Disclaimer: Kazuya Minekura owns Gensomaden Saiyuki and all of its affiliated works. I do not.
Warning: Religious bastardization, language, mild nongraphic violence, implied shonen-ai of the 39 variety.
Story Note: An experiment in mild stream-of-consciousness; I apologize if the flow seems a bit choppy. Second-person POV; if you're familiar with my Wild Adapter works you'll understand my love of this writing angle. This takes place during the 'Homura arc', so spoilers for the last few episodes of the second season of Gensomaden.
Special: I've been wanting to write a Saiyuki fic for years, but I never had the right inspiration. I apologize if Sanzo seems OOC at all; I've never written for this series, but I'm just fascinated with Sanzo's personality.
You really are a terrible example of what it means to be a Buddhist, and you're definitely a piss-poor priest.
You know the laws of the Eightfold Path like you know your own name, and you've had them committed to memory for years. Growing up in a monastery, being raised by one of the highest ranking priests in China will have that effect on anyone, you suppose. And it isn't that you ever really aspired to be a Sanzo priest.
The first law of karma is that shit happens.
In the span of several heartbeats--and they felt like the longest of your young life--you went from being Kouryuu the River Rat, orphaned outcast, to Priest Genjo Sanzo, the Thirty-First of China, heir to the Maten and Seitan Sutras, protector of two of the five Founding of Heaven and Earth scriptures. The chakra on your forehead is a reminder of the cost of defending the Infernal and Celestial sutras, and you bear that burden with a bit more flippant nonchalance than you really should.
The Eightfold Path, the Middle Way, is a philosophy to which you have never quite subscribed. You watched your master flaunt its edicts as a child, and as a grown man you bastardize these rules daily.
You understand that there is suffering in the world; for years you've born witness to the cruelty and poverty that rampages across Shangri-La, unchecked and unavenged. Sometimes you're the source of other people's suffering. You know that attachment causes this emotional distress. You felt it the night that Koumyou Sanzo died protecting you.
As far as you're concerned, his attachment to you ultimately caused his untimely demise and your subsequent elevation in rank and importance, but you'll never say that aloud. No, you made a pact that night, a vow to never allow yourself to become that attached. And you're a man of your word if nothing else, aren't you?
Homura stands before you, smiling so smugly that you want to reach out and choke the living shit out of him, but if bullets can't touch him then you certainly have no chance. That doesn't deter you for a second from aiming between his outlandish eyes and squeezing the trigger, because that simple reflexive action makes you feel a little less helpless in the face of a god that you can't hope to destroy. Despite the incessant pandering and idol-worship that seems to follow you like your own shadow, you know damned well that you are flesh-and-blood mortal, and death is your ultimate fate.
You aren't supposed to allow yourself these brief glints of homicidal rage. Your mind is to remain clear and unobstructed by petty emotions, senseless wants and desires. If your body is a temple, then your mind is its altar, and every inane thought that crosses through your consciousness should bear witness to the awe and power of the gods. Negative and cruel thoughts defile the sanctity of the mind and ultimately insult the higher powers, and that is no path to enlightenment.
But you entertain these thoughts anyway, because Homura is giving you the ultimatum "the monkey for the sutra" and, while you'll never admit that you're breaking that first rule of no attachment, you'd rather consider how pleasant it would be to snap Homura's pretty neck like a matchstick between your hands versus how easy and justifiable it would be to send Goku into the proverbial lions' den and take back the Maten Sutra. At the end of the day your duty, as told to you by the gods themselves, is to make it to India, scripture in-hand. "With Goku in tow" was never part of that itinerary. You just can't bring yourself to hand him over to Homura, and that really pisses you off.
You curse and threaten and shout constantly, like now, as you're firing indiscriminately at this asinine excuse for a god before you, and he is slowly advancing on you and Goku. You hear yourself profane this Prince of War's name, promise him a long and painful mortal death, and you know that at this point you're simply racking up tally marks on karma's invisible scoreboard. You think that perhaps you did something beyond horrific in a past life to deserve the cards you've been dealt in this one, so whatever you do in your current incarnation has to be a fucking upgrade, right?
