Sunshine – Chapter Six: Lackluster

OOOOO

Kurama ran out of the kitchen upon hearing his stepbrother's surprised cry, hoping to explain before things got out of hand. He had honestly planned to introduce the two of them on better terms.

"Shuuichi!" the fox exclaimed as he entered the living room and pulled his stepbrother off Shura, the two of them wrestling around on the floor and making an awful racket.

Having successfully separated the boys, he sat on the carpet between them to make sure they would not go for round two.

"What's going on? Why is he here? You aren't helping him, are you, Kurama?" Shuuichi questioned, giving is brother a hurt look.

"You know him?" Shura shouted in turn, feeling what little trust he had given the fox vanish.

Kurama closed his eyes and sighed heavily. "Listen. Both of you calm down and let me explain."

"Shura," the redhead turned to address the prince, "this is my stepbrother, Hatanaka Shuuichi."

"Shuuichi, this is Prince Shura of Gandara, a city in Makai. He arrived Sunday and will be staying with me indefinitely. I was planning on telling you, mother, and father by at least the end of the week, but I've been busy."

Kurama stood up. "And now that that's settled, there will be no more of that in my house. If I do happen to catch you two fighting, there will be trouble."

The two boys regarded each other warily as Kurama returned to the kitchen.

Shuuichi spoke first. "I'm sorry for hitting you."

"You should be," Shura huffed, getting up and retreating to his room.

"Hmph. Be that way, then!" Shuuichi called after him, standing up and straightening his school uniform. He followed his stepbrother.

"I'm sorry," the brunet apologized as he entered the kitchen, sitting down across from Kurama.

"It's okay. I should have told you earlier."

"So," the fox started after a moment of silence passed between them, "why exactly did you attack him at school?"

Shuuichi's cheeks colored slightly. "So, he told you?"

"Yes," Kurama answered.

"I thought he was involved with the kidnappings," the brunet replied sheepishly, trying to explain. "Five people go missing over the course of a day or two, and then a demon shows up. I see this same demon at the place where a friend of mine works, and then he ends up being the next victim! I just thought that, well…"

"I'm sorry. I didn't know you knew one of them." Kurama interrupted, apologizing.

"It's okay. I just hope Makoto's safe, wherever he is…" Shuuichi trailed off unhappily.

Kurama paused. He did not want to hurt is brother, yet it would be cruel to get his hopes up. "There are demons involved though."

Shuuichi gasped.

"I cannot guarantee the safety of your friend, but what I do know is that Hiei is in Makai right now putting a stop to it."

"…Oh." Shuuichi responded quietly, looking away.

"I'm sorry," Kurama said again.

The human clinched his fists and said nothing.

"Hey," Kurama started, trying to lighten the mood, "How about you call mother and tell her you'll be staying for dinner. We need to catch up anyway, what with school starting and all. What do you say?"

"Sure," Shuuichi agreed. "Where's your phone?"

OOOOO

The human boy had passed out halfway through the journey, and Hiei sped up considerably, pushing himself to make it back to Mukuro's fortress by sundown. The demon's scarf was dyed red with blood, and Hiei began to fear for the human's life, his passenger breathing heavily as time went on. Though Hiei would not be blamed for the human's death, the last thing he wanted was to hear Koenma complaining about additional paperwork.

He burst though the fortress gates just as the sun disappeared behind the horizon. "Tell Mukuro I'm in the infirmary!" he ordered to the nearest guard as he raced down the darkened halls.

Hiei entered the hospice, startling the doctor currently on duty.

"Put him in one of the rehabilitators," Hiei said to the scaled demon, gently removing the human from his back and handing the boy over.

The doctor nodded, and walked to one of the giant tanks, stripping the human and hooking him up inside of the container. Once everything was in order, the old demon returned to Hiei.

"That was a human you know, Hiei sir. Don't you think it would have been more appropriate to say 'put him in the oven'?" the fishlike doctor joked as he habitually cracked his knuckles.

Hiei snorted, holding back a grin. He would never admit it, but this old coot was probably his favorite of his Lady's motley staff.

Mukuro ran into the room shortly after that, looking somewhat concerned.

"Lady Mukuro," the doctor greeted.

"Shiramine," she nodded back in acknowledgement, her exposed eye wandering over to Hiei. She let out a sigh of relief.

"When the guards said you were in the infirmary, I was worried. You never come to this place willingly." She smirked. "Usually, someone just drags your corpse here."

