Why did it feel so difficult to open his eyes? He didn't even want to think about the pain that came with each and every breath, but the fact that he was struggling to open his eyes was really most disturbing. Hakkai's fingers curled into the sheet that was draped over him, the tell-tale roughness of medical gauze pulling on his skin. So… he was bandaged up. That meant their latest confrontation with assassins didn't progress very well.

Their opponents had been stronger than they'd anticipated and much better equipped than they were used to. As he recalled, they hadn't claimed to be Gyumaoh's assassins either. They'd said… who, what clan name had they given again? Well, he couldn't really remember seeing as they hadn't declared themselves until the battle was well on its way. Gojyo had accused them of working for Gyumaoh (actually if one wished to be technical about it, he'd called them 'lousy Houtu Castle fuck wads') which had then prompted them to reveal that they were not associated in anyway with the revival of the Demon King. All they'd been concerned about was a sanzo monk in their territory.

Hakkai tried once again to open his eyes and was met with a small success by the right one, though it was only enough for him to ascertain that it was daylight and that he was in a room of some kind. Unfortunately, it was his bad eye that was cooperating with him, so he couldn't tell if the blurriness to his vision was a result of that or perhaps some unknown swelling to his face. The last thing he remembered was gathering every scrap of chi he had left in him and releasing it in a massive burst intended to wipe the enemy out completely. After that… he wasn't sure what happened.

The sound of a door opening and closing made him tense up briefly before a young woman's voice said, "Oh, you're awake? Thank goodness! We were beginning to think they'd gotten you."

He heard the girl walk over to his side, the sound of a chair scraping across a wooden floor signifying she was preparing to sit next to him. "How long have I been unconscious?" he asked, his voice sounding far too rough to his own ears. Now that he thought about it, his throat was more than just a little sore.

"About three days," she replied. The sound of water being rung from a cloth heralded a warm rag dabbing carefully at his face, telling him that it was indeed swelling and not poor eyesight that made it difficult to see. "That young guy you're with just woke up yesterday. Poor thing… he's refusing to eat anything. And he keeps trying to leave his room, despite the fact that he's got one arm and leg that are somewhat working. I feel bad for it, but my dad finally had to lock him in the room to keep him from damaging himself any further."

"What about the other two?" The last he'd seen of Gojyo and Sanzo was when the redhead went diving into the pile of youkai that had jumped the monk once he'd run out of bullets. After that, all he'd caught were glimpses of crimson hair and flashes of the shaku-jou's blades before he'd been forced to deal with his own opponents once again. But Goku… to think these youkai had actually been strong enough to take out Goku was beyond shocking.

The girl's hand froze in cleaning his injuries, which was all the answer he needed. Hakkai's stomach gave a sickening lurch as a shudder ran down his spine. "I'm sorry," the girl said softly. "But all we found were you two."

"No bodies?' he asked hopefully.

"No, sorry. If your friends were taken captive by them, they'll be dead soon enough. Those demons… they're worse than monsters. Even before all the youkai started going crazy, they were vicious. The fact that you two are even alive is a miracle in itself."

Ignoring the fact that she said it was useless to hope for Gojyo and Sanzo's safety, Hakkai let out a relieved sigh and made an effort to smile. "Pardon me, but I don't believe I caught your name, miss."

"Oh, forgive me! My name is Heiyan. My father owns the best inn in the entire town." The last was said with a good amount of pride to it. "I'm one of the town's healers, too, so it comes in handy to have a dad with extra rooms when the clinic is full."

"Ah. Thank you very much for your kindness, Miss Heiyan. I'm sorry we've been such a burden for you."

"No, please don't think that," she exclaimed quickly. "It's really nothing at all! I'm just sorry our neighbors didn't warn you about the youkai that live on the mountain."

Hakkai chuckled and instantly regretted it as a burning pain flooded from his throat down his chest. "Actually, miss, we were informed of the youkai," he choked out while her hands began to examine his neck and chest carefully. "The mountains were the most direct way west… so we had to cross there."

