Visiting Forces (Part I)
Kurama turned as one of his girl classmates approached him, with a blush on her face. Oh no, I've seen this scenario replayed about a hundred times, he thought. Ending's always been the same, though. He smiled amiably and gave a little nod. In truth, he had to get home before his mother got too worried about him. Not that Shiori Minamino really had something to be worried about, since Kurama was quite capable of taking care of himself (barring unforeseen circumstances, of course). But she loved him, and had always been concerned about her son. Kurama knew that he'd stayed too long at the library, researching for a school paper. He repressed a sigh, but he did not want to be impolite.
"What is it, Nurina-san?" he remarked, slightly amused at how she looked down and refused to meet his gaze. He knew he was attractive by ningen standards (and he had been considered desirable as a youko), but it never failed to amuse him whenever his normally talkative girl classmates stammered at the sight of him.
"Ano…I was wondering if you would consider watching a movie with me…" she finally blurted out, now blushing even more. "There's this kawaii love story playing at the moment, and…"
Kurama had to use his extraordinary sense of self-discipline to avoid groaning. He got these offers a lot--either a movie, or a snack, even dinner, or been invited to a house or two. He mostly turned them down politely but firmly, since he did not want to be involved in one of these little affairs. As Youko Kurama, he had had quite a number of lovers, but he found it hard to be as carefree about relationships in Ningenkai. Perhaps because he had come to value them more. He sighed inwardly as he thought of Maya.
He had rather liked Maya, and been able to talk to her in an easy, comfortable manner. He felt uneasy about her strong spiritual sense, since she could detect the presence of youkai, and he did not want to get her into trouble just because she was close to him. But she had gotten into trouble, and he had rescued her. They had a short relationship, and he had cared for her, but ultimately he had said goodbye. It was dangerous for her to be around me. She might become a target of my enemies. And she might discover the truth I've kept hidden from others about myself.
So now, Kurama was mostly alone. He had his mother, of course, for whom he would gladly give his life for without hesitation. He had his fellow Rei Kai Tantei--Hiei, Yusuke and Kuwabara. They were allies, comrades, and very good friends. Particularly Hiei, the little fire demon, his best friend, who was no stranger to Makai. Romantically though, he did not wish to be involved with anyone in particular. He had felt the yearning for intimacy, of course, but he never gave way to it. He just didn't feel ready for any overly serious commitment.
And so Kurama smiled at the girl and shrugged. "Gomen ne, Nurina-chan," he began, "but okaa-san is expecting me soon. Perhaps next time?"
He could sense her disappointment as she nodded and went the opposite direction. Kurama mentally rolled his eyes and headed for home. At least Shiori had not pushed her into any sort of relationship, though she had hinted that it was perfectly normal for a boy his age to have a girlfriend. Oh mother, he laughed inwardly. I am older than you will ever be, in actuality, and have had girlfriends…and more. But as Shuichi Minamino, my place is by your side and my duty is to be your son, aside from being a Rei Kai Tantei. Love will have to wait.
Kurama arrived home and stepped through the door, calling out "Tadaima!" as he entered the house. He could hear Shiori's short reply of "Okaeri!", but was surprised when he found her entertaining guests. When she saw him, she immediately approached him and grabbed his arm, then hauled him inside to be seated. He glanced at the guests, suddenly uncomfortable from the appraising look in their eyes and from Shiori's apparent unease. He studied them in silence. One was a man in his mid-fifties, with black hair streaked with gray in many places, a short-trimmed beard, horn-rimmed glasses and hard, angular features. The girl seated beside him was obviously his daughter, since they shared the same angular features. But her face softened into a warm, easy smile, and she had sparkling blue eyes and an adorable bow-shaped lip that curved nicely when she smiled. But just who were they, and what are they doing here, studying me like a side of beef or something?
"Allow me to introduce my son, Shuichi," she said as she introduced him to the guests. The man nodded slowly, and the girl eyed him apprehensively with a shy smile. "Shuichi, these are Takayama-san and his daughter, Miria.
"Oh, incidentally, she happens to be your fiancee."
"M-my…fiancee?" Kurama mumbled in shock. He'd known that his mother loved surprising him on occasion, but this?! How come I've never been informed? And I never saw her before in my ningen life! He turned a questioning glance at his mother, seeking an explanation. Shiori shook her head and laid an affectionate hand on his shoulder.
"You see, Shuichi," Shiori began as Kurama stared at the girl in veiled agitation, "Takayama-san was a close friend of your father. At that time, his wife was also pregnant almost the same time that I was. Your father made an agreement with him that should we give birth to a boy and a girl, the children would be instantly betrothed. Unfortunately, I never came to tell you since their family moved away all of a sudden, and then your father died and we lost contact with them. But apparently, they've come back to Japan to honor the agreement. And we are honor-bound to abide by your father's promise.
"And…you and Miria are to be married in two months."
Kurama could only nod dumbly and smile politely while his mother explained the details of the betrothal arrangement. In truth, he was not exactly in the mood to be married, much less to an unknown girl. I have to talk to okaa-san about this before this gets too far. All throughout dinner, he'd been silent, talking only when they asked him to volunteer information. He had asked to retire to bed early, claiming that he was exhausted and not feeling well. It was a lame excuse, he knew, but he needed time to sort out his thoughts.
