Birthdays are not fun for the ikkou. Birthdays mean another year on the road, another year lost to this mission. Birthdays mean getting older, aged by time and close experience of death. Birthdays mean another year of the Minus Wave’s chaos, another year of Gyumaoh edging closer to wakefulness. Birthdays mean a reminder of the past, childhoods, origins and other days of sharing, of love. Days long gone, never to return again.
For Gojyo, birthdays are simple. They are proof that the half-breed has survived another year, and provide and excuse to get really, really drunk.
Goku doesn’t have a birthday, or at least not one he can remember. Instead, they mark the day a seventeen-year-old priest reached out his hand to the golden-eyed boy on the mountain. His birthday provides the opportunity to eat as much as he likes of whatever he wants.
For Hakkai, birthdays are a day when, if he remembers (and he usually does), Gojyo offers to do the housework. A day when the green-eyed man is entertained most readily by his red-haired companion, and they share laughter. It also provides an excuse for Gojyo to try and get him drunk, although it is usually the kappa who ends up mot inebriated.
Sanzo too is lacking in an official birthday; the day he gives (when forced) is the day a silver-haired man plucked a violet-eyed child from the waters of the Yangtze. It’s a day when the priests are most obsequious, when Goku is the most annoying and when all three of his companions do their best to make him smile.
Of course, that’s only the fun part.
Gojyo’s birthday is a reminder of years with an abusive mother, when the only gift he wanted was her love, and all he received was her anger. A reminder of a brother who remembered, who tried to protect him and give him some semblance of a normal life. A brother who left him, alone.
Goku remembers the sky, day after day, with know way to mark the passage of years. He remembers cold and loneliness and fear, and the sun he could never reach.
Hakkai’s birthday was given to him by the sisters in his orphanage — lonely years, birthdays when he felt nothing but apathy and contempt. Then, later, golden days of love and life with Kanan; a taste of happiness and a shared birthday. Golden days cut short in blood, and cold stone, and rain.
Sanzo marks a second birthday, the day he was made a ‘Genjo Sanzo’, the day of his baptism of blood. He doesn’t share this day; he holds it in his heart, a wound, unhealing, a reminder never to hold anything that close again, never to want something he couldn’t protect. This day he spends alone, silent — the antithesis of his other birthday, when he lets himself be entertained, perhaps even to smile, in memory of the ever-smiling man who was his mentor and his father. Koumyou Sanzo, 30th holder of the Seiten and Maten sutras.
Birthdays are fun for the ikkou. Together, they spend the days laughing, drinking and remembering. Birthdays are another year survived, another year healing. Birthdays are another year spent in company with the people they love most, building new memories. Together.