Gyokumen Koushu's expression registered little beyond an almost bored disdain for the handsome youkai kneeling before her, complete with entourage. Her gaze flickered to those behind him, narrowing slightly, but not so much as it might cause her pale white skin to wrinkle. Traveling with the confident, well dressed youkai were two obvious body guards... and one human. It was the human who caught and held her attention

The man was sitting on the floor, not kneeling first of all. He was rocking back and forth, one arm wrapped tightly around the knees held close to his chest while the other hand moved across the floor in random movements, like he was painting a picture on the slabs of smooth granite. His eyes were wide and blood shot, hair frazzled but cleanish, as if it had just been washed. There appeared to be bite marks and scratches all up and down his arms, more scratches covering his face and what she could see of his neck. His lips were moving, but nothing more than an incoherent murmur reached her ears.

"You begged an audience with me. Now what do you want?" she demanded, returning her cold gaze to the smiling face turned up to her.

"And I thank you most humbly for indulging me, my lady," he replied smoothly, his long pale hair nearly hitting the floor.

"The next time you use the word 'humble', you should do so without the cocky smirk."

"A thousand apologies, Lady Koushu. I thought perhaps I might be of some service to you."

Gyokumen Koushu very nearly rolled her eyes at this. "So says every insignificant minion that walks through that door," she answered. "What makes you any different?" She glanced back once again as the human began to edge closer to the youkai, fingers trailing across the floor toward his ankle. "And why did you bring that disgusting thing in here?"

The youkai's smile widened just enough to show the tips of his fangs. "To demonstrate my power," he said, moving his foot just a fraction of an inch away from the human, who whimpered. "Have you heard of the Toad Clan from the north?"

That earned him her undivided attention. "They were destroyed back when my dear lord was sealed away," she said slowly, her gaze now taking on a more interested light as she once again looked him over. The deep green-and brown speckled eyes were a trade mark of the Toad Clan. If only he weren't wearing such a high collar...

He seemed to know what she was looking for as he gently tugged the material away to show the slightly protruding glands in his neck. "Not all were destroyed, Lady Koushu. My name is Ankou, the last of those people."

"It was rumored that a single drop of the oil secreted by the Toad Clan was enough to drive a man insane."

Ankou finally had the decency to blush. "That, unfortunately, is a myth. It takes a little more than a drop, but the effect is the same. Once the oil comes in contact with the skin, the victim begins to experience a break down of their mental defences. Hallucinations, schizophrenia, unpredictable mood swings... most victims end up dying from the strain. The ones that managed to survive..." He looked over his shoulder at the whimpering mass of skin behind him.

"And you intend to do what, exactly? Make the entire Sanzo party go mad? And how long does it take to go into effect?"

"No, not all of them. Just Genjyo Sanzo. As for how long it takes...," he shrugged. "Sometimes a week, sometimes a month. But eventually, even the strongest willed person will fall to it. There is a cure for the madness, Lady Koushu. And only I know what it is. If Genjyo Sanzo wishes to survive, he'll hand over the Maten Sutra in exchange for this information. If he doesn't, he dies from his own insanity."

Gyokumen Koushu's lips curved upward slowly, forming a smile that made even her own guards shiver in fear. "You better hurry. I'm a very impatient woman."

Ankou answered her chill smile with one of his own before bowing his head and rising. His guards began to try and drag the cringing human away with them, each one taking an arm and still having a difficult time with the dead weight..

"Leave the human here. Since I'll be deprived of watching Genjyo Sanzo lose his mind, I want to enjoy imagining this creature is him. Make him beg for the antidote first. And once the Maten Sutra is in your possession... kill him."

"Of course, my lady. I'll bring you a full report back."

"Mmm... do that."


The Jeep skidded to a hault in front of about thirty youkai warriors. All of them were armed within an inch of their lives and looked like they'd been through hell and back again. Not the sort of people anyone would want to find blocking their path. Instead of looking afraid, however, the four occupants of the Jeep all wore the same, bored expression.

Gojyo smacked Goku's arm playfully to get his attention. "And that, Goku, is why you should never use the same pick-up line more than three times. After that, every dumb fuck in the bar's using it as well."

"Oooooh," Goku nodded, as if he understood exactly what the other man was saying.

