Chapter five: Whirl

As my gaze averts down, Doku charges at me with a speed I didn't know he possessed and clamps down on my throat. His eyes are dark though unsteady. He blames me doesn't he?

"How could you be so callous!? He was your comrade! You don't seem to care one fucking way or another!" His fingers squeeze and his nails constrict, causing blood to trickle down my neck. My gun drops to the ground as he lifts me up. By now, people are fleeing the market…I think I see Goku and Hakkai running. I grip onto his hand with both of mine, struggling to pry his fingers to allow me to breathe. I gag a bit; this really isn't fun. I don't have to wait long however, Goku strikes Doku with his staff and his grip on my neck releases automatically. I fall to the ground on my knees, gasping for breath. He looks down on me with disgust and who am I to suggest otherwise. I grab my gun.

"Leave Sanzo alone!" Goku rages, his golden eyes gleaming like the morning sun. "Just because of what happened to Gojyo doesn't mean you can just go crazy!" Goku blurts out and I straighten up, standing, studying Doku. I hope the minus wave doesn't affect youkai when in a weakened mental state…Doku could actually be going crazy. I look in his eyes, but they seemed focused on me. His sword hand trembling.

"My brother is dead, and Sanzo treats it like nothing at all! I want to know what happened to my brother!" He swings his sword through the air and points it at me. I am confused, what does he want me to do? Break down crying? Theatrics? I don't get it…maybe if he gets me blitzed like I was last night he will get some tears. But I don't want to cry. Crying doesn't do damn thing.

"A demon named Shirep killed your brother." Again, this was just as hard as admitting it the last time. "Shirep started a sandstorm and your brother got caught in it…we are going to kill the demon now. Come along if you wish, but if I hear another bullshit whine from you about my missing theatrics then you are kicked to the curb. I don't need anyone telling me how I should act." I spit out; I suddenly have all this anger again, how dare he accuse me of not caring? Who does he think he is?! Just because he was his brother…and Goku was pretty much adopted brothers with him…and Hakkai was a brother to him also…wait.

They were all brothers to him, each of these guys. I snort and turn towards Hakkai who is looking at me strangely. I don't fit in with these guys…they don't think I care enough because our bond…it wasn't solid. Fuck. I thought I got over this. I thought I finally gave myself a right to care about him. How can they try making me feel guilty for not outwardly showing my grief, while at the same time try making me feel guilty for caring for him at all….It's fucked up. I blame the kappa for this entirely.

"So, you haven't killed the demon yet?! How could the Sanzo-ikkou be so slack in killing some demon that killed their own comrade? If a demon killed Yaone or Liri—"Doku was cut off by a rather pissed looking Hakkai. My eyes widened, Hakkai's hands were glowing and his smile was a wicked, sneering grin.

"How dare you imply that we are incapable of taking care of things that deserve it! We didn't know a demon killed Gojyo until just a few moments ago. We thought it was a normal sandstorm. Dokugakuji, please tread lightly, your brash judgments will not go over well with me." Hakkai finishes, his eyes burning and Goku steps in.

"We were brothers too ya know!." Goku yells; his staff planted in front of him, daring Doku to repute the fact he boldly laid out on the table. Hakkai looks as if he could make Dokugakuji into swiss cheese by a mere flick of the wrist. Suddenly, I could just disappear from this whole conversation. They are all talking about a bond I simply didn't have…and….perhaps in the smallest part of my being, regret not having. I look down one of the main streets that head north and begin walking; ignoring frightened faces in the windows as my paces are even, well placed and solid.

Was what Gojyo and I had…anything compared to what these guys claim to have? Whatever was between Gojyo and I wasn't brotherly, if anything it was more…I cringe at the word…curious.

"Where do you think you're going you worthless excuse for a monk?!" I hear Doku yell from a distance and I draw my banishing gun. I have had far enough of his misdirected rage.

"Shut the fuck up and follow me if you want justice." I aim right at his purple demon mark splayed across his nose. I have lost every ounce of patience with this youkai; he thinks he owns the monopoly on grieving, like he deserves special treatment. I don't know if he does or not, but here in the desert, nothing is special. Everything is the same under the cooking sun. There is no correct food chain in the desert; there is no divine right to live. The power to have water, that is where the right to anything comes from and I don't see Doku producing anything but senseless sentences.

I hear Jeep transform and cruise up towards me; Hakkai is driving of course, in the back is Goku and Doku sitting far from each other as possible, with the large water sacs acting as a barrier between them. There are four water sacs…Hakkai's optimism impresses and scares me. I slide in my rightful seat and look up towards the sun that is already beginning to make me sweat even though it's early morning.

"I hope everyone is ready, because we are going to have a busy day." Hakkai almost chirps into the rear view mirror, to two irritable youkai in the back. I thought grief was supposed to unify people…why are we such a mess? I feel emerald eyes on me and I turn slightly to look at him. I am weary, but am completely up for the fight.

