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**Standard disclaimers apply. Yo-mawari's mine!**

Warning: This piece contains the following: Yaoi, yaoi/lemon implications

Chapter 2: The Dream-Path Walked Again
by: Cricket

      "Hiei?" The soft voice floated as a gentle wind to the youkai that laid silently atop Kurama's bare chest, almond eyes sliding lazily open to meet up with the soft words. They floated in and around him, all with a life of their own, caressing and smoothing over his lazy frame. The little youkai propped his chin on a fist, glinting ruby eyes up from under his stringy, black bangs that fell from the white starburst at his forehead, exploding like an internal extension of the complexity that inhabited his mind. For just a second, Hiei let his gaze wander through the luscious greenery of his lovers eyes, watching the light from the open window glisten off them playfully to shoot back into his own, vermillion glare.
      "Nani?" Hiei finally answered back after his wanderings, breaking the silence and soft passion of Kurama's single word with the cold, harsh knives of his own. He sighed a bit and closed his eyes, scowling inwardly at the tension and disgust he still held in his voice from memories of past battles. "Never mind, I think I know what you're going to ask."
      Kurama's eyes widened and he struggled to sit up a bit against Hiei's soft weight, raising his head to prop a pillow under it. "What?"
      Hiei slid one eye open and glared the human down, nestling down further into Kurama's chest to be more eye-to-eye. "I know what you wanted to ask... you want to go to the Makai Treasure House and look for Kuronue... or whatever's left of him. Correct?"
      Kurama tried his best not to smile, though in his mind, the statement struck a painful blow close to home, easily shooting down the smile. Without even realizing it, that was precisely what he wanted to do... to search out any and all evidence of his past partner, whether it meant bad news (which was all he expected), or a hint of good news. In his mind, he knew Kuronue couldn't possibly still be alive.
      But what was he thinking? Kuronue was always a fighter, stretching his life to the limits he could through every mission. If there was the smallest possibility that the youkai could have lived, Kuronue would have found it. Kurama had complete confidence in that.
      So perhaps there was hope, he smiled, rolling over onto Hiei and curling him up into his chest. Slowly, he nestled his nose down into the spiky black hair, closing down his eyes as rough, unforgiving splinters of the hair brushed and poked at his fine skin. The smell of the Makai forest drifted to his nose up from the fragment trapped in the black hair, capturing the pureness and sanctity the seemingly morbid forest always portrayed. It sparked the nightmare back into action... Kuronue's bone chilling screams echoing back to his mind like a phantasmal call.... The thin body shuddered, curling more around Hiei, pulling the little body tightly into his chest.
      "Kurama..." Hiei whispered, nuzzling into Kurama's neck. "Why don't we just get 'Wari and go? Obviously you're never going to rest until you know the truth, I know you too well."

      Morning cartoons bleeped back at Yo-mawari and his little audience of tiny, shuriken-youkai, glimmering and conversing mentally among themselves and their master, sat comfortably on a pillow beside him.
      Idiotic talk shows...
      You don't wanna know!
      "Grief, ningen programming is terrible!" Yo-mawari whined, flipping again through the channels... not like he even HAD television back in yomatsu. He wielded the remote like a child with his father's gun, taking aim at the heads and noses of the various personalities and oddly familiar cartoon characters that laughed back at him. "Humans..."
      "Then turn it off," a dark voice grumbled behind him, chilling his blood cold in an instant. Even the personalities on the TV seemed to shudder under the voice, racking and clawing at Yo-mawari's back before the WatchMan could successfully place a face to the tone.
      "Ohayo gozaimasu, Meijin-san," he whispered a bit sheepishly, as if in the presence of a much higher and lawful body than his own. If times called, he felt he would kneel on the floor and bow... there was something oddly black and commanding in that voice this morning that could have made Yo-mawari run himself through on his own blade if the voice of his master so commanded.
      Hiei padded slowly across the kitchen, dressed in his usual black trousers and cloak, Kurama moping behind him in a loose shirt and jeans. They seemed like a two-person funeral procession, Hiei even more stoic and rigid than usual, Kurama poised on the edge of just falling to pieces. His regal eyes followed Hiei's movement for a few seconds like a lifeline, daring to break only momentarily to navigate his tall, slender figure about obstacles on his way to the kitchen.
      "So, what's going on, Meijin-san?" Yo-mawari dared to speak, feeling the words tighten through his throat before they could escape into meaningful sound. For a moment, he thought to link to Kurama, just to ask if he was okay... but from the languid movements and glossed eyes of his twin, he thought it best to leave well-enough alone.
      "We're going to the Makai," Hiei announced easily, pouring himself a glass of water from a large, crystalline pitcher. "We're on a mission of our own now."
      "Nan da?"
      Kurama raised a steaming glass of coffee to his lips, blowing the curls of white steam out to disappear in the air of the apartment. The steam rose and massed like a fogged-ridden morning... a stabbing reminder to the mists that black-haired, blue-eyes partner of his would surround himself in, creating his illusions through the network of finely tuned scythes. "Kuronue," he spoke softly, sipping, cringing as the caffeinated drink burnt his tender lips. "We're looking for Kuronue."
      Yo-mawari adjusted on the pillow, commanding the shuriken onto his shoulder. Intentionally, he let the call float to Kurama's mind as a gentle tug that possibly could pass off as an accident. Through the corner of his eye as Yo-mawari watched the shuriken take position on his shoulder, he saw his brother's attention turn fully down to him, the coffee steaming directly under his mouth, enveloping his face. :Kurama... I just want you to know that I'm here for you no matter what, : he whispered gently, sending out a soft hug to press on Kurama's mind.
      : Thank you. : was all he received back, watching forlornly as Kurama dumped the rest of his coffee down the sink.
      "When do we leave?" Yo-mawari rose to his feet, balancing expertly on the top of the cushion, standing his tall frame up to it's full height, ready for battle.
      "Now," Kurama said with a nod. He left no room for discussion.

