There was a boy

A very strange, enchanted boy

They say he wandered very far, very far

Over land and sea

A little shy, and sad of eye

But very wise was he

And then one day

One magic day he passed my way

And while we spoke of many things

Fools and kings

This he said to me

The greatest thing you'll ever learn,

Is just to love and be loved in return

It was a beautiful day.

The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and everything was generally at peace with the world.


"Damn it, if you jackasses won't shut the goddamn hell up, I'll give you a couple of new breathing holes!" An irate Sanzo barked, his trusty Smith and Wesson brandished at the two bickering people at the back of the jeep. They'd been going on for a good couple of minutes now, and Sanzo had decided that it was time for a good old-fashioned death threat to try to keep the noise at a bare minimum. Key word: Try.

Goku made a face at the handsome kappa, who was busy trying to give him a noogie prize. "This is your fault!"

"Yeah right, monkey boy. You were the noisy one!"



"Hey! You almost shot me, you psycho!" Gojyo complained, checking to see if the bullet nailed any part of his clothes. That had really been a close one.

Sanzo scowled—well, scowled a little more. "If you don't shut up, I won't miss the next time!"

"Oh." Hakkai muttered. It was the only warning all three of them had before he stepped hard on the brakes, almost throwing them off the jeep.

"What the fuck—!" Of course, this could only come from Sanzo, who had to grab onto the back of the seat to stop from sailing over the two idiots in the back.

In front of them stood an annoyed Kanzeon Bosatsu and—

"Whoa, check out that babe. She's smokin'."

Trust Gojyo to notice the girl first.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Sanzo demanded, his scowl not letting up. Normally when she turned up, chances are it would consist of nothing good. And judging from the girl the Goddess was currently keeping a tight rein on, it was definitely a bad thing.

"You're bringing her along." Kanzeon replied.

They all stared at Her as if She'd gone crazy. A girl!

"Me?" The girl sputtered, her tone on the edge of hysterical. Obviously she was sharing the same sentiment as the menfolk who were currently still in the jeep. "This is what Hecate's punishment is? Sit in a car with a bunch of walking fashion disasters? Eww! You can't lea—"

"No fucking way." Sanzo cut in, getting more pissed with each passing second. The Goddess jacked up his blood pressure to greater heights whenever he saw Her. And the girl looked like a total bimbo, a type of woman Sanzo really, really hated and would never bring on this journey even under the pain of death, especially if said bimbo was currently insulting him. "I've had enough of these three morons, and now you want me to bring an airhead along?"

"Excuse you, Mister Motormouth," the girl snapped irritably, obviously peeved that he'd interrupted on her rant. "Can't you see that I'm talking here?"

Sanzo growled, completely taken aback at the insolent wench's remark. Needless to say he was also very, very pissed off. "Take that bitch home with you and leave us—"

"Silence!" Kanzeon snapped, a vein popping on her forehead. She was getting very tired of this. If it hadn't been for the favor that devious goddess friend of hers had called in, she wouldn't even BE here. This girl was the most infuriating, arrogant, shallow, and conceited human she had ever seen—which was saying a lot, considering her goddess status and all—and to have to punish her in any other way—ways that necessitated her being around the girl and having direct contact with her—would really, really tax on her nerves. In addition, dropping her off on the Sanzo-ikkou guaranteed that there would be a much better show to watch. Spice things up, so to speak. Their journey had been getting pretty boring lately, anyway.

One could only watch them slay youkai after youkai for a certain period of time without getting bored out of her mind.

If looks could kill, the Goddess thought idly, watching the blonde monk glare at the girl. The girl would've been maimed and murdered five times over.

"Now, I'm not asking you. I'm telling you." Kanzeon said in a much calmer tone. The faster she got this over with, the faster she could get back and watch them and NOT deal with HER anymore. There weren't many people who could annoy the Goddess, but this one certainly seemed to have an inborn talent to. The chit can piss anyone off. "Qing will be accompanying you on your journey until such time when her patron goddess decides to take her back, which I foresee will not be anytime soon."

