Greetings!

Welcome to yet another wacky installment of "Iron Chef: Saiyuki Style"! Tonight's performance is a terribly special one as you will discover in the chapter dedication.

{whispers it's part of a birthday celebration and leaves you wondering until later about that, then beams appreciatively}

Before we start the story, may I please express my appreciation to the kind folks who've shown support for this lunacy?

Thanks go to my direct correspondents: Melissa (who is unbelievably cool for reasons to be revealed later!) , Yanagi-sen (who never fails to make me ecstatic), Rubious (who ought to go to the beach or something), and Ryoko (who is a darling). Major hugs of appreciation also go to my reviewers here at Fanfiction.net: The Go Man (are you as kawaii as Hikaru?), ceres17 (who hit me. itae.), and s1ncer1ty (who made me smile by calling me a nut! oh my, can she read my mind or what?!?).

I can't begin to thank everyone who's taken the time to let me know they've found this a fun read enough and with everyone's continued support this wild ride will hopefully resume before too awfully much of November has passed!

{bows appreciatively then vanishes hoping you will}

Enjoy the Insanity!

~~~Enigma~~~

(who challenges anyone to identify all the various anime and popular culture references in this chapter! good grief! there's so many even the llama isn't sure what the final count is!)

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Title: Iron Chef: Saiyuki Style [part 3/?]

Author: Enigma

Series: Saiyuki

Written: begun September, 2002

Rating: PG-13

Pairings: (Gojyo + Hakkai) (Kougaiji + Dokugakuji) (Sanzo + ?!?)

Category: Crossover, Shonen ai/yaoi, Humor/Parody, Language, Squick. AU-OOC.

Archive: fanfiction.net & mediaminer.org [author: "E-sama the Llama"]

Warnings: crossover with "Iron Chef", shonen ai/yaoi, occasionally tasteless humor, tongue-very-far-in-cheek parody, less than genteel language, squicky things here and there, far more random and occasionally incorrectly used Japanese than normally found in a llama-fic because it's fun and silly, sexual innuendo a-go-go, additional warnings and pairings possible as the fic comes into being over time. AU-OOC!

Spoilers: To be on the safe side, assume that this is chockfull of spoilers for Saiyuki big and small since when the Llama gets silly he often grabs too much from an anime series without realizing it. Oh, and to be even SAFER, assume the manga, the OVAs, and the movie are at risk, too. As for "Iron Chef" what's to spoil?

Disclaimer: "Saiyuki" is the property of Kazuya Minekura, et al. "Iron Chef" is a production of Fuji Television Network Inc. This unauthorized work of unpaid fanfiction is intended for entertainment only; kindly do not sue me.

Notes: What might happen if the bishounen and bishoujo of Saiyuki are forced to cover for Kaga & Company on an episode of "Iron Chef"? Can we all say "mayhem"? I knew that we could!

*****

Special Punctuation Note: Words surrounded by tildes like this ~ La, la, la, la, la! All around the World! ~ are song lyrics.

*****

Still on his feet and joyous after the image of the challenger had been revealed, Goku jumped around like a well known pink bunny which sells batteries and asked urgently, "Where is she? Where is she?!"

"Where is whom?" Kougaiji asked, baffled by the reactions of the Sanzo-ikkuo and then glanced over his shoulder at the girl with red hair and eyes smiling sweetly on the monitor and added, "Um, isn't she a half-breed like you, Gojyo?"

"Yeah, she sure is," Gojyo replied and smirked slightly as he admitted, "but I never thought I'd see her again."

"Forgive my ignorance, Hakkai-san, but who is she?" Yaone leaned over and whispered to the man beside her.

Carefully schooling his expression back into its usual emotionless mask, Hakkai replied equally quietly, "Ah, Yaone-san, that is Houran. [1] We met her one night awhile back in the midst of the journey, but what Gojyo said is true. We all thought she was dead."

While glancing at the image on the little monitors in front of them, the pretty chemist replied, "Well, she certain seems to be alive now. Perhaps KB will explain later?"

"I should hope so!" Hakkai agreed with a sigh.

