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By Any Means Neccesary by atolm2000
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And I’m
attacking Gaiden now, or starting to; there’s the beginnings of a larger fic
on my PDA, which this might tie into.

A few
notes before I start - Demon’s actually a fairly bad translation of the word
“Youkai”; in traditional usage, it meant more of “Anything supernatural, not
from heavens/hells or such, not undead, usually innately that way, could be
good or bad depending on individual and species”, so actually has its closest
analogue-in-English with the pre-Victorian meaning of the word “Faerie”. The
closest equivalent to the usual concept of “Demon” is “Akuma”;
they’re not from the mortal plane, and are quite different creatures from
youkai - consider them relatives of the fiends Kougaiji
summons. The Yamarajas referred to once or twice are
the Lords of the Underworld, or the Hell Kings depending on who’s
writing. As Saiyuki itself is often an unholy mesh of
Chinese and Japanese folklore, so is this such a
tangle. The Kami/Immortals/Gods seem to draw more on
the Chinese end, so following suit here; not all of the Kami
are native-born, there’s a fair number in the myths and folklore that’re
“ascended mortals” who gained immortality and were promoted, or were brought
into the Heavens and given an immortal body after death, and not all of those
are human. The White Sparrow Mandarin is from an older folktale of how the
current Jade Emperor received the throne; as a mortal the previous Jade Emperor
had tried to get rid of him, but he’d been warned each time by a white sparrow
he’d saved from an injury and nursed back to health, so that when the Jade
Emperor known to us took the throne, he brought the sparrow and all of his
relatives to the Heavens with him.



The door to his office opened and
shut unheard. Konzen wasn't distracted
from the endless review of paperwork until a small, quiet voice said, "I
apologize for my intrusion, Konzen-douji." He looked up just in time to see the White
Sparrow bow formally, accentuating his small frame as the gesture made him
shorter, loose white hair shifting around his face, pale pink eyes downcast in
the bow. Silver and white silk robes
draped neatly, with a simple jade pendant hanging around his neck, the
characters of his office etched into the delicate pale stone.

He set the papers aside and folded
his hands on his desk, bowing his head in reply. "Your presence is an honor, not an
intrusion, Mandarin." It wasn't
much of a trial, to keep up courtly manners when he had honest respect for the
person he was dealing with. "To
what do I owe this visit?"

"The Western Army has sent word
that they have attained victory and finally brought an end to the fighting with
the Fireflower clan of Akuma;
it was the Jade Emperor's wish that Kanzeon Bosatsu oversee the finalization of the treaty and its

Just the kind of figurehead
bureaucratic work she hated; going to sign papers over a defeated people, half
sealed into relics to be handed to the Yamarajas and
forgotten about. Konzen wasn’t fond of
it either, the times he’d been stuck with it; the Akuma
may’ve been dangerous, and most hated the Kami with a
passion, but there was still something sickening about watching creatures that
proud treated as animals, especially when many of them stubbornly refused to be
broken. "Is she being difficult
enough that I should attempt to help talk to her?"

"Ah, after a fashion, she left
this note." The White Sparrow
handed Konzen a slip of paper. It was
written in neat, clipped script.

Gone to the
mortal world on errands.

If something important comes up, I name Konzen as my legal proxy for
this time.

Konzen wanted to slump over his desk and mutter
creative names for his beloved aunt, but it would've been unseemly in front of
the Mandarin, who outranked him, so he only allowed himself to shift slightly
toward slump and tiredly rub the bridge of his nose.

"I have already talked to the
servants about collecting your things and bringing them to the gates; we can
depart whenever you are ready. I
apologize for the short notice."

Konzen waved off the apology. "It's no fault of yours, Honored
Mandarin." Standing, he arranged
the papers on his desk, covered the inkwell, and doused the one narrow
candle. "I am prepared to leave
whenever you see fit."

They were met at the gate by a
handful of the Imperial Guard, assured that anything needed for the overnight
was already through the gate, then escorted through in procession. There was a moment, through the gate, of a
sort of absence of everything, a null beat, then they
were on the other side, in one of the no-man’s-land realms squabbled over by
the Akuma clans.

The first thing Konzen noticed was
heat; the air was a dry, thick blanket heavy over everything. The sky was covered over with roiling dark
clouds and ash. The gate had opened on a
sort of extending bridge over a flow of lava that ran like a moat over the
entrance to a valley of black rock. The Akuma city was half-carved, half-grown out of the basalt, with
rivulets, streams, and pools of lava scattered throughout.