The girl, for one, was already bored with the conversation and was much more interested in letting people know that she was actually alive and here. "Hello, can we focus on my pain here? Look at my nails! Miss Goddess here almost wrecked it!"

For a few seconds, everyone simply stared blankly at her.


"Man-i-cure. As in, mine. She said slowly, as if they were all idiots. When no recognition dawned on either of their faces, she sighed and rolled her eyes. "Then again, I wouldn't expect you people to understand." I'm talking to a bunch of morons.

Kanzeon glowered at her, having had quite enough of her talking. "Unless you want me to strike you dumb, girl, hold your tongue."

Wide-eyed, she immediately fell silent.

"I'm not lugging along another annoyance. Especially this one." Sanzo gritted. He'd just met her and already he was wishing that she would just drop dead or something. This was most definitely a nightmare, and soon, very soon, he would wake up from this and never think about it again.

"You have no choice. Especially you, Sanzo. You owe me one for saving your life." The Goddess glared at him--clearly unhappy that she was wasting the favor he owed her for this slip of a girl--then turned to all of them. "She's in your hands now. And girl, perhaps it would teach you a lesson you're in sore need of learning." She threw a large, heavily gilded book at her carelessly.

Eyes widening, Qing moved to catch it before it could hit the floor. Now she really had to say something. "Hey, you can't just throw the Book at me like that!"

"Oh, now you care about whether it hits the ground or not?" If that wench had displayed that kind of behavior in the first place, there would be no need for her to be here. But no, she had to be extremely disrespectful and blasphemous and royally piss her own Goddess off, and because Kanzeon had owed said Goddess a huge favor, she had to teach this wench a lesson on Hecate's behalf. Urgh.

Qing glared at her, visibly upset. "You could've chipped my nail! It took me an entire MONTH for me to book that appointment with Jacques! I know you're not exactly House of Style here, but please care, okay? I hate wearing press-ons, I mean, they totally scream tasteless!"

Honestly, this girl made a mud puddle look as deep as an ocean.

It was a strange picture, a very pissed Kanzeon Bosatsu glowering at a beautiful young woman holding a large, ugly-looking book—she was most definitely glowering back—and four men in a jeep watching the exchange with slightly glazed eyes.

It was now that the Goddess had decided to remove herself from said picture before she fully lost her temper. "Good luck and have fun! Try not to get yourself killed, although that would be a relief."

And then she disappeared, shimmering into thin air.

"Hey, hey! Goddess! You can't leave me here! I don't want to be here!" Qing shouted, close to panicking when she realized it was for real. "Hello?"

"Then I suggest you learn quickly, witch." Came the voice.

Qing said something that was pretty much unprintable, then screamed up at the sky. "I am NOT a witch!"

Goku blinked. "Did the Goddess just call her a witch?" He'd never heard Kanzeon call people names before.

"I don't think She meant it as an insult, Goku." Hakkai said pleasantly, as if goddesses who dropped unknown girls on them were a normal occurence. "Well, I guess this is it, then. Another addition to the team."

"What exactly is a witch?" Goku asked, confused.

"Something I am so not." The girl replied snippily, shooting him a glare.

Gojyo was smirking. Personally, he had no problem with it, not when the girl in question was dressed in a purple sleeveless and silver-white Capri pants that revealed a lot of healthy, tanned skin he really, really wanted to get close to. Hell, he'd even volunteer to be her personal bodyguard and show her the sights, so to speak.

Sanzo, very much hating the fact that he was outmatched, simply grunted and sat back down, his current disposition closely resembling that of a thundercloud. Kanzeon—the bitch—could've just sent them a beautiful, quiet, non-annoying girl who could take care of herself, but no, that bitch had to give him an extremely annoying one who probably didn't know the first thing about defending herself from demons.

And so it was that on this beautiful day, the Sanzo-ikkou had acquired the newest, and possibly the most annoying member of their team, though they didn't exactly have much of a choice in that matter.

It was a bit of a squeeze at the back of the jeep, considering that Qing was wedged between Goku and Gojyo. Of course, the latter was definitely not complaining.