Goku tenses up beside you, holding Nyoi-Bo defensively in front of you both, and you think that it's incredibly stupid that he feels the instinctive urge to come to your rescue all the goddamned time. You don't hesitate to tell him that. Since when have you been a helpless, pathetic bitch with a distressed-princess complex? You're five years older than he is--in relative terms--and about a half-foot taller. And if bullets aren't even slowing this odd-eyed psychopath down, what the hell is a stick going to do?
You aren't supposed to engage in violence, intoxicants, sex, or immoral behavior. A priest leads by example, and you've been one hell of an influence on your charge. You drink daily, smoke like a chimney, kill anything that looks demonic, and gamble to pass the errant hours of downtime during this pain-in-the-ass of a journey. At this moment in time, Goku's inherited philosophy of morality is, "If Sanzo does it, it's okay."
You assure yourself that you at least abstain from sexual contact, unless you count the questionable thoughts about your charge that flit through your mind, as insubstantial and ghostly as the flash of fear across Goku's face as he locks eyes with Homura, twin gold to bronze and blue.
On a baser level you're certain--with frightening clarity--that your soul belongs to the half-pint brat growling beside you, and Seiten Taisei's world-shattering power has nothing to do with it. Regardless of what this monkey really is beneath the diadem, you know what you felt when he cried out to you in your head. That plaintive voice was pulling at your heart, something that you've spent decades sealing off. He definitely isn't the same dirty kid that followed you back to Chang'An, and as if to test your patience and mental stability that bond has only grown exponentially stronger.
You'd rather shoot off your own dick than admit this, but if Homura kills him in this incredibly stupid plan to restart creation, then the Merciful Goddess may as well carry her sorry ass down from on high and rip your heart out of your chest, because you will be fucking useless.
You're a Sanzo priest, and in the cosmic Buddhist hierarchy of employment opportunities, that's about as close to perfect as you could ever hope to get. Granted, being 'Genjo Sanzo' includes the nastier elements of veritable traveling genocide against the youkai race and the constant pleading and begging from the masses, but you take that in stride. You "kill whatever gets in your way," with the pesky little exception of the loudmouthed brunette now blocking your shot at Homura's still-smiling face.
Sure, pulling the trigger and blowing a hole through the back of Goku's head would simplify your life, but could you actually live up to your constant threats of killing him, like a fucking mantra interspersed in your daily dialogue? Could you, Genjo Sanzo, put your money where your mouth is and waste his annoying ass, right here and now, and spare yourself the countless migraines and annoyances that he will inevitably cause you on the second leg of this highway freak show to India?
It's getting more difficult to give yourself credit for following the Path, now. If 'Right Effort' equates to spending every fathomable moment of your life striving to emulate the Buddha, then you understand with perfect resolve that you are well and truly fucked. Of course, the Buddha was never handed a ragtag group of social rejects and spiritual science experiments and ordered on an urgent suicide mission to a continent that you've only read about in history books.
You sidestep as a natural reflex as Goku is thrown backwards by the force of Homura's punch, only to disappear for a brief flicker of time to continue the fight. Gods, he's gotten ridiculously fast. You think that the Buddha was never saddled with a monster like the Seiten Taisei. You highly doubt that if he had, the Buddha would then have broken every personal moral standard that he'd set for himself by caring beyond measure for the annoying kid whose body said monster resides in, either.
Maybe you just aren't the Enlightenment type. Maybe you're cursed to spend the next half of eternity suffering here on Earth, and maybe that doesn't bother you nearly as much as the idea that Goku might be so fiercely attached to you that he'll forgo his chance to escape this vicious cycle and follow you into your next life, too.
Buddhism places innumerable emphasis on maintaining clarity of mind and purity of conscience to allow one the greatest possibility to attain enlightenment, to struggle against the bounds of material worth and attachment and escape the endless wheel of birth, death, and rebirth. Somewhere in a tiny, under-appreciated corner of your tired mind, you know that you're supposed to keep your duty and your oath to the gods at the top of your ever-lengthening 'To Do' list, but somewhere between, 'Recover the Seiten Sutra' and, 'Save the whole goddamned planet' you found yourself stuck on 'Keep the monkey alive', and maybe Hakkai and Gojyo snuck into that, as well. It startled you at first because you couldn't recall having added that into your mental checklist.
