- Title: With a Little Help
- Author: Meicdon13
- Pairing(s): Homura x Kougaiji
- Rating: R
- Summary: Kougaiji wasn't always a great martial artist. Homura wasn't always war prince.

- Website: http://meicdon13.livejournal.com/
- Warnings: Possible shotacon? I've placed Kougaiji as a teen.
- Notes: Set after Homura was set free but before he met Rinrei, a little before Goku came to Heaven. The dino-things come from the Gaiden manga. Quote from the TOKYOPOP version of the licensed manga.

 

 

"The only son of Gyumaoh and the she-demon Rasetsunyo. They say he excels at martial arts and youkai magic."

— Genjo Sanzo, Saiyuki volume 1, page 64

With a Little Help


His arms and legs are aching, and sweat's running into his eyes, but Kougaiji maintains his defensive position, waiting for the nameless teacher in front of him to make a move. He can feel his father's eyes watching him: his attacks, his counterattacks, his stance. It doesn't really bother him that much—just a little bit—but it's enough to unnerve him and make him wish the sparring session was over.

A kick slips past Kougaiji's defenses and makes painful contact with his stomach. His breath escapes him in an oof! of pain and surprise, and Kougaiji lands on the stone floor of the training room, a tangle of gangly teenaged limbs. He lies there for a moment, trying to get his heart to stop pounding in his chest.

He forces himself to get up, avoiding looking at his father. He's familiar enough with the disdain in the older demon's eyes and the sneer on Gyumao's lips. He dusts off his pants and bows towards his teacher, ignoring the protest of aching limbs, and says, "Thank you for today's lesson." He represses the urge to wince at the sound of his own voice. It doesn't break that often anymore, but he's not quite free of puberty just yet, and Kougaiji doesn't like the way it sounds.

His teacher bows twice—towards him then towards his father—before turning around and leaving. The door closes with a small click that echoes throughout the still room, sounding over-loud. Kougaiji doesn't move, staring straight forward as if he can will his father to keep quiet. He isn't really in the mood for lectures or snide words; all he really wants to do is go take a bath and wash the sweat and grime off himself.

Somewhere behind him, Gyumao stands up and stretches. Kougaiji can hear the creak of leather as Gyumao moves, and he closes his eyes, waiting for the barrage of thinly-veiled insults to begin.

"You were less sloppy than usual today."

It's not really a compliment and it's not really an insult, and Kougaiji's not quite sure what to make of it. He blinks once, twice, as he turns around to look at his father. Gyumao walks over to a far wall and inspects a rack of weapons. Kougaiji shifts a bit; maybe his father is going to throw a spear at him to test his reflexes.

"You need to work on your defense. You should have been able to block that kick."

Kougaiji nods obediently, realizes that his father's not looking at him, and says, "Yes, sir."

A few silent minutes tick by, and Kougaiji wonders if he can leave. Usually, his lessons end with Gyumao hitting him and then storming out of the room, lamenting loudly about how his firstborn son is a complete weakling who has good looks and not much else. He glances at his father and fidgets. Maybe Gyumao has something more to say?

His father glares at him over his shoulder and snaps, "Don't you have somewhere you have to be?"

Kougaiji shakes his head, still expecting an attack. "No, sir." Taking that question as his cue to leave, he turns around and exits the room.

-----


Homura sighs as he stares off into space, completely bored out of his mind. He's leaning against a large tree in the middle of an open field, trying to think of something to do. He's supposed to be having lessons with Nataku, but something came up and the smaller god had to take a rain check.

Bored and feeling a bit lonely—after all, Nataku is the only person in Heaven that he can even remotely consider to be his friend—Homura closes his eyes and tries to fall asleep. Maybe he can pass a few hours that way.

One minute passes. Two. Three. A leaf lands on his nose. He opens one eye, scowls at the leaf, picks it up, and rips it in half. He's still bored. And apparently not sleepy enough to even doze off.

Disgusted with his well-rested self, Homura stands up, running a hand through his hair in frustration and dusting off the seat of his pants. Maybe Nataku is done with his oh-so-important meeting and is back in his quarters. With that in mind, Homura makes his way back to the buildings that house Nataku's rooms.

It doesn't take him long and soon enough, he's sitting on Nataku's bed, the smaller god beside him, ranting about how all the soldiers kept looking at him like some oddity put out on display.

"It's annoying how they look at me!" Nataku says angrily. "It's like they've never seen a kid before! Just because I'm younger than them doesn't mean I can't kick their butts all the way to
China!"

Homura briefly wonders where
China is and how far it is from where they're sitting. Deciding that it's not that important, he listens sympathetically—and not just because it's expected of him—and pats Nataku's back and says, "It's all right. I'm sure once they see you in action, they'll stop thinking that way."