Sanzo, arms crossed over his chest angrily with his newspaper and glasses temporarily forgotten, muttered unkind things under his breath even as his violet eyes frantically scanned the arena searching for danger. All it would take to set him off at that moment was a glimpse of dark, hero-worshipping eyes or worse a damned orange paper airplane. With a relieved sigh, he found neither and he relaxed enough to go back to re-reading an old article about street-racing tofu delivery boys.

The boy who was doing a good impression of a hyperactive kindergartener who had too much Jolt Cola shouted towards the Royal Box, "Hey! When's Houran coming out? I want to get to say 'hi' to her!" What Goku really wanted to do was tell the adorable girl what things he wanted most to eat as well as to greet a friend presumed dead.

"She'll be out here when it's time to film the 'walking the iron road' part of the opening, Goku, calm down," Kanzeon bosatsu replied patiently while also stealing one of Kaga's infrequently used nicknames for the part of the show when the challenger comes out from behind a curtain. [2]

Growing somewhat concerned since they were shooting scenes out of sequence and skipping some entirely, Jirousin finally spoke up again and said, "Um, Most Revered One? Didn't we forget a few things?" When the goddess gave him a "do not *ever* accuse me of making an error!" glare that threatened an eternity of harassment for questioning her, he rushed to add, "But as producer whatever you select is automatically correct, yes?"

Favoring him with a tiny, dangerous smile, the goddess replied, "Oh, you mean all the chefs rising up and being introduced plus the challenger's background film, right, J-baby?"

Sweat-dropping because her vocabulary was getting weirder and weirder as this strange adventure wore on, Jirousin said, "Well, yes, and a few other things we probably don't need."

Waving a hand negligently in the air, Kanzeon bosatsu responded, "Yes, I've decided to streamline several parts I always got bored during and plan to make other changes as I go." Deciding to prevent any other questioning of her approach she added, "And don't worry about any other little things that shift later! We can fix virtually anything in post-production, okay?"

Shoulders drooping since the very idea of sitting in an editing booth with the demanding eternal didn't appeal to him in the least, the godling nodded his head and sighed, "As you wish, Majesty."

While Sanzo was using a death glare borrowed from Heero Yuy to force Goku back into his seat wordlessly, Kougaiji suggested, "Why don't we let the challenger come out and then summon the Iron Chef and all that? I doubt my little sister or Sanzo's monkey over there will be able to hold out forever with so much food around."

"Hey! I'm not a monkey!" Goku rather pointedly disputed part but not all of Kougaiji's statement then added while his stomach made its first low growl of hunger, "But I *am* hungry! Can I have a snack now?"

"No, you have to wait for 'tasting and judgement', baka," Gojyo remarked with a smirk since he had devious plans of his own to get a bite or two to eat during filming anyway. Chortling to himself that by doing that he'd probably drive his young friend/backseat nemesis crazy, he sauntered over to the desk where his lover sat and leaned down to whisper in Hakkai's ear, "Good luck putting up with this three, 'Kai. If Sanzo and Goku don't kill each other, I'll be surprised."

Turning his head slightly so that they were eye to eye, Hakkai responded with a sigh, "True, true, Gojyo. After all, that *is* the reason we don't let them sit together when we're in Hakuryu for kilometers on end, now isn't it?" [3]

Chuckling and nodding, Gojyo took a quick glance at his surroundings, realized no one was paying them the least bit of attention and snagged a very quick, very unexpected kiss from his partner's lips then straightened and announced more loudly, "Well, guys and doll, I gotta boogey." His delighted smirk was simply brilliant as Hakkai's cheeks flushed bright pink in reaction to the buss. With a wink at the girl in the lovely pink dress, he remarked, "Time to go prove that a scandalous dandy can be a good floor reporter! Have fun, Yaone. Don't let Hakkai get in any trouble, okay, gorgeous?"

Joining the brunette in a blushing contest, Yaone smiled shyly and nodded as she said, "Certainly, Gojyo-san. I'm sure we'll do just fine." Glancing at the emerald-eyed man next to her, she distantly thought he must be overly warm from the studio lights and didn't give his heightened coloring much thought.

Trying to hide at least a little of his embarrassment by placing a hand over one flaming cheek, Hakkai sighed deeply and then looked down at his teleprompter seeking information as to what part of this charade came next.

