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Awaken the Dawn

Chapter 5: Into Darkness
by: Korogi

**Standard disclaimer as seen in the prologue apply here too**

Warning:  This installment contains all of the following: questionable
language, yaoi (M/M) relationships (notice the PLURAL!), lemon
implications, 

Note:  I've got two different yaoi couples in here, if you don't agree
with the other, I'm sorry.  This is just how I found them to be...

   
   Botan nodded rather solemnly, a simple, slow bob of her blue-haired
head as she sat tall and straight on her oar, floating a good three feet
off the forest floor.  Her large, wild blue eyes kept close watch over
Yusuke as the young man bounced the little female kit one last time in
his arms, speaking soft, unheard promises and soothing words. 
Throughout her career as being the Grim Reaper of the afterworld,
nothing had brought more sorrow or grief onto her that having to
watch Yusuke say goodbye to his twins.  She could still remember
clearly every feeling that went through her body when Genkai had died
during the Ankoku Bujuutsukai... remembered every twinge of pain
that went through her blood at watching Kurama nearly beaten alive at
the hands of Karasu in that same tournament...
   Quickly, she turned her head violently to the sky, feigning her search
for the Special Forces to hide the growing sting that was welling in her
eyes; a sure sign of tears if she wasn't careful.  There was just
something about breaking up families...
    At Yusuke's feet, little Toge stood straight and proud, as vain as his
new father always stood, keeping his own watch out, unsure if he really
trusted the Spirit Guide with his twin sister's life.  His hazel eyes
seemed to be pinned dead-center on the  woman, watching closely for
any signs that she could pose a threat to him or his twin.  Even though
Yusuke placed complete trust in her, little Toge still was unfamiliar
with the maiden.
    "Now, Botan's going to take both of you on a big trip to see an old
friend of Kurama-niichan's, okay?" Yusuke was gently cooing over to
Bara above him, rustling her hair a bit as he stepped forward more to
the woman on the oar.  "You and your brother are going to stay there
until we all finish some business, okay?"
   Bara's tiny face frowned a bit, pulling a finger up to chew intently
upon as she watched into her surrogate father's eyes intently.  She
sniffed lightly, a small warning to the anticipated flow of tears that
would most likely follow, being separated from Yusuke.  She grew to
depend on him for comfort, feeling at ease and secure when he held
her.  At nights when her dreams would be troubled by the Creature that
took her youko parents, she would always awaken to Yusuke's soft,
comforting voice, gently bringing her out of her nightmares and back to
reality.
   "Oh, don't cry," Yusuke chuckled, lightly tickling the air before her
cheek, not wanting to touch her and give away how painful it was for
him now to send her off with Botan.  But he kept reassuring himself:  It
was either this, or risk taking them into Yomatsu.  And there was no
way by the Hades Road that he was taking the children... HIS children
now, into that gods-forsaken land.  "Auntie Botan will give you a nice
ride on her oar..."
   "Auntie Botan?" the blue haired reaper squeaked silently, eyes
widening a bit in surprise.   So easily, Botan pulled herself from her
quiet wanderings and snapped back to her job at hand.
   "Hai ...  'baachan.  Heh heh," Yusuke teased snidley, sticking out his
tongue to his assistant, watching amusedly as Bara giggled and
mirrored him perfectly.  
   Botan's blood boiled... she was FAR from an old lady no matter how
much older than Yusuke she was, and far better looking than any other
grandparent she had ever seen before.  She didn't know whether to
scream at him, hit him over the head with her oar or do both!  But
considering the twins were well within range of her limitless anger ....
"If you're going to do this, then do it!  The Special Forces won't
suspect you've brought children to the Makai, and will certainly not
come looking for me.  The longer we sit here and run our mouths...."
   "Yeah yeah yeah," Yusuke snorted, gently kissing the top of Bara's
head as he handed her off to Botan. "Now, you be a good girl for
Auntie Botan.  Promise?"
   "Hai!"  Bara piped up cheerfully as she settled into Botan's lap like a
small pet, her shimmering light tail wrapping up over her thin shoulders
to curl under her neck.
   Yusuke nodded once, flipping an eye to Botan quickly.  "Make sure
you don't touch her skin..."
   "I know, I know!" Botan snorted impatiently and patted Bara on the
head, smiling down to her, a huge cute grin.
   "And you, Toge.."  Yusuke puffed out his chest and crouched down
quickly to look the other twin straight in the eyes, playfully jabbing a
light fist to the kit's shoulder... " take care of your sister for me.  If
anyone gets tough with you, bop 'em one in the nose," he demonstrated
through the air roughly, shadow boxing a few falling leaves.  "Give
them a good punch for me too," he winked, hoisting him up quickly
into his arms.
   "Hai!" Toge answered eagerly, throwing a clumsy but well aimed
punch through the air as he was set down beside his sister on Botan's
lap.  "I'll beat them up two times!!!"
   "You show 'em, Toge-kun!"
   Botan lifted a few more feet into the air, eying Yusuke thinly, an all-
too parental glance he had seen his own mother give him.  "Teaching
him bad habits like that..."  
   Yusuke just shrugged and smacked her oar roughly, sending a
gyrating wave through it up to Botan.  "Take care of them.  I'm
counting on you."  The brown eyes thinned at her in quiet warning, that
if anything happened to them, it would be here hide.  And Botan knew
full well what consequences she could be facing, whether the actions
were legal or not.
   "I know," Botan answered solemnly.  "So... okay kids, wave bye-bye
to your daddy and we'll go have ourselves a fun time while he's gone,
okay?" and she was off in a flash of wind, soaring and twisting through
the air like a bat out of hell, the screams and cheers of the two kits
echoing back through the woods before dying out all together, lost in
the sounds of the forest.
   Yusuke stood watching after, unsure really of how long he had been
there as the cool breeze parted around him and off into the woods,
following his children.  He had a painful void in his chest, one he had
often got when he faced his opponents; It wasn't fear of defeat or
death, but it had always been a fear of possibly never seeing Keiko
again.  He had felt it several times when going up against his
opponents, no matter how cocky and sure of himself he had been.  He
felt it now as the kits and Botan disappeared quickly from sight,
swallowed in the living forest around him.  Possibly gone forever, it all
depended on the events to come.
