn't what he had expected. Nurse maiding the Shogunate soldiers hadn't been part of his plan when he got here, but he couldn't stand by and watch people be bullied if he could help it. Even if they were traitorous humans.

"Thank you Lord Ranma," the shaken human soldier came over and bowed in thanks. Ranma nodded in acknowledgement. It hadn't taken long to get a reputation as a defender of humanity. It was certainly true, if not quite how the Shogunate forces thought.

"No problem," he said casually. "Now get going before I have to blow more jerks up."

"These weaklings are a waste of your time," the Powerlord stated indifferently, having uncaringly watched the altercation.

"I enjoy crushing the weak," Ranma said, purposely misinterpreting the criticism. The minion shrugged. He honestly didn't care if the lower castes jostled for prestige. "Let's get on with showing me my beat."



"Ah. I see. We're about halfway done."

"Half?" the martial artist groaned in dismay. He may learn how to drive just so he could get around this complex. Was it a compound or a damn city?

A very realistic human simulation was sitting out in a plaza. It was Ranma-chan's clone, of course, and it had sat there for the last four days. There was another part of his consciousness that was having far more fun than this portion. Still, she sat here almost motionless. It was far easier to do nothing in this form. Like taking your hand out of a glove.

"You can't stay here unless you buy something," a voice came from behind him. The concierge was talking to him again. Time to actually pay attention to this incarnation again.

"I'll have another water," she said with a voice without inflection. She sighed. She had drunk many tall glasses of water over the last few days. In fact, since this body literally had no organs, it was safe to say she was one hundred percent water at this point.

"One hundred credits," the waiter spat stubbornly. He actually wasn't being racist, he found loitering at the table for four days, doing nothing else but drinking water to be obnoxious.

"That's double what the last glass was," Ranma-chan said, finally turning her head. "Is it cheaper to have you add bugs, worms or slime?"

"Your lucky I'm not charging you rent," the insectoid snorted and skittered away to get the order.

"I was about to offer to buy you a drink, but it turns out you're not a cheap date," a familiar voice approached from the side.

"White Raven," the clone nodded, a rather fake smile on her face. "I've been waiting for you."

"We noticed. It's been crazy but one of our people finally noticed you here," the rebel leader replied. "We went over the footage and you have sat here without moving for days." The woman sat opposite her and stared intently into her eyes. "You're using some kind of avatar technique. Not a very good one either."

"Everyone's a critic," Ranma-chan snorted, more life and animation entering her as she concentrated more on this form. "I wanted to talk to you."

"Then why not tell Nabiki? She complains enough about you that its obvious that she cares."

"You must know by now that my entire reason for being here is to get close to Nagrath Rak. It can't be a surprise to you that the number three minion has insane security. I haven't heard from Nabiki and she hasn't heard from me because the entire compound is locked down. Circles, magic shields, the works. If Nagrath Rak could crawl into a hole and pull it in after himself, he would. He can't do that, but he can lock down most communication magics. Probably tech too," he said with a shrug. He wouldn't know. He had to use magic to use his fancy camcorder.

"That young god scared him that much, eh?" White Raven said with a smile. "Imagine his terror if he knew he locked himself in with his worst nightmare."

"How can you say that?" she said with a giggle. "I'm just a poor little human that was able to barely keep the big bad godling away until the army came and drove him off."

"Yeah, I'm sure. Its probably a coincidence that my targets were mostly hit. And completely vaporized. I suppose taking out a fifth of the city was extra?"

"Eh. The stars aligned. Maybe Ryouga saw your Christmas list." Ranma said grumpily. He was okay taking out the target White Raven listed, though splitting the second beam was partly luck. The last attack was mostly an accident. When he split it around Nagrath Rak he didn't realize it dispersed quite so much. He didn't exactly regret it but if he had to muck it up that much, he at least wished he had taken out the Splugorth. "Hopefully, you saved a lot of people."

"Frankly, the delay in slaving operations caused by destroying the Palace saved more people than I have since I arrived here. Nevertheless, thousands of humans owe their lives and freedom to you and your mercenary girlfriend."

"Nabiki is not my girlfriend," she replied in mortification. They got along and even joked with one another but the last time it went further she almost had Nabiki sell her soul. "Glad it worked out. Well, for a little bit." She looked over to the horizon where a new pyramid was being constructed.

"Take your victories where you can," White Raven said as she took out a small bottle of alcohol. This time she had brought her own drink. "Want some?"

