Iris

By Ekai Ungson

Disclaimer: I do not own the series Hunter X Hunter. Characters used without permission.

Notes: Takes place roughly at the beginning of the OVA. Not exactly alternate reality, but not exactly canon either.

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None of the grand designs of the now too late

understanding. An aesthetic experience

is one in which the red ship of the sails

to your coast and you do not know what hit you

because knowing, strictly speaking, happens

during the wake.

i.

He had taken pains to conceal the truth from those he knew would be around him. He wiped off and washed off every stain on his body, his face. He changed his clothes. He combed his hair.

He stared at the mirror on the table and flinched. He looked all right. He didn't deserve to.

They might be able to read him, but that was highly unlikely. Unless they listened to his screaming heart, they would never, never know a thing.

----

The mahogany door opened and he walked in. She didn't even have to look up from her cards to see him, didn't even need to move. But she DID move, she DID look, and when she did, the cards in her hand fluttered to the floor instantly.

His steps were hollow, his eyes calm, but not calm—and when she looked up and saw them the first thought that entered her mind was the word deathly.

His aura wasn't its usual, dark, cold blue. When she looked closely, it was more of a purple, red fighting blue for dominance of him.

And she sensed something else. She didn't see it anywhere near him or on him, but she sensed… blood. On his hands and on his face and everywhere.

"Miss Neon?"

She stood up and stared at him. He stared back blankly.

"Miss Neon?"

Neon Nostrad turned to her maidservants and her bodyguards for the night. "Everyone—" she began gently. "Leave me with Kurapica for a second, please?"

They all turned to her blankly for a second. A slight nod from her and they all stood up to leave.

When the door closed, she turned to the blond-haired boy who seemed oblivious to anything and everything.

"Kurapica-san?'

~~~~

He had killed.

It was true that his purpose, his reason for being, was to live, and to kill, every single member of the group called Spider, as they had killed the tribe of the Kuruta. Now one of their kind's blood had spilled onto the ground by his hands, and he—he was stained.

And he wondered how they could do it, how people killed other people with neither worry nor mercy. He wondered how it was possible to squash life with one's fingertips, as one would an insignificant fly.

How?

"Kurapica-san?"

He jerked his head up and saw worried eyes of blue looking at him.

He didn't move.

~~~~

She took his hand and led him to sit on the couch, but even then, he wasn't moving. She went into the other room for bandages and the like, because she somehow felt that he was bleeding and he wasn't showing. As she reached up at the cupboards she stole a glance at him. He was staring at his hands as if he had done something unfathomable with them.

Those eyes of his had always been a cold, dark blue—colder than ice itself and harder than stone. But now they took on a tinge of desperation, something she didn't quite understand. It wasn't very like him.

But then again, she had to admit that she didn't know all that much about her father's newest recruit.

When she returned to him, he was rubbing at his hands and arms, as if trying to get something out of them. He was rubbing so hard that his skin began to bruise.

"Stop it, Kurapica-san," she admonished gently, but he didn't hear, he went on rubbing.

"Stop it!" she exclaimed, then, taking his hands in hers, kneeling in front of him.

They were clean.

She stared up at him. His eyes were wild and insane.

"Kurapica…"

He was seeing her and yet not seeing her, and he forced himself to focus. This was… Miss Nostrad. His boss' daughter. Seeing her and yet not, knew that she was right there but she seemed so far away. He wasn't seeing her because he was seeing so much blood, and death, and tears.

And then he felt warm hands take his and he was thrust back in the world of the living.

He was seeing things that she couldn't—not with the naked eye. Well, if that was going to be the case, then there was an easy way to rectify the situation.

She had the ability to see beyond the limits of time and predict the future. She had the ability to use her eyes to stare into the mind of others, and if she could do THAT, she could damn well see into the past and SEE what it was that was bothering him, what it was he wanted to get off.

She whispered an incantation and fell into a trance.

Images ran before her eyes in a fast-forward motion. Fire. A blood red moon. A dark cliff, a spider—a spider mark. A wild man-wolf, trapped in chains. Red eyes—red eyes? Yes. Eyes blazing crimson. Chains, so many chains, around a man, around a human heart, around—

-- Kurapica.

She gasped in pain, as if the chains were around her heart as well, as if the hook had lodged into her veins.

Kurapica-san!

Neon opened her eyes to see that she was clutching at Kurapica's hands.

They were covered with blood.

Her mouth fell open.

And then he was holding her, holding her as if he had no desire to let her go, as if letting her go was tantamount to his death.

She was strong, and warm, and vitally alive, and he felt the grim darkness ebbing away from his soul. With he life, the demons left him, and he held peace in his hands, if only for a short while.

He was covered in blood, blood stemming from a revenge, a promise he had to keep by the gods or by hellfire.

And she thought—what happened to you?

He had a pure heart, of that much she could be sure. But how a heart like his be driven to kill was something she couldn't understand entirely. So she drew away from him and did the only thing she could.

"Purify," she said, and with her hands she erased the crimson stains on his skin, on his face, on his hands.

She took his right hand, the one encased in chains, and entwined her fingers with his.

"You are not… alone," she whispered.

He didn't reply. He probably couldn't hear her.

She could only make the blood disappear.

But he had to deal with his nightmares alone.

-- to be continued.