Shroud of Deception

(Part IV)

By: Ryquest

The harsh wind bites into his flesh, sending shivers running through his lithe body. He shrugs away the discomfort he feels in irritation. His keen senses remain focused on the ruined rose petals he holds in his grasp, and on the faint, distant scent that he trails. His golden eyes gleam ominously, though his inscrutable, calculating glance belies the rage that smolders beneath those pale orbs. His movements remain fluid and graceful, even as his tail twitches involuntarily with suppressed anxiety.

He had gone back to the cave to find her gone, the only reminder of her presence being the ribbon he had found lying on the floor. His first thought had been that she had ran out on him, terrified by his presence, and he had tried to repress the feeling of bitter disappointment that the thought of her departure had somehow elicited from him. Then, he had spotted the crushed roses and his sharp senses detected the remnants of a foreign presence aside from Botan’s that had invaded his lair. He held the ribbon close to his nose, his fox wits committing the scent to memory, his keen eyes taking in the minute details of his surroundings in a single passing glance. Then he had stood up, feeling determined to trace her abductor’s whereabouts, a strange urge within himself driving him relentlessly with the need to find her.

The silver-haired youko chuckles bitterly to himself, shaking his head slightly in disbelief. There have been few times in his life when he had been genuinely interested in another when no gain in power or wealth was apparent in their acquaintance. And fewer still were the instances in which he had gone as far as chase after another, particularly when dire circumstances possibly detrimental to him beckoned. Yet, here he was, going after a woman, who was, for all intents and purposes, a total stranger to him.

What bothered him immensely was that she had seemed to know him so intimately at their first meeting, and the image of her gentle, pleading eyes had remained affixed in his memory since. And, even odder still, was that he had felt an instant attraction and bond with her as well.

She is only a girl I have known for less than a day, and yet this perplexing effect she has on me…it’s almost ridiculous. Yet he could do little to deny the apprehension he feels for her wellbeing, for her ensured safety. For, if who he suspects had abducted Botan, he knew that this person had little room for pity. And still less room for mercy.

Please be safe until I arrive, Botan, he mutters the short prayer under his breath. He is aware of a shadow on dark wings that trails after him a short distance away, can even hear the soft, mocking laughter. Yet Youko Kurama’s icy gaze remains clear and resolute, his expression grim. He pays little heed to Kuronue who follows, and instead focuses his attention on the trail he follows and prepares himself for the confrontation he must surely face.

She wakes to the sound of soft humming, a low, rhythmic sound that jars her senses slightly. She shakes her head slowly, trying to clear the haze that seems to cloud her vision. She lies on a flat stone of sorts, she realizes shortly, as her vision slowly clears. Her fingers trace strange symbols as she grasps the edge of the stone, and her hand recoils as the symbols begin to give out a muted glow and grow hot at her touch.

She rises to find crimson eyes fixed upon her, unblinking in their scrutiny. She emits a startled cry as she senses the watcher’s presence, and she instinctively realizes that she is no longer at Kurama’s lair. She wonders where she had been taken in her sleep, and if he or one of his associates had been responsible. Yet, as stern and indifferent as he may have seemed, she also felt that Kurama would have kept his promise and let her sleep on peacefully-safely, surely-had he been allowed his way.

Someone else, then, must have taken me away, probably without even Kurama realizing what had happened, she thinks. Could this be the same person responsible for having brought us here together to this…world? To the Makai of long past?

"So, the slumbering deity finally awakes?" Botan’s watcher laughs softly. "With no prince in sight to rescue her from her predicament, it seems."

"Anata wa…dare?" Botan manages to say, her voice quivering slightly in fear. "Were you the one who—"

"I brought you here, yes," the shadowed figure shrugs irritably, cutting her off, soft robes rustling faintly at the gesture. "For what purpose, you will probably ask next."

The watcher steps closer, the faint light from the brazier to her left allowing her to study her captor’s features somewhat. Her observer appeared to be a male in built, clad in a dark scarlet robe of a shade so deep that it reminded her of blood. She shivered, wrapping her arms around herself self-consciously, though she knew such a move would do little to protect herself. Her abductor appeared to be amused by this, for she hears another soft laugh echoing from the within the cowl of his robe.

"The answer is simple, really," he remarks idly in a matter-of-fact way. "Your mere presence here will draw the youko to me. And when he does come—and he will arrive, dear Botan, for he will be compelled to come for you—I will have quite a surprise waiting."

He is suddenly in front of her, and she gasps at the speed and fluidity of his motion. His face comes level to hers, and she catches a glimpse of his features for the first time. She gasps as he takes in the smooth, angular face, the silver hair, and the hint of fox-like ears protruding from his head, slightly hidden by the cowl he wears. I could well be staring at a younger version of Kurama, she thinks to herself in shock.

She peers into his eyes, and she trembles in apprehension, for there, the resemblance to Kurama ended. The youko’s eyes were golden, calm and calculating. Her captor’s, however, were ruby-like in hue, and hinted of malice and cruelty, the depths of which she loathes to imagine.

"Oh yes, he will come for you whom he loves," he said icily, a mocking emphasis on the last word he utters, "though he himself may not have come to that realization yet." His lips curl in a derisive smile even as his hand strays to Botan’s hair, sky blue threads falling like silk from his fingers. He grasps her chin with his free hand and tilts her head toward his, bringing her close enough so that their lips almost touch.

"But learn he will of that truth soon enough, and how much, in fact, that love can hurt. And in this case, it shall."

He continues to observe her from a distance, as he had done for most of life. Magi pass him by without a single glance, though he could sometimes hear soft sniggering whenever they thought he was no longer close enough to hear. But he had been gifted with extraordinarily sharp senses – a legacy from an errant wanderer, they say, the father that he had never come to know.

It was also this same legacy that made him an outcast.

Her mother sighs, and shifts slightly on the chair she sits, but her eyes remain glassy and unfocused, as she continues to vapidly stare into the distance, as if she peers into a past or future that she herself could see. But that was how Ansha has been since she has returned from running off with the charming stranger who had one day wandered into their small village. She still lived in some world of her own making, it seemed, but never for the present.

Aren represses the urge to sigh himself, as he waits for some sign that she would return to present time, to be the mother that he so wishes she could be to him. Yet it seemed to him that she herself did not know she had borne a son, and only she could tell him the identity of his father.

He wants with all his heart to find this vagrant, to see if he would acknowledge and accept him as a son. If he could learn the ways of the youko, for the magi would never accept him as one of their own.

He walks forward slowly, his light steps falls silently on the polished marble floor. He stops when he is behind her, and he places a hand gingerly on her shoulder. She does not stir. He tries to follow her gaze, tries to penetrate the world that Ansha had chosen to lock herself into. He sees only the fading light of the Makai sun as it gradually dips from view behind the mountains in the distance.

Her world remains hidden from him, even as the mysteries of the world of the magi would always remain hidden from him.

If only I could find the world of the youko, he wonders fervently. Would you bother to unlock its secrets for me…otousan?

Finally – it’s Part IV. It’s taken me a long while to get around to writing this – about the same time it took me to return to the YYH universe shortly after wondering to other worlds apart from Makai. ^^

As always, for any comments, suggestions, and (heck) even flames, just mail to ryquest! Feedback much appreciated.

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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