Author's Note (03.10.2011): I apologize for the long hiatus. Life has been happening, and I haven't had solid time to write fanfic. I hope everyone enjoys this short chapter. If you have any comments (good or bad), please lay it on me. I welcome criticism.
Ice and Fire, You and Me
Chapter VI: Fire and Ice
Delicate snowflakes powdered the main village of the Isle of the Ice Maidens in celebration, the entire population expressing its relief over a lost sister's return. Ruri, a slender and elegantly tall ice maiden, felt especially glad as she embraced her best friend. "Hina, I'm glad that you're all right." With as much remorse as an ice maiden could display, Ruri continued, "I'm sorry…it should have been me. It's my fault that you were kidnapped."
"Ruri, it's all right. It's not your fault. No one is at fault. Besides, if you had been kidnapped, you would have ended up in the same situation as me." By her own words, Hina felt a small prick of jealousy, thinking of the possibility of Ruri meeting Kuroi instead. If Ruri had been the one Kuroi had rescued that day, would he have fallen in love with her instead of Hina?
What is there to doubt? He loves me.
"Now that you're home, everything will go back to what it was." Ruri smiled slightly. "I'm so glad that you're back, Hina."
Hearing rare emotion in her friend's voice, Hina couldn't help but to reply, "I am, too."
Unfortunately for them all, nothing was the same. The other ice maidens realized that something had changed about their dear Hina. And out of them all, Ruri had noticed the most.
Unlike her fellow sisters, Hina could no longer live happily on the Isle of the Ice Maidens. She felt dissatisfied with the unchanging landscape and weather, having experienced a greater part of the Demon World while traveling with Kuroi. As much as she had missed the snow and cold of the Isle, she now missed the colorful forests and the various climates the world offered. Furthermore, Hina had trouble interacting with her sisters, disappointed by their lacking emotions and passion. Kuroi always had something new to be happy or angry over every single day, his shifting moods making every moment unique and memorable.
And perhaps that was the greatest change in Hina.
She had fallen in love with a man, an ardent fire demon no less, but no one could guess that. So although she was finally home, Hina was alone. And that loneliness gnawed away at her soul.
While serving the tribe elders some herbal tea, Ruri sighed as she watched Hina sit listlessly outside. "She's been like that ever since she managed to return to the Isle. She not the same. Nothing we do interests or satisfies her. Hina says that there has to be something more to everything. She's so…she's so emotional."
"She has been through a trial," an elder said with a shake of her head. "You should be a little more understanding, Ruri. There are things outside of our Isle that none of you precious daughters should ever experience or encounter...and Hina was forced to go through all those things by herself. It's understandable if she has little control over her feelings right now."
"And just imagine suffering as long as she has and suddenly returning to her quiet life here," another elder put in. "Of course she'll be restless at first. You shouldn't take it personally, Ruri. This is a difficult transition to make, especially for someone like Hina."
Understanding the elders' points, Ruri then inquired, "Is there anything that we can do for her?"
"We think that there is something that will cheer her up."
"We think having a child to care for will brighten Hina's spirits."
"Oh." Ruri stopped and thought for a moment, considering her friend's personality. "Perhaps it will. When will you bless her then?"
The group of elders nodded. "We plan on doing so at the end of her cycle."
"I wonder what it's like, being a mother," Hina murmured as she strolled alone. The ice maiden smiled sadly as she pat her still-flat belly through her obi. "I wonder if I'll be able to take you with me whenever Kuroi returns. Would he mind being your father?"
With that, she laughed. Hina had no doubt in her mind that Kuroi would love being a father; what she worried about him minding was taking care of two ice maidens instead of just one. Already she knew how difficult it was to protect her from various demons after her precious tear gems. How much harder would be it for Kuroi to protect Hina and her daughter? Would Kuroi be up to the task? Or would he give up her daughter?
Would he give me up because of her?
