Past the Thorns

By: Ryquest

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the sequel to my fanfic "Dinner for Two". I suppose it can stand on its own, but it would really be nice if you could also read DfT. J (hint, hint) This is a Kurama-Botan story, though there are hints of Koenma-Botan and Koenma-someone else. But I won’t spoil it for you. Gotta have a reason for you to read the fic first, ne? ;) So here goes…



Botan flinched as her eyes met blazing topaz orbs. Koenma’s brow knit in irritation. Botan fidgeted in her light pink kimono, a slight blush on her cheeks even as she realized that she hasn’t really been paying attention to Koenma’s stern lecture. She had deserved it, for she almost sent a good soul to the wrong destination. That would have been a disaster, and Koenma wasn’t about to let her carelessness go without reprimand. She felt ashamed at having been so negligent, but it was hard to concentrate when her mind was filled with images of intense emerald eyes, flaming red hair and a soft, gentle smile.

"What is happening to you?!" Koenma exclaimed in exasperation, glaring at Botan with his most stern-faced expression, which wasn’t particularly effective given the fact that his pacifier hung from his mouth at a lope-sided angle. Botan began to giggle uncontrollably, and Koenma was about to step out from behind his desk to shake some sense into his assistant when he saw the tears standing in the corner of Botan’s eyes, even as she hung her head in embarrassment to keep from meeting his gaze.

Koenma sighed and sank back to his chair, his tousled brown hair falling into his eyes. He fingered his chin thoughtfully as he thought of how absent-minded Botan seemed to be these days. He’d know her to be slightly bubble-headed at times, but this only enhanced her cheery nature and served to comfort the souls she ferried to Reikai, her smiling face and innocent charm serving to slightly appease the grief from her charges. During the time that she had served under him as Deity of Death, she had made mistakes out of inexperience and had been scolded for them, yet she had always been dedicated to her duties as a spirit guide. Botan always strove to make up for her mistakes and had placed herself in danger at times in order to accomplish her responsibilities in Reikai. She had always been a faithful assistance, and he had taken often taken comfort in her dedication and commitment as a spirit guide.

Koenma got the impression that the Botan who stood before him now seemed different, somehow. Where before she had always been meticulous in making sure that the spirits she guided reached their rightful destination, she now seemed distant and distracted, and he’d caught her sighing at times as she gazed out of the palace window into the hazy mists beyond. Though she still laughed and smiled a lot, she seemed more withdrawn, as if pondering something of extreme personal significance to her that she dared not share with anyone else. When he had asked her if anything was wrong, she had sweatdropped, smiled cheerily and said that there was nothing out of the ordinary in her life even as she took out her oar and speeded away from him. Koenma had even ordered one of the other ferry girls to look in on Botan, but Botan had not confided in any of them regarding her recent behavior.

This is quite a puzzle, Koenma thought glumly. My best spirit guide is acting like something is nagging at her, and yet she won’t tell anyone. He thought how to best probe the truth out of his assistant. He could ask George to pester her into telling him, but Botan was just as likely to avoid the ogre and hang out in Ningenkai visiting Yusuke and their other friends. Ah, that’s it, Koenma smiled to himself. I could ask Yusuke to check in on Botan. Or if he’s not available, maybe Kuwabara or Kurama…

Kurama. A thought suddenly struck Koenma as he thought about when Botan had begun acting stranger than usual. It had almost been a month since Botan had gone out on a dinner date with the crafty kitsune, and hasn’t been the same ever since. It all became clearer to him now. Botan would get a far-away look in her eyes whenever he mentioned the youko’s name for some reason. And she found more and more reasons to stay in Ningenkai to watch over the Rei Kai Tantei, even if there was no imminent danger at the moment. Like a puzzle it fell into place. Something must have happened during that night they were together. But what?

"Botan," Koenma said sharply, causing Botan to snap to attention and stare at him. He eased his frown a bit, eyeing her warily. "It’s been almost a month since I gave you a short vacation, isn’t it? I recall that was the time you went out to dinner with Kurama."

