Early morning sunlight and a light breeze finished off the ache in his head; distance turned the volume of others’ emotions down a notch. He grabbed the respite and shook it ’til its teeth rattled.
Basics. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Hold. Let the thoughts come, but let them go. Listen to the water….
It was as bad as the first days in the temple, trying to dodge the jealousy, careless arrogance, and deep-seated infighting of the real monks. Worse; he was used to having some degree of control over what he :heard,: and… controlled, this wasn’t.
And they wondered why Koumyou couldn’t stand most of them. Hell, I’m surprised he could stand me.
But that was the past. Focus on now. He stalked off toward the nearby stream, deliberately ignoring the :wary curiosity: and :worry: tiptoeing along behind. Flowing water was one of the few physical phenomena that could mute emotions at all, to the point that Koumyou had drilled into him the habit of paying particular attention near rivers, in case of ambush.
Oh, please ambush me. I’ve still got bullets left.
Nothing. Damn it. He sighed, and turned toward rippling water, shaking out a cigarette and lighter. Might as well look the new killer straight in the eye, after all. He didn’t know what he should be feeling, after a catastrophe like the castle, but no one could kill as many people as he had yesterday and not be marked by it-
“Gojyo was apparently raised somewhere very far away, so I suppose he didn’t realize what it meant,” Hakkai said levelly, still carefully yards away. “But it’s said the crimson chakra is the sign of those chosen by Heaven, and closest to the gods.”
No. Hell, no. He didn’t – he couldn’t have-
“Master,” he’d said once, months ago, “I know I’m picking things up as fast as I can. But how can anyone think I’m qualified to be your apprentice? The temple’s full of people who’ve studied their whole lives-”
“Studied,” Koumyou stated. “Not lived.” Silver hair shook. “The power of the sutra should never be held by one whose only view of that universe is the straight paths of the temple grounds. Who has never threaded their way through the twisting, bloody trails of the world, that all men and youkai walk in sorrow and joy.”
“Kouryuu. There are no requirements to be a Sanzo priest,” Koumyou had said bluntly. “I seek an apprentice with a strong body, and stronger heart. The temple can say what it likes. The choice of my heir is mine, and only Kanzeon’s to approve or deny.” He’d smiled then, setting the topic aside. “Now, shall we practice that throw again? You’re getting too perilous for the acolytes, poor boys….”
The sutra stretched itself out of being a scroll, rustling from his sleeve to settle over his shoulders like a contented tiger. The way it had for Koumyou. The way it should only do for a-
Be strong, priest Genjyo Sanzo.
No, Hakkai thought, almost wincing as he recalled the resulting indignant yell that had all but shattered his eardrums. The SGC really doesn’t need to know about that.