Awaken the Dawn Chapter 2: If the Wind Could Talk, What Would it Have to Say by Korogi _____________ Koenma sunk back in his plush chair with a grumble, closing down the large but small brown eyes to thin slits, chewing on the pacifier intently. It bobbled around in his little mouth, a few times, threatening to topple from his lips and into his lap, each time being caught back up by expert lips. He could already tell that today was going to be a rough day. The toddler continued to grumble, the odd noise from the small boy seeming to help his thinking processes as he sat perfectly still in the ridiculously large leather chair, stretched like a lounging cat in the sun. Beside him, hunched over on the arm of the chair was Joruju, his fat blue cheeks resting on the side of the leather, watching Koenma grumble and groan to himself. He was the ever-present employee, taken to himself to look after Koenma, though it mostly ended up that it was Joruju who needed looking after. He managed to get into little things that escalated into bigger-little things.... spiraling from there. Koenma having to save his blue end. The blue kaibatsu looked nervously back and forth between the forward screen and the toddler in the chair, still grumbling, still thinking. His pointed ears twitched slightly, anxious for some sound to come out of his boss other than the grumbling. Something that wouldn't make him fuss and worry over his boss any more. "Koenma-sama?" he asked quietly, bending down to rest his chin on the arm of the chair, eye-level as the toddler opened and eye over to him. Joruju pouted slightly, eyes widening like a puppy who had been caught relieving himself on the good oriental rug. "Nan da, Joruju?" "Say something, Koenma-sama." "Nuts." "N... nani!" Koenma sighed and sat up in the chair, wiggling about on it to reposition his little body. He struggled about, scooting forward to the end of the chair, his little legs dangling off the edge. "Nuts, as in we have no say in this. Yomatsu Hara-sakai is out of the Reikai's hands... and plus, I wouldn't want to take another trip there. Dad would have my head if I let a team go under my knowledge." The blue monster shifted by the chair, scratching at an annoying itch that materialized on his cheek. Deep thought was something Joruju never was very good at, but he tried, mostly to please his tiny boss. "Hai, Koenma-sama. Koenma looked back to the monitor and flipped off the mute, the still and unchanging face of Yo-mawari still framing most of the picture. "Well, here's the deal. Everyone gather around." One by one the Reikai-tantei all gathered around Yo-mawari, looking into the briefcase. As all would have expected, Kurama nestled to rest his chin on his brother's shoulder wrapping an arm about his shoulders, that strong, brotherly bond. It was so much more different than the secret little hugs Kurama would give Hiei when he thought no one was watching, totally out in the open. Yo-mawari seemed relieved at Kurama's presence over his shoulder, tilting his head over and raising a hand to grasp the other's, the simple contact between opening the mental link into a burst of emotion. They just shared emotions at that time, both wanting to concentrate on what Koenma was getting ready to say. And no one really noticed Hiei crawl over Kurama's outstretched leg with a light touch to sit in front of them, close to the youko but not touching him, sitting up to his straight, statuesque pose. "Okay..." Koenma's squeaky voice started, bringing in everyone's full attention. "Since Yomatsu is out of the Reikai's jurisdiction, I can't request or ask a team to go down. Not until there's a solid threat to the Ningenkai... an invasion or distortion." "Yeah yeah," Yusuke grumbled. "And all of this babble means what?" "It means..." Koenma growled, "that technically, none of you by Yo- mawari is allowed to go. BUT!" he put in quickly before the retorts would start, raising a chubby finger to the monitor. "But, if you decide to go on your own, there's not much we can do to stop you here, seeing as how the Reikai-tokubetsu no guntai won't step foot in Yomatsu. But, that also means, if you get into trouble, no one can help you. AND.. that also means, as soon as my father finds out, who ever goes with Yo-mawari will be court marshalled, possibly thrown out from the services." Yo-mawari took a deep breath and nodded solemnly, poising himself to speak. He intended to declare his position on the matter firmly, hardly expecting anyone to follow him into a hopeless battle. He had almost completely forgotten his mind was physically linked to Kurama's until he felt his twin's arm tighten around his shoulder. :You're not alone,: Kurama whispered through his mind, repeating that same line again. :If you're going, I'm coming with you. No excuses. It may be a hopeless battle, but you can count me in.: Despite himself, Yo-mawari smiled as he leaned forward towards the monitor, staring back at Koenma's prissy little face. "Kyoudai-kun and I are going to Yomatsu, Koenma-sama." Koenma grumbled again. "I thought so... my best wishes, Kurama..." "I'm going too," Hiei's rough voice growled, almost whispering, deeply serious and firm. It challenged down any and all statements that could have been made to Yo-mawari's defense, making it perfectly clear that he didn't care if he was cast from the tantei or not. "He'll need all the help he can get." Yusuke pounded a fist into his hand beside them, rising to his feet swiftly. He had that fighting gleam in his eye, the same gleam that followed him into every battle, from the simple brawls on the school yard to the higher-ranked Makai battles he had participated in. "If there's a fight someplace, I'm there! Count me in." The handsome smile winked off his face, once to Yo-mawari and once to the monitor, also stating his position on the matter. Reikai-tantei or no Reikai- tantei, these were is friends, and he'd be damned if he didn't help them. Aside, Kuwabara sprung to his feet to tower almost a foot above Yusuke, flicking at a stray strand of is orange hair. He chuckled lightly to himself and jammed a thumb to his chest proudly, rustling his chest to look more muscular than he already was. "I, Kuwabara Kazuma shall not rest until this beast is put to justice... besides!" he laughed and hunched over, rubbing his hands together. "Here's my chance to show Yukina-chan what I'm made of!" "Hai, meatloaf," Hiei grumbled more to himself, rising from in front of the monitor, simply transplanting his statued body to his feet, still a good two feet short of Kuwabara's immense height. "Nan desu de!" Kuwabara shrieked, pulling himself from his delusions to begins lumbering across the dining area. "Was there something you'd like to say to my face, squirt!" Hiei scoffed and folded his arms across his chest, closing down the blood-red eyes, more snide and emotionless that any living being could possibly pull off. "Hn. Say what? I'm sure you know it all by now, seeing as how you're as smart..." "Right!!" Kuwabara announced quickly, standing tall and bold again as if showing off for the dear snow maiden. "I am very smart! And for a man of my intelligence..." "The intelligence of a slug..." "You little BRAT! I'm gonna sweep