"Y-You knew about the youkai?" she stammered, her hands pausing on his chest. He could feel the trembling in her fingertips, letting him know just how frightened she was of the mountain demons.

"Er… yes. Though, we hadn't heard they were that formidable. Do you know anything about them?"

Heiyan's breath came out as a soft hiss and the trembling in her hands increased ever so slightly. "Yes… I do," she whispered. "They're abilities lie in illusions and mind tricks. They can literally enter a person's mind and rework it anyway they want to. They can make a person forget who they were, poison their sleep with violent dreams, paralyze them with frightening images. It's one of the reasons we don't ever leave the village at night. That's when they're at their strongest. They call themselves the Akumu Clan."

"I see. Please forgive me for saying this but… it seems to me like you've had experience with the Akumu before?"

He could barely see her, but he could tell she'd gone rigid with the question. "My mother," she whispered, and that was all he needed to hear. Hakkai sighed and raised a heavily wrapped hand to place on her own as his own memories surfaced. He knew too well what it was like to lose a loved one to violence.

"I'm very sorry, Miss Heiyan," he said quietly. "I shouldn't have pried like that."

"No, no. It's fine, really," she said with a laugh. Despite the show of cheerfulness, he could tell he'd made her cry. He hadn't meant to do that. Like his missing counterpart, there was nothing worse than making a kind hearted woman cry. "This happened years ago, so it's really very foolish to be crying about it still."

"I don't think it's foolish at all. Missing someone you love just reaffirms that they lived to begin with."

This time when she laughed, it was more genuine sounding, which brought about a smile on his face. "I suppose so. My dad keeps telling me it's pointless to keep crying over it but… what had happened to her…"

Hakkai squeezed her hand gently to let her know he understood exactly what she was saying. "Well, thank you again for saving us. I don't think either Goku or myself would have survived if it weren't for you."

"Oh… you're welcome," Heiyan said softly as she pulled her hand away from him. Hakkai winced when slipped her arm behind his back and began pushing to help him sit up. "I'm sorry to make you do this, but I need to change your bandages and check how your eyes are doing."

"Ah, so that's why I can't see much of anything," he laughed, relief flooding through him that it was only because of the gauze and not something much worse.

Heiyan laughed with him as she fixed the pillows supporting his back to a more comfortable position. "Well… partially. You must have met one of the Akumu's gazes during your struggle. That's how they get into their victim's heads, you know. Through eye contact."

"Isn't it said that the eyes are the window to the soul?" he mused, tilting his head forward to give her better access to the bandages wrapped around the upper portion of his face. He must have been worse off than he'd thought if he couldn't tell it was gauze clouding his vision and not facial swelling.

She laughed again as she continued unwrapping his eyes. Each new layer removed revealed more and more detail to his vision. "I've heard of that. Still… it's amazing you weren't taken over by their powers. I thought only other youkai could fight them off."

Hakkai forced himself to remain still and not react to her words. Given her obvious fear of the Akumu, it was logical to assume she would be terrified to discover that he was, in fact, a youkai himself. The last thing he wanted to do was terrify an already traumatized girl. "Perhaps I'm just lucky this time around," he murmured.

"Yeah, I'd say you both are," she agreed as she peeled off the last layer of gauze and sat back. "And I can't get over how quickly you're both healing either! It's remarkable."

Hakkai smiled as he ventured to open his eyes again. The sunlight filtering into the room was almost painfully bright through the narrow slits his eyelids formed, but it felt more like an extreme hangover than anything else. It gave him a headache to do it, but he slowly managed to open his eyes fully, blinking in an effort to try and focus his vision a little better.

"Oh, my… I had no idea you had such beautiful eyes," Heiyan gasped, one hand covering her mouth as if she were making a late effort to stop those words from coming out.

Warmth touched his cheeks at the compliment as his fingers picked at the sheets uncomfortably. "Well… they were wrapped up until just now," he supplied with a nervous laugh.

