A/N: I'd like to apologize for leaving this hanging for so long. I decided to take down chapter 10 and just call this it. I think that it closes off nicely, and, frankly, I have lost inspiration in the Saiyuki category. I may continue this, someday, but life has gotten hectic, and I have other story ideas, as well as many original stories that must be written. Thank you all for reading.
Round 9: Leaving

It was a short walk through town to reach Kioko's house. The streets were far more crowded than they had been earlier in the day, but Gojyo found it easy to navigate through them. As a plus, his long legs were able to carry him farther, faster.

The sun had just passed its zenith when he headed toward the small house, the shadows beginning to lengthen, but the light not turning the orange that came with the evening. Few clouds tainted the sky, and all was bright and blue and warm. If he ignored the few splashes of blood on the street as he walked, he could forget than anything had ever happened.

It hadn't been his best fight, he decided as he walked. He'd been pretty unprepared, to say the least, and he'd been alone. Despite his dislike of Sanzo, he had to admit that he was good to have around in a fight. That gun of his seemed easy to use. Just point, shoot, and watch as the bastards died.

Of course, he preferred Hakkai to the priest. Same long range fighting crap, and as an added bonus he had the ability to heal someone, even if it hurt like hell. And Hakkai didn't get on his nerves. That often.

The kid was pretty nice to have around as well. He was certainly enthusiastic. And full of surprises, as Gojyo learned earlier, when Goku actually came back with the—with whatever it was that Hakkai had asked him to pick up. Had he been paying any attention when there were shopping? Of course not; he spent the time checking out the girls. Something that he would be sure not to tell Kioko; he had learned long ago about jealous women, and they were no fun to be around. It didn't matter that he had only known Kioko for what, one day? Two days? It was best not to get her jealous, even if he were leaving in short order.

That was part of the reason why he was going to see her. Well, not so much the jealousy thing. But she was a nice girl and Gojyo liked to consider himself a gentleman. When it came to some things. Such as leaving a girl. Unless it was already said beforehand that it was a one night thing, he liked to say a proper goodbye. If it were up to him, he would take his time. Try to have some fun, that sort of stuff.

He wouldn't do that this time, though. Kioko didn't seem the sort of girl to do anything like that. He didn't even know her that well, but after last night...well, he wouldn't count on anything. But he would still say goodbye, make sure that she knew that he was leaving. It was the right thing to do.

See, there were different types of girls, and he would treat them all differently. There were those who only wanted the same thing that he did. A hot night with no strings attached. Those wouldn't remain in his mind for very long, and he wouldn't take a long time to say goodbye. Unless, of course, the goodbye consisted of another round under the covers. Then it could take a long time.

Then there were the girls who were completely off limits, the ones that he knew through friends, were married—one thing that he would never do was try to tear a marriage or a relationship apart. Especially if there were kids involved. With those girls, goodbyes were easy. Yeah, he might make some suggestive comments, might wink or do something like that, but he would pretty much just say goodbye and be off. They were the type of girls that a goodbye would be the type that he could say to anyone he met. A simple word, and then he would walk off. Kioko would have been one of those girls who he probably wouldn't have cared enough about after that one conversation to think of her. He would have just dismissed her altogether because of her kid. Except for the fact that she wasn't married.

So it came down the girls like her, who were so different from his normal fare that when he took interest in them and got to know them...well, he found them refreshingly different. Those girls who wouldn't go farther than a kiss or something like that, who he could talk to, who seemed to actually see him as a person, instead of a body.

The problem with girls like that...they were easy to get attached to. And he didn't like that. He didn't want to get attached, especially on this damned journey. Because he would just leave them, and there was a chance that they would cry.

So it was a good thing that he was leaving today. He'd say goodbye to Kioko and then be on his way. She'd stay in his mind for a few days and, hopefully, seeing some other hot girl in the next town would drive her out completely.

But it was nice to have gotten to know her, for however briefly. It was different, being around her, as opposed to Hakkai and Sanzo and Goku. And it was nice seeing a kid, especially a kid who seemed so similar to himself. Well, there were differences between the two, big differences, but they were alike through their blood. They were both half breeds, always getting taunted and insulted. At the very least, there were the looks that others gave them. Gojyo had seen it, on those few occasions that the boy had been near him. Those angry, frightened, demeaning glances. Some of them, of course, had been directed towards him, and he had grown so used to them that they didn't bother him. He'd told that to himself enough that it was now the truth. But it bothered him, angered him, that a kid that young, that innocent, would be treated like that.

