AN: I realize I have been extremely lax in the explanations of the story, so I shall try and explain as much as I can now. I have read through the Saiyuki manga, especially volume 4, and I realized that after the village chief spoke to Hakkai--or Gono, as the matter may be--the scene changed to him looking at his bloodied hands. Now, I might be wrong, but I had immediately inferred that he had actually killed those village people. For the purposes of this fic, he's deemed to have killed those village people.

And some of you guys might be confused over the shepherd Hecate had mentioned a few chapters back. The one Selene, the moon goddess, was purportedly to be fawning over. His name is Endymion. Other sources say that he's actually a prince, but again, for the purposes of this fic, I shall have to go with the theory that the man is actually a shepherd.

Right then, since I'm done, I shall leave you all to read on.

Enjoy, and please tell me what you think about it, as well as how I can make it better. Thanks so very much.

Dedicated to: MysticInca, the dear soul who so kindly drew a lovely, lovely picture for me for 'Yukijurou'. I haven't thanked you yet, have I?

Damn it, he really had to stop making a habit out of helping little girls with their problems. Meihou, the persistent little girl who had pursued him doggedly for the better part of the day, held on to his hand. Her grip was tight, but in the deepening darkness, he felt her fear.

The silence of the surrounding forest was sudden and unfamiliar. Without realizing it, he was beginning to miss the usual sounds of the gang, and Jeep's usual purring. Goku would most probably make some stupid remark about now, and The Fan would make it's usual guest appearance.

Wonder what they're doing now, he thought idly. Having dinner, probably. Damn monkey better save something for me when I get back, or else there'll be hell to pay.

"We getting there yet, Meihou?" he asked the little girl. They'd been walking for awhile now, and there was still no sign of life. The girl nodded hesitantly, skittish eyes darting here and there, as if expecting something to jump out at them any moment.

And then he saw it, a deep, dark house in the middle of nowhere. Was this it? Most probably. Demons are not known for their brains.

Cracking his knuckles, he smirked and started forward. Well, this should be relatively easy.

"You ready, princess?"

He could almost hear her swallow. "Yeah."

"About damn time." Sanzo snapped as soon as the door clicked open and Hakkai and Goku stumbled in, laden with shopping bags of all kinds. The wench was still fast asleep, but he was still immensely annoyed by her nonetheless, for reasons he could not—and did not want to—identify.

Hakkai chuckled as he set the things down on the table. "What's wrong, Sanzo? You look irritated."

"My cigarettes," he told him, holding out a hand for the blessed things. He needed his nicotine fix—FAST—before he smacked someone. Goku was looking like a very good target at the moment. "Did you people have to take so long?"

"Well, we made a few pit stops to buy things for Goku," Hakkai admitted sheepishly. "So I'm afraid we wasted quite a bit of money."

Sanzo shrugged. Despite what he said about not feeding the monkey, he still didn't really bother about how the money was spent one way or another. Those damn gods had caused him enough grief, saddling them with a woman, of all things, and it was time for some payback. "It's not my money, anyway."

Hakkai nodded, and glanced over at the sleeping Qing. "How is she?"

"Fine," Sanzo shrugged impassively as he lit a cigarette and inhaled, glad to have nicotine in his system once again. "How does the city look, anyway?"

"It's nice and lively." Hakkai paused, thinking for a moment. "However, there's a strange rumor about…"


"It seems like there's a demon dwelling in the forest, just a little to the west of the city. There are a lot of people missing near that general vicinity recently. They say 'missing', but I suppose it's the work of that demon."

"Yeah!" Goku cheered once he had appropriated a spot of silence. He had been dying to say this for ages! "Anyway, guess what I saw today? GOJYO was dating a girl this LITTLE!" He placed his forefinger and thumb slightly away from each other. Technically it wouldn't be possible because the kid would be no larger than an insect—and it was statistically impossible to hold hands with a bug—but such was the nature of exaggeration.

Sanzo stared at him for a moment, unimpressed. "Shut up."

