Author: the great SacralGral, or did you think otherwise?
Summary: 200 years have passed since the end of the Saiyuki series and Goku happens upon a certain prince bound to a certain castle. Not AU. At least not in my opinion.
The tavern was badly lit, with smoke and the smell of alcohol clouding the customers’ senses. Near the open fire sat an old man, children gathered all around him. Even the adults seated at the tables near him had turned to listen as the old man told his tale.
“ – So the evil demon was defeated a second time by Nataku, but the brave warrior soon died after he had sealed the demon into stone. Before that, however, Nataku had laid a curse upon the demon’s child so it never would be able to leave the castle. And so the princess waited for her saviour but nobody ever came to rescue her. The princess grieved and finally died, cursing her father with her last breath for being such a bad person that nobody would ever come to rescue his child. Where she had fallen, a dark-red flower bloomed, and her soul was contained in the silver pearl hidden between the petals. Whoever plucked this special flower would rescue the cursed princess and not only be presented with her ever-lasting love, but also with the gold her father had taken from the humans.”
It was silent around the old man after he had finished his story, the children watching him with awe in their eyes and some adults contemplating the story and the amount of money mentioned in it.
“If you like the story, be so kind as to give an old man some coins so he can buy himself a warm meal,” the old man said, and the children all hopped up at once to run to their parents and get some money.
The white-haired man thanked them all with a smile on his lips and stayed until the last customers had left.
“Last time I heard the story there was only the red flower,” the bartender teased him as she dried the last glasses and stowed them away. The old man, now seated at the bar and nursing a glass of beer, snorted.
“It would be pretty boring if I just told them, ‘And so the princess died and cursed her father.’ There wouldn’t be that much money, either,” he said and took a sip from the glass. “But in every fairytale there is a grain of truth.”
The bartender rolled her eyes. “Now don’t get all wise and old on me.”
He leered at her. “Oh, you rather prefer young and energetic?”
She rolled her eyes again and smacked him lightly on the shoulder. “Pervert!”
He watched the sky, focussing on the fat bird lazily circling above him. His stomach demandingly grumbled and he patted it soothingly.
“Don’t worry, I’ll find something to eat soon,” he said, eyeing the bird again. The sun glinted off the golden diadem in his brown hair as he shook his head and moved on, his goal being a small village seated between two mountains.
“Once I’m there I’ll have cooked meat, beef and pork, chicken-legs and--oooooh, a steak!” Drool made his way down his chin and he quickly wiped it away. “And paprika! Potatoes, onions, apples, bananas, salad, oranges…” His voice trailed of as he stepped out of the forest and was met with a beautiful scene.
Fresh green grass covered the hill leading from the forest to the village. Butterflies made their way from colourful flower to colourful flower and children played near the gates of the village with some dogs. Women stood nearby, chatting and keeping an eye on their offspring.
The village itself was an old-fashioned one with a high, wooden fence surrounding all the houses. The houses were like the fence, also made mostly out of wood with red bricks showing now and then. Snow-white clouds dotted the deep-blue sky above it all. The two mountains between which the village was seated weren’t that high, but behind them rose higher mountains in the sky, their tops snow-covered.
Goku smiled and ran down the hill like he was six years old again.
“You really made the track through the Hollow Woods?” the bartender asked as Goku just nodded as he shovelled more food into his mouth.
“Yeah, that’s the spirit of the youth!” the old man, seated beside him at the bar, crowded and smacked him on the back. Goku nearly coughed his food across the table.
“Yeah…” he said weakly and smiled hesitantly at the woman behind the bar. She had ruby-red hair and the same eye-colour. From her painted lips hung a half-burnt cigarette and she remained Goku awfully much of a certain water-demon he had known about 200 years ago.
“So…” The old man paused shortly to take a gulp from his beer. “Where are you going now? Across the mountains? I heard there are a lot of bears and wild wolves around at this time of the year. Normally they keep to the areas deeper in the mountains but the harsh winter has driven them out.”
“I don’t know… I just kind of wander around, trying to see everything and get an impression of the world,” Goku answered truthfully, pausing in the process of devouring his food.
“Ah,” The woman nodded in understanding, the cigarette bobbing with the motion. “You still search for your place.”
“You could put it like that,” Goku said, a smile on his lips.
“Care to explain?” the old man piped up, obviously confused.
“Our young friend here--” the bartender leaned forward and petted Goku’s cheek with a cheeky grin on her face, “--still searches for his destined place to stay. Everyone has this place and wants to find it to become truly happy. Or so I have heard at least.” She turned to the old man, tapping a fresh cigarette out of her packet in the progress and lighted it while continuing to speak. “I am astonished you haven’t heard about that one, as you are that much into legends and all.”
