Kurama/Shuichi I scan the horizons,
A shadow in flight,
Seeking solice in darkness,
Drawn to your depth,
Enthralled by your light.

Captured with tears,
Forged by your sorrow,
Bound in your love,
Lost no longer, but found.

Home at Last

By: Ryquest

All life, it seems, is a curse…

I stood before her grave, bearing a single red rose as I knelt in silent plea, trying to commune with her soul. She has passed away, I knew, but I longed to once again hear her soft, gentle voice with filled with warmth such as I had never found in another. She was the most precious treasure I had ever come--and will ever come--to possess. But as much as I was her son, she was my mother, the only one I had come to know. And in what is left in my life, both as a ningen and a youkai, I will try to live my days as she would have wanted me to. I will never stop to care for those I love, for she has taught me that emotions held great strength, far more than the plants I could so manipulate with deadly precision. What I am, is part of the legacy she has built in me in such a short time.

I thought of her sweet, kindly face, which for me held the greatest beauty I could ever have found in a ningen woman. I recalled, too, those scars on her hands, partly a product of my carelessness. They were no battle scars, like mine were, but they had been etched out of love. Love for an unworthy youkai, a son for whom you would give everything for, and yet never fully come to know. And now, I cannot tell her my greatest secret, for she is gone. I had balked on revealing my identity, for fear of rejection, for fear of seeing disgust in those eyes that has always beheld me with affection and concern.

I cast my thoughts to the day that you passed away. A single tear rolls down my cheek, unbidden. It had been so sudden. In less than a year, I would have graduated from college, and I will have become a law enforcer. I still recall the day I graduated from high school, having been accepted to the university of my choice, not that I thought then that a career mattered. After all, I was not going to be Shuichi Minamino for a very long time. But my mother had taken me aside and stared into my eyes, and I could feel her pride and a lump had formed in my throat.

"Omedetou gozaimasu, Shuichi," okaa-san had said, smiling. "You know I am proud of you. I have always been proud of you. Since you'd been born, you gave my life more joy than you could ever imagine."

I found it difficult to say any words, knowing that I could never fully express the depth of affection I felt for this seemingly fragile yet genuinely strong woman. I settled on embracing her, cradling her head beneath my chin. Then, I felt that all the sacrifices I made trying to be a model student just for her had been worth it. I'd been the son she wanted me to be, someone she can be proud of. At that moment, I was not Youko Kurama the youkai thief, but Shuichi Minamino, Shiori's son--fresh out of high school, and fresh out of dreams.

So I asked her, "What career do you think I should take up, okaa-san?" I really hadn't considered it before.

"You're highly intelligent, Shuichi," she had said, her eyes sparkling. "And I wouldn't want to impose on your will. Do what you think would like to do for the rest of your life.

"Don't pick a career you think would please me." I was somewhat surprised by the stern admonition in her voice. "I will not be with you forever. I'd like you to consider a career where you'll be happy and content. If you are, then I most certainly will be." Then, she smiled, and it was a smile I would always remember. She was like the sunshine itself--warm and bearing the promises of fresh hope for each new day.

And so I thought. I could be a thief, as I certainly retained my skills for the job. Still, mother would probably disown me if I came back a member of the Yakuza or something, so that option was definitely out. I was basically a fighter, and I could continue being part of the Rei Kai Tantei, but using the rose-whip and my other special techniques would unnerve her more than a little. I also didn't earn money from that venture, and I'd need something to support myself in the future. Then I thought of how she told me once that her grandfather had been a police officer, who had died in the line of fire out of duty. She had been secretly proud of him, though I know she worries whenever I go off and train.

Fighting crime did seem to be attractive, even as the youko within me chuckled in irony. A thief catching would-be thieves. It was a ridiculous idea, but it was also poetic justice. So I told mother that I'd like to join the police force, and she smiled, if briefly, before worried etched itself on her face. She studied me silently, saying nothing, until she finally touched my cheek gently and nodded.