   A heavy hand came down on his shoulder griping heavily into his
bones and skin, immediately jerking Yusuke almost violently from his
stare.  Quick brown eyes flashed around to confront whoever it was
who had jerked him from his thinking, only to come across Kuwabara's
straight, unyielding face staring straightly back.  For a handful of
heartbeats the two looked back and forth at each other, one scowling
the other completely blank and unreadable, seeming to reflect Yusuke's
violence back out and into the forest around.
   "I... I have the feeling like I'll never see them again," Yusuke
whispered to his best friend and classmate as silently as he could.  "I'm
... afraid... of the fact that I might never see them again."
   Kuwabara took a big, deep breath and began to pull Yusuke back
down the path through the forest, watching down as Shura and Yomi,
who had patiently waited out of earshot, turned and continued leading
them through.  "Urameshi... we've lived through worse.  Namely,
YOU'VE lived through worse.  First Toguro...then going up against
Yomi in the Makai Tournament.  Then the Creature that nearly killed
Kurama. There's no reason why we can't defeat this next enemy.  And
we'll have help this time."
   "But will it be enough?" Yusuke asked softly, his voice breaking at
the last word.
   "Don't worry... it will be enough.  I'm sure of it," Kuwabara nodded
once as they walked, releasing Yusuke's shoulder, allowing him to fall
into stride abreast.  Through a corner of his thin, odd-shapen eyes,
Kuwabara watched Yusuke carefully, watched the friend who always
walked tall and overly proud suddenly slump and bumble his way
through the path they all followed.
   Kuwabara jabbed a fist roughly into Yusuke's shoulder and stepped
up pace to join Yomi and his son, forcing Yusuke to pick up stride and
follow.  It seemed to jerk him from his self-pity, snapping him back to
reality, glaring down Kuwabara who pranced like a fool before him. He
rubbed his shoulder slightly as he ran to catch up, frowning over at his
best friend before returning the jab...
   A swift arm reached out and stopped both of them dead, both young
men nearly falling over Yomi's arm as it reached out to command them
to stop.
  "Oi!  What's the big idea..."
   Yomi shot a finger to his lips ordering complete silence in a detached,
swift movement, almost undetectable.  They saw the wizard's body
tense, every open sense available tuned out to the forest before them. 
At his feet, Shura took the same stance, his small blue eyes narrowing
out into the forest, down the same path his almost identical father
glared.
   "Shit, they're here already, aren't they?" Yusuke whispered, more to
himself, raising a finger to just before his nose, quietly beginning to
gather his rei-ki.  "They got here faster than I thought."
   Yomi shifted a bit uneasily in his slightly hunched position,
surveying... before he stood bolt upright and frowned.  "What in the..."
   " ... come back 'ere ya little shrimp!  I'm gonna walk all over that face
'a yours!!" a rough voice bellowed through the woods, shaking the
leaves on their respective trees, spooking every sort of Makai bird from
their perches to go squawking to the air.
   "Catch me first!  Nyah nyah!!" a smaller, more childish voice
followed soon after.
   Kuwabara and Yusuke both frowned a bit, each lowering their
defenses and straightening in their stances.  "I know those voices,"
Yusuke mumbled.  "Can't be!"
    Through the greenery before them, a small child in brilliant yellow
and red bounced out, a big, floppy red hat bouncing on his head, three
little red stars just visible under his left eye.  The kid leapt to a tree top
and swung from a branch expertly using what looked like a string
attached onto a yo-yo.
   Kuwabara flailed and made one of his usual trademark yelps of
surprise as the child flicked from the tree and successfully spring-
boarded off of his head, landing beside Yusuke in a solid dismount.  In
his wake, Kuwabara lay face first in the dirt and leaves that littered the
forest floor, twitching and groaning.
   Next through the woods bound a tall thin man, screaming  and
yelling, contorting his face much in the same way Kuwabara could on a
regular basis, stumbling around like an oaf.  "Ya little RUNT! 
Com'ere!!" He shouted, his tall, purple mohawk parting itself through a
branch of leaves as he spotted his target. "Rinku!  I'm gonna kill you!!"
   Rinku laughed and pulled down his eyelid, his little tongue flying in a
big display of raspberrying at its finest before ducking off behind
Yusuke.
   "Oi oi!" Yusuke snorted, reaching behind him and plucking the kid
up, raising him into the air.  
   "Oh, hiya Urameshi-san!" he waved happily, kicking his little feet
through the air as if walking.   "Whatcha doing in this end of the
Makai?"
   "COCKROACH!!!!" yelled Chuu behind him, lumbering over a fallen
log, obviously fresh drunk.   He lunged... but tripped over Kuwabara as
he tried to pick himself off the forest floor, instead, making them both
into a pile of twitching arms and legs almost instantly back on the forest
floor.
  "Yahahahah!  Baka!  BAKA!!"  Rinku cheered on, flicking out a yo-
yo to clunk the fallen man over the head.  "Chuu no BAKA! 
Yahahah!"
   "Why you little..."
   "Get off 'a me, you ape!" came another voice, deep and sharp, almost 
like Hiei's.  Through the foliage behind the earthed Chuu and
Kuwabara, two more figures popped out, one rather short with ice-
blue, neatly kept hair, the other much taller with wild red hair.
  Yusuke frowned and tossed Rinku aside, watching the child expertly
correct in the air to land lightly on the ground.  "What are ALL of you
doing here?  Touya?  Jin?  Rinku?"
   "Ahh!  Urameshi-kun!"  Jin waved wildly, nearly smacking Touya in
the face a few times.  "O-genki desu ka!!"
   Touya snarled and swatted at one of Jin's near-misses, pulling out
ahead to step lightly over Chuu and Kuwabara who still laid in a rather
odd pile on the ground.  "Urameshi," he nodded once before breaking
to stare rather coldly over at Yomi and Shura.  "What the hell is all
this?  You on some kind of training party or something?"
   Yusuke flopped like a fish out of water for a moment, snorting
heavily.  "Hardly.  We've got some business to deal with."
   "Wouldn't be anything concerning the odd land vibrations that have
been going on around here, now would it?  You wouldn't happen to
know anything about that, would you?" Touya glared him down with
his unusually flat blue eyes.  Without fail, Yusuke could rarely ever
look the youkai in the face, his eyes were just too unnatural.  They had
no definition whatsoever, neither reflecting light or images like a
normal set of eyes would.  Instead, they were like a dull blue piece of
metal, no pupil... just an unnatural flat blue as if his real eyes had long
since frozen over.
