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Awaken the Dawn 

Chapter 6: One from Thirteen

by: Korogi

 

Yusuke came close to getting the pounding of his life when he had suggested that the group all split in two: one group heading for the eastern boarders with Kurama, the other heading to the western borders with Yo-mawari. Tactfully thinking, it would have been a wise idea the hope of finding the Houmonsha would have greatly increased and saved everyone much needed time. But both brothers had quickly shot down any hope of that plan ever working, Yo-mawari stuck close by his brother's side with a look that could have melted the polar ice caps of the Ningenkai in under an hour.

Instead, the huge group of thirteen was forced to go off as a pack through the dark wilderness, Yo-mawari leading them through to where he swore left and right that Houmonsha was waiting. He could feel the creatures clearly, off in a spot of the living forest that both he and Kurama had long-since chosen as their own little ring of homely trees.

On their way there, the air continued to cool, the temperature dipping so low as to reveal the breaths of the thirteen travelers in clouds of white steam about them. Yo-mawari was growing colder by the moment, but managed to hide it none the less, only his paling lips giving away the cold he was feeling, despite every effort either Kurama or Hiei lent to help him warm.

Koenma chewed all to intently on the blue pacifier, furiously stamping documents in a flurry of his little, stubby arms, filing papers and faxing logs. The worlds of Makai and Ningenkai were both in complete chaos for some reason. Spirits were appearing that should have been sent to Hades long ago: and three individual files seemed to bother him the most.

They sat in their own neat little pile aside from Koenma's usual furious bouts of stamping and faxing, each on marked with a big, blue stamp reading 'Re-catalogue: Unconfirmed demise'. The names read Toguro-Ani, Majou, Shigure in order...

Koenma grumbled and tossed a large, brown eye to the pile as another blue-stamped document came into existence from a shaky, blue hand, shuttering before him so quickly he couldn't read the writing. "Ko… Koenma-sama..." a familiar, wavering voice whispered down to him.

Koenma grunted and snatched the paper from his right-hand man, the large kaibutsu, Joruju Saotomei. It only took one thin look from the large brown eyes to reprimand the monster, the lumbering blue creature straightening quickly and attempting to gain what little composure he had. "You should read that quickly, Koenma-sama. Kurama's not going to be happy."

"Quiet now," the toddler spoke quickly, tossing his red stamp about again as he continued in his furious bout of stamping and filing. A small host of Koenma's workers were constantly running in and out of the huge, spacious office. Time and time again, they would bring in a new stack of documents, carefully taking up a stack off the toddler's desk before busily rushing off again.

Joruju stirred and watched his boss, shifting in his position as Koenma ignored the new file, the stamp flying, papers nestling into neat piles on the corners of his desk... "Koenma-sama!!!"

Papers flew in a stream of white around Koenma's head, fluttering about to reveal the blue-skinned monster nearly laying on his boss' desk, the new document being wielded like a child would his father's shot gun. "Read this, onegai shimasu!!" Joruju more or less whimpered.

Again, Koenma grumbled and groaned to himself, tossing the rubber stamp to the side, snatching the file folder from Joruju with a severely angered grunt. " 'Re-catalogue: Unconfirmed Demise.'," Koenma grunted as he read the legal characters, opening the file folder with a huff, nearly tearing the cover page off. " 'At 14 39 hours, Makai time, there was a confirmed encounter of an A-class, Quest- ranked youkai outside the boarders to Domain Three: Mukuro no Teritori. Ki-type and energy signature confirms the encounter to match that of..." Koenma frowned a bit and squinted down to the faxed document, the blue ink-stamp still wet, bleeding through the paper and onto his hand. "Joruju!"

"HAI!"

"This can't be right... fax Central Intelligence back, have them check this."

"Uh... I did that already, Koenma-sama. Twice."

"Damn..." Koenma neatly laid the document atop the small pile that had formed beside him, resting it neatly atop the file of Toguro-Ani, careful not to disturb either the old files or the fresh file before him. "…confirming to match that of ... Karasu..."