Nataku huffs in annoyance. "You know, the worst part is how this one soldier in the Eastern army looks at me. Like he wants to eat me." He shudders to emphasize exactly how creeped out he is, and Homura frowns. There are pedophiles in the Heavenly army?

"Hey! Are you listening to me?" Nataku yanks on Homura's arm, and all thoughts of perverted army soldiers who can't wait to get their grubby paws on Nataku's nubile young body fly out of his head so he can concentrate on telling Nataku that, yes, he is listening.

-----


Kougaiji watches warily as his mother approaches him with a hairbrush. He's got fifteen minutes to get to the training room for his lesson, and Rasetsunyo had to choose now of all times to comb his 'hopelessly tangled' hair. Though it wasn't tangled at all; he'd combed it out. Last week.

"Mother, I'm going to be late," he says, fidgeting on Rasetsunyo's bed. He tries to stand up and is promptly yanked back down by a firm hand. He bounces on the soft mattress and sighs in defeat.

"This won't take that long," his mother says cheerfully, beginning to work on his hair. "You need to be neat, darling. You are the demon prince, after all, and people look up to you as a role model." Kougaiji winces as Rasetsunyo comes across a particularly stubborn tangle. "And that includes being a good role model for neatness."

"It'll just get messy again after I spar," Kougaij protests, once again trying to stand up and leave.

"But think of how much more difficult it will be to sort out later if we don't comb it now!"

When Rasetsunyo is finally finished, Kougaiji has only five minutes left to get to the training room. He leaves his mother's bedroom at a run, shouting a good-bye to her over his shoulder. He almost crashes into a couple of servants as he rounds a corner and shouts an apology at them as well.

He bursts into the training room with two minutes to spare, not completely out of breath but mostly, and with a stitch in his side. Gyumao raises an eyebrow at Kougaiji's entrance, and today's teacher looks worried as Kougaiji more or less stumbles into the room.

Kougaiji opens his mouth to explain, but Gyumao snaps, "I don't want to hear it," before he can speak. Kougaiji snaps his mouth shut, nods, and concentrates on catching his breath.

And then Gyumao says, "What are you waiting for? Attack him." Kougaiji looks up in surprise and sees that his father's not talking to him but to the teacher.

"But, my lord—"

Gyumao simply glares and suddenly, Kougaiji has to block a flurry of punches and kicks. His heart's still pounding from all the running and the stitch in his side is still there, but he knows that his father doesn't care about any of that. There's nothing left for him to do except suck it up and concentrate on not losing.

When it's finally over, Kougaiji's still standing, but his legs are shaking so much he thinks he'll just collapse anyway. Gyumao told the teacher to go at it harder than usual, and Kougaiji thinks that it's probably because he was almost late.

He sits down on the floor, making sure that his legs won't give out, and runs a hand through his hair. Gyumao scowls and leaves the room without a word. The teacher bows towards Kougaiji. He seems to hesitate for a moment before turning around and leaving the room as well.

-----


"You're getting better at this!" Nataku says happily, smiling up at Homura from where he's lying on the ground.

"Are you alright?" Homura asks, worried out of his wits. He hurries over to help Nataku stand up and gets brushed off.

"I'm fine," the smaller god replies, fixing his robes. "I've had worse injuries than a bruised elbow before."

Homura frowns at that, not liking to be reminded that Nataku often goes down to Earth on dangerous missions. He sticks his hands in his pockets so that he won't be tempted to reach out for Nataku to check if he's really all right.

Homura knows that Nataku's probably a lot stronger than he is, but that doesn't stop him from wanting to coddle the smaller god. Though if he tried that, he'd probably end up a bruised and bloody mess. It still surprises him that something so strong is contained in a body that's still so delicate.

"Come on! Let's see if you can beat me again!" Nataku says, snapping Homura out of his reverie. The war prince is already in a fighting stance, eager to get back to sparring.

"I still don't see why we have to do this," Homura answers, stalling. He doesn't really want to train anymore because there's just no point in it. And he doesn't mean to be conceited, but there's still the chance that he might beat Nataku, and he doesn't really like hurting his friend.

"I'm bored, you're bored, we have nothing to do, and there's nothing else we can do." Nataku straightens up, dropping the stance. "Well, I know a bunch of other things we can do, but you really can't get into too much trouble."

"You can tell me what you've been doing down on Earth," Homura insists. "You've been going down more often these days. What are you up to?"

Nataku glances at him, his golden eyes not quite meeting Homura's own. "I don't want to talk about work when I'm off-duty."