the floor with that brush-head hair-do of yours! COMMERE!!" Kurama groaned, unwrapping himself from his brother, severing their link gently. "Excuse me, Koenma. They're at it again." Various crashings and shouting of insults were heard behind him as Kurama rose to take on his active duties as mediator, a seemingly regular job whenever the group as a whole got together. If it wasn't Yusuke and Kuwabara, it was Yusuke and Koenma... and almost every time, without fail, Hiei and Kuwabara would get into a battle of wits and words, threatening to escalate into an all out fist fight if he didn't intervene. Koenma grumbled heavily and sat back in the huge chair, chewing again on the pacifier. The monitor before him showed only Yo-mawari in full view, smiling and listening to the brawl behind him, listening to Kurama's handsome alto gently try to calm the two fighters. Joruju eyed his boss a bit nervously again, glancing back to the monitor as Yo-mawari gently pushed himself to his feet and left the view, replaced quickly with an open shot of the Minamino household. "Koenma-sama! Is something worrying you?" One of the toddlers eyes popped open, a small, stubby hand reaching forward to hit the 'mute' button again before Koenma even opened his mouth to consider speaking. "I doubt that they have a chance, that's what worries me. That there," he pointed a chubby finger to the monitor just as Kuwabara's face went shooting by the view to crash somewhere off camera, Hiei darting quickly across in pursuit, followed by Kurama, waving frantic hands. "That is the best team of Reikai- tantei we've seen in 300 years. Yusuke is the only one of them who could so much as hold a candle to that creature Yo-mawari described. But he's been out of practice since the Makai Bujuutsukai." Joruju stood up from beside the chair, rounding the desk to watch the fight on the monitor, scratching his chin in thought. The Minamino household looked like total chaos, pillows flying this way, silver ware flying that way. It was a complete battle field, Joruju half expecting the Rei-ken or the Kokuryuha to come blazing into view. Kuwabara and Hiei were like a two man army of destruction when they got into their fights. ... a two man army. An army. "What if..." Joruju thought out loud. "What if.. what?" Koenma demanded, sitting forward. "What if..." he scampered around the desk and fell to his knees beside the chair, cupping a hand to his mouth, leaning over to whisper into Koenma's little ear. With each word, the brown eyes widened and sparkled, hanging off every word until the blue kaibatsu pulled away, smiling at his success in creating a good plan. "You know, it just might work!" Koenma reach forward and swatted at the mute. "OI! Minna-san! Listen up!" "HIEI!!! You're gonna eat that smirk for dinner!" "Kuwabara-kun! Kudasai..." "Hn. I'd like to see you try!" "Hiei... Kuwabara-kun... please calm down!" Across the apartment in the kitchen, Kiroshu stood up from beside Claws, flicking a blood-red strand of hair from his face. The fight had moved into it's fifth minute already, each second bringing more insults and more threats of bodily harm between the fighters. He watched his fathers closely, one trying to rip Kuwabara's head off, the other feverishly mediating, pleading with the other to calm down. He watched them closely, watching the hopeless scene that seemed to be taking place, Hiei struggling against Kurama's gentle grip, Kuwabara dancing like a random fool, sticking his tongue out to further annoy the youkai being restrained. It was quite childish, something he hardly expected adults to be doing: fighting like that, especially 'tousan. He didn't even fight like that with Toge, so why was Hiei so bent on fighting with Kuwabara? Kiroshu shrugged and took to his feet, beginning slowly across the floor to the brawl. Kurama had wrapped his arms about Hiei's waist tightly but gently, and had hoisted him into the air, kicking and thrashing violently. The youkai snarled menacingly, gently gripping at the arms to let him down. But they refused to budge. But even though Hiei was shouting every curse he could think of, Kurama was smiling widely. With his arms around the youkai's waist, this gave Kurama the perfect chance to hold his lover in public, clutching him tightly but sensually, burying his nose down into Hiei's hair as he fought. There was a playful spark in those eyes as he continued to restrain Hiei, having to shift and compensate constantly for Hiei's struggles. It was like trying to hold onto a big block of Jell-o. As the youkai continued to struggle and snarl, His eyes fell suddenly to Kiroshu as the kit approached, the huge deep green stare of the kit blinking back at him, asking questions and judging his father's actions. It was reprimanding, though Kiroshu didn't have to say a thing to either's defense. The sheer look was enough to bring Hiei back to his senses, realizing the childishness of his actions and the display. He watched Kiroshu watching him, ending his struggles to dangle in Kurama's arms defeatedly, his feet bobbling to swing a few inched off the ground. Kiroshu blinked once and turned around, stepping back around Kuwabara's feet to return to his cat and the milk carton. He seemed the only one in the room totally unaffected by the events that were going on, perhaps too young to really realize just yet what could happen. Kiroshu had proved to be a bright little thing, though only a few years in age. He could read and write fairly well and seemed knowledgeable in things that concerned the Makai and the Ningenkai. A quick learner and a good listener, Kiroshu had amazed Kurama to no end whenever he had the chance to sit down and chat with his new son. The Persian cat meowed beside the young boy and rubbed against his knee, smearing his face and fur all over the boys dark pants. Long, fluffy strands of fur left their mark behind, the ct managing to shed on just about everything in the house, including all their clothing. This especially bugged Yo-mawari since he mostly wore black, always becoming upset when he found a big mess of white cat hairs all over his clothing. Kiroshu sighed lightly as he sat back down to stroke the soft fur, listening to Claws purr, snuggling up to his lap. The family cat had always been specially bonded to Kiroshu from day one, though no one knew quite why. At some times, Kiroshu would stare down to the cat and scream, crawling into one of his father's laps. He would shake and nestle down, watching the cat stalk off into the house, claiming Claws was talking to him... perhaps Kiroshu's youko powers were over animals, where as most other youko's took powers over plants. Kurama snickered slightly across the room, still dangling Hiei in the air, arms tightly wrapped. "Ahem," a little voice coughed from behind them all, startling the Reikai-tantei into a collective 180 degree turn. All eyes turned to see Koenma's little picture blinking back at them all, the little vein on his forehead beginning to throb. "If you're all quite done... I think we may have figured out a plan." Instantly everyone was tripping over everyone else to get back to their seats before the monitor, Yusuke and Kuwabara causing the largest amount of chaos as each