"Hey babe," he greeted, turning on the charm full-force. He'd definitely have her in his room tonight if he played his cards right. "Where are you from? You're dressed differently from most girls here."

She shot him a withering glance. "Don't call me babe. Babe is a pig. I am most definitely not a pig."

All right then. So she was of the Ice Queen status. Well, he could deal with that just fine. He grinned and leaned closer to her, his voice velvety. Mm, she smelt nice. "Apologies, beautiful. How would you like sharing a room with me tonight? It won't be safe if you get a room by your lonesome, especially with someone as breathtaking as you are."

"Aw, suck it up there, Cockroach Boy. I'm not having sex with you." Qing rolled her eyes. If she'd been anyone but her, she'd have jumped him long ago, considering how hot he looked, but the fact remained that she really, really didn't want to be here, and with that stupid book, of all things. Also, she was missing her daily essentials, which was enough to put her in a very bad mood.

From her other side, Goku guffawed. "There goes your date tonight, you pervert!"

"Hey, who're you calling pervert, monkey face?" Gojyo demanded.

"You, Cockroach Boy! You must be losing your touch, 'cause you can't even get a girl now!" Goku was clearly enjoying his defeat.

"Why you—!" The enraged half-breed reached over to try to strangle the laughing boy, but was interrupted by a hand on his chest, pushing him back.

"Hey, hey!" Qing snapped. "Keep your extreme oafishness off my clothes, all right? They're Gucci!"

"They're what?" Gojyo asked blankly.

"Gucci. It's a brand, genius. A symbol of taste and elegance."

"Unfortunately you don't do it any justice." Sanzo remarked acidly, puffing on his cigarette.

"Said the man who gives fashion tips to monks. Yeah, that's a reliable source of information." Came the contemptuous response. "You wouldn't know taste even if it bonked you on the head."

"Actually, he really is a monk." Hakkai cut in before a pissed Sanzo could retaliate. "One of the most esteemed, at that."

"Puh-lease. Tell it to someone who'll believe it. What kind of monk smokes, carries a gun and swears?"

"This one, apparently." The mild-mannered young man replied, very much amused.

"Why'd you have to go and tell her that for? It's not like it's any of her business." Sanzo snapped irritably. He didn't care much for what he thought—if she thought at all—but if that wench went on talking he was going to have to kill something.

Preferably her.

She blinked and raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow. "You're kidding. You really are a monk!"

"What's that to you?" he growled.

"You should be classified as the eighth wonder of the world. The world's first chain-smoking, foul-mouthed monk."

"If you don't shut the hell up, wench, I'm going to kill you."

She crossed her arms over her chest despite herself. "I'd like to see you try."

An instant later, she was staring down the barrel of a gun. The blackness of the barrel seemed to be endless. And then there was the fact that he moved so fast she almost couldn't see him. Covering her flinch, she decided that looking down the barrel of the gun wasn't entirely not scary, but she would be damned if she let him see her fear. "Would you like me to pull the trigger?" he snapped angrily, having had quite enough of her.

"Hey man, don't—" Gojyo hurriedly tried to step in, not wanting to see the man blow half her face off or something.

"Do it, and I'll come back and haunt you and make your life totally miserable."

"Ghosts are easily exorcised. Have you forgotten what I am?"

She brandished the heavy book like a weapon. "Hello, witchy powers! You don't know what I'm capable of! I don't even know what I'm capable of!" Okay, so her powers weren't totally apparent—try almost nonexistent, considering she couldn't even do a simple spell. Not like I even want to, anyway.—but a girl had to try. And hoped that he didn't know she was lying through her teeth.

He glared at her.

She glared right back, wishing very much that she had the power to make his head implode or turn him into a turtle. Or something. From beside her, Gojyo laughed, slinging a casual arm over the seat behind her. "You've got spunk, beautiful! I like you." He winked, an action that would have countless of women falling at his feet. He really was an attractive man, Qing realized. All of them were.

Qing preened, soaking up the compliment. "Thank you."

