A/N: My first Saiyuki fanfic, as well as the first fic I've written in more than eight months. Hopefully, my writing skills haven't declined, or that I've discouraged you from reading this story (tries to bribe readers with frosted cookies).

Also, I'm terribly sorry if I got some of the details wrong. I watched the Saiyuki DVDs in Chinese – which, might I add, had the Chinese voice actors speak over the Japanese ones, making it even harder for Chinese-challenged little me to understand what the heck anyone was saying. To compensate for the problem, I did some research on the Internet.

Please enjoy reading

---------------------------------- New Rebirth ----------------------------------

By chibiryu

When the high priests from distant temples arrived at the doorstep of Shangri-La Temple, he should have immediately realized something was wrong. However, he assumed it was simply another act of reverence, as there were many occasions when monks and priests came bearing marvelous gifts, hoping to seek guidance from the eminent Genjo Sanzo.

Or, Goku thought wryly, to suck up to him.

Consequently, he ignored the stream of humbly dressed priests and their bowed heads and solemn murmurs. Instead, he decided to go to the bakery in the nearby village, the one that – in his opinion as a self-proclaimed food connoisseur – baked the best meat buns in all of China. Or Asia, for that matter.

He should have realized something was wrong when the jolly old man who always wore a smile on his face and gave him an extra meat bun every time stared at him queerly. The baker's wizened face changed from surprise to confusion to sorrow. There were no "How hungry are we today, Son Goku?" or "Does Sanzo-sama know your whereabouts, Son Goku?" Instead, a tactless greeting and a sad smile welcomed him.

He should have realized something was wrong when there was no extra meat bun.

As Goku returned to the temple by the meandering dirt trail that ran through the woods – the only trail connecting the place of worship to the rest of civilization – he noticed how inexplicably silent the forest creatures were. On anything other occasion, the great pines brushed against each other, long needles humming a soft lullaby to its audience of squirrels and woodpeckers and other small animals. Sometimes, twigs would snap suddenly or the bushes mysteriously rustle, alluding to a bobcat hunting for its next meal.

Today, the dulcet song of the forest ended, fading into the cloud-veiled sky whose morning blue was besmirched by coarse streaks of gray. Only faded streams of sunlight managed to struggle pass the heavy celestial gauze.

It was as if the sun was dying.

I hope it doesn't rain, Goku thought, peering at the sky warily. Sanzo hated it when he came back with enough rainwater in his clothes to fill the temple's communal bathhouse. Plus, the rain never failed to throw Sanzo into a bad mood, something Goku had learned even before living with the man for fifty-eight years.

A smile touched Goku's lips. It didn't feel that long. The decades that passed seemed no longer than the day after the journey to stop Gyuumaou's resurrection had ended. Despite the years, Sanzo never changed: he was still the cold, corrupted, iconoclastic priest who didn't give a damn about anything or anyone except for his cigarette, lighter, and gun.

And me, Goku added, clenching the bag filled with meat buns. The tantalizing smell of pork whiffed up his nose, and it took every ounce of his willpower not to have a midday snack right there. He could wait. Besides, the last time he did it earned him a few good whacks from Sanzo's infamous paper fan. Sanzo hasn't changed much, but he's still nicer than before, at least to me. The occasional smile, a pat on the head, and the 'baka' that sounded almost like an endearment all had to count for something.

Goku felt special. The fact that he could fracture Sanzo's cold mask justified it.

The swell of pride diminished when he crossed the threshold into the temple. The high-ranking priests from earlier that morning were congregated on the wooded walkway, heads bowed and murmuring an incoherent string of words that must have been a prayer. The monks of lower stature knelt on the flat, dirt yard beyond the raised walkway of the temple.

The stench of anxiety and melancholy even overpowered the smell of meat buns. Sensing that the situation somehow involved Sanzo – who else could bring complacent priests in one place and in such a humble position? – Goku crept over to the conglomeration. From his closer standing point, he realized the priests were crowded around a set of screen doors.

Sanzo's door.

Something's wrong. The realization chilled him to the bones, and a dark thought ghosted along the back of his mind. He shook himself free of the specter, refusing to consider the all-too likely possibility.

