AN: This story takes place after "Awakenings," when Goku & Sanzo and Gojyo & Hakkai have already come together, as that epic describes; Goku exhibits—sometimes, at least—the maturity and new skills he gained in that story. It's not necessary to have read "Awakenings" to enjoy this little tale, but their relationships here may seem more natural if you know how they got to this point. So if you haven't read "Awakenings" yet, I hope you will, and I'd be happy to know what you think.

Chapter One: PG-13 for language and hinted shounen-ai; chapter two contains 39 yaoi and bits of 58 yaoi which will likely boost this story's rating to R; if male/male sexual content is not to your taste, you may want to leave now and look for another story to enjoy.

Dedicated to Keistje for friendship and mutual love of Saiyuki romance. A congratulations gift for completing her first-ever fanfic, the novel-length Saiyuki saga: "A Simple Kiss." Thanks for playing beta.

Test of Rain


Genjo Sanzo's cheek twitched as a wet droplet struck.


His closed eyes screwed tighter shut against the watery attack.


His hand brushed the wetness from his cheek as he rolled onto his side, pulling his small, damp camp pillow over his head to escape the rainy assault.


His hand landed in the small puddle that had collected beside his sleeping bag.

"Damn it all!" he swore, as he bolted up in the gloomy light of the oncoming day, finally pulled from a brief, restless sleep by the increasingly rapid assault of droplets breaking through the ceiling of their saturated tent. It was not bad enough that the rainy season had struck with a vengeance, but they had been caught two days from any settlement that could offer the protection of an inn, or even a wayside cottage.

Sanzo sincerely hoped that the tarp over their bags, in the jeep's back seat, would at least afford him dry clothes. His skin felt clammy in his damp jeans and wet coverings, a small spring of water having broken through the damaged spot in the tent's worn floor, creating a stream under his bedroll that had soaked through to his skin. "Fuck!" he elaborated as he pushed aside the wet blankets and scrabbled onto a marginally drier spot near Goku. This was not going to be a good day.

Goku's snore was interrupted as he adjusted his position against the monk's nearby weight and burrowed into his own damp pillow, seemingly undisturbed by the torrential rain. Sanzo snarled and whacked him with his fan, torn between anger and envy that his partner could sleep even through this. "Wake up, idiot! Time to get going!"

Goku groaned and turned his head away from Sanzo, hugging his pillow with both arms. "Nnn, Sanzo, it's too wet to keep going."

Sanzo peeled a damp blanket off Goku's torso and pushed his shoulder firmly with his open palm. "Get up and get this tent down! I intend to reach someplace dry by tonight."

Goku rubbed the sleep from his eyes and smiled up at the man whose heart he had finally won a few weeks before, after a particularly trying series of near-fatal youkai attacks had forced them to rethink their relationship. Goku traced his fingertips along the scar on Sanzo's chest left by the surgery that had repaired his broken rib and collapsed lung. "Make me," Goku teased his lover, as unfazed by the man's bad mood as he was by the steady rain.

Sanzo slapped his hand away and rose, his head colliding with the badly sagging tent roof, pushing a water-filled bulge outward so the water that had collected there spilled off the roof and over the side of the tent. The deluge streamed through the saturated canvas wall onto Goku and his bedroll. When he twisted out of its way and into the monk's legs, Sanzo collapsed over him and landed in the puddle collecting in Goku's former position.

"Eeeeeeehhhh…" Sanzo seethed back to his feet, aiming his pistol at the younger man. "Get us the hell out of here!" Goku dragged his forearm across his face to reduce the wetness, then crawled out of the tent, dragging some of the wet bedding with him.

By the time Goku had rolled up the blankets and taken down the tent, Sanzo had awakened the others and rigged a tarp over some low-hanging branches in a stand of thick trees, so they had a reasonably rain-free spot to get dressed. He threw his rain poncho on over his robe before he emerged from the makeshift shelter, drawing the hood over his damp hair to prevent rain from dripping into his neckline. He fumbled under the poncho for his cigarettes and lighter, and took his place in the front seat of the jeep to await the others.

"Fucking shit," said Sanzo when he tried to draw a cigarette from the pack. In his constant quest to find a dry spot in the tent during the night, he must have rolled over on the pack; it was crushed nearly flat. With some difficulty he was able to withdraw a flattened stick from the pack, and he took a minute to roll it between his fingers to push it back into shape. By the time it was a cylinder again, it was also quite damp. He put it between his lips and flicked his lighter near the tip.

