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Awaken the Dawn
Chapter 3: Journey into Darkness
by Korogi

    Even in the light of the afternoon sun, shining daintily through the
leaves, the Makai forest was still a frightening and intimidating world
all to itself.  All around, large trunks of the gnarled oaks and other trees
twisted their way through the gloomy mists that always seemed to hang
at ground level in the vast, dense forest.  Animals used the mists as
their cover, hiding among the white cover, lying in wait for some
unsuspecting prey to venture close enough to them...
   Toge shivered slightly as he pulled himself to his feet, almost
forgetting just how terribly morbid and eerie the forests were, even in
the daytime.  The mists were usually sparse, never this heavy unless
you were down in a valley, or unless it had just rained.  He sniffed the
air violently, running a hand over the bushes beside him.  There wasn't
a hint of rain water anywhere, either on the air or on the plantlife.  That
little jerk!  He dumped them right into a valley... one of most deadliest
places you could be alone in while stuck in the vast forest of the Makai.
  It was out of these mists in a river valley that the twins had had their
first encounter with the Tamashii-satsunen'nin, the creature that had
destroyed their village and murdered their parents.  Toge shivered again
and rubbed a hand up his arm to ebb the feeling the dimpling skin was
slowly tugging into his mind.  The blood-chilling scream of that
creature still rung as clear as day through his mind, it was a sound he
could never forget for it brought death and suffering no matter there it
went.
   The presence of another kit soon edged his vision, the slightly shorter
figure of Kiroshu floating into the corner of his sight, Bara standing just
off on his other side.  "Hmph, I'm amazed.  We're here," Toge grunted,
giving his arm another good rub before he left his hand fall to his side.
   "Naturally," Kiroshu answered solenmly, neither pride nor vanity in
his voice.  Instead, his concentration went to the forest around them.  It
had been nearly a year since Kiroshu had been back in the Makai, his
last remaining vision of the place had been a torrential downpour when
he had been found by Hiei and Kurama.  He was then too young to
understand all the events that had occured with a youkai named Karasu
that concerned Kurama greatly.  
  Kiroshu had been wisked back to the Ningenkai shortly after the tal,
blackhaired youkai had broken into Kuraihana's house, dumped with
Yukina and Keiko for the rest of the night.  He was confused, more or
less sadden at the thought that he had once again been abandoned. left
for dead again.  The young kit had turned in on himself and away from
the two carring strangers around him and cried himself to sleep that
night.  He thought for sure he would never be loved again.
   He had awoken the next morning, surprised to find Kurama sleeping
beside him, heavily bruised and battered, shivering violently in his sleep. 
The look of the human-youko curled next to him in a tight ball, shaking
and jiratting had frightened him, he had thought Kurama was dead,
killed by that blackhaired youkai that he had been so anxious to avoid. 
The peacefulness of his face had left, being replaced with the heavy
bruises and scrapes riddled all over his face and body.
     Hiei and Yukina were tending to Kurama, cleaning wounds and
deep gashes when he had awaken, trying to understand the events that
had put Kurama in this seemingly catatonic state.  But he was then too
young to understand everything that he could understand now. 
Kiroshu had learned so much more living in the Ningenkai with Hiei
and Kurama that he could have possibly learned from his real parents
back in the Makai.
   No... Kurama and Hiei WERE his real parents now.  They would
never abandon him.  He was sure of it... at least, he hoped.
   Beside Kiroshu, Toge snorted and elbowed him in the ribs, breaking
him from his relapse in memory, provoking an immidiate snarl from the
shorter kit.  "Kiro, you could have al least brought us to a more...
friendly part, ne?"
   "Oi, were in the Makai, ne?  Don't complain.  This was where the
portal 'tousan opened dropped THEM off... so if we want to follow..."
   "Then fine, let's follow!" he whined, running a hand up his arm.  "So
how are we going to do that.  They all could have gone in ANY way
around here!"  Toge sweapt his arms out wide, gesturing to the forest
as a whole.  Atleast 8 slightly beaten paths crossed where they had
landed, each one no more heavily traveled than the other one.
   Bara shrugged and rounded Kiroshu, planting herself at Toge's side
to huddle next to him, the foggy fingers of the mist clutching at her ears
and hair.  She didn't necessarily like the idea of not being with adults in
the forest, but was more confident that Toge and Kiroshu would be
enough until they found the others. "Maybe someone saw them," she
nodded once, detaching from her brother's side to look about the
forest.  They were probably in one of the uninhabited regios of the
forest... off in the third of the Makai that was rulled over by the six-
earred wizard.
   "Right!  Someone DID see them!"  Kiroshu pipped, scammpering off
forward to a ray of sunlight, peeking down through the leafy canopy
above.  He seemed all too eager to rustle up some passing traveler or
youkai than he was to track the group they were going after.  Either
way, anyone they foud through the uninhabited regions would surely be
more interested in having kits for dinner than helping them out on their
journeys.
   Around them before Toge had a chance to voice his opinion, the
twins felt Kiroshu's spark in ki radiating around them, quite strong for a
kit, but not abnormally great.  It seemed to tug on the surrounding
environment, calling up the life that sat just beyond in their respective
hiding places aroud the forest. Creatures and animals stirred in their
places,  poking hidden heads out from their camoflages, staring large,
hungry eyes down to them all for the kill.
