What If….

By Sukunami Taka

What if everything was different? What if Nataku was born human?

This could be the sequel to 'Hello Nataku', but was inspired by 'Beautiful', an extraordinary story by Nataku Taishi, good friend and fellow writer, whose retirement I was shocked to find out about, and quite suddenly too. Indeed, Nataku's works, though they are fanfictions, could be counted among the best, such as those of Philip Pullman or Terry Goodkind, and I strongly urge you to read some of them.

Dedicated, of course, to the, if not already, legendary Nataku Taishi, the first and the only………….

A lithe figure bounded across the near deserted market place, his loose black hair streaming behind him. A string of curses followed him as his buckets of water swung around wildly, spilling their contents on innocent people on whom Nataku Taishi leaped upon on his way back to school. Uttering a quick 'gomen' that was lost to the wind, he cleared the tiny town and raced through the lush countryside, heart pumping nearly out of its cavity. Then, all of a sudden, his leg went the wrong way and Nataku found himself falling in a whirl, face first smashing into muddy brown water……

A taller, raven haired youth passed, 'tsking' empathetically at the apple faced boy spitting out whatever he had swallowed in his moment of embarrassment, then impatiently at the upturned buckets lying on their sides, his own load effortlessly balancing on his straight shoulders. Glancing back, Sukunami Taka called out, "Hai yer ken, Kei-chan……you are taking too much time…." He shook his head before moving on. A few feet behind, a bright red huffing brunette tugged on a rope connected to two half filled pails, his efforts in vain as they merely moved a few centimeters forward. Keichirou Hideki gave up, collapsing beside a spluttering Nataku. They looked at each other….and burst out giggling. Taka sighed, stopping again, "Ora, you two……you are going to get us punished with no dinner……Natak-chan, better hurry if you want to get refills…."

The pale boy peered back with tear filled eyes, shaking with uncontrollable mirth, and as he looked at his companion, snorted out another wave of laughter, which in the process, fell over Kei. The oak brown eyed one waved helplessly at conceding Taka who rolled his baby blue eyes……..

---

A lean youth sighed; sweeping one hand through his midnight locks, while his other robed arm wiped at his perspiration soaked forehead. He was kneeling in front of a square hole, stocking up the wood into the fire for one of the masters' bath. Taka scowled at his two companions, happily munching on deep red fruits…

No doubt taken from the masters' yard, he thought…

And toasting some marshmallows near the very fire Taka worked so painstakingly to get going. Kei licked the sticky juice off his fingers with a satisfied slurp while Nataku studied his slightly blackened cloud-like puff, a pout on his lips as he poked at it tenderly.

Another sigh escaped from Taka, in the midst of shoving a log into the flickering blaze, "Oi….hai yer ken….aren't you guys suppose to be sweeping the courtyard?"

Nataku nodded fervently, his mouth filled with rather caramelized marshies, but Kei merely slapped Taka on the back, half pushing him smack into the brick wall, "Relax yo…relax…." The luminous-eyed boy with kangaroo ears popping out, flashed a dazzling grin, "You worked too much, Tak-chan…….these days, all you say is hai yer ken this, hai yer ken that…it has become your favorite phrase…..wait till you become an old jiji….." he patted the slumped Taka's shoulders with brother-like comfort. A couple of acolytes approached, "Sukunami Taka, hoshi sensei Ching Qe asks for you, and Keichirou…and….." the speaker hesitantly glanced at the wide eyed boy crouching in the middle, "and Taishi…"

A shadow passed over Nataku…he bowed his head. Taka nodded, "Ha…." Before the two walked off. Brushing the dust from his arms, the heartbreaking lad….

(gomen, gomen….but I am running out of nouns here-T)

stood up and headed towards the low tatched buildings with his companion. After several steps, Taka looked back, "Oi, Natak-chan! What are you doing? Iko…."

Lost in thought, Nataku jerked up, his large eyes blinking, "Uh…huh…" he ran and joined them, the three erupting in sudden laughter at Kei's brilliant imitation of their grumpy and rather deaf sensei…….

---

The voluminous golden eyes blinked, staring at the blue sky. Beside him, Taka whistled a familiar rock tune, on the other side, Kei started snoring. With their arms supporting their heads, the two awake ones watched the clouds gently whisk by.

