(Part II)

"Feh, there must be another way," muttered Kuwabara as he brought up the rear. They been crawling on their bellies in the mucky swamp behind Shureya's fortress. Hiei and Kurama had scouted earlier and indicated that there was a tunnel to the south, but the only way to reach it was through making it across the swamp unnoticed.

"Shut up, baka," Hiei hissed sharply ahead. The Koorime silently cursed himself for not tying the idiot to a tree before they left to track down Shureya. Not that Yusuke, Kurama and he couldn't handle whatever trouble came up.

"Nani?!" Kuwabara exclaimed, nearly pushing past Yusuke to grab the little fire demon.

"You heard me, and I meant it," Hiei replied with hostility. "We're nearing the fortress, and we'll need to be as quiet as possible in order not to wake the guards."

"Just deal with it later," Yusuke said smoothly. He mentally cursed that the two couldn't keep from bickering. For some reason, Hiei seemed to be more anti-social to Kuwabara than any of them.

Hiei snorted and fell silent. Kuwabara glared at the black-clad figures black but lapsed into silence as well. Kurama led the way, making use of his instincts and tracking skills. There was a small crack in the wall, but several youkai paced about the battlements, peering out into the darkness for any sign of intruders. So far, the three of them was covered with muck, and that made them near-invisible in the darkness. Not exactly the way I'd choose to do battle, Kurama thought wryly. Yet he would endure anything for Shiori.

He turned to face his three companions. He regarded them solemnly before quickly outlining his plan. Two were to cause a diversion and cause the guard to chase them, while the other two would sneak into the castle to find Shureya. It was agreed that Yusuke and Kuwabara will make some sort of noise to challenge the youkai, while Kurama and Hiei would make their way to the tunnel. The others nodded in agreement when Kurama finished speaking.

"Suits me fine," Hiei shrugged. "I can move a lot more silently that some oaf whose hair serves as a beacon a mile away."

"Chi, say what you want," Kuwabara replied darkly. Then he smiled. "At least Yukina likes me, which is more than I can say for you."

"Nani?!" Hiei gave him a look of death, drawing his sword. It made a steely hiss as it left its scabbard in the darkness. Kurama immediately placed himself between Kuwabara and Hiei, giving Kuwabara a dark look to match his friend's. Kuwabara smirked and went off in the other direction. Yusuke nodded to Kurama and Hiei before turning to follow his friend.

"I'll kill him," Hiei growled through clenched teeth. Yet in his heart he felt the stupid jerk was correct, in a way. He does not have Yukina--could never reveal to her that he was her brother. He valued her too much to taint her with the darkness that had become an inseparable part of him. No, better he stay away from her, even if she seemed to like Kuwabara, he thought bitterly.

"Daijobu?" Kurama said from beside him, his voice concerned. Hiei just nodded curtly before stalking off in the direction of the tunnel. Kurama sighed resignedly and followed the Koorime.

"Why did you push him, anyway?" Yusuke asked. Kuwabara hadn't stopped smirking since they left Hiei and Kurama. "You know how homicidal Hiei gets--and he's always singled you out as some sort of target." Though Yusuke thinks that he knows why.

"Can't stand him insulting me all the time," Kuwabara replied. "So I did him one better. I think he has some sort of crush on Yukina. When they see each other, he looks at her…I could swear he likes her very much, but just won't tell her. Not that he'd be her type, anyway." It always puzzled him why Yukina seemed to like Hiei in return, and made him feel more than a little jealous.

"Oh, you'd be surprised," Yusuke stated, grinning in the darkness. Too bad that Kuwabara was clueless about the relationship between Yukina and Hiei, though that was probably what Hiei would prefer. Kuwabara might blab about the secret to Yukina if he knew. "Anyway, just don't mention that again to him. Couldn't protect you if you provoked Hiei like that again."

 "If you say so," Kuwabara shrugged. Then he paused as they neared the outer wall of the fortress. There were several youkai gathered in the battlements, milling around carelessly. Kuwabara smiled briefly. This may be turn out to be easier than they initially thought it would be.

Yusuke followed Kuwabara's gaze, then he too smiled. The way the youkai were gathered, he could aim at a section of the wall and cause it to collapse, dragging the youkai with it. With a glint in his eye, he focused his reiki on his finger, grim satisfaction welling up within him. Now, how they would escape once the youkai gave chase was another issue. He just hoped Kurama and Hiei will be able to get Shiori out as soon as possible.