You understand implicitly that reversing the Minus Wave and putting the brakes on Gyumaoh's resurrection are pretty important tasks that you have to complete, but after everything is said and done and you start the long journey back to China, if you're short one monkey, cockroach, and mother hen, you might as well just not come back at all. They are not your friends, but they're fighting alongside you for gods that you're fairly positive they don't even believe in. They're getting hit and kicked and stabbed and mentally scarred for your mission.
Sure, Hakkai feels the need to atone for his own personal sins and Gojyo really wouldn't have allowed himself to be left behind. Granted, Goku would have followed you to India, to the end of the world, to hell and back without complaining, simply because in his limited little monkey mind he's just supposed to be wherever the fuck you are. But they don't have to fight alongside you, to risk their own necks for your cause. These outcasts don't give a rat's ass about your title or your religious significance. Hell, Goku honestly thinks that 'Sanzo' is your name. His unconditional loyalty to you is fueled by who you are, not what you are. To him, Sanzo means the man that brought him out of that horrible prison and promised never to leave him behind. He doesn't care about your rank; he cares about you. That means something.
You'd laugh aloud at that, and hard, if it weren't for the cold metal chains digging into your skin, keeping you held tightly against this wall and denying you the chance to prevent the painful-sounding blows that Homura and his lackeys are landing on your ward right now. How in the name of Buddha are you supposed to concentrate on reaching nirvana and getting your own sorry ass off of the wheel of reincarnation when these idiots are beating the living hell out of Goku?
You spend your days concentrating on staying alive. Being able to draw breath, to wake up every morning in some broken-down inn or even the passenger seat of Jeep is good enough for you, for now. You meditate while smoking your Marlboros and watching the bland landscape roll by beside you as Gojyo hums to himself in the backseat, while staring at the same uncomprehended square of text in the newspaper and listening to Goku's inane chatter, while getting your unholy ass handed to you in mahjong with Hakkai. You concentrate on the things around you that demand your attention.
Yesterday you focused on surviving until today. Today you'll focus on living to see tomorrow. Right now you'll focus on distracting Homura and his henchmen from beating out what few brain cells are left in your charge, shouting down at them, provoking them. It's really very stupid of you, because for once, in the grand scheme of things, you are not necessary to the War Prince's plans to destroy the world as you know it. Goku, however, is vital.
They won't kill him, but you can't ignore the desperate way that he's fighting them because you know that despite your constant claims to the contrary, Goku is not stupid or slow or less mentally capable than any one of you. He knows damned well that Homura doesn't need you, and he's terrified that they'll kill you just to spare themselves the trouble of your meddling in their carefully laid plans. Homura almost convinced your monkey during their last encounter that you couldn't give a shit less whether he lived or died. You shattered his argument, and he won't give you a second opportunity. In fact, from a strategist's point of view, with Priest Genjo Sanzo out of the picture there is absolutely nothing to stop Goku from complying with this idiotic 'restart the world' campaign.
You're concentrating on not dying now, harder than you ever have. It goes against every code of conduct documented in Buddhist scripture, but you're setting aside your hollow title and your derelict duty to the omnipotent aspects in Chang'An, and you're praying furiously in your head now that Goku survives this little encounter. Fuck the fate of Shangri-La and all of its inhabitants. Fuck the Merciful Goddess and her scheming. Fuck the Buddha and his bylaws. You're screaming to the heavens in your very soul to stop them from dragging Goku's broken body away from you.
You're asking the gods for more time. You haven't had the chance to figure out exactly why it is that your stomach knots and twists like wire when Goku cries. You haven't had an opportunity to ask him why he's so goddamned determined in your ability to save the world. You haven't even yet tried to sit him down and attempt an awkward and grudging explanation of just how much you really do care about him. If you lose him now, you don't think that even time will heal this wound. You're pleading with whoever the hell listens to heretical monks' inner struggles that you get one more day of Goku's radiant presence, his never-ending questions and his unwavering devotion, and it's probably the most selfish and unholy thought in twenty-three years to grace your conscious mind.
You really are a terrible fucking Buddhist.
I know that there's a lot of religion-speak throughout, but I'm taking an Eastern Religions course and had a field trip to a Theravaden Buddhist temple; it was my motivation. Please let me know what you think.