Disclaimer: The last time I get to say that no, I don't own YYH.
Keep Me in your Memory: Epilogue
Don't be afraid
strong on the surface So if you're asking me When my time comes Don't resent me Leave out all the rest
I've taking my beating
I've shared what I made
Not all the way through
I've never been perfect
But neither have you
I want you to know
Forget the wrong that I've done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed
And when you're feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest
strong on the surface
So if you're asking me
When my time comes
Don't resent me
Leave out all the rest
--Leave Out All the Rest; Linkin Park
"No! You're not listening! Doing that is not an option!" Yukina exclaimed, pressing forward against the table, flames nearly dancing in her eyes.
Now, let it be known that Yukina never acted boldly or aggressively. It wasn't in her nature. But when it came to a certain matter, her entire persona could be flipped around. She wasn't taking no for an answer and she wasn't backing down until this matter had been solved as she saw fit.
"Yukina, what you're asking of us is impossible. It goes against every custom we have," the village elder of Koormire sighed, dark eyes disapproving. "Do not think that you have the pow-"
"And you don't have the power to decide if someone dies just because he's different!" Yukina cried, pearls scattering around her as angry tears spilled down her cheeks.
Kuwabara put a calming hand on Yukina's shoulder and glared at the council of assembled Koormires, all staring back at him with intense dislike.
It had been nearly six months since Hiei had been freed from Takusa and after about a month of mulling and thinking, Yukina had decided something must be done to prevent anything like that ever from happening again. Not the kidnapping, they couldn't prevent that. But if the Koormires wouldn't get rid of male fire demons (if one ever did stumbled into the ice world again) or any other demons that weren't like them, then no one else would have to suffer as much as her brother had to.
Kuwabara had been helping Yukina with the plans and arguments, and had come along as moral support as she stood up against her own clan. She was extremely grateful Kuwabara had come, she didn't think she could do this by herself. Having him there was a reminder that she couldn't back down just like he never had.
"It's not like she's asking you to raise any demons like Hiei here," Kuwabara said. "But instead of throwing them over a cliff, just contact Spirit World and someone will come to retrieve him. And then that baby will grow up knowing the consequences of their tears. And even if they're not fire, then he'll grow up with a family that cares."
"Our customs state that all males are to be disposed of immediately," Soyala, the elder, said again. "We will not break custom."
"Forget that!" Yukina shouted, voice wavering. "What do customs matter when it's a life you're talking about? An innocent baby that hasn't done a thing wrong?
"Is Koormire such a cold place that love for something that isn't snow and ice can never be shown? That you cannot love anyone fully because to love is a crime? My mother followed her heart and look what happened! You destroyed her! You destroyed my family! I will not be making the mistake that all of you are. I will follow my heart even if it leads me to a human, to Kazu-"
Yukina broke off as her face turned cherry red, never having announced her feelings for Kuwabara before. She wasn't even entirely certain if his affections for her were real or just an act he liked to play. But whatever it was, she mustn't be embarrassed now or she was contradicting her own point.
To her surprise, she felt Kuwabara's arms snake about her waist and enclose her in a gentle embrace. "Really, Yukina?" he whispered, breath tickling her ear.
"Yes," she whispered back, feeling her cheeks heat up again. "I…I care deeply for you, Kazuma. I'm not sure if you feel the same about me, but-"
"I love you with all my heart," he said quietly, eyes serious but still sparkling with the warmth she associated with him.
The smile Yukina gave him nearly blinded the human, but he grinned back as Yukina turned to face the council again, many looking at the display in horror.
The scraping of a chair took the attention off the couple as a Koormire rose to her feet, blue hair pulled up high and kimono of the deepest green. "I am going to agree with Yukina," she said softly. "My past actions have shown me that what we're doing is wrong. Even filled with hate, Hina's son did not kill me when he visited the village and yet we felt the need to eliminate him as soon as he was born. It was by my hands he fell from here, and I intend to use my hands to fix this."
"Rui!" Soyala exclaimed, betrayal in her voice. "How can you side against our customs?"