Not everyone knew a halfbreed by sight. Some didn't even know what they were. Hell, he'd bet that there were even humans out there that had no idea what a youkai was! But people could always tell that he was different, in someway. His hair, his eyes, that was part of it. But he had once been told--by a girl he had slept with, no less—that there was something about him that either drew or repelled someone. She'd told him that the first time she had seen him there had been this...this strangeness about him that had seemed abrasive, really. Something that had almost set her skin crawling. With her, well, she had been drawn to him by that strangeness. Others, he guessed, felt that strangeness and became uneasy.

She had also said that after being around him for awhile, the feeling had died. It was still there, of course, in the edge of her mind, but she could ignore it if she wished to.

She was one of those girls he couldn't forget. Not that he had fallen in love with her or anything; he'd been with her for three nights, before she had left town. It wasn't her looks; she hadn't been the most beautiful woman he had ever met. It was just how she was able to talk to him, how she was able to look him in the eye and not flinch, or even comment on the color of them. She'd treated him like any other person, and he spent enough time during those three days watching her to know how she treated others.

She'd been the first person to tell him about the oddness that surrounded him, and for that he was grateful. Even if he didn't like the idea that he was so strange. He was grateful because he couldn't step out of himself and observe how he acted. She told him what no one before had, and what no one had said since. Sometimes, he wondered if what she had said was true. He only had to look into the eyes of those watching him to know that it was. And now, seeing this young boy, he could feel it.

There was something strange about that boy. But for him, there was no...abrasive feeling, as that girl had put it. There was only an odd sense of kinship. He couldn't begin to understand it. He supposed it had to do with finding someone else who could relate to him, who he could relate to.

He reached Kioko's house before he knew it, his mind having distracted him from most other things. He blinked a few times, as though seeing things for the first time. Damn, was it possible to think oneself to death? If so, he had probably just come close. He didn't like the idea that he had spent the entire time dwelling on things from the past, things that he didn't care to think about.

Gojyo pushed open the gate to the yard, the hinge squeaking as it moved. Then he looked to the side and groaned. "Not you again."

She'd changed out of her bloodstained dress, and she seemed in far better order than how he had last seen her, but there was no doubt that this was that same damned girl that kept popping up. Eshana, if he could trust him memory.

"It's nice to see you, too," she said, the lightest touch of sarcasm lacing her words. She was kneeling on the ground, scrubbing something in a tub of soapy water. "If you're looking for Kioko, she's inside. I'd suggest you wait out here, though. She'll be out in a few minutes. Vatsa, get those shirts off the ground. I don't want to wash them again."

The red haired boy stuck out his tongue at the woman, but bent to pick up the shirts he had dropped. Gojyo couldn't help but smile as he saw him drape them haphazardly over a clothesline. Obviously didn't want to be helping.

"Laundry day?" He leaned back against the fence, hands shoved into his pockets. Eshana nodded, then looked up and scowled.

"That's fence's half rotten. I wouldn't do that if I were you." She pulled whatever it was she was washing out of the water, inspecting part of it. "Hate bloodstains."

Gojyo moved away from the fence, watching the girl as she began scrubbing at the material with a vengence. "Damn, you're in a bad mood."

Vatsa, who had finished hanging up his laundry and had been watching Gojyo with interest, let his mouth drop open. "Aunt Eshana! He just said a bad word, didn't he?"

Eshana smiled at the boy. "Yes, Vatsa, he did. If he says another, you have my permission to dump a bucket of water over his head."

"Hey!" His outburst caused Eshana to turn his way, and he caught the full intensity of her glare. "Fine, I won't say anything else 'bad'. But really, what's gotten you in such a bad mood?"

Eshana continued to glare at him. "Getting a gun pointed at my head, what do you think?"

Gojyo shrugged. "Ain't all that bad."

Eshana let out a heavy breath, removing the garment from the soapy water and handing it to Vatsa. "Rinse it for me, sweetie." The boy nodded, dunking it into a tub full of relatively clean water. She pulled a stained shirt from a basket sitting beside her and then just sat there for a moment. "You know, he could have been just a little more grateful." She shoved the shirt under the water, swirling it around.
"I mean, it's not like I risked my life for him or anything."