"You're being awfully secretive." Homura wants to know what Nataku's so keen on keeping from him.

"I just don't want to talk about it!" Nataku snaps. With a final huff, he turns around and stomps away.

Homura stands still for a few seconds, staring at his friend's retreating back, before he manages to gather his scattered wits and chase after Nataku. He catches up easily enough and grabs the smaller god's arm. "Nataku, wait! I'm sorry!"

Nataku glares at him over his shoulder and he feels like cowering, but he keeps his hold on Nataku's arm. He takes it as a good sign that the war prince hasn't cut off his hand yet. They look at each other, and Homura tries to look apologetic and sorry and remorseful and a bunch of other things just so Nataku will forgive him.

Finally, Nataku sighs and turns around so that they're facing each other. "I don't want to talk about it because I don't want to do what they want me to do, and just thinking about it makes me sick."

Worried, Homura asks, "But isn't it just like any other thing they've asked you to do?"

"Yeah, but what I'm going to go up against is completely different now." Nataku fidgets a bit, twiddling his fingers.

Homura immediately changes the subject, not wanting Nataku to dwell on difficult killings-to-be.

-----


He can hear them shouting at each other even through the thick wood of their bedroom door. Kougaiji pauses for a moment, listening. His mother's voice is almost drowned out by his father's, but she's shouting at him with just as much anger. Servants scurry along the hall, heads bowed, eyes averted. Minding their own business.

"Don't touch me!" Rasetsunyo screams.

Kougaiji's blood runs cold.

"I can touch you whenever I damn want! You're my wife!"

Kougaiji wants to kick open the door and go to his mother's aid, but there's the unmistakable surge of energy that always accompanies fire magic and Gyumao's shout of pain reaches his ears. He's torn between laughing and being shocked. Then there are heavy footsteps making their way towards the door, and Kougaiji's running down the hall and into an empty room.

He leaves the door open a crack and watches as Gyumao stomps by, his arm blackened and burned. He looks murderous, and Kougaiji quickly retreats further into his room.

When he's sure that his father's gone, he goes to find his mother.

-----


It's surprising how unobtrusive he can be when he tries.

Homura waits until the guards are gone before he ducks around the corner and makes his way towards the large black doors at the end of the hallway. They're slightly open, and he peeks inside the room, holding his breath and making sure that he's not making any noise.

The gates that lead down to Earth almost reach the ceiling, their entire surface covered in intricate designs. The room is completely empty except for the gates and a control panel on the far wall.

Suddenly, someone steps out from behind the gate.

Li Touten is grumbling about something, his brow furrowed as he walks. He makes his way towards the control panel and punches in something. It's only then that Homura notices that the gates are glowing faintly. Did Li Touten send something down to Earth?

Homura's so busy wondering what Li Touten could have possibly sent down to the lower world that he almost doesn't notice the other god finishing up whatever he's doing and heading towards the doors. Homura barely makes it down the hall in time.

He watches as Li Touten leaves the room, closing the large doors firmly behind him. A few minutes later, the guards come back and take up their usual positions.

-----


Kougaiji smiles as he watches the bright flames dancing in the palm of his hand. He forms a fist, and the flames only grow brighter, spreading up to just above his wrist. Kougaiji concentrates, and for a moment, the fire burns hotter and even brighter before completely disappearing.

If only he were as good in hand-to-hand combat. He sighs as he leans back, resting against the large rocks he's sitting on. Beside him, the flying dragon he rode is dozing, puffs of smoke escaping its snout as it snores.

It's one of Kougaiji's rare off-days, and he'd decided that morning to sneak out of
Houtou Castle, smuggle a flying dragon with him, and take it out for a joyride. He's somewhere to the south of Houtou, a sparsely-inhabited, desert-like area; the only things around him and his dragon are rock formations and random clumps of hardy plants. Kougaiji relishes the feeling of being alone.

No one there to pressure him, no one there to push him harder, no one there to watch his every move, trying to find fault with him. Kougaiji's even grateful for the respite from his mother. While he loves Rasetsunyo more than he ever could Gyumao, she can be stifling from time to time.

He's about to drift off into a peaceful afternoon nap—the sun's wonderfully warm on his skin—when his flying dragon suddenly scrambles up into a crouch. Smaller rocks fall off the boulders they're sitting on, making a racket as they clatter down. Kougaiji sits up as well, making a grab for his dragon's reins.

Before he can get a good grip on them, the beast jumps, extends its wings, and flies off. Kougaiji curses loudly, wondering how he's supposed to get back to
Houtou Castle before dark. Before he can follow that thought, however, he suddenly finds himself standing in what seems to be a giant shadow.

