Saiyuki Fic: Entangled: Reload

Finally finished my (authorized) sequel to Vathara’s Saiyuki story Entanglements. If you haven’t yet read Entanglements, I highly suggest you read it first, because what happens in Entangled: Reload relies heavily on the events of that story.

Summary: Sequel to Vathara’s “Entanglements”; takes place after Saiyuki: Reload Vol. 9. Hazel overhears the Sanzo-ikkou discussing his presence, and the fight with Ukoku. What are akuma, anyway? And… who is Gonou? And Kenren? Also, Hakkai and Sanzo discuss Heaven, and Heaven’s Plans. (Contains non-specific implications of Sanzo/Hakkai slash.)

Entangled: Reload

by tag0


Disclaimer: I do not own Saiyuki; that honour belongs to Katsuya Minekura. Warning for Sanzo’s language.

Warning for vine-stuff (though not smut), and Hazel.

Please note: E:R was started before I got even a glimpse at the translation of Vol. 10 of Saiyuki: Reload, so it follows canon (plus “Entanglements”) up to the end of Vol. 9 of Reload, but no further.

Beta-ed by Vathara.


Hazel hesitantly opened the door to the room Sanzo and Hakkai had taken and peered in. Much as he hated to admit it, he owed the party a bit of an apology, for being taken in by Mr. Ukoku.

It was a relief to see Sanzo mostly sitting up on one of the beds, even if he was leaning against Hakkai’s shoulder – it was still much better than it had been while in their odd vehicle, when Sanzo had been lying unconscious with his head on Hakkai’s lap while Gojyo drove. And drove a bit wildly, at that….

None of them looked happy, was the next thing Hazel noticed. In fact, they appeared rather confrontational.

“You owe us an explanation,” Gojyo – who was sitting on the other bed next to the Seiten Taisei – was saying flatly. “Even if you don’t think the monkey or I deserve one, you definitely owe it to Hakkai.”

That… surprised Hazel. He’d received the definite impression that the Seiten Taisei was the one closest to Sanzo. But then again – Sanzo had obviously kept a number of things from him. Not that he really had the right to complain about it….

Sanzo snorted. “You I don’t owe a thing. And Hakkai knew I’d be back.”

Gojyo and the Seiten Taisei both looked at Hakkai in surprise. “You did? Why the hell didn’t you say something, then?” Gojyo demanded.

“I tried,” came the mild response. “Neither of you were interested in listening.”

“I still don’t understand why you had to go in the first place, Sanzo!” the Seiten Taisei whined. It sure was hard to see him as that powerful monster when he acted like a child.

“I must admit, I’m not entirely clear on that either, Sanzo,” Hakkai added. “Surely we could have helped you draw Ukoku out, if that was what you needed to do. You didn’t have to go with Hazel.”

The youkai’s voice sounded… well, Hazel had already known that Hakkai didn’t like him, though he was better than most at hiding it… but this had something more to it. Not only dislike, but almost… anger.

“That bastard wasn’t the only thing I had to deal with.”

“And that made you join forces with that gods damned youkai killer?” Gojyo demanded sharply.

From where he was standing, Hazel saw a sudden flicker of comprehension cross Hakkai’s face.

“What could he help you with that we couldn’t do better?”

“It had nothing to do with him helping me,” Sanzo retorted.

“So what, then?”

That produced another snort from Sanzo. “Hakkai, how can you expect the idiot to listen to you when he doesn’t even listen to himself?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean, monk?” Gojyo’s tone was even sharper, anger clear in his voice.

It wasn’t Sanzo who spoke next, but Hakkai. “Gojyo, don’t,” he declared, raising one hand. “Sanzo… how many?”

“How many?” Gojyo and the Seiten Taisei echoed, sounding confused.

“Hmph. During that mess that Ukoku started – Hazel was about twenty deaths shy of following Gonou’s path.”

