When he's done running and hiding from a fucking high school kid- a high school kid! Goku wants to leave Japan. The Sanzo that's sitting on his shoulder dressed like an imaginary red devil is telling him do it, to go, before he gets any deeper into this mess. It's not like Kubota needs him for anything, it's not like he'll do any good here. He's just staring wide eyed at the train wreck of Hakkai's karma like any other sick hanger-oner at an accident. And Goku even only gets that much credit if he makes the assumption that this Japanese kid actually is Hakkai. Which he seems to be doing against his better judgement. Why can't someone have just issued Goku some hidden psychic powers that let him know these things for sure?
'What judgement?' The Sanzo devil yells at him, brandishing a red paper fan. Goku ignores it. He's too old to worry about hallucinating at this point.
Instead of leaving, he turns around and goes back, but Kubota is already gone and there's nothing in the alley but soon to be rotting meat. The bodies themselves hardly bother Goku, but the idea of them disturbs him. All in all it looks like being on the wrong end of Cho Hakkai's karma has to be a nasty place to be. On the other hand being on the right end could well be that much worse.
Goku glares at some punk's forehead. There's a perfect bullet hole right through the middle, small and neat, like a kami's chakra. Kubota's almost as good a shot as Sanzo, judging by the one corpse, but none of the rest of them are neat. The damage is almost as brutal and deliberate as if a demon had done it and Goku tries not to think about how in the hell it was accomplished or to remember how gore splattered the kid had been. What the hell had these bastards done to him anyway?
He turns around and leaves before the cops have a chance to arrive. There was definitely no point in being a gajin with no paper trail at the site of this kind of carnage. It couldn't possibly do him any good.
The next time Goku sees Kubota is a day later and he isn't surprised any more. Of course he's going to see him again, whatever's happening can't possibly be over yet. Kubota looks different, dressed neatly and stiffly, as if coming from a funeral and it makes Goku wonder again about the person Kubota mentioned having but not having anymore. Goku is so busy wondering he doesn't get the chance to turn and run before Kubota has already seen him and given a little wave of greeting that creeps him the hell out for no reason he can remember.
He waves back anyway. Maybe there ought to be lunch now. Goku gets the idea this entire mess would seem less disturbing if there were lunch involved in it somewhere. He wonders if Kubota can cook like Hakkai used to, but he doesn't seem the type. He knows he won't ask.
He doesn't have time to think along these lines for long because the next thing, Kubota is about a meter away, smiling at him.
"Hello, Stranger-in-Alley-san. You got a light?" He gestures to the cigarette hanging between his lips.
"I don't smoke. It's gross and it makes you stink," Goku spits out before he can think about why he's even saying that. It's more like the sort of thing he'd have said to Gojyo, but without really meaning it.
Kubota just shrugs, smiles and says, "Hai, hai." Then he pulls a lighter out of his coat pocket, which makes Goku wonder what the fuck he was asking for one for. Terminal laziness or something?
"So. Are you following me for any reason? It's starting to make me curious." Kubota takes a long drag of his cigarette and keeps smiling, but for some reason Goku flashes on dead meat stacked in an alley. He wonders if Kubota would actually kill someone who makes him really curious.
"Um? No. I don't want to tell you?" Goku says, because this has the advantage of being true and the second advantage of seeing if this person will actually do anything to him. This is important because Hakkai, if it were Hakkai, would never hurt him.
Kubota blinks, as if Goku has said something remarkable and peers down at him from the land of the ridiculously tall and mildly myopic. He adjusts his glasses. It takes Goku a moment to realize why his throat feels too dry and this reaction is generally freaking him out. It's because Kubota actually looks genuinely interested in him and his interested expression is exactly like... yeah.
"All right. But you can tell me your name? Seeing as how I told you mine and it would be only fair."
Goku really can't help it. He smiles at the kid, brightly and genuinely. Just at this moment it doesn't feel like he's sharing space with some badly decayed copy of a friend and teacher. Okay, there are the bodies, but then there were always bodies with his friends. And okay, it's probably just a momentary pause between Kubota acting like a cross between a corpse and a killer and it still gives Goku the shudders, but there's nothing wrong with moments. Sometimes moments are all you get.
"I'm Goku," he says, and offers his hand. "Pleased to meet you." Because for the moment he really, really is pleased.
Kubota takes it and smiles back in a way that makes Goku wonder if he actually feels pleasure or he only reflects it back onto other people. He'd probably figure it out if he stuck around long enough, but he really, really doesn't want to. And Kubota doesn't act like Goku's name means anything to him at all. Not one damn thing. Goku tries not to let that get to him, because people aren't supposed to remember much of their past lives, are they? It would get weird and cluttered if they did and the world has enough weird and cluttered to last them.
Yeah, if there was a Sanzo out there he wouldn't remember a thing. And that was supposed to be a good thing.