"I apologize for that. I was in a hurry." Hiei pointed over to the operating rehabilitator, a faint green glow lighting the room. "There was one survivor."

"I see," Mukuro said, looking back to Hiei. She examined her heir, his clothes a mess and his scarf missing. "Judging by the state of your clothing, I can only assume you were attacked."

"I was. But, when I found the human, I left, for he was wounded. I am not entirely sure if I killed them all, but I plan to return shortly," Hiei told her, walking toward the door.

She grabbed him by the scruff of his torn cloak.

Shocked, he looked up at her.

"Shiramine, make sure Hiei is properly healed before he is allowed to leave this room," the bionic woman said to the doctor, ignoring Hiei's stunned look.

"Mukuro, really, I'm fi—"

Mukuro cut him off. "Also, be sure to check the wounds on his stomach for infections. He has had those for quite a while."

Hiei's jaw dropped slightly.

Mukuro smiled down at him. "I will be giving your report to Koenma while you recover. If you choose ignore my orders, I will have you suspended from training and placed under house arrest."

"These are orders?" Hiei asked incredulously.

"They are," she said simply. "I will see you when you are completely healed."

Mukuro sauntered out of the room with a grin on her face, not awaiting further protest.

She returned to her private quarters with little event, hoping to contact Koenma as quickly as possible. She reached out for the screen mounted to her desk, fiddling with the buttons below it. It had been quite some time since she had to contact Koenma herself.

Seconds later, she found herself staring at the Prince of Reikai, who was currently asleep on his desk, ignoring the beeping on his side of the screen.

"Really, Kurama, this is the third time in two days!" he said suddenly, shooting up from his hunched position. "If you call me one more time, I'll be forced to—Oh! Lady Mukuro!"

"Lord Koenma," she answered, amused.

"Is this about Hiei?" Koenma asked, not really knowing why else she would be talking to him.

"It is," Mukuro answered. "As he is currently incapacitated, I am here to give you his report."

"Is he okay?" Koenma asked, genuinely concerned.

"He is fine. According to him, he killed a few, but stumbled across a human. The survivor was wounded, so Hiei immediately brought him back here for treatment," Mukuro explained. "If you would like further investigation, I will send some of my men to destroy any remains of the group."

"I would consider it a favor," Koenma said, grateful.

Mukuro smiled. "I believe I will hold you to that statement. In fact, I think I may have a use for that favor already."

"Oh?" Koenma asked.

"I will have Hiei bring you the human boy when they have both recovered from their injuries. When one of your girls returns the human to the Ningenkai, I would like Hiei to be taken there, too. With all of this Prince Shura business over and done with, I would like him to have a long vacation. I feel that he is overexerting himself here. Also, he has not left my side for more than a few days since the Makai Tournament. I am touched, but I would like him to forget about work for a while. Perhaps even visit his sister. He's been avoiding her ever since she found out the truth about him…" Mukuro trailed off, feeling that that was enough explanation. She did not like to ramble.

"Hmm. I don't see any problem in that," Koenma said, mulling over it briefly. "But, while he is here, may I ask for one more assignment from him?"

"That depends entirely on what you have in mind."

"I would like him to be one of guards that will accompany the team of ferry girls I will be sending to collect the souls of those who were killed in this whole ordeal. In this case, I am only using him as a precaution," the prince told her truthfully.

"See that he will do nothing more than that," Mukuro responded, a hidden warning in her tone.

"Of course," Koenma replied uneasily. "Now, should I inform Hiei's teammates of his eventual arrival?"

"If you feel the need to. Perhaps give Kurama a heads up, if he plans to have both Hiei and Prince Shura under the same roof," Mukuro answered. "Expect them a day from now."

Koenma nodded. "Goodbye."

OOOOO

"Anyone alive in there?" Botan called as she waltzed into Kurama's apartment at seven o'clock, clad in her pink kimono. She was rather reluctant to relinquish Shura to Kurama and leave them alone for so long.

"In here!" Kurama called from the kitchen, where he was sitting with his stepbrother.

Botan was startled to see the younger Shuuichi there, and looked at Kurama for a clue how to act.

"He knows," Kurama said simply.

"Oh. Well then…" Botan said, sitting down next to the human teenager.

"Now I know where I've seen you," Shuuichi said suddenly, addressing Botan. "I saw you flying around outside my house once."