"H-hai," Botan stammered, and the slight blush that crossed her face did not escape Koenma’s notice. "I won tickets for a dinner for two at the mall, and you allowed me to take a night off from ferrying souls."

"Was there something that…happened during that dinner, Botan?" Koenma asked, concern touching his topaz eyes. Not that he thought the kitsune would purposely hurt Botan, but Koenma had never trusted Kurama absolutely. His cold youko soul had been tempered by a human heart, yet still could be cunning and manipulative by nature.

"H-honto ni?" Botan flinched, then lowered her gaze. How could I tell you that the kitsune thief has already stolen my heart, Koenma-sama? That I’ve been neglecting my duties because I’d like to be by his side…watching him even from a distance, chatting with him in the evenings when he gets home from school. Seeing that warm, fond smile on his face…oh Kurama…

Botan became absorbed in her thoughts that she did not notice Koenma studying her with hooded eyes. Koenma had seen that look on the face of other ferry girls before, when they had fallen in-love with humans from Makai. He would warn them that such a love was not meant to be, unless they gave up their duties and consented to live fully as humans. Some did, while some chose to remain ferry girls and give up on their human paramours. Yet in her over a thousand years of service to him, he had never seen Botan look stricken. The thought bothered him somewhat, because she had been a faithful and trustworthy Deity of Death during her entire years of service to Reikai. Until recently.

"Very well, I won’t push you about this," Koenma sighed, and smiled slightly when he saw a flash of Botan’s familiar cheerful expression cross her face. "Just…try not to get any more souls sent where they’re not supposed to go. After all, we do have a certain level of credibility to maintain, ne?" Not to mention Enma Daiou will go up in flames once he hears of any more foul-ups…not a pleasant thought.

"Hai!" Botan straightened up and saluted. "Arigato, Koenma-sama!"

"One more thing, Botan," Koenma stated firmly, capturing Botan’s gaze. "Send Kurama here. There’s a new investigation and I’d like to speak with him personally about this new case."

"K-Kurama?" Botan stammered, obviously surprised. "But I thought you’d send for Yusuke, or maybe Kuwa-chan—"

"No arguments here, Botan," Koenma’s voice took on a dangerous edge. "You-will-ask-Kurma-to-come-here-immediately! This concerns him and not Yusuke or the others."

"Hai," Botan whispered reluctantly, then nodded and produced her oar. She gracefully mounted it and glided out of the window of Koenma’s office. Koenma stared after her, an unreadable expression on his face. He watched until she vanished from sight, then turned his attention back to the stack of papers in front of him. In particular, he sought out a certain file and smiled with satisfaction when he found the name he was looking for. It was that of a redhead named Shuichi Minamino.

I’ll get to the bottom of this matter at once. What do you want with her, Kurama? More importantly…what does Botan feel about this…and about you? 

"Nani?" Kurama’s eyebrows twitched in surprise. "Koenma wants to see me? You’re sure he’s not asking for Yusuke?"

Kurama was sitting opposite Botan in a local café. He had seen her waiting for him outside their school and had invited her to join him for a snack. For some reason she seemed worried and edgy – not like herself at all – and it worried Kurama more than a bit, though he did not show this to her. But he had been picking up hints about what might be worrying Botan, and Koenma’s invitation confirmed his suspicions.

"He said this concerns you," Botan said softly, avoiding Kurama’s searching gaze. She could not bring herself to tell him that she was worried about their relationship altogether.

Botan had a hunch Koenma will tell both of them to stop seeing each other, just when they had started dating and talking more intimately. Kurama hadn’t pushed about their relationship since their date over a month ago but had chosen to maintain a close friendship with her instead to put Botan more at ease in his company, and Botan appreciated the consideration and courtesy that Kurama had been extending to her. Though they had not spoken of their date, there was something in Kurama’s eyes that told her more than any words ever could about the depth of his affection of her. And she felt a thrill pass through her whenever he would reach out to touch her hand gently and enfold it in his.

