A Ranma ½ story
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
"Nabiki, what are you doing?" Ranma asked calmly as he entered her room. That she had summoned him— well, more like ordered him— to come was obvious, for the boy never ventured into Nabiki's room voluntarily. He had a good reason to ask the question, too.
Nabiki looked up from where she knelt on the floor. She wore a black bathrobe, and in her hand she held a paintbrush that dripped blood, or something very close in appearance to blood. A large circle about three feet in diameter was marked out on the floor, and around the rim of this circle glowed symbols of blood that to Ranma seemed evil, powerful, ancient, and demonic all at the same time.
"Summoning the forces of hell, what does it look like?" she snapped without ire. Smoothly, with practiced ease, the girl stood, brushing off her knees and dropping the bloody paintbrush into a bowl of pinkened water.
Ranma had, on occasion, fought something that could be identified as 'a force of hell', or at the very least, 'a soldier of hell'. They tended to be big, ugly and strong, or little, ugly, and fast, and they all liked to throw, spit, or start fires. His duty as a martial artist was clear on the matter. Despite Nabiki's general stranglehold on his wallet and personal life, he had to stop her. "I-I can't let you do that, N-Nabiki," he stuttered, unused to defying the manipulative middle Tendo.
Nabiki paid little attention to Ranma as she went about the ritual, preparing several sticks of incense and a handful of some unidentifiable powder within a small censer. Finally, when Ranma was just beginning to sweat from the stifling heat within the room, and his mind was fairly well made up on Nabiki's place as either a demon or demon possessed victim, she asked, "Why not?" Simple question, no verbal pitfalls or crafty loopholes capable of somehow getting him tangled up in the scheme, why not answer?
"Well, things from Hell, demons and all, are evil, you know," Ranma replied uncertainly. "They hurt people and stuff, innocent people, and it's my duty to protect them. Something like that," he muttered. Stupid martial arts code, what had it ever done for him besides cause lots of trouble? It was all he had to judge the world by, though, so he'd stick with it for a while yet.
"That's certainly true, except for a few extreme cases," Nabiki replied. From a large leather sack, she produced the bloody carcass of a mutilated rabbit. This latest ingredient went into the smoking brazier that lit the room with an angry red light. Immediately smoke burst into the air in a hissing wave and the smell of charring meat combined with that of the herbs and incense that already held dominance within the modestly sized room.
"Then why are you trying to bring them here, and why did you want me with you?" Ranma grated through clenched teeth. Nabiki could normally talk circles around him, getting him to agree to practically anything, and making his life a little bit of Hell on its own, but now she was being so plain and straightforward that Ranma didn't know what to think.
Nabiki chuckled, a deep throaty sound that seemed to caress Ranma. "Ranma, you're so simple, so naive. Do you honestly think I would be stupid enough to bring a demon here, to my very own bedroom? You must have seen at least one of those perverted anime that your loser friends hoard. For the most part, they're true, with a few mistakes here and there. Anyway, I digress." A handful of dried eyeballs and goat testicles went into the smoldering coals of the brazier. "I'm just making a really long distance phone call, if it makes you feel any better. I need some info on the stock market for the next few months and can't afford to risk losing much money. You'd be surprised how many evil entities will talk like excited schoolgirls if you sacrifice a couple rodents to them."
Ranma's eyes narrowed, but Nabiki seemed to be telling the truth. Still, this was too weird to accept on blind faith, and Ranma had very little of that in Nabiki Tendo. "Okay, if that's true, why do you need me? You gonna try to make me fight off a demon or something if you screw this up?" Ranma didn't even want to think about what Nabiki had just added to the other burning materials, for the sake of men everywhere, human or animal.
"I doubt even you could handle the kind of infernal beings I associate with, Ranma," Nabiki laughed condescendingly. "I just need someone to read the incantation for me while I ask the questions. I'd use Kasumi like last time, but all the demons seem afraid of her for some reason. You'll do just fine; you don't have to be literate to mumble a bunch of strange phrases."
Ranma nodded reluctantly. He could do that, if he had to, but there was the subject of payment for services rendered. Before he could ask, Nabiki stated, "Half your debt, that's good enough, right?"
Vigorously, of its own volition, Ranma's head nodded. Half! That was over forty-five thousand yen!!! "What do I need to do?" he asked in confirmation of his willingness to go along with his pseudo sister-in-law.
"Just sit tight for a few more minutes while I get everything ready."
Through the oppressive and almost choking smoke, Ranma could barely see the other wall of Nabiki's room, but sight wasn't necessary to repeat the handful of simple phrases she had forced him to memorize. Diligently, fearful of making a mistake and getting sucked into some out of the way pit of Hell and burning for eternity, Ranma mouthed the words to himself as Nabiki added an enormous cow's heart to the dying coals of the brazier. It hissed and crackled, blackening slowly.
"Now, Ranma, loudly," Nabiki hissed.