One of the two guards there to meet
them wore the black and silver of the Heaven’s army. The other was twice Konzen’s
height, in red-enameled black armor with a rose made of flames emblazoned on
the breastplate; three red eyes gleamed in the broad horned skull, spines off
the back flowed into “wings” of flame, a long tail supported a bladed stinger
wreathed in flames, and clawed hands held a halberd whose blade was probably as
big as Konzen’s body.
The Imperial Guard did a remarkable job at not showing reaction, but
Konzen almost subconsciously took a half-step back; he could only imagine what
it was like for the Mandarin, only two thirds Konzen’s
size and easily as frail, who he was aware of somewhere just behind him. The Akuma grinned
amusement at the delegation’s confusion.
The Kami soldier bowed formally; the Akuma followed suit, albeit oddly, unaccustomed to the

“The Western Army and the Fireflower Clan apologize for not being able to show you a
proper welcome; we weren’t expecting you until tomorrow morning.”

The Mandarin recovered quickly,
returning the bow. “The apology is ours,
for not giving more warning. The Jade
Emperor merely wished to bring this long period of fighting to a close, and
thought it easier to get through the reviews if we arrived somewhat
early.” The unspoken questions attached
to the Akuma being part of the welcoming guard hung

“We can lead you to the Great Hall
where the General and Field Marshall are, unless your Graces would prefer to
see your rooms for the night first?” The
officer - one of the General’s Aides, from his insignia - didn’t seem
accustomed to the formalities, but seemed to be in a good mood in spite of any
nervousness at dodging through them.

“I think an introduction to the
commanders would be preferred. Konzen-douji?”

Konzen started out of the odd
not-quite-staredown with the Akuma, who’d been
bemusedly studying him as much as he’d been looking up at it and trying to
process if he was in any danger or not.
“Ah, yes; it would be best to touch bases before anything is drawn up or
considered too deeply.”

“Very well then. This way.” The Aide bowed again, then turned and walked
off; the Akuma paused, glanced between them and the
Aide, then just followed, leading the way and slowing
its pace to match that of the Kami. The entourage, Imperial Guard and all,
followed behind quietly, every one of them trying not to show exactly how
thrown off by this development they were.
The tents and mobile structures of the Heaven’s Army were mixed in among
the Akuma buildings, and both seemed to be in high
spirits, hovering somewhere between a cautious separation and an odd relieved
curiosity. The juxtaposition was more
pronounced around the huge, living-rock structure of the Akuma
great hall, where the officers and leaders of the two sides seemed to be
mingling more than the troops. More than
one campfire or cook-pit had Akuma and Kami alike in the circle around it, and at one point they
even passed a loose ring of troops from both sides cheering and calling at a
surprisingly good-natured sparring match, the verbal jabs passing back and
forth competitive to be sure, but less hostile than would’ve been expected of
two races that were supposed to be natural enemies.

The Aide bowed to the Imperial
Guard, who stepped out to form two lines along either side of the two huge
double doors; the Akuma guard rapped the halberd on
the ground, and the doors ground open.

Konzen and the Mandarin followed the
two guards through the Great Hall’s doors and into a raucous feast. Odd crystalline growths in the walls flowing
with lava provided the dim lighting, and turned the din of voices and movement
into a disorienting miasma of black, black and red, flashes of black and silver
and white. The doors ground shut behind

By the time Konzen had adjusted to
the noise and the lighting enough to make sense of his surroundings, the Aide
had returned, trailed by two other figures in uniform. Well, mostly; one stood straight, seemed to
have a pool of a vague semblance of calm around him, long brown hair hanging
back while the lava light flashed off his glasses. The other’s jacket hung open, and he kept a
half-step behind the other, wobbling just visibly enough to tell that he’d
probably had quite enough to drink; there were some tell-tale bruises that he
didn’t seem to be paying any heed to, his face a loose, smug Cheshire grin to
the other’s controlled amusement.

The drunk was the one that stepped
forward and sketched through a loose bow, looking them over as he did so. “Damn, you guys are early. The Goddess busy or

“Or something.”,
Konzen answered dryly, not allowing any lapses in composure.

“I see you’re in your usual form,
General Kenren.”, the Mandarin added, resignation coloring the politeness.

“Wouldn’t have it
any other way. C’mon; the Matron
was looking forward to meeting you, and we can go over everything over

Kenren turned on one heel and led
the way to the head of the long, squared off set of three tables that formed a
long U in the hall, where two seats had been set out - if they’d been added,
the Akuma had done a job of making it look like
they’d been there all along - in front of the head of the table, where one of
the Akuma that was actually a good foot taller than
the rest sat across from them. The Aide
and the Akuma guard had vanished somewhere in the
hall, while the Field Marshal returned to his own seat on the demon’s right;
Kenren paused before taking his chair.
“Matron Hikiri, I present the White Sparrow
Mandarin and - uhm -“

the Mandarin filled in, ‘why me’ coloring the resignation; Konzen guessed that
not only was this typical of Kenren, but that the Mandarin had dealt with these
eccentricities before.

“Right. Konzen, Mandarin, Matron Hikiri
of the Fireflower Clan.” Another, even sketchier bow,
and the General sat down, leaning on the table and pulling over his briefly
abandoned drink.

“Then you are Shang
Ti’s representatives to oversee the treaty?”, the Akuma rumbled, a voice of
pipe organs and grinding earth faults.