Botan had never felt such a deep regard for anyone before, not for over a thousand years. At first, when Koenma had recruited her to be a ferry girl, she had thought he was kind of cute in his teenage form, and had once entertained the thought that he would court her someday. But he never did, and instead focused his attention to another ferry girl named Ayame. He saw the fond looks he would give her sometimes, and flinch when she would return his look with a sweet smile of her own. Koenma and Ayame had never admitted to having a relationship, and Ayame was often away performing her duties, but Botan suspected that a sort of understanding had already blossomed between them. And Botan was not one to pry on her employer’s affairs.

So she just did her job, and did her job well. She was cheerful by nature, even when she had been alive, and used this trait to gain the trust of souls who were yet too attached to their humanity that they refused to leave Ningenkai. She had always been careful, responsible and dedicated to her duties as Deity of Death, something that Koenma did seem to appreciate, though he was always more of a boss than a friend. She had met many Rei Kai Tantei – mostly earnest yet serious men and women who were committed to keeping the peace in Ningenkai at all costs. Some of them became her friends and she had come to be close to those who had become Rei Kai Tantei, some more, some less. Yet it was Yusuke who had intrigued her the most.

He was brash, even rude, and had always treated her in a curt, matter-of-fact manner. And yet in his own way he was one of the most caring people she had ever come to know. He cared deeply for his friends and most especially Keiko. But he was not well versed enough about courtesy in order to express it well, so they always fought. But because they truly loved each other Yusuke and Keiko remained together no matter what trials came between them. While other Rei Kai Tantei had been dedicated to higher ideals of promoting the greater good, Yusuke did so because he loved to fight and he fought for his friends. He had his own code of honor based on combat which he honored and for which he gained the respect of his opponents for, even the likes of Toguro and Sensui. And she had come to like him for that.

Yet most of all she had found herself gravitating toward Kurama. He was just different, somehow. Outwardly, he was this calm, polite and occasionally funny ningen high school student. But she knew he was really a youko who had a purpose of his own for having come to Ningenkai. However, she has witnessed how the affection of his human mother had imbued in him the capability for human love himself, and how he was always ready to come to the aid of his friends when the need arose, which was actually fairly often. She had seen him transform into the feared Youko Kurama during the Ankoku Bujutsukai, and the experience had both thrilled Botan and unnerved her. She had never seen him look so smug and even cold and cruel. But even as Youko Kurama she still saw within him Shuichi-Kurama. Once Youko Kurama would have fought only for wealth and power; now he was fighting only for the sake of his friends. Though he had lost a harrowing fight with Karasu due to a technicality from which only which Kurama emerged alive, Botan felt that he had won every aspect of that battle because he had never wavered in courage and purpose. She had cried when she saw him dreadfully wounded and down, had worried for him and prayed in her heart for his victory. And Botan was particularly glad that Kurama had not died, and she did not have to bear the awful burden of seeing his human life pass away before her eyes.

She had always thought he saw her only as a friend. After all, he was used to being pursued by the girls from his high school who were forever sighing over the youko. Not that she could blame them for it – he was gorgeous and possessed impeccable manners as Shuichi. Though he’d always been friendly to her and had helped her out of numerous predicaments, it was Yusuke she associated most often with among the Rei Kai Tantei. That was why it had surprised her when he had confessed that he loved her during their memorable dinner date, and she had believed in him since then. Had always thought they would find a way to be together somehow – until Koenma interfered.

"So desu," Kurama murmured, and the challenging glint in his eye did not escape Botan’s notice. "I will go see him then. Mata ne, Botan-san." He smiled at her and laid money on the table to pay for their fare. Then he stood, bowed politely and headed out of the café without a backward glance. Botan felt a sinking feeling within her as she fidgeted in her seat worriedly.

I don’t know what Koenma-sama has planned, or what he’ll say, Kurama. I just hope this meeting with him won’t mean the end of this…special friendship we’ve come to share.

