Okay, I'm writing comments before the story for once. ;) Anyway, this is just to say that this is some sort of songfic based Kurama's own song-- "Koori no Naifu o Daite" (sung by Kurama's magnificent seiyuu, Megumi Ogata). I'll be using parts of the lyrics (trans. English) throughout the story (English translations by Nami Fujimori-san), although the Japanese lyrics might appear once in a while.
This is a Kurama-Botan fanfic (my second). I think the two of them make a good pair, but that's my opinion. No offense intended to K+H fans. To each his/her own. For any comments or suggestions, sign the guestbook or send e-mail!
Yu Yu Hakusho is a copyright of Yoshihiro Togashi / Shue Isha Fuji TV, Studio Pierrot. This fanfic is for non-commercial, entertainment purposes only.
"Kokoro no Izumi no Soko ni / While the bottom of the fountain of my heart
Koori o Haritsumenagara…" / Is laced with ice
Having become human has opened up a new way of thinking for me. Redifined my existence in ways as Youko Kurama I never would have thought possible. Yet I do not state this with regret or remorse. I know I chose to be reincarnated into a ningen body. While my original intention had been to gain back my strength and desert this form at the earliest opportunity, many things have happened to change this plan. I had found that my mother's unconditional love binds me to being Shuichi Minamino. I had met ningen friends who I have fought with and fought for, and a sense of purpose beyond stealing that had been lacking in my life for a long time. I even managed to befriend an anti-social fire demon who now happens to be my closest friend. Though knowing Hiei, he'd probably smirk at the concept and outwardly deny that we were even close.
So here I am now, a high school graduate, working for my stepfather's company, earning enough to see me through college without being a financial burden to my mother. In a sense, I've even got a brother who shares the same name. I'm happy for my mother--I mean, I know she's always wanted a dependable man who would genuinely care for her and whom she cares for in return. She has that in Kazuya Hatanaka. And I'm quite satisfied with our new family arrangement, really.
I see my friends are happy--Yusuke and Keiko are managing a ramen store together, and Yukina has decided to stay in Ningenkai with Genkai, giving Kuwabara-kun a chance to visit her often. Hiei…I don't know for certain since he left, but I would assume that's he's fighting battles for Mukuro. And I have seen the way she had looked at him…that was fond affection if I ever saw any. I'd wondered why Hiei had chosen to fight for her, and aside from his own quest for power, I'd surmised that some emotion binds him to her. They should both be in for interesting times.
I should be happy for this peace. I haven't had to uncoil my Rose Whip for quite a while now. In a way, I am pleased at not having to fight. Yet my life appears to be incomplete. Could it be the battle fever building up within me? Do I miss the passion and excitement from those hectic times in the past? No, it goes something deeper. I search for the youko within me, and I find the answer. While a mother's love has thawed a once-frozen, unyielding heart, not all the chill has been taken away.
"Ikite yuku no ga Ore no Shukumei / Going on with living is my fate.
Tatakai Nuku Sono Tame ni" / Fighting onward for that purpose
I'd go on living, of course. I've no intention of leaving Ningenkai--not yet. The concern and affection I feel for my mother prevent me from returning to Makai. Besides, I enjoy being a human. It's been an enlightening and enriching experience. And even if I leave this form, I know my life will never be quite the same. I had come to know what it's like to truly care--to sacrifice myself for people I care for, and to fight relentlessly for the causes I've come to believe in. It's not a bad setup, really. I know I've a full ningen life ahead of me to live.
"Hashiru Hi mo Aru / There's also a day to rush to,
Koori no Naifu o Daite" / Embracing the Knife of Ice.
I always love a cool spring morning. There's something about inhaling the refreshing morning breeze that makes me feel alive. I walk from my apartment to my college, since I had some classes to attend. Life as a working student hasn't been too bad, actually. Even if I did move out of the house, I visited mother fairly often. And working for my stepfather has been fine, since he was a fair man, even if he could be critical of me. Then again, he had high expectations of me, since I graduated top of my batch in high school.
I decided to walk through the park, since it was still early, and I had time enough to spare before my classes began. Several joggers passed me by as I walk, and I see a couple obviously in love sitting on the park bench, oblivious of the world changing seasons around them. I smile wistfully, since that is what I had not found during my stay in Ningenkai. I have not been truly in-love. There are times when I think my heart will be frozen forever, and not all the warmth of my humanity can ease the iciness of a youko's frozen heart.
I turn at the sound of a familiar voice, and was surprised to find a familiar face framed by sky-blue hair jogging toward me. She still looked the same from the last time I saw her--a face that could have belonged to a girl my age, always cheery and smiling, with radiant eyes that seemed to vary in shade from deep pink to light purple. She was dressed in a typical jogging outfit, her hair in the accustomed ponytail. I stopped and waited for her to catch up. She caught up with me soon enough.
