Okay, I just want to say, I know Gaiden is out there...just never read it. SO if it's already mentioned how they all got kicked out...my bad, just read this anyway cuz this is my spin on things. If not and this is what actually happens later...WHOA! God, I'm good! Anyway, enjoy, it's all in one shot and, by far I think, one of my best pieces of Saiyuki fanfic. If y'all like my stuff, check out the other stories, too! Feed back, negative or positive, is loved equally! THANKIES!
THE END OF HEAVEN
It it was taking a long time. Longer than most would have thought. The battle raged for hours, neither one seeming to get ahead of the other. Swords crossing, sparking, uncrossing, backing off to judge the opponent's next move. Shallow cuts on both of them, streaming blood and soaking cloth. And still they stood by and watched. Watched a boy fight a full fledged demon king. His orders were clear; Nataku gets the victory. Don't interfere. And he always did as he was told. His hand caressed the butt of his whip. The smoothness was a reassurance that he was doing the right thing. This was Nataku's victory. His father would succeed the Jade Emperor. That was as it should be.
A heretic's place in the world. To suffer at the hands of their betters. And how did this child, born of the gods, become a heretic? Really, what made a heretical being? Surely not golden eyes alone. Not the unusual physical strength and speed. Nataku's views were those of his father's. He was no different than any god. So, why was he cursed with the golden eyes? It made him question, really, these beliefs. Superstitions, a little voice said. That's all they were now. Like a black cat or walking under a ladder. What store was there really in claiming someone was a heretic, simply because their eyes were an unusual color or they were stronger or faster? That little voice, the one that was becoming more insistant the more he thought about the issue, seemed to smile and nod. Yes, it wasn't this boy, following orders, cowed by his father into being a political pawn. It wasn't the one imprisoned below, kept hidden and locked away for centuries because of his heretical eye. And it wasn't that boy brought in, chained like an animal. Yes, the real heretics were-
"Sir, this has gone on long enough," someone said behind him, stopping that thought midway. "Prince Nataku needs help."
He turned to look at who had spoken. Ah, yes, Tenpou. He would be the one to challenge him so politely. "We have our orders, Field Marshall. Kindly resume your place."
"Do not make me repeat myself, Field Marshall. Your place, now." He didn't need to raise his voice. He never had to raise his voice for immediate obedience.
Tenpou's jaw tightened belligerantly. "With all due respect, sir, go fuck yourself."
He turned around. A very stupid thing to say. "Field Marshall Tenpou, you will remove yourself at once from this battle. And when it is over, you will receive one hundred lashes from my whip for your insolence."
Emerald eyes still blazing, he disappeared back into the heavens.
It made him think more now. Clash, sparks flying, more blood. The battle was getting more heated. Nataku was weakening. Had he finally met his match? Yes, why would Tenpou, who while being an instigator for trouble did not start it himself, feel the need to come forward and challenge his authority? Tenpou...he had turned down several promotions, ones that would have brought him to notice to the Jade Emperor. What made that man think the way he did? And why risk the punishment for voicing his opinion? They had their orders. It was what they would do.
He's only a child, the voice argued. A child doing a man's job. An army's job. This Demon King was a very powerful adversary. Surely it was unfair to send only a boy to do this job alone. A heretical child, he argued back. And a heretics life wasn't to question why. It was to do and die. Nataku was following orders. Orders that came from the Jade Emperor, whom they all served. If you serve him, then whose orders are you following now? the voice asked. Before he could answer this, another voice interupted.
"You're going to be getting a work out today, sir. Screw the rest of you, I'm going in." General Kenren. He recognized that insolent voice very well.
"You would take this victory from Prince Nataku, General?" he asked softly, not bothering to give this one a look at his face. A troublemaker, the one usually to act on Tenpou's suggestion. Like he was now.
"I don't really give a shit about victory. Right now, all I care about is saving that kid's life."
"Then you may join Field Marshall Tenpou back in the Palace to await me."
"Really now? And you're gonna make me?" Heavy booted footsteps moving forward, a brush of black leather as the insubordinate stepped past him.
He locked an arm around his neck, bringing the General to his knees in about three seconds. "You will not intefere," he hissed in the ear next to his mouth. "Those were the orders. Obey them, or suffer worse than me."
"I'm not inclined to obey orders that don't make sense," he choked, hands trying to pry the arm away. He had the advantage. Kenren was not getting out of this hold.
He waved a hand, opening a portal back to the Palace, and shoved Kenren through, closing it up again. And went back to watching the battle, ignoring the little voice.
"I'm not moping!"
Konzen arched a golden brow dubiously at the pouting boy. Goku, the moper in question, was sitting on a chair by his desk. With his head on some important documents. And sniffling. If anything got on those...he didn't finish the threat. He wouldn't DO anything, and that was the problem. He'd shout and cuss and maybe smack the kid in the head a little, but he wouldn't DO anything.
Another sniffle. One that came too late and splashed over the dark ink, smudging the characters.
"DAMN IT, YOU STUPID MONKEY!"
Goku jumped back, falling over his chair and rolling quickly to his feet. "I'm sorry," he said, golden eyes wide in fear.
"You're always sorry! You're about the sorriest damn thing here!" Konzen dabbed at the spot, hoping that it wouldn't ruin the document completely.