At the other end of the table, Sanzo was doing his level best to pretend to not hear Goku's stomach rumbling or the little miserable whimpers the boy was making. As guardian to the earth-spirit in the form of an eternal youth, the blond had developed an automatic response to the sound and it was all he could do to not get up and stalk backstage seeking that oh-so-convenient vending machine to get the poor kid another meat bun. Ah, the things a father-figure has to put up with.

Squirming in his seat, Goku reminded himself that if he was good they might let him lick the bowl if anyone made cake and that brought a smile to his face. Before the boy could ask Yaone if she thought someone might make dessert for the tasting panel to enjoy, the studio filled with the strains of the Backdraft soundtrack again and it was time to get busy.

Kougaiji straightened his tuxedo jacket and then after forcing himself to put on "that damned sissy hat" he strode to the center of Kitchen Stadium to await the arrival of the challenger.

Heavy red velvet curtains were drawn back and a petite red-haired girl came in. She was attired in a perfectly lovely classic Chinese ensemble that looked entirely wrong for cooking in but it suited her for the introduction and she approached the youkai prince with dainty, almost mincing steps. Once she stood next to him, she looked up into his dark red eyes and smiled sweetly awaiting his greeting.

With a nod, Kougaiji stated, "On behalf of Chairman Kaga, Kanzeon bosatsu, and myself, may I welcome you to Kitchen Stadium."

Bowing as she tended to do on a regular basis, Houran replied, "I am honored to be here." As a slightly puzzled expression crossed her delicate features, she added with a tiny shrug, "Actually, since I was dead last thing I knew, it's an honor to be much of anywhere."

Knowing they could edit it out in post-production, Kougaiji decided to give in to his curiosity and asked, "Yes, Gojyo mentioned that. Does this mean you're a zombie?"

"'Zombie'? Me?" Houran asked, actually wondering about it for a moment. Then she shook her head and said, "I don't think so, but I'm not sure. I've never met a zombie before."

Over at the announcer's desk, a shudder ran through Hakkai at the mention of the undead but that was angsty and not funny so nothing was said about the fact that he was thinking of a certain cruel being best left unmentioned.

Goku was bouncing in his seat because he wanted to get up and greet the girl, but since Sanzo had given him another off-screen thwap with the OFP ™, he was being patient. Or rather what passed as patient for a hungry monkey-boy. In other words, he was counting the number of ingredients available which were arranged artfully around the studio and contemplating which ones wouldn't be used that he might abscond with later.

From her spot aloft in the Royal Box, Kanzeon bosatsu interjected, "No, no, Houran is *not* a zombie, Kougaiji!" All eyes were on the goddess as she explained with a touch of guilt in her voice, "I've given her a 'pass' to come back to life for awhile. I felt rather badly for that whole 'sucked into hammer space or whatever' business. Now, if you don't mind, can we *please* get back to the show?"

Shrugging since none of this made any sense at all--obviously Kougaiji didn't have a copy of "Requiem" to watch in that Empress-proof lounge of his back at the castle--the tri-tailed man agreed easily enough, "Sure, why not? The sooner we get this over with the sooner we all get to go home, right?" Realizing that shrug had re-ignited the itch in his back he added with a growl, "And the sooner I get out of this insane outfit, too!"

Houran simple stood where she was casting small smiles at the members of the Sanzo-ikkuo and thinking it would be nice to get to see them all again.

Kougaiji resumed his Kaga duties and turned towards the half-breed girl and said grandly, "Now may I present the pride of the Gourmet Academy? I summon the Iron Chef!" He waved a lavender-clad arm towards the sole stand where Kobe usually arose from below surrounded by an elegant string ensemble.

Instead of the stirring classical melody that usually accompanied the Iron Chef Italian, a heavy rock beat throbbed from the rising platform. A sensual voice like velvet over silk sang out a few lines about removing handcuffs only after someone begged him for it and then burst into the familiar line, "Blue… blue… Datenshi blue!!"

As five scrumptious bishounen came into view all dressed in stunning outfits, Yaone leapt to her feet and gave a classic fangirl scream before barely keeping from shouting Sakuya's name.

The sexy-as-sin singer did notice her of course, and he cast her a trademarked smile that was more dazzling than the sun and earned himself another scream of delight as well as an indulgent smirk from most of his bandmates. Honestly, if Gojyo wasn't already the consummate flirt, he could've taken lessons from the unbearably talented soloist.

