The Nine Tales Bodega was not a place you stumbled on by chance. Tucked inside an old, abandoned bus terminal on the outskirts of Roppongi, it was a place you found only if you knew where to look. Which Genjyo Sanzo did, because Genjyo Sanzo was a Tier Five Demon Hunter, a highly-trained government agent whose job was to maintain order in the Tokyo community and deal with any demons not living by Tokyo's strict laws. Which meant he spent more time that he would have liked at the bodega--observing patrons, gathering information, staying in the loop.
It also meant he was often on the receiving end of overly-enthusiastic greetings from the bodega's sole owner and proprietor, Kurata Kisana, one of the last true kitsune left in Tokyo since the instituting of mandatory demon registration.
"Genjyo Sanzo!" Kurata, a tall man with sharp eyes, silver hair, and a pair of fluffy fox ears, grinned brilliantly as Sanzo walked in. "My favorite demon-slayer. Welcome back."
"Hunter," Sanzo corrected. He seated himself on a barstool against the wall. The club wasn't crowded, but Sanzo never sat with his back to a door in an open room, especially when he'd just had to check his weapons with the club's bouncer. "I'm a demon hunter, Kisana. Slaying is a side hobby. And I'd say it's nice to see you, too, but we both know that's a lie. You're still in business?"
"Of course! We're a niche market here at this humble bodega. All of your human/demon fantasies come to life in one place for just the price of a few drinks." Kurata leaned against the bar, grin widening. "Though we are a little slow tonight because of the rain. Which I see you got caught in?"
Sanzo shrugged off his wet trench coat and set it beside him. "Couldn't be helped," he said. "I have something urgent I need to discuss with you, and I couldn't wait for this storm to pass."
"Oh. My." Kisana waved one hand around in a fanning motion. "It must be important because I know how much you hate getting wet, Sanzo-sama."
"Don't start with that bullshit, Kisana. I'm being serious."
"So am I, darling. Like always. Can I get you a towel?"
Brushing his wet bangs out of his eyes, Sanzo grunted his assent. It was really raining--more than it had in months, and even the synthetic resin of his pants and coat hadn't been enough to protect him once he'd hit the open terrain of the superhighway. In retrospect, he probably shouldn't have taken his bike and called a cab, but if there was anything Sanzo hated more than being wet and hit on, it was relying on other people to do something he could do himself.
Kisana popped up from behind the bar and handed him a clean rag.
"Thanks," Sanzo said, mopping some of the damp from the back of his neck. "How much time do you have?"
"All the time you need, love. Since it's your first go 'round, we should probably take it slow..."
"This not about getting my thrills in your fake-ass demon cosplay sex dungeon. This is about questions. Questions you're going to answer."
"Again?" Kisana sighed. "You never come here just to say hi, do you? What is it you want to know this time?"
"Tell me about the lust oni that's been terrorizing the city."
Kisana's expression turned uncharacteristically sour. "Oh," he said. "Her."
"Yes. Her." Sanzo kept his unflinching stare on Kisana's face. "Good to know that it's female, and that you don't seem to be a fan."
"Of course I'm not. She's competition! The orgies she throws are becoming legendary and it's cutting into my profits."
"No. At least I don't think so. Not tonight anyway."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means she never throws a party in the same place twice. And you have to know who to ask because information isn't readily available until a few hours before. Which is obnoxious considering I've had more call-outs because of her. I swear, this month alone..."
"Yeah, yeah, your staff's a bunch of horny morons. That sucks. Tell me more about Ms. Traveling Sex Party."
"Well, it seems she's elusive, even when she is having a party. Likes to watch, but doesn't allow anyone too close. From what I hear, it's because there's something about her that's...well...odd. There's no doubt she's got demonic powers, but she never changes out of her corporeal form. And she doesn't carry any kind of scent."
"Hmmm. Human messing around with demonic magic then?"
"No, she's far too powerful for that. It's almost like...almost like she isn't real."
Sanzo raised an eyebrow. "An artificial intelligence?"
Kisana nodded. "But one infused with demon power. I didn't think such a thing was possible, but..."
"Anything is possible if the right person gets a hold of the right means."
Sanzo's lips curved into a frown. An A.I. demon. Of all the things he'd dealt with over the years, this was definitely a first, though there'd been rumors in the underground for a long time that a defunct group of corporate-paid fringe scientists had been experimenting with creating demon/robot hybrids. According to all the gathered intelligence, none had succeeded because the laws of magic dictated that a demon could only possess a living body, and no major corporation in Tokyo was willing to be outed as supporting controversial experiments on live humans. Not with the Hunters around. But if what Kisana was saying was true, someone had figured out a way to circumvent both the government and the magical obstacles. And that had to be someone who had the brains and the means to carry on where others had been forced to leave off.
"All right, next question," Sanzo said. "Any new clientele coming by? Someone who hasn't been coming by before?"
"Now that you mention it, there is this guy who only comes in once in a while. Skinny, dark hair, glasses. Only drinks club soda with lime, and doesn't do much more than watch a few acts and chat with the waitresses. He seem harmless, but he never opens a tab. Always pays with cash, and always shows up in a hired car. So I wouldn't be able to begin to tell you where to find him..."
"That's all right." Sanzo grabbed his damp coat off the bar. "I actually have a pretty good idea based on that description. Thanks."
"You're leaving?" Kisana asked.
"I told you. This is urgent. No time to fuck around."
"Too bad," Kisana muttered as Sanzo took his leave. "Might do you some good."
"Not likely," Sanzo said.
With a final wave, he made for the door. The bouncer handed him back his guns, and Sanzo stepped back out into the rainy night. The bike was right where he left it, under an overhang, and he hopped on, securing his helmet and tinted eye protectors.
With a kick, the bike's engines roared to life.
Sanzo sped off into the rapidly-thickening night.
Sanzo's arrival at his next destination couldn't have been more clichéd if it had tried. His path took him on the highway again, meaning more rain and more water going into his already-saturated clothing. Then, the turn-off he needed dropped him in the posh, suburban neighborhood of Shirokanedai, one of the last true strongholds of Tokyo's elite. Then, there were the wandering, meandering roads not meant to hold more than foot traffic, but took cars anyway, creating all kinds of irritating stop-start situations for two vehicles coming in opposite directions. And then, at last, his destination--a lonely building at the end of a dead-end street, protected by a huge, Edo-period iron gate and a call box out front.
Sanzo swore under his breath as he pushed the buzzer. It was starting to get cold, and of course no one answered on the first ring. He tried two more times, and then a bolt of well-timed lightning helped him make the decision that he was going to take matters into his own hands and go in anyway. Removing the two plasma revolvers from the holsters inside his coat, he shot open the gate's lock, kicked the panels apart, and marched his way to the front door.
Once there, he didn't bother with niceties either, letting himself right in.
"Hakkai!" he bellowed. The sound echoed off the walls. No one answered, and Sanzo grit his teeth.
"Hakkai," he yelled again. "Get your ass out here, you fucking nerd!"
More silence, and then a figure peeked out from the other side of a shoji screen across the room. A man with messy, dark hair and a white bathrobe came into view.
"Sanzo?" he questioned. He set a pair of wire-rimmed glasses on his nose and squinted. "What are you doing here?"
"Don't sound so surprised," Sanzo said. "You had to know I'd be coming by sooner or later."
"Well, yes, but I didn't expect it would be tonight. In a storm. While I was trying to take a bath."
The man rubbed a towel against his damp hair as he stepped fully into the room. "Could you not have called first?"
"I didn't have time. It's urgent."
"It's always urgent with you," Hakkai sighed. " You'd think all of Tokyo was burning all the time the way you talk. Did you break my gate again?"
"Maybe." Sanzo shrugged off his coat and draped it over the arm of an old coat tree. "You know I wouldn't have to do that if you answered your buzzer once in a while."
"I like to read while I'm in the bath. Which means I'm not listening for the buzzer."
"Yeah, well, you still could make a little more effort not to be such a nut-job recluse. You're on my payroll."
"I'm on your boss's payroll. And what I have I told you about bringing your guns when you visit? This is a pacifist dwelling, Genjyo Sanzo."
"I came from an engagement." Sanzo unstrapped his holster. "Down at the bodega. For once, I actually wasn't trying to be disrespectful."
"Still, you know how I..."
Sanzo's vision suddenly went red. Well...orange-red. And fuzzy. And a searing pain was tearing through his scalp. Yelling, Sanzo staggered back, hitting the wall before sitting down hard on Hakkai's bamboo floors.
The red didn't clear.
Sanzo waved his arms. "The fuck?" he hollered.
"Ah! Gojyo-san!" Sanzo could hear his bare feet running towards him. "What have I told you about attacking guests! Get down! Now!"
There was a flurry of activity and just as suddenly as he was blinded, Sanzo was free. He touched his forehead, and his fingers came away spotted with blood. With a snarl, he searched for the culprit.
His snarl was answered with an angry hiss from an enormous orange tom cat squirming in Hakkai's arms.
"I'm so sorry." Hakkai stroked the cat's back, trying to soothe the agitated animal. "Gojyo-san doesn't like strangers. We've been working on that but...well...frankly I think you came off as a threat."
"You got...a cat?" Sanzo stared at him darkly. "When did you get a cat?"