"I know you're some kind of martial artist, Shuu-chan," she finally said, tears forming near the corners of her eyes. "While I'll always worry over you--and what kind of mother would I be if I didn't--I think it would be a good choice for you. You will be careful, won't you, dear?"

"I'm always careful, okaa-san," I stated, smiling. Most of the time, anyway. And since I'm still alive, I suppose I'm careful enough.

And so I trained, though the training I got was a lot less difficult than my sessions with Genkai-san, Yusuke and the others. I would look over at the would-be enforcers and I would sigh. Hiei could probably slice into their ranks in mere seconds, and wouldn't even break a sweat. And I can whip them into submission in a heartbeat less. Still, Shuichi Minamino was supposed be a just another ningen student, and so I went through the motions of studying and training at the university. I visited mother as often as possible during the weekends, and she told me that she appreciated the visits very much. Then she'd take out a baby picture of me and tell me she can't believe how much--and how handsome--I've grown. That, I recall, was a source of other troubles for me, since she introduced me to girls about my age, trying to get me interested in a girlfriend or even a fiancée. I steadfastly refused any form of serious commitment, of course, since I knew that my wife and possibly children would only be left behind when Youko Kurama goes back to Makai. And the children…they'd be part youkai, and I wasn't really up to raising youkai kids.

It had been more than three years since I had entered college, when I went back to mother's house for a quiet celebration. It was my ningen birthday, so to speak, though I really can't really my youkai one, having been lost to me in the centuries that I'd been alive. Besides, birthdays were almost a mockery in Makai, since some youkai there had been living close to forever. But ningen birthdays were a cause for celebration, for ningen life was much shorter, and each year marked the beginning of the end. Still, I knew that my ningen body had more than a few good years left. But I came anyway, to see mother and my stepbrother and stepfather.

It had been our custom to celebrate birthdays simply. Mother cooked a special meal, most of the dishes my favorites. We'd been eating our meal, chatting silently, when suddenly, mother clutched at her breast. I had sprung from my seat and came to her side, holding her gently against me, supporting her. She looked at me, her face pale and her eyes alight with fright. She continued holding a hand against her chest, and I knew something was wrong. I called my stepbrother to call the ambulance, since we had to get mother to a hospital. He looked at me for a moment, frightened and uncertain, before my stern gaze sent him running for the phone. I could hear mother's heart fluttering wildly, and it worried me. But she'd been healthy, I thought, and I hoped that something wasn't seriously wrong.

But something was. She turned and stared directly into my eyes, and for a moment, I saw death in that shrouded gaze. I felt cold fear grip my heart, and I embraced her, urging her not to give up, to go on living--for me, for us--her family. She kissed my cheek, tears streaming from her eyes. I felt the full grasp of panic then, as I lifted her off her feet and rushed to the door. I'd take her myself to the hospital if I have to, and I'll be damned if she knew I wasn't a normal ningen may. She just had to live. She had to.

But she stopped me as we neared the door, ordering me place her down on the couch. I complied, though my heart urged me to defy logic and try to save her as best as I could. The other two members of our little family gathered around her, and she glanced at each of us, a sad smile on her face. She faced the other two first, then at last her gaze sought me. I sat there silently beside her, clutching her hand, tears freely flowing from my eyes. All the while, I dared Death to face Youko Kurama in combat, urging him to fight me for the life of the woman I love.

"Shuu-chan," she said softly, stroking my hair with deft fingers. "I've tried to care for you the best way I could. If I've disappointed you in any way, gomen ne…"

"Don’t you talk like that," I chided her, kissing her brow. "Your love was the single shining spot in a dark, somber life. You taught love to a lost wanderer, and with that made him whole. For that, and for all that you have come to teach me, okaa-san, aishiteru…I can ever tell you how much I truly love you."

