November 6, 2005

Title: Sol Invictus

Author: Befanini

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no rights whatsoever. For pointless daydreaming purposes only.

Rating: PG

Summary: Epilogue to the "Longing" thread. Because 'True love stories never have endings.'


A/N: You knew this was coming, didn't you… Like 'Man to Man', this fic just wouldn't leave me alone until it was written, pointless as it is. But I like to give my daydreams full reign, and I thought that the kappa and the priest deserved a second, fair chance, so here we have it… Strictly speaking, this doesn't really belong in the Romance/Angst genre, but I'm labeling it as such, expressly for the readers who liked the Longing stories and would possibly enjoy seeing how things turned out for the tragic lovers. XD

P.S. After reading it over, the whole thing now strikes me as a very saccharine fairytale, in stark contrast to the powerful tragedy of the Longing stories. I'm posting it nonetheless, if only for the sheer delight of dealing with the volatile Sanzo and the mercurial Gojyo as kawaii little brats. XD


"To return again will not cause distress. Friends return and it is not a mistake. Repeated cycles are part of the tao, just as seven days bring a return." – I. Ching


"Why do I hafta go again!" the six-year-old scowled, glaring daggers at his sire.

Beside the massive throne, Jien arched a stern eyebrow, even as he grinned inwardly to himself. The little imp really was the spitting image of the fool. Being a youkai, he did not believe in reincarnation, but then his fool of a brother had been half-human… Who really knew for sure? In any case, the name that King Kougaiji had chosen for his fourth-born child was turning out to be more than a singularly fitting tribute to his loyal, treasured general and his late brother.

"I already told you, Gojyo-chan, Hakkai and Goku are expecting you for the summer, just like last year," Kougaiji informed the young prince, whose normally mischievous little face was scrunched up in a petulant frown at the moment.

"I don't care! I'm not going! You can't make me!" Gojyo declared defiantly, stomping his foot and glaring round at them all.

"Such manners, Gojyo! Don't talk back to your father that way!" the Queen scolded gently.

"I'll handle this, Yaone," Lirin spoke up, marching over and squatting down in front of the scowling princeling. "We talked about this, remember, Jo-jo? You promised to be good, and then I'll take you riding all over on the dragons when you get back," Lirin (who was as much of a tomboy as ever) coaxed, peering teasingly into rebellious scarlet eyes.

A full, pouty, lower lip trembled as the redheaded child answered in a quivering voice. "But Lirin! The castle maids and ladies are gonna miss me ­so much…" – Everybody rolled their eyes – the charming little boy was indeed already a favorite among the ladies, and he was in a fair way to be spoiled by all the pettings and coos and cuddles lavished upon him. Seeing that his elders were not impressed, he tried another tack.

"I'll suffer, I tell you! You don't know! Hakkai nags and nags and makes me sit still and do lessons and chores and he doesn't let me watch my cartoons or read my comic books, and he makes me eat nappa and radishes and do up my bed, and wash behind my ears, and—"

"Now, Little Prince. You make it sound like a torture camp. You know all the children are taught the same things as you are," Dokugakuji cut in, with a rueful shake of his head at the kid's melodramatics.

Gojyo pinned him with a baleful glare, a chubby brown fist impatiently dashing off the tears that he'd worked so hard to squeeze out. "You're a tattletale!" he hollered at the General, who also happened to serve as his personal bodyguard, and went everywhere with him. (He had been the young prince's escort last summer.) Doku only gave him an amused smirk.

Gojyo stuck his tongue out, and turned back to Lirin, who quickly hid a grin. "—AND that horrid Goku always picks on me, and teases me, and laughs at me, and calls me a cockroach!" he finished indignantly, clenching his fists tight.

"From what I heard from last year's visit, you started it by calling him bakazaru first," his dad admonished, fighting back his laughter. It really was uncanny how much his son resembled a cheeky half-breed he knew long ago.

"Grrr…" The six-year-old trembled with rage, and dashed over precipitately and pummeled Doku with his small fists. "TATTLETALE!" he yelled again. "You were the one who first said he looked like a monkey!" Gojyo accused as he rained puny blows on the big youkai's thighs. "Hrr… we even laughed about it! I'll never be friends with you again!" he bellowed, while Doku's eyes widened at the little kid's bold fibs.