He whips around and comes face-to-face, sort of, with a giant … lizard. To be precise, it brings to mind a vicious, giant, mutated lizard with fangs and claws. The thing doesn't seem to have sensed him yet, and Kougaiji thanks the gods for small favors. Quietly and quickly, he starts to make his way down the rocks, trying not to draw the creature's attention.

He's barely moved three feet when his foot slips. There's the sound of rocks falling and bouncing their way down to the ground, and for one brief moment, Kougaiji can imagine that it's his head bouncing down after the giant lizard swipes it off.

Kougaiji tenses, waiting for the killing blow, and it takes him a few seconds to realize that it's not hitting him. It's then that his frightened mind registers the sound of shouting, of running footsteps and what sounds like guns being fired.

He doesn't hang around to see what's happening and runs for it. He skids on loose stones as he slides down the rocky slope. Kougaiji glances once behind him—just to confirm that the lizard thing isn't chasing after him—when he finally comes to a stop. Satisfied that whoever's making all that racket is keeping the lizard distracted, Kougaiji turns around to face forward again.

And ends up bumping into someone's chest.

-----


Homura looks at the slightly shorter redhead who has just run into him. The only thing that registers in his mind is that no one's supposed see him. No one's supposed to know he's down here, no one's supposed to know that he had sneaked down to Earth along with the Eastern Army.

Before the redhead can do more than stare at him in fright, Homura clamps his hand over his mouth and drags him behind a nearby bush. It's scraggly and barely has any leaves, but it's big enough to hide behind, and Homura pushes the redhead to the ground, hand still covering his mouth.

He looks around, checking whether any of the soldiers saw him, and releases a sigh of relief when he sees that they're still busy with the monster. Something squirms underneath him, and it takes him a moment to realize that it's the redhead. Homura quickly uncovers his mouth but grabs onto his upper arm.

"Keep quiet if you know what's good for you," he hisses.

Lilac eyes widen in fear even as something like indignation sparks in them, and the teen—because now that he's taking a closer look at his impromptu captive, Homura sees that the redhead's just a teenager—presses his lips together. Then Homura takes an even closer look and notices the pointed ears and the claws.

"You're a demon!" His grip grows tighter on the redhead's arm, but before he can do much else, there's burning pain and the smell of cooking flesh and smoke, and Homura's yanking his hand back from the suddenly fiery demon.

As quickly as the flames appeared, they disappear, leaving Homura with a burnt hand and a quickly escaping hostage.

Cursing under his breath, Homura runs after the redhead. The teen hasn't gotten far yet, and Homura has the advantage of longer legs. When he's near enough, he tackles the redhead, and they both end up rolling around on the ground, kicking up dust as they grapple. The redhead puts up a good fight, but Homura's a god, and it doesn't take him long to subdue the teen. He pushes the redhead onto his stomach, twisting his arm up behind him.

"If you try the trick with the fire again, I won't hesitate to kill you," Homura bluffs. He's never killed anyone before, but Nataku's taught him, and with his shackles, it would be easy to strangle someone. He hopes the redhead will believe his threat.

There's a pause, then, "I won't. Just get off me."

Homura does, standing and dragging the redhead upright along with him. "What are you doing here?" he asks. He pushes the teen forward, marching him back towards the bush. "If they see you—" he nods in the direction of the shouting voices "—who knows what will happen."

"I wasn't doing anything," the redhead snaps. "I was just about to take a nap when those … things showed up. And after them, those guys with guns did. So I ran."

The redhead glares at him after speaking, and Homura wonders what he should do. Should he just let the demon go? All his life he'd heard that demons were evil, et cetera, et cetera, but this one hasn't done anything to him, and it's obvious that he just wants to leave and go home. And he's just a teenager, barely an adult.

"We can't stop its movements, sir!"

Homura's head snaps up as he turns towards the shout and sees, to his horror, that the soldiers and the monster are moving towards them. Fast.

-----


The monster's roar is deafening. Kougaiji claps his hands over his ears, watching as the monster makes a swipe at the uniformed men running around near its feet. Roaring once more, it continues forward, forcing the soldiers back.

Towards their hiding place.

Kougaiji glances at the dark-haired stranger with the mismatched eyes, wondering if he can make another break for it. He'll be killed, either way, if he doesn't do something.

Another angry roar, some gunshots, a few feet closer now.

Strong arms wrap around him all of a sudden, and Kougaiji's jerked back against a broad chest. "Hold on tight!" the stranger says, and Kougaiji's barely grabbed onto the stranger's forearms when everything tilts.

He opens his mouth to shout, but by the time the sound's escaped him, they're standing in a cave. The stranger releases Kougaiji and steps back, and for a moment, Kougaiji feels like he's going to fall over, still disoriented.