"Guilty as charged," Botan answered, bopping herself on the head. "I usually try to say out of sight though."

"She's from Reikai," Kurama explained, "and she's here now to help me keep a close watch on Shura. Normally, she just gives the other detectives and myself messages or assists us with a case."

"Speaking of which, where is our Prince Charming?" Botan asked.

"Shura's encounters with my brother have not exactly been… pleasant. He's been in his room since about five," the fox answered her.

"And you just left him there?" Botan questioned crossly.

"Yes…?" Kurama guessed, not really knowing how he was expected to answer.

Botan got up from the table. "I'll go check on him."

The ferry girl walked down the hall and stopped in front of the only closed door. She knocked. "Can I come in?"

"No," came Shura's abrasive reply.

"Pleeeeeeeease?" Botan dragged out annoyingly. "I'll just keep on asking until you let me in."

"Fine," she heard him say, and the door opened to reveal a dour looking prince.

Shura turned around to go back to his bed while Botan entered and closed the door behind her.

"Are you okay?" she asked, sitting down on the bed beside him.

"Of course. Why wouldn't I be?" the prince spat out.

"I was just curious," Botan responded.

A tense silence settled between them, Shura trying his hardest not to look at her and Botan attempting to think of a topic for conversation. She spied the cat that rested close to Shura's stomach. "I see he hasn't left."

"He's not so bad," Shura said, letting his hand fall gently upon Alfador's back.

Botan smiled. "Why don't you come back out? It's almost dinnertime."

"Is he out there?" Shura asked.

"Kurama?"

"No. The other one."

"Yes, Shuuichi is, too. He's staying here for dinner," Botan told him.

"I don't like him," the prince said bluntly.

"Oh, you don't like anyone," the blue-haired girl cooed while patting him on the head. "Don't make me drag you out there. You know I will," she threatened.

Shura sat up and glared at her, "Fine."

"I knew you'd see it my way…" she said airily, sauntering back out into the hallway.

Shura followed her closely and sat next to her at the table, Kurama and Shuuichi at the other end.

"I'll be cooking tonight, Botan," Kurama offered. "You're a guest after all."

"If you insist," the ferry girl smiled.

"So, Shuuichi," Botan prompted, looking at the brown-haired boy, "now that we all know each other, how about we all eat lunch together? That is, if you aren't tied down to any other group."

Shura's eyes widened as he did a double take. He looked at Botan, feeling rather betrayed.

She gave him a reassuring smile, but his countenance did not change.

Shuuichi looked surprised, but not unpleasantly so. "That would be fine, I guess."

"Great!" Botan said.

"Terrific," Shura mumbled to himself, crossing his arms.

"So, how was your day, Kurama?" Botan asked.

"Well, I skipped class to go and investigate a barrier problem," Kurama said while tying his hair back into a ponytail.

"A barrier problem?" Botan exclaimed. It was the first she had heard of it.

"Yeah. I called Koenma about it, too. He said Hiei was taking care of it though. Some low level demons were slipping though and bringing humans back with them," Kurama explained.

Botan gasped. "That's terrible!"

"A friend of Shuuichi's was taken last night, too," Kurama added.

The ferry girl looked at the teenager. "I'm sorry."

"You two might have seen him," Shuuichi said, addressing his stepbrother's guests. "He was working at that ice cream place you were at yesterday."

"Makoto?" Botan asked, recalling the shy boy and feeling worse now that she could put a face on one of the victims.

Shuuichi nodded.

An awkward silence settled between the four of them, the sounds of Kurama bustling about over the stove the only noise to be heard.

"What did you do all afternoon, Botan? Relax?" Kurama asked after a while.

"Actually, I went to go see Hinageshi," Botan babbled happily, smiling at the thought of the petite ferry girl. "I told her about all that's going on with Shura. She offered to help, too, so I hope you don't mind that I gave her your address just in case."

"That's fine with me," the fox said, opening a bag of salad. "It would be nice to see her without having demons to deal with get in the way of conversation."

"Who's Hinageshi?" Shuuichi asked before Shura could.

"Just another ferry girl," Botan answered. "But, she stays here in Ningenkai guarding the Kasane Shrine."

"Guarding it?" Shuuichi questioned. "What's there to guard?"

"Oh, nothing," Botan said, brushing him off. "That smells great, Kurama!" she complimented, changing the subject.