"What Yukina and Kazuma have proposed is not all that difficult to abide by," she said, not flinching as she stared into the frowning face of the elder. "In essence, we are getting rid of the forbidden child. But instead of making an innocent pay for a mistake one of us has done-"
Yukina shook her head at that. What her mother had done had not been a mistake, it had been what her heart had aspired for.
"-we should let Spirit World handle the case. It is not the child's fault."
"Neither is following your heart," Yukina said, "no one is at fault for loving someone. The heart cannot be tamed; it's wild and free and full of passion."
Rui bowed her head. "Be that as it may, Yukina, not every battle can be won. We must all draw a line somewhere or there will always be conflict."
Another chair scratched against the ice floor and an older Koormire stood up, her shoulders stooped and hair pure white. "I am going to side with Rui," she said, voice cracking. "We have blood on our hands that snow can never truly wash away."
Several more women began to rise and murmur in agreement until nearly all were standing. Yukina was grinning ear to ear, as the village elder finally stood, her posture rigid. "By vote," she said, although her voice held disdain, "all children conceived through conditions different to those of ours, will be delivered to Spirit World."
As one of the younger council members hurriedly began to write down the newest entry into the Book of Ice, the constitution for Koormire, Rui smiled warmly at Yukina and made her way over. "Hina would be so proud of you," she said softly, planting a soft kiss on Yukina's forehead. "I wish you two the best," she said, nodding at Kuwabara.
"Well, that went well," Kuwabara said as the two walked out of the building and into the cold, frosty air, his hand holding hers. "You were wonderful, Yukina."
"You too, Kazuma," she said softly, looking down at their clasped hands and smiling. "And Hiei approves," she said with a slight giggle as they continued towards the portal Botan had made for them.
"Approves of what?" Kuwabara asked, raising an eyebrow.
In answer, Yukina swing their arms together. "I don't know how, but in the last letter he sent me he said that if I wanted to be with you, it was all right."
"How did he…?"
"I sort of hinted that I felt this way about you," Yukina admitted. "And I wanted his approval before I said anything. Although I didn't mean to blurt it out like I did."
"I think it actually helped the case, if it makes you feel better," Kuwabara said. "So… now that we're a couple, want to go out for dinner with me? You pick the place."
"But I'm not dressed to go out," she said, gesturing at her dark kimono. "It's too simple and pla-"
"You look lovely in anything you wear," Kuwabara interrupted.
"Well…," Yukina blushed. "I do like that little pizza place…"
"I think I'm gonna die!" Yusuke wailed, covering his ears and rocking back and forth on the floor. "They're so damn loud!"
Keiko scowled at him. "They're only loud because it's nearly dinner time and they're hungry. You're the one who couldn't get out of bed till now, and it's already been nearly six months. No more putting this off, Yusuke! You promised Kuwabara!"
Grumbling, Yusuke removed himself from the corner and started once again down the caged hallway full of cats, all meowing and yowling at him.
Keiko had finally gotten on his case after he still hadn't adopted a kitten and had decided to drag him out today. As it was, getting Yusuke out of bed took nearly all day, and it wasn't for lack of trying. It just made her sort of flustered when Yusuke had cuddled her to him and kept flipping himself on top of her so he could get rest without her yanking on him.
"This one is kinda cute," Yusuke said, pointing at one of the cages, a tiny black kitten nestled on top of a towel, white stockings adorning its feet.
"Did you want a girl?" Keiko asked, watching amusedly as Yusuke backpedaled. "The boy cats are over here," she said, pointing at the cages lining the other side. "If you could be bothered to read the signs you'd know that."
"What about this one, Keiko?" Yusuke asked, pointing out the cage belonging to a tiny orange kitten. "It matches Kuwabara's hair," he laughed, watching as the cat opened one eye lazily at him. "Do you think it's too dull though? It's like the only one not yowling."
"He's awfully cute," she said, wagging her finger in front of the cage and laughing as the cat's green eyes followed it. "I'll go get someone to take him out so you can play with him a bit."
As soon as the attendant unlocked the door though, the once docile cat jumped from the cage and took off down the aisle, tail held high. Yelling, Yusuke gave chase while Keiko sweat dropped. "I think he'll probably get that one," she said. "Do you think I could start filling out the paperwork for him?"
"Um… of course," the woman said, wondering why on earth anyone would want a cat like that.
