The Fires of Freedom

The doors to Koenma's office opened with a soft rumbling. The prince took a few moments to organize the papers on his desk before he looked up at the figure in the doorway.

"Ah. Kurama. Good, good." Koenma dropped his new neatly stacked pile of papers and leaned back in his chair, beckoning the possessed boy closer. Kurama stepped into his office. He was dressed in human clothing, his school uniform from the looks of it. His hair fell over his shoulders, and as he came closer Koenma could pick out touches of fear as badly hidden as sorrow had once been behind his green eyes.

"Now then, Kurama, your case is not an easy one," he said with a heavy sigh, lifting a file from the top of his stack. "Possession of a human body alone could get you at least fifty years. Add to that theft of an ancient artifact, as well as knowingly conspiring with demons planning to cause death, physical and emotional harm to humans…" Koenma sucked a breath in through his teeth. "It's not good Kurama… It's not good." He looked over the top of his file just in time to see Kurama's eyes fall resignedly shut as the charges rolled over him.

"I understand this," the boy whispered. His voice was high, the light timbre of youth still developing its depth. "I have performed my task," he said, eyes still closed. His spine stood straight, though the strength his body held felt resigned. "My goal is accomplished, and I have already been given more that I could have hoped. I know that I have no grounds from which to ask it of you, but I would beg that you hear out a favor I must beg of you."

Koenma raised an eyebrow.

"Favor?"

"I will happily do my time," Kurama whispered. "But I would ask that you allow me to postpone it until the death of my human mother. I know I have no right to ask this of you, your majesty. I know I have committed far too many crimes to beg any form of indulgence. But I have already stolen the face of her child. I would pray that she should not have to lose this body as well." The plea came with a small, sad smile. "I beg you. Put me in spirit cuffs. Bind me as you see fit, but allow me to live out the rest of my mother's life by her side. Then I will come to spirit world and serve my time in full."

Koenma took in the sight of the greatest, most ruthless thief of which he'd ever heard tell standing before him in his office. But all he saw was a soft eyed, teenaged boy. There was no growl of a wolf in his tone. There was no glint of a cunning plan behind his eyes. There was only sorrow, and a touch of fear. The sort of sorrow that would press a boy to give up his own life for one he loved. All of the resigned dedication of a demon, humbled in the form of a terrified son.

Koenma's heart went out to the boy. This sort of thing could happen. A demon would possess a human's body in a last ditch effort to survive, expecting to possess the body. In the end their soul would accidentally merge with the human spirit already inhabiting it. The creature that emerged was no longer a demon, and not fully human. Kurama's spirit seemed to have split further to his human half. That was a good sign, given what Koenma was planning.

He sat back and gave a deliberately loud hum of contemplation.

"It is not Spirit World's custom to bargain with criminals," he stated thoughtfully, and watched the twitch as Kurama's brow worked not to furrow in concern. Koenma let the words sit and percolate in the silence between them. "However…" he finally continued, breaking the tension. "There may be some extenuating circumstances that could work in your favor."

Kurama's head tilted in boyish curiosity. "What sort of circumstances?"

"Do you know of the four Saint Beasts?"

"Passingly."

"We received a demand from them a few days ago asking for access to the human world. When we declined to allow this, they began an invasion of the human world through Makai insects. Bringing an end to their threats is Yusuke's next mission."

Kurama's eyes widened.

"Lord Koenma, he'll be killed!"

"I fear you're correct," Koenma said solemnly. "That's where I think we might be able to cut a deal."

Kurama considered Koenma as he finished the prince's thought aloud. "…You want me to accompany Yusuke on his mission?"

"Precisely," Koenma replied. "If you do that, then I will count that as fifty years of service to humanity. That combined with your service earlier in Yusuke's fight against Hiei means that I will agree to drop all charges against you. You'll have a clean slate. And you can stay with your mother. Of course, all of this depends on you and Yusuke succeeding. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that if this mission fails, your mother will have even greater problems than losing you."

Kurama smiled, a soft, humble gesture. "I can see no reason to decline. I would wish to protect the home of my mother even without such incentives. I can only thank you for giving them to me regardless." Kurama dipped his head in a bow. Koenma felt relief flood through him. His detective might actually survive this crisis.

"Very good. Botan is already out gathering Yusuke. Ayame can lead you to the portal into Demon World where you can rendezvous with the detective."