"Rei Gun!" Yusuke let out a yell, and a blast of energy emanated from his finger and sped toward the wall. A short moment later, a section of the wall exploded, and several youkai were hurled to their death. At that, Yusuke rushed from his hiding place, followed by Kuwabara. They stood a short distance from the wall, in full sight of the angry youkai milling around what remained of the battlements.

"Oi! Cowards!" Kuwabara called, grinning. "If you want a good fight, come and get us!"

That was apparently all the provocation the youkai needed, since the gate was flung open and more than three-score of enraged youkai poured out of the gate, some bearing clubs and stakes. Yusuke and Kuwabara sweatdropped, then raced off for the swamp. The youkai followed, bellowing angry curses. In the commotion, no one noticed two shadows making their way for the tunnel. Glints of red and green momentarily surveyed the scene, then were gone.

My heart was pounding as we rushed into the tunnel, Hiei moving like a silent shadow beside me. He still looked murderous, probably still bothered by Kuwabara's taunt. Still, Hiei could focus his anger, making him an extremely dangerous opponent. And seeing him in his current state, I don't envy anyone who would be foolish enough to stand in his way. Nor in mine, I thought. I was at least as enraged as my companion was, and I was determined to rescue my mother from Shureya.

My thoughts strayed back to another person from Koorime I once knew. Was her name Mariko? She had been quite lovely, though I did not know what became of her after we separated more than a hundred years back. I suddenly wondered if there was a connection. Hiei had reluctantly mentioned that Shureya had roots from Koorime, and if he knew Youko Kurama, then he must have had a grudge against me long before Shuichi Minamino came to be. But what would he be so enraged about? If he was some friend of Mariko's, there really was no issue. Mariko left me suddenly, after stealing one of the black gems I had back then at my lair.

At last, we reached the end of the tunnel, and we emerged into a dim corridor with a spiral staircase leading upward. I saw Hiei pause and his jagan flare for an instant, then he glanced at me and pointed to the stairs. I nodded and we began ascending rapidly. As we climbed, I could detect a faint familiar scent that made my heart leap. Okaa-san! I quickened my pace, and we were almost near the top. When suddenly, three burly youkai emerged from the darkness pointing huge iron pikes at us. My anger flared. I was in no mood for interruptions. I invoked my youko form. I blurred and charged, leaving three unconscious youkai in my wake. Hiei glanced at them briefly before following me. We reached the landing, and I saw a door close to the far wall. I rushed forward and flung the door open.

In time to see Shureya club my mother with his sword.

My mother sagged, but I could detect that she was still alive, for which I was extremely thankful. Then I shifted my gaze to Shureya and stared at him with baleful eyes. He snorted and smiled crookedly, his sword in his hand. Beside me, I could hear Hiei growl in response, his own hand resting on the hilt of his katana. He was about to rush forward when I stepped in front of him, effectively barring his way. I smiled coldly as Shureya even as I felt my hackles rise and my ears twitch slightly.

"So we meet at last," Shureya remarked softly, stepping forward. "I had so wanted to meet Mariko's defiler."

So I was right, I thought. But then, I never defiled her. She came to me, and we had an affair for a while. I'd even come to regard her with affection and admiration, but certainly not after she stole from me and left with the gem. But Shureya seemed convinced that I was some sort of monumental villain. The glint in his eye spoke of fervor verging on fanaticism. Clearly Mariko had been special to him.

"I'm no defiler," I retorted, eyeing him evenly. "Whatever your problem is, it did not have to involve my mother. But for dragging her into this, I'm afraid you will have to suffer."

"No more than Mariko had," he replied, stepping toward me, stopping not more than ten feet away. "She came back nearly insane! What have to done to her mind, fox?! Do you take what you can, then leave that person to the harshness of fate?"

I reflected, glancing at Shiori. Certainly, I had intruded into her life. I had used her to gain back my strength, and even planned on leaving her as soon as I felt it was time to return to Makai. But being human had marked and changed me. When once before, I could simply have left, I knew I couldn't now. Not without suffering pain and regret. Perhaps I had been colder and more uncaring as Youko Kurama. Yet those I have come to care for I tried to protect. Never tried to lead to disaster.

"I did not know what happened to her," I stated, "after she stole a black gem from me. That gem was a mind-stone, and that could have unhinged her senses. But I had nothing to do with it. I regret that she had suffered so, yet it was by her hand and not mine."