   Yusuke broke quickly to watch Jin tug Chuu and Kuwabara
effortlessly to their feet, watching as Kuwabara tried to put sense to the
newcomers.  Kuwabara had not been at the Makai Tournament, but he
knew the remaining Rinku Team from the Ankoku Bujuutsukai a few
years back.  "Land vibrations?" Yusuke snorted.  "Around here, we call
those Earthquakes." Yusuke smiled vainly, quite pleased when Touya
snorted defeatedly and chuckled to himself.
   "Whatever.  Anyway, I have a feeling you know more than what
you're willing to tell us at present," the ice demon said flatly, turning to
watch Rinku and Chuu immediately go to each others throats, Jin and
Kuwabara backing off.  "It's definitely not of Makai or Ningenkai
origin.  Definitely."
   Yusuke chanced a look to the side quickly, catching a glimpse of
Yomi beyond, once again, tucking himself out of earshot and concern. 
"So it's not.  But that's not what's concerning me right now.  We don't
have time for a reunion, so ... nice seein' ya again, we'll be off." 
Yusuke pushed himself forward and nabbed Kuwabara by the shirt
collar, pulling the taller form behind him and back down the path
through the woods.
   Touya frowned after the human, keeping a careful watch as Jin
rounded back from the brawl behind them, gently bumping shoulders
with his shorter companion.  "What was THAT all about?"
   "Humans.. who the hell knows," he glanced up out of the corner of
his eye to the much taller red head.  "I think we should follow them."
   Jin only shrugged, resting an elbow down on Touya's shoulder as a
make-shift arm rest.  "Okay.  I've got nothing better to do.  Shall we
take the Bobsey Twins too?" he threw a thumb to Chuu and Rinku,
busy in their display of verbal sparring.  "Could be fun," he grinned,
reaching over to pinch Touya on the cheek lightly.
  The ice demon eyed him out of the corner of his expressionless, flat
blue eyes, feeling his cheek being contorted around his face.  Jin always
seemed to find an odd curiosity in pinching cheeks, namely his,
whenever the opportunity presented itself.  It was becoming an
annoying habit.   "Will you quit already," Touya snorted, fending him
off.  "You grab one, I'll grab the other.  Urameshi knows all about that
ever the hell is going on, and I'm determined to find out too.  I hate
being kept in the dark."
   "Right-o!"  Jin tossed a mock salute and easily reached into the fray,
nabbing Chuu by the collar of his torn shirt.  "Come on you two, we're
leaving."
   "I ain't finished ringing his tiny little NECK YET!"
   "Just try it, oaf!"
   Jin and Touya just sighed and walked on, leaving the two to kill each
other or what have they, following the path Urameshi had taken.

    He wore all the classifications and signatures of a Major, the finely
tailored and pressed suit worn by all the members of the Reikai Special
Forces, decorated with medals of all walks.  Behind him, a good full
branch of the Forces stood obediently in wait as they came out of the
Reikai portal,  hovering above the Makai forest below.
   He held in his hand one of the many tools of the trade: a ki compass,
much like the kind Botan had given Yusuke back on his first missions
for the Reikai.  It spun and blinked, constantly swiveling to point in two
different directions towards two very large moving sources of ki.  "I'm
reading two points of S-class energy," he said, pocketing the device. 
"One, coming from the region of that dust cloud there... " he pointed to
a thin trail of dust that was being kicked up, probably by a heard of
animals or large land craft, ..." and there," he pointed off to a section of
the thick woods.  "We'll split into two teams.  Once will head to the
dust disturbance, the other will come with me.  Understood?"
   A volley of quick, tailored 'Hai!" 's came back in one voice.


   Yo-mawari sighed heavily again as he still stood leaning heavily over
the guard rail of Mukuro's contraption, watching time bend around him. 
It was an odd sight to watch, almost like a boat easily cutting through
the waters of a calm lake.. though, not a lake at all.  Something entirely
alien seemed to come at him form all around this contraption.  "About
another quarter kilometer on this course," he told Mukuro beside him
without so much as acknowledging her presence, trying to take his mind
from too much thinking as he was prone to do.  Admittedly, it was a
characteristic he had picked up from Kurama.  More like a bad habit.... 
"Could be sooner.  I'll tell you when to stop this...this whatever the hell
it is," he said flatly, glancing quickly off to his master in a corner of the
bridge. 
    Hiei had long since finished polishing his katana and now sat facing
the path ahead, sitting straightly on the floor, one of the shuriken youkai
perched on his knee.  Hiei always had that "holier than thou" appearance
when awake, sitting straight as a board, the double-edged katana never
resting more than five inches from his hand.  Yo-mawari had happened
upon his master and brother when they were totally asleep, to the point
where neither could pick out his distinct ki when he floated from his
room for midnight snacks and what-not.  It had always amazed him at
how totally angelic and child-like Hiei appeared when in deep sleep,
snuggled in closely to Kurama's heart.
    "In fact, why don't we just stop here.  I can find the portal much
easier without this thing interfering with my senses."  Yo-mawari pulled
himself roughly from the deck of the land slug, hopping in one swift
movement on to the bridge railing, perched like a pet canary.
    "If that helps," Mukuro said straightly, no emotion whatsoever
apparent through her deep voice.  Mukuro was a character that Yo-
mawari really didn't care to think about.  All he could remember were
painful memories of past actions the Makai witch had done, all in the
attempts to capture his master's heart, kidnapping Kuraihana....
   Slowly, as he focused his mind elsewhere, Yo-mawari felt the
contraption begin to suddenly slow to a dusty halt, and quite how she
did that was still beyond the youko's reasoning.  Just how Mukuro
managed to do half of her feats was still beyond him: But it wasn't like
he really wanted to know, either.
   He flipped his black hair back from where it fell around his shoulders
and easily jumped from the deck of the land vehicle to the ground
below, quickly surveying the terrain before him to locate the portal that
connected the Makai directly into Yomatsu Hara-sakai running
perpendicular to them.   Every part of this damned forest seemed to all
look alike, odd ki readings and the living plantlife muddling through his
senses as he eagerly sought out the Yomatsu beacon.  When he had
traveled to New York City through the Makai a few years back, he had
left a beacon buried in the Yomatsu portal to help guide him back.  A
sort of mental homing device he tuned specifically to his wave of
thought.  And he hoped that also meant Kurama's mind ran on the same
frequency.