tried to out-do the other. Yo-mawari sat directly in front of the screen, Hiei blinking to sit before him, tucked off in a corner of Koenma's vision. Over the WatchMan's right shoulder, Kurama's head popped into view, the thin and bony chin resting on his brother's shoulder again, long arms circling over his shoulders to tug and yank playfully on the long trestles of black hair. And of course, Yo-mawari tugged back. Yusuke and Kuwabara managed to crash into a pile next to the three, instantly uprighting themselves and sitting straight as if they were two perfectly behaved school children. "What's up, Koenma?" The toddler shifted forward and stood on the chair, barely managing to raise his small height any more than it had been before. He leaned forward onto the desk, balancing himself on his hands. "Here's what we've come up with. From the description Yo-mawari has given me, this is a very powerful oni, high up in the S- class regions of you-ki. And as you know, the only way to defeat or kill an S- class is to get another S- class to do it. Right?" "Hai," everyone added as a collective. "So... " Koenma leaned forward more, balancing his entire body on his little hands, rising up on tip toes from the chair, leaning heavily on the desk. "So you...." "Nani?" Kuwabara whined. "So we WHAT!" Koenma cursed and toppled from the desk and out of view, to land in a squeaked 'plop' someplace out of camera view. They all watched intensely as Joruju yelped, scampering around the desk to retrieve his boss, picking him up gently to sit him back on the desk. Yusuke turned in his position, glaring down Kuwabara with one of those glimmered, brown gazes. It was one of those 'you must be the biggest MORON in the universe!' glares, known all to well by him by know. "Eh... nani, Urameshi!" Yusuke hauled off and smacked him roughly in the chest, hard enough to echo the slap throughout the apartment and extract a cringe from the rest of the tantei. "Idiot! In order to defeat an S- class, we need MORE S- Classes!" "Exactly," Koenma groaned from the monitor. "I'm glad to see I haven't hired more than one brainless ningen employee!" Snickers rose around Kuwabara, an especially loud grumph from off in Hiei's corner. A red eye popped open to laugh at him, rubbing in the comment like salt into a wound. It was sure to spark a response from Kuwabara... until Kurama tisked lightly and raised a fine red eye brow in the direction of the youkai. Yusuke nodded solemnly at the monitor, turning back full attention. The only S- classes that he could even hope to get on their side were the other owners of the Makai. "Mukuro and Yomi," he declared, shifting up onto his knees. Koenma sat on the desk, adjusting the ridiculously huge floppy blue hat on his head, grumbling even more to himself as Joruju helped, dusting his little shoulders off. "That's right, Yusuke," he grumbled, scampering over the desk to plop back in his big chair. "And you need to move fast. There's no telling how long you have before Reikai intelligence learns you've ALL gone against my father's orders and went to Yomatsu. And when that time comes and you're still in Makai looking for Mukuro and Yomi, every member of the Special Forces will be on your hides faster than you can blink. You need to get into Yomatsu fast! I can't keep this under wraps for very long, not without someone getting suspicious." "But Koenma, what will happen to you if your father finds out that you were in on this?" Kurama asked, leaning more over Yo-mawari's shoulder to place his face in full view. The toddler shuttered and switched the pacifier about in his mouth uneasily. Everyone one knew Enma-Daioh's anger and the consequences for making him angry. "Maybe I can play innocent. I'm a very busy man up here," he gestured to the piled of white documents that littered the desk and the office. "Keeping you five tantei in line is my soul responsibility, so it's going to take some quick thinking to avoid my father's punishments. Still, the quicker you get to Yomatsu, the easier it will be on ALL of us if and when Intelligence finds out." Yusuke nodded once more in agreement as Koenma signed off. A slow, mechanical hiss and beep fuzzed the monitor into pixel snow before Botan shut it down, nabbing up the briefcase and calling up an oar. The slender wooden oar blinked into view in a tinker of fine bells to hover obediently before her, awaiting her orders. Yusuke took a long deep breath, pushing himself to his feet, the others following behind in the same action. "It looks like our first line of work is to track down Yomi and Mukuro. It would be best if we split up, speed things up a bit; it looks like we're going to need all the help we can get. "I'll take Kuwabara and go to Yomi's city. Kurama, I'd like it if you'd join up. Being his old partner and all, even though you two may not be on best terms, you might be able to get his help more than I could." "And 'Wari and I will go to Mukuro's complex," Hiei butted in before Yusuke had time to give him orders. "I'm certain she'll help, that shouldn't be a problem." "Right, sounds like a plan!" Kuwabara cheered, cracking his knuckles. "When do we leave?" Yusuke began his string of plans, Hiei sharing his insight along side him. Kurama was listening intently when he felt a gentle tug on his pant leg that demanded his attention. Slowly, his eyes left the briefing to find Kiroshu at his feet, looking up with those oddly sinister deep- green eyes. The child looked a bit lost and lonely, eyebrows sagging as he looked back up to his papa. His eyes clearly told Kurama that he knew everything that was going on and knew the danger his uncle was in. Such adult matters that were supposed to be beyond a child's reasoning seemed to break and shatter when around Kiroshu, the toddler always showing higher knowledge and understanding than all the books on patenting Kurama had read on his slow days at the office. Kiroshu sniffed lightly and rose both hands to Kurama, little fingers feeling through the air to tug his father down for him, a ghostly pull that lured in Kurama without even having to touch him. Kurama smiled and bent over, sweeping Kiroshu into his arms tightly, raising back to his feet beside his brother. "Nan da, Kiro-chan?" "I want to come," Kiroshu looked him straight in the eyes, serious as he had ever made himself to be. There was a sense of obligation behind those eyes, nearly black in the dim dinning room, shadowing over his face. Serious lines and expressions replaced the child's face, darkening around him, making his desires perfectly clear. "You what?" Kurama whispered to him, adjusting the small boy on his hip. "I want to go with you, 'tousan and ojisan." "Absolutely not! Out of the question!" "Why!" Kiroshu whined back, wrinkling his forehead and pouting as any experienced toddler could so easily do. "Because I said so," Kurama put back firmly. "You're too young." Kiroshu snorted and laid his head back on Kurama's shoulder, a forlorn sigh sagging his little body. "Why can't I go. I want to stay with you and 'tousan." "Kiro... it's too dangerous, love. You'll get hurt, then Hiei and I will be upset that we let you get hurt. We're going to a place we should not be, and we're going up against