Disclaimer: "Gensomaden Saiyuki, Saiyuki: Reload, Saiyuki: Gaiden" and all of its characters were created by Kazuya Minekura. They belong to her and were used without prior permission. No profit is made through this story.
Author's note: English isn't my first language, and this story isn't betaed. I apologize for any inconveniences caused by this.
Constructive criticism, feedback and flames (directed at the story) are welcome. However, if you flame me as a person, I'll send Gyoukumen after you. You have been warned.
Additional Warning: This story contains bad language and violence. Proceed at your own risk.
By Birgit "Lee" Kohls
Osore Taisho was a heretic, born out of the wind and the sea. His golden eyes had sparkled with trust and hope once, but now there was only numb pain and despair over what he was forced to do. Even though his title was that of a general, he always fought alone, had no army to back him up or do the job in his place. After all, Osore's existence alone was an insult to the gods, and they had no tolerance for being insulted. But the gods had been kind. He was given a choice and an education. They made him a tool, selling his service in exchange for whatever gods needed to make them happy. Osore held no respect for the gods, but his masters had power over him. He had to obey their whims without fail.
Today's mission wasn't any different. His prey was careless, cajoling and playing around while the hunter sprang the trap. The shackles that connected his wrists with his waist allowed him just enough movement to join the swirling dance of death and destruction with his weapons of choice. With a simple move of his hands, Osore called in the powers of the wind, focussed it and catapulted the invisible projectile towards his victims.
Any person sane in their mind could see it. The small jeep wasn't meant to transport four grown ups for any longer period of time. Between their luggage and themselves, the passengers were uncomfortably squeezed into the remaining space. Their bodies cramped from trying to bounce off potholes and rough terrain as they rushed along the landscape at breakneck speed. Cigarettes, sweat and testosterone created an ungodly smell that the four had long since learned to ignore, and fortunately the car had no roof anyway. Pop music poured from the loud speakers, mixed with static fizzing when they left the transmission range of the local radio station, but the constant arguing from the back seat made it hard to tell the difference.
Cho Hakkai didn't mind the bickering in general. Bickering on the back seat meant that everything was all right between those two members of the group, just as it should be. Lively and peaceful. Nothing to worry about, just the every-day 'I'm hungry' scenario. However, the constant kicks and punches that hit the back of his seat were a different matter. Not that it hurt much, only enough to be noticeable and leave the occasional bruise, but it made him lose his grip on the steering wheel. Also, next to him Sanzo had fished for his paper fan to deal out punishment. The monk had a very low tolerance level when it came to car fights. Hakkai's smile became thin when one of Gojyo's elbows smacked hard into the mid-section of the seat. At their current speed, such reckless behaviour could easily lead to an accident, and that was an unacceptable risk.
"There's a pancake restaurant in the next village."
The kicking and screaming stopped immediately. Instead, Goku's head appeared in the narrow space between the front seats, golden eyes big as saucers and a decidedly excited expression on his young face. "There's a restaurant that serves only pancakes, Hakkai?"
"Yes, Goku. And they are quite famous for it, too."
"Cool! How much longer until we're there?"
"Half an hour. They also have a pancake museum."
"They keep old food in a museum? Isn't that, like, yucky?"
Gojyo's chuckle was swept away by the wind. The paper fan slipped back into Sanzo's sleeve, and Hakkai could see an amused smirk playing around the older man's lips.
"Idiot ape. Don't sputter nonsense." The monk's voice carried its usual acid and annoyed tone. "You want me to shoot you?"
"Oi, Sanzo-sama… Pancakes are soft and easy to chew food, right?"
He didn't have to check the rear view mirror to know that Gojyo had a calculating expression on his face. Next to him, Sanzo stiffened visibly, and Hakkai rolled his eyes.
'Congrats, Gojyo. Bait, hook and sinker swallowed, time to reel in the victim.' Hakkai clutched tighter to the steering wheel as the road took a turn to the worse.
"So, they are the perfect meal for elderly people…"
With a swift move, Sanzo's hand disappeared in his sleeve. Gojyo definitely had a death wish today. They hit the next pothole hard, and Jeep squeaked in protest.
"…or certain crappy monks who like soggy ramen and flat soda."
Hakkai winced as two shots bellowed in his ears. A look in the rear mirror told him that his red haired companion wasn't the slightest bit fazed by the attack.
"One more word, and you're dead, useless bastard."
It was an idle threat. They all knew it, most of all probably Sanzo himself, but that didn't stop him from going through the moves of the game ad infinitum. Hakkai waited for Gojyo to back down, like he usually did at this point of the exchange, but for some reason it didn't happen. There was a moment of liquid silence when both gambler and monk stared at each other, one with a cocky smile, the other with a murderous look on his face, neither willing to lose the power struggle.
Hakkai suppressed a sigh. How it was possible that two grown up men acted like spoiled brats fighting over a chocolate cookie was beyond his horizon. Maybe he should just break up the kindergarten quarrel and…
Well, Goku's intervention was effective as well.
"Shut up, stupid ape!"
Goku didn't even try to duck the paper fan. "Sanzo! Why you always have to hit me?"
"Because. Now shut up."
The paper fan was almost as threatening as the death glare that Sanzo had probably practised on hard ever since he was born. Ten seconds of Goku's patented hurt-puppy-eyes secret weapon later, the volatile monkey-master had been subdued, and turned back to face the road ahead with an indignant harrumph.