    Behind, he felt the sudden hot presence of Hiei's ki as the youkai
quietly met with the earth, followed by Mukuro's not so silent landing,
rustling the air and the ground in her decent.  She was clearly not the
warrior he had groan to become.
   "It's close around here.  I can feel it... just... something's getting in my
way.  There's something else here too...."
   :Kyoudai-kun...:
   Yo-mawari whirled in a complete 180 at the sudden mental call, his
black hair fanning out around his head as he did ... "Kurama!"  Nervous
eyes scanned and a frantic mind opened wide to his surroundings, wide
enough that he could feel the jumble of thought noise that ran through
his master's Jagan.
   Hiei frowned and growled a bit under his breath, crossing his arms
over his chest as he watched the black-haired youko turn in frantic
circles before him.  His senses had been open ever since they left
Mukuro's complex, specifically  keeping watch for Youko Kurama's
distinct ki signature.  He still felt nothing.  "You're hearing things, 'Wari. 
Just find the portal.  Kurama'll catch up later if he's still coming."
   "Of course he's still coming!" the WatchMan bit back rather harshly,
the youko continuing to turn in small circles to survey the forest around
him.  His mind didn't lie, his mental hearing could not be so easily fooled
unless he was incapacitated or deeply asleep. "Okay, I heard you," he
whispered, "Now where are you?"
   Hiei cleared his throat rather obviously behind him, voicing his
displeasure, making sure he was justly hear in his discontent.
   "In a minute, Meijin.  I know what I heard..."
   "... and it was a figment of your imagination.  It's quite clear that
Kurama is NOT coming.  Find the portal so we can get this over with."
   Yo-mawari growled under his breath and did what his master told him
to, but still keeping an eye to the woods.  He was sure he heard and felt
his twin brother's presence if only for a moment.  I couldn't have been a
figment of his imagination.  Quickly, scenario's ran through his mind;
Kurama and Kiroshu could have been ambushed in the woods, possibly
laying off someplace bleeding to death, in need of his help... or they
could have already been dead... or worse.. or...
   :Don't have much confidence in my abilities, ne, Kyoudai-kun?:
   "Kurama!"
   " 'Wari... will you just..."
   "Shut up, Meijin-san!"
   Hiei jerked to a halt and blinked a few times to the taller, black double
of Kurama, raising a corner of his lips to bear one of his sharp fangs. 
"What did you say to me?"
   "Clear as day, he told you to shut up, love," an all-too familiar voice
rang through the woods, a touch of brute masculinity floating on each
word.  The voice of Youko Kurama.
   Like a bleary phantasm, the silvered youko slid from the forest that
was covering his ki and stepped into the shards of sunlight that filtered
through the trees.  Both Yo-mawari and Hiei stopped to gasp at his
sudden presence, seeming all to ghastly and unreal as if his presence
didn't belong at all to the lush surroundings they found themselves in. 
The youko toted the young but identical Kiroshu high on his shoulders,
the little kit giggling and messing with Kurama's silvered hair, creating a
knotted mess atop the youko's head.
   Hard core anger surrounded Kurama as he walked in, clearly detected
through the presence of his you-ki... anger, betrayal, sadness.  It all
coalesced into one mass surrounding him and the kit, a snarling tangle of
emotions that had never been akin to Kurama's presence before. 
Instead, the Kurama they thought they all knew appeared to be an
unfamiliar body emerging under a familiar guise, such emotions were
never felt around him so closely.  as Hiei recalled, the level of hatred
that surrounded Kurama after being defeated by Karasu, and even after
defeating the monster that took Kuronue's form couldn't compare to
what surrounded him now.  It threatened to level even Hiei's shroud of
snarling ki, physically threatening bodily harm down to the youkai as he
stood in utter shock.  
   Hiei took a bumbling step backwards, nearly tripping over a fallen
branch, the fire demon snarling more at his possible fear of the youko
then at his clumsiness.  Kurama would never hurt him, he was sure of   
it - but the feelings of hate and anger that radiated from his lover scared
him like he had never been scared before... Kurama was HIS fox...
   "Forgive me, Hiei" Youko Kurama added silently, as if sensing his
lover's uneasiness.   The youko smiled brightly, the familiar tones
returning to his face as the thick cloud of threatening ki began to quickly
dissipate around him, falling off into the shadows to loose itself in the
greenery of the forest around him.  "You know I would never hurt you."
      And Kurama turned his brilliant golden eyes to his brother who
stood in complete, dumb shock as a deer would, caught in the headlights
of an oncoming 18-wheeler.  Youko Kurama chuckled bowing his head
slightly as his brother's disposition.  "Sumimasen, Kyoudai-kun.  I was
extremely... pissed at the fact of..."
   "Well, obviously," Yo-mawari cut him off carefully, chancing a step
forward toward the youko.  "Dai... daijoubu desu ka?"
   Kurama smiled widely lifting Kiroshu off his shoulders to set him
carefully on the ground at his feet .  "Hai," he chuckled, watching the kit
run off to his other father, still well out of range of Kurama.  "I'm still
quite upset... obviously."
   "Obviously," Yo-mawari echoed, taking another cautious step
forward.  The sensations of the threatening ki still lingered in his mind,
despite the fact that he could no longer sense it.  The youko breed had
always been capable of massive acts of brutal violence, he knew from
first hand knowledge. Yo-mawari had almost totally abandoned his
youko for when he took on the responsibilities of Yomatsu's Hades
Path. "Uh... Kurama-kun...."
   Kurama reached out and jerked his brother forward in a neck-
wrenching tug, wrapping his arms around his shoulders in a huge, bone-
crunching hug that threatened to rob the black twin of every breath he
ever had.  "Gomen ne, 'Wari-kun," he laughed out loud.  "I thought you
would be more on your guard.  Hope the wall didn't hurt you too
much."
   Yo-mawari snorted in defiance and hugged his brother back, matching
the strength of the embrace all too easily.  "Ah, didn't hurt at all!  You'll
have to try harder next time!... or find a tougher wall!"
   "Liar!"
   "Wanna bet??" Yo-mawari snorted, pulling away and shoving his
brother roughly in the chest  "I've been thrown into tougher walls than
that!"
