Torn Apart

Did you know that this chapter had actually been finished for quite some time, but I was in the current state of writing chapter 13, so I was waiting until I posted that? So, here I was, all excited about having finished the final chapter when...my computer crashed!! And you know what that means, don't you? I had to say "bye-bye" to ch. 14 and the incomplete ch.13. I'm still trying to get over the fact that every master copy of every fic I'd written since I was 11 was lost, but that's okay (I still have them posted here or at that said, I'm going to try to rewrite this chapter as close as I can to the original, but I make no promises. Of course, none of you will know the difference, but I will, and that's what's important...to me. As another warning, there will probably be a lot of shifts in this chapter. It will forever remain in third-person limited, but the focus on a specific character will change from Yusuke to Hiei, and maybe some others. Also, this chapter's a doozey. It's 22 pages long, so find time to read the whole thing in its entirety.

One more thing: the beginning of this chapter can be a bit brutal. All those with a weak constitution are advised to skip the beginning of the big battle and jump to the next section that starts with Raizen saying "See, he's fine..." Honestly, I, as the author, only think there is one bad part (includes mild self-maiming), but maybe I'm just being biased. You have been WARNED.

So, without further ado, here's the final chapter of "Torn Apart".

- - -

Hiei turned his head upward, towards Raizen. "I won't be your pawn anymore."

"That's what you think," Raizen said, beginning to laugh manically.

What Raizen did next engraved itself into Yusuke's memory, and he thought it was probably the worst thing he ever witnessed. Hiei's Jagan began to glow a brilliant red and in a second he was on his knees, screaming with pain.

"STOP IT!" Yusuke shouted, stepping foward.

Raizen turned his attention to his son, releasing his control on Hiei. Yusuke watched as Hiei lay motionless in the dirt; his eyes wide, but completely lifeless.

"Taking pity on him?" Raizen asked, smirking.

"I...no... What you're doing to him is wrong."

"What are you talking about? He can't feel a thing!"

That being said, Raizen turned his attention back to the motionless Hiei, and watched as the little demon's Jagan began to glow a vibrant red. Within seconds Hiei was back on his knees, groping his head with all his might. He was huddled over again, holding his head like it was fit to burst.

Yusuke watched the sanjiyan in his struggle. He didn't know what else he could do to help him.

"Hiei, what are you doing?"

It was Kurama who had spoken from behind, and he sounded frantic.

Yusuke turned to witness a horrible sight. Hiei was clawing at his forehead, as if he were trying to removed the Jagan Eye. Bloody scratch marks began to appear near the Jagan as Hiei tore at his flesh with his nails.

"Are you going to stop this?" Yusuke asked, sounding unusually calm despite being the total opposite.

Raizen turned to Hiei and shrugged. "He's being punished for being disobedient."

Meanwhile, Hiei had managed to gather enough strength to drag himself over to the nearest wall, and was now attempting to free himself of Raizen by beating his head against the cold hard stone. The sensation he got was much more bearable than the throbbing pain in his skull. Somehow, the cool castle wall felt almost soothing.

"He's going to kill himself!" Kuwabara shouted to no one in particular. He feared interfering for both Hiei and Raizen were still strong enough to stop him on their own.

The red glow from Hiei's Jagan began to grow fainter and he let out one final howl of pain before collapsing against the castle wall. His breathing was coming in long drawn-out sighs and the blood from his head was beginning to run down the side of his face. He could both smell and taste his sweat and blood as they streamed down his cheeks.

"See, he's fine," Raizen said, crossing his arms across his chest.

"Fine? You could have killed him!"

Yusuke directed his attention to the other demon standing beside his father. He was slightly taller than the warlord, with his black shaggy hair and narrow mahogany eyes. Somehow, Yusuke was reminded of Hiei.

"I thought you didn't care about his well-being. Didn't you just come to me so that I could make your royal title official?"

"Of course I...," the demon averted his eyes, fixating them on the ailing Hiei. He turned back to Raizen, his face fierce. "How can I not care for him? He's my son! Do you think I would spend a hundred years looking for a son I didn't even care about?"

Yusuke stood there, not quite sure what to make of this demon's statement. This was Hiei's father? He turned to Hiei to see what his reaction was; had he known this all along?

Hiei's reaction was not what Yusuke had expected. Hiei sat where he was, his eyes wide and staring at the ground. Yusuke watched as Hiei struggled to stand, leaning on the wall for support.

"You mean the only reason you're here is for a title?"

Again, Yusuke wasn't expecting that from Hiei. If Hiei already knew this was his father, then was this "title" thing the only reason he looked surprised?

"So all that nonsense you just produced about trying to find me for a hundred years was a lie? You say you care, and yet I believe I recall you distrusting me when it came to Yusuke."

"What?" Yusuke started. How had he gotten invovled in something between Hiei and this so-called father of his?

"It was my duty to tell you about your rendevous with Raizen. Kuyo here didn't trust me to tell you; I guess he figured I would so easily revert back to being your friend."

Yusuke's breath caught. Althought it was kind of vague, Hiei had just admitted to being his friend. And even though Yusuke had known of this before the squid mission, he had never even expected Hiei to ever voice that aloud to anyone. At least, not in those words.

He turned to see the other's reactions. Kurama looked over, shrugging slightly, and Kuwabara had a goofy grin on his face that said "I told you so!" When looking to see Seika's reaction, Yusuke found her still staring over in the direction of the family feud.

"But you were reading my mind!"

Obviously, something was still going on between father and son. The shaggy-haired demon was getting defensive now, and sounded a little like he was whining.

"That is hardly the issue!" Hiei shouted back at him. "Quit acting like a child. Tell me: were you not the one following me around the corridors to make sure that I told Yusuke what I had been instructed to by Raizen?"

The demon said nothing. For a while, he avoided Hiei's eyes. Then finally, he looked up and opened his mouth to speak...

"Enough!"

The explosion that followed Raizen's voice began with a blinding white light and concluded with thick black smoke. With the swirling dust and smoke, it was hard to see what had actually happened. As the smoke began to clear, there was the tiniest stench of burning flesh.

Yusuke looked around, unsure of what was happening. He was sure the shaggy-haired demon had been killed, there was no doubt about it. Through the smoke, there came a faint green glow. It was Hiei's Jagan; its normal glow, not the red glow of Raizen's telepathy.

"You killed him," Hiei said.

He didn't sound angry or even surprised. In fact, his voice held no emotion at all, just the same nonchalant sound as it always had.

"I did," Raizen said as the dust began to settle. "I was tired of this back and forth argument between you two. I'm not sure if you knew it, but I was keeping tabs on Kuyo. He had been acting strange lately, and I had a feeling it had something to do with you."

"Kuyo was his father's name?" Yusuke asked. For some reason, he wanted to avoid Hiei, so he felt it better to ask Raizen.

"Oh, didn't we tell you?" Raizen said coolly. "Now honestly Yusuke, I'm getting tired of waiting around. Are we going to settle this or not?"

Yusuke looked to Hiei. The Jaganshi was still using the wall for support, but seemed to be slouching more. His skin was paler too. When Hiei noticed he was being watched, he turned away.

"Of course," Yusuke said finally. Behind him, he could hear protests from his friends.

He continuned to watch Hiei, to see his Jagan's green glow change into that of red. He knew that Hiei was now being controlled, or at least, being sent some sort of telepathic message, but as Yusuke soon realized, the sanjiyan showed little to no effect. His breathing became heavier, but he wasn't on the ground screaming in agony. Raizen must have been taking it easy on him.

