A/N: This chapter…is bittersweet, if I pulled it off right. And rather long. Go me.

There will probably only be one chap after this…or two. Depends. Coming close to the end.

*sniffles*

Kodoku

Chapter 4

"When the cold of winter comes, starless

night will cover day. In the veiling of the

sun, we will walk in bitter rain."

--In Dreams; Fran Walsh, Howard Shore

~*~

Elation. Anger. Concern. Doubt.

A barrage of different emotions tumbled through my mind as I ran over the desolate Makai landscape, towards my friend. Kurama was alive, but what shape was he in? Had they done anything to affect his mind? Would he even be able to recognize me?

The questions surfaced no matter how I tried to stop them, driving me almost mad insane with impatience. So I quickened my pace. Nothing would keep me from rescuing my friend and would have been brother.

Nothing.

~*~

Erith looked up in startlement as a huge blast rocked through the caverns. She negligently tossed away her recent toy—a puny, scaled youkai—and walked out of the dungeon caves in search of the disturbance, flexing her folded up wings in aggravation. What she found startled her.

At the Caverns' entrance, nearly two dozen of Erith's kin—a winged type youkai known as tsubasa—were fighting against a single demon that could only be seen as a small black blur. The ki energy radiating from the attacking youkai was immense.

In a few minutes it was over, Erith only being able to watch in morbid fascination as the demon fought. Limbs lay scattered across the floor, and all of Erith's guards were either dead or unconscious. And then the black blue flashed to her. Steel pressed ungently against the tsubasa's throat.

"You have a prisoner," a deep, dangerous voice said quietly. "A youko. Take me to him."

"But we have many captive youkos," Erith protested. Her mind desperately ran through all the different ones there were.

"He's not normally in youko form. Your kind captured him four years ago, near the Kerlin gorge."

Erith's eyes widened as she remembered. She, herself, had caught that one. He had proved to be such a fun toy, too.

"Take me to him," the demon hissed, prodding her with his katana. "Now."

The tsubasa nodded mutely and led the youkai through the winding caverns back to the dungeons and the youko's cell.

"In there," she said. "If you—"

The tsubasa was cut off, literally, as the katana slid neatly between two ribs, impaling what served as a heart.

~*~

"Hn."

Hiei looked down at the dead tsubasa in hate and disgust. He had seen what she had been thinking with the Jagan—she was the one who had captured Kurama, and tortured him mercilessly.

Kurama.

The fire demon turned back to the cell door, his hands suddenly shaking. Slowly e opened the ironbound door and stepped inside.

The cell was large—it was an actual cave, really. And there were plants. Everywhere. Twisting vines across the floor, climbing up the walls. And enwrapping the still figure at the opposite end of the room.

"Kurama!" Hiei exclaimed, sprinting across the huge cavern. His heart wrenched as he got close enough to truly see his friend.

Kurama was suspended in midair by what looked to be one of his own plants, vines encircling his wrists, ankles, neck and waist. All were thorned.

The youko himself had innumerable gashes and bruises on his body, the once tanned skin now pale from lack of sunlight. His clothes had been reduced to naught bit rags, barely covering his limp form.

Hiei blinked back tears of anger and compassion, gritting his teeth. A few quick slashes of his katana, and the captive fox fell into his waiting grasp. The almost nonexistent weight of his friend badly frightened the fire demon.

"Kurama?" Hiei breathed, gently lowering the youko to the ground.

The youko stirred, and almost automatically curled away from Hiei's light touch, whimpering softly.

"Kurama, it's Hiei."

Kurama stiffened and slowly opened his eyes, emerald gaze slowly settling on the fire demon.

"H-Hiei?"

Kurama's voice was weak and rusty; disused. But his. Hiei's eyes filled with tears, and he hugged the youko tightly yet gently, well aware of his injuries.

"I thought you had died," the fire demon choked out, teargems falling to the floor. He felt Kurama weakly return the embrace, a small smile on the youko's face.

"Yukina…"

"I know, Hiei," Kurama said quietly. Then he shifted slightly. "I want to see the sun again."

A soft, plaintive request. Hiei nodded wordlessly and picked his friend up, swiftly carrying him outside. The little youkai was still overwhelmed at seeing his friend again.

The sun was setting. One of the few times Makai could look beautiful. Soft pastels of red and orange splayed across the darkening sky, making the horizon glow.

Kurama sighed happily, unshed tears in his eyes. He was limp as Hiei gently laid him on the ground, facing the fading light. The little fire demon sat down beside the youko silently, at a loss of what to say.

"I'm supposed to be saving the worlds right now," he said at last, and ironic tinge to his voice. Kurama cast him an amused glance.

"You always were one to skirt duties."

Hiei chuckled at that. But then he sighed.

Unable to keep eye contact, instead looking at the setting sun, Hiei said, "You're dying, aren't you?"

There was a brief silence on Kurama's part, then, "Yes."

Hiei's eyes shut tightly, his teeth clenching. "Why? Why now, Kurama? Why right when I find you at last?"

"Because you found me, Hiei," Kurama said quietly. "I could keep myself alive, if I wished. But I'm ready to die now."

The fire demon's eyes opened, glistening wetly. "Stupid, fool fox."

Kurama smiled at him a bit sadly, then went slack, simply watching the sunset. With a muffled sob, Hiei enfolded the youko in a fierce hug.

"Don't leave again, Kurama," the fire demon pleaded. "I don't want to be alone again."

"You've never been alone, Hiei," Kurama replied gently. "Both Yukina and I have always been with you." The youko's fingers briefly touched the tear gem at Hiei's neck, and then a small pouch at his waist that contained plant seeds Kurama had left.

Hiei hugged him tighter, as if that alone would keep his friend from leaving again.

"It's not the same."

"Oh, but it is, Hiei," Kurama murmured. Then he let out a soft sigh. "Good bye, my friend."

Hiei's eyes widened, and he drew back a little.

"Kurama?"

The youko didn't respond. A gentle smile was on his lips, body limp, eyes closed.

Floods of ebony tear gems scattered on the hard ground.

"Kurama!"

~*~Owari~*~