"A few months ago. He followed me home one night, and we got on well, so I let him stay." Hakkai ruffled the cat's fur. "Gojyo-san, say hello to Sanzo-sama. Sanzo-sama is an old school friend and something of a colleague."
The cat looked at Sanzo and growled.
Sanzo flipped him off.
"Hm," Hakkai murmured. "Good to see we're all going to get along. Can I offer you some tea, Sanzo? And some dry clothes? Also, GOKU is ready if you'd like to collect him. I was working on him earlier today, and his updates should have finished downloading."
"That's why I'm here." Sanzo stood up and brushed himself off. "Well, that and I need to ask you a few questions, but mostly to pick up GOKU."
"Oh? What kind of questions?"
"There's a lust oni loose in the city. An undocumented one that might be AI. And since you've been down at the bodega, I'm going to need you to tell me what you've managed to find out in my absence."
Hakkai paused mid-stride. "Excuse me?"
"I said there's a lust oni loose in the city and..."
"Yes, yes, I got that part. How do you know I was at the bodega, and how do you know this oni is AI?"
"I don't know for sure, but I was just down at Kisana's place, and he said he's got a new client matching your description. Also, the AI thing is the word on the street. No one that's been to one of her 'parties' has seen her change form, and she doesn't carry a smell. And while Kisana is a lot of things, unable to separate fact from fiction isn't one of them. Also, he suggested it without me even prompting."
"Okay, yes, I've been down at the bodega," Hakkai said. "But not for the reasons you think. But an AI demon? That's not possible. There are laws. Scientific laws, and magical ones. You can't just go around grafting demonic consciousnesses on artificial human bodies. That would be like mating an emu with a narwal, it's just..."
"Hakkai, I know. I enforce those laws every day. I am just saying that it might be that someone has finally succeeded in committing the ultimate abomination. Maybe it's that Ni guy you worked with for a while at YaoTech. He was into some sketchy shit, right?"
"Ni doesn't have the attention span or bankroll to pull something like that off. And even if he did, why would he?"
"Why do people do half the shit they do with technology?"
"Fair enough, but still." Hakkai shook his head. "I don't think it was him. And even if it was, what then? I give you confirmation you can go in and burn his place to the ground?"
"Pretty much," Sanzo said.
Hakkai eyed him as he pulled out an old, cast-iron tea kettle and set it on the stove. For all his intelligence and research into cutting-edge technology, Hakkai was a simple man who lived by the old ways, refusing to have any gadgets in his house beyond those he kept in his lab and those necessary to live.
"You know how I feel about your methods." Hakkai set three earthenware cups on the counter. "They are rudimentary and unnecessarily cruel. If I help you with any part of this, you have to promise we will handle things with diplomacy and aplomb."
"I'll promise that once we've caught the oni."
"No, promise it now." Hakkai took out a plate and a can of sardines. "Or I'll leave you and GOKU to figure this out on your own without my support."
"All right, fine. I promise to handle the situation with diplomacy and aplomb. Now will you help?"
"Fine." Hakkai arranged the sardines on the plate, and brought it, along with the three tea cups over to the table. "But I must tell you, this is strongly against my better judgement."
Sanzo looked at him as he set everything down. "Are you expecting someone else? What's with the cups?"
"Hm? Oh. The fish and the extra cup are for Gojyo-san."
"You're telling me you feed your cat at the..."
Sanzo didn't get the words out before there was the pitter patter of running feet, a blinding flash, and then a thump. When Sanzo looked again, a naked man with bright red hair sat perched on the empty chair, grinning like he'd just won the Tokyo lottery.
"What the hell?" Sanzo yelled.
"Oh." Hakkai's lips twitched ever-so-slightly. "Did I forget to mention that Gojyo-san is a shifter? He's the offspring of a nekomata and a house cat, so he can change his form at will, but he doesn't have any actual demon powers. Fascinating, isn't he?"
Sanzo put his face in his hands. "Riveting," he growled. "Thanks so much for the clarification."
"You're so very welcome," Hakkai said. "Tea?"
One very uncomfortable cup of tea later, Sanzo, Hakkai, and now-human Gojyo made their way out to the converted stable that doubled as Hakkai's lab. Hakkai's home had once been part of a working farm, but much of the land had been sold off during the booming years of Tokyo's urban expansion, so now it was just the house and the one outbuilding left. The old stable, however, was sturdy and roomy, and the perfect place for Hakkai to keep his tech.
"He's in sleep mode," Hakkai said as they entered. "I had to put him under because he wouldn't sit still."
"That doesn't surprise me." Sanzo walked over to the horizontal table. "He's always moving. Even when he doesn't have to be. My life was hell before you installed that snooze button."
"Well, he is the first of his kind. Prototypes don't usually have all the kinks worked out yet."
"Yes, but prototypes are always the sturdiest and most reliable. I mean, I've had him what? Four years now?"
"Four years, three months." Hakkai slipped on a pair of white cotton gloves. "And yes, he's working fine, but he could use a good polishing. I wish you'd let me put on his bioskin."
"I told you, he looks more intimidating without it." Sanzo smiled down at the titanium-plated, monkey android. "And he doesn't seem to mind."
"Because he's not programmed to." Hakkai gently unplugged the network of wires attached to GOKU's arms and legs. "You didn't want that, either, remember?"
"You're damn right I didn't," Sanzo confirmed. "I need a partner, not an extra ego."
The little monkey on the slab stirred. He blinked slowly, amber eyes snapping into focus as he came fully online. With a mechanical whir, GOKU sat up and looked around. Spying Sanzo, he gave a chirpy beep of recognition and jumped to the floor.
GOKU, or the Genome Operated Kinetic Unit, was one of Hakkai's first AI productions for the Hunters. There had been a need for Hunters in the field to have a safe, easy way to transmit and store data, and Hakkai had created GOKU to fit that purpose. Because he was sentient, GOKU could defend himself, aid in combat situations, and shut himself down in the event of capture. And because he was machine, he could snap pictures, record videos, carry a library's worth of information, and keep everything organized while still being a direct link to the main Hunter data base. As Hakkai once said, GOKU was a 'the Cloud app for the 22nd century.' He was also Sanzo's right hand, though Sanzo would never admit it.
"He missed you." Hakkai smiled fondly at the little monkey. "He's not quite himself when you aren't here."
"Hakkai, he's a machine. He doesn't feel attachment."
"He most certainly does." Hakkai cleared the table of wires, coiling them and setting them back on their respective shelves. "A mechanical body does not negate the human elements of GOKU's make-up. It simply...ah! Gojyo-san! No! GOKU is not a toy."
Gojyo, though human, was crouched down on all fours, staring intently at the re-animated GOKU as he skittered around on the floor. At the sound of Hakkai's voice, he looked up and then sat back on his heels, frowning.
GOKU leapt up to Sanzo's his shoulder.
"Anyway, as I was saying..." Hakkai sprayed the metal table with cleaning solution. "All AI specimens can experience the basic range of human emotions, including attachment. Which reminds me, do you happen to know if this lust oni you're searching for is capable of showing any sort of emotions?"
"I don't," Sanzo said. "And I didn't think to ask. But Kisana did say she likes to watch. And she seems to enjoy inciting sexual arousal in her followers, so I guess you could say that she's showing emotion."
"Mmm," Hakkai mused. "That may be true, but that's still a hard call to make without seeing her. Will you be going in anytime soon?"
"What to an orgy?" Sanzo snorted. "Not likely."
"But without direct observation, there is a chance you could take the wrong action. There is a chance you could take an innocent life!"
"There is a very small chance," Sanzo countered. "Considering there's no such thing as an innocent demon, I'm not all that worried. Also, I'm not so sure that if it is a human who's messing around with demonic magic, that she should be treated as an innocent either. Personally, I think that makes them even more worthy of punishment."
"And if she is AI?" Hakkai asked.
"I don't know," Sanzo said. "That's kind of your department."
A thick silence fell over the room. Hakkai stared at Sanzo. Sanzo stared right back. In the quiet, GOKU whirred, and Gojyo licked the back of his hand.
Hakkai broke eye contact and pulled off his gloves.
"I want you to know that I find your coercive tactics underhanded and infuriating," he said. "Underhanded, infuriating, and wrong."
"And yet they work," Sanzo said. "And in my profession, the only thing that matters in the end is results."
Hakkai gave a long-suffering sigh. "I'll check my calendar," he said. "To see what night might work for...orgy observations."
"And I'll get to work finding out when we'll get our chance," Sanzo added. "Reconvene here? Same time next week?"
"Why not?" Hakkai said. "I'll be sure, however, to schedule my bath for another night."
They met up the following week, and to his chagrin, Sanzo came empty-handed. Despite having GOKU, and despite spending nearly every night down at the bodega, Sanzo didn't even get a sliver of a hint as to when and where the lust oni might next appear. Even Kisana didn't seem to know, though he had decided that, since he couldn't beat her, he would join her. Which, in true kitsune fashion, meant steal her ideas and use them as his own. And though Sanzo couldn't begrudge him his livelihood, he was still infuriated that he'd been unable to come up with any intel despite all his best efforts. Which left him moping at Hakkai's table, GOKU whirring quietly next to him, while Hakkai took a phone call in the next room.
He was less than thrilled when Gojyo the cat strolled in and decided to join his pity party.
