Disclaimer- Minekura owns all this is her Saiyuki and her Gaiden
Notes- A Gaiden one-shot. I decided to use the feminine pronoun with Kanzeon here, although I know this is not everyone's choice. Finally, feedback is always appreciated and thank you. ^_^
If Not More
He was not at fault, not at all.
While holding the lamp, Konzen bent down and peeked underneath the bed, but nothing was there.
Certainly anyone else would have done the same, if not more, he concluded firmly.
He pulled back the curtains, but again found nothing. Same was for the closet, and just to make sure, he checked underneath the bed again. It seemed even barer than before. He wondered how that could happen in just a minute.
He gazed about the room, noting its emptiness, or rather, its lacking. All that was his was still there, all neatly placed and folded and put away, all but one.
And surely no one would have blamed him for casting the brat out, not after what that little demon had done. He nodded to himself, and his neatly placed and folded and put away room answered in silent agreement. No one would blame him. Anyone else would have done the same, if not more.
With that reasoning tightly locked in place, he turned to check behind the curtains again, just to be certain.
From the very start, Goku had been at him. The sun was just lighting the sky, and his small hands fell upon him, shaking his shoulders and nearly throwing Konzen off the bed. Goku was a horrible judge of his own strength, and even with the chains that hung from his arms and legs, clinking together as he moved, his power was still intense, to Konzen's chagrin. He thought feeding the little beast would have been enough, but after breakfast, Goku's small hands found their way to his sleeve and seemed to pull at him for the rest of the morning.
"Konzen, c'mon. Let's go out! Let's go play. Konzen, I'm hungry. Konzen, I'm bored. Konzen, Konzeeeeeeeeen." His whine seemed endless, a song that just looped over and over again. It wasn't just the sound that grated on him, but the small hands and their clinking chains that held on the entire time.
It was when one of his small hands finally left his sleeve and reached across Konzen's desk that brought an end to the pulling all together. Konzen watched in horror as the chain locked around Goku's arm dragged across the top of the table, knocking his neatly stacked pile of papers onto the floor. His mouth opened up, the yell already forming when Goku noticed his mistake and quickly took his arm away. This, of course, brought the chain back across the table, and whatever little had been left in order was quickly disrupted, including his clay inkpot. The contents spilled out in one long line of black onto the documents scattered on the floor.
"Oops…" Goku scratched his head, the chain bobbing up and down. He looked up at Konzen with a sheepish smile, but it fell away as he found that he was the only one smiling in the room.
Konzen spent the rest of the day cleaning-up and organizing, redoing and restacking so each slip of paper was back in its proper place. Perhaps it was the sudden and much-wanted quiet that calmed him, or maybe it was the simple and repetitive tasks that most of his work entailed, but as evening's shadows crossed the room, he found that his earlier temper had washed away just as the last drops of ink were scrubbed from the floor.
He expected a familiar small hand to reach out and pull him away from his work as the hour for dinner drew nearer, but no such signal came. At one point, he sat back and rubbed his eyes, wondering if it was the dry and boring style that this specific contract was written in that made it so hard to read. But leaning back, he noticed how dark the room had gotten, and then, how late it really was. He looked over at the other table to see that while he was engrossed in his work, someone had come by and dropped off a tray of food. He pushed his chair back from his desk and walked over. There was soup, already cool, and rice, and dried fruits and nuts. As he reached for a piece of mango, he noticed that set up next to the pot of soup were two bowls, two spoons, and two sets of chopsticks. He chewed on the fruit, slowly registering what was missing from the table.
It was then that he lit the lamp and began his search.
After checking underneath the bed for a third time just to be certain, he left his quarters and started down the hall. All seemed quiet, just like his afternoon, but this time, it brought a feeling of unease that he couldn't explain. So instead, he sped up his pace.
His first thought was for the kitchens, but he found only a few servants there still cleaning up from after dinner. None of them had seen the boy.
"I better not see him either!" The cook yelled as he left. "That devil ate all my fruit! I ask you, how do you make a peach cobbler without peaches?"
After checking in the baths and down in the main hall, Konzen found himself walking towards a familiar door. It was closed, and he leaned over so his ear rested on the wood. The other side was quiet, and he assumed it was empty, but before he could step back, he suddenly fell forward. Quick hands that were not his own caught the lamp before it followed him to the floor.