"Nah. Can't taste a thing like this."

"So, are you trying to get in contact with Nabiki?"

"Not really," she said, then paused and changed her mind. "Say 'hi' for me and tell her that her sister is fine. She's making friends with the enemy. As usual."

"You sound bitter."

"Meh. Not really, its just ironic that she makes friends with all the people trying to kill me. Again!"

"She's making friends with the human eating horrors?"

"Well, I meant the traitorous humans, but them too." Ranma-chan thought back to all the former enemies that had kidnapped Akane only to befriend or fall in love with the girl. "She can be cute when she's not hitting you over the head with a table," he said with a sigh.

"Anyway, I need help."

White Raven looked at him warily. "If you can't do it with your power then I'm not sure how I can help... but tell me. I'll try."

"I'm trying to make the Highlord pull a rabbit."

"I don't think I understand," the black-haired woman replied uncertainly.

"I need him to run away to the deepest, safest, hidey hole he can imagine," the martial artist clarified.

"I can't imagine that would be too hard," the rebel leader replied with a sarcastic smile. "Just let him know all that destruction was you."

"I couldn't have done it without pig boy," Ranma-chan said absently. "No. I need him to take me with him. Not try to escape from me. It's why I went through all that crap to get into his household. I kinda figured he'd want a bodyguard. So far I've been the fort's security guard."

"Ah, that's significantly harder," White Raven agreed. "I don't suppose you can get your friend to show up? Maybe stalk Nagrath Rak?"

"I imagine Ryouga wants to kill me far more than some alien he doesn't even know..."

"Wait, really?"

"Yep," Ranma-chan said with a chuckle. "If anyone had been listening to him instead of staring at him in terror, they might have picked it up," she waved the idea away. "Anyway, he ain't coming back even if he could. Even he doesn't know where he is by now." The taller woman looked at her in confusion. "It's a long story."

"He gets lost easy," a voice interjected.

"Okay, not that long," Ranma-chan pouted, looking at the faint image of her possible sister in law. "Nabiki, good to see you. So good."

"I can't sense you at all," Nabiki's image stated, squinting at the martial artist. "I can only stay anchored here by tagging along with White Raven."

"It's a long..." Ranma paused and stared at the rebel leader a moment. "Never mind, it's a clone technique."

"Like that dumb log substitute trick you tried after you saw that anime?"

"Right." The pig tailed girl grunted sourly. "It could have worked."

"So, you need a plan," Nabiki prompted him. "Usually you're not lacking in them, no matter how dumb they are."

"You mock them, but they work. Did you hear that I'm trying to scare the fang faced guy?"

"Yes," the girl nodded. "You've dressed yourself up as Ryouga's sister. How hard could it be to pretend to be him?"

"I could do it," Ranma-chan admitted dryly. "But then he'd run from me. And then the entire army of Splynncryth would be after me. All hundreds of billions of them."

"So, we need a master of disguise to pop up and repeatedly scare the ever living crap out of him," Nabiki said. "I think I could find out where Copycat Ken went."

"That poser?" Ranma-chan snorted. "I thought his power broke. Anyway, he'd do it once and then get one shotted by some grunt with a pistol. We need a sneaky guy. Hey, Sasuke is staying here. Maybe he can..."

"Nabiki, get serious," the martial artist grimaced. "Next thing you know you'll be suggesting Gosunkugi."

"I may know of someone... something with the skills you want," White Raven interrupted their verbal sparring. "But..."

"Well, come on," Ranma-chan urged. "I'm desperate!"

"There is a Goqua in the city," the rebel leader began reluctantly, only to pause at their blank looks. "Goqua are monstrous Intelligences, only slightly weaker than Splugorth. They delight in schemes and trickery. Their favorite tactic is to impersonate someone and either ruin their reputation or bring misery and destruction."

Ranma had his true body rifle through the monstrous menagerie book that Anhur had given him. It was there but it only had a small entry. He assumed that was due to the assumption that he wouldn't attack a creature so much more powerful than himself. They looked like a combination between a slug, a mollusk and a Hutt.

"Well, that might do it if we can convince it that there is some fun involved," Ranma-chan said, her clone becoming active again.

"That's creepy," Nabiki's projection shuddered. "For a moment you may as well have been a wax figure."

"Believe it or not, Akane never noticed."

"I... do believe that," Nabiki said with a shake of her head. "So where is this prank master?"

