Reverse Psychology
Part V : Epilogue

They came at last to a great bridge.

(Naturally, there was a great river to go with it, but that goes without saying.)

Above the great bridge rose a great arch, the greatness of which cannot be expressed in mere words. Atop the great arch were great lightning conductors.

And there was a great banner, proclaiming thus :

Thank you for visiting Fantasy Land.
We hope you had fun.
Did you leave anything behind?

Sanzo's eyebrow twitched. "Well, what are we waiting for? Let's get out of this damn area."

"A moment, Sanzo," Hakkai said, calling his attention to a booth by the side of the bridge. A sign read : Lost and Found.

The booth was unmanned, but there were a variety of objects on the countertop. Goku sighted something and rushed over. "Nyoibou! And here's yours --" he tossed the shaku jou to Gojyo. "And Sanzo--" he grabbed the Smith and Wesson, and hit the trigger in the process.

When the sound of the gunshot had faded, the rest cautiously began searching for bullet holes.

"Heheh... sorry," Goku grinned. "I didn't know the safety was off."

"Hmph." Sanzo snatched the gun from him.

"Well, if that's all, shall we go?" Hakkai asked hurriedly.

"Kyuu!" Hakuryuu protested.

"Oh... this must be your Jeep form," Hakkai said, picking up a cake in the shape of a Jeep.

"Kyuu!" the acknowledgement came, and the dragon leaned over his shoulder to gobble the morsel.

"Hey! How come he gets food and we don't?!" Goku said, miffed. "I want food! I bet there's food around here! I can smell it! I can smell---"

All four froze.

"Ah, I see you've arrived," a remarkably familiar voice proclaimed from somewhere behind.

"--Hazelnut coffee..." Goku finished lamely, as the Muse stepped into view.

"Well, did you have fun?" the Muse inquired.

"No. Get out of our sight," Sanzo snapped.

"In short order, you will be leaving these lands," the Muse said, ignoring him. "Whereupon, you will, likely return to your old habits. That is indeed a pity."

"I don't what the pity's about," Gojyo muttered.

"By eating healthily and walking all day... assuming an average pace of 5.5 kilometers per hour, possibly 6, considering the amount of food consumed and your respective body weights and hence metabolisms, you should have lost between half a pound to one pound each. I... no, sf could show you the calculations, if you wish."

The Sanzo-ikkou looked at each other.

"...we're all far too skinny for our own good, don't you think so?" Hakkai concluded, with a shaky laugh.

Somewhere in the background, various fangurls could be heard screaming : Yeah! But skinny is good!

Somewhere else in the background, various youkai could be heard screaming : Yeah, that priest needs more meat on him! There's not enough for all of us! [1]

[1] -- From the common youkai belief that eating a Sanzo's flesh confers immortality.

"And, by abstinence from smoking and drinking," the Muse plowed on, "Sanzo and Gojyo have extended their lifespan by about six months each, and Hakkai and Goku, as second hand smokers, by about the same."

The Sanzo-ikkou looked at each other.

"...we're all going to be killed by various fanfic authors or the mangaka before we reach thirty," Sanzo stated.

"Actually, the lack of smoke was a welcomed change," Hakkai muttered.

"I second that," Goku told him.

"By not killing any youkai, you've travelled a whole day without coming any closer to the one thousand youkai ceiling."

"...three of us are youkai, and Sanzo is usually out of the spray radius, anyway," Gojyo countered.

"You guys are hopeless. Very well. Good luck in your future endeavours -- Sanzo, please check your food carefully in following fanfics. sf is in the mood for poisons."

"Thanks for the warning," Sanzo said dryly. "Let's go."

So they clambered into Hakuryuu, who had obligingly returned to Jeep form. The dragon was secretely pleased at the day's events -- having the humans trot on their own two feet for a change, and a whole slice of cake to himself at the end.

"Well... it was an odd day," Goku said, leaning back and sinking into the cushioned seats.