"Why, isn't this a surprise?" Tenpou leaned against the now open door. "And here I was hoping to catch a clumsy spy."
Konzen picked himself up and made a show of dusting off his robe. "So sorry to disappoint you," he huffed, grabbing the lamp back. He shielded the glass with his palm, as if to protest the flickering flame that it covered. Looking about the room, he noticed it was in its usual state of disarray. Scrolls, papers, and books were stacked on ever surface. There was even a thin volume covering the top of the Marshal's tea cup on his desk. "I didn't know if you would be in here this late."
"Ah, but this is the best time to work," Tenpou turned back to his desk, carefully stepping over various piles as he walked. "So few think to interrupt me at this time." He looked back at Konzen and winked. "Not that I'm adverse to interruptions. I just like to avoid the ones that force me to work more."
"So you hide out here at night?" Konzen grimaced, looking down at his sandal. Something was slick on the floor, and by the smell of it, it wasn't lamp oil…
"I wouldn't call this hiding." Tenpou sat back in his chair and was instantly hidden behind a lopsided pile of books on his desk.
Konzen edged the pile with his hand until he saw the Marshal's face. "You were saying?"
"I wasn't saying anything." Tenpou smiled innocently. He lit the cigarette that hung from his lips and turned his gaze back to Konzen. "Now, why is such a humble soldier blessed with your grace this evening?" He winked again. "Or were you aware of the General's secret plans as well?"
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about." Konzen shook his head. "I'm just- The monkey hasn't been here, has he?"
Tenpou leaned back in his chair. "Goku, huh…he came around a while ago, but didn't stay long. He seemed a little down, so I said he could draw me a picture." He pointed to a clear spot on the floor where a small inkpot, a brush, and some paper lay. "But then he ran right out the door and disappeared by the time I got to the hall to follow him."
"Ah…" Konzen's gaze rested on the tiny pot and the clean brush beside it. He turned to leave. "I shall stop interrupting your work any further. If you happen to…"
"I will tell him that you were looking for him." Tenpou smiled, pushing his glasses up.
"I'm not looking for him." Konzen scowled back. "I'm just making sure he wasn't doing anymore damage."
"How silly of me." The Marshal waved him goodbye. "Why else would you be wandering around at this late hour? Certainly not to look for a child who has wormed his way into your cold, perfectly ordered-"
Konzen hoped his slamming of the door had the earthquake effect he was aiming for. Serves him right, he groused, walking down the hall. How does one get to his level with that much mess around him?
His lamp only lit a few feet in front of him, and as he turned the corner, he was too late in noticing the shadow coming at him to react in time. With a clatter, his lamp hit the floor, and the hall fell into darkness. He felt around on the ground, and his heart seemed to stop when his hand touched something warm, something flesh-like, something like a-
"Why, helloooo there." A voice chuckled next to him, and Konzen pulled back his hand instantly.
"Who are you?" he hissed, and his hand felt again for the floor, this time more carefully. Where was the lamp?
After a second, the hall was illuminated by one tiny flame. Konzen looked up to see a match, and then a hand holding it. The low light revealed a white, unbuttoned cuff just below the wrist. The flame moved across the floor and finally stopped over his fallen lamp. Another hand, another unbuttoned cuff, reached down and picked it up, and carefully relit the wick. In a moment, its warm glow revealed the cuffs' owner.
"Konzeeeeeeeeeen, I should have figured you'd have such soft hands." Kenren flashed him a big smile. Konzen noticed the sway in his walk, and he quickly took the lamp from the General's hand before it was dropped again.
"You're drunk." he accused.
"Ah, I wouldn't call this drunk." Kenren shook his head. "Come back in an hour, and then, then I'll show you drunk." He held up one hand and revealed a large flask. After a careful look down the hall, he leaned in and whispered. "I was going to surprise our Marshal, see if he'll take a little break from all the bullshit." His smile widened as he nodded towards Tenpou's office. "Care to join?"
"A pity, but no." Konzen waved his hand in front of his face. He didn't care what Kenren said. He smelled like he was drunk. "You haven't seen the brat around, have you?"
"Eh? Small-fry?" Kenren swayed back and rolled his eyes up to the ceiling. "Mmmmm….chibi-chibi-chibi…I don't remember seeing him. Sorry."
