A/N: NO idea where this came from. It's possibly the darkest thing I've ever written.
He counted, far more carefully than he did last time, because last time was all fury and blind desperation, and this time was only icy controlled despair.
There was blood on his green tunic, the one he hadn't worn in nearly a month now, exchanged for a black shirt that blood wouldn't show up on. Red, red blood like Gojyo was red in his mind, red for blood and passion and love and life. He was famous for being a neat freak, but this tunic was not washed, would never be washed. He wanted to wear it on the last day like a talisman, like a crest, like the knights he had heard of in the tales of his childhood.
A statement of intent.
There were fifty-two immediately after he saw the spear take Gojyo through the back, fifty-two wiped out in three chi blasts fuelled by horror. Fifty-two, faster than even Goku could have done, and then he was running, running to his side, but far too late.
There were ten the morning after. It was the first time he let go of Gojyo, and his arms were cramped from clutching so tightly all afternoon and evening and night. He thought he needed some exercise, and so he found the knife he used to cut vegetables with and killed them with that; sixty-two now, he thought, even if he didn't quite know what he was counting at the time.
The last one he left alive long enough to find out where the others were tailing them from, and he didn't tell Sanzo or Goku that he was going after them. He didn't have to; he called Hakuryuu to him with a snap of his fingers and stalked out of the clearing they had spent the night in. Goku tried to join him, but Sanzo stopped him with a harsh grip; Hakkai turned and nodded, and he thought Sanzo understood then, because there was clear realisation in his eyes, and more sorrow than the previous night had caused. He called out that he and Goku would finish the burial before Hakkai returned, but his voice added the if to that statement.
Hakkai didn't bother to make any farewells to the two that were left. The dead were not allowed such privileges.
Over the next week, there were two hundred.
Like hounds they had chased the four of them, and like a wolf he hunted them, hands and chi and anything else available. Somewhere along the line, he picked up a knife that he could grip just so, torn from a dying youkai's hand. It fit him now.
He moved west, faster than they ever had before. Driving longer hours, unimpeded by any attacks. Within two weeks, the news had spread, and everyone avoided his route, the youkai clearly aware that the apparent human with green eyes was a menace. So the next time he heard of a band of youkai, he slipped his limiters into a pocket and strolled in as one of them before he attacked.
The power was greater this time than it ever had been before. Two hundred this time, a whole town of them, his chi blasts more powerful than he could have imagined they could be. The inner limits he had established, the lines between Cho Hakkai and Cho Gonou, were erased, lost, annihilated in the cruellest form of déjà vu he could imagine. He felt more whole than he had in years. It was almost refreshing.
After that, the limiters stayed off.
There were strays on the way, when he bothered to notice them (and a part of him that still retained any sanity thought wryly that at least he had cleared the way for the other two), fifty or so, killed quickly and without relish. He had never enjoyed death. This was not retribution; it was simply a transaction, a price, a pound of flesh carved out of the world as repayment for the wrongs he had suffered.
By the time he reached the castle that was his ultimate destination (no, Sanzo's ultimate destination – for him, it was simply a convenience) there had been five hundred and fifty. He spent a night outside the town that had sprung up around the castle, and there he freed Hakuryuu, told him to go fetch the others. The little dragon peeped worriedly and took wing, and he watched the small white form disappear into the night, and knew solitude.
He entered with the dawn, and the day dissolved in a wash of blood, red everywhere like there had been red before. And there was no thought in his mind, not even of why he was doing this, or what he would do next, or anything at all except the metronomic rise of the dead in his mind, a steady ticking count of how many it had been, measured against how many there had been before; and a part of him questioned the before, because it only knew the present – still, a thousand had a certain significance for him, and it seemed an appropriate price for his death (whose death, he wondered).
He fought on, and the sun rose and fell, as did a red-haired prince (the wrong shade of red) who sought to defeat him. And the last he found, the last smell of life in a place of death, was the queen herself, swollen with her own power like a bee, and he snuffed her life out as easily as he could crush an ant beneath his feet, and when he savaged the giant lying in stasis, rendering it beyond aid or hope, it did not even count in his mind – it was only the last shred of whatever rationale had prompted him to seek out this place dying a slow death.
And then he stood, alone among the dead in the light of the setting sun, and pondered.
He had completed the thousand.
He had extracted his payment.
All was paid, all was complete.
And yet something was missing, something was wrong. In the formless tide of his thought, some disturbance lingered, some distortion. He had planned it so very carefully. What could have gone wrong? Why was he not satisfied? What price was left unpaid?
One more, he thought, desperate. One more before night fell. Just one more, and it would be enough.
But there was no one left alive. He was the only creature there who still breathed, as dead as he was, and the price was heavy on his shoulders.
He placed the knife carefully against the bloodstain on his tunic, red on red on red.
A thousand and one, he thought, and stabbed.