Click. Nothing. Click. Fleeting spark. Click. An even fleeter spark. Another flick, and the lighter failed even to click. Sanzo threw it to the floor of the jeep.

Hakuryuu kyuued forlornly, presumably distraught about having been forced out of the nest Hakkai had made for him in one of his shirts in the driest corner of the second tent.

"Shut up," Sanzo told the dragon-turned-jeep. The cigarette flattened between his fingers again as he removed it from his mouth. "You're no wetter than the rest of us."

Another forlorn kyu.

Hakkai patted the hood of the jeep as he walked past to join Sanzo in the front seat. "I know, Hakuryuu. We're not happy about it either. But do your best. We should reach a town and an inn by evening."

"Ch'," said Sanzo. "We damn well better!"

"What do we have to eat?" Goku asked the two in the jeep as he climbed in, his mood cheerful enough to set Sanzo's teeth on edge. "I'm hungry."

"Save it," Sanzo snarled, drawing the fan from his sleeve.

Standing behind the front seat, Goku grabbed the fan, twisting it out of Sanzo's hand before the monk had a chance to land it. "Once was enough, Sanzo!" he protested. "I'm not any happier about this weather than you are; but I'm trying to make the best of it. Don't take it out on me!" He threw the fan after the cigarette lighter, where the paper folds wilted in the growing puddle on the floor at Sanzo's feet. Then he flopped into the seat behind the monk and pulled their food pack into his lap, searching for breakfast.

Climbing into the jeep from the opposite side, Gojyo grabbed the orange Goku pulled out. "Thanks," he said as he plopped down beside the younger man and began peeling the fruit.

"Hey, kappa!" shouted Goku.

"You've got another one," Gojyo observed as Goku pulled a second orange from the pack. "Want some, Hakkai?" Gojyo leaned over the front seat, offering a few segments of orange to their driver, then sat back and successfully lit a Hi-Lite, grinning smugly at Sanzo as his first puff of smoke disappeared into the rain.

"Move it," ordered Sanzo, the vein in his temple throbbing with his increasing irritation and the desire to swipe the cigarette from the half-youkai and thrash him. Hakkai hit the gas, and the jeep kyuued again as its wheels spun in the mud, then finally caught, jerking the party on their way, their ponchos and faces spattered with mud from the tires.


Poor visibility and the muddy, slippery road made driving difficult and progress slow, so even Goku's spirits were dampened by mid-morning. "When are we stopping for lunch?" he whined for at least the third time in a half hour.

"Shut up," Sanzo snapped. "I have no intention of stopping. I want to get to an inn today, not next week. I am not suffering through another night with you snoring in a cramped, wet tent. And if you don't shut up now, you can get out and walk."

"But I'm starving! We didn't have any breakfast."

"You had plenty."

"All we had was fruit, I'm hungry. And I want to dry off."

"SHUT UP!" Sanzo's pistol poked into the back seat, and a bullet whizzed past Goku's ear.

Hakkai glanced sideways. "Hmm, Sanzo, I'm as anxious as you to sleep in a dry bed tonight, but Goku does have a point. We might all do better with a meal and a half hour out of the rain. And Hakuryuu and I are both getting tired. I'm afraid if we don't take a break soon, neither one of us will be able to continue."

Sanzo muttered something to himself, then said aloud, "And where do you propose to stop?"

"We should be coming to a crossroads and small village soon. There won't be an inn, but there should at least be a shop or diner where we can get lunch or a few groceries."

"And cigarettes?" asked Gojyo hopefully. He had just lit his third Hi-Lite, and at the smell of the smoke, Sanzo turned back and looked longingly at the cigarette. Gojyo's eyes narrowed. "Don't even ask. I've only got three left and I'm not sharing them with a crabby monk."

Sanzo scowled and turned back to Hakkai. "Suit yourself. But if we're not to the next inn by nightfall, you'll all have hell to pay."


Hell was closer than they thought, and Sanzo paid it, too.

Even Goku's extraordinary senses failed to pick up any sign of youkai when a torrential downpour forced Hakkai to stop the jeep in the shelter of a dense grove of trees. Unfortunately a band of youkai had sought cover in the trees earlier, and before Hakkai cut the engine, they descended onto the unsuspecting travelers. An outburst of shouts blended with the rain pounding through every available crack in the leafy canopy.