Okay, so the walking fashion disaster thing was grating on her nerves, considering that she knew she looked like she'd just stepped out from one of the pages of W, and would never be seen within a half-mile radius of them had she a choice. No matter how cute they are.

But she could not deny that they were heart-stoppingly gorgeous, especially the guy who was sitting right next to her and the crazy monk who'd just put a gun in her face. Hell, even Goku was handsome, for a boy.

"You got a death wish, Redhead?" Sanzo snarled, leveling his gun at the kappa hanyou, who backed away almost immediately.

"Hey, what'd I do?"

"Shut up!"

"Gentlemen, lady, I believe we have some trouble coming our way." Hakkai interrupted calmly, glancing ahead. And true to his words, there were a whole herd of demons gleefully heading their way; their delighted cries could be heard from a mile away.

Qing, for one, froze to her seat in terror. The noise was nothing short of bloodcurdling. "Trouble?" she squeaked, eyes wide. It sounded like really, really major trouble.

Goku grinned. "Finally, a chance to stretch! It's getting pretty cramped in here."

Gojyo sighed, bored. "They really need to do something more original."

Sanzo simply grunted.

Qing grabbed onto Gojyo's arm, her eyes making out the form of really ugly, really evil looking demons. "Demons? Why the hell are there demons? Oh my God, oh my God!"

"Easy there, beautiful. I won't let them hurt you," Gojyo comforted the terrified young woman, relishing his current position as protector. There was a beautiful woman to protect and demons whose asses needed a very good kicking. All in all, it was a very wonderful scenario.

"Useless." Sanzo snorted. He was right, the newest addition to the team really was pathetic. He wasn't sure how long it would be before he threw her out or offed her.

Hakkai stopped the jeep, and Qing turned on him hysterically. "Why did you stop for? Keep driving! They're gonna kill us! Especially me!"

"Shut the hell up, wench." The annoyed monk snapped brusquely.

"Stay in the car, Miss Qing." Hakkai smiled as the menfolk got out of the car and taking up positions in front of it, anticipating a good fight. "You'll be safe there."

"What does it look like I'm doing!" she could barely take her eyes off the demons. God, they were ugly and downright horrifying. "And what kind of jeep is this? There's no cover! How am I supposed to be safe?"

"Shut up, stupid woman! How many times do I have to tell you?" Sanzo barked, rapidly reaching the end of his tether when it came to her. Gods, can she be any more grating?

"Ah, Sanzo and company!" the biggest demon out of the lot grinned, showing a lot of very, very sharp teeth. Triumphantly, he turned to his lot. "The meat of Sanzo and his crew, who says I don't deliver, boys?"

The demons cheered, all brandishing their weapons and equally sharp teeth.

Qing screamed, cowering in terror. "Oh God! They're gonna eat me!"

Sanzo fired a shot in her general direction and bellowed. "Shut the hell up, all right?"

Pale and shaking, a dazed Qing nodded meekly. "Okay."

Gojyo smirked, his shakujou already in hand. "Let's see if you can still cheer when we're done with you boys."

"Yeah, let's see what's you've got!" Goku added with a wide grin, cracking his knuckles as his Nyoyi staff appeared. "I've been aching for a good workout for ages!"

Hakkai was smiling, very much amused. "They're really enthusiastic about this."

Sanzo only grunted, still scowling.

Qing was wigging out, almost on the verge of tears now. "God, why did I let you freaks talk me into this?"

And then the battle was on.

The demons numbered maybe seventy, eighty, and each one of them had their hands full. Blasting a demon to oblivion, it was getting increasingly clear that there was no way they could fight and look after the girl at the same time; they were used to watching each other's backs, and her appearance threw things off balance. Hakkai turned to a petrified Qing, who looked as white as sheet and about to pass out or something.

"Miss Qing!" He shouted. "Drive!"


"Drive! You're going to get hurt if you stay here!"

Gojyo swung his shakujou, cutting through a couple of pesky demons.

Crawling into the driver's seat, she released the brakes and stepped on the accelerator, her heart pounding crazily. She had to get out of here, fast, before she became demon meat. Self-preservation was her only thought—well, besides the fact that she really had to take care not to wreck her freshly done manicure. If it chipped, someone was definitely going to pay.