Ranma instantly began the chant, allowing his mind to wonder as his mouth did all the work. From the smoke above the brazier, a faint green glow began to form, gradually gaining in intensity until spots floated across Ranma's vision. From the span of one moment to the next, the glow changed from the deep, throbbing green to a malevolent red. Then there was a face, an unimaginably beautiful face, perfect in its symmetry and inhuman in its structure. It regarded the pair with coldly cruel eyes and a smile that made Ranma's skin crawl. Reflexively, Ranma's battle aura slipped from its bonds, coiling around him tightly and cooling his skin comfortingly until all the sweat was gone and with it some of his fear.
The being, whose evil infinitely eclipsed the worst humanity could imagine, regarded the pigtailed youth once again, this time with a small amount of respect. For a mortal, a mortal human, the creature was amazingly powerful, a god among its weaker brethren. Perhaps the pathetic and greedy female and all her useless schemes hadn't been endured for nothing after all.
Earth had long been barred to any of his kin, himself included. They had been forced to send mindless animals in the hopes of one day weakening the barrier that separated the myriad planes of existence, even sometimes stooping low enough to work with a human to further their goals. Others had had their agents on Earth, people of influence and power, and Xiombarg had once thought to use the female that knelt before him for such a task. She was intelligent, even by otherworldly standards, and her vices were admirable in their intensity, but the last few years, mere moments for an eternal force such as Xiombarg, had seen stagnation in her potential evil, complacency with the life she had already attained.
Ranma, that was the name Xiombarg plucked from the boy's mind as he ignored the petty queries of his summoner. Basically good, the boy held to virtues he didn't truly believe in out of ignorance and stubbornness. No problem. A thought later and seeds of doubt that had already been present within his newest hobby's mind began to flourish, growing tendrils that snaked their way through his soul. Corruption, the kind that left the mind intact, and it was a powerful if underdeveloped one in this case, took time, patience and a long lasting contact with the mortal. Xiombarg had just the item for the job.
The girl's question finally halted and she waited uncertainly for his answers. An act of telepathy later and he said, "For the greatest gain, use your assets to purchase as much stock as possible in McDonald's." That was all he said, and it was all she had expected, except for the subject, but the profits were all that mattered.
A radiant sphere of blackness came hurtling out of a shadowed pillar of iridescent flame and stopped before the demon. The sphere slowly lost its obscuring darkness, the black energy being drawn into the object it contained. It was a sword, one of a kind and irreplaceable. Xiombarg had kept it for millennia, for once it left his realm it would never be able to return, and Artifacts of such power weren't to be used negligently.
"Go; protect the boy and keep yourself hidden until I command otherwise," he ordered the floating sword. It wasn't intelligent in the way that sentient creatures were, but one of the many facets of the sword's magic allowed it to understand commands given to it by its wielder.
Blue-gray in color, the blade of the sword— or blades, if viewed properly— were exactly forty-eight inches in length, one half in width, and one eighth in thickness. Between them a space of one-quarter inch glowed with silver light and would appear as the same metal as the sword itself unless viewed under the light of a full moon. There were no crossguards, the blades melding smoothly into a bone-white hilt inlaid with writhing silver runes that pulsed softly. The foot-long hilt appeared perfectly, unbroken except by the runes that traced its surface, but could, upon command, split in two, becoming a prefect replica of itself and leaving two swords where before there had only been one. A purely physical description is all we can garner from this mysterious weapon as it slices through the fabrics of reality, intent upon finding its new master, one Ranma Saotome, student of the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts, and soon to be agent and soldier of Hell.
Nabiki smiled triumphantly as she surveyed her room. It appeared exactly as it had before the ritual. No blood marred the floor paneling, smoke no longer drifted heavily along the ceiling, and all the various gory implements of summoning no longer existed. Next year, when the time came to call upon her ace in the whole once again, all new apparatus would be needed. No big deal, she'd be rich by then.
Ranma stared around the room with wide, relief-filled eyes. That thing had felt… wrong, simply wrong and completely at odds with all that represented life. Just being in its presence made Ranma feel dirty, and he welcomed the long bath he planned on taking within the minute. "Where'd everything go?" he asked in an attempt to break the uneasy silence.
Nabiki shrugged. "Part of the ritual, I guess. It always happens and saves me a lot of trouble cleaning up. Now, if you'll excuse me, Ranma, I have some business to attend to."
It was a dismissal even Ranma could notice, and he took it gladly. In the doorway, only a few steps from freedom, Nabiki said to his back, "Not a word, Saotome. Never mention what you just saw or I'll make you regret being born."
Ranma frowned, clenching his fists and fighting the urge to smash a hole in Nabiki's wall to show her how much he cared for her attitude. It would only anger the girl, though, and he'd end up fixing the damage, so he nodded without turning and headed for the furo. Halfway down the stairs, the boy felt an oily, slick sensation on the back of his neck, but it faded quickly and he attributed it to the grime of sweat and smoke left over from Nabiki's latest venture.
It was linked to its master now, awaiting its other quasi-master's command to leave the astral plane and assume its duty.
To be continued.
Author's notes: Haven't written anything in a while, and I wasn't really in the mood to write this, but the internet went down and I couldn't think of anything better to do, so here's something new that may or may not be continued. I'm not sure where to take this, but it killed a couple hours of time, and I'm starting to feel tired enough to get a few hours of sleep, so, I hope you enjoyed it. C&C welcome at email@example.com
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