“Well, there is always something new to explore,” the old man said wistfully, leaning back on his chair and contemplating the ceiling. “I could use that in my “Rosenmaid” story.”
“That one with the perverted warrior and the great demon who saves the poor maid in the end?” the bartender asked.
“Yeah, that one.”
“What is the “Rosenmaid” story?” Goku asked, finishing his third plate and reaching for the next.
“A tale this old grump here tells customers in the evening to get money.” The woman jerked a thumb in the direction of the old man.
“Well, not one of my best stories, that is for sure, but still good enough to buy me a decent meal.”
“You’re a story-teller?” Goku turned to the old man, his big eyes sparkling. “Have one with nasty demons and a beautiful princess to be rescued?”
“Ah, well, if you are asking like that…” The old man smiled like a sedated cat, thoughtfully stroking his thinning, grey beard.
“Once upon a time there was an evil demon that had a beautiful child--” The bartender interrupted him before he could go any further.
“The same story as yesterday evening?” she asked, both eyebrows raised. The old man glared at her for so rudely interrupting his story, then nodded. She just smiled and motioned for him to continue.
“Well, once upon a time--”
“Thanks for the meal but I have to go now,” Goku smiled at the strange pair –the old man still seated at the bar with his glass of beer and the bar-tender sweeping glasses, again- then waved a last time and shut the door behind him.
Well, that was an interesting story… he thought as he moved down the main-street of the village. He narrowed his eyes as he scrutinized the mountains, still many miles away.
Reminds me an awful lot of Gyumao’s second fall. Even Nataku is mentioned. Only that all this happened already 200 years ago. Maybe I should pay a visit to Tenjiku Hotojo, just to be sure…
And thus Goku’s lonely journey to Tenjiku Hotojo began. At that time he didn’t know that it would take him five years to reach it.
Water splashed into the air and hit the ground without a sound. Only a few green plants had broken through the dry, hard-baked earth this year. There hadn’t been enough rain during the summer season and the stream running under the castle hadn’t provided much water, either.
At least the caves down there were cool while Tenjiku Hotojo was more like an oven during the hotter months of the year.
Kougaiji sighed and wiped the sweat from his brow. He cast a look at the sky, calculating how long the sun would still be up, then decided to head back in. The simple white muscle-shirt he had thrown on was already sticking to his back and the light jeans he wore did nothing to make him feel better.
“Maybe there will be another bear caught in the trap…” he mused as he padded with bare feet through the corridors, making his way around parts of the ceiling which had broken down. Two weeks ago a bear had wandered into the castle, in search of some much-needed cool and had been caught in one of the traps Kougaiji had set up in hopes of meat. Kougaiji had lived off of it for one week.
Meat had become rare since Nataku had cursed him to stay forever in the damn castle. Kougaiji could partially live off the vegetables he grew in the garden of the castle, but he had always been particularly fond of a good steak and the loss of said meat hadn’t sat well with him.
For 200 goddamned years I have already lived here, all alone. I am starting to feel like a rabbit.
Kougaiji pushed open one of the last doors which hadn’t broken down over the years and walked into the main hall. The once graceful staircase leading up to the sleeping-chambers had many cracks in it but was still holding its ground, refusing to break down like the rest of the castle. Kougaiji glanced at it as he made his way out but quickly averted his eyes as he caught sight of the blood still coating the higher steps. Nataku’s blood. Everywhere he went there seemed to be something reminding him of the one having defeated his father and binding him to the castle.
Fucking bastard. Serves him right for dying.
He made his way over the remains of the main gates and slithered down the other side of the small hill of rotten wood that was the grand doors.
There wasn’t a trapped bear or wolf waiting for him but an angry demon with spiky black hair.
The boy brandished a huge sword when he caught sight of Kougaiji and started to rant about how his father had been killed by Gyumao and how he would take revenge on his offspring now blah, blah, blah. Kougaiji had heard it too many times to be surprised any more. He waited patiently until the boy had finished his little speech, then watched calmly as the sword was pointed at him und swung with surprising easiness to make him a head shorter. He ducked under the blow and punched the black-haired demon out of the courtyard through the outer gates. The scream echoing from the young demon as he fell down the cliff just behind the gates was suddenly cut off as he hit the ground.
Kougaiji wandered over to the gates and stopped just short of the doorway. He couldn’t go further than that or the barrier Nataku had so kindly built up around the castle would hit him and propel him back into the castle’s wall.
Some just never learn, he thought and turned back around.
An awfully familiar voice stopped him: “Hey, asshole!”
