THE SHADOWS BEYOND
By sf
Begun : Apr 30, 2002

Summary :
The sequel to Borderline. Natsuji's son swears to exact vengeance on Sanzo and seeks to break apart the Sanzo-ikkou.

Notes : Rating – PG-13
Sanzo shooting his mouth off, Sanzo shooting people's heads off, people getting killed, the works. Non-yaoi, non-shounen-ai (unless you see implications, in which case I leave it up to you). I'm trying my best not to get the Sanzo-ikkou too badly damaged (especially Sanzo), but it just seems to be impossible (especially for Sanzo), because the injuries just write themselves in! (Especially for Sanzo.)

What has gone before :
While travelling through the mountaineous Tatensai region, the Sanzo-ikkou were ambushed by group of youkai in the middle of the night. The party was split in two. Unable to locate each other, they ended up at the centers of opposite sides of a local human-youkai conflict – Sanzo and Goku at a monastery doubling as a human stronghold, and Hakkai and Gojyo at a youkai camp.

When both sides marched to war, the Sanzo-ikkou found itself embroiled in the conflict. Shortly after locating each other, they encountered the youkai leader, Natsuji. A vicious fight ensued, during which all members of the Sanzo-ikkou were injured, and Natsuji was eventually killed by Sanzo.

2 Months later, having begun their journey anew after recovering from injuries, the shadows of the past begin to catch up with them…

PROLOGUE

"Isir-sama. The Sanzo-ikkou is entering the area."

The words sent a certain thrill through him, the anticipation of a hunter closing in on his prey. Muscles tensing for the fight, adrenaline pumping through his veins… excitement. Excitement that finally, finally, long months after his father's death, vengeance was in sight.

It galled him, it really did, that his father had perished at the hands of these.. interlopers. Or this one interloper, Genjo Sanzo, this human, who'd appeared out of thin air. And shot his father, Natsuji, greatest all of youkai, like a common dog. A disgraceful, dishonorable death. The thought was enough to make his blood boil.

"Gather the troops."

"Hai."

"And remind them… remind them that I want the human priest alive."

"Hai, Isir-sama."

He would have vengeance. He would not rest until he had vengeance.

***

"Sanzo, we seem to have company," Hakkai announced cheerfully.

"I know," the priest growled. "Chi… Damn waste of time."

"But I'm hungry!" a voice piped up from the back. "I'm so hungry that I don't think I can move!"

"And if you don't move, bakazaru, you're never going to move again. So get your butt in gear, will ya?"

Complaining and muttering curses, the Sanzo-ikkou clambered out of the jeep to face the enemy.

"Great, it's a freaking army again," Gojyo noted. "Couple a hundred of them and not a single woman in sight."

"I'd place it closer to fifty, actually," Hakkai said.

"That… that means 20 each, right?" Goku asked.

"Baka," Sanzo muttered.

"Genjo Sanzo!" one of the youkai announced through a loud-hailer. "We—"

"Quit that nonsense," Sanzo snapped, and fired. The loud-hailer shattered into a million pieces.

Murmurs rose from the youkai crowd.

"If you wish to die earlier, be my guest," a youkai on horseback to the side of the roadblock called. "Forward!"

"That's the leader," Hakkai noted.

"Well, let's do it!" Goku yelled, summoning Nyoibou. Charging through the onslaught like a streak of lightning, he sent three youkai flying with a swipe, then kicked another in the chin hard enough to snap his neck. To his left, Gojyo lashed out with the cresent blade of his shaku-jou – his double bladed scythe – gutting one attacker in an instant.

"Gojyo! Behind you!"

Without missing a beat, he rammed the scythe backwards, and the flat-blade at the other went straight through the attacking youkai's stomach and out the other side. The youkai went down with a scream.

"Nice weather we've been having, lately," Hakkai said with a smile and a golden globe of ki forming in his right hand. "Pity you won't be able to enjoy it." The ball spun forward, smashing into a crowd of youkai and expanding to the size of a house. When it faded, only ash remained.