"I don't believe you!" he lunged forward with his sword, but I batted it aside and avoided the thrust. He tried to stab again, but a quick feint took him off-balanced, and a quick blow swept the sword out of his hand, to land with a dull "thunk" a few feet away. He glared at me with hatred.

"Believe as you like, but I'm telling you the truth," I remarked calmly. Hiei had been watching with quiet interest, and I nodded to him to free Shiori. He stepped toward her and sliced the chains. Shiori sagged against him, still unconscious. Hiei calmly laid her body on the floor.

The loss of his captive seemed to enrage Shureya more. A cold draft suddenly blew through the room, followed by hail. Sharp chunks of ice sped toward me, several managing to hit me and cutting through my skin. I smiled grimly and pulled a seed from my hair. Soon, I was facing my enemy with a demon-eater plant. Even as the barrage of hail intensified, I stepped toward him resolutely, ignoring the pain that lanced through me, willing my body to be calm. With eyes as cold as the ice he unleashed, I extended my hand and the gaping mouths of the plant's tendrils inched toward him. His eyes widened slightly and several ice-lances sped from his hand toward me. These too I batted aside.

"I should not let you live," I stated coldly, "since you hurt my mother. But for Mariko's memory, I may spare your life. Tell me that you wish to live, and it will be done. Never show your face to me again, in Makai or Ningenkai."

He glanced at the gaping jaws and snapping razor teeth, now merely inches from his face. Then he glanced at me and nodded, some of the fury fading from his gaze. I nodded grimly and withdrew the tendrils, and I willed them back into the seed, which I replaced in my hair. Then I turned and saw my mother stir slightly and moan. I stepped toward her to check on her.

Hiei's sword sped past me. And I heard a soft moan as it embedded itself on Shureya's chest behind me.

I glanced behind and saw that Shureya had formed an ice-pike in his hand, and was prepared to hurl it at my back. He stared dully at the hilt protruding on his chest, then pitched forward and fell heavily on the floor. I could sense that he was dead. Hiei brushed past me silently then retrieved his sword. He wiped the blade clean of blood before replacing it on its scabbard.

"You are too soft, Kurama," he remarked. "Traitors deserve to die."

"That is your judgement," I amended, inclining my head. "I gave him a chance, but he forfeit it." I knelt beside my mother and cradled her head on my lap. I gently stroked her hair and smiled when I saw her eyes flutter slightly.

She awoke staring into the golden eyes of a fox demon. She stiffened then drew away, her eyes wide and fearful. I sighed and shifted back into my ningen form, knowing that there was no way of hiding the truth now, and that she must know that Kurama and Shuichi aren't mutually exclusive. Her eyes widened further when Shuichi Minamino replaced the youko, and I saw even greater fear in her eyes. I reached for her, but she pulled back hastily, retreating further away. Her silent refusal has hurt me more than Shureya's ice attacks had.

"Okaa-san," I whispered imploringly. I felt hot tears stain my cheeks, but I ignored it. I met my mother's gaze, which softened slightly. I reached out again to touch her shoulder. She did not draw back this time, but she did not return the gesture either.

"So it's true, Shuichi," she murmured, now in tears to match my own. "Or should I now call you…Kurama?"

To hear my name being said by my mother felt strange. There was an odd catch in her voice. Part fear, part confusion…part pride? I swallowed as I saw her eyes glimmer momentarily. But I could now say or do anything. So I sat across her, bowing my head. She now knew that her son was partly kitsune. So far she had not refused or repelled me outright. Perhaps she still thought of me as Shuichi. Yet even a small gesture of affection would mean much. For it was her love that made me human. And I had become too human not to want--need--that love.

"Would you like me to explain?" I finally stated, willing me eyes to meet hers. She nodded slightly. "I don't know what Shureya told you, but yes…I'm not entirely human. I was--am--a youko…Youko Kurama. I fled to Ningenkai after I was wounded severely…and came to be your son." A lump formed in my throat, but I forced myself to continue. "I am also Shuichi Minamino, and I would like to tell you that I do love you, and would do anything for you.

"If…if you can no longer think of me as your son, please know that you'll always be my mother…always bear my love. I'm sorry if this…confession…hurt you in any way. I never wished you any harm. But now you know who and what I am. I only pray you will not hate me too much for it."

For a moment, silence filled the room. I had to bow my head, for I could no longer bear her gentle gaze. For I knew I had deceived her in a way, and she certainly deserved better. Yet she also deserved the truth, no matter how revealing the secret could destroy everything my ningen life had stood for. That it could shatter the future I hoped for. And that I could lose the love that had for me shaped my life in a way no other person has been able to. Nor could again.

