Riku waited quietly off to the side, underneath one of his favorite trees, exactly where they'd told him to go. He hadn't moved in more than an hour. The rest of the nagas were getting back from the raid, well, crawling back from the raid, really, dragging their over-fed bodies into the clearing where they lived and settling in to digest. The lamias would be doing the same, on the opposite side of the forest.
Riku found the vision grotesque.
Today was a very special day for him, according to everyone else. Today was the day he finally became an adult, and would be allowed to go on raids with everyone else instead of staying behind to babysit hatchlings or whatever. That was all well and good, Riku hated babysitting, but he hated what he had to do to be considered an adult even more.
He had to eat a human. Whole. In front of everyone else.
Riku did not want to eat a human whole and in front of everyone else. He didn't want to eat a human at all. But supposedly there was some kind of war going on, and that was how he had to prove his loyalties. For him, however, the entire idea was very much unappealing. He had no interest in eating someone who could talk to him. And besides that, he was sort of prone to throat strain, so he usually tore his food into pieces before eating it. His fellow nagas would probably frown somewhat on a human being torn limb from limb in a bloody mess in front of them, so he would have to do it the old fashioned way.
Axel, his own favorite babysitter from his own childhood, had gone on the raid as well, and promised to bring him back something good. Riku remembered his initiation painfully well. Axel had a very slender frame, and the human they picked was much too big for him. He'd coughed him up not once, not twice, but six times before managing to keep him down permanently. And then after that, everyone had had to listen to both the human's struggles and Axel's tummy ache for the entire night. Axel's stomach didn't even manage to kill the guy for almost three days. That was Riku's worst nightmare- having some living, breathing, complaining freeloader living inside of him for a week. He preferred his food to be dead before it went down, thank you.
Once everyone, or everyone that mattered, made it back, then Axel would come to get him, he'd be taken out in front of everyone, the elder would give a little rehearsed speech, they'd bring the human out, and Axel would help him eat it. Hopefully near everyone would be asleep from the feast. Yeah, that would be ideal. Or maybe he could just swallow the human like he was asked and then sneak away and spit it back up? Maybe he would just leave. He could think of a million different ways to get out of doing this.
Riku must have fallen asleep himself, because the next thing he knew, someone else was there, jostling his shoulder.
"Hey, little guy." Axel. "It's almost time. Are you all set?"
No. No he was not ready.
"Yeah," was what he said. "Is everyone back already?"
"Yep. Demyx somehow managed to eat an entire family of four while no one was looking, so we all had to take turns carrying him, but other than that, it was pretty uneventful." Riku's eyes traveled down to Axel's midsection. Axel was using one hand to help support the enormous bulge in his stomach. Riku could see faint outlines of a head, a spine, legs and feet. He felt nauseous.
"I picked you out a good one. This guy's brother," he grinned, giving his stomach a pat. "And trust me, if yours tastes even half as good-" Suddenly, Axel's gut started to shift around. Whoever was inside was struggling.
"Leave Sora alone!" the prey said in, well, it was probably meant to be a shout, but he was all but silenced by Axel's body. Too bad for him.
"He's still alive!?" Riku gaped at Axel's stomach. The nausea came back, full force, and while he hadn't really imagined what it would be like to have a live human inside of him, well, now he was imagining it. He was imagining it in horrifyingly graphic detail.
"Oh, trust me. It feels much better if you let 'em squirm around in there for a little while." Axel shook his belly a little bit to silence the boy. Riku heard a few muffled swear words. In spite of himself, he hoped his own meal wouldn't be nearly so spunky. Spunky gave him a tummy ache.
"Uh. I'll take your word for it," he mumbled. No, he did not want to do this at all.
"Come on, little guy. Let's go." With a deep sigh, Riku offered up a hand and resigned himself to his fate. Axel grabbed his arm and led him out into the clearing where the meeting was about to happen. Riku balked at the sight in front of them.
He'd never seen the aftermath of a naga raid before.
Riku had never believed the stories about the raids. They couldn't possibly eat an entire village, he'd said. But looking at the mess in front of him, he was forced to reconsider. The nagas were sprawled haphazardly around the clearing in various states of bloated contentment, mostly asleep, though a few blinked at him curiously through gorge-glazed eyes. Each one looked like he'd eaten an entire village alone. It was quite obvious that none of them were going to be going anywhere for a very, very long time.