OOOOO

Hiei grumbled to himself as he stepped out of the regeneration tank as naked as the day he was born. Shiramine was there to greet him, the old demon immediately thrusting a towel in Hiei's direction. The fire demon snatched it out of the doctor's hands and began to towel off his hair, which was now matted down to his shoulders.

"You were supposed to cover yourself," Shiramine remarked, averting his eyes and going over to check on the human boy.

Hiei grunted a response and continued to dry his hair.

"Oh my!" Mukuro lightly exclaimed while walking into the infirmary. "That's certainly surprising."

Hiei immediately wrapped the towel around himself.

"Good evening, Lady Mukuro," the doctor said, bowing his head to her.

"And a fine evening it is, Shiramine," the lady of the fortress returned, giving Hiei a pleased grin. "How fares the human boy?" she asked, getting down to business.

The doctor spared the boy's tank a glance. "He'll recover shortly. I foresee no problems."

"Good. And Hiei?"

"A fine specimen of one hundred percent healthy demon, as I'm sure we've all seen," Shiramine reported in his most professional voice.

Mukuro nodded. "When the boy wakes up, escort him to either myself or Hiei. After that, tell Goro to cover for you. Take tomorrow off."

"Thank you, my lady. Expect him in another…" he gave the boy's monitor another glance, "hour or two."

"Now, Hiei," she turned to her heir, "put some clothes on and walk with me."

OOOOO

"Hey there," he had heard, a muted sound penetrating the depth of his unconsciousness and awaking him.

His eyes opened suddenly and took in his strange surroundings. He was in a sparsely furnished room, what little decoration there was to be seen appearing to be at least fifty years old. There were several candles lit on the other side of the room, giving the walls a reddish glow.

"Uh, hi?" he said to the newcomer, the woman in question leaning over him with concern in her eyes, her long brown hair tickling his face.

"Oh, thank goodness you're alive," she breathed out, relieved.

He blushed when she smiled at him, sitting up and backing away slightly to lean against the wall. "Y-yeah, I am."

"When those monsters threw me in here, I thought they had already killed you. But," she said, bringing her hand up to touch the red spot on his forehead, "it seems you only bumped your head."

"I g-guess so," he stammered, his blush intensifying.

The woman laughed. "No need to be so shy around me. I'm probably too old for you."

He chuckled along with her. That was twice today he had heard that. Or had it been twice in two days? "How long have I been here?" he asked.

"Oh, I'd say about ten hours," she said after looking at her watch. "I heard about you on the news last night. Victim six. Then I just happened to be taking a shortcut to the shrine and BAM!—I'm victim seven. Nice to meet you." She extended her hand to him.

He hesitantly reached out to shake it.

"Really though, I'm Azami," she said with a small laugh.

"Makoto," he answered in turn.

She scooted over to sit beside him, fixing her wrinkled hakama as she leaned back. "Might as well get comfortable. We may be here for a while," she said, kicking off her wooden sandals and flexing her toes.

They sat in a companionable silence, each glad for the company of the other, despite the fact that they had just met.

"How old are you, anyway?" she asked him, hoping to start some sort of conversation.

"Thirteen."

Azami whistled. "Ten years. I'm definitely too old for you. You in junior high school?"

"High school, actually," Makoto answered, feeling awkward.

"One of those super smart kids, huh?" the woman teased.

"No, not really," he said quietly.

"Modest, too."

Makoto went red. "Enough about me. Do you work at a shrine or something?" he asked, noticing her attire.

"Yeah. Family thing. I don't really want to, but I don't have many options at the moment, you know," Azami said with a frown. "You hungry?" she suddenly asked, hearing his stomach rumble and more than happy to change the subject.

"Yeah," Makoto answered, slightly embarrassed.

Azami brought her purse out to her lap and stuck her hand in, humming to herself as she searched for something. Moments later, she pulled out a granola bar.

"Here you go," she said, handing it to the boy.

"But it's yours," Makoto protested, giving it back to her.

Azami smiled softly. "It's okay. I'm sure you didn't even get a change to eat dinner before you were snatched." She knew she was right. "I'm on a diet, anyway. Watching my girlish figure and all of that," she lied.

"But…"

The brunette gave him a stern glare.

"Thank you," he said, taking the bar out of her hand.

She ruffled his dirty blonde hair. "You're a sweet kid."

Though Makoto tried his hardest to pace himself, the granola bar was gone within minutes.