   "Oh REALLY?  That huge red knob on your head says otherwise!"
the youko pointed, jabbing at the lump that sent his brother into
immediate snarls of pain.   Kurama doubled over, laughing when Yo-
mawari tried to hide the bump by pulling down uncooperative strands of
black hair to his defense, only to have them spring back up to their
usual, wild position.  "Baka..."
    "Kurama..." the deep voice echoed in, breaking apart the twins
reunion play and demanding full attention.   Kurama longed to hear that
voice again, it's very presence sending a shrill line of shivers through his
back and body.   "...you're the biggest idiot I know.   You could have
jeopardized this entire mission."
   In a heartbeat, Youko Kurama flashed from tormenting his twin to
embracing his lover tightly, on his knees before Hiei, long, slender limbs
wrapped softly about the demon's waist.   Hiei still had little Kiroshu in
his arms, the kit tugging on one of the youko's ears as he too was
embraced, still playful and mischievous.  "I missed you, Hiei-koi,"
Kurama cooed, burring his face down into Hiei's shirt.
   "Don't call me that."
   Kurama chuckled lightly, drawing his fire demon in as close as he
could without hurting either him or the kit, pressing the two of them
together tightly.  Ignoring Hiei's growling protests and efforts to wiggle
free, Kurama nuzzled his neck and rested his head on one of Hiei's
shoulders so he could watch Kiroshu who was busy trying to tussle
through Hiei's hair now, pulling apart the rough, black spikes to give
Hiei quite an odd hairdo.  Kurama just laughed and ran a finger over the
kits cheek,  silently cheering him on as he burrowed further into Hiei's
chest, reaching an arm around to run down over Hiei's well defined
back, sliding it down to rest on the small of the youkai's back where his
spinal column flared out before connecting with his rear end.   He felt
Hiei twitch a bit nervously again, further adjusting the kit in his arms,
trying to wiggle from Kurama's grip.  But the youko held firm, running a
smooth hand lightly, tracing the seam in Hiei's tight, black trousers
down...
   "What in the name of death were you thinking?" Hiei snarled to the
golden eyes, shifting Kiroshu in his arms, unaware of the make-over that
was being performed on him.  He wiggled again in a futile attempt to
free his rear from Kurama's wandering hand.  "Do you realize how
stupid, thoughtless, selfish... not to mention how totally asinine your
actions have...  mhrff ..."
   Mukuro raised an eye brow as Hiei's ranting was cut off abruptly by
Kurama, deeply planting a ferocious kiss onto the lips of his fire demon. 
She smiled slightly and walked past them to watch out into the forest,
leaving the two behind her to do whatever they wished in private.  She
once had longed for Hiei and his cruel, heated heart, unsure exactly how
to go about expressing her feelings.  Instead, she had echoed back Hiei's
snarls and threats easily, not noticing that the redheaded human lay
always in the background, careful green eyes always watching over "his
fire demon" from the sidelines until she had left.  What Hiei had needed
was someone to show love for him, not rivalry.  And that was where
Mukuro could not go, for reasons of her own.
   Hiei stood a bit stunned and confused as Kiroshu continued his
giggling and re-arranging... until Yo-mawari picked the kit lightly from
Hiei's arms and turned also from the couple.  Immediately,  the two
lovers embraced, not really caring who was watching them or where
they were.  They were together again, that was all that mattered.
    Hiei reached up and took a firm hold of a lock of silver hair, pulling it
to lead Kurama further down to him, delighted when the youko gasped
into the kiss providing Hiei the opportunity to fully push his tongue into
his lover's mouth.  The youko's entire body sighed and accepted,
wrapping the longer and much stronger arms around Hiei's small body,
beginning to add a vicious tone to his kissings.  Every chance he got he
nipped at Hiei's tongue before trusting his own back in.  Hiei's fangs
scraped over Kurama's lips as the fire demon began to challenge the
viciousness back, a soft growl rising in his chest.  His heart began to
race, Kurama had never been like this before.  It was quite arousing.
    Yo-mawari chanced a peak over his shoulder as one of the shuriken's
glimmered a hysteric line of jargon to him, filled with brief mental
pictures, not only of the present situation, but of past instances when the
tiny youkai had stumbled onto the couple in their love making.  Sure
enough, the two were still kissing, rather passionately behind him as he
bounced Kiroshu on his hip.   Hiei's hands were already down to the
folds of white cloth that wrapped about Kurama's slender hips, tugging. 
In fact, Yo-mawari was almost certain the two would just lay down on
the forest floor right then and there if it hadn't been for Kiroshu's piped
response.
    "Does Kurama-papa kiss you like that too, 'Wari-oji-san?" the little
voice asked rather loudly, fighting with a wild lock of black hair that
continually tickled his nose.
   Yo-mawari choked out a laugh and nearly doubled over in hysterics,
echoed by Youko Kurama behind him, breaking off his kissing, burying
his face into Hiei's shoulder, most likely laughing.  But Hiei looked
rather angry, whether it was at the comment or the fact that the
comment interrupted his pleasure.  He took a scowling, protective
stance, wrapping his arms tighter over Kurama's shoulders as the youko
began to laugh loudly into his chest, making Hiei thin his red eyes out
into the Makai woods.  A few birds took flight from the stare and
squawked off into the air, their massive wings beating through the still
air in their massive exodus.
   Kiroshu looked completely confused, volleying troubled eyes between
his uncle and his fathers.  Still to young to completely grasp why his
parents were both male, Kiroshu had always seen the relationship as just
a big friendship.  For all he knew, ALL friend behaved this way! "Nani...
did I say something..."
   "Aw, don't worry about it little Kiro-chan," Yo-mawari chuckled,
choking back another laugh.   "Maybe I'll explain later, if your papa
doesn't flatten me first!"
    Kiroshu's wide, golden eyes swiveled around to stare at his uncle,
puzzlement occupying about all of the glossy surface. "But..."
   "When you're older and fall in love with someone, you'll understand
then, kiddo," Yo-mawari winked, grinning widely to his nephew.  "Then
maybe..."
   "Shhhh," Mukuro hissed lowly, whirling from her position, grabbing
the young man roughly on the shoulder to silence him.  She scowled
deeply, but not at him.  Instead, her gaze had been lifted to the canopy
high overhead, her senses flaring to pick out any disturbance in the
familiar forest.
   Complete silence, save for Kurama's muffled chuckles filled the air in
the forest around them, even managing to kill off the sounds of life that
were always so present in the forest.  There were no sounds of the
Makai wildlife: no birds singing, no youkai-eating plants grumbling...