Joruju stumbled a bit in his place, pulling up a hand to chew on a long, sharp fingernail nervously, watching his boss grumble to himself as another load of papers and documents came in to be stamped. "Koenma-sama?"

The toddler stood to his feet on the large plush chair, turning to hop easily off to the floor below. "Come on, Joruju."

"Uh dou-shita n desu ka? Where are we going?"

"To see my father."

The creature stood immensely above them.... or rather... it sat above them, a towering monstrosity resembling that of a plump, grey housecat. It was the Houmonsha they had been searching for, the great creature that was responsible for the slow freezing of the lands of Yomatsu, the one they had all set out to kill, despite the Reikai's tough opposition.

Houmonsha turned large, red and glowing eyes down as the group broke out of the forest, the light of the moon dancing off the glowing surface to create a sort of spotlight that beamed around the forest, centering easily on the group, picking out Yo-mawari with a sickening ease. The creature laughed softly, sending a quaking rumble through the lands under the assault of its great voice, a small mouth opening to reveal row upon row of razor-sharp teeth. "Youkoso irasshaimashita," Houmonsha greeted, spoken heavily, its deep voice rattling through the freezing trees, breaking loose icicles and snow clusters.

Immediately, Yo-mawari slid to a halt, letting the rest of the group pass him by, the search-light of the creatures eyes trapping the WatchMan like a wild animal caught in the headlights of a speeding car..

"By the gods, that thing is HUGE," Rinku awed, perching precariously on the edge of Chuu's wide shoulders, the child close to the edge of tumbling from the man's shoulder to the frosty ground below.

Houmonsha turned its large head, its large, feline ears scraping through the treetops to send a shower of snow around his head in a soft halo. "Begone, children of the overlands. Yomatsu-Bounds now belongs to me," it spoke slowly, grumbling it's gigantic voice through the lands in a rolling thunder.

Kurama shuffled back past Hiei and Kiroshu to his brother. Yo-mawari's face was still paling, his lips almost blue from the cold the lands felt. He seemed almost like a walking zombie, the living-dead in his present state, the simple look of his brother enough to chill Kurama to the bone. "Kyoudai... do you have any idea how we can go about doing this without hurting you?"

Behind him, Houmonsha rocketed out a guttural laugh... only to have it echoed by Yo-mawari, deep and sinister, softly equaling the thunder softly in Kurama's ear. Kurama frowned a bit and just barely caught Yo-mawari as his brother's knees gave out and he sank slowly to the earth. He continued to laugh silently, even as Kurama brought him down, echoing the creature quietly, wrapping his arms around himself for warmth, lowering his head down to rest on Kurama's warm chest.

"Kyoudai... daijoubu desu ka?!" Kurama nearly screamed, settling his brother easily on the cold ground, trying to wrap his arms around him as his black double shivered violently.

"Shut up already," Yo-mawari chuckled back, shivering down further to the ground, drawing away from Kurama. "I can deal with this myself. Go back to the others."

Kurama frowned and wiped a hand over his brother's forehead, clearing black hair from his brother's snow-white face. "We'll get through this together, I promise you," the redhead whispered lightly, smoothing his hand over Yo-mawari's cold, wet hair. "I promise."

Behind, bringing up the rear of the pack with Yomi, the only female of the group stopped just short of Kurama's side, Mukuro turning a thin, blue eye up to the creature towering above her. "Well, here we are," she half grumbled, more to herself. "There are many things I would MUCH rather be doing than hiking through a frozen wasteland most likely to my doom..."

"You complain too much, woman," Yomi echoed aside from her.

"Quiet, wizard, or you'll be deaf as well as blind." The two wizards lid-lessly stared at each other for a few moments before Mukuro snorted and continued in her prose. "Here we are, here we've ended up, so... now what?"

Kurama rose slowly to his feet, trailing a hand over his brother's head softly, glancing quickly about the team. "One thing is for sure, we must do it carefully. There's no telling whether or not killing the Houmonsha will kill 'Wari-kun in the process. Now that we ARE here, we need to decide what to do, and do it quickly."