"These creatures are evil and glory in the pain and misery they cause," White Raven warned. "Just because they enjoy trickery doesn't mean they are benign." Ranma-chan looked sideways at Nabiki.

"Don't you dare look at me that way," Nabiki said, catching his insinuation. "I'll find a way to sell your soul to a demon so fast your head will spin!"

"Last our spies heard he was making his rounds with the powers that be," the rebel leader paused. "At least the ones that don't loathe him. Deevils have a hate thing going on with them. Basically, any creature that delights in schemes and trickery, hate them. It appears to be a pride thing."

"So where would it be?" pressed the martial artist.

"I am not precisely sure. I would guess you might stake out the house of a supernatural horror and wait for him to come to you."

"More tea?" the cat headed Demon Lord asked good naturedly. Ranma-chan, or at least her clone shook her head. While it was normally excellent tea, she hadn't master her clone technique enough to actually taste anything. The nice thing was that there was enough of a disconnect from her senses that staring at a cat headed demon didn't seem real enough to be scared of.

"No thanks, its wasted on an avatar," Ranma-can replied, using the terminology that demons and gods were fond of.

"You seem calmer than usual," Rhada opined.

"That's the only upside in the technique," the martial artist replied with a shrug. It seemed inevitable that as the clone got good enough to sense details and react fast enough to be useful in combat, it would be less useful in this one aspect.

"What brings you here?" asked the Raksasha Lord. "Not that Rhada isn't delighted to see you but I thought you'd be concentrating on your new duties.

"It hasn't really worked out the way I thought," she pouted.

"Why did you want to join the minion's household," Rhada asked with a snort. "If you wanted power you could have simply stayed with us." Ranma-chan paused in thought. He wasn't supposed to talk about the Old Ones until they had been tracked down. Or rather since Thoth knew where they were physically, it was more that he needed to find the method of communication and even contact.

"I can't say at the moment, but let's just say Nagrath Rak has secrets that need uncovering," Ranma-chan said, making sure the manservant Random wasn't near. The assassin turned butler was mostly harmless but only because he didn't have the capability to do more. Abdul Ra assured him that he was loyal, but that certainly didn't include her.

"Sounds like it should be an interesting story," Rhada said, patting Ranma-chan's arm. "I'm sorry we couldn't make it to your big finale. I hear it was glorious."

"It was just was well," the pigtailed girl said with a shrug. "Ryouga was spraying energy blasts all over the place. It wiped out one entire side of the arena. Oh, and the Palace."

"I heard," Abdul-Ra said with a full fang grin that even had Ranma-chan squirming a bit in her muffled condition. "Couldn't happen to a better fellow."

"Although it was for the best, why did you miss it?"

"Politics," Abdul-Ra said glumly. "Politics and... racism, I suppose."

"Those treacherous fiends!" hissed Rhada, her mood suddenly sour.

"Is it Mephisto and Leviathan again?" Ranma-chan asked in confusion. "I thought they had given up after failing to even get to me in the arena."

"No, its not them," the Demon Lord replied in a subdued tone. "That would have made things easier."

"It's the damn Demon Lords," Rhada fumed. "We spent the last few weeks trying to deal with the other Demon Lords. Racist pricks."

"Deevils and demons have been at war for over a hundred thousand years," Abdul-Ra, began slowly and gradually picked up his pace. "Even I felt the same. I believed there could be no peace. Frankly, I still don't think that there can be. However, Rhada has turned her back on her fellow lords, yet my compratriots still consider her the same."

"They demanded Abdul-Ra turn me over for execution."

"Um," the martial artist began, speechless. "That... sucks!"

"It may have gone a bit better," the demon began. "If she had offered to take arms against her nation..."

"I couldn't do that," Rhada interrupted him. "They may be blindly greedy, treacherous, loathsome, insane toads, with no redeeming features whatsoever..."

"Don't hold back," Ranma-chan said blandly. "Tell us how you really feel."

"... but I couldn't wage war against them," she finished dejectedly. "Though if I could destroy Leviathan's and Mephisto's incarnations and force them to re-form from the slime pits of Dyval, I totally would."

"I wouldn't force you to make that choice," the Demon Lord stated with a grimace. "But it means that things are going to be difficult. You can't go back to Hades or Dyval and if things progress as they are, I may be stuck here indefinitely too."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," Ranma-chan offered faintly. Inside she was chanting "Please don't go to the Tendos!" repeatedly. "But look on the bright side! Its so nice here. And without that huge pyramid in the way there's an awesome view of the night sky. Though the thunderstorms lately have kind of gotten in the way."