"Botan!" I exclaimed, smiling. For some reason, I felt relieved to see her. Strange considering seeing her in Ningenkai always meant that there was some sort of trouble brewing. "Ano…what brings you here? No new mission or something, I hope."
"None of that sort," Botan replied, wiping the sweat from her forehead and matching my stride. "Whew, all that running can be tiring! I guess I'd better keep in better shape."
"Your shape looks fine to me," I remarked unconsciously. Then I caught her staring at me strangely and I must have blushed as a huge sweatdrop beaded on my head. "I mean, you look great! You always do."
"Thanks for the compliment, Kurama," Botan laughed, laying a hand on my arm. "Koenma-sama just gave me a short vacation since there are more spirit guides now. So…I went here to Ningenkai to check on you guys. I'm visiting Keiko-san and Yusuke next."
"They're doing fine at that ramen store, last time I checked," I said, and my eyes strayed to her hand. Botan seemed oblivious of fact that she'd linked her arm in mine. Not that I did mind. I suppose I was unused to having her so close to me without some sort of trouble at hand.
"That's nice to hear," Botan replied. "That is…I hope they're not fighting too much." She gave me a sheepish grin in her "perky" mode. I've always thought she looked kind of funny when tried to attempt to look extremely cheerful and peppy. Doesn't change the fact that she's really kind of pretty, though.
"Well, I'd hope not," I smiled, remembering the arguments those two always had in the past. "But they really do care for each other, I think. And maybe…that's the way they both choose to express it."
"Sore nara…how about you, Kurama?" Botan suddenly turned her gaze at me, and I found myself staring at sparkling eyes that hinted of concern. "I mean, I hope you've been doing fine here. Koenma-sama was worried that you might become a little bored, and…"
"And return to Makai?" I replied with a touch of irony. "After all this time, he's still uncomfortable with Youko Kurama being here, isn't he?"
"Ano…demo…that is…" Botan stammered, now finding it uncomfortable meeting intense green eyes tinged with sadness. "He is concerned about you as well, but it's his job to check on Ningenkai, and…"
"Tell him to put his mind at ease," I sighed. "I've no plans of returning just yet, not while Shuichi Minamino is alive. Not while people I care for are here. Certainly not while a kitsune still has a chance to be human."
"Kurama…" Botan whispered, suddenly aware that Kurama had fallen into an introspective--almost sullen--mood. Which was unusual for him. She suddenly became aware of her arm linked in his. She wondered if she should pull away and leave him alone for a while, but her instinct told her to stay. Because for some reason, she felt concerned about him.
On impulse, Botan used her other hand to touch his shoulder, and he turned his head to face her. Once again, she was confronted with eyes that were the most vivid shade of green she had ever seen, contrasting nicely with his wild mane of fierce red hair. Eyes that conveyed his emotion in such a way that words would pale, and now, she seemed to be staring into a mirror of his soul. There was warmth there, but also a sense of something chilly and distant. A human youko, Botan thought. Both personalities so sharply in contrast, and yet so perfectly matched in one man. Yet staring at those eyes perplexed her, for his gaze stabbed at her heart.
His eyes are like daggers that plunged into the soul, Botan thought, icy blades that sought the truth in another to make it his own.
"Kurama…" Botan murmured his name again, and somehow she found her hand reaching out to caress his cheek. He did not flinch, but kept his gaze on her. "Gomen ne…if I've offended you in any way. I'd never mean to!
"Sore de…When he told me maybe you'd want to leave and return to Makai soon, I told Koenma-sama that you wouldn't leave…not at once…because I'd felt that you'd choose to stay. I didn't even know why, but I felt that you wouldn't just give up the life you have now…"
"Why, Botan?" Kurama's soft voice carried to her ears. "You know what and who I really am. I am Youko Kurama, a dangerous, cold-hearted thief. What makes you think that aspect of myself has changed?"
"It probably hasn't," Botan blurted out, then flinched at the pain in his eyes. Then she regarded him with utmost seriousness and intent purpose in her lavender eyes. "Not entirely, because you are youko, and you are still dangerous, but…
"Part of the Kurama I know is a compassionate, responsible and caring human. And that aspect of yourself becomes an indelible part of you. And that's how I've felt that you'd stay, and that Koenma-sama worries more about you than he really should…"
"Do you worry about me, Botan?" Kurama suddenly asked, grasping the hand on his cheek and squeezing it gently.