"You'll have a full life ahead of you," she stated softly, taking in my military uniform she had asked me to wear for the celebration. She said I looked dashing in it, and that it looked good on me. But then again, she had stated with an impish smile, all sorts of clothes looked good on me. I had blushed a little, but I'd been pleased. A soft sigh brought my thoughts back to the present, as she clutched her chest with urgency. Then, her eyes met mine. No longer was there fear, but peace.

"Live wisely, Shuichi, and love all the more," she whispered gently. Then, as I heard the blaring siren of the ambulance outside, she closed and eyes and her head fell to one side. I knew then that her body had died, and that she had gained new life.

I saw Botan hovering over her body, and her eyes met mine in silence, with regret and pain mirroring my own. I saw my mother's soul flee from her ningen shroud, hazy and indistinct at best, but her presence was there. I smiled at her, and she seemed startled as I met her eyes, before Botan gently took her hand and both of them vanished. I stared at her dead body and placed her hands across her chest. I never knew you were sick, okaa-san…you thought it best not to tell me. How much courage did it take hiding the fact all along? And I'd been away too much, and I'd been unable to see…

At her short wake and burial, Kuwabara, Yusuke, Keiko and Yukina had arrived, offering me condolences. I returned their concern with a sad smile, glad at least that there were people I trusted and cared for were there with me. I didn't see as much as Hiei's shadow, but then again, an enigmatic, sulking Koorime would have drawn attention that I didn't need, and that he didn't want, either. Besides, he was probably fighting for Mukuro somewhere, and he'd never been easy to find. So I cast my thoughts away from the mysterious Koorime, and attended to the final details of my mother's burial. Then we had all stood by her grave, saying farewell. One by one, the guests had left, and I'd been left alone.

I placed the rose above her grave, the incense wafting around me. But I made that rose bloom with the reddest possible shade, and it emitted a sweet, sharp fragrance which only flowers had the ability to make. My best rose, for the best woman I have ever known. She deserved far more as a form of tribute, but any more would have been meaningless. So I gave her my pledge--that Youko Kurama would continue to be Shiori Minamino's son, building on her lessons and love. Even in hostile Makai, I will be empowered by your love, okaa-san. For I could never be the same cold, calculating thief ever again--you gave my soul a mother's warmth, and more. And I have no regrets for coming to know how love could mean so much.

I left her final resting place with sure, calm steps. Now that my mother was gone, Ningenkai was no longer my home. I had friends here--Yusuke and the others, and maybe I'd come to visit sometimes. I grinned inwardly. Then again, they attracted trouble enough that they'd end up visiting me in Makai one way or another. I stared at the brightness of the sky, at the fluffy white clouds and the pale yellow streams of sunlight. I will miss the warm mornings, I knew, and the cool, twinkling lights from millions of stars at night. But I'd been away for far too long, and I missed the warm glade of the forest in another world. Where a silver-haired youko had been hunted, hated, and feared.

Now Ningenakai binds me no more. I took a deep breath and sighed, letting the demon surface. Then, Shuichi Minamino and Youko Kurama were no longer separate, but one.

"Koenma-sama," I stated softly, my voice deeper than it normally would have been.

"Kurama," he replied with a frown on his young child's face. "So it's true, you have decided to leave."

"I intend to go back to Makai," I stated and stepped toward him, my long white robe swirling as I walked. "There are…various things…I must atone for in another life I have to live."

"I understand your reasons," Koenma said, eyeing me with caution. "But what is to prevent you from turning back into another cold-blooded, rampaging killer-thief?"

"Nothing, really," I smiled, and was amused that he was taken aback. "As you have stated, I am a thief by nature, probably one of the best--if not the best--youkai thief there ever was. And yes, I could easily go back to stealing and killing for fun, but--

"Okaa-san wouldn't like that at all." I felt a tug of grief as I thought of her, knowing that her light could never fade out of my existence. I have basked in her light for too long, yet it had felt too right.

