Chapter Seven: Survival

Goku nodded eagerly.

"I want to get back to the inn where it's not a freezer!" he declared, Hakkai swaying slightly, his vision blurring.

Sanzo raised an eyebrow, eyeing the dark-haired demon, noticing for the first time since they'd entered the chamber the deep gashes in his stomach.

"Hakkai?" he asked quizzically, Hakkai's eyes closing as he fell forward.

Sanzo caught the man before he hit the ice, Gojyo gritting his teeth.

"Idiot," he sighed, Goku biting his lip as he glanced up at the ceiling, a chunk of ice suddenly cracking loose and falling toward them.

"Uh…guys!" he asked nervously, backing up, Hakuryu squealing nervously. "I think we'd better get going!"

"This way leads back to the village!" Samusa shouted from the entrance to one of the ice tunnels. "Hurry up; this place will be buried in less than five minutes!"

Gojyo gulped, helping lift Hakkai up as they started for the tunnels. Hakuryu let out a cry, transforming back into the jeep as another chunk of ice fell from the ceiling and landed beside the four.

"Step on it, Gojyo!" Goku yelled, the four hastily piling into the dragon's transformed vehicle.

"I know, I know!" The crimson-haired man shouted back, the engine starting and the jeep roaring down the tunnel once more, bits and pieces of the ice caverns falling all around them. "Why can I never have a peaceful night?" he muttered to himself as they sped down the icy tunnel.

Sanzo growled, eyeing the path ahead as the slide came into view, the four ice demons visible up ahead.

"Because you always have to go and introduce yourself to the local women, that's why!" he shouted back, Hakuryu slowing up so as not to hit the demons in the path of the jeep.

Goku bit his lip, glancing back at the collapsing ice chamber behind them.

"Okay, how do we get up the ice slide-thing?" he asked, leaning over Gojyo's shoulder.

Gojyo winced, shoving Goku back, the monkey-demon rubbing against the gash in his shoulder.

"I don't know," he muttered in reply, watching as the four ice demons eyed the ragged human and demon quartet.

Icila nodded in determination, Samusa eying her warily.

"I think that if we combine our energies, we'll have enough power to get both of us out of the tunnel," she murmured, Soria nodding beside her.

"True enough, but where will we go after we get out? It'll be back to phase one," she sighed, Samusa eyeing the Sanzo-party.

"I guess we'll deal with that later," he muttered, Icila closing her eyes, the bodies of the four ice demons glowing once again.

Gojyo raised an eyebrow as everything suddenly was blanketed in a thick white mist. He could hear the sounds of the tunnels collapsing behind him, and Goku shouting something inaudible from somewhere behind his ear.

The only thing that was visible was the glowing white mist that had wrapped itself all around them. Hakuryu squeaked as the dragon-jeep suddenly felt himself growing lighter.

"Thank you…Gojyo," A wispy voice echoed through the tunnel, Gojyo jerking to attention, looking around for the source of the voice.

"What the hell is going on?" he shouted, and upon receiving no reply, he sighed, leaning back in his seat.

A moment later, the white mist started to fade away, and Sanzo was surprised to see that the entire jeep had been lifted out of the icy tunnel and was now resting on the snow-covered ground of the woods.

Goku blinked, glancing out the window as Hakkai leaned on him in the backseat. Sanzo narrowed his eyes, spotting the ice demons in the distance.

"Where do you think they're going?" Goku asked, his golden eyes wide with curiosity, taking note that the blizzard from before had died down completely.

Sanzo shrugged.

"Who knows?" he muttered, Gojyo looking sadly across the snow-covered field at Icila. "So long as they deal with their problems on their own, it doesn't concern anyone else."

The crimson-haired demon's shoulders sagged, watching as the ice demons vanished from sight.

"I guess so," he sighed, Sanzo sneezing.

Goku yawned, shivering slightly.

"Can we get back to the inn now?" he asked, his eyes half-closed. "Sanzo's still sick, and Hakkai's hurt, and I'm tired…and…"

"Hungry," Gojyo finished, leaning over the steering wheel in exasperation. "We know, you stupid monkey."

"Don't call me monkey!"

"I'll call you what I want," Gojyo replied coolly, starting the engine again.

"Not if you know what's good for you, you big red roach!" Goku shouted back, Sanzo sighing and shooting off his banishing gun once more.

"Shut up already…"

The following afternoon, the snow outside had begun to melt and the temperatures had gone up dramatically. The clatter of dishes could be heard from the restaurant as the residents of the inn enjoyed their lunches.

The manager of the restaurant didn't know what had ever become of his waitress, but figured she might have decided to stay home from work for a day due to the weather. In any event, they had plenty of help, so Icila wasn't really missed.

Only Goku of the Sanzo party was downstairs in the restaurant, filling several plates with various items from the buffet menu. Glancing around, he spotted a tray and stacked the plates up on it, several fancily-dressed women eyeing the boy skeptically as they entered.

"Excuse me!" Goku declared, balancing the tray in his arms as he walked out into the lobby. "Coming through!"

Upstairs, Sanzo yawned, browsing the newspaper as he leaned back on the headboard of the bed. Running around in the snow all night hadn't helped his cold any, but, he thought, at least now he could get some peace.