"Shame on me," Hina scolded herself. "I should have more faith in Kuroi. There's no way that he would—"
Hina froze mid-step, spotting a sable mass resting in the white snow. Warily the woman eyed it, remembering her time outside of the Isle and what had caused that in the first place. Was it trap? Or worse, an actual hunter? If Hina were captured again, she would not be lucky enough to have Kuroi rescue her again: she knew that much.
When the mass shifted slightly, Hina quickly hid behind the nearest tree and watched silently. If the thing was a hunter, Hina would immediately kill it. If not, then she would give it a chance to explain why it was on the Isle.
As much as Hina wanted to protect her sisters from outsiders, she wanted to protect innocent outsiders from her sisters. After living away from the Isle, Hina realized that not all men and outsiders were guilty and deserving of death. Some people, like Akito, Akiko, Touya, Jin, and Hotaru, were kind and would pay you back in turn for kindness done to them.
But that would take too long to explain to everyone, Hina thought sadly. And no one would really want to listen anyway. So she decided to make the decision herself whether this stranger would live or die.
When the creature shifted again, Hina tensed in alarm. When it finally lifted its body, the ice maiden gasped in recognition. "Kuroi! Kuroi, you're here!" Without restraint Hina sprinted across the white expanse to her beloved, embracing him and toppling over in the snow. "Kuroi! I'm so glad that you're here!"
At first, the body remained rigid and still. However, as soon as recognition hit, a strong arm wrapped around Hina's waist. "It's good to see you again, too, Hina," Kuroi chuckled when he managed to breathe again, the demon giving his love a peck on the cheek. When Hina shifted to kiss Kuroi on the lips, he hissed in pain.
"What's wrong? Are you—" Hina gasped when she saw the deep gash in Kuroi's left shoulder and crimson staining the snow from various points on his body. "What happened to you?"
"Would you believe me if I said nothing?" Kuroi joked. He suddenly grimaced and hissed, grabbing at his largest wound.
Helping Kuroi onto his feet, Hina murmured, "We need to get someplace safe. If the others see you , you'll be turned into an ice statue. Come on, I know where you can hide."
Expertly she led him through the forest, taking care to cover their tracks and all traces of Kuroi as they ventured deeper into the Isle of the Ice Maidens. After what seemed forever to Kuroi, they reached the mouth of a cave. Hina pulled him inside and had him sit on a cushion while she shuffled about the darkened cave from memory. Eventually, she had Kuroi light a fire with his abilities. When Kuroi asked about being found by the other maidens because of the fire, Hina assured him that the cave was hidden and not easily found. Furthermore, it was located far from the village. No one would venture so far alone.
"How do you know?"
"How do you think I was kidnapped so easily the first time?" Hina asked sardonically. "I used to come out here to be on my own from time to time, when my sisters irritated me. On my way back from here, the hunters intercepted me and took me away. No one knew until it was too late."
Kuroi scowled. "And you still come out here alone?"
"I got to meet you, didn't I?" Hina kissed Kuroi and felt his features loosen. "And my sisters still annoy me. More so now than before."
"What took you so long to reach the Isle?" Hina changed the subject as she healed Kuroi's various wounds. "When you didn't come when we were at the last trading post, I was worried. I was afraid that you were hurt like this, but for a moment, I thought you had forgotten about me and had gone off with another demon girl."
Kuroi, frowning at Hina's last comment, grabbed her arm and pulled her towards him. He had her take in his scent and aura, proving to her he had not dallied with anyone in any way. "Don't ever think I'm going to fall in love with anyone else but you, Hina. Never think I'll love anyone but you."
"Then don't give me the time to think those things." Tracing her cold fingers over his old scars, Hina whispered, "I missed you."
"I missed you too." Kuroi traced rough fingertips down her neck and then her arms. Tucking a strand of her sea-foam hair behind her ear, Kuroi bent down and kissed her forehead. Hina fought back her shudders as he trailed hot kisses down her frace, slowly going from her eyelids, to her nose, to her cheeks, to the side of her mouth, and then finally to her lips.
After a heady kiss, Hina pulled back and pressed her cold lips against the hot, beating pulse in Kuroi's neck. She savored the comforting vibrations, taking in solace in his life.