"You do nothing."

The group's attention turned from the Houmonsha, towering above them like an odd, distorted carnival attraction, down to Yo-mawari sitting in a neat pile on the ground. His four-foot katana had been silently brought out during the short conversation to rest upon his shoulder, glinting in the moonlight. It cast menacing shadows over his face and hands, the WatchMan smiling flatly through his blue lips as he arched his eyes around. He shifted a bit and managed to rise on his own back up to his feet, swinging long arcs through the air with his katana, marring the surface of the ground. On his face, three criss-crossing, light scratch marks appeared, turning bright red against his pale skin before being quickly healed.

Slowly, the black eyes fell on each of the team members one by one, picking them each out before falling to rest on Kiroshu, huddled under Hiei's arm, wrapped in the youkai's black cloak for warmth. The little kit stood just a bit over knee-high to the fire demon, a thumb popped in his mouth as he watched his uncle carefully, watched Yo-mawari glare him down. Instinctually, Hiei bent down and retrieved his son, picking up the kit to hold him comfortably in one arm, the other going to rest on the hilt of his katana in silent warning. Hiei growled lowly, swinging red eyes over to Kurama who stood back a bit from his brother now, taking in the actions the black twin was beginning to display.

Yo-mawari stretched an arm and laid the blade of the long katana on his shoulder, stepping forward slowly toward Hiei and the kit. "How are ya doing, kiddo?" he winked to his nephew, bobbing his head to the side in a cute little animal-like gesture.

"Ii desu ga, 'jisan," Kiroshu spoke a bit hesitantly, popping his thumb out of his mouth to wrap his little arms about Hiei's neck.

"Good," Yo-mawari smiled back, bringing the katana out once more to swing it down to the surface of the cold ground below. The metal blade hit rock, sending sparks up in its trail as another small, thin red cut traced a path over Yo-mawari's cheek before quickly resealing itself. "Would hate for anything to happen to you, Kiro." His tone was less than gentle, the black twin's eyes narrowing to thin, black slits, his voice growling as he looked the kit over sharply.

"'Wari..." Hiei warned, growling lowly, bringing his other arm up to wrap about Kiroshu's small body. He continued to growl deeply, backing away slightly from the WatchMan, a thin aura of heat beginning to envelop his body.

Yo-mawari's eyes turned swiftly from Hiei and Kiroshu back to his twin brother standing just beside him out of arms length. "You are all so... so... well, I don't know the word for it quite yet," he winked to his brother playfully, bobbing his head to the side again.

In turn, Kurama bobbed his head to the side also, smiling a bit at his brother's odd behavior and disposition. "Are you okay?" he chuckled, reaching out a hand to lay quietly on Yo-mawari's shoulder. "You seem... not yourself all of a sudden."

"Okay?" The young man's tone turned quickly darker, once again, the WatchMan swinging his katana through the air. "Why would I NOT be okay, by Inari you worry too much. You've always been a mother hen, Kurama-kun," he snorted, extracting another grin and shrug from Kurama. "Do you know how utterly annoying that is?" He paused to watch the red-head frown slightly, leafy green eyes carefully attempting in inspect his twin's features. "All those months of you on my case about settling down. All those months of you following me around, nagging after me, driving me out of my mind." Kurama seemed to falter under his brother's words, shifting in place. "So then dear brother, I guess its payback time, ne?"

The WatchMan lept easily from the ground to a nearby tree limb before anyone could react, jumping through the network of branches to come to rest nearly eye-level to Houmonsha, turning back down to stare at the group. "I know the word I was looking for now, Kurama! It's 'Gullible'! You're all so gullible! Letting me lead you hear when you knew damn right I was connected through the creature!"

"What in the hell is he doing now?" Yusuke grumbled, cursing under his breath, a thick cloud of white steam floated up from his face as he snorted heavily. Yusuke hated being kept in the dark: Yo-mawari and Kurama were good at doing that... but this time, Kurama appeared totally clueless as to what his brother was doing also.

