Disclaimer: All Saiyuki characters and figures belong to Kazuya Minekura and related parties. This is a fan work that produced no profit from its production.
Sanzo liked things that he could predict. The universe itself is predictable, once someone decides to actually pay attention to it. Summer always follows spring, which in turn follows winter, which also follows fall... which brings Sanzo back to summer. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Every day. Forever. The whole universe is collected in cycles. Cycle is just a fancy way of saying "circle".
Click. Click. Click.
Sanzo could do this more quickly, of course. And he had. Many times over the past four years.
But he liked the sound of the barrel turning in the same little circle that it always did. And it always would, unless he broke it somehow. It was ready to go. All Sanzo had to do was make his index finger form a circle and...
The bullet spun out its chamber and into the imaginary youkai that Sanzo placed in his mind's eye to stand in front of the tree in front of him. He pulled the trigger back.
Click. BANG! Click. BANG! Click. BANG! Click. BANG!
No more bullets. The barrel's cycle was only five bullets. But his aim was deadly accurate so every bullet went to good use.
Wasn't always like that, Sanzo thought as he reloaded the chamber. Practice makes perfect, don't they say?
Of course, Sanzo wasn't just improving his aim today. No, he was shooting off rounds at trees to prevent him from shooting off rounds at Son Goku's skull.
It had been two weeks since he dragged the monkey-boy out of the cave. For the first three days, Goku barely said anything, except his name and basic requests such as for food (constantly) and rest (nearly as constantly). But as long as Sanzo kept stuffing food in his mouth and let him take breaks, Goku was as silent as stone.
Sanzo would have been thrilled at the silence if Goku hadn't clung to him like a leech. Goku constantly held at least Sanzo's robes, if not Sanzo himself, and if he wasn't attached to him, Goku stared almost unblinkingly at him. Bathing had been a nightmare, with Goku's wide golden eyes constantly watching Sanzo's every movement and tracing every line and curve of every (and Sanzo knew it was every) part of his naked body.
By the time they reached Chang'an, Goku had loosened his stranglehold on Sanzo's person and occasionally looked at other things when not in Sanzo's immediate presence. Sanzo told himself, in a mantra, that Goku was so clingy because he probably had never been outside the cave before or seen anyone else. Once he got used to the world outside, he would let up and leave Sanzo alone.
Isn't two weeks enough?Sanzo fired the bullet of this particularly round. On the positive side, Goku could bear to be out of Sanzo's presence for extended periods. Goku even showed signs of considering sleeping outside of Sanzo's futon. On the negative side, the floodgates had been opened.
Goku never stopped chattering now. Never.
So, in order to preserve his sanity and Goku's physical well-being, Sanzo had gathered his gun and went off to a secluded place where no villagers ever went to have some alone time with his best friend ever since he had become a Sanzo. In addition, he forbade the monks to interrupt him and ordered Goku to not come "see if he was bored".
Sure, it was a waste of perfectly good bullets but it was better than cleaning up blood in the temple after cutting out Goku's tongue.
After a few rounds, Sanzo started to breathe easier. But now he would have to open a new case. So he decided to have a cigarette break to break the monotony. The Three Aspects want to talk to him, he contemplated randomly, and I should bring him to them soon. Maybe they might be able to figure out where Goku came from. Where Goku came from was the big question mark surrounding the young boy. Goku, in moments where he would actually answer a question instead of just talking to the air, had explained that although he couldn't remember anything before the Mountain of the Five Elements, he was positive that he wasn't born there. But where, Goku couldn't recall. It just wasn't the place where Sanzo found him.
The local youkai had thrown around rumors of a legendary Son clan and its home, seeing that Goku was more likely than not a type of monkey (possibly chimpanzee?) youkai, but most laughed it off, claiming that no one had heard anything new about such a clan in five hundred years and was quite possibly a youkai legend to amuse children. Besides, even if they did exist to this day, no one alive knew of the location of the kingdom where the Son clan was based and, if the tales were to be believed, anyone who entered the land without permission was killed promptly. And there were also tales that the kingdom had fallen to some grave calamity about five hundred years ago. Still, perhaps some small band of refugees had kept the name or perhaps some unrelated group simply took the surname for any number of reasons. Of course, Sanzo's guess was as good as theirs was. But The Three Aspects' guess might be better.
His cigarette consumed, Sanzo turned to the unopened case of brand-new bullets. He loaded the gun trying hard not to think about possible theories as to why Goku was chained in a talisman-choked cave but just as he was about to snap the barrel into place, he heard the rustling of leaves. Now alert, he snapped the barrel into place and called out, "I told everyone not to disturb me," he paused to allow for a monk's frantic pleadings that he was worried about Sanzo's state of mind or something annoying. Hearing none, he added, "I remember telling you specifically, Goku."