She screamed as something grabbed her neck from behind, but gagged even as it cut off her air supply. In the rearview mirror, Qing was treated to a close up of one of the ugliest demons she'd ever seen, which wasn't a stretch , considering this was the first time she'd seen a demon. It was the color of a fish's underbelly, with glowing red eyes and a sucker-like mouth. The arm that was currently wrenched tight against her throat seemed to be of a sickening green color.

Ohmygod, ohmygod, I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die… "Help!" she managed to croak, flailing hopelessly against her captor. "Somebody help me!"

The monster laughed, the sound of silk tearing on a knife. "Such delicious fear, my dear. I believe I'm going to enjoy playing with you before I devour your flesh."

It's scaly hand crept down towards her chest as it rubbed itself against her. "Hey, ewww!" She shrieked, completely grossed out now. It was one thing to be eaten, and another thing entirely to be felt up by a disgusting demon. If she lived through this, she was definitely going to be sick. And then she realized he was this close to violating her privacy. With an angry snarl, she gouged her perfectly manicured nails deep into it's arm before it could reach her chest. "Don't even go there, you disgusting pervert."

The thing screamed in pain and let go.

Feeding on her fear, Qing slammed her foot on the accelerator, speeding towards the group, then a few meters away, she jammed on the brakes. With an angry screech, the jeep halted, sending the thing sailing over her head to land on the road in front of her. It was then that she glanced down at her hands. "Oh my God! Eww, ewww!" she cried in dismay and disgust. Green goo stained her fingernails, wrecking her beautiful, beautiful silvery-blue nail polish, the one color she ever really liked. Then she glared at the demon, who was growling and starting to get up.

"You are going to pay for that!"

"It took me a WHOLE MONTH to get this done, Sucker Boy!" she screamed at it furiously, brandishing her damaged nails at it. "And now look at what you've done! God, can't you have less icky blood?"

This was the last straw. First it rubbed it's filthy skin against her, then it tried to molest her, and now this. Not forgetting the fact that it said it wanted to eat her.

There was now no more fear—not very much, anyway—considering that Qing now was out for blood. "I am SO going to kick your ugly butt, you freakazoid. No one messes with the nails."

The jeep sped forward, crashing into the monster and sending it flying a few feet away, landing a little way away from a currently trigger-happy Sanzo, who had been watching the entire exchange out of the corner of his eye. It was nothing short of astounding and mind-boggling, and he hated it.

She sped up, and this time she rolled over it, feeling the sick crunch of bones as she flattened the monster. She fought the urge to throw up.

"Ugh, eww… I'm going to need intensive therapy when I'm through with this." She complained, trying valiantly to wipe her nails against the dashboard of the jeep. She caught sight of another demon making a beeline for her and narrowed her eyes, previous action forgotten.

"Oh no you don't, pus face." She stepped on the accelerator again, sending it flying a good few meters away this time. Hmm, one could really get used to this. She didn't stop there, however. Realizing that there was a way for her to kick demon ass without getting herself damaged in the process, she drove around them and rolled over those who weren't really dead. She was currently beyond fear, in a strange place where everything suddenly just becomes surreal and you're working on autopilot.

Besides, there were people to save. It was not like they mattered very much to her, but someone had to drive the car and get to wherever they were going. And it most definitely was not going to be her. Also, she had a niggling feeling that demons were a regular occurrence, so she couldn't let those guys die. Who would help her then?

"Hey, watch where you're going!" Goku yelped and jumped out of the way when the jeep swung dangerously close to where he was whacking the stuffing out of a particularly annoyed demon.

She ran over one who was about to leap onto Sanzo and almost ran him over in the process. "Don't make me shoot you, wench!" the pissed-off monk snarled, jumping back.

Qing tossed her mane of dark hair angrily, shooting him a venomous look. "Listen up, Monk Boy, I am not a wench! Is this what you say to someone who saved your life?"

"Bullshit! I don't need someone like you to help me! And what the hell did you just call me!"

