Why do I hear your voice drifting in the wind? Why does every passing breeze that murmurs through my ears carry your gentle song?
I sigh. It has been far too long, I realize, since have I heard your laughter. Since I have seen you glance at me and smile. When I have seen you blush and stammer in confusion then finally beam with happiness and pride when I offered you that first rose. Ever since then, I have never come to look at any rose the same way again. At that point I knew I would never quite regard the rose – my favorite flower – in the same way ever again.
You see, you became the essence of the rose yourself in my eyes – beautiful, delicate, alluring. And from that day on, I was determined to make you my rose.
I’ve always prided myself with my skill with plants, with the way that I could command them. That I could make them grow and wither at will. Yet I wondered – how could I hope to nurture you as you deserve to be cared for? Yes, I was a tricky, cunning kitsune. Also a deadly thief, as well as a hunted, hated yet feared youko. But I didn’t see how those qualities of mine could hope to win you over.
No, I decided. You will not come to know me as Youko Kurama. I will win you as Shuichi-Kurama, as the ningen okaasan had helped mold me to be. Perhaps, that way, I will not bring you apprehension and uncertainty. Perhaps, then, I will be worthy enough to cherish you.
Courting you hasn’t been easy for me, I’ll have to admit. Human courting techniques are somewhat more…intricate than what I’d been used to as a youko. Furthermore, you weren’t an easy lady to court, Botan. For all your enthusiasm and cheerfulness, I could never have believed that you would be held speechless the first time I held your hand. That I could render you speechless with a single touch amused me, I must admit. Yet this new facet of you made you even more precious and ever so intriguing in my eyes.
And, just like every other rose, I saw the love and regard we held for each other bloom as we became closer, as a Reikai ferry girl and demon-turned-human youko from Makai found each other. Just as a rose bud slowly spreads its petals as it approaches the height of its life, it seemed to me you seemed all the more beautiful and grew dearer to my heart.
How does on truly describe happiness, I wonder? How does one put into words that feeling of utter closeness, of shared intimacy, of unparalleled contentment? The memories of those years spent with you in married bliss still stand out in my mind, and as I see them I feel as if I am a spectator, watching a poignant drama unfolding before my eyes. Scene after scene I try to grasp the deep satisfaction by a man and his wife, yet it is a drama I am no longer a part of, yet would give up anything to partake in once again.
Yet how could I also deny that through the years we spent together, I have tried to suppress the feeling of growing restlessness, that sense of unease. As the human body I held grew slowly succumbed to the passage of time, so the youko within me bridled for freedom. But the youko himself, I felt, shared a reluctance to leave a peaceful life it had taken him so long to gain and appreciate, and a woman he had grown to love with all his soul, yet knew he would inevitably lose.
"Do you realize, anata," you told me on the eve of our twentieth wedding anniversary, rosy eyes twinkling with amusement, "that I have managed to tame you well enough for you to stay on with me for twenty years?"
"Nani?! Tame me?" my eyebrows must have shot up several notches. Then I chuckled softly as I drew her into a gentle embrace. "Saa, I supposed you did just that – something that no one has ever done before. Except for okaasan."
"And Minamino Minako," she corrected me, laughing. I smiled with her as I recalled our blue-haired, green-eyed daughter who had her mother’s dauntless ebullient nature and my penchant for curiosity. A dangerous combination that had gotten her into trouble several times. But she was well loved by us both.
"Hai…Minako," I condescended. I held her fast, reveling in her closeness, in her scent that always reminded me of a newly sprung rose bud in spring. In the soft candlelight her hair seemed to glitter with silver highlights where touches of gray had made their way. My Botan may have grown older as have I, but never will she seem to me less desirable in any way.
We remained that way, she and I, as the small candle set in the middle of the dinner table gave the only light in the room we were in. I have sometimes wondered what it would have been if I had decided to leave behind my human life sooner, if I had gone back to Makai and regained the power and notoriety I once held. I would have missed out on so much, I knew. I wouldn’t have seen our daughter grow up to be a pretty and intelligent woman, and felt a pride I supposed only a father could ever know. I wouldn’t have been with my wife, and I wouldn’t have gotten to know the person who, underneath her cheery façade, held remarkable grace, wisdom and courage more than any woman I have ever come to know.