Yomi stepped silently forward, almost floating up beside the young man as in answer to Yusuke's question, Shura at his side. "He's joining Houmonsha."

"NANI!" the entire group gasped.

"Perhaps I did not put that correctly: He has no CHOICE but to join with Houmonsha. Feel the lands around you. They're dying, and Yo-mawari is dying along with them."

Kurama could feel it even before Yomi spoke it. The plant life was slowly dying under the unforgiving cold that Houmonsha had brought to the once lush, tropical lands. The plant life was crying out, desperately trying to hold onto some shred of warmth that could keep them alive. "Damn, I didn't want to believe it. But the lands ARE dying."

"And Yo-mawari's only hope for survival is to join with the Houmonsha. It seems the bond to the lands can't be handed over by simply killing your brother. Houmonsha will entice him to willingly give over the heart of the lands, and then ... and then he will kill your brother." Yomi paused respectfully as he heard Kurama falter easily. "He's being turned against his will. You can only save him if you can turn his mind back to the path on which it has always been. Only you have that connection to him..."

"Oh Kyoudai-kun!" Yo-mawari called playfully from the tree tops, flitting about back and forth on the limbs as Hiei most often did. "I told you it was payback time, didn't I?"

Kurama faltered a bit... seconds before an unseen blast sent him careening across the forest to smash into a tree. His human body flopped back, rattling the tree roughly, sending shards of falling icicles everywhere. A few hit his delicate skin, slicing cleanly and cooly through the soft flesh to dapple his face and arms in tiny bleeding scratches.

"Kurama!" Hiei snarled, setting Kiroshu carefully on the cold ground aside from Yusuke, a look from the fire demon demanding that Yusuke look after his son. The fire demon disappeared in a flash of black wind to catch his falling lover before he crashed to the ground.

"Oh whoops! Sorry 'bout that… dear brother," Yo-mawari stressed the last two words heavily, sending a snarling chuckle through the lands.

As Hiei brought Kurama down to the ground, he checked him over carefully and quickly, rough and warm hands checking over Kurama's cooled body for broken bones.

"I'm okay, just a bit dazed," Kurama said, winded, shooing off Hiei's hands.

Overhead, Yo-mawari chuckled again, another blast ramming through the woods... and Yusuke blew back into a neighboring tree. "Gullible," and Yo-mawari disappeared from the treetops.

Hiei's head snapped up, Yusuke taking his flight much easier than Kurama had... "K'so... Kiro..."

Both parents rose in a flood of action and turned quickly, only to see Yo-mawari crouched down before Kiroshu, a hand softly pinching one of the kits rosy cheeks, silently chuckling.

Kiroshu chewed on one of his fingers lightly and watched his uncle carefully, wide golden eyes swinging back and forth over the bluing face. Yo-mawari brushed a cold hand lightly over one of the small, warm cheeks, smiling lightly. "You would have made your fathers very proud you know," he winked, watching the kit shiver under his touch.

"'Wari..." a calm voice came slowly, collected and calm. Without turning, Yo-mawari knew it was Hiei, slowly stepping up behind him, hands out to his side, palms up in a peaceful gesture. "'Wari... just..."

Yo-mawari turned on his feet and rose swiftly, stepping out from before Kiroshu. The little kit stood fine, but trembling, stretching out his arms toward Hiei, golden eyes shaking. Hiei made a move towards his son, but stopped short. "Gods no..."

Kiroshu sniffled lightly and shuffled forward, the folds of his baggy, white clothing shifting to reveal several black and shinny objects nestled deep within the folds. They glimmered both in the moonlight and on their own accord, shifting and nestling. "Damn you, youko."

Four of the tiny, living shuriken sat comfortably on Kiroshu's shoulders, two by two. As the kit shifted, the shuriken glimmered and shifted too under the movement until one lightly knicked the kit's cheek.

As any child would have done, he yelped and pulled his hands back, rubbing one across the cut in his cheek.