Yaone hid a smile behind her hand, while Lirin choked outright. But the King rose to his feet and thundered. "ENOUGH!"

The stern command was enough to quiet the prince, and he turned slowly, avoiding his father's eyes, his lower lip jutting out.

"This kind of behavior is exactly why we think you need another vacation with Hakkai and Goku, son," Kougaiji spoke gently, but firmly. "You are growing up altogether too wild and spoiled rotten—" here the King cast accusing looks at the two females present, who quickly looked away – "and I believe you need the discipline and training these visits do for you. Now I want no more arguments and sulking. Besides, you know how Hakkai and Goku enjoy your visits, and if you will admit it to yourself, you know despite all your protests that you end up enjoying yourself, too."

Gojyo scowled harder and made no answer, instead kicking at non-existent dust on the floor with a dejected foot and a woebegone expression on the cherubic face.

"Come here, Gojyo," Kougaiji ordered firmly.

Gojyo sniffed, then walked reluctantly over to the throne. His father picked him up and sat him down on his lap, and bent his head down to gaze into reluctant red eyes so like his own – sharp, razor-edged, defiant and daring and brave. "You'll go and be a good boy, won't you?" he asked gently.

Gojyo sighed, and then he nodded. "'Kay… but I want a treehouse when I return, and in-line skates, and a race car, and my own weapon… like a—um, a long staff with a sharp moon-shaped blade…"

"Yare yare…" Dokugakuji muttered to himself, as the prince rattled on, and his father listened respectfully, and managed to keep a straight face. "AND I want Lirin to teach me wrestling moves when I get back," Gojyo hiccupped. Lirin laughed. Yaone gasped. Dokugakuji choked.

But Kougaiji only smiled and said, "We'll see…"


XxXxX

(In case the reader is puzzled by now, don't worry yourself about it. The Sanzo-ikkou and the Kougaiji-tachi have been firm friends since the Divine Mission concluded long ago, nearly two hundred years back at the current setting of our story. This is so, since it was by their united exertions that disaster was kept at bay. Of course the ikkou played the "greater" role (as it were) in subduing and conquering both Ni Jienyi and Gyuumaoh; but they never could have done it if the Kougaiji-tachi had not stepped in and prevented further disaster from Gyokumen Koushu and her minions. In any case, as we all know, the respect and grudging admiration has always been there between both groups, so it was natural for them to finally put aside their differences and form a solid friendship after all said and done. – In fact, it was quite unsettling for Kinzan when Toa Genjo Sanzo passed away and a whole regimen of youkai royalty led by Kougaiji showed up to pay their last respects. –)

XxXxX


Dokugakuji and the redheaded prince disembarked from the dragons, a few meters away from the orphanage, with the little boy still wearing a peeved scowl. Jien kept a firm hand on him while he sent away the dragons, since it would have been too ludicrous to park the royal beasts in the courtyard for the entire duration of their stay. It would be a simple enough matter to send word after a month or two for the dragons to come and pick them up again.

"Now, Gojyo, remember what your father said," the big youkai reminded the rebellious-looking princeling. "Be nice. You'll enjoy yourself after a while if you'd just quit being so stubborn."

"Hmph."

Jien sighed and rolled his eyes. "C'mon, then…"

Goku came running out excitedly to meet them, babbling incoherently. "I thought you'd never get here! There's something—"

Hakkai promptly quenched the overeager and excited monkey with a firm hand on his shoulder. "Shush, Goku! Don't spoil the surprise! Besides, we might ruin the chance of finally proving it to ourselves…" he murmured, while greeting the arrivals with a warm smile.

Jien and Hakkai went off at once, chatting amiably. Little Gojyo hung back, still pouting, despite the gaggle of little girls now excitedly squealing at espying him. Goku marched up to him with a big grin. "How've you been, Gojyo? Me and Hakkai and all the kids really missed you a lot! You ready for some fun? I've got someone I want you to meet…"

Gojyo stared at him suspiciously, but the infectious atmosphere of cheer and laughter and good times pervading the orphanage was making him curious and a little excited, despite himself. Besides that, the gushing attention of a dozen or so little girls who looked at him with adoring eyes and hysterical giggles did much to soothe his ruffled feelings.