"Well, then, I guess that means that no one will disturb us," a raspy voice cooed from behind Sanzo, to his left. He turned to face the source of the interruption. Just as Sanzo predicted, it was a male youkai. He had decided on this magical occasion to forgo the power limiters. The youkai was probably a head taller than Goku, which left him a head shorter than Sanzo, but about Goku's girth. His hair was a lime-green rat's tail that was braided all the way down. His fashion sense left much to be desired; his brown tunic was too big and too long and his equally brown pants were way too tight to be comfortable. I've had better opponents. He's a stupid one; at least it won't take long.
"So, are you here to rape me or consume my flesh or both?" Sanzo asked. A thirteen-year-old Genjyo Sanzo would have wondered at such a question, especially since the opponent was male. But a fifteen-year-old Genjyo Sanzo nearly learned the hard way that gender doesn't matter when sexual depravity was in the picture. Seventeen-year-old Genjyo Sanzo learned from the fifteen-year-old's near-brush with horror and vowed never to be unprepared.
"Well, I guess that vow of chastity has to be a pain in the butt, no pun intended, for you offer yourself so willingly to a perfect stranger..."
"Don't flatter yourself. Perverts make me sick and gluttons make me cranky. I like to know my opponent."
"Don't you want to know my name? The name of the one you will be defeated by?"
"Why? You know such a guy? Because it isn't going to be you. Never mind that such a person doesn't exist."
The youkai growled, "Don't want to know my name, huh? Well, fine! It's not like..." he leapt forward, claws bared and he screamed, "you'll be saying much about me anyway with your head ripped..."
Sanzo fired before the youkai got to finish his taunt. The line of sight was perfect. Sanzo couldn't miss. At least, the sight was perfect when he pulled the trigger. As the bullet began its predictable spin in the chamber, something got in its path. But the bullet, much like the universe, just did what it did best: kept going. The bullet flew through the something clean and managed to nestle itself into the flying youkai's heart, just as Sanzo had predicted. Closing the cycle of a typical youkai-Sanzo encounter, the youkai dropped dead instantly.
Goku also dropped to the ground at Sanzo's feet. Goku's big, innocent eyes looked up, confused, at Sanzo. I didn't hit a vital. I did not hit Goku's vital organs. But he had. He had shot, with perfect aim, with a banishing gun, at point-blank, Goku's heart.
When that horrible realization struck Sanzo, Goku's eyes widened until his eyeballs could have rolled off his face and the boy let out the most animalistic, tortured scream Sanzo had ever heard. The sound deafened Sanzo and the pitch that could only be attributed to sheer agony shot down his spine. Blood gushed from the wound as Goku began to thrash on the dirt forest floor. Sanzo kneeled beside him, examining the wound, trying to hold Goku still as gently as possible. He had hoped that perhaps the bullet leaving the body would give Goku a chance but no, he could see that the magic was still taking effect. The banishing effect caused Goku's gaping hole to char at the edges.
He should be dead now, Sanzo realized absent-mindedly. He probably wishes he were. Not that it mattered; Goku would be dead shortly. No youkai shot through the vitals with a banishing gun lived. Sanzo toyed with the idea of breaking Goku's neck to end it quickly, end his suffering. But for a reason that Sanzo couldn't and would never be able to fathom he couldn't bring himself to actively kill the child.
Defeated by that unidentifiable force, Sanzo decided that he could at least go through the motions of healing the boy. Perhaps the process of healing him might take away the pain before he finally passed on. Gently, with Goku still shrieking that same inhuman noise, he ran as fast as he could without harming Goku more to the nearest healer. It was a long fifteen-minute run, with the screams only broken up by Goku's gasping breaths. Blood ran everywhere; both Goku and Sanzo were soaked through from it. If any youkai wanted a piece of Sanzo meat, the pair was leaving a trail behind them quite nicely.
Finally, he reached the house where the youkai healer, Ming Taro, made his living raising up the nearly dead. And maybe this time he'll raise up the completely-dead. Before he was within a meter of the door, the entrance flew open and the doctor stepped out, shouting, "Who is making that goddamn..." His words were cut off by a gasp when his gaze fell on the Buddhist priest carrying the bleeding boy, who was still screaming. "Master Sanzo! What happened? Are you hurt?"
Sanzo shook his head and as he got into range, he tilted Goku toward the healer and ordered, "Heal him."
"Inside, on the table." The healer turned to go back inside without waiting for Sanzo's confirmation. Sanzo let himself in, ducking under the low doorway, and moving quickly to place Goku, whose screams had stopped for the moment, replaced by heavy panting, on the wooden table. As soon as Sanzo was no longer holding the boy, the healer set to ripping off Goku's shirt. "Blood has ruined it anyway, Master Sanzo." Goku shrieked at the action but the healer ignored him. He hissed when he saw the wound. "Through the heart. He's lucky he's youkai. What happened?"