a creature we might not even be able to beat." "But what if you or 'tousan never come back?" Kurama sighed heavily and hugged the kit tightly, rubbing a hand up and down his back. He hoped that Kiroshu wasn't quick enough to catch what was being discussed around the house there today. Facing death was something Kurama had done countless times before without so much as a second thought. But now, with the responsibility of an abandoned child resting on his shoulders, the perilous missions and journeys began to tug on his conscious. What WOULD happen to Kiroshu if his father's died? Who would take care of him? Who would take care of Shiori-kaasan!? Yukina and Kuwabara were busy as was, what with their wedding plans and all. Yukina had been under the weather for a few days now and a kit to take care of would take her mind away from getting better and keeping Kuwabara out of trouble. Yusuke and Keiko had twice the responsibility as he and Hiei, after adopting the youko twins left in the path of destruction from the Soul Eater a little over a few weeks ago. The very thought of that creature... the thought of it coming within inches of killing him sparked a sudden fear deep into his heart. He had come that close to never seeing any of the people he loved again, way to close for comfort. A few hours later and he would be dead forever, only able to watch Tokyo-tou from the miles upon miles of distance in the Reikai. He wasn't the haphazard youko he was a year ago... he had enormous responsibilities. An ailing mother, a husband, a new family... he was a father now! He couldn't risk his life as he had done so many times before. If he lost Kiroshu ... but if he lost Yo-mawari... "Well," Kurama finally spoke, his voice cracking in his throat as it escaped into the air. "Things won't come to that, Kiro-chan. Hiei and I'll be just fine, you'll see," he said firmly, adding a rough jerk of his head to the end of the sentence. "I'm not going to loose either of you. I refuse to let that happen." "Promise?" "Hai. I promise," Kurama whispered, hugging the child closer to him. "I'm dying of old age and nothing will stop that." Hiei, listening intently to Yusuke, turned his gaze slightly to peer out of the corner of his eye. Behind them all, he saw Kurama with the young redhead. Kurama's face seemed pale and distant, struggling with his inner emotions and the conflict of the mission he was going on... and he swore he saw a single tear escape the green eyes. Hiei cringed inwardly, turning quickly back to the human before him, trying to concentrate on what was ahead. But to no avail. He could only think of Kiroshu. Hiei had full confidence in himself that he would make sure one of them made it back alive, whether it be himself or Kurama. Either way, one of them would have to take care of the kit. More duty and honor- bound loyalty filled his head, Hiei wondering if he should threaten Kurama enough to make him stay behind. But that would be a worthless endeavor, Kurama would follow both he and Yo-mawari no matter what, no matter where or under what circumstances. The youkai growled deeply to himself and broke from the group, disappearing quickly up to the loft of the apartment. Kiroshu wiggled in Kurama's arms until the tall, slender frame bent down to gently set him on the floor. Kurama's big green eyes floated into view, trying to hide his pain as best as he could with a large, playfull smile. It was a pretty good attempt, his face seeming to be void of all the fear and sadness that threatened to burst him at the seems. It would have worked until that single tear glistened out of the corner of one of his emerald eyes, met quickly with his shirt sleeve. But it was alive long enough for the kit to notice as Kurama knelt before him. "I'll see if Yukina will watch you until we get back okay? Or you could stay with Keiko and the twins." Kiroshu snorted and pouted, watching Kurama's face and eyes carefully as the emotions faded, melting away into pure, inconditional love. "I don't know the twins that well, and besides, Toge hates me." The kit snorted and forded his arms across his chest, sticking his bottom lip out. As well as any full-blooded ningen child could have done, Kiroshu pouted... Kurama half expected him to fly into a noisy temper tantrum as he had seen ningen children do in grocery stores. "He doesn't hate you, he's just protective of his sister," Kurama cooed back in his gentlest voice, smoothing back a stray blood-red spike of the boy's hair. "He hates me," Kiroshu pouted. The little boy turned on his heals and stalked back across the room to the kitchen to plop back beside his cat, pouting in his silent little temmper tantrum. He was like a lost child now, facing the seperation of himself from his new family. He didn't want to loose another family. Kurama knew something bad was bound to happen... it tugged on the back of his mind insistantly, demanding attention. Kurama had the sinking feeling he would never see his adopted son again once he left this appartment today. A thin touch graced his shoulder, a wild purple gaze floating next to him to slide gently and slowly to his vision as he stood to his feet, taking full advantage of his slender height. Botan, now back in her regular faded pink kimono looked back at Kurama, her fingers lightly gripping his shoulder. Wordlessly, she searched over his face, knowing what he was thinking even without Kurama having to tell her. It was the kit, she knew Kiroshu was weighing heavly on his mind. "Kurama- kun. Are you okay?" Green eyes darted once to Kiroshu alone with his cat and then back to Botan. He smiled despite all that ran through his mind and took her hand gently in his. "Botan... can you go to Yukina's. See if she'll watch Kiroshu while we're gone?" "Hai, Kurama-kun. I'll go right now," she gestered to the oar in one of her hands. "Take care of the rest, okay? I'd say it to Yusuke, but he'd just snort and yell, telling me I'm jinxing the mission or something pig-headed like that." Botan smiled a bit forlornly and bowed her head in respect. "Ja ne, Kurama. Take care of them." Kurama noded a slow solemn nod and watched Botan hop up onto her oar, zipping quickly out an open window in a whiz of displaced air. She flew straight through the night sky, not performing any of her aerial acrobatics that she had been highly know for, blazing a straight and serious bath through the Ningenkai skyline. The sweet smell of the noon blossums in the air outside the window wafted about on the light, airy breezes that surrouded the small, quaint appartment the entire group had een piled into. They seemed unaware and uncaring to the things that went on around it. Disasters had befallen the human civilization for centuries now, the only witness to the horror and devestation was in fact, the wind itself. A silent watcher, noting every action, every movement, every death. Kurama closed his eyes and stepped forward, facing out the window, feeling the warm rays of the sun basking on his face, warming his skin and heart. And the youko wondered; If the wind could talk, what would it have to say? Would is relinquish it's secrets and give testimony to the events of the Ningenkai. Would it have some sort of counsel to give him