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Awaken the Dawn
Chapter 4: Once Again

by Korogi
**Standard Disclaimers**

   That single, thin dark blue eye greeted Hiei and Yo-mawari, a deep
reminder of just who they were dealing with when they had entered the
spacious office.  Years upon unending years of turmoil rode in that
single eye, it's partner covered and wrapped tight by an opaque, light-
blue disk.  Cords and tubes ran from under the light blue eye piece to
disappear into the folds of vibrant purple clothing, tracking off out of
sight to who knows where.
   Simply sitting at her desk, Mukuro looked ever as deadly serious as
she ever had, watching the two men in black walk calmly into her
office.  Around her, plaster and dry wall stood nailed to the walls of the
spacious office, lying only half finished and painted in a dull, dead grey,
eating up the overhead lighting.  Boxes and odds and ends cluttered
shelves and her desk, displaced from their homes temporarily until
proper storage could be found for some of Mukuro's valuables.
   "Have a seat," she said quietly, her low soft voice barely audible over
a clamor of construction outside the open door.
   Hiei nodded his head, an ever so slight movement of his little brow as
he tossed the door shut, slamming out the noise and plunging existence
into a blank silence.  Beside him, he felt Yo-mawari shift uneasily, a
sideways glance to the taller figure catching the glimmerings of the
three shuriken's that perched atop  his shoulder.  Slight fluctuations in
their color, reflections of light: Hiei had come to learn quickly how to
read them when he was too lazy to open his mind.  There was no doubt
in the Koorime's mind that the little youkai's were not pleased with
seeing Mukuro again, no matter the reprimands Yo-mawari most likely
gave them back.
   Taking a deep breath, Hiei rounded past Yo-mawari and sank swiftly
into one of the three chairs that faced Mukuro's desk.  His decent was
so forceful and vicious that the chair snapped in protest under him, one
of the little shurikens tumbling from his shoulder and into his lap.  It
spun quickly, regaining it's balance and adjusting itself on Hiei's thigh
carefully before it rolled back up his arm.  The little prickles from the
razor-sharp edges set Hiei's hair on end, a cold chill running through his
body before the little living weapon reclaimed its place and fell into
silence.
   And so, it would begin.  Hiei was sure Mukuro would help him.  At
least he thought so.  But he wasn't sure how he would get around to
that.  Plans had been running through his head since they set out on this
voyage, every good plan quickly shot down by Hiei's own mind, giving
possible reasons why Mukuro would object.  But still, he had to try.
   "I would not have expected you to come to me, Hiei.  It's usually the
other way around.  Something troubling you?"  Mukuro leaned back in
her chair, steepling her fingers before her as she reclined, looking
around them to the fire demon.
   "Hn."
   The woman barely smiled, blinking the thin, blue eye back around. 
"Tell me what brings you here, Hiei."
    "He does," Hiei answered - more or less growled - his response,
throwing a thumb over to Yo-mawari standing aside from another
office chair, partially hidden by the office furniture.
   The WatchMan stumbled as he sat down into his chair, his mouth
flapping open like a fish out of water as he thought quickly to regain
control of his mind.  He still didn't quite know if he trusted Mukuro or
not, despite the fact his meijin now put full trust back into the woman.   
"I guess you could say the team needs some help," Hiei answered for
him, allowing a few seconds of breathing room as the youko recovered.
   "The team?"  Mukuro eyed Hiei mischievously for a second, but it
soon faded, returning the woman's face to its usual straight and utterly
professional facade.  "What's going on?"
   "There's no time to go into details, Mukuro.  But Yusuke seems to
believe both the Makai and Ningenkai are in danger of an invasion."
   "Invasion?  Explain."
   "'Wari?"  The cold, red eyes turned slowly to the black haired double
of Kurama.  Yo-mawari would need to explain things because Hiei was
at a loss for words on exactly what was going on.  All he knew was
Yo-mawari was in danger and Kurama was going to help.  That was all
the reason the youkai needed to go.  Kurama and Yo-mawari were two
of the most important people in his life; he would fight for them in any
battle.
   Yo-mawari cleared his throat and adjusted himself in the chair,
leaning forward to force himself to look Mukuro straight in the eyes...
or, 'eye' for that matter.  "This will take some time to explain.  Have
you got a few minutes to spare?"

   "Do I have to!?" Toge whined as Yusuke ruffled his little ears,
scooting him along down the hallway as he toted little Bara in his other
arm, cradling her to his chest.
   "Hai.  We've all agreed that you three are staying here until we get
back.  THEN we see about punishments for disobeying us."  Yusuke
blinked quickly and stood up, frowning down the hall as they followed
Yomi.  
   "Nan da, Yusuke?"  Kurama spoke softly, Kiroshu sitting on his
shoulders.  The little kit laid hunched over on Kurama's head, his little
arms dangling down to his father's shoulders.  He looked very
displeased in everything, frowning and grumbling to himself as they
walked, flopping as if he was a rag doll laid over his father's head.
   "I don't believe it..." Yusuke awed to himself, chuckling and brushing
a stray strand of gelled, black hair from his forehead.  "I'm starting to
sound like my mom!"