   Toge nabbed his sister and pulled her under his arm, clutching her
tightly to him as the beasts and viscious predetors began to shuffle
about above them, some backing back into the trees, others coming
straight out to face them all.
   From the treetops overhead, two vicious Makai vultures, grotesquly
huge in size cawwed and crooned, hopping out from their daylight
pearches to respond to the call in ki.  He branches under them bowed
and creeked as they sauntered out, beating heavy black-feathered wings
violently, threatening the three kits below them with predetorial bobs of
their great bald heads.
   "Kiro you're nuts!" Toge whispered, pulling Bara back behind him to
the safety of his cover.  "Those birds will eat us for a snack before we
can even blink!"
   "Oh yeah, watch this!"  Much to Toge's surprise, Kiroshu smiled and
stepped forward, motioning to the large birds overhead.  Slowly, in
their own dancing ritual of hopping from tree limb to tree limb, they
lept out into the air, gliding through the foliage on the great span of
their black wings.  They were like ghastly black angels of death, beating
their wings slowly and powerfully as they began their decent, sending
the remaining Makai predetors scurrying back to their collective
perches.  Makai vultures weren't just scavengers, they were mortal
enemies of just about any animal or being, especially small, young
youko kits.  Equipped with razor-sharp, eight in beeks, the vultures
would sweep down on intended targets and easily sever their spinal
cords, paralizing their victims.  The vultures prefferes live meat to that
left sitting out under the sun to rot, usually leaving their victims
conscious and screaming as they ate them alive.
    And such things were on Toge and Bara's minds as they watched the
enormous birds up until they came close enough to the ground for a
landing.  Fear more or less held the two stuck firmly in place, watching
wide eyes as  then, in huge sweeping gestures of the enourmous wings,
the vultures individially grabbed air, beatting the air around them into
submission, using it to to send them gently gliding down to the soft
earth below.
   The beaten wind blasted the three kits, swirling their light hair and
white robes about them, nearly sending them all tumbling backwards
from the force.  The birds were absolutely huge, towering nearly two
feet over the kits, peeping and screetching silently among themselves at
the interesting three before them.  Neither one seemed inclined to
attack, instead, choosing to fold their great wings over their bodies,
morphing them into two great black heeps of living flesh and feather. 
A living pile of feathers with only their bald heads to reviel who they
were and what horrors their kind was famous for.
    Toge backed instinctively behind the slightly shorter kit, herding
back his sister to safety as the huge birds laid eyes on him.  "Kiro, what
are you doing, they'll kill us all," he whispered carefully, keeping a
close, dark gold eye on the birds.
   "No they won't, we've made an agreement."  Kiroshu chuckled softly
and reached a hand out, rubbing down the soft, glistening black
feathers of the huge carion birds.  "Papa says I can talk to animals and
get them to understand me... he called it something, something I can't
remember or understand.  I can talk with any animal, from mice to the
elephants we see at the zoo."  He smiled sweetly, continuing to bet the
giant birds that seemed peaceful and submissive.  But that still didn't
hide the fact that any second now they would make them all dinner.
   One of the great vultures skwaked, an almost earsplitting noise that
sent all three kits stumbling backwards, ruffling the feathers of his
wings and prancing forward before the twin beside him whom Kiroshu
was petting.  The kit smiled and reached his other hand out, petting
them both down, speaking gently, soft words to both of them.
   "Then talk quick before they have second thoughts!" Toge hissed,
further coveting his sister.
   Kiroshu snorted and straightened his stance, continuing to stroke the
soft black feathers.  "We're looking for some people who were here not
long ago.  There were five of them :two humans, two youkos in human
form and a fire youkai.  Have you seen them?"
   The vultures jerked their heads back violently, opening the huge
wings in a flap of rough wind that grew into a vortex about them.  They
seemed to be conversing among themselves and the kit, pointing
greying beaks off in separate directions, flapping and stomping the
ground they stood on.  Great dust clouds kicked up around them,
sending billowing clouds of grey debris around their feet until they
finally settled, shuffling back down to wrap the large wings back
around them.
   And the forest fell eerily quite.
   Either of the twins dared to speak or even move, silently and
motionlessly watching Kiroshu step back up to stroke the glistening
black feathers again.
   "Well...  what'd they say?" Toge whispered, Bara peeking through
under his arm to watch the giant birds.
   "They said the five split off, three going one way, and two, dressed
all in black, going another way.  Those two would be Hiei-'tousan and
'Wari-ojisan."
   "Then we go the other way, follow the group of three that had Yuu-
kun leading," Toge put in firmly.  "We're going west."
   Kiroshu shrugged lightly, following the western path with his eyes
where the vultures pointed him out.  It seemed possibly the leest
traveled of all the paths around them, gorwn over thick with grass and
tree roots.  "Whichever way you want to go.  I'll go either way."
   "Good, because it's not up for debate!" Toge smirked.  "We're
following Yuu-kun and that's final."  The taller kit took his sister's hand
gently and began off down the western path, quickly pacing himself
ahead of the long trek they would be taking through some of the most
dangerous parts of the Makai.
   "You're WALKING!" Kiroshu giggled after them.
   The twins ahead of him stopped suddenly, Toge turning to snort. 
"Hai.  So what!"
