Chapter Eleven

The Little Differences

"This sucks," Gojyo pronounced with certainty, looking around as they all made their way down the corridor.

They were in some kind of ornate hallway. It was top-notch fancy and there were columns and everything. And a lot of red coloring too. Made him nervous about dropping cigarette ash. Their arrival had gone completely unnoticed, which was probably to be expected. After all, this was the inside of the monkey's head. Still… Gojyo wasn't entirely clear on the place. After he had walked though that gateway thing he had just materialized into this place. Honestly, he had been expecting more. Maybe some kind of dramatic wind or some terrifying memory or maybe Homura back from the dead or… something. He was disappointed with Goku's head.

And there was that. Was it Goku's head? Or was it his past? Or was it both? So were they actually in danger here? Could anyone actually see them here? Really now, he would have loved to just plop down for about forty-five minutes and hear Hakkai's theories, because the man was full of theories on this sort of stuff. Hakkai would have been a therapist in another life. He just loved screwing with people's heads. And this trail of thought wasn't calming Gojyo down at all. Nor was the fact that Hakkai had stopped short.

Gojyo stopped short.

When Hakkai stopped short, believe you me, you stopped short.

Gojyo held out an arm to stop Sanzo. The man plowed right on through it. "Sanzo, hold up." He fastened an arm on the monk's robes. Sanzo was about to growl something in return when Hakkai silenced both of them with a curt "Ssh." Sanzo looked from Gojyo to Hakkai and Gojyo felt the monk's shoulder slacken under his grip. Good. He was going to behave. Maybe.

Just as there was a leadership ranking in the Sanzo Party – though, when push came to shove, they were all on equal footing anyway – so there was also a ranking of sense. Sound. Smell. Sight. Etc.

Goku held highest ranking there, no competition. When Goku went on edge, they all went on edge. They followed his lead. He was their golden eyes in the dark. He could hear an ambush before anyone else. Could see further than even Hakuryu. He could smell blood more acutely than any of them. Now, without Goku, Hakkai was runner up, and it was his youkai senses Gojyo and Sanzo were following now. Problem was, Sanzo just couldn't help disliking orders. Goku was one thing. Hell, could you really hate orders when they came from the other half of yourself? Hakkai, however…

Well, Sanzo was just going to have to get used it it. At least until they got their monkey back.

"What do you hear?" Gojyo rasped. His throat was dry. He needed a drink.

"Two of them," Hakkai almost mouthed back.

Gojyo sensed there was more. "…And?"

"They know we're here."

Gojyo's grip on Sanzo's shoulder unclenched. They dispersed. No orders. No plan. They all knew the plan. He and Hakkai were going to take these losers down. Sanzo wasn't going to wait for them.

Ah, the teamwork.

Kenren stiffened when he heard Tenpou's murmur from just around the corner and down the hall. "They know we're here."

Damn. Then these guys were good. Kenren resisted rolling his eyes. He shouldn't be getting into these messes anymore. He was a freakin' memory in a monkey's head. Not even! He was some kind of a… figment! A conscience, god help Goku. He really shouldn't be crouching here, ready to jump around the corner like a three year old, about to get himself into another mess.

Kenren smirked. He always had loved that word. Shouldn't.

Footsteps. Three pairs. All men. He narrows his eyes, staring at the floor in concentration. They had divided. Tenpou would stop the two coming this way. Kenren was going after the other one.

. . . Tenpou didn't stop them.

Kenren's eyes widened.

The footsteps passed right through where Tenpou's voice had come from, no resistance.

What the…

There was nothing for it. Did Kenren really now want to jump out in front of an enemy about whom he knew nothing and who had passed through Tenpou like a ghost? Admittedly, he had mixed feelings on the matter. Still, he supposed, as he rose from his crouch, it ought to have been consolation to him that, between himself and whomever he has about to face, Kenren was probably the closer of the two to being a ghost.

He supposed it ought to have been consolation to him.

His first thought as he rounded the corner, pistols thrown out in front of him, was:

Tenpou looks freakishly well kempt with short hair.

For about three seconds of absolute silence that followed, with his target stilled to a halt, he was not able to figure out why on earth he'd thought that. Then his brain caught up with what his eyes were seeing.

Two pairs of footstep both coming his way. They would pass his hallways in three… two… one…

Tenpou cut his sword through the air in one clean movement. He would have loved to have a proper bout, really he would. It had been ages since he had had a proper spar – however, this was the inside of Goku's mind, and he was not about to play games here. These intruders had gotten into a place that had been sealed away, presumably forever. The magic that had closed Goku's mind and the magic that could open it were both five hundred years old. Anyone who had such powers needed to be sent on their way as quickly as Tenpou could manage.

His metal met metal. A demon powered weapon. A Shakujō. Curious. Not five hundred years old, to be sure, but certainly something that would have been sealed away for some length of time. He raised his eyes to his opponent but all he saw was a mass of hair as scarlet as… as blood. A human and youkai half-breed? Curiouser.