" I really am sorry." That last was said so quietly he almost didn't hear it. And just as suddenly as the rage came, it was gone.
Sighing, he sat back down, folding his hands on the desk to calm himself further. "Nataku will be alright. The Imperial Army is there to help. So don't worry so much."
Goku righted his chair and sat back down. "But how d'you know that? Maybe he's dead and they don't care? Maybe the army isn't gonna help him? Maybe-,"
"It's pointless to worry over 'what-ifs' and 'maybes'. These are just idle speculations." Speculations he himself had considered, having heard the rumors. Soldiers being ordered back from the battle field and not saying why. Tenpou and Kenren arrested and locked up. Something wasn't right here.
"What's a speck-a-lashin?"
"Speculation," he said more slowly. "It's little thoughts or ideas that pop up. Nothing big."
"Oh. So, do you spec-a, speci-fi, aw, man!" The boy grumbled and put his head down on the desk again. Konzen looked quickly to see what stack he had his head on, just in case. Only requests for more designers from Aki, the goddess of beauty. Vain bitch. Let the monkey drool on those all he wants!
Goku sighed again, long brown hair falling over a shoulder. "Hey, Konzen?"
Konzen counted to ten before answering. "What?"
"Why don't you ever smile?"
That got him to look up, a little surprised by the random question. "I smile," he answered.
"Uh-uh. I've never seen you smile. Aren't ya happy?"
Again, something he'd asked himself countless times before. And seriously, when WAS the last time he'd smiled? Not that his face was ever going to show age or get a wrinkle. Unchanging always. "Who says I'm not happy?" he asked back, leaning back in his chair.
"No fair! Ya can't answer a question with a question," Goku hollered indignantly.
"Who says? I didn't know there were rules when talking to a monkey."
" I'M NOT A MONKEY!"
"My fault. Chimp, then."
"HEY! Answer the question!"
Konzen let out another long breath. "Answer mine first; why do you ask?"
Goku blinked and sat up, chewing on his lower lip. " I guess cuz...you seem sad all the time. And I don't want you to be sad."
The answer was stupid. He knew it and yet it still touched him, made his heart warm a little. "I'm not sad, Goku."
"But you're not happy either, are ya?"
He took a while before answering. Did it really matter at this point, admitting the truth he had known for a while? That heaven was boring and the people here were worse than boring? They were drones. Get up by six in the morning. Have breakfast, usually something bland. Pay their respects to the Jade Emperor. Do whatever they did until lunch. Have another bland meal. Go back to doing what they always did. Another bland meal. Then bed. Even the celebrations were the same, when they came around. Always fireworks and flower petals for the Jade Emperor's birthday. Wrestling matches and races for Prince Nataku's. The Merciful Goddess, his aunt, never celebrated her birthday anymore. Even that was the same as always. He almost wished he was in hell, just for a change.
He blinked and looked up into wide, innocent eyes. Golden eyes. Heretical eyes. But he didn't truly believe that. A heretic was a blasphemous being, someone who stained the heavens. None of the heretics he'd met ever did that. It was always some god or goddess trying to cause trouble. Boredom will make you do very stupid things. "No, I guess I'm not."
For some reason, that seemed to make Goku happier than a pig in shit. He jumped up, hugged Konzen, much to his horror, and said, "Yay! I'm gonna make you happy, Konzen! Just watch and see!"
As the boy ran from the office, Konzen seriously wished the kid wouldn't go through with the promise. It was never a good thing when that look came into his eyes.
Tenpou sucked in a breath, wincing when the whip slashed back down. He would heal, he would heal, there wouldn't even be a scar. He wished there would be one. At least he would then have a mark that wasn't there before. Something to testify to the fact that he'd stood up against the system that sends children to die while men stand to one side and watch. And he wasn't going to give Shien the satisfaction of hearing him scream. Kenren wasn't either. In fact, was he singing? He smiled through the burning agony of flesh being torn open, the steady flow of blood dripping down his back to stain the cold stone floors of the dungeon.
"I'm a lumber jack and I don't care! I sleep all night and I work all day! Hey, whip a little harder, would ya? I'm not feelin' the burn!"
Kenren was such an asshole. He was glad they were at least getting the same punishment. It made it more tolerable to keep silent when that one was singing about wearing women's clothing and having scones with tea. The song before that, what was it...ah, yes! The one that never ends! That was an old, old song.
" If you would only scream, I might show you leniency," Shien said in that quiet voice, the one that never raised above a controled whisper but could cut you open quicker than a knife.
" That's okay. Unlike Kenren, my singing voice isn't as pretty." The whip came down harder than ever. He was well passed one hundred now. Oh, well.
"Honky Tonk girls, won't you come out and play, come out and play, come out and play!"
Tenpou let the chuckle slip out before he could stop it. Luckily, Shien didn't catch it. Kenren must be driving Xenon insane with the songs! He wondered how long they were going to be whipped. Surely not all night. Not even a god could handle that. And, granted, while neither of them were very well thought of by the higher ups, their presence would be noticed missing by several people who would cause some problems. Gojun, the Dragon King. Konzen Doujin, the god of requirements. What a horrible job! Always getting everyone what they needed. If he were human, he'd be balding by now. The Merciful Goddess, Kanzeon Bosotsu. He smiled when he thought of her. Yes, she was a VERY interesting bed partner. Full of, ah, surprises.