I also knew that all too soon our human lives together would end. Then she will be lost to me forever. At that moment it struck me that I did not want to go on living after she was gone. The youko cried out in alarm, but the human restrained him down. I sighed. Could I hope to follow her in the spirit world after she was gone?
As if she could read my thoughts – and I suspected she almost sometimes could – she glanced up and pinned me with her gaze. She sighed herself, then reached out and touched my cheek gently. She smiled, a smile tinged with sadness yet filled with unerring resolve. She drew back and held me at arm’s length. She gazed at me as if she was memorizing my every feature, every nuance, and every essence. I returned her gaze as I did the same.
"Kurama," she suddenly chimed in, "you…you’ve thought of leaving before, haven’t you?"
"Leaving you?" I replied, surprised. "You know I wouldn’t have – "
"Yes," she said, the corners of her lips twitching slightly into a smirk, "you became way too fond of me for you own good, kitsune. That was what I wanted to talk to you about.
"I’ve always known that some part of you retained that youko wanderer, the thief in the night who loved adventure and craved for power. Sometimes, at night, I wake up and find you staring out the window, your eyes distant, almost golden…and I know that you miss being so free, roaming, searching...
"I’d like you to be that way again, after I’m gone, Kurama. Let the youko roam free. I think you might as well take our daughter to Makai with you. She has your skill with plants, and I sense in her the very restlessness I sometimes feel in you."
"How can you ask this of me, Botan?" I grasped her shoulder, my eyes boring into hers, questioning, demanding. She met my gaze unflinchingly. "After the life we have lived together, how can you possibly ask me to live without you in my life? How can I possibly forget the times we’ve lived together, and just be Youko Kurama again?"
"I am not asking you to forget," she replied. She turned away from me and stared at the candle burning low on the table, almost spent. "Think of our life together as that candle over there. It only serves to give light for a short time, until it is spent. But what beauty it has illuminated in that short time! What light it given to the darkness!
"I want to know you are alive and well, Kurama. I’d like to know my husband and my daughter went on to live as the youkos they were meant to be. I’d be pleased if you could recall me as you run with the wind, its roar bringing my message to your ears. I’ve always been fond of music of the air, you see. It’s what has kept me company when I rode the skies on my oar. Every time I listen to the wind currents, I feel as if they bring me tidings meant for me.
"Listen to the song of the wind, koibito. I will whisper my love for you there, even in Makai. That is how you will remember."
"I will not forget," I said simply, "you will forever be my song." She at this smiled and reached up to kiss me.
It seemed to me the succeeding years went by too fast, Botan, years that were not long enough for me to have let you just how much I cared for you. I wanted to let you know that you had in fact tamed me, and that the treasure I sought was none other than your company. Minako and I cared for you as best we could, though we knew that Makai waited, and you had another destination you were bound for. I knew you would not have an unpleasant stay in the spirit world; Koenma would certainly see to that. I dreamt that our daughter and I could one day meet you there, where we would have many stories to tell -- tales that would make you proud of us both.
When, at last, you had lain peacefully in my arms, pink eyes slowly drifting to a close. Tears gently falling down your cheeks, seemingly tracing the path where my finger had tread earlier tracing the smoothness of your skin. Since with one final sigh, you have smiled at me with such vulnerable tenderness…and said goodbye.
"Sayonara…koibito. Remember your promise. Remember…to never let the song of your life remain unsung."
How strange, that in the hundred years that have passed since then, I can scarcely forget how your voice had sounded at that moment. Its soft, melodic timber still fills my ears, as if you were still here with me, reminding me of the moment when I knew with such finality we would never again be together.
How peculiar, that your farewell has given me the strength to live again.
Yet another sort-of-angsty K+B fanfic. Seems it's what I've been writing lately, but anyway, it's also kind of how I see Kurama and Botan's relationship. Ah well. ^^ For any comments/suggestions, please feel free to mail me. Flames remain unread and frozen accordingly.
Yu Yu Hakusho is a copyright of Yoshihiro Togashi / Shue Isha Fuji TV, Studio Pierrot. This fanfic is for non-commercial, entertainment purposes only.