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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 insallment 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 solemly, 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 is the afterworld, noting had brought more shame or grief onto her that having to watch Yusuke say goodbye to his twins. She could still remember clearly every feeling that went throug 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 oldfriend 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 buisness, okay?"

Bara's tiny face frowned a bit, pulling a finger up to chew intently upon as she watched into her serogate 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 reasurring 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 sqeaked silently, eyes widening a bit in surprise. So easily, Botan pulled herself from her quiet wanderings and snaped back to her job at hand.

"Hai ... 'baachan. Heh heh," Yusuke teased snidely, 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 immpatiently 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 jirating 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 leagal or not.

"I know," Botan answered solemly. "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 agains 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, unweilding face staring straightly back. For a handfull 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 throguh 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 tunned 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 begining to gather his rei-ki. "They got here faster than I thought."

Yomi shifted a bit uneasily in his slighly hunched possition, 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 lept 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 sucessfully 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 sme way Kuwabara could on a regular basis, stumbling around like an oaf. "Ya little RUNT! Com'ere!!" He shouted, his tall, purple mowhawk 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 Kuwabra 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 buisness 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 sence 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 chuckle to himself.

"Whatever. Anyway, I have a fealling 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 definately not of Makai or Ningenkai origin. Definately."

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 colar, 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 grined, 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 oprotunity presented itself. It was becoming an annoying habbit. "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 frey, nabbing Chuu by the colar 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 obediantly 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 sorces 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. "About another quarter kilometer on this course," he told Mukuro beside him without so much as acknowledging her presence. "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 brige. Hiei had long since finished polishing his katana and now sat facing the path ahead, siting straighly on the floor, one of the shuriken youkai perched on his knee. "Infact, why don't we just stop here. I can find the portal much easier without this thing interfearing with my sences."

"If that helps," Mukuro said straightly beside him, the contraption suddenly slowing quickly to a dusty hault, and quite how she did that was still beyond the youko's reasoning.

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 terraine before him to locate the portal that connected the Makai directly into Yomatsu Hara-Sakai running perpendicular to them. 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.

"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!"

Hiei frowned and growled a bit under his breath, crossing his arms over his chest. His sences 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. "Okay, I heard you," he whispered, "now where are you?"

Hiei cleared his throat rather obviously behind him, voicing his displeasure.

"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. Quickly, scenario's ran through his mind; Kurama and Kiroshu could have been ambushed in the woods, possibly laying off, 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 hault behind and blinked a few times to the taller, black double of Kurama, raising a corner of his lips to bear one of his 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 lushed surroundings they found themselves in. The youko toated 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, 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.

Hiei took a bumbling step backwards, nearly tripping over a fallen branch. 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...

"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 disipate around him, falling off into the shadows to loose itself in the greenery of the forest aroud 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 dear would, caught in the headlights of an oncomming 18-wheeler. Youko Kurama chuckled bowing his head slightly as his brother's dispossition. "Sumimasen, Kyoudai-kun. I was mad..."

"Well, obviously," Yo-mawari added 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. "Hai," he chuckled, watching the kit run off to his other father. "I'm still pissed... 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 sence it. "Uh... Kurama-kun...."

Kurama reached out and jerked his brother forward, 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. "Ah, didn't hurt at all! You'll have to try harder next time!... ir find a tougher wall!"

"Lier!"

"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. "Baka..."

"Kurama..." the deep voice echoed in.

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 jeaopordized this entire mission."

In a heartbeat, Youko Kurama flashed from tormenting his twin to embracing his lover tightly, little Kiroshu tugging on one of the youko's ears as he too was embraced. "I missed you, Hiei-koi."

"Don't call me that."

Kurama fell to his knees before Hiei, drawing his fire demon in as close as he could without hurting either him or the kit. 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 tussel 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 burowed 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 colum flaired 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 mentinon how toatally assinine your actions have... mhrff ..."

Mukuro raised an eye brow as Hiei's ranting was cut off abruptly by Kurama, deeply planting an unending kiss onto the lips of the fire youkai. She smiled slightly and walked past them to watch out into the forest, leaving the two behind her to do whatever they wished. 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 backgroud, careful green eyes always watching over "his fire demon."

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, begining to add a viscious tone to his kissings. Every chance he got he nipped at Hiei's tongue, trusting his own back in. Hiei's fangs scraped over Kurama's lips as the fire demon began to challange the visciousness 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. Sure enough, the two were still kissing, rather passionantly 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. Infact, 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 the kit's pipped responce.

"Does Kurama-papa kiss you like that too, 'Wari-ojisan?" Kiroshu asked rather loudly, fighting with a wild lock of black hair that continually tickled his nose.

Yo-mawari choaked out a laugh and nearly doubled over,echoed by Youko Kurama behind him, breaking off his kissing, burrying his face into Hiei's shoulder, most likely laughing. But Hiei looked rather angry, whether it was at the comment or the fact that he was no longer kissing whom he had recently been reffereing to as "His Fox". 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 squwaked off into the air.

Kiroshu looked completely confused, volleying troubled eyes between his uncle and his fathers. "Nani... did I say something..."

"Aw, don't worry about it little Kiro-chan," Yo-mawari chuckled, choaking back another laugh. "Maybe I'll explain later."

Kiroshu's wide, golden eyes swivled 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 uderstand then, kiddo," Yo-mawari winked, grinning widely to his nephew. "Then maybe.."