"I shot him," Sanzo answered simply. Taro stared at the priest. "It was an accident. I didn't know he was there until he leapt in my face."
"Reflex?" Taro poised his hands over the wound to begin chi-transfer.
"I was shooting something else. He jumped into the path."
"What were you shooting?"
"A youkai. He's dead now. Can you heal him?"
"The youkai died? That means that you fired..." Taro dropped in his hands to the table. "A banishing gun. Master Sanzo! What do you expect me to do!"
"Can't you try? Can you at least stop the bleeding or...?"
"No, Master Sanzo! A shot from a banishing gun is fatal to all youkai, from the psychopathic priest-killers to twelve-year-old foundlings. I'm surprised he's still alive enough to scream! I can't do anything against that magic!"
"There's nothing you can do? Absolutely nothing?"
Taro sighed and responded, "At most, I can alleviate the suffering. But I can't bring him back from the edge of death. He is going to cross over." He placed his palms together and bowed deeply, apologizing sadly, "I'm sorry, Master Sanzo. His death will be a tremendous tragedy, seeing that he is so young and experienced only two weeks of freedom." Standing upright, he explained, "I will act as though he was shot with an ordinary weapon. I will at least try to heal him fully, in the dim hope that the wound might react to my chi. But Sanzo, he will probably pass over before you even reach the temple grounds. It would be best if you made your way to the temple and start preparing any funeral rites that may be required. I will come when he has left us. May his next incarnation last longer and be sweeter than the one he is leaving behind."
His face a mask, Sanzo turned on his heel and left the doctor to do whatever futile healing he was going to attempt. Whether Goku was aware of Sanzo leaving him alone with the healer, Taro wasn't sure but when Sanzo disappeared from the doorway, Goku began to shriek anew. But even the healer knew that his strength was failing. Taro began to use his chi to close the wound. There were a few times when it looked like he succeeded but like a cruel prank, the wound would burst open, toying with him. For ten minutes, Taro fought against the banishing spell on the bullet that was no longer there, lying in some other worthless youkai chest cavity, before the bleeding dribbled to a stop. But Taro knew it wasn't his impressive skills that had stopped the bleeding. Goku was no longer thrashing, no longer screaming, and no longer breathing.
Son Goku was dead.
Taro checked his pulse to make sure and it was true. He was gone. He's at peace now. His suffering is over. Taro shut the young boy's (not more than a child, my son's age!) eyes and walked out of the building in order to compose himself before heading to the temple to deliver the news to Master Sanzo.
I told him not to come. Didn't I? I even explained that getting shot causes a bad thing called pain. And he disobeyed. So it's not my fault he's dead... going to die.
But it still felt like it was his fault. He pulled the trigger. Not like last time. Last time, he had been a frightened child, an unwilling witness. The guardian had protected the defenseless child. Now...
But he wasn't my responsibility. I just found him, right? I'm not Master Koumyou. I'm not Goku's guardian. It's not the same situation.
"Someday, Kouryuu, you'll hear a voice..."
He wasn't supposed to be there!
Sanzo jumped at the mental interruption and snapped, "What?"
The novice shrunk back and muttered, "The youkai healer is here. He wishes to speak with you about Son Goku."
Sanzo's breath caught. Goku was dead. He had only known the boy for two weeks and he was already dead. He nodded at the novice and got up to go to the main entrance to speak with Taro. No matter how many times he told himself that it really wasn't his fault, a voice that sounded suspiciously like young Kouryuu hissed, It is.
As Sanzo approached Taro, he noticed that the young doctor seemed badly shaken and a little unsteady. When Sanzo drew close to hold a quiet conversation, the priest said, "You tried your best."
Before Taro could respond, Sanzo was nearly bowled over by a tiny body slamming itself into a hug. "SANZO!"
"Go... ku?" Sanzo muttered more to Taro than to the apparition squeezing his waist.
"Well, who else would I be, Sanzo?" Goku replied, laughing. "Hey, Sanzo, that thing that went through me? It sure hurt a lot! What was that? Did it get you too? You're covered in blood but it doesn't smell like yours! And who was that weird guy? He was going to hurt you, wasn't he? Why did he want to hurt you, Sanzo? I think you're the best thing in the whole wide...!"
"GOKU!" Sanzo shouted, pulling Goku away from his body by gripping his shoulders. He let his eyes examine Goku's bare chest, kneeling to get a better angle.
"Sanzo? Whatcha lookin' for? There's nothing on me. Taro even got the blood offa me!"
"The bullet hole, where is the bullet hole?"
"What's a bullet hole?"
"The hole that all the blood was gushing out of, the thing that was killing you, where did it go!"
