A Saiyuki Reload fic
DISCLAIMER: They're Minekura-sama's, not mine. This is just an excuse to keep busy until I can get my hands on the next tankoubon. ^_^
A/N: Inspired by random details from Saiyuki Reload Act 3.5
"Of all the fucking nerve! What do we look like, his fucking errand boys?" Sha Gojyo's loud voice shattered the crystal perfection of an otherwise calm and beautiful winter morning. The words were accompanied by the slamming of a heavy set of double doors, and a shower of white kicked violently off the top of a set of snow-covered steps. "That arrogant monk! Just because he runs that whole damn temple, he thinks he can boss us around!"
The man standing beside him held up both hands in a placating gesture. "It's all right." Cho Hakkai glanced over at a window by the double doors--the office they had just come from. "Sanzo's just busy today. You know that always puts him in a bad mood."
"Just because he's got paperwork, that's no need to take it out on us," Gojyo snapped. He glowered balefully at the window, as if the structure itself were somehow to blame. "And it's not like it's just today, either. Any time he has some stupid little chore, its 'Go do this', or 'Go do that'. I'm getting heartily sick of it. Why doesn't he just send the stupid monkey for once?"
"Aha ha ha. I really don't think that would be a good idea." Hakkai kept his tone light, and purposefully playful. "You know Goku. His errand would last just until he reached the closest food vendor's stall."
"Hnh. You got that right." Gojyo fished out a pack of cigarettes and lit one, still radiating waves of foul temper. "Still, it's pretty lame that it has to be us all the time."
Hakkai shot him a sidelong look. Then he looked away, out across the slowly drifting snow, as if something of enormous interest in that barren field of white had captured his full attention. After a moment's careful pause, he said, "If its bothersome, you don't have to go. I'm the one who has a debt to pay at the temple."
"Ch," Gojyo stepped down off the top of the stairs, his boots sinking in about two inches of fluffy white powder. "Don't get the wrong idea. I'm only going 'cause there's a bar in that town that I haven't been to in a while. A guy there owes me some money from an old gambling debt."
"I see," Hakkai's cheerful smile came back immediately. "You should definitely pay him a visit, then." He strode down off the stairs in Gojyo's wake, his face lifted to the clear, cool breeze. "Do you want to go now? It's nice, crisp weather for a trip."
"We don't have any supplies."
"We shouldn't need them, if we leave quickly." Hakkai stopped walking and extracted the map he'd been given from the pocket of his long winter coat. Adjusting the eyeglass over his right eye, he looked down at the tracing of lines. "It's almost noon now. We can get there before nightfall if we find a ride soon."
"Hitch-hiking again?" Gojyo seemed bound and determined to complain about something. "Those damn monks really need to invest in a company car."
"We could always take the bus."
"No. I'm not taking on no friggin' bus."
"Well then," Hakkai started walking again. "I guess you're right, we'll just have to hitch a ride."
When they got to the main road, Hakkai was the one who flagged a passing truck--because, as Gojyo put it, 'You look so damn cute and respectable. Suckers.'. They climbed over the tailgate of the dark blue pickup and settled in the back amid large burlap bags of rice, which shielded them from the wind on all sides. The truck wasn't going all the way to their destination, but would take them to a place that was within a reasonable walking distance if they were unable to find a second ride to take them the rest of the way. They traveled for most of the time in companionable silence. But as they drew closer to their stop, Gojyo began to shift restlessly, craning his head to look over the brown bags around them to see if they'd reached their destination.
"So," the half-youkai said casually, opening up a fresh pack of cigarettes, "Do you think we'll have to fight somebody this time?"
Hakkai responded with a faint smile. "I imagine so. The people we're looking for probably won't be too happy to be found."
The red-haired man made a non-committal noise in response, and proceeded to light up a cigarette. Hakkai wrapped his coat a little more tightly around himself to keep out the cold, and didn't give the subject any more thought...but after a few minutes, Gojyo broke the silence again.
"You going to fight using just your bare hands again?"
Hakkai's eyebrows lifted slightly at the unexpected question. "I was planning to," he said simply. "Why? You don't like my combat technique?"
"It's fine for some types of fighting, but not all." Gojyo stood up partway to flick ash from his cigarette over the side of the truck. "Someday someone's gonna come along and skewer you. You really ought to get some sort of weapon if that snotty monk is going to continue to send us after people like this."
A weapon. Automatically, unthinkingly, Hakkai looked down at his hands, neatly folded over the front of his coat. The smooth, pale flesh of those long-fingered hands was clean, unmarked by the crimson that he could see so clearly if he just closed his eyes. He suppressed a shudder that seemed to well up from the depths of his soul. Not if I can help it. Not ever again. Aloud, he said lightly, "Perhaps. But as long as Shakujou is close by, I trust there won't be any unfortunate skewering incidents any time soon."