As we leave the village, we race past someone familiar, the first man I talked to about Shirep. His eyes are locked on mine, and he has a wheelbarrow filled with digging tools. Why do I suddenly feel like this is not going to go as planned? I stare ahead at the miserable sight of yellow brown nothingness, speckled and peaked with large dark craggy rocks. It's a most unusual desert. Like this desert wasn't really supposed to be here, that all of the sudden all this sand just fell from the sky. Maybe it was the god's form of a joke.

I tie a piece of cloth around my mouth to keep the dust out, it's windy, but it's not like yesterday. I can see, wiggling from the heat waves, the dim outline of something geometric, or once geometric. Those must be the ruins, the one that meathead was talking about. He better be right about this, usually I am not this brash about just going headlong into a full out assault on possibly faulty information…but, this situation is different than most.

Justice is at the end of all this….

Yet, this feels odd. Like we are missing something….and I look in my sideview mirror, like I normally do, expecting to see the usual crimson, but instead I see espresso brown. That is what we are missing. We are missing the water demon. I knew that already, obviously, but I can't shake the habits of looking back there and expecting something to be there. It got to be so natural, like nicotine in a cigarette, or having a sudoku puzzle in your newspaper. Second nature.

"How tough do you think this guy is? Huh?! I bet he is gonna be a piece of cake…I'm gonna squash him flat, over and over!" Goku's fervor for this attack is almost as much as mine, though I am not one to discuss how I'm going to disintegrate his whole body across this nasty brown yellow expanse. The dust is going to be the end of me, if the sun isn't first. I avoid looking in the mirrors, and other people's eyes as Jeep darts foreword, the ruins creeping ever closer

No sign of a sandstorm yet.

The sweat itches down my forehead and I swipe it away, as if it was more than just a slight nuisance. Demons, by nature, don't sweat as much as humans, their bodies retain water better so they maintain a more constant temperature. This demon is gonna get it; he has me sweaty and filthy out in the almost noonday sun. I can almost feel the anticipation creep into me. Still no sign of this Shirep. He is probably off stirring up more trouble, and killing more people. Pitiful.

"Move this thing faster Hakkai!" I hear Doku bark from behind me, his fingers tapping impatiently on the side of jeep. He really is losing it. Jeep is going fast. I turn and face him, eyes locking.

"Shut up." I state and sit back, rolling my eyes. We will get there at a pace I see fit, whether Kougaiji's pawn likes it or not. I stare at the almost straight horizon, waiting for something to come of this. Distantly I wonder if it will. None of this will change anything. Killing him won't make the odd feeling in the back of my mind disappear. Yet, not doing anything isn't enough. This is so pointless. I gaze sidelong out at the sand…all this, is absurd. I wish I never met these people. Everything would make more sense if I never met Go—

"I'm stopping here, let us go." Jeep slowed to a stop, jerking me out of my musings. I have more pressing things to ponder on now. I reveal my banishing gun as we approach the demolished structure. Huge tumbled and chipped blocks of sandstone are piled in disarray. Old wooden struts and support beams jutting out from the crumbling walls give the structure a skeletal shape. Colorless glass hangs listlessly from some of the frames, obviously they were once windows. Old clothing is strewn about…and upon closer inspection I find them to be child's clothing. Little pants, shoes, hats…strangest shit. A sign half buried in the ground, only shows a partial word "nage"

Then it hits me….this used to be an orphanage.

"Come out you sick, twisted freak! Come and face me! I'll slaughter you right here!" Doku yells at the structure, and in response he gets a small gust of wind. My eyes widen, so he is here. I ready my banishing gun. I want this to be over quickly, but the adrenaline pumping in my blood contradicts me. My whole body is on edge, and is strangely cold in this hot, dry environment. I feel like I could kill him with my bare hands…a strange sense of confidence and perhaps validation feeds this.

He will pay.

"Yeah! C'mon out you coward and show yourself! We know you are in there, don't make us go in and find you!" Goku yells; summoning his Nyoi Bo and crouching, like a jaguar ready to pounce. Hakkai is eerily calm, his fingertips glowing ever so slightly. His eyes are locked on the building, as if we don't exist next to him. If Hakkai will lose it if he takes off his limiters.

"Let's get this over with." A bit of wind surges around me, it coils and threads itself into the decrepit structure. It is almost how diabolical this power could be. And to think it purposely murdered him. It chose him. Why? Why him? Why not m…

My thoughts trail off when a figure appears out of a haze of dust. We all ready ourselves, anticipating the face of a vicious, sun worn creature that claimed the kappa. My gun is raised, and the safety is now unsafe. Six bullets are loaded in the chamber and I have plenty stowed in my robes. It's too windy for a cigarette, but if it wasn't I have my lighter carefully wrapped tight in Gojyo's bandana. I mean kappa's bandana.