   Kurama chuckled loudly, reaching up to tug on Kiroshu's little arms,
Kuwabara joining them both in a quiet laugh.  This could very well be a
hard time for the both of them.  Not only would they have to leave their
children behind, but in the company of almost complete strangers.  The
kits had never until now even heard so much as a word about this
Shura... and what each kit got about the wizard Yomi from their
respective parents conflicted at every turn.  Was he a sadist, or was he
trusting?
   Kuwabara snorted and adjusted his hair a bit, catching up to fall into
stride beside Yusuke, standing a full head above his school buddy and
fighting partner.  "Oi oi, just where are we going anyway?" he spoke
up, yelling up the corridor to Yomi a few steps down the hall.
   "Your three kits may stay in Shura's company while we're away. 
We're going to his chamber."
   "Shura?"
   "My son," the wizard added calmly, pulling the group down another
hall.  "He's much older than the twins or Kurama's little kit, but he's the
only one in the city I would trust at this point with their well being. 
He'll keep them safe, I can guarantee that."
   Toge snorted and crossed his arms before him as he walked. 
Arrogant and self-righteous, he closed his eyes and lowered his head,
using his senses to lead him on step by step.  "I don't like this already,"
he snorted, seconds before Yusuke's hand plopped back on his little
head again to ruffle his hair.  The kit sighed and tried to fend of
Yusuke's hand, swatting and giggling as his vision was overcome by his
long, light hair, blinding him.
   Bara giggled along with her twin above, crawling through Yusuke's
arms, small, chubby fingers grabbing through the air in attempts to grab
her brother's hair.  It only took a few seconds for Yusuke to realize
what she wanted before the young man decided to release her, flying
her through the air like an airplane to dive bomb her brother.  She
chuckled and squealed, bouncing down to the floor to give Toge's tail a
good yank, nearly pulling him off his feet.
   Once again, the twins began to play and tease each other, running
around Yusuke and Kuwabara's feet as they did.  The two young men
nearly fell flat on themselves as they tried to avoid stepping on the kits,
shooing them along down the hall.
   Above, Kiroshu still moped on Kurama's head, watching absently the
twins below him as they laughed and played.  He signed and snuggled
with the wild strands of red hair, like bloody streaks in his vision, more
of a morbid scene than a comforting one.  He just wanted to go with
Kurama and Hiei no mater where they went.  He didn't care.  There
was no getting around it.  If it took every last ounce of strength and
will he had left, he would follow his papa into Yomatsu.  No questions
asked.
   A soft hand reached up and smoothed over Kiroshu' little head,
tickling at his kitsune ears with a light, gentle graze like wisps of warm
wind.  "Kiro-chan.  Things will be okay, don't you worry," Kurama's
soft, sultry voice floated up, wrapping through the air.
   "No they won't.  You and 'tousan are leaving.  Things won't be
okay."
   "Stop saying that, we'll all be just fine.  You heard what Yusuke said. 
No one's going to die."
   "He's lying!"
   Yusuke snapped his head up to the kit as Kurama tugged on one of
Kiroshu's little ears.  "I was not lying, Kiro," Yusuke said solemnly and
seriously, momentarily forgetting about the kits playing before him.  He
nearly walked all over Bara as she tripped, Kuwabara reaching out to
smack Yusuke in the chest, halting his pace until Yusuke could correct. 
"With every last breath I have, the team WILL come back alive, your
fathers included.  Do you understand?" he finished, reaching down to
tug Bara back to her feet, sending her back off to the play.
   Kiroshu snorted and turned away from Yusuke as they all finally
entered a large room, a variety of children's toys collecting dust on the
shelves beside them.  Yusuke had remembered meeting Shura once,
finding the little kid cute, but very arrogant, centered more on his
powers than anything else.  The room reflected that, being large and
vast, furnished in extravagant furniture and knickknack.
   And even the  ruthlessness and deadly power of the child shone
through in the room.  Some of the toys laid in smoldering heaps off in a
corner, grossly disfigured or decapitated.  It wasn't exactly the most
welcoming sight, and both Yusuke and Kurama began having second
thoughts about leaving their respective children with the little S-class
child of Yomi's.  They had seen the ruthless, raw uncontrolled power
that Shura had released during the Makai Tournament, and against his
own father no less.  With deadly force, the youngster had thrown
everything he had to Yomi in hopes  of  defeating him, not caring for
the simple fact that there was virtually no way an S-class could ever
hope to defeat and kill an A-class ruling youkai.
  Kurama shivered as did Yusuke at the memories of watching that
battle on the giant video screens, played full view for them all to see. 
Yomi felt the sudden uneasiness that stirred from the two around him
but dismissed it, instead he motioned the others to wait by the door as
he padded silently into the room.
   All was strangely quiet, uninhabited.  It seemed like one of those
carnival rooms at the traveling circus, everything just oddly out of place
and disturbing.  As they looked, the three felt Yomi's ki flare suddenly,
drifting a subtle energy around them to stalk the shadows.  He was
hunting.  The ki bounced around the room before dissipating, the walls
of the child's room radiating heavy wards to keep Shura's bouts of
temper tantrums from destroying that end of the city.
   Boldly yet calmly, Yomi walked off  into the child's chambers,
heading straight for the back of the long, white room.  He didn't seem
to be all that tuned to looking for his son.  Instead, he stopped in the
middle of the room and waited, as if the boy would come to him. 