So warm...so alive and so bright...my fire demon...
Kuroi was here, for her. He had kept his promise to Hina, he had proven his love and the power of his sincerity. Unlike the stories about unfaithful men that Hina had heard all her life, Kuroi remained constant and ever amorous. He would not abandon her, use her for her jewels and body and then discard her when she couldn't give him anything more.
While she offered him nothing, he promised to give her everything.
Desiring more contact, she held her body tightly against his, wishing nothing more than to be one with him.
Giving Kuroi a sultry look through her long eyelashes, Hina whispered into his ear, "Kuroi, I love you."
His heart pounded loudly against his chest as he growled, "I won't hold anything back."
"You don't have to."
And together they fell into passionate oblivion.
"What did you first think of me when we first met?" Kuroi asked Hina as he lazily stroked her hair and the side of her face.
"I thought you were the leader of the bandits that kidnapped me because you were stronger than all of them combined. I thought you were a horrible brute that deserved to die," Hina murmured shyly, ashamed of her thoughts. She nestled her nude body closer into Kuroi's embrace. "But now I know that you're possibly the most honorable demon in Demon World."
"What did you think of me, Kuroi, at our first encounter?" Hina inquired.
"I thought you were the most beautiful creature I had ever seen," he replied, causing Hina's pale skin to redden. "Of course, then you froze my arm, and I had to reconsider."
A brow rose with an, "Oh?"
"I decided I would make you my woman no matter what," Kuroi teased. "I mean, you're as stubborn as a fire demon but won't burn my hide off when you're angry."
"I'll just freeze it off."
"Which I consider a bonus," he murmured into her ear, nibbling it a bit. "It means there's no way you'll burn away from my passion."
Content and at peace, Hina kissed her lover's temple while asking softly, "When did you first fall in love with me?"
"Hm, I wonder," Kuroi murmured. "I don't think there was a point where I just suddenly felt, 'Oh, I'm in love with her.' I think ever since we first met, I've been falling for you, bit by bit."
"I guess it was a bit different for me. I realized I was in love with you when we were at the Akito and Akiko's inn," came Hina's confession.
"Mm hm, after you told me that you were in love with me."
"Eh?" Kuroi jumped in embarrassment, a blush over his face. "When did I ever—"
"You had just come back from one of your trips. You were sleeping and confessed that you loved me." Hina giggled at the memory. "The most honest confession I've ever received from you."
Seeing how happy Hina was, Kuroi relaxed and held her close. "Hopefully not the last," he chuckled into her hair, his hot hands running over her smooth body.
"Tell me you love me," Hina whispered hotly against Kuroi's lips, wrapping her arms around his neck.
Staring down at her, Kuroi breathed against her heaving breasts, "Let me show you instead."
They made love thrice more before falling into the most peaceful slumber the two of them had experienced in a long time.
At morning, the two stood at the edge of the Isle of the Ice Maidens, staring down into the cloudy mists below. "When will I see you again?"
"Hopefully much sooner than last time," Kuroi replied with an amorous kiss. "But the next time we meet, I'm taking you from here, and we'll stay together for the rest of our days. You'll be stuck with me permanently."
Hina laughed at his proposal, touching his forehead with her own. "That sounds terrible."
"You better believe it." Tracing the side of her pale face, Kuroi warned, "It's dangerous right now, with so much happening on the ground. Who knows what kind of trouble my family will make. So wait safely here at the Isle, and I promise to return for you."
Kissing him with everything she felt for him, Hina kept herself from shedding tears. When they pulled apart, the ice maiden stepped away from the fire demon and bade him farewell with a smile. "I'll be waiting right here."
Assured, Kuroi waved good-bye and leapt off the side of the isle.
As Hina watched Kuroi disappear into the mist below, she placed a worried hand over her womb. Even with all the assurance of Kuroi's love, Hina had not found the courage to tell Kuroi that she now carried his child and her life would be forfeit for his son's birth. In regards to dying because of the boy, the ice maiden found that she did not care. Although Kuroi would have argued that her life meant more than their unborn son, Hina wanted more than anything to give birth to Kuroi's child.