"Oi, Hakkai. Do you always talk this much?" Sanzo asked irritably, snapping off another bullet. Five gunshots, five youkai down, and he paused to reload.

"Sometimes," Hakkai replied cheerfully. "Duck!"

A wave of fire blasted overhead.

"What the hell?" Sanzo demanded.

"Powerful youkai. I'll deal with him." Hakkai set off at a run. Gunshots sounded behind him, as youkai dropped to the left and right. Another wave of fire scorched the battlefield, helping him to pinpoint its origin. It was the youkai on horseback.

With practised ease, he gathered another ball of ki and fired.

The youkai leader spun as the ball arced towards him. Too late. The ball crashed into him head-on, sending him flying off into the darkness.

"That's settled," Hakkai said to himself.

"Yeah, everything's settled," Gojyo said, coming up beside him. "We're getting faster, I think. Saru is finishing off anything that moves."

Hakkai glanced around at the bodies. "Not bad for a little pre-dinner entertainment."

"Sometimes, I can't tell whether you're being sarcastic, or whether it's your warped sense of humor speaking," Gojyo muttered. "Well, let's go."

***

Isir swore. He'd been so occupied with trying to snip the priest that he hadn't seen that ki blast coming. If he'd been any slower.. if he'd been any weaker, he would be have been as dead as the rest of them.

"Isir-sama.." his chief of staff looked concerned.

"Nothing serious, Chiro." He sat down, wincing. "A weak blast."

"They were more powerful than I expected."

"We underestimated them. The fact that they could take down my father should have warned us that these are no ordinary enemies." He rapped a clawed finger on the tabletop.

"We should separate them," Chiro suggested.

"Hm."

"A road accident, maybe a smoke screen… it should be easy to arrange."

"Ah. No. I have a better idea. I intend to separate them more.. permanently. Betray the trust that Sanzo has in his companions. Break them apart… then hunt them down individually. Give me the data we have on the four."

Chiro passed him a thick wad of paper and stood to one side as Isir read, absorbing and assimilating the information.

"Do you intend to make them betray him?"

"No. It would be impossible. I can, however, make it appear that way. And Sanzo, being the paranoid bastard that he is, will form the conclusions himself."

There was silence for another moment, interspersed by the flipping of pages.

"Not Goku, I think," Isir concluded after a while. "His loyalty is unquestionable."


"Gojyo? A level of animosity already exists between them."

"Perhaps. But somehow not.. satistfying." He paused at a page. "But Hakkai… on the other hand… would be perfect. And it would pay for the insult earlier today." Isir smiled. "Yes… this will be so much sweeter than simply killing him."

***

CHAPTER 1

"FOOD! FOOD!" Goku leapt into common room of the inn, eyes shining. "FOOD!"

"Urusai, bakazaru," Sanzo snapped.

"I want.. I want… I want everything on the menu!" Goku said jubilantly, ignoring him.

"Oy, saru! Stop hogging the menu, then," Gojyo said, pulling it away.

"Hey!"

"Well, you've already decided what you want, right? Let others—"

"I haven't decided how much of each I want, ero-kappa!"

"Don't. Call. Me. That!" Gojyo whacked Goku with the menu.

"Yeah? Ero-ero-ero-kappppaaaa!"

"BAKAZARU!"

"URUSAI! KOROSO!" There were two resounding thumps, followed by two smaller ones as Goku and Gojyo fell off their chairs, nurses sore heads. Sanzo glared around before restoring his paper fan to his sleeve pocket. "And try to shut the fuck up during the course of the meal. For once," he added.

"I don't think that's possible, Sanzo," Hakkai said softly.

"It's worth a try."

In fact, there was peace, of a sort, over the course of the meal. Gojyo still quibbled with Goku over the last dumpling, but it was more of a reflex action than out of any real want for it. And it was cut short by a deadly glare from Sanzo.