"You’ve arrived swiftly," Koenma attempted to smile at his guest. Kurama bowed formally then stood directly opposite Koenma’s desk.

"As I have been summoned," Kurama stated, a tinge of sarcasm in his normally light voice, "so I have come before the Prince of Reikai."

"Are you going to play games with me as well, kitsune?" Koenma’s eyes narrowed dangerously. Kurama remained motionless even as he matched the steely gaze.

"There is no price to be won," Kurama shrugged, "hence no reason for me to play games with you."

"What of Botan?" Koenma went straight to the heart of the matter. "Is she to be another addition to your vast throve of conquests, kitsune?"

"Of course not," Kurama replied, his eyes softening. "She is a rare and valuable treasure all by herself."

"I’m glad you think so of my ferry girl," Koenma stood from behind his desk and came face to face with Kurama. Deep green eyes met light brown ones, their gaze locking, neither one willing to look away. Koenma withstood the challenge in Kurama’s eyes for as long as he could, then he sighed and walked away, staring out of the window in the dark-bluish clouds near the horizon.

What am I getting so worked up for? So I’ll lose a ferry girl if Botan decides to have a serious affair with the kitsune. Not that I should be so affected by all these…after all, Botan has the right to decide what she wants to do with her life. She’s already been such a faithful Deity of Death all throughout her service to Reikai…she deserves a break. But…to go with Kurama…can he offer her the happy and certain future she so deserves? More importantly…is he willing to do so?

"I have been known to toy with the affection of others in the past," Kurama admitted softly, and Koenma turned in surprise at the admission. He saw Kurama staring thoughtfully at wall, a slight smile giving his face a gentle cast. "Yet I couldn’t think of doing the same thing to her. She is so cheerful and trusting, like a ray of sunshine willing to cast her warmth on everyone on each bright new day. She is ever an optimist even in the face of adversary. Someone who masks her pain well behind every cheerful smile, because she would rather bear this alone than burden anyone else with it.

"By far she is the strongest woman I have ever met. Perhaps she would be useless in combat, but she makes up for this in so many ways. She lends strength to others through her unwavering trust and utmost devotion. These I have come to admire about her. And I can only wish that the darkness of this youko’s soul will never stain the purity of her heart.

"No, I will never toy with Botan’s affection, Koenma-sama. Yet I admit that I love her, though I know she deserves better than the likes of a hunted and pursued youko thief. But I could not help but love her, and though I know I do not deserve her, hope that she feels the same way for me." Kurama chuckled softly. "Ningen hopes that I once would have thought of as silly. But that was before I truly discovered what it was like to be human."

"So desu," Koenma simply stated, then turned from his scrutiny of the scenery beyond to face Kurama. "And what plans do you have for your relationship, Kurama? You are ningen at the moment, but we both know this is not a permanent setup. You are still youko, and we both know Youko Kurama resides within you – powerful, ruthless, unchanged."

"Not completely unchanged," Kurama replied thoughtfully. "My mother’s love had seen to that."

Koenma’s eyes widened in surprise when Kurama stepped forward and clasped his shoulder firmly, even fiercely. There was something hauntingly lonely in his eyes, but in those emerald depths he also saw a glimmer of hope and a promise. Koenma scanned Shuichi Minamino’s face for signs of trickery, for anything that would mark Kurama’s intent as anything less than serious. But he found there only honest determination. Koenma suddenly understood what Botan had seen in the erstwhile kitsune thief.

He is undeniably charming, whether he is conscious about it or not. More importantly, though, she sees in him a ningen who wants for himself an honorable life and a person to share it by his side. She knows he is a deadly youkai, but realizes that he will never turn on her and intentionally hurt her. He bathes in the light of her honesty and trust, and she eases the inherent coldness in his soul. They contrast and set seem so perfectly matched as are red and blue, roses and thorns, encompassing sadness and unwavering cheerfulness. Ah…Kurama the romantic soldier.