"Ne, I think Kei just fell asleep," ventured Taka.

"Uh….he did…" verified Nataku. He lifted one arm, pointing upwards, "Doesn't that look like Sensei Wanshu?"

"Iee…..souka?"

"Ah….like he's sneezing…"

Taka cocked his head, shifting, "Eh….souka! Hai!"

They looked at each other and chortled, trying to contain their giggles….

The blue eyed Taka plopped back into his original position, sighing contentedly, "Ne…we have a free day tomorrow …….should we go to the city?"

Tabi covered feet wriggled, moving around, "Umm….ok, I guess…."

"Ok, then…."

The wind swirled in the quietness, picking up sounds of cicadas strumming and a wild cry from a bush bird. Above, the soaring sky with the sun slightly softened looked upon a vast green. Peaceful, if not for one boy's thoughts….

Tai….shi……..

Small hands fiddled with the loose robe, heavy on his body, "Taka…"

"Hmmm?"

"They don't like me very much, do they?"
"Hmmm…..? Nani so re wa?"

"I….those helpers….miinasan….I…." Nataku hiccuped, holding back cries.

Taka turned on his side, his hand reaching out, tugging on Nataku's sleeve, "Oi, Natak-chan, nani ka? Dai jou bu des?"

The pale boy clutched onto the now alarmed Taka, biting his lower lip as he was on the verge of tears, "Ta…Ta…..kun….."

"Ora….dai jou bu…sssshhhhh….."

Nataku buried his face into the folds of the robe, hiccuping heavily, "I'm small…….and….and I don't do anything right…….and no one…..just you and Kei are…….tomodachi…….everyone else…..the students, the senseis……they all hate me……..everyone….hate……they think I don't belong here…..I don't…………"

"Urusai!"

In shock, he pulled himself free, lower lip quivering as his eyes shook, "Um……..*sniff*…."

Taka stared angrily back, sparkling azure eyes furrowed in darkness, "I don't want to hear you talking like this again……to hell with them…so they are all stupid……..and so what if you are small and mess up sometimes….Kei does it all the time…..

*a certain dreaming kangaroo sneezed*

and he doesn't care…and I don't too……." The fierceness disappeared and Taka smiled, knocking the boy's head in front of him, "Ba…ka…..I don't hate you , right? And Kei…well…..he'll like anyone for food…hehe…..ne, dai jou bu….genki desu ne da?"

The golden eyes lowered momentarily, then he wiped away the tears, looking up with a small smile, "Hai!"

Taka rolled on his back, muttering 'baka mono' with his eyes closed as Nataku returned his gaze to the skies….

I don't hate you , right? Souka……..tomodachi…….

Without warning, the raven haired youth leaped up, yelping. Petite Nataku looked up in surprise as Taka jumped about, arms flinging, "Taka! Nani des?"

"WORM! Worm! In the grass! Iee! Iee!" he stomped on the ground, going further away. One oak brown eye opened, watching Taka and a perplexed Nataku, and Kei went into a booming guffaw, "mah, mah, Taka-chan. Eh…are….there's one on your shoulder!"

"Iee! Doko? Doko ni? Tas ku tee!!!" Taka whisked about, finally running down the hill.

Kei placed an arm around Nataku, standing beside him. Both bit their lips, biting back an over whelming urge to laugh, then……

"Oi, Taka kun! Matte on!" they raced after their poor frightened friend….

---

Three happy-going lads walked alongside the road together……a brunette with luminous slanted eyes sucking on a lollipop, a pale boy playing a solo version of five stones with himself, his long silky hair tied back in a bun, and a blue eyed youth, running a slender hand through his ravishing locks, while whistling a tune. A truck carrying a load of apples jutted and cranked past them, and Kei grinned, "Arre? Iko des! It'll be faster!"

He and Nataku set off in a blur, as Taka lunged after them, "Oi!"

The two agile boys quickly caught up with the truck, and vaulted easily into the back. Behind them, Taka ran with all his might. Failing which, he dropped on his knees, panting heavily, a hand grasping his chest. "Teme…that baka kangaroo…" he breathed, wondering whether if his asthma would act up again…..