"So I see," Koenma nodded slowly, then thumbed through a record book before him. "You're a wanted man in Makai, Kurama. Though you've done a lot of good as the ningen Shuichi--and for that you certainly deserve a pardon and more--there will be those who would wish nothing short of killing you."

"I've lived with danger all my life, Koenma-sama," I shrugged. "If I die, then I do. I don't think I'll be fleeing back to Ningenkai, though." I remembered mother, and I knew that in my heart I could never truly have another. "Having known one mother is enough."

"What are your plans then, Youko Kurama?" Koenma queried through hooded eyes. He seemed to be studying me not as the Rei Kai Tantei he knew, but as potential troublemaker and disrupter in Makai.

"You know that Robin Hood thing?" I said, recalling the tale mother had told me once. "Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor stuff? I don't plan to be like that exactly, but it's time I used my being a thief to help others out. It's doesn't exactly fit my image, but…" I smiled and winked at him. "I'll find a way, somehow."

"I think you will," Koenma stated quietly, "because you'd like to see her again." He smiled. "Shiori's taken to a place where she's happy, Kurama. I hope you can take some pleasure in that."

"I do," I smiled back. "My thanks." I paused, then began to stride away. "By your leave then. Dewa, ja mata, Koenma-sama!"

"I wish you well, Kurama," he said, suddenly in the form of the young man that could pass for dignified, if not for that pacifier.

I nodded, bowed, then left. My soul merged with Makai.

The forest was still around me, and my ears strained at each familiar sound. They were twitching slightly, I knew, as were my tails. I was excited being back, I had to admit. I was home. It isn't any different from what I remember, but I had changed. And now Youko Kurama was dealing with an unfamiliar world again. Feels damned strange. But I was pleased. I had always liked my youko form.

A rustle of leaves behind me, and brown eyes met red. Hiei. I nodded at my friend, unchanged from when I saw him last, in flowing black robes with that deadly katana blade by his side. His eyes were more hooded than usual, with a depth I had not noticed before. I could also see new darkness there, born in a man who had encountered more violence, and somehow had thrived. He was no taller than before, but I did not doubt the fire demon had seen and experienced more than his years would indicate. As had I.

"Kurama," he said in greeting, inclining his head. "You have returned. To what end?"

"To tell you frankly, I don't know," I said, my eyes taking in the forest around us. "I could go back to stealing, but it wouldn't be the same without Kuronue. Go mercenary, maybe, but that doesn't feel quite right." I smiled. "I just want to make a difference, somehow. A sort of positive difference. I don't have a concrete idea of how, though."

"You're still thinking like a ningen," Hiei snapped, a frown lining his face. "Silly fox. Still carrying ningen dreams."

"Is it necessarily bad, Hiei?" I argued, amused at his continuing denial of the value of ningen emotions. "Feelings aren't necessarily weaknesses. I think you know. A person can be all the better for it. Think about Yukina, for example." Hiei bristled slightly. I knew I'd hit a soft spot.

"What did it ever get you, Kurama?" he stated sharply, looking away. "Heartache, because your ningen mother died. You come here to Makai seeking sanctuary, and Shuichi Minamino is no more. You fled from your grief to Makai, hoping to build a new life here.

"But can you? With your thoughts still of ningen loyalty, honor, duty--and love, particularly. Can you survive long not being the cold-blooded youko you once were, untainted with over-emotionalism? Can your rational self afford to live with the emotions surging through your soul? Can you face each day of grief and loss--even knowing you'll live with them for a long, long time?"

"Difficult questions, Hiei," I said. "But I can--and I will…for her."

"Just that? Feh," Hiei snorted, stepping toward me, meeting my eyes. "You're even stupider than I thought."