"You may leave now," Koenma stated, his voice level and revealing nothing. "I must think about this matter. So then must you."

Kurama nodded and turned, but not before Koenma caught the slight smirk of triumph that crossed the kitsune’s now impassive features. It’s as if he can read my thoughts. Damn you for being too clever, kitsune. But I know you can – and will – make Botan happy, and all I can hope to do is share that happiness.

"Ja ne," Kurama said, not bothering to look back. He reached the door and stepped outside. Then he glanced back and smiled – a genuine smile that Koenma knew to be heartfelt. "Arigato gozaimasu."

And then Kurama was gone, leaving Koenma behind in his office. He glanced absently at the sheaf of paper littering his desk, then began to search for a particular file that lay buried underneath. He found what he was looking for and laid the file of Botan beside Shuichi Minamino’s. Then he sat behind his desk, smiled absently and began writing. 

"Botan-chan?" Kurama muttered sleepily from his bed when he found her hovering outside his window, knocking politely. He glanced at his clock and found that it was past two o’clock midnight. Not like her to visit this late…something must be up…I hope nothing is seriously wrong.

Kurama hurriedly stepped out of bed and opened the window to admit Botan in. She climbed down from her oar and entered his room, and he escorted her to the edge of the bed, where they sat next to each other. Kurama searched her face and found traces of dried tears staining her cheeks. He resisted the urge to reach out and touch her face, to draw her to him and simply hold her. Instead he waited patiently until Botan was ready to talk and share with him what the matter was. He noticed a sheet of paper that Botan grasped firmly in her hand.

Botan followed his gaze and found that he was staring thoughtfully at the paper in her hand. She met his gaze and he cocked his eyebrow in question but did not say anything. Botan had mixed feelings about coming to him and telling him what Koenma’s decision had been regarding their case. The document he had given her stated it all. But she felt afraid because she did not know how he would react, what he would think. In some ways, Kurama remained as enigmatic to her as they day they first met.

Finally, Botan heaved a sigh and handed the paper over to Kurama, who browsed through the document briskly. His eyes widened in surprise even as Botan gently but firmly took the document from him, folded it carefully and tucked it within her kimono. Kurama found her gazing at him questioningly, doubt and trust warring in her eyes. In the end, trust seemed to have won, and Kurama took the opportunity to reach out and take her hands in his.

"I expected him to take some course of action," Kurama began, "but none as drastic as this. He’s asking you to train a replacement within a span of a year, then he is releasing you completely from your duties as Ferry Girl and resident Deity of Death." Kurama paused, and Botan nodded, her eyes still downcast. "After that, you are to be stripped of your responsibilities and special powers in order that you might live on Ningekai as a human."

"Hai," Botan responded softly. "I really don’t know why Koenma-sama had decided on this…it all came so suddenly, I was unprepared. Demo, it’s not like I can’t adjust immediately to ningen life, ne? After all, I’ve been human once…a long time ago." She glanced up and attempted to smile, but she could sense from Kurama’s disapproving frown that he wasn’t buying her words. She quivered slightly, then the tears just fell.

Kurama reacted instantly and enfolded her in his arms. She clung to him and sobbed on his shoulder. Kurama held her gently, saying nothing, simply letting Botan cry and release all her hurt feelings and confusion. When he sensed that the sobbing had stopped, he gently cupped her chin in his palm and raised her face to meet his. Light purple eyes met glinting green orbs, and Kurama saw the implicit question in Botan’s gaze. He heaved a sigh and finally glanced away. Botan rose from beside him to stand near the window, gazing outside with a seemingly impassive expression. Kurama glanced at her and his eyes lit in admiration as the pale moonlight highlighted her profile and her bright blue hair seemed to come to life with a shimmering sparkle.