Who is ‘Gonou’? Hazel wondered. He was pretty sure it was a name, but it was one he hadn’t heard from any member of the party before.

“But… Gat’s killed most of the youkai they face!” the Seiten Taisei objected. “Wouldn’t he be closer?”

“Gat uses guns – ones that are more of a distance weapon than mine,” Sanzo replied. “He is screwed up quite a bit himself as it is, from the way Hazel constantly revives him, but he’s not actually bathing in their blood. Nor is he the one doing the taking of the souls. And it seems that souls and blood leave the same sort of mark.”

“You can tell that?” Gojyo asked. He sounded surprised.

Hazel was confused. What were they talking about? What did blood have to do with anything? And what ‘mark’ did Sanzo mean? What did any of that have to do with Gat’s choice of weapon?

And Gat was not ‘screwed up’!

“Sanzo…. You can change that?” Hakkai added.

“If you think back to your discovery, I’m sure you’ll understand how,” Sanzo declared. “And yes, kappa, I can sense it.”

“So… why not just leave him? I mean, maybe it would have taught him a lesson!”

The Seiten Taisei was nodding along with Gojyo’s statement. “He’s right, Sanzo! Maybe that would have made him stop killing youkai!”

The angle he was watching them at made it difficult to tell for sure, but Hazel thought Sanzo was leaning a bit more heavily against Hakkai.

“Don’t be more idiotic than you have to. I direct your attention to Exhibit A,” Sanzo retorted sardonically, tilting his head to the side. “Not to mention, there are a few other things you two imbeciles aren’t taking into account. Most of which have to do with the fact that it was obvious Hazel knew Ukoku – and was heavily influenced by him.”

That surprised them. It surprised Hazel. He’d realized that Sanzo knew he was familiar with Mr. Ukoku after he’d let slip the Seiten Taisei’s title – but the way the other priest had said that implied he’d known even before that.

“And you couldn’t have, oh, I don’t know, told us this?” Gojyo demanded.

“Did you or did you not hear me point out that none of us could sense Ukoku?” Sanzo returned. “He was able to get close enough to us to shoot Goku, without any of us knowing; he could have easily been listening to everything we said. I wasn’t about to give him any information on the nae – much less that I was planning to draw him out enough for a confrontation.”

“A confrontation that we barely survived,” Hakkai added grimly.

“A confrontation that we did survive. And won,” Sanzo added.

Won? Hazel thought in disbelief.

“Won?” Gojyo echoed the thought – and the tone. “Are you kidding, monk? He kicked our asses – you spent the entire drive here unconscious, in case you don’t remember that part….”

“We’re not dead,” came Sanzo’s blunt reply. “Hazel’s under control, and Ukoku has no idea about the nae. And we did some damage to him. Yes, we won.”

‘Under control’? What exactly is that supposed to mean? Hazel frowned.

Again, Gojyo seemed to agree with him. “How is that bastard ‘under control’?”

“You are such a fucking moron, kappa. What have we just been talking about?”

“You call that ‘under control’? He hasn’t exactly said anything about not killing any more youkai, Houshi-sama!”

“Do you really think any of us can persuade him otherwise?” Sanzo countered. “When he hasn’t even let himself admit what it is he’s doing?”

Which was a rather ridiculous statement for the ordinarily intelligent man to make, Hazel thought. Of course he knew what he was doing!

“What do you mean, Sanzo? He kills youkai!” the Seiten Taisei objected.

Sanzo shifted a bit, and Hazel saw Hakkai place one arm behind him in a movement that the other two most likely couldn’t see. “In most of the western world, past India, there are no youkai.”

Hazel blinked in disbelief at that statement.

“What?!” Gojyo and the Seiten Taisei blurted, as one.

“I spoke to Gat. Quite a bit. The tribe he comes from had an alliance with youkai who got caught in the Minus Wave – it’s not just spreading east. He agreed to go with Hazel after the situation was mostly resolved – for his own reasons. And according to him, Hazel never actually faced youkai before that. Not to his knowledge, at least.”