"Lord Koenma… I must ask you to forgive me for speaking out of turn… but I… find myself concerned…"

"Concerned?" Koenma paused, midway through pressing the button that would call Ayame into the room.

"There are four Saint Beasts, as you put it."

"That's right." Koenma tried not to let his eyes flick away from Kurama to check the clock in the corner of the room. Botan had left a few minutes ago. How long would it take her to find Yusuke…?

"I am afraid that even with my aid, Yusuke and I will be hard pressed to take down all four Beasts ourselves. I am a specter of the power I once held, and Yusuke, for all his early prowess is not much stronger. We might hold our strength against one Beast each. But beyond that…"

"Yusuke has gotten a lot stronger since you last met him!" Koenma exclaimed, defensiveness and pride jostling for place in his tone. "He studied with Genkai."

"Genkai?" Kurama seemed surprised by this news. "Really…? Still…"

"What would you suggest I do?" Koenma's fingers drummed an agitated rhythm on the desk beside his call button.

"I have a suggestion, but please hear me out before you pass judgment…" Kurama started carefully.

"I will, Kurama. Speak."

"I ask that you release Hiei."

"You what?!" Koenma nearly toppled his chair with how hard he slammed his hands down. Kurama didn't react. "Are you mad? The Saint Beasts are threatening me with a parasitic army of possessed humans! And you want me to release Hiei so he can create a mind controlled army of possessed humans! I really don't see how this is going to help!"

"Hiei is stronger than I am," Kurama stated bluntly. "Alone, Yusuke and I will almost definitely fall. With Hiei at our side, we might survive."

"And what makes you think Hiei will work with you and not stab Yusuke in the back the first chance he gets?" Koenma snapped.

"I trust him, because I have known him. Believe it or not, Hiei has a code. And he has honor, in a very specific form. But most importantly, he has pride. His defeat at Yusuke's hands hurt that pride. He will want to get his revenge in a fair fight, not by knifing Yusuke in the back. You can cuff him until we reach the Demon World and unbind him there. There aren't humans there for him to kill, so it's not really a risk."

Koenma was frowning deeply.

"What makes you think he won't betray you and join the Saint Beasts? Run off into Demon World the first chance he gets?"

"There are precautions you can take to stop him from escaping into Demon World. And as for betrayal, Hiei wants to gain his pride back. He can only do that by defeating Yusuke, and he can only do that if Yusuke is alive. If someone else kills Yusuke before he gets that chance, then he loses it forever." A wry smile pressed Kurama's lips. "In his own way, he is the demon in your custody with the most reason for wanting Yusuke to live."

Koenma was frowning, but the violent rejection seemed to have died down at least.

"…I just don't see why it's worth the risk…"

"Without him we will not survive," Kurama stated simply.

"You don't know that! Yusuke's stronger! And Botan said he might even have a companion with him!"

"There are challenges that strength cannot overcome. The Saint Beasts' castle is said to be fitted with all number of traps, mazes, and labyrinths. Yusuke's strength can overcome certain challenges, my cunning can overcome others. Hiei's Jagan eye can keep us from wandering aimlessly through dead end passages while human world devolves into chaos and war."

Koenma was still frowning, but he seemed to be slowly wearing down his off handed rejections. Kurama pressed on after a pause.

"If Yusuke and I die in the first run, you cannot send Hiei later and have the same effect as if you'd sent him from the start. If you're going to risk it, give everything you can on the first wave. End it now."

Koenma was working hard not to meet Kurama's eyes as he pondered this over. Kurama's voice softened out once more, as it had grown hard at the end of his last sentence.

"I say this not as your advisor, and not as a demon. I say this as a son whose mother is at risk. We need him."

Koenma thought in silence for a long time. "…Alright… I'll give him a shot."

Kurama let out a breath, and carefully continued.

"Now there is just the question of getting him to agree."

Koenma blinked. "What do you mean, getting him to agree? You just said he needs Yusuke to stay alive to regain his pride!"

"And that is why I believe he will not betray us. But it may not be enough to convince him to work with us."

"What choice does he have? He's a prisoner!"

"That does not mean he has to obey your commands."

"Well what do you propose?" Koenma snapped.

"You offer me my freedom. Offer Hiei the same."

"Are you kidding me?"

"If Hiei knows he is only being released to fight, and then return to his cell, he has no reason to do it."

Koenma resisted the urge to bury his face in his hands and groan, or maybe scream.