"Gojyo, please don't corrupt Goku any further than Sanzo already has," Hakkai pleaded from the front, turning just enough with the seatbelt on to look at the red-head.

"I'm not doing a goddamn thing to him! He asked why I was coming up with new lines, and I told him."

"Are you implying I corrupted him?" Sanzo asked coldly, arms crossed over his chest and peeking at Hakkai from under his fringe of hair.

"Let's be honest, Sanzo. You're not exactly role model material."

"Hmph, you're one to talk!"

"So, how far until we get to eat, huh?" Goku asked impatiently, leaning forward to peer at the map. Not that he could really read it besides knowing the squiggly blue lines were rivers and the brown triangles were mountains. Other than that, he had no idea how Sanzo and Hakkai knew where they were going.

"Well, we got a little side tracked back here...," Hakkai began.

All of this was observed by the thirty youkai warriors, baffled as to how these four bastards, who were about to die, could continue on like they didn't even exist. Didn't they look ferocious enough? Didn't they have just the right amount of flashing fang and eye? Weren't they the very picture of terror with all their weapons and their threat to prepare to die? It was insulting to be treated like this!


All four looked up as one of the larger front line men took a menacing step closer. "Are you assholes ready to die or what?"

"Shit, he's as dumb as he looks," Gojyo commented, grinning and tossing a wink at the flustered soldier. Goku snickered from in back, but his eyes had become more serious and intent with the battle he knew wold be coming. If there was one thing guaranteed to get Goku's attention other than food, it was a whole lotta ass needing to be kicked!

"Gojyo, be nice. He truly meant to ask such a ridiculous question," Hakkai said, both scolding and insulting in the same breath.

"Dude, I'm with the monk on this. Fucker needs to not ask stupid questions!"

"Well..." Hakkai sighed, rubbing the back of his neck as if he were trying to find a way to justify it. Finally, he smiled and chuckled a bit. "You've got me on that one! It really wasn't the most intelligent question."

The big youkai blinked, mouth opening and closing a couple times without anything to say. These guys... What the hell did they have to be so cocky about? Growling low, teeth clenched tightly, he motioned over his shoulder and shouted, "GET 'EM!" The rest of his comrades surged forward, shouting fiercely and waving their weapons around. He, meanwhile, stayed a few paces back to watch the massacre. If they'd heard the same orders he had, they would have stayed back as well.

"Your mission is to isolate Genjyo Sanzo and keep the others from reaching him."

"Yes, Lady Koushu. And once he's isolated?"

"Then HE will step in and take care of the rest."

"And what of my men? I've heard the rumors."

"Your men are good for one thing only; cannon fodder."

"I understand, Lady Koushu."

Which is why he held back. He wasn't stupid. He wasn't going to let the last thing he'd see in this life be a human monk with a gun! There were always more soldiers to be drafted or bought. So, he waited and watched, eyes gleaming as the plan began to fall perfectly in place. Everything was just going perfect!

Hakkai moved easily to one side, grabbing onto the arm flailing behind the youkai and jerking hard as he pressed the heal of his hand between the shoulder blades. The sharp cracking of bones snapping free from their joints could be felt up his arm as the youkai fell screaming, trying to clutch his shattered arm. The next one that rushed him tripped over his foot, blood flying from his shattered nose as he fell right into Hakkai's open palm. Two more disintegrated from blasts of chi. He spun in a tight circle, eyes narrowed but lips smiling against the glare as he looked for more opponents.

Gojyo was surrounded, but for the red-head, that was a good thing. Screams came from his end as the shakujou chain rattled free, the blade arcing and glinting in the sun. A crowd was a very good thing for the messy weapon. He didn't need any help there.

Goku was shouting as he slammed his nyoi-bo into the ground hard, moving lightening quick to maneuver the heavy staff around and crush the face looming behind him. He swung back toward the front again, breaking knees, ribs and necks on six more youkai who barely had time to scream before they died. Hakkai should have known better than to assume Goku might need his aid. The boy was an army all by himself!

Lastly, he scanned the area for Sanzo, frowning when the obvious maneuver of isolating the monk became apparent. Sanzo must have been aware of the plot, but there was little he could do about it. Or, rather, there was little he chose to do about it. They'd all sensed the extremely powerful aura out of the group, the one that was anything but common youkai foot soldier aura. The army was basically there to distract them while this one actually tried to destroy them. Sanzo had more than likely placed himself in this position of vulnerability in order to draw the true Bad Guy out.