"The hell!" cried Gojyo as a particularly large creature crashed onto him.

"Oooomph!" exclaimed Hakkai as the youkai descending onto his back crushed him into the steering wheel.

Sanzo barely heard the others as one youkai landed atop him, pinning him into his seat, while a second landed on the hood of the jeep, swinging a hefty club into his face. Growling in defiance, the monk twisted one arm free in time to block the strike with his forearm, throwing enough of his strength into the move to off-balance the creature and send it sprawling. But before that one hit the ground a third had dropped down to take its place.

Goku had become aware of what was happening a split second before the attack, and the moment's preparation time allowed him to steel himself and throw his assailant to the ground. By the time the creature regained his feet, Goku had called Nyoibou. He smashed the staff into his attacker's head, then pulled back, jamming the opposite end into the side of the youkai that his seatmate was fighting off, toppling both the youkai and Gojyo over the side of the jeep into the mud.

Gojyo scrambled to maintain the upper position, kneeling astride the creature, his feet and knees slipping on the streaming ground. "Thanks for the warning, stupid monkey!" He smashed his raised fist into the youkai's face, as the hood of his poncho fell off and the rain began to soak through his red hair.

"You were complaining of boredom yesterday. Enjoy the surprise, ya' dumb watersprite!" Goku shouted back as he shortened Nyoibou to its three-segmented form. He leaped over the side of the jeep and set to work clubbing the two creatures that had wrestled Sanzo out of the jeep and were fighting to keep their hold on the writhing man, slippery in his mud-slicked poncho.

With one creature removed, Sanzo rolled free of the second and finally had an opportunity to pull his gun from the sleeve of his robe. He took aim while still lying on his back. "About time you get off your ass and lend a hand," he called to Goku between clenched teeth as he fired a shot at the next creature coming his way.

"You're welcome," returned Goku sarcastically as he dropped still another attacker into the mud with his staff.

"Now, now," called Hakkai as he jammed his elbow forcefully into the gut of the second of two youkai who had dragged him out of the jeep and from whom he had finally freed himself. "Work nicely together." He powered up his ki and let fly a green blast into another attacker headed Sanzo's way. As the blade of Gojyo's shakujou screamed past him to cut down another youkai about to strike at himself, Hakkai turned on his heel to return the favor, releasing a second burst of ki toward the treetops to blast still another dropping toward the half-breed.

"Thanks," said Gojyo, reeling in his weapon's chain.

"Anytime." He looked up and around. "Are we done?"

A shot from Sanzo's pistol punctuated Hakkai's question. "Yes," said Sanzo.

"No," said Goku as one of the youkai he had struck earlier grabbed Sanzo's ankle and pulled him back into the mud. Goku struck again, crushing the creature's skull. "Now, we're done." He stretched his hand out to Sanzo to pull the monk from the ground, mud covering the entire length of the man's robe, his badly torn poncho having been lost in the skirmish.

"If you'd done the job right the first time…" began Sanzo.

Goku was not in the mood to be further insulted. He let Sanzo's hand go, and the monk splattered back onto the mucky ground. Goku stood over him frowning, arms akimbo, with the rain streaming over his face and hair and collecting in the hood of his own poncho.

"Damn monkey," Sanzo growled, scrabbling to get purchase in the mud. His hands were nearly as black as the leather gloving his hands and arms, and his blond locks were plastered to his mud-spattered face and neck. Hakkai reached to help him up. Sanzo winced as he got to his feet, and Gojyo, snickering in the background, gave Goku a thumbs up.

Hakuryuu, having been emptied of passengers, had changed into his dragon form and found a safe perch on a branch above their heads. Their luggage and bedrolls lay in the mud where he had abandoned them, and now he kyuued reluctantly when Hakkai called him down to change back so they could pile their wet, muddied selves inside and get back on the road.


Another hour's driving had brought them within sight of the crossroad village they were seeking, but found them stymied again when the jeep kyuued to a halt in the middle of the road, its two right tires mired in a mud-filled rut. Hakkai sighed and asked the backseat passengers to get out and push the vehicle free.