"You want me to release a criminal who has been tried and convicted of at least ten human murders, and intent for mass murder?" Koenma asked, pulling his hands down enough that his eyes peeped over the tops of his fingertips. "You want this demon released into the world where the mother who you'd give your life for lives?"

Kurama smiled softly. "Yes."

"You really trust him that much?" Koenma asked with blatant disbelief.

"I believe that without him neither Yusuke nor I will survive, and if the threats you have received hold true, neither will my mother."

Koenma's eyes decided they didn't actually want to be out anymore, and they vanished beneath his fingers again. Koenma scrubbed his hands up and down over his face, before he finally lifted his head again. Behind him, the clock ticked steadily, and cruelly forward.

"If we release Hiei," Koenma said slowly. "He will be released strictly on probation. He will be chained to a single area. And he will report regularly to Spirit World. He will be cuffed until we decide that he is no longer poses a risk to humanity. And if he hurts a human, a single human, he will be returned directly to prison. In order for him to be released, he will need someone to vouch for him. Will you take that role?"

Kurama gave a smile. "I seem to be."

"If you accept," Koenma said seriously. "Then if Hiei kills a human, or otherwise breaks the terms of his parole and is returned to prison, you will share his sentence." A moment of silence stood between them. "Are you willing to risk that? Do you trust Hiei that much?"

Kurama took a breath, but his smile remained as he spoke.

"I do."


Kurama was lead through the elegant hallways of Spirit World. Down staircases, through tall passages into lean corridors. Each twist and turn of their movement etched into Kurama's mind by some well honed instinct. An impulse so sharply cut into his mental pattern that it no longer seemed like an action at all, but a simply function of his existence. His mind marked down the turns, his eyes caught landmarks and filed them away in his memory.

As they walked the ceiling slowly became less high, the passages less spacious. The light dimmed from the warm, white glow of ethereal energy into the dusky yellow light of lamps, and light bulbs high in the ceiling.

Ayame lead him through a door way and suddenly they were out of the palace. The gleaming pale, pastels of Spirit World architecture vanished in a single moment into the unceremonial grey, brown, and black of a roughly hewn stone corridor. Kurama had to fight down the impulse to jump when the door behind them swung shut with a heavy, metallic thunk and poured a wave of black over them.

There were no lights in the stone corridor, but as the blackness settled in a pale glowing light bloomed above their heads. Kurama looked up to see a pair of floating, pale blue orbs undulating above them. Ayame was already stepping forward, and Kurama fell automatically in step behind her. As they moved down the corridor one set of orbs would fade to black and a few paces ahead of them, another pair of orbs would blink into life. Each pair of orbs illuminating just enough of the corridor for them to see where they were putting their feet and what lay a few paces before them, but no more.

From the feel of it Ayame was triggering the lights as they went, by channeling her own spirit energy into them. Kurama didn't try it himself. But he had a hunch that his demon energy would not be able to light the orbs. So that any agent of Spirit World could walk these corridors in light while any demon prisoner who managed to make it this close to freedom would be consigned to stumbling about in the darkness.

Kurama and Ayame's footsteps echoed in the silence of the cave. Their two treads fell into a single pattern as Kurama automatically matched his step to that of his companion. Once again he was lead through a winding, twisting path of careful, specific turns. This time Kurama's mind grasped onto each turn and corridor they took far more actively, as he felt the door to the world above vanishing into the blackness behind them.

After a minute or so of travel, the two of them came into what could almost be called a room. The walls of the cave widened into a circular space, what would have been a clearing had it been a forest. There were two entrances to the room. One entrance was the one from which Kurama and Ayame had just emerged. The other was directly across the room. Between the two entrances separating the room cleanly in half, was a wall of what looked like glass, though Kurama had a feeling it was more likely flattened crystal. The same glowing orbs that had illuminated the corridor lighted this room as well, though here there were enough to illuminate the full room. Kurama's earlier hunch was strengthened as he noted that there was not a single orb of light on the other side of the glass.

On Kurama's side, there was a chair, fashioned from the very rock on which it stood. The legs merging so perfectly from the rocky ground that it would likely be impossible to lift it without cutting through the rock itself. On the other side of the glass wall there were no lights. There were no chairs.

"Hiei will arrive shortly," Ayame informed Kurama. Kurama nodded and turned his attention back to his surroundings. He paced the room, stepping closer to inspect the glass. It seemed to be merged seamlessly with the wall, as if the rock had formed itself around this wall of glass. Around the edge of the glass, where it met the wall, there were a line of runes carved into the glass itself, running along the entire perimeter. Kurama Couldn't make out each rune, but he recognized some of the underlying patterns. If he touched the glass, he'd most likely return with burns.