   "The adults can move faster than we can... plus, they're on a time
limit.  I heard the talks," Kiroshu smiled, jabbing a proud thumb into his
chest.  "And besides, the vultures agreed to fly us west to where the
adults might have gone.  A warded city that they say that some wizard
named Yomi lives in.  That's one of the people papa and 'tousan are
looking for."
   Toge just stood in the middle of the trail, watching as the huge black
carrion birds bent down obediantly.  He barely reacted when Bara
scampered from his side to run back down the path, meeting up with
Kiroshu on the dusty crossroads of the paths.  The thought of riding on
the back of an animal that was the mortal enemy of  youko kits's sent a
sickening shiver into his stomach, even more so when he saw Kiro hoist
his twin sister onto the back of one of the birds.  "I don't like this," he
whispered uneasily, carefully stalking forward, a watchful eye on the
creatures.

    It was a trail Kurama thought perhaps he would never forget: the
road through the Makai woods that lead to the third of the Makai rulled
over by Yomi, an old partner and still deep friend of his, no matter
what events had befallen in the past.  Every tree and every stone was
familiar around him, Kurama's senses knowing that the warded city lay
just over the next rise in the terrain, not more than 100 meters off.
   Around him, Yusuke and Kuwabara followed closely, totally trusting
their redheaded companions' uncanny sense of direction and movement. 
Their trek so far had been uneventful and silent, the three just
concentrating on the quickest way to make it to the city and back to the
Yomatsu portal before nightfall that day.  They couldn't risk much
more time than that, or risk Koenma's plans of the team going unmissed
falling through.  Then there would be hell to pay.
   Over the next rise, just as Kurama had expected, the great city, once
the home to the Makai Bujuutsukai, shone through the forest around
on a flattened and barren streatch of land.  Around the city rose
towering pillars enging in wide circular platforms nearly a mile up, the
disk faces opening to the sky above to catch the rays of the sun
overhead.  Nothing else seemed to grow around them, the land echoed
in a dusty yellow circling around the city until it met with the lush
greenery of the forest surrounding.
   "Here we are," Kurama spoke for the first time in the mission,
pausing to stand just on the edge of the forest until it met the yellow
grass beyond.  "Yomi's city.  Now, our only concern is to convince the
guards to let us meet with Yomi before our time's up."
   "That shouldn't be too hard, ne?" Yusuke spoke softly, hand shoved
deep in the pockets of his tight, ragged jeans.
   Kurama chuckled lightly and began off onto the yellow grass. "Too
hard?  Harder than what?  Remember, Yomi isn't one to hold a grudge,
but we're also not on the best of terms anymore.  Don't forget that I
was the one who blinded him centuries ago... and the he was the one
who.. that Yo-mawari... "  Kurama trailed off and picked his pace up
angrily, gliding quickly over the open terraine to force the others to run
to follow.
   They knew without Kurama's telling them what occupied his mind. 
They knew that Yo-mawari paid the price for Yomi's help once before,
no one, eccept perhaps Kurama, knowing exactly what that price had
been.  The WatchMan had still been alive and seemingly in good health
when he returned from Yomi's captivity, but in an incredibly low and
pained state.   Kurama had quickly ushured out everyone besides Hiei
when his brother had finally returned, secluding the both of them in his
apartment for almost a month afterwards.  Hiei had come and gone
from the apartmen, keeping Yusuke informed that they were both
alright but just saddened, the reason for that was never told.  Either the
youkai didn't know, or he just wasn't talking.
   Yusuke fell back a bit behind the other two, keeping pace a few
strides behind to scout out the terraine.  The place seemed uninhabited
and shambled.  A few of the towering platforms lay unwhole, parts
having disintegrated or been blown off during the tournament to lay in
rubble piles miles beneath them.  The only thing that seemed alive was
the ring of forest surrounding them on all sides.  Yusuke felt like he
was back in an arena heading in for another long and grueling battle. 
Even the sky seemed unfamiliar and dead... all, except two black birds
off in the distance, like large dragonflies coming their way. Probably
more huge Makai carrions birds moving in for the kill of some
unsuspecting youkai in the woods.
   Yusuke shivered and stepped his pace back up to walk along side
Kuwabara, shoving his hands down deeper into his pockets.  Kurama
was leading them directly up to the front gates of the city, unwavering
in his pursuit.  So far there had been no opposition.  Yusuke and
Kuwabara had both felt the slight presences of other ki around them,
hiding off on the platforms, but never attacking.
   Quickly, the group came to a stop at the front gate, a heavy seal
clearly radiating around it, a slight presence of S- Class ki keeping the
seal securely in place.  Yusuke wondered if he could ever do stuff like
that with his powers.  He had seen A- Class youkai place heavy wards,
even watching Hiei as he warded the Kokuryuha when he though no
one was looking.  Perhaps Genkai-'baasan knew and could teach him.
    Kurama raised a thin hand and rapped once on the door beside him,
bringing back his thoughts.  
   A thunderous boom resounded from the tap, echoing through hollow
tunnels and walls around them, rolling throug the entire city before
them until it faded off into nothingness.  Yusuke half expected rain, the
hollow rumbling of the gate akin perfectly to heavy thunder during the
heavy rains that would pelt Tokyo in the summers.
