Temples and their priests got all kinds of visitors, some of them pretty odd. But the last thing Konzen had expected, when he opened the door to answer the bell, was for a tangle of limbs to land on and hug him while crowing "Sanzou!"
Konzen really didn’t like to be touched, something his ex-wife had pointed out frequently. All told, his older brother’s death and Konzen’s inheriting the family temple had just been a handy excuse for the divorce. But back to the business at hand.
Konzen promptly hauled the intruder loose and threw it into the wall, where it resolved into a rather gangly, golden-eyed young man. "Don’t be an idiot," he instructed. "There hasn’t been a Sanzou for hundreds of years." He frowned. "And why would you be looking for one at a place like this?"
"Oh, right. So, what are you called, now?" The boy’s grin hadn’t dimmed at all, despite a landing that had cracked plaster.
"Echizen Konzen, the same thing I’ve been called all my life," Konzen said, brusquely, wondering whether he should inquire for escapees at the local mental hospitals. "Who the hell are you?"
"Again? Ah. Um." The boy scratched his head. "Well, if you don’t remember, then this’ll be kind of a long story." He looked up hopefully. "I don’t suppose you have any food around?"
Konzen was staring and making a mental list of hospitals to call, when his daughter looked into the entryway. "Otou-sama? Do we have a visitor?"
A good question, since he still wasn’t sure what this person was. Besides, now, gaping at Nanako, thunderstruck. Konzen hoped he wasn’t a pervert, like Konzen’s younger brother or a few of his college associates. But, no, because the boy turned, wide-eyed to ask, "You have a daughter?"
The thought drifted across Konzen’s mind that maybe the boy really did know him.
He shook his head impatiently and barked, "Who are you and what do you want?"
"Well," the boy fidgeted, "like I said, it’s a long story…" His stomach interrupted with a noisy growl.
Nanako put a hand over her mouth to muffle a giggle. "Why don’t I get you two some tea and a snack?" she offered.
Konzen rubbed a hand over his face. "Might as well." He had a bad feeling he wasn’t getting an answer until this… visitor got food.
A few hours later Konzen had a headache, and was considering the benefits of sharing it.
He pinned his visitor with a level glare. "Let me get this straight. You’re an elemental spirit, and you knew me in a past life, and, because of the events of that life, you have a couple very powerful demons after you now."
"Yup!" Goku (he’d finally gotten the boy’s name half way into the story) agreed, tossing another dumpling into his mouth.
Konzen frowned, rubbing his forehead. The thing was, it all sounded horribly familiar, though he had no idea why. The only memory he had that twitched at Goku’s rambling recitation was a memory of someone laughing. He didn’t even know if it had been a man or a woman; only that whoever it was had been really damn annoying.
"And you came here to hole up and get some rest," he finished.
"Yup!" The cheerful, absolute trust in Goku’s eyes disturbed Konzen. He’d never been looked at like that in his entire life.
Not this life, anyway.
He shook his head sharply, wishing he could glare at his own thoughts. "Great. Fine. Sleep in the guest room. Tonight, at least," he added, over Goku’s happy crow. Temples were supposed to have charity, his father’s voice said, in his mind. Konzen mentally gave the old man the finger. Still, it would give him time to call the hospitals.
"Aah!" Konzen bolted up in bed, panting, jerked awake from the most vivid, and hideous, dreams he’d ever had.
"Sanzou?! I mean, Konzen?!" Goku skidded into his room with a rather ornate staff in hand. Konzen’s eyes nearly crossed as visions of this moment in dozens of other rooms slid through his mind. Visions that usually involved demons, too. Konzen winced and then growled as he heard that laugh again, echoing through his head.
It did make him think of something, though. "Goku, can any of the demons after you track you?" he demanded.
Goku blinked. "Um. I don’t think so. Well, maybe except for that one…" he trailed off, face screwed up in thought.
"In other words, yes." Konzen threw off the covers. "That gun you said I had. Do you know where it is now?"
As Goku opened his mouth a tiny glow like a golden firefly dropped out of the ceiling. It grew to about head size and then vanished.
A handgun and a box of shells clattered onto the floor.
This time, the laughter was audible to everyone.
Konzen glared at the ceiling. He also, however, scooped up the gun. "I’m not having demons in my temple," he stated. "We’re leaving tomorrow."
"Okay," Goku agreed. "I’ll go get some more sleep, then. ‘Night, Konzen." He trailed out, rubbing his eyes and yawning.
Konzen closed the door, flicked on the light, and sat down to write a couple letters.
"You shouldn’t be alone for long, and in the meantime, send all the temple business over to Yoshimori," Konzen told his daughter. "And what is all this?" he added, frowning at the boxes and baskets strewn over the table.
"Lunch," she told him, serenely. "So you and Goku-san don’t have to stop too soon."
One of Konzen’s maybe-memories jabbed him, suggesting that this was a very good idea. "Fine." He sighed, aggravated. "I don’t know when we’ll be back, but I’ll write when I can."
She smiled, and stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "Don’t worry, Otou-sama. And I won’t either. Okay?"
He smiled in return.
As she waved him out the door, and he walked toward where Goku was head-down in the trunk of the car, exploring, Konzen reflected on how little his life seemed to have changed. The maybe-memories fit in with disturbing neatness. Those others who’d been beside him even reminded him a lot of…
He stopped dead for a long moment before common sense rescued him. No. That was ridiculous. It couldn’t possibly be them.
In any case, he sure as hell wasn’t going to look up his college classmates to ask whether they’d been demons in a past life. He snorted at the very idea, and got into the car. "Goku! Hurry up."
Two weeks later…
Nanjirou sorted the mail, and raised a brow. A letter from Nii-san? He tore it open and read.
Dear Worthless Little Brother,
I have something to take care of that may take a while, so quit wasting your time over there and come mind the temple while I’m gone. Don’t worry, Nanako will take care of the house.
Corrupt my daughter, and I’ll put holes in you big enough to fit your tennis balls through.
Nanjirou snorted. Yeah, that was Nii-san all over. As if Nanjirou were ever going to be conned into being a priest!
On the other hand…
Nanjirou tapped the envelope against his chin. They had always meant to go back some time. And Ryouma would be twelve soon, and the right age to start at Seigaku. It would be a free house, and someone to do the laundry. He strolled upstairs and stuck his head into his wife’s office, caroling, "Honey? Got a letter you should see…"