   Hiei felt it too... an unnatural presence, totally foreign to the Makai
hovering just overhead, sending him into a sharp growl, possessive arms
wrapping tighter and tighter around his fox as the Silver still laughed.
   "Come out!!" Mukuro yelled to the tree tops, waving a quick hand
through the air.
   Above them, her hand traced out a glowing yellow path of light,
slicing through a few of the large trees and towering plants that formed
the thick roof to the forest.  Reality shifted around them, the two halves
of the scenery sliding away from each other, snapping like breaking glass
as they tore tree trunks apart under their wrath.  "I said come out, the
next one is aimed at all your necks!"
   Silence.
   A few leaves rustled quietly as the two halves of reality shifted again,
sliding further and further apart, like looking out onto the forest through
a broken pain of glass.  The yellow, glowing path separating the two
disappeared, instantly sending the upper half of the break falling into a
loud, toppling mess, crashing about the forest around them, coming
close to burying Hiei and Kurama... as Kurama continued to chuckle
softly, ignoring the events surrounding him.
    Floating in the air above them, about 7 bodies hug perfectly
suspended, all in regal looking uniforms; the uniforms of the Reikai
Special Forces.  With the loss of the forest roof that had been serving as
a make-shift dampening field, the massive amounts of rei-ki that pooled
into one reserved easily flowed to all their senses, ripping Kurama from
Hiei's chest in a sudden realization of what was going on. "We only have
business with the members of the Reikai-tantei forces, Mukuro-sama. 
We have orders to take all members of the Urameshi Team into custody. 
So if you will please step from our way, we shall deal with Hiei, 
Kurama..."
   "Like hell you will!"  Yo-mawari shot out, lowering Kiroshu to the
ground before stepping protectively before his nephew.  "You'll have to
go through me to get to Kurama and Meijin-san!"
   The lead man, judging from the amount of decorative medals adorning
his uniform, smiled.  "You have no idea how much  of a pleasure that
will be, gaijin.  Underlings from the Hades Path do not belong out of
their territory.  I will be happy to have you killed."
   "Make one move towards him and you'll be dealing with me."
   The Forces all turned their heads down to the forest floor below them,
the glaring golden eyes of Youko Kurama holding each one in check
with relative ease.  The youko still held the fire demon close to him, a
gentle head resting on a thin shoulder to stare up at the Forces, deadly
protective of not only Hiei, but everyone else in the clearing.  But his
face was anything but gentle.  Dark shadows loomed over his brow, the
radiating clouds of deadly, snarling ki beginning to once again enshroud
his body like a mummifying cloak.   "I'm tired of others pushing my
family around, and I'm tired of the Reikai ruling who I can and can not
be with.  I'll kill any of you in a second who tries to take him from me. 
Understand?"
   "We're on orders directly from Enma Daioh-sama.  Yomatsu Hara-
sakai and it's inhabitants are direct threats to the stability of the Reikai
and Ningenkai..."
   "Then you can add me to that list of "threats to stability"," Kurama
growled, curling up his lip to expose the mouthful of sharp, carnivorous
teeth he had always found so useful in hand to hand combat.
   Hiei chuckled lightly over Kurama as he still held on protectively,
resting his head down on his lover's soft, silver mane, turning the fiery
red eyes up to the floating Forces above.  "Might as well add me in too. 
What the hell, I'm getting quite bored with being ordered around."
    "Little youkai, as future successor to this region of the Makai, you
should know that such a statement will prove very hazardous to you
health, and to the health of this sector."
   "Watch who you're calling 'little'... I just might have to teach you to
hold your lashing tongue, or go on through your pathetic life without
it," he almost smiled, barring all four of his sharp, little fangs.
   Below him, Kurama sighed deeply, moaning lightly as he unwound his
arms from around Hiei's body and kissed him lightly on the forehead.  "I
love to hear you curse others, itoshii... but..." he made a definite point to
raise his voice as he began to stand slowly to his feet, taking full
advantage of his thin height.  "It looks like I'll have to hold that thought
for a bit," he sighed forlornly, dusting off his knees carefully.  "How I
HATE to be interrupted so rudely..."
   Yo-mawari felt it first: a familiar breeze kicking in slowly carrying the
ki of the vicious Makai plants around him that lived throughout the
realm.  A thin mist began to grow around Kurama's feet, swirling around
both he and Hiei, trapping them both in a growing white vortex.   On
reflexes, he bent quickly to retrieve his nephew, hoisting Kiroshu onto
his shoulders, tensing himself carefully.  "Mukuro, if you value your life,
remain completely still."
   "Why?"
   The white vortex cloud exploded into a choking dust about them,
parting like a great divider around Yo-mawari as he channeled the burst
of you-ki around himself, Kiroshu and Mukuro. In turn, he quickly took
the appropriate cover to morph from his human form back into his much
more agile, and quite comfortable youko form.  He had know the feeling
of this call once before when he face the youkai Karasu along side his
brother.  Clear images of that day still ran through his mind, clear
feelings of how easy it was to turn the servant of their will on whomever
they pleased...
   "Ahh, I rather like this plant," Youko Kurama's deeper voice sighed
through the churning smoke and mist that began to fog the Forces vision
in flat, deathless white.  Spectral and unearthly, his deep chuckle began
to resonate throughout the fog, seeping into everything it touched,
completely surrounding the Forces on all sides, binding them in as if it
was a physical barrier.
   Frantically, each member of the Forces began to swat at the clouds of
ki and smoke, some bringing up wind spells to help diffuse the clouds
quicker.  Each passing second broke the cloud into smaller and smaller
chunks, quickly beginning to resolve their vision... to something neither
of them wanted to ever see in their waking lives.
    The ground lay splintered and broken beneath on the forest floor, an
enormous wriling plant seemed to replace the youko and fire demon,
stretching out its various limbs of gaping, drooling mouths as if newly
awakened from  a deep sleep, yawning.
   Just below, standing defiantly between the many trunks of the plant,
Youko Kurama and Hiei stood side by side, the smaller youkai glancing
a nervous eye about his surroundings, still unsure if this was quite a safe
place to be.  They were nearly entombed by the bulk of the plant as it
squirmed and moaned around them, forcing Hiei to constantly switch
positions from the moving walls, lest he be forced to move, or worse.