He heard Azami rearrange herself at his side. She removed her thin coat and bunched it up in her lap. "Lie down," she told him.

"But…" he began to protest, but decided against it, feeling as if he was rejecting a gift, "Okay."

Azami started to run her hands through his hair in a soothing manner, "You should try and sleep. Never know when we're going to get a change to bust out of here." She was joking, but there was always hope.

"If you say so…" he mumbled, already feeling his eyelids become heavier.

Azami hummed softly, lulling him into a light sleep.

Makoto had no idea how long he had dozed off for, but he was suddenly roused by noises outside of the door. He felt Azami pull him close, cradling his head protectively. "Dammit, he's just a child…" he heard her whisper.

"What's going on?" he asked the woman.

"Oh, you're awake…" she said. "I think we'll be having some visitors soon."

She gently eased Makoto off her lap and slipped her sandals back on. Standing up, she surveyed the room in the dim candlelight. She walked over to the far side of the room and picked up a piece of wood that had broken off the window frame. She swung it around a few times and smashed it against the wall, pleased that it left a dent.

The noises—multiple voices—got louder and the door swung open.Three demons entered, the smallest two trailing behind the leader.

"Kage, you can't!" one of the underlings said imploringly. "Yemon will kill us if we let you."

"I do just about as much work as he does, and somehow he thinks he can just get a whole one to himself. I'm sick of it," Kage answered, stepping forward to the two humans. "Besides, that bastard isn't even here right now, so he won't even find out, will he?" Kage sneered, giving the other two a threatening look.

"O-of course not," they chimed together.

"Good," the biggest demon said concisely, stepping forward and grabbing Makoto by the hair, dragging him close and taking a deep whiff. He licked the boy across his cheek and then smacked his lips together. The human flinched and tried to pull away.

"Hey! Ugly!" Azami shouted, chucking the hard window frame at the back of the demon's head and causing the beast to stumble forward.

Kage reeled around and snarled at her, tightening his grip on Makoto.

Her pale purple eyes widened suddenly, but she shook the fear off and stomped her feet in retaliation. "Why don't you take me instead? Look at him! He's far too skinny to make a decent—" she stopped abruptly, the consequences of her words hitting her full force, "…meal out of."

Kage narrowed his eyes at her, smiling. "If you insist, missy…" He threw Makoto at her feet.

Azami knelt down beside him, lifting him up and moving to stand in front of him. The boy clung to her arm.

"He's going kill you," Makoto whispered, pulling her back to him.

Azami resisted the urge to laugh. "I know," she said, pulling herself out of his grip. She turned around and gave him a kiss on the cheek, his tears staining her lips. "Hold on to this for me, will you?" She slipped a necklace over his head. "Family heirloom. Don't want to put it to rest in this dammedable place," she explained. Mustering a final smile, Azami walked over to the demons.

"Ladies first," Kage said while smiling, his rows of teeth visible in the dim light.

"How polite," Azami chuckled at him, holding her head high as she walked through the doorway.

The slamming door knocked Makoto out of his reverie. He touched his cheek and slumped to the floor. He never even thanked her.

Standing up suddenly, he charged at the door, falling to the floor from the impact.

"Knock it off!" one of the demons from before ordered.

"Bring her back!" Makoto screamed in return while continuing to beat against the door.

He pounded the unmoving wood until his fists turned red and yelled until he was hoarse. Defeated, he dropped to the floor, breathing hard. He sat there with his ear to the door for what felt like hours, the breathing of his two guards the only sounds he could hear. No screams. He could not tell whether he was thankful or not. Later, he heard a commotion followed by his guards running away. Feeling that either it was now or never, he picked himself up and rammed the door as hard as he could. It did not move. Fuelled by adrenaline, he tried again, falling into a steady rhythm of charging the door. As he moved back for another strike, he heard the doorknob turn.

"Is someone there?" Makoto asked, stepping close to the door.

"Yes," A voice answered. "Stand back. I'm going to knock the door down."

"O-okay…" Makoto answered, going to pick up the piece of wood Azami used to defend him. He moved to the left side of the doorframe, positioning himself to strike.

Makoto swung as soon as the demon entered, but the black clad man dodged at the last second.

"What do you think you're doing?" the demon seethed at Makoto.

"Umm… Nothing?" Makoto answered, unsuccessfully concealing the weapon behind his back.

"I suggest you don't try anything like that again if you value your life," the demon warned him.