Yusuke came back to Keiko a few minutes later, face scratched up from the kitten and said kitten lying in his arms, purring contentedly as Yusuke ran his fingers over his back. "I'll take it," he said happily, collapsing in a chair next to her.
"I figured you would," she said wryly. "I already filled out most of the paperwork. I just need to know its name."
"Can I call it Kuwabara?"
"All right… then… Firefly! Yeah!"
"Firefly?" Keiko asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Why not? It's a feisty little thing."
"All right… Firefly it is."
"Good, cat adopted," Yusuke said as the strolled out of the pound, Firefly resting in the small carrier Keiko had made him purchase. "Now, where to?"
"Aren't you going home?" Keiko asked. "You were complaining you had to get out of bed earlier I would have thought you'd want to sleep."
"Nah," Yusuke said, slinging an arm about her shoulders, Keiko's eyes widening in surprise. In public, Yusuke didn't often do much to show that they were together. Holding hands was too much, he was afraid it would ruin his 'bad boy' image if he was seen with a girl, especially Keiko.
"Yusuke?" she asked, staring quizzically up at him as he steered her down the street.
"I think we should go out for a night, we haven't done anything in a while. Let's say… dinner and then a walk in the park? Or would you rather go to the carnival? I hear it's pretty awesome."
"Seriously? Being seen with me won't hurt your image?"
"I'm past that," Yusuke said. "There are a lot more things more important in life than being the toughest guy and biggest jerk. I have you now. I have all of our friends. And something could happen to any of us at any time. So, in case that ever happens, I want to spend my time being who I really am and with the people I really care about."
"I think that's the sweetest, most serious thing you've ever said," Keiko said softly, staring up at him with eyes bright. "Yes, Yusuke, I think going out would be a lot of fun. The carnival sounds nice. But what about Firefly?"
"Cats love carnivals!"
"All right, let's swing by my place first, drop the cat and then go. Sound good?"
Keiko made a happy noise of agreement and swung around as Yusuke steered her towards his apartment, nearly skipping with glee.
Oh what fun tonight what be!
"Yes, I'm aware of that. No, that wasn't in the contract. What do you mean? You wrote the thing! You should know what's in it!" Koenma glared angrily at the video message, the man before him protesting.
"I'm not signing it!" the prince finally shouted, sucking furiously on his pacifier. "Have a problem, see my father when he gets back from his trip." Pushing a button, the monitor went blank and the current stand in ruler sank back in his chair.
Hearing noise outside of his office, the demi-god looked up, watching as several stern looking ogres escorted a bunch of demons, all chained by the ankle and hands tied together, all of whom were grumbling loudly and cursing the ogres, Urameshi, the forbidden child, Koenma, and the Spirit World in general.
Nearly screaming in frustration, he got off his seat, marched to the doors and slammed said doors shut, effectively blocking out the noise. Going back to his paper strewn desk, Koenma sat with a thud in the uncomfortable chair and pulled a pile of papers towards him. A few seconds later though…
"GEORGE!" he shouted, rubbing his tattooed forehead with his fingers.
"Yes, Koenma-sama?" the blue skinned ogre asked, skidding into the room a second later. "Can I get you anything?"
"Why else would I have called you?" Koenma muttered quietly. Then, louder he said, "Yes, I require a strong cup of coffee from the Human World. Actually, make that a cappuccino."
"But Koenma-sama, we have no way of getting to-"
"Oh, call Botan and have her bring me one. I need something for my headache too. Hurry, George. I haven't got all day to wait."
"R-right away, Koenma-sama," the ogre said, rushing from the room and quickly dialing Botan on the portal mirror while rummaging through cabinets to find Koenma's pain medication.
After a few short rings, Botan finally answered, her face in a scowl. A certain redheaded fox was behind her, a sheepish grin on his face as he waved at George, giving a half-hearted grin back from the murderous glare on Botan.
"What is it this time?" she snarled. "We just got to the beach and I was intending to enjoy myself for a single afternoon. A single afternoon, George! What's the big crisis?
"Koenma-sama wants a cappuccino."