No, he tried to assure himself. Maybe they're here to get Sanzo to help them, or to attend some sort of special ceremony.

Deep down, he knew his self-assurances were lies. A temporary shield against his worst fear, a fear he knew would one day come to pass.

The meat buns fell to the ground in a cloud of dust.

"Sanzo!"

The priests turned as one, berating his sudden outburst with icy glares. But Goku could care less about what the priests thought of him. He sprinted towards the doors, barricaded by hunched bodies in gray and black robes. One of the bodies, a young priest who stood nearest to the walkway, tried to grab Goku, but Goku dodged him and continued running.

He leapt easily over the mass of grumbling faces, flipped twice in midair before landing steadily on the planks outside the doors. Behind him, the hiss of warning and something else pounded with the tabor of his heart.

He slid open the screen doors. The muffled grousing outside stopped abruptly when he closed the screen.

The wooden shades were drawn shut, prohibiting the already-faint sunlight from entering. Nevertheless, thin columns of burnished gold escaping through the slits of the blinds, illuminating parts of the veneered ground, the immense office desk piled with stacks of papers, and the figure reposed on a tatami mat.

"Sanzo!"

The figure turned his head slightly, lifting a sagging eyelid that had been desecrated by the passage of time. The plain gray robe he wore piled in heavy folds around his gaunt figure; he'd long ago relinquished the leather shirt and gloves, even before his body lost its well-toned muscles and youth.

There was a long pause before he spoke. "It's you."

"Sanzo…" Goku had forgotten that Sanzo's voice wasn't as sharp and caustic as it used to be. Fifty-eight years deteriorated such verbal asperity, like a river eroding a jagged rock into a smoother pebble; expect unlike the river, time corroded it into the hoarseness of the ancient.

Goku knelt by the tatami mat, started to reach out but hesitated. What could he do? Pat the man on the shoulders? Gather his robes so that they didn't swallow him whole? A simple touch wouldn't change Sanzo's hair from dull silver to shimmering gold, wouldn't remove the wrinkles and creases scarring his skin, and certainly wouldn't change him to the arrogant bastard from fifty-eight years ago.

"I…Guess what Sanzo? I went to buy some meat buns today, and I didn't even eat one on my way back!" Goku tried to smile and laugh. It was hard, especially when the pain of a loss he refused to accept burned his lungs like acid, choking him with its morbid miasmic air.

In the dimness, the corners of Sanzo's lips lifted. Such pale lips. Dry and crackled and furrowed around the sides. If Sanzo had seen himself in such a deplorable state years ago, he no doubt would've been repulsed.

"Goku…you baka," Sanzo coughed. Immediately, Goku reached over to help, but Sanzo swatted his hand away. Despite his physical degeneration, his condescending attitude still remained untouched. Faded blue eyes glared at Goku.

The obstinate pride relaxed Goku somewhat. Everything's going to be ok. If Sanzo's still like his old self, then everything has to be fine.

"Why are all those people out there?" he asked, sparing the screen doors a cursory glance. It was disturbing how the smothering silence outside had permeated the screens and lingered into the room.

"They," Sanzo muttered, "are fools who are wasting their breath to bid farewell to a mortal man."

The implication of his words sank in slowly, like a rock tossed into mud, until the finally the air bubble rose and burst when the rock disappeared entirely.

"No!" Goku clenched the hem of his shirt, the plain t-shirt Sanzo had gotten him when he grew out of his former clothes. His chest throbbed painfully, every one of Sanzo's words descending upon him with the force of a steel hammer. He glanced at Sanzo frantically, searching for amusement – for anything – that would deny the unspoken admission.

Nothing but cold, hard truth glared from those blue eyes.

"Baka," Sanzo repeated. He averted his gaze to the canopy of shadows overhead. "Would I lie about something like this?"

No, Goku realized. But accepting the truth was similar to accepting an assertion that contradicted all his beliefs. Sanzo can't die. Sanzo was the sun, the brilliant sun that radiated hope and warmth and freedom. The sun never died, the sun can't die, and the sun won't die. If the sun died, then, from what Goku learned from one of the temple's books, the Earth will also die. Sanzo was the sun. Sanzo was

"Mortal." Sanzo glanced wearily at the boy kneeling beside him. The broken expression, though he didn't want to admit, pained him. The last sight he ever wanted to see was Goku crying; any form of pessimism seemed awkward on Goku.