"What do you want?" he growled as Gojyo jumped onto the table. Gojyo blinked slowly before sitting down and curling his fluffy tail over his fluffy feet. He cut a handsome picture, but Sanzo was not one to be swayed by handsome fluffiness.
"I don't have any sardines for you," he groused. "Or tea. Which, what kind of house cat drinks tea? That's weird on levels my mind doesn't even reach."
Gojyo stood, stretched, and looked Sanzo dead in the eye. "That's because you are the most narrow-minded human I've ever come in contact with," he said. "Among other things."
Sanzo stared for a long, long moment. "D...did you just talk?" He demanded.
"Yup," Gojyo said. "Surprised?"
"No," Sanzo said, despite being incredibly surprised. In all his years as a professional Hunter, he'd never come across any shifters who had been able to learn human languages. "Just annoyed. That you exist."
"Mmm, if you say so." Gojyo-cat scratched himself behind the ear. "But you're a bad liar. So you might as well just admit I caught you off guard."
"Shut up. You're a cat. What do you know about anything?"
"More than you, apparently. Especially about your lust oni." Gojyo paused in his scratching to let the full effect of his words sink in. And when the understanding dawned on Sanzo's face, Gojyo actually smiled, which was an expression, Sanzo decided, should never, ever be seen on a cat.
"Oh yeah?" Sanzo said. "Tell me, then. Tell me everything. And if I find out you're bluffing, I I will toss you in the nearest body of water, ears first."
"Okay, first of all, threats of animal cruelty are unnecessary considering Hakkai will dismember you before you could lay a finger on me. Second, I actually like water. Especially baths. Third, when not throwing parties, your lust oni hangs out in an abandoned section of the subway under the main line that runs through Ikebukuro. She only surfaces when she needs energy, which she gets from watching people and demons have sex. Other than that, she mostly sleeps."
Sanzo did his best not to let his jaw drop to the floor. "How do you know that?" he demanded.
"Because I like to take my human form and hang out on the club scene. Which is why Hakkai's been at the bodega. He's been looking for me because he doesn't seem to understand that people that are high love to snuggle and...well...I'm a cat. Being pet is one of the greatest sensual experiences I could ask for." Gojyo set his back leg down and stretched.
"I see," Sanzo grumbled. "Snuggling huh? Is that all you're doing with them?"
With a poof, Gojyo assumed is human form. "Why?" he purred. "Do you think I should do more?"
Hakkai chose that exact moment to return from his phone call.
"Sorry to keep you waiting. That was Kouga Corp. Their night security android seems to have gone on the fritz and..." Hakkai trailed off as his gaze lighted on Sanzo and then the naked man on the table. "Gojyo-san?"
"Hakkaiiii, Sanzo was threatening to throw me in the koi pond if I didn't give him information," Gojyo whined. He slithered to the floor, feline grace apparent even with his human limbs. "I don't know why you like him. He's kind of a jerk."
"He serves his purpose," Hakkai said. " What kind of information did he ask you for, Gojyo-san?"
"He wanted to know about the lust oni. So I told him I know where she is and..."
"Wait, you know where she is?" Hakkai whirled around. "Why didn't you say something before?"
"Because you didn't ask." Gojyo rubbed his face on Hakkai's shoulder. "I would have told you if you asked. By the way, do we have any fish? I'm hungry."
"Gojyo-san, what have I told you about snuggling while naked." Hakkai shrugged out of the oversized cardigan he was wearing and draped it over Gojyo's shoulders. "Go get dressed, please, and then you can eat."
With a sigh and a dramatic eye roll, Gojyo pulled the cardigan around himself and headed toward the door. "You humans and your weird-ass modesty," he muttered.
"Thank you, Gojyo-san," Hakkai called after him. And then, when they were successfully left alone, he sat down opposite Sanzo at the table.
"As I was saying, Kouga Corp's night watchman went a little berserk tonight. Apparently he was, ah, chasing down their VIP guests."
"Chasing...like, weirdly?" Sanzo asked.
"Like he might be infected with the enchantment of a lust oni." Hakkai folded his hands. "I'm starting to really wonder what we're dealing with here, Sanzo."
"You own a talking cat who likes to shape-shift and hang out in night clubs and now you're starting to wonder what we're dealing with?" Sanzo fixed him with a hard gaze. "Boy does it take a lot to get your attention."
"Look, I'm sorry I didn't mention Gojyo-san could talk, but I didn't want you trying to Hunt him. He's harmless, I promise you. And registered. And obviously he's a valuable source of information if we ask the right questions."
"Which I promise I will be doing as soon as he comes back in here. Since he seems to have known what we wanted to know the whole time."
"Fine, but you are not to use any of your intimidation tactics on him. He's easily bribed with food and a hairbrush, so please let me do the talking."
"Fine. But if you don't get results, I'm jumping in."
"Fine." Hakkai folded his hands and waited.
Gojyo returned a few minutes later in a pair of tiny, black pleather shorts, furry legwarmers, and a red velvet choker with shiny, copper bell.
"So, um, I know you guys are sitting here waiting to interrogate me and all, but I just got a text from my friend Miyouko." Gojyo held up his phone. "She says there's a party is at Kakegawa Castle tonight and if we want to get in, we better get going."
"Gods dammit," Sanzo muttered, getting up. "That's over an hour from here by highway. Hakkai, where's your car?"
"In the driveway where it always is," Hakkai answered. "Why?"
"You're driving. We can't all fit on my bike and I'm not going to try."
"Get the car, Hakkai. You're wasting my time. And GOKU."
The AI monkey whirred.
"You're navigating," Sanzo said. "Move out."
Hakkai's old-world preferences extended not just to his lifestyle, but also to his mode of transport. Hakkai's car was a refurbished, mid-20th century military vehicle with a canvas top and open sides. It didn't move nearly as fast as any of the modern vehicles, but another of Hakkai's quirks was his refusal to fully embrace high speed travel.
"Speed is a death trap," he said. "I don't care how many electronic navigation aids they imbed in the asphalt, the general populace should not be moving along at velocities just below the sound barrier."
"And yet, they should be able to travel faster than walking," Sanzo countered. "Get with the times, Hakkai."
"Just because I use a solar-powered hydraulic engine doesn't mean I've sacrificed all speed and efficiency." Hakkai put the keys in the ignition. "Only some. Enough that I may drive responsibly and not hurt myself or anyone else. Including the environment."
"Can you get us to Kakegawa before this time tomorrow evening?"
Hakkai shot him a withering look. Sanzo took that as an affirmative and got in on the passenger side. Gojyo and Goku got in the back.
In the end, they made it to Kakegawa slower than Sanzo would have liked but faster than he expected. And none too soon, either, because Gojyo being the cat that he was had stopped suppressing his hunting instinct about mid-drive, and GOKU's angry shriek-beeping as he tried to both navigate and evade Gojyo's nimble hands was more than either of them could take.
"Thank gods," Sanzo muttered as they pulled up. "One more minute with these two and I would have lost my mind."
"Yes, well, Gojyo-san and I will be having a talk about proper car ride behavior when we get back," Hakkai promised. "Granted, this is the first time he's been on a ride that hasn't been to the vet, but still..."
An irritated GOKU streaked past them, alighting on Sanzo's shoulder with a single, graceful leap. From there, he chattered angrily at Gojyo, who looked on intently until Hakkai smacked him on the nose.
"Owwww." Gojyo rubbed his bruised face. "Don't hit me! I can't help it if I like things that move!"
"Gojyo-san," Hakkai said. "Do I need to get the calming collar?"
Gojyo turned sulky eyes in Hakkai's direction. "You know I hate the calming collar. Why would you say that?"
"Because this situation is stressful enough without you misbehaving. You need to show some restraint."
"Yes, Dad," Gojyo muttered. And, without further incident, the four of them proceeded toward the entrance.
Kakegawa had once been a historic site open to the public, but it was closed many years ago due to vandalism and increased nearby pollution. The plan had been to re-surface and re-fortify the existing structure to make it more environmentally durable, but budget constraints had lead to the project being abandoned mid-way through. Currently, the site was open to visitation only at certain times of the year, and even that was confined to the courtyard and buildings just within the outer walls. So it was a surprise to both Sanzo and Hakkai to find the doors to the main keep thrown wide open, and an unprecedented number of nearly-naked revelers partying and dancing inside.
"Oh. My," Hakkai murmured as a topless young woman twirled by them. She was wearing shorts similar to Gojyo's, and an elaborate headdress, and it was hard to tell if she was human or demon as she fell into the arms of a waiting couple. They all began kissing, and Hakkai turned away, too embarrassed to continue trying to figure it out.
"Focus," Sanzo said. "We're not here for that. We're here for the cause of that."
"Right," Hakkai said quietly. "The cause, yes."
Sanzo quirked a brow. "You going to be okay?"
"I'm fine," Hakkai said, regaining his composure. "Let's get this done, shall we?"
Sanzo nodded, and they continued inside.
As it turned out, the topless woman was just the beginning. The further into the building they went, the less clothing attendees wore, and the darker the hallway or side room, the less discretion was being exercised. Sanzo, ever focused on the job, had little trouble ignoring the debauchery, but Hakkai struggled not to stare. And then there was Gojyo, who didn't even try to pretend he wasn't swooning under the staggering amounts of sexual energy swirling about the castle's rooms.