before he went with his brother on this journey that would surely be the death of them all? Or would it just smile and laugh as he had always known it to?... "Oi, Kurama. You coming, or what?" Yusuke's harsh voice floated over the gentle warmth of sunlight, intterupting his thoughts and breaking him from his day-dreaming. "We're heading off to The Makai. You still with us?" the voice tugged. Kurama sighed and turned from the window, the lingering heat of the sun quickly disipating of his face to leave the cold, emptieness to settle once more. More saddned than anything else, Kurama straightened and ran a hand through his red hair that sat wild and flaming under the light of the sun, taming it in a sudden breeze that sent the silken strands into chaos. He looked more mythical and whimsical than he ever had before, the red hair swirling to halo his head and face, contrasting the green eyes to shoot them about the room. ... ~perhaps there are things more important than a love of life~... he heard a whisper gentle float by his ear, certain that it was only he who could hear it. ...~the most important thing in the world is to follow your heart. It will never lead you wrong ~.... "Hai," Kurama said simply, stepping forward calmly, the faint traces of his ever-present smile starting to peek back through on his fine lips. "I'm coming." Hiei suddenly blinked down from the loft behind the others in an angry puff of wind, rustling everyone's hait aroud him. The black wind flicked from step to step and out into the kitchen to stand over Kiroshu. The very presence silenced the room behind the others as they began to gather for the mission, dampening all noice that hoped to reach either Kiroshu or Hiei's ears. Angry wind usualy brought an angry youkai to seeth and hiss above it's intended target, but this time, Hiei seemed lost in his thoughts and hidden emotions. The youkai just stood for a moment looking down to the small boy, clutching something tightly in his hand, turning his knuckles white from the force that was put behind them. The kit looked up, the deep green eyes full of so many emotions that they seemed to be drowning in themselves, almost ready to haze over in a mirky defeat. Hiei smiled down to his new son, a barely visible shift to his face that always seemed etched in stone and unmoveable. "You're the man of the house until we get back, Kiro. Understand?" the deep voice almost whispered, almost growled as the small, compact body lowered itself to crouch before the kit. "Hai, 'tousan." Hiei took one of his hands and laid what looked like a scabbard in his arms, the jeweled hilt of a katana resting on the top to blink and shift in the light. "You take care of the house and your cat while we're all gone, okay?" he brushed a finger over Kiroshu's cheek, bending forward to kiss him on the forehead. "You take care too, alright?" Red orbs stared straight and unwavering at the child, scolding, but loving at the same time, hidden deep withing a murky red that swirled about. "Okay." The kit watched with wide eyes as Hiei crouched down beside him, gently placing the sheethed katana down in his little hands, covering them with his own lagrer hands. Hiei looked serious and firm, as if faced with the biggest decision of his life... infact, this was probably going to be the bigest action he would ever perform in his existence: Hiei had never had to care for another as he had now, looking after Kiroshu during the days when Kurama was off at work or visiting his mother. And now, leaving him to take off to an unforgiving world that threatened to chew him up and swallow him whole, Hiei's hopes of ever having a family to call his own were begining to crumble right before his eyes. "Kiro... I want you to take this, protect yourself if things go wrong. I'm counting on you now kiddo, okay?" The youkai bent down and kissed the kit's forehead once more, looking down deeply into those hard, green eyes that could tear him apart faster than Kurama's own leafy stare could. Kiroshu gently laid the katana on the floor and rose to his feet, flinging his arms around Hiei's neck. "Arigatou, 'tousan," he whispered, hugging tightly until he felt Hiei's arms rise to circle over his back. Hiei had felt love before in his life, from his sister and from Kurama. But that was a differnet sort of love than what he felt from Kiroshu... a love he had never felt before : from a son to his father. It was so dependent on the youkai, almost frightening him. The slight fear assured Hiei in his mind that leaving Kiroshu behind was the right thing to do... it was the safest thing to do for the kit's safety and well being. The youkai sighed a bit and hugged the kit back, closing his eyes. "Kiro, you take care of yourself incase we don't come back, okay?" "You're coming back, 'tousan. You and papa have to come back." "We'll do our best," Hiei whispered, pulling quickly away from Kiroshu to stand back to his feet. "Keep the house safe from those pesky ningens, okay?" he smiled, ruffling the little boy's hair. "Hai," Kiroshu laughed childishly, trying to fend off his father's hand, struggling under the ragged mess his hair was quickly becoming. Instead, he ended up toppling backwards onto his rear beside Claws, his deep red hair falling in messy spikes about his face to momentarily blind him until he had the reserves to clear his vision. Kurama appeared next to Hiei, a light arm circling over the youkai's shoulders in a possesive, light grip. "Yukina-chan will be coming shortly to watch you, ne? Until then, will you be okay in the house alone for a few minutes?" Kiroshu nodded, reaching out to accept another hug from Kurama when the taller fram bent down. It was like a final farewell, the kit could see it in the older youko's eyes and feel it in his touch; strong and sad, not wanting to let go, but having to... having to pull away from the kit and break the ties that held them together, possibly forever. Kiroshu wanted to cry, he wanted to wrap his arms about Kurama forever and never let him go off. But he had to, he knew he had to let him go and compose himself, as much as it started to tear him apart from the inside out. The bigest effort he had went into the large, shining smile that he managed to paint across his face, so utterly believable that it startled him. All to quick, the team piled out of the house, Yo-mawari the last to go, further ruffling the kit's hair as he went. "Keep your cat off my clothes, kiddo," he winked, diappearing out the door like a black phantom, seeming to hurry the group on away from the house as fast as he could. Almost unreal. They were all gone in a matter of seconds, a mass exodus. And Kiroshu was alone. The apartment felt so dead and uneventful without anyone in it. The smallest sounds rang out to be monstrous beasts hiding under the stairs, in the closets and cabinents, infesting the house in every shadow and corner around him. He didn't like the feeling at all and wished Hiei and Kurama would come back so he could be with them, if only for a few seconds to reassure him this was the right thing to be done. The last time parents left him alone, they had left him alone to die. And this was NOT the right thing to do! For a few stray minutes, Kiroshu