brokenworld01: (mythological...)
[personal profile] brokenworld01
I blame this chapter entirely upon the Rob Thomas song in the "current music." Honestly. I should post the lyrics. >.<

Also, I should credit mjj for an idea in this, although my take is a slight variant from her's. The fic in question is "Tuesday" from the "Magritte Fic Challenge." Because the concept makes a lot of sense.

Scene added, and at 1500 words, this is the longest BW chapter yet! *boggles* Talkative kami. And remember, because of Chin Iisou, the Sanzo-ikkou never encountered Homura, so how was the War Prince keeping himself entertained? (Spoilers for Gaiden Homura arc (such as it is)).


There comes a point where one is forced to confront the banality of existence, if only for a fleeting moment. Such a point may pass swiftly, unremarkably; erased by an eye blink or a heartbeat. Or it may come slowly and settle like a toad to the bottom of a muddy pond and lay there, breathing with slow deliberation until karma aligns with the point of realization and the pond explodes outwards in a shower of mud.

Or blood.

We had nothing left to fight for, nothing left to lose. In this, we were no different than he. And so we became like him: unclean.

There is a kind of freedom in it, you realize, when one becomes an abomination by choice. When you have bent expectations to the point where they break, you are free to walk through the chaos you've created, untouched, unscathed by their morality and judgement. Laugh at their confusion, or only smile, suddenly superior in your abhorrent state.

Why follow him?

Ah, well.... Centuries give you time to weigh and measure the depths of your soul, find yourself wanting, perhaps. After the high melodrama of the exit of certain souls from the Heavenly planes, there was a great deal of such searching going on among the kami. At least among those who were inclined to it.

The Jade Emperor imposed order again, though with difficulty. With Nataku rendered useless by his own blade, it was as if a spell of sorts had been broken. The Emperor ordered Litouten imprisoned, and there was great relief at that, for the man had gone completely insane and would speak of nothing save killing and becoming emperor himself.

There was a need for a War Prince, of course. The Emperor would not be without someone who could kill in his name in such troubled times. And so the third itan, the secret one, was brought forth and appointed. The Heavens had been greatly troubled by the existence of two itan; how much worse would it have been had the kami known there were three?

Ah, but this one, the Emperor believed, he could trust. This one, after all, was a blood relation -- not that anyone was allowed to speak of it.

He never wanted to become Jade Emperor himself, you realize. That was not his plan. He wanted no part of the corrupt, hypocritical society that had imprisoned him. No, in his own slow, maddened way, he was as insane as Litouten, for the fire in him was one of destruction.

He called it balancing the scales, but he would see it that way, of course.

Still, he played his part well, for centuries. He needed the time, you see. Time to create peace and stability, to allow things to return to their stagnant state. That way his rebellion, his sudden introduction of chaos, would be no less shocking than the itan Goku's had.

He would not be counted second, lesser, in anything, and certainly not in his attempt to shake the Heavens.

Five hundred years is only a long time to a mortal... and an unclean being.

Five hundred years... and for the mortals, the threads of karma bent, tangled, wove and rewove through lifetimes. For the kami, things went on, remaining unchanged.

Boring, as the bodhisattva so succinctly put it.


One night, we went below. He found his work already done for him, and was not at all pleased. In the darkness, souls moved, threads crossed and re-crossed. One thousand and one threads snapped. And one frayed to the point of breaking, but holding, stubbornly, against the night.

"Marshal," Homura drawled, amused beyond words. "The mighty that fell have fallen again."

There was no humanity, no recognition, in the jaded green eyes that fixed upon him. Only pain deep enough to break a soul.

Perhaps it had.

"Tch. Let's go," Homura said.

"You will claim this work as your own?" I asked.

"And why not?" he replied. "As long as the centipede is crushed, that is all the Heavens need know."

A vine-covered youkai, once the Field Marshal of the Western Army of Heaven, lay dying at his feet. He had the decency not to kick him, at least.

Crouching on my heels, I asked the youkai, "Who did this?"

Sanity flickered somewhere in the depths of his eyes. "I did," he said. "This..." The youkai raised a trembling hand, flinching from the sight of his claws. "Not me. I am human."

That kind of desperation is heartbreaking, if you have a heart left that is capable of feeling sympathy, of looking past your own pain to acknowledge another's.

Zenon snorted. Crushed out a cigarette. Lit another. "Not likely."

Homura rested the tip of his sword on the floor between his feet and braced both hands atop its hilt. "It is possible. I would not put it past him... Remember what he did, after all."

I nodded without looking up at him.