"Nnnnghhh." Gojyo shivered as a group of naked individuals brushed by them. "Nnnngh, Hakkai, they smell so good!"
"Restrain yourself, Gojyo-san." Hakkai put a reassuring arm around Gojyo's shoulders. "We'll be out of here as soon as we get a look at the mistress. You can hold on until then, right?"
Gojyo whimpered and buried his face in Hakkai's neck. Hakkai gently stroked his hair, feeling some true pity for his poor pet as the arrived at the staircase leading to the second floor.
"Think she's up there?" Sanzo's eyes were so focused on the dark ascension he didn't even notice the fornicating pair of humans practically sprawled across his feet.
"Um...possibly...," Hakkai said. He wanted to shut his eyes. Wanted to cover his ears and look away from the sights and sounds of the enthralled, mid-coitus couple in front of them, but it was impossible to do so. They looked...so inviting. So warm. So much like...
Hakkai shook his head, forcing himself to concentrate.
"Hey," Sanzo said. "Seriously, Hakkai. Focus. We have work to do. GOKU, analyze the crowd please."
GOKU made a couple of whistling sounds and then, in an electronic voice, began to read off the stats of the people closest to their room.
"Byaku Ito. Human. Male. Age 19. Daiyo Matsumoto. Human. Female. Age 20. Daisuke Momo. Demon. License number 48775. Age 106. Daisuke Ayaka. Demon. License number 48776. Age 106. Fujimiya En. Human. Male. Age 30. Fuji Miko. Human..."
"Hmm, all normal so far," Sanzo said. "Keep going, GOKU."
"Umami Eiko. Human. Female. 23. Umami Yen. Human. Male. 24. Zendo Chuu. Demon. Licence number 40699. 145..."
"So young," Hakkai remarked. "The demons I mean."
"Because most of the older ones have left the city," Sanzo said. "They wanted no part in the tagging program, or to be subjected to human laws."
"Ai Domu," GOKU said. "Human. Male. 26. Sha Gojyo. Shifter. 25..."
At the sound of his name, Gojyo whimpered. And then he froze in place, eyes wide, and nostrils dilated.
"Gojyo-san?" Hakkai whispered.
Gojyo didn't seem to hear him. He just kept looking at the stairs, almost as if he were in a trance.
"Gojyo-san," Hakkai said, louder this time, but it changed nothing.
Gojyo was not paying attention.
"Let him go," Sanzo growled. "If he runs, he runs."
"But I don't want him to get hurt," Hakkai said. "Or injured. What if someone tries to..."
With a deep, primal growl, Gojyo took off, disappearing before Hakkai even had a chance to make an alarmed noise of dismay. The couple looked up briefly as he vaulted over them, then returned to their rigorous rutting, filling the silence of the hallway with soft grunts.
"Leave him," Sanzo said.
"Leave him," Sanzo repeated. "We'll find him later. We're here for a job."
Hakkai sighed. "All right," he conceded, and followed Sanzo as he led the way up.
The second floor, it turned out, was nothing like the first. It was much quieter and much emptier, and most of the people Sanzo and Hakkai passed were clothed and standing guard, watching Hakkai and Sanzo with distrustful gazes.
In the spirit of the more subdued atmosphere, GOKU continued his crowd analysis by beaming the information to Sanzo's cell phone, putting the read-out on the screen for Sanzo to peruse as they searched. Sanzo scanned through the names, reading them expressionlessly until one made him balk.
Cho Kanan. Humanoid. No data.
Sanzo's brows shot up.
"Cho Kanan?" he said aloud.
All three of them stopped walking. Sanzo turned to look at Hakkai as if he wanted to burn a hole through his soul.
Hakkai went pale, a visible line of sweat beading up along his temple.
"Could just be a coincidence," Hakkai said at length. "Kanan is a common name, after all."
"It's not that common," Sanzo said. "Something you want to tell me?"
Hakkai took out a handkerchief and dabbed his forehead. "Um, well...that is..."
"Spit it out, Hakkai. You told me your sister was dead."
"Um...yes, I know. However..."
"However what? Is your sister a fucking demon???"
"No! Well, not exactly."
"What do you mean 'not exactly'?"
Hakkai looked down at his hands, unable to meet Sanzo's gaze. "Kanan," he said, "Human Kanan is dead. At least her body is. But there was a part of her I managed to save."
"What part?" Sanzo demanded.
"When she got sick I...I recorded her memories."
Sanzo silently glared at Hakkai, a not-so-subtle indication he needed to go on.
"When Kanan was diagnosed as terminal, I pulled her neural transmissions. I didn't realize at the time that her illness wasn't, in fact, illness but possession. I downloaded everything onto my mainframe, and when her body died, I uploaded them onto a female prototype I'd been working on."
"And...it worked. But when I uploaded her consciousness, the demon went with it."
"So you're telling me youdid this? You created an AI demon?"
"I didn't do it on purpose!" Hakkai twisted his handkerchief between his hands. "I didn't know! She showed no signs of possession. I thought, like everyone else, it was a human disease!"
"So this is real." Sanzo looked into the dark. "It actually can be done."
"It can but it shouldn't, Sanzo. It shouldn't. That's why you need to handle this situation delicately because if word gets out you captured a true AI demon...or that I was the one responsible for making it..."
Hakkai trailed off.
Sanzo sighed, and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"I only wanted to save a part of my sister," Hakkai said softly. "I never intended for any of this to happen. Or for you to get involved."
"But it did, and I did. And now we've got to capture her."
"I know." Hakkai stepped closer. "Please. Please let me handle this Sanzo. It doesn't have to end badly for anyone if you just give me time to figure it out."
"You have until this party is over," Sanzo said. "After that, I take charge, got it?"
"Yes," Hakkai said. "I understand."
They continued walking. GOKU continued to add names to his crowd analysis, which Sanzo continued reading until Gojyo's name appeared on the screen.
Sha Gojyo. Shifter. 25.
"The cat's up here," he said quietly.
Hakkai's head shot up. "Gojyo-san?"
Sanzo nodded, and at the same time, they both heard a deep, rumbling purr.
Sanzo arched a brow. "How close is he that he heard you?" he asked.
"I don't know," Hakkai said, "but it's coming from over there."
'Over there' was a room behind two hulking guards, both demon, who did not look like they were about to let Sanzo and Hakkai past them without incident.
Sanzo drew a pistol. "Stay back," he said. "I'll get us through."
"Sanzo, no." Hakkai stayed his arm. "I'm in charge, remember?"
"Now?" Sanzo frowned. "I thought that was only with the oni."
"It would be, but clearly they work for the oni, so my authority is extended by default."
With a grunt, Sanzo put the plasma pistol away.
One of the guards snickered.
Hakkai brushed past Sanzo, stepping between him and the guards. "Good evening," he said. "Is Kanan-sama in?"
The guards looked at each other and back at Hakkai.
"Do you have business with the Goddess?" one of them asked.
"Ah, yes. You could say that." Hakkai flashed a smile that Sanzo found a little creepy, and then continued. "I have a few things I'd like to speak to her about, not the least of which is the return of my cat."
"The shifter?" The other guard regarded Hakkai with an unreadable gaze.
"Yes, that would be the one."
"The shifter's fine," the first guard said. "The Goddess quite likes his company."
"As do I," Hakkai said. "Which is why I've come to fetch him."
"The Goddess doesn't return things she has deemed hers."
"Oh no? Then tell her her creator would like to have a few words with her and see if she changes her mind."
The second guard opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, his eyes glazed over. With a low moan, he turned to the demon next to him, grabbed his face, and gave him a deep kiss.
Sanzo and Hakkai stared as the two demons began to make out.
"You can come in." A slightly metallic feminine voice echoed along the corridor. "I've successfully distracted them so you shouldn't have any trouble. Good to know they were actually trying to protect me, though. That doesn't seem to happen very often."
Hakkai looked at Sanzo. Sanzo nodded, and the two of them stepped around the kissing couple and into a large room with a wide window and a sea of silk cushions. In the middle lay Gojyo, still in human form, lazily batting at a feather toy while a stunning, nearly-naked woman stroked his hair.
"Kanan?" Hakkai whispered.
"Hakkai." A beautiful smile spread across her lips. "And the Demon Hunter, Genjyo Sanzo. So glad you could both make it."
"Kanan," Hakkai said again. "What...are you doing?"
Kanan tilted her head. "Well, isn't it obvious? I'm taking care of our cat."
If there was anything Sanzo hated more than all the other things he hated, it was being still during a time where he should be in action. But in order to honor his promise to Hakkai, he had to remain where he was, watching the nerd and his sister sip tea and prattle on about nothing while the cat slept between them. It was disgustingly domestic, and his fingers itched to pull out his pistols and end it all with a single shot. But he didn't. Because he was a gods-damned good friend.
"Is he going be okay?" Hakkai asked. He gestured to Gojyo, and Kanan laughed.
"Oh, yes. It's nothing serious. Just a little catnip."
"Well...maybe catnip, and a touch of ecstasy." Kanan raised her teacup to her lips. "Opens the mind, you know."
"Also raises the libido, doesn't it?" Hakkai, who had been about to drink some of his own tea, returned the cup to the saucer. "Which brings us to what's going on here...."
"Ah, yes, that." Kanan smiled. "I guess you've realized by now that I wasn't terminally ill."
"No, you were possessed. A horrible, horrible misdiagnosis."