Enjoying the song, Hakkai smiled minutely and nodded to himself, "It has a nice beat."

Standing just outside of camera range, Gojyo heard his lover's remark and answered, "And I can dance to it!" As if to prove his point, he swiveled slender hips seductively and gained quite a few stares for his efforts not the least of which was from a certain little scarlet-haired guitarist.

Unaware of Gojyo's playful performance, Goku was scribbling something on a card which he then held up and said in all seriousness, "An 85. I give it an 85." The boy looked rather like a participant on an American television show about popular music hosted by someone who seemed as ageless as himself.

To everyone's amazement, Sanzo unexpectedly snorted, "Hmph. I liked the original GLAY opening theme better." Absolutely everyone who had heard him then turned and stared at the blond who then stuck a finger in his ear and ignored the proceedings yet again.

With the pounding music filling the air and the various painfully handsome young men around him, poor Kobe was almost forgotten where he stood clutching his tomato as if it was a security blanket or something. The wish that he, too, was home recovering from food poisoning crossed his mind yet again even as the song ended and the musicians all took a bow.

Noticing the next line he needed to say on the teleprompter, Kougaiji intoned, "That was 'Datenshi Blue' by Lucifer. Look for them on the 'Kaikan Phrase Soundtrack' from Ever Anime."

The quintet of glamorous J-rockers gave one more bow and then--since Kobe had beat a hasty retreat over to his kitchen area while no one was looking--the platform sank back out of sight with them.

Kanzeon bosatsu smirked delightedly and commented to Jirousin in a playfully high pitched voice, "Wowzers, J-chan, they were cool, weren't they?"
Sweat-dropping a flood, the godling wasn't sure what to say but came up with, "If you say so, Oh Most Bobby Soxer-ish One."

While nodding since she had to agree, the goddess then called out loudly, "CUT!!" Several eyebrows raised since she'd finally used a standard term when producing a show and added, "Everybody take five!"

"Yatta!!!" Goku shouted delightedly and bounced out of his seat so he could run over to greet the challenger, saying, "Hi, again, Houran!! I'm so glad to see you!" Behind him moving at a more sedate pace came the other two youkai from Sanzo's contingent but a certain blond was conspicuously absent from the welcoming committee. In fact, at that moment, the priest was conspicuously absent from Kitchen Stadium entirely, but that was a mystery for later.

Less mysterious was the fact that Yaone had also hurried off clutching an autograph book that had magically appeared when she needed it most even as she went bishounen hunting.

Bowing deeply and then beaming at the boy, Houran replied, "I'm very happy to see you again, too, Goku-kun." Noticing the other two men, she bowed again and added shyly, "Hello, Gojyo-san. Hakkai-san."

"Howdy, honey," Gojyo remarked warmly, hiding the nervousness which had surged up within himself again.

"It is a pleasure to see you once more, Houran," Hakkai commented politely then asked with a curious tone, "How long have you been alive again?" It might've seemed odd that they could speak together so calmly about such a miraculous thing, but when you're a pawn in the hands of Kanzeon bosatsu, you get to where almost nothing trips your weird-o-meter.

"Just a little while, actually," Houran answered. Then she shook her head and caused her incredibly long hair to wisp about her prettily as she admitted, "This is rather strange though. To be alive again is one thing. To be in Tokyo and on television is quite another."

"I can well imagine," Hakkai remarked.

Before the former teacher could say anything else, Goku asked excitedly, "What're you gonna cook, Houran?" With a whimper he added, "I am *so* hungry! No one will let me have a snack! They're all so mean!!"

Hiding her laughter politely behind one hand, the girl said, "I won't know what to make until we find out what the theme ingredient is, Goku-san." Noticing Kanzeon bosatsu was watching them with an indulgent smile on her lips, she added, "I'm terribly glad she was able to not only bring me back to life but also explain all of this to me. It ought to be quite a challenge to make four or five dishes in only an hour."

"Why do you say that, Houran?" Goku whined, he'd been counting on her ability to manifest a huge feast in next to no time the way that she had the night they'd eaten her cooking previously. "You made all that yummy good stuff super-fast before! I mean, you brought out soup, noodles, stew, fish, tons of rice, roast, lobster, oodles of vegetables, porridge, mussels and clams, and even made me fresh juice when we were at your place that time. Can't you do that again?" His empty belly rumbled once more and he clutched it regretting having been forced to give the summary of the table scene that way.