     Beyond, a lock fell, echoing it's own thunder, exactly matched in
pitch and tone to Kurama's knock, rolling and thundering around to
follow its predecessor off into the city.  Slowly, the great iron gate
swung open to reviel three heavily armored guards beyond, possibly 
well trained in the arts of wizardry.
   Kurama stepped forward, the brilliant body of Minamino Shuuichi
bleaching out to the taller, agile youko body, blinking to stand a good
five inches taller than his human form stood, glistening in the overhead
sun.  "I am Youko Kurama and I've brought firends so we may speek
with Yomi-sama.  I have an urgent matter that requires his sttention." 
Kurama's pose never deviated, catching every splintered ray of sun to
bounce off his body like he was a perfect silver statue set among the
grey rock walls.  His prenses fully seemed to sway the guards into
respect, each bowing once and lowering their weaponds before the
brilliance.
     "This way, Kurama-san, minna-san." The guards all bowed again as
a whole, sweaping their arms out to gesture off into a hall that lead
through to the heart of the city.  It was the grandest hall that sprung
from the city's central courtyard but also the darkest, leading off into an
inky black no more than 3 meters into the stone work.  But never the
less, Yusuke and Kuwabara fell into step behind Kurama and the
guards, neither speeking a word.
  Just behind them when the group had disappeared into the hallway,
the gate-guards rejoinged to close the doors, tugging at the
counterweights when two huge black vultures burst through the doors,
flapping and cawing heavily.  They sent the guards into an instant panic
as they circled around quickly.  Everyone dove for weapons, aiming
squarly at the huge preditorial birds that quickly circled once through
the court yard, squaking heavily rushing back out the doors to
disappear.
  
   Little Koenma-Daioh still sat tucked behind the incredibly enormous
desk, which through the hours had become piled higher and higher
with those cream folders full of the white documents.  Processing the
many spirits that went through the Reikai was a never-ending chore
for him.  The manila folders were being carted in my the arm loads by
Joruju and the other office helpers, stacking and stacking up beside the
huge leather chair into huge leaning piles, threatening to careen down
and coat him in papers and what-not.
   The little red-rubber stamp sat dry and unused up in the center of the
desk, the piles of papers stacking from the floor up over the desk to
shadow it in eerie, long grey lines.  Instead of doing his work, Koenma
sat nestle back in the large, plush chair, grumbling and growling to
himself.  It was only a matter of time for the inevitable to happen!
   And it chose that particular moment in time to happen!
   "Koenma-sama!!  Koenma-sama!!!"  
   Koenma cringed and sat up in the chair just as the office door flew
open, a frantic Joruju Saotomei sliding into the space in a wave of air,
sending the perfectly stacked papers into a messy whirlwind of white
documents.
  "Koenma-sama!!!"
   *grumble* "Ima nan da, Joruju!" Koenma yelled, watching the
papers flutter about his head and desk to blanket his office in thin,
documented white.  "This had better be very important!"  
   The blue monster stumbled in and slid to a clumsy stop before the
desk and the fluttering papers, bowing nearly immediately.  "Koenma-
sama!  Enma Daioh-osama wants to speak with you!"  he shivered,
shaking and cowering in place.  "Right now!"
   Just as Koenma had thought.  He had hoped his father wouldn't have
noticed so quickly that his best group of tantei were suddenly not in
the Ningenkai.  Koenma had the authority to send Yusuke and the
others out on errands around the Ningenkai, but missions to the Makai
had to be run through Enma Daioh first.  Simple trips usually could go
without incident as long as the team returned quickly... but Yusuke's
group had been gone the entire Reikai day... nearly 7 hours now!
   "K... Koenma-sama?"  the blue monster sputtered, chewing on a
menacingly long fingernail.  He leaned forward over the desk, a
cautious eye on his little boss as he grumbled in the chair.
   "I'm coming, Joruju," the toddler moaned, pushing himself from the
desk.  Koenma puffed out his chest and took an absolutely huge intake
of air. "Here we go!"

    Absolutely huge...
    Gigantic...
   Enormous!
   Joruju felt his knees buckling beneath him even as they approached
the large doors of King Enma's throne room, the sheer thought of the
God of the Dead enough to strike a certain fear into his soul.  Enma
Daioh wasn't one to yell and scream as Koenma was prone to doing,
but the sheer size of the god was just beyond reality.  He had to be at
least 20 feet tall, just sitting down!  He towered over even the large
oni that passed through the Gates of Judgment, tucked off on his
throne under shadows, stroking his short beard.  Two menacing fangs
stuck up from his bottom jaw almost like tree trunks, sharpened into
gleaming points.  Very few spirits had the gaul to challenge him, but
those who did met a quick fate by his own hands.
   So was the picture when Koenma strolled confidently through the
open doors and into the vast white-marble room.  The throne room
was kept relatively uncluttered and plain.  Marble pillars marked the
edge of a straight walk that lead to the throne at the end, a thin,
translucent veil hanging down over the ceiling to hide Enma Daioh's
face in deep shadows.  Only the great king's glowing, thin eyes
showed out of the shadows, watching Koenma and his employee walk
in under complete silence.
   Almost immediately, Joruju tumbled to the floor on his knobby
knees, hunching down behind his hands.  He inched along after
Koenma like a big blue worm, occasionally peeking out only to see
Enma glaring down on him.  Such a glare was enough to send the blue
monster into near heart attacks, sniffling down behind his hands as he
inched along in Koenma's shadow.