"Fucking shit," shouted Gojyo as the rear tires spun in the mud, throwing muck onto himself and Goku. The jeep kyuued sharply as its front end nearly came free of the trap, but then rocked back. Grunting with the effort and the frustration, they tried again, with the same result, before Hakkai climbed out of the jeep to join the pushers. "Would you please take the wheel, Sanzo," he directed the monk "You'll need to give it gas gently. Try not to gun it." Before joining the others behind the car, Hakkai looked for a couple large flat stones and placed them in the mud in front of the sunken tires, hoping to give the jeep something on which to get traction.

Stripped of his muddied robe and wearing Goku's too-short poncho over his jeans and leathers, Sanzo scowled as he took Hakkai's place behind the steering wheel. The next time the three behind him heaved, he slowly increased the pressure on the gas pedal until the wheels caught on the rocks enough for the jeep to suddenly spring forward onto more solid ground.

As the jeep lurched out of the rut's muddy grasp, Gojyo fell onto his knees in its wake, and Goku was sent sprawling into the same muddy patch from which the car had emerged. "Son of a bitch," he shouted, picking himself up and shaking the muck from his hands and arms. Gojyo, swearing himself, couldn't stifle his snicker at the sight of the figure beside him, mud-covered from head to toe.

"You think it's funny, fucking kappa?!" Before Gojyo totally recovered his own feet, he found himself on his back in the mud puddle, the mud-soaked younger man astride him.

"You've had it, you filthy monkey!" the redhead hollered as he grasped the other's shoulders and heaved himself over. The two rolled through the mud-puddle only twice before they lost interest in the fight and emerged from the mire, two brown and slimy statues.

Hakkai had managed to keep his balance and jump free of the muddy patch. He now stared at his two companions, rainwater streaming off their limp hair and faces, marking cleaner rivulets through the mud slathered on their clothing. The healer at first made a mildly sympathetic noise, but had to turn and cover his mouth to hide the laughter that emerged at their outrageous appearance.

The two mud-statues glanced at each other, and their own faces broke into grins, their teeth gleaming white in their mud-streaked faces. Gojyo reached a mud-covered hand to Hakkai's face, tracing a wet brown line with his fingertips from the brunette's cheekbone, along his jaw to the corded muscle in his neck. "If you think it's so amusing, 'kai, I'd be happy to share the pleasure with you." With his other arm, he reached suddenly to pull the youkai into a muddy bear hug.

Hakkai anticipated him, and thrust his arms out to push him back. "No, thank you, Gojyo."

The redhead pouted. "You're no fun. What's a little mud between friends?"

Glaring at them from the jeep, Sanzo groaned in disgust. "Move it!" he called. As the three approached, he leveled his pistol at them. "Don't you dare get into this jeep like that!"

Hakkai, the only one still protected by an intact though mud-stained rain garment, flashed a brief smile at him. "I'm inclined to agree, Sanzo. Besides, I think Hakuryuu would appreciate a break. I believe that's the village we were looking for, in sight ahead. Shall we walk the rest of the way?"

Sanzo scowled, and gunned the engine. "Suit yourself." The jeep wove its way rapidly down the slippery road under his inexpert guidance, leaving the others to trail behind. Goku and Gojyo shouted obscenities after him. When the jeep came to a stop in front of a handful of small, rough buildings a few hundred feet ahead, Sanzo pulled his bag out and disappeared onto the porch of the largest building. As soon as the other three caught up and retrieved their own packs, Hakuryuu changed to his dragon form, wringing wet, with one side and one wing muddied. He kyuued gratefully and snuggled into his master's arm, hiding his head under his wing, as they all sought cover in the small general store.

The grocer had protested when Sanzo entered, muddy and soaking wet, but he had backed down in the face of the angry spark that had flashed from the violet eyes. At the blond man's inquiry, he had pointed out a small backroom water closet where Sanzo could clean up. By the time his companions joined him, the monk was emerging from the washroom wearing a clean loose shirt over his wet jeans, his face and hands clean, and his hair still mussed and damp, but the dripping water toweled out of it.

Gojyo and Goku came in barefoot and stripped to the waist, having divested themselves of their muddy clothes on the porch, where they had left them hanging on the railing to be cleaned by the rain, which had already rinsed much of the mud from their jeans. Hakkai soothed the distraught storeowner by explaining their plight and enlisting his help to gather a few supplies and bring them lunch from the small deli counter he maintained. As they each emerged from the bathroom with clean shirts, and more-or-less mud-free, they took seats in the single booth near the deli, and the grocer relaxed into serving them lunch and drinks.