Kanan shrugged. "There are worse things. I have all my memories, and I have this wonderful body you built for me. I'm just...sharing it. Sort of."
"Yes," Hakkai said again. "However that...is kind of a problem."
Kanan stiffened. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"He means the only reason you're alive right now is because your body is artificial," Sanzo said. "If you were a human, the oni inside you would have already killed you and devoured your soul. That's what was happening with your human body because that's what onis do. They use their host for their own gains, and when they are done, they kill them."
"Which you would think would no longer be a problem because your body is now artificial," Hakkai said, "but the code I used to create my AI uses human biology and genetics. I don't know how that will affect the long-term outcome of your possession, but I fear that it may, in the long run, not be any better for you than being completely human."
Kanan looked down at her body. "But I feel fine. I mean, there is the ongoing need for sexual energy but other than that..."
"But wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to have that need?" Hakkai offered. "Or the fear of eventually being consumed? I can give you eternal life, Kanan. And freedom. I can save you from this thing that's been plaguing you for far too long. Don't you want that?"
Kanan folded her arms around herself. She looked down. "It would be nice to be alone in my own mind," she murmured.
"Of course it would. And there may be a way to undo this. I'm not sure how because I'm not exactly sure how I did it in the first place, but...I think I can figure out how safely remove the oni from inside you if you give me a chance."
"Well, I have an idea." Hakkai took his sister's hands. "But we'll have to go to my lab. Have you...if you release these people, do you have enough energy to come with me?"
Kanan closed her eyes. She was quiet for a moment, but when she opened them again, she looked serene and calm. "Yes," she said. "I can release them and go with you."
Hakkai's face lit up. "Thank you," he whispered. "Thank you, Kanan. We can go whenever you're ready."
"I'm ready," she said. "Let's go."
By the time they'd gotten back to the car, almost the whole crowd had dispersed. There were a few stragglers, still thoroughly enjoying each other's company, but Kanan explained that not everyone who came was there because they were manipulated by the spells.
"There are some that don't need their hedonism awakened," she said, "and they just come because this is a place where they are not judged."
"That sounds like your cat, Hakkai," Sanzo commented, and Gojyo, in cat form once again, growled from his backseat perch on Kanan's lap. "Doesn't he have a ridiculous sex drive?"
"Gojyo-san cannot help himself, Sanzo. He's part animal."
"Yes. I've noticed. He acts like a sex-crazed idiot."
Gojyo hissed loudly, launching himself toward the front seat. Kanan managed to scruff him before he could go too far, but it took a lot of cooing before she could get him settled back down.
And Sanzo couldn't prove it, but he could have sworn he heard GOKU give a metallic little titter.
"Perhaps we shouldn't discuss Gojyo-san's libido and instead focus on something else," Hakkai suggested. "How about the upcoming football match between Japan and the Netherlands? I hear we have a strong team this year."
"Hakkai," Kanan said. "You hate sports."
"Yes, well, I was hoping to perhaps have a conversation tonight that didn't revolve around sex?"
The car was silent long enough to cause Hakkai to sigh.
"All right, fine," he conceded. "We won't talk about sports."
"We don't have to talk at all," Sanzo said. "There's nothing wrong with a little silence now and again."
"I know I'm just..." Hakkai shook his head and flipped on the windshield wipers as it had, once again, begun to rain. "I'm pensive."
And pensive he was for the rest of the ride. Sanzo studied him carefully, wondering if his claims of being able to de-possess Kanan had been nothing more of a bluff, but Hakkai was closed off now, making him unreadable, even to Sanzo. His ability to shut down like that was a quality Sanzo admired, but one that could also be frustrating. Like now, when Sanzo could have used a little insight into the next steps Hakkai planned to take.
By the time they pulled back into Hakkai's driveway, the rain had picked up from a drizzle to a steady downpour. Hakkai had them wait in the car while he retrieved several umbrellas, marching them around the house to the stable rather than going through it in order to avoid tracking in mud. Once inside, they left their shoes in the corner, and Hakkai urged Kanan to get up onto his work table.
"I'm going to take you off-line," Hakkai said, "and then shift your consciousness onto the mainframe. What I'm hoping is that the oni will remain in your body, and we can deal with it without any harm coming to virtual-you."
"But what about my body?" Kanan looked down at herself, fingertips trailing over her bare stomach. "Is it going to hurt my body? I rather like how I look..."
"If it does, I'll build you a new body," Hakkai promised. "Something equally beautiful and perfect and to these exact specifications. I built this one before with you in mind, I'm sure I can do it again."
Kanan looked skeptical, but only briefly before her face relaxed into a fond smile. "You always were a mad genius," she said affectionately. "Okay. Go ahead. Do what you need to do. I'm ready."
"Thank you, Kanan."
Hakkai brought out the cables. He opened two hidden panels in Kanan's forearms and hooked them in. Then he opened another at the base of her neck. He hooked that in as well, and then typed several quick commands onto a touchscreen tablet.
The Kanan on the table went still.
"All right." Hakkai typed a few more commands and then set the tablet aside. "I've removed the files and disconnected her neural receptors. It should be safe for GOKU to link up with the body and run identification scans."
"GOKU? You didn't say anything about using GOKU," Sanzo said. "When did you decide that?"
"Just now." Hakkai looked at him, pushing his wire-rimmed glasses up his nose with his index finger. "I don't want anything getting on the mainframe while Kanan's in there. I don't want contamination."
"But you'll risk GOKU?" Sanzo's eyes narrowed. "Couldn't you have at least asked me first? He is my monkey."
"He's the organization's monkey that happens to be assigned to you," Hakkai corrected. "And please. Trust me right now. I don't know how much time we have before..."
The lights in the lab flickered. The body on the table jerked and opened its eyes, turning it's head to stare directly at Sanzo.
"Oh shit," Hakkai said.
The body blinked.
Sanzo drew his weapons.
"Genjyo Sanzo?" With a single pull, Kanan's body freed itself from its cable confines. It sat up, swaying a little, as if it didn't quite know how to control itself, and deep, hollow eyes focused on Sanzo's face. "My, my. It's been a while, Genjyo Sanzo. What...9? 10 years?"
"Shut up." Sanzo charged both plasma pistols, and aimed straight at the body's artificial chest. "This is not a reunion. Get out of that AI and into this room so I can eliminate you."
"Hmmm." The body cocked its head and rubbed its chin. "That doesn't really seem like something that's in my best interest."
"Like I fucking care about your interests."
"Tsk, tsk. Language, Genjyo Sanzo!"
The body swung its legs over the side of the table. With some effort, it got itself upright and to the floor, where it managed to take a few, wobbly steps away from the slab.
"Stupid human flesh," it muttered. It tottered first toward the mainframe, and then back in the other direction. "I thought the robotics would make it easier to control, but it doesn't."
"Get out here, then." Sanzo took his own step forward. "Use your real form to face me instead of hiding behind bolts and wires."
"Mmm, no." The body rested a hand on the table, helping itself stand still. "You told me you'd kill me if I did that, and frankly, I'm not in the mood to die today."
"Well, get in the mood," Sanzo said. "Because that's exactly what's about to happen."
Sanzo fired. Two bright pink plasma bullets streaked across the room and slammed into the body's chest. The body staggered, falling sideways against the table. The stench of ozone filled the room.
"Ow." The body brought its hand up to touch the melted metal-resin. "That hurt, you fucker."
"Get out, or I add two more," Sanzo said. "And then I'll keep adding until you're nothing but a pile of useless garbage on this floor."
"You can do that, but you still won't have me, Genjyo Sanzo. You know that. You can't have me unless I present myself to you."
"Then present." Sanzo recharged his pistols. "Present and get it over with. You're done."
"Oh, but I'm not." The body's face split into a diabolical grin. "I'm not done at all. You have me in a room filled with flesh. Warm, soft, consumable, human...flesh." The head swung around, dark, empty eyes focusing on Hakkai. "I'm not at all done."
The color drained from Hakkai's face.
Sanzo stepped in Hakkai's direction. "You try and jump to him and I'll have you dead before you can make the leap," he growled."
"Your reflexes are human," the oni replied. "You can do no such thing."
"I'm the best shot in the organization and I've done it before. You really wanna take that chance?"
The body looked Hakkai over. There was a long, tense moment where Sanzo thought it was going to back down, but then it tossed its hair and laughed, shooting him a terrifying smile.
"Catch me if you can," it taunted.
Kanan's body fell to the floor. Sanzo fired twice, aiming for the most direct line between the abandoned AI and Hakkai. The bullets, however, passed through empty air. Sanzo panicked. He fired again, cursing but the result was the same. And then the unthinkable happened.
Something slammed into Sanzo's chest.
Too shocked to move, it was more than a second before Sanzo realized what had happened. But that hesitation was all it took for the world to explode into chaos. He distantly heard Hakkai shout his name, and his pistols dropped to the ground as something lodged itself in his throat, choking him. Stars danced in front of Sanzo's eyes.
The world went black.
When he awoke, he was sure he was on fire. Everything, from the roots of his hair to the tips of his toes, felt like it was being bathed in white-hot magma, and he was sweating all over.
"Sanzo, be still."
Hakkai's voice. Hakkai's hands prying open his eyes, and Hakkai's lab coat brushing his cheek.
Sanzo tried to turn his head.