  Little Koenma stepped calmly and proudly to a halt before his
immense father,  Joruju plowing into his legs.  Koenma buckled at the
knees and waist, toppling instantly to the floor, nearly loosing his bog
floppy blue hat.  If the toddler had had much of a nose, he would of
shattered it, instead, catching himself on his forehead in a big 'clunk!'
that echoed throughout the room.
   Joruju squeaked slightly and inched backwards, cowering behind his
hands, to scared to apologize to his boss.  Instead, he watched with
shaking eyes as the toddler snarled back to him, raising to his feet.  A
large red circular bruise was beginning to form on the toddler's head,
the big floppy hat being pulled down to cover most of it.
   A low rumble rolled its way through the throne room, a deep
chuckle resounding in it.  Just great, Koenma thought.  Now dad's
laughing at me, he grumbled through his mind as he stood, bowing his
head slightly.  Behind him, Joruju crawled around his little figure  hid
for cover in the toddler's shadow, cowering behind his hands.
   Enma bowed his head back in the same slight manner and adjusted
his form on the chair.  "I think you know why you're here, son.  Don't
you?"
   That little lump in Koenma's throat grew to a boulder as he tried to
swallow, his sweating brow threatening to give away his calmness. 
"No, sir.  I really don't.  But I can guess.  What has Yusuke done
THIS time?"
   King Enma chuckled deeply and leaned back.  "You mean YOU
don't know?  Seeing as how you're supposed to keep an eye on his
group and all."
   Koenma draped his arms behind his back and chewed on the pacifier
a bit, mentally couching himself to stay calm under all the pressure. 
He'd successfully lied to his father once before....  "I'll go contact him
right now and..."
   "Koenma," his father scolded.  "Is there something you're not telling
me?"
   *Think fast. Think fast!*  "Yusuke did tell me that he had some
personal business to do in his section of the Makai... I guessed he was
visiting Raizen's grave."
   "And you didn't ask him?"
   "No sir, I felt it was personal so I didn't ask.  Would you like me to
send Botan to look for him?"
   Enma shifted a bit in his throne watching his son carefully.  Koenma
was a very calm and good liar, and it was always difficult to tell when
he was covering for Yusuke or not.  "Why don't you do that, son.  I
want Yusuke back here in an hour, or I send the Reikai-tokubetsu no
guntai to bring him back.  Is that clear?"
   Koenma bowed his little head with the furled grace he often found
himself in when under his father's ruthless stare.  "Hai, Enma-sama. 
Wakarimasu."  The toddler paused a second and raised his eyes back
to his father awaiting further instructions.  Often, this was the breaking
point, the two just staring at each other until Koenma's nervousness
gave him away.  Enma would glare his son down until he literally
began to sweat buckets... usually when he was guilty or was sure he
would get in trouble.
   Enma Daioh shifted... and nodded his head once to his son.
  *Whew!*  Slowly Koenma nodded back, feeling he would just pour
buckets any second now.  It was a good thing his father couldn't smell
fear, as it were.  The toddler straightened and turned on his heels,
glaring down to Joruju as he began.  Possibly, it was the monsters
blunder that helped him loosen up a bit to face his father, so the
employee wouldn't get a reprimand this time.  It was just about all
Koenma could do to keep from smiling insanely as he stepped past the
monster and headed slowly back to the doors. 
   For a few seconds, silence rimmed only in the soft patter of
Koenma's little cloth shoes filled the air.  Joruju peaked out from
behind his hands,  immediately noticing his little boss was gone. 
Momentary panic struck him as he caught sight of Enma glaring back
down at him.  That was all the incentive he needed!  The monster
squeaked and he turned quickly to inch his way out of the throne
room, scooting across the floor in long, slinking motions as if neither
his arms nor legs would work.
  Outside, Koenma stood perfectly still as the doors closed and Joruju
stood back up, knees shaking under him. "K..k...kkk."
   "That was close," Koenma piped, walking down the hall to an
intercom.  "Those four better get a move on it because I can't stop
things now... not with out my father finding out what's going on!"
   "Koenma-sama...."
   "Quiet now," the toddler grumbled, flipping on the intercom. 
"Botan... please report to my office immediately."

    Not much had changed about Yomi since either Yusuke or Kurama
had seen him last.  The wizard still had that sickening regal grace
about him, even when he was doing something as simple as looking
out his office window.  Such had been the scene when Yusuke,
Kurama and Kuwabara were shown into one of the large, spacious
meeting rooms in Yomi's great city.  The youkai wore the same purple
and grey robes as he had always worn before, the pointed tips of his
six ears all poking out from his jet-black hair as his back remained still
to them.  From the back, his seven horns were all visible, crowning his
head in a spiked halo to circumnavigate a drooping, flesh-toned lay
   "Have a seat."   Simple, little phrases... Yomi was hardly one for big
talks, but his words always bore double meanings or hidden tones,
commanding a variety of things in a sting of three simple words.
   Yusuke glanced quickly to Kurama as the threesome did what they
had been asked and each took a seat at the long, wooden table that
was the basis for the room they found themselves in.  Yusuke
remembered his last visit to Yomi's massive city, set off in the mists of
the Makai. His first impression of the wizard had been one of unsure
curiosity.  A man who stood blind, but with heightened senses beyond
comprehension puzzled him.  Yomi had talked softly and smoothly,
wincing at Yusuke's loud and bold voice as he had declares himself
Raizen's son and made a big deal over everything.