"What brings you to these parts in this weather?" he inquired as Hakkai came to the table, the last to have used the facilities.

Sanzo ignored the question and tried to light a cigarette from the fresh pack Hakkai had added to their purchases.

"We've been traveling west for nearly a year," Hakkai told him. "We're trying to reach the next town with an inn by nightfall."

"Hmm," said the shopkeeper. "Not very friendly weather for traveling."

Sanzo snorted and slammed his lighter on the table when it failed to work even in the dry interior of the store. At Hakkai's warning look, he bit back the impatient retort that came to his lips.

"No, it's not," said Hakkai to the storeowner. "Thank you for providing us with a place to dry off and rest. We apologize for any mess we've made." He glanced at Sanzo's scowling face. "Have you matches or a fresh lighter?"

The small, balding man reached on a shelf behind him and placed a new lighter on the table beside Sanzo. "Sorry I can't offer you accommodations," he apologized.

"Ch," said Sanzo.

"We have to move on anyway," said Hakkai. "Thank you."

"These are good," Goku commented as he stuffed the last of a pork dumpling into his mouth. He reached across the table for a rice ball and a pickled mushroom on the tray beside Gojyo.

The redhead slapped his hand. "Slow down and leave some for the rest of us, selfish monkey!"

"You've got a plateful, stupid kappa," Goku retorted, ignoring the request.

"There's plenty more," said the grocer. "My wife makes them fresh daily. Won't be anyone else coming out to get them today in this weather." He replaced the empty serving platter with another one, as full as the first had been.

Twenty minutes later, their moods improved by food, smokes—in Sanzo's and Gojyo's cases—and dry clothing, the four again braved the weather, the drenching rains having abated somewhat while they took their break. They took a few minutes to mend their ponchos as best they could with a roll of duct tape they had purchased, gathered their wet things from the porch, and returned to the jeep. This time Gojyo claimed shotgun, leaning over to drop a light kiss on his partner's wet cheek before he settled into the seat. Sanzo scowled, but joined the younger man in the backseat without complaint, an arrangement that had occurred more and more frequently in the weeks since the reticent monk had tentatively accepted Goku as his partner and acknowledged the deepening relationship between the other two men.


With Gojyo and Goku separated, an hour passed in relative silence, and with the rain diminished, the best progress of the day was made. Sanzo had refused to allow Goku to rest his head against his shoulder, but eventually the jeep's steady motion, the soggy afternoon heat, and the rhythm of the lighter rain and Gojyo and Hakkai's quiet conversation lulled the monk into a drowsy stupor. Rain notwithstanding, he slid down in the seat and slipped into a doze, his own head tipped against Goku's shoulder. Goku inclined his head toward his partner's and closed his own eyes, a hint of a satisfied smile curving his lips. Catching sight of them in the rearview mirror, Hakkai smiled to himself.

The respite was short-lived. The jeep skidded to a stop, jarring all of them fully awake, when Hakkai hit the brakes as he rounded a curve and just missed driving into a washout. Traversing a heavily forested ridge, a stretch of the gravel road had washed into the gully of trees on the lower side, leaving but a narrow path between themselves and the intact road some distance ahead. "Damn," said Gojyo, eyeing the deep gully into which the jeep would have plunged had Hakkai not stopped in time.

The four men climbed out of the jeep, shouldered their packs, gathered their sleeping rolls, and began walking along the slick, narrow pathway left to them. Their small white dragon appeared near Hakkai's shoulder, struggling to fly and bowing his head against the continuing rainfall.

They were half way across the gap when a bolt of lightening lit the dark afternoon sky, closely followed by a peel of thunder, and the rain began to fall again as a solid gray curtain. "Fuck," muttered Sanzo, Goku, and Gojyo simultaneously.

"Now, now," said Hakkai, in the lead and turning back to them briefly, "we're almost there." He had just made it to solid ground when the sound of clattering stones and brush breaking free of the hillside to their left reached his ears from the track slightly behind him. He turned just in time for Gojyo to plow into him as he sprang free of the small landslide, and together they watched as the clutter of mud, stones, and branches tumbled under Sanzo's feet and the monk wildly grasped at empty air as he slipped over the edge of the broken embankment.

"Sanzo!" yelled Goku as he dropped his things and threw himself to the ground, reaching for his partner's hand. Their hands locked around each other's wrists as Sanzo's feet plunged out from under him into mid-air over the gap, his sleeping roll tumbling into the trees below. With his other hand, Goku clung tightly to the roots of a tree still holding its own on the upper side of the path. "Gojyo, help!" he cried.