"Hey, Xenon, any requests?"
"Yeah, you shutting your fucking mouth," Xenon growled.
" Don't know that one," Kenren replied flippantly. "Hey, how 'bout this one? I get no kicks from champagne!"
A full out lie. Kenren loved his booze almost as much as he loved the ladies.
"Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all! So tell me why is it true, that I get a kick outta you?"
"I knew you were queer," Xenon shouted.
"Yeah, and I bought your mother for two dollars last night. I'd say it's pretty queer she's still charging. Oo, that one was better! Yeah, again!"
There was a pause in the whipping. Tenpou didn't dare raise his head. If it started again, his head would be in jeopardy.
"Your friend is insane," Shien said softly.
"Really? I thought he was practicing for kareoke," Tenpou responded, his voice very calm and pleasant despite the racking pain in his back.
"Why do you still persist in this?"
"In what? The singing? You'd have to ask Kenren about that."
"Not that. Why do you persist in not admitting you were wrong to disobey orders?"
Why was Shien asking him this now? If he wanted a debate, he could stop up to the library any time he wanted. It was just plain weird to be having a conversation with his back shreaded and Shien still holding the whip. "I never said I didn't disobey orders. But it would have been more wrong to accept them unchallenged when I knew the orders themselves were wrong."
Silence. That wasn't good. He knew he was right when the whip slashing continued, faster and harder with less of a break between each stroke.
"Lay her down and pass her around, fifty one filthy whores in my bed!"
Well, THAT was a different version of the song! Trust Kenren to mix it up a bit.
"Forty-nine flithy whores in my bed, forty-nine filthy whores! Lay her down and pass her around, forty-eight filthy whores in my bed! Yeah, too bad your mother wasn't there. I hear she's a real screamer." Tenpou winced at the loud cracking of the whip hitting harder on Kenren.
The door to the cell opened and a familiar bare foot and delicate ankle came into view. "My, my, Shien, what an efficient job," Kanzeon Bosotsu purred. The gold ankle bracelets tinkled as she came in further, wearing the usual next-to-nothing sheer white dress.
"If you say so, Merciful Goddess." Kanzeon was the Jade Emperor's sister (sort of) and in some ways was held in higher regard than even him. She was NOT someone to cross.
"I think the punishment is over, don't you agree?"
"If you say so, Merciful Goddess."
She leaned in so-slightly and said very low, "I do say so. Untie him, see to his wounds NICELY and get him to his room. Got it?"
Shien didn't answer, but Tenpou knew it was because he was bowing to her as she left. going next door.
"There ain't nothin' in the world like a big eyed girl- Oh, hey, it's the Merciful Goddess! Come to give Xenon mercy from me?"
Tenpou's wrists were untied and Shien was almost gentle about helping him to his feet.
"Of course. I can hear you belting out the hits all the way in my room. Quite a damper on my afternoon massage. Xenon, untie him, dress his wounds and take him back to his room. And do yourself a favor and be nice about it. I can't imagine you enjoyed this session."
"As you wish, Merciful Goddess. And thank you!"
Tenpou waved Shien away when the man tried to gauze his back up. "Not while it's still fresh. The gauze will only heal into the scabs and that's a pain in the ass to take care of."
"My orders were-,"
"They were wrong. I'll take care of myself later, thanks."
Shien looked ready to argue when Kenren stumbled in, short dark hair falling a little into his eyes, which were still laughing. "Ready to go, Tenpou? I've gotta study on more songs if this keeps happening."
Tenpou managed a smile and more or less walked out of the cell. It wasn't until they were in their own corridor, having gotten many startled and fearful looks for the blood they were dragging everywhere, that they both collapsed against the walls.
"Shit, he's never whipped that hard before," Kenren muttered, wincing as he rotated a shoulder and it pulled his back.
" You were more annoying than usual," Tenpou answered. Now that the whip wasn't there, his back was throbbing with his pulse and hurt like hell with the breeze blowing through.
"You think? Great, now I've got a higher bar to jump!"
"Did you actually get in there to help?"
Kenren didn't meet his gaze. "That fucker Shien head locked me before I knew it. Funny, and here I was thinking that they'd want to get rid of Nataku and myself in one blow."
Tenpou laughed. "You sound like you want to die."
"Dying would at least be something different."
Tenpou agreed silently. Pushing himself away from the wall where he left a bloody imprint of his back, he stumbled over to his door and pushed it open. "You coming?"
Kenren nodded and forced himself forward. "Yeah. I ran outta gauze about a week ago."
"I'll get the spare bed out."
"Naw, I'll sleep on the floor. Thanks though. Hey, do you have those smokes still?"
Tenpou smiled. "I told you hanging around me was a bad idea."
"It's more fun than beating the shit outta the same guys day in and day out. Now I can add another vice to my arsenal."
Goku waited. And waited. And waited. He saw Nataku come back in, bruised and bleeding. He was hurt real badly cuz he passed out on the steps to the Palace, not even able to make it inside. And no one would let him see him! He FINALLY had a name to tell him and he couldn't tell him! He began to pace a little, the flowers in one hand and the picture he drew in the other. It was a picture of when they'd broken into the Merciful Goddess' peach orchard and eaten all the peaches there before Jiroshin chased them out. Konzen had been furious with him!