He whipped out his books and began answering his homework. He could barely read, though, as the thought of impending doom kept racing on his head. I'm not going to be married. I'm not. He wondered how her mother could betray her like this, making arrangements she had never consulted her about. Maybe because she's always wanted me to have a girl in my life. But then again, forcing things had never been her way. Perhaps it was honoring the memory of the father he had never come to know. Still, he felt cheated, and more than a little upset.
A knock broke him out of his reverie, and he turned to find Shiori Minamino standing apologetically near the doorway. She brought in a tray of food and set it down on the table. He fixed a questioning and slightly accusing glance and him, and Shiori was forced to look down. Though his son had always been intelligent, well mannered and even gentle, she suspected that there was strength in him that she had never been aware of. That he did not want her to be aware of. Still, she did owe him an explanation, much more an apology.
"Sumimasen, Shuu-chan," she said softly, gently embracing her son from behind. "I know this comes as a surprise to you, and I'm not exactly approving of it, either. However, we appear to be indentured to Takayama-san more than we can afford to pay, and frankly speaking, I don't know what to do."
Kurama nodded slowly, understanding in his eyes. He cared for Shiori very much, and would obey her wishes without fail, had the circumstances been different. I wonder if I can steal enough money to pay for our debt? Shouldn't be hard for a skilled thief. Still, he sighed, and smiled at Shiori warmly. I can never afford to disgrace or disappoint you, okaa-san. You taught me just how valuable love can be, and I'm extremely grateful for that.
"Well, is there any way out of the agreement at all?" he mused, his brow slightly furrowing in thought. "It's not that she isn't pretty, but I just can't marry like this, okaa-san!"
"There is a way," Shiori stated, amusement sparkling in her eyes. "She has to willingly refuse the marriage. If that happens, our debt is cancelled, and you're free to marry whomever you want. Otherwise…" She had to shrug. There really wasn't much about her son to refuse.
"Hmm…I see," Kurama remarked slowly. Then he stood and embraced her, then kissed her forehead. "Don't worry, okaa-san. I'll find a way to ease the burden of the situation somehow." Then, he gently led her out the door and closed it behind him.
So, just how much of the wily fox is left in Shuichi Minamino? Kurama lay on his bed and thought. You haven't survived on your wit all this time for nothing, kitsune. Making a girl dislike you should be the least of your troubles. An enigmatic smile crossed Kurama's face. It was going to be a very interesting courtship.
Yusuke and Kuwabara spotted Kurama standing near a wall not far from the restaurant where they hung out after classes. He had been constantly glancing at his watch, and looked quite different from usual. Normally, the red-haired youkai kept himself as pristine as possible, graceful and elegant as always. Today, however, they noted that his pink uniform was more wrinkled than usual, and that his hair was in a state of disarray. Yusuke nudged Kuwabara with an elbow, and they continued watching Kurama fiddle in the corner, apparently waiting for someone.
Then, a black-haired girl wearing a sleeveless blue dress which came to the knee approach the youkai. They saw Kurama nod brusquely, then grab the girl's hand and summarily ushered her into the restaurant. He quickly pulled her into a corner spot, then arrogantly snapped his fingers at the waiter and growled for the menu. Yusuke noted that the girl was quite attractive, but Kurama was certainly acting strange. Suddenly, the youkai's intense green eyes met his, and he thought he saw the ghost of a wink and a mischievous little smile that vanished in an instant. The girl obviously hadn't noted the exchange, and Yusuke noted absently that she seemed to be pouting and more than a little uneasy.
"Urameshi," Kuwabara nudged Yusuke, glancing at Kurama and his unknown companion. "Who's the girl with Kurama?"
"I have no idea," Yusuke stated, his voice barely above a whisper. "But he's certainly doing his best to act like a rude, mean slob. Which we know for a fact that he isn't."
"Blind date, don't you think?" Kuwabara grinned, and Yusuke had to grin back. "She's not half-bad, though. I wouldn't mind going out with her, but I wouldn't want to hurt Yukina's feelings by going out with someone else."
"Haven't seen him go out on dates before, though," Yusuke mused. "He hangs out with Hiei sometimes, but that youkai is even more unpredictable than Kurama." Then, an evil little smirk crossed his face. "What say we approach him and find out just what this 'date' is all about?"
The two ningen rose and approached their handsome, red-haired teammate. As they approached, they saw Kurama scowl, though the expression seemed so alien to his face. He gave them a curt nod as the girl turned and glanced from the newcomers to her apparently reluctant companion. The expression turned into a growl as the two came nearer, but the girl even seemed to smile and blush. Yusuke and Kuwabara exchanged glances, while Kurama suppressed the desire to pull out his Rose-Whip and yank them off their feet.
"Oi, Shuichi," Yusuke called as he slapped Kurama on the back, almost causing the slender youkai to pitch forward. "Didn't expect to see you here. With a girl."