Yusuke had to think fast if he was to defend the rest of his team and Seika from Hiei, as the demon was inching ever closer to them, hellish black flames circling and then incasing his right arm.

The ningen teen stood there, almost as if he was paralyzed with fear; suddenly, a tangle of thorny vines shot out from behind him, piercing the right side of Hiei's chest. The small amount of black flames that he had managed to summon into his palm shot forth from the force of the vine's blow. Yusuke winced as the flames grazed his shoulder, shooting past him and hitting Kurama squarely in the gut.

Either out of anger or out of sheer impulsiveness, Kuwabara lunged forward, his Spirit Sword drawn. Hiei had little time to react, and not having his own sword with him, reached out, catching Kuwabara's attack between his hands. The intensity of Kuwabara's spirit energy left Hiei's hands smoking from the burns, but he wasn't about to back down yet.

"Just give up!" Kuwabara said through gritted teeth. "Is your pride more important than your life?"

Yusuke saw Hiei release his grip on Kuwabara's sword, his hands badly burned and giving off the same rotten smell as the pile of ashes that were once Kuyo's body. He seemed to be thinking about what Kuwabara had said; without turning his head, Hiei's eyes darted back and forth between Yusuke and Raizen.

As the red glow from Hiei's Jagan seemed to intensify, he shouted, "I can't do this anymore; I'm tired of it!"

That being said, he sprang towards Yusuke, both hands free of black flames. He meant to punch Yusuke squarely in the jaw, but when he landed, he did it awkwardly, causing him to stumble to the side. He stopped for a minute, light-headed from smashing his head against the castle stone earlier.

Seika took Hiei's sudden hesitation as an opportunity to wrap her vines around his right wrist in an attempt to stop him from attacking. At this point, Kurama too, wrapped his vines around Hiei's other wrist, stopping the then impaired demon from doing anything but struggle against his binds. Resisting only made the vine's thorns cut into Hiei's skin, so after a few minutes of vainful struggle, he finally gave up and let his arms hang limply at his sides.

"We don't want to fight you, Hiei," Kurama said. "You're only making this harder for us--"

"You say you don't want to fight me, but you've already succeeded in stabbing me!" Hiei said, referring to the wound given to him by Kurama's vines. He couldn't help but laugh.

"You know, I think I'll just watch for now. There's no sense in me getting my hands dirty this early in the game..."

All eyes turned towards Raizen. He was situating himself on a large rock formation that had an uncanny resemblance to a sort of throne. He crossed his legs and hands, and sneered out at them. Infuriated by his father's arrogant demeanor, Yusuke launched himself forward, his right index finger outstretched in typical reigun fashion. Raizen didn't miss a beat as he sent a telapathic message straight into Hiei's brain, commanding him to do something.

Somehow, against his own will, Hiei was able to break out of Kurama's and Seika's vice grips, and throw himself in front of Yusuke's attack. Under no other circumstance, Yusuke wouldn't have minded hitting Hiei as well, but this particular rei blast was meant specifically for Raizen and held way too much force behind it. Hiei saw the strength behind the attack and braced himself for the impact.

But it never came.

Out of his peripheral, Hiei saw a swift motion behind him that could only have been Raizen, and then felt as he was tucked under the warlord's arm. There was then the sound and falling of rumble that suggested that Yusuke's blast had hit something that wasn't made of flesh and blood. Pieces of the castle flew in many directions, and Hiei even had to shut his eyes once as a large stone flew past his head.

Finally, he heard Raizen's feet touch a solid surface and he was then dumped to the ground. He turned to his left to see a gaping hole where he and Raizen had been mere seconds before. It was a miracle, but Raizen had saved him from the initial blow and then leaped out of the way to save himself. He saw Yusuke too, his arm still outstretched as in attacking, a dazed look on his face.

"You had better think the next time you try another move like that," Raizen said. "Don't forget that I can control him and you could end up hitting him by mistake."

It was clear that Raizen was angry. For what reason, Hiei wasn't quite sure, but he thought it might have to do with the fact that Raizen had been so close to losing his one and only trump card. Hiei knew that if he died, Yusuke and the others wouldn't even hesitate in attacking full force. Although he had already been wounded by Kurama, he knew that he would have been dead if the fox had aimed properly. And he had unintentionally hurt Kurama with a move that was meant for Yusuke.

"Who cares if I hurt him?"

Hiei snapped his head in Yusuke's direction. He knew the reason behind this whole skirmish, but did Yusuke really mean that?

"I mean, we're here to stop you and we'll do it by any means necessary," Yusuke said confidently. "If that means hurting or even killing Hiei in the process, then so be it."

Glancing around at the others, Hiei noticed that they were all looking at the ground, a sign that they all agreed--even if unwillingly--that Yusuke was right. It surprised him, but this knowledge actually hurt Hiei; he felt as though he had been betrayed, even if he was the one who had sided with Raizen.

Whatever, he said to himself. He deserved whatever he had coming to him.

Seika growled, and Hiei noticed. He watched as her small black ears lowered and pressed themselves flat against her head. She took the vine that was in her hand, the one used to stop Hiei, and snapped it like a whip. As she did, a great amount of thorns fell from the vine and flew towards Hiei and Raizen. For a short moment, Hiei was in awe of the female kitsune's power; this attack was like a storm of deadly thorns.

But the thorns never hit their mark. Hiei had a split second to react, but when he was done admiring Seika's attack, he saw the thorns were no more than a few feet from hitting Raizen, and closing in quickly. Seeing how fast they were moving, Hiei had very little time to gather enough fire in his hand to knock the thorns off course. When he had just the amount needed, he threw the fireball directly in front of Raizen, stopping the thorns and sending them to the ground in a pile of dust and embers.

"Thank you, Hiei...for doing that all on your own," Raizen said, looking to the ground where he had left Hiei.

Ignoring him, Hiei winced for his hand was stinging horribly. He had already forgotten about burning himself on Kuwabara's sword. Igniting fire in his hand didn't help. He shook his hand, hoping to make the pain go away, but the rush of the air around him only made it hurt worse.

He got up from the ground, standing beside Raizen. He knew conciously aiding Raizen was going to mean death on his part, but what else could he have done? Raizen would have controlled him and made him jump in front of those thorns--burning them of his own will was better than jumping in front of an attack that he knew nothing about.

Already, Hiei was tired, but he knew Raizen wouldn't allow that as an excuse. Hiei needed a way to end this fight quickly. He reached into his pants pocket and fumbled around until he pulled out his white bandana that he used to conceal his Jagan. He tore it in half and used the pieces to wrap both his injured hands.

Yusuke watched in horror as black flames began to encase Hiei's right arm. This flames were bigger than the attack he had used earlier, and from where Yusuke stood, he could feel the heat of the fire. He watched as Hiei grabbed a handful of the black flames and transferred them to his left arm. The fire slowly crept up to his elbow and settled. Hiei had never used both arms for the Kokuruyuha; already the move was powerfully destructive, so Yusuke could only imagine what would happen when Hiei used his other arm too.

Hiei was gritting his teeth in sheer pain as his hands throbbed painfully. When he had grabbed the flames from his right arm, that had almost been to much and he almost let the attack die there, but he knew he needed to finish this. When Hiei had first attempted the Kokuruyuha, his right arm had been severely damaged, and he planned the attack he was going to do now to be five times worse. He began to fear losing the use of both his arms.