Goku sighed happily. "That was good~!"

"I think… I'm going to throw up," Gojyo groaned.

Sanzo, signing for the meal with his gold card, just ignored them.

Hakkai simply smiled and sipped his sake.

"You know… I think there's a chance that I won't be hungry before breakfast tomorrow…" Goku told the ceiling. "Best meal I've had in ages."

"Biggest too," Gojyo added.

"Yeah."

"Well, time to retire for the night, I guess," Hakkai said, rising. His head felt light, for some reason. It might have been the sake, but he normally didn't get drunk…

Tired, maybe. Just tired. It'd been a long day, with the fight and all…

Abruptly, his spine tingled as the sense of youki peaked all around them. Youkai? Here? Again?

Sanzo slammed into him, knocking him to the ground, as the windows shattered and arrows rained down where he'd been standing. "Watch it, baka!"

Hakkai frowned. "How many, do you think..?"

"Can't tell."

"I don't care for a fight directly after a meal like that…!" Gojyo complained as he took cover behind a table.

Fortunately, the common room had been almost empty. The remaining patrons were fleeing.

Sanzo snapped a few shots out of the window and dived for cover as more arrows rained down. "Watch the door!"

The warning came a little late, as the door splintered inwards in a shower of wood. Youkai came swarming in, preceded by swarms of arrows. It was impossible to prevent their entry.

"Well, time to stop hiding," Gojyo muttered. "Oy saru, up to a fight?"

"Yeah!"

Both of them broke from cover and dashed towards the enemy, with Hakkai and Sanzo providing support fire. The first youkai throw the door went down, but were rapidly replaced.

"They're coming in through the windows," Hakkai warned, just seconds before the frail metal frames gave way and youkai poured through.

"Break cover," Sanzo ordered, diving to the left. Hakkai took the right.

It was hard to fight indoors, against greater odds and with limited room for movement. On the otherhand, they didn't have to face all the youkai at the same time, so that was good.

Hakkai found himself next to Goku, who was radiating every semblence of enjoyment at the fight, crunching heads and smashing youkai to a pulp with Nyoibou. Hakkai whipped out a few ki blasts, taking down the closest attackers. Goku turned and grinned at him. The grin faded almost immediately. "Hakkai, are you okay? You look pale."

"Me?" When he thought about it, his vision did seem to be going slightly hazy, and his balance wasn't quite what he'd expect it to be. "I'm fine." It can't be the sake… and if it was poisoned, I'd have been able to tell. Please don't tell me I'm falling sick..

Several youkai rushed in for the attack, and in the resulting melee, he was seperated from Goku again. The ranks of the enemy seemed to be thinning out. The attack was getting beaten back.

His vision was starting to swim. He leaned against the wall, swiping at his eyes. Blinked, and his vision focused properly again. Fatigue. Definitely fatigue.

"Hakkai," Sanzo called, in a silent query regarding his health.

Hakkai glanced across. Sanzo was standing in the middle the room, reloading his Smith and Wesson.

Hakkai blinked again. "Sanzo! Behind!"

The priest spun at the same time Hakkai fired a ki blast.

He wasn't sure what happened. He could have sworn that there had been a youkai standing right there, but when he blinked again, all he saw was Sanzo flying backwards in a spray of blood, as his ki blast caught him dead on.

"SANZO!" Goku yelled, springing across. "HAKKAI! What did you do that for?!"

"There was a youkai…"

"There wasn't anything," Gojyo frowned. "Hakkai… what's wrong with you…?!"

Hakkai shook his head violently and raced across. He'd seen it.. a youkai right there.. what happened? What happened? "Sanzo…"

Goku was glared at him as he neared. "Why, Hakkai? Why?"

Hakkai shook his head. "It was.. a mistake.."

Goku clenched his teeth and didn't reply. He lifted the unconscious priest and headed for the stairs. Hakkai felt his heart wrench at the sight of the blood soaking through the sleeve of his robe. If it hadn't been a glancing hit… he might… he might have been dead… oh no, what's wrong with me?!