Gazing at him apologetically, she explained, "I had most of that ready before the whole 'oh help! save me from the giant chicken from hell' business, Goku-san." [4] Bowing deeply she said, "I feel really awful about most of that night, by the way."

"Don't worry your pretty little head about it, Houran!" Gojyo remarked easily enough and added with a nonchalant shrug, "It takes more than a crazed origami fanatic to knock us down for long!"

Grateful, she bowed yet again, and said, "You are too kind, Gojyo-san."

"Ah, Houran?" Hakkai interjected with a nod of his head, "Might I speak with you for a moment? Alone?" He could practically sense the ribbons of nervousness coming from Gojyo even as he lead the girl a little ways away.

"What can I do for you, Hakkai-san?" She asked, scarlet eyes wide and innocent.

Ignoring the fact that Gojyo was leaning towards them as if to eavesdrop, Hakkai asked quietly, "Anou, about that evening and, um, your attack on Gojyo when he was in the shower and all?"

"Oh, that!" She replied with a frown, "I'm terribly sorry, really I am."

"No, no, it's nothing like that," Hakkai hurried to say, gesturing with a hand in a hopefully calming way. Sweat-dropping, he explained, "I just wanted to apologize for Gojyo coming on to you in his room the way that he did. He's such a flirt at times."

Peering at him closely, Houran noticed the fond expression in his eyes and as most women can do without thinking about it, she deduced the nature of the two men's relationship and then, beaming, she said, "That's all right, Hakkai-san. I got the feeling he didn't really mean it at the time." Reflecting on what she'd seen when she snuck up on the astoundingly well-endowed and all together naked man, she added enthusiastically, "He was so sweet even though I did what I did in the shower. Oh! And he has the cutest little mole right next to his magnificent--"

Her words were silenced by a hand over her mouth and while he blushed mightily, Hakkai agreed, "Yes, yes indeed he does. But, um, I don't think we need to discuss that now." Cheeks aflame, he turned towards his partner and said, "Um, Gojyo? Why don't you show Houran around Kitchen Stadium? Let her get the lay of the land, so to speak?"

Dreadfully curious what the two had talked about, Gojyo leapt at the opportunity figuratively speaking and responded, "You betcha, Hakkai!" Offering an arm to the lovely girl, he said, "Come on, beautiful, let's go see what there is for you to work with here, okay?"

With a shy smile, Houran threaded a hand around his arm and off they went to see what they could see.

Heaving a sigh and thinking he'd rather be battling an army or three of minus-wave maddened youkai than doing all of this, Hakkai turned towards where he thought Goku had been standing and found the boy sitting on the floor, chin quivering. Giving him a worried look, he asked, "What's wrong, Goku? You were so excited to see Houran earlier, are you sorry she was chosen now that you know she can't make two dozen things in an hour the way you thought she could?"

"No, that's not it," Goku pouted and then even as his stomach roared again, he added unnecessarily, "I'm just *so* hungry!!"

"Ah, I understand," Hakkai replied with a nod then held out his hand offering his friend assistance getting up and he added, "why don't we go find Sanzo, Goku? He seems to be missing from Doc Hattori's seat at the moment."

"Nani?!" Goku grabbed Hakkai's hand and lifted himself to his feet easily before gazing around the room in mild panic, "Where do you think he went, Hakkai? Do you think he could be in trouble?!" His trusty fighting staff manifested automatically and the young warrior looked like he was ready for a fight on the off-chance his guardian was in danger of attack from, oh, say, a rogue script girl or something.

"I'm sure I don't know," Hakkai admitted but before he could suggest a place to look, the golden-robed man reappeared as if by magic.

With an amazingly relaxed swing in his step, Sanzo made his way back to his seat. He sank into it with what might've been a small, victorious smile on his lips but wasn't since he almost never smiled unless a certain bumbling group of imitators were around to cheer him up with their sheer idiocy. Granted, the faux-Sanzo and faux-Hakkai did run that noodle stand at one point and they could've been brought in as challengers but they weren't and that was good since they weren't terribly photogenic even if it would've meant Sanzo might've cracked a smile or two with them there.