   Yomi, still staring out his window calmly ruffled his cloak a minute,
the slight chafe of the soft fabric ringing to his ears.  He could hear the
individual breaths of each of them:  Kuwabara, his breaths coming in
large, rasping proud  streams,  a slight snort to them every time he
exhaled.  Kuwabara was a new presence, Yomi had remembered
having little to no contact with the man during the Makai Tournament.
   Kurama sat across from Kuwabara, his breathing nearly
undetectable.  Occasionally, Yomi would catch a heart beat or a ruffle
of the fine hair, but mostly, the youko-human was a quiet, almost
undetectable presence.
   Yusuke was just as Yomi remembered, bold, deep breaths, quiet in
sound but full of his vast rei-ki, pooling about him, pulsating with each
breath and heartbeat.  "I trust the guards gave you no problems?" he
asked quietly, his voice bouncing off the window to his sensitive ears.
   "No, they didn't," Kurama, back in the human form of Minamino
Shuuichi, said quietly, relaxing back in the plush chair as Yusuke
leaned forward before him, a bit lost at what the wizard had said. 
"Then you know why we're here?"
   "Hmm... I can guess as much... something to do with your brother, I
take, from your composure."  The taller frame chuckled very quietly to
himself and turned from the window, the empty place where his eyes
should have been grown over and sealed tight with his pale eyelids. 
"And you came of your own free will, Kurama?"
   "Hai."
   Yomi could not see the human's expression, nor could he read the
unchanged feelings around him.  He felt Kuwabara shift a bit
nervously to his right, rustling quietly in his chair, but that was it. 
Kurama had always done a very good job of hiding things around
Yomi, knowing that his loss of sight only heightened his other senses 
three fold.  Every breath, every heart beat was heard by those sharp
ears, every slight fluctuation in ki picked up through Yomi's keen,
honed mind.  He was almost omnipotent, all knowing - all seeing, even
with his loss of sight.
    As if he had his own pair of eyes, Yomi rounded the table, expertly
navigating around his potted plants and a small statue to lower himself
slowly into one of the chairs, flinging his robes behind him to keep
from sitting on them.  "So now... tell me exactly what brings you. 
Entertain me."
   Yusuke snorted lightly and smirked in his chair, leaning back as
Kurama stayed perfectly still.
   Kuwabara across the table, had leaned up on his elbows, his tongue
hanging out of his mouth to wave in Yomi's direction.  The young man
contorted the features of his face in to odd forms that seemed to fit his
long and bizarre face perfectly, yet hilariously.  He pulled at his eye
lids and stretched his mouth, making faces at the blind man like a child
in front of  carnival mirror.
   Yomi's gaze shifted suddenly and sternly to Kuwabara, frowning
heavily under thin brows, the lids collapsing inward under his frown to
highlight the empty eyes that were supposed to lie beneath.  "Do you
mind?"
   "Eh.. nani???"  Kuwabara stumbled back in his chair, nearly falling
over.
   "I may be blind, but I can still 'see'."  Yomi smirked and slowly
turned his attention back to Yusuke and Kurama.
   "We need your help... again," Kurama added in hesitantly, cursing
his tongue for revealing himself so obviously to a person who had
been sharpened to the point of god-like knowledge.  
   "Again?  Maybe there's more of a challenge in this for me than last
time, ne?  Than... 'last' time." The wizard snickered and sat back in his
chair and smirked, tugging on sensitive issues to see if he could rouse
some emotion from his guests.  "You would still want my help after
what I've done?"
   "If you so much as TOUCH my brother again..." Kurama rose
swiftly to his feet, knocking the chair to the ground behind him in a
huge, reverberating boom...
   "Kurama!"  Yusuke scolded, reaching over and grabbing his arm.  
   Yomi snickered and rose to his feet from his chair, the robes flailing
behind him in an unfelt breeze.  Again, that sickening, almost snobbish
grace floated around him, encasing his body to mock back at the three
Reikai-tantei.  "Interesting... please, continue talking..." Yomi spoke
quietly and with a slight chuckle.  "We're not alone here."
   "Spies?"
   Again, the wizard chuckled softly, flinging one side of his cloak over
his shoulder. "Hmm.. could be.  Keep talking," Yomi ordered as he
slowly and deftly rounded the table heading for the door, expertly and
without a sound, navigating his office.
   "Well... Yusuke continued. "I think this is all for Kurama to
explain..." he frowned, watching the silent wizard float to the door. 
"...what are you doing?"
   The wizard flung wide the door, dashing out into the hallway in
nearly the count of a heart beat.  Gone through the shadows beyond,
nothing but Yomi's cleverly hidden ki could be felt, flicking off
beyond, until...
   Three individual little screams followed after Yomi's disappearance,
bellowing up to reverberate through the hall as if death itself was
following behind them, ready to claim their should for the afterlife. 
The screams of three little children. 
    Kurama and Yusuke bolted to their feet from their chairs,  watching
out the empty doorway, each tuned to recognize at least one of the
little screams...
   A little silver body was kicked into the room, rolling over and over
to a floppy stop, a small katana clambering to the floor beside him.  A
youko kit!