"I'll bring you into this world, my child," she promised quietly. "You and your sister."
Bandaged fingers clenched. "She should have told him."
"What?" Yukina asked as she turned towards Hiei.
"She should have told him that she's going to bear his child, that they won't see each other again." His dark brows furrowing in distaste and anger, Hiei near snarled, "He can't just leave like that without knowing."
He can't leave her to face this by herself!
Yukina squeezed Hiei's hand with compassion. "It can't be helped, Hiei-san. You know that she had a reason."
An almost petulant expression settled on his usual stoic face. "She shouldn't have been alone."
"She wasn't," was the assurance.
And as the time passed, Hina did her best to hide her son's ever growing presence from the other ice maidens. As expected, Kuroi's offspring had immense Demon Energy, proving that he would be just as powerful, if not more so, than his father. At first, Hina had difficulty masking the boy's Fire Demon Energy from everyone; but after asking him to help her for all their sakes, the baby's presence became easier to conceal. Hina knew that her son understood her, despite not being born yet.
Knowing this, often while she tended to her snow flowers, Hina would whisper stories about Kuroi to her two children. "He caught me and took care of me…but he was very rude! He asked me on our first night together if he could kiss me! Can you believe that? Little one, you better not take after your father like that. Or else…"
Whenever she was out of earshot of the other maidens, Hina would spend whatever minute she could spare telling her children all about their father, for them and herself. She wanted them to remember Kuroi as she had, to love him for the same reasons she had. Hina hated the thought of Kuroi being left alone, to live without someone willingly accepting all of him and loving him wholeheartedly.
"But you will," Hina whispered to her womb. "You two will love your father unconditionally, I know it."
What amazed Hina the most was the peaceful co-existence between her ice daughter and fire son within her. Her daughter did not mind sharing with her intrusive and powerful brother; and her son did his best to share everything equally with his sister. Sensing all of this within her changing body, Hina would smile and tell them, "You must protect each other in the future. Daughter, don't let your brother grow alone. If he's anything like your father, he'll try to be alone but don't let him. And son, protect your sister from harm that's sure to come her way as an ice maiden. If you're your father's son, you'll have more than enough strength to do this."
Placing two delicate hands on her swelling belly, Hina instructed them both, "You must meet your father. You must survive and live for many, many centuries. You two must stand as proof of our love…a love between two people who couldn't be."
Eventually, even with the son's efforts, the Fire Demon Energy became too difficult to hide on Hina's own. It was then her daughter lent her own energy. The unborn ice maiden enveloped her brother's presence with her own growing presence, effectively masking her brother's existence from the ice maidens, who were suspicious of Hina's pregnancy. Why was she so large? Why did fires burn within her? Why would Hina, an ice maiden immune to the greatest cold, seek and desire heat and warmth for her body?
In the end, everyone discovered the truth.
The image then wavered and rippled, and Hiei heard the Pool of Foresight bubble in his ear, "This is something for only you to see, fire demon. Your sister shall not hear nor perceive this."
Hina's screams echoed in Hiei's ears, the pained cries stabbing his heart. He saw his mother strain and struggle as she tried bearing the pain her son inflicted upon her body. Her insides burned and tore as the infant fought his way out of his mother's womb. Not once did Hina curse her child, despite how he hurt her so and would be the death of her.
Instead, she panted through her whimpering and straining, "Please be healthy. Please live. Please live, precious one. Live for your mother…"
Hina heard the other ice maidens gasp when her little fire child cried and wailed as he finally entered the world. A tear of relief rolled down the side of her face at her son's healthy howl. And when her daughter's bawling joined her son's, Hina cried another tear of happiness.
But her happiness would not last.
The elders and other ice maidens whispered amongst each other, wondering what to do with the Forbidden One. Afraid of the infant and his immense Demon Energy, the ice demons quickly bound him with spells and talismans. Many of the older ice maidens wanted to kill the child right then and there. However, a number of the elders and Ruri especially argued that to be too dangerous. The Forbidden One had all this strength while at rest; how much more powerful would be if he sensed his life threatened?