"Are you deaf? I just called you Monk Boy! Be happy I called you that, 'cause you're definitely not acting like one!"

"That is none of your fucking business!" Another bullet through a demon's skull. Sanzo really, really needed to kill some more demons, if not he would just march over and wring her pretty little neck.

"Like I care anyway!"

"Then why is your damn mouth still fucking moving!"

"Why is yours?"

"Because I'm telling you to shut up before I put a bullet in that little brain of yours!"

"Well, at least I've got one! God, can you be any more Neantherdal?"

"If you want to live long enough to find out, shut your damned trap!"

"Bite me!"

"They can even bicker like that when they're fighting?" Goku grunted as he whacked another couple of demons.

"She's definitely gifted in making Sanzo mad, isn't she?" Hakkai agreed, getting rid of another bunch of demons. They were finishing them off pretty quickly. He had never seen anyone—not even Gojyo or Goku—quarrel with him like that. Usually Sanzo just had to brandish his gun and the argument would be settled, but apparently the girl seemed to have some kind of immunity or it, or else she was just very quarrelsome.

"Are you two going to keep answering questions with questions?" Gojyo asked, breezily putting the kibosh on the last three demons. Despite his tone, he was grinning. Ahh, there was nothing like a good workout to raise his spirits and try to snare the feisty new arrival again. She had spirit, that one. Any other girl who was like her would've fainted long ago.

"You did very well, princess." Gojyo drawled a little later as they resumed their journey. "Considering it's your first time seeing demons and all."

"That was definitely not in my job description." Qing snapped, reaching into her purse for another wad of tissues. She was never going to get this mess off. She looked up at the sky and shouted. "You hear that, Goddess? I'm not here to kill demons! That demon just molested me! What kind of punishment is this?"

The amused laugh of the Goddess resounded around them. "But that's what punishment is, isn't it? Ninety-nine percent of pain, fear and suffering."

"You couldn't have told me that ninety-nine percent ago?" Sadistic bitch. See how she'd like it if she had demon blood stuffed up her nails.

There was no answer. Well, it wasn't like she expected one, or anything. Her heart was still pumping irregularly, and she still couldn't stop trembling, no matter how much she tried to hide it by vigorously wiping at her nails.

"Are you all right, Miss Qing?" Hakkai asked, glancing at her through the rearview mirror. Despite everything, she looked a little on the peaky side. He'd seen how she drove, and all he could think about was how the others had commented about how HE drove. If they thought he was a maniac, just look at her.

"Other than scarred for life, I'm just fine."

"You're still shaking," Gojyo—never missing a chance to comfort a gorgeous member of the female species, no matter how self-involved they were—put a little more than comforting arm around her shoulders. "Come on, beautiful, it's all right now. It's over."

"I'll be fine. The shaking's just a side effect of the mind-numbing terror."

"Are you hurt anywhere, though?" he winked, noticing that she made no move to dislodge herself from him. "I can kiss and make it better, if you like."

Sanzo simply snorted, having had quite enough of the perverted kappa fawning all over her as if she was some kind of precious jewel or something. It was annoying. "Don't baby her, Redhead." Then he glared at her. "Stop being so useless, wench."

Qing shrugged off Gojyo's arm, deeply offended. No one, NO ONE called her useless and got away with it. Qing knew what she was and what she wasn't, and she definitely was NOT going to let this crazy monk judge her, of all people. "Excuse you," she said icily. "Did you see me squish those demons, or are you too fixated on your homicidal tendencies to notice? And for your information, I am NOT useless!"

"You were screaming and crying like a pathetic idiot. Somehow that seems to destroy the credibility of your convictions."

She glared at him. "It was my first time seeing a whole horde of demons, all right? So just back off and cut me some slack. I bet you weren't so entirely unafraid of your first demon too, were you?"

"At least I wasn't screaming. Or crying, for that matter."

"The last time I checked, you weren't a woman."

"That is not going to make a difference to a demon either way." He retorted coldly, letting her know just what he thought about her, which wasn't very much, to speak the truth.