"Oh, you're still here?"
Goku looked up anxiously as the nice serving girl came out with a tray of bloody bandages. "Can I see him now?" he asked eagerly. Maybe this time...
"I'm sorry, but Prince Nataku is very tired right now. How about you give me your presents and I'll make sure he gets them, okay?"
He thought about it. He REALLY wanted to see Nataku himself. But, she was very nice and at least he'd get the presents. "Okay. Can you tell him Goku says hi? He won't know my name, but tell him I found a butterfly garden that'll be tons of fun."
The girl smiled and took the flowers and picture. "I'll be sure to tell him as soon as he wakes up."
Waving as he ran, he called back, "Thank you," before rounding a corner and disappearing out of sight.
The girl smiled until he was gone before it slipped and she threw the picture and flowers into the garbage by the door with a disgusted look.
And she didn't notice the slender hand reach in, gold bracelets tinkling, and snatch them out of the garbage can.
Konzen raised a brow as he took a seat in front of Kanzeon's desk. "That's a new look for you. Did you make it?"
Kanzeon touched the flower chain around her neck and rolled her eyes, smiling. "Please. As if I would bother myself with this. I may be bored, nephew, but I'm not THAT bored. What's up?"
"Do you know why the Imperial Army didn't help Prince Nataku?" he asked, getting straight to the point. He wasn't in the mood for polite phrasing or politically correct words.
She continued to smile in a slightly amused way. "No. Does that surprise you?"
"A little. You hear all the gossip."
Kanzeon shrugged. "Someone didn't want this little tidbit getting out. All anyone will say is they were following orders."
Konzen frowned, leaning back and folding his hands thoughtfully. "But not who."
"Of course not! They're soldiers. Their job is to follow orders, no matter where they come from." This last was said mockingly.
"Do you think it was the Jade Emperor?"
Purple eyes flashed up from under dark lashes, a mask of amusement. "You seem to find it very difficult calling him Uncle."
"I'm finding it very difficult even acknowledging you as my aunt."
Kanzeon laughed. "Surely it's not because of your new pet?"
He ground his teeth to keep the scathing rant from leaking out. Bitch. She was taunting him. She wanted him to lose his temper so she could end the meeting.
"I'm a little surprised at your interest in all this, nephew."
Konzen managed a casual shrug. "I hear things. I want to know what's true and what isn't."
"If you say so."
A little twitching smile. That last part reminded her of something. She wasn't going to be sharing it any time soon with him, though. "Well, I really don't know how to answer you. You'll have to dig somewhere else, pup."
"Can you give me any hints as to where to start?" The situation was very unsettling to him. Someone was plotting a power move. He could feel it in his gut, and he'd learned eons ago not to ignore that feeling.
Kanzeon shrugged again. "You might want to start where I did; ask the army officials. You've rank enough to swing it, and temper enough to scare them into it."
If he ground his teeth any harder, they'd break. "I hate politics," he mumbled.
"I know, cookie. But sometimes you have to play the part to get to where you want to. Now, go along and investigate! Bye-bye."
Konzen stood up, purple silk flaring behind him as he stormed off. All she needed to say was a simple 'no'. Why did she keep poking at him? He stalked through the Palace, not sure really where he was going until he looked around and found himself outside the library. He hesitated, one hand against the door. Tenpou was probably passed out in bed after the whipping. Still, no one used this place. It would give him a chance to sit in quiet and think. He went inside, shutting the door quietly.
"Tenpou?" he called, looking around the rows and rows of books, piles of papers, and still more piles of books. No sign of him anywhere. Konzen found himself a dark corner, sat down on the floor and relaxed himself. Something just wasn't right about all this. The Jade Emperor had been ruling for so long, most people forgot when he took the throne. Talk of agitation and discention was spreading among the lesser gods and immortals. Yes, boredom made people do stupid things. Maybe he was on the wrong side of this. Maybe he should consider supporting the usurper, stir things up a bit. And maybe the usurper wasn't going to improve anything. No, taking sides this early in the game would be a mistake.
"Sh! Quietly. What if that Field Marshall hears us?" someone hissed. Konzen's head snapped back up, eyes open and alert. Who else would be in here now?
"Please, he's barely able to move, thanks to Shien. We have to find it now while he's gone. He won't be happy if we can't get it."
"But where do we look? I don't read books! And he didn't give us anything more spefic than ascention and law of rights books. Where in the heavens would that be?"
Konzen moved forward, glad he prefered going barefoot since he could move without a sound. He had to see who was talking. He didn't recognize either voice.
There was a loud thud and one of them started 'owowowow'ing while the other laughed. "Idiot! These things are heavy!"
"I know that...now," the second man snapped.
"Okay, history, art, music...damn it, where's the legal section?"
Konzen dove around to the other side of the bookcase just as the men came to where he had been. Carefully, he crouched down low behind a wobbly pile of books at the end. Slowly...slowly... He inched around, caught sight of one with dark hair and one with dirty blonde. Just a bit more...The whole damn pile went crashing down and he barely managed to get behind the bookcase again.
Swords rasped free. Soldiers. That much he knew now.