"Sanzo, be still, I mean it!" Hakkai sounded upset. Upset and a little bit frantic, and Sanzo wanted to obey his friend's command but his body hurt so much.
"Hakkai..." he croaked.
After a second, Human Gojyo came into his line of sight. "Hakkai," he said. "I see it."
Hakkai's face contorted into an expression of rage the likes of which Sanzo had never seen.
"FUCK," he yelled, and Sanzo heard the sound of a fist hitting metal. "Fuck, fuck, FUCK. You piece of shit! How dare you? How dare you? Give him back!"
"Hakkai, hey." The shifter grabbed what was Hakkai's probably-now-bruised hand and rubbed it gently. "C'mon, man. Don't flip out on me. I need you."
"Why?" Sanzo could hear the defeat in Hakkai's tone. "What do you need me for? I'm useless. I can't even protect the people I care about!"
"Hakkai..." The cat moved closer, curling around Hakkai in an attempt to offer comfort. "That's not true. You are an awesome scientist, and a great caretaker. And I need you to be both right now, okay? I'm telling you, we can fix this."
"How? How can we fix this?"
"Calm down and I'll tell you, all right?"
Sanzo heard what sounded like a sniffle, and then Hakkai was nodding. And Gojyo was coming back to be entirely too close to Sanzo's face again.
"Remember when I told you your sister liked to sleep in the old subway tunnels?"
Peripheral-vision Hakkai nodded.
"Lust onis need to do that whenever they get overstimulated," Gojyo said. "Which, for them is a double-edged sword. They need sexual energy to survive, but once they've had their fill, the energy they consume compels them to go to sleep."
"So what are you saying?" Hakkai asked.
"I'm saying...if we want to catch this demon, we need to make it sleepy."
"So you and I..."
With a soft laugh, Gojyo shook his head. "I mean, we could," he said. "But their energy stores fill up faster when the juice is coming straight from the body they're possessing."
"So...Sanzo and I have to..."
Gojyo nodded. "Or I could," he said. "But I honestly think it would be better if were you."
It took Sanzo's feverish brain a very long moment to comprehend what they were talking about. But when it did, his reaction wasn't to tell them both to go fuck themselves as he ought to have wanted. Instead, it was to moan quietly, and raise his hips off the table, and shoot Hakkai a sultry look.
Gojyo quirked a brow. "Well," he drawled, "good to see you're not adverse to the idea, Sanzo-sama."
Sanzo tried to tell them off again, but he could only grunt.
Hakkai appeared again, this time frowning. "Are we sure about that?" he asked. "I mean, is he really in any state to say either way?"
The cat rested his elbows on the table near Sanzo's head, and for the first time, Sanzo could smell him. The warm, pleasing musk that wafted off his tantalizing skin.
Sanzo's mouth watered.
"Sanzo." Gojyo's voice was a purr. A deep, succulent purr. "I know we don't really care for each other, but I am going to be 100% transparent with you right now. There's a lust oni inside you. And the fastest, safest way to get it out is to put it in a sex-induced coma. Are you okay with giving Hakkai permission to make that happen? I'll even take GOKU and stand outside if you want. We'll be your back up, but we'll leave this to you to handle. If you're okay with that."
Sanzo's body shuddered. He was loathe to admit it, but having Hakkai touch him sounded more than okay. It sounded fucking amazing.
Sanzo squirmed and Gojyo straightened.
"All right, I think that's about the most agreement you're going to get. Do you need any..."
"I'm fine, Gojyo-san. I know the mechanics of sex between men." Looking determined, Hakkai moved to Sanzo's side. "Please...wait in the hall."
"Yeah, okay." Gojyo moved away. "I'm here if you need me though, all right?"
"Yes, thank you."
Sanzo heard the quiet sound of a door shutting.
They were alone.
Hakkai cleared his throat. "I suppose...I suppose I should...release you." Hakkai fiddled with the cuffs Sanzo didn't realize were holding his wrists. "And...um...I'd love to make you more comfortable but...alas..."
"Don't worry about it." Sanzo's voice sounded raspy, even to his own ears. "It's just business. We can make do with what we have."
"Yes, I suppose it is." Hakkai shrugged off his lab coat. "Not our usual business, but business none the less. When this is all over, though, we should debrief ourselves. And then make sure..."
"Hakkai." Sanzo sat up, and a dizzying flash of heat made his head swim. "Don't be a prude, okay? I'm telling you it's fine."
Unbuttoning his shirt, Hakkai gave Sanzo a disparaging look. "I am not being a prude. I just do not feel comfortable being intimate with you in a compromised state."
Hakkai's shirt hit the floor and Sanzo admired the smooth expanse of his chest. "I'm not so compromised I can't make decisions," Sanzo assured him. "Also, damn. Have you always looked like that?"
"Eh?" Hakkai looked at himself, confused. "Yes, as far as I know."
"Um...thank you. You're...nice, too."
Hakkai was close enough that Sanzo could feel his body heat. He licked his lips, yet another shiver running through his body as he scooted himself to the edge of the table.
"So um...are we going to be strictly clinical about this? Because I'm not adverse to enjoying it."
"You mean, like...we should engage in foreplay?"
"Yeah." Sanzo's gaze fell to Hakkai's lips. "Maybe some...kissing. Touching..."
Hakkai cleared his throat, and moved so he was standing between Sanzo's bent legs. "This is so weird," he murmured. "But if that's what you want, okay."
"That's what I want," Sanzo said. "Do it."
Hakkai leaned in. Sanzo closed his eyes, and felt a jolt when their lips touched--a jolt unlike anything he'd ever felt when touching another human being. As a rule, Sanzo didn't like physical contact. But here, tonight, in this room, with Hakkai, physical contacted sounded like the best idea ever.
"Shit," he whispered. He reached out, his hand cupping the back of Hakkai's head. "Shit, Hakkai..."
"Should we do that again?" Hakkai asked.
Sanzo rubbed his thumb over the nape of Hakkai's neck. "Yeah," he said. "Let's do that again."
He initiated this time. Hakkai came willingly, sinking into the kiss, and parting his lips. Sanzo didn't hesitate, but slipped his tongue inside, enjoying the intimate touch until Hakkai pulled away.
"Sanzo," he breathed. He sounded a little breathless. "Sanzo I think...I'm starting to become affected."
"The lust oni's power. I think I'm falling under the influence."
"Ngh." Talking was getting in the way of kissing and Sanzo didn't like that. "Guess we'll both be horny soon enough then. Now get back here."
Sanzo yanked him forward, kissing him roughly, feeling Hakkai go pliant under his hands. Fingers scrambled against his chest, and then Hakkai was pushing his shirt up and out of the way, leaving Sanzo's chest bare and his nipples hard and his dick stirring in his pants.
"Fuck, Hakki. Touch me," He nipped Hakkai's lower lip, heel digging into the back of Hakkai's thigh. "Touch me, please."
Hakkai crawled up onto the table, pushing Sanzo backward. "Where?" Hakkai asked. "Where should I touch you, Sanzo-sama?"
"You know where."
Fingers splayed across Sanzo's hips. They kissed messily, and then Hakkai was unzipping his pants, hot little hands slipping inside to rub Sanzo's quickly-hardening cock.
"Ha...! Yes! There!" Sanzo gasped. His own hands wrapped around Hakkai's wrists, tugging at them to create more friction. Hakkai wasn't even under his briefs yet, but it felt so good. "Ung, Hakkai, don't stop doing that."
Hakkai's eyes had taken on a wide, dilated look. He rubbed up and down over Sanzo's cock, tracing and squeezing, gaze glued to Sanzo's face. Beneath him, Sanzo arched and moaned, pleasure rippling through him in sweet, delicious waves.
You're cock is so hard," Hakkai murmured. He hooked a finger in the waistband of Sanzo's briefs, teasing. Tantalizing. "I want to look at it, Sanzo. May I?"
"Yes. For fuck's sake, yes." Sanzo lifted his hips, pushing his pants down just far enough to give Hakkai better access. "And then you better touch it, or I swear to the gods I'll kill you where you stand."
A rush of cool air hit Sanzo's heated skin. He heard Hakkai laugh as he groaned deeply, the simplest sensation making him feel like he could barely breathe.
"It's always death and killing with you," Hakkai murmured. "Seriously. When we're finished here, I'm going to teach you how to meditate so you can find some inner peace."
"Hakkai, this is not the time for another one of your pacifist speeches."
"I know, it's just...I have your undivided attention. I couldn't help myself."
Hakkai smiled at him, laughed again, and then dodged the swipe that Sanzo had aimed at him. Ducking, however, brought him right down to the level where Sanzo needed him most and Sanzo arched his back, begging wordlessly for Hakkai to get the hint.
"All right, all right." Hakkai peeled the fabric down. "Touch your dick. I get it."
"Don't act...like it's a chore...," Sanzo panted, and Hakkai looked up from under lowered lashes.
"Don't act like you're the one in control here," he countered.
Sanzo snorted in response, but derision quickly turned to rapture as the flat of Hakkai's tongue found the head of his cock. It was just a quick lick, but Sanzo could feel it throughout his entire body--molten and beautiful and oh so perfect.
"More of that," he breathed. "Keep doing...that..."
Hakkai wrapped his hand around the base of Sanzo's cock and licked again, slower this time, hitting all the sensitive spots before pulling away.