Having used both his arms, it was only reasonable for the flames to be twice as big and twice as hot. Everyone watched as the flames seemed to devour Hiei, for within a few minutes, he was completely surrounded by the black fire. Raizen seemed to know what Hiei had planned for his son and couldn't help but sneer. So, Hiei had been a good candidate to try out his telepathy and make his own slave of a sort.

By the time Hiei had finished gathering the right amount of fire, Yusuke had all but given up hope. He knew that Hiei meant business and with an attack of this caliber, he didn't stand a chance. He turned back to Kurama who had a blank look on his face. It was pretty much unreadable, with an exception of his eyes, which told that he wasn't about to back down.

"This is it, Hiei," Raizen said, looking down at the little Jaganshi.

"Yeah," Hiei replied.

Now that Hiei had enough fire, the Kokuruyua dragon finally began to take shape. It laced itself around Hiei and roared. Hiei interperted this as his now or never chance. He braced himself, briefly thinking of the consequences of what he was about to do. He stepped forward to get a better shot and then pointed both his arms in Yusuke's, Kurama's, Kuwabara's, and Seika's direction.

The Kokuruyuha dragon took this as its signal to attack. It wove itself around Hiei's right arm, the one it was most familiar with, and glared menacingly out in front of it.

"Are there any last words from the doomed party?"

"I've got one..." Hiei said, still staring forward.

Raizen turned to him, intrigued. The black dragon stretched itself so that it's head and about a third of its huge body was no longer attached to Hiei's arm.

"Goodbye."

Hiei launched the attack. And there was one solitary scream.

Yusuke opened his eyes, he figured he was dead. The dust began to settle around him and he realized that he was lying on the ground surrounded by three other bodies. It was hard to see them through the cloud of dust, but he didn't need to. They were obviously the bodies of his deceased friends.

"He attacked him!" one of the bodies cried.

Yusuke blinked. He was glad he was actually dead, or the talking body of Kuwabara would have seemed weird. But since they were dead, it was fine to see talking spirits very now and then...although he was pretty sure the heap of flesh and clothes that was Kuwabara had been the one to speak. Dead bodies don't talk. Wait.

He didn't actually think any sound would come out, him being dead and all, but when he decided to chance it, Yusuke said, "What are you talking about?"

"Hiei attacked Raizen with the Kokuruyuha! We're not dead!"

Now Yusuke knew he was dead. Only in Heaven would something so blissful happen, and his luck just wasn't that good. After all this time, Hiei wouldn't betray Raizen. Right?

"Oh no," Seika cried. "He's not dead!"

"Hiei!" Kurama shouted.

Yusuke frowned. Was there too much dust around him or did his eyes just suck? He couldn't see anything the other three were seeing. As the dust began to clear, he could barely make out the forms of his father--standing tall, but leaning some like he was injured; and Hiei, standing a little more confident than Raizen. That is, until the hazy form of Raizen took his great muscular arm and shoved Hiei into the wall.

"We've got to help him!" Yusuke shouted, suddenly standing and surprising himself. He figured he wasn't dead after all, and if he was, this was some Hell.

He ran through the clearing dust, the others right on his heel. From here, he could see the damage that Hiei had caused on Raizen and the hurt Raizen had just caused to Hiei. Raizen was badly bleeding from a hole in his chest; it looked fatal, but Yusuke could never be sure with the warlord. Hiei, was sitting in front of the nearest wall, actually twitching and starting to cough up blood.

Quickly, Kurama and Seika took action by grabbing their vines and whipping them around Raizen's arms and legs. They weren't sure how long they would hold, but hopefully it was enough time for someone to do something.

The first thing Yusuke did was rush over to Hiei. He wanted to know why he did it, betrayed Raizen. He also wanted to see if he was all right. But Hiei shook his head and pointed towards Raizen, and Yusuke understood. Taking another glance at Hiei, he turned and walked over to the struggling Raizen.

"I still have control over him, you know," Raizen spat. "As long as I'm alive, he will still be my slave."

"I'll kill you."

Yusuke powered up his reigun and aimed for Raizen's heart. He was sure Hiei had mortally wounded him, but he wanted to make certain that Raizen never did anything like this again. He took one deep breath and shot.

As Raizen began to fall to the floor, a large explosion erupted from the other end of the room. It was Koenma and he raced in, followed by a countless amount of ogres dressed in combat outfits. If the situtation hadn't been so serious, Yusuke would have found it extremely hilarious.

"Koenma," Yusuke started. "He's not--"

"I know. We're going to take him back with us to the Reikai."

Raizen lied in the dirt, unconscious. His breathing with no where near steady, and Yusuke thanked his good aim, for while actually targeting the heart, he figured he could take out the left lung too. That way, Raizen would die one way or another.

Out of somewhere, Botan appeared behind the barrage of ogres and walked forward towards Yusuke and Koenma. She was unusually sullen today, and for good reason. Sure, Raizen was knocking on Death's door, but Hiei had been very badly injured. And who's side was he on?

As Botan grew closer, Hiei stood and did the same. He was a bit wobbly on his feet and only took a few steps forward. He looked at Yusuke and nodded, before shutting his eyes and running a shaky hand through his hair.

"If Raizen isn't dead within the next hour, he will be executed," Koenma continued in a hushed voice. "The ogres will put cuffs on him to block his spirit energy. Hiei should be free from the telepathy now. We'll talk about hispunishment later."

Yusuke's breath caught. "Punishment? For what--"

"Later."

Without another world, Koenma turned and left. His army of ogres with Raizen in toe. Botan looked at Yusuke and smiled meekly.

"I'll come back to take you all to Ningenkai," she said. "Have Hiei take you outside the castle and I'll meet you there." And then she dashed off after Koenma.

Hiei was just trying to concentrate on breathing. Everyone had begun to swarm around him, asking him questions and wondering whether he was okay, but he felt that if he stopped to answer them, he would surely pass out. His injuries were great, both mentally and physically. Everything that Raizen had put him through and all the stress that Yusuke was causing...not that he blamed the teen for being well, himself; it was just all a little too much for him.

"It's finally over, Hiei," Kurama said, patting him on the back as Hiei wiped the blood from his mouth.

Hiei said nothing, but gave a small smile, and then quickly cursed himself for losing his train of thought. He had already been feeling light-headed, but now the room was starting to spin. Trying to adjust his breathing pattern, he sat down and leaned forward on his knees, stretching out his arms so that he was in a sort of crawling position. He must have blacked out for a minute because the next thing he knew someone was grabbing his arm and trying to pull him to his feet.

"What are you doing?" he snarled, or at least tried to, but instead it came out more like an exasperated sigh.

"I thought you might want some help."

It was Yusuke and he had said it none too nicely. He dropped Hiei's arm, causing the youkai to stumble awkwardly. Kurama helped him catch his balance, and it was only when Hiei was standing that he noticed that Yusuke was blushing. He tried to hide it by turning away, but he had already been seen.

Hiei couldn't help but let out a soft chuckle. Yusuke meant well, and Hiei could tell that he was truly sorry for everything that had happened to him, but it was obvious that he had a hard time expressing it. He let it go for now because just standing had left him feeling extremely dizzy.