Hakkai's gaze slid away from the snarling, cussing monk firing off round after round of shots, reloading quickly to start firing again. There, moving forward with the easy confidence of someone who thinks they've already won, was the youkai putting off such prominent vibes. He glanced back at Sanzo just in time to see the monk whip around and begin to blast the five youkai coming up on his back. The look on his face said clearly that he knew the other one was behind him now, and that he was expecting a lot of pain for having to kill the lesser ones off first.

"SANZO!" Goku went down, tackled by seven or so youkai. Gojyo was still busy keeping anymore from joining in. And from where he stood, it was too close to Sanzo for him to use his chi. So, Hakkai did the only thing that came to mind.

He ran right between the youkai and Sanzo. There was a harsh sound, and something wet hit his face as he dove between the two men, hitting the ground shoulder first just in time for Sanzo to unload his gun right into the youkai's chest. The youkai screamed, eyes wide and disbelieving that he'd been defeated before he disintegrated into ash.

"Yo, Hakkai, you okay?" Gojyo called over, hefting his shakujou over his shoulder and lighting a cigarette. His crimson eyes looked over at the one remaining youkai, the commander of the army it seemed, who was quaking and whimpering. The front of his pants looked a little damp as well. Grinning mischievously, Gojyo took a quick step toward the terrified youkai. "Boo!"

The youkai screamed as if he were being killed and scrambled away, tripping as he went before disappearing back into the woods.

Chuckling at his prank, Gojyo strolled over to them as Goku gave Hakkai a hand up. "So, you good?"

"Yes, it appears so," Hakkai answered, fingering the thin, oily substance that the powerful youkai had spit directly into his eyes. The monocle had saved most of his bad eye from getting hit, but some had still dripped from his forehead down, and a little a dripped into his mouth as well, which he spit aside as the bitter fluid coated his tongue. "Other than this, at any rate."

"Ew... did that guy SPIT on you?" Goku asked, peering closely at the clearish substance. "That's so nasty! Why would he spit on you if he's gonna die?"

"Probably just to be rude," Hakkai muttered, looking around for something to wipe his hands off on. He settled for the nearest body, wiping his hands on the shirt before taking off his bandana, grimacing when he noticed the spit there as well. "Very rude," he amended. He had no idea anyone could collect that much saliva in their mouth so quickly. It was a good thing laundry needed to be done, or else he would have been rather more annoyed than he already was.

"You took that hit for the monk?" Gojyo questioned. Sanzo froze in stashing his gun back in his robes, violet eyes mere slits of contained malice. For now.

"I did," Hakkai replied.

Gojyo made a scoffing sound, flicking ash away irritably. "Yeah, the gods forbid His Holiness get defiled by a little spit! What, you can't handle your own fights now, Sanzo?"

Sanzo's glare intensified as he pointed his gun in Gojyo's direction. Gojyo cringed, eyes squeezed tightly in anticipation. He opened them again slowly when it never came. Instead of shooting, all Sanzo did was clench his teeth tighter and jam his gun back into the sleeve of his robe. "Let's go."

Everyone stared at him, surprised. "Um... you're not gonna shoot him?" Goku asked timidly.

For a brief second, Sanzo looked almost embarassed. "I'm out of bullets," he muttered. "And that was too stupid for the fan to have done any good."

"Haha, just admit you don't have the balls to ACTUALLY try and kill me," Gojyo taunted.

"Watch it, kappa, I can still banish your ass with two words."

That acted almost as quickly as a bullet or two to shut the red head up good.

Hakkai smiled and shook his head, glancing up when Hakuryuu cooed directly in front of him. "Just a little longer, little guy. We're almost to town, and I promise you a big meal once we get there."

"YAY! FOOD! Sanzo, can we eat first? Huh? Can we?" Goku piped up.

"No. Rooms first, shopping second, then food," Sanzo said firmly.

"But Saaanzo, I'm staaarving! I haven't eaten in forever!"

"Bullshit, I just fed you not even an hour ago."

"Yeah, but that was an HOUR AGO, an' I'm hungry NOW!"