Kei gurgled, licking his ice lolly held in one hand, his other occupied with boxes of sweets and man paus. An arm grabbed him, guiding him to a seat surrounding a fountain. He jolted down next to Nataku, who was finishing off his own strawberry flavored ice ball, the coldness seeping to his ivory-like fingers. In a moment, his wide golden eyes traveled upwards cheerfully, flashing a toothy grin at the grim looking teenager in front of him. Taka bent down, eyes clouded, then an affectionate smile broke out, "Ne, a bit, onegai! arre….hehe…..arigato!" settling beside his friend, the raven haired one popped the chunk of ice into his mouth, cooling after his bumpy enclosed ride. In silence, the three enjoyed each other's company, helping themselves to the abundance of treats. Then their attention was caught. A curvaceous blonde with trailing locks brushing her hips, sauntered over to them, sliding in next to a mouth gaping Taka. Her slim fingers lifted up his chin as the other two went wide eyed. She leaned closer, "Kirrei ne…..what beautiful blue eyes you have…………"

Taka gulped, half melting….

Kei's jaw dropped, half drooling….

Nataku watched………

Blue eyes…..beautiful……………………normal…………

His head hung, seeing his hands clenched together…….

Blue eyes…….she has blue eyes too…….everyone else have brown like Kei's….or green like acolyte Shi qe's……or blue……..beautiful like Taka's…………not gold………my gold………

The woman left, waving. Taka sighed, "Eeee……sugoi……" while Kei rolled his eyes, chucking a raisin into his mouth, "Che……you can't eat a girl…what use is that?" he muttered enviously, chewing on another raisin. The puppy-eared brunette stuck out his tongue at his partner, one hand unconsciously waving.

"Have you always had blue eyes, Taka?"

"Uh?" Taka shifted to Nataku in astonishment, "Uh, hai….."

"Did I always have my…..gold eyes?"

"Eh? Dai jou bu ne, Natak-chan?"

Kei stopped chewing, patting Nataku on the back, "Ne, maybe he had too much shock seeing a girl that he lost his mind…?"

Taka boxed Kei's head, "Don't kid……ne, Natak….?"

"I've always had golden eyes?"

"Um…..hai….of course…you were born with them……."

Nataku looked at him, whispering, "Yours are beautiful….."

"Eh? Souka?" Taka grinned…

"I don't like mine….."

The grin disappeared, he shot a look at Kei, silencing him, then leaned back, "Ne, Natak-chan…….. I love your eyes………..they are beautiful…."

Mine…….beautiful………….

"They are not…….they are different……"

"of course they are…everyone's are…………..but yours are special………..they always look so trusting…..innocent……."

Innocent………..

"Not like these……" Taka touched an eyelid.

"But they are different……"

"Why do you want them to be the same?"

Why the same…………

Taka closed his eyes, "You know……..you awe people………"

Nani…….

"Every time you look at them, with those large golden eyes….they can't help but feel……….inferior….."

Inferior……to me….?

"It just feels like you can see everything……every lie, and bad things…every sadness and every shortcoming……….that's why a lot of people don't talk to you, they feel like you are some sort of god or something………….of course, a lot of them also don't talk to us, but then they just think we are a couple of lowly students……but you…….you are above them…….you know so many things, Nataku…….you think you are weak, but you are not……..the senseis fear you, they don't know what else to teach you, that's why you are always with us, to keep you occupied…….and the other students…..they are jealous……….and you do have beautiful eyes, Nataku………no one else have them….that's why you are you………"

I am myself…………….

"Tak……"

"Just in case you didn't notice…..Kei's brown eyes are everywhere….they are so common that you can't even move an inch without seeing one person with those mucky eyes here………" he held a bellowing Kei at bay, "And mine aren't common, true….but they are in the north, among the warring tribesmen……….I am not wanted here, I remind people of the havoc north with my blue eyes……it scares people, they think I am going to turn savage all of a sudden and start chopping them up………."

"The girl….."

"Contacts…….hers are suppose to be brown……….."

"Souka…….."

"But yours………yours are divine…………….different………and beautiful….." Taka grinned, and pulled Kei's shirt, "Oi! Yamatae! I don't appreciate being hit so many times!!"