After banishing his staff to its spot in another dimension where it hung out with Gojyo's staff and a whole kit and caboodle of duel monsters, Goku rushed over and demanded, "Ne, Sanzo?! Where did you *go*?!" When the man gestured towards the boy's empty seat in wordless command, Goku sank into it obediently and whimpered, "I was scared that you were in trouble for a second."

"Urusai, bakasaru," Sanzo grumbled angrily by way of demonstrating he was in a better mood after raiding the Chairman's private stash and reached into a deep sleeve-pocket and produced the unexpected. In his hand were a can of beer for himself and a box of extra-large strawberry Pocky a piece of which was vaguely obscene if you had a hentai mind which he handed to Goku along with a warning, "Just don't eat it when you're on camera, monkey. I don't feel like getting hassled about it."

Beaming delightedly, Goku sang out his classic line, "Sankyuu, Sanzo!"

"Hn," Sanzo snorted, popped the top of the first of several cans of beer and relaxed while deliberately not noting with some satisfaction that the boy's stomach ceased growling as piece after piece of the Japanese snack vanished into the eternally hungry youth's mouth.

During the conversation between the eldest and youngest members of the group he traveled with, Hakkai had made his way back to Fukui's seat and sank into it with a small expression of approval that Sanzo was doing what Sanzo always did. The care and feeding of a hyperactive monkey-boy was a fulltime job best done with an Asahi in one hand.

Returning from her jaunt to get the autographs of the bishounen of Lucifer, Yaone seemed to float back to her chair and she sank into it with a dreamy smile.

Curious, Hakkai turned to her and asked, "Are you all right, Yaone-san?"

"Mmhmm," she acknowledged continuing to smile like a girl who had won a date with her favorite move star thanks to a teen magazine contest. Noticing that the handsome brunette looked a bit concerned, she explained as she pointed to lips more pink than they were when she'd left, "They were all so very nice and Towa even suggested I try some of his lipstick since it matched my dress. Isn't that nice, Hakkai-san?"

Sweat-dropping at the thought of the gorgeous bassist-cum-fashion model sharing his cosmetics with the youkai lass, Hakkai chuckled nervously and agreed, "Oh my, yes. Simply lovely."

She heaved a happy sigh as she paged through her new autograph book thrilled when she saw that Atsuro had drawn her a cute little neko on his page as stagehands bustled about getting everything ready for the unveiling of the theme ingredient. Yaone giggled outright when she saw that Santa had drawn--what else?--a little Santa Claus on his page whereas Yukifumi simply signed his name with the most elegantly masculine handwriting she'd ever seen. With a deep sigh of fangirl joy, she clutched the book to her breast and silently reminded herself to get Kobe to sign it later if at all possible.

Houran decided her usual outfit with its dreadfully long sleeves that covered her hands simply wouldn't allow her the freedom of motion she needed to cook and slipped backstage for a quick change into a spare chef's outfit. When she returned, the half-breed girl looked simply too cute for words in an apricot-hued silk jacket with matching pants and a crisp white apron tied around her dainty waist. Her unbelievably long hair had been put up in a chic chignon with a few wisps left loose to dance around her face attractively. It was nice that someone bothered to put a redhead in an appropriate color, wasn't it?

After giving Houran the grand tour earlier, Gojyo had been gossiping with Kougaiji since Dokugakuji had a birthday coming up and the youkai prince wanted to give his beloved second-in-command something special which he rightly assumed the raven-haired youkai's brother would have some ideas about. With suggestions based on some memorable birthdays shared with his own partner, Gojyo had seen to it that the tri-tailed man was blushing as badly as Hakkai had been earlier.

Mission accomplished, the former lady's man then turned and saw Houran's new outfit and--simply put--his jaw almost fell off. Sauntering over to her with a definite swagger in his stride, Gojyo commented, "Don't *you* look cuter than Hello Kitty on a good fur day, Houran!"

Cheeks flushing due to the praise, Houran responded, "Oh, Gojyo-san, please! It's just a little something I found backstage."