"Shura?" Yomi spoke up calmly, his smooth, soft voice echoing about
the room to grow to monstrous proportions, reverberating back to the
six quests behind him.  "Doko wa..."
   Without warning or noise, a desk flew like the wind straight for the
back of Yomi's head... but it shattered into pieces under Yomi's quick
defense, scattering to clang onto the floor in splintered wooden pieces. 
In the loud explosion of the chair, a young child stood, not in the center
of the room, but a few yards off from his father.


  Shura stood silently, watching his father search with his ears around
the room a bit before narrowing in on the youngster.  He stood almost
waist high to Yomi, a single small horn  protruding from his forehead
to part his short, black hair.  A set of pointed ears sprung out and back
from his temples,  quite elven and graceful in appearance.  Shura was
just about an exact replica of what Yomi must have looked like as a
child, right down to the thin, blue eyes, full of calculating intelligence as
they watched the wizard 'watching' them.
   "Nan da, papa?" Shura spoke quietly, almost a whisper, deliberately
using the warded walls to bounce his voice into legendary proportions.
   "Shura."  Yomi took a calm step forward, slowly, keeping his senses
peeled for his son's lightning-fast actions, bowing his head  in a barely
noticeable jerk to show his greeting.  "How would you like company
for a few days?  Some other children to play with?"
  Shura's little blue eyes lit up a bit, his head jerking quickly to Yusuke
and Kurama... and the three kits, the light in his eyes fading quickly to a
dull shine. "K'so, youko's," he huffed.
   "Shura," his father scolded, stepping forward more swiftly now to
cross the room, standing above the young boy.
   "Papa.  What's going on?  Why are Kurama and Yusuke-san back?"
   "I'm going on a mission with them and I would like you to keep their
children company until I return."
   "Mission?"  Shura cocked his head to the side and watched his father
carefully.  "What if I don't want to... what if I want to go with you?"
   "You can't."
   "Why not?"
   "Because I said so"
   "So what!?"
   Yusuke grumbled and leaned over, tugging playfully at Kiroshu's
sleeve as he looked to his redheaded companion.  "See what we have to
look forward to?" he pointed as Shura began to raise his voice to his
father, Yomi seemingly indifferent to the child's bellows.
   "Hai," the other laughed, wrapping long, sender fingers around
Kiroshu's ankles.  "Hopefully our children will be more behaved?"
   "Yeah.  At least their past the 'waking-up-at-2-am' phase and..."
   Yusuke and Kurama suddenly snapped their head to the side to look
at each other... and then laughed.  "Listen to us!"
   "You're worse than parents," Kiroshu grumbled, flopping back to lay
on Kurama's head in a defeated little exhale of air.  
  "Ah!!  Nan desu de!!" Yusuke yelled, stumbling back a step, staring at
the little kit as he moped on his father's head.  "What do you mean by
THAT!"
   Chuckling, Kurama lifted Kiroshu off his shoulders in an attempt to
set him on the ground.  Instead of obeying, Kiroshu whined and
grasped into Kurama's arms, twisting and wriggling back up to his
father's chest until he got the idea.  Kurama bundled the kit back into
his arms, watching with an amused pleasure as the kit cuddled under his
neck, pulling the long, silken red hair over his little silver head, hiding
under Kurama's fiery mane.
   Leaving him behind would not be an easy task.  In fact, now more
than ever Kurama didn't know if he could go through with plans and
leave Kiroshu behind.  Seriousness flowed into his mind, hardening his
face and soul.   This was the real thing.  From here on out all their
destinies would be decided, played out in the next battle that was
looming on the horizon.
   Kurama felt himself tense,  curling his arms around the kit in a tighter
embrace, closing down the large, emerald-green eyes of Minamino
Shuuichi to cloud his vision over in blackness.  He couldn't take
Kiroshu into the thick of battle with him; but neither could he leave him
behind off in Yomi's sector of the Makai.  He thought about taking
them all to Kuraihana's house off in the woods, he was almost certain
his niece and long-time friend Kuronue  would take care of them
without any questions asked.  But the house was about a days journey
from the city, 10 hours at the least.  Ten hours they did not have...
    "Uh.. Kurama?  Dou shita no?" Yusuke's voice lifted, low and
cautious as if a large bird of prey had swooped down to sit on his
friend's shoulder.  Cautious as if something about Kurama had suddenly
changed.
   Slowly, Kurama opened his eyes to find streaks of silvered hair
dappling his vision.  It wasn't Kiroshu's hair - but his own.  It took only
seconds for him to realize he stood now in full Youko form, tightly
embracing his smaller, almost identical son to him, each figure flowing
into the other like a never-ending expanse of sparkling white.
   "Yusuke..." the deeper yet still slightly feminine voice spoke softly. 
"I can't leave him... I won't leave him.  Kiro-chan needs me..."
   "Kurama!"  Yusuke picked his way over to the youko carefully,
positioning himself before Kurama to stare him directly in the face. 
Enough ruthless wit was placed behind those gold eyes to drive off a
heard of blood-thirsty youkai, but yet they could not even phase
Yusuke's toughened soul.  The young man reached out and grabbed
Youko Kurama's shoulders, giving him a firm shake as if the gyration
would knock some sense back into the centuries-old kitsune.  "Listen
to yourself.  Do you even realize what you're saying?  Absolutely no
way are we taking children into Yomatsu!"