She’s so beautiful. I know what she wanted to ask of me but couldn’t. I know that Koenma will make her human so she can come to live with me in the future, that she’d have a chance to be a normal human female without the burden of being the Deity of Death. Not that we’d probably live normally since there’s never a dull moment where Yusuke and the others are involved, and not while I have my youko powers…

Ah, but Botan-chan, I have never in my life – youko or otherwise – truly made a commitment to love! I have used many people as a Youko in my quest for wealth and power. I have had friends whom I have come to care for but in all the relationships I have had, I have never compromised my heart. Yomi I sent an assassin for because he grew too reckless to be of use to me, though I had liked him. Kuronue I couldn’t save and had to leave when he fell into a trap. Though my human mother had broken through the ice encasing my youko heart, and the friendship I have come to share with the Rei Kai Tantei had filled it with further warmth, I still feel that I cannot match the depth of the capacity for love I feel you have.

Can I love you the way you deserve to be loved, Botan? Will I be able to fill the void that will be left in your heart once are forced to leave the job you have been dedicated to for the past several centuries? These are the uncertainties that bother me, along with a shrouded past that I cannot escape from, but can only fight to accept. And yet, I know that if I do not ask you to stay, you will not ask to stay. You will go, and disappear from my life forever.

Botan felt Kurama gazing at her pensively, but she refused to glance back and meet his eyes. She had felt his hesitation when their gazes had locked, and she knew that he realized what her unspoken question was. Koenma would make her human to enable her to be in the company of Shuichi Minamino. She had wanted to ask Kurama if he would have her, if upon becoming human he would be there for her. But she had not asked, because she knew that her courage would fail her at the slightest rejection from him. He had not mentioned anything, and his unreadable gaze gave nothing about what he felt away. Botan stubbornly stared blankly outside, watching the moon stain the surroundings with pale yellow light. All this seems so surreal…like it’s part of a dream. When – if – I become human, I will never have the chance to fly among the clouds, to see the moon up close. I’ve dreamt of becoming human again once…demo is this dream I’ve always wanted, or will this chance burst just like a bubble in the air?

Botan became so absorbed in her thoughts that she was not aware that Kurama had moved behind her like a silent shadow. She only became dimly aware of his presence when he stood close enough that she could smell the fresh scent of roses that always seemed to cling to him. He glanced up at the moon and smiled, then shifted his warm gaze at her. Botan felt her heart skip a bit, particularly when he draped an arm around her shoulder and drew her to him. He seemed so warm and open that Botan found herself laying her head on his shoulder absently, her light blue hair mingling with his long red locks. They both did not speak but just stood before the window, unwilling to break the exquisiteness of the moment, afraid to shatter the spell of security that seemed to hang between them.

"I used to be at my best hunting for treasures under the light of the full moon," Kurama spoke softly, and Botan giggled at the wry, nostalgic tone of his voice. "Not that I transformed into the werewolf of lore or something, but close. I would sometimes use my four-tailed kitsune form, but I was more comfortable being youko. I would search the vast stretches of Makai looking for the ultimate treasure, and I was always restless because I could never find it. I thought it would be the one I came to steal on the day I got shot, but now I realize I had been wrong.

"The greatest treasure any world is the capacity to love, to have a higher sense of purpose than personal gain. It is in being able to dream and fight for the dream, not only for yourself but most especially for others, for those who believe in you and care for you. I believe Yusuke draws strength for battles that way – he knows he must win because if he doesn’t, he will have failed those who mean the most to him. And Yusuke is too stubborn to fail. I guess, in my own way, I am as well.

"Now I realize I have found the ultimate treasure I have sought for for so long, and I know I will regret it forever if I do not attempt to keep it…I know I will regret it forever if I let you go, Botan-chan. You are, to me, of incomparable value."

"Honto ni, Kurama?" Botan gasped in surprise at his words, though she knew her heart was beating madly. She searched his face for some hint that all she heard was not for real. She only found there calm, loving regard and a question of his own. "Did you really mean –

"I want you to stay with me, Botan," Kurama said seriously, drawing her into a tight embrace and burying his face into her hair. "I know ningen life is fleeting, and I cannot always promise you a peaceful, normal life. But I can swear that I have never cared this way for anyone before, nor will I after Shuichi Minamino’s life draws to a close. You are part of my heart, Botan. Aishiteru yo."