“But… but…” the Seiten Taisei started.

“He’s faced ‘demons’. But he has trouble with our language,” Sanzo continued dryly. “The demons he fought in the name of his church, before he encountered Gat’s tribe, were akuma, not youkai. If he’d tried his little revivification trick with them, it wouldn’t have worked; akuma are soulless. That’s the definition of demon that his church uses.”

“So… you mean, all the youkai he’s killed… he thought he was killing akuma instead?” Gojyo blurted.

The same sort of disbelief echoed through Hazel’s mind. Youkai were monsters, demons. He knew they were.

“Only because he’s been lying to himself,” Sanzo responded. “I told you, his church’s definition of demons means ‘soulless’. Youkai have souls. He’s proven it to himself over and over again.” The other priest shook his head. “No, if he was actually thinking, he would know he’s not killing akuma. But he doesn’t want to admit to himself what he’s doing. He certainly doesn’t want to admit just how badly Ukoku manipulated him.”

That can’t be true! Hazel thought desperately.

“Maybe we should tell him that!” the Seiten Taisei declared, bouncing up from the bed.

“And do you really think he’ll believe us, monkey? I mean, it’s not like we haven’t tried to convince him otherwise before this,” Gojyo countered.

“We can’t know unless we try, stupid kappa!”

“Don’t call me kappa, monkey!”

“Then don’t call me monkey, lechy kappa!”

“Goku, Ke— Gojyo, shut up,” Sanzo growled.

Hakkai abruptly stood up, placing one hand on Sanzo’s shoulder; Hazel wasn’t sure, but from the way Sanzo had been leaning against the youkai, he suspected that hand was the only thing keeping the other priest upright. “Gojyo, Goku, out,” he said firmly. “We have the answers you wanted, and Sanzo is still healing. He needs to rest, not listen to the two of you arguing.”

Hazel’s eyes widened, and he ducked behind the door in the hopes they wouldn’t notice him. He didn’t think any of them would be happy to find him listening to their conversation.

Gojyo and Goku both walked out of the room, shoving and tossing insults at each other. They didn’t look behind the door, and didn’t try to close it behind them, but Hazel waited until they had turned the corner before he moved back to the doorway.

He was just in time to see Hakkai kneel down on the floor so that he was meeting Sanzo’s eyes. “You’re obviously exhausted, Sanzo. Go to sleep.”

“What makes you say that?” came the snarled response.

“Aside from the fact that you have dark circles under your eyes… you nearly called Gojyo ‘Kenren’.”

Hazel wasn’t sure what that meant, but it clearly had a shocking effect on Sanzo, who abruptly sat up straight and stared at Hakkai, eyes wide. “What?”

“I said—”

“I heard what you said. How the hell did you know that name?!”

“The same way you do, I suspect,” the youkai replied mildly.

“I doubt it – I know why I do, and it hardly applies!” Sanzo was looking… almost alarmed, Hazel noticed.

“Are you sure of that?”

Yes, I’m sure! I know because of the fucking blooms! That can’t have happened to you, Hakkai! Not to mention – it’s dangerous.”

“I guessed that. They aren’t entirely clear – at least, not for me,” Hakkai added, and there was an almost questioning look on his face as he studied Sanzo’s expression.

Sanzo nodded slightly.

“But clear or not, I do recognize that much.” Hakkai stood from his crouch, then sat back down on the bed. “I suspect it may have to do with the resonance of two of Heaven’s gifts, combined with your presence.”

“You would figure that,” Sanzo muttered.

“They started coming back to me as particularly vivid dreams the night after you left with Hazel. And speaking of which – I’m not about to let you distract me from the fact that you are in serious need of sleep, Sanzo,” Hakkai continued. “I somehow doubt you were able to get much sleep while we were separated.”

Sanzo glared at him – Hazel could see that expression quite clearly – and growled something unintelligible.