"It's not another wimpy boy is it? All these kids are such cry babies…" he scoffed disparagingly, as they started off to a corner of the playground, with Gojyo adopting a cool, stand-offish air which only served to titillate the little girls all the more, as well he knew. After a while the wide, blinding smile flashed out as Gojyo's naturally good temper and high spirits returned, and the girls fluttered and swooned, much to his delight. He followed it up with a wink or so, producing squeals and giggles; while he heartily high-fived several boys now greeting him like old friends, as they were. These had been his partners in crime the past summer, he suddenly remembered, and his eyes twinkled mischievously and he laughed out loud at all the fun times coming, starting as soon as he got away from the insistent Goku.

Big kids and little kids, boys and girls, swarmed around them, chattering excitedly. Most were already acquainted with the youkai prince from his previous visit, and regarded him with respect (– the boys did, at any rate; the girls merely melted at the slightest hint of a glance –) the little kid could really deliver a nasty punch, and was their equal, if not their superior, in most games and frolics. A few children hung back, being newcomers to the orphanage, and inquired reverently about the tanned, redheaded, fiercely proud little boy with the sharp red eyes.

Jien and Hakkai meanwhile came out into the garden carrying refreshments for all (including icy mugs of beer for them both). "Come and get it!" Jien hollered, and two dozen or so squealing children, both human and youkai, ran for the cake and soda and ice-cream; a rare treat usually reserved only for birthdays and special occasions.

But Hakkai had planned it thus, precisely so that Gojyo might have the chance of meeting the newest addition to the orphanage without a gaggle of rambunctious youngsters in the way. It was important that they had space. It was fortunate that the new arrival seemed to be a moody loner, always seeking space and time alone, and was now seated on a swing in the corner of the playground, idly pushing to and fro with a languid foot.

Hakkai and Goku had enjoyed having Prince Gojyo visit last summer; and had eagerly awaited his return this year. They'd spent a lot of time reminiscing while they waited, and agreeing that there was no doubt about it – Gojyo, their "Sha Gojyo" – had most definitely returned to them. It was a shock to have first met the young prince, to stare into those bold, defiant eyes and behold that familiar daredevil, tempestuous, wickedly fun-loving soul staring back at them. However much Goku had insisted that the ikkou were meant to be together forever; from whatever pure, intense hope or secret wisdom he had – it was still a shock to have him be proven correct, when Jien had arrived last year with the young prince in tow, and declaring there was someone remarkable that he wanted them to meet, with a meaningful look especially at Hakkai.

They had been so jubilant, him and Goku both; so much so that the unsuspecting Jien had felt much gratified and flattered at his decision to introduce the stunning almost-replica of their former groupmate. Little did he know… And what was so amazing, and delightfully surprising, was that in all their hopes and dreams they had never expected Gojyo to come back to them like this – in full royal splendor, no more the shunned taboo – and Kougaiji's son, at that! Of course he and Goku made no mention of it to Jien, much less to the innocent little child. There would be time enough for that later… if ever Gojyo demanded explanations.

And then two weeks ago, Sister Yumi from his old orphanage – the one Hakkai had grown up in – had arrived, bringing with her a sullen, silent child. She had begged Hakkai to take over the management of the young child, as they had had the kid for two weeks and could seem to do nothing for the poor creature. The parents had apparently died in an unfortunate accident, and as the little child refused to talk, and there was nothing the authorities could turn up by way of relations, they had sent the devastated young thing to the orphanage.

Upon seeing the silent, golden-haired, violet-eyed child, Hakkai and Goku had been struck speechless at first… So many years they had waited, and Gojyo had waited with them, before his own death some twenty five years ago now. It was impossible to do otherwise; Goku's hope had been too insistent and fervent to quench, and gradually both he and his best friend had found themselves believing, too. In fact, Sha Gojyo had died believing still. Hakkai was sure of that. And so afterwards he and Goku were left to wait and hope…

And now the child was here. It was almost a hundred years now since either of them had had the singularly exquisite, incomparable sensation of a pair of fierce purple eyes piercing through their souls. They never knew until that moment how much they had missed it.