Circling the girl as if she was a tasty fish and he was a big bad shark, Gojyo shook his head from side to side and disagreed, "Hell, I wasn't talking about the clothes, darlin'! You look just *adorable* with your hair up." He leaned close and whispered in her ear earnestly, "Very grown up, too. Your daddy'd be proud to see his little girl this way!"

"Do you really think so?" She asked hopefully, then glanced at Hakkai and was amazed he didn't look the least bit worried to have his boyfriend apparently flirting so outrageously with her. Baffled by his lack of expression, she whispered, "Anou, Gojyo-san? Doesn't he care if you act like this?"

A small frown furrowed the scarlet-eyed man's forehead and he whispered back, "'He' who?"

"Hakkai-san," she replied softly.

Flicking a glance at his lover and seeing past the façade and into the real emotion beneath it, Gojyo smiled slightly since she was worrying over nothing then straightened and commented negligently, "Nope. Right at the moment he's busy worrying about where a certain white dragon is. Frankly, I'm a little worried about Hakuryu, too, but it looks like it's game time." He gestured with his head towards Kougaiji who was walking up to the ingredient stand.

"Yes, it certainly does," Houran agreed, then asked, "Wish me luck, Gojyo-san?"

"Why should I?" Gojyo replied confidently, "You've got it in the bag already as cute as you are, Houran. Now go get 'em, my little Chinese chickadee!" He playfully swatted her on the butt then strolled away as she laughed lightly.

Scowling as he read his copy on the teleprompter which held a lot of inane rambling about the reason the theme ingredient reflected the challenger or some BS like that, Kougaiji asked, "Do I really have to say all this? It's terribly hokey." With a snort of derision he added, "This is worse than Persia's call-to-arms is!"

From where she sat on her throne in the Royal Box, Kanzeon bosatsu had watched and listened without interfering for awhile but this needed a comment from the producer, so she replied, "What's the matter, Kou-Kaga-sama? Too many big words for you?"

Rolling deep maroon eyes dramatically, Kougaiji responded, "No, not by a longshot. It's just that some of this sounds incredibly stupid. Can't we save it for the post-production voice-over when they add the footage of where the theme ingredient grew and all that?"

Shrugging and making the bodice of her sleeveless gown wobble disturbingly, the eternal agreed, "Sure, why not? I'm bored as it is. Let's get on with it." She pointed a regal fingernail at the camera operator on a boom whose job it was to capture the moment of revelation and commanded, "We're going straight to the unveiling ceremony."

"You got it, KB!" An excitable teen with pink hair who had snuck in since he'd heard Lucifer was going to be performing there and he wondered if they were better than Bad Luck chirped in return. With more expertise than one would expect from a notoriously flighty J-pop singer, he maneuvered the camera into position and called to the attractive, ponytailed blond who operated the hydraulics on the boom, "Are you ready?"

After making sure his omnipresent holstered handgun wasn't in the way, the man looked back with a broad smile and assured, "Absolutely! Can't wait for the theme ingredient to be unveiled, though." With a twinkle in his eye that wasn't concealed by his glasses, he added playfully, "It's sure to be *Big News*!" [5]

Giggling helplessly, the younger of the two called back, "Okay, K-san!" He offered a thumbs up to Kanzeon bosatsu who was smirking evilly and thinking Yuki Eiri could be Sanzo's long lost twin since the two ill-tempered blondes were so much alike. When the goddess merely nodded her approval, Shuichi called out, "Oi! Chairman-guy! We're ready!"

Kougaiji nodded his understanding and as the normal dramatic music for the moment was replaced by totally atypical music with actual lyrics in English no less, the ingredient podium rose up majestically from its previously concealed location.

Partway into the song recognized by none present other than the immortal who had a lot of time on her hands to kill watching old sitcoms, the words ended prematurely with these lyrics:

~ A three hour tour. ~

~ The weather started getting rough. ~

~ The mighty ship was tossed. ~

~ If not for the courage of her fearless crew, ~

~ The Minnow would be lost! ~

As soon as the voices died away, Kougaiji took one corner of the fabric covering some terribly lumpy, bumpy collection of things on the glowing platform and pulled it off with a great deal of flair while shouting something about unveiling the theme ingredient.

Cameras focused on those in the studio recorded their various reactions to the newly revealed food items and this is what they caught on tape:

Houran looked utterly astounded as well as pleased since it was something sweet just like herself.