"Goku…"

"Go away."

"Goku!"

"Don't you dare come near him!"

Hakkai sighed and collapsed into one of the remaining chairs, his head buried in his hands. Goku's footsteps came echoing back to him as went running – to someone else for help. Then silence.

There was a scrape as Gojyo pulled up another chair. A click as he lighted up, and a long pause.

"What did you see?" Gojyo asked, eventually.

"A youkai." The memory was getting more hazy by the moment. "Standing right behind him. I don't know… I aimed for the youkai… I don't know why my aim was off… I still don't see how I could have hit him instead…"

Another long pause. Then Gojyo laid a friendly hand on his shoulder. "Go to bed. I think you're tired. I'll talk to the saru and the monk."

"I guess…"

"There's nothing you can do right now. It was a mistake, right?"

"A mistake…" Hakkai said dully.

"And Sanzo isn't dead, so all's well."

Hakkai sighed.

***

"Excellent. This is better than I expected," Isir smiled. "I forgot that Goku would take sides against Hakkai if Sanzo was injured."

"I wonder what Gojyo will do," Chiro said.

"I suspect.. he will take Hakkai's side. Until such a time when it is impossible to do so. By then, it will all be too late." He cocked his head. "The uses of a little medication and a simple illusion… it's a pity my father never appreciated the power of magic."

***

Consciousness returned slowly. Sanzo cracked an eyelid open, and promptly shut it against the blinding light that filtered in. He frowned, trying to recall the night's events. Memory led him up to the point where Hakkai had warned him—

He'd spun, seen absolutely nothing. Turned back… and the world had exploded around him in a maelstrom of pain. Then everything had gone dark.

"Sanzo…"

If he stayed still, maybe that voice would go away.

"Sanzo!"

No such hope.

"Urusai," he muttered.

"Sanzo, are you okay?"

He hurt all over. Which meant that Hakkai probably hadn't been on hand with his ki-healing techniques. Which meant that Hakkai was probably injured. Badly. Damn.

He opened his eyes again, more slowly this time. Goku was standing by the bed, concern written all over his face.

"What happened?" he asked.

Goku hesistated.

"Hakkai was gunning for a youkai near you. You were hit by the wake of the blast," Gojyo answered for him.

Sanzo frowned groggily. Recalled… nothing standing behind him. Surprise surprise surprise. "There… wasn't any youkai."

He gathered from the sudden silence and the tension that he'd hit on something significant.

"No… there wasn't…" Hakkai said from somewhere off to the side. "But… I thought… I'm sorry."

"Shooting at shadows? Not your usual standard."

"There was something wrong with me last night," Hakkai said quietly.

"Did someone spike your drink?"

"Perhaps. I'm not sure." Hakkai looked tired. Tired and dazed and confused.

"Ch," he muttered, closing his eyes. "Just get out of my room, all of you." Too tired to think. Too tired to consider the ramifications of what had just happened. He could deal with it all … later…

*

It was afternoon by the time he awoke again. Sanzo glanced at the sun and swore at the wasted time. His right arm and shoulder were a mess of bruises and minor burns where the ki blast had hit, and a long gash where the worst of it had passed, but it was scarcely life-threatening. It certainly didn't warrant losing almost a whole day's worth of travel time.

He dressed quickly, and was checking on the ammunition status of his gun when a knock sounded on the door.

"Come."

It was Gojyo who stepped in, a cigarette in his mouth and a nonchalent look on his face. "About Hakkai…" he began.

Sanzo turned and nodded minutely, a gesture for him to proceed.

"It was a genuine mistake. Too much sake at the end of a long day, and nerves, probably."

"Mistake, then," Sanzo replied neutrally.

"You don't think that he did it on purpose, do you?"

"The thought crossed my mind."

"So what do you think it was?"