Goku in fact had burst into tears, and would have crushed the little child in his eager embrace had Hakkai not snapped out of his reverie and pulled him back quickly. As it was, the amethyst eyes had glittered coldly with suspicion, and the silent, solitary soul became even more withdrawn.

There was just one thing – whereas they had known, at once, that the rowdy little boy that Jien had brought to them last summer was without a doubt their irreverent, naughty Gojyo come back to them at last – this new addition was so quiet and reserved; that if it were not for the sunkissed hair, beautiful eyes the color of twilight, and the quick ferocious frown if anyone dared approach too near – there was no way of knowing for sure if this child was indeed Sanzo returned to them at long last.

But Hakkai had a plan. It had hit him almost immediately, as his eye fell on the mantelpiece above the great fireplace, where four miniature oil paintings stood all in a row.

When he had carried out his best friend's wishes, and drove Hakuryu to some remote spot in a woods, out west, and found the place marked by the banishing gun firmly imbedded in the great tree – he had bid Goku go and find wood for their fire, as they planned to camp overnight as a sentimental little gesture for those two members of their band now gone before them.

He had sent Goku away, because he knew what he would find, as he dug and made a place to deposit his best friend's ashes. Sure enough, he had unearthed the miniature of Gojyo, inside the sandalwood box, which was carefully preserved in a metal box wrapped in thick, strong plastic.

Gojyo had told him about it, in a matter-of-fact way, and without offering further explanations, only asking him to deposit Sanzo's miniature inside the box as well, and return everything to the earth.

He returned the box, after placing Gojyo's old, battered Zippo inside; together with the banishing gun. He had thought it was the appropriate thing to do, since all his suspicions about Sanzo and his best friend turned out to be touchingly true, from what he was seeing now. Besides, there was no need for a marker now, now that he and Goku already knew the place.

But he took the pictures, with a queer little smile and the slightest pang of guilt. They'll thank me someday… So the box was safely shut when Goku came hurrying back, to help him lay Sha Gojyo to rest.


XxXxX

And so here they were today; and if his suspicions and hopes proved true, the young youkai prince would perform the impossible – coax the icy creature from its shell, just as Sha Gojyo had always managed to do with the frosty Sanzo long ago. His best friend had been gifted with the extraordinary talents of wheedling and baiting and teasing; qualities which the young Gojyo also (still?) possessed in abundance, apparently. Hakkai observed with a secretive smile as Goku urged the redhead along to the now-scowling blonde.

The two were halfway there when the kids had turned around and run back screaming, when Jien had shouted the tempting invitation. Gojyo had turned eagerly as well, this being a first for him – no nasty nappa and revolting radishes today, hooray! But Goku tugged insistently on his arm. "Come along. There'll be plenty left for us," the youkai said impatiently, adding with a chuckle – "I made sure to reserve a generous portion, hehehe…"

Gojyo rolled his eyes, having gotten acquainted with Goku's voracious appetite last summer. He grinned, remembering: it had been fun teasing Goku and amusing himself by squabbling with Goku over food, he recalled. Especially the food fights that followed as a result; even though he always felt sorry for the mess afterwards, especially seeing poor Hakkai's horrified face. The kid rubbed his hands together in glee, all the fun times he'd had last year suddenly rushing back in a flood of delightful memories.

But then Gojyo stopped short, as they finally reached the one that Goku was so eager that he "make friends with". For once in his life (his short life, albeit), the young prince stood in stupefied, awed silence in front of the vision before him.

Hakkai leaned forward in his seat. Jien was busy laughingly portioning out the treats, and did not notice the healer's rapt absorption.

"WOW…" Gojyo breathed, impressed more than he had ever been; even more than when Lirin had first shown him the legendary "Bunny" of that infamous bad man, Ni Jienyi. "You're so pretty…" he told the golden-haired child, oblivious to the dangerous narrowing of the glacier-cold amethyst eyes. He reached out with an eager hand, as any child would to a lovely porcelain doll.

"What's your name, pretty girl?" he grinned, expecting the exquisite creature before him to melt into a puddle of goo, just like all the other girls he knew. No, not just like them… This one, this one, he liked.