Then, to Hazel’s surprise, he saw a flicker of alarm cross Hakkai’s face. A moment later, the youkai was removing his ear cuffs. “Wait, for just a moment, Sanzo…” the youkai said, as his features shifted.

The very last thing Hazel was expecting to see was vine tattoos actually rising off Hakkai’s skin, as thick green real vines, rather than the tattoos he’d used to fight the Seiten Taisei, and reaching in his direction. A moment later, the door had been rather firmly shut in his face.

 

The moment the door finished closing, Hakkai grabbed the clasp of Sanzo’s limiter and undid it, not letting the cranky priest – Five hundred years, a new incarnation, and he’s still as cranky as ever… – stop him. Not that Sanzo made much of an effort in that direction. “The door’s closed,” he murmured, at a level that Sanzo could now hear, but that wouldn’t pass the door, no matter how thin the wood was. “Hazel can’t see.”

That was sufficient to stop the remaining effort, and Hakkai could see Sanzo relax as vines slipped out from under the neck of his shirt and reached out to twine with Hakkai’s own.

After several months of this, the pulse of feeling when it happened had reduced its effect on them, and Hakkai was able to concentrate enough to tug Sanzo’s robes off and get the priest lying down without too much trouble. He was already dressed in his sleep-shirt, and so simply had to set their limiters down on the table beside the bed before he curled up next to Sanzo, pulling the priest into his arms.

“It’s fucking dangerous,” Sanzo repeated, his voice already taking the heaviness of sleep.

“I know,” Hakkai agreed. And he did. His memories of Tenpou’s life might not be entirely clear, but those of what had followed on from Heaven’s discovery of Goku were the clearest. Heaven – with the likely exception of Kanzeon Bosatsu – would not be pleased to know that their memories were returning… or had returned, in Sanzo’s case. “We’ll talk about it later,” he added. “When you’re not about to fall asleep.”

That got him a growl, and Hakkai hid a smug grin as he petted the vine that had wound around his waist. Sanzo might never admit it out loud, but the fact that he hadn’t disputed Hakkai’s analysis of his lack of sleep was telling.

“Just… one more question.”

“Gods damn it, Hakkai, make up your fucking mind.” The vines wrapped around him tightened momentarily as Sanzo raised his head to glare at him. “Do you want me to go to sleep or not?”

“I’m just wondering… did you mention the akuma just for Hazel’s benefit, to put more doubts in his mind – or is it true?”

“Both,” Sanzo muttered. “It’s true, but I wouldn’t have mentioned it to those two idiots if Hazel hadn’t been listening. I just hope they don’t let Hazel know that we were aware he was listening.”

“I don’t think they knew,” Hakkai replied in amusement. Both Gojyo and Goku had said a few things that Hakkai didn’t think they would have if they’d realized Hazel was listening to them. “You can go to sleep now, Sanzo.”

“Good.”

In less than a minute, Sanzo’s breathing had deepened, beginning to take on the rhythm of sleep.

Hakkai didn’t close his eyes, though. He had too much to think about. Most of which had to do with the memories – and Sanzo. Konzen Douji.

I think of all of us, he’s changed the least, Hakkai reflected, absently stroking Sanzo’s hair, which without his limiter, was now long enough to reach the bottom of his shoulder blades.

Goku’s become much more serious, though he’s still always hungry…. A faint smile flickered over his face at that thought, as the memory of a much younger Goku eagerly reading the adventures of a meat bun came to mind.

And Gojyo – he has Kenren’s love of sensation, but in many ways he’s also a lot more serious. Kenren was devil-may-care at least until the last moment that I – Tenpou – saw him.

Hakkai’s mouth twisted as he eyed Sanzo again. Konzen was always serious; didn’t like touch, always irritated, and didn’t know how to have fun. No, he hasn’t changed a bit. Although he’s probably not bored any longer….