Gojyo only snorted, looking away. But surprisingly, he failed to let the subject drop. "All youkai can summon their chosen weapon. You ought to try and find yours some time."
Hakkai looked at him in surprise. Gojyo rarely made reference to the secrets that they both harbored from their separate pasts. ...Or to the fact that neither of them were fully human. That he would do so now spoke plainly of his concern. Hakkai felt warmth stir in his chest, and allowed it a place in his expression in the form of a fond little smile.
He could not, however, continue the thread of conversation as it was. Politely, so that Gojyo might possibly overlook it for the deflection that it was, Hakkai said, "when did you first know that you could summon Shakujou?"
"Heh." The red-haired man gave a fierce grin around his cigarette. He looked off into the distance, his expression vaguely nostalgic. "That was a long time ago." He didn't elaborate, but whatever memories he had of the event seemed to be good ones from the look of satisfaction that burned in those crimson eyes.
Hakkai took advantage of the resulting lull in the conversation by pulling out the map again. "We're almost there," he commented, giving the piece of paper his full attention. "Only about five more kilometers."
"Good," was Gojyo's reply. But his eyes were thoughtful as he glanced over at Hakkai. Ah, so his deflection had been noticed after all. Well, it was enough that Gojyo let the subject lie. They would have other things to think about soon enough.
They weren't able to find a second ride after the driver of the blue pickup dropped them off. But the walk gave them a chance to stretch their legs after being cooped up for a while, and they still managed to reach the town before nightfall. The place was small, barely more than a village. It also only had one inn, which housed the resident bar.
"I'll get us rooms," Hakkai volunteered. "Do you want to track down that acquaintance?"
"Sure. Got any cash to pay for our stay?"
"Enough. I was able to do quite a bit of tutoring these past few weeks."
"Well, that's lucky." Gojyo gave a disgusted snort. "You know, we really gotta push for some kind of account back at the temple for all these little side-trips. We'd better get reimbursed for our expenses."
"I'm sure we will," Hakkai said cheerily, as he opened the door of the inn for Gojyo to walk through. He stuck his left hand into the pocket of his coat. "I've been saving all our receipts."
While Gojyo went to the common room in search of his gambling partner, Hakkai walked over to the inn's shabby desk and checked in. The place only had two rooms, and one was already occupied, so it looked like he and Gojyo would be sharing again. Well, that would be nothing new. They were roommates already, after all. Hakkai signed the logbook, collected their keys, and headed upstairs to the room.
The place was rather spare, only two beds, a single chair, and a tiny nightstand--but he'd expected that. Hakkai took off his coat, folded it in half, and hung it neatly over the back of the chair. At least the room was clean. He wandered over to turn on the bedside lamp on the nightstand, thinking with regret that they should have stopped back at the house long enough so that he could have picked up something to read. This little town was too small to have its own library. He opened the drawer of the nightstand. The town didn't appear to have a Christian church, either, by the notable absence of a bible. Not that he would have bothered with that--he'd read from it enough as a kid growing up at the orphanage.
Well, he'd have to go out and get food soon anyway. Gojyo could dine on beer and cigarettes alone (and frequently did), but he ought to have something with some sort of nutrient value, even if it wound up being cold take-out. Hakkai might even be able to pick up a magazine at the same time.
He reached over, intending to switch the lamp back off, but stopped as a glint of reflected light caught his eye. It came from a shard of a plain quartz crystal, lying on the back edge of the nightstand, by the wall. It looked like something someone might wear in a piece of jewelry--not very expensive, but pretty enough. One of the room's previous occupants must have left it behind. Hakkai picked it up. It didn't look very important, but still, someone might come looking for it. He'd leave it at the front desk on his way out. He turned to collect his winter coat from the chair.
The attack came from nowhere, between one heartbeat and the next. Hakkai stumbled as a force struck him, a giant, invisible fist wrapping around him from behind, clenching at his chest and driving the air from his lungs. His hands were as if pinned to his sides, although nothing appeared to be holding them there. Invisible cords wound around his throat, efficiently strangling any noise.
Worst of all was the pressure he felt rapidly building inside the back of his skull. Whatever this power was, it sought to overwhelm him. Hakkai's vision wavered, sliding into blackness shot with glowing sparks, and he dimly felt the floor come up beneath his knees. He struggled to stay conscious, but realized with sudden, utter certainty that he was going to loose that fight.
You're one of the emissaries from Chou'An, aren't you? A voice purred, as clear as if someone stood at his shoulder, whispering in his ear. He heard laughter, in the background. Like the soft, crystalline notes of wind chimes made of glass.
We've been expecting you.