"We should probably be leaving," said the young kitsune standing beside Kurama. "He said he would, but I don't really think I can trust a toddler to take care of things, and I don't want to be here if anything else happens."

She's right, Hiei thought. He didn't actually know this girl that had just suddenly shown up with Yusuke and the others, but supposedly, she was an old friend of Kurama's. Seika, was it? Hiei noted that during the battle, she had been a skilled fighter, using similar techniques to Kurama's. It was a shame he had never heard of her before, but then again, she looked too young to have been any real use to him.

Hiei led them in and around the castle, until they finally reached the outside. Just that trip alone had left him breathless, and already he could feel the soreness beginning to set in. Before leaving them after the battle, Botan had said she would meet them outside the castle in order to take them back to Ningenkai, but Hiei honestly didn't think he could wait until she arrived. Every breath he took, or attempted to, was agony and his small body felt so frail and useless. After another minute, he could no longer stand it and found himself what looked like a boulder--but was actually a remnant of the castle--to sit on.

"You probably shouldn't be sitting down," Kurama said, looking over at him. "You'll end up more sore that way."

"You can use me for a crutch, if you want...," Seika said, extending her hand.

Hiei felt that his pride would surely win over common sense; using a girl as a crutch was exactly the last thing he wanted to do right now, but in all honestly, Kurama was right, and Seika was the only one who could help him, being about the same height and all. Grimacing as he stood, Hiei allowed Seika to wrap her arm around him as he placed one of his over her shoulders. It did feel better on his body now that he wasn't supporting all of his weight on his own two feet, but it was still humiliating.

"Thank you," he said softly. As embarassing as it might be, Hiei couldn't forget the few manners he actually possessed. And he was truly grateful.

He still didn't know how long he was going to be able to stay conscious, but he was afraid that it couldn't be for much longer. He was mentally exhausted from the whole telepathy thing, but the injuries he had sustained during battle and then had inflicted upon himself, made him feel more physically drained.

"Hello, all!"

Botan was flying towards them on her oar, smiling and waving as though she hadn't known they would be there. It was only when Hiei had looked up at her, did he realize that he had been slipping from Seika's grasp; his knees were bent and he was beginning to slump forward.

"Glad you're here, but what took you?" Yusuke said, walking up to greet the ferry-girl.

Hiei noticed that while Yusuke continued to talk to her, he had dropped his voice level dramatically, making it impossible for anyone to hear but her. She listened as he spoke, making a chance glance over in Hiei's direction before nodding. He knew he was being talked about, and although it usually would have irritated him to some degree, this time, he didn't really mind. Maybe he was just too tired.

"Okay," Botan said finally. "Hiei, everyone, could you all come over--oh!"

The girl smiled, embarassed. It was obvious she had forgotten what Yusuke had just told her; everyone, Hiei in particular, was too injured to walk the short distance over to her. So instead, she and Yusuke casually walked over to them. Now, Botan had to concentrate on getting them all safely back to Ningenkai.

- - -

The very moment they had stepped inside Genkai's temple, Hiei had passed out from utter exhaustion. He had been taken into a room and was currently under the constant care of Yukina. She came back saying that his injuries were great, but that she had been able to heal the worst ones; she promised to stay with him until her care was no longer needed.

Everyone else had treated their wounds the old-fashioned way, with cleaning and dressing, and then proceeded with lounging about the temple doing nothing in particular. No one really wanted to talk about what they had been through the past few months, but they knew they would have to eventually. That time came up sooner than expected when Genkai mentioned something about Hiei's "internal injuries".

"You mean like, bleeding or something?" Kuwabara asked, quickly spreading concern around the room.

"No, nothing as serious as that, but still very important."

"What are you talking about?" Yusuke asked, sitting up.

"...His memories," Seika said. "Those are scars that will never heal."

There was silence for a while as everyone absorbed that information. Seika had a very good point. Although he would never admit it, Hiei's emotions had been really banged up; his telepathic dispute with Raizen had really weakened him. After all of this, Hiei might not even be the same demon he was when they had first met.

"Do you think he'll always carry those memories?" Kurama asked after a moment.

"Maybe," Genkai said. "But it's also possible that he could forget it all completely."

"I don't see how anyone could ever forget something like that. It was hell," Yusuke said, scratching his head.

"That's exactly why Hiei would be better off forgetting. Remembering something that traumatic could really mess up a person."

"Well, whatever the case, I want to see for myself how this has affected him."

It was quiet after that. Everyone was too tired to talk about much else, but they continued to sit in and around the temple for a few hours, once picking up a game of cards. They occasionally tried to listen in on the conversations between Genkai and Yukina because they usually concerned Hiei and his current condition. Apparently, he had waken up once already, but it had only been long enough to wonder where he was; after he'd heard from Yukina that he was at Genkai's, he had passed out again.

Eventually, when it was already well into the middle of sunset, Seika announced her departure. She claimed to have already over-stayed her welcome, and being away from home was something she never liked experiencing.

"Thank you, Yusuke," she said. "I can accept that it wasn't me who defeated Raizen if I know that the person who did made sure that he can never hurt anyone again."

Once she was gone, Kuwabara left soon after, saying that his sister would kill him for having been gone so long without telling her. Kurama left with him, fearing that his mother would be worried since he hadn't called the entire week.

When everyone but Yusuke was finally gone, he got up and waited outside Hiei's closed room. He was about to knock, but before he got the chance, the door slid open, startling a tired-looking Yukina, who nearly dropped the tray she had been carrying out.

"Sorry," Yusuke said, picking up the damp cloth she had dropped. "What's this for?"

"Hiei's got a fever," she answered sadly. "Genkai says it's nothing, just a side effect from everything that's happened."

"Oh... Do you think I could go see him?"

"Of course. It's probably better for him to see someone other than me sometimes," Yukina laughed.

"Has he woken up since last time?"

The Koorime's sad expression returned, if anything, looking more down than before. "Not really," she said. "He's been slipping in and out of consciousness for a few hours now. Not once has he ever been awake. I know it can't be much, but I'm worried about him."

Yusuke gave the girl a pat on the shoulder, giving her a comforting smile. He knew why she was worried for him; even though she didn't know of their relation, she had always seen Hiei as a brother-figure to her. Just the thought of seeing him slip in and out of consciousness made even Yusuke worry.

As he walked into the room and closer to Hiei's sleeping form, he began to wonder what he was even doing in there. He and Hiei had their differences, sure, but they hadn't actually held a conversation since right after Yusuke moved in with Raizen. Not that it really mattered, Hiei hadn't been awake long enough to have a conversation with anyone lately, and from where Yusuke was standing, it didn't look like he'd make any attempt to wake up either.

Hiei looked so pale and his small body was drenched in sweat. Yusuke could see where there were bandage patches on the demon's cheek and left shoulder, there were even bandages wrapped around his head. Blood was beginning to seep out through his head bandages, and Yusuke wondered if those wounds were from the self-inflicted ones. The fresh washcloth Yukina had left across his forehead was slipping off, and when Yusuke tried to correct it, Hiei's body gave a small shudder. He also noticed that Hiei's hands were being soaked in some kind of medicinal liquid; the consquence of grabbing Kuwabara's Spirit Sword bare-handed.

"Man, Hiei, I'm sorry...for everything." Yusuke put his hand to his mouth to think. "Everything that's happened between you and Raizen and me, it was mostly my fault. If you hadn't been so pissed off with me about the squid thing, then...I don't know. I mean, you have a scar and you can't even see anymore! Damn it..."