"Shuichi Kurama?" I heard her voice from what seemed to be a long distance away, but I pushed aside my pain and met her eyes. I stared at her, knowing there was no way I could shield myself from her judgement. I saw her eyes flicker momentarily, as indecision passed through her. Then she took my hand from her shoulder and laid it on my lap. Panic welled in me, followed by a surge of sorrow.

Suddenly she smiled and embraced me. I was too shocked to react, even as I was aware of her warmth enfolding me. I sighed happily then returned her embrace, holding her to me tightly. Somehow, she has accepted me. And my fears seemed to evaporate as a faint glimmer of sunlight entered through the slanted window above.

"Okaa-san," I murmured, thankful that I can still call her than. I raised my head and saw that she was smiling. She lifted her had and touched my cheek gently, wiping away the tears that still hadn't stopped flowing. As was aware of Hiei watching silently, his slight form guarding the door against anyone who would intrude on us this moment. He too was looking away, and I could sense his discomfort, along with a grim sense of satisfaction as well.

"We are going home now, aren't we, Shuu-chan?" she murmured, and I nodded. I gently helped her on her feet as we stood to leave this dark place. She glanced at Shureya's limp form and shot me a questioning glance. I shook my head slightly. She glanced at Hiei and sighed.

"You deserve a nice long rest after this," I said ruefully, shaking my head. I still held her hand, and the comfort of having her near was very welcome. "I'm sorry if you got involved."

"So am I, but it's over now," she sighed, squeezing my hand slightly. Then she gazed at me and shook her head. "Now I know why you go off sometimes alone. You train, don't you? Well…just take care of yourself." She regarded me intently before smiling fondly. "You are still my son, and I don't want you hurt. In any way."

"I am your son," I affirmed, returning her smile. "And no one will hurt you again. I swear it."

It was a comfort now that I no longer had to hide my secret from my mother. We had returned to Ningenkai and I'd gone back to school, along with Yusuke and Kuwabara. Hiei had sternly stated that he will remain in Makai, then sped off without a word. But that was typical of the Koorime, so it was really nothing out of the ordinary. During the first few days of our return, my mother still seemed to be adjusting to the concept of an erstwhile fox demon living in her household, but soon after she almost seemed to have forgotten the whole thing. So I adjusted once again to the routine of going back to school then home, occasionally heading off trouble for Koenma. But nothing major came up, thankfully, and I was enjoying being Shuichi Minamino.

Then one day, mother presented me with a gift. It was nearing my birthday then, and I didn't really expect a present. Just her simple acceptance would have been more than enough. But she urged me to take the small packet and open it. Puzzled, I did so. And I was holding a silver necklace with a five-tailed fox pendant.

I glanced at her to the necklace, wondering what had prompted this gesture. She smiled and took the necklace from my hand. She then fastened it around my neck. I turned to the mirror and saw my reflection staring back at me. I still bore a look of surprise, but the necklace felt right. She came up behind me and smiled.

"I had this made for you," mother began, "I really thought you should have it. The jeweler thought it was a little strange, but then again, life hasn't been completely…normal…recently." She sighed ruefully. "Not that a little excitement once in a while isn't welcome, but I've had enough to last me a lifetime."

"Arigato, okaa-san," I stated, embracing her. Now there was no doubt in my mind that she had accepted that her son was part-fox. At least she hasn't mentioned the thief part, but I haven't been that for a while. And no matter what I came to steal after, it will never match the value of this single necklace and her even more remarkable love.

"Now you go eat dinner, Shuichi Kurama," she stated, taking my arm and leading me downstairs. "Even you can't stay up studying all night long without food."

"Nor could I go long without you," I said, kissing her cheek. A single tear coursed down her cheek. I wiped it away gently. She had shed tears for a silver-haired fox. Some from sorrow, but then she had also cried in joy. I glanced at the pendant and smiled. Yet for this woman I too had shed tears of silver. For she has melted a once-cold youko heart and thought me that tears can also be shed for love.

This fanfic is in response to a question my friend Kath posed on what if I did a fic where Shiori discovered who Kurama really was. A simple confession did not appeal to me as much, however, as having them in a dangerous situation where Kurama must show her his youko half. So there, the final part of this fanfic. This is non-yaoi fanfic. If you find any implications otherwise, that's certainly as valid an opinion as any. Comments, suggestions, anything--send to ryquest. I'd love to hear from you.


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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