"The ley line storms," Abdul-Ra nodded in acknowledgement. "They will get worse until the pyramid in replaced. That was the whole point of it. The hundreds of portals into the multiverse was just a side effect of having so much energy."

"Huh," Ranma nodded to herself. "Didn't know that. What about finding a nice empty world and setting up there?"

"That would make sense if I could somehow keep dozens of Demon and Dyval Lords and their hordes from hunting us down. They tend to eliminate defectors. When we could shelter in Hades it was one thing, but without that option we only have one path left."

"Splynn," Rhada sighed. "We just came here to do some shopping. I hadn't planned to camp out here for the next few centuries."

"There's nothing else you can do?" Ranma-chan asked, he knew they were demons and deevils but they seemed pretty nice. He hadn't seen them eating any people. Actually, except for Random, he hadn't seen any humans around here at all. Though their minions were jerks. "What if you joined a pantheon?"

"I suppose it's happened," Abdul-Ra replied thoughtfully. "I don't have any close alliances with one. There's Ammit but from the way he seems to have hijacked Rhada's minions I'm not sure how sincere he was." Rhada grimaced at the thought.

"From what I remember there aren't that many Demon or Dyval Lords," Ranma-chan offered as encouragement. "If you can find a few more gods... or, um, demon lord equivalent powers you might still set up your own place." At that moment, a distant chime sounded.

"Guests, lovely," Abdul-Ra said. "Random!" His voice became sonorous as it penetrated space to summon his minion. A small portal formed in the corner where an equially tiny circle had been set up. Out stepped a leather armor clad man. He immediately turned to glare at the pigtailed girl.

"Stop starring at me, you jealous creepy freak," Ranma-chan snorted at him.

"Go let our guest in," the Demon Lord interrupted their glaring contest.

He returned several minutes later and stopped at the door. "May I introduce Lord Gearalthou." Ranma-chan grinned as the next step of her plan materialized.

"Ah! It's a Goqua!" screamed Rhada in a mixture of anger in disgust. In the doorway crawled a creature that vaguely resembled a monstrous snail. If it had limbs. Eight feet high and twenty feet long it stood in all its glistening slimy glory.

"Greetings, Abdul-Ra... and hanger on," a voice penetrated Ranma-chan's brain. He was about to get huffy about the hanger on crack, when she noticed it was staring at the Deevil Lady. This wasn't going down the way he had thought it would. He had expected a tea party, not a wrestling event.

Ironically the wrestling was between Abdul-Ra and Rhada, as he maneuvered to passively block his significant other from leaping at his guest. "I had heard there was some... aggressive feelings between Goqua and devils but I hadn't thought it was. Ow, please let go of that, its not intended to be pulled."

"Then it shouldn't be in the way of me taking out the trash," Rhada spat as she grabbed her lover's tail and heaved. Abdul-Ra refused to let go and they both sort of wobbled out the door.

"Well, that was awkward," Ranma-chan said quietly as the crashing noises got further away.

"It seems to happen a lot," Gearalthou's voice echoed out again. "The devils and trickster races loathe us. Even Abdul-Ra's minions are jealous that my means of deception is better than their's. Fortunately their Lord doesn't won't lower himself to such childish spats. How did a human shaped construct end up here anyway?"

"Eh, it's a cheap avatar," Ranma-chan shrugged casually. "Humans easy to do. As for why I'm here? Fun!"

"You came to Abdul-Ra for fun?" the voice asked incredulously. "I think you may have taken a wrong turn."

"Well, Lord Abdul-Ra may be too serious, but I thought his minions may appreciate a game. If they were brave enough." Ranma sighed languidly, trying her best to channel a combination of Nabiki's nonchalance and Kodochi's creepy insanity.

"Now you have my interest," the Goqua said.

"It's a tiny bit risky but... the humor factor..."

"Get on with it," urged the Intelligence, getting slightly more forceful.

"Well, you know how poor little Nagrath Rak has been chased by the godling with an axe to grind?" Ranma-chan asked mischievously. "He blew up a good piece of Splynn before that incredibly powerful and brave and... I mean, evil human deflected the attack and saved his life."

"I think we all know what happened," the voice replied with a chuckle. "Splynncryth pulled so many of his forces into this tiny backwater dimension he almost triggered a war with every single power on the planet. They aren't sure whether he's rebuilding or invading." Ranma's real body blanched a bit. That would have been bad.

