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[Fic] Saiyuki: Promises Unbroken

Spoilers: Spoilers for Gaiden up to ch. 20.
Disclaimer: Everyone belongs to Minekura Kazuya, who is wonderful.
Summary: Sometimes it takes five hundred and one years to keep a promise.
Notes: I read vol. 2 of Gaiden, which broke my heart. Then I read chs. 18-20, which took all the leftover pieces and smashed them to dust, resulting in several extremely incoherent LJ entries. I desperately started hunting for fic with Sakura of Doom and pinky promises. Unfortunately, there seems to be a dearth of Gaiden fic out there, and so, I ended up writing my own.

Thanks to edonohana for the beta and the encouragement, and for letting me steal her soldiers!

Five days ago, they were caught.

Goku thinks the scaly guy with the creepy red eyes looked a little sorry about being the one to turn them in, but every time he tried to ask creepy red-eyed guy, Konzen glared at him. Normally he would have ignored Konzen's glares and fidgeted through a scolding later, but ever since Nataku, he doesn't know the rules anymore.

Goku is so hungry. They don't feed him enough, and even though he whines and begs and gets that tone in his voice that makes Konzen's eye twitch dangerously, no one comes.

He hasn't seen Konzen since yesterday. He's been away from Konzen before, but those times, he knew Konzen was coming back. Ten-chan and Ken-niichan are also not there. Nataku is gone too, and he's scared now that Konzen and Ten-chan and Ken-niichan have left like Nataku, even though they all promised him they wouldn't.

He hooks his own pinkies together, but it isn't the same.

Three days ago, they were sentenced.

Ken-niichan tried to joke that they got off easy because Konzen was the nephew of a bodhisattva, which got him a half-hearted snort from Konzen. Then, Ten-chan started to say something about the pains of mortal life, but stopped as soon as he saw Goku. Goku remembers and just curls in the corner, torn by the realization that this is all his fault, that he was involved in Nataku's death, that he was claws and fangs and anger and slaughtered hundreds.

He didn't know what "slaughter" meant when they sentenced him.

Now he does.

Konzen kept trying to tell him that everything would be ok, that it wasn't his fault at all, but the sad look in Konzen's eyes, so different from the usual irritation, convinced Goku more than anything else that it was his fault. Goku tried to persuade Li Touten, Kanzeon, the emperor, anyone who would listen, that they should be punishing him, and only him. That's when the sad look went away, replaced by the all-too-familiar tic in Konzen's eye as Konzen started yelling at him for being a stupid monkey.

He knows he's a stupid monkey, but he thought he could be a good monkey too.

They wouldn't let him, so his friends went away. They said "reincarnation" like it was supposed to make things better. Ten-chan explained it to him, and Goku thinks it's just a fancier word for people he cares about dying.

Yesterday, they said goodbye.

Creepy red-eyed guy brought everyone over to see Goku, even though Goku heard Li Touten say that no one was allowed to see him. Maybe creepy red-eyed guy isn't that bad after all.

Ken-niichan poked fun at Ten-chan: "Didn't know you and Goujun were such good fishing buddies."

Goku doesn't get why Ten-chan always sighs when Ken-niichan mentions fishing (Goku likes fish).

That time, Ten-chan didn't sigh. He just laughed and said, "As though I would let anyone else drag me out fishing."

"Right. Sorry," said Ken-niichan, and Goku just stared at them, completely confused.

The confusion helped him forget why everyone was there.

He wanted to whine to Konzen, to ask for more food, for a name, just so things would be normal again. Konzen was being way too nice, like he was afraid for Goku, and Goku didn't think Konzen had ever been afraid before.

So he didn't say anything at all, because there was too much to say.

And then, Goujun came up and said Ten-chan and Ken-niichan and Konzen had to leave.

"Don't go," was all Goku could think of, though he really wanted to say, "Don't leave me."

Ken-niichan knelt down, took Goku's hand in his big one, and hooked their pinkies together. After a few seconds, Ten-chan knelt down as well, but since he couldn't fit his pinky in, he just laid a hand over theirs.

Konzen rolled his eyes, and Goku knew this would be the closest he'd ever come to see Konzen crying.

"Saps," Konzen weakly complained, as he slapped his own hand down.