A movement on the other side of the glass caught Kurama's attention and he looked up. There was the slightest ghost of movement in the passage on the other side, and slowly, dark forms came into view. There were three of them. Two tall, muscular figures with a short figure between them.

The light caught them as they stepped into the room, and Kurama was given full view. Hiei stood hemmed in between two massive ogres, their blue skin glowing faintly in the light which cast pools of darkness over Hiei's eyes and drew shadow across his lips stretching his scowl to new depths. Hiei's arms were invisible behind his back where Kurama was positive they were chained.

The three of them came to a stop just on the other side of the glass. Hiei did not look up, or shift, or do anything to show that he had so much as seen Kurama, let alone recognised him. Kurama bowed to the three regardless.

Ayame stepped forward and indicated a small switch embedded in the floor at the foot of the chair.

"Press this, and you'll hear each other," she said. Kurama nodded.

"Thank you," he said, giving a small smile. "If I may, Koenma and I agreed that it would be best for me to speak with Hiei alone."

"I heard," Ayame replied. She turned to the glass and made a flicking gesture with both hands at the ogres. The fist of one of the ogres bumped against Hiei's arm as they turned, and vanished back into the corridor they'd come from. Ayame watched them go, and then left herself, though she didn't go far. It hardly mattered in a palace so full of psychics, divination and monitoring devices that gossip spread before action, but the gesture was important.

And then there was silence. Hiei stood on the other side of the glass, eyes staring forward vacantly into the darkness beyond Kurama. The cloth he wore over his Jagan eye had been removed, and instead there was a scroll of paper in its place, patterned with inscriptions much like those etched into the glass.

Kurama's footsteps echoed all the louder as he strode over to the switch that Ayame had shown him, and he flicked it with his foot. Nothing in the silence changed.

"…Hello, Hiei…"

If he had head Kurama, Hiei didn't show any indication of it.

Kurama should have had a cunning plan. He should have had a script for this. He'd never needed a script before. Words usually just rolled from his tongue without plan, with hardly even an effort. Today his tongue felt flat.

The silence stretched as Kurama sought for the words to continue.

"I've come to offer you a chance for freedom." Hiei remained as unmoving as ever. "Koenma offers to drop the charges against us, if we but aid his detective in his fight against the Saint Beasts. After that he has agreed to release you from custody into probation."

The silence stretched longer. Part of Kurama wondered whether sound was carrying through the glass, but another part of him was almost certain it was… And he stood. And he waited.

"Is that all?" When Hiei finally spoke, his voice came not from the glass, but from a speaker above Kurama's head. Kurama once again fought the impulse to flinch as his instincts told him there was someone lurking behind him.

"…No…" Kurama said softly. "It is not." Hiei had yet to move, and he still didn't, so Kurama continued. "I have come also… to apologize…"

Hiei didn't respond, but Kurama thought he might have seen his brow shift.

"I betrayed you."

Silence.

"I noticed."

Kurama gave a small laugh, but there was no spirit in it.

"…What did you expect to happen now?" Hiei asked. "Are you waiting for forgiveness?"

"No."

"Then what are you doing here?"

"I betrayed you," Kurama said simply. "And in doing so, I have caused you harm. I do not seek forgiveness. I seek only that you should not suffer for my actions."

There was a pause. And then Hiei's shoulders final stirred. He gave a snort, and then a bark of laughter.

"You're guilty!" he burst out. "Hells beneath! You've lived in the human world so long, you've picked up their guilt!" Hiei's sharp laughter cut off into a lip curling sneer. "Spare me fox. So what? You decided to betray me, and now you feel bad because your actions had consequences? You may have been a great thief once, but reincarnation and human contamination have rotted your mind. This is how betrayal works. You get what you want, and I suffer. But no, that's not good enough for you anymore. Because now you have guilt! So you want me to prostrate myself before Enma. Spend my life dancing on a leash for him, and be thankful to you for giving me the opportunity to do so! All so you're spared the torture of feeling bad about what you've done." Hiei eyed Kurama over with an absolute disgust that surpassed even the which he held for concepts like love and cuddling. "Honestly, Kurama, I don't care that you betrayed me. I would have betrayed you. You just got to it first. But this." Hiei spat at the glass and it burst in a yellow gold crack of sparks. "I've never been so insulted in my life."