" ' WARI!!" Hiei bellowed. The fire demon picked his way forward carefully, keeping an eye on the four shuriken glimmering on Kiroshu's shoulder. The kit whimpered and rubbed his face, grasping the air before him with his other hand as Hiei stepped forward carefully and bent down before them. "What the hell are you doing," he snarled to the tiny youkai perched atop his son's shoulder, reaching out carefully to one of them.

The shuriken spun, bundling in Kiroshu's clothing, spinning out to slice through the tip of Hiei's finger. The fire demon spat out a curse and shuffled back, turning cold, red eyes to Yo-mawari.

The WatchMan stood leaning on his katana, chuckling darkly to himself. "If you don't want him to get hurt even more, I suggest you keep away from him."

" 'Tousan..." the kit whimpered, bundling his hands before him. He stepped forward again, stretching a hand back out to Hiei. Hiei made a move towards te kit, until one of the shuriken spun, digging into the soft skin on Kiroshu's shoulder. The kit screeched and shuffled backwards, tripping to fall back on his bottom.

"Damn you!" Hiei screamed, echoed by Kurama's quick gasps behind him.

Yo-mawari took to the air, back to the tree tops eye level with Houmonsha, the large creature laughing lowly, rumbling the lands about him.

Jin took to the air quickly, only to have the remaining two shuriken nearly slice him in two, sending him in an awkward spiral back to the earth, landing in a rather undignified pile of arms and legs at Touya's feet.

"We can't fight him without killing him," Yusuke spat. "But maybe we can incapacitate him. Hiei! Touya! Come here."

The two youkai found their way over, Hiei more of less dragging himself from the predicament his son was in, watching Kurama take his place worriedly. "Okay listen up you two: It's obvious that whatever happens to the lands happens to Yo-mawari too. Hiei... we're going to need you to warm the lands with the Black Dragon, and Touya... see if you can't take out those shuriken. Freeze them solid or something. We can't make an attack with Yo-mawari beating us down at every turn. And try to keep the plans from Kurama, Yo-mawari's most likely monitoring his mind."

Hiei grumbled a half-hearted agreeance, glaring down the ice demon before disappearing, taking the plans into careful consideration as he rejoined at Kurama's side.

The treetops sagged a bit announcing Yo-mawari's move in location, the black figure darting easily around to chose a careful bough that rose above the entire group. "So, now that you've all come ALL this way," Yo-mawari called down from the tree tops, "Now you all get to die."

"Hiei, Touya! Go now!" Yusuke yelled, running forward as the WatchMan leapt from the trees, katana at the ready... heading straight for Kurama.

Kurama rose quickly, pulling several seeds from his pocket, planting them in his skin to grow quickly into a defensive net. Yo-mawari rocketed through the air on a point-blank course for his brother, the remaining two shuriken joining at his side.

Kurama knew well before his brother hit that what defense he could bring himself to build would do nothing more than deflect the attack, Kurama's defense just barely holding under the onslaught. Importantly, he managed to deflect the menacing katana to the side to slice through the skin on his shoulder instead of the bee-line it had been making for his heart. Kurama was no stranger to pain: throughout his fights from the Ankoku Bujuutuskai up until the Makai Tournament, he had taken several bad beatings: Gama, Karasu, Shigure... He had become accustomed to feeling great amounts of pain, and he readied himself for a full assault.

Hiei took to his feet, ripping through the IjyuuTaiHou ward that wrapped itself around the bandages of the Kokuryuha. Immediately behind, Touya took to the air to draw the attention of the living shuriken that had joined at Yo-mawari's side against his brother. "Hey Urameshi-san. One question. Exactly what the hell do I do with these things when I'm done?"

"I can handle them fine," Mukuro added calmly, waving a hand through the air. "I can ward them to the ground. Just take them out of commission so I can get them safely away from the child."

Hiei pulled back, the head of the black tattoo that wound around his arm lifting to snarl shrilly, the glowing ruby eyes igniting well before Hiei even got the chance to call it forth from it's rest. "Ensatsu..." he began quietly, feeling his you-ki beginning to form around his body in the aura of the Black Dragon. He brought his arms out, the smoky, purple flames of the dragon beginning to smolder from his body, drawing the attention quickly of Yo-mawari. "... Kokuryuha!!"