Sanzo frowned and reached for a cigarette. Took his time lighting up before answering. "If he says it's a mistake… let's leave it at that."

Gojyo looked marginally relieved. "Yeah well, you might like to talk to him. He's been tearing himself up with guilt just thinking about it."

"Hn," Sanzo muttered. "If he wants to talk to me, tell him to come here and see me."

"Yes, Sanzo-sama," Gojyo replied, with a big grin and no little sarcasm. Sanzo shot him a glare as he scurried out. "I'll send Hakkai riiiiight over."

He was almost through the cigarette before Hakkai poked his head in. "Ah, Sanzo. How are you?"

"I've been better," he replied.

"I'm sorry…"

"Gojyo tells me it was a mistake," Sanzo said.

"I was seeing things…"

"If it was a mistake, then come right out and say it, man!"

"Gomen…"

"Hmph. Get the others. Let's see if we can make some headway before sunset."

Hakkai looked unfazed by the sudden change in topic. "It's a long way to the next town."

"Then we need to get started, don't we?"

"True," Hakkai replied, turning to leave.

"Hakkai."

He glanced back. Sanzo snapped the magazine of his Smith and Wesson into place. Cocked the hammer to chamber the next round. The click echoed off the walls in the looming silence.

"Remember… anyone who gets in my way… is the enemy."

"I won't forget it," Hakkai said softly.

"Good. Then let's get going."

***

"Yeah, the monk's forgiven him," Gojyo told Goku.

"How do you know? He didn't say anything."

"Sanzo-sama doesn't say anything. You gotta deduce it from the silences. And the fact that if he hadn't forgiven Hakkai, Hakkai'd be dead or running for his life."

"How do you know—"

"Because I'm not a bakazaru like you," Gojyo replied. "Pity to leave this place. It was quite nice before we busted it up."

"Yeah," Goku sighed, probably in memory of the vast dinner they'd had the night before. "Good food too."

"For you, anything that amounts to quantity is good," Gojyo rolled his eyes. "Doesn't matter what it tastes like, as long as there's a lot of it."

"What's wrong with there being a lot of it? If you weren't around, I'd have it all to myself!"

"Greedy pig. You shouldn't be called saru. You should be called Pig."

"COCKROACH KAPPA!" Goku yelled.

A fist banged on the door. "Shut the fuck up and get moving! If you don't want to get left behind!"

"You can't leave anybody behind unless you steal Hakuryuu!" Gojyo called back. "And hell, if you weren't around, bouzo wouldn't keep hitting me with that fan. It's not as if I do anything."

"Wanna bet? If you weren't around, Sanzo wouldn't have to use the fan at all!"

"Riiiight. And who was it who broke three fans, all by himself, that—"

There was a knock on the door and Hakkai looked in. "Are you done? Sanzo's really getting quite impatient."

"HAKKAI!" Goku yelled, flying over and glomping him. "I forgive you too!"

The shock on Hakkai's face eased into a genuine smile. "Thank you."

"Leave it to the saru to be all obvious about it," Gojyo said.

"Who are you calling a saru?!"

"Who else?"

"Cockroach kappa! Cockroach cockroach kappa!"

"ARE YOU GUYS QUITE DONE UP THERE?!" a very pissed-off Sanzo yelled from downstairs.

Hakkai sighed in relief. Yes, everything was back to normal…

TBC.

***

Sf : I was going to wait until May 15 before I uploaded, but I've been writing so quickly that I decided to upload the first installment earlier. For those of you waiting for an update to 'And Time Again', I'm sorry, but Shadows intrigues me so much more than Time at the moment..
Muse : Me too!
Sf : And in accordance with the new policy at sf works, I've extended chapter length from an average of 1,000 to 2,500 - 3,000 words (discounting author's blurbs at the end). ^_^
Muse : Of course, that means less chapters in the end. -_-
Sf : Either way, I personally find this better than Borderline, and I hope you will too!

***