   "Rather a wonder of modern biology, don't you think so?" Kurama
commented with a crooked smile to the Forces above, snaking out an
arm to herd Hiei back to his side, protectively.  "And so well behaved
too," he chuckled, patting one of the four lumbering trunks lightly with
the palm of his hand.  In response, a few of the mouths opened and
shrieked loudly, continuing to yawn roughly, searching for a meal to
satisfy their hunger.  "I warn you up there, one move, and you'll face a
very painful death.  Have you ever been eaten alive by a Makai
carnivorous plant before?"  Youko Kurama tipped his head to the side
and smiled vainly, tipping it so as to just rest his cheek over the spikes of
Hiei's black hair.
   Behind the two, Kiroshu slowly lowered his chest to rest on Yo-
mawari's head, burying his nose down into his uncle's locks of
streaming, silver hair.  "Ojisan," he whispered lightly, reaching down to
hang his arms over his uncle's head.  "Are they the bad guys?  The men
in the sky?"
    "Hai," the other whispered back, tensing when one of the giant
mouths diverted course to sniff through the air in their general direction. 
"Keep perfectly still, Kiro."
   The kit nodded and smiled widely, eyes sparkling playfully, almost
maliciously: a trait he had learned all too well from Hiei.  "Watch this,
ojisan."
   The youko frowned and lifted his eyes as if to try to look at his
nephew... before a shrill shriek broke through the silence of the forest
above.
   A huge bird of prey whizzed through the air at lightning speeds, the jet
wash of his huge wings bending down the higher branches of the Makai
trees in its wake.  The speed of the enormous creature was intense,
buzzing the Special Forces before they knew what was going on,
scattering them in a flail of arms and legs, sending each one jumping off
into a different direction.  Immediately, the Mimosa caught sight of the
moving figures and began to zero in, snarling and salivating as each
fanged mouth began to close in on their own intended target, eager for
food.
   "Scatter!" one of the men ordered with a violent swing of his hand,
kicking through the air as one of the Mimosa's large, gaping jaws
clipped his right arm, drawing a gash of blood.
   Youko Yo-mawari blinked a bit confused as Kiroshu began to cheer
wildly atop his head, clapping his little hands together as another large
bird swooped in, herding the escaping Forces back into the range of the
Makai plant.  "Kiro-chan... violence isn't the only way to settle things,
you know."
    "So what.  But it's definitely  the most entertaining!" the kit continued
to cheer.
   "Remind me to have a talk with Meijin-san when we get to
Yomatsu..."



  "They're following us," Yomi added simply as he continued to lead
through the forest at a modest pace, expertly dodging hanging limbs
and fallen branches.  His sightless skill was much better than the rest of
their skills, the blind wizard easily ducking hanging limbs and stepping
over obstacles that stood in his path.
   "I know that," Yusuke answered with a snort, keeping close stride
with the wizard, hands shoved deep in the pockets of his jeans.
   "If you wanted help, you've just gained four more allies."
   "Correction:  Four more people to get in the way.  It's bad enough
you're bringing Shura - Children don't belong on the battle field."
   "I'm no child!"  Shura shot back quickly from his father's side, glaring
down Yusuke with every ounce of his high dignity he could find.  "I bet
you anything I'm older than you!"
   Yusuke pulled to a quick stop, Kuwabara nearly running into his back
side as he tried to flail to a stop also, quite ungracefully.  Just through
the forest, Yusuke could see Jin and Touya walking side by side
through the path, Rinku bouncing along lightly, just ahead of them,
arms draped leisurely over his neck as if it was just a stroll through a
sunlit park, rather than a deadly forest.  "Damn it.  Those four are such
a nuisance... can't leave well enough alone...  OI!  Why are you
following us?" he yelled through the woods, loud enough to spook
many of the resting creatures of the Makai in their places.
   "You know what's going on and you haven't told us yet.  So, spill it,
or we'll follow you until you do," Touya shouted back, matching tone
and pitch easily, just clearing into complete vision.  The ice demon
walked with a sort of held confidence, almost too reminiscent of Hiei,
though with a personality to show for.  And at his side, the much taller
and bulkier form of Jin strode easily and quite clumsily, a demon of the
air forced to travel by land.
   "Ahh, Touya-san's always so pushy," Rinku piped up as he broke
from the shadows too, bouncing up his pace quickly down the path to
Yusuke's side.  "He's always temperamental, ne?"
   Jin had an arm draped over Touya's shoulder, once again using his
shorter friend as a makeshift arm rest, which the other didn't seem to
mind much.  Jin raised a hand and waved quickly, listening to Chuu
grumble behind them, before lowering it to once again lightly pinch
Touya's cheek.
   "Jin-chan..." the ice demon warned in a low growl, swinging the
inanimate, thin blue eyes to the side.
   Yusuke frowned and crossed his arms over his chest, watching the
two youkai approach.  "Jin-chan?" he repeated silently to himself,
unaware that he had asked his rhetorical question aloud.
  "Ah, so you've noticed then?" Rinku said at his feet.  "Cute, ne?  It
began about 2 months ago, those two..." he shook his little head,
jerking off his floppy red and yellow hat, tucking it neatly in his belt.
   "You mean..."
   "Hmm, sorta, I guess.  Nothing like Hiei-san and Kurama-san."
    It was Kuwabara's turn to groan loudly, shifting uneasily in his place
as the mere mention of the youkai's name.  He could never truly accept
the strong relationship that had been growing through Kurama and Hiei
ever since the Ankoku Bujuutsukai... "Aren't there any women in the
Mak... KOW!  Urameshi!!  NANI YO!"
   Yusuke snorted and removed his elbow from Kuwabara's gut
roughly, making it a point to whisper a threatening curse to him as he
did.  Sure, for a man already married, it was difficult to accept that
relationships could spring up between two men.  It was something
Yusuke would make a valiant effort to not think about.  On the days he
would have to drop off Koenma's itineraries to Kurama and Hiei,
Kurama was usually in nothing but his soft, green housecoat, looking a
bit roughed up when he appeared at the door.  Yusuke had always told
himself he had just awaken from a long night's sleep... even though it
was 5 in the evening.  He could ignore the winks and nudges Kurama
would give the little fire youkai on a regular basis, he could ignore the
protective glares and growls the other returned.  But he knew it deep
down that two of his friends... two guys, for that matter, were madly in
love with each other.  Nothing could change that.