Gojyo let out a snort of laughter. "Hey, girl, you're lucky he wasn't in a bad mood." Eshana glanced at him and he put up his hands. "All right, he was in a bad mood. But how would you be if you were poisoned?"

"Who got poisoned?" Vatsa asked, sitting down beside the tub of water, rubbing his hands in the dirt until they were covered completely in it. "Aunt Eshana? Who got poisoned?"

Eshana ruffled the boy's hair with a soapy hand. "A friend of Gojyo-san here. Don't worry about it, it has nothing to do with you. Now, go and wash your hands, unless you want to get mud all over these clean clothes."

Vatsa nodded, picking himself up off the ground. "Should I tell Mom that Mr. Gojyo-san is here?"

"Yes, dear. She will want to know." As soon as the boy was inside the house, she turned back to him. "Look, Gojyo-san, I'm not happy about how upset that Sanzo got me--"

"Well, it's hard to be happy when you're upset."

She sighed irritably. "Could you stop that? And it really didn't help that you all practically threw me out after I helped you; Hakkai-san was the only civil one!" She wrung out the shirt, draping it over the side of the tub. "Really, what is that priest's problem? Yes, I'd be jumpy after being poisoned, but continuing to threaten me, even after Hakkai-san explained everything? He didn't deserve my help!"

"I agree with you there." Gojyo's smile grew wider. "Don't like him much myself."

"Hmph. So, what are you doing around here?" she asked, rising to her feet and taking the basket of soapy clothes over to the tub of cleaner water. "Forget I asked that. You're here to see Kioko, obviously. Damn stress and shock; scatter all my thoughts."

Gojyo smirked. "Does that mean I get to dump the water over your head?"

Eshana rolled her eyes, dumping all of the clothes into the water. "No. And Vatsa isn't around, so it doesn't matter if your language gets a little worse."

Strange girl, he thought, watching her. All right, maybe she wasn't strange. She just seemed to change how she acted all the time. Granted, he hadn't known her for that long, but he'd seen her scared, emotionless, and now really pissed off. Thinking about it, it would probably be best just to ignore Sanzo when he aimed that fucking gun at his head.

"Answer me something," he said, crouching down beside her. She stiffened slightly, her eyes locking with his.


"The kid." He gestured towards the house and watched as Eshana's eyes darted towards it. "I'm pretty sure Kioko mentioned that he wasn't really hers. She also mentioned something about her friend. That couldn't be you, could it?"

"What do you want to know, Gojyo-san?" Eshana wrung out a skirt, shaking it before her, then walked to the clothesline and hung it up. "Because that wasn't really a question."

He shrugged. "Just something simple. Where's the kid from?"

The answer was short, one word. "India."

Gojyo sat back on his heels, frowning. "India? As in, from the west? Then what's he doing up here?"

Eshana sighed, wiping a hand across her forehead. "I don't know, living? Gojyo-san, I don't think that you really need to know this. It doesn't really concern you. After all, he isn't your son."

Gojyo was still trying to figure things out in his own mind. He'd known the kid's name was different, as was this woman's. "Are you from India as well?"

"If I answer, would you stop asking me questions? Yes, I am."

"One last question. Do you know a quick route to India from here?" He saw her frown and hoped that she had an answer for that. After all, if she knew some way, then maybe they could get there faster.

Eshana sat in silence for a few minutes, in which Gojyo began to think that maybe she hadn't heard him. He was about to ask again when she spoke. "Well, no. Not really. A few years back, I could have told you a pretty good route. But with all that's been happening out in the world, I really don't know. I'll just warn you, in case you ever get far enough..." Her voice trailed off.

Warn? Was there some sort of massive youkai group out there or something? "Warn me about what?"

"The mountains," she answered, upending the tub of now dirty water over the ground. Gojyo jumped back just in time to keep it from rushing over his boots. "It is quite some distance from here; you can't even see them if you look towards the horizon. But they are there, and they are hard to cross, especially if you don't know where to go. I'm sure there is a way around them, though it might mean taking a jaunt across the ocean." She paused, looking up at him. "What, are you headed towards India?"

Gojyo shrugged. He wasn't really sure if he should have even asked her that question. Damn, if that priest knew, he'd try to shoot him again. Great. "Just wondering."