Touya leapt as the shuriken shifted course to fly after Hiei, the demon of ice bringing up his you-ki to cool a block of air to well below freezing. He sent the block of air out, positioned it between their path and Hiei. "Get ready, Mukuro!"

The Kokuryuha began to seethe and burn viciously around Hiei's body, the fire demon holding the position as he watched the shuriken fly into the trap...

They hit the block of air in a metallic 'clunk', both of them almost instantly freezing solid. Quickly, Mukuro sent out a series of thin, golden lines that wound tightly around each of the shuriken before they managed to break their icy tomb, securing them quickly to the ground.

Yo-mawari faltered in his attack he was expertly making on his brother, swinging his head around nervously to see the two shuriken wallowing, held fast to the ground.

Hiei exploded from the cold earth, the fires of the black dragon spreading quickly around him, leaping out to singe the treetops that flew by him. The two separated, Hiei leaping to the ground before Yo-mawari, his compact body beginning to turn a sickly green as the Black Dragon continued on its wild journey over the lands. "How dare you attack my son... how dare you lay a hand on Kurama..." his shoulders and chest squirmed as if something was alive under his skin, his red eyes thinning out, the Jagan glowing hot on his forehead. "I should kill you... I should..." one by one, lidless, purple eyes began to open all over Hiei's body, unblinking stares all catching the WatchMan before them, Hiei's rough snarls echoing the vicious cries of the Black Dragon behind him, raging through the air, awaiting further orders. Around the group, large droplets of water began to fall around them as the flames of the KokuRyu began warming the lands.

Behind the two, Touya and Mukuro had decided to join forces, each using Yo-mawari's lapse in concentration to move in on the kit. "Don't move, Kiro," the ice demon whispered shrilly, keeping careful ice-blue eyes on Yo-mawari.

Yo-mawari jerked back from Hiei in time to see two separate pockets of air fling the remaining four shuriken from Kiroshu's shoulder, Mukuro quickly binding them in warded, golden line, securing them to the frozen terrain. "Damn you all!" He yelled, raising the katana above his head.

Hiei leapt, rejoining with the Kokuryuha, sent on a beeline straight for Houmonsha.

"Baka na," Yomi whispered as he and Shura rounded around, sliding to a hault. "He's trying to take the Houmonsha on by himself."

"He'll kill himself," Mukuro snarled, pushing past. "Hiei, you idiot. Get back here right now! That's an order!"

There was a sharp clang of metal, eyes turning to see Kuwabara and Yo-mawari off in a duel, the light of the Rei-ken swinging through the darkness to light the woods in odd, shifting shadows. Yo-mawari was moving much to quickly for Kuwabara, the young man managing to only block and deflect shots, finding no hope to defend himself through any other means.

Kurama leapt across what had now became their battle field, snatching up Kiroshu as flames from the Kokuryha began to bombard the earth. With every hot burst, Yo-mawari jerked, stumbling in his attack, snarling heavily. Wide openings in his defense began to creep into existence as he continued to fight Kuwabara, the oddly-faced young man taking shot after triumphant shot at the black twin, grazing shoulders, knicking his cheeks.

The Houmonsha grumbled out a laugh as he batted Hiei and the Kokuryuha, sending shards of the Black Dragon to fiery meteors down to the earth below. "Little insect," it rumbled, reaching out easily to catch a hold of the mouth of the raging dragon. "You shall be the first casualty of this battle."

The Kokuryha fought back with no avail, the Houmonsha beginning to slowly rip the black dragon into four separate pieces, the destruction traveling quickly down through the black, smoldering body.

"Hiei! Pull back!" Mukuro yelled, shoving past Yomi and Shura. "Pull back or he'll kill you. That's an order!"

Hiei ignored her, floating down through the burning black body to stabilize himself on the ground, trying to dump his ki back into the Black Dragon.

"Little stubborn twerp," she seethed. "Hiei! Damn you!"