Since Goku only shrugged, Taro answered numbly, "It's gone. It's like he was never shot."
"Damn, you're good," Sanzo praised.
"No, I'm not. He died. He was absolutely, positively dead when I stepped outside to compose myself. By the time I walked back in, he was sitting up, without a scratch, asking where you went."
"Then he started poking at me and cleaning all the blood off. But I don't hurt anymore, don't worry, Sanzo!"
"But how is this possible!" Sanzo demanded, his hands gripping his hair. "I shot you with a banishing gun! That should have been fatal!"
"It was fatal. He was dead. And then he wasn't. Trust me, my healing powers have nothing to do with his recovery. It's like..." Taro struggled for an explanation, gesturing loosely, "he managed to recharge himself."
"Cool! So, I'm, like, rechargeable? Like a car battery? I wonder if I could drink gasoline like a car, do you think I could, San...?"
"Goku. Go to the kitchen and eat something. Whatever you like, however much you want. Just not gasoline, please," Sanzo ordered, feeling a headache coming on. This was a bit much to take in.
"Really? Anything I want? Awesome! You're the greatest, Sanzo!" Goku enveloped Sanzo's neck in a big hug before he shoved him off and yelled at him to move it before he changed his mind.
Now alone, Sanzo stood up slowly, trying to process what had just happened. "Goku survived a shot from a banishing gun?"
"There are many elements to consider. Perhaps that power limiter he has helped out but I really don't see how. I'd like to think that my healing powers are truly that amazing but I doubt it. He lasted long enough for you to bring him to me in the first place. Of course, there is... no, that's ludicrous..."
Taro bit his lip in embarrassment. "I'm probably totally off the mark. But remember how we youkai folk tossed around the Son clan idea? Well, there's something we didn't mention to you, because it seems so fantastical that most doubt it." Sanzo nodded for him to continue. "Apparently, the legend goes, that the ruler of the Son clan, his name is lost to us, was obsessed with immortality."
Sanzo snorted. "Why do rulers always get so hung up on not dying?"
Taro shrugged. "I don't know. Anyway, he devoted all his energies to finding a way to stop death for his people. Here is where it gets crazy. Apparently, he found a way. No one is quite sure what he did but the story goes that his people aged slowly, more slowly than even the luckiest youkai, and once they reached a certain point, would never age. Furthermore, they couldn't be killed. No act of mutilation could cause their demise. One story even states that you could cut off a Son's head and he'd grow a new one."
"A new head?" Sanzo raised his eyebrow. "Is this a joke?"
"That's why I didn't want to bring it up. But suppose the legendary Son clan had managed it? And this boy had the ability to regenerate himself despite the injury? Or perhaps the Son clan or even someone else produced an experiment to test their theories."
"You're saying Goku a guinea pig? A prototype?"
"And perhaps given the name Son in honor of the legend of the immortal clan."
"And the name 'Goku' can mean 'to be aware of the ephemeral nature of life', nice irony for an immortal being," Sanzo pointed out. "If it's even true."
"If it's even true. It's a silly fairy tale, anyway. I have no idea what caused Goku to survive but I wouldn't automatically assume that Goku can not be killed at all. For right now, I am just glad you didn't have to prepare funeral rites for the child." Taro bowed deeply and closed the visit with, "I see that the Merciful Goddess has lived up to her name and spared the boy's life, for reasons I may never understand. Perhaps your closeness to Buddhahood will help you gain insight into this miracle, Master Sanzo. Good evening, Master Genjyo Sanzo."
"This is the last time, you hear me? Tomorrow, you're sleeping on your own futon!" Sanzo declared as Goku happily snuggled beside his keeper. "And I'm only allowing it tonight to make sure your wound doesn't reopen and you bleed to death."
"There's no wound, Sanzo," Goku replied into Sanzo's side. "How can it reopen?"
"Stranger things have happened."
There was a brief silence before Goku asked, "Who was that weird guy?"
"I don't know and I don't care."
"He was going to hurt you."
Sanzo snorted in disgust. "And you dove in between to shield me, right?" Goku nodded. "Stupid monkey, I had a gun. One shot and he was dead. I hardly needed your protection."
"But if you had been hurt, I would've been sad."
"Argh, I wouldn't have been hurt. So don't do stupid nonsense like that again, you understand? I can take care of myself and you can take care of yourself."
A few seconds of silence and then, "But I want to protect you."
Sanzo growled and snapped, "I don't need your protection!"
Goku stared up at him from between his body and his arm. "Doesn't matter. I'll always protect you."
Sanzo groaned and replied, "Maybe I should try cutting off your head."
"Because maybe then you'll grow a better brain. Go to sleep!"
That night, Sanzo and Goku rested their heads in the same bed that they had woken up in that morning.
I would appreciate a review and constructive criticism!