      All too familiar.
      The terrain... it was all too terrifying, too familiar.
      It was all Kurama could do to keep from becoming physically ill at the sights of all the familiar land marks and swaying foliage that had been burned into his mind as a death memento on that evening so long ago. Discarded bamboo spears still peppered the ground as they made their way through the forest, moss and fungus growing off them like a living cover to keep them from Kurama's view.
      Along side him, the taller, youko frame of Yo-mawari glimmered silver as he walked in the sun, the menacing katana following only a few inches off the ground before him, seemingly scanning the terrain. The contrasting dark, metallic glimmers of the tiny shuriken were nearly hidden from all view in the white-cotton folds of the tunic he now wore, white and brilliant, contrasting his normally black garb.
      And between the two of them, eyes set straight ahead towards their destination, was Hiei, nearly figureless under the bulky black cloak and white scarf, draping haphazardly over his body. His weapon was well hidden, the vague outline of his arms barely visible under the black fabric as he walked, almost double-pace to keep up with the Youko and the redhead.
      Before them, the bamboo spears were steadily becoming more and more densely populated, the vague hint of a make-shift confinement cell made from the spears just visible before them. Kurama's eyes searched it out and weeded it from the rest of the bamboo, his pace quickening in eagerness and dead.
      Beside him, sensing the eagerness, Yo-mawari broke formation and let the human body pass before him, to squeeze through the narrow openings. The glint of the rich red hair through the faded yellow-green of the forest made his mind wince, his consciousness beginning to put together piece by piece what could have happened here. Either way he could come up with was an unpleasant and continually haunting vision he strived to ignore.
      Yo-mawari stumbled a bit, catching himself on the tip of the katana to steady his disobedient feet through his daydreaming. He could sense Hiei jerk an eye to him quickly, checking on his progress as if to assure himself the youko that meant the world to Kurama was still alive. Tension always built when the youko caught rare glimpses of the twin, always the images of that tall, glaring figure that had tried so hard to kill him months ago popping back to haunt him. Clear, vivid pictures of the harm and cruelty that smirked at him behind the black eyes could be seen clearly in the Youko form, menacing Hiei before the truth finally came out... a truth he though he would regret for the rest of his life.
      Yet here he was, emotionally tied not only to that deadly figure, so much like Kurama in every aspect, but to the very heritage and life behind him. He had remembered the first night Yo-mawari had returned to Yomatsu Hara-sakai, Hiei meeting and drilling him for hours on end, at each turn threatening to beat him senseless at the explanations, what he took as lies. He had wanted the man dead, never again to appear, mocking Kurama's perfect form and features with the blackness that surrounded him. He had wanted him dead until he had learned the truth behind those words. Until he saw how Kurama bonded to the brother he had been threatened about by his parents for so long, he saw how the similarities coalesced into a single consciousness.
      "Meijin-san... Kore wa...!" Yo-mawari's sudden deep and sultry voice whispered down to him, startling Hiei out of his daydreaming. Red eyes popped back to existence and he found himself staring at an age-worn prison of spears, sticking and rotting out of the ground in a macabre that he had never seen before. Dried and cracked blood had long since petrified after being dripped down some of the spears, the over head sun suddenly choked by clouds as if in mourning of the gruesome event that Kurama had to witness...
      Hiei darted his eyes from the massive cell, searching out quickly around the area.... until the shimmer of red hair peaked around one of the sphere, the green eyes wide and full of what looked like excitement, completely alien to the gruesome surroundings they were all in.
      Yo-mawari was frozen, golden eyes staring unbelievably back to the horror that must have befallen here, blocking out Kurama as he tried to explain... things he did NOT want to hear.
      "Hiei, come here," Kurama whispered, curling a slender finger towards him, millions of out-of-place emotions flickering o his face. Kurama was actually smiling.
      "Nani?" Hiei hissed, stepping lightly past the Youko to kneel at Kurama's side, his finger brushing for just a moment to Kurama's shoulder. "Are you alright? Have you lost your mind or something?"
      "No!" Kurama snorted, chuckling, picking up an old piece of black cloth. "You see this? Part of Kuronue's cloak."
      "Hn, could be anyone's."