"I shouldn't have said that. It's made you uncomfortable, hasn't it? Please, forgive me."

"No, it's quite alright! Really. It was just a little surprising," Hakkai laughed, waving away her apologies. Now that he could see her a little better, she was actually rather cute. She looked to be about Goku's age with short hair that could have passed for blonde or brunette depending on the light. Her eyes were wide and dark, bringing attention to the freckles scattered across her cheeks. It only helped to emphasize how young she was.

Heiyan offered a timid smile as she tucked a piece of her short hair behind her ear. "I just wasn't expecting them to be green is all. I couldn't see because of the swelling on your face."

"Ah, I suppose that's to be expected when one gets punched a few dozen times," he laughed, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. He stopped when his palm began to ache painfully, causing him to frown as he studied the bandaged appendage. In fact…both his hands were wrapped pretty securely. "What happened here?"

"I'm not really sure how it happened, but your hands were burned pretty good," she explained, reaching for the hand closest to her in order to unwrap it as well.

Hakkai's frown became even deeper at this. It seemed that his last ditched effort to blast their opponents with chi had resulted in him burning his own flesh. Interesting. And painful! He sucked in a sharp breath as she began to peel the final layer off of his raw palm. Some of the gauze was clinging to the wound, which was seeping a clear fluid. While it was good that his hands were trying to heal themselves, it made the process of removing bandages exceptionally uncomfortable.

"I know it's terrible to ask you for one more favor, but would you mind keeping an eye out for a small, white dragon or a green Jeep?"

Heiyan laughed, her nose crinkling a little as she did so. "Oh, so he's your dragon, huh? We were wondering where he'd come from when we spotted him sitting outside the window ledge the other day."

Hakkai sighed with relief, his shoulders sagging heavily as that burden was lifted off of them. He'd truly hoped Hakuryuu had escaped from the fight in one piece. "Thank goodness," he murmured before turning to look out the window in hopes of seeing his familiar white hide.

"Oh, he's not here at the moment! Sorry, but it seems like after he was certain you would be alright he decided to go off for a bit. He's been returning in the evenings for the food scraps we left out, but we haven't seen much of him during the daylight hours."

While he didn't understand dragon, his gut was telling him that Hakuryuu was out searching for their missing comrades. It made him smile despite his injuries and his own concern for the fact that Sanzo and Gojyo were nowhere to be found. At least someone in their group was being proactive in solving the mystery surrounding their disappearance.

"Miss Heiyan, I was curious… you implied earlier that the Akumu Clan don't normally take hostages. Is there any reason you can think of that they would change their minds about that?"

Heiyan's cheerful smile faded into a look of deep sorrow as her fingers curled into the blankets spread across him. Hakkai really hated dragging up the unpleasant memories the poor girl was obviously trying to get over, but it was important to understand the motives behind why his two companions would have been taken alive to begin with. Heiyan closed her eyes, but not before Hakkai caught the thin glitter of a tear drop threatening to fall down her freckled cheek. He would have given her hands a gentle, reassuring squeeze were they not so tender still.

"The Akumu are all about cruelty and profit," she whispered slowly. "Unless your friends are valuable, the only reason they would still be alive is for the Akumu to torture for their own pleasure."

Hakkai laughed softly as all of his fears were lifted with her words. Heiyan's wide, shocked eyes fell on him, her jaw hanging open as he murmured, "Then there's no reason to fear for them." While it wasn't as good as actually having them there, at least the assurance that they wouldn't be killed any time soon. The fact that he and Goku now had time to heal and plan their attack on the Akumu stronghold was nothing short of miraculous. Sighing, he lay back carefully against the bed and let his eyes fall shut. "Thank you, Miss Heiyan, for your kindness toward us. I promise we won't be a burden to you for longer than it takes to get back on our feet."

The bed shifted as Heiyan rose, adjusting the blanket around him almost hesitantly. "I-I'll come by later with some food," she said softly, her words tinged with worry. "Maybe once you've rested a little more it'll all sink in better."