He was right. She hated it. Gritting her teeth in anger, she simply looked away, unable to find a comeback for that. God, how she hated this annoying, obnoxious, psychopathic monk.

I'll show that jerk. Man, am I so gonna show him I'm not some pathetic damsel in distress.

"About time we got off." Qing muttered as they came to a stop in a village. "The stupid wind was seriously messing up my hair."

"Pity it didn't blow you off." Sanzo replied darkly as they got out of the vehicle. For one, he would definitely not be sad to see her go. Really. "It would've been a much better option."

"We all have our dreams." Came the sarcastic response.

"We'll have to stay here for the night and load up on supplies," Hakkai remarked casually, glancing around. It was definitely one of the better villages they'd seen; there were more food shops, for one. "You will need clothes, Miss Qing. It won't be good for you to travel in that."

"What's wrong with this?" she demanded testily, daring him to mock her outfit.

He was still smiling. "Nothing is wrong, but I don't believe this particular getup is suited for long-distance travelling."

Well, that made sense. Her Italian sandals were already beginning to sting, and the way the villagers were looking at her was just plain unnerving. They were all dressed drabbily, as if they'd never seen a decent designer outfit in their entire lives. Which, judging from the condition of this place, it was highly likely. And then she realized what he was saying, and stared at him as if he'd just dared her to strip naked and run around the town twice. "You mean I'm going to have to buy my clothes in this dump? No way."

"Take it or leave it. I don't care." Sanzo snapped coldly as he marched into the nearest inn. He had never seen anyone as obnoxious and aggravating as she was, and he really hoped he would never meet anyone even remotely like that again.

"Why worry, beautiful?" Gojyo shrugged casually, slipping an arm around her waist. "Anything would look stunning on you."

"I know that. It's the quality of the clothes. And look at them. If I'm going to have to wear anything like theirs…" the thought was too horrible to contemplate.

She winced, thinking about the hands that wove the clothes. They would most likely belong to really, really old women who had never touched water for the past decade or something. Urgh. But then again, there was no way she was going to be wearing this outfit again. It would be against all laws of God and Man. So that only left one option.

She looked down unhappily at the Book of Spells she was holding. "If I knew you were gonna be so much trouble, I would've thrown you into a bonfire a long time ago."

"I don't believe this!" Qing hissed, flouncing out of the inn with an amused Hakkai, Gojyo, and a very hungry Goku in tow. "I'm supposed to share a room with four guys!"

"The innkeeper said that there weren't enough rooms, Miss Qing," Hakkai responded, ever the patient one. "So we're going to have to share…"

"Not enough rooms? Not enough rooms? Just who comes to this kind of place, may I know?" she demanded, tossing her hair imperiously. "And the way that idiot looked at me just now, does he think I'm a hooker or something?"

Gojyo's smile became slightly wider. "Look at it this way, you won't run the risk of being raped at night if you were with us. Besides, the nights are chilly, it'd be better if you had someone to get warm with."

She shot him a disbelieving look. "God, is having sex all you can think about?"

"Of course not." He grinned roguishly, tracing light fingers over her cheek, leaning suggestively towards her. "There's how to seduce beautiful ladies like you, for one."

This time, she leaned forward and smiled enticingly, knowing that no normal red-blooded guy would be able to resist her when she acted all sex-kitteny like this. "Flattery will get you anywhere, Gojyo." He leaned in further, wondering if he'd just scored with her, but then she suddenly pushed him away. "Except into my bed."

Gojyo face-vaulted. And he had been so close, too. He sighed. "I thought so."

There was a pause before he smirked and tried again. "That's not going to make me give up anytime soon, you know. A woman like you is definitely worth waiting for."

She shrugged. "I thought so."

It wasn't entirely a bad thing, having a hottie like him fawn all over her. At least he could help with the shopping bags, and it was very gratifying for the prom queen in her. So, two birds with one stone and all that.