Goku couldn't help but grin up at him, and when Konzen said he looked like an idiot, Goku's view of Konzen's bright hair blurred for a few seconds as he blinked back tears.

Konzen would whack him if he cried.

"I don't break my promises, you dork," said Ken-niichan.

"We," Ten-chan added. "We don't."

Konzen just stood there for a few seconds.

Finally: "I'll find you. Don't you dare forget that."

Konzen laced his fingers through Goku's hair and tugged lightly.

Goku nodded and smiled so hard his cheeks hurt, even when they let go of his hand and his hair, even when they turned to walk away. He watched and smiled until he couldn't see clearly anymore, but even through the tears, he knew they didn't look back.

Today, he waits.

They come for him after a while, but this time, it isn't creepy red-eyed guy. He asks for creepy red-eyed guy, but the guards just mumble something he doesn't get (he's not sure what "dragon" or "regret" means).

Thankfully, they take him to Kanzeon Bosatsu, not Li Touten. Se tells him that his friends have been reborn on Earth and that they're safe, supposedly to make him feel better, but it just makes the loneliness worse.

He's not crying, not anymore; he's so empty inside that there's nothing more to give.

So when Kanzeon tells him that his memories of Heaven will have to be repressed, he takes it calmly. He's dry-eyed and expressionless, even though they're taking away the only thing he has right now, and he's not panicking and he's not so desperately hungry for warmth and love and people that he doesn't know how to bear it.

In his head, he's calling for Konzen, for Ken-niichan and Ten-chan, but no one hears him and no one helps and he's more alone than he's ever been before. All too soon, he's in the cave, meaningless paper strips scattered everywhere. The rock is cold against his knees, and even though his well-worn shackles have been warmed by his body heat, he still shivers when they clamp on the chains.

He tries to remember that he won't be here forever because Konzen promised to find him, and any promise Konzen makes with a hand in Goku's hair and a slightly choked voice has to be a real one.

But in a few minutes, he won't remember Konzen's promise, and when Kanzeon brings hir hand down on his head, he grasps at moments, but they're harder to catch than minnows in a pond.

They slip away: rough bark against his palms and leaves against his cheek and Nataku down below; blood and swords and red, red rage; picnics under the perpetually flowering cherry trees and flurries of pink petals as Ten-chan talks about the arcane art of noodles; slamming into a tall figure in black leather and the sharp yank of hair; tangy oranges and nectar-sweet peach juice dripping from his elbows and blackberry seeds in his teeth; heavy silence and too many things unsaid that very last night before battle and capture; fear and loss and slaughter in an echoing room; a name so short that even a monkey can remember it; Konzen and three hands warming his and a promise that's all he has left.

Faster and faster, and Goku can't hold on to them, even though he's aching for things he doesn't know he needs, until finally, he is alone under rock.

He pulls at his chains so he can sit in the slivers of sunshine, and he doesn't understand why his cheeks are wet when he touches them.

In the first year, he realizes his name is Goku, and that this is somehow important. He spends the rest of the year trying to think of more, but all he knows is that he has a name, that he hates the darkness, and that he's waiting.

In the twenty-second year, a poet-scholar offends the emperor and is exiled to the hinterlands of the west.

In the twenty-fourth year, a lieutenant polishes his captain's glasses under a gingko tree, bright gold leaves and red blood pooling around him.

In the twenty-seventh year, in keeping with tradition, the poet-scholar drowns himself in a lake. He leaves a poem bemoaning the emperor's policies, which his family expects, and another poem on the lure of mountains, which they do not.

In the 55th, 56th, and 57th years, Goku hears voices as a very determined and very annoyed young man makes several attempts to scale the mountain.

In the 58th year, the voices stop, and Goku finds that he misses the shouting.

In the 59th year, he hears more voices but no shouting. A few months later, a widow buries her husband's bones, comforted somewhat by finally having a grave to sweep.

In the 133rd year, an old soldier-turned-teacher reminisces about past battles and the one headstrong underling who never listened. He still remembers the blood on his hands (not on his glasses and not on gingko leaves) and the heartbreak that led him to the schoolroom.

In the 156th year, a tea-house singer heading home for the night finds an extremely drunken young man collapsed on top of her biwa case. Despite her many qualms, she keeps the tea-house owner from kicking him out.