"Please," the youkai whispered. "This isn't me... please... don't let me die like this..."

"Remember," Homura said again, his voice deep and resonant. "It is said that a human who bathes in the blood of a thousand youkai..."

"Tch." Zenon shook his head, his disbelief almost palpable.

"He was not afraid to kill in Heaven. Why doubt he would be strong enough to do such a thing Below?"

Zenon shifted his feet uneasily.

"Let's go," Homura said again.

"No... Please...."

"You would leave him like this?" I asked, not rising.

"Don't make me repeat myself, Shien," Homura growled. "We are leaving now."

Acts of defiance. We all have them in us. They are what draw us together, through the eddying streams of time and the tangled threads of fate.

It is a small thing for a kami to draw on the power of Heaven to make seals... or limiters. What are limiters, really, but seals made tangible, flexible? They would be stronger than strictly necessary for the average youkai... but the Marshal had never been average. Only average seeming. No doubt he had been the same in this life, before whatever it was that had led him to this.

Even small things affect the balance.

Boots rang on the stone, somehow finding a path clean enough to do so. Zenon hesitated, but followed a moment after.

And I... I spoke soothing, nonsense words to the half-mad youkai as I curled my fingers around the edge of his long, slender ear. Three small, metal cuffs formed, tightened, and as I drew my hand away, the youkai collapsed, breath rasping painfully as the change swept over him.

He was human, beneath the blood. The youkai form suited him better.

I turned and walked away.

Homura and Zenon were waiting, outside the castle.

"He's still gonna die," Zenon grunted, staring up at the stars.

"It is quite likely," I replied.

"Wasted effort," Homura observed mildly.

We never spoke of it again.


It is not wise to steal another predator's kill. In the mockery of a food chain that is Heaven, there is no greater predator than the War Prince. The loss of his kill rankled him, deeply, making him impatient.

When the opportunity arose, it was seized with bloodthirsty ruthlessness. The Jade Emperor escaped with his life, again, but those who surrounded him fell like old, dead reeds in a high wind.

Surveying the carnage, Homura frowned slightly and pressed a hand to his chest. His breathing grew more laboured, and he sank down onto the Jade Emperor's throne as Zenon lit a cigarette. Zenon and I turned away out of habit.

"Just don't burn the place down," Homura said quietly. "It's far too pretty a sight."

And then there was silence, strangely deep and respectful, leaving us each to our own thoughts.

"How long do we have to hang around here? Someone's gonna muster the armies eventually." Shouldering his gun, Zenon cast an impatient glance at Homura.

The War Prince was still sitting on the Jade Emperor's throne, elbow on the marble armrest, chin propped on his fist. His eyes stared fixedly out over the lovely mess they'd created.

"Hmm. Do you think so?"

Zenon shrugged. "You think they're just gonna let us get away with this?"

"There are none who can oppose him."

Zenon snorted. "Except Kanzeon, but the old bitch isn't gonna bother. Hey, Homura?" He turned, cigarette waving red in one hand.

No answer. Not even the slow, disdainful blink of mismatched eyes.

"Hn," Zenon muttered. "You don't suppose...."

The toad at the bottom of the pond stirred. Mud popped moistly as air bubbled up through it.


We exchanged glances, and all pretence of aloofness and superiority vanished as Zenon clambered over the bodies strewn at the War Prince's feet.


His eyes stared blankly, glassy. One blue, one gold. Seeing past and future maybe, but never again the present moment. Zenon's fingers pressed against the slender, pale neck, and he shook his head.

"He's dead," he said flatly.

"His heart must have given out."

Zenon glared at me.

"It was always a possibility."

Backing away, he sat on the steps of the throne. "What now?"

Indeed. What now? "Without him..."

"They'll kill us if we stay," Zenon growled.

"Then we must leave..." I said slowly. The moment exploded, showering my mind in mud. Or blood. "But perhaps we might take a page from the history book of another rebellion..."

Zenon perked up at that, getting to his feet and moving to stand beside me. "What'cha got in mind?"

"A hostage."

He glanced around. "Dead men don't make good hostages."

"No," I replied. "But War Princes do."

"You can't mean..."

I smiled serenely.

"Shit. You're even crazier than he was, Shien."

"But it is fitting, no?"

"You still feel honour-bound to Nataku," Zenon observed, as we made our way towards the door.

"Yes. And what he seeks... what he awaits... he will not find in Heaven."

Throwing open the doors to the audience hall, Zenon laughed. "And if it kills him?"

"Then in death and rebirth may he find peace."

What more could any man -- youkai, human, kami, itan -- hope for?
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August 2011


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