Goku sighed and threw up his hands. What kind of reaction had he expected, anyway? "Well, there's an adult for you."

"What should we do?" Hakkai asked quietly, continuing the conversation. "Either way, we have to go through those woods."

Sanzo exhaled slowly, making a decision as a long stream of smoke curled in the air. "Let's go and check it out."

This place was very much unlike any place she had ever been before. First off, it looked like some kind of scientific facility. Secondly, where was everyone? That noisy one, that Nii…Jienyi, was it? Where was that man now?

Nevertheless, Six walked along the dimly-lit corridors, curious, but not in the least worried. There was no one here, she knew, who could possibly hurt her. Or if they could, she did not really care. What was that little bit of pain as compared to the one she carried constantly?

A scowl creased her eyebrows at the thought. All she had to do was to eliminate the source of that pain, and she would be free of it forever.

"Stop right there."

She stopped in her tracks and stayed quiet. Well, it was not like she could speak, or anything.

Soft footsteps whispered on the polished floors, and a dark-skinned, exceedingly handsome young man with red hair stepped out. Only…he didn't really look like a man. He had sharp, pointed ears, and equally sharp eyes that seemed to bore right through a person. Briefly, she wondered if he could read souls.

And why was he wearing earrings?

Six observed the oddly dressed…person, taking him in. His clothes were obviously biker dude inspired, and yet he moved with a smooth, almost regal bearing that disoriented her. A prince in biker wear?

It seemed like he was studying her, too, and did not really like what he was seeing, for there was a light, almost disapproving frown on his features.

"Who are you, and what are you doing here?" His voice was soft, yet the undercurrent of command did not evade her. He was obviously used to having his every word obeyed to the letter.

I'm here…to see the Empress Gyokumen. She had learned of the Empress's name from a lab technician, and had discovered where she was. A hell-hole called Tenjiku, where it seemed like demons and a handful of humans thrived. That was fine with her. Although she had never really seen demons before, she had fought enough of them for it not to really matter anymore.

The worst demons were not the ones who were physical. It was those that you could not see that were deadly.

The ones that could really kill you.

Kougaiji blinked at the sudden, alien voice that had invaded his brain. Did she just…?

She saw the surprise in his eyes, and wondered if this demon person was as evil as the others in this damned place. She had not seen many demons when she wandered, but the ones she had seen had an undercurrent of brutality and evil to them she almost welcomed.

Anything was better than blind grief.

I can read you like a freaking book, demon. She told him, filled with caustic amusement. She couldn't read minds, but she could damn well pretend to. Why are you so surprised that I can speak like this?

Kougaiji scowled, not impressed in the least. Who did this woman think she was? "You'd better—"

"Lord Kougaiji!"


Distracted, Kougaiji turned to see a breathless Yaone and Dokugakuji hurrying up to him.

Yaone was the first to speak. "Lord Kougaiji," she began, so intent on her message that she did not notice the young woman standing to the side. "The Empress Gyokumen wants us to search for—"

"Is that her?" Dokugakuji asked curiously. Well, she matched the description, all right. That ridiculous-looking lab rat uniform and lab sandals, with dark, ratty looking dreadlocks that tumbled around her shoulders. However, she looked like she had not seen a decent bath in days. Brilliant blue eyes focused on him silently, looking almost intrigued. A long, angry-looking scar ran down the left side of her face, ending at her almost-delicate looking jawline.

So this was the Sorceress that they were all talking about?

Yaone paused, noticing the young woman for the first time. It was obvious that she was surprised to see her there. "I…guess so. The description fits, doesn't it?"

"Who?" Kougaiji asked impatiently. What were they talking about?

"The Empress is searching for the Sorceress, Lord Kougaiji," Yaone said, rushing to explain. "Apparently, Scientist Nii found her—I'm not sure where from—and told the Empress that she was of use to her."

That overbearing bitch again, Kougaiji thought darkly, thoughts of his stepmother immediately souring his mood. Whatever it was, he was sure that she was planning something nasty. Again.