      "Nope... " he turned it over carefully, cuddling it in his hands like fine glass, as if it could shatter into a million unrecoverable pieces. Through the underside, a thin, glimmering black thread weaved through it in intricate patterns, winking in the loss of sunlight as if it was as bright as day. "Beautiful, ne?" Kurama spoke softly. "He had the cloak specially made to be reversible... turning it inside out in daylight. In the sun, he passed as a glimmering ray of sunshine, barely visible... in the shadows, " he turned the cloth over carefully, the strange shinning beauty swallowed in a wave of flat, almost devouring black, "he could hide under any light or lack of." Hiei smirked softly, sitting back on his haunches, tossing a quick glance to Yo-mawari. The Youko was lightly touching the veins that circled about the bamboo, tracing patters, holding conversations with the shuriken on his shoulder. "Hn, so? A piece of fabric," he turned his gaze back down to the cloth and poked at it. "Doesn't mean anything."
      "Yes it does. Here... feel!" Kurama ushered the black cloth into Hiei's hands carefully, looking back with wide eyes to his youkai companion.
      Hiei frowned. The cloth settled unnaturally in his hand, molding down to conform to his fingers as if it lived and breathed. It couldn't be alive! It was a stupid piece of cloth!
      Oddly, you-ki lightly coursed through the fabric, a silent, almost undetectable flow unless you were specifically looking for oddities in the fabric. Hiei placed it to the odd feeling he got when he first touched one of Yo-mawari's shuriken.. though this was completely different, but the same...
      "Hiei..." Kurama whispered, laying a hand over the fabric. Together, they felt it shift and move, repositioning itself to hug both sets of hands at the same time. "Do you know what this means?" The green eyes flashed an astoundingly bright shade of green, blowing into a foresty explosion out from his face. "Hiei, Kuronue's still alive!"
      "Nani! From a stupid piece of fabric! Kurama, maybe this wasn't such a good idea in the first place!"
      "Hiei, no listen to me! This fabric.. it's part of Kuronue's illusions. He had his own hair woven into the fabric, each piece carrying some of his you-ki to trap itself forever within this fabric."
      "Kurama you're crazy!"
      "NO! Listen to me! The you-ki you're feeling is Kuronue's you- ki... after all this time I can remember it now. I can't explain to you easily what I'm getting at her, but if his ki is still alive in the fabric, it has to still be alive in him! Kuronue's alive!"
      Hiei rose quickly to his feet to tower above Kurama, glaring back down on him, the deep frown laying trenches through his skin and facial features. "Kurama... you're linking anything you possibly can to try to find some thread of hope that he's still alive. A possessed shred of cloth that could have come from ANYONE is no evidence of anything! You can't judge the scale of a mountain by a random rock you pick off the ground."
      Kurama pocketed the shred of fabric into the folds of his silk pants and rose swiftly to his feet, meeting Hiei's glare with an equally hot and threatening one. "I am not crazy and I am NOT delusional. I'm going to the Treasure House and I am searching Kuronue out whether you're helping me or not! You can't stop me!"
      Kurama made a move to turn, stopped cold by Hiei's grip firmly at his arm, stronger than any other grip he had ever felt Hiei lay onto him. It hurt. Again, the two glared, only Hiei's softened back, retreating under Kurama's suddenly icy stare that threatened to pound holes in whoever tried to get in his way. "Kurama... " Hiei trailed of and lightened the grip, rubbing his thumb up and down the warm flesh underneath. "You can't go alone. Even though this seems so utterly ludicrous, I'm by your side and always will be. You have to calm down and take this cautiously. If he IS alive, there's no telling what they've done to him. And if they've tortured him to the brink of all humanity, there is nothing that will stop them from doing the same to you.
      "So listen good, fox. We all take this one step at a time. If we run in there half-cocked we'll all be beat down before we've even begun to fight. I swear to the gods, Kurama, if anything were to ever happen to you I would not forgive myself."
      "Hiei..." Kurama breathed the word as if it was the finest porcelain, reaching forward to take the youkai tightly into his arms, holding him close incase he was to be swept away if he didn't.
      Aside from him, the taller figure of Youko Yo-mawari slid up silently, scanning back behind them, every instinct he had learned as being a WatchMan of the Boarders springing up to him, protecting them all. He seemed nervous, golden eyes darting back and forth among his brother and master, the grotesque make-shift prison, and the tall iron doors to the Makai Treasure House just visible through the forest.
      "One step at a time," Kurama agreed, releasing Hiei to look back at his brother. "Then first off, we get into the Treasure House undetected."
      "We need to find the dungeons. That could be our biggest obstacle." Kurama smiled vainly and flipped a lock, tossing it over his shoulder. His poise suggested a deep pride in himself, a knowledge that no one else around him could possess. "I know that place by heart, we've raided it too many times to count. The masters of the House had not changed their plans or techniques in the 10 years that Kuronue and I had raided it... and even if they HAVE tried to up their defenses, I can get around them easily."
      "Awfully confident, fox," Hiei tossed back a portion of the black cloak to bring out the double-edged katana. "Then quit jabbin' and lead the way." © September 1997 by Jiminy Cricket Presses

On to Chapter 3