"What did you do?" he asks, placing a hand against the wall of the cave to steady himself.

The stranger glances at him. "I teleported us out of there."

Teleported? Kougaiji takes a careful look at the stranger and sees the chakra in the middle of his forehead. A god. That makes sense. Kind of.

Kougaiji looks around at the cave they're in, feeling a vague sense of familiarity. Ignoring the god—who's currently peeking out of the cave's mouth—Kougaiji makes his way deeper into the cave, eyes glued to the walls in search of something.

"Do you have a name?"

The question is completely unexpected, and it takes a moment for Kougaiji to realize that it's directed at him. He glances at the stranger, wondering if he should answer or not, and the god adds, "I'm Homura."

"I'm Kougaiji." He almost also says, 'son of Gyumao'—it's been an automatic addition whenever he introduces himself—but he remembers to keep his mouth shut at the last moment. Gods probably like his dad as much as Gyumao likes them.

When Homura doesn't say anything else, Kougaiji resumes his search, finally finding the words he'd scratched into the wall a long time ago.

Kougaiji was here.

Kind of childish, but then again, he'd been much younger the last time he'd been allowed to go camping, and this had been the cave he'd slept in with his bodyguards. It wasn't that far away from
Houtou Castle; just a few days' march if you only took breaks to eat and sleep. If he could sneak away from the god, he'll just have to be careful not to get caught, and then he'll be home free.

-----


The only things he sees outside the cave are trees, plants, and rocks. In a small break through the branches, he can see a small glimmer of gold. The desert they were just in. Homura ducks back into the cave.

He'd heard that Nataku's next job had something to do with a demon lord named Gyumao. And then he'd heard that the army was being dispatched to take care of monsters near Gyumao's territory. Homura'd assumed that Nataku would be going along.

He really should have checked before sneaking down with the army.

Homura weighs his options carefully, not really paying attention to Kougaiji. He could just go back up to Heaven and pretend none of this ever happened. Or … or he could go back to where Kougaiji lives. Since he was in the area when the army encountered the monster, it makes sense that he lives nearby. And if he lives nearby, they're probably near Gyumao's castle.

He wouldn't really be able to do anything, but maybe he could do some reconnaissance. Maybe he could find out something important that Nataku could use.

"Hey, do you live near here?"

Kougaiji looks at him with wary lilac eyes, and Homura can't really blame him.

Homura shrugs. "I just want to make sure you get back in one piece. I went through the trouble of saving you, after all. I'd hate to leave the job half-done."

-----


Kougaiji doesn't know much about gods aside from the fact that they're pretty much immortal. And live in Heaven.

Homura's looking at him right now, waiting for his answer. He could lie and lead them in the wrong direction, which would achieve nothing except getting them both lost. Or he could lie and lead them in the wrong direction, and try to ditch the god while they're trekking through the forest they're in. And if Homura caught him, he'd probably kill him.

Or he could lead them back to the castle and somehow find a way to signal his father.

He's pretty sure that Gyumao could stand up to Homura, all things considered. There must be some reason why the gods are down on Earth, and Homura might be useful as a bargaining chip if they're actually down here to launch some attack on Houtou. And even if they aren't, Kougaiji's sure that Gyumao will find some other way to make use of Homura.

"I live near enough. This forest is four days away from the village. We can make it there in three days if we move fast enough."

Homura's silent as he processes what Kougaiji's just said. After a few minutes, the god asks, "I don't suppose you know which plants in this forest are edible, do you?"

Kougaiji is mildly insulted, and he scowls as he replies, "Of course I do." Just because I'm the son of the emperor, that doesn't mean I don't know anything about the world outside. The amusement is evident on Homura's face and Kougaiji resists the urge to throw a fireball at him. "I know how to hunt, too," he says instead.

"Well, if you're not dizzy anymore, we can start making our way back to your village."

"I'm fine."

Homura peeks outside the cave one more time before saying, "Then let's go. The sooner we leave, the sooner we get there."

Kougaiji sticks his tongue out at him the moment Homura exits the cave.

-----


Night on Earth was darker than night in Heaven.

Homura pokes at the campfire with a stick, watching as it burns even brighter for a moment. He hears footsteps approaching and asks, "Did you find more firewood?"

"Yeah. Found dinner, too."

He looks over his shoulder and sees Kougaiji carrying dried branches under one arm and holding a couple of dead rabbits in his free hand. "Dinner?" Homura asks, blinking.

"Dinner." Kougaiji drops the rabbits in Homura's lap as he passes by, heading towards the small pile of wood beside the fire. As the teen adds his branches to the ones that Homura has already collected, the god looks at the dead animals that he's been handed.