"Watashi mo aishiteru, Kurama," Botan replied softly, knowing that in doing so she was committing herself to him in a way she also had never done so before. She returned Kurama’s fierce embrace, knowing that she will be holding him like this for a long time to come. Wherever our ningen lives will take us, I will be there for you, Kurama. And if the gods permit, I want to be with you in every realm where we can live our lives together.

The couple drew apart but only momentarily as Kurama’s and Botan’s eyes met and their lips drew together. Finally, Kurama gently lifted Botan off her feet and laid her on his bed, gazing at her adoringly. Botan blushed but lost herself in his calm affection. Kurama lay beside her and drew her into another embrace, and this time he did not stop there. Soon it was a union of two souls pledged as one, bonded by a promise of love that has been realized even through the depths of pain and sacrifice.

Death who will become human with a youko who has willingly embraced his humanity…

Koenma switched off the computer monitor in front of him when he realized that the scene unfolding before him was beginning to get too private. He found himself blushing, but justified his eavesdropping as something he had to do to ensure that Botan will be happy with the kitsune. He heaved a sigh as he realized that he will soon be losing one of his most committed Ferry Girls, but he did not regret his decision to allow her to become ningen. He realized he would miss her, that he probably cared for her more than he let on, but she had seen her together Kurama and knew she was not for him.

You are for Kurama, Botan, just as he is for you. Took the kitsune a while to decide on this, though, but I’m glad he made the right decision for both of you.

A knock on the door startled Koenma out of his reverie as Ayame entered, bearing an envelope. She bowed to him and smiled slightly. Koenma nodded and took the envelope from her. He reviewed the papers and grinned when he found that they were all in place. It had taken him a while to convince Enma Daioh of his idea, but at last his father gave in. He suspected that there was a hidden romantic in Enma, though the great master of Reikai would never admit it to himself.

"You outdid yourself this time, if you don’t mind me saying, Koenma-sama," Ayame smiled. "And they don’t know of your plan yet, do they?"

"No, as it should be," Koenma replied, "as this will be my final surprise gift for them. As soon as their human body dies, Kurama will revert to his youko form and resume residence in Makai. And Botan will once again be a spirit guide for Reikai, though we’ll assign her to a new duty in Makai – finding lost souls who accidentally find themselves stuck there." He winked at her, pleased with himself.

"That way Kurama and Botan will still be together," Ayame finished his thought for him. She herself was pleased, because she liked Botan. "Very clever."

"Wasn’t it though?" Koenma laughed. "It was the least I could do for them both. I only wish that their happiness will last them as long as they both live – in Ningenkai or any other world."

"And what about you, Koenma?" Ayame inquired, smiling seductively. "Where will your own heart take you?" She stepped beside Koenma and kissed his cheek.

Koenma’s breath caught at this, and he stared at her open-mouthed. His pacifier dropped from his mouth, and Ayame picked it up and calmly set it aside. She took Koenma’s hand in hers waited calmly for his reply. Koenma’s face was a mask of confusion, but at last he smiled and spoke.

"To my future queen, who now stands beside me," he replied. Koenma stood and embraced her. Ayame smiled she and Koenma walked out of his office together, hand in hand. George smiled from where watched silently, hidden behind one of the huge plants decorating the Reikai palace. Then, whistling softly, he hustled back to work, leaving the night to the lovers.

There, finally done no da! ^^ Took me a while to finish this fanfic. Anyway, the Koenma-Ayame idea was something I picked up from the Makai Realm of Yu Yu Hakusho club. (Arigato for the idea, minna!) The resolution for the Kurama-Botan romance was partly inspired by Chevalle-san’s "Remember the Fall" fanfic (which is a great non-yaoi fic, by the way). For any comments/suggestions, mail to ryquest! Flames will be dealt with accordingly. Arigato gozaimashita! J

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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