Botan screamed in frustration and chucked the mirror, George getting a lovely view of the sky and then the ocean as he hurtled at it. Just before he hit, Kurama caught it and brought it to his face.
"Can Koenma find something else to drink?" Kurama asked. "Botan's been running around fetching things for him all week and he told her she could have today off."
"I'm really sorry," George apologized. "Koenma-sama is having a very hard day. Some more black pearls were discovered on the market a few days ago and-"
"What? Hiei! Is Hiei all right?"
"Yes, yes, Hiei's fine." Seeing Kurama's dubious look and Botan's concerned one (the ferry girl having peered over Kurama's shoulder at the fox's exclamation), George said, "Koenma-sama had Genkai-san trace Hiei and Genkai-san said he was 'just peachy'. Although the group we collected did work for Takusa." George shuddered. "They must have made off with the other pearls at the castle and were trying to sell them slowly so as not to attract attention."
"Do you have the pearls now?" Botan asked.
"Yes, Koenma-sama has them locked up in the vault. But as I said, it's been very busy over here and Koenma-sama has been working very had to get matters under order. Besides rounding up the demons that were selling them, Koenma-sama is dealing with all the people who bought them as well as deciding on sentencing and measures to be taken as soon as possible; he hasn't slept once since this began."
George, in sudden inspiration, swiveled the mirror so Kurama and Botan were given the sight of Koenma. The ruler, in his teenage form (only because it made him look more important and since he was trying to talk down several people it was easier then having to look up at them), one hand supporting his head and the other writing something down on one of the hundreds of papers in front of him. His face was pained, creases on his forehead and his eyes unnaturally tired.
"Poor Koenma-sama," Botan murmured, noting on how even the pacifier was hardly moving due to Koenma's exhaustion. "You should make him get some rest, George."
The ogre laughed with no humor whatsoever. "I've tried to tell him that, but he insists on getting matters taken care of immediately before it can get out of hand."
Botan chewed her lip thoughtfully. "All right… but tell him that he has to promise to rest after a few more hours of work. With Enma-sama out right now, if Koenma-sama tires himself out too much a takeover could be instigated."
"Believe me, I know," George said. "Get here as soon as you can, Botan."
Clicking the mirror closed, Botan sighed. "I'm really sorry, Kurama. But-"
"Don't apologize," he said, capturing her lips with his own. "Go on now, Koenma needs to rely on his best ferry girl."
"See you at Genkai's temple tomorrow?" Botan asked, hungrily kissing him back.
"Yeah," he answered breathlessly. "See you tomorrow."
With a final parting kiss, Botan summoned her oar and vanished into the sky, leaving Kurama on the beach, a serene smile on his face as the wind gently tossed his hair.
"Ah, this is nice," the wind demon sighed happily, hovering slightly off the ground as a breeze played over him, ruffling his hair and clothes. "Doncha think, Touya?"
"It is pleasant," came the calm, quiet reply.
"Oh, lighten up, Touya!" Yusuke said, slapping the ice demon the back. "Be more excited! We've got sake and-"
"NO SAKE!" Keiko bellowed, slapping Yusuke. "None! You hear me? No sake!"
"Owww… okay, okay!"
Jin and Touya had been able to come back to Ningenkai after a six month period of waiting (a rule they all thought ridiculous, but understood the reasoning. As it was, a demon wishing to cross into Ningenkai had to obtain permission from Enma first and then still wait the six month period in which then the demon was allowed up to a week in the human world) and the group had decided to gather at Genkai's temple and have a party of sorts.
Kuwabara and Yukina had arrived hand in hand, leading to some hooting from Yusuke, quiet congratulations from Keiko (who had seen it coming from nearly the start), and some sadness on Jin's part that Yukina couldn't be with Touya, that had been quickly silenced by the ice demon's fist.
Genkai had brought out sweets and tea and the group was lounging around on the ground, eating and talking. Botan had arrived a few minutes earlier with Koenma, whom she had literally dragged from the office, declaring he needed a break and leave George to he paperwork.
Kurama walked in a little while later and immediately sought out Botan, the two of them cuddling in the sunlight, several flowers adorning Botan's hair after Kurama had created some.
"It's been a long time since we've all been together," Keiko said, smiling warmly at the group. "What's everyone been up to?"