Yusuke looked down and discovered that Hiei's eyes had begun to flutter open. He cursed aloud; talking about this wasn't so hard when Hiei couldn't hear him, but if he was waking up...

Hiei finally managed to open his eyes, barely. It was obvious that he was struggling just to keep them open, and when he noticed Yusuke in the room, he propped himself up on his elbows with difficulty; he wasn't sure he was strong enough to sit completely upright. He took his hands out of the medicinal liquid and after he'd finished wiping sweat from his brow and removing the washcloth, he began to pull the covers tighter around his body. It was then that Yusuke could see how burned Hiei's hands really were. They were even painful to look at.

"It's over," Yusuke said referring to Raizen.

"I know."

Yusuke saw that when Hiei talked, his breath came out as white mist, as though the air around them was freezing.

"What do you want?" Hiei asked after a while.

"I...I want to apologize, Hiei."

"You already did."

"What?"

Yusuke was shocked. Had Hiei really heard everything he had said? Not that he didn't mean it, but it was embarassing. And if that were the case, why hadn't Hiei woken up sooner?

"I was awake during most of what you said, I was just too weak to do anything about it," Hiei said, as though answering Yusuke's question.

"So, you heard it, huh?" Yusuke said, smiling. "You know, I meant it, too."

"I'll bet you did," Hiei said, yawning.

Yusuke knew from that very answer, that Hiei no longer held anything against him, and he smiled wider. He felt that now since everything seemed to be fine between them, that he ought to let Hiei rest some more. Although he was filled with an unexpected surge of giddiness, he knew that Hiei would only recover if he got time alone, for sleep or whatever other reason.

"I guess that's it then," Yusuke said.

Hiei said nothing, but stifled another yawn. They continued to stare at each other until Yusuke turned away; Hiei's blank, blinded eye was really creeping him out. The room was silent all the way until Yusuke reached the sliding door. A noise from behind had caused him to turn back, and when he realized that it was only Hiei's soft snoring, he couldn't help but let out a snicker.

- - -

Hiei slept the whole next day, finally waking after sunset at dusk. As expected, he was now extremely sore; just the rise and fall of his chest left him wincing from time to time. When he came out of his room, he didn't look any better than what he had before; he was pale and still running a slight fever, and he looked pitiful leaning on the doorframe for support. Yukina followed him out, draping a blanket over his shoulders before he could be fully exposed to the chilly night air. She had left both of Hiei's burned hands unwrapped, telling him that some fresh air might help soothe them.

"Good...morning? Afternoon, evening?" Yusuke said, scooting away from Kuwabara to make room for Hiei to sit.

"We're glad you could finally join us. Are you all right?" Kurama asked, watching as Hiei answered him with a yawn.

"I'm so tired."

It wasn't in Hiei's nature to whine, and after nearly two days of sleep he had no reason to, but the other's concern was still there. It was possible that Raizen had drained him of all of his energy.

"But you've been asleep all this time!" Kuwabara said.

Hiei was silent, answering by wrapping the blanket tighter around his body. He didn't quite know why, but he could tell his friends were trying to hide their concern for him. What he'd been through, as horrible as it seemed, wasn't really as bad as the looks they were giving him. Sure, he'd been whipped like a troublesome dog, but was it enough to have his friends eye him with such worrisome looks?

He brushed his fingertips over the scar across his eye, letting the shiver that ran down his back both soothe and frighten him. It was bittersweet, really; he'd lost so much during that battle, his mental status, a big chunk of his pride...but he was alive.

"Hiei?"

He looked up, having been lost in his thoughts.

"We asked if you were all right," Yusuke said, narrowing his eyebrows.

"And I answered you," Hiei all but snapped. Damn it, they bugged him sometimes!

"The first time, but..."

Hiei waited for an explanation, but Yusuke never got the chance to finish his sentence, because he was interrupted by another voice. That annoyingly high-pitched voice that always spoke to him matter-of-factly, and never quite seemed to fit the person it belonged to.

"Your Jagan is glowing."

Hiei turned, wincing slightly as his head began to throb. It was Koenma who had spoken. The toddler was walking toward them, two manila folders tucked under his arm. When he reached them, he sat himself directly opposite Hiei, placing the closed folders on the floor in front of him.

"Do you remember what happened to you two days ago?"

"I..." Hiei was unsure how to answer the question. Of course he remembered what went on, there was no way anyone could forget something like that. He was afraid of answering incorrectly, and having Koenma sit with them only made his head hurt more. "That mission with the A-class squid. I was...injured."

When Koenma and especially the others began to look at him strangely, he feared that he indeed had not given them the answer they wanted. He tried not to show his concern about the matter, but then Koenma reached for one of his folders. He opened it, turning it around for Hiei to see. It read:

Raizen (# 4687)

Age???

Hair Color: Tan (light brownish-blonde)

Eye Color: Cobalt Blue

Distinctive Marking(s): Triangular tattoos on face and arms

The Demon Warlord Raizen was captured February 28, 2007 and will be tried at a later date for the physical and mental abuse of fire youkai Hiei. Raizen was controlling him through Hiei's Jagan Eye, using a special telepathy learned from the late Seishin. Warlord Raizen will also be charged with Seishin's murder...

Hiei looked up at Koenma. Somehow, even after reading this, he still couldn't see how it had anything to do with him. The file, which looked like an official Reikai file, seemed to be legit in every way. The date listed was recent, and having been controlled by telepathy, would better explain his headaches. He knew of Raizen, he'd been in on the mission with Yusuke when they first met.

"There's more," Koenma said, already knowing that Hiei hadn't read the entire report.

He pushed the folder forward, almost into Hiei's lap, forcing him to read a little further. In all honesty, Hiei wanted nothing more to do with whatever else was written on the page. It confused him and made his head throb. He looked down anyway, reading a middle line that had suddenly caught his eye.

Raizen was using the aid of Kuyo (also known as Akitama) to win over Hiei's trust. Kuyo is Hiei's father...

By the time he was finished reading, Hiei was shaking from head to toe, and it had nothing to do with the chilly night air. He ran his fingers through his hair; his palms were cold and sweaty.

"My father...?" Hiei said, staring at his shaking hands.

"Do you mean you really don't remember?" Yusuke asked, looking away from the folder and trying to meet Hiei's gaze.

Hiei didn't answer, but continued to stare at his hands. After another minute he felt like he couldn't breathe, he was shaking so much. He didn't even want to know the contents of the second folder. Did it have anything to do with him and Raizen, or maybe his father? Hiei could feel the others' eyes boring into him and finally, he looked up.

"I don't think this is the right time for me to show you this other file," Koenma said, putting a hand on Hiei's knee, almost consolingly. "Now that I know that you don't remember... When, or if you get your memory back, I want you to visit me in the Reikai, and I want you all to make sure he does."

Koenma picked up his folders and stood up. He bowed his thanks and left the room in silence.

"Maybe you should get some more rest," Yukina said, coming foward and placing her small hands on Hiei's shoulders. "It might help you remember something."

Hiei was grateful for Yukina's concern; she had been quiet all this time, listening to everything that went on around her. And now that he thought about it, he was feeling tired again. Whatever had happened between him and Raizen--the whole thing about being controlled by telepathy--was going to take him the rest of the week to recover from.