    Jin raised a thin, red eyebrow as they all cleared the last row of
shrubs, watching as Kuwabara coughed and wheezed the air back into
his lungs.  Thoughtfully, he rubbed the tiny blunt horn that sprouted
from his forehead and continued to watch, a bit amused as he came just
a bit over Kuwabara's immense height.  Slowly, his wide, deep blue
gaze floated over to Yusuke who still appeared in deep thought over
something.  Jin noted, Yusuke always looked so calm in almost any
situation he was placed in.  He remembered how calm the ningen had
been when he had fought Yusuke in the Ankoku Bujuutsukai... and
lost.  Jin had laughed at the defeat, being expertly pulverized into a
cement divider high in the arena stands - he had always been one to
joke in the middle of anything.
   Beside him,  Touya pulled to a stop, Jin tumbling forward at the
sudden loss of his support, plowing over Rinku in the process.  The
two made their own little pile on the forest floor at Yusuke's feet, Jin's
much larger and bulkier weight nearly crushing Rinku, the almost child-
like little boy, squeaking as the air was forced from his lungs.
   Touya chuckled quietly under his breath.  Jin was usually the most
clumsiest of oxen on solid land, not quite used to having to walk
around most of the time, seeing as how flying was so much easier on
him.  But for the rest of the team, especially for the half that were not
fully youkai, flying was just not an option.
   Chuu behind him snorted, navigating around his much smaller team
mate to pluck Rinku from under Jin's massive bulk.  He hoisted the
child up into the air by the back of his shirt, watching as the stars in his
eyes began to clear and dissipate.  Chuu stood a good foot above
Kuwabara who had to be the tallest among the Urameshi Team.  He
dwarfed even Jin's immense size by a good four inches, not counting
the added height his ridiculous purple mohawk gave him.  He was a
rough-cut, weathered man, prone to the same fanatical behavior around
women as Kuwabara still was, though maybe a touch more handsome. 
He always appeared roughly cut and unshaven, a broad pink band,
possibly a tattoo, running over his nose.
   Among them all, Touya had to be the most out of place youkai of the
Rinku Team.  Standing about waist-high to Chuu, Touya could only
have been about the size of Hiei, if not shorter.  He was frighteningly
pale, his skin almost a thin, icy blue.  Everything about him was iced
blue, except for a few bunched locks of green hair that disobediently
fell down over his left eye, constantly being swatted at as it waved
through the breeze.
   "You guys are like a bunch of children," Yusuke commented easily,
reaching down a hand to help Jin bobble back up to his feet.  The large
youkai grunted and hopped into the air, flattening his cat-like ears back
in a cute display of annoyance.  The large demon, seeming to utterly
defy gravity as he hung, just sitting in mid air, folded his arms and legs
casually to float just eye level with Urameshi, surveying around until
large eyes sought out Yomi and Shura.  
   "So, why are all you guys following us?" Yusuke asked again.
   Jin shrugged and circled his glance back around, watching as the
team leader, Rinku, regained enough of his composure to talk.  The
little kid perched expertly on one of Chuu's shoulder, fiddling with one
of his rock-hard yo-yo's.  "Ya see, Urameshi-san.... Touya-san here
seems to think you know why there have been so many disturbances
coming through the Makai.  In fact, he seems to think old dead enemies
are beginning to pop up again.  And that YOU know why."
   Yusuke closed his eyes and turned back down the trail, snagging up
Yomi again who always seemed to make himself scarce whenever
company showed up.  Truthfully, Yusuke didn't have the faintest clue
as to how the creature in Yomatsu could cause the earthquakes in the
Makai... and he wasn't so sure about where the dead youkai were
coming from either.
   "Urameshi..."
   The brown eyes looked up from their thinking to center on Yomi
walking in stride beside them.  The wizard's ears twitched slightly,
filtering through the many protests and comments that were coming
from the Rinku Team behind them.
   "Urameshi... we're not alone."
   "Nani?  Who the hell ELSE is wanting to come on this damn trip?"
   "No..." the wizard pointed a stray finger through the canopy of trees. 
"Someone is following us.  Tracking us.. you and I, to be precise. 
Tracking your Rei-ki."
   "K'so... Reikai Tokuboutai.  Damn it, I was hoping we could loose
the Rinku Team before we had to deal with them."
   "Deal with who, Urameshi-san?" Rinku's little voice piped up,
bouncing from Chuu's shoulder to the ground at Yusuke's feet. 
"Something wrong?"
    Jin tensed in the air as he still sat floating eye level with the rest of
them,  his straight, pointed ears twitching like a rabbit's, eagerly
listening to the treetops above, frowning slightly.
   "Nan da, Jin?"
   The larger youkai frowned again, cocking his head to the side as he
continued to stare up at the canopy of trees.  His animal-like ears
continued to twitch about as if tracking little tree-top noises, shifting
and jerking around like a dog's ears would, listening to the sounds of
the wild.  Slowly, Jin raised an arm from his chest, bawled into a light
fist... immediately, the rest of the Rinku team fell into fighting stances
around him.
   "Damn it," Yusuke snarled, flapping a hand to Kuwabara.  "Are you
with me on this one?"
   "Hai, Urameshi."
    Yusuke cleared his throat... "Alright, come on out, we all know
you're there!!"
    Brief silence, cut only by a chirp of a few strange birds answered him
back, caught up totally in their evening singing to worry much over him
and his obnoxious bellowing any more.  The light of the setting sun
filtered through the canopy in rays of golden strings, catching rising
dust in a sparking display.  No unknown rei-ki could be detected
around the two teams - In fact, noting really seemed out of place...
   Jin tensed again, seconds before he bellowed out above all else. 
"Baku-Fuu Shou Heki!!"
   Surrounding the entire party, a huge whirlwind of previously non-
existent air kicked up, circling them all.... seconds before a large blast
of Rei-ki parted through the trees aimed dead-center on Yusuke.
   He had virtually no time to even think about jumping out of the way,
just watching stone-cold as the blast glanced easily off the whirling
wind surrounding them all, blasting off through the woods to lay a clear
path  of destruction into the far distance.
   "Shit!  Everyone, let's get the hell out of here!" Yusuke yelled above
the sound of breaking tree trunks, taking quickly back to his senses to
bolt off through the forest.

(c) December 1997 by Jiminy Cricket Presses