Hakkai quirked a brow as Hakuryuu made a sound very close to a despairing chirp, which made him smile and laugh softly. Honestly, it was a miracle he still had most of his sanity some days. "If you don't mind, Hakuryuu?"

The little dragon fluttered away a few feet, glowing brightly shortly before he turned into his Jeep form. Everyone piled into their usual spots as Hakkai pushed into first, turned the wheel sharply... and began plowing down the forest path at break-neck speeds. All the while the two in back complained and Sanzo muttered something that sounded suspiciously like prayers for his own health and safety, Hakkai smiled brightly. And stepped on the gas.

Gojyo yelped when the paper fan went flying across the room and smacked him in the head. "OW! You goddamn dickwad! What the fuck was that for?" he shouted as Sanzo came storming over. The red-head quickly jerked to his feet and away from the irate monk as he scooped the paper fan back up... and held out a comb.

"You stupid bastard! You used my comb on your nasty hair," Sanzo snarled.

"Like hell I did! Anyway, you'll have to prove it first!"

Sanzo slammed the comb on the table top, jarring the mahjong tiles over. Hakkai and Goku both gave the arguing duo wide eyes before Hakkai began reshuffling the tiles once more. "There's fucking red hairs all over it!"

"So?" Gojyo insisted, tossing his still damp locks back.

"So? What the hell do you mean, 'so'? There's only person in this fucked up group with red hair and shit for brains!"

"I meant, so what if I used your comb? You stole my fucking shampoo!"

"Like hell I'd ever use that shit." Sanzo's voice was beginning to rise a bit as Gojyo continued to press his buttons.

"No, I used your shampoo, Gojyo," Hakkai quickly voiced, frowning at the two. "And I did ask permission to use it as well. Remember?"

Gojyo thought about it for a second, plucking his lower lip. Finally, he looked up with a pleased smile, wagging his finger in Hakkai's direction. "Oh, yeah... I remember now. It was 'cuz I used your shaving cream. Hehe... HEY! Who took my tiles?" His glare immediately pinpointed Goku, who was oblivious to it and digging into another slice of pizza. Two large pizza boxes were already on the floor next to him. "YOU took them, didn't you, you stupid monkey?"

"Wha...?" Goku squawked, a string of cheese hanging from his chin. He quickly sucked it back in, eyes wide and darting from Hakkai to Sanzo to Gojyo and back again. "What the hell's he talkin' about, Sanzo?"

"Goku didn't touch your damn tiles," Sanzo cut in sharply, reaching for a pack of cigarettes on the table and lighting up. "They got knocked over when you stole my comb."

"Excuse me?" Gojyo demanded, jaw dropping in surprise. "YOU knocked the fucking things over when you threw that goddamn comb on the table!"

"And I threw it on the table because you stole it!"

"And who the fuck said you could steal one of my smokes? You Buddhist prick, you even used MY lighter!"

Sanzo gave him a cool glare that said more clearly than words he didn't give two damns about the issue. "Consider it a payment for the use of my comb," he commented. "And you owe me a new one tomorrow."


Pinching the offending hair care product between his thumb and forefinger, Sanzo tossed it into the trash can by the door. "You don't seriously expect me to use it after you did. The gods only know what filth lives in that disgusting hair!"

"Why, you... Hakkai, aren't you gonna say something?"

"Are we ready to play mahjong?" Hakkai asked sweetly, giving Gojyo his most innocent smile. Now was as good a time as any to change the subject.

Gojyo growled in frustration, flopping down across from Sanzo while still glaring at the monk. If the kappa's rage effected him at all, it didn't show in the arrogant lines of his face. "Let's get this over with. I'm in the mood to kick some holy ass!"

"Hmph, go ahead and try it, you goddamn watersprite," Sanzo muttered, ashing in the tray next to Hakkai's elbow.

Hakkai finished jumbling the tiles before everyone started reaching in and drawing their share. Another minor scuffle broke out between Gojyo and Goku as they fought over the same tile piece, but Hakuryuu played peacemaker for that one, snatching the white tile from their hands and depositing it in Hakkai's pile with a delighted little coo.