The vine currently wrapped around his waist tightened slightly, pulling him a bit closer to Sanzo, and another train of thought occurred to him. Does Kanzeon know that Sanzo remembers? Se was certainly heavily involved in the nae situation, and Sanzo was definitely shooting at something in the tent the morning he bloomed…. Konzen had always been hir favourite, after all.

And… Sanzo has known since he bloomed? No wonder he seemed to be acting slightly oddly that evening.

Another vine wrapped around his torso, and Sanzo buried his face in Hakkai’s shoulder and mumbled, “Sleep.”

“Yes, Sanzo,” he murmured in response… but didn’t, not immediately. What are we going to do about Hazel? His own vines tightened involuntarily around Sanzo. I’ve got to remember to ask Sanzo in the morning how much of Hazel’s blood he managed to cleanse. That will give us a potential timeline for when it may have to be dealt with next.

Only next time, he was not going to let Sanzo deal with Hazel alone. Definitely not. He’d put up with the smarmy bishop long enough to let Sanzo fix the situation if necessary, but he was not leaving Sanzo.

Gods, he thought with a shiver, only vaguely amused at the irony of the thought, as he remembered that first sight of Sanzo and Ukoku. Sanzo had been so bloodied, it had been uncomfortably like the confrontation with Rikudo. Or the ambush that had resulted in Sanzo becoming nae. Both times of which they’d almost lost him; would have, if not for divine intervention (indirect in the case of the ambush, true, but still involved).

And it was only the fact that Sanzo was nae that had allowed him to survive what Ukoku had done to him, Hakkai knew. His ability with chi-healing was strong – some of the strongest that his teacher had seen in many years, he had been told, perhaps due to his soul’s past as Tenpou – but he couldn’t have healed all the damage Sanzo had taken without the assistance of the vines. Certainly not enough to get him sitting up and talking at this point….

“F’ck, Hakkai, go to sleep,” Sanzo grumbled. “‘M tired, and you’re keeping me awake.”

“I’m sorry, Sanzo,” Hakkai replied quietly. How— Never mind. Not important right now. “You’re right.” Closing his eyes, he concentrated on trying to get to sleep, focusing on the feel of Sanzo’s vines and the sound of the priest’s breathing beside him. It didn’t take long before he drifted off.


“Ack, my eyes!”

“Shut up, kappa! Sanzo, Hakkai, wake up!”

“I’m awake, Goku. There’s no need to shout.”

“Sanzo, you gotta wake up!”

“Time to get up, Sanzo Houshi-sama!”

Noisy.

Sanzo felt a scowl cross his face, even as he tightened his grip on his pillow with both arms and vines. Couldn’t a person get some quiet to sleep around here?

“Sanzo, I need to get up….”

Still noisy. Kin shouldn’t be so noisy, not when he was this tired.

“San— Mmph!”

There. That should keep him quiet. Sanzo buried his face against kin’s shoulder.

Laughter.

“Looks like – ha, ha! – he still doesn’t want to let you up, Hakkai. Want me to try something?”

“Mph! Mm mph!”

“C’mon, Sanzo, you gotta let Hakkai get up!”

Why? Kin needed to stay with him, so he could sleep.

You gotta get up! Hazel wants to see you!”

Couldn’t anyone be quiet for just another few hours, at least?

Hand on his shoulder, shaking. “Wakey, wakey, monk!”

Slam.

Groan from the floor. “Ow….”

Vine pushed away. Why was kin doing that? “Gojyo, are you all right? I tried to tell you not to….”

“Little late for that, Hakkai. Yeah, I’m fine, leave me alone, monkey!”

Why wouldn’t the noise stop? Did he have to hit all of them? Maybe chi-drain them a bit?

“Sanzo, please don’t – I can’t finish healing you if I’m trying to heal them as well.”

“Don’t what, Hakkai? What is he planning?”

“C’mon, Sanzo, please wake up? Hakkai, why won’t he wake up?”

“He’s tired, Goku.” Kin’s hand brushed through his hair, touched the spot on his throat where his left vines emerged.