A chubby white fist flashed out quicker than lightning and decked him, sending the prince sprawling down to the dust. He clutched his shoulder, too stunned to do more than just blink up incredulously. His shoulder stung, but he was too proud to cry. Holy moley! The girl could punch with a wallop!

The blonde meanwhile stood over him with clenched fists and spittingly furious purple eyes, trembling with indignation. Finally, with a haughty glare, the child stomped off in a huff.

Goku helped Gojyo up, trying to muffle his chuckles, while inside him burst a great song of elation and thanksgiving. "He's a boy, Gojyo," Goku informed the princeling soberly, even as he met Hakkai's overjoyed eyes. "His name is Genjo, and he doesn't like being called pretty."

The young prince scowled, beginning to feel the bruises to his ego even as his shoulder throbbed. "Huh! You should have told me!" he glared up at the grinning Goku. The red eyes narrowed suddenly. "You did it on purpose, didn't you!" he accused hotly, his pride demanding retribution, even by way of the 'bakazaru' staring down at him in amusement.

"Iie, Gojyo, I swear!" Goku declared, holding up his palms defensively. "How was I to know you'd take it into your freak head that Genjo was a girl?" Goku asked, so earnestly that Gojyo believed him, however reluctantly. "You really are a desperate flirt, even now, aren't you?" Goku added, shaking his head ruefully.

Little Gojyo wrinkled his nose in honest puzzlement at this remark, before he turned burning red eyes to the blonde who had walked off to park himself on the porch, pointedly ignoring the gay revelry at the table.

"Heh. I don't care," Gojyo announced, rubbing his shoulder with a wince. "I am right," he insisted, as he stared intently at the frosty, grim creature. "It's true – he IS pretty, like a girl!" Gojyo shouted out the last defiantly, in the direction of the scowling Genjo. "So THERE!"

Jien had missed the little drama, only turning in time to see his charge naughtily sticking his tongue out at a beautiful little thing who sat apart on the porch.

"Gojyo!" he admonished, as Goku and the prince finally came over to join them. "It's not polite to make faces at others, especially at a shy, pretty little girl—" here Jien stopped short at a hearty guffaw from Hakkai, chortles from Goku, and giggles from Gojyo, who elbowed Goku with an impish look that said – I told you so.

While Hakkai explained about the moody child who sat proudly apart, Goku went off to retrieve his "generous portions". He paused beside Genjo (who ignored him with fierce concentration) and cheerfully set down a plate of the goodies beside the blonde, before coming back to split his share with an approving Gojyo, who declared him his bestest friend in the world, in his typical fickle fashion.

"What is most troubling, and what concerns me most at the moment, is getting the poor child to talk," Hakkai informed Jien, who still looked with incredulous eyes at the doll-like perfection of the golden-haired little boy. "He's been with us for almost two weeks, and not a word out of him." Hakkai shook his head soberly, as the fact dawned on him that little Genjo still hadn't uttered a sound, despite meeting little Gojyo and sending him sprawling on his back.

"That's so sad," Jien sympathized, finally tearing his gaze away from only the second little boy who had stirred familiar feelings, as if he'd known him before, just like he felt with his young charge.

His young charge meanwhile was "holding court" in a grand manner (to his mind, at least), as he regaled the eager children with stories of his life at the palace, and tales about his daredevil adventures with Lirin ("She's the COOLEST!"), and boasts about his hunting and riding prowess, and sundry other half-inventions of his overactive imagination. His listeners were suitably impressed (especially the girls, naturally); and Gojyo was in his element, already snickering with the boys and making plans for all sorts of pranks and jokes and riotous exploits, quite forgetting that he had ever objected to returning here in the first place.

But while the redhead chattered and laughed away, his eyes kept straying back to the solitary, angelic-looking Genjo – even though his innocent young mind thought nothing more of it than mere childish curiosity; instead of the insistent, inescapable tug of his soul to the other's, as was in fact the case.

For the moment all that shone in the quick, bold red eyes was impish fun and a childlike longing to reach out and comfort the sad purple eyes that he also caught staring back at him once or twice, before the blonde frowned and went away to some corner where his eyes could not follow.


XxXxX

"Goddammit, this beer is hot… Oi, bakazaru, get me another beer."

"Get your own stinking beer, erogappa!"

Twitch.