Goku had imagined that when he would finally find Tenjiku Hotojo he would be met with death and destruction, but he hadn’t imagined a black-haired demon being thrown through the gates and nearly hitting him on his way down the cliff.
What the hell… That was about the time Goku had reached the edge of the cliff and swung himself up on (partially) safe ground. There was Kougaiji, looking as he had done when he had seen him the last time about 200 years ago, back turned to him.
Goku did what he always did: be loud and impulsive.
“Hey, asshole!” he called out.
Kougaiji slowly turned to him, longer bangs shadowing eyes that glinted desperately.
“Goku,” the demon prince said without any loathing. “What do you want?”
“Uh…” That was a good question, Goku decided. He didn’t know what he really wanted here, he had never really thought about it. “I wanted to check if Gyumao is really dead?”
“He is as dead as one can get,” Kougaiji said and turned back to the castle. “If that was all you can leave now, right?”
“Ah, uh- NO! What about our rematch?”
Kougaiji regarded him with dark eyes. “There won’t be a rematch. Not here, not anywhere.”
“But why?” Goku whined, trailing Kougaiji as the prince climbed back into the castle.
“That’s no answer! Fight me!” Goku jumped in front of Kougaiji, successfully blocking his way, his red staff ready. Kougaiji just moved into another corridor.
“Hey! What happened to the Kougaiji who would fight his enemies until they went down, no matter what?”
“He faded away about 100 years ago, all lonely in a big, empty castle,” Kougaiji replied without looking back.
Goku was silent after that statement; but not for long.
“Whatcha doing now? Have some food? It takes an awful long time to climb that cliff up to your castle, you know? And who was the poor guy who came sailing through the gates and down the cliff?”
Kougaiji glared at him over a shoulder. “Shut up, I have barely enough food for myself and the ‘poor guy’, as you name him, was another of those people who wanted to avenge a family-member killed by Gyumao.”
“And to avenge their family they came to you? Gross,” Goku linked his hands behind his head and followed Kougaiji down some stairs and through numerous corridors.
Kougaiji sent him an exasperated look. “Can’t you just shut up and leave me alone?”
Goku grinned. “Nope.”
“Urghs! Even Sanzo could cook better than that!” Goku stated after he had spit out the bite he had just taken. One of Kougaiji’s eyebrows twitched but he said nothing and just concentrated on roasting what little meat he had left.
Goku reached for one piece but Kougaiji hit him with the stick he used to turn the meat.
“I thought it was so bad?” he asked in a dangerously low tone of voice.
“Uh, well, if there’s nothing else I’ll eat that, too. Have some water?” Goku held his canteen in Kougaiji’s direction. The other eyebrow started to twitch.
“Get it yourself.”
“Maaah, but you’re closer.”
“Do I look like a maid to you?” Kougaiji bristled and for one moment Goku thought Kougaiji’s hair had really started to bunch up. Nonetheless the prince snatched the canteen away from him and filled it.
“Now shut up,”
“It’s really boring here, you know? And the food is bad, too,” Goku said after the third day he had stayed in the castle.
“Do tell,” Kougaiji grumbled from where he was bent over a small pile of rocks.
“Hey, why don’t you break out?” Goku suddenly suggested.
Kougaiji sent him a look which seemed to clearly state ‘Are you crazy?’ “Nataku. Barrier. Ring any bells?”
“You could at least give it a try,” Goku pouted.
“Yeah, and get smashed right back into the wall. That hurts quite a lot, you know,” Kougaiji turned back to whatever he was working at.
“But what if I help you? Does it actually hurt when you touch the barrier?” Curious now, Goku settled down beside Kougaiji and watched him sort through the stones.
“Yes, it hurts. Like being hit by a lightning-bolt but without that much damage,” Kougaiji answered absentmindedly.
“Ah, so what if I keep you from getting hurled back? Would you be able to endure the pain for some seconds? Just long enough so that we can make it through?”
Kougaiji stopped in mid-shrug and turned dark eyes on Goku.
“Don’t even think about it. And why all of a sudden do you want to help me, anyways?” he growled, eyes narrowing at Goku’s half-hearted lift of shoulders.
“You don’t get much news from outside?” Kougaiji only glared harder at him. “Okay, stupid question. But you know, humans and demons live together quite peacefully. There are many half-demons now and the real strong, full-blooded demons are getting fewer and fewer. Soon there won’t be anybody worth fighting. So, I thought, we could stick together, spar now and then and search for the reincarnations of our friends. How does that sound?”
Kougaiji answered without missing a beat. “Strange.”
“Aww, but think it over first!” Goku whined. “Don’t you want to see this girlfriend of yours again? What was her name? Yonne- Yana- Yaene?”