"Che! You no good wolf pup!"

"Nani??? You out of line kangaroo!!!"

Beautiful……….

Nataku smiled, and giggled, leaping at Kei, "Baka yarou……"

"Leg'go! Leg'go!!!!"

"HAHAHAHAHAHAHA………"

---

A humongous crash resounded in the square, clouds of smoke billowing around, reaching to the skies. Kei, Nataku and Taka jumped, heads turning. Curious passerbys ran towards the middle court and the three jostled among them, pushing to the front of the crowd……

"Kuso! It is unforgivable! Give me back my dumpling!"

"Che…..gaki…..you think you can defeat us? Hahahaha…!"

"Maybe not, but we can….." a redhead with a wry smile stepped next to the crouched boy holding a long staff. A neat man wearing a monocle waved, as a scowling monk dropped his cigarette, stamping it out with his foot.

Son Goku grinned, a smile that reached from ear to ear, "Iko!"

Five demonic eyes narrowed, saliva dripping mouths snarling, revealing sharp pointed fangs. They pounced, throwing themselves on the duo of red head and boy. Immediately, a sizzling high energy ball blasted from the side, knocking off one youkai. A chain rotating glaive flashed, pinning down another demon, as Goku somersaulted in the air, hitting two backs simultaneously with his staff. The last demon faced off Genjo Sanzo, lashing out with five inches long nails, but the monk merely avoided them with a cool face that started to smile disconcertedly to those who are watching. The ravaged youkais gathered murderous intent evident in their dilated eyes. Cho Hakkai sighed, nudging Sha Gojyo, "Mah, it seems they won't give up so easily…."

"Che…more fun for us then…" responded the wily taboo child.

The leader of the demon pack trembled with rage, his short silver hair standing up in spikes, "Teme! How dare you make fun of us! We'll make you meet your maker! Arrrggggggggggrgrrgrrrrrggggggggggg……"

A flowing demonic energy rosed, filling the entire square. It covered the leader , and he transformed into a large demon with razor like protrusions from his spine and hands. The other youkais vanished, only to become teeth gashing spiders with hairy fur and poisonous green drools. In a stampede of screams and legs whirring, all the humans disappeared, leaving the three students too scared and fascinated to run away, along with the Sanzo ikkou. Goku beamed, and gripped his weapon steadfast. As if like a performance, the two group rushed towards each other without warning, the lost demons with their fangs and claws, as the Sanzo ikkou whirled their weapons. Hakkai released energy balls one after another, with Sanzo firing off his spirit ascending gun. Gojyo calmly side stepped a particularly large spider, and destroyed it with his crescent blade. A statue was blasted, collapsing it in a flurry of dust and rubble next to the three teenagers. The silver haired demon scrabbled for Goku, forcing him back. With a thud, the fighting boy tripped over Nataku and looked at him with euphoric puzzled eyes….golden eyes….

"Eh…..you look like me!" piped up the always cheerful Goku, getting to his feet.

Nataku gazed back without words.

Gold like mine……

"Hehe……golden eyes…..see? Mine too?" a yell came from amidst the disarray, catching Goku's attention, "Oh…..hehe…gotta go…ja ne…" he waved to Nataku and leaped back at the demon, staff twirling.

Another…with golden eyes………..

All of a sudden, Hakkai dropped, as Sanzo was surrounded by two spiders. The monk retreated, coming nearer to the kneeling trio. He cursed at his gun, out of bullets and fumbled to put in more. A lean grime encrusted claw lifted, swishing down with menace, straight across Sanzo's face….

Warm scarlet blood splattered across ivory skin, golden eyes widened….

Hakkai panted, arms crossed protectively in front of him. A large slash ran from one shoulder down his body, causing him to sink to his knees. Behind him, an unharmed Sanzo lifted his gun and a shot fired out, dissolving the jet black spider. Goku yelled in anguish, "Hakkai! Sanzo!" and bared his teeth with determination. His pole lengthened, jutting through one spider and he flicked it forcefully through another, killing both. Gojyo finished off another, hurrying to Hakkai's side.