"Before, no," Botan admitted, aware that they were standing so close together. That Kurama emanated a scent of freshly blooming roses. He is so much like spring, Botan thought. The warmth in him peeks through the cold youkai underneath, like a warm breeze cutting through frozen snow. "You've always been calm and confident, even in the most dangerous situations. And I remember how you've always seemed to care…I mean, always been there to help… Like the time you prevented me from being skewered and falling hard during that encounter with Koashura…soshite watching over me during that awful encounter with Yakumo…
"Demo…seeing you this way gives me another insight into the complex person that you are, Kurama. And it makes me admire your strength even more. Because you're willing to face all the challenges in life for aspirations you believe in, for the dreams and hopes you hold. And that is why…I'm proud to have known you, and that…I may call you friend."
Kurama remained silent, his eyes distant yet warm to Botan. Then, he smiled at her gently, squeezed her hand one last time and let go. He bent to kiss her forehead, then inclined his head and gently unlinked his arm from hers. He walked on forward, without looking back. And Botan was left to wonder just what her encounter with the cunning kitsune had been all about. But when she thought to go after him, to ask him what it all had meant, he'd already vanished from sight.
"Kurama…" Botan found herself whispering his name, this time with a fondness that had not been there before. "Whatever you are may be dreaming for, I hope you to achieve it. Soshite…that you'll find enough warmth and love to melt the ice blade embedded in your soul…"
"Mirai o Shinjite Kirikome / Slicing to believe in the future,
Ikiru koto wa Kake dakara / Because life is a gamble
Jibun o Shinjite Tobikome / Plunging to believe in ourselves, Jidai o Tsukuru tame ni" / For the purpose of creating a new era…
I watched from where I was concealed as Botan glanced around uncertainly. I saw the puzzlement in her face, as well as something else…something I was not used to seeing. Wistful regret? I knew that she was excessively cheerful in nature, though she was capable of utmost seriousness as well as selflessness when a dangerous situation was at hand. And she was also capable of showing deep concern and understanding. Like she did when I felt that she was probing my heart with her gaze… Yusuke and Kuwabara-kun regarded Botan as scatter-brained and even a little silly, and Hiei…well, he never did notice her much. Yet I've come to realize long before by watching her dedicated service to Koenma-sama and her strong sense of duty that Botan was formidable in her own right.
I stood my post until I saw Botan sigh and begin to walk away, her steps seemingly less jaunty than usual. Somehow, I felt a sharp pang in my heart as I saw her leave. Why do I feel as if I want to stop you, Botan? To tell you…to tell you the fears of a kitsune trying to be human…a youko with a vague past and an even more uncertain future. Yet I remained hidden from my perch atop a tree branch as Botan seemed smaller as the distance between us grew, until she had almost vanished from sight. I saw her glance back once, then heave her shoulder in a sigh as the finally disappeared in the distance.
I continued on my way to my university, all too aware that our meeting has done little to ease the concerns raging in my mind. I had always believed that I would live my life as a ningen as my mother would expect of Shuichi Minamino. Yet having to have fought in the Ankoko Bujutsukai and later against Sensui has given be a sense of purpose and a feeling of pride--at having been part of the defense of the human race I have come to appreciate and care for. A youko who has become all too human. How can you hope to survive in Makai when you return, Youko Kurama? I mentally berated myself, then heaved a weary sigh. Yet perhaps I will find another purpose there, as I once again gamble my life on each new quest, forging my destiny as my own.
But what was it I still sought? Greater power? Perhaps. To hold the great treasures of Makai within my grasp? Not a bad goal for a thief. Respect? A name that evoked both fear and hatred, depending on where I sought? Ah, but that I had. Youkai's admiration--both for a youko's skills and beauty. Yet deep in my heart I knew what I had in Ningenkai that I may not hope to find again in Makai. Love. A mother's love that has begun to thaw a heart of ice. An abiding sense of friendship that has given me purpose and from which I had drawn strength. I mentally laughed as I continued my walk through the park, knowing that I was nearing my university. Attending school…heh, something that is all too human. I suppose…I am too human.
I now realize that I cannot leave Ningenkai until I have done one thing.
That is when I can once again willingly embrace the knife of ice.
Sono Hi ga Motometa Keep on running / Longing for that day..
We are fighting Go on..
Usually, it would just be another normal evening in Ningenkai. Homework from the university. Some papers I have to accomplish for my stepfather's business. I stared out of my apartment window into the night sky. What wasn't normal was the ki that I felt from a watcher just outside my building. Not just any watcher, but a pretty girl with sky-blue hair and a pink kimono, sitting on an oar and soaring fifteen floors above ground level. I could sense the hesitation as my observer continued her silent vigil, and I was hesitant to acknowledge.
What are you so irresolute about, Kurama? My youko self seemed to be laughing at my human side.
Shut up! I retorted, frowning slightly. Why would I involve her in a life that is all too erratic?
Ah, so desu! The roguish kitsune smiled smugly. Then the problem isn't that you don't like her. The difficulty lies in the fact that you do.
What if I do? Shuichi retorted grumpily. It's not as if I can offer a life that is less than a gamble.