"What if," Ranma-chan teased. "Someone with excellent illusionary powers made the wee little Nagrath Rak believe that this godling was hunting him down? That he was everywhere he went, and it was only pure luck that he escaped each time?"

"That would be pretty hilarious," the monstrous snail giggled. It was the freaking creepiest sound that had ever echoed through his brain. "It's a bit small scale though. I prefer larger scales."

"Bah, it's not supposed to be a long-term project," Ranma-chan snorted in disdain. "Just a distraction until the Palace is rebuilt. Besides, it can't be too large scale or Splynncryth might get his panties in a bunch. He'd hardly make an issue over the sanity of one of his minions, especially when he loved watching, oh so much." Ranma-chan was almost getting into the whole evil Nabiki vibe. Well, more evil Nabiki.

"He hasn't been himself," the voice muttered. "He used to invite me over and we'd laugh over while killing a few mortals. Now he ignores me. I really am getting a bit bored."

"Would it be more fun with a wager?" Ranma-chan teased innocently.

"A... wager," the creature echoed hesitantly.

"Not with me, but with the raksasha," Ranma-chan clarified. "I personally don't have any skill in illusion. Its why I'm here. Would you like to wager who could drive him mad first?"

"What are the stakes?"

"I would have to talk to Abdul-Ra," Ranma shrugged with an evil smirk. "Perhaps we could even invite others with the proper skillset."

"But who?" the Goqua said, getting excited about the idea. "Maybe the sidhe? Loki?"

"Why not get them all involved? You would have to lay down some rules. After all we want him crazy, not dead."

"That will be tricky," Gearalthou paused cautiously. "A crazy minion should be able to be put back together but a dead one... well they can be raised but he might not like the joke. Besides, if this all powerful godling is constantly popping up how would you explain him surving even one encounter?"

"The same way he really did survive," Ranma-chan waived her hand airily. "That villainous rake that saved his life in the arena. You can stage a fight where he is barely driven away and barely Nagrath Rak survives for another day. Add some illusions of Splynncryth's minions about to arrive and spooking the godling into temporary retreat and you have comedy gold!"

"I still don't see how this could be done without bringing the D-Squad or Splynncryth's other forces into it."

"D-Squad? I thought they were destroyed!" Ranma-chan was pretty sure the military complex he had targeted was just a crater.

"Ren the Hunter survived and has his arm grown back," the creature replied absently, still contemplating the hazards. "Splynncryth paired him with a new Highlord and brought in some off dimension assets. He has billions of them. I'm surprised its taken this long."

"Right. Of course," Ranma-chan said sourly. Like a cockroach. "You may not be aware of it but that human has caught the eye of Splynncryth himself. He is constantly followed by one of Splynncryth's Eyes. It's like his favorite channel! If you're still worried, then why not invite Splynncryth himself into the betting pool!"

"Brilliant," the entity exclaimed. "All fun and almost no risk. Wait. If this human is going to drive off the illusions, then he is going to realize almost immediately its all fake. He is no normal mortal. He really did drive off a rampaging god."

"Godling," Ranma-chan corrected.

"The hell he is," contradicted the Intelligence. "He destroyed a good part of the city while all Spynncryth could do was cower behind a barrier. I mean, gathered his resources for a counterattack."

"It did all happen extremely fast," the martial artist sighed. If only she really had hurt the Splugorth that badly. He was pretty sure that although he had crisped a few tentacles and the eye, that the central stalk, or mass, had barely been hurt. "Nevertheless, I have some leverage with this human. If I apply it then he won't dare say a thing. As long as the illusions don't give it away, neither will he."

"Really," the supernatural mollusk replied, intrigued. Who was this small red haired humanoid avatar? It was a fairly low class avatar but it might be a weak god. It was an odd energy too. Like polluted or impure magic. "Fine. You issue the challenge to the raksasha and I will find more to bring into the fun. The arena may be gone but this may be a new era of mischief!"

With that he crawled out the door. Ranma-chan heaved a sigh in relief and almost accidentally dissipated her clone in sheer relief. He hadn't had that much of an addrenelin rush since the gang had drugged Happossai to convince him to change Pantyhose Taro's name. Another crazy plan that almost worked. Footsteps from outside alerted her to the return of the Demon Lord.

"Where is Gearalthou," he asked as he looked around. He hadn't been gone to long.

"He left," Ranma-chan replied with an innocent shrug. "But before he left, he issued a challenge."

Revision 1.0

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