In the 157th year, the extremely drunken young man's superior finds that his charge is now residing with a tea-house singer, causing much scandal at the Imperial Library. A fist-fight breaks out, but eventually, the tea-house singer wins.

In the next twenty-one years, Goku tries to entertain himself by alternately arranging assorted leaves, rocks, and paper in patterns. He comes up with elaborate rules, but in the end, he's still bored.

In the following 108 years, Goku sits and sits. He moves only when the sun does. Kanzeon Bosatsu watches in amusement or frustration as generations of blondes manage to fall off mountains.

Se is briefly appeased in the 287th year, when a group of monks rescue a young blonde man from a landslide. They are rewarded with many arguments. Despite constant provocation, the monks let the man live with them till his death at seventy-seven. He never leaves the temple.

In the 375th year, a young girl plants a cherry tree with her mother. She wants to know when it will bloom so she can give the flowers to her mother, but in the wake of her father's death the next year, the tree grows on, forgotten.

In the 392nd year, a woman and her twin sister come across the flowering sakura and giggle at the petals in their hair, remembering that even through a difficult childhood, they always had each other.

In the 421st year, an old nun finds the tree bowed down, branches cracking under the weight of snow and ice. She can't do much, but she comes by every day to clear off the snow. When spring comes, she sets out on her last pilgrimage, but not before she leaves her mentor's prayer beads at the roots of the tree. She will miss the feel of cold, smooth stone in her fingers, but no more than she misses her mentor's calm certainty.

In the 447th year, a bartender finds himself playing mahjong every week with the town's teacher and the scholar residing at the local temple. All three are baffled by the recurring games; they know they have nothing in common. Even so, they play for years, but they can never find a regular for the spot across from the scholar. After several more years of always having to look for someone to be West, they eventually drift apart.

Goku spends those years staring east and north and south and missing something that he doesn't know how to play.

In the 501st year, four travellers in a jeep come across an old cherry tree in full bloom. Despite much arguing, they stop there. The youngest one runs around, climbs the tree, and gets into all sorts of trouble. He finds a pile of smooth, round stones in the roots of the tree and brings one to the monk, who glares. Later, when no one is looking, the monk rolls the stone in his hands and finds strange comfort in the cool rock.

Today, Goku drags everyone out for a picnic under the cherry tree. Hakkai looks puzzled but goes along; Gojyo complains loudly but not strongly; and contrary to all expectations, Sanzo simply agrees, a distant look in his eyes and a stone bead in his hand.

Goku knows everyone is confused by his insistence and his unusual gravity. He usually doesn't care if everyone thinks he's a simple, happy-go-lucky, hungry monkey. He likes simple. But this is important.

It's important like accompanying Gonou to the ruins of a castle was important, like going back for Gojyo because there was too much room in Jeep, like playing mahjong in the middle of defeat.

So they picnic, and the falling petals get in everyone's instant ramen and sake. For once, Hakkai listened to Goku instead of Gojyo and got sake instead of beer, which just makes this day better. Gojyo fishes each petal out of his cup, insulted by the sake or the sakura or the world in general.

Gojyo spits out a petal that he somehow missed and says, "Spill. What d'you have up your sleeve?"

Goku doesn't say anything, just reaches over to grab Gojyo's hand. Even though Gojyo swears and pulls away, Goku twists his hand and manages to forcibly hook his pinky with Gojyo's.

"OW! What's up with you?" he complains, but he stops struggling.

When Goku still doesn't reply, Gojyo turns to Hakkai: "Don't tell me you're in on this too?"

But Hakkai's not listening; he's staring at Goku. He hesitates, but when Goku nods, he tentatively reaches a hand out and places it over Goku and Gojyo's intertwined fingers.

"Sanzo," Goku says. He's not whining this time, and he's not pleading like he did in the cave, but he still needs something.

Sanzo snorts.

"Oh, just do what the kid wants," Gojyo says. "Get it over w-- ow! Stop holding on so tight!"

"Goku does seem to think this is important," Hakkai adds.

"Sanzo," Goku says again.

Sanzo starts to reach inside his sleeve when Goku adds, "Please."

"Fine!" Sanzo rolls his eyes and slaps his hand down, hard. Their hands stay piled for maybe two seconds before Sanzo and Gojyo yank theirs back quickly.

