Disclaimer This fanfiction is based on characters and situations created and owned by Minekura Kazuya. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended, no profit made.
For All That It Seems
It was well past the time when he should have fallen asleep - even for one who had the occasional dalliance with insomnia, the exhaustion of the day's driving and the three attacks they'd faced should have been sufficient to put him under within a minute of leaning his aching head against Jeep's backrest, but here he was instead, walking aimlessly through the woods, listening to the wind rustling gently through the trees and letting the almost complete darkness soothe him....
Except that there wasn't any wind.
Hakkai stopped dead, extending his senses. There were no youkai, no humans, nothing he could sense - but that was all the more ominous here. Surely he should have sensed Gojyo, Sanzo....even the vaguely other presence that meant Goku. He should have sensed them....
"What's the matter, Cho Gonou? Feeling watched, perhaps?"
Hakkai spun around, trying to trace where the sound had come from. The trees formed a solid wall of shadows, hiding the speaker from him, and yet that voice. He could never forget that voice (not again, anyway, something whispered). And there, there he was, barely an outline, but clearly identifiable.
"You're dead," Hakkai whispered, and the reality of that statement comforted him. He shook his head, voice gaining in certainty as he remembered. "You're dead, this is a dream."
Chin Iisou laughed. "Am I? Well, then I suppose you're quite safe." He paused, and Hakkai could hear him take in a breath. He nearly laughed. Iisou hadn't been breathing the last two times he'd seen him; if he'd ever required proof, here it was.
"But then," Iisou continued, "you did think you'd killed me before, too. Can you really be certain?"
Only a dream; he knew how to handle this. Enough logic would shred it - dreams were such fragile things. Hakkai backed away a step, planting himself securely with his back to a tree. "You're quite right as to my assumption; however, it was merely a lapse of memory at that time."
"Yes, indeed. A trick of the mind that nearly led to your destruction. A dream is just another trick of the mind, Cho Gonou." The counter that hissed through the air at him was just wide of its mark, and deliberately so; Hakkai didn't move, letting it embed itself into the tree next to him. "Disregard it at your peril."
He schooled his voice into calmness, his body into stillness. "If this is a dream, then it's worth nothing. I've seen worse than you in there."
Iisou laughed again, languidly stepping into the light. He looked exactly as he had the last time Hakkai had seen him - except that he seemed to have reattached his arm somehow. "Like yourself, perhaps?" he suggested slyly.
Hakkai bared his teeth, bracing himself and gathering his energy for an attack. He knew this was a deam, and yet the reactions were fluid, automatic - he'd fought too many times for it not be an instinctive reaction to a threat. "Indeed," he said calmly.
The dream eyed his hands and walked a little to the side, smirking. "Ah, but you've a strong mind, haven't you, Gonou?" Hakkai watched him warily, preferring to stay silent, turning to keep him in direct line of sight. He didn't want to waste his first attack; there might not be time for a second. "Strong enough," he continued, "to keep the memories locked safely away... most of the time. Strong enough to reinvent yourself." He vanished, appearing at his side before Hakkai could even blink in surprise, close enough to murmur in his ear. "Strong enough to keep me alive...forever."
Hakkai willed himself not to move, to acknowledge the reality of the situation. "You're only a ghost. You have no power here!" He turned on the last word, his fist driving into his stomach, glowing with his power.
Iisou grinned, shimmered, and vanished, but Hakkai knew better than to relax. He was familiar with the shape his dreams took.
"Ah, but I do," Chin Iisou said, his voice scratching along Hakkai's nerves, physically repulsive. "I have you Cho Gonou. Your wonderfully strong mind, equally capable of sustaining or destroying you." He reappeared on the other side of him, close enough for his breath to touch his hair. "Even your new name lends itself to my purpose, Hakkai. It's a fitting memorial, really."
Hakkai froze, trying to think up a new strategy "Really. I hadn't thought of it that way, I must admit." This dream, he'd had it before - he was sure of it now. But if that was the case, there had to be something else, or he would have....
Iisou reached out to take his chin, turning his head to look at him. "Nothing is accidental with you, Cho Gonou. Did you know? I can see it all, in here. You knew, and you chose it for that reason."
Hakkai moved out of his reach, readying himself to attack again. "That name was chosen for me...." he shook his head, remembering what he needed to hold on to to wake. ".....and I killed you, so stay dead." He rubbed at the place Iisou had touched him, trying to erase the feel of those unpleasantly cold fingers.
Iisou snickered. "Of course, of course." He folded his hands into his sleeves, not remotely bothered by Hakkai's posture. "Your chi attacks can't hurt me here, you know."
Hakkai didn't move a muscle, feeling the readiness coil through him. Oh, so this was it. He'd felt this before, he'd dreamed this before. His last resort. "I recall you saying that once before."
Iisou clicked his tongue. "But in here, there are no surprises." He cocked his head mockingly, amusement in the curl of his lips. "You've tried once already. The same move that stole my talisman, in fact. It was harmless."
Hakkai narrowed his eyes "You seem to have all the answers."
The demon chuckled and spreads his hands out, palms up. "If you don't believe me, then go ahead. Try again. Or perhaps..."
A chill raced down his spine. Here it was, the thing he'd been dreading. He could feel it gathering in the air, pressing down on him; and yet he couldn't stop its course. "Perhaps?"
Iisou smirked smugly "Why don't you take them off, Cho Gonou?"
He went absolutely still as he absorbed those words, their implications. "...I thought," he said carefully, "that I'd proved adequately that I didn't need them."
Iisou grinned obscenely. "Do try to listen."
And it was only a dream, after all - how easy it would be to let go here, with the assurance that he would never have to worry about the consequences.... Hakkai raised a hand to his limiters, his expression grim. "I suppose I will." He hesitated for a second.
His eyes narrowed even as his smirk widened. "Or are you truly a coward, Cho Gonou?"
"Oh, not at all," Hakkai said almost pleasantly. He tugged his limiters off his ear in one smooth motion, shuddering a little as the change took him. Power rushing through his every cell, the brief sharp pain of his ears extending, claws unsheathing....he'd only done this twice, once in furtive self-loathing, and once to save Gojyo, and that had been a blur of pain and death and sheer pure bliss of power, but it was so hard to remember here.....and then it was done, he was whole again, alive, and he looked at Chin Iisou for the first time with his true eye, and saw him for what he was.
Iisou laughed triumphantly, apparently unaware of the danger he was in. "Ah, there they are. Those eyes, so full of death."
Hakkai moved in a blur, slashing at Iisou with his claws, carving four deep furrows across his chest, barely missing the heart, and a ferocious grin exploded across his face at the look of naked surprise on Chin Iisou; that was his last memory before he lost himself to the joy of it, the madness.
Oh, yes, this experiment was coming along nicely, Nii thought. He smirked around his cigarette, watching Cho Hakkai struggling against the the bindings around his arms and legs. His subject was certainly useful - he'd gained more information about the difference between youkai and human DNA from this one specimen than he'd found in a thousand others. Appropriate enough, all things considered.
"Hmm..." he said thoughtfully, looking at the monitor, assessing the data showing there. "A little more, I think." It was fascinating, really, watching the converted youkai's sanity slip an inch at a time, and guiding it deeper and deeper through a maze of memories and dreams and into the depths of hell was surprisingly easy. It was almost as if that was where he wanted to go.
Nii smiled as he walked over to Hakkai, leaning down to murmur in his ear. "Just a little more, and I'll let you go back to your friends, hm?" He smirked again. "I'm sure they'll be delighted to have you back."