Makai was as strange as I remember it to be. Mist hung over the forest I had once called home. The trees were gnarled, slightly twisted, but not without unearthly beauty. And in Youko Kurama's hands, they were also deadly. I smiled grimly. Much of my life had been spent in the eaves of these very trees, hiding treasure or hunting for food. Memories of past hunts and conquests raged through me. Youko Kurama. Swift, strong, agile, cold-hearted, and definitely a lethal enemy. It had been a game for power and possession. And now, once again, I play the game of death.
Kashiesa shifted beside me, eyeing the trees apprehensively. Like me, she did not seem at home in Makai, for all the fact that she probably was about as old as I was in youkai sense, perhaps older. Yet we had left this world unwillingly for Ningenkai, and now Ningenkai had become my home. How long before I can once again call Makai home, I wonder. How long before a wild fox's spirit adjusts to a life of carefree abandon and restless searching? I recalled my mother, and I felt warmed by the memory of her smile and fond gaze. Not as long as you live, okaa-san. Shuichi Minamino will continue to remain your son.
A light touch on my shoulder shook me out of my reverie. Kashiesa was staring darkly at a passageway that had seemingly opened up in the darkness, leading deeper into the forest. I frowned. I did not recall this particular passage. But then, I had been gone for more than fifteen years, and not even Makai can remain perpetually unchanged. It was even more volatile than Ningenkai in some ways, I thought. I nodded to her and approached the path. Leaves softly crunched beneath my shoes as I walked, and I picked one up and almost caressed it with my fingers. I missed this particular variety. Tough and supple, yet the slightest touch in untrained hands could burn a youkai. I stored a leaf in my pocket, aware that my companion was watching me with interest. She bent beside me and touched my arm fondly. She had a sad smile on her face.
"It is strange, coming back," she said apprehensively. "I have not been here since I was born into a ningen body. You might have been back once in a while, Kurama. But it just isn't the same anymore, isn't it?"
"Yes, it isn't," I said in agreement. "No place is really home once you have left it behind. But I've never felt this alienated before. It's as if…the forest was hostile. And it never has felt that way to me before."
"Perhaps the forest remembers," she mused, "but memories can be twisted by a youkai powerful enough to do so. You have made many enemies, Youko Kurama."
"I admit it," I said, putting my hand over hers and squeezing it lightly. "But I am a thief by nature, Kashiesa. We cannot help what we are."
"Nor should we," she said in assent, nodding. She leaned her head against my shoulder pensively. "We are what we are. And one can never escape one's destiny."
"We make our own, Kashiesa," I countered, amused at her belief in strange forces. As I thief, I had often made my own luck. "We live as we would want to, and live by the guilt we make our own."
"Then you do not believe that it was your destiny to find Shiori-san?" she said, still staring into the darkness ahead. Her voice had taken a slight hypnotic quality, and I felt more drawn to listen to her as she spoke.
"A thief also believes in chance, siren," I closed my eyes, enjoying her warmth beside me, knowing that it could all end too soon. "It was a gamble as big as any. I'm just glad I tend to have fortune smile at me most of the time. But I'm not always lucky." My voice had faded into a harsh whisper, as I remember a particular night--and Kuronue.
She merely smiled deviously and shook her head, then sighed. I placed an arm around her shoulder and drew her close to me, and she didn't object. Then, I cupped her chin with my hand, and turned her face to meet mine. Once again, our eyes met, shimmering in the light of dusk. She seemed so open, and trusting, and whatever she hid from me, it did not take away from the fact that she really did seem to like me. I wonder if mother would be pleased to have another youkai in her family. Hn, probably not, if she knew. I bent down and claimed her lips with mine, and we just sat there for a time, holding each other, knowing that fate's dark hand was beginning to move closer. And it wouldn't be long before we found Kuronue, or he found us.
