TITLE: Caricature of Human Intimacy
Author: Youko Fujima
PAIRING: Ling/Alphonse (both as a girl and as a boy)
WARNINGS: Overall, non-consensual sex, sexism, molestation (in large numbers), gender-bending, etc
AL'S GENDER IN THIS CHAPTER: FEMALE (this fic consists of half-and-half Al as a boy and as a girl)
BETA: circe67, thank you!
SUMMARY: How do you treat a piece of flesh offered up from a foreign land if you have never been trained in morality?
Previous chapter here.
It was only when there was a soft knock on his door that Ling realized that he had fallen asleep. Hoisting himself up from the wooden chair, he grabbed a long robe and wrapped it about himself before answering the door. Upon opening it, he found his loyal servant of his clan, Ran Fan, standing there with a bundle of something in her arms. By the look on her face, she had probably found out about Ling’s new acquirement through being scolded, and she was at least a little curious of what the gender-bent creature looked like. But, like a good servant, she suppressed her curiosity and handed the bundle in her hands to Ling.
“His Majesty was not happy with you taking the girl from the medical staff,” Ran Fan announced. Her tone was even and neutral, betraying whatever she might have had swimming and welling up in the pit of her stomach, if there was such a thing, “But he approved your keeping of the girl. His Majesty said it might be a good way for you to learn responsibility and it would also cut down on the cost of hiring extra guards for her.”
Ling hummed in acknowledgement and took the bundle from her. Upon inspection, he found that it was Alphonse’s clothes, by the way it smelled of sunny cleanliness. He wondered faintly why Tso had thought it appropriate to bring Alphonse into the court dressed in that potato sack of a dress. Perhaps it was for the convenience of the medical staff, or perhaps it was so that it would be harder for her to run. The clothes that Ran Fan presented to him were definitely made for a person who traveled, or at least was rather active. There was first a bright red hooded coat, neatly folded to show the sigil stitched onto the back. Beneath that was a black, button-down shirt with white trimming, made with extremely breathable cloth, matched with a pair of leather pants. Stuffed between these items was a pair of gloves and a photo. Ling pulled the gloves out and quirked his eyebrow at Ran Fan when he saw that the palms were torn out of them.
“Her personal items, Young Master,” she explained, “It seemed that the gloves had sigils of pharmacy stitched on them, so they were torn off as a preventative measure. The Ambassador said that her alchemy is quite powerful and she should be drugged to prevent her from concentrating enough to perform them.”
Ling nodded absently and turned his gaze to the photo, worn at the edges to show the amount of attention it had received. On the photo, there were two children, latching onto each other in embrace and he recognized one of them to be Alphonse. The other child, however, Ling did not recognize. His features, though somewhat similar to Alphonse’s (he was probably related, even more possibly the “brother” Alphonse was mumbling about), were sharper, colours bolder and brighter than Alphonse, and his grin more defined. The two children were young, perhaps ten and eleven respectively, and their smiles shone off the surface of the photo. In it, Alphonse had his (for he looked like a boy) arms around his brother’s neck affectionately; Ling could practically hear him laugh. He turned his head and looked at the pitiful form he had reduced the now-girl Alphonse to, still curled up on the bed, and stuffed the photo into his robe pocket, grimacing.
“Ran Fan,” he called, even though she was still standing right in front of him, separated by the marble threshold of his chambers.
“She will need to be cleaned up and fed tomorrow morning, so come as soon as I wake for the morning audience,” he pulled the photo out and studied it again, then added, “And get me whatever drug the Ambassador or the medical staff has for her. I want to make sure she does not run away.”
The next morning, just as she had been ordered, Ran Fan entered the room with prior permission by Ling to clean Alphonse and feed her. Cleaning her was top priority, she was told, since the room was going to reek if the sheets were kept that way. Besides, Ling told her, the food would get cold by the time Alphonse was cleaned up. This was why Ran Fan was now standing over a curled-up Alphonse, a dish of warm water and a clean towel in her arms. She stared down at the other girl, at how shallow her breaths were and how pale her skin looked; it almost seemed as though she were dead. It took Ran Fan a while to decide whether or not to even disturb the foreign girl, seeing how deep in slumber she was, but she had an order to follow and there were procedures to be done.
Setting the dish of warm water onto the round dining table next to the bed, Ran Fan reached into her waist pouch for the procedure the medical staff had instructed her to use in order to subdue the foreign pharmacist. After a moment of rummaging in her pouch, she produced a roll-up needle holder, unfolding it over the table. The procedure, which Ling had originally thought to be medicine, turned out not to be drugs or brews of any kind, but instead acupuncture. It only made sense, Ran Fan thought to herself, since what other way would be better to subdue someone for a long period of time without side effects, hindering the mind too much, or with fear of tolerance? She pulled out the first needle, a thick one, and leaned over Alphonse to administer it to the first specified pressure point that would render her weak; not completely powerless, but at least non-lethal if she were to attack. Ran Fan had noted, with some anger, the bruise the blonde had apparently caused on the young master. Alphonse stirred and gray-green eyes blinked slightly open, rolling slowly until they saw Ran Fan, whereupon they flew open and stared at her. A dull whimper came from Alphonse and she made a move to scramble away, but Ran Fan held her down by the shoulder.
"I not going hurt you," Ran Fan said in halting Amestrian. Her tone, however, was not all that convincing. To Alphonse, not only did it sound a bit hazy, but a bit too mechanic, too cold. She detected a small bit of resentment in her voice, too, but she stopped struggling when she found that her limbs were not in her full control. Nodding, Ran Fan reached for another needle and poked at another pressure point, this one to hinder the victim's concentration. Of course, it wouldn't make said person a complete imbecile or scatter-brained, but it would indeed make it hard to focus on something as disciplined as pharmacy. After a few moments, she removed the needles from Alphonse and yanked the blanket off her.