"Because I refuse ceasing to be Shiori's son?" my voice was even. "But I am. Just as my first mother molded the thief. I never really knew her. I just know than she left me in this forest barely old enough to speak--to learn to fend for myself. I learned to fight, to steal, to use my senses and skills in order to survive. I've been wounded in battle, beaten badly, having to escape with barely a thread of life to cling to. I learned my affinity for manipulating plants, and I've relied on that since in order to survive. Even my ties with Kuronue had first been born out of mutual sense of purpose. He'd been a worthy ally, and I learned to trust him during all our quests together.

"Yet though I mourned his loss, though I cared for him, I never knew what it meant to love until Shiori showed me. A gentle touch, a kind word…she reached into a cold, proud heart and captured my soul. In my view, I'd never been happier. Then we became the Rei Kai Tantei team, and I found a higher sense of purpose in our camaraderie. I made friends with the best ningen I have ever come to know, including a dour, grudging fire youkai who has deeply come to share my destiny though I have not told him till now."

For a brief moment, Hiei's eyes softened, and he fell silent, staring intently into my eyes. Then, he nodded, and smiled. The expression seemed foreign on his oft-serious face, though the warmth behind the gesture was certainly welcome. Perhaps you're more ningen than you'd ever care to admit, Koorime. Because you too value love and pride and honor. And would fight in order to keep them.

"I'm not saying you make perfect sense, Kurama," Hiei began, his voice subdued, "but I do understand that the cunning fox had been beaten by his own ingenuity." He placed a hand on my shoulder, his eyes bright. "You never expected your ningen life to change you, but it did. And perhaps…you really are the better for it."

"I know I am," I remarked, grasping his shoulder in return. "Yet I must find my path anew. And mold my youkai life from there."

"I'll be here, Kurama," Hiei stated simply. "As you have said, our destinies have become linked. You have my friendship, Kitsune, and my trust."

I stared at him for a moment, then embraced him. Hiei did squirm a bit, but he allowed me to hold him. My dearest friend, who with Shiori had shaped my life of Shuichi Minamino. And now that Shuichi Minamino is gone, but never forgetten, and Youko Kurama remains, there will be adventures that we have left to share.

Finally, Hiei pulled away and leapt for a nearby branch. His eyes were thoughtful, but he did not look displeased. He looked down at me, his short, powerful form outlined in Makai's pale moonlight. I was reminded of Kuronue, and the many hunts we have had together under this same moon. Now I'll have a new companion--even a grudging one--and I know one day he will come to my side.

"Back on your way to Mukuro, Hiei?" I remarked idly, oddly feeling disappointed, but not too much. I yearned to roam Makai alone for a while, to rediscover its beauty amidst its perils. I wish you've come to know Kurama, okaa-san…I had wanted to show you how I've lived in the past, to show you my world. But one day, I hope to meet you again, and tell you that a youko thief and your son had been one and the same. I'd tell you my adventures, and more…but above all, I want to tell you again…aishiteru.

"For now," Hiei replied, his face assuming once again its hard, unfathomable expression. "But I will track you down eventually, Kurama." He smirked. "No silly fox can hide that well."

"So you say," I grinned, my ears twitching at the challenge. "You know I am cunning enough to outwit you, Hiei--I have before, and I will again."

"You just got lucky before," he shrugged. He inclined his head. "Farewell, Kurama. But this is no goodbye."

"I know, Hiei," I called after him as he vanished from sight, a streaking blur in the shroud of night. "I know."

The evening's silence welcomes me, and I turned and began to run, vanishing deeper into the forest. I smile. The thief returns to the hunt, a cryptic lair his abode. Much sought, seldom found, and even more infrequently captured. Yet I'd been captured once, a captivity I've come to relish, for then I'd found a home. And I'll find you again, okaa-san, no matter how long it takes…and this jaded wanderer eventually comes home. 

For any comments, suggestions, and (heck) even flames, just mail to ryquest! I'd appreciate any feedback I can get about the fanfics. Ja ne!

Yu Yu Hakusho is a copyright of Yoshihiro Togashi / Shue Isha Fuji TV, Studio Pierrot. This fanfic is for non-commercial, entertainment purposes only.





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