   "He's not a child!" Kurama snarled back viciously, the deeper voice
booming through the chambers to order complete silence.  One by one,
every set of eyes (or lack thereof) turned to him from their respective
interests.  "He's my son," the youko finished, a deadly calm creeping
into his voice to chill the air about him.
   And with that, the Youko twirled from the room, his white cotton
robes billowing behind him just before the figure disappeared out the
doorway and into the hall beyond.
   "Kurama!"   Yusuke bolted from the room, glancing out the doorway
to slid into the hallway...   "He's gone!" he awed, spinning around to
look down the other end of the hallway.  "Kurama!  You idiot, come
back here!!"
  Kuwabara and the twins slid out next, the little kits skating to a
clumsy plop at the feet of their frantic father, piled one on the other
before they knew what happened.  Closely behind them, Yomi and
Shura entered out, everyone looking up and down the halls for the run-
away youko.
   "Great!  This is just what we need!  Instead of going back to the
rendez-vous to meet up with Yo-ma and Hiei... we gotta look for
Kurama's sorry ass now!"  Yusuke yelled, his voice echoing about the
marble hallway.
  Yomi stepped forward past Kuwabara and Shura, glancing by Yusuke
with an arrogant air or power, momentarily forgetting that Yusuke now
held Raizens' lands in the Makai, nearly as strong if not stronger than
the old, senile wizard had been.  "I'll have the security teams track
Kurama down and..."
   "No way!  He's got Kiro with him.  And plus, I'm sure hunters
wouldn't think twice about killing a youko on sight.  Damn him, we're
just going to have to look ourselves."  Yusuke glanced quickly to his
wrist watch.  "Fine, we have half an hour.  If we can't find Kurama by
then, we meet at the front gate and go on without him!"

   "You know, Hiei.  You're no help to me dead," Mukuro said plainly,
maybe just a bit worried as she walked abreast to the little fire demon,
the three pacing down the hall of her new complex building.
   "Is that then why you're coming?  To keep an eye on me?" he
grumbled lowly, not at all amused.
   "It's a possibility.  You're still far to reckless on your own, especially
you and your Kokuryuha."  Mukuro frowned and rubbed her shoulder
absently at her mention of the technique.  It had only been maybe a
month since Hiei managed to single-handedly destroy half of Mukuro's
complex, nearly taking her down with it in his rage.  But both she and
Hiei agreed that she was a changed woman after the events that lead to
that.  Mukuro was always incredibly calm and business like, from her
talk right up to her fighting.  Hiei had never remembered her as a
ruthless or power hungry woman, but instead as more of a
compassionate friend.  
   During the Makai Tournament he had come to know her ruthless
side, an exceptional fighter and magic user hidden under the tattered
purple vest and pants.  But he had also come to know her care for him,
being most evident there in the tournament than anytime before.  An
image burned through Hiei's mind, standing out above all the rest: 
Mukuro, poised above him, readied for an attack that had caught him
heavily off guard.  But instead of utterly pounding him into the ground,
Mukuro had simply pulled back, telling him to watch his back more
often, that future opponents would not be as merciful.
   Both the actual event itself and the memory burned in his mind made
him growl internally; the fact that someone had pulled back and taken
pity on him at that moment simply angered Hiei to no end.  He wished
over and over that she would have just attacked and got it over.  He
couldn't learn from his mistakes by having them picked out and handed
to him on a silver platter.  He learned by blood and pain, sweat and
tears.  The only way Hiei could learn  to watch his back was through
the sheer agony and torture of his routines, going out into the Makai
and fighting anything and everything that stood in his path.
   Beside him as he seethed in his own memories, Yo-mawari walked
smoothly and confidently as he always had, tapping on one of the three
little shuriken that sat nestled on his shoulder.  He seemed spaced and
engrossed in thought, his devouring black eyes bright and twinkling in
the  absence of light that filled the dark hall.  Hiei had seen that same
look in Kurama's eyes when the fox had been staring at him, a vibrant
twinkle that said so much without saying a word.  Just what on earth
could that youko have been thinking about?
   Hn.  Like Hiei really cared at the moment.  As long as he was quiet
and not being a nuisance...
   Suddenly, the black haired human-youko pulled to a rough stop,
reaching out to grab Hiei by the arm, pulling him to stumble back
clumsily into Yo-mawari's chest.  "What in the... 'Wari!"
   Yo-mawari cocked his head to the side, turning inwardly on himself,
searching through his mind quickly.  "It's Kurama-kun... something's
wrong."
   "What the hell do you mean 'something's wrong'!" Hiei spat back,
tearing his shoulder from Yo-mawari's grasp.
   Again, Yo-mawari cocked his head as if listening to a far off whisper,
motioning for silence with a fluid jerk of his hand .  "He's angry over
something.  He keeps repeating "I'm not leaving him.""
   "Hn.  Ask him what in the hell he's doing then."
   "I can't, he won't respond to me.  He keeps putting up a barrier. 
Oddly though, he's in Youko form."
   Hiei frowned and looked at the tall young man in black above him,
watching him carefully as he shifted, concentrating through his mind. 
He was like a dazed figure, starring blankly off into outer space,
occasionally jerking his head from side to side.
