Disclaimer: Not mine. All characters will be returned after my use (though, probably a little more psychotic)
Notes: Thanks to Ange who betaed for me and went through 4 drafts...
And um... Kenren is having a bad day...

Bargaining At the Gate by Draco

Kenren stared steadily at the black-faced gatekeeper, inhaled his cigarette, and considered the information that he had just been given.

The gatekeeper twitched slightly under Kenren's unwavering gaze but remained silent.

"So when you say dead," Kenren began, "Exactly how dead is dead?"

"Really dead." The facial nerves convulsed slightly underneath the gatekeeper's eye.

Kenren allowed the word 'dead' to roll a few times in his head, "How really dead?"

The gatekeeper's eyes narrowed slightly, then his voice bellowed through the air, "YOU DIED! THERE ARE NO DEGREES TO DEATH!"

The clearly labeled gateway of rebirth, standing thirty feet in the air, usually clued in the travelers as to where they were; evidently, not this current traveler.

Somewhere in heaven, several gods felt their facial muscles starting to twitch as well.

Kenren's expression did not change in the slightest as the gatekeeper screamed. He took one more puff of cigarette, and let the smoke slowly out of his mouth, "So, why am I here?"

Thrown off temporarily by the question that did not involve him explaining the general's death again, the gatekeeper paused to regain his composure before answering, "To be reborn on earth."

"Didn't my punishment involve having birds picking at my entrails for a few hundred years before I get tossed on earth to be reborn?" Kenren inquired. The bird food idea must have been Li's suggestion. Kenren didn't particularly fancy it. He turned away slightly from the gatekeeper, considering his options.

"Hmm..." the gatekeeper checked his records, his fingers tracing lines in an invisible book, "Apparently, someone bailed you out."

"What? Who?" The question automatically came out, but Kenren already knew the answer.

The gatekeeper's looked up from his unseen records, his lips forming a slow smile, "Your wife, of course..."

Before he could finish, Kenren had wheeled around, closed the distance between them, and picked the gatekeeper up by his collar. He burned at the insult. He had assumed that the gatekeeper would be kept out of the gossip of heaven, but evidently he was wrong.

"Now what? " The gatekeeper's hands flailed about wildly for a moment, before disappearing from Kenren's grasp. The weight of the gatekeeper suddenly gone from his hands, Kenren had to quickly catch himself from falling.

The gatekeeper materialized again ten feet away from him, the facial-twitch visibly worsening. "What she does is her own choice!"

"She?!" Kenren's eyes widened. No, there is no way in hell that Tenpou would pass as a woman, no matter how pretty he is.

"We have no saying in people's sacrifices," the gatekeeper continued, straightening out his tall black collar. "Let's see here..." He drew some patterns in the air, as if flapping pages, "Yes, your wife is now committed to two hundred years of the third level of hell to get you out of one hundred years of level one."

"WHAT WIFE?" Kenren started to rummage through his mind to see if he had actually ever married anyone in heaven that he had forgotten about through the millennia.

"You former gods!" The gatekeeper snorted. "Not even keeping track of how many wives you had. Let's see...the name registered here is Ten-chan..."

It was Tenpou after all. Kenren's breathe caught in his throat and he braced himself slightly on the gateway of rebirth. "Why the hell did you call him my wife?"

"Him?" The gatekeeper shrugged. "I just read what's in here. He must have told our registry he was your wife. Not my department."

"Like hell he did!" Kenren had certainly expected the eccentric field marshal to be idiotic and self-righteous enough to try to amend Kenren's death somehow as if it was his fault. But to self-identify as Kenren's wife was unthinkable...
Tenpou had beaten and maimed not a few people in heaven who were foolish enough to tease him about the rumor. Whatever morbid sexual desires they had harbored for each other, neither was foolish enough to act on it... Though Kenren briefly wondered if it would have been wiser just to fuck each other regardless of the consequences.

In fact, Kenren heavily regretted not fucking the hard-ass field marshal while they were locked in the same cell together. But that might have made it worse when Tenpou had to watch Kenren die. Part of Litouten's perverse revenge had been to kill Kenren in front of the field general... slowly. Kenren's hand went to his abdomen automatically, the memory of getting his entrails cut out still too fresh on his mind.

Litouten had taken special care when gutting Kenren so that he wouldn't die immediately. He wasn't sure which was worse, watching his own intestines being pulled out, or hearing the desperate anguish in Tenpou's voice as he cursed Litouten and all his ancestors. Long before Kenren was able to die, both Tenpou and he had screamed their voices raw.

Kenren felt himself shuddering and forced his mind back to the present. The gatekeeper was talking again.

"Hmm... there is a footnote," the gatekeeper's squinted as if trying to focus on something small, "A footnote for you actually...Um... it reads 'your darling wife saves you again'..."

Kenren's eyes narrowed to slits, "Let me guess, it was left by Litouten..."

The gatekeeper nodded without looking up.

"I want to switch places with him." Kenren found that his voice was surprisingly steady.

"You can't do that!" the gatekeeper exclaimed, his eyes darting between Kenren and the gate, as if contemplating if he could just push the ex-god through it.

"Why not? You let him switch with me," Kenren demanded.

"It's not as simple as a switch!" The gatekeeper sighed loudly. "For one thing, it can't be an equal trade. It has to be increased two folds."

"Fine!" Kenren gagged internally. Four hundred years of fourth level of hell...

"And secondly," the gatekeeper ignored him, "Part of the contract for your wife's trade was that you cannot trade back and try to bear any of his punishments..."

"OH, THAT ARROGANT FUCKING DICKHEAD!" Kenren punched the gate with his fist.

The gatekeeper's mouth dropped open. "You can't hit the gate!" he managed after a long minute.

Kenren breathed heavily, feeling a pang of blind rage with each inhale and exhale.

"Look, you can't do anything about it now. So just walk through the gate, and you won't remember a thing," the gatekeeper's voice was pleading.

Kenren didn't want to forget. He wanted to bash Tenpou's head in for daring to suffer alone. "Will he be reborn too, after he finishes his punishment?"


"How do I find him?"

"You can't. That's part of the punishment that Master Litouten demanded," the gatekeeper stopped suddenly and a smile was slowly forming on his face. "Though, since that part of the punishment did not come from the Emperor, it can only last for five hundred years and there is actually a way that you can bargain to see him again..."

"Fine. What do I have to do?" Kenren knew it was going to be an unfair trade, but he didn't care anymore.

"It's quite painless actually," the gatekeeper certainly didn't sound very bothered by it. In fact, he sounded down right giddy. "Live the next five hundred years before you meet him again as a human woman."

"WHAT?!" Kenren felt the veins in his head swell up, "I don't trust any mortal thing that bleeds for five days and doesn't die!"

"That's the bargain. Live as a woman, or you will never see him again." A hint of suppressed laughter in his voice, the gatekeeper crossed his arms. It was his turn to watch Kenren twitch.

"FINE!" Kenren slammed his fist in to the gate again. "Just swear to me that when my fucking wife comes through here, you will tell him that when I find him again, he'd better be enthusiastic as hell about performing his wifely duties."

"I promise to relay the message," the gatekeeper allowed himself to relax slightly as he opened the gate. "There, you must be on your way then."

"One last thing," Kenren stopped before the gate.

The gatekeeper stiffened. "Yes?"

"What is the punishment that he has to endure for two hundred years?" Kenren spat out the question.

There was a pause as the gatekeeper checked his records again. When he did speak again, his voice was gentler than before. "He has to watch you die, over and over again."

Kenren bit down on his lip and walked through the gate.