- - -

It was early morning before Hiei left the security of his room. He stepped out, shuddering at the sudden change in temperature. He sat himself on the edge of the veranda, staring at his bare feet as they hung off the side.

He'd had a dream while he'd been asleep. It had been about Raizen; Hiei had a vivid memory of the demon's evil sneer. He struggled to recall the rest of the dream, but Raizen's face was the only image that stuck in his head.

Something told him that he needed to look at Koenma's other folder in order to regain parts of his memory. But he was told only to visit when or if he remembered anything. The whole thing had him frustrated. Did he really dare to ask the others about the stuff he didn't recall?

He stood up from the veranda and began his search for Kurama. Yusuke was sure to be a jerk about things and that dummy Kuwabara probably knew less than Hiei. Kurama might sugar-coat things if they got too rough, but Hiei knew he could still count on him to give all the details.

Up until now, Hiei never realized just how big Genkai's temple really was. Even though he'd been there many times he now felt like he was in an endless maze of sliding doors and corridors. He began to wonder whether if whatever had happened with Raizen had affected any other parts of his memory. He made another sharp turn around a corner, immediately colliding into Yukina. The Koorime gave a yelp of surprise as she stumbled backward onto her rear, dropping her tray laden with two bowls of scalding hot green liquid.

"I'm sorry," Hiei said, sounding more surprised than Yukina looked. Hiei honestly wasn't expecting anyone other than himself to be wandering around so early.

"Hiei, you're awake!" Yukina said, her voice steady despite the obvious pain she was feeling as the hot liquid seeped through her kimono.

"I was tired of sleeping," Hiei said, offering his hand to help her up. "What's that?"

"It was supposed to help reduce your fever and give you some of your energy back. It's Genkai's special recipe."

"I'm sorry," Hiei said again.

"Don't worry about it, I'll just get her to make you some more."

"No, I mean about your clothes. You're all wet."

"It's not a problem, I'll go and change." Yukina paused. "Which reminds me: it's been hours since I redressed your wounds. Come with me; the bandages are in my room."

"Where's Kurama staying?" Hiei asked as he began to follow her.

"He left while you were sleeping. He hasn't been back here in a while."

They reached a sliding door that, to Hiei, looked like all the others and could have led to anyone's room. Yukina slid the door open and walked inside--Hiei following, but staying a little ways back; he felt embarrassed about entering his sister's room.

"Just make yourself comfortable while I change," Yukina said. "I'll tend to your wounds when I'm done, okay?"

She turned without waiting for an answer. Hiei sat himself on the floor as he watched Yukina walk behind an 8-foot room divider. The early morning sun made Yukina's silhouette very defined, and Hiei couldn't help but turn red.

"How are the others?" he asked, averting his eyes to the floor.

"They're all fine, much better than you, of course. Wait, I'm sorry, that was rude," Yukina added, poking her head around a side of the divider.

"It's probably true," Hiei said.

Yukina stepped out from behind the divider dressed in a long mahogany kimono. She smiled at Hiei when he looked up at her, and she continued to move toward him, a thick roll of bandages in her hands. She knelt beside him and quickly but efficiently wrapped his hands, and then began to unwrap the wound around his waist.

Hiei watched as his wound became more exposed. Before Yukina began to redress it, he realized that it wasn't really a wound he was looking at, but a big discolored bruise. It was probably being wrapped to prevent him from injurying it further.

"This might hurt a little," Yukina said as she began to undo the wraps around his head.

Hiei didn't expect it to hurt, but as the dressings grew thinner, he realized that the cloth was sticking to his head, and as Yukina stripped them off, the feeling was like slowly removing a band-aid.

When Yukina had painfully yet successfully removed the bandages, she reached for a clean set and began to swab at Hiei's forehead; but not before a trail of blood began to trickle down the side of his head.

"Sorry," Yukina said, mopping it up.

"Is that...blood?"

"Yes. It was dried under the bandages, but I guess I irritated it when I removed them." Hiei couldn't help but notice that Yukina hesitated before answering. "You have a mild concussion too."

There was silence as Yukina cleaned Hiei's forehead and began to dress his wound. He sat there, thinking about Raizen. Maybe Yukina would know something...

"What happened to me?"

He sat there, wide-eyed. The question had escaped him before he got a chance to stop himself.

Yukina stopped dressing his wound and the wrappings that were in her hands fell to the ground.

"You want to know what happened with Raizen?"

Hiei couldn't just deny that he didn't want to; he'd been eager to know the details since the night Koenma came to visit him.

"Yes," he said finally.

"I can't tell you everything, because I wasn't there, but I can tell you what I know and what I've heard from Genkai."

"Just tell me what you can."

"I've gathered some information from Botan too, but according to Genkai, you had an allergic reaction to Raizen's telepathy."

Hiei paused to take in what Yukina was saying, when... "Since when has Raizen known telepathy?"

"He learned it from an elderly demon quite recently."

Yukina picked up the rest of the dressings and smiled. She wasn't finished wrapping Hiei's wounds.

"Is that all?" Hiei asked, somewhat disappointed. He had been expecting Yukina to tell him a lot more.

"You really don't remember anything?" Yukina asked, her smile fading. When Hiei lowered his eyes to the ground, that gave Yukina her answer. "I'm not supposed to tell you this because Koenma wanted to wait until you remembered on your own--"

"But you were planning on telling me anyway," Hiei said, an amused smirk crossing his lips. He could tell by the tone of her voice that she had something more to say.

"I think it's important that you know, yes. I would want to know if anyone was keeping a secret from me if it were truly something that would help me in the long run."

Hiei couldn't help but wince at Yukina's words. As soon as it was said, Hiei felt an unbelievable amount of guilt. He grabbed the bandages from her hands and tied them clumsily around his head. He then proceeded with standing up and walking towards the door leading out to the rest of the temple grounds.

"Sorry, I've got to find Yusuke," he said almost inaudibly before sliding the door shut behind him.

He passed Genkai in one of the hallways, but quickly brushed past her, pretending not to hear her when she asked him how he felt. He did stop, however, when she called out to him, telling him that Kurama was out in the garden and that Kuwabara would be over shortly.

"Yusuke had to make a quick visit to see Koenma," Genkai said as she rounded a corner and was out of sight.

Unable to talk to Yusuke, Hiei decided to go after his first choice, Kurama. He walked out into the open garden, finding Kurama bent over and smelling the flowers of a rosebush. Hopefully the kitsune would be able to help him remember something about Raizen.

"Good morning, Hiei," Kurama said, turning around to find the youkai walking towards him. Seeing the bandages tied haphazardly around Hiei's head, he added, "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"I just finished talking to Yukina," Hiei said, staring at a rose behind his friend. "I asked her about Raizen."

Kurama looked taken aback when he asked, "What did she tell you?"

"Everything she knew."

The fox exhaled, placing a comforting hand on Hiei's shoulder, for he knew Yukina couldn't have known much. "And do you remember any of it?"

"I've tried...but no. Not a single thing she told me sounded familiar."

Hiei paused. Kurama was bound to tell him something about how he would remember eventually, and right now, he didn't want to hear it. He was frustrasted without his memories; he felt useless.

"Why don't we get some breakfast?" Kurama asked, steering Hiei back towards the temple. "Kuwabara should be here soon and I believe Yusuke is already on his way back from Spirit World; they can join us when they get here."