Sanzo was hanging by his left arm, pressed against the muddy wall of washed out road and reaching for the slippery edge of the remaining pathway, which crumbled under his fingers as he grasped it. His feet scrabbled for purchase on the rocks and roots trapped in the dirt wall.

Gojyo had already lain down full length on the path on the other side of the fallen debris and was reaching now for Sanzo's free hand. With Gojyo's fingers wrapped as tightly around his right wrist as Goku's were around his left, Sanzo was able to brace his boots against the muddy wall and scale it as the others pulled him out. When he was finally able to kneel on the remaining ledge, Goku released his hand so he could crawl over Gojyo to the safety of the intact roadway.

Using the roots and small tree trunks available to them, Goku and Gojyo pulled themselves to a stand on either side of the small mudslide, Gojyo having at least one foot on solid ground. Still wearing his backpack, Goku grabbed his sleeping roll and tossed it to Gojyo, who passed it to Sanzo. The redhead then stretched a hand out to the youkai, and with one hand tightly in Gojyo's grasp and the other reaching for handholds as needed, Goku was able to make his way over the landslide to his friends. "Thanks," he murmured. "You okay, Sanzo?" His eyes roved closely over the man's body, scanning for injuries he knew Sanzo would likely fail to mention.

"Ch'," said the monk. He was slightly breathless, plenty muddy again, and the rain was rolling off the blond locks plastered to his face, but he appeared unharmed, and the mud drained off of his taped poncho and jeans along with the drenching rain. Goku reached for his hand, as much to reassure himself that Sanzo was all right as to offer comfort. Never demonstrative in front of the others, Sanzo squeezed his fingers briefly, then withdrew his hand. "I'm fine." He pushed Goku's bedroll into his arms. "Carry your own stuff. Let's go."

The four walked until they reached the more solid, level road at the end of the ridge, where tree branches again arched over them, giving them some degree of protection from the downpour. Then Hakkai apologetically asked Hakuryuu to transform again into the jeep. The healer sighed as he dumped his things into the narrow storage space behind the back seat, then trudged toward his place on the driver's side. Before he climbed in he felt the firm weight of Gojyo's hand on his shoulder.

"Want me to take over for a while?" the half-youkai asked him. "You look tired and this is shit to drive in." Hakkai smiled slightly and was about to say "no" when Gojyo slid past him into the driver's seat. "Go on, take a break. You can take over again later." Hakkai rounded the front end of the car, then gratefully sank into the passenger seat, closing his eyes against the weariness and the rain.

"Step on it, kappa," ordered Sanzo. "And you better avoid any more accidents."

"Like I have any more control over this situation than you do, asshole. You're the fucking monk. You want things to go your way, how 'bout you pray for this to stop for a while?"

Sanzo grunted and settled into the seat beside Goku, absently rubbing his left shoulder, the muscles strained from hanging over the ravine from Goku's hand.

Goku frowned. "I thought you said you were fine."

"I am. Stop coddling me," Sanzo responded, annoyed as much that Goku had caught him feeling sore as he was at Goku worrying about him.


The sky was so thick with dark clouds that it was hard to tell whether or not night had fallen yet, when the widening road and two or three cabins announced that they were again approaching civilization. "Finally," observed Gojyo, who had turned the wheel back over to Hakkai some time earlier. "Damn inn better have rooms available," he remarked as he caught sight of the town's lights winking through the curtain of rain from a hill no more than half a mile ahead.

"I'm afraid we're not as close as it might seem, Gojyo," said Hakkai quietly as he stopped the jeep, the road having ended at the edge of a wide, roaring stream. It was apparent that the road usually ended in a shallow fjord, which the jeep ordinarily could easily have driven across, lined as it was with large expanses of flat rocks. But tonight the water was hip-deep and swirling around the rocks in miniature whirlpools as it rushed downstream. A thick rope stretched from one side of the swollen stream to the other, obviously intended for travelers to hang onto as they waded across; but the thought of crossing in the dark was none too appealing to any of the Sanzo-Ikkou.

"Damn," said Gojyo. Tired as they were from the day's struggles, they all slouched in their seats, staring at the dark, burbling waters with glazed eyes.

===== TBC =====