Baka. He thought again, noting that it was the third time in five minutes he'd used the word. It was as if he were trying to say it as many times as possible, before the option ceased to exist. The contemplation was more than depressing.

He watched Goku's face carefully as he spoke. His own voice, dry and raspy, disgusted him. "I told you before, hadn't I, that I'll die one day. But it seems your thick-headed monkey brain just doesn't get it. Now do you understand what I meant?"

In the smothering silence that ensued, Sanzo briefly wondered if Goku was going to cry. The gods knew how disheartening that'd make the situation, as if the sole act of dying wasn't gloomy enough.

Finally, Goku answered. His voice faltered with the weight of nostalgia and remorse, but, Sanzo was pleased to note, spared from the heaviest burden of all: regret. "I-I'm stupid, Sanzo. I knew what you meant from the beginning, but I didn't really think it'd actually happen. I mean, I knew that it'd happen one day…Still, just not so soon…Sanzo – " Goku stopped when a weathered hand covered his own.

"Shut up, baka." There was no causticity behind the words. Hadn't been for years. "I know."

Sanzo glanced at the closed blinds, where light barely filtered through. The wooden shades were unnervingly similar to pillars of rocks, the prison bars of a cave. He frowned, more for Goku's sake than himself. "Open the blinds."

Goku scrambled do so. Pale golden light flooded into the room, streaming across the floor and mat in liquated ribbons. A touch of silver edged the laces, and Sanzo noticed ruefully that storm clouds had laden the sky.

The irony that his death might be precipitated by what he hated most irked him. Hell, he'd be furious if the sky dared to cry even after he was died. Touching, yes, that the heavens would grieve for him, though Sanzo suspected the gods – especially the 'old hag' – would be laughing hard enough to produce tears.

At Goku's curious look, Sanzo said, "You really are a baka if you think I'm going to die in a dingy old room. It's bad enough that I'm leaving in a temple."

"Sanzo…"

There it was again. That mournful tone. If he could, Sanzo would either sew the boy's mouth shut, or…

Or not die. But that wasn't exactly an option.

Sanzo glanced out at the turbid sky rather than Goku's face. The clouds seemed too close to the ground, oppressive and stifling, coming to devour his soul.

"Beyond the haze, comes new rebirth

The cycle of the soul

Arise, from the ashes of the hearth

The man who dies today

From its cloudy prison, the sun is free

And never leaves the earth" (1)

The quote was from something he read a while back, a book he'd deemed ludicrous and pathetic. In fact, he wasn't sure if he even remembered the words correctly. Now, however, he relied on its allegedly 'stupid' poems to express the thoughts he could never vocalize aloud. Beside him, Sanzo heard a sniffle – soft and muffled, but nevertheless audible.

Groaning at his misfortune, he risked a glance. Though Goku was struggling to contain his tears – poorly, too, his eyes glistening with unshed emotions – the smile on his face was genuine. After spending nearly his entire life with the boy, Sanzo would be damned if he couldn't distinguish between Goku's stupid fake grin or a rare down-to-earth one.

"Thank you," the boy murmured. "Thank you, Sanzo."

The last sound Goku thought he heard before the sky collapsed under its watery weight was all too familiar, and would be ingrained in his memory forever.

"Baka."

----------------------------------

The requiem of heaven did not consist of the dulcet echo of horns or the mellifluous chore of harps. Instead, it proceeded in the form of harsh, scathing rain, a deluge that pounded with insensate force, accompanied by the howling and moaning of equally unmerciful wind. Death sounded like an atonal piece of music, one concert that should never be pleasing. In the torrential service, the only smell was that of mud.

They had all left. The high-ranking priests were the first to go, after murmuring their empty regrets and prayers. Then the temple's own monks retreated to their toasty rooms, away from nature's hostility.