   Quickly, Yo-mawari frowned, a low and displeased action, standing
straight up to his full height... and in a burst of wind, he was suddenly 
hurled backwards through the hallway about 5 meters before impacting
a wall at full speed.  None of them saw it coming, not even Yo-mawari,
caught so much off his guard as he flew backwards. The force and
impact on the wall was enough to dent a large crater into the plaster of
the structure, not nearly enough to seriously hurt Yo-mawari, just
enough to daze him.  And daze him it did.
   "By the gods," Mukuro hissed, searching through the halls as Hiei ran
from her side.  "Who the hell did that?"
   "It was Kurama, I'll bet my life on it," Hiei growled back, tugging
Yo-mawari from his slumped position on the floor, straightening him to
lean up against the damaged wall as he checked his servant over for
injuries that could put a hinderance on their trek to Yomatsu.
   "Oh man..." Yo-mawari groaned, pulling open his large black eyes,
blinking them slowly and heavily until his double vision cleared, a sharp
ringing beginning to float into his mind.  "Meijin-san... remind me never
to tease kyoudai-kun when he's pissed," he growled, slumping his head
down into hands.  "Says he needs time to think and will meet us at the
rendez-vous..."
   "Baka.  Are you alright, 'Wari?"
   "Hai.  I'll be fine in a bit."
   "Forgive me for sounding stupid, but just how in creation did Kurama
blow you into a wall from who knows how far away?  Yomi's sector's
at least a day, day and a half from here," Mukuro said flatly, reaching
down to call to silence a trickle of blood that streamed from the edge of
the young man's mouth.
   Yo-mawari raised his head a bit drunkenly and smiled simply, raising
a finger to tap his forehead lightly.  "You would be amazed at how easy
it is to convey actions through a telepathic link."
   "You're linked telepathically?"
   "Hai.  All youko twins are, either fraternal or non.  We can share
memories, thoughts, feelings... we can even touch each other from
across distances.  From a simple hug to... heh heh... flinging the other
halfway across a room.  It all depends."  The WatchMan grunted and
struggled to his feet in vain, latching onto Hiei to drag him back to his
feet.  He was quite unstable his first time up, the youko almost
forgetting how to walk in the residual effects of the sudden mental
blow that Kurama had sent to his mind.  All existence around him
fluttered and shifted, lurching to twirl on occasions around him, enough
to disorient him and sent him stumbling either into Hiei or Mukuro. 
One thing was for sure, Kurama knew how to land blows.
   It had been the equivalent of Kurama shooting an aura bolt to impact
his twin square in the face.  Yo-mawari was totally unprepared for that
attack, caught completely off guard and struck full force.  Never before
had he known his twin brother to act so violent, filled with such a rage. 
It was as if Kurama was being asked to give up a loved one...
   "Kiroshu," Yo-mawari whispered, more to himself.  Balance found
him again and stood him back to his feet in the middle of the hall way. 
"It's because of Kiro-chan, I'm certain of it now.   I bet Yusuke's trying
to force Kurama to leave him behind, and kyoudai just refuses."
   "Kurama may be stubborn, but he's not foolish.  He wouldn't bring
Kiro into Yomatsu unless he had a damn good reason."
   Stern black eyes sought out the Koorime fire demon, narrowing in on
the red, burning orbs of his master's eyes with a blank, almost
unreadable expression. "Meijin... love is the strongest reason alive."
   "Che!  He's out of his mind! He's..."  Hiei snarled viciously to himself
and pushed past Mukuro and Yo-mawari to storm down the hall,
tossing a portion of his black cloak over his shoulder to reveal it's red-
satin lining.  "Come on you two.  Let's get to the rendez-vous.  I'm
gonna give that stupid fox a piece of my mind!"
   Yo-mawari looked over to Mukuro only to find her looking back at
him.  He only shrugged and stepped up a shaky pace after his Meijin,
bound to follow orders.  


   Round, wide hazel eyes watched down the hall a bit forlorn,  the tall,
slim figures of Kuwabara and Yusuke stomping up, obviously annoyed. 
Their heavy footfalls echoed throughout the hall the twin youko kits
stood in, each clutching onto the other's hand tightly, watching closely. 
Little Bara had a hold of her tail, wrapping it up over her shoulder to
bury her nose in the soft, fluffy-white fur as she held onto her brother
with the other hand.  Toge looked quite indifferent to the entire
situation, his thin brow set sternly, a watchful hazel eye always darting
to the taller form of Shura standing off by the wall.
   "K'so..." Kuwabara moaned as he walked with Yusuke, flicking stray
strands of his bright, orange hair from his thin-eyed vision.  "Becoming
just as annoying as that little shit, Hiei!  He's rubbing off."
   A quick elbow brought Yusuke's stern face into view, the young man
glaring over to the taller school friend.  "But... I'm beginning to agree
with you.  The last thing we needed was for Kurama to run off. And
with his kit, no less.  We have no time to look for him... and if Yomi
hasn't located him, we'll.... we'll..."
   "Go on without him?" offered Kuwabara silently, though he hoped it
sounded more like a helping clause than a snide remark.
   "Hai... we'll have to, damn youko.  And the way things are going,
Shura won't stay in the city, meaning there's no one to leave Toge and
Bara with.  I'm NOT about to leave them in this forsaken city anyway. 