Riku felt sick.
"Ah! Riku." The clan's elder was seated off to one side, addressing him with a warm smile on his face. Riku did not miss the sizeable bulge in the elder's tail. "Are you ready for the initiation?"
"Oh, he's ready," said Axel cheerfully, answering for him. Which was probably a good thing, because Riku felt like if he tried to speak, he'd throw up. "I'll go get the food," he said, before disappearing to another part of the forest. Riku was left alone with the over-eating brigade. He heard someone start snoring.
"Nagas," the elder announced, with a brisk clap. No one responded. "We're gathered today to witness young Riku become an adult." Riku felt unbelievably self-conscious. He wanted to melt into the ground and die. Maybe someone could eat him instead.
The elder continued, a rehearsed speech about the importance of tradition and ritual, and how this was an important time in every young naga's life. Riku tuned him out. He twiddled his thumbs, looked at the sky, dreamed about bolting the hell out of that clearing- anything to avoid focusing on the task at hand.
"Ah," the elder said. "And here's the meal."
Riku stopped chasing a chipmunk with his eyes just long enough to look up and see what the elder meant. He immediately regretted it.
Axel had come back, leading a human boy, completely naked except for a blindfold. He was a boy, even younger than Riku. Riku remembered the name that the brother had used.
Sora was trembling uncontrollably. Riku could practically hear his teeth chatter and his knees knock together. He wondered how anyone could expect him to eat someone so terrified and helpless, and in front of an audience, no less.
"Here you go," Axel grinned. "I told you he was tasty." He moved to untie Sora's blindfold.
"No!" Riku said quickly. "Don't. I mean, leave it on." Maybe it was just the guilt speaking, but he didn't want Sora to see what had happened to his village. Riku himself didn't even want to look at them, and he wasn't about to be fed to a naga. That couldn't be the last thing this boy saw. Axel shrugged, and left the blindfold where it was.
"Are you ready, Riku?" asked the elder. Riku said nothing. He couldn't stop looking at Sora. Fortunately, everyone seemed to interpret his gaze as hunger. The elder laughed.
"Then let's get started!" he said, before laying back down, draped over his own stomach.
Riku swallowed hard and looked at Axel. They exchanged one look- Axel's expression was unreadable- before Axel scooped up Sora in his arms and spun him around to face Riku's mouth.
"Open up," he grinned, more of a command than a request. Riku saw the boy whimper and squirm, but Axel had too strong a grip for him to move much. He felt pity. He didn't want to open up. But everyone was there, watching him. They gave a damn speech. He had to do it.
"Uh," he whispered, so quietly that no one but him and the boy, and maybe Axel though he didn't show it, could hear him. "Sorry."
Before he could get a response, he opened up and took Sora's head in his mouth.
The hair was different than animal fur, but longer than what he was used to. He wrinkled his nose and gagged a bit. Axel had always told him that humans were delicious, all skin and no claws. Riku was eager to get to the good parts, if for no other reason than to get a distraction from his raging guilt. He swallowed, pushing Sora's head towards the back of his throat and moving on to the neck.
As he gulped, Axel carefully guided Sora's body into his throat. Riku wouldn't have been able to pin a nearly grown human and eat him all by himself. He wasn't strong enough yet. But with Axel's help, he got it done all right- that is, until he got to the shoulders. Then he was stuck.
He whimpered feebly. He didn't want to do this.
"Just relax," Axel said encouragingly. "Open up your throat and let him slide in all on his own." Riku tried to follow the advice. His tongue was flicking all over Sora's face and neck. Concentrating very hard on the back of his mouth, he focused on relaxing his muscles, one by one.
The strategy worked. Sora began to move again. Someone cheered.
Riku sucked in the boy's torso with a few large gulps. Sora was big, bigger than what he was used to, but swallowing him was manageable. He had a suspicion that Axel was pushing from behind to speed the process along- he must have noticed how uncomfortable he was. Riku's entire body was shaking. Hopefully everyone else would assume it was nerves and not repulsion. He didn't know what would happen to him if they found out the truth.
Riku, used to eating his food in pieces, shuddered in discomfort as Sora's upper body began to ease into his stomach. He'd had plenty of big meals in his young life, but he was used to the food squishing around to accommodate him, and not the other way around. His upper stomach wasn't going to be strong enough to push Sora's body in any direction that his bones didn't want to go. Riku closed his eyes and prepared himself for an uncomfortable stretch.