- - -

As soon as Yusuke arrived the first thing he wanted to do was talk with Hiei in private. His trip to the Reikai had taken longer than expected. Neither of them said anything as Yusuke led them out into the garden and away from the temple. They stopped at what seemed to be just outside the forest that surrounded the area. Yusuke looked hesitant to speak at first, but when Hiei yawned loudly, Yusuke felt as though he had no more time to deny Hiei this information.

"First of all," he started. "I want you to know again how sorry I am about your eye."

Hiei met his gaze and blinked, unsure of where Yusuke was going with this conversation.

"What I...what I did was selfish and wrong, and I...I'm sorry." Yusuke couldn't bear to look Hiei in the eyes, but he knew that if he didn't, he would never be taken seriously. "Sometimes I wonder if it was that one mission that really got you to side with Raizen."

"It wasn't," Hiei interrupted him. His eyes widened. Without his memories, what he just said was an empty statement. There was no way he could tell whether or not that was his true motive for joining the warlord.

Yusuke dismissed Hiei's comment and continued. "I understand I've been a real jerk lately, and not just to you, but to Kurama and Kuwabara too. I was, I don't know, stressed...with everything. Look Hiei, I've wanted to get this off my chest for the longest time, but now was the only time that seemed right."

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why is it so important that you tell me this? I've already heard and accepted your poor excuse for an apology the first time, so what is it about right now that's got you on edge?"

For a while Yusuke said nothing. He managed to avert his eyes to the ground and for a small amount of time, he was able to let his mind wander as he watched the wind blow dirt over his shoes. Hiei was expecting an answer and when Yusuke felt like he was finally ready to give him one, the Spirit Detective looked up to meet the sanjiyan's eyes.

"Your sentence." When Hiei looked somewhat puzzled, he added, "Koenma called me to Spirit World this morning to go over your case and further options regarding the outcome. That's what was in the other folder."

"But I don't remember anything," Hiei said. "Whatever's in that folder will mean nothing to me if I don't know the true reason for it."

"You don't remember that day in town?" Yusuke asked, but with Hiei's lack of any sort of reaction, he continued. "Raizen had you under his control--he was using his telepathy. I mean, it wasn't your fault or anything, you know, because you were being controlled, but...Hiei, you killed a lot of people that day."

Hiei racked his brain, thinking. Nothing.

"Koenma said that he would take the telepathy into account--"

"Don't try to make me feel better because of that," Hiei said scowling. "Nothing you say will change the situation. If I've killed as many people as you claim, then Koenma wouldn't dare hesitate in having me executed."

"Don't say that!" Yusuke said, taking a few steps forward. "Koenma wouldn't. No, he can't, not after everything that you've done for him."

Hiei turned, beginning to walk away. He didn't want to talk anymore about his already decided fate.

"They prepared breakfast for you. You should eat it before it gets cold."

- - -

That night, as Hiei lay on his futon, he replayed Yusuke's words over in his head. He frowned up at the ceiling--he was hoping that something Yusuke said would trigger his memory.

"You killed a lot of people..."

Well, what the hell did that mean? Hiei didn't remember anything about killing anybody, but he was sure that if he did, it would also mean death on his part. Koenma had put him on parole; in exchange, he was to work with Yusuke and absolutely forbidden from taking human life.

He stood up and began to pace around the room. He tended to do this when he was unusually nervous or anxious about something, and he was indeed that. The thought of being sentenced for crimes he didn't even know he committed was just...he stopped. A flash of something had just--there it was again. There was Raizen's face, huge and leering at him. Then, there was the blood, lots of blood, tons of it even; and it was splattered on the sidewalks and street.

There were bodies too, fewer than twenty but more than ten, all neatly zipped into bags. The number of bodies could easily account for the amount of blood splattered everywhere.

And then Hiei saw himself. He wasn't wearing his cloak, something that usually meant that he meant serious business, and his Jagan was glowing bright red. There were black flames gathering in the palm of his hand and beginning to encase his right arm, the Kokuruyuha. He was going to use it on the humans! The flames began to release themselves from Hiei's arm, there were gut-wrenching, blood-curdling screams that followed. And then there was a flash of white light.

Hiei stepped back and stumbled. He hit the ground, clutching his head, his eyes wide. He didn't even realize that he was screaming. So, these were his missing memories.

Yusuke, Kurama, and Kuwabara rushed in, followed by Genkai and Yukina. Kurama reached him first; he knelt beside the horrorified demon, shaking him to get his attention.

"Hiei, what's wrong?" Yusuke shouted over the youkai's screams.

Kurama began to shake him more violently. It was like Hiei was totally unaware of the others' presence. He was fighting against Kurama and was attempting to curl himself into a tight ball, his hands still clutching the sides of his head.

"Come on, snap out of it! Hiei!"

"What do you think's wrong with him?" Kuwabara asked, leaning towards Yusuke. The black-haired ningen only gritted his teeth in response.

"HIEI!"

Hiei's breath caught; the sound of Kurama's bellowing cry had made him conscious of everyone around him. His arms relaxed and fell at his sides. If not before, now his entire body was shaking violently. He focused his eyes on Kurama, the first and only person directly in front of him. At first, he stared blankly into the kitsune's emerald green eyes, but after a few moments his expression faltered and his vision blurred. He was starting to cry.

Kurama, his hands still on top of Hiei's shoulders, watched in awe as tears spilled down the youkai's cheeks; little clinking noises could be heard as the tears fell to the ground as small, round black-metallic gems. Not only was Hiei crying, he was sobbing. Unsure of what else to do, Kurama wrapped his arms around the distraught demon, granting him a little comfort...

The unusual, almost disturbing scene lasted about fifteen minutes, and when it was over, the atmosphere around the room had changed dramatically. The realization that Hiei had finally regained his memories had made everyone tense. Hiei's attitude had reverted back to normal, if not moodier than before; although he did seem to lighten up once he saw Yukina begin to occupy herself by sweeping around the room.

Botan seemed to have arrived mere seconds after Hiei's little episode, and she had proceeded with literally dragging Yusuke into the hall, an urgent feel about her.

"Hiei," Yusuke said, upon reentering. He nor Botan seemed to be giving off any kind of vibe, so it was hard to tell what either of them were thinking. "I just got word from Koenma: he wants to see you this Saturday."

"That's tomorrow," Hiei said, slightly taken aback by the quickness in which Koenma wanted to see him. He would need to mentally prepare himself before then. This meeting would determine whether he lived or...well, he didn't want to consider the other possibility.

"You'll be fine," Yusuke said, placing a hand on Hiei's shoulder.

"He's right," Botan said, smiling. "Koenma would have wanted to see you immediately if it had been something really important."

She doesn't think my life is important? Hiei thought. He couldn't help but let out a chuckle. Although extremely ditzy, the girl had a good heart, and knowing that he had his friends behind him, made Hiei feel slightly better about meeting with Koenma.

- - -

The following morning, the others discovered Hiei in a foul mood. He claimed to have slept very little that night, if at all, and judging by the paleness of his skin and dark circles below his eyes, they weren't about to argue the matter.

Botan popped in during breakfast and announced that Hiei's scheduled meeting with Koenma was to take place after the demi-god's afternoon snack at 1 o' clock. That gave Hiei a little over four hours to continue to prepare himself--he had spent all of last night thinking about how to approach the situation if Koenma happened to say the worst..

"You'll be fine," everyone kept telling him. "Koenma could never put you to death after everything you've done for him and Spirit World."