Sanzo tightened his grip around kin’s waist and nestled closer, shifting so he pressed his face against kin’s throat. Comfortable. Sleepy now.

“He hasn’t been sleeping well – if at all – since we split up. He’s probably been using any energy he gained from draining the youkai chi in Hazel’s system to keep himself alert. So he’s tired. And having to be healed didn’t help.”

Why was kin still talking?

“But… Hazel wants to see him. An’ we can’t let him see Sanzo’s vines!”

Kin wasn’t happy. Sanzo scowled again. If they’d let him sleep, then maybe kin would be happier….

“Can you pass me our limiters, please, Goku?”

“What are you planning on doing, Hakkai?”

“Goku said Hazel wants to see Sanzo. Sanzo doesn’t need to be awake for that – he just needs to have his vines hidden. So if we put his limiter on, we can let him sleep.”

Good plan. Maybe.

Sanzo pulled his vines back as kin shifted position, and scowled deeper as the protection of kin’s throat was pulled away.

“Thank you, Goku.”

It burned. Not happy. But the yelling had stopped. Maybe if he slept?

“That’s it, Sanzo.” Kin’s voice. Quieter now. “You sleep. Let us deal with Hazel.”

Good idea. He didn’t have his vines now, but his arms would do. Tightening his grip around kin, he settled closer and started drifting again.

“Nope, he definitely doesn’t want to let you go. Going to be awkward to deal with Hazel like that, huh, Hakkai?”

Distant noise. It should be quiet soon.

“He’ll ease up once he falls asleep again. Why don’t you two go and get breakfast? You can tell Hazel I’ll be there soon.”

Kin’s voice was soft. Nice. He’d missed kin. But kin was here now, and safe, and he could relax.

If there was more noise, he didn’t hear it, as darkness finally took him again.

 

“Mmph.” Sanzo raised his head from his pillow and scowled at the night-table where Hakkai had put their limiters last night. Why weren’t they there? For that matter, where was Hakkai?

It was only then that he realized he was actually wearing his limiter again.

What the hell happened? Hakkai was constantly trying to convince him that he didn’t need to wear his limiter most of the time, so why would the youkai have put it back on him? And why did he have a vague memory of slamming Gojyo to the ground with one of his vines?

The door opened then, and Hakkai stepped in. “Thank you, Goku,” he called over his shoulder, before closing the door and turning to face Sanzo.

“Ah, you’re awake, are you?”

Sanzo glared at him. “What does it look like?” he growled.

“It looks as though you’re awake. But then, it might have appeared as though you were awake earlier, when you weren’t,” the youkai replied. “How do you feel?”

Awake earlier? Sanzo wondered, momentarily confused. Then he pushed that thought away. “Like I need a coffee.”

“A good thing I came prepared, then.” Hakkai held one hand up, showing Sanzo the mug he was carrying.

“Mmph. Give me that.” Sanzo sat up, and winced as dizziness hit.

“Easy,” Hakkai murmured, putting the mug down on the table and reaching for Sanzo’s limiter, placing one hand on his shoulder momentarily – probably to steady him.

“Wha—” Sanzo started, trying to bat his hands away.

“You need more energy, Sanzo,” Hakkai declared firmly. “Not necessarily more healing, just more energy. The most efficient way for you to get that is to feed from my chi.”

“We’re not about to get ambushed?” Sanzo asked dryly, pushing Hakkai’s hands away a bit more firmly. “I can do that.”

“Then do it,” the youkai ordered, sitting down next to him and raising his right hand. A green glow appeared in his palm as Sanzo unclipped his limiter, and his vines began reaching out for it the minute they were freed.

Gently, Sanzo reminded himself, as his leaves began to lap the energy up.

After the vines had finished growing in, Hakkai had insisted they practice his feeding off chi, just in case. It was a good thing they had; the first time, Sanzo had almost drained Hakkai without realizing it. They couldn’t afford to have something like that happen again, especially not now.