…Now where had he read that word? 'Curiouser.' He was sure. It wasn't in the dictionary.

His eyes snapped to follow his ears – to the side. Whoever owned the second pair of footsteps had not paused even for a moment when Tenpou had attached his comrade. Tenpou hadn't even caught a glance of him-

Instinct alone saved him from the sickle that rounded about on a chain and came at him from behind. He ducked just in time, pulling himself into a crouch. The sickle jarred against the metal bar his opponent was using as a staff.

This would end it. Tenpou was about to rise back up, pushing his katana up through his opponent's belly, when he got a good look at the face that was framed by that mass of red hair.

And he sat right down in shock.

…Had it been… an exact copy, he would not have been so surprised. An exact copy would have been a lie. He would have known it for a lie. He would have seen the faint differences it bore from the original. Differences that no master copyist could ever catch. Differences that even Konzen and Goku might not have caught. But this…

They stared at each other, Tenpou sitting and this… this person standing. Not a word passed between them.

And then those strange red eyes widened with an astonishment so identical to Kenren's that Tenpou felt dizzy just looking into them. The Kenren that was not Kenren dropped his weapon, which vaporized before it hit Tenpou in the face - Just as Goku's vaporized, Tenpou noted vaguely - and himself let out a cry of shock.

At the same time Tenpou heard a twin cry – twin down to the very intonations of the voice – just a few hallways down. As the two cries mingled Tenpou was very disturbed to realize he couldn't tell the voice of his Kenren from the voice of this one standing before him.

"Who the hell are you!"

Only the height of manners and composure kept Hakkai from mimicking The Gojyo who was not Gojyo who was presently pressed almost bodily against the opposite wall of the hallway, and was holding two pistols with nie-bleached knuckles.

Hakkai had seen copies before. Dougon had been a particular fan of shikigami copies, and there had been those copy-mutes they had met a few months ago. Copies were normal. Black haired Gojyo's were terrifying.

Still, as the intruder, he supposed he was the one who needed to explain himself first. "My name is Cho Hakkai. I am a friend of Goku's."

This seemed to calm the short haired Gojyo a little. "Okay… now why do you look like Tenpou? Except… you know, with short hair… and missing half of the glasses."

Tenpou. That was the name by which Homura had called him. Hakkai swallowed. This was curious. "Is he a Field Marshal?"

The man across the hall narrowed his eyes at Hakkai in suspicion. "Yeah."

"I've… been told of the similarity." And, anticipating the next question, he continued, "It was the War God Homura who told me."

The man's eyes widened hugely, showing Hakkai just how not-red they were. He would never tell Gojyo just how unnerving seeing this was. "Homura, became the War God? Since when?" He seemed to think this information over for a moment until he began again, almost to himself. "I mean, it makes sense. But still, just… wow."

"Goku killed him," Hakkai felt he needed to add. This Gojyo had clearly known Homura, so it seemed the right thing to do to tell him of Homura's passing.

The Gojyo's mouth dropped. "Goku killed Homura?" he said in awe, slowly reholstering his pistols. "You're shitting me."

"Well, Homura did thrash Goku solidly a few times first, but still. The last say was Goku's." It was almost cereal, having this discussion in Goku's head, with this black-haired not-Gojyo. "…Homura was a compelling man."

"Tell truth I didn't know him all that well." The man, still slowly and tentatively, began to walk toward Hakkai, who for some reason couldn't find it in him to make a defensive posture. "I was more familiar with one of his groupies. Zanon."

Hakkai nodded. "That makes sense. Gojyo was the nearest to him out of our lot as well."

"Gojyo? Is he-" the man started, as if remembering something. "Goku's sparring partner! He told me!"

"Yes!" Hakkai said, releasing a tension he hadn't known he'd been holding for how long. Thank God! Goku was well! And he was here. And this man seemed to be a friend. "Homura mentioned the resemblance between the two of you as well, which would make you… General Kenren?"

Kenren smirked, and put out an arm. "The one and only. Well, only Kenren, if not only…Gojyo, you say? Pleasure to meet you at last."

"Yes. Likewise," Hakkai said, a real smile spreading across his face as he took Kenren's hand. "A thousand times over."

"Fascinating," the not-Hakkai sitting on the ground in front of him breathed out - while still holding his katana poised at his, Gojyo's, midriff. "You must be Gojyo."

Gojyo opened his mouth to speak, but only a dry wind-like sound came up through his throat. When he did finally manage to speak, it was in a high squeak. "I have so many feelings about all of this, all of which can be summed up in what the fuuuck."

"Yes," the not-Hakkai corrected his glasses. "I concur." He studied him. "...I was not expecting," he gestured around with his katana, "this."

"Do you mind?!" Gojyo took a deep inhale, and stumbled back a step or two.

"Oh, of course. My apologies," the man lowered his weapon. And the two stared at one another.

"How do you know who I am?" Gojyo finally said. This was too weird. Sitting in front of him... it was Hakkai. Hakkai, with his hair long, the way it had been when Gojyo had first found him on the side of that road. Only... the man sitting before him had an untucked shirt and a lab coat which he wore askew. Even his tie was on sloppily. It was Hakkai... in that it looked just like Hakkai. And yet, it definitely was not Hakkai.