Despite the rocky start to their acquaintanceship, the demon guarded Makoto on their way through the old manor. The human boy peeked into the rooms as they passed, hoping to find Azami. Perhaps she had escaped in the ruckus and was waiting for him with open arms. They could return to their homes in peace and maybe she would visit him at work and he could give her a discount and then he could sit and talk to her on his break and she would let him keep her necklace because it would stay in the family anyway if she could stand to wait until he grew up and then—

"Azami!" Makoto exclaimed, seeing her emerge from the doorway at the end of the hall.

She looked at him and froze, eyes imploring him to go no further.

Unheeding, Makoto ran to her, and then through her.

When he entered the room, he screamed and threw himself at the demon on top of Azami's cooling body, bringing his bludgeon down to strike the surprised monster. Kage retaliated almost immediately and released the woman's entrails from his mouth, slashing at Makoto and knocking him back into the wall. The human tried to shove him away, but was unsuccessful. The demon's mouth reeked of decay, and blood splattered out over Makoto's clothes and face. Makoto felt the thick liquid trickle down his face and into his open mouth, the knowledge that it was Azami's making him nauseous. He felt the demon sink its teeth into his shoulder, the memory of the searing pain awakening him with a start.

When Makoto regained consciousness, he wondered briefly if it was all just a dream. He was still dressed in his uniform, the tears and bloodstains present telling him that Azami had indeed been real. Bringing his hand up to scratch his head, he noticed that his hair was wet. Azami's necklace was placed on a table to his left. He grabbed for it immediately and cradled it close before putting it back on.

"Good evening," a voice from his right greeted.

Makoto jumped and turned to face another demon—a rather plump looking fish man. "Hi…" the human trailed off uneasily. Where was he now?

The old fish man set down the book he was reading and walked over to his patient, taking the human's arms into his hands. "Does it hurt when I do this?" he asked, raising the injured arm at different angles.

"No."

"Good then. You're fixed," the demon said simply, letting Makoto's arms fall into place. "Now, follow me."

Seeing no other alternative, Makoto unsteadily rose to stand and followed the demon out of the room.

Makoto trailed a few steps behind the demon, noticing with mild amusement that his escort had a blue tail that would flip back and fourth as the demon would walk.

"Excuse me," the fish man said to a passing demon that appeared to be dressed for combat. Makoto started at the sight of this ferocious looking newcomer and stepped closer to his escort.

"Shiramine," the guard greeted with a slight tilt of his head.

"Might you know the whereabouts of our lady and lordling?" the doctor inquired.

"The last time I saw them was when they were leaving your company earlier this evening. I'm sorry," the armored demon apologized.

"Not a problem. If you do see either of them before I do, tell them that the human boy is awake," Shiramine said, gesturing to the boy behind him.

"Yes, sir," the guard replied, continuing his patrol down the hallway.

Shiramine let out a sigh and cracked his knuckles out of habit. "I suppose we'll just have to start from the throne room."

OOOOO

"I don't need to go back there," Hiei said, trying his hardest not to sound so aggravated at the woman who meant so much to him.

"I do not recall saying that you needed to go to Ningenkai. I only feel that you should. Really now, Hiei, we've been arguing about this for hours. What about this vexes you so?" Mukuro asked while setting down the papers she had been trying to read for the last hour to look her heir in the eye.

Hiei looked away and frowned.

"Oh, don't get that way with me. Are you worried that I'll need you in missions? Scared I'll replace you?" she questioned.

Hiei flinched. "You wouldn't."

Mukuro chuckled at him. He almost sounded worried. "Never."

"…Fine," the fire demon said moments later. "But I'll come back when I feel like it." He just had to have the final say sometimes.

His Lady rolled her eyes at him, but did not protest. "Perhaps you can bring me a souvenir."

"Would the prince's horned head please you? I would not mind it," Hiei offered, leaning forward onto his folded arms. "I could make his decapitation look like an accident."

"I have no place to put it on display," Mukuro joked with a disappointed air. "Besides, the last thing I want to hear is Lord Yomi complaining."

Hiei opened his mouth to respond but was cut off by a knocking at the door.

"Enter," Mukuro said, projecting her voice enough to be heard through the thick door of her private quarters.

Shiramine entered swiftly, Makoto trailing behind him. Mukuro stood to greet them, and gestured for them to take a seat at the table.

"How are you?" the Mukuro asked, looking at the stranger to her fortress.

