The Colour of Forever
On quiet evenings, when the long day was finally said and done, Goku watched as the mysterious garment took shape. He would wonder - with idle curiosity bubbling in his ever-active heart - how Hakkai learned to knit so well, as those deft fingers handled the needles and yarn with obvious skill.
But it was only on the odd occasion that Hakkai ever had the opportunity to engage in an activity such as this, and Goku came to anticipate the sight with a certain sense of open wonder.
So Hakkai knitted, and Goku watched, while Sanzo and Gojyo, well...
On those evenings, uneventful and seemingly unguarded, when a small respite from battle, bloodshed and travel were found, Sanzo would close himself off from the world at large behind the black and white walls of the local world in print, only emerging long enough to indulge in a sip of hot coffee, or to light up a fresh cigarette from time to time.
As for Gojyo, on such nights he was usually absent, off to prowl the town, whiskey-smooth and tomcat ready. Because truly, had he been there, the night wouldn't have been quite so calm. Not quite, for Gojyo, the dependable rogue, was an instigator. If he were among them, then in his mind there would always be a little monkey to tease, a corrupt priest to provoke, and a pair of green eyes to catch the attention of. Usually, there would be a game of cards or mahjong on the agenda, and things such as knitting would be set aside for another time.
So in the half-breed's absence, Goku was left to his own devises without distraction, and even so the threadbare serenity wouldn't last long. But for a little while, at least, it was peaceful. For a little while, Goku's stomach was comfortable full of dinner recently eaten, and the perpetual hunger always gnawing at his soul was temporarily held at bay. For a little while, he didn't mind not having a certain erogappa around for his amusement. And, for a little while, he didn't even mind being ignored by his short-tempered, harisen-wielding monk. Because for a while, he was content - satisfied that those he cared about the most were safe, and that he had a cozy place to sleep for the night.
Content, too, to lose himself momentarily in the hypnotic rhythm of Hakkai's fingers, and the gentle click-click of the needles as he worked.
It didn't take long to realize that what the healer was creating was... a simple scarf. As he watched, with lazy, golden eyes, his chin propped up on his arms and Jeep curled up at his side, a tiny, satisfied smile quirked the corners of his lips.
He listened to the occasional sound of the paper rustling as Sanzo turned a page, and to the various noises filtering in from the town around them. And then it dawned on him - the significance of the colours that Hakkai was using to weave the scarf. In vivid purple, orange-gold, red and green, Goku thought it was one of the happiest things he had ever seen. The heretic's smile became a grin, an expression suffused with affection and warmth.
It didn't take long for the scarf to be completed, and when it was, Hakkai simply folded it up and tucked it away, almost selfishly, without a comment made. Goku was disappointed, but just as he was about to speak up, the chi-master turned to him and winked his good eye, glanced surreptitiously in Sanzo's direction with a finger to his lips, and said not a single word.
Puzzled, Goku fell silent, a little pout of confusion crossing his face, and as he did so, the sharp snap of the newspaper filled the room like a warning-shot, as if its holder had sensed some small disturbance in the room. But just then, Goku's stomach growled loudly, and he forgot to complain about Hakkai's secret. Instead he just rolled over onto his back, clutched his belly, and whined a familiar name...
One day, they were forced to camp outside on a rainy, chilly, godforsaken night. The day had been harsh, with many a long hour spent bumping along the rough road in a jeep that was not a jeep, and being attacked not once, not twice, but several times by mindless Youkai minions screaming bloody murder, the words, Die, Genjo Sanzo, die, flinging from their lips like a curse.
That night, it rained.
It was a cold, uncomfortable night, fraught with unease, a night that was a far cry from those quiet, calm ones where they could all take their leisure for a few short hours, and just try to relax. They were all soaked to the bone, wet hair plastered to their necks, and sodden clothing clinging to rain-damp skin. The downpour was so heavy, that even the sleeping bags, inside the relative shelter of the cramped tent, were damp.
Wet, dreary, and downright miserable, they caught whatever sleep they could. And one among them caught something decidedly less pleasant than mere sleep.
For, the next day, Sanzo broke out in a fever and chills. After that, he coughed violently and could only breathe through his mouth and his raw, sore throat. The priest had caught a cold. But Sanzo being Sanzo, he would not stop to rest, nor were they passing through an area that was hospitable to such a course of action.
And so the illness worsened, and miserable he remained.