Goku isn't quite sure how it happened, but they're walking together, and for whatever reason it isn't hard to keep up with Kubota's long, loping strides. Kubota is talking, but not about whatever it is you'd think high school aged yakuza hit men would talk about.
"When I saw the new billboards out for it I thought I really had to try it. It must be good if they pulled out the neon for it," Kubota is saying. Goku blinks and tries to remember what in hell they might possibly be talking about and why there might be neon billboards involved in it. "After all, it is the super improved rainbow-lychee-grape flavored."
Goku blinks again and decides not to worry about it too much. It's just Japan. At least it makes more sense when they turn a corner and Goku is following Kubota into a tiny corner convenience store toward a brightly colored display of rainbow-lychee-grape flavored something. Kubota offers him a piece but he says no. It is food, but- well, it doesn't actually smell like food to him.
"Well, suit yourself," Kubota says and pops it into his mouth before lighting another cigarette. Goku wonders how the fuck he can taste anything if he's always going to be smoking like that.
Wondering about taste and cigarettes is a good thing to wonder about because that means Goku isn't thinking about how messed up it is to be walking around Yokohama, a city he hates, with the echo of a ghost of someone he loved. Talking about freakish Japanese food because there's actually nothing else to talk about.
Goku wants to talk about something else. Like memories and bodies and if Kubota knows any angry men who look like the sun. He seems to be missing the guts to do that, though, because all he can think is, what if Kubota says yes? And what if he meets a person like that and they're also like this? Like Kubota is like Hakkai, but not at all and not remembering anything.
It's easier to talk about food. Goku likes talking to Hakkai about food and Hakkai always listens and interjects at the appropriate points. Goku almost doesn't realize when they turn a corner and Kubota isn't interjecting anymore, or even walking at all anymore.
It's actually the smell that alerts him first, not Kubota. Something- no someone is lying by the dumpster. Not dead, just unconscious. He smells alive, though it's impossible to tell if he's breathing under a fall of black hair that's covering half his face. Alive, but very, very weird in a way that Goku can't put into words.
Goku takes a step toward the body, but he doesn't get far at all because Kubota is ahead of him pushing him out of the way. And Goku sees his face. Kubota's face, like he's seeing something he doesn't understand and it might just possibly scare the shit out of him. The same expression Goku was probably wearing when he first spotted Kubota.
And he sees the unconscious guy's face too, and the coloring is all wrong, because it should be red and red, and Goku doesn't like the way he's curled up all fetal and half dead looking and for some reason Goku gets the idea that it should be raining. It should be raining and he, Goku, shouldn't be here, because this is Hakkai's karma. Gojyo's karma. Not his.
And then Kubota turns back to look at him, just for a moment, stopped in a half kneeling pose beside the body. Dark eyes fixed on Goku's and they're still shiny and empty, still reflecting Goku like a mirror instead of showing anything of Kubota.
A mirror, right. But for some reason his expression right now makes Goku think of cracked mirrors. Cracking mirrors. Which, apparently, somewhere, mean seven years of bad luck. Meeting dead but not dead people in alleys should really be bad luck all on its own, even if it isn't quite how that saying goes.
"Do you know him?" Kubota asks, gesturing toward the prone boy. Goku isn't even sure how to answer that. He definitely knows the face, even the shape of his eyes, though he's willing to bet that they won't be the right color when they open.
"About as well as I know you," he mutters and this is apparently a good answer because Kubota looks away. Kubota finishes the act of kneeling down next to the boy and presses long fingertips against a pulse point.
"He looks like a stray cat," Kubota says, almost a whisper and Goku knows without being told that Kubota isn't really talking to him. "How unusual." Goku follows the slow, deliberate stroking arc of Kubota's hand to the other boys and stares. The fingers Kubota is pressing his own against don't look anything like human at all. More like a clawed, animal hand, and Goku knows without having to be told that something truly, deeply fucked is happening in front of him and he doesn't have near enough information to know what.
Unusual. A stray cat.
"Well, he shouldn't be left here. This could be important." Kubota is still talking and still not really talking to Goku. It's like he's suddenly forgotten there's anyone in the alley but himself and the unconscious stray cat he's heaving over his shoulders.
And then Goku is staring at a pair of brown eyes, way too close and bright even under glasses and he knows that of course Kubota didn't forget. "I'll have to trust you not to mention this to anyone again. I can, can't I?"
"Yeah," Goku says softly. "Yeah, you can. There's no one for me to tell anyway."
Goku hates karma so much. Hates watching Kubota half stumble out of an alley with the weight of his own karma, his stray cat and a cracking mirror on him all at once. Hates the fact that it isn't him, that he, Goku, has no weight, no nothing but memories and bad reflections of his dead.
Most of all Goku hates that he knows he can't even run away from Yokohama again. He's too caught up in this and, yeah, there are six billion people in the world, or something close to it, but if one of them is Sanzo, Goku is sure that he'll be here.
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