“Yaone,” Kougaiji corrected him. “And she wasn’t my girlfriend. She was a subordinate and a healer to me,” And a good friend as well, he secretly thought.
“Ah! Because of that she so openly flirted with Hakkai!” Goku announced, fist hitting open palm.
“You would call trying to kill each other flirting?” Kougaiji incredulously stared at Goku.
“Uh, well, in a strange way they seemed to enjoy each other’s company and they didn’t seem to be set that determined to kill the other…” Goku trailed off as he stared thoughtfully in the blue sky. “On second thought, you’re probably right. Somehow they don’t seem to fit together.”
Kougaiji turned back to his stones with a snort. “Just what I said.”
“But what about your swordsman? Gojyo’s brother?”
“I am quite content; he is better off without me.”
Goku visibly pouted, then turned sombre.
“And your sister?” he asked quietly.
Kougaiji didn’t go bloody murder on him as he had half expected, just shot him a cool look.
“She is the last one I want to remind of her past by dropping in out of nowhere.”
“ARGH!” Goku tore at his hair in frustration. “What do you think is worth enough to get out of this castle?”
“Getting out of the castle or travelling with you?” Kougaiji asked.
“Travelling, sparring and talking with me!” Goku listed, a stubborn expression on his face. “And if you can arrange it, being somewhere around the term ‘friends’ would be nice, too.”
Kougaiji racked a clawed hand trough his hair and sighed deeply. “A nice warm steak and a soft bed doesn’t sound that bad,” he mused more to himself than to Goku.
“And just think about fresh green grass, and birds, and fat chickens and roasted beef--mmmmh.” Kougaiji warily eyed the drool making its way down Goku’s chin.
“…Right. So you say you can barrel me through the barrier if I just hold out long enough against the pain?”
Goku snapped out of his daydream and quickly (and a tad embarrassed, he admitted) wiped away the drool. “Uh, yes. I’m not sure, but maybe you’re just hurtled back because it’s an uncontrollable reflex to get away from the pain. But if I press after we could get you through.” Goku blinked, only now realizing what he had just spouted. Then his eyes lit up with the light of hope. “Does that mean you want to try it?”
Kougaiji nodded and Goku shot to his feet.
“YES! I knew it! Let’s pack things already and head for the gates! I want to be out of here before sunset!”
“Hey, wait! I never said--” But Goku was already out of hearing range, heading in the direction of the room where his few possessions were scattered. Kougaiji was left to stare at his quickly retreating back.
Goku stared at Kougaiji. Kougaiji stared right back.
“You sure you don’t want to take anything else with you?” Goku finally asked.
“Yes.” Kougaiji answered impatiently. All he carried in his backpack were some spare clothes, gold (you never knew when it could come in handy), food and scrolls from his private library. It was half as big as Goku’s own bag.
“Okay, then,” Goku mumbled, stepping easily through the barrier and depositing his bag outside the castle’s gates. “Give me your bag, will ya? It probably will only hinder us.”
Kougaiji threw his backpack beside Goku’s and waited until the other demon had returned to his side.
Goku’s hands were sweaty where they settled at his back, which didn’t bother Kougaiji in the slightest. The sun burnt down form the clear blue sky with no cloud in sight. Kougaiji considered it for a moment, then slightly turned his head to peer at Goku.
“And what shall we do if it doesn’t work?” he asked, hands clenching into fists at his side.
“Let’s worry about that later,” Goku replied easily. He took a deep breath and smiled a crooked smile. “You can scream if it hurts too much.” And with that he shoved Kougaiji right in the barrier.
The sweaty hands at his back were the only thing reminding Kougaiji that the skin there hadn’t simply melted off by now. But it sure felt like it. Had he really described the pain as lightning bolts? Man, it was much worse. It felt like he had been kicked right into the deepest pits of hell, with eternal fire first melting his flesh and then his bones, filling his mouth and nose with burning air and boiling his inner organs. Kougaiji was sure he didn’t scream. It would have hurt far too much to even open his mouth.
Somebody seemed to turn off a switch and the pain was suddenly gone. And at the same time Kougaiji realized that he had forgotten something. The cliff just behind the gates, leading straight down and being very, very long and deadly if someone was unlucky enough to fall down it.
“Shit.” Kougaiji gritted his teeth, nerve-endings still frizzling from the barrier’s assault and he was already mumbling ancient words before the full situation hit him.
He was through the barrier. He was free.
And Goku’s left hand had ripped through the thin shirt he wore.
A low, dangerous growl reached Kougaiji’s ears. He slowly turned his head and felt blood running down his back the same moment he caught sight of madly shining, golden eyes.