"I'm glad it's over," Gojyo replied.

"There shouldn't be any further delay," Hakkai nodded, the smile back on his face. "We should be able to see the 'Driving happily off into the sunrise' line soon."

"Don't be too sure of that," Sanzo said, sitting up. A shimmering, cloaked figure had appeared before them, blocking the bridge.

Jeep trundled to a halt. The figure held out a hand. "Toll, please."

"What?" Gojyo sprang up. "Isn't toll for getting into places? Not getting out of it?"

"The toll is for the use of the bridge," came the reply. "In any case, you would be happier to leave this place than to enter it. The price will be a hundred dollars."

Wordlessly, Sanzo held out the Gold Card.

"Cash only, I'm afraid," the figure stated.

"But.. we don't have that much cash on hand," Hakkai said nervously.

"Goods are substitutable for money."

"What are you, anyway?" Goku asked.

"I am a Muse."

"You're amused? I asked you who you were!"

"A Muse."

"I know you're amused! I don't care! Tell me who or what you are before I beat the crap out of you!"

Gojyo smacked a hand against his forehead. "It's a Muse. You know, like the other one that reeks of Hazelnut coffee? You're so dumb that we ought to leave you behind."

"Who says I'm dumb?" Goku growled, clenching fists.

"I just did, dumb saru. Hey, Sanzo, do you think the monkey will cover the toll?"

"You probably will, ero-kappa!"

"Then again, who wants a stupid monkey, anyway? It's worthless." He intercepted the punch that Goku flung at him.

"You're more worthless than I am! You're even more stupid, for one!" Goku lashed out with a foot, causing the whole Jeep to shake.

Gojyo sprung over to the other end of the Jeep, sticking out his tongue. "Stupid saru... can't even hit me..."

"Wait and see!"

"SHUT UP!" Sanzo yelled. He spun, the fan in one hand and the gun in the other. "Or I'm leaving you both as payment, and even then you wouldn't cover the cost!"

"Sanzo--" Hakkai started.

"Excuse me. Sanzo-sama, those bullets of yours..."

Sanzo turned to face the Muse. "What?"

"Made of crystal, if I remember correctly. Specially blessed to exorcise the weaker youkai with a single hit."

"What about it?" Sanzo asked cautiously.

"They might be worth a lot."

The next five minutes were spent counting bullets, as Sanzo emptied his sleeves out.

"Five hundred and one... five hundred and two..."
"Seven hundred and fifty three..."
"Oops, I lost count at eight hundred and nine."

"One thousand exactly," the Muse noted, nodding sagely. "At the exchange rate of ten cents per bullet, one hundred dollars exactly."

Sanzo shot it a glare. "Ten cents per bullet?"

"Or less, perhaps? Some of these are of poorer quality... blemished and cracked crystals. And, oh dear, oh dear, so many have not been blessed properly..."

"One thousand bullets it is," Hakkai said loudly, pushing the pile towards the Muse. "May we pass?"

"One issue," came the patient reply. "The carrying of weapons exceeding a meter in length is forbidden in the country beyond."

"But you allow guns," Sanzo rolled his eyes.

"An old rule, you understand. Of course, without bullets, your gun may be considered a decorative piece for a moment."

"Decorative piece." The words practically dripped with sarcasm.

"sf informs me that you may call it 'Phallic Symbol', if you so prefer. Regardless of its handle, I am more concerned with those that your companions bear. They look suspiciously like weapons. One would be forced to confiscate them if they were."

"I thought it was the region that we just left that had the issue with weapons!" Gojyo said.

"Yonder region is not my concern. Nevertheless, it's problem was not with weapons per see, but the act of violence. The lands which you are about to enter have different, but equally strict laws. So declare it now -- are those weapons you bear?"

There was an opening in that, slender enough to admit a light beam and not much more, but Hakkai caught onto it anyway.

"These? No no, these are props," he said hurriedly. "We're ... uh... travelling performers!"