"Really." She didn't sound convinced. Then her head whipped around as the sound of a door opening reached his ears. "Looks like Kioko's coming out." Then her eyes narrowed and she stood up and walked over to him, so that they were no more than a foot apart. "I'm warning you, Gojyo-san. If you do anything to hurt her, I'll kill you."

His eyebrows shot up and he frowned. "You serious?"

"Do you even need to ask that? I don't joke about things like this."

He was probably an idiot for having asked that. Of course she was serious, he could see that in the way she stood, in the way that she spoke. If he hurt her friend then this girl here would try to kill him. As if she really could. But she would still try. He guessed that he could respect that. For a moment, he wondered about the relationship between the women. Then he shook his mind away from it as Kioko came out of the house.

He looked up and saw her walking toward them, a basket full of laundry in her arms. She appeared to be exhausted, setting the basket down beside Eshana. "Good afternoon, Gojyo-san." She smiled brightly at him, but he could see shadows marring the skin under her eyes.

"Do you want me to watch Vatsa?" asked Eshana, taking the boy by his hand as Kioko nodded. This was greeted by Vatsa pulling away and muttering about how he could take care of himself.

Kioko smiled down at the red haired boy, then looked up at Gojyo. "Would you like to come inside?"

"Yeah. It was good talking to you, Eshana." He set an arm around Kioko's shoulders, guiding her towards the house. Damn, it looked as though she were about to fall over.

Once inside, Gojyo led her to the couch, setting her down. As soon as she was sitting, Kioko's head fell and she sagged against the back.

"You all right, beautiful?" he asked, sitting down beside her. Hell, he knew she wasn't all right. But it was better to give people a choice as to what to say. Kioko glanced up at him and gave a short laugh that turned into a small cry.

"No," she said, letting her head roll back so that it was resting on the couch. "I'm not. I wish I was, but..." She closed her eyes and laughed again.

"Hey. Girl." Gojyo wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her closer. "I'll listen."

Kioko let her head rest on his collarbone, silent for a few minutes. Finally, she looked up. "I was fine this morning. You know that. Actually, I was happier than I've been in a long time. But then," she turned her head away, her eyes narrowing it what Gojyo thought could pass for hate, "my neighbor showed up and decided to give me a lovely lecture on appropriate behavior concerning men who passed through our village. Never mind that she is an unmarried woman who lives with a man; I have to set an example for my son, despite the fact that she doesn't think very highly of him. Finally, as she is leaving, she decides to tell me that the red haired man that I was so friendly with is in a fight with some youkai in the middle of the main street!"

Gojyo wasn't sure how to respond to that, but soon realized that he didn't have to. Kioko was nowhere near done. "So I was worried. I'm still worried. Youkai in the village, attacking someone I know, what else would I be? Frightened, yes. So I locked up the doors and told Vatsa not to go outside. He wasn't pleased about that, at all. Have you ever had a seven year old cooped up with you in a small house? It isn't fun, by any means, and I still had the kitchen to clean up. Then Vatsa discovered that some sort of bug had gotten into all the linens and made a mess of things; that's why he was outside with Eshana washing them." She took a deep breath, then looked up at him. "Am I boring you?"

"Nope. Not at all. Keep going, it you've got more to say." That was a bit of a lie. It was boring, in the way that he didn't really need to hear about it. But...well...situations involving emotional women had sometimes worked out to his advantage.

Kioko ran a hand through her hair, sighing in exhaustion. "About an hour later, well, a little more than half and hour ago, Eshana comes back. Completely covered in blood and ranting on and on about ungrateful priests. Then she tells me that you were injured. Were you? How badly? She-Eshana didn't say much about anything that happened, and I was so worried--" Her voice broke at that moment and her head fell back to rest against his shoulder. Gojyo ran a hand over her hair, pulling several pins from it as he did so.

"Yeah, I got into trouble," he said, brushing his hand through her hair so that it fell from the knot that it had been in, draping itself in a white curtain around her shoulders. "Bunch of fucking youkai. One of them got be across the back with a knife."

Kioko looked up at him, her eyes wide. "T-then it was bad?" He nodded. "Then why are you here? How could you get here? Are you going to be all right?"

"Calm down, Kioko. Breath." He let his arms fall so that they rested on her hips, holding her against himself. "I'm fine. My friend, the one you met, he's a healer. Got me patched up, though it hurt like hell when he was doing it. And I'm here because, well...I've got something that I gotta tell you."