But there's no way in hell they're coming with us to Yomatsu!"
   "Hmm... could always take them to.. what was her name...
Kuraihana, ne?  She could watch them."
   "Hmm.   You think I haven't thought of that?"  Yusuke's stern brown
eyes floated out past his thick lashes, his eyes always looking
dangerous, while being irresistible at the same time.  Threatening
anything to counteract him... daring anything to confront him.  "Under
other circumstance, I would take them myself to Kurama's niece... but I
don't know if I trust Kuronue enough.  Sure, Kurama places complete
trust in him, but..."  Yusuke took a long, cursing breath as the two
came closer down the hall and into ear-shot of the twins.
   Each little face lit up at the presence of his last word, Bara releasing
her death grip on her brother's hand to run it calmly over her tail,
pulling the fluffy-silvered tail further over her shoulder.  She tried so
hard to be braver than she really could be when Yusuke was around, the
young man finally beginning to notice.  Those two placed absolute trust
in him.  He couldn't let that trust be betrayed.
   "But what?"  Kuwabara asked, breaking off the train of thought and
shoving his hands into the pockets of his blue school uniform, watching
Yusuke pick up pace.
   Almost instantly, on the moment Yusuke bent down to give each of
the kits a firm pat on the head, Yomi whisked back into existence in a
soft cloud of you-ki, swirling loose fabric around the others in the hall. 
As always, his entrance was completely omnipotent, as if the god of the
worlds himself had just entered, the royal purple and grey robes
fluttering about him quietly, framing his body like a perfect aura.
   "Any luck?" Yusuke asked quietly, watching the twins carefully
switch positions, Toge shifting to play a  protecting guard to his sister
against the new presence returned.
   "There is no sign of Kurama anywhere in the city.  I have dispatched
people to search through the Makai for him..."
   "No time, we have to leave now," Yusuke spat, picking up Bara into
his arm, resting her on his knee.  "Koenma can't hold off the Special
Forces for long, no matter what story he feeds them.  If we can't get
back to Yo-mawari and then to the Yomatsu portal before the Forces
get to the Makai, our plan is sunk.  Completely, and this whole party
will be for nothing."
   "Yusuke... didn't anyone inform the Reikai or Enma Daioh about
what's going on in Yomatsu?  That this creature there is a threat to the
Ningenkai as well as Makai and Reikai?"  Yomi's vacant stare sought
through the hall and laid point-blank on Yusuke, glaring lidlessly,
focusing in a nauseating dead-fix, unwavering.  Blind or not, the wizard
could damn near freeze him solid just by turning his face toward him.
   "Ever since Yo-mawari's appearance from Yomatsu, the Reikai has
been very careful and suspicious of him.  The way our last mission
went... the creatures of Yomatsu have been finding ways to get into the
Reikai and Ningenkai.  After Kurama and Koenma were kidnapped, the
Reikai cut off all jurisdiction to the lands, and Enma-Daioh made it
forbidden that any of the Reikai-tantei get involved with anything
dealing with Yomatsu.  Even so far as to forbidding Kurama to see Yo-
mawari, and vice versa."
   Yomi crossed his arms over his chest, Shura beside him, leaning on
the wall, mirroring the action perfectly like an obedient reflection.  "So,
I think what you're getting at, is that no matter what the danger, you or
the other detectives can't help out this night-WatchMan, even though
there's a threat that the Ningenkai may be invaded.  If there's only this
creature in Yomatsu that's causing the problems, why not be rid of it
and be done?  Leave the Yomatsu inhabitants to do as they will. 
Already, Makai demons go freely back and forth between their homes
and the Ningenkai."
  Yusuke snorted, rising to his feet with Bara carefully tucked in his
arms, glaring back across the hall to the wizard.  "You've never
encountered the yosei, have you?"
   Yomi's forehead wrinkled in thought...
   "Nevertheless, we need to go now.  We're falling behind schedule."

    "A giant slug?" Yo-mawari squeaked before the shadow of the
immense machine that hovered above him.
   Hiei snorted heavily at his side and whisked from view, appearing in
zig-zaged patterns up the side of a large, tan contraption that resembled
a large slug.  The thing must have been at least 4 stories tall, most of
the body pieced sections of tan-colored Makai metals, encasing
whatever engine operated it.
   Beside him, Mukuro snorted her own laugh, eyeing Yo-mawari
through the blue lens piece.  She didn't need to do much more.  Simply
giving the black-haired youko the impression she was looking at him
was enough to make him shift uneasily in his place.  "This is our
transportation," she nodded once to the contraption, not volunteering
any information beyond that.
   "You're kidding, right?" Yo-mawari moaned, rubbing the lump on his
head lightly.  "That thing is going to get us through the Makai forest
faster than on foot?"  He snorted roughly again, trying to put some
order back to the wild strands of black hair, even though he knew it
was a more than useless endeavor.  "That'll be the day."
   Mukuro shook her head silently and reached for the ladder bars,
beginning a swift climb to the top, flattened portion of the strange land
rover, turning only once to glance down at the black-haired young man. 
"Are you coming or not?  If you want.. YOU may walk."
   *I can think of better ways to travel,* Yo-mawari complained to
himself, reaching out to begin up the ladder bars.