Sanzo's teeth gnashed together hard enough he swore he could feel the bones in his jaw crack as he was thrown down and across the rough rock floor of… wherever the hell he was. All he really remembered from the fight were the youkai coming in wave upon wave from the mountain forest. He'd run out of bullets and had grabbed the nearest weapon to him, which turned out to be a dead demon's sword. He hadn't lasted much longer after that, despite the fact that he'd done a pretty damn good job of hacking his way toward Gojyo. The two of them had found themselves ringed in by youkai all around them, the redhead favoring one leg with blood dripping down half his face from a gash in his hair line while Sanzo could no longer feel his right arm and had to concentrate really hard on ignoring the agony that was his ribcage.

After that… all he remembered were meeting the eyes of the youkai coming in on his left and then waking up in a cell with his hands chained over his head, stripped down to his jeans… and without the sutra. That had sent him into a blind fury, one that had resulted in him slicing his wrists to the point of being raw and bloody on the metal cuffs. It had also pissed off the guards outside. They'd come in and begun to lay into him… until a savage kick from his unnoticed cellmate caught one of the guards hard in the back.

Gojyo, acting stupid as always, had opened his big mouth and started hurling insults like they were going out of style at the guards, which had drawn their attention away from Sanzo and onto himself. His ridiculous act of chivalry made Sanzo wish he hadn't lost his gun somewhere in the battle field. Now, instead of one of them being in fairly good condition, they were both fucked up. So much for any sort of escape plan.

He was back in that cell again, his hands chained in front of him and his entire body sore from the recent round of beatings. This time, however, the bruising was accompanied by an interrogation by the leader of the youkai. While it hadn't been very useful to them (seeing as he refused to answer any of their questions), he'd actually learned quite a bit from the questions being asked.

Like the fact that these guys had nothing to do with the revival of Gyumaoh.

And that they were smarter than the average bunch.

Their leader, a tall guy with the build of someone who had studied martial arts, had remained calm while he'd told them to go fuck themselves. It was obvious that, though he didn't fully understand the power of the Maten Sutra, he knew it was not only important to Houtu Castle but to Sanzo as well. The one guard who had handled the sutra with about as much reverence as used toilet paper had been killed instantly… which also told Sanzo the leader wasn't one to be messed with lightly.

Sanzo grimaced as he pushed himself up into a sitting position, sucking in a sharp hiss of breath as his sore back came into contact with the damn stone walls of the cell. He scanned the shadows through narrowed eyes for Gojyo, but there was no sign of the redhead anywhere. Hn… probably off being interrogated as well. Sanzo pressed a hand to his chest as a sudden stab of pain lanced through him, frowning when he didn't notice any tenderness to the skin at all. Weird… but not unusual. Phantom pains weren't uncommon when the entire body was under assault.

Even though he knew there wasn't a point in doing it, he began examining the cuffs on his wrists for what felt like the five millionth time for a weakness or any way they could come off. Why he expected this time to be different was anyone's guess. A wince flickered across his face at another abrupt flash of pain, this time from the area round his hip. Ignoring it and giving up on his chains, he sat back and closed his eyes in the hopes of meditating some of his agitation away.

It had been harder than usual this time around to keep cussing his captors out soundly. Common sense dictated that the more balls he flung in their faces, the more severe the beatings would be. They were bad enough as it was with him keeping his mouth shut, he didn't need to goad them into doing a better job of it. Maybe it was just him being sick, but he'd actually discovered that meditating during the beatings helped to keep from recognizing the pain. It didn't matter what chant he recited, either, just so long as it removed him from the situation.

This time, however… he didn't know what had changed. At least six different times he'd wanted to shout suggestions on the different ways they could fuck their mothers. There were another thirteen times where he'd felt the urge to moan obscenely and tell them to do it harder, which was completely unlike anything he would have thought under normal circumstances. Those thirteen times he blamed entirely on the fact that he was around Gojyo nonstop. Great… perversion was a disease. Knowing his rotten luck, stupidity would prove so, too.