But he knew how to be gentle now, how to avoid taking more than Hakkai could afford. (Which was not necessarily the same as the amount the youkai tended to offer – and why Hakkai kept thinking of cookies every time he did so was probably something Sanzo did not want to know.)

Of course, the problem was, it made him fucking affectionate, Sanzo reflected grimly, as Hakkai wrapped his left arm around his shoulders. He found himself curling in to the offered embrace, and almost purring. Luckily, Hakkai knew better than to say anything about it. He was developing a bit of an immunity to Sanzo’s venom – mostly thanks to the fact that he hadn’t been able to resist commenting the first few times – but Hazel was here, and they couldn’t afford to have that happ—

Window crashing in. “Give us the—”

Sanzo didn’t even bother stopping his instinctive reaction, as his vines reached out and strangled the two attackers, draining them. Even with Hakkai offering, far better to drain attackers of chi than him.

“Well. That was unexpected,” Hakkai remarked calmly.

“Hakkai,” Sanzo said flatly, as he eyed the dead forms of their attackers. To finish off or not…?

Well. Considering how drained he was – drained enough that the warmth of absorbed chi from their deaths hadn’t fully pushed away the dizziness – it was probably a wise idea. Plus it would remove the majority of the evidence….

“We always get attacked,” he continued, as vines began snacking down on dead flesh. “How can you not expect it?”

Hakkai shrugged. “Hazel is still in the inn. I had thought perhaps that he might have been attacked instead.”

“Hmph.” As bones, fully emptied of chi, clattered onto the floor, Sanzo stood up, pushing Hakkai’s arm away, and grabbed the mug of coffee from the bedside table. He found himself moving instinctively towards the window – he needed sunlight. He hadn’t been able to take off the limiter while with Hazel except at night, and he’d quickly discovered that Kanzeon had been quite correct about his temper and the need for sunlight. Ordinarily Sanzo was proud of how bad his temper was – but that was only when he was in full control of it. The last few weeks, he hadn’t been. Which had made him all the more irritable.

“So… how much of Hazel’s blood did you manage to cleanse, Sanzo?” Hakkai continued calmly.

“All of it,” Sanzo replied, looking out the window. Hakuryuu was parked in jeep form just outside, which might be why the youkai had known that they were here. The question was, why was Hakuryuu still outside?

“Good,” came the firm response, and Sanzo glanced back at Hakkai. The youkai was wearing his ‘mild’ expression, but there had been steel in that tone – a steel that Konzen had been rather more familiar with than Sanzo was. Hakkai had always appeared – and worked to appear – milder than Tenpou had; but then again, Tenpou had been Marshal of the Eastern Armies, and to deal with the soldiers of Heaven, he’d had to show that steel at times. Not often – he’d hidden behind Goujun and then Kenren for the most part, using them as bait for those he wanted dealt with – but sometimes.

As to why he was showing it now… well, Hakkai had never hidden his distaste for Hazel – at least, not from Sanzo; it had been rather hard for him to do so, between the vines and the fact that Sanzo now remembered Tenpou. Something told Sanzo that it was likely he was going to stop hiding it from Hazel as well, if the bishop persisted in meeting up with them. And Hazel was unlikely to be prepared for what exactly it meant for Hakkai to show that he disliked him.

(And it might be a good thing if Hakkai started showing that steel more often. It might help him save on bullets, if he could leave dealing with the two idiots to Hakkai sometimes. Which would be very good, because he’d need all his bullets for Ukoku.)

Unfortunately….

“That means we won’t have to deal with him again for a while,” the youkai continued bluntly.

“That means I won’t have to cleanse his blood again for a while, if we’re to stop him from becoming a Thousand-Slayer,” Sanzo corrected him. “Dealing with him again, however… there are probably reasons why Ukoku tried to suborn him. Not to mention it’s highly unlikely that just his overhearing my explanation about akuma will stop him from killing youkai. And even without that….” He felt a grimace cross his face. “He keeps running into us anyway. And if you remember Tenpou’s life, you remember how Heaven chooses to deal with things.”