"WHAT did you say, you cheeky little runt!"

"You heard me, you lazy, lousy cockroach!"

"You're DEAD!"

"Oh YEAH!"

THWAK! THWAK! THWAK!

"If I hear ONE MORE WORD out of either of you, Hakkai is going to have two less whiny, greedy mouths to feed, you got that!"

"Yare yare…"

"Demo—"

"Urusei!"

"Geez, blondie, lighten up…"

"URU—"

Goku was woken up from his cozy, happy dreams by Hakkai shaking his shoulder frantically.

"Wha—?" the monkey mumbled crossly, letting out a huge yawn. "Whazza matter, Hakkai?" he croaked grumpily, sitting up and scratching his head.

"Genjo's gone!" Hakkai cried, wild-eyed.

"Eh?" Goku blinked owlishly, trying to clear the fog from his sleepy brain.

"Darn it, Goku, focus! Gojyo's gone too!" And Hakkai pointed at the second bed in the room, which was indeed empty.

"Shh!" Goku frowned up at him, glancing warningly at the sleeping Jien on the third cot.

"Get dressed, silly!" Hakkai hissed urgently. "Quick! And help me look for them!"

Goku raised his eyebrows pointedly at Hakkai, who was wearing pajamas himself.

Hakkai muttered under his breath before dashing off. "I swear, Goku, from all these years spent living with you I can quite understand the usefulness of the harisen that Sanzo always kept in handy…"

Outside, Hakkai explained that he had woken up to get a drink of water, and had stopped beside Genjo's bunkbed on the opposite side of the room, to check if the poor kid was having one of his constant nightmares from which he always woke sobbing pitifully. Hakkai had found an empty bed, gone to tell Goku, and nearly had a heart attack to discover that Gojyo was gone as well.

Goku yawned mightily as he padded along beside Hakkai, and they peeped in the various rooms where the other children were peacefully asleep. No Genjo. No Gojyo.

"Maybe they went out to finish their fight earlier?" Goku suggested, eager to get back to sleep and continue his dreams.

"Could be…" Hakkai said thoughtfully, as a search of the kitchen, the parlor and the living room failed to turn up two little rebels either. "If they're not out on the grounds, I don't know what we're going to do," Hakkai lamented despairingly. "Darn those two! They cause as much headache as they ever did before!"

"Yup. Only now we can punish them properly…" And Goku cackled hopefully.

"Yare yare… you're no better, either."

They had searched nearly all of the grounds when both of them suddenly froze at the sound of voices. Voices. Genjo was talking. It seemed like the two little boys were seated on the swings.

"And tomorrow we're gonna play Cowboys and Indians, and after that Pirates and a treasure hunt, then spaceship, and then we'll rescue the girls from the evil vampires, and then—" They heard Gojyo exclaim enthusiastically. "And I'll teach you to swordfight, and shoot with a sling, and climb trees, and—"

"Wait a minute," the formerly silent boy cut in; and the voice, though high-pitched and childish, was unmistakable. "Why do I have to do what you say?" Genjo asked imperiously. "Besides, I can already shoot very, very well with a sling…"

"Heh. Coz I SAY so, of course. And coz I'm the leader, that's why!"

"Says who, baka?"

"I do, dammit!"

Hakkai and Goku blinked in unison at the curse word. Goku whistled softly.

"'Ch."

"What's that stupid sound supposed to mean!" the young prince demanded hotly.

"That you're nothing but a silly little boy," came the cool reply.

This time Hakkai muffled a snort of laughter.

"Oh yeah! How old are you then, smarty pants?"

"Six."

Gojyo hooted. "Hah! I'm six too! So THERE!"

"'Ch."

"Quit saying that!"

"When's your birthday then?" Genjo inquired in a bored drawl.

"February 7, why?"

"Huh! See, I'm older than you. My birthday is December 25."

"So?"

"So count, baka. I'm a month OLDER."

"So?" came the perplexed reply again. "I don't get it…"

The little boys continued their all-important discussion, but Goku grabbed Hakkai's arm urgently at hearing Genjo's birth date. Hakkai had fondly shared with him a few facts about the sun, back in the early days when Sanzo was just gone from them. One of his favorites had always been that of the ancient pagan holiday of Sol Invictus, which fell on December 25: and coincided with the winter solstice – the time of the year when the sun returned and the days started getting longer.