"Why, thank you, Hakuryuu," Hakkai exclaimed overly politely, knowing two sets of eyes were boring holes in the little white dragon. He stroked the soft fur lining the arched white neck, smiling a little more when he felt the soft humming that was Hakuryuu's form of a purr along his fingertips. Hakuryuu settled across his shoulder, wrapping his tail firmly around Hakkai's neck before curling his own neck and head around to peer with curious red eyes at the tiles they had in their collection. The little dragon kyuued a question at him, looking up. He agreed with Hakuryuu. He didn't have much to play on here. Keeping the smile steady and his eyes bright, he waited for Sanzo to start them off.

Sanzo played his tile, reaching down for the beer on the floor. He snapped the tab on it, glancing his question at Hakkai.

"No, thanks. I'm good for now."

The monk shrugged, tipping the can back and grimacing. "Shit..."

"What's wrong with the beer?" Gojyo demanded, voice almost near panicked.

"Nothing. It's cheap-assed canned beer. And it's warm," Sanzo muttered.

Gojyo rolled his eyes before nodding his head toward Hakkai. "You mind grabbing me one?"

"Oh, certainly." Hakkai popped a can free, passing it over to the red head, who was now studying his tiles and what was played intently. "So... are you going out tonight, Gojyo?"

"Nah. Not much worth my time here. Hehe... eat that, monkey!"

Goku scowled thoughtfully, eyes scanning what Gojyo played before an irritated growl broke from his lips. "Aw, man!" Gojyo'd just tripled what Goku had put down right before him. The boy slumped down in his chair, glaring at the tiles like it was their fault.

"Besides, Hakkai, I'm not a man-whore who goes out everynight just for a quick fuck."

"I never implied it." Hakkai kept the smile steady even as he played his only option. It didn't increase the points, but it effectively blocked Sanzo from claiming much more. When offensive wasn't an option, defensive would have to suffice.

"That's the best you can do?" Sanzo sneered, looking at the tile like it was a stain on his robe.

Hakkai remained perfectly blank and smiling. He didn't want to let on that he had absolutely nothing worth playing.

Sanzo shook his head, stubbing out his cigarette. Gojyo snatched the ash tray away from him so he could light his own. "I want to get out of here early tomorrow."

"How early?" Hakkai questioned, mentally going over what needed to be done before they all went to bed.


"SIX? That's not early, that's TOO early," Gojyo complained.

"Then stay behind, what do I care?" The monk set his tile down firmly. Hakkai had to fight to keep the smile from slipping even slightly. Gojyo was a master at reading body language and would pick up on it. The tile Sanzo had just played doubled what he'd set down. It seemed everyone except him got the good pieces.

"Are we gonna have breakfast tomorrow, Hakkai?" Goku asked excitedly. "Cuz you KNOW I don't like gettin' up so early. An' pancakes would reeeally help!"

Hakkai laughed at the less-than-subtle hint. "I'm not sure about pancakes, but how would biscuits, eggs and bacon do?"

"Oh, that's cool, too. HA! How do ya like that, Gojyo?" Goku placed his piece on, grinning triumphantly.

"I like it just fine," Gojyo drawled, smirking as Goku's eyes widened a touch.

"WHAT? You've gotta be cheatin'! There's no way..."

"What do you mean, I'm cheating? Like hell I'd cheat when there's no money being played!"

"That's two in a row! TWO! Nobody gets that lucky!"

"I get lucky all the time, you scrawny bean-brained chimp!"

The argument raged on as Hakkai, Sanzo and Hakuryuu remained at the table. The vein in Sanzo's forehead was ready to burst at any minute. "Sanzo..." Hakkai cautioned, even though he knew it would be useless. Sanzo's temper rose in direct connection to the pitch of the voices arguing. And, seeing as Gojyo and Goku were both full out shouting in each other's faces, that meant Sanzo was teetering perilously on the edge of being irate and being homicidal.

"ENOUGH!" Goku and Gojyo quickly ducked as Sanzo began firing. "I've had it with your stupidity for one night! Just shut the hell up and go to bed!" The furious blonde stormed over to his own bed, flicking the sheets back sharply before stretching out on the creaking mattress. He gave his back to them and all was quiet except for the clock ticking and his teeth grinding.

Goku and Gojyo both slowly stood up, watching the monk's back in case he decided to sit up and shoot them anyway. Hakkai was already packing up the mahjong and cleaning off the table. "Dude... I thought for sure he was gonna kill you tonight," Gojyo whispered to Goku.

"Me?" Goku hissed angrily. "He was aimin' for you the whole time!"