listened and felt the five ki's fading off to diappear into the Ningenkai, his eyes begining to sting with the threat of tears and emotions that needed to spill. He was going to do something, he had to. He had to go with them and watch after his fathers, to make sure that they would come back. Kiroshu's real father had promised he would come back for him when he was left in the woods nearly a year ago. For four days straight he waited under the canopy of a large pine, crying himself to sleep everynight, calling for his youko mother and father. But they never returned. He had lost his family and every hope of ever being happy again. He had been alone in the world that dark and rainy night when the realization suddenly dawned on him that his parents were never coming back. He knew they didn't love hin... he KNEW no one would ever love him by the beasts that threatened to make him their next meal. He had lost all hope, breaking down and crying through the pooring rain and the crashing thunder around him. Totally alone... until a smiling youko in human form found him, a form with the greenest, most caring eyes in the world. That youko and his youkai boyfiend. Kurama and Hiei. They would be his new family. He already lost one family, he wasn't going to loose another one! Kiroshu knew he had to follow and look after his new fathers or he would never forgive himself if neither one of them came back alive. The thought of once again waiting for his parents to return haunted him. His youko parents promised the same thing... but they never returned. What proof would he have that Hiei and Kurama would keep their promise and return back to him? Kiroshu snorting having made his decision, took up the katana and tied the belt about his waist, pulling out his shirt over top to somewhat hide it from view. "Listen up, Claws. When Yuki-oba-chan gets here, you tell her that I went with papa and 'tousan okay? You're the man of the house now," he spoke proudly, repeating Hiei's solemn words. "I'm going to Yomatsu with them, keep them safe, make sure they DO come back to me. You guard the house against humans, okay?" Keiko sighed and slunk back in the easy-chair in the apartment, Bara climbing expertly up to nestle down in her lap, blinking wide, hazeled eyes to her. Keiko was thouroughly exhausted from the day... so much had gone on in school today, and the fact that Yo-mawari, nearly frantic to the point where he couldn't talk straight, had burst into her school with unexpected and horrible news. News that made the young girl shudder just thinking about it. Bara smiled and snuggled down as Keiko wrapped an arm around her, herding her over to clear a spot for Toge who climbed up next. Together, the two youko kits giggled at each other, Toge reaching over to give his twin sister's tail a firm tug, raising a slight yelp. "Are you two hungry?" Keiko laughed, smiling as she watched the two siblings pick and tease each other. The kits quickly shook their heads, a firm negative. "You look tired, Keiko-obachan," Toge said simply in his darkened little voice, shifting to crawl back onto the arms of the chair. "You look like you need some rest." As bright as daylight, the kit huddled down on the arm of the chair and smiled, blinking large, fox eyes over to the young woman he know looked to for love and comfort. As innocent as any child could be. "Hai," Bara agreed, climbing up onto the other arm, clearing out so Keiko could rise from the chair. Together, the kits winked silently at each other, plotting and sceming from their respective perches on the arms of the large chair. If the space allowed it, one would have long tackled the other in a fit of hysterics, pulling, biting and shoving to let their built up mischevousness release. They had gone pretty much half the day plotting and sceeming since Yusuke had come home, telling them he had to go away for a little bit. Humans often mistook young youko kits as having the intelligence of human children their same age. But the fact was, that in order to survive in the wilds of the Makai, you learned quickly to see hidden truths behind words and actions. The twins' seemingly innocent little statments made Keiko realize just how tired she really was. It wasn't like the day had been overly stressful, just more than usual. Yusuke's rudness and crass behavior was often enough to wear her out by the end of the day. Keiko yawned and sat up in the chair, streatching her back and arms from the days strains. And there had been quite a few, all building up to a tense knot in her back and arms, traveling to her legs and going from there. Just another normal day around Yusuke. "I need to do my homework. Can you two just play for a few hours?" she smiled cutely, blinking large, brown eyes to each of the youko kits. "Yoshi!" they both chimmed back in unison, hopping from the arms of the chair and disappearing. Keiko leaned over one of the arms to watch the little kits that Yusuke had let invade their apartment. She had loved them to pieces since day-one, delighting at their antics and playfulness. In total, she saw just what made Kurama and Yo-mawari so playful and inseperable around each other, the bonds between twin siblings. If one kit was at one end of the apartment, the other kit in another end, both would be misserable and droopy until they found each other... and then the playings would begin all over again. Bara and oge rarely left each others sides. They played, ate and slept together... Bara met expertly with the ground when she had jumped, leaping instantly from the floor to tackel her twin brother flat on his back, rolling over and over a few times. Absolutely precious and priceless! The kits squealed and bound off into another part of the apartment, the sound of scamppering feet sliding across the kitchen limoleum echoing back to Keiko's ears as they slid around and crashed, probably into the table or something else. She smiled and retieved her school pack from its resting place at the front entrance, going back into the bedroom to begin her hours upon hours of studying. A routine that she wished Yusuke would at least TRY sometimes! Yusuke's apartment was silent now... Bara leaned around the corner of the kitchen door, Toge peaking over her shoulder to lean around her, the two piled on top of each other like a comedic routine. They seemed to be two disembodied heads, one stacked upon the other, hanging in the doorway, the slightest shift threatening to toppel them into a chuckling heep. "Do you think it worked?" Toge whispered in her ear, giving it a playful tug before ruffling her white, streaming hair. Bara just shrugged, swatting at her brother behind her. "I think so. But won't Keiko-chan be mad if she finds us missing?" "Won't Keiko-chan be even more madderer if Yuu-chan's missing? Come on, we have to go help him now. Keiko-chan will be fine!" "But.." "Come on, sis! " Toge humphed immatiently, grabbing his sister's wrist and tugging. Let's go!" Hiei's portal opened widely before the tantei as they all gathered around him, a swirling yellow mass of you-ki off in the private, secluded grove of the park just minutes from the apartment he shared with Kurama and Yo-mawari. They had all been there before for various reasons: a