“Coincidence is only coincidence twice,” Hakkai agreed, a faint frown crossing his face. “You think that Heaven is interfering?”

“What is this whole journey west but Heaven – or at least the Hag – interfering?” Sanzo countered. “Se could have just as easily taken us directly to Houtou Castle in India, without the need for these constant side detours and encounters. You know how easy it would be.” He wasn’t going to think about Nataku right now. Not unless Goku got close to regaining his own memories. He also wasn’t going to bring up the suspicion over Kanzeon’s plans for them further down the road; they’d discussed it already, and Sanzo was pretty sure that even with some of Tenpou’s memories, Hakkai wouldn’t have any other ideas to add to the matter. Kanzeon and Tenpou hadn’t had that much to do with each other until Goku drew them all in together.

“Yes,” Hakkai agreed. “At the same time, the journey is making us stronger, Sanzo. You can’t deny that.”

“It’s also giving Ukoku and Gyukomen Koushu time to get stronger as well,” Sanzo countered.

Although… could Kanzeon be hoping that allowing that to happen might get Heaven to actually do something, besides sending the four of us? His aunt was definitely sneaky enough to try that, after all.

Before he could say anything else, the sound of running footsteps came from the hall outside, and he had to lunge to get his limiter before the door was thrown open. While the footsteps were Goku’s, there was no guarantee that it was only the monkey out there.

Hakkai scowled as he slipped the cord back around his neck, and Sanzo felt almost like scowling himself; he’d been enjoying the sunlight. But the last thing they needed at the moment was for Hazel to see his vines. He might not be youkai, not exactly, but trying to explain that to Hazel would be… difficult, to say the least.

The door was flung open to reveal Goku, with Gojyo just behind him. “Youkai attack… downstairs,” the monkey panted… and then stopped and blinked as he saw the bones on the floor. “Oh.”

“Sounds like they did go after Hazel as well,” Sanzo remarked dryly.

“Not an isolated pair of assassins?” Hakkai’s frown deepened. “In that case, it would be wise to leave as soon as possible. We’ll need to get lunch first, of course, but—”

“We can eat on the road,” Sanzo declared firmly, picking his gun off the nightstand and slipping it into his sleeve as he took a last gulp of the coffee. “Let’s get moving.”


Hazel watched as Sanzo’s group left in their odd vehicle, still feeling rather unnerved by how much the ambush they’d experienced hadn’t unnerved them. Even Sanzo and Hakkai – the most level-headed of the group, in his opinion – didn’t seem to find anything strange about being ambushed.

“Hazel. There is something you should see.”

“What is it, Gat?” Hazel asked, looking up at his companion. Most wouldn’t be able to tell, but Gat was seriously disturbed about something – probably whatever it was he wanted to show Hazel.

“You should see for yourself.”

With that, Gat led the way upstairs, to the room Sanzo and Cho Hakkai had been sharing last night, when Hazel had overheard the conversation about akuma. He’d done a bit of asking around over the past few hours, since he’d seen that Sanzo was okay, if a bit tired, but not a lot of people had been willing to discuss the subject of akuma. Though most had agreed that they were evil, and they were not youkai.

Opening the door, Gat silently pointed to the floor… and Hazel felt his eyes widen in shock and his jaw drop.

Scattered near one of the beds – the one Sanzo had been using – were bones. Bones that looked to have come from a youkai – or two youkai, rather – based on the claws. Bones that had been stripped completely bare. Bones that hadn’t been there when he’d come up to check on Sanzo this morning.

He’d done a lot of research on youkai, and their abilities, and he’d never found anything about this.

Could this have been the work of Sanzo’s akuma?

And… did this mean… was the akuma travelling with Sanzo?


So… comments are more than welcome!

‘Later, all!

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