For three full minutes, only the sound of the engine and the cacophony from the radio speakers could be heard. It was unnaturally, gratingly quiet. Much too quiet, for Hakkai's taste.
"Oi, ero kappa."
Hakkai stifled a grin.
"What is it, baka saru?"
Gojyo's disinterest was as fake as Goku's birth certificate.
"Do you think they have maple pancakes?"
"How about strawberry jam pancakes?"
"Lemon jelly pancakes?"
"How about ham pancakes?"
"Would be a shame if they weren't on the menu."
"Don't forget the filled ones," Hakkai tossed in, which gained him a delighted squeal from Goku and raised eyebrows from Sanzo.
The monk's mouth moved, but no sound reached Hakkai. Instead, the air exploded into sharp pain, tearing and shredding clothes, skin and consciousness into nothingness.
Scattered bodies marked the point of impact. The four travellers and the dragon weren't dead, not yet. It was against the orders he had received. Orders, no matter how sickeningly pervert, needed to be obeyed. Osore hovered over the crater his attack had created, patiently waiting for his opponents to regain consciousness.
Swirling darkness drained into a single blob of billowing colour. Fireworks went off with loud bangs somewhere nearby, showering the black with burning white embers.
It was the pain that destroyed the illusion. Hakkai squinted, confused and weak, his entire body paralysed by wailing agony.
Gojyo's voice guided him back to reality, just like it always had. "I'm okay."
"Like hell you are," Gojyo snapped, with a face so darkened by worry that it made Hakkai wonder who had died.
"The others?" Hakkai grunted, or wheezed, or whatever that noise was that his vocal cords produced right now.
"Jeep's missing. Sanzo's okay... Bruised, battered, and his ego took a few blows, but nothing serious."
Memories poured back to his pounding head. The limiter. Goku, forced to take the ultimate step to defend them against an enemy that easily outclassed them all. Osore Taisho, general in yet another army that wanted them dead. No ordinary opponent, Osore wielded the power of air and water with the lethal precision of surgery instruments in the hands of a specialist. Golden eyes, shackles with chains that rang together like bells in a soft breeze, hair so black that the sunlight reflected with a dark blue shimmer. "How long was I out?"
"Dunno, half an hour or so."
The air shifted violently, and from the corner of his good eye, Hakkai could make out two blurry spots rapidly dancing closer. Sanzo's exterminator gun spat death somewhere behind him, a full round of magically enhanced bullets, but it didn't stop the destructive rampage of the two fighters.
"Shit. Shit. Shit!" Trembling fingers pushed the empty shells out of bullet chambers, filled them with unused ones. "Stupid monkey."
Wind smashed heavy drops of rain into their faces like steel fists pounding into jelly, roared, screamed and tore at them with the full power of a typhoon. Lightening struck a nearby tree, deafening thunder rolled through the pitching dark day, but there was no end to the assault.
A shield. They needed a shield. Hakkai concentrated, focussed his life force to match the gale, but he could have put up a paper parasol for all the good it did. The world faded to grey, blood drummed in his ears louder than the exploding air around him.
Frozen from exhaustion, Hakkai watched helpless as Gojyo threw himself in the path of nature's force, covered and sheltered Hakkai from flying debris that hailed down on them. A wince, a gasp, muscles that stiffened under the impact of wood splinters, blood that trailed out of Gojyo's mouth before his eyes rolled back and he heavily collapsed on him. Hakkai carefully rolled the body off him, took in the image of his friend stabbed in the back by so many wooden splinters that it would put a porcupine to shame. Unreal, not real, please let it be a bad dream..."Gojyo!"
Death. Loss. Pain. Madness that asked to be unleashed, blood lust that needed to be stilled.
"We have to get out of here!"
Sanzo's anguished voice shattered the moment of weakness. It was probably pure stubbornness that kept the monk going, not that it mattered any. Crimson dotted Sanzo's attire where natural spears had pierced his skin, and crimson dropped from the hand that extended to pull him to his feet. Hakkai hesitated, refusing to leave Gojyo behind without protection.
Rain washed the blood from Gojyo's face, and Hakkai came to a decision. "No."
"Get up, damn it! Get up or I'll kill you!"
Cold metal pressed against his neck. For a second, Hakkai wished that Sanzo would go through with his threat. "Then kill me, already."
"Damn you." Shivers, then tremors ran through Sanzo's hand, making the gun rattle hard against Hakkai's skin. "Damn you all!"
So weak. They had been so weak. Even the one called Goku, a heretic not unlike himself, had been no threat. Of course, Goku had not learned to control his elemental side, fought because he liked to kill, enjoying the bloodshed. Osore could feel his own blood singing, but he would never give in to that particular tune. Discipline. Self control. Restrain. It was carved into him with his own claws, burned into him with his own hatred. Oh yes, his masters had been very thorough in their training.
So weak. But also so caring, protecting each other, lending strength and support. Maybe it would give them an advantage after all. Osore smiled down on his ailing opponents before teleporting home, today's mission completed. Sure, Sanzo and his henchmen would die. But not here. Not today. Not for a long time, if Osore could help it.
Something dropped from the sky, splotching into the mud. From one moment to the next, the storm ceased.
Seiten-Goku didn't move, and Hakkai wasn't even sure if the creature born from rock was still alive. But maybe he was, because Sanzo crouched next to the boy, muttering his tantras as he replaced the limiter.