    Botan broke through the portal into the clear, blue Makai sky, doing
a large loop through the air to correct for the horizontal shift between
the Reikai and the Makai.  From up high, the lands looked like just one
big forest, ending on one side by a vast, calm ocean, stretching for
infinity on the other.  In places,  little parts of the woods were cleared
for settlements... she could see Yomi's city clearly off in the distance,
glinting in the sun, Mukuro's large, black complex being rebuilt on the
other edge of her vision, towering out of the greenery... 
   The portal seemed to have spit her out right on the borders of two
of the three sectors of the Makai: Possibly the boarders between what
was now owned by Yusuke, and Yomi's lands.  Either way she went
would take as long... if only she knew exactly where one of the groups
were...
   Botan  reached into one of the large sleeves of her pink kimono,
pulling out an orb of some sort.  It was a block of rei-ki, more like a
homing beacon, tuned to Yusuke's ki, another one of Koenma's nifty
little Reikai-tantei tools.  As Botan thought, it was working, setting off
a steady pulse directed in the northeast towards Yomi's city, moving off
back towards the point where the three sectors would eventually
meet...
   But something else caught her eye.  Below in the forest, the green
canopy bleeding into one continuous stretch of forest, something was
moving quickly through, like a snake through grass.  A large cloud of
dust was kicked up behind it, parting the forest as easily as tall stalks of
Queen Anne's lace, molding the trees back behind it as if nothing had
ever disturbed them in the first place.  It seemed to be coming from a
direct line from one of Mukuro's black skyscrapers, blazing a trail of
dust through the Makai forest below.
  Botan looked quickly back and forth between the readings on the orb
and the dust cloud moving swiftly along.  "Drat... I suppose it would be
better if I found Yusuke first..." and she broke off in a whisp of air.

   "Impressive," Yo-mawari allowed, watching the forest seem to bend
around him... but without being bent at all.  The way the large
contraption was running, it was like it warped space as it moved,
creating a void, or ripple in existence to travel through, neither
disturbing the forest or it's creatures.  "Though I have no idea how this
thing works." 
   "It's best you don't know.  I haven't even shown Hiei how to work it,
nor will I ever.  Not until he has a better mind for these types of
things."
   "Uh, these types of WHAT?"  Yo-mawari mumbled, looking across
the railed deck of the bridge of the craft.  Hiei sat off in a corner
polishing his katana as he was almost always seen, one of the little
black shuriken's sitting on his knee, glimmering away in it's never-
ending rings of conversation.  Whether or not Hiei wasn't responding,
wasn't listening or both was not known.  Instead, he meticulously
cleaned his blade, running a rough sharpening stone over the blade
occasionally.  "Or a better question is... why does Meijin-san work for
YOU?"
   Mukuro jerked her head to the side quickly, glaring down the human
figure with her good eye, watching the expressions on his face shift and
fold under the cold blue eye.  But instead of staying to scold Yo-
mawari, the eye turned past carefully to set for an instant on Hiei,
totally blank, before returning to the path before her.  "Hiei is my heir."
   "Heir?"
   "When I am gone, Hiei is the heir to my sector of the Makai, which is
why he serves me now.  Hiei and I owe each other alot, and I've found
he is the only one I see worthy enough to take over my position."
   Yo-mawari drew back a step, reaching forward to rest on the railing
of the bridge, watching space-time warp before him only to reform
perfectly behind them.  "You mean, Meijin-san will someday rule this?"
he gestured to the odd-sharpened image of the forest around him.
   "Some day, Hiei and Kurama will both rule a great deal of the Makai. 
The way I see it, Kurama, Yusuke and Hiei will unite the Makai again,
restoring it back to the way it was always supposed to be before the old
masters became angry with each other and split it.  Yusuke's already
begun what fate has called the three to do when he laid claim to
Raizen's sector.  When either I or Yomi give up our hold, by choice or
by the acts of time,  the re-unification will begin."
   "Kurama?  You mean then... Kurama-kun's Yomi's heir, then?"
   "He is."
   "Confusing.  We only have one ruler in Yomatsu... one person who
makes sure the lands are safe for the inhabitants."
   "And that person is you?"
   Yo-mawari hung further over the rail, resting his chin down on his
arms to watch the forest zoom by.  "Hai, I am ..."
   "Then why the long face?"
   "What good is it for me to have my own lands if I can't share them
with anyone.  If my own brother has been forced to break contact with
me.  Maybe this is all a worthless effort...  maybe I was meant to loose
the Hades Path... maybe..."
   "So, you're giving up?"
   "I never said that!"  Yo-mawari shot back quickly, standing back
from the rail in a blur of black hair, swinging to rest the stone-cold
black eyes on Mukuro before him.  
  Behind them, Hiei's head shot up from his katana, the thin, red eyes
laying on both the WatchMan and Mukuro at the same time, watching
like an unseen shadow.  Silently, he moved the katana back into it's
scabbard, the little black shuriken rolling up his knee to rest on his
shoulder before Hiei drew to his feet and began across the deck, sly and
almost ghostly.
   "I never said I was giving up!" Yo-mawari snarled back, tossing back
his black hair with a simple jerk of his head.  "If all my family and
friends are in the Ningenkai and Makai, what good is it for me to stay
in the underworld then?  I've lived nearly 300 years alone in the world,
and now that I've found my brother and his family, I'm not about to
leave them behind ... again.  I can have a happy life now, something
that relies more on love than on how many souls I kill in one day. 