Kioko eyes narrowed, though he wasn't sure why. "What?" she asked, her voice soft. Gojyo loosened his hold upon her enough so that they could see eye to eye.

"I'm leaving. I mean—shit, that was too blunt, wasn't it?" He saw the hurt in her eyes the moment he said it, though it was a bit to late to correct any damage. Besides, did it really matter? He was leaving. He wouldn't be seeing her again after this. So did it really matter if she was hurt?

"A bit." Her voice was still so soft and her eyes were guarded so that he half believed he had imagined that hurt. "Just a bit, Gojyo-san." She sighed, dropping her arms so that she was no longer holding him. "I was expecting this, at least a little. After all, you didn't say that you would be here long. I just thought it would be more than two, three days. I thought you would be here at least a week." She looked away, out the window where he could just see Eshana and Vatsa folding a few of the sheets. "Though I guess it is better this way. No attachment, right?"

Gojyo inwardly winced. Ouch. Yeah, that was kind of it. But if he said anything like that, agreed to what she had just said, wouldn't that hurt her more?

"I thought we'd be staying longer," he said instead of answering her question. "But we've got to move on. We've stalled here for longer than the leader of our group thinks in necessary, and it isn't real good to anger him. You're friends found that out. Besides, with this attack..." He let his voice trail off, tangling his fingers in a strand of her hair. "It's dangerous for us to stay here. There could be trouble for you, and I don't want you getting hurt."

"That's...nice." Kioko smiled faintly, her eyes closing as he traced his fingers over her cheek. "So, you came here to say goodbye?" He nodded, surprised when she leaned forward and kissed him lightly. When she pulled back, the smile was still on her face, a little brighter than before. "Thank you. You don't know how glad I am that you did."

"You're not--" he began, but Kioko set a hand to his mouth, cutting off his words.

"Hurt? Yes. Yes, I am, Gojyo-san. But not as much as I could be. Besides, I knew you would be leaving, and I have no right to keep you here, if that is what you are thinking."

"I'm not," he answered truthfully. "Course, your friend told me that she'd kill me if I hurt you, so I thought that I'd better find out if I did or not."

Kioko shook her head. "I wish she hadn't said that. She really had no right. Sometimes, she can be as bad as that neighbor I told you about. Her heart is in the right place, but she—don't worry about her. You'll be gone soon, and I highly doubt that she would follow you just to get her so called 'revenge'." She gave a small laugh that sounded very sad to him. "No, Gojyo-san. You haven't hurt me intentionally. You're simply leaving, and I am always hurt when someone leaves, especially when I am not sure if I will ever see them again." She paused for a moment before speaking again. "I won't see you again, will I?"

He knew that answer to that. This was something that he had to answer, no matter what. "No, Kioko. I doubt it. Not that I don't want to see you again, but things in life are never certain. Especially not in my life."

Kioko dipped her head. "I know. I just—it would have been nice. To have more time together."

"We've got maybe half an hour," he said, thinking it wise to tell her how long he would be around. "Less if my friends decide that we need to leave sooner."

"Oh." There was a slightly sparkling in her eyes and Gojyo winced again. Oh, no.

"Hey, beautiful," he said, tracing a hand over her face. "Don't cry. I'm not worth crying over."

Kioko wiped at her eyes furiously. "I'm not crying. I just—something got in my eye."

"Of course." He was familiar with the excuse, but he wouldn't call her on it. It wasn't his place, and it wasn't worth it. He just...didn't want her to cry.

He let his hand fall to the side of her throat, angling her head to the side. Her eyes closed as he set his lips upon her. He felt one of her hands resting on his shoulder, fingers twisted in the fabric of his jacket. Her breath upon his cheek.

It wasn't really a normal kiss for him, those ones full of passion and fire and lust that he got from most of the women he was with. It wasn't a kiss that didn't mean anything, that was done when he was drunk and barely knew what he was doing. It was a kiss full of sweetness and sadness and was only the barest touching of lips. There was only feeling, only emotion, and then the kiss was over.

Kioko sat back, taking a deep breath. "You should go," she said, her voice hoarse. "You really should go, Gojyo-san."

He could almost hear her unsaid words. The before I that would have followed, if she were that bold. She wouldn't say it, and for that he was grateful. So he stood, letting his hands slid down her arms so that his hands caught up hers.