The waves of destruction continued to pour through the body of the Black Dragon, viscously tearing it into four pieces, the destruction heading straight down for Hiei. Mukuro leapt in a wisp of black air, lending beside Hiei to grab him by the scruff of the neck, jerking him from the base of the dragon. She held her arms out wide as the destruction came barreling down, taking it full force in a massive explosion.

There was a quick silence that came over the group, save for Kiroshu's whimpering as he hid under Kurama's long, silken red hair. A thick billowing, pyroclastic cloud engulfed the ground at the base of the Kokuryu, the remnants of the dragon fluttering about in hot, red embers, singing out of existence onto the cold surroundings.

And then there was silence.

Hiei picked himself up from the cold ground, the black tattoo encircling his arm once more, a thick wind of Jin's doing breezing warmly through the land to disperse the deadly cloud. A burning pile marked the site of the explosion, Jin reaching forward with the power of the wind again to blow it out, cooling it to the point where everyone could safely view. It was Mukuro.

Surprisingly, Hiei was the first to her side. Her clothing was massively burned completely disintegrated through at her stomach, reveling where her once human body ended and her cyborg body began. A network of intricate burn patterns wound over her stomach and around her side, bleeding in some places. "Mukuro..." Hiei frowned slightly, reaching out to lay a hand on her stomach.

Her good eye flew open, her hand reaching out quickly to grab his wrist roughly, startling the fire demon roughly, Hiei almost screeching. "Hiei!" she snarled, glaring up at him. "The next time I give you an order you better damn well follow it! Do you hear me?" she growled, struggling to sit up. Chuu and Yusuke helped push her up, the Makai witch releasing Hiei to lay a healing hand softly over her stomach. "I'm amazed I'm alive," she wondered silently. "I've never felt that much power before."

A sharp clank drew everyone's attention back around once more. Yo-mawari's katana hovered inches from slicing through the back of Rinku's head, Touya's Koori no Ken fending it off to scrape through the earth, once again laying a thin red trail across Yo-mawari's face.

"It's time to finish this," the WatchMan snarled, tossing Touya easily to the side, smashing into Jin. "I'm getting bored with you all."

Yomi grabbed Kurama's shoulder. "He's still your brother Kurama. Remember that. He has no control over his own mind or his actions. The Houmonsha is using Yo-mawari's body as a host for his own deeds and actions. And such a feat proves that your brother has still not handed over the control of the lands."

"But... I don't know what I can do!" Kurama more or less whimpered, hugging his son tightly.

"Have faith. Yo-mawari is still Yo-mawari... he is STILL your brother. That bond exists between the both of you. Use that. Enter his mind and take back control."

"I... I don't know how."

The wizard cocked his head to the side seeking out Yo-mawari's odd aura. "I can force his mind from Houmonsha enough for you to get back some control of your brother. But only if you trust in two things: One, that I will not harm your brother in anything I do, and two, that no matter what, until he is dead, Yo-mawari will not kill either you or Hiei."

Kurama frowned and bundled Kiroshu further into his arms as the blind wizard stepped past him. "How could I trust you after what you did to my brother..."

Yo-mawari watched Yomi's advancement carefully, snorting and chuckling. "You think you can challenge ME, blind man? I have more tricks up my sleeve than you realize. You may be able to win everyone else over, but I'm not nearly as stupid or gullible as they are."

Yomi chuckled grimly, disappearing from his stance to appear behind the WatchMan, slapping a quick ward around his neck. He watched with a half smile as Yo-mawari faltered backwards, his you-ki flowing out of his body, the Houmonsha's control over his mind falling. Yo-mawari held his katana out at his defense... the last time he had been completely powerless was when Yomi... "No..." he whispered, turning quickly to leap back through the trees.

Yomi took to the air, easily following behind.

Below, Kurama growled deeply to himself, feeling Hiei come up to his side, a warm hand brushing over Kurama's hip in a silent announcement of his presence. The fire demon was clearly exhausted, dark circles beginning to form around his eyes. Kurama looked to him quickly, bending down to grab Hiei around the waist to keep him from toppling over. "If he touches my brother again..."