"We should just expel him from the Isle," Ruri suggested. "Whether he lives or dies will be up to Fate and himself." And all of the others agreed to this.
Since Ruri knew Hina best, she bore the burden of telling Hina what would happen to the unwanted bastard. What she didn't expect was the amount of hostility she would meet as soon as she entered Hina's home. "Where is my son? What have you done to him?" Hina demanded as she clutched Yukina close to her breast.
"We've decided to allow him to live," came a perfectly emotionless reply.
A heartbroken expression sank onto Hina's features, the ice maiden understanding perfectly what Ruri meant. "No…"
"For you, Hina, this is the best I could manage for your child," Ruri hissed through clenched teeth. Only with her dearest friend would Ruri show this much feeling. "I wouldn't have even offered him, a man, this much if it weren't your dying wish!"
"How can that little baby be a threat? How is he a threat to anyone here right now?" Hina sobbed, her breaths ragged.
"He may be only a baby, but that monster is more than powerful enough to destroy us all! What kind of creature did you couple with, Hina? How could you have fallen like this?"
"Kuroi isn't what you think at all! He would never hurt any of us, and our son wouldn't either. They're strong, just as Hieiaki demons should be, but they—"
"Hieiaki? A Hieiaki?" Ruri gasped. "That terrible family of fire demons…you—you actually—I can't believe this! If…if he really is a Hieiaki, then we must quickly expel him before his kin discover his existence. If we don't, all of us will be in danger."
Pale and shaking, Hina's small hands reached out. "Ruri…please, Ruri, I beg you. Please don't let him die."
Knocking the mother's hand away, Ruri turned her back to the pathetic sight. "His fate was sealed the moment you conceived him, Hina."
Hina said nothing more as her life ebbed away, the mother constantly praying for her son's survival and for her children to somehow meet each other and their father in the future.
I love you. I love you all so much. Live on for me.
For Hina's memory, Ruri did as requested. She gave one of Hina's tear gems to the baby monster and whispered to him before she threw him over the Isle's edge, "Return and exact your revenge upon us if you dare. Remember the name Hiei as it connects you to your father. With it, live and someday return."
And she threw the newborn over the edge.
Just as the Pool of Foresight showed only to Hiei how he had been banished, the Pool showed only to Yukina what her heart needed most. Her chest squeezed tightly as she saw the other ice maidens throw her twin brother over the island's edge. Yukina watched how her mother in her final moments grieved alone over her lost son.
"Yukina, dear Yukina," Hina gasped painfully. "You mustn't ever forget your brother. Even when you two shared my womb, you protected him and loved him. Even if he's a man, he is your brother…your flesh and blood.
"Remember him, dear one. Find him, love him, and show him how you two make the impossible possible. Show them how your father and I truly loved." With her final breath, she whispered, "If only the four of us could have lived together…"
Seeing how important her twin's existence was for the sake of their parents, Yukina was more determined than ever to find her brother. Even though she knew that giving birth to Brother would kill her, she wanted to bring him into this world.
"Even though Okaa-san knew it would be painful, she wanted somehow for all of us to be together. She loved Kuroi—Otou-san—that much."
Yukina felt tears brimming her eyes, but she refused to cry. The ice maiden had learned long ago how precious her tears were, and she would never again cry tears of sorrow. She had resolved to only shed tears of pure, utter joy.
"Pool of Foresight, please I beg you! Would you tell me where my brother is? I need to find him. I must find him! I must fulfill my mother's final wish!"
A bubbling, resonant voice responded, "I cannot show you."
"Why, may I ask?"
"I have shown you all I can. You must, with your own strength, pursue the truth."
A strong hand suddenly held Yukina's in a powerful grip.
Following the hand up to its owner, Yukina gasped, "Hiei-san."
Reading his tender gaze and understanding his silent message, Yukina smiled and nodded. "Thank you."
Together, they stepped forward into the mists toward their individual goals.