"Touya and me are helping to patrol Makai," Jin said, grin on his face. "We get to blast the baddies right outta the air, ain't that right, Touya?"
"We help stray humans back and defend a small part of unnamed territory in Makai," Touya clarified.
"Unnamed?" Keiko asked.
"Makai is in possession of the three demon lords," Botan said. "I guess there is one area though no has claimed."
"Yes," Koenama said, nodding his head as he sucked furiously on his pacifier. "But let's not go onto such matters. They remind me of work," he said, a small frown playing about his lips.
"Ah, gomen, Koenma-sama," Botan said. Seeing the quizzical looks of her friends she said, "Koenama-sama has been very busy with work and I made him take today as a break. So, no bad things or world things mentioned, kay?"
Talk resumed on how everyone had been faring and on any new tricks Jin and Touya had learned. None would voice it, but they were all subconsciously waiting for a familiar 'hn' to penetrate the air or have a little black figure dart into their midst.
Keiko finally said it. "I wonder how Hiei's doing."
"He said he's been doing well in his letters," Yukina said softly.
After the fiasco with Takusa, Hiei had decided to go on a leave of absence to 'clear his mind'. His friends realized he needed space to absorb everything that had happened and Koenma had agreed, even allowing Hiei to shirk his duties in helping the Rekai Tantei.
The agreement was, however, he needed to write at least once every two weeks to let everyone know how he was doing and what he was up to. The letters always arrived for Yukina, but they detailed very little. Yes, he was fine. He was in so and so place. But he mostly asked Yukina in them how she was and how the others were.
"I miss him," Yusuke sighed, looking up at the clouds. "It's like we're missing a part of 'us', ya know? The team just isn't the same without Hiei."
"I miss the shrimp too," Kuwabara admitted, shaking his head. "Even being called 'fool' all the time."
"I could do that," Yusuke volunteered.
"It's not the same, and you know it," Kuwabara said his voice sad.
"He should come back soon," Botan said. "When was the last time you got a letter, Yukina? Did it say anything about him coming back?"
"Almost two weeks ago," the Koormire said softly. "And no, nothing but the ordinary."
"We should go drag him back!" Yusuke said, jumping to his feet with his hand fisted and a maniacal grin on his face. "Any volunteers?"
"I don't think Hiei would appreciate that, Yusuke," Kurama said, fiddling idly with Botan's hair. "He'll come back when he feels like it."
"The fox is right."
"Yeah," Yusuke agreed, nodding at the statement with his eyes closed, and thus completely missing the gasps of his friends and the smiles growing on everyone's faces.
The greetings and sudden flurry of movement finally roused Yusuke from his spot and he cracked an eye open, just to see Hiei get picked up and tossed gleefully in the air by an ecstatic Kuwabara.
"Hiei!" Dashing to his feet, Yusuke squeezed the tiny demon as he landed, red eyes narrowed at Kuwabara before they were squashed against Yusuke. "Oh, you wanted to hug him, Yukina?" the spirit detective asked, "here you go!"
Releasing Hiei, he pushed him into his sister, the two going down in a tumble of arms and legs. Yukina burst into laughter as she found herself sprawled across Hiei's stomach. Hiei too, to the surprise of everyone, cracked a gentle smile as he pushed her off and then pulled her into a hug.
"Six months is a long time to be gone!" Yusuke admonished as the twins broke apart. "We really missed you."
"I know," Hiei said, still smiling. "I actually missed you all too."
After a few more hugs and backslapping had been had, Jin nearly somersaulting with happiness that Hiei had returned, Hiei was pressed for details of what he'd been up to.
"Just wandering," he said.
"You have to have some stories to tell," Botan said, "you can't vanish for six months and have done nothing exciting."
"Nope, nothing exciting," he said with a shrug. "A little fighting on the edges of Makai, rescuing some baka ningens who thought they could fly and thus jumped off a mountain, eating sweet snow…"
"You went out of your way to rescue humans?" Kurama asked, hand over his heart in fake exaggeration.. "I'm shocked, Hiei."
"Hn. I didn't go out of my way, fox. They were going to crash through my favorite tree and I just didn't want it to break."