"Leave him be, Kurama," Hiei said silently, resting his head over on Kiroshu's little shoulder. "I know what he's doing."

Yomi chased Yo-mawari through the trees as the youko tried desperately to make it back to the safety beside Houmonsha, quickly loosing strength as the ward began to bleed him dry of his ki. He huffed, making the error of pausing on a tree limb to catch his breath, Yomi immediately over taking him. "And so, here we are again," Yomi spoke softly down to him as he pinned the youko back against the tree with a sickening ease.

"No... NO!!" Yo-mawari screamed, struggling before Yomi clasped a hand over his mouth. The other hand moved and jerked the katana from his hand, tossing it to the earth below, lacing a section of his rob around his wrist to tie the youko to the tree. Paniced desperation were in the black eyes as he tried to struggle, nearly powerless under the wizard. "... not again..." he thought, forcing his eyes closed.

Yomi grabbed the youko about the waist and just held him, letting Yo-mawari's frantic mind do the rest. He had no intentions of going back on his word he had given Kurama, he had no intentions of forcing himself upon Yo-mawari again. His chest still ached from the assault the shuriken had given him that night when he had taken the black-haired youko back to his warded city.

A deep rumble rang through the woods as the Houmonsha shifted in place, turning around to face Yomi. "Begone. Leave him be or face my wrath."

"You can't take the lands without his mind. If I keep his mind occupied with thoughts of past events, he'll forget you're there and break the link." Yomi tapped the black-haired human once on the nose, slung him easily over his hsoulder and leapt off before the Houmonsha's great, clawed hand smashed through the tree in which he was being held.

The wizard laughed softly to himself and leapt off out of range, picking another tree to rest in. He drew back from Yo-mawari and stared his lifeless eyes back at the youko. Yo-mawari jerked and squirmed, trying to pull his wrist from its bond in which Yomi held him securly. "Leave me alone... go away!" he hissed through a shaky voice.

Kurama's eyes were carefully trained on the events above, watching. At his side, Hiei passed quickly out of consciousness, slumping over into Kurama's chest, slowly being brought to the ground to rest in his hibernation sleep.

And then it hit him... a soft cry had echoed through his mind, deep fear trailing behind. Kurama knew instantly who it was... he knew instantly it was his brother's mind calling out to him...

Green eyes narrowed, snarling silently once at the Houmonsha as Kurama set Kiroshu down beside his other sleeping father. "Look after 'tousan, okay, Kiro" he grinned, plopping a hand on Kiroshu's little, white head of hair.

Again the call came, instantly calling Kurama back. Swiftly, he leapt still in his human form, darting through the treetops...

Yomi had Yo-mawari pinned rather easily to a tree, the strength had been totally drawn from the black twin's body and he lay slumped back against the tree. Wide black eyes, panic-stricken, watched the wizard above him...

"Leave my brother alone!!!"

In a flash of red hair, a force drug Yomi roughly from the tree, flinging him through the woods in a trajectory the wizard could easily correct. And well in view of Yo-mawari, Kurama's eyes flashed quickly into view, swift hands going to the ward around the other's neck, furiously unwinding it, dispelling the power.

"...Kyoudai..." Yo-mawari whispered, the black eyes that had long been filling with tears spilled over, rushing down to burn the WatchMan's cheeks.

"Don't be a bother," Kurama hissed more to himself, dispelling the last of the ward. "We've got a job to do.

Before Yo-mawari's eyes, the gentle, beautiful features of Minamino Shuuichi bleached suddenly to cold and harsh lines of the youko that possessed his brother. The change in ki levels spiked sharply, easying Yo-mawari back to himself.

The black eyes smiled widely, Yo-mawari reached a finger up to flick the Youko on the nose. "What the hell is going on here, Kurama?"

"We're getting your lands back.. THAT'S what's going on here. Are you with me?"

The black eyes flashed easily gold… "You bet."

 

 

© June 1998 by K&K Inc.