  "Ki... KIRO-CHAN!!!"  Kurama screamed, more surprised than
panicked at the small trail of blood that trickled from the little kit's
mouth as the kit stumbled to push himself up onto his hands.
   A high pitched squeal soon followed, a quick bellowing voice
coming in after it like an avenging angel.  "Don't you TOUCH
HER!!!!  I'll kill you!!!"
   Yomi hobbled in shortly thereafter, totting a thrashing, screaming kit
tightly in his arms, another one clawing and scratching, hanging on to
his neck from the back, screaming and yelling as he clutched for the
other kit Yomi held tightly to his chest, just out of reach.
  "By the gods..." Yusuke sprung from his place and snatched the
female kit from Yomi's arms quickly and fiercely, instantly bundling
her into his own chest as he glared Yomi down with the most deadly
and hate-filled glares he had ever mustered.  Yomi could feel the aura
of Yusuke's fighting spirit rising beside him, that tugging feeling the
wizard had felt just before Toushin sprang froth from Yusuke's body.   
  Could it be, that these kits belonged to Yusuke?  Yomi knew the
awesome powers that were fueled by parental rages.  he himself had
felt the burning feelings when his own son, Shura, had almost been
murdered by a band of marauders.  Yomi had risen beyond his
boundaries and utterly annihilated them all, ripping them to pieces by
his own hands, for the first time in centuries, not relying on his vast
stores of power to defeat them.
   He felt the same rage burning behind Yusuke as he felt the young
man standing before him, Kuwabara rounding to pull Toge from the
little kit's clutches on Yomi's neck.
   Kurama rushed to Kiroshu's side and picked the kit to his feet,
brushing back the stray silver hair and wiping the small trickle of blood
from his little mouth...
   "... What are you doing here!" Yusuke and Kurama each scolded in
unison, each glaring at the respective boys.
  Yusuke bounced Bara on his hip, the young kit clutching fiercely at
his shirt, so hard that her little knuckles were going white under the
pressure.  She shivered and twitched from the residual  effects of
coming in contact with Yomi, the pain and anger of his mind still
coursing through her veins and invading her mind.  Beside him,
Kuwabara had Toge on his shoulders, moving over to let the kit reach
down to touch a hand gently to his twin sister's face.  She shuttered
and drew further into Yusuke's chest, little sobs racking her entire
body as she tried to hide in Yusuke's large, bulky jacket.
   Kurama stood over Kiroshu like a menacing shadow, hands on his
hips as he looked down to the kit, parental instincts flaring behind his
mind as he accessed his experiences with Shiori-san.  "Kiro.... I told
you specifically to stay at home," he almost whispered, the calm,
controlled voice almost deadly.  "You deliberately disobeyed me.
Why?"
   Kiroshu whiled under his father's greatness.  "But... I had to..
you...you..."  The kit took a big, shaking uneasy breath as he looked
up to Kurama, large deep gold eyes shaking as they filled with tears. 
"You left me!!  They ALWAYS leave me!!!" the kit screamed below
Kurama, masses of silvered, sparkling tears flowing from his eyes to
tumble down his face.  "You won't come back... they NEVER came
back! 'Kaasan never came back and SHE promised TOO!!!"
   Kurama's eyes went wide as he cupped a hand to his mouth, nearly
choking himself when a large lump welled up in his throat.  He knelt
down swiftly and took the kit into his arms, hugging him tightly to the
soft cotton of his shirt, pressing him into his chest.  "Kiro-chan.." he
whispered, snuggling his nose down into the little kit's hair as the little
body sobbed furiously and clutched at his shoulders.  "Did you think I
was abandoning you?"
  "H...hai..." Kiroshu sobbed, burrowing his face into Kurama's soft,
red hair.  "Gomen..."
  "Kiro.  I told you... I promised you I wouldn't leave you."
   "But... my real mom and dad... they promised too.  And they left
me.. They left me, papa.  LEFT ME!"
   Kurama clutched at the kit and rose to his feet, bundling up the little,
sobbing figure tightly in his arms.  He had never known the
abandonment still hung on Kiroshu's mind, Kurama had thought the kit
had forgotten all about it after he was adopted into Kurama and Hiei's
life.  "Kiro-chan," Kurama whispered, nearly on the verge of tears
himself.  "I would never leave you.  Hiei and I would never..."
   "But, you just DID!"
   "No, no... no, we didn't leave.  You have to understand, Kiro-chan. 
Hiei-tousan and I are going to someplace very dangerous where
children don't belong.  It's a very dangerous place where you could get
hurt very badly, even killed.  It's bad enough that you came after I told
you not to, but you brought Bara-chan and Toge-kun.  You're all too
young," Kurama soothed as best he could, rubbing a hand over
Kiroshu's back, ruffling the white fabric of his small robes.
   Kiroshu sniffed and wiped an arm over his eyes to rid them of the
sting, salty tears, pulling Kurama's flaming locks over his silver head as
he snuggled into Kurama's neck.  "If you and 'tousan are going to
die... I want to die with you," he whispered solemnly, sealing his
statement by kissing Kurama lightly on his neck before he returned to
his soft sobs.