Only he had stayed. Seconds, minutes, hours. Beaten by the rain, abraded by the wind. No one bothered to pull him into a safer environment; after all, he was just a nuisance Sanzo-sama had picked off the road. Without Sanzo, he was no more than a filthy bug on the great statue of Buddha.

Sanzo.

He had refused to let anyone bury the man. Goku had dug the grave himself, by the peach tree that was supposedly holy. To him, the tree symbolized the start of his and Sanzo's journey, when they left together with the sea of astonished priests watching them.

I wonder if Hakkai and Gojyo know…

The dirt, transformed to mud by the relentless rain, had continued to slide down, thwarting his attempts at enlarging the hole every time. But he gritted his teeth and dug, willing to go against the forces of nature for a proper burial for his sun.

I never thought the sun would die…

Along with Sanzo's body, he'd placed a pack of the man's usual cigarettes, his banishing gun, and the hazardous paper fan that (Goku mourned) would never be used again. He couldn't find a tombstone, nor could he write anything if he had found one. Locating two wooden boards, he'd nailed them together to form a cross.

A crude monument, but a monument nevertheless.

No, the sun always rises again.

He allowed the rain to pummel him, to drench his clothes and lacerate his skin. Nature's aggression could never compare to the pain in his heart, the terrible sense of loss that struck harder than any drop of water could. He felt hollow, as if his soul had withered and died without the sun.

Alone, inside that cave.

He would wait. He would protect Sanzo's grave until Sanzo returned again. Sanzo had promised to return.

Alone.

He would wait, even if it took decades, centuries, millennia. Even if it took the rest of forever.

"Son Goku."

He never expected another visitor, especially not the casually posed person behind him. The smile was ever-present on the god's face, but it seemed off somehow. Not amused or challenging. A hidden understanding, tinged with something else.

Goku ignored him. Now was not the time for a battle of strength; to compete was sacrilegious to the dead, to Sanzo. A part of Goku, though, absentmindedly wondered why the god had appeared. Homura had stopped confronting them after their journey ended; the god had no purpose here on earth then, and certainly not now.

"Son Goku." The call was louder this time, but still in the range of a conversational volume. In the drumming rain, Goku could faintly hear the splashing of water that sounded closer with each step. He could feel the pale shadow of the god stood over him, a diminutive nuance of brown shades in the mud.

And still, Goku ignored him.

"Are you going to kneel there all day, Son Goku?" Homura's voice lacked the mockery, or even amusement, Goku had come to associate it with. The question was simply that: a question.

"I'm waiting for Sanzo," Goku whispered, unsure if the god even heard him over the storm.

But Homura must have, because he replied, "Waiting? Or protecting?"

Goku whirled around, finding himself forced to look up. Homura towered over him, arms crossed over his chest, his jacket sodden and hanging limply over his shoulders.

"What do you mean?" the boy demanded.

"I'm saying that Sanzo is a mortal man. He cannot live forever like you. Do you think it is realistic to wait for his return? Do you even know when or if he'll come back? It could be the next day, the next year, the next century. It could even be never."

The blow caused Homura to stagger back. He regarded Goku impassively, taking in the soaked body brutalized by rain, the unadulterated defense and anger characterized by heavy breathing and the single fist still held between him and the boy.

"Very good, Son Goku," he gasped, then straightened his posture. "Your loyalty to Sanzo and your pain from his death makes your stronger. However, like I said before, how long do you plan to wait? Or are you even waiting? Maybe you fear he'll never return, that his body might be stolen or defaced. Maybe you are protecting his intangible presence, so that he will never fade from your memory." Homura watched Goku solemnly. The fractional widening of golden eyes were enough to confirm his assumption. "That's it, isn't it Son Goku. You fear losing him mentally as well."

"Shut up!"

Homura barely sidestepped the punch that followed. He threw his arms up in defense, deflecting the hard blow that aimed for his face. Block, move, block, move. Simple, repetitive actions, yet requiring acute concentration to avoid being hit. Mud sprayed in small tidal waves as Homura skittered backward. During the fleeting periods when he saw the boy's face, he found the animalistic expression evinced only by Seiten Taisei.

But the same fury that fueled the boy's fight, increasing his strength and speed, also caused him to be careless. Goku's attacks, Homura noted, weren't as punctual as they should be. The years of peace would not have debilitated his skills. This sloppy performance resulted from blind rage.