The figure emerges from the dust, and all our jaws drop just slightly. My eyes widen just a bit. The figure stands about Goku's height, though much thinner, almost scarily so. His wild, long blonde hair ruffles in the wind. His gray eyes are large, round and childlike. That is because he is probably scarcely fifteen. His body is wracked with various scars, though his mouth is a thin, straight line. He has no weapon, his clothes are nothing but rags, and he regards us with an almost curious glance.

This demon is about as menacing as a bag full of kittens. There must be a mistake.

"Are you Shirep? The demon who is known for the sandstorms?" I bite out, my gun shaking out of anger. Who is this kid? And why is he here? His eyes alight in recognition and immediately turn narrow.

"Who wants ta know?!" He crosses his thin, wiry arms across his flat chest and scrunches his nose up. Goku's fighting stance is less apparent and Doku lowers his sword. Hakkai, however, conjures more ki in his fingers. My gun never leaves my target.

"Tell us now. Or your death will be painful." Hakkai interjects; though I can't say it was unexpected. His eyes have lost all sense of gray area, they see black and white. If I weren't me, I would be very afraid right now. But I'm not, I trust that Hakkai won't blow his gasket yet.

"I won't let ya kill me, you…ya weirdos! Doncha know you aren't supposed to come here?! I'm crazy! I'll blow everythin' away, right now, everythin' will be gone and so will you! I am Shirep, the sandstorm!" He has a heavy accent, as if this language was not native. His eyes sharpen and the dust erupts in a funnel, his limbs are trembling and his fangs glisten in his small mouth. His words though, are quite odd. No one who is crazy admits they are crazy. What is this kid after? The wind howls through the stone walls, and good thing i already tied fabric as a mask. I fire a single shot. It grazes his upper arm, and he seems a bit surprised.

Damn, that wind knocked my shot off, that was supposed to be his chest. Though, a small part of me is relieved to have missed. I sneer; though I have no idea why that small part of me exists. He killed the kappa. He has to pay. Justice.

"You killed my comrade! You killed Gojyo!" Hakkai launches volley after volley of ki blasts at Shirep who manages to deflect some of them with his wind, but one finds its mark on his lower left leg and he crashes to the sand. His gaze is dark; though a bit puzzled. He pushes a wall of sand towards us and I hit the ground instinctively, feeling the sand rush over me like many needles. The wind struggles to roll me over.

"I've killed a lot of those stupid tunnelers! So what?! They deserve their fate for what they did! Your friend deserved ta die for justice!" I lift my head up, Shirep is trying hard to increase his power, but his leg is bleeding heavily; Hakkai probably nicked an artery. I get to a kneeling position, bracing my arm against the wind. Goku besides me struggles to move foreword, using his Nyoi Bo as a cane to pull himself along the sand. Doku is also making progress, everyone honing in on this child who can barely keep us at bay with a wind attack.

"Gojyo wasn't a tunneler! He was in our Jeep, and you knocked him out of it you liar! You killed him on purpose! You wanted him to murder him!" Goku, in a fit of rage, flings himself at Shirep who barely manages to cycle a volley of wind and make Goku's body slap against the sandstone wall, making it give way. Goku lets out a yelp as a wall of sandstone blankets him. My eyes constrict. How dare he.

"Jeep?! I ain't no liar I didn't kill no outsider and neither did my dad!" He announces, tears streaming down his cheeks, which falters my rage. That explains it, this kid wasn't the one who created that monstrous sandstorm the other day; it was his father. Killing the boy would be revenge, not justice. I lower my gun and stare hard into the boy's eyes. The motion was hard, I want to see blood streak the sand badly. Hakkai, out of his trance of past Gonou, regains his composure and Doku stands in disbelief, still prepared to charge him. Seeing the rest stand down, the boy stands down relieved.

"Your dad is the real Shirep isn't he? He was the one who made the sandstorm yesterday." I growl and before the exhausted boy can properly respond, Doku uses every once of his training, rage and speed to capture the boy's throat with his sword before the boy can strike back properly.

"Gojyo was lost in that sandstorm. He had red hair. Why did you kill him?!" Hakkai yells; it's not just sweat running down his cheeks. The boy raises a few dust devils, but knows it's pointless to resist. His gray eyes lock on mine as the pile of fallen sandstone trembles and Goku claws out looking ok.

"Yeah. He did, and I was there too! I can make one too!" Doku presses his sword into the boy's neck and blood trickles down slightly. The dust devils cease. "My dad and I were fightin' ta tunnelers when some shiny contraption came through. A half-breed toppled over when my dad and I were fightin' ta tunnelers. Your friend and my dad fought when it left." So Gojyo put up a fight. It still doesn't sit well with me. I want to know what really happened.

"So. What happened next?!" Doku demanded and the boy's eyes clouded with tears.

"When ma dad and ya friend were scrappin, the tunnelers surrounded 'em. I tried to hold em off, but there were so many of those guys! They…they…took em down there. In ta tunnels. They almost got me, but I ran away, back here. They have ma dad and ya friend!" He yells and our entire group looks like a feather could knock us over.

Gojyo could still be alive.