"I'm… fine," Makoto answered shakily, staring at the woman across from him. She was quite beautiful, despite the fact that half of her face appeared to be marred beyond repair. She emanated an aura of being in charge.

"Wonderful. We will have you home by tomorrow," the regal looking woman told him. "Hiei here will be taking you," she said, gesturing towards the familiar demon who sat to her right.

Makoto's eyes lit up in recognition.

"Shiramine," she continued, "you are dismissed. Thank you for your time."

The old demon rose slowly and bowed. "You are quite welcome. It is my job, after all…" he said, pushing his chair in and leaving the room.

"Hiei," Mukuro said, looking at him.

"I know," the fire demon responded, reaching his arms back and untying his bandana. He pulled it off and placed it on the table. A third eye opened on his forehead.

Makoto flinched and unconsciously scooted backward.

"This'll only take a moment," Hiei comforted, his third eye widening.

Makoto suddenly felt exhausted, as if he had been running for years. His eyelids drooped, and he slumped forward onto the table. Fragments of memories raced across his mind. Walking home and being dragged into an alley. Wondering if he was ever going to see his aunt again. Waking up and meeting her.

Crying for her loss of life and his loss of her.

He felt rather numb, the pain from those memories being flushed out of his mind. He was going to lose her for good.

"Stop!" Makoto screamed, pushing himself away from the table and falling down to the floor as his chair tipped over.

Hiei blinked as the backlash of the breaking link hit him, bringing his bandaged arm up to massage his head.

"I don't know what you were doing to me exactly, but I won't let you do it!" the human exclaimed, standing up and lifting up the chair to use against the demon if he had to.

All three of Hiei's eyes stared at him blankly. Stupid human.

"Fine. You take care of him, Mukuro. I'm on vacation," Hiei snidely remarked, passing the human as he left the room.

Makoto set the chair down, feeling silly. He looked over to Mukuro, who had made no move to attack. He could hear her laughing.

"You're quite lucky," the woman commented. "Whatever my dear heir saw in you must have done something. I suppose I will just write this off as you being Koenma's problem the second you stepped out of my hospital wing." She nodded to herself, and that seemed to be the end of discussion.

The human stood there, looking down at his feet.

Mukuro let her eye wander above the papers she had just picked up. "Please have a seat. I don't bite."

OOOOO

"Botan, do you think you could take Shuuichi home?" Kurama asked as the ferry girl headed toward the door, oar in her hand. "I don't want him out by himself so late."

"Of course," Botan said. "Just let me get outside so he can have some room to get on."

"…Is that safe?" Shuuichi questioned as he walked outside of the apartment and saw how exactly he would be getting home that evening.

"No," Shura answered before anyone else could, hearing Shuuichi's query from his seat in the living room.

"I heard that!" Botan called from outside.

Shuuichi paled a little.

"Oh, it's fine," Botan reassured, patting the space behind her.

The human looked to his stepbrother for confirmation. Kurama laughed and nodded at him.

"You'll be here after school tomorrow, right Kurama?" the blue-haired girl asked.

"If I am not, you'll hear about it," the fox answered.

"Good. I'm going to report to Koenma tomorrow, just to give him a few particulars on how Shura's settling in. Just so you know…"

"Okay. I'll see you tomorrow then," Kurama said, waving at the two of them as they hovered above the balcony. "Bye, Shuuichi."

"Later, Kurama. I'll tell mom you're okay. Do you want me to tell her about your guest?" Shuuichi asked.

"No, no." The youko shook his head quickly, his red hair flailing from side to side in the ponytail. "I'll call her tomorrow."

"'kay."

"Hold on tight!" Botan yelled to Shuuichi as she shot off in the direction of the Hatanaka household.

Kurama waved until they were a speck of black in the distance, going inside and shutting the door behind him.

OOOOO

Comments: Another boring chapter. A lot of beating around the bush, I think. Hence the title. Sorry.

Um, yeah. OCs. If they're annoying, tell me. I try not to make them that way. I couldn't figure out how to put a canon character in that situation, so…

Hopefully, one more chapter of "present" stuff. Then I can jump ahead a bit and add the damn plot I had in my head when I started this silly thing.

Comments noted, and a few corrections will be made sooner or later. Thank you. :)

Does anyone know how to negate Quick Edit? I feel like an idiot with no indentations. And no equal sign spacers. Boldfaced Os are stupid. Wah, wah, wah…