"Goku," the man said simply.

Gojyo blinked. "Goku? You know Goku? He's alright? The little asshole is alright?"

The man before him smirked, nodding. "Perfectly."

Another moment passed. There really seemed nothing for it. Gojyo took a step forward, and offered the man a hand to help him up. "Well, if you're a friend of the monkey's, it's good to meet you...?"

"Tenpou," the man offered as he took his hand. "And yes, very good to meet you too, Gojyo."

...

Sanzo thought his lungs were going to heave out of him, he was running so fast. Gojyo would be fine. The man really was like a cockroach. Absolutely indestructible. …That went double for Hakkai. Oh god my lungs. Sanzo actually had to lean against the wall of the hallway for a moment, gasping for air, clutching at a stitch in his side. He stared at the wall he was leaning on. That was odd. It was as if he was having déjà vu. He could have sworn that… this red color… Had he run down this hallway before? Sanzo shook himself free of the wall and ran on.

He didn't know how he knew where he was going. He just… did. Almost as if- I've never been here before! He gritted his teeth, and skidded to a standstill. For a few minutes he simply stood, waiting for his breathing to quiet. However, with every breath his heart pounded more furiously. He had to wonder about the enemies that Hakkai and Gojyo were now facing. He had no doubt that those two idiots could hold an army if it came at them. But what if the enemy had friends? And what if they came straight for him.

As if that's ever been a problem. He slid his gun from his robes and checked its contents. Five chambers. Five bullets. He was fine. Just fine.

He slid around the corner. At the end of this corridor there was a pair of double doors. Fancy. Fancier than most of the other doors. It took him no time at all the cross the hallway, caution to the wind.

Sanzo stopped before the doors. Smirked, and kicked them open. Bring it.

Goku's ears perked when he heard a ways away metal clash on metal. That was Tenpou's katana. And was that… had that been…? No way. All the same, Goku sat on edge. What made him even more nervous was that he didn't hear Kenren's gun shots. What was going on? And then… silence…

Don't panic. Honestly? Goku didn't want to alert Konzen. Konzen had just allowed Goku to sit up for himself, and now the two of them were sitting on the bed, both armed with a last cup of Kenren's tea. It was crazy, seeing S- Konzen this shaken. And over what? So Goku had passed out – he refused the use the word 'fainted,' even in his thoughts – So what? He was fine. Just fine.

"You alright now, tiny monkey?" Konzen muttered moodily at him, taking a last gulp of tea.

Goku smirked. He actually didn't mind being called 'tiny monkey.' Sure, he made a big deal of 'monkey' around Gojyo. But here… it was like an endearment from the past. Actually, it was an endearment from the past. …Whatever.

"I told you, I'm fine," he stressed. When this had no effect on his old keeper Goku almost laughed. "I'm the one that passed out," not fainted, "and I'm cheering you up. Is there something wrong with this picture or what?"

Konzen gave a dignified 'harrumph' in answer, and stood up. "Alright, tea break's over," he said, swiping the cup from Goku's fingers with one fluid gesture.

Damn, maybe I haven't recovered fully if my reactions are this slow, Goku thought, staring at his now vacant hand. "Oy! Give that back!" Goku lept from the bed and ran after Konzen, "There's still the stuff at the bottom!"

"Those are tea leaves, you animal!" Konzen lifted both their cups out of reach, "They're disgusting!"

"Don't call me an animal!" Goku clawed at the air just below the cups, "And give me back my leaves! I'm a recovering invalid! I need sustenance!"

"You're a black hole is what you are! And get your hand off of my face! I'm not one of your and Kenren's trees to climb!"

The doors to Konzen's rooms were kicked open with such violence that they almost smashed off their hinges. For a moment after Goku could not understand how he had not heard or sensed the intruder. However, as he turned to look at who had entered, he understood everything. The reason he had not registered the man, who now aimed his gun directly at Konzen, as a threat was the same reason that this same man did not wake up when Goku stole his Maten Scripture. To each other they were not threats. They never had been. How do you register the sun itself as a threat?

Looking down the barrel of that gun, only one thing came to Goku's mind. It was hardly the most tactful plan he had ever come up with. Looking back on it, it was even worse than taking Konzen hostage in front of Kenren and Tenpou. He could have done a thousand things other than what he did now. He could have thrown Konzen to the ground, behind the bed. He could have summoned his Nyoi-Bo and knocked the gun out of his present master's grip. He could have done the cliché movie scenario and put himself between weapon and target, thus taking the critical blow. He could have done any number of things. However, he didn't.

He let go of Konzen – on whose influence he later blamed his present actions – and in one mightily bound made his way across the room, wrapped his arms around the offender, and thus bodily compressed the offender's arms, gun and all, against his sides, rendering him momentarily helpless.

No, he realized only moments later. Hugging Sanzo certainly was not the most tactful thing he could have done.