   The statement caught Kurama completely off guard,  blurring down
his vision as the tears that threatened to make themselves known
spilled from the corners of his eyes, pinging off his red cheeks.  "Oh
Kiro..." he whispered, flipping the red hair in front of his face to hide
his emotions as he hugged the kit tightly, hearing the little boy squeak
from the squeezing pressure.
   "Hold on, now," Yusuke spoke up, having quieted Bara down
enough to talk.  "No one's going to die on this mission, I'm going to
see to that, Kiro.  You here me?  No one but that damn animal is
dying!"
   Yomi stood off in the shadows, rubbing a bleeding wound, a tiny
bite mark from Toge's sharp little teeth, rubbing it into silence, the skin
healing up perfectly under his fingers.  "You both have youko
children... how under the sun may I ask, did this all come around?"
   Kiro and Toge met eyes from their respective places, each in turn
looking down to Bara who was now asleep silently in Yusuke's arms.
   "That will take too long to explain and time is running out," Yusuke
spoke softly, brushing his cheek over Bara's little head.  "As of now,
you can almost guess the Reikai knows... or at least has some CLUE 
as to what we're trying to do.  We can't be in the Makai much longer
without the special forces coming after us."
   "We need your help, Yomi," Kurama spoke up, his voice broken and
scratchy in his throat as his face still lay hidden under his silken red
hair.  "There's a demon in Yomatsu that's trying to kill my brother.  If
he succeeds, he'll gain the powers of the WatchMen and be able to
travel freely between the Makai and Ningenkai."
   "And you're saying I should trouble myself with protecting humans?"
   "No.  I'm saying you should help your friends."
   "I have no friends, Kurama.  Either they're all dead or desire my
head on a pike.  I figured you would feel the same way, old friend." 
Yomi straightened and rubbed a hand once more over his neck to
ensure it was fully healed before turning his attention back to Kurama. 
"Do you?"
   "I don't hold grudges, and you know that.  But neither do I forgive
those who hurt my family.  I still hate you for what you did to my
brother, but I'm willing to put that aside for the time-being until the
safety of Yomatsu and the Ningenkai are dealt with."
   "And how does Yo-mawari feel about all of this?"
   "He's indifferent at this point... but I warn you, touch him again..."
Kurama spoke softly, his voice deepening, the masculine youko voice
fluttering into deepen Minamino Shuuichi's vibrant alto.
   The wizard laughed and twirled into a chair, the purple and grey
robes flaring over the arms of the chair.  "You have my word,
Kurama.  This should prove interesting for I haven't been in a really
challenging battle since I went up against you, Yusuke," he turned the
empty lids to Yusuke's position.
   "So, you're agreeing to come along then?" Yusuke asked flatly and
emotionless, running a hand over Bara's soft hair.
   "Hai, I'll come.  I should be getting out more into my lands.  I figure
a trip to this Yomatsu Hara-sakai should be an experience."  A slight
pause broke his thoughts as the unseeing eyes glanced both to Kurama
and Yusuke.  "While we travel, you must explain where the three kits
came from.  If you so desire, they may remain behind in my city.  I'm
sure Shura won't mind their company."
   Kiroshu's little hands clutched tightly at Kurama's shirt...
   "The kits stay here," Yusuke put in solemnly, receiving a firm grunt
from Toge up on Kuwabara's shoulders.

   "She rebuilds quickly," Yo-mawari marveled at the looming black
structure above him and his little youkai master.
   "You don't know what Mukuro's capable of, 'Wari.  She has millions
of workers at her disposal, there to do anything she desires of them."
   "Ah, hai, but only ONE Koorime fire demon, ne?" he chuckled,
stepping forward and onto a beaten, stone path that lead up to the
tower's main door.
   Hiei grunted and picked up pace.  "Kurama's wearing off on you,
damn him.  You're becoming as annoying as he is handsome."
   Yo-mawari cocked his head to the side as he walked and glanced to
his meijin from the corner of his eye.  He resisted the urge to laugh out
loud in silly, flirtatious pleasure, wanting to tease his little master as
Kurama had teased him before over Kuraihana many times before. 
But he knew better, he knew Hiei would waist no time in setting him
straight, either by his fierce bouts of tongue-lashing, or by his swift,
powerful fists.  Either way was not pleasant punishment.
   The journey through the Makai had ben nearly uneventful, the little
shuriken's that rested on both their shoulders had made quick work of
blood-thirsty plants and animals that had opposed them, leaving Yo-
mawari and Hiei to discuss whatever had been needing to be
discussed.
   Yo-mawari remembered his last encounter with Mukuro, down to
the very last detail.  He had seen the hurt caused in Hiei's eyes, he had
seen that hidden betrayal through Kurama's smirk as he glared back to
the little fire demon.  But in the end, Mukuro had turned out on their
side, helping them the whole incident with Karasu, even helping
Kuraihana out in healing the battle wounds that had occurred.  She
had become more of a trusted ally to Hiei than before  through
consequences he still could not bring himself to understand.  Of course
he never DID understand women.
   "Do you think Mukuro-san will help us?" Yo-mawari added, a slight
hint of uneasy tension visible through his words.
   "We shall see, ne?  Mukuro's a tough one to bargain with.  Maybe
we'll be lucky and catch her on an off day."
   "And if we're not?"
   "We'll come to that later, 'Wari."

(c) October 1997 by Jiminy Cricket Presses