"You up," she said, "Good. Then you can clean self. Maid servants drew you bath. I change sheets." Black, almond-shaped eyes tried to ignore the markings on the pale skin of the girl in front of them and Ran Fan found herself caught between being disgusted, sympathetic, and... she couldn't put her finger on the last emotion, but she didn't like it. It was pitiful to look at Alphonse, she found, at the way she was covered in filth, the dried fluids on her thighs and other unnamable parts. Her slightly oversized breasts were red with abuse, several teeth marks adorned her shoulders as well as the area between her breasts, and bruises covered her wrists and shoulders. Ran Fan turned her face away. Had she been any less devoted to Ling, she would have felt absolutely disgusted and been wavered by this pitiful prisoner she was asked to take care of. Grimacing, she threw the blanket aside and pulled at Alphonse's arm, yanking her off the bed.
"You wait," Ran Fan ordered as she moved to pull the sheets off, noticing with a chill at the blood that peppered the silk. She could only imagine how rough Ling had handled this girl, but could not comprehend it. Ling had always been nothing but gentle to Ran Fan, occasionally a bit controlling (though not enough, she thought, as a master), but always with that devil-may-care grin on his face. If Alphonse had been tormented in such a manner, Ran Fan tried to reason with herself that she must have done something to deserve it, She must have. The Xingian girl grunted as her thoughts clouded her mind and she threw the sheets aside for the maid servants to collect later. A heavy sigh heaved from her lips as she willed her negative thoughts into breath and let them out. This was not the time for her to get emotional.
With that chore done, Ran Fan turned around and was a bit glad to see that Alphonse had not attempted to run. She nodded approval and took Alphonse's wrist, more gently this time, and led her to the adjacent room where a tub filled with hot bathwater waited.
"Go in," Ran Fan said, giving Alphonse a small push. Alphonse stumbled towards the tub, which to her seemed more like a basin, and turned with a questioning look at Ran Fan.
"I'm sorry, um... Miss..." she began, but trailed off at the lack of a name.
"Ran Fan," came the answer, "Go in."
Obediently, Alphonse slipped into the tub, hissing at how the hot water stung her raw parts, but was glad that it also made her feel much cleaner almost instantly; it felt as though the heat was burning the filth off her. She snuck a peek at Ran Fan, who was getting the soap and washcloth ready, lathering a good amount of the soap onto the cloth, but when Alphonse reached over to take the washcloth from her, she was shocked to receive a small slap to the hand.
"I clean you," Ran Fan explained, "You no can reach some area." Without waiting for even the slightest protest, Ran Fan reached over and lifted Alphonse's one arm up and began to scrub at her arm, then her shoulder. It wasn't exactly a massage, more like a hard scrub-down, aiming to really clean her off, but not in a hurtful way at all. In a way, Alphonse enjoyed it, and she dipped her head and hunched her back obligingly when Ran Fan tapped at the base of her neck to signify where she was going to wash next. When she finished washing Alphonse's upper half, Ran Fan tossed the soap and cloth to her.
"You wash bottom yourself, then I wash hair," she said, "I turn. Give you privacy."
Alphonse looked at her as she turned away, then down at her own body. Ran Fan's back looked so big compared to her own then and even though the water distorted the image of her bottom half, she knew what was already marred and touched and violated down there. She could feel it; her body could remember it.
"Miss Ran Fan..." she murmured. Ran Fan turned her face, but her body stayed stationary.
"Wash quick. Water get cold."
"Please," Alphonse whispered, drawing the washcloth to her breasts as though in a show of modesty even though Ran Fan had previously washed them thoroughly.
Ran Fan knew what the foreigner implied.
"Can't," Ran Fan answered, tone definite, though lower than before in case her voice wavered, "You run, I get punish." She herself, as a woman, had more than a faint idea of what Alphonse had experienced, even though her own chastity was something she was proud of--which is why Alphonse's experience and tattered body seemed all the more frightening and lamentable to her. Just looking at her, in fact, made Ran Fan wince mentally. Her mind couldn't even imagine how raw Alphonse must feel right now, or how sore her muscles were. To let her run away would be the right and moral thing to do, but it would also be illegal. It would also, in the long term, hurt Young Master Ling's interests, which were of course Ran Fan's interests. This girl held what Young Master Ling wanted and Ran Fan knew she could not let her just run off. She would, if she could, as a woman, turn a blind eye, but her role as a woman was subordinate to her role as the servant of the Yao family and therefore she could not comply.
"Please," Alphonse asked again, "Just let me go."
"You go, I get whipped," Ran Fan said. Though she had never actually been whipped by Ling, she was sure that if she let Alphonse go on her watch, she would dishonour Ling's honour enough to merit a whipping; if not from Ling, then at least from other members of the council. "You not just Master Ling's property. You property of Xing given by your country. You leave, bad for diplomacy. Make look like we lose you on purpose." She turned her face away to avoid seeing the shattered look that crossed those paler features. Upon hearing the shuddering breath, Ran Fan wished that she could have also turned her ears away like the way one turned a blind eye.
Behind her, Alphonse began to wash herself and did not speak of the issue anymore. When she was done, Ran Fan washed her hair for her, lead her out of the bath and dried her. As she was doing this, Alphonse tried to beg her again, silently, with that look in her eyes as though she had been kicked in the stomach. Ran Fan turned away and for the rest of the morning as she dressed Alphonse, making sure she ate (even with the occasional gagging noises from the Amestrian), she did not make eye contact.