"If you angle toward me just a little bit more, I think I can get you all in." Hakkai rubbed the underside with the edge of his finger. "You're thick, but not too long. Just tip your hips up a tiny bit and that should be what I need."
Sanzo did as he was asked. Hakkai made a quiet noise of appreciation, and then opened his mouth, taking Sanzo down to the hilt without hesitation.
"Holy shit," Sanzo cursed. The few blowjobs he'd tolerated in his adult life had been enjoyable, but nothing like this. Mostly because none of them had even attempted to deep throat him the way Hakkai was doing, and none of them had been able to move on him with such fluidity. But Hakkai could, and he even smiled while doing it, as if having Sanzo's cock down his throat was the most delightful thing in the world.
"Dammit, Hakkai." Sanzo's nails scratched uselessly at the metal underneath him. "Where the hell did you learn to do this?"
"Here and there." Hakkai pulled off and lapped at him a few times, keeping him slicked up and ready for the next bout. "I've had some talented lovers over the years. They've taught me a few things."
"I hope you thanked them." Sanzo squirmed as Hakkai kissed the tip. "Because your mouth is fucking..."
"Shhhh." Hakkai pressed a finger to Sanzo's lips. "Less talking, more enjoying."
Hakkai went down on him again. This time, Sanzo had to close his eyes, because watching was just too much. It filled him with too much of an ache, and he was already trying not to embarrass himself by coming quickly. He wasn't a virgin by any means, but Hakkai's lips were magic, Hakkai's tongue was velvet, and Hakkai's throat...
Orgasm coursed through him without his permission.
"Fuck!" he gasped.
Between his knees, Hakkai looked up, swallowing deliberately before releasing Sanzo's softening cock.
"That was a lot." Hakkai wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "But that's not all you've got for me, is it?"
"What kind of perverted question is that?" Sanzo threw his forearm over his eyes, unable to look at Hakkai's face. "You sound like a yaoi manga!"
"Sorry. I was trying to be sexy." Hakkai eased himself back to the floor since there truly wasn't enough room for both of them on the table. "Also, we probably need you to do that a few more times, so..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Gimme a minute. Even possessed, I have a refractory period."
"Right. Yes. Of course."
Hakkai went about doing something Sanzo couldn't see. And Sanzo went about catching his breath, feeling his body cool briefly before the heat came creeping back, filling him with need all over again. Opening his eyes, he was startled to see Hakkai kneeling on a futon, a blanket folded over his arm.
"Where the hell did that come from?" Sanzo asked.
"This? Gojyo-san brought it over. He didn't think a lab table was really an appropriate place for us to be doing what we're doing."
"How thoughtful." Sanzo sat up. His clothes were still haphazardly attached to him, so he removed them, tossing them to the floor.
Hakkai's gaze followed him as he came over to join him on the futon.
Sanzo smirked. "What?" he asked.
"Nothing." Hakkai looked away, a light blush staining his cheeks. "I just see that you've...recovered."
"Hm?" Sanzo hadn't even noticed his erection had returned, but there it was. The heat, too, had become unbearable again, making him want to be closer to Hakkai. To touch Hakkai. Kiss Hakkai.
"Do you bottom?" he asked before he could stop himself.
"I...have," Hakkai said. " Do you...top?"
"I have," Sanzo said.
Hakkai eyed Sanzo's erection. "It's been a while. You're not going to be able to be rough with me."
"I'm possessed, Hakkai. I'm not a monster."
"Not yet," Hakkai said quietly.
The mood in the room soured a little, and Sanzo could have sworn he heard the oni laughing in the back of his head.
He sent it several threatening, dismembering thoughts as he knelt down by Hakkai's side. "This will work," he said curtly. "The cat knows what he's talking about, and even if he doesn't, we can use Plan B."
"What's Plan B?"
"We do it my way."
"Ah, yes. I should have known." Hakkai sighed as he produced a tube of lube and a condom. "Brute force and ignorance. Your favorite go-to solution."
Sanzo raised an eyebrow. "Don't knock it until you've tried it," he said, and then he pointed at the things in Hakkai's hand. "Did the cat bring all that, too?"
"Yes. Gojyo-san knows how I feel about comfort and protection."
"Do I want to know why he knows that?"
Hakkai shook his head. "You make everything sound so lewd, Sanzo." He unbuttoned his pants and slid the fabric off his legs. "Gojyo is my companion. We talk as companions would. Sometimes it gets personal."
"Ngh. Companionship." Sanzo watched Hakkai's boxers join his pants. "So much work."
"You say that because you like being alone." Hakkai uncapped the lube. "I, on the other hand tend to get lost in my own head when left to my own devices, so I am mature enough to admit I need others around me."
Hakkai lay back and spread his knees. He went to reach between his legs, but Sanzo stayed his hand.
"What are you doing?"
"What do you think I'm doing?"
"You're not going to let me do that?"
Hakkai blinked slowly.
"Pretty sure I can experience pleasure from giving as much as receiving," Sanzo said.
Hakkai let his hand return to his side. "All right," he said. "But remember-- slowly. I'm more used to being on the other side."
"Slowly," Sanzo promised. He set the lube next to him, and settled himself between Hakkai's bent knees. "As slow as you need."
He ran his fingertips up Hakkai's thighs. Hakkai shivered a little, and Sanzo felt a thrill race through him. It was sharper than anything he'd felt while Hakkai was blowing him, which was interesting. Who would have thought a lust oni would be into giving more than receiving?
"Do you have anything you like?" Sanzo let his fingers trail higher--across Hakkai's hip bones, up his ribs. Hakkai squirmed, nipples hardening, and Sanzo suddenly knew the answer to his own question.
"You do," he said softly. He brought his thumbs to rest just under Hakkai's pectoral muscles. "You like your nipples played with, don't you?"
"Y...you don't have to make it sound so dirty." Hakkai flinched when Sanzo pinched one. "It's not that unusual...ah!"
Sanzo could not stop the grin from spreading across his face. He pinched the other nipple, slowly altering the pressure, chuckling delightedly as Hakkai's eyes rolled back into his head.
Sanzo leaned down and kissed Hakkai's trembling lips, loving the heat that surged through him. "If nipple play gets you in the mood, I'm more than happy to do it."
"Sanzooo," Hakkai moaned, a deep blush staining his cheeks.
"I know I know." Sanzo inched closer, rubbing his stomach against Hakkai's hardening cock. "Less talking, more enjoying, right?"
Hakkai gave a tiny nod.
Laughing softly, Sanzo kissed his way down Hakkai's neck. When he reached Hakkai's chest, he gave each nipple a lick, then a suck, then a lick again, pulling back to rub them as Hakkai whimpered some more.
"You're really sexy." Sanzo kissed and suckled the right nipple, eyes on Hakkai's face. "Can you come just from this, Hakkai?"
Hakkai's breathing hitched. He didn't answer, but bit his lip hard.
Sanzo moved his kissing and sucking to the left side. "You can," he concluded. "Interesting. Hope you don't mind me making that happen."
Again, Hakkai didn't answer. Instead, he dug his fingers into the futon and close his eyes, breath coming in shallow pants. Sanzo continued to lick, suck, and tease, turning Hakkai's nipples pinker and pinker until Hakkai's body grew rigid.
And then Sanzo felt something warm and wet coat his stomach.
"Cho Hakkai, you kinky little shit." Sitting up, Sanzo admired the splashes of shimmery liquid drizzled along his abdomen. "You came from nipple play!"
Hakkai turned his head, refusing to look Sanzo in the face. "Wasn't that a foregone conclusion?" he murmured. "You knew I would."
"Yeah, but it's something else entirely to see it." Sanzo was disturbingly turned on by how hot Hakkai's come looked on his skin. "I almost want to do that again just to enjoy it some more."
Hakkai turned his head back. He searched Sanzo's face for a moment, and then sat up, brushing Sanzo's messy hair from his forehead. "Maybe later," he said gently. "Or maybe later, I can do it to you. Right now, I think we should probably get to the sex. That demon inside you doesn't seem the least bit sleepy."
Again, in the back of his head, Sanzo heard the oni's laugh. The sound was followed by the most intense surge of lust yet, and Sanzo realized Hakkai was right. They were only scratching the surface with the foreplay. The demon wanted more.
"You're right," he agreed. "We probably should. Did the cat bring you anything to clean up with?"
Hakkai produced a small hand towel, and Sanzo took it, wiping himself clean.
"Thanks," he said.
"You're welcome," Hakkai returned. He laid back down. "Also, now that I've come, I might be a little bit more relaxed. You might be able to start with two fingers instead of one, but please still be generous with the lubricant."
"Yeah, of course." Sanzo uncapped the tube and squirted a generous amount into his hand. "Anything else I can do to make it more pleasurable?"
"No, just focus down there. But I'll touch my cock while you prep me. That should help some."
Hakkai curled his fingers around his flaccid penis. A few pumps, and it plumped up, and when Hakkai nodded, Sanzo slid his fingers against Hakkai's ass.
Sanzo's cock went instantly hard.
"Shit," he murmured. The smears of lube glinted under the florescent lights, and Sanzo wanted nothing more than to slam himself straight into Hakkai. To feel that tight, hot pressure all around him. But he had promised...he'd promised Hakkai he'd go slow, and that's what he would do.