Konzen rubbed his head and turned to leave. "Thank you for nothing. If you excuse me, I am going to bed."
"Hey, isn't your room that way," Kenren lifted his flask-holding hand and pointed to the opposite direction.
"…Yes. And this is the way to get there." He answered stiffly and kept walking.
"Huh…that doesn't make any sense…"
"Just go get drunk, already!" Konzen nearly threw the lamp back at him.
"Oh, yeah." Kenren looked down at his flask and smiled. He gave Konzen a thumbs-up sign and headed down the hall. After a few steps, he turned back around. "Hey, pretty-boy! Tell Goku that Nataku won't be back until tomorrow!"
"What?" Konzen whipped around to face him.
"TELL GOKU THAT NATAKU-"
"You just said you haven't seen him!" Konzen yelled back.
"Huh? Nah, he was waiting for Nataku earlier, outside, you know? By the garden." Kenren scratched his head. "Just popped up in my mind right now. Heh, maybe I am a little gone…" He started back down the hall, his arms waving back and forth.
"I'm surrounded by idiots," Konzen cursed under his breath. But at least now, he had an idea of where to look.
General Kenren, drunk as he was, had been correct. Konzen found a small form curled up underneath one of the garden benches. It was the chains that caught his attention first, their links glinting under the lamp's glow.
He placed the light on top of the bench and reached down to feel the form. He shook him gently, but the boy didn't stir.
"Stupid monkey," he muttered and reaching further in, he wrapped his arms around him, but as he started to pull Goku out from under the bench, he realized one problem.
He wouldn't be able to carry him, not with all the chains on him.
He paused and looked down at the boy, whose face was of blissful peace, so different from the wide-eyed fear that it had worn hours earlier.
Konzen dropped one hand to his lap and curled it into a fist. No one would blame him. Anyone would have done the same, if not more. He nodded, agreeing with himself. Of course. "How can anyone be calm and patient with something as wild and uncivilized as-" he started, but with one hand still holding on to Goku's arm, he suddenly noticed how cold his skin was. And his gaze fell on the thin shirt and torn pants the boy always wore, no matter what the weather was. Konzen's hand rose up and rubbed his head. How could someone so- so-
"Because he lives for you." A low voice spoke up behind him. "So no matter how horrid you act towards him, he will always stick with you."
Konzen did not need to turn to know the voice's owner. The bodhisattva walked up and stood next to him, and he looked up to see her wry gaze upon both him and what was in his arms.
"I can't really see why though. You're such an ungrateful little bastard." Kanzeon bent down and nudged him.
"And you know how important I hold your esteem in me," Konzen jerked away from her touch and turned back to his current problem. "Would you mind poking your haggy-head somewhere else? I'm extremely busy right now."
"I can see that." Kanzeon's gaze fell on the sleeping Goku. "Now, shall I give you a hand, or shall I enjoy watching your weak little body try to carry him and his metal? So tough to decide."
Konzen was about to spit out another insult when he felt the weight in his arms being lifted. Kanzeon stood back up, and carrying Goku, started towards the doors. "If you can manage it, please bring the lamp, nephew," she cooed. "I wouldn't want to trip."
He nearly bit his tongue off in stifling what he wanted to say next, but instead he grabbed the lamp and followed her inside.
Back in his room, she looked down at the two beds, his large one, and Goku's small pallet. "Now, where does the civilized sleep?"
Konzen didn't answer, but pointed to his bed. She placed the boy on top of it, and giving Konzen a pat on the cheek, turned to leave. "Good night, dear beast. May the bed monkeys not bite you any more than necessary."
"You live to torment me, don't you," he glowered.
"I do." She smiled back. "But the question of the evening is, what do you live for, beast? Methinks it is not your ink that warms your bed." She chuckled at her own humor and left with a wave. He could still hear her low laughter echo down the hall.
He rolled his eyes and began to prepare for bed. Goku never stirred as he slipped in next to him. He looked down at his peaceful face for one long moment.
"If only you could be this quiet all the time," he murmured. "It would easier on all of us." He bent over and blew out the lamp, and the room fell into darkness. He pulled up the blankets until it covered them both, and after a pause, he reached over and wrapped his long arms around the smaller body in his bed. At least this way, he thought, I know where you'll be in the morning…
Certainly anyone else would have done the same, he reasoned, his last thoughts slipping off into the darkness. If not more…