Nataku brought up his shaking hands, covered in blood, drops trailing down his robe……

Violet eyes slanted dangerously, the gun cocked towards the demon leader…

"Game over…." Uttered Sanzo, releasing the trigger. Goku tugged on Hakkai's shoulder, "Oi, dai jou bu………Hakkai….."

The green eyed man nodded, an assuring smile on his face, "Ah…..dai jou bu…….." He fainted in Gojyo's arms. A frown appeared over Sanzo, "Get him to a doctor……hurry!" he turned to the three students, noticing Nataku standing very still, "Gaki…..you should get back home……"

Taka bowed his head, "Hai!" and quickly pulled Nataku and Kei, who was trying to scoop back his round sweets, away from the party. Out of town, the blue eyed Taka breathed a sigh of relief, "God, those youkais sure are scary…….um, Kei! Hurry up!" The brown eyed youth pouted, catching up, with a lollipop fresh in his mouth. He turned to Nataku, "Ne, we should get you cleaned up….you are a mess…the senseis would start making a racket…."

Taka nodded in agreement, "Hai hai…."

The pale boy remained in silence……..

Blood…..

Red blood……..

My hands covered with….blood…….

I remember……….

Warm……..salty……….dripping fire………..

Blood……………….

I used to be…….covered in blood……..

I killed……….

---

Taka groaned, wiping his face with the back of his sleeve. Sitting for hours, his back was beginning to hurt really bad, and he was sick of the overpowering stench of blood and decaying chicken. He scowled at his companion, "Why am I always the one doing all the work?"

"Teacher's pet," Kei pursed his lips, "That's why……"

Emitting a sigh this time, Taka resumed to stabbing squawking chickens to kill them and draining their blood out, and cutting off the heads of the already dead ones. His working robe was smattered with dried brown blood and trailing fresh new crimson rivers all along the edges and across the musty white. Footsteps approached, and he looked up at solemn Nataku, "Ohaiyo!"

The boy went down on his heels, round encompassing eyes watching Taka with a steely gaze. Taka grinned, "Ne….want to help? Fixing chickens for over six hundred people is a lot of work…..ne?"

He nodded, taking one dead fowl, meticulously plucking out the wispy feathers. Together, they finished ten more as Kei joyously read his comic. On his twelfth fowl, the golden eyes lowered…..sadly……….

"I've touched blood before……"

"Hmmmm…….."

"Held…..embraced……..I've been covered in blood……….."

Taka laughed, "Yeah…I know it's dirty….but then we can wash it off later……."

Wash it off……….

"But I………my hands……..in blood…………..can't just……"

Laughter again…Nataku glanced up…

"I'm in blood too……..it'll take ages to get the smell off…….."

"demo…."

Taka smiled, causing a shivery warm feeling to spread through the pale youth, "See?" the teenager flicked his hands towards Kei, a drop of blood landing on the brown eyed boy's face. Kei stuck his tongue out, wiping the drop off quickly, "Oi.......keep your blood to yourself……."

Nataku watched, as Taka giggled…………….

Taka's covered in blood too…..

Anyone could be touched with blood……..

Blood……

Blood can be washed off……………

---

Among heavens kingdom, a pale boy watched a shimmering lotus pond, nonchalance upon his face. A slender arm brushed against the waters, dissipating the images. He shifted within his seat, tucking away a loose strand of dusky lock into the bun at the back of his scrupulously combed hair. A voluptuous goddess, clad in gauzy cloths, strolled past him. He looked at her, and called out, "Konnan…."

She turned, interest flitting across her handsome face, "Hm?"

He hesitated, unsure, "Would……everyone…Tentenni….would they be happier if I wasn't here?"

Kanzeon Bosatsu chuckled, walking over to the seated deity, and she leaned over him, peering into his large golden eyes, "I think what you meant to ask, was would you be happier……..ja ne….." she continued on her stroll, with perfect poise, rounding the corner.

Nataku's eyes followed her, then returned to the clear blue waters, seeing three teenagers grappled one another; a brown haired boy yelling with joy, a blue eyed youth tugging insistently on the sleeve of another as he giggled, and a pale lad, with golden eyes, falling in a tumble with the two…….all three chortling with laughter……………………….

Nataku rose, bandaged body within a trailing robe, and left………………