"We can't let them escape. Find them and kill them!"
Shit. What a lousy spy job! Konzen didn't stick around to see who they were. He got to the door and out, hopefully without either of them seeing. He may have techincally outranked them, but he doubted very much if whoever they were serving gave two damns. And he sure as hell didn't feel like dying from those two morons! He slowed down when he reached the corner of a crossway, taking deep even breaths so that he wasn't panting. Soldiers. But why would soldiers kill anyone in heaven? More questions, even fewer answers.
Another battle. Nataku wasn't fully healed, but the orders were the same; let it be Nataku's victory. He stood by and watched, the army at his back. Only a few were restless with the order to remain uninvolved. Noteably, Gojun the Dragon King, Matani of the Far West, Field Marshall Tenpou and General Kenren. They were all silent right now. Clash, sparks, blood. Again with the pattern of clash, sparks, blood.
This isn't right, the little voice said. This isn't right and it isn't fair. He's a child and he's already badly damaged. You saw his eyes today. He WANTS to die. Sobeit, he answered back. He's a heretic. It's what they do best. You don't believe that, the voice persisted. He's innocent of any wrong other than having golden eyes. And he's been pushed too far. Are you going to stand by and watch him die, without attempting to stop it?
"This is bullshit! Why the hell are we even here!" Kenren shouted, a snarl twisting his lips.
"You didn't learn your lesson last time, General Kenren?" he asked softly. No need to shout.
"Apparently not, asshole! He's dying out there and you're just gonna sit back and watch?"
"That is exactly what we will ALL do," he answered, stressing the 'all'.
"And here I thought an army's job was to defend the innocents." Tenpou now. "What a pleasant fantasy I had!"
"You are always free to resign, Field Marshall."
There was silence for a long time. He had won. They knew their place in the army.
"Fine, I quit."
He turned around. That was not expected. "You quit?"
"Yes." Tenpou shoved his way through the army, all of whom were staring at him like he was crazy.
"Field Marshall, I do believe you were not told to leave the battle."
"And I believe you can go to hell. That's where murderers like you and whoever is giving these ridiculous orders deserve to go."
That...was not as planned. He had to think of something, anything to-,
"Good idea, Tenpou. I'm outta here. If you're so bent on killing the kid, I'm not taking part in it."
"General Kenren, you will remain where you are."
"Sit on your whips and spin, pretty boy!" He made a very rude gesture and followed his friend.
The rest of the army was looking uncertain now. He uncoiled his whips, letting the magic flow through them and turn them more than deadly. "If you value your lives, you will remain at your post."
Gojun, red eyes gleaming, threw down the Imperial sword which had been given to him by the Emperor. "Much as I hate to agree with Kenren, this isn't right. I resign my commition as of this moment."
"I do, too," Matani said, flicking her long brown braids back. "If this is how the Imperial Army operates, then I don't want a part of it. And I agree with Kenren that you can sit on your whips if you don't like it!"
The army was close to rioting. This was not good at all. "Silence," he ordered, his voice rising just a bit. It was enough to get everyone quieted but fidgeting. "You have your orders. Obey them or you will be charged with treason to the Jade Emperor."
And for once the little voice didn't make a comment.
Goku saw from the balcony. They were carrying Nataku in. Was he...but he couldn't be...NO! He ran back into the room, startling Konzen into sitting up. "Goku?" he called.
"It's Nataku! I think he's..." He couldn't say the word.
Konzen was out the door ahead of him, not running but hurrying. Goku had to jog to keep up. The Merciful Goddess joined them and for once she didn't look amused or bored. "I saw them carrying him," she said quietly, jewelry making little music noises as she moved.
Goku's stomach was in knots. Not his friend, please! He was in a Palace full of gods and not one of them was listening to his prayer!
Konzen gave him a long look. "I heard you. But it's not my area of expertese."
"Mine either. Damn it, Jiroshin, where the hell is Li Touten? Does he even KNOW his son is this badly injured?" The Merciful Goddess was pissed off. Goku grabbed Konzen's arm, suddenly very afraid of her.
"He does, my lady," Jiroshin answered, quickly keeping step just behind them. "He's on his way and-,"
"Well, tell him he needs to stop perfuming his beard and get over here right now," she practically shouted, forcing her way through the crowd outside Nataku's door.
Goku still clung to Konzen as they pushed through as well. For once Konzen didn't yell at him for the touching. He got up to the bedside and had no words. Nataku's eyes were closed. Blood...he'd never seen so much blood before! And why were they all just standing around? Grinding his teeth, he grabbed a wad of clean rags and began to wipe the blood away.
"How dare he-,"
"What does he think-,"
"How can they let him-,"
He ignored the whispered comments and continued trying to help his friend. Nataku couldn't die. He wouldn't let him die, not like this, with everyone gaping at him like he was a freak. Like me, he thought glumly.
Another hand joined his, the purple silk quickly being soaked in blood. And then another, this one with golden bracelets. The whispers were getting louder and louder.
"It's not right that any but his father should touch him," someone shouted.
The Merciful Goddess whirled on them, purple eyes snapping more fiercely than even Konzen's. "If you have something to say, step up and say it to my face! Otherwise, shut up, get out and don't say another stupid word or I swear I will curse you into hell for the rest of this life and the next!"