"See me out?" The words were out of his mouth before he could stop himself. Oh, well. It didn't matter. He wouldn't see her again, anyway.

She nodded, fingers tightening around his. "To make sure that Eshana doesn't kill you." She gave him a lopsided smile, though her eyes were still full of sadness.

He almost laughed at her remark. "That would be good." He began to walk towards the door, Kioko following close beside him. He wanted to draw her closer, but he didn't. He just led her along, the only contact between them their hands.

It was bright outside, the sun hitting his eyes and making him blink. Any cloud that had been in the sky before was gone, leaving only blue. Eshana still stood by the laundry, checking things to see if they were dry. But Vatsa, seeing his mother, hurried over and attached himself to her free hand.

"Mom?" He stared up at her, his eyes darting from her face to Gojyo's. "Mom, why are you sad?"

Kioko squeezed her son's hand, offering him a smile. "I'm not sad, Vatsa. I'm just saying goodbye to a friend." She turned to Gojyo, the smile fading. "And so I guess we have to say it. Goodbye, Gojyo-san. I hope life it good to you."

He held on for just a moment longer, then let his hand drop from hers. "Goodbye, Kioko." He wasn't one for long, drawn-out partings, so he left it at that and turned, beginning to walk away.

But only for about five steps, for as he neared the gate that would lead him to the main road, something hit him around the middle. He twisted his head around, looking down and seeing a shock of red hair. He heard Kioko's cry of Vatsa and slowly disentangled the boy's arms from around his waist.

"Hey, kid," he said, crouching down so that he could see the boy more clearly. "What is it?"

"Don't leave." Vatsa was looking at the ground, his hands behind his back, and he spoke the words so quietly that he could barely hear him.

Gojyo frowned. "What?"

Vatsa looked up at him, his crimson eyes wide. "Don't leave. If you do, mom'll be sad again. I don't want her to be sad, so don't go."

Gojyo was silent for a moment, then he ruffled the boy's hair. "Your mom's strong, kid. She'll be all right. Besides, I know that you can take care of her, right? I bet you already do." Vatsa nodded, glancing back to where a red-faced Kioko stood. "As long as she has you and you're aunt, she'll be fine."

"But...but I don't like seeing her sad. She's sad so often, an' she seemed happier when you came. Please, mister, can't you stay?"

Gojyo shook his head. "I can't. I wish I could, but I can't. But remember what I just told you, kid. Take care of you're mom and she'll be fine. Got it?"

Vatsa nodded furiously. "Okay. I-I will."

Gojyo ruffled his hair again. "'kay. It'll be all right."

Vatsa backed up, his nerve gone now that he had said his part. He gave a small yelp as he ran into Kioko, then turned and buried his head in her stomach, mumbling something that Gojyo couldn't hear. He saw Kioko wrap her arms around her son, whispering something in turn. Then she looked up at him.

"It's all right," she said softly, still holding Vatsa. "You can go."

Gojyo turned completely around, walking toward her again. "See, now you're kid's made me feel like a jerk."

Kioko laughed at that. "Children having a way of doing that, don't they?"

"Yeah, they do."

Vatsa looked up at the two of them, confusion on his face. "Wha? What are you talking about?"

Kioko smoothed her hand over Vatsa's hair. "Nothing, sweetie. Don't worry about it, Gojyo. I know that you have to leave. So just...go."

Gojyo paused for a moment. "All right. Just a moment, though." He leaned forward, kissing her lightly on the cheek. His hand brushed her shoulder, and then he pulled back. "Goodbye again, Kioko. And you," he looked down at the little red-haired boy, "take care of you mom."

"I will!"

"Goodbye, Gojyo-san." Kioko smiled one last time, and then Gojyo turned and walked out of the yard and away from Kioko. He only paused to look back once, and then he was gone.

"Well, that was bad, don't you think?"

Sanzo made a noise of disgust in the back of his throat, his jaw clenching. "Then why the hell are you smiling?"

Hakkai glanced toward him, the smile still on his face. "You must admit, it was amusing."

The priest scowled. "I admit nothing. I found nothing funny about that damn little--"

"Why are you so angry, Sanzo?" asked Goku from the back seat. He was leaning forward, resting his forearms on the back of Hakkai and Sanzo's seats so that he could hear what was going on more easily. "It's not like anything really happened."

"Shut it," Sanzo growled, crossing his arms over his waist. "I don't want to hear it."