"Miria-san, these idiots are Yusuke and Kuwabara," Kurama remarked nonchalantly, secretly pleased at the sudden frowns that appeared on their smirking faces. "And this is Miria Takayama, who happens to be my fiancee."
The draws of both dropped, and Kurama laughed at their wide-eyed faces. He turned to Miria and winked. The girl blushed and eyed the two with apprehension. Sighing, Kurama poked Yusuke, who seemed to have come out of his shock enough to shove his jaw back in place. Kuwabara, however, remained staring at Kurama like a gaping ape, until Yusuke snapped his jaw into a more normal position for him. A huge sweat drop formed on Yusuke's head, as his gaze shifted from the girl to Kurama. Finally, with a determined look on his face, he grabbed Kurama by the arm and pulled the youkai out of the restaurant, leaving the wide-eyed girl behind. Kuwabara glanced behind and waved at the girl, then followed both out.
Once they were out of earshot into the street, Kurama dragged his arm free from Yusuke's grasp. A moment later, Kuwabara caught up with both of them. Kurama glanced from one aghast face to the next, then smiled and jammed both hands into his pockets. He leaned against the wall thoughtfully, wondering if his plan of appearing like a crude high school ningen student work. Miria didn't object too much to his appearance, and even seemed to like him despite the fact that he did look more than slightly disheveled. There's no telling how ningen girls would react sometimes.
"Nan de, Kurama?! How can you keep this a secret from us?!" Kuwabara exclaimed. "How the hell did you manage to keep her hidden?!"
"It wasn't my idea," Kurama muttered, glancing at the door. He wondered if she'd come to fetch him or what. "My late father, whom I never even met, arranged a marriage his future unborn son -- who just happens to be me." He heaved a sigh. Just when I thought ningen life was almost perfect with mother. "I'm trying to see if she doesn't like seemingly boorish men."
Yusuke and Kuwabara patted each other in the back, howling in laugher. It took Kurama's incredible store of patience and self-restraint not to let loose his blood-sucking plants. He silently rolled his eyes and cursed under his breath. I had to tell these two all about my engagement, didn't I? Oh well. As if I could expect sympathy from them. Everyone is bound to find out, eventually. He winced a little at that thought. At least it'll stop the others from chasing me for a while.
"So ka," Yusuke finally muttered, still clutching at his stomach, laughing. "So do you like her or what?"
"It's not as if I hate her," Kurama said, then sighed as he saw Miria leaving the restaurant. Spotting them, she began to take purposeful steps in his direction. Then his voice dropped to a whisper. "But she's not going to make me marry her, either."
"Shuu-chan," Miria said as if she was scolding a little boy. "Leaving me like that! I'll tell otou-san!!!" Then her eyes misted as if she was about to cry. "Waaahhh!" The next minute, she was slumped in the sidewalk, crying.
A huge bead of sweat formed on Kurama's forehead. Now what? She's acting like a little girl. Shimatta. He bent down and gently grasped her shoulders. She peered at him through tear-stained eyes. He attempted to smile even as he felt the urge to shake her. Still, he did have manners…and he did leave her alone in the restaurant, so…
"Sumimasen, Miria-san," he said, attempting to sound regretful and sincere. Behind him, he could sense Yusuke and Kuwabara shaking in silent laughter. "It won't happen again. I'll make it up to you somehow. No need troubling your otou-san!" Unless you're going to tell him to quit this entire arrangement deal.
"Oh, Shuichi!" she threw her arms around his neck and snuggled up to him. The sweat drop grew larger and Kurama blinked. "I knew you were nice! And so kawaii!"
"Uh…ano…whatever you say," he stammered, then gently helped her to stand. "Come on, I'll take you home for now."
"But we have to go on another date tomorrow, okay?" her eyes were pleading and her voice seemed so small. She really is like a child in some ways.
"Sure, if that's what you want," Kurama said cheerfully, although he felt as if a bunch of youkai had just stomped over him. She smiled happily and linked her arms to his. Then she began to lead him away.
"Ja ne!" she waved at Yusuke and Kuwabara, then dragged Kurama up the street while he was still shouting "matte!". The two remaining ningen merely shook their heads in astonishment.
"Somehow he doesn't seem to be the marrying type," Kuwabara remarked. "Think he'll actually settle down because of this?"
"Who knows?" Yusuke shrugged. "Let's just wait and see what happens from here. Come on, let's get back to the food. I'm still hungry."
As the two walked away, they missed the slim figure of a short, dark-haired youkai outlined against the sun. Hiei stood atop a tree, and had watched the whole event. His usual impassive face borne no hint of expression, though his eyes gleamed in the afternoon sky. Then, he "hmph!"ed and soared into the sky, blurring with speed as he moved about.
"I've more important things to do than watch you, Kurama," he muttered. The youkai's black robes fluttered in the breeze as he observed the form of Kurama and the girl moving off in the distance. Then, he smirked. "Stupid fox. You've gotten yourself into trouble again. I wonder if you've finally been hunted down for good."
Yu Yu Hakusho is a copyright of Yoshihiro Togashi / Shue Isha Fuji TV, Studio Pierrot. This fanfic is for non-commercial, entertainment purposes only.