Everyone began backing away fearfully. The Merciful Goddess rarely snapped and when she did, you obeyed without a word and did it fast or she was going to make it hell for you.
Goku crawled up on the bed, pushing the blood coated hair from Nataku's face. Why did they keep sending him? Couldn't they see it was killing him? He didn't understand these people. They were gods, right? So, why weren't they doing any of the dirty work? Why did they always hurt Nataku?
Goku blinked and looked up at Konzen's face. "Yeah?"
"Hold him up so we can start wrapping some of these."
He did as he was asked, trying to be careful. So many, many bruises and cuts and...and blood!
"What is the meaning of this?" someone demanded angrily. "How dare you lay a hand to my son!"
"And how dare you leave him here bleeding to death," Konzen replied icily.
The man in question was very BIG! Big shoulders, big stomach, big legs. And he wasn't very nice. Goku didn't need to talk to him to know that. The way he looked at Konzen...it wasn't nice! "How I manage my family is my affair, not yours! You forget yourself!"
"I forget nothing! As his father, you should have been at the gates when they carried his body in."
"You know nothing of being a father!"
"Apparently neither do you."
The man spluttered and grabbed Konzen's arm. Goku acted without thinking. He swung and punched the guy right in the jaw. The man flew across the room and landed smack into the wall, lip split and bleeding.
"Don't EVER touch Konzen again," Goku yelled.
"Right now, Li Touten, it might be wise to leave," The Merciful Goddess said firmly, continuing to care for Nataku as if she didn't just witness Goku hitting him.
Li Touten stood up, brushing his robes off and said, "The Jade Emperor will hear of this insult!"
"Good, run and tell my brother you were too busy whoring around with his new mistress to care for your son. It'll save me the trouble of having to do it myself."
He blanched, spluttered some more, and then stormed out.
All of them were silent as they returned to helping Nataku. Then, Konzen broke the silence, and his voice had a slight edge of amusement. "Is he really screwing Miko?"
The Merciful Goddess snorted and gave a little smirk. "Who isn't nowadays? The girl spreads herself faster than a plague!"
Goku had no idea what they were talking about, but he didn't think about it long because Nataku's eyes opened. He blinked and looked around a little, confused. When his eyes met Goku's he smiled. "You."
"My name's Goku," he said quickly, hoping Nataku heard him.
"Goku...I'll remember. Where's dad?"
"We had to ask him to leave," the Merciful Goddess answered politely.
The smile grew bigger. "Good." And his head fell back and he was asleep.
The halls were silent. No one spoke a word. The silence in the Palace was almost eerie. Tenpou knew he was being stared at, but he did his best to ignore it. Konzen had given him a job as the librarian and Kenren...well, he got assigned 'guard duty'. Over Goku.
"Damn it, Tenpou, will you take him for five minutes? PLEASE!"
He hid his smile by looking down, his long hair falling to either side of his face. "Sorry, not my job."
"Does he do anything but eat and talk and eat some more?"
"Hey, I do lotsa things," Goku hollered.
"Yeah? Prove it!"
"I will if ya'd gimme a-,"
All of them were quiet when the horns sounded. Another rebellion on earth? That was three in the last month alone. Someone was stirring them...Tenpou had his suspicions but it would be very, very dangerous to voice them without any proof.
"Does that mean...?" Goku's voice trailed off.
"Yeah," Kenren answered tightly, looking out of the window at Nataku leading the army, limping still from the last time.
"But...but it's NOT FAIR! He's a kid! Why can't they let him be a kid!"
Tenpou agreed silently with Goku. Yes, why wouldn't they just let him be? The army was getting lazy. Discenters were being punished or cast out of heaven. Matani had already been thrown out. And Gojun. He'd even heard a rumor that Rinrei, the Jade Emperor's only daughter and supposedly rumored to be marrying Li Touten, had been cast out. For 'unspecified' reasons. Things were drawing to a close, and rapidly. It was like the very air was choking him with suspence.
There was a cracking noise and both men turned in surprise to find Goku had punched a neat little fist-sized hole into one of the stone pillars. Such strength! How was it possible...
"I hate this place! Everyone just sits around bored and does nothing while they slowly kill him! If you're gods, why don't you do something about it?"
"Goku, keep it down," Tenpou said quickly, clamping a hand over the boy's mouth. Servants were approaching and it wouldn't do to be saying things like that. It would most likely mean the boy's death. "Ew, now why did you have to do that?" Goku was drooling all over his hand, trying to get him to take it away from his mouth.
Kenren cracked up, doubling over in laughter. "Aw, that's just gross! Well, what did you expect from a stupid chimp?"
After the servants were away, Tenpou took his hand back, wiping it on a cloth he usually saved for his glasses.
"Well, I didn't wanna bite you," Goku answered, scowling.
Tenpou smiled at the answer. How oddly considerate. He sighed, watching as the last of the useless army left the gates. His eyes flickered over to the guards approaching. Things were indeed moving faster than planned.
"Field Marshall Tenpou, General Kenren, you're under arrest," one of them said.
Tenpou pulled out his cigarettes and lit one, blowing smoke in the general direction of the guards.
Kenren smiled smugly, crossing his arms over his chest. "Really, on whose orders?"