A faint rustle of leaves and I suddenly stood up, shielding Kashiesa's body, facing the dark path we had been staring into but had not entered till now. My eyes narrowed, as I sensed a familiar presence flitting about among the trees. Familiar, yet different. So much stronger then before. And my human body weaker compared to my youkai form. I stood impassively, senses alert, aware that Kashiesa was behind me, her breath ragged and uneven. Fear? Or something…much deeper?
Suddenly, a lean, slender figure leapt into the sky, and I saw flashing baleful eyes and a flutter of black wings. A sharp, hooked blade attached to a string spun toward me, and I barely had time to drag Kashiesa to the ground as the blade razed my arm. A line of fire shot through my arm, and I clutched it to find that the spot had begun to bleed. I turned to face the smirking figure who was standing not ten feet from where we lay. There was no mistaking the confidence in his stance, nor the hate that radiated from his curled lips and flaring eyes.
"So we meet again, kitsune," the figure said haughtily. "Returning to the scene of the crime, eh thief? And who is this, your new best friend?" His lips curled into a sneer.
"Kuronue," I grunted, acknowledging the youkai who stood before me. "It's been a long time."
"Not long enough," he stated, his voice sounded hollow, almost mechanical, but the hate was real. "Thought I was dead and all the treasures were yours, didn't you, Kurama?"
"No, I cared for you," I stated evenly, biting off each word. "You were my best friend, and I never wanted to see you die. But don't you remember? You asked me to flee! To save myself!"
"Of course, you were eager to do just that, weren't you?" he said bitterly, animosity apparent in every word. "But Yatsuke-sama came and helped me. Now I serve him. And I promised him your blood--by my hand." On his right hand glinted a dagger with a masterfully crafted hilt of soaring ravens, a ruby-like stone set at the pommel. What caught my attention the most was the steel blade. Once side seemed to be made of gleaming silver steel, the edge finely honed and sharp enough perhaps to cleave me in half. The other side was made of black steel, which seemed to absorb the light around it and emanated a darkness of its own. I knew even without hearing Kashiesa's gasp that we had found what we had been looking for. The Dagger of Night.
"Fallen in with some powerful youkai, haven't you, Kuronue?" I remarked idly, toying with a rose in my hand. "Have they filled your head with empty promises of revenge?"
His lips curled in a twisted grin as he leered at me. His sharp glance fell on Kashiesa, and I got a glimpse of the predatory raven that he could be. She stared at him defiantly even as her features seemed to shift. Purple hair gave way to lustrous black, and her once-golden eyes became glittering silver. She also seemed taller, somehow, more shapely. The true siren hidden beneath her ningen form. I felt my anger welling up inside me. The bastard was giving us no room but to stand and fight. I will convince him that I never meant to betray him, even if it takes bloody combat to be able to do it.
"Angry, Youko Kurama?" he said in a mocking tone, tracing the lines of the dagger with long, graceful fingers. "Because I told you the truth that your guilty conscience cannot afford to bear? Come on then--fight me! And taste death by the hand of someone who had once called you 'friend'!"
"You are still my friend, Kuronue," I said, shielding Kashiesa behind me. "But if you are so bent on revenge, COME! We will settle this once and for all."
An evil smile tugged at the corner of his lips. He sneered and his dark wings flared out.
"First great suggestion you ever made since we last met, Kurama," he said, his scythe bathed by the fading light of Makai's son. The glint from the steel matched that in his eyes.
And then he leapt for me. And my reckoning had begun.
Okay, that's Part V. =) Before any Hiei-Kurama fans flame me, this fanfic is a "what-if" based on a discussion I had with a friend about what it would be like if Kurama was somehow attached to a girl. This is a non-yaoi fanfic, at least for the moment. For any comments, suggestions, and (heck) even flames, justmail to ryquest!
Yu Yu Hakusho is a copyright of Yoshihiro Togashi / Shue Isha Fuji TV, Studio Pierrot. This fanfic is for non-commercial, entertainment purposes only.