He doesn't know what to do with them. They don't eat meat in Heaven, and he's certainly never killed anything with the express purpose of eating it. The dead rabbits seemed to be accusing him with their soulless eyes. Homura promptly drops them onto the ground.

Kougaiji looks up at the dull thud, eyes narrowing when he sees the rabbits. "Hey! What'd you do that for? Now it'll be harder to clean them!" He darts forward and grabs the limp bodies to dust them off, and for a moment, Homura thinks he might throw up when he sees the rabbits' necks flop unnaturally to one side.

"I don't eat meat," Homura says by way of explanation. The look that Kougaiji gives him is one of curiosity.

"Is it true, then, that all gods are vegetarians?" the redhead asks evenly. His tone is disturbingly at odds—in Homura's opinion—with his methodical removal of one of the rabbits' skins, using nothing but his claws.

Watching Kougaiji's bloody fingers moving over the exposed flesh is oddly hypnotizing. "I've never seen anyone who eats meat before," he answers, almost absent-mindedly. Homura shakes his head when he realizes that he's staring and looks back into the depths of the fire.

Sometimes, when he and Nataku are just talking, Homura manages to get the war prince to talk about his battles. Nataku tells him because he needs someone to talk to, he needs to tell someone who won't look at him like he's a killing puppet.

Until now, Homura's never understood what Nataku meant when he said that the sight of blood could be mesmerizing.

-----


"These are good. What are they?"

Kougaiji looks up from where he's slowly cooking the first rabbit. Homura's eating wild berries from a makeshift bag they made using Kougaiji's shirt. The juice from the fruit colors the god's fingers purple; Kougaiji bites back a laugh when he sees a smudge on Homura's cheek. "I'm not sure what they're called."

Homura frowns at him. "What's so funny?"

"You remind me of a little kid."

When Homura just looks irritated, Kougaiji clarifies, "There's some berry juice on your cheek. Right here." He points at his own face to show the god where exactly and doesn't hold back his laughter when Homura wipes at his face.

Kougaiji checks his rabbit, deems it cooked, and pulls it out. As he's chewing his first bite, Homura suddenly asks, "Speaking of little kids, do you have any brothers or sisters?"

Kougaiji swallows before answering, "No. It's just me and my mother and father."

Homura eats another handful of berries, and Kougaiji thinks that that's the end of the sudden inquiry into his family when the god remarks, "It must be nice having a family."

It takes Kougaiji a moment or two before he can reply. "My mother's great, but my father's … not exactly the best one out there." He wonders why Homura's suddenly so interested in his life, but he supposes that as long as he doesn't accidentally let it slip that his father's Gyumao, it's okay.

After all, it's nice to be able to talk to someone about his family. The servants in the castle aren't much company—too afraid of Gyumao to risk a friendship with the young prince—and Kougaiji's never been allowed to just mingle with demons his own age.

Having a stranger to talk to—someone who doesn't know who he is and won't keep bowing down to him—is nice.

"At least you have a father," Homura says, looking at a berry contemplatively.

-----


Homura still thinks that having Kougaiji's father is better than having no one at all. And he knows exactly how to make things better for the redhead.

"If learning how to fight is your problem, I can help you with that," he says through a mouthful of berries. The berries are great; he needs to find a way to sneak them back up to Heaven. Maybe he could plant them somewhere, and then share the fruit with Nataku.

Kougaiji looks up from his second rabbit. The muffled sound he makes sounds like it's probably meant to be, "What?"

"I'm pretty good at martial arts. If you want, I can give you some pointers."

The look that Kougaiji gives him is somewhat doubtful, and Homura frowns. He's good enough to beat Nataku at almost half of their sparring sessions, and as sheltered as he is, even he knows that that's saying something. Nataku is war prince for a reason. "Look, if you don't want my help, you just have to say so. No need to look so surprised." It's slightly insulting, he thinks to himself. He doesn't say it, though, because if he does, it'll come out as a pout.

Kougaiji swallows quickly and almost chokes. "I believe you!" he says. "I was just surprised that you'd offer to help me."

Homura shrugs. "Why not? You need help with martial arts and I know a bit about it."

Kougaiji's silent for a few minutes before he says, "Thanks."

-----


In the end, Homura and Kougaiji work out a schedule. They walk for most of the day, take a quick break for lunch, and keep walking until late afternoon. Then they spar until dinner, and sleep after eating. It means that they'll reach the village near Houtou in four or five days instead of three, but they've both decided that it's all right.