"I'm hungry," Goku whined, bored with the way the conversation was going. It wasn't going to meander in the general direction of food anytime soon, and he tuned out as soon as he realized that fact. Besides, the girl was just confusing. How could anyone be so picky was beyond him; just give him a bed and lots of food and he was happy. What was wrong with her? Then again, she was a girl, and girls were incomprehensible as a general principle, so it was a waste of time to even try to understand how they thought. "Can we go and eat first or something? I can eat fifty cows, the way my stomach is feeling now!"

"You guys go ahead. I'll just…uh, look around for clothes." Qing wrinkled her nose in abject distaste as she surveyed her less than pristine surroundings, silently wondering how the hell she could ever make it through this. Demons aside, the lack of style was going to kill her. Ah well, it seemed like she was going to have to keep up the style all by herself.

"It won't be a good idea for you to wander off alone, Miss Qing. You might get lost. Furthermore, how are you going to pay for the clothes?"

Qing frowned and dug into her purse. "Do they take American Express?"

They all stared at her blankly.

"Mastercard? Visa?" she waved it around.

"They don't accept those here," Gojyo said, sidling up to her, flashing Sanzo's credit card. "But no worries, I've got the answer to all your problems."

"Hey, how are we supposed to eat if we don't have the card?" Goku exclaimed, upset that his lunch was about to be pushed back.

"You eat so much, Monkey Boy, it's gonna take a hell of a long time! Just go there, eat and wait for us to come back!" Gojyo called as a delighted Qing dragged him away.

It's already nightfall, Hakkai thought, glancing outside the tavern for the millionth time, unable to fight a wave of worry. Where are they? It had been seven hours since they'd last seen Miss Qing and Gojyo, and he wondered if they had run into any trouble along the way. Goku was still eating, for one, and was very close to wiping out the entire tavern's food supply. The owner had been very happy with the income it generated, though. He sighed, Goku was really going to cost them.

Suddenly, the tavern door opened and a glowing Qing and a large pile of bags walked in. "Hey guys!"

"Hello, Miss Qing." Hakkai stood up, the epitome of courtesy. "Just in time, we were getting worried."

Qing slid into a seat that looked like it was most unscarred and gingerly sat down. "I had to spend a few hours just looking for a shop that doesn't scream Salvation Army." She said archly. "Shopping is an art, not a chore you know."

They stared at her, uncomprehending. She just sighed and tossed her hair. "Forget it. Is there anything to eat?" She looked down at the table and made a face. "Ewwww, is this place even sanitary?"

"You want a bowl of ramen? These are good." Goku spoke through a mouthful of noodles even as the pile of bags fell away to reveal the haggard, weary form of Sha Gojyo, who sat down heavily on the seat and exhaled loudly.

The youkai stared at the amount of bags in amazement. Seven hours, and she'd already bought so much?

"The six bags are all the supplies we need." Gojyo said tiredly as Qing called for the waiter. "The other fifteen belongs to Qing. Damn it, I really didn't know that women needed so many things to keep themselves pretty. And they don't even contain the clothes."


"Yeah." He rubbed at his eyes tiredly. "She insisted on getting all of hers tailor made, so we're gonna have to pick it up tomorrow when we leave. Damn, I have never been so exhausted in my entire life. We just traipsed more than twenty-four shops—Hell, I didn't even know there were that many shops here, and she went for a facial while I picked up all the things we needed." He lit a cigarette, inhaled, and exhaled deeply. "Shopping really is hell."

"Ah, at least it gained her favor, yes?" the other man pointed out gently, an amused look on his face. The girl had just run Sha Gojyo—the man with boundless energy—ragged within seven hours. Sanzo would be pleased. Well, if he wasn't trying to kill her, of course. He knew that Sanzo hated the fact that Kanzeon Bosatsu had as good as bullied him into taking in a new arrival—especially someone as…different…as Qing. Of course, Qing was not exactly trying her best to be at least likable, which only made things a lot worse. He was lucky he had a high tolerance level, or else his blood pressure would hit the roof.

"I dunno. She's an unpredictable one, but signs are favorable. It's not like I can muster the energy to do anything now, even if I wanted to." Then he turned and shouted. "Waiter! Two bowls of ramen here!"

Edited! Whaddya think so far? Leave me a message!