picnic, more briefings from either Yusuke or Koenma... it was a pretty regular spot for all of them. To Kiroshu, the portal looked like the swirl of sickly yellow soap that went down the bathtub drain after a bath, continually swirling, getting quicker and quicker in the center where a voided black hole sat motionless, undisturbed by the wave around it. Though his ki had been camoflaged in the tree he hid behind, he could feel his father's ki through the surrounding air, putting every burst and feeling tohis amazing memory. "So that's how 'tousan does it," he whispered silently, his mind easily logging the ki bursts and the feelings from the surrouding nature. This was going to be easier than he thought. One by one, the kit watched as the group disappeared into the portal to flash off into the Makai where they had been planning to start their mission. Kiroshu knew next to nothing about these two youkai they were looking for: Yomi and Mukuro. All he knew was that Yo- mawari-ojisan had a distinct dislike for Yomi, though the kit never found out why. And this Mukuro... Kiroshu had been around a few times when the little black boxes would appear on the table or atop the television set during his cartoons, always a woman with short orange hair and one eye blinking back at him. Hiei usually had to leave the apartment after the boxes arrived, Kurama saying that the youkai had had buisness to attend to and was helping the woman out. Kiroshu smirked and wiggled his nose as it began to tingle. Human alergies, he found, that sprung up when he transformed into human form. Before him, he watched the yellow swirling portal diminish, sealing silently behind the group that had disappeared somewhere beyond. This would be easy. All Kiroshu would have to do was immitate Hiei's energy and bring up a portal... he could track him then by... Another presence stirred a squirrel in a tree beside him, the furry rodent scampering over to climb the bark he was hiding against and sit on his shoulder, chattering away. Two other ki's were coming quickly this way, the squirrel relaying to to the kit what he had seen. Two small figures all in white... probably some horrible group of Ningenkai animals. Kiroshu tapped the squirrels little head, watcing it bound off his shoulder to the safety of his tree as Kiroshu crouched, a hand going to the hilt of the katana Hiei had given him minutes ago. It was his duty now to protect both of his father's best interests, including saving them from the ningens that were sure to stick their noses into things they just didn't belong in. And he would help them out in the Makai too when he was finished. As he watched, the ki's began to evolve into familiar feelings... he knew those two energies from someplace! One of them began to spark hints of anger in the back of his mind, sending the boy crouching down by the tree, ready to leap with fangs barred at whoever entered the clearing. He had felt the you-ki's before, his mind still to young to pick out and detect the sublte variences that came around in other people's ki. He couldn't put a name or face to the energies: just feelings. And he had the feeling he didn't particularly like one of them. Toge and Bara suddenly burst into the grove, piling to a stop when they found no one there. It was those kit twins Yusuke had taken in a few weeks ago... THAT was the familiar energies that sparked the reactions. And it wasn't just anger Kiroshu felt, there was another emotion there to... though he couldn't place a finger to it. "What are YOU doing here!" Kiroshu yelled from behind his tree, jumping into the grove across from them. He stood his human form up as tall as he could, towering a few inches more than he could in kitsune form, using the slight increase in height to his advantge. Toge instantly placed himself before Bara, shufeling to hide his twin behind him to fend off any creature that would dare come too close. "Who are YOU! Get out of here before I kill you!" he screamed, pushing a hand back to Bara as she gripped his shoulder. Her little pink nose burrowed down into the soft white cloth that draped in bulky lines over his thin figure, big hazel eyes peaking over his shoulder to the figure of a human boy that stood across the glade. Kiroshu smirked from his possition, crossing his arms over his chest, a statuesque pose he had seen Hiei make whenever being serious or menacing. "You're dense, aren't you, Toge" he chidded, ending the sentance with a firm snort. Concentrating his you-ki, Kiroshu felt the slower, more bulky human body began to shift around him, the first change noted being the black- tipped red spikes of hair bleaching before his vision into solid silver, flowing down over his shoulders and down his back. His body thinned and followed suit, blinking and shimmering out to silver to blend his hair, the deeply green and glaring eyes flashing out bright gold. "Kiro?" Toge snorted from across the glade, almost cursing the word as he spat it out. Behind him, Bara let out a tiny sigh of relief and scampered around to her brother's side, waving a gentle flick of her little, chubby hand. "What are you doing here?" Toge groaned, placing a hand out before his sister to keep her back. "I asked you first," Kiroshu snubbed, prissy in tone. He shifted through his stance and began forward a few steps, tossing back a portion of his white robe to flicker the jeweled hilt of the katana into view. "Fine!" Toge shouted back, herding Bara behind him despite her uncooperative grunts. "Yuu-chan's going to Yomatsu and we're following. And YOU'RE not coming with us!" He stuck his tongue out and shook his head, the action clearly something he had picked up around Yusuke and his many fights with Keiko. "Hmph, we'll see. Just how do you plan to GET to Yomatsu, Toge! You can't open a portal! And besides, they're all going to the Makai first, NOT Yomatsu." Kiroshu stuck HIS tongue out to counter. "Can you help us?" Bara asked calmly behind her brother, recieveing a quick repremand. "We don't need his help, Bara!" the other spat, keeping glaring green- golden eyes on the youko kit across from them. Kiroshu smirked in retort, chuckling. The rivalry that had sparked between Toge and Kiroshu was purely over Bara's behalf. Kiroshu had tried to make friends with Bara, her brother refusing. It wasn't until Kiroshu made the mistake of touching her little hand, instantly sparking her empathic abilities, that he had earned Toges hate and anger. "Oh yeah? Can YOU open a portal to the Makai?" Kiroshu crossed his arms over his chest proudly, imitating Hiei again. "I've watched and learned from 'tousan how to do it... you don't know how to open a portal do you?" "Uh, well, no, but..." "Ha! Then you need me after all!" Toge growled across the glade at the kit, wanting to leap across and wring that snooty little neck of his until his head popped off. He hadn't had a fond likeing for Kiroshu ever since the kit touched his empathic sister, sending her into a terrible headache that lasted the remainder of the day. Bara hadn't seemed to mind much, she had enjoyed the company of another kit, wanting to play when everyone had gathered at Yusuke's appartment for a party. But Toge, ever the over-protective brother that he