But those words never made Hiei feel better, they always made him feel so much worse. Sure, he had helped Yusuke on countless missions for the better of Spirit World, but he had also just recently betrayed him, even if it was because of Raizen's telepathy. Hiei never liked excuses; he believed that even without Raizen's telepathy, he still would have managed to side with the power-hungry warlord. And what about what he had done in the past? Hiei's record wasn't exactly clean: breaking into King Enma's vault to steal his most valuable treasure couldn't have spelt his ultimate downfall more clearly. It felt like he was dying, the way he saw all his past mistakes flash through his mind.

It seemed like he thought about that for hours, and when he realized that it was already noon, it appeared that he really had been thinking too much into this meeting.

"I think you should be getting ready," Genkai said as she sat herself on the veranda next to him, a steaming cup of tea in her hands. "It'll look better if you show up early. Giving Koenma one less thing to judge you about it probably the best thing you could hope for."

And as if on cue, Botan popped into view, soaring in on her oar. "I thought I'd take you in early!" she called, landing a few yards away. Beside Hiei, Genkai smirked.

Hiei stood up too quickly and swayed; his self-inflicted head injuries made him dizzy. Once he had composed himself, he tried again and took a few cautious steps forward.

"Are you ready?" Botan asked, she had an unfamiliar smile on her face. "There's nothing to worry about."

Hiei then realized what that smile was: Botan was worried about upsetting him. He noticed that she was being very careful in choosing her words. He figured that she thought him to be uncharacteristically fragile and that killed him. He hated people to think he was weak.

"You're looking better."

It was Botan again. She had moved closer and was studying Hiei carefully. He had to admit himself, he did look better than he had the past few hours; his complextion had cleared and was now less pale and his less serious injuries were almost healed.

Hiei nodded and walked past her. He hated having her look at him with pity, it was disgusting!

"You're in a hurry," Botan called to him. "We'll leave when everyone gets here."

"What?" Hiei had to do a double-take before he stopped in his tracks and turned to face Botan and Genkai.

"You didn't actually believe that you could leave to decide your fate without saying goodbye to us, did you?"

Hiei saw Yusuke, Kurama, Kuwabara, and his sister Yukina making their way off the temple veranda and over towards the smaller crowd. He didn't know how they could stand it; they all looked so confident, like this meeting with Koenma was just a walk in the park.

He looked to Botan, hoping just to be flown away on her oar (as awkward as it might be), if just to escape all these useless goodbyes. Apparently, his expression gave away these very thoughts, because Yukina stepped forward, placing a small hand on his equally small shoulder.

"I know you're worried about this," and she didn't know how right to was, "but you really shouldn't be. You helped rescue me from Tarukane..."

"And you didn't kill us in that Saint-Beast castle," Kuwabara said. "You had me going at the Gate of Betrayal though. I mean, it seemed like that purple bat-thing had you convinced--"

"Regardless," Yusuke said speaking over Kuwabara's rambling. "you get what we're saying when we say that there's no way Koenma could sentence you to death!"

Hiei looked to the ground, shrugging Yukina away from him. Everything they said meant nothing to him; he'd done an equal amount of bad things, if not more. The way he saw it, he only had a 50 chance of living.

"I know you think we're just repeating ourselves to make you feel better, but honestly, if you think about it, we're just as worried as you are, if not 100 times more."

When Hiei looked up, he saw Kurama standing before him, the other three plus Botan and Genkai standing beside him. With them all here to support him, Hiei couldn't help but feel some relief. Vainly, he tried to surpress a smile.

"That's the spirit!" Botan chimed, for she had glimpsed the youkai's faint smile. "Now c'mon, we don't want you to be late."

In the pit of his stomach, Hiei could feel his small ecstasy slipping away. Just this reminder of what was to come, had him reminiscing about the last time he had stood before Koenma in this sort of situation. Even when he had broken into King Enma's vault and killed people remorselessly, he didn't feel as he did now. Back then, Koenma had surprised him with the option of parole; Hiei had definately sensed execution in his future, and he had welcomed it. But now, he had had time to think about his past actions and of how much he enjoyed living in general. All this worrying about whether he was to live or die literally made him sick to his stomach. He wanted to vomit.

"Seriously, Hiei," Yusuke said, placing his hand on Hiei's shoulder, startling the youkai out of his reverie. "Don't worry too much about this. Kuwabara, Kurama, and I have already talked to Koenma and told him what we think of the situation, and he agreed with most of our views. It all depends on how you present yourself today."

Beside the ningen, Kurama and Kuwabara nodded. Botan smiled and ushered Hiei towards her. Together, Hiei and Botan walked a little ways from the others.

"Botan better not come back and tell us you've been executed!"

Hiei knew Yusuke had shouted as a last minute reassurance, but Hiei couldn't help but notice the slight quiver in the boy's voice; Yusuke wasn't as confident as he put on. Well, there was nothing else Hiei or anyone else could do. His fate was to be decided today, and no matter how much of him told Hiei that he was worried or afraid, another, smaller part of him said everything was to be fine either way. That one part of Hiei concluded that whatever his sentence, he deserved it and would accept it as honorably as possible.

He watched as Botan pulled out her oar and climbed on. She offered her hand to him, and from the second he grabbed her hand, he felt that from here on out, everything would be different; for better or for worse.

- - -

(Before I begin the "real" author's note, I would just like to say that that was NOT shonen ai behavior between Kurama and Hiei (or even Yusuke and Hiei). Well, it might have seemed that way, but it wasn't intended to be. See it how you want, but remember, that's not the way I originally planned it.)

Oh. Em. Gee. I don't know if you could tell by the text, but I started writing this chapter on Feb. 28, 2007. For the record, it is now the 6th...of December. That's right, this "little" chapter was almost 10 months in the making. Sheesh! Do I not have a life?

Now, I can't say that I'm glad this story has come to an end, because as you can very well see...it hasn't. The Torn Apart saga is done with and semi-complete, but if you've paid really close attention since the beginning of this fic, you'd have realized that there are still holes in this story; mind you, they were purposely left that way because...I AM continuing. Hooray (roll the r when you say that)!

I know, I know. I was sad too when I found out that I decided to continue this. But technically, if you think about the situation, I'm not really writing a new story. My old fic from a few years back, "Michi no Sekai", was always planned to be a spin-off of "TA", but I never actually got the courage to really see that through. Then, one day while I was rereading "TA" in its entirety, I saw all the empty spaces that I had left just for the sake of doing the spin-off. So then it came to me...I had no other choice but to continue.

The next chapter to "Michi no Sekai" is actually already in the works and will be posted hopefully sometime before I graduate college (don't worry, you still have a few years). I'm still not 100 sure yet, but I think the story will pick up with the infamous squid mission.

Also to Lindsey: I'm sorry, but this is the only way I knew how to get a hold of you. I did plan on finishing the story...in fact, I was already 5 pages in when you contacted me. If you still want to, I'll give you permission to do a sort of spin-off ending. If you decide to do that, I'd love to read it.

Vaoh: Muchas gracias for giving me the idea of your characters. I want more Seika:)

Wahkeetcha: You've been there for me through it all. Thanks a ton for encouraging me to continue writing.

Other Readers & Reviewers: Wow, how many years has it been since I started this? After all this time, thanks for sticking with me. I appreciate all the positive feedback and suggestions you've given me.