Hiei had broken his resolve not to meet Kurama's eyes. And now that it was broken, he locked Kurama's gaze in combat. Inviting Kurama, daring him to keep on talking, to give Hiei something more to shred.

"I know," Kurama said slowly, "that you would prefer imprisonment, even at Enma's hand, to being his slave. But I wonder at what cost that will come."

Hiei's eyebrow cocked.

"I wonder," Kurama continued, "if there are not journeys you will not be able to take." Hiei's expression of confusion mingled with disgust told Kurama just how simple-minded he sounded, but he pressed on. "Sights you shall never see, people you shall never meet." On the word 'people' Kurama's eyes widened a fraction, drawing attention to it as silently as he could. The intent held as he continued. "Dreams you shall never realize."

He saw Hiei's eyes widen, just a flicker there.

On the day that Kurama had first met Hiei, Hiei had lain unconscious on the towel Kurama stretched over his bed to avoid the bloodstains from sinking into his sheets. Kurama had sat by the demon as he slowly emerged from the fitful edges of unconsciousness. And in that fit of waking, when dreams manifested most clearly, he had heard a single name repeated on Hiei's lips.

He dared not speak it here, where walls didn't so much have ears, as stood only as an illusion of privacy, but that name resounded between their linked eyes.

There was a moment, and then Hiei's gaze broke sharply away. He turned and Kurama was afforded a glance at the reams of metallic coil that bound his arms from wrist to elbow, interspersed with even more strips of paper decorated with intricate seals and wards.

"I had a dream." Hiei plopped heavily down against the wall at the side of the cave and leaned back on his shoulders, tilted his head back so that the light leant from Kurama's side of the room struck his eyelids. "It involved an army of malleable humans at my command. That's hardly going to happen now, is it?" Hiei's tone was sharp, but it had come to life. Something had cracked between them, and when Kurama laughed it had heart within it.

"Dreams can take new forms."

Hiei shot him a red-eyed glare, laden with all the more malice now that the light could strike them.

"You say the most revolting things at times."

"Well, if that doesn't appeal to you, perhaps the splendor of defeating the Saint Beasts will? Or the chance for revenge against the detective? A opportunity to examine his style up close."

At this suggestion, Hiei let his head tilt toward Kurama with the slightest hint of interest in his gaze. And when he spoke, there was a challenging touch to his frown.

"I've learned his style. It's called stupidity and dumb luck."

Kurama had to stop himself from smiling.

"There are other benefits."

"Such as?"

"The Saint Beasts have had a long time to collect interesting trinkets, weapons, objects of power…"

A grin now gleamed in the darkness.

"Now that would be worth something."

"Of course, no such objects should ever be brought back to Human World."

"Of course not," Hiei said through a sharp, lazy smirk. "My interest is purely… academic."

Kurama tried not to chuckle at the sound of those words from Hiei's lips. Koenma would never let either of them keep a single thing from the castle of the Saint Beasts. Especially not Hiei. And both of them knew this. All they needed was for Koenma to believe that this had been the reason why Hiei agreed. Distance in the conversation, so that the idea of a name and a person would be lost among the failed baits that Kurama had used. Enough false baits to bury the true lead.


Heads turned, conversations went quiet, and then reignited in sharp whispers as the five of them strode through the corridors of the Spirit World palace. A red haired fox boy walking alongside a black haired shinigami, while a small, black haired, red-eyed demon followed along behind them, captured, bound and flanked by two ogres.

A few minutes later the five of them were within Koenma's office, standing in a mismatched bunch before Koenma's great desk, while Koenma spoke to Hiei.

"You'll be removed from your cell. Provided both Yusuke and his companion-" Koenma lifted the report that Botan had sent him, "-Kuwabara, return safely, your sentence to life in prison will be overturned. You will be let out of your cell, and allowed to live a mostly normal life on probation, the duration of which is still to be decided."

"I do not control their safety," Hiei spat. "The detective I know to be an arrogant fool with an affinity for taking risks. I know nothing of his sidekick, but I can hardly expect more from him. I'll do what I can to stop the over confident fool from killing himself, but I promise nothing."

"Neither can we," Koenma replied sternly from over the rim of his desk. "If our detective and his partner return safely, then we can guarantee you release from your cell. Short of that…"

"Alive."

"Excuse me?"

"Safe means nothing. It's a foolish, hypothetical concept for a state of being that scared creatures like to pretend exists. Most demons agree on what 'alive' means."