Then there was a shadow above them, and Kougaiji had just time to think But there wasn’t a cloud anywhere. before the gigantic rock crashed into them.
Goddamned, idiotic, shit-eating, brainless monkey.
Kougaiji couldn’t open his eyes but he didn’t need to, to know that something was wrong with the left side of his body. Or at least with his left leg and his left arm. The rest felt relatively normal. On second thought, only his left arm felt really strange, the pain in his left leg was already subsiding. But the arm…it didn’t feel like a simple break of the bone but like the bone had splintered in more than one place and pieces of the bone had torn through the flesh.
Kougaiji could still feel his fingers and that counted as a good sign.
Ok, you damned eyelids, MOVE!
One eye cracked open, wide enough for him to see the cloudless blue sky above him. There were the high, dark walls of the cliff leading up to it but at the moment Kougaiji was happy enough to be alive.
I hope the damn monkey is in as much pain as I am, Kougaiji thought as he cautiously moved his right hand to free him from the numerous rocks having piled up over the left side of his body. His left arm was a bloody mess, with white bone-splitters being coloured red by the blood while his leg seemed to be mostly okay. Only ripped fabric and ripped skin.
I also hope he hasn’t been buried too deep under the stones because I sure as hell won’t dig him out.
He must have fallen asleep, or something like that, because he suddenly was in a soft bed and he clearly remembered slowly walking along the wall, searching for Goku. Said demon was currently sitting at the end of his bed, devouring…food. Kougaiji didn’t dare to give the squashed mass any name.
“What happened?” he rasped, left hand twitching and, to his surprise, not hurting.
“We made it,” Goku stated solemnly, eyes brown again and magic-controller back in place. In the blink of an eye the seriousness was gone and Goku flashed Kougaiji the victory-sign, grin stretching from one ear to the other. “Told you! Now we can plan where to go first!”
“What is with my injuries?” Kougaiji asked, voice becoming smoother with each spoken word.
“Oh, not too bad. A bandage there, some medicine here and everything was right again.” Goku still grinned at him. Kougaiji stared at him, eyes wide in disbelief.
“My arm was nearly ripped apart!”
“Now don’t go overboard. At first it really looked nasty but it actually wasn’t that bad. I stitched you up and your healing-powers did the rest. Want some?” Goku offered him some of squashed food (had that tentacle just moved???) and Kougaiji very nearly reeled back in disgust. Goku wasn’t offended by it at all and happily cried, “Leaves more for me!”
“Where are we?” Kougaiji questioned, sitting up which (again surprise, surprise) wasn’t as exhausting or painful as he had thought it would be.
“In an inn near Tenjiku Hotojo. They really make the best roasted chicken around here. And you should try their fruitcake! Ooo~h, and just the hot chocolate.” Again there went the drool down Goku’s chin. Kougaiji silently handed him a tissue.
“Was I unconscious for long?”
“Nah, only one day,” Goku replied with his mouth already full again.
“Long enough.” Kougaiji felt the bandages around his head and his chest and came to the conclusion that they were well-made.
“What happened back there while we fell?” he asked after he had waited for Goku to finish his meal.
“Uh…” Goku sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. “Seems like Tenjiku Hotojo fell apart after we broke through the barrier. I lost my magic-controller during the fall but was able to put it back on once we were on safe ground and then I brought you here.”
“So the gigantic rock which hit us was a part of the castle,” Kougaiji mused.
“Yeah, probably a wall. Tenjiku Hotojo is nothing more than a pile of rubble now and the barrier has fallen with it.” Kougaiji sent Goku a questioning look.
“I went back and checked on it,” he explained.
“Oh.” Kougaiji leaned back in his pillow, considering this new fact. Now there was officially nothing to bind him to this area anymore. He had held a dislike for the castle ever since he had first seen it and the dislike had grown to outright hate over the last 200 years, which was understandable. Who wouldn’t loath a building one had been bound to against one’s will and which held a great deal of bad memories?
Kougaiji stared as a hot cup of molten chocolate appeared in Goku’s hands and the brown-haired teen started sipping it peacefully.
But the question is, Kougaiji thought, how Goku first lost his magic-controller and then was able to put it back on himself. As far as he knew, Goku was ever careful to never lose his golden diadem because once the monster had been freed it couldn’t be tamed without the help of a god. So how had he managed it, seeing that Kougaiji and the rest of the population around here were still alive?
Kougaiji decided to stow such questions away for later.
“So, where are we heading first?” he asked.
Goku grinned. “Hot springs!”
And thus their journey together over high mountains and through dangerous forests began.