"It's really him, Hakkai!" Goku cried in an ecstatic whisper. "Sanzo came back, just like I always said he would…" he murmured happily, feeling warm and comfortable all over, like everything was all right in the world again.

And then he grinned wickedly. "Now I can pay him back for all the gunshots and getting hit with the fan and—"

"Shh! Listen, Goku," Hakkai told him, even as he squeezed an arm around the monkey's shoulders. It had taken two hundred years, but the ikkou were together again. At last. Cautiously, they poked their heads the tiniest bit beyond the tree trunk they were hiding behind, and saw an adorable sight.

"Okay then!" Gojyo yawned, scratching his tummy absentmindedly. Apparently the blonde and the redhead had reached an amiable, if grudging, understanding. "I'm pretty much pooped out. Aren't you?"

Genjo yawned widely in answer.

The two little renegades sleepily settled down right there on the grass, with all the carefree abandon of children. Gojyo sprawled on his back, with his arms linked behind his head, and his ankles crossed. Genjo, after some hesitation, copied his form.

The drowsy purple eyes were just about to close, when the redhead poked him curiously on the side. "Oi. You're not gonna wake me up with your crying again, are you?"

Silence. And then a low, tearful reply. "I get nightmares, okay!" Genjo hissed fiercely, dashing off the confounded tears with a porcelain hand.

"Heh," Gojyo snorted in an easy, matter-of fact attitude. "You don't hafta be afraid anymore. I'm here, see?" And the redhead gently wiped off the tears from the beautiful violet eyes with his own sleeve. Touchingly (in the manner of little boys), he even held his sleeve up to the dainty, haughty little nose and ordered Genjo to "blow".

After they had settled back down, Gojyo turned on his side to stare seriously down into the doll-like face of the boy beside him, with an overpoweringly protective feeling that he didn't understand. "I really mean it, Genjo. We're friends forever, right?"

Genjo frowned in discomfort, and squirmed. "'Ch…" And then he met Gojyo's insistent, earnest gaze, before he sighed and blew on his bangs in embarrassed agreement. "Alright! Geez… Dammit… Quit staring at me already!"

"But you really are pretty," Gojyo told him seriously.

"Dammit, you want another box to the ears, is that it!"

After a while the two little boys fell asleep, side by side, and in each other's arms – for the night was chilly and they only had on their thin pajamas.

Hakkai and Goku stepped out from behind the tree. Goku wore an expression of suppressed, sublime, supreme joy, but Hakkai shook his head.

"There's one thing I'm determined to do this time around," the healer declared with a half-laugh at the innocently sweet picture that the two rebellious spirits made.

"Nani, Hakkai?" Goku asked, as they each picked up a sleeping little bundle and prepared to carry them off back into the warm house.

"I'll CURE them of this nasty swearing; and I'll make darn SURE that they don't ever start with their filthy smoking!" Hakkai promised grimly.

Goku nodded doubtfully. "Hmm. Good luck…?"


XxXxX

"Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end."

-owari-

XxXxX


A/N: Thank you for all the unabashedly heartfelt reviews for the Longing Arc – 'The Road Less Traveled', 'The Silent Path', and 'The Sunset Road'. (Please check out my replies to your comments over at my profiles page okay!) I know I said I was "sick of writing this sad shit"; but after all said and done when I'd finally typed 'owari' all I felt was depression… Heck – the whole damn 'trilogy' haunted me for three months! It was kinda sad to let it go, after all… That's why we have this little epilogue, literally, "The Unconquered Sun".

XxXxX

To The Reader At Parting

Walt Whitman

Now, dearest comrade, lift me to your face,

We must separate awhile – Here! Take from my lips this kiss.

Whoever you are, I give it especially to you;

So long! – And I hope we shall meet again.


Japanese mini-glossary

Bakazaru: stupid monkey

Erogappa: horny water imp

Youkai: demon

Urusei: shut up

Nani: What

Nappa: cabbage

Yare yare: Dear oh dear/Boy oh boy

Iie: No

Demo: but

Harisen: paper fan

Baka: moron/idiot/stupid