It's during their first lesson—right after dinner on the first night in the forest—that Kougaiji realizes that he's much more comfortable sparring with Homura than he's ever been training with any of his teachers, including that one teacher that was fired for being 'too nice' to him. The redhead wonders if that's because he likes Homura a lot better than any of his teachers even after just one day of knowing one another, blushes at the thought, and throws said thought out of his head.

He tells himself that it's probably because Gyumao isn't there to watch—or breathe down his neck—and feels reassured by that; it makes much more sense than feeling relaxed just because he's sparring with Homura.

During the second day of walking, Kougaiji asks Homura about Heaven. Homura answers readily enough, telling him about the eternal spring in the fields, the ornate buildings, the eternally sunny skies. He doesn't tell the teen about the dungeon he spent most of his life in, nor does he mention Nataku.

Homura pretends that he doesn't find the look of curiosity and awe on Kougaiji's face adorable. Because no one's cuter than Nataku, and what kind of friend would he be if he found that he liked this redheaded demon almost as much as the war prince?

-----


Kougaiji blocks Homura's attack easily and prepares to deliver a roundhouse kick in return. But then he loses his balance mid-turn and promptly crashes into Homura. Kougaiji braces himself for the impact with the ground, and when it doesn't come, he slowly opens his eyes.

Homura's looking at him, an amused look on his face, and Kougaiji fights down a blush. "Sorry," he mumbles, freeing himself from the god's grip.

"No problem," Homura says. "You okay?"

"Yeah." Kougaiji tries not to think about the feel of Homura's hands against his skin and takes proper stance, readying himself to launch an attack.

He tries to avoid meeting Homura's eyes for the rest of the night. He notices that the god's confused by his sudden distance—after all, he'd kept pestering Homura with questions about Heaven that afternoon—but doesn't offer any explanation. Maybe he'll feel less awkward tomorrow.

-----


"I want to know where my baby is!"

Gyumao frowns at the destruction his wife is wreaking as she screeches at the leaders of the search parties. Though, to be honest, he's just as pissed as well. Poor fighter he may be, but Kougaiji's his only heir at the moment, and his two-day disappearance is just too much.

Rasetsunyo had gone into hysterics last night the moment they'd found out that Kougaiji was nowhere to be found in the castle. She'd been antagonizing him every moment they were alone together, telling him that it was his fault that Kougaiji was gone, that he'd probably been too harsh on their precious child, and that Kougaiji had probably run away.

He retaliated by telling her that she was babying him too much and that if their son had run away, it was because she'd been smothering him with unwanted attention.

She'd slapped him with a fiery palm, leaving a hand-shaped burn on his cheek.

-----


Nataku peeks into yet another room, and sighs when he sees it empty. He can't find Homura anywhere, and he's beginning to get worried. While no one else really cares if the heretic is around or not, Nataku does and he simply doesn't know where else to look.

He's checked their usual hideouts and Homura's living quarters, but he hasn't been able to find his friend anywhere.

"There you are, Nataku-sama!" A woman runs up to him, not quite out of breath, and says, "Li Touten-sama wants to see you."

Sighing, Nataku follows her, postponing his search for later.

-----


"I guess we'll just have to pass on the training tonight," Homura comments as he finishes bandaging Kougaiji's forearm. "It's not deep, but I don't think we should push it."

Kougaiji scowls. "Stupid deer with its stupid antlers."

Homura glances at the dead deer lying on the ground beside them, blood still dripping from one of its antlers. "Think of it this way: you'll be eating it for dinner as revenge."

"I want to spar."

The look on Kougaiji's face could only be called ridiculously determined. They're only two days away from the village now, and the redhead has improved greatly in the three days already gone by. Homura doesn't think that missing one night of sparring would be bad.

He opens his mouth to say so when Kougaiji's foot comes flying at his face. He barely manages to dodge the kick and ends up losing his balance and falling flat on his ass. "Hey!"

Kougaiji doesn't say anything; he just comes at Homura again. His fist flies past Homura's face, and the god once again just barely avoids the attack. Homura evades everything that the prince throws at him, and keeps trying to talk sense into the injured teen. Everything he says falls on deaf ears. A kick that almost makes contact with his stomach is the last straw.

Annoyed, he grabs Kougaiji's injured arm and squeezes. Hard.

The redhead falls to his knees, crying out in pain, and Homura can feel the blood seeping through the makeshift bandages, coating his fingers in red.

"No sparring," he says firmly.

Kougaiji glares up at him through eyes blurred with tears of pain and snarls.

Homura squeezes again, wrenching another shout from Kougaiji. And then he makes the mistake of looking at Kougaiji's arm.