"Shhhh," Mukuro hissed, whirling from her possition, grabbing the youg man roughly on the shoulder to silence him. She scowled deeply, but not at him. Instead, her gaze had been lifted to the canopy above them.

Complete silence, save for Kurama's muffled chuckles filled the air in the forest. There were no souds of the Makai wildlife: no birds singing, no youkai-eating plants grumbling...

Hiei felt it too... an unnatural presence, totally foreign to the Makai, sending him into a sharp growl, possessive arms wrapping tighter and tighter around his fox as he 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. reality shifted aroud them, the two halved of the scenery sliding away from each other, snapping like breaking glass. "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. The yellow, glowing path separating the two disappeared, instantly sending the upper half of the break into a loud, toppling mess, crashing about the forest aroud them, coming close to burrying Hiei and Kurama... as Kurama continued to chuckle softly, ignoring the events aroud him.

Floating in the air above them, about 7 bodies hug perfectly suspended, all in regal looking uiforms; the uniforms of the Reikai Special Forces. "We only have buisness with the members of the Reikai-tantei forces, Mukuro-sama. We have orders to take all members of the Uramaeshi Team into custody. So if you will please step from our way, we shall deal with Hiei and Kurama."

"Like hell you will!" Yo-mawari shot out, lowering Kiroshu to the groud before stepping protectively before his nephew. "You'll have to go through me to get to Kyoudai and Meijin-san!"

The lead man, jusging from the mount of decorative medals adorning his uniform smiled. "You have no idea how much of a pleasure that will be. 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. The youko still held the fire demon close to him, a gentle head resting on a thin shoulder to stare up at the Forces. But his face was anything but gentle. Dark shadows loomed over his face, the radiating clouds of deadly, snarling ki begining to once again enshroud his body.

"I'm tired of others pushing my family around, and I'm tired of the Reikai rulling 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. Yomatsu Hara-sakai and it's inhabitants are direct threats to the stability Reikai and Ningenkai..."

"Then you can add me to those list of "threats to stability"."

Hiei chuckled lightly over Kurama, resting his head down on his lover's soft, silver mane, turning the firey red eyes up to the floating Forces above. "Might as well add me in too."

"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."

"Watch who you're calling 'little'... I just might have to teach you to hold your 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 here you curse others, itoshii... but..." he made a definate point to raise his voice as he began to stand slowly to his feet. "Looks like I'll have to hold that thought for a bit," he sighed forlornly, dusting off his knees carefully.

Yo-mawari felt it first: a familiar breeze kicking in slowly carrying the ki of the viciouls Makai plants around him. 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. "Mukuro, if you value your life, remain completely still."

"Why?"

The white vortex cloud exploded into a choaking dust about them, parting like a great divider aroud Yo-mawari as he channeled the burst of you-ki around him, Kiroshu and Mukuro, in turn, taking the appropriate cover to morph from his human form back into his much more comfortalbe youko form.

"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, depthless white.

Frantically, each member of the forces began to swat at the clouds of ki and smoke, some brining up wind spells to help diffuse the clouds quicker. Each passing second broke the cloud into smaller and smaller chunks, quickly begining to resolve their vision... to something neither of them wanted to ever see in their lives.

The ground lay splintered and broken beneath on the forest floor, an enourmous wriling plant seemed to replace the youko and fire demon, streatching 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 surroudings.

"Rather a wonder of modern biology, don't you think so?" Kurama commented with a crooked smile. "And so well behaved too," he chuckled, patting one of the four lumbering trunks lightly with the palm of his hand. In responce, a few of the mouths opened and shrieked loudly, continuing to yawn roughly. "I warn you up there, one move, and you'll face a very painfull death. Have you ever been eaten alive by a Makai carnivourous plant before?" Youko Kurama tipped his head to the side and smiled vainly.

Behind, Kiroshu slowly loawered his chest to rest on Yo-mawari's head, burring his nose down into his uncles locks of streaming, silver hair. "Ojisan," he whispered lightly, reaching down to hand 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. "Watch this, ojisan."

The youko frowned and lifted his eyes as if to try to look at his nephew... before a shrill shriek broak through the silence of the forest above.

A huge bird of prey whizzed through the air at lightning speeds, buzzing the Specil Forces, 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 began to close in on their own intended target.

"Scatter!" one of the men odrered with a violent swing of his hand, kicking throug the air as one of the Mimosa's large, gaping jaws clipped his right arm, drawing a large gash of blood.

Youko Yo-mawari blinked a bit confused as Kiroshu began to cheer wildly, clapping his little hands together as another large bird swooped in, hearding 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 definately 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, expertly dodging hanging limbs and fallen branches.

"I know that," Yusuke answered with a snort.

"If you wanted help, you've just gained four more followers."

"Correction: Four more people to worry about and 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, laring down Yusuke with every ounce 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. Just through the forest, he could see Jin an Touya walking side by side through the path, Rinku bouncing along lightly, just ahead of them, arms draped leasurely over his neck. "Damn it. Oi! Why are you following us?"

"You know what's going on and you haven't told us yet. So, spill it, or we'll follow you untill you do," Touya shouted back.

"Ahh, Touya-san's always so pushy," Rinku pipped up, bouncing down the path to Yusuke's side.

Jin had an arm drapped over Touya's shoulder, once again using his shourter 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.

Yusuke frowned. "Jin-chan?" he repeated silently to himself.

"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.

"You mean..."

"Hmm, sorta, I guess. Nothing like Hiei-san and Kurama-san."

 

(c) December 1997 by Jiminy Cricket Presses