"Bullshit, he was not!"

"Was too!"

"Was not!"

Hakkai ignored the whispered argument and very wisely stepped out of the way to start packing everything up. The other two clearly hadn't noticed the gun aimed blindly in the direction.


"The next time I pull this gun out tonight, I start aiming for real, got it?"

The icy threat was enough to send the two scurrying for their own beds. Hakkai continued to get everything ready for the morning as quietly as possible. He waited until everyone was breathing deeply and asleep before letting the smile slip completely from his face, sitting back on his knees with a heavy sigh. Hakuryuu landed on the floor next to him, making a concerned little sound. He didn't even try to fake a smile for the little dragon. Hakkai reached his hand out, palm up, to let the soft white head rub against his hand almost cat-like. It was a little soothing, but it did nothing for the splitting headache he'd had all afternoon. It had gotten to the point where the stabbing pain was starting to make him a little dizzy.

Sanzo had noticed it in the market place and slipped him a few of the migraine pills he had on him. Hakkai opened the pocket inside his tunic where he'd stored them, staring at the little blue capsules thoughtfully. They were prescription strength, and he didn't want to know if they were obtained through a licensced physician or someone peddling them. Sanzo said they would work... He popped them into his mouth, swallowing them down without the aid of water. God, he hoped they worked!

Hakkai finished with everything, cracking his neck a little as he went over to his bed. He settled in, marveling that the drugs worked so quickly as the headache retreated to a dull throb that was perhaps tolerable enough for him to get some sleep. He had just settled in when he felt a slight breeze brush over his cheek shortly before a small ball of warmth dropped onto the bed. His eyes opened slightly as Hakuryuu settled beside him, tucking his head under a folded wing and humming in pleasure as Hakkai rubbed along his spine languidly. Hakkai smiled to himself and settled back again, hand stilling against the small dragon's hide as sleep took him.

"But, Merciful Goddess, this is a terrible thing! This is a danger not only to the mission, but them as well!"

Kanzeon Bosatsu smiled languidly, head cocked on her fist. The leg crossed over the top of the other jiggled up and down, making the bracelets around her ankle chime softly. "It certainly is a danger for all involved," she mused, glancing out of the corner of her eye at her assistant. Jiroshin's forehead was dotted over with sweat. It couldn't be comfortable sweating with a mustache. Maybe if he shaved it...

"Then what are we going to do about it?" Jiroshin insisted, his eyes still wide and staring at the pool of water in horror. "We simply can't sit back on this! They have no true idea what exactly-,"

"Why, I'd almost think you liked the boys, Jiroshin. Aww... how cute!"

The body guard blinked before his cheeks turned a healthy rose shade at the implications of her joke. "I was only saying...," he began nervously.

She rolled her eyes, giving him a full out amused smile. "Relax, I was only kidding. You're too much a Boy Scout to ever swing that direction." There, that should placate him. Honestly, what was so hard about loosening up even just a teensy bit? It wasn't like she truly needed a body guard. Jiroshin took his job way too seriously somedays. Most days. Okay, every damn day. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate his loyalty to her, but... it couldn't be much fun. Just once she'd like to see him report to duty in something other than his armor.

Jiroshin's shoulders slumped in relief. He'd truly thought she was serious about that liking the boys comment? Good grief... "Then what are we going to do about this, my lady?" he repeated more firmly.

"Not a blessed thing," she drawled, closing her eyes. It was almost time for her afternoon massage. Hopefully it was Hal this time. He was the only one who could crack her back just right.

"WHAT? But... Merciful Goddess..."

"Besides, it's about time this little group found out which of them really is the dangerous one." Letting out a long breath, Kanzeon Bosatsu stood up, stretching her arms before her and yawning. Jiroshin fell into step behind her as she started to leave the courtyard, just as always. She looked back over her shoulder as they walked the halls for the massage parlor. "Jiroshin, I want you to come to work tomorrow in something else?"

Jiroshin's eyebrows drew together, confusion sweeping over his face. "I... don't quite understand your orders, Merciful Goddess."

"I mean, don't wear your armor. Just wear something comfortable."

"But... but I am comfortable, my lady," he replied in all seriousness.

"Bullshit. It can't be much fun serving me in all that." Her fingers flicked in the air, motioning up and down his military garb.