"That's it," Axel whispered. "Good job. Only a little further." Riku could feel the other nagas staring at him, at least, the ones who were still awake. He heard someone nearby lick his lips as he stretched his mouth to get around Sora's hips and thighs. Sora, meanwhile, was struggling inside of him, from his mouth all the way down into his stomach. The feeling was intensely pleasurable and intensely revolting all at once. Riku shuddered again.
Once he was on to the legs, Axel released his grip a little bit so that Sora would be able to struggle more. Riku supposed that Axel thought he might like that, but really, it made everything worse. He placed both hands on his swelling stomach and tried not to think about how desperately what was inside didn't want to be there.
"Almost there," Axel encouraged. He tipped Riku's chin up so that Sora's legs could go down more smoothly, in a straight shot. Sora himself was being forced into a curl by Riku's aching stomach. He rubbed his belly to try to calm it down. The fullness was too much.
He swallowed hard, wanting nothing more than for the entire ordeal to be over. Soon, Axel no longer had to hold on to Sora's legs at all. Riku was in charge, gulping furiously until all that was left was the ankles and feet.
With one powerful inhale, Sora was in.
Riku closed his eyes, took a deep breath through his nose, and swallowed.
After a long moment, the last of Sora's weight slid downwards and dropped into his stomach, finally released by his throat. Riku released a heavy breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Sora wasn't nearly as heavy as he'd expected him to be- clearly, his stomach knew what it was doing, without any help from him at all. He felt Sora's head against the inside of his stomach, and he remembered the boy's face. For a split second, he considered vomiting on the spot.
Then Sora squirmed. The movement made Riku's entire body shiver.
The clan was watching him, watching to see if the food would stay down. His jaw was still slackened as it fought its way back to its normal position, his face was covered in thick drool, and he didn't care. Axel was watching him the most closely.
His stomach churned.
Riku leaned against Axel for support, clutching his stomach with both hands. He'd never been so full in his short life. The rest of his body faded to the background, insignificant next to his bloated gut, sloshing and grumbling as it worked to get the large meal situated. Riku himself was still very uncomfortable, and he held onto his belly, desperate to quell the storm inside.
"Hey, are you ok?" Axel rubbed his back. "Seriously, if you have to puke, it's ok. Six times, remember?" Riku shook his head. He wanted to puke Sora up, really he did, but also, he wanted him to stay. He was conflicted. The meal was too good to just give up, right? And what did Sora have left to live for, anyway? Everyone he knew and everything he cared about had been swallowed by nagas, too. So wasn't Riku doing him a favor?
"I-" He couldn't quite get the words out. Something was wrong with his voice. He tried again.
But this time when he opened his mouth, nothing came out but a very loud and obvious belch.
Riku clapped a hand over his mouth, but wasn't able to stop himself. His face was bright red. He was terribly embarrassed. But much to his surprise, rather than getting a lecture on manners, a smattering of cheers and applause broke out among the few nagas who were still awake. The elder went into his little congratulatory speech about how he was an adult now. Axel laughed and ruffled his hair.
"Nice work, little guy," he said. "For a second there, I thought we'd need a do over." Riku held onto his belly, barely able to take in what he'd just heard.
He did it. He ate a human.
And, true to what everyone had told him, it felt amazing.
His stomach was relaxing around Sora's body, absorbing each wiggle with relish. Riku felt every squirm and movement, like a massage from the inside out. His own body shivered. His brain and body were shutting down, sending any and all available energy to help with digestion. All thoughts of Sora were fading- now he could barely even remember the boy's face anymore- all that mattered was how good he felt. He was sinking into a haze of satisfaction.
Now that no one was paying attention to him, he burped again, almost as loudly as the first time. His stomach was settling down, and Sora's movements were slowing almost to a stop. The exhaustion of the task began to settle in, and more than anything, Riku was terribly sleepy.
"How are you feeling?"
Riku answered with a giant yawn. Axel laughed at him.
"All right, let's get you to bed." Riku nodded in agreement as Axel wrapped his tail around him and pulled him down into a snuggle. He hadn't slept curled up with someone like this since he was a tiny nagaling, and the nostalgia was making him fall asleep all that much faster.
"Sweet dreams," said Axel. Riku mumbled something in response, rested his hands on his swollen belly, and fell asleep with a smile on his face.