A man pushed forward, beard well trimmed and a huge smile to match his huge body. "Mine. You are accused of being traitors and will be brought before the Jade Emperor immediately for sentencing. And as for you, little one, you will stand out of my way or I will see you thrown into the darkest pit I can find."
"Please, Li, you don't have any authority. You're not even part of the army," Kenren mocked.
Li pulled a scroll from his sleeve and handed it to them. Tenpou took it and read it over quickly. It was all there. A warrant for their arrest, Li Touten given express permission to head the investigations, and all of it with the Emperor's seal next to it. He sighed, rolled it up and shrugged. "Looks like it's authentic, Kenren."
"What! You can't be serious!" Kenren was wide eyed with shock.
Neither of them resisted the chains, Tenpou taking one last drag before flicking the butt away into the gardens below. He didn't show it, but he was beginning to be afraid.
Konzen shifted uncomfortably on the cushion he was sitting on. This whole dinner made him nervous. Why would Li Touten invite him to dinner? He couldn't think of a suitable excuse to get out of it, so he had to accept. Li smiled graciously at him, offering more wine. He declined. It made him sick how this man could wine and feast while his son was out there bleeding and dying. He pushed the food around with chopsticks, not particularly fond of the dead animal on his plate. "I'm guessing there's a reason you asked me here?" He finally asked, hoping to get to the point and get this over with. He hadn't seen Goku all day...which was a relief and slightly alarming at the same time.
Li Touten smiled wider, setting the wine decanter aside. "I'd heard you were very blunt spoken. It seems rumor was true."
"Grand. Now, what is it you wanted?"
"I wanted to talk of just this thing; rumors. I'm guessing you've heard?"
He shrugged, not liking the direction this was going. "I've heard things. There are always rumors."
Li laughed lightly. "Yes, that is too true! Well, since you are a man not to mince words, let me be brief. I was wondering...where your loyalties lie."
Konzen stopped halfway from putting a vegetable in his mouth. That was unexpected. "Where they always have. Why?"
"Oh, just certain associates of yours have been stirring trouble. I would hate to see one of the royal family involved in treasonous acts."
"And which associates might you be referring to?"
The smile turned cold. Every sense was screaming for him to get out of there. This was wrong, all of it..."Field Marshall Tenpou and General Kenren, to be exact. They've been charged with treason."
Konzen dropped the chopsticks. "What?"
"Just today. I had the pleasure of arresting them myself." He looked so smug.
"You've arrested innocent people," Konzen said tightly. He needed to get out of here. The air was beginning to get heavy. He needed to find some way to get away from this man. The pieces were starting to fit together now. Li Touten, the former abassador to the demons, was stirring up all the conflict. His son had become a political pawn to maneuver him closer to the Jade Emperor. The Jade Emperor. It suddenly clicked right into place and he saw the big picture. "You..."
Li Touten smiled and nodded. "You're very smart, but not smart enough to figure it out sooner. Yes, it's me. I started the rebellions. I made sure my son was named War Prince. And I talked the Jade Emperor into giving me the warrants to arrest whoever I perceived to be a traitor. But there is still one small issue at stake here."
Konzen jumped to his feet. He was after the throne! Damn it, he'd been blind the whole time!
The man laughed wickedly and guards came in, closing the room off. "Yes, the Emperor's blood kin. The Merciful Goddess is no threat. She won't want the responsibilities of the throne. But you, Konzen Doujin, are a direct blood descendant as well. The nephew to the Emperor. And if the Jade Emperor should meet with harm and his sister deny the throne, as she did before, you would stand to take it. I can't allow that." He drew himself up and declared loudly, "Konzen Doujin, god of requirements, I charge you with treason. You will be brought before the Jade Emperor immediately for punishment."
"No! You can't do this!" Konzin struggled against the guards, but they soon over-powered him, dragging him away. "Li Touten! This isn't over!"
"All that's left is my coronation. And then it will be."
Kanzeon Bosotsu gripped her throne hard, her knuckles bleached white when she saw the three dragged into the throne room, beaten and bound. No...She looked quickly to her brother, who was staring in shock to find Konzen among them.
"This is outrageous! My own blood, a traitor!"
"Never, uncle. My loyalties go to you, as always," Konzen answered around the bruised jaw. He doubled up when a guard kicked him in the gut.
"Silence, traitor! You are unworthy of speaking to His Gloriousness," Li Touten roared, eyes blazing in fury. Or was it glee? He certainly was a fine actor.
The Jade Emperor drew himself up more proudly and declared in a harsh voice, "I sentence you all to a life on earth, as mortals, and when you die, your souls will be sent straight to hell where you will be tormented for the rest of eternity." He raised his staff, ready to bring it down and finalize judgement.
"A word of advice, brother?" Kanzeon said quickly, stopping him midmotion.
"The sentence was just! Let us be done with it," Li shouted.
Kanzeon pinned him with a glare. "When last I looked, the Jade Emperor ruled the heavens. Not you. Shut up and let me speak."
The Jade Emperor motioned for her to continue. She met Konzen's eyes and tried to tell him without words that she was helping them. He seemed to understand because the panic subsided a bit and his shoulders relaxed. Then, turning back to her brother, she said, "I suggest we send them to earth, as mortal, just as you decreed. But, not to die and burn in hell. I propose that they be reincarnated, without their memories of this life, and be allowed to atone for their crimes."