Kobe was openly frightened as he chewed on his lower lip nervously in the cute way that he does so often whenever the ingredient isn't something terribly appropriate for Italian cuisine.

Gojyo seemed disinterested at first, but spotting a familiar blue can with a parrot on it amongst the strange assortment of things on the platform gave him reason to smirk.

Hakkai was massively relieved in an inscrutable "no one can tell what I'm thinking, but all that I'm thinking is that I'm really glad there wasn't a little white dragon under there" kind of way. [6]

Yaone was clapping her hands together with delight already imagining all sorts of delicious things to eat made with the ingredient never before featured on "Iron Chef".

Goku was back to bouncing in his seat excitedly and if it wasn't for the outrageous pink Pocky hidden so the camera wouldn't see it, his stomach would have roared like a lion in anticipation of a flavorful feast.

Last but not least, Sanzo glanced up from the pages of "Bishounen's Quarterly", a men's fashion magazine he'd found in Kaga's office while liberating the Pocky and beer, then with an expressive roll of amethyst eyes, he growled, "Oh, great. Just what we *don't* need. More nuts around here!"

Several people face-faulted since he'd apparently told a joke for the first time in known history while others passed out due to shock for the same reason and, as it had before, it seemed like time stood still as everyone came to terms with the newly revealed challenge.

Oh yes, the exotic ingredient was indeed a challenge. A regular "tough nut to crack" at that! [7]

*****

To be continued.

Author's Exhaustive and Occasionally Humorous Notes:

[1] For those of you who don't know, this is one of the two main guest stars in "Requiem". Also, for those of you who've only seen the egregious Hong Kong knockoff of the original, the name in the subtitles is dead wrong as simply listening to the language track can show. The spelling I'm using is courtesy of the official artbook for the movie, published by Enix which sadly doesn't bother to give our challenger a surname but happily includes a whole page of slippery wet oh-so-sexy naked Gojyo images. Gee, no wonder Hakkai had to hush her up, ne?

[2] For once here's a reference to "Iron Chef" related trivia that I did *not* glean from that book which I keep citing! This is something Chairman Kaga says only a few times and mostly in the older shows in regards to the formal entry of a challenger into Kitchen stadium, but he's so earnest when he uses that nickname that it's easy to see he really views it that way.

[3] As far as Hakkai's comment regarding the seating arrangement in Hakuryu when it is in Jeep mode goes, you didn't think Sanzo and Goku always sat apart for no reason at all did you?

[4] The fact that Houran could put so much food out in so little time was never explained in the movie and after thinking about it, I decided this made more sense than anything else I could come up with. Granted, time works differently in the "Saiyuki" world than it does in the real one or Gojyo and Goku couldn't have finished their share of the banquet in roughly a minute and a half, ne?

[5] I just love the way K always says that in English in "Gravitation"! It seems as if it needs to be capitalized, too, hence the way it's written here.

[6] Gomenasai for this squicky thought, but someone wrote to me terribly afraid Hakuryu was going to be theme ingredient. I assured her it wasn't and then someone else mentioned it as well, so here you go. Then again, this means you *still* don't know where that darling magical creature is, now do you? Yes, I *am* evil.

[7] Can *you* predict what the theme ingredient is? Feel free to post a guess at either fanfiction.net or mediaminer.org with the review feature and then find out if you're right in chapter 4, hopefully coming soon!

[Chapter Dedication] Tonight's posting run is a very special one and is dedicated to a delightful young lady who turned Sweet 16 on Sunday, November 03, 2002. Who might that be, you ask? Why, none other than my darling eldest chibi Amanda, no da!! {plays birthday music and smirks since the beloved daughter received a printed copy of this right before bed and went to dreamland with a big smile on her face because of it!} She's been a big help with not only this story but so many others as well and I just couldn't resist a chance to let the world at large know how much I appreciate it with this little 6,000+ word gift of mine! {smiles and says to the dear offspring who has appeared in various fics as herself and other miscellaneous characters} Happy birthday, Mamba-chan! I'm so proud of you!

Please be advised: Part 3 will be posted alone. Thank your lucky stars for that! Or was that your Lucky Charms? Oh, never mind. This is enough nonsense for one chapter.

Posted: 04 November 2002 ~1:00am EST