Where is she?

All three of them jumped. None of them had been expecting a loud, sudden question—in their heads, no less. Yaone and Dokugakuji looked startled. Kougaiji simply scowled and glared at her. "Could you kindly speak out loud?"

I can't. Came the simple answer. If not for the fact that she had blinked at that moment, one could have mistaken her for a statue. Her face was calm, but they could sense the agitation simmering beneath.

"Why are you so eager to see the Empress?" Dokugakuji questioned, not liking her in the least. This human was just too strange and too silent. And of course, people who spoke in his brain were just too unnerving. What if she could read minds?

Do I have to answer to you?

He scowled, offended by the entirely-too-impertinent remark. "You—"

Take me to the Empress. She had turned to Yaone expectantly, bright blue eyes fixated on the beautiful demoness. Yaone looked to her master quickly, in askance of silent consent, for she did nothing without his approval.

He nodded curtly. He was the Prince, after all. He deserved the right to know what was going on in the castle. The fact that the Empress would use a human…Sorceress as a pawn in her plans was curious, indeed. "Let's go."

Gojyo pushed open the door to the dilapidated cottage. "Pardon us!" He called out casually, noting that there was no movement of any kind he could sense in the house.

"Looks like no one's here," Meihou said quietly behind him, still clinging to his hand.

Shrugging, they entered the house. Ready or not, here we come. Gojyo glanced around at the dark surroundings; although his stance was relaxed, there was no doubt that he would be able to kick serious ass if the need arose. Shit, should have left Meihou where she was safe.

He stopped suddenly, something tickling at the edges of the awareness. Something was definitely wrong here.

"W-what's wrong?" the little girl asked almost fearfully.

"Something's fishy." He grunted.

"W-what is it?"

He scowled into the deepening darkness. This place looks like any other house, but something's not right. It's like we're stuck inside a dollhouse or something. And there's the stink of demonic aura filling every inch of the house. He had not sensed it at first, when he was entering, but now that he was inside, the stench was stronger than ever.

The most aggravating thing about it was that there was no way to pinpoint the source of the smell. He stiffened. It was getting stronger.

Apparently, Meihou could sense it too, for she clung onto him a little tighter, her eyes fixed on something in the darkness. "Gojyo…over there."

His gaze ticked to the place she was staring at, and he frowned. "Behind the door?"

Without further ado, he kicked the door open, and was taken aback at the sight of a huge green brain-like creature that filled almost the entire space. Within the eerily glowing green brain, he could barely make out the shapes of unconscious people tangled within the vines of the thing. Truly, it was the most hideous thing he'd ever seen. "What the hell?"

Meihou, for one, freaked out and lunged forward. "Everyone!"

Gojyo held onto her tightly. "Wait," he snapped gruffly.

She was struggling against him. Why was he stopping her now? She had to help them before they got eaten! "Let me go!"

"Give it a rest, you idiot," Gojyo was scowling at the thing, his entire body tense and ready for action. Somehow, getting the people out of here would not be as easy as she thought it would be.

Whipping out his shakujou, he smirked as he slammed it into the ground, the lethal blade cutting right through the floor and down into where he sensed the thing's roots would be.

The brain-thing screamed in pain, and he could see the network of roots—brilliant, glowing green roots—through the floor.

It was then that all hell broke loose. He could feel the house around them change shape, twisting and writhing as it resumed it's original, brain-like form.

"We're right in the belly of the whale," Gojyo remarked with a shrug. "Anyway, we're getting out of here, all right?"

As they both turned to leave, the pulsing, giant blobs bulged menacingly in front of them. Meihou screamed, terrified. "Yeah, I figured this would happen." Gojyo said, as he pushed the little girl towards the exit. "Run for it!"

As they turned to flee, a vine wrapped around Meihou's leg and tugged. It was only by virtue of Gojyo's lightning reflexes that had prevent her from being sucked into the thing.