was, had refused to let her near Kiroshu, instead, coveting her away on the other side of the table as they ate dinner, glaring back at the kit who sat in Kurama's lap. Kiroshu had then grown a dislike for Toge along with Toge's hate, the two quickly becoming rivals in the short span of a few hours, growling at each other across the table, eyeing each other until either Yusuke or Kurama reprimanded them. The whole situation had risen chuckles and giggles around the group, only making the rivalry escallate until Kiroshu had tried to leap across the table at Toge. And still, more from the sake then anything else, a fit of hysterics had driven both the kits to tears, Bara just sitting quietly off in Keiko's lap, watching. While Toge and Kiroshu sat glaring each other down in the glade, Bara broke formation, scampering across the grass the reached nearly to her kness towards Kiroshu before her brother could react. "BARA!! Get back here!" Bara chuckled and increased her pace, hopping expertly over bushes and rocks until she stumbled to a hault beside Kiroshu, bowing quickly. "Konnichiwa!" Kiroshu blinked over to her a bit confused, tilting his head ever so slightly. The kit watched the girl wave back at her brother as he was slowly stalking across the glade, snarling and grumbling to himself. Little Kiroshu was a bit werry of them both, although he didn't hold a deeply seeded hatred for Bara. It was more of a facination, for he had never seen a girl kit before. She was so much different from he and Toge, much shorter and thinner, a fragile looking little thing, dwarfed beside him and the much taller twin. More on curiosity, Kiroshu reached out and poked her bare arm, rising and instant reaction from both the twins. Bara reeled back, raising a hand quickly to her shoulder where Kiroshu had touched her, looking up to him with her large eyes as the quick feed of emotions and feelings flowed through that simple touch. "Keep your hands off my sister!!" Toge bellowed across the glade, his stalk quickening to a run, bounding across the park, ready to intercept and do whatever was nessesary to ensure his sister's safety. Bara squeaked and stepped forward before Kiroshu, holding her arms out to the side, intending to block her brother's path as he crashed forwards toward them. She knew the action was probably nearly worthless, backing slowly as Toge approached until she backed into the slightly taller kit behind her. Toge slid to a quick halt when he saw Kiroshu raise his hands to lay them softly on the shoulders of his sister in a protective and friendly motion. Closely, he watched her reaction... but there wasn't one. Instead, Bara just looked back at her brother, blinking, tilting her head to the side in silent questioning. "Toge-kun... why are you always so mad at Kiro-kun?" Toge humphed and straightened, walking in a tantrum across the few remaining meters to stand before his sister. "Are you okay, Bara- chan?" "Hai, of course." Kiroshu lowered his hands from the girl kit's sholders and stepped back, nodding once to Toge. "Listen... we can follow them all easier if we can just get along." "Fine, then. I just want to go with Yuu-chan and the others. We'll help you if you help us. Deal?" The two boys nodded and shook hands, though glares were still set in each of their eyes. Each knew that if the other stepped so much as a fraction out of line, they'd both go their separate ways, determined to snuff the other out. The Makai wasn't necessarily as forgiving a land as the Ningenkai often prooved to be, but it would be better that putting up with the rivalry if needs be. Bara pushed forward and stood between them, glaring at both the boys, raising hiands to rest them on her hips. "No, we help each other! Things will be all better when we find Yuu-chan and Kurama-san. Until then, be friends, okay! No more fighting, okay!" Kiroshu turned without so much as another word, facing the tree line where Hiei had brought up the Makai portal. He neither nodded or agreed to Bara's insists, and neither did Toge. But he felt he could cooperate as long as it took to find atleast one of his fathers. Kiroshu surveyed the tree line... Things had to be just right and perfect or else it wouldn't work. Slowly, the kit began to spark his ki, imitating to the exact pitch and frequency that he had felt from Hiei, matching every fluctuation in the fabrics of time as he had felt his father do. A new range of senses and feelings began to flow around him, a quick and gentle breeze kicking up through the glade to merge into a swirling, invisible whirlpool before him, only detected trough the three kit's feelings. Bara backed to her brothers side, clutching at his arm, shivering. The ki around her was warping and twisting, her empathic mind picking it up in more detail than Toge could. "What's he doing?" she whispered, tucking her head under his arm, hugging to him. "Shh," Toge put a finger to his lips and hugged his sister to him as she shivered. "I think he's opening that portal thingy." Slowly, the swirling air began to glow yellow before the three kits, Kiroshu struggling to keep a hold of things. This wasn't as easy as he thought it was going to be. Tiny sparks in ki flowed from the surrounding air and plant life, intending to help hold the portal open, but just making struggles harder on Kiroshu to compensate. He could see the view of the sunlit Makai forest peaking through the yellow swirl beyond, perfect and peaceful as it had always been. Things seemed to shift one last time, the last burst of ki exploding to tack the portal in place, knocking Kiroshu back on his hind end from the impact of the force. It was just how he had seen it before Hiei, thought it looked much bigger this close up. It was like a mirror or a television set, conveying the image of the tree trunks of the Makai forest beyond, dimly highlighted by the Makai sun, filtering through the trees above. Toge reached forward to haul Kiroshu to his feet, keeping a close eye on the portal and it's dull, yellow picture. "Is that thing safe?" "Only one way to find out!" Kiroshu smiled. "We all go through, ne?" "I don't like this idea," Bara spoke softly. "Are you sure that's the Makai?" "Yes, I'm sure," Kiroshu giggled. He huddled down to the ground, hunching like a cat ready to pounce on an unsuspecting dinner. His bushy, white tail flicked preditorily back and forth, his body shifting under him to steady itself on his feet. Small muscles in his legs and arms tensed to the coming thrust, all at once springing before in a great leap, the kit bound through the portal and disappeared. Bara and Toge leaned forward as a collective, watching through the portal as Kiroshu tumbled out into the forest beyond the swirl of yellow, rolling in a mass of leaves before the little kit could correct. The kit picked himself to his feet and adjusted his clothing, brushing off leaves and dirt. Kiroshu's yellowed form turned and waved at the portal, motioning the two thers to follow him. "Are you ready?" Toge asked his sister, taking her little hand. "On three we go, oaky?" He waited patiently as she nodded back a bit reluctantly, grapsing firmly at his hand. "One... two... .... THREE!" (c) September 1997 by Jiminy Cricket Presses.