Recklessness could not go unpunished.

Homura flipped back a few yards away from Goku. Reaching out to one side, he summoned his sword. The familiar flare of heat traveled down his arm, erupting into a flaming blade that had eradicated countless demons. "Come on, Son Goku. Show me the power of your anger."

The boy growled, lunging forward while simultaneously calling for his weapon. "Nyoi-bou!" The staff appeared instantly in a beacon of gold light, before striking down on the war god.

Sword against staff. Flame against metal.

They seemed evenly matched.

But not for long, Homura smiled as he watched the boy leap into the air, staff raised to deliver a final, lethal blow. Such ferocity and pain contorting his youthful features – it was hard to believe that this creature was the child of earth. The gold heretic eyes burning with the desire to protect against something even the boy couldn't quite comprehend, dangerous like pulsing rivulets of hot lava in a volcano.

At the last moment, Homura lifted his sword. The strike of the two weapons resonated through the rain's incessant cadence, a sharp screech of metal that caused both fighters to wince. When the last trace of heart-wrenching sound faded into the sleets of gray, when the waves of combat settled around them, the attack had evolved into a contest of strength.

Homura grunted softly as he held his ground. From beyond his sword and Goku's staff, he could see the intense eyes that glistened with moisture not of the sky. The red flare of his blade illuminated the boy's face, caressing the smooth skin that would never age.

The child of earth cannot die. Earth will not release him, even if he is forced to suffer the terrible torment of loss and isolation. Is this how you feel, Son Goku? This loneliness you so abhorred in Mt. Gogyou? This is our punishment for being born, for daring to breathe the sacred air of heaven and mankind, for tainting the world with our blasphemous cries of acceptance.

He could feel Goku's harsh breathing brush his face, tingling and caressing, hot against the cold sheen of rain. The phantom touch of he who is inimitable.

Lightning flashed overhead in a fissure of white light, outlining their bodies against the bleak backdrop; thunder roared along with the wind, raising nature's dissonant concert its final apex.

As the brilliance faded, a slight smile touched the war god's lips.

"Son Goku," he murmured. "Sanzo will not come back. But there is someone else willing to be your sun, someone who understands and accepts you, someone who, too, has been seared by the brand of rejection."

The slight widening of the boy's eyes granted him the chance to shove the staff away and ram his knee into the boy's stomach. Goku gasped from the sudden attack, coughing and wheezing as he stumbled backward.

"You…" Darkness edged his vision. Goku struggled against the lulling fingers of oblivion, staggering to remain on his feet. Beside him, he heard a metallic clang, blearily aware that he was using Nyoi-bou as a crutch. Rain distorted his vision – was rain always this warm? – and the frigid air stung his lungs. Then, he saw nothing but the darkening of the world, when the sun had fallen from the sky and night cast an eternal pall.

Before he blacked out completely, he felt the smooth texture of wet leather against his face, and warms hands on his back and forehead.

I thought the sun had set…

-------------------------------------------------------------

Drip…drip…drip…

The faint trickling of water, a soothing beat against the chaos in his heart. Constant, rhythmic, a delicate sound that echoed through the silence like shattered crystal stars.

Did the rain stop?

He trembled, weakly gripping the ground to pull himself up. The coarse grooves of stone embedded into his face and beneath his fingers, cold and even colder against his damp clothes. His body refused to cooperate with his weary willpower, and he conceded to fatigue, lying on the stone floor, staring horizontally at the stretch of gray ruts. Shadows pooled in the distance, successfully concealing his location.

This was not Shangri-La Temple.

Raising his eyes, he could see pale columns of light streaming through the broken mosaic window, an intricate design that traversed the entire upper portion of the wall in front of him. Faded red and blue, yellow and green, coloring the ground and offering life to the dreariness.

Where am I…?

He suddenly recalled the time Homura had forcefully taken him, dislocating his arm and chaining him to the walls of the demon prison (2). Almost immediately, alarm and anxiety stirring in his empty and painfully throbbing stomach, he flexed his arms.

They were free, unhindered by chains or restraining devices.