Slicing through another vine that had looked to wrap around the girl's waist, Gojyo grabbed her up and moved to beat a hasty retreat. The vines, however, were not so lenient. Another whipped out towards him, and he hacked at the vine, shattering it to little pieces.

Grabbing Meihou's hand, he dragged her towards the exit. Of course, the vines were not staying idle. One of those huge lumps sped towards them, and was dangerously close when Gojyo shouted,

"Jump, Meihou!"

Even as they narrowly escaped the lump, a multitude of vines shot out at them. Once again, Gojyo slashed them to bits, using his own body as a shield for the terrified little girl. "I hate people who just don't know how to quit!" His last word was punctuated with a solid slash to a bunch of those damned vines.

"Gojyo!" Meihou shouted. "The doorway!"

True enough, the vines were racing to cover the exit, and were rapidly gaining success. "Tch," Gojyo muttered, scowling. Damn things really could move. In a flash, he had slammed his shakujou to stop the exit from closing up. Unfortunately, they were closing in on the weapon, and there was no way he could get it out without being smashed to death. Meihou, who had squeezed out of there, turned and shouted, "Gojyo, hurry!"

Grunting with exertion—the damn vines were now wrapped tightly over his fists, preventing further movement—he shook his head. "Looks like it ain't gonna be so easy."

"Gojyo!" she screamed, running towards him. The huge monster was about to smother him, and she needed to do something, fast!

"Stay away from here!" he shouted. "Just get outta the way and get the hell out of here!"

She looked close to tears, and did not budge from where she was about to jump in and join him. "But Gojyo, you're—you're—"

Gojyo smiled wryly, his eyes surprisingly tender. It had always been his fatal flaw, giving it his all for the sake of the fairer sex, or for his friends. When was he going to learn to not be so stupid? Does it matter, though? He was sure that if he had another chance, he would choose this path all over again. It was how he is, he supposed. "Man," he shook his head. "Am I soft on women."

Those were his last words before the demon closed on him.

Meihou screamed. "No! GOJYO!"

Hakkai spun, his sharp hearing picking it up almost immediately. "That voice…!"

Goku had obviously heard it too, for he had stopped in his tracks and was gazing in the general direction of the sound. "See, I told you they were together!"

Qing, who was a little groggy from the ingestion of painkillers and being roused from sleep, said a little dazedly. "It sounds like a kid."

Goku turned to her excitedly, distracted. "Oh, didn't I tell you? I saw Gojyo dating a girl this big!" And there he went again with the insectoid comparison.

"Oh," she said vaguely. "That's nice."

Gojyo stared impassively at the chuckling demon who had slowly risen in front of him. He would've liked to smack the bastard a good one, but unfortunately, he was a tad bit incapacitated at the moment, having being almost wrapped up from head to toe in vines.

"Well, well, what a surprise." The demon drawled. "I never expected anyone to become my food of their own accord." He leered at him hungrily.

"What's the matter, you don't get any visitors?"

"So you still can run your smart-ass mouth." The demon noted. "You've got guts."

"I'm good with my mouth, at least." Gojyo replied. Now, if only a woman was here to get that particular innuendo…

"You," the demon snarled, a little off-balance by Gojyo's calm. Most of his victims had been brought here kicking and screaming, and here this guy was, making conversation. "Who the hell are you?"

"Well," Gojyo smirked, still as cool as ever. He had sensed that his lack of terror had disoriented the demon, and was looking forward to toying with the bugger a little more. Who knows, maybe he might be off-kilter enough for him to get a few hits in. "Who knows?"

The demon took that in, and then shrugged. "Well, who cares? You're dead anyway."

"Before I die, can I ask you something?" Without waiting for him to answer, Gojyo continued. "Are those people still alive?"

"Yeah. Fresh food tastes best, don't you think?"

"I see. How sensible of you."

"But I've decided to kill you right away."

The kappa was not impressed, to say the least. "Ooh, scary. Why is that?"

"Because you smell dangerous, that's why!"