A few rooms over, Gojyo sighed, leaning against the wall and glancing out the window at the slowly melting snow. With the departure of the ice demons, the temperatures outside had returned to normal and the remains of the blizzard starting to thaw.

Gojyo's eyes wandered over to Hakkai, who was asleep in the bed near the window. A doctor who had been staying at the inn had tended to his and Gojyo's wounds, and suggested kindly that Sanzo refrain from "playing in the snow" until he'd gotten over his cold.

Gojyo grinned, remembering Sanzo's look of annoyance at the doctor's words. Yawning, the half-breed glanced over at the clock, as there was a creak from across the room.

Hakkai blinked, tiredly glancing around at his surroundings. Gojyo folded his arms across his chest, eyeing the dark-haired demon.

"It's about time," he declared, grinning slightly. "Do you know how long you've been sleeping?"

Hakkai smiled, wearily pushing himself up, noting that the wounds in his stomach had been patched up.

"Do I really want to know?" he replied, glancing over at Gojyo. "What happened?" Hakkai added curiously.

Gojyo sighed, walking toward him.

"You were being a show-off again," he replied, narrowing his eyes as he sat down in a chair near the bed. "You used your energy to conjure that chii barrier when you were trying to keep those wounds under control at the same time. Haven't I told you not to go pulling those kinds of heroic stunts?"

Hakkai chuckled guiltily.

"I guess you have," he admitted. "I couldn't think of anything else to do at the time, though."

Gojyo shrugged.

"No biggie," he replied calmly, leaning back in the chair.

There was a few moments pause, and then Hakkai spoke up again.

"What happened to the ice demons?" he asked, Gojyo's face growing a bit darker.

"They left," The crimson-haired demon replied, standing up. "After we all got out of the ice tunnels, they went off on their own."

"She didn't even say good-bye," he thought to himself. "Though, I guess we weren't officially going out or anything…"

Hakkai's gaze wandered behind him to the window, where bits of melting snow were falling from the rooftop.

"And so the weather's gone back to normal as well," he noted, Gojyo nodding as he turned toward the door.

"Yep," he agreed, reaching for the knob. "Everything's back to normal."

As Gojyo opened the door and stepped out, there was a loud crash and the sound of several dishes crashing on the floor. Goku yelled, gaping at the mess of his neatly assembled lunch plates in horror.

"You klutzy water-sprite!" he shouted, pointing an accusing finger at Gojyo, whose clothes were streaked with soy sauce. "I was trying to bring up lunch!"

Gojyo's eyes narrowed as he lunged at the monkey-demon.

"Well try being more careful about it next time!" he shouted, Hakkai watching the two in amusement.

Goku glanced over Gojyo's shoulder, noticing Hakkai was awake.

"Oh, hey Hakkai!" he waved before Gojyo pinned him to the wooden ground of the hallway. "Get off me, you pervy cockroach!"

Hakkai half-waved back, chuckling nervously as he heard a door a few rooms down slam.

"Can't you two keep quiet for five minutes!"

There were several gunshots, and the sound of Goku and Gojyo running for cover as Hakuryu flapped over to his owner, settling down in his lap. Hakkai smiled, petting his dragon fondly.

"Thanks, Hakuryu," he told the creature, remembering how he'd helped out the night before.

There were several more crashes and shouts in the hallway. Hakkai laughed, glancing out the window once more.

"Things certainly are back to normal," he declared, Hakuryu squeaking in agreement.

Many miles away, Icila smiled as she and her siblings walked through the melting snow, all of them together. Samusa's eyes were dark as he pondered in his mind what he would do to keep his family alive now that his spell was no longer in affect.

"But whatever I do…whatever we do, it'll be on fair terms, and together," he thought to himself, Icila glancing up at him.

"You're not…angry with me, are you, brother?" she asked nervously, Samusa sighing and smiling a small smile back.

"Of course not," he replied, putting an arm around her shoulder.

"We'll just have to find another way to live," Soria declared, looking out into the distance. "This negative aura won't get the better of us."

Wintro nodded in agreement.

"We'll find a way," he agreed.

Icila felt herself grow warmer, not physically, but inside her heart.

"We will."

She glanced back to the west, where the inn she had worked at for the evening resided.

"Thanks again."

Dr. Ni chuckled, leaning back in his leather computer chair as and turned away from his laptop. Dr. Huang sighed in exasperation, glancing up from her research and eyeing her colleague.

"What is it now?" she asked with a sigh, Dr. Ni eyeing her.

"Oh, just a bit of interesting data," he replied calmly, picking up his stuffed rabbit. "It seems winter is ending early this year."

Instructor Wang, a bizarre-looking demon with wires connected to his head chuckled from a few stations away.

"What, did the groundhog see his shadow?" he asked sarcastically, Dr. Huang rolling her eyes behind her glasses.

"No," Dr. Ni replied, smiling as he watched the figures roll down the screen. "But it seems a little spell has come to an end, and now the spellcasters will wither and die."

Dr. Huang raised an eyebrow suspiciously, staring at the doctor as he had the stuffed rabbit put its hands to its eyes as if it were wiping away tears.

"What are you talking about?" she retorted, Snuggums boo-hooing.

Dr. Ni just smiled in his eerie way.

The End!

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