What good is it to have my own lands if I'm shunned from the Reikai
and..."
   " 'Wari..." a deep voice growled in, bringing a hot fire into the breeze
of the passing wind that warped around the deck of the contraption,
cutting off Yo-mawari without much else.  It was enough to call Yo-
mawari into silence, the black eyes turning slowly down to lay onto
Hiei standing firmly about a foot below him and to the side.
    It was one of the fire demon's many serious facades, one he always
took when going into his quiet reprimands of Kurama's many fits of
anger or despair.  Somehow fitting to this place and time.   "Everyone
makes changes, everyone has to make sacrifices.  It's something
everyone lives with, something everyone has to deal with.  Those who
choose not to face or deal with their own matters are week-hearted and 
will never be more than pawns for use by others.  If you don't like the
way something is done, stand up and change it.  Don't sit by and let
others make the rules for you, give yourself your own future."
   "Hiei..." Mukuro interrupted, parting the two glares, taking on her
own honed skill of reprimanding.  "If things are to be changed, one
must sit down and talk about them, or else no one will have a future. 
Fists can only get you so far before everything around you crumbles. 
Remember that."
  The little fire demon frowned but did nothing more, turning red eyes
back up to Yo-mawari before the compact youkai turned and went
back to his corner, pulling out his katana to finish polishing.  He was
there and gone from Yo-mawari's side before much else went on.  Hiei
played the part of a shadow throughout most of things, the young man
thought.  In fact, there were only a few rare moments when Hiei would
open up and actually have a personality when he was around one of the
twin youko's.  But lately, Hiei had been so cold and distant, even to
Kurama.  No one could really quite figure out why.  Youkai mid-life
crisis?  Yo-mawari chuckled lightly at the thought, continuing to watch
Hiei as he returned to polishing the katana, the shuriken rolling back up
the flat black pants to sit back on his meijin's knee.
   "You worry about him an awful lot for someone like yourself.  Why's
that?"
  "Excuse me?"
   "No, I didn't mean anything by that.  But, you seem to take a parental
role around him, being protective."  Mukuro cocked her head to the
side and lifted a corner of her mouth into what could have passed for a
smile, stretching the thin skin over the scar on her face.
   "It's my duty to protect him.. either from his enemies or himself. 
And... well, seeing as how he's attached to Kyoudai-kun so much... but
still.  If Kurama didn't love Hiei, I would still be bound to protect him,
by my own will, not by command."
   "Unconditional friendship.  It must be nice."
  Yo-mawari cocked his head to the side, looking over to Mukuro from
the corner of his eye.  "What do you mean... "

   "YUSUKE!!!!!!"
   Instantly, all eyes shot to the sky just visible through the broken
canopy of the Makai forest above, seconds before ....
   "YAAAAAAAAAH!!  BOTAN!!!  Look out!!!"
   Yusuke had barely any time to react as a flash of pink and blue
whizzed past him, nearly lifting him clean off his feet in it's wake.  The
whiz of air turned sharply and rocketed back on a dead-eye course for
Yusuke, carefully balancing Bara in one of his arms.
   "Yusuke!!!  Bad news!!"
   "Botan!!"
   The company all ducked as Botan made another close-sweeping fly
by before slowing to hop off her oar, a flail of her pink kimono and blue
hair rustling about here.  "Yusuke!!  Koenma-sama sent me to tell you
that the Special Forces are being dispatched in about 5 minutes.  Once
they're dispatched, it's only a mater of time before they find you.  Enma
Daioh-sama gave them specific orders to bring you back.. no matter
what!"
   Yusuke cautiously blinked an eye up from where he sat huddled over
Bara, eyeing around until he caught full sight of Botan.  Instantly, he
was to his feet and up in Botan's face.  "You idiot!!!  We've got
children with us!  Easy on the acrobatics or you'll be staring down my
finger next time, got it!!"
   Botan frowned and opened her mouth to yell back, always finding it
necessary to counter when Yusuke yelled... but something was missing
here.  Although Yusuke stood before her, Kuwabara off to the side
with Toge on his shoulders, something seemed to be missing.
   Yusuke snorted roughly,  wiping the back of his hand across his face
as he bent down to retrieve Bara carefully, hoisting her up into his arm
with a quick, kind ease.  "Five minutes you say?  Damn.  We're going
to need more time than that to find Yo-mawari... even more so now
that we don't have Kurama to track him down for us."
   "That shouldn't be too hard.  There was something huge moving from
Mukuro's complex when I came in.  He's probably on that thing.  Uh..
but Yusuke." Botan leaned forward and smiled widely, reaching a
finger out to gently tug on a strand of Bara's silver hair.  "Why are the
twins with you?"
   "They followed Kiroshu here."
   "He's here too?"
   Yusuke nodded once, his face suddenly changing to a serious, hard
tone.  "Botan, can you do me a favor?"
   "Uh.. hai..."
   "Take the twins to the eastern borders... to Kuronue's house."
   Botan shuffled back a step at the request, a bit shocked, more over
the name mentioned than the request.  "Kuro...nue?  Are you sure?"
   "Hai."

(c) November 1997 by Jiminy Cricket Presses