Goku blinked in confusion. "But what did I do? I didn't ask for food; I just asked a question. Hakkai!"

"I don't think that Sanzo is in such a good mood, Goku. It would be best if you didn't bother him."

"Oh." Goku sat back in his seat. "All right."

In the front of the jeep, Sanzo scowled. "I don't need you interpreting my moods, Hakkai. And watch the road!" The last words were said in a tenser voice, as the jeep swerved to the right.

Hakkai jerked the wheel to the side, bringing the jeep back to the center of the road. "Sorry about that, Sanzo. Goku, could you check that everything is tied down securely back there?"

"Huh? Yeah, sure, Hakkai." The boy twisted around in his seat, making sure that things were where they should be. "Everythin's fine."

Hakkai smiled, though this time he kept his eyes on the road. "Thank you, Goku. We wouldn't want to leave town without making sure that we had enough food."

Goku's eyes grew wide. "Wha? We might not have enough food? I'll check, 'kay?" He reached for the cooler, determined to make sure that they actually had food.

"No, no, you don't need to do that." Hakkai's voice was laced with amusement. "I'm sure that it is all there. I just wanted you to make sure that nothing will fall out of the jeep if we turn a sharp corner."

"Oh. 'kay, then it's all fine." Goku pushed the cooler back in place, making sure that there was no way that it would fall out. Then he stretched out on the back seat, he feet pressing against the inside of the jeep, staring up at the sky. "Hey, it's quiet without Gojyo."

"It would be, if you would just shut up," Sanzo growled again. These past weeks hadn't been going well for him, and all he wanted was some peace and quiet where he didn't have a headache.

"Ah, Sanzo, look on the bright side. At least there is no arguing," Hakkai pointed out. "Now, where did the innkeeper say Miss Kioko's house was?"

"There's no arguing because Gojyo's not here, and we're just going to go pick him up? What kind of fucking stupid idea is that?" Sanzo was still sitting partially hunched over in the front seat, thoroughly uncomfortable. At least the wound in his side had stopped hurting—mostly. If he moved to quickly the skin would stretch and pain would dart through him. If he moved quickly, which was why he was trying not to move at all.

There was a moment of silence before Hakkai spoke again. "Sanzo, I hope that you haven't forgotten what happened with Kami-sama--"

"Fine! Then let's just pick up the kappa and get out of this fucking town." He tapped a cigarette out of its pack and lit it, setting it to his lips and inhaling deeply.

"All right. Goku?"

"Yeah?" The boy was alert again, sitting up and looking at Hakkai. "What?"

Hakkai continued to drive along, though they weren't going very fast. "Please keep your eyes open for Gojyo."

"'kay, Hakkai. Hey...isn't that him?" Goku pointed to the left. Hakkai stopped the jeep and looked over.

"I'd say that is." They waited there until Gojyo walked over to them. "Hello, Gojyo."

Gojyo looked up. "Hey. We ready to go?"

"We've been ready to go for over an hour. Now, get your ass in the jeep," growled Sanzo. Gojyo glanced at him.

"Why's the priest in such a goddamn bad mood?" he asked, jumping into the back of the jeep, being careful to take up most of Goku's space.

"Hey! You cockroach, get on your side of the jeep! Gah!" Goku winced as Gojyo decided that he needed the entire back of the jeep to stretch out his legs. "Get your feet off me!" He punched at Gojyo's legs, trying to get them off of his lap. "Stupid perverted kappa!"

There was the clicking of Sanzo's gun from the front seat and they both froze. "Shut. The hell. Up."

"Damn, he's in a bad mood," Gojyo commented, moving to his own side of the jeep. Hakkai had already begun to drive, and they were steadily leaving the town. "But I've got something that might make him a little less bitchy. I got information on India."

It was Hakkai who spoke next, though his eyes stayed on the road. "What is it, Gojyo?"

Gojyo leaned back against the seat, stretching his arms above his head, clearly enjoying the fact that he knew something the others didn't. "There's gonna be mountains. Big, huge, mountains down near India."

"Tell that to someone who doesn't already know."

Gojyo sat forward quickly. "What the hell? You already knew about the mountains and you didn't tell us? You fucking priest!"

Sanzo loaded a few bullets into his gun and turned so that he was aiming it straight at Gojyo's head. "You didn't need to know. Now, sit down, shut up, and let's get the hell out of this town."