Ignoring his own raging need, Sanzo moved his fingertips in slow circles.
Hakkai relaxed under his touch. He seemed to like the gentle stroking, so Sanzo did it some more, ignoring the lust oni as it tried to encourage him to put his own pleasure first.
"Shut up," he growled aloud, and in doing so, he accidentally startled Hakkai, making him yelp.
"Sorry." Sanzo rubbed him gently, feeling bad. "I...she's being a little insistent right now, and I need her to stop."
"The oni?" Hakkai asked.
"Yeah. She's....Well. We've definitely got her attention."
"Ah. I see."
Hakkai went back to being supine.
Sanzo gently wiggled the tip of his middle finger inside.
Another powerful surge of lust rocked Sanzo's body. Hakkai was hot. Hot and needy, and Sanzo could feel the lust oni trying to take control, to force his hand. Sanzo fought her back, keeping himself steady as Hakkai allowed him in a little deeper.
"You can go a little quicker if you have to." Hakkai pressed up on one forearm so Sanzo could see him. "You're not hurting me. It feels fine."
"No, this is good." Sanzo pushed a little deeper. "Unless you're not good."
"No, I'm good. It's good."
Sanzo shifted to his knees. He kept his finger inside Hakkai, but slid in a second while pressing a kiss to Hakkai's hip.
Hakkai sucked in his breath.
Heat exploded in Sanzo's brain.
Without further hesitation, Sanzo began to move. His finger slid in and out, matching the rhythm of Hakkai's hand on his dick. The combined tactile and visual sensations excited him, and roused the lust oni, who sent a hard rush of desire churning through Sanzo's stomach. Sanzo did his best not to let it take over, but it was incredibly hard. Hakkai was teasing himself, squeezing his fingers...
"Mmm, Sanzo." Hakkai's warm, lusty voice felt like honey to his brain. "Give me another...please..."
Sanzo moved a third finger in.
So did the oni.
"Mmm, Sanzo." The oni mimicked Hakkai's tone as it pushed its way into Sanzo's thoughts, slithering like a venomous serpent. "Look at him. Taking your fingers like he's made for it. How nice, is that, huh?"
"Nice for me, not you," Sanzo shot back. "Go away."
"Go away? Not a chance. It's time, Genjyo Sanzo. Take him. Take him now."
Sanzo shook his head. Hakkai was into it yes, but he was still incredibly tight. His erection, too, wasn't what it should be. It wasn't time. Sanzo wasn't going to hurt him.
"Don't deny me what I want, Genjyo Sanzo. I said take him."
"I'll deny you if I feel like it," Sanzo growled. He gave the oni a hard, mental shove. "Also, I told you a long time ago to shut up. I'm not interested in anything you have to say, so stop talking."
"No," the oni whispered. "That's not what needs to happen. You need me here, right where I am, because I can make your dirtiest, darkest fantasies come true. I can make you feel things you've never, ever felt before. I can make this sex absolutely amazing if you stop resisting."
Sanzo grit his teeth. Withdrawing his hand from Hakkai, he sat back on his heels, clutching his temples.
"I don't want that. Stop saying I do. You don't know anything!"
Concerned, Hakkai sat up. He went to reach out, but Sanzo slapped his hand away and turned his back. He closed his eyes, trying to force the oni down, but the creature dodged him and surged forward, engulfing his consciousness.
When he looked back at Hakkai again, all he could see was his own need.
"Hakkai," he managed. He was fast losing his grip on himself, and he had to let Hakkai know. "Hakkai, we have to stop. If we go any further I'm going to hurt you."
"Get away from me," Sanzo whispered. "Please!"
"Sanzo, no! Tell me what's happening! Let me help you!"
"Hakkai, you need to.."
"Hakkai!" The door to the lab burst open. Gojyo charged in, followed closely by GOKU. "Hakkai, get back!" he yelled.
Wide-eyed, Hakkai grabbed the blanket, and skittered back. GOKU waited until Hakkai was a safe distance away, and then set up a demon-perimeter barrier around Sanzo. The kind he'd been doing for Sanzo for as long as Sanzo could remember.
Except this time Sanzo was the target.
"What..." Sanzo began, but his words and breath we knocked out of him as Gojyo grabbed him and slammed him into the perimeter's side.
"You've lost it," Gojyo growled. "It's time for Plan B."
Gojyo planted his lips on Sanzo's, effectively silencing him.
Sanzo's immediate reaction was panic.
He pushed against Gojyo's chest, trying to throw him off, but Gojyo hung on like a leech, refusing to budge. Sanzo's fingers scrabbled uselessly on bare skin, and Gojyo took a deep breath, forcing open Sanzo's mouth.
Pain hit Sanzo straight in the gut. Again, he tried to push Gojyo off, but Gojyo, being half-demon, was far too strong for Sanzo in his compromised state. Gojyo held him fast, and Sanzo could barely get enough room of his own to struggle. More pain wracked Sanzo's body, but then his consciousness began to clear. And that's when he realized.
Gojyo was drawing the oni out of him.
Sanzo's eyes went wide. He stared at the blurry red-brown image in front of him, unable to do much more than mumble incoherently as his erection went down and his body temperature returned to normal. The oni's lusty ire was transferring itself to Gojyo's body, and Sanzo panicked again when he felt Gojyo get hard. But as soon as that happened, Gojyo released him, shoving Sanzo out of the perimeter and onto the floor.
Sanzo looked on as he sank to his knees, head bowed low. He was pale, and sweating, and exhausted.
"Gojyo-san?" Hakkai whispered.
Gojyo didn't answer. Instead, he fell forward onto his palms, body jerking. He dry-heaved.
"Gojyo-san!" Alarmed, Hakkai tried get to the barrier, but GOKU stopped him with a warning chirp. Gojyo heaved again, red hair falling across his face, and this time, something came up, hitting the floor with a wet splat. GOKU instantly shrunk the perimeter so that it surrounded just the strange, black, blob now writing on the floor by Gojyo's knees.
Gojyo raised his head and wiped the sweat from his brow.
"There," he sighed. "That's better."
Both Sanzo and Hakkai could only stare. GOKU, on the other hand, loped over, changing the barrier into a plasma cage, which he then lifted and inserted into the containment compartment in his chest. With a happy beep, he looked at Sanzo and gave him the thumbs up, and then, to everyone's surprise, gave Gojyo a gentle pat on the head.
"Heh, thanks, buddy." Gojyo returned the gesture with a bro-fist to GOKU's arm. "We did good."
"What the everloving fuck..." Sanzo looked at Hakkai, who was now preserving his modesty with the blanket, then back at the cat and the monkey in the middle of the floor. "Can someone please explain what the fuck just happened?"
Gojyo got shakily to his feet. "GOKU and I were listening outside, and we heard you losing control. So we decided to come in and help."
"Are you trying to tell me you could have done that the whole time?" Sanzo demanded.
"Um...maybe." Gojyo smiled sheepishly. "Okay, yeah. We totally could have gone with the hairball method from the beginning, but I wanted to do you guys a solid. So I let you try it the harder way first."
"Sorry, Hakkai." Gojyo collected Sanzo's clothes from the floor. "I know you're fine with the parade of anonymous strangers that come through here, but I'm not. I'd rather have you hooking up with someone you know and trust already, okay? Here, Sanzo-sama. You're welcome to stay naked, but it is kind of chilly in here now that the oni's gone."
Sanzo took his things wordlessly from Gojyo's hands.
Hakkai pulled his blanket tighter around himself.
Neither commented on Gojyo's words as Sanzo got dressed.
The silence was awkward and heavy.
"So...um...I guess that wraps up your assignment?" Hakkai asked at last.
"Yeah. That's it," Sanzo said.
"And you probably have to head to headquarters, now, to file the report, huh?"
"Yeah. That's protocol."
"Let's not talk about this now."
"Not now, Hakkai. Please."
Hakkai shuffled toward the door. Sanzo buckled his belt, and smoothed his hair, while Hakkai opened the door. Gojyo went out first with the futon, followed by GOKU. Hakkai moved to be next, but before he could, Sanzo grabbed his wrist.
"Let's talk about it when I don't have reports to write," he said. "And when we're not just...minutes out from something that could have wound up really horrible."
"I'll need to have GOKU checked anyway. Since he's got to store that thing until we transfer it to a more permanent container."
"Right, yes. Of course." Hakkai managed a small smile. "Maybe...tea the day after tomorrow, then? That will give me some time to get Kanan repaired before hooking GOKU up."
"Yeah. That's a good idea." Sanzo squeezed Hakkai's wrist. "And...just to be clear...I am sorry. I'm sorry I almost hurt you. For once, I really, truly didn't do it on purpose."
"I know." Hakkai gently extracted himself from Sanzo's grasp. "And I'm sorry you had to find out from my cat that I'm...kind of a slut. That was pretty awkward."
"You're not a slut," Sanzo said. "You're a fucking nerd, and a weirdo, and probably pretty damn good in bed, but that doesn't make you a slut. Though I am curious what kind of people you have coming through here that made your cat think it was a good idea for us to hook up."
"Perhaps we'll save that explanation for the tea after the next one coming up. Since maybe by then I won't be cringing so much when I think about it."
"Fair enough. See you Thursday?"
"Yeah. Take care. Be safe. Get that thing into containment as soon as possible."
"I will," Sanzo said. "You can count on it."