The sight of his bloody hand clenching Kougaiji's arm mesmerizes him. Homura kneels down in front of Kougaiji, lets go of him, and proceeds to lick the blood from his fingers. It's something that he's only had contact with once before. Heaven hides such things behind closed doors and secret forays down to Earth. The one time he saw a bloody Nataku had been an experience Homura would never forget; the sticky feel, the metallic smell, the ringing in his own veins at the sight.

He barely registers the shock on the demon's face when he bends down to start licking the bandages, soaking them with his saliva.

"What are you doing?" Kougaiji says, shoving him back with his good hand.

Leveling his gaze at the redhead, Homura answers, "You wanted to spar, right? So let's spar." He leans in and kisses Kougaiji.

It's the first time he's done anything like this, and judging from the way Kougaiji's mouth is hanging open in shock—which is quite convenient for him since that means he can snake in his tongue; it just seems right to do so—the demon hasn't done anything like this either.

The kiss tastes like iron, the taste sharp on his tongue, and when Kougaiji regains his senses, he bites down on Homura's tongue. The taste grows stronger.

Homura ignores the pain that flares in his mouth and presses himself closer to Kougaiji's body. They somehow end up lying flat on the ground, Kougaiji's wrists pinned above his head. Kougaiji tries to buck him off, but that only succeeds in grinding Homura's growing erection against Kougaiji's groin.

Pulling back from their kiss, Homura smirks. "You're hard," he notes. The blush that appears on Kougaiji's cheeks is too cute. "And you're not really fighting back. Aren't you going to use your fire magic?"

Kougaiji doesn't answer right away, and when he does, Homura has to strain to listen. "I don't … not want it," the teen admits. His head is turned to one side, and he shoots Homura a glance from the corner of his eyes. "But if you do anything I don't like, I will burn you."

"How about just touching?" Homura asks, one hand already slipping down Kougaiji's side and resting against a hip. "It's my first time too, you know."

-----


"Wait! Slow down a bit!"

Kougaiji ignores Homura's shout, and instead strokes the god's cock harder, twisting his wrist they way he does when he touches himself. Homura started it, so Kougaiji decides to ignore any protests. Besides, judging from the way Homura shudders against him, he's enjoying this as much as Kougaiji is.

They're lying on their sides, facing one another, hands fisting each other's erections. Pants are pushed down hips, and between being used to bandage his arm and Homura practically ripping it off of him in his quest to touch bare skin, Kougaiji's shirt is completely ruined. Kougaiji buries his face against Homura's skin, inhaling the smell of his sweat in the juncture between neck and shoulder.

He can feel the calluses on Homura's fingers as they caress his length, and he moans when Homura nips his ear. He rakes his claws down the front of Homura's shirt, reducing it to shreds, and moves closer, pressing their bodies chest-to-chest. His fingers brush against a nipple, and Kougaiji pinches it, twisting.

In retaliation, Homura bites down a bit harder on Kougaiji's ear, and rubs his thumb just under the head of Kougaiji's dick. "Aaah!" Kougaiji's hands spasm, and for a moment, the world loses its focus. He can feel his come splash up against his stomach, his hips thrusting up into the channel of Homura's hand, riding out his orgasm.

"Damn," Homura hisses. He throws a leg over Kougaiji's hip and grinds against him. Kougaiji moans in protest—his skin is too sensitive—but he wraps his arms around the god anyway, and presses a sloppy kiss against Homura's chin.

There's another splash of liquid heat between them, and they lie sated on the ground, their harsh panting the only thing breaking the silence.

-----


When Homura wakes up, he is completely alone. He's been buttoned and zipped back into his pants, and the remains of his shirt have been arranged to give him maximum coverage. The only sign that Kougaiji was ever there is an impression in the ground beside him, the embers of a cooking fire, and the partly-eaten deer carcass nearby.

Homura just sits there for a while, looking at nothing in particular, and not really thinking anything. He feels a bit … lonely. Not used, just lonely. He sort of wishes that he'd at least gotten a lock of hair or something equally sappy as a remembrance.

Sighing, he closes his eyes and teleports back to Heaven.

The moment he bumps into Nataku, the war prince proceeds to beat him up while crying. Homura just smiles and lets him.

-----


Kougaiji is escorted back into the castle by the search party that he bumped into just a few minutes after sneaking away from Homura.

The first thing he hears is Rasetsunyo's scream of joy and relief, and the next thing he hears is his father asking him what the hell happened. He isn't able to answer right away because his mother envelops him in a rib-crushing hug and insists on dragging him away to take a bath.

She gasps when she sees his wounded forearm, and Gyumao demands to know if he was kidnapped or not.

"I was … kidnapped. Sort of." Kougaiji tries not to think about how it felt when Homura licked his bandages and lets his mother lead him away to get cleaned up.

_____________
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