Well. At least the damn demon was not as stupid as he looked. Gojyo barely had time to dwell on that before a whole wall of vines shot out towards him. Helpless, he closed his eyes and waited for the killing—

—what was that sound?

The next thing he knew, there was a bright, blinding light, and he barely made out Goku's fist as it smashed against the wall of vines, shattering them and socking the demon a good one in the jaw.

The light subsided, and Gojyo recognized the earlier sound as Sanzo's ever-so-handy S&W. He had never thought he would be so happy to hear it in his life.

"My goodness," he drawled, hiding his relief even as two figures appeared in the doorway. "Such impeccable timing."

Sanzo was smirking as he took in the sight of an incapacitated Gojyo. "Looking good over there, Gojyo."

"Yeah, yeah, can't deny it."

"Should we take a picture or something?" Hakkai asked happily. "I'm sure Miss Qing would like to see it, too."

"Hey, hey! Anything but that!"

Goku laughed. "Don't get bashful now, Gojyo."

With three precise shots, Gojyo was free from the vines, and of course, the butt-kicking began.

"Bastards," the demon growled, holding his swollen face. "When did you all—"

He barely had time to finish his sentence when Goku—battle cry and all—charged towards him and smashed his Nyoyi staff into him. The demon was faster, though, and the staff only hit the vines.

The demon moved to attack, but Hakkai sped in front of Goku, effectively blocking the blows. "Be careful, Goku!"


"Shit," Sanzo cursed, struggling to find out where the demon's weak spot was. It was no easy feat, given the fact that the interior of the demon's lair kept swirling. "This is gonna take forever!" He fired off a few more shots, destroying the vines that circled him.

"Hakkai!" Gojyo called, back in commission once more and happily hacking at the damn vines, clearing the ones that got too near. "Got any ideas, man?"

Hakkai thought about it for a moment. How the heck would he know? He'd been here a few seconds! "Well, I—" Movement to the top of the lair caught his eye, and he looked up. In the darkness of the area, a large eyeball glared down at him, moving slowly through the network of vines. "Ah!" he said cheerfully, pointing upwards. "How about aiming at that? It looks a lot like a weak spot."

Goku stared at it dubiously. "You sure about that?"

Gojyo and Sanzo, who were now back-to-back and busy dispelling errant vines, simply shrugged. Gojyo glanced up. "Let's bet on Hakkai's intuition, shall we?"

Sanzo acquiesced, his amusement obvious. "He's the gambler, after all."

"All right!" Leaping up towards his target, Gojyo prepared to sink his weapon into it when the demon appeared in front of him and blocked his way.

"Oh no, you don't!"

With one swift move, the demon disarmed him, almost sending Gojyo flying.

"Now," he said smugly. "You're disarmed. What will you do now?"

"Too bad for you," Gojyo responded, the sheer speed of his reflexes stunning the demon. "I'm stronger without my weapon!"

With one mighty kick, the demon himself was sent flying to the corners of the lair, leaving the eyeball open and fair game for him. Without wasting any time, Gojyo sank his fist deep into it, smashing the thin membrane and crushing the thing.

Almost immediately, the lair disintegrated around them, and the demon screamed as it disappeared with the lair.

It was over.

Qing, who was waiting outside with the frantic child, shrugged when she saw the disgusting brain-like thing implode. "Well," she remarked, as the girl looked on, wide-eyed. "Took them long enough."

Meihou looked up at her, impressed. "Does this happen to you guys very often?"

The young woman thought about it for a moment. "Well, giant brains out in the middle of nowhere isn't a common thing. But demons are always trying to kill us for one reason or another."

"Ohh…" Then her face split into a grin. "I bet Gojyo was really cool too, wasn't he?"

Qing briefly remembered Goku saying something about Gojyo dating the little girl, and tried not to laugh. It was obvious from Meihou's openly adoring gaze that she had some kind of a crush on him. And then again, who wouldn't? The guy was one of the most charismatic and handsome specimen of a man she had ever seen, and if she wasn't currently interested in someone else, she would've jumped him from the get go. "I guess so."