The court murmured over this loudly. The Jade Emperor banged his staff for silence. "You have once again shown to us all why you are the Merciful Goddess. I will accept this as the ruling. And I cast you Tenpou, Kenren, and most sadly Konzen Doujin, to earth as mortals. You are hereby stripped of your godhood. And be thankful the Merciful Goddess has swayed me into showing pity for you." The staff came down a final time and the three were dragged out with the crowd booing and following after to mock them.
Kanzeon tapped Jiroshin's arm lightly. "Go find Konzen's pet. Something tells me we need to keep him around."
Jiroshin bowed and left immediately.
Goku screamed and screamed and screamed some more. And the Merciful Goddess held him, stroking his hair gently, like a mother would. Like Konzen would when he thought he was asleep. And that made him cry even more. "Why did they kick him out? He wasn't a traitor! He was good and he was nice and he...he..."
"Sh, I know. It sucks. Just keep crying. Scream all you want. No one is going to stop you from that."
And he did just that. She sat there holding him, murmuring soft, conforting words that didn't really do much to ease the pain of losing the one person he would gladly die for if they asked it. Konzen was gone now and he hadn't even made him smile!
He stood in his usual spot, watching the battle. The same as always. Test your opponents strength. Retreat a few steps. Clash, sparks, a little blood. Just as always. But not the same. The little voice...it wasn't here. He had grown so used to its presence that it felt odd without it. He was so lost in his thoughts of trying to figure out where it went that he didn't notice the battle had stopped, that the army was whispering, muttering, shouting now.
He looked up and found Nataku walking back over to them. Obviously, he had won. No, but wait. The demon, Mingyaoh, was still standing. And barely scratched. "Prince Nataku?" he questioned softly. Did the Prince need some weapon he had not brought?
Nataku met his eyes and there was something there that was...terrifying. It was a clarity that hadn't been present before. A determination that spoke more of man than of boy. Nataku stuck his tongue out and threw down his sword. "You guys do it. I don't want to anymore." And he marched through the quickly separating ranks of soldiers, each one looking in utter shock and horror as their mascot left the field.
"Sir, what do we do? Why has he abandoned us?" one of the soldiers cried.
He unfurled his whips, charging them. "Never mind that. I will defeat Mingyaoh myself. All of you, take care of his army." He reached back, letting his hair down to fall to his knees, along with all the power he possessed. Yes, he would need every last ounce of strength to defeat this opponent.
Nataku knew his father would hear of this. And he didn't care. He wasn't his toy anymore! And he was sick of always being the one to get hurt, to be walked all over! He wasn't a servant, he was Li Touten's SON! He looked up in surprise when his father came storming out of the Palace, down to the courtyard where people were gathered, shocked to see him without the army. He'd heard already?
"You LEFT THEM? WHY DID YOU DO THAT?" Li Touten screamed, grabbing Nataku's bloody shirt in a big fist.
"I don't want to be the War Prince any more! I just wanna be your son," Nataku answered. Please, let him see love in those dark eyes, just once...
The rage in those eyes was like a blow to the gut. Li Touten, eyes twitching and mouth drawn back in a snarl, brought his fist into Nataku's face. Nataku's neck snapped back and he knew something bad had happened when he couldn't feel his right leg.
"I'LL KILL YOU! I'LL KILL YOU MYSELF!" Li Touten screamed over and over as he pounded his son into the ground.
"GET OFF OF HIM!"
A small blur of speed slammed into Li Touten, flinging him off of the limp body of Nataku. Goku leaned over that form to see if he was okay. And found those eyes wide and blank, staring at nothing. He wasn't dead, but he wasn't living either. And it was Li Touten's fault, all of it. Tenpou, Kenren, Konzen, and now Nataku. Something inside him snapped. Goku hissed, sucking in his breath when a burning pain overwhelmed him, bringing him to his knees. The rage...all he could think about...and blood. Yes, blood. When he raised his face, the people in the courtyard screamed and ran in a panic to get away. That was no child anymore. That was death itself come for them!
Goku snarled and dove onto Li Touten, who was frozen in panic. Blood spilled everywhere, limbs flew after being ripped from the body, innards torn out and tossed aside in a steady stream. He didn't stop until there was almost nothing left that could be recognized as a body. Another. He needed more blood. And he found it in the girl cowering by the gates. She screamed and he tore her throat out to silence it. And there was still more, and more, AND MORE!
Kanzeon Bosotsu made sure the diadem was secure around Goku's head, double checked the chains, the stone bars, the talismans. She hadn't liked the judgement, but her brother wouldn't listen to her. For the slaughter of a thousand gods and immortals, Son Goku was sentenced to imprisonment for eternity or until divine intervention. Which she was forbidden to give. She sighed, looking sadly on the young boy, asleep from the drugs. Bending down, she touched his head and whispered, "I'm giving you a great gift, Son Goku. And that is to live happily without the memory of your guilt. When you wake, you will remember nothing of heaven, or your crimes. You will see this world for all it's good. That's the least I can do for you." She stood up and left him at the very top of the mountain, with a lonely trail over grown by brush and unused by travelers.