Goku thought he had forgotten about the scarf. But now, as Hakkai pulled the rainbow-hued length of knitted yarn from his bag, his eyes brightened with the spark of fond recollection.
So, the sick one was soon found bundled up in his seat in jeep, a blanket wrapped around his body and... a multi-coloured scarf tucked around his neck. As the bright tassels fluttered in the wind, seeming to dance merrily before his eyes, Goku smiled at the sight, and knew that Sanzo would be that much warmer.
No one took the scarf away when he was well again, but all the same it again disappeared from sight. At first, Goku was disappointed, and he missed seeing Sanzo wear it, but as before, he soon put it out of his mind, and life carried on its westward path.
Until one day, the scarf made a sudden, unexpected reappearance.
It was on a day when the sand blew harshly across the land, and had no mercy for those who crossed its path. The minute grains were everywhere - in their clothes, their hair, their food, and even in their eyes. Driving through such unforgiving terrain was wearisome, and that was when Sanzo found another good use for the scarf; it protected his face and eyes from the biting sand. Goku peered at the strip of cloth from within the shelter of his hood, and he grinned anew - even though that let the ubiquitous grit enter his mouth, and he had to sputter and spit to no avail to get it out again.
After this, the scarf seemed to show up more and more frequently. The priest used it on chilly days and nights to keep from falling ill in the first place. He used it to shade his face and eyes from the scorching sun, and he used it to keep the sand out of his eyes.
Over time, the colours faded, and the tassels were lost one by one, but Sanzo didn't seem to care. It still served its purpose just the same, and that was fine by him. Besides, Goku still thought the colours were pretty, and his heart lifted at the sight.
Eventually, the unpleasant day came when Sanzo had no choice but to use the scarf to staunch the flow of blood from a wound. When they finally found him in the aftermath of battle, battered and bruised, it was wrapped tightly around his badly injured leg, and its only colour now was that of pure crimson, as red as Gojyo's eyes...
Goku had never, ever been happier to see that familiar little scarf as he was on that day.
Hakkai washed off all the blood, and it was soon back on duty, tucked safely away somewhere within Sanzo's robe. Maybe he kept it next to the paper fan. Or, maybe he used it to protect his fragile reading-glasses from undue damage...? Goku could only guess.
That isn't to say that the scarf couldn't be whipped out whenever a certain annoying kappa needed to be taught a lesson. Sanzo would fling it at Gojyo's head like a makeshift whip, and yell even louder when Goku only laughed in delight at the silly scene. Of course, the monkey himself would be the next target for such light-hearted punishment.
Another (not so humorous) time, Sanzo was forced to use it in the midst of combat gone wrong. Disarmed, at close range and reduced to desperate measures, he used it to throttle his attacker, and in his hands, what was once a mere piece of clothing became a deadly weapon of survival.
Time passed, the road went on, and eventually - as all things must - the road came to an end.
By now, the well-used scarf was travel-worn and tattered, but still it continued to serve its purpose. With shaking hands, Genjo Sanzo gathered the Tenchi Kaigen scriptures, wrapped them securely in the weathered cloth, and, with his last, mortal breath, placed the bundle in dear little Jeep's safekeeping.
Jeep accepted the bundle in his jaws with a soft, forlorn cry, spread wide his wings and took to the sky, headed east. The ends of the scarf trailed behind him, like a banner - worn yet proud - in violet, gold, crimson and green...
Goku tore his dying eyes away from the sight - he could barely see anything anyway, through the pain and the tears.
There was blood everywhere, blood and ruin and... death. But also, there was light.
For, although Hakkai and Gojyo were also lost, they had all seen Sanzo through to the end, fought by his side, and together - together - they had found their destination, their destiny.
Goku slowly reached out a hand, his fingers striving for that light.
He heard Jeep's distant call - a final farewell, or a last lament - and to his ears it rang out like a cry of joy. For, although the sky above was vast and blindingly bright, it wasn't empty. No, it was full, so very full and warm that Goku thought it would burst in a kaleidoscopic explosion of...
Ah, and there it was at last... no longer a distant memory just out of touch, but here, now, forever.
The elemental warrior closed his eyes, and in his mind he saw four colours dancing together in the wind, each as bright as life itself. They wove together into an intricate pattern until there was no longer any way to distinguish where one ended and another began.
They were one.
Goku smiled, and in that smile, there was a promise. It was a smile as beautiful as a rainbow of four colours, born away on a hope as brilliant as those shining wings of white.
Yes, they were one - forever. And that was the most beautiful colour of all.