Sanzo took a deep breath and released it slowly, forcing his shoulders to relax against the rocks in preparation of entering a calm, removed state. He wasn't part of this. He was above it all. The pain was meaningless, he could simply let it go…

Those raging mutherfuckers.

No… calm. Muichimotsu. Hold nothing, that's what he was doing. Not holding onto what was happening. Not holding onto the rage or pain. He was empty. He was…

Going to kill those dick sucking bastards the first chance he got.

Snarling, Sanzo thunked his head back against the stones hard enough that it made him see spots. This was so utterly ridiculous! How many situations had he been in before this and kept his cool? How many times had he been beaten to hell and back again and gotten through it simply by placing himself apart from what was happening? And now, the one time that trick would really come in handy, he was acting like that hot headed fuck-tard that was named Sha Gojyo.

As if on cue, the door to their cell was jerked open and a barely conscious mass of bruised flesh and blood was flung to the ground. "You're lucky, you punk-assed half breed fucker," one of the guards snarled from the doorway. Fury was twisting his features, making him look more monstrous than usual. "You ever say somethin' like that about my mom again and I'll fucking rip your goddamn ass to pieces!"

The door slammed shut and locked again before Gojyo could even get a reply together. Not that the kappa looked capable of it anyway. He was barely twitching on the floor, having not moved from where he'd been dumped. Sanzo made his way over to the taller man, grumbling under his breath, "How'd I know you'd say some crap about their mothers?"

"'Cause you know I can't my damn mouth shut," Gojyo mumbled, coughing harshly before spitting a wad of blood and mucus to the dirty ground. "Damn… Either I'm getting used to this shit or it these guys aren't hitting as hard as they were. It didn't hurt as much this time around."

Snorting to himself as Sanzo rolled Gojyo over onto his stomach, he said as he checked the other man's pulse, "Funny, I thought this kind of crap was right up your alley."

A choked chuckle quickly turned into a pained hiss as Gojyo tried pushing himself onto his hands and knees. "Only under the right context. Big, burly dudes laying a whip on my back is soooo not my idea of a good time. Now, if they were chicks with huge tits, then maybe I'd be enjoying our vacation a little more."


"Tight ass."

Sanzo made damned sure his bare foot kicked Gojyo's shoulder as he crawled back to his former position against the wall, a satisfied smirk twisting his lips at the hissed out cussing from his cellmate. If he had to sit there much longer and listen to Gojyo's perverted mouth, he was going to kill the kappa in his sleep. That is, if their tormentors didn't beat them to it first.

A harsh, sarcastic laugh from said kappa made Sanzo arch a brow and glance his way disdainfully. "What?"

Gojyo managed to roll himself over onto his back, which really wasn't a good idea if he was spitting up blood. As much as he hated the redhead's company, he didn't want him drowning in his own blood. "As if I'd let the fucking pansies kill me," Gojyo sneered, giving Sanzo a cocky glare for added emphasis.

Both eyebrows rose now before Sanzo shook his head and muttered, "Whatever." Why Gojyo had felt the need to bother saying that was beyond him.

"Hey, don't 'whatever' me, you holy prick! You're the one talking about killing me in my sleep!" the other snapped angrily.

That got Sanzo's full and out right attention. Had Gojyo serious just asked… No. There was no freaking way Gojyo had known he was thinking that. It was just a coincidence, or the fact that they'd been spending too much time together. Sighing and leaning back to close his eyes and catch what little sleep he could manage, he said, "You've got it all wrong, Gojyo. If I kill you, I want to do it while you're alive so I can hear you scream."

"You are one sadistic bastard, Genjyo Sanzo," Gojyo drawled back nastily. Sanzo's response was a smirk and one fingered salute.

Author's Note: Soooo… first chapter of the gift fic I promised to ZabJade! Hope you like it, love. Expect updates for this roughly every two weeks unless otherwise noted. Such as when I go on vacation in three weeks. Cheers, mates, and thanks for reading!