It was morning when they had gotten all the captives out. Meihou, for one, was overjoyed when her parents emerged from the destroyed lair, looking a little dazed. They perked up considerably, however, when the sight of their delighted daughter greeted them. "Mommy! Daddy!"

With a happy cry, she leapt into her mother's arms, and the little family huddled in a warm hug. It was obvious that Meihou's family, though not well-off, were still rich in affection for each other.

"Thank goodness you're all right." Her father said happily.

Oh yes, I almost forgot.

"Gojyo!" She yelled happily, running back to the group who was watching a little way away.

"I'm glad for you, Meihou." Gojyo told her, grinning.

"Gojyo…" What should she say?

He stared at her for a long, long moment, crimson eyes twinkling. Then he turned away; Sha Gojyo was not and never would be very good with goodbyes, especially with someone who had long grown on him. "Later." Then he remembered something. Kneeling down in front of her, he slipped the green necklace back around her neck. She had given it to him earlier as payment for helping her. "This wouldn't look good on me."

"But Gojyo," she protested. "I wouldn't have done anything to thank you!"

He shook his head. "I'll be back in ten years. That pendant'll help me find you." He winked at her suggestively. "And we can get nice and cosy then."

Meihou, still too young to fully understand what that meant, simply nodded. "Okay. Gojyo, thank you so much!"

And then they were back on the road again.

Gazing out at the desert landscape, Gojyo hid a small smile. Ten years, huh? For the gang who lived from day to day with no real thought for the future, he wondered if it was ever possible that he could see Meihou again. Would be still be alive, though? Did that matter? Probably not, he thought. At least he was back with the gang again. And speaking of… "So how come you guys showed up on cue like that, anyway?"

"I wanted to see your girlfriend." Sanzo drawled lazily from the front, where he had been dozing.

Gojyo gaped at that answer. "Ehhhh?"

Hakkai grinned. "We checked out the rumor mill in town. Apparently, someone matching your description went on a rampage through town and ran off into the forest with a little girl."

Qing snorted her amusement, remembering the starry-eyed looks Meihou kept giving him. She wondered if he noticed. "Two words, Gojyo. Jail. Bait."

"Hey! I wasn't—"

Goku, who was not above teasing the kappa, grinned suggestively and elbowed him in the side. "She was a cutie, wasn't she, Gojyo? Man, I didn't know you were into that kind of stuff."

What the…"You wanna try dying, you stinking monkey?"

"What? It's true, lolita kappa!"

Gojyo's eyes crossed.

"What the hell was that?" Then as he registered what the damn ape said, he pounced on him. "That IS IT, you little shitbag! DIE!"

And just when the fight was starting, a grumpy Sanzo—who had his sleep majorly disturbed by the usual raucous in the back—fired off a shot into the air and snarled. "Shut the fucking hell up, you idiots!"

AN: Ah yes, the end of another chapter. What did you think of this?

Prettystupidgirl: Well, hello again! Thanks for the compliment, LOL. Ohh, you're doing a SanzoOC fic too? Cool. Put it up! Heaven knows we've got too little decent SanzoOC fics here…

Sukilovesanime: Heya, thanks for reading this story. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, too!

MysticInca: Heyyy! It's so good to see your review again! I'm glad you like this story, heh. Thanks for your kind compliments, girl. You know it's always appreciated. And NO, this one I'm not going to let go. Man, it's SANZO. Anyway, this one's for you!

Jessicagreen: Thanks for your review, it's very much appreciated. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter!

Risika Tziporah: All the best, then!

Steph: Heya, I'm sorry if it was too choppy. I haven't properly mastered the art of shifting from one place to another. LOL I'll keep your review in mind, and will never do it again. Many apologies if it was a little too choppy and confusing. Rest assured that I will be working on that. Anyway, it's good to hear from you again! Hee, I know the wait was a little too long, but now I've got time to put up chapters regularly, so look out for 'em!

KaiKai Cutie: Thanks!