“Yes. We are.”
Konzen bowed his head with the words.

“We welcome you with the full
hospitality of the Fireflower Clan, and I will
personally promise your safety whenever you are within our territory.”

“We thank you for your kindness,
Matron. I’m afraid that the reports that
reached the Heavens were short; reports from out here are sketchy at best
usually, and the missive that the fighting was over was similarly
incomplete.” The Mandarin’s nervous
glances every which way, and his shaky pokes at the unfamiliar fruit on his
plate, belied the caution of his words.
He was fishing for details without insulting the hosts, and without
referencing how these things normally went.

“It was simple, really.” Neither Kenren nor the Matron seemed
surprised that the Field Marshal finally spoke up; the Mandarin blinked
warily. “It had struck us as odd in the
first place, since before the border squabbles the Fireflower
Clan had never been any trouble; on further investigation, we learned that the
reason they were pushing into our outposts, was that the Rising Flood clan -
our mutual enemies - had been pressing them back, expanding their power base
from a position out of our reach. The
level of mistrust on both sides made attempts at contact difficult, so when the
Jade Emperor’s decision reached us, that the fighting had continued long enough
and we were cleared to use any means necessary within reason-“, usually a cue
for an alliance with the Yamarajas, who didn’t care
about killing, since the Toushin Taisho’s post was empty - “We managed
to open communications and arrange something amenable to both sides, that would
ease cooperation against the Flood clan.”
The Marshall paused, distantly.
“We’ve taken on a team of Fireflower warriors
under our direct command as a gesture of alliance, while the Fireflowers will host a scout outpost here, with the Matron
in a position of command, since she knows this area far better than any officer
we could send; that way, it will be ensured that both sides are in contact and
sharing information, and we’ll be better able to predict and react to threats in
this region.” Konzen also noted that if
things went wrong, there was something of a mutual hostage pact inherent in the

There was a moment of odd silence as
the Courtly representatives processed the full implications. In the recorded history of the Heavens,
reaching back even before the tenure of the current Jade Emperor, it almost
never happened that there were vaguely civil relations between the Kami and the Akuma clans, much
less an alliance. The Akuma were chaotic, unpredictable, alien, with each clan
having their own customs and laws, and none of them
brooked outside authorities.

And off the sidelines of the
‘official business’, Kenren was having an animated discussion with what looked
to be one of the higher-ranking warriors.

“Of course, with the terms as they
stand, it would be both awkward and unfair to expect unfamiliar representatives
to come here, and the Matron has already discussed with us the awkwardness of
sending representatives of her clan to court, so as the treaty stands, it would
seem to be simplest and most feasible for those of us here, who are known
equations to both sides, to be the official go-betweens; to represent the Kami here, and the Fireflower
clan in the Heavens - would your Graces mind terribly being included in that
aspect of the treaty, for clarity’s sake and to ensure there’s always someone
available?” And to throw off suspicions
of a power play, if the Mandarin who had the Emperor’s ear since Shang Ti was mortal and a representative of Kanzeon Bosatsu both signed to
it. At the same time, they were both in
a diplomatic trap; refusal would likely throw off whatever the General and
Marshall had worked out, restart the fighting, and Konzen did not relish the
idea of explaining that to the Imperial Court. A flicker in the Mandarin’s calm smile hinted
that he was having the same train of thought himself.

“Of course, it would be my pleasure
to see an end to this unnecessary bloodshed, Field Marshal Tenpou.” There was an ever so slight hint to the
Mandarin’s voice that promised that any attempt at manipulating the agreement
or attempting something underhanded through it, would
be regretted.

The Marshall and Matron turned their
gazes to Konzen; three alien red gleams, and a flicker of green under lenses obscured
by the lighting. He closed his eyes, not
allowing it to unnerve him. “It will be
well worth it, if this treaty will strengthen the defense of the Western

quiet smile widened slightly, and the Matron nodded approvingly. There was a swift change in reaction to the
two courtiers throughout the Hall, as if they’d passed some test of acceptance
and were suddenly to be treated like natives.
For once, Konzen found himself utterly out of his element in regards to protocol, stumbling through customs he knew nothing of with
standards of what was polite that were completely unfamiliar. It was the first time in centuries he’d been
faced with never knowing when he’d make some slip that’d start a conflict, and
he was left with few choices besides following the leads of the two officers
where he could, and just praying where he couldn’t. For all that the Akuma
seemed to have much more relaxed standards of etiquette, he felt like he was
drowning compared to the formalized courts of the Kami
and Yamarajas.
And yet, compared to what he’d been expecting…

Somewhere during the feast, after
the mistake of a toast with whatever the Akuma
brewed, he’d actually commented to Kenren, “Somehow, an alliance was the last
thing I expected to be reviewing out here.”

The first response was
laughter. “Hell - you guys in the court
were the ones that said to get this solved ‘by any means necessary’.”

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