"Hiei, I need more from you than just 'alive'. You could bring Yusuke back bleeding from his throat and still, technically alive. We need alive and… and… healthy."

"He's going to take on the Saint Beasts, how healthy do you expected him to emerge?"

"We need him not dead, and not on the verge of death! And we need him not crippled. Functional! Hiei! Does that work better for you? We need him alive and functional."

"Functional means nothing. If I bring the detective back bleeding from the throat, he'll be perfectly functional. As a shield. Or a seat cushion. Or tinder. But somehow I don't think you'll agree."

Koenma cast Kurama the most uncomfortable glance that Kurama could imagine Koenma's face making while still attempting to be subtle. Kurama tried to give him the most reassuring "this is just how Hiei is" smile he could. Somehow it didn't seem to igve Koenma any comfort.

"Hiei!" Koenma hissed, patients fraying fingers knotting in the clumps of hair that he could reach beneath his hat. "We need something from you! We need to know that you'll do everything you can to keep our detective safe."

"Shall I promise from the very bottom of my heart to do my best?" Hiei sneered.

"Hiei, we're not here to haggle. Either you take the deal, or we bring you back to your cell."

"There's no point in taking a deal to escape if the detective receiving a paper cut on the way back into your office means that I've failed my end."

Kurama could see how much Hiei was enjoying himself. Koenma was doing everything he could to keep from squirming, but his eyes kept flicking up to the clock, or over their heads toward the screen, which displayed the psychically generated images that allowed him to observe the goings on in Human World. The screen was currently off. Koenma had no idea what was happening to Yusuke at the moment. Every second Koenma remained with them in his office was another second that Yusuke and his partner got closer to death at the hands of four demons more powerful than they had any ability to handle.

Every second Hiei stood in this office was another second that he wasn't in his cell. Hiei wasn't in the winning situation in the long run. But for the moment there wasn't a single person in the room getting a better deal than him.

Koenma gave a heavy sigh, tapping his finger irritably on his desk. "Fine!" he relented. "Alive! Bring back Yusuke Urameshi and his partner alive and we'll release you from your cell, and we will reopen your case to determine the perimeters of your parole."

"Free movement through the human realm, and full use of my powers."

"Hiei, we are not haggling!" Koenma yelled, his temper finally snapping. "You will go, and you will go now, or everything we have agree on will be tossed in the furnace! Do you understand?"

A cruel smile flicked across Hiei's lips. "Of course."

With a collapsing sort of relaxation Koenma sat back in his chair and altered the document to fit their current agreement. Hiei looked it over for a long moment while Koenma vibrated impatiently, before Hiei finally agreed. Koenma gave his seal of approval, Hiei signed his agreement, and immediately he and Kurama were being ushered out of the door, through back passage ways, and into a small, darkly lit room. A portal had already been prepared for them when they entered. It hung in the center of the room in an undulating circle distorting the space around it. Through it they caught sight of the black head and green shoulders of Yusuke Urameshi vanishing into a mound of hissing teeth and grasping claws.

Hiei's lip curled.

"They're not really struggling with the gate keepers, are they?"

Ayame knelt down behind him and began unfastening his cuffs.

"It would seem they are," Kurama replied.

"At this rate, our best bet of returning them to Koenma alive would be to bury them in the dirt outside the castle. Keep them out of trouble until we can fetch them on our way out," Hiei commented as the cuffs fell away with a soft clink. With a few murmured words from Ayame the wards from his wrists gave a hiss like the release of pent up air and they too fluttered to the floor. Hiei drew his hands in front of him, and opened and closed his fists, testing the full range of motion of his fingers. Next Ayame performed the same ritual over the wards across Hiei's Jagan eye, and that scroll too peeled away. Hiei's third eye blinked slowly open, waking from a long sleep, and the unearthy green glow settled slowly into place. Finally Ayame handed Hiei his katana, which he fastened to his belt, his black cloak, which he drew over his shoulders, and the white strip of cloth, which he tied round his forehead.

"We'd best hurry," Kurama commented. "Or I fear one of them shall lose a limb…"

Hiei grunted. And side-by-side in step they pushed off through the portal.


A/N

Thank you for reading! Ratings and reviews are always loved!

This fic falls within canon. It is also a part of the canon past for another story which I have been working on without update in a shamefully long time: The Darker Tournament. ^^;; I am still alive and doing things! With words even! On good days.