Ficcage. Finally finished. Written for the LJ community 25streetsigns.

Title: Involvement
Author/Artist: arsenic-graffiti
Fandom: Saiyuki
Pairing/Character: Nii Jienyi
Theme: #25 - Paved
Rating: G
Summary: Nii gets employed.

Disclaimer: Saiyuki belongs to Kazuya Minekura.
Warnings: Spoilers for the Burial arc and (possibly inaccurate) time period estimations.

Thanks to hibiemi for essentially beta-ing this fic and to itsplashes for giving feedback.

Crossposted elsewhere.


Involvement

To Ukoku, Gyoukumen's involvement with Koumyou's death was an unexpected surprise. Unexpected, but not unwelcome - it was rather convenient, really. He had, after all, been wondering why the sutras were targeted. Now, two years after the attack of Kinzan temple, the answers were literally laid out before him. They were all neatly stated and carefully worded in the contract written with enchanted ink. The agreement was magically binding; those who went directly against it would die instantly.

The scientist appreciated the challenge this potential threat presented. He was already thinking of possible ways on how to get around it.

A slender and well-manicured finger tapped the edge of the parchment. "What's your answer?"

He looked up at the hand's owner. Her youthful face, he thought idly, would wrinkle easily if she kept up that brisk and strict attitude of hers. He could already see traces of faint lines on her forehead... but that could just be his imagination.

"Well?" Dr. Huang asked, keeping one hand on the contract and the other on her hip. She restrained herself from tapping her foot impatiently. "Gyoukumen-sama doesn't wait for others, Nii-hakase. This is the fourth time I've had to draw up a contract to satisfy both you and my employer. It's remarkable that she hasn't sent one of her assassins to kill you for your insolence. Please, make up your mind."

Nii Jienyi - he changed his name soon after leaving the temple - tapped his chin thoughtfully as he went over the contract again. This was a marked improvement from the first one, which demanded that he concentrate all his energies on the revival project. Now, not only did he have the time to play around, he would get paid for it. After all, as he reasoned to Huang during their previous meeting, it was possible that he might discover something new and useful while he experimented; important scientific breakthroughs, such as penicillin and vaccination, were discovered through serendipity. Yes, this one gave him enough room to explore his interests. It also guaranteed more than sufficient funding, virtually unlimited test subjects, and large information resources.

However, one thing was still missing.

"Shall I now negotiate for paid holidays?"

Predictably, Huang exhaled in frustration and stormed out of the room, firmly shutting the wooden door behind her. Nii chuckled. Oh, he was going to enjoy his new job. While re-reading his old books was a passable activity, it got boring after a while. It would be a pity to die of stagnation at this point; his game with Koumyou was just beginning.

As he got up from the black swivel chair he was sitting on and stretched his slightly stiff limbs, he began to mentally list the things he would bring with him to Tenjiku. It was time to move on.

qpqpqpqp

A fortnight later, Nii took his first steps in Houtou castle to meet his employer. The set-up amused him; the position of Gyoukumen's throne on a highly-raised platform was meant to intimidate. The machine behind her that housed her lover's corpse added to that effect.

It was readily apparent that Gyoukumen was a vain, self-centered creature. The way she held herself displayed her tendency to overpower others. Her posture on that throne, cross-legged and laid-back, indicated that she was very comfortable with her high standing. However, she could still be influenced with careful maneuvering. He mentally noted that for future reference.

She imperiously extended a hand with well-manicured claws. "Come here, Nii."

Nii smiled inwardly as he ascended up the platform steps, his eyes hidden from view by the glare of electric lamps reflected on his square eyeglasses. "Hai, Gyoukumen-sama."

He noted that, from the platform, those standing below were very much exposed to the light coming from above. It was also easier to see them from the shadows, where the contrast sharpened one's focus.

A clawed hand grasping his throat distracted him from his thoughts. He allowed Gyoukumen to inspect his face. There was a small 'pop!' that echoed throughout the vast chamber when the demon twisted his head to their audience.

"Stiff neck, I see," she murmured to herself before setting her hand down on the armrest. Then, in a loud voice: "I take it that you find the details of our arrangement satisfying?"

The scientist pushed his eyeglasses up his nose. Again, the artificial lighting glinted on it. "Of course. You are most generous to accommodate, Gyoukumen-sama."

Gyoukumen propped her chin on her knuckles and eyed him in amusement. "Ah, but it is worth it. You are, after all, a most reputable scientist. I have seen your work, and trust that you will produce more than satisfactory results."

Nii bowed. It was not shallow enough to be perceived as an insult, nor was it low enough to make the impression that he was some simpering fool. It was designed to express the humility that both he and his employer knew he did not have. "I am but a lowly scientist; I merely report what is in existence."

Gyoukumen laughed. "How charming." She then turned to the other two who were standing in front of the platform - Huang, and an old youkai wearing goggles. "Both of you, this man will be the heading the revival project."

The scientist bowed again. "Thank you, Gyoukumen-sama, for honoring me with this task. I look forward to working with you and with my colleagues."

Gyoukumen laughed again and languidly sent him off. "I'm sure you are. Go, now - and I expect an evaluation of the facilities by next week!"

A third bow, and Nii descended the steps. His face, this time, was hidden in shadow. In his mind's eye, he saw a puppeteer setting the stage for his next presentation. Even the most regal character in such a play was influenced by the prodding of a hidden controller. Soon enough, the puppeteer would start tying the strings on his toys.

He hummed a tuneless song, even as Huang lead him through a metal doorway that lead to the laboratories and the offices. It would be a long time before the preparations would be complete, but he was a very patient man. Besides, there were things other than this project to keep him busy.

He didn't fail to notice Huang's stiffness when Gyoukumen ordered him to go to her. The changes in her body language were slight - like the fisting of her left hand in the lab coat pocket it was in - and they wouldn't be noticable from the distance unless attention was focused on them. He found it interesting that she seemed to become more agitated with the increase of his and Gyoukumen's skin contact. It was a direct proportion. He wondered what could have caused it. A discreet analysis of the scientist in front of him showed that she was still a bit rigid compared to her earlier movements when she guided Nii to the throne room.

"Naa, Huang-hakase, does my appointment distress you greatly?"

"What do you mean?" came the biting reply.

"Well..." Nii scratched the back of his head, carefully constructing his next sentence. "You seem rather agitated right now. Is there anything I can help you with?"

"It's nothing." The clip-clop of her heels quickened a bit.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, doctor, I am sure."

"Are you really, really sure?"

"Yes."

"Are you really, really, really sure?"

"Argh!" She stomped off in the direction of the first lab.

Beside Nii, the old youkai chuckled. "Don't mind her temper. I noticed that she always gets riled up if anyone apart from the servants and the royal family stand in close proximity to Gyoukumen-sama."

Nii blinked and pushed up his glasses. Oh. "I see," he murmured. A while later, an amused smirk was on his face.

Well. Now, there was one way of alleviating boredom.

-end-