"What the fuck, monkey?" Sanzo asks.

Goku looks at the three of them, lets himself remember.

"I keep my promises," he says. He doesn't know if he's talking to Sanzo and Hakkai and Gojyo or to the silhouettes behind them.

Just as Sanzo starts reaching for his fan or his gun again, Goku turns to him, reaches up, runs his fingers through Sanzo's bright hair, like he's always wanted to.

"So do you," he says, bowing down his head in anticipation of a blow that never comes.

"So do you," he says again, this time, to all of them.

Goku's going to make sure that this time, there won't be a need for promises.


( 58 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 4th, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC)
That's beautiful. Thank you.
Apr. 4th, 2006 11:00 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it!
Apr. 4th, 2006 09:00 pm (UTC)
Lovely. Thank you.
Apr. 4th, 2006 11:00 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it!
Apr. 4th, 2006 09:15 pm (UTC)
This made me laugh like the crazy woman I am:

Kanzeon Bosatsu watches in amusement or frustration as generations of blondes manage to fall off mountains.

But then the ending got me. Very, very well-done.

If you're still looking for fic that incorporates the pinky promise, it's mentioned in the last section of Eliza's stagesoflove Tenpou/Konzen/Kenren series. The parts are: here, here, here, here, and here. Haven't seen any other stories mention it yet.
Apr. 4th, 2006 11:01 pm (UTC)
Oooo, thanks for the links!

There just needs to be more Gaiden fic in the world in general.

Also, the blondes falling off mountains is one of my favorite lines ^_^.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 4th, 2006 11:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!
Apr. 4th, 2006 11:56 pm (UTC)
I am crying.

(but in a good way!)
Apr. 5th, 2006 01:26 am (UTC)

Gaiden totally breaks my heart.
Apr. 4th, 2006 11:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is just lovely and heartbreaking and sweet.
Apr. 5th, 2006 01:26 am (UTC)
Thank you! I adore Gaiden.
Apr. 5th, 2006 12:41 am (UTC)
Apr. 5th, 2006 01:27 am (UTC)
Heh, yeah, not such a cheerful fic.

And ooo, I like your icon!
(no subject) - kate_nepveu - Apr. 5th, 2006 02:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - springgreen - Apr. 5th, 2006 05:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 5th, 2006 03:53 am (UTC)
Oh, wow. The first scenes made my throat all tight, but it's an awesome story overall. Great job.

(By the way, if you're looking for Gaiden fic, have you read the Gaiden With a Difference series by incandescens and mjj?)
Apr. 5th, 2006 05:00 am (UTC)

And oooo, I haven't read that one. Yay, more Gaiden fic!
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 5th, 2006 06:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I adore Goku so much.
Apr. 5th, 2006 06:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I'm glad you liked it!

And yay recs!
Apr. 5th, 2006 07:52 am (UTC)
Great story. Sad and beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
Apr. 5th, 2006 06:23 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it!
Apr. 5th, 2006 10:03 am (UTC)
That was fantastic, beautifully written and with a wonderfully subtle humour. Fantastic!
Apr. 5th, 2006 06:23 pm (UTC)
Oh thank you! I'm glad it did end up having some funny bits, just because ... wah! Gaiden is so sad and tragic!
Apr. 6th, 2006 02:47 am (UTC)
This is lovely. A beautiful look at what happened between Gaiden and Saiyuki. ♥
Apr. 6th, 2006 03:07 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Apr. 17th, 2006 08:02 pm (UTC)
. . . now I'm reading fic. And this was gorgeous, truly. Sweet and evocative and heart-tugging. Mmm. *^^*
Apr. 17th, 2006 09:11 pm (UTC)
Awww, thank you!

(so far, this is my favorite thing out of all the ones I've written).

OMG, does this mean you've finished Gaiden? Eeee what did you think?
(no subject) - umadoshi - Apr. 18th, 2006 01:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - springgreen - Apr. 18th, 2006 07:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - umadoshi - Apr. 18th, 2006 04:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 24th, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
Oh man that almost got me all teary eyed. Great job, that was lovely. ^ ^
Apr. 25th, 2006 05:16 pm (UTC)
Awww, thank you so much!
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( 58 comments — Leave a comment )


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