The Muse seemed.... amused. "Travelling performers, you say?"

"Yeah! Travelling performers!" Goku said. "My speciality's the baton -- look!"

And they were promptly treated to a display of highly impressive Nyoibou-twirling. The ends formed a gold circle as they spun between Goku's fingers, contrasted by the red center. When Goku flung the 'baton' into the air and caught it with his feet in a flourish, Hakkai and the Muse clapped politely. Sanzo was smoking, his hand conveniently hiding the slight, humored smile at the corner of his mouth. Gojyo was laughing his head off.

"Very impressive. And your fiery headed companion?" the Muse inquired. "If I am not mistaken, that is a blade at its end."

"Fiery headed--" Gojyo choked. "Why, you--"

"Cultural dance," Hakkai cut in smoothly. "The ancient art of Wushu [2], adapted. Behold!" And he summoned a ki ball as a spotlight."

[2] Wushu -- The "art of fighting". An aesthetically appeasing display of fighting skills, usually utilizing a weapon (or a variety thereof).

What happened next cannot be described adequately without visual animation. But priviledged spectators were known to comment during, or afterwards :

"He looks good, with his hair flying like that."

"Ne, why is his face so red?"
"Saa, but it matches his eyes."

"He needs a flappy robe for full effect."
"Hm. Robe... Sanzo--"
"Finish that sentence and you die."

The Toll Bridge Muse's report to the Fanfic Author was said to include words such as 'Sharp pointy objects', 'Phallic Symbols' and 'Suggestive Gestures'.

When Gojyo demanded to know the source of all the sniggering thereafter, the other three went curiously vague on the issue.

At last, however, the Muse pronounced itself convinced of the non-lethal nature of their travelling group. All four piled themselves hurriedly into the Jeep and promptly "Went racing off in search of adventure".


Somewhere in Tenjiku

"Where is the Empress?" Kougaiji asked of a passing servant.

"Busy, my lord. She left orders not to be disturbed under any circumstances."

"And Nii-hakase?"

"I don't know where he is, Kougaiji-sama. He doesn't seem to be in his usual haunts."

"Well well," Kougaiji mused, as the servant bowed and scuttled away. "Nii Jieni and Gyokumen. Who would have thought of it?"

"You know the saying, Kougaiji-sama," Yaone piped up from behind. "Make love, not war."

Kougaiji chuckled softly, staring at the fake sutra in his hands. "We seem to be doing that, don't we? At least this gives us enough time to think of a suitable excuse for the sutra..." He paused. Somewhere at the edge of his hearing was the faint tap of keyboard keys, and what could have been a voice.

"And Muse-san, here's your wages... Toll Bridge Muse, you get to keep all the bullets. No, I don't know what you'll do with them, but they're pretty... alright, alright, give me one."

Unable to make sense of the dialogue, he shrugged, and proceeded on his way. For the immediate future, the peace seemed set to last.

And somewhere, on the load road between Togenkyo and Tenjiku, a Jeep trundled merrily along, and the sun rose on a new day.

The End.

Hakkai : "The End" ahoy!
Gojyo : Thank goodness.
Sanzo : About time.
Goku : Neeeeeee, can we eat now? I haven't eaten for more than half the fanfic!


Afterword :

Yessssss! My first lengthy fic in which Sanzo isn't seriously mauled! He isn't even scratched! Yatta!

I won't waste words and space with sentimental ramblings, or with expressing my incredible joy at the completion of Yet Another Fanfic. However, I must state the arrival of the Epilogue was, in no little part, spurred by someone who will be known only as 'S' and her sister, and a query over dinner of : "When are you going to finish Reverse Psychology?"

So I have. So I'm happy.

Reverse Psychology's successor, as the next middle-length-not-crappy-humor-fic, is the Saiyuki/Hellsing crossover : A Season in Hell. No relation exists between the two, except for their nature.

sf -- January 9, 2003 ; 9:22pm.