Let her decide. Youko implied simply. You have lived too long to not know that we each make our own path. We cannot choose for others. We can only hope that those whom we care for choose the best.
I sighed as I finally opened the window and peered into the night sky. I could sense Botan's presence from a distance, watching, yet seemingly determined to keep herself hidden from sight. It wasn’t as if I couldn't sense her. I stared at the glimmering stars overhead and at the pale yellow light streaming through my window. I had come to appreciate evenings in Ningenkai. They were generally peaceful, and the sight of the sky with all too unfamiliar stars made me appreciate the night even more. For in the future, I knew I must pass from this world and would never see them again.
"Botan," I called softly outside. Somehow knowing she would hear. "Please…might as well come in. It's a bit chilly out."
An embarrassed pause. Then I saw her slim form gliding in on her oar. I stepped aside from the window to allow her to enter. She did as she gave me one of her "perky" smiles that attempted to mask a slight blush on her cheeks. I was somehow amused at her slightly flustered expression. Yet I knew I was very glad to see her. She hurriedly packed her oar into wherever hidden place she usually stowed it in. I nodded to her as I bid her be seated.
"Ano…Kurama…gomen ne…" she blurted out, seating opposite me. "I hope you don't think I was spying or anything…Well, maybe I was….demo…I was, um…just trying to see if you were okay…"
"I appreciate the concern, I assure you," I replied easily. I watched the relief sweep through her face, followed by yet another cheery smile. "It wouldn't be Koenma-sama's idea now, would it?"
"Ah, iie," Botan replied hesitantly. "Um, it's my own, actually. I've been to Yusuke and Keiko's place earlier. They were as well as could be expected of both of them. So before I returned to Reikai…
"I wanted to visit yet one more good friend of mine. I really hope you don't mind."
"Of course I don't," I remarked, drawing a rose from my hair and handing it to her. She accepted it with a slightly flustered yet grateful smile. I returned the smile as she gingerly sniffed the fragrance. "And I hope you don't mind the gift. It's what little I can offer at the moment--"
"No, no, it's beautiful," Botan hurriedly protested. "And…it's so much a part of who you are, Kurama."
"I'm glad you see it that way," I replied. Then I stepped forward and grasped her hand, kneeling just in front of her such that our eyes met. "Demo…that simple rose can never match how beautiful you are, Botan-chan…"
"K…Kurama," she blurted out. She averted her gaze from mine but did not attempt to pull her hand free. I smiled at that. "Ano…arigato…demo…"
"It's true," I stated softly, squeezing her hand gently. Her eyes shifted back to meet mine. She has pretty eyes--sometimes I couldn't be sure if they were pink or deep purple, depending on her mood. Now, those eyes seemed to shift in shade from light to dark, betraying conflicting emotions. "And if there is any way I can convince you about it, I would."
"Kurama," she once again muttered my name, but this time with a fondness that touched and thrilled me inside.
"Botan," I somehow stated, admiring the strength and compassion of the person before me. We're really alike, you and I. You mask your strength through cheerfulness, and I mask my pain through strength. I found our faces somehow drifting closer until our lips almost touched.
Just an instant…to be with you, Botan. But do I dare risk so much when I feel there is so little I can give? A heart laced with ice, a life of danger more than anything else. Would you accept a youko's soul tempered by a human heart?
Just as suddenly as we were drawn together, we were both snapped from our reverie. Botan stared at me and shook her head sadly. I gave her a sad smile and could not say a word as she nodded to me as she produced her oar and mounted it in haste. I opened the window for her, still uncertain what I should say. Or if I should say anything. Yet I didn't want her to drift too far. Somehow, not letting her know that I care didn't feel right to me. And I have trusted my instincts too long to go against how I felt.
"I will go on fighting, Botan," I mumbled. I saw her pause as she sat perched on the windowsill. "And longing…that a day can come--will come…when I can offer you a future that is less of a gamble, and a life less grim…
"You are so much like the sunlight, Botan-chan--warm and cheery. Enough to melt a youko's frozen heart. But know that you are part of a youko's dream--my dream. And I will seek and fight for my destiny as much as someday I seek to win your heart."
"Kurama…" I heard her sigh. Then she gave a smile that seemed less sad and more hopeful. "If anything, I'm glad to hear that." Then she dismounted from her oar and approached me. She tiptoed and kissed my cheek gently. "Arigato."
Then once again, she mounted her oar and soared out of my window into the sky. But not out of my heart, Botan…never. I watched her dwindle away into the distance as she joined hundreds of glittering points in the sky.
"Kokoro no Izumi ni Kakaru Niji no Hashi o Miru Hi made,"I murmured. (Until the day when I see a rainbow bridge anchored at my heart...)
Then I smiled and drew the drapes over the window.
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