His fingers touched the leather armor. "This is my casual uniform, my lady. I'm afraid I don't have-,"

"No armor. Wear your pajamas for all I care. You DO have pajamas, don't you?" The thought that maybe Jiroshin slept in his gear had popped into her head briefly. She wouldn't put it passed him, either.

"I do, but-,"

"Then it's settled. Tomorrow is pajama day in my court. Make the announcement while I get my massage."

"Yes, Merciful Goddess," he replied with some reluctance.

Kanzeon Bosatsu quickly hid her grin behind her hair. If he was shocked now, wait until he discovered she slept naked!

The breakfast table was it's usual scene of chaos as Hakkai put down the last platter of food, watching with a content smile as it disappeared in record time. Fortunately for the other two, Sanzo hated breakfast and was content with just coffee. Even more fortunately for the other two, he'd opted for oatmeal over the eggs and bacon on the plate.

"Hey, what's different about the biscuits?" Gojyo asked around a mouthful of said food.

Goku scrunched his eyes up thoughtfully as he chewed, hand already reaching for another biscuit. "Cheese," he said, crumbs falling from his mouth onto the table. "There's cheese in 'em."

"Was it a bad idea?" Hakkai asked. They'd had all that cheddar cheese Goku had made him get that wasn't being used. He'd thought adding them to the biscuits was a good idea at the time.

"No, s'good," Gojyo said, grabbing the biscuit Goku had been about to take. "You should always make them like this."

"HEY! That's my biscuit!" Goku shouted.

"Are we really gonna start this early?" Gojyo questioned, shoving the boy back in his seat.

A soft click came from behind the newspaper. "No, you're not," Sanzo muttered before flipping to the next page. Neither one felt the need to take the argument any further. That click hadn't been from a lighter.

"So," Hakkai said into the silence following Sanzo's threat. "Did you have fun going out last night, Gojyo?"

Gojyo stopped halfway from putting an impromptu egg sandwich into his mouth. He and Goku exchanged glances. Even Sanzo lowered his paper enough to give Hakkai a baffled stare. Hakkai's smile faultered a little as he saw their confusion. Hakuryuu cheeped from his shoulder, red eyes flickering around the table in question. "Sorry, did we already discuss this?" he asked. He didn't think they had... but with the looks being directed at him, he was beginning to think that maybe they had.

"Um, no... because I didn't go out last night," Gojyo replied slowly, arching a brow as he continued to stare across the table. "Remember? We played mahjong right before this holy son of a bitch started whining about getting his beauty sleep?"

"But... I know I saw you leave," Hakkai insisted, glancing around the table himself. Even Goku was staring at him like he'd lost his mind. "You said not to wait up, that you didn't intend to finish before we had to go!" He knew he'd seen Gojyo leave. He could even describe what the red-head wore out that night!

"Unfortunately, the cocksucker's right," Sanzo added reluctantly. "His stench in the room kept me from sleeping all fucking night."

"Kiss my ass, monk!"

"I saw you," Hakkai interupted firmly before Sanzo could say anything else. "I remember Sanzo even saying to make sure you didn't return without his comb..."

"You were dreamin', Hakkai," Goku said cheerfully, licking his fingers as he grabbed more bacon. "Gojyo really WAS here all night."

"Like you'd know if he came or left," Sanzo sneered. "There could have been a youkai attack and you wouldn't have noticed a goddamn thing."

"That's not true! I'd wake up to kick some ass," the boy insisted.

"I'll believe that when I see it."

Hakkai sat back in his chair, mind going over the conversation he could have sworn took place. They all agreed that Gojyo had remained with them, so maybe it was a dream. A very realistic one. But it was just so odd... Shaking his head and putting the smile back on his face, Hakkai joined back into the conversation just in time to catch Sanzo beating Gojyo and Goku with his rolled up newspaper. "Sanzo, if you're going to kill them, please take it away from the table. It'd be a shame to get blood splatter all over the food."

The other two yelped as Sanzo shoved their chairs over, spilling them across the floor. "Better?" he asked sarcastically.

"Much better, thank you."

Gojyo and Goku stood and ran as Sanzo took a threatening step toward them. "We're going, we're going," Gojyo called over his shoulder. "Cigarettes and a lighter, got it!"

"And get my fucking comb, too, asshole!"