A collective sigh with several snorts of amusement ran through the group. "Well, you going to stay here now and help us rescue more 'stupid humans'?" Yusuke asked. "Save the human and spirit world from something else and Koenma's ass as well?"
"Not everything that goes wrong is my fault," the demi-god said irritably.
"Are you, Hiei?" Kurama asked, green eyes earnest.
"We really could use you, Shrimp," Kuwabara said. Quieter he added as he leaned over and whispered, "And thank you for letting me be with your sister. I know you… uh…"
Just as quietly, Hiei said, "I trust you, you fool. But let me warn you, if you do anything to hurt her I won't hesitate to kil- harm you," he said, changing his wording at last minute.
Kuwabara noticed the wording and smiled, nodding his head.
"What are you two whispering about?" Yusuke demanded. "Dammnit, tell me!"
"None of your business, Urameshi," Kuwabara said, sitting back and holding Yukina's hand again.
"So, Hiei?" Kurama asked softly, "will you stay?"
The fire demon's face gained a thoughtful look. "Saving the brat's ass can be quite annoying, but… I suppose I have nothing better to do."
"Yatta!" Yusuke exclaimed. "The team is back in business!"
"I wanna join too!" Jin said, waving his arm in the air that Touya was quick to pull back down.
"We'd be happy to help if any of your missions ever fall into Makai," he said, tranquil face the exact opposite of Jin's, "but we won't be of much use in Ningenkai."
"The help's appreciated," Yusuke grinned. "'course we'll call on you guys when we drop by Makai!"
"Who's up for ice cream?" Genkai asked, having vanished into the temple while the group was chattering a few minutes later, and now coming out, laden with bowls.
"Sweet snow!" Hiei's eyes lit up and everyone laughed and Hiei blushed as he realized he'd said it out loud. But he too joined in the laughter, the first time the sound had ever been heard as they all helped themselves.
All separate pieces with their own faults and problems. All different…
A rash detective. A foolish human. A sneaky fox. A temperamental and slightly unstable fire demon. A sweet ice maiden. A bossy human girl. A bubbly ferry girl. An old hag. A very young and inexperienced ruler. A happy-go-lucky wind master. And a quiet ice demon.
Before, they had all been jagged pieces that wouldn't seem to ever be able to fit with one another. Split apart by petty arguments and differences. But then it changed when one of their number was threatened, was hurt.
They all came together to form a perfect team, a balance to one another. No longer pieces fighting on their own, but a whole with strength never seen before.
They'd never been perfect. They never would be. But they would always be with one another.
Because they were friends. And friends accepted and loved each other.
Despite the faults.
Despite the problems.
They forgive and move on. They love in the darkest hour. They hope when all seems lost.
And it was because of this strength that the flame of their group was saved, was kept from being extinguished. The smallest part is sometimes the most important.
It really wasn't so small after all.
Kami, that chapter was hard to write. And I don't just mean the ending (which was very difficult). xD
I actually mean hard in the physical sense; I sliced my index finger open on Saturday (trying to get a watch out of its bindings) and the band-aid is awfully bulky and my finger hurts when I press it to the keys.
Anyways, I'd like to thank everyone, the reviewers and the readers, who I think at least deserve a thank you for reading, for sticking with me from the beginning of this fic. As I hope most of you can see, my style has grown and changed as the chapters progressed (especially in these latest ones) and I'm very proud of all I've managed to accomplish.
Thank you all for your encouragement (lack of it at times and threats at others :sweatdrop: ), in completing it and your enthusiasm for new updates. I'm glad I'm finally finished and I hope the epilogue was to your liking. I think I cleared everything up (except the flowers that Kuwa and Yusuke ate back after the shooting, so just pretend Botan healed them somewhere in there xD) so there should be no lingering thoughts.
And yes, I purposely didn't bring Hiei back into the epilogue until the end. Despite the fic being about him, I didn't want him to appear until the conclusion. So, no complaints about lack of Hiei xD.
As always, I'd love a review. Especially since it's the final update. But, your choice. You either feel nice and want to make me happy, or you don't have time (even though you read the entire fic which obviously took quite a bit of time) and decide not to.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed last chapter! Hope to see you all one, final time!
Take care, minna-san!