He released a small breath of relief. The welcomed discovery, however, wasn't enough to alleviate the hollowness in his chest, an insurmountable force that dominated all other emotions. He felt numb…so very numb…

In the lethargically operating part of his brain, he dimly wondered where the war god was. The answer came along with the faint clanking of chains and the whisper of clothes.

"You are awake, Son Goku." Homura stopped at arms length from him. He shuddered inwardly as the god's bi-colored eyes surveyed him silently. In the dimness, the gold and blue eyes glowed with inexplicable power. Such queer eyes…

No, the boy decided. Not queer. Unique. Like himself, there was no other like Homura.

"What do you want?" he whispered. His hoarse voice sounded grating to his own ears. If Sanzo were here, the man would have scorned at his pathetic state.

Sanzo…

Sanzo was dead. Buried under the peach tree in the temple.

The memories assaulted him through the tenuous dam of numbness, jeering and abusive, threatening to devastate his body from the inside out. Maybe that wasn't such a bad ending…It would certainly be better than to flounder in the dark sea of broken hope.

"What do I want?" Homura regarded the boy silently. Mud caked the boy's jeans, staining the previously white t-shirt and lingering in his hair. The diadem, too, was soiled by streaks of dirt. Finally, the god said, "Firstly, I want you to get up."

When the boy made no movement, he repeated more forcefully, "Get up, Son Goku. Would you let one obstacle force you into such a pitiful state of defeat? One loss deserves grievance, but grievance does not come with resignation." Then he added, "What would Sanzo say, hn? I doubt he'd approve of his charge bowing to anyone, let alone an adversary."

That comment proved effective. The boy's head snapped up, a sneer curling on his lips. His sinewy arms trembled as he strained to pull himself up, body hunched and chest rising and falling raggedly in accordance to his breathing. The shadows and faded light coalesced, fragmenting the boy's face and revealing the youkai suppressed within him.

"Shut up!" Goku muttered. His muscles ached, especially the spot where Homura had kneed him. The throbbing in his head disoriented his thoughts, weakening his already-precarious defense against the unctuousness of the god. "You don't know anything!"

Homura raised a brow. The aplomb in his eyes made Goku want to bash the god's head in. "Don't I?"

"No! You don't know anything about Sanzo!"

"I do not presume to understand Sanzo. You are the one who made the assumption, Son Goku. I merely suggested a likely possibility, a conjecture based on my encounters with him."

Although there was no smugness in Homura's voice, Goku was nevertheless furious at him. Perhaps that was the problem. Perhaps Goku wanted the god to be his old conceited self, so that he'd have a good reason to hate him. But this time, the only emotion he detected was morbid understanding and sympathy.

Before he could reply, Homura closed the distance between them. Instinctively, Goku took a step back, eyeing the god warily. Homura continued to advance. The multicolored ribbons of light dappled his hair, like filaments of a rainbow on wet obsidian. For a moment, Goku stood enraptured – such beautiful light – before realizing the decreasing proximity between him and the god.

He retreated another step.

Then another.

And another.

And felt the rough grooved wall behind him. Panic seized him momentarily, as the thought of being trapped shot through his mind. But as Goku watched the god's measured pace, allowing him more than enough time to escape, he hesitated. Homura's actions confused him more than usual, yet he sensed no underlying intentions that generally epitomized the god.

When Homura again closed the distance between them, Goku didn't move. Shackled wrists flanked either side of his head as the god supported himself against the wall. At such a narrow propinquity, their breaths mingled together, warm in the dankness. Goku could feel the other's body heat against his trembling skin, the soft caress of the cloak that occasionally fluttered over his damp arms.

"What do you want?" he murmured.

"I want…" Homura stroked the boy's face, fingers ghosting over the tan skin that was slick with rain and slightly coarse from long exposure to the wind. He trailed his hand along the boney profile, watching the boy suppress a shiver. "…to be your sun."

He continued before the boy could protest. "Though the sun has set today, there will be a new rebirth beyond the horizon. In this universe, there is more than one sun, but the remnants of those deceased will always remain a beautiful streak of color in the world." Bringing his face down to Goku's, their lips barely touching, he smiled. "I'm not asking you to forget Sanzo. I'm asking for permission to be your rising sun."

"Beyond the haze, comes new rebirth"

Sanzo's poem. As Goku stared into the blue and gold eyes, finding unconditional truth in the god's words, he wondered if this was what Sanzo had meant.

"I'll protect you, Son Goku."

The faintest brush of lips. Fingers caressing his face, warm breath tingling his skin. This closeness…melting away the hollowness in him, like a spark of growing light in the abyss.

"The cycle of the soul

Arise, from the ashes of the hearth"

"…I'll light your path in the dark…"

He slowly responded, pressing a kiss to the velvety lips that curled into a soft smile. Hesitantly, he reached to touch the god's chest, feeling the rippling of muscles hidden beneath the smooth leather. A hand pressed against the small of his back, eliminating the sliver of space between them.

"The man who dies today

From its cloudy prison, the sun is free"

"…I'll be your sun."

Two heretics with no equal. Condemned by the gods, suffering the pain of loss and the torment of eternal life. How appropriate that they should understand each other, a unique empathy granted to those who were irreplaceable but forever abused.

Goku sighed as teeth grazed delicately at his earlobe, pressing his cheek against Homura's. He closed his eyes, relishing the heat that chased away the desolate shadows in his heart.

"…My…sun…"

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Kanzeon Bosatsu smiled from her seat, watching the water lilies idly sway in an intangible breeze. The pond, lucid and spangled with the eternal brilliance of heaven, lay undisturbed beneath a swirling film of mist.

She adjusted the hem of her diaphanous robe, before glancing nonchalantly at the figure standing beside her. Her look, though jaded as always, gleamed with a speck of amusement that was also evidenced on her lips.

A discovery that Konzen did not find comforting. In fact, he resisted the urge to smack the smile off his hag-of-an-aunt. Or uncle. Or the androgynous figure clothed as lightly as possible, never lifted a finger to help anyone, and somehow received the title of the 'Goddess of Mercy.'

"Don't scowl at me like that, my dear nephew. You just returned from earth." Kanzeon Bosatsu returned her gaze to the mystic pond, where the new lily buds were in the process of blooming. The flowers never died – at least, not in heaven – but closed and opened relative to the length of time their petals were exposed to air. In a strange representation, the lilies symbolized the life of a certain someone she knew.

Konzen muttered something under his breath. The goddess smiled again, deciding to keep the comparison to herself. Perhaps one day, he'll understand.

"It seems like your monkey-boy found a new sun," she murmured. Without looking, she sensed the frown on Konzen's face and the darkening mood he'd never admit to.

"The baka's only finding a new set of pain for himself. Homura's half-human; he will die one day. But Goku…he is a child of the earth. He can never die." Since awakening in the garden of his aunt (much to his displeasure), annoyance stalked Konzen like a pesky rain cloud. He supposed he was angrier at himself than Goku, because he should have realized Goku wouldn't understand the poem he quoted before…well, before dying.

He hadn't, however, expected Goku to misinterpret the verse.

Especially the last line.

"And never leaves the earth," Konzen muttered. From his peripheral vision, he saw Kanzeon Bosatsu watch him from the corner of her eye. Ignoring her curious glance, he said louder, and if a bit more bitterly than normal, "The sun always sets."

"But it always rises, too."

Konzen snorted at the optimism, more at the ludicrousness of its meaning than the fact that it was his apathetic aunt who said it. He paused before turning his heels. "No. That is never guaranteed."

Kanzeon Bosatsu smiled as she continued to watch the blossoming lilies. When the last of her nephew's steps faded like the knell, not for death, but rebirth, she said softly, "Don't be so confident, Konzen. You never know."

In the garden, the lilies swayed under the eternal sun.

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(1) Poem I made up in the minute I realized I needed one, hence the poor quality

(2) Episode 40, I believe, when Homura forcefully took Goku and tried to convince the boy to join him

Please read and review! Constructive criticism is most welcomed, especially since this is my first Saiyuki fic. I hope I portrayed the characters accurately enough, and I sincerely apologize for any grammatical errors.

Thank you for reading

---------------------------------- Chibiryu ----------------------------------