Author's Note (15.03.2008): If you have any questions about the honorifics or the names, please state so in a review. I will be more than happy to answer any of your questions. I hope you enjoy this modified version of Chapter V.

Secrets Secrets Are No Fun
Secret V: Truth

When did everything go so wrong? the young man sighed while he braced for the predictable reaction. When did everything become so serious that lives were at stake? Why is my life at stake here? He sighed from the cruelty of it all. When did this game for love become a fight to the death?

"He did WHAT?"

As china and silverware rattled on top of the table, Kaito cringed at the pitch that Botan's voice had reached. The human lad felt sorely impressed by the ferry girl's vocal range; but he would rid himself of that impression soon. "Like I already said, he promised me one thousand years of torture if I were to hurt you in any way." I guess I shouldn't have suggested that last bit about "getting something more"... But we'll just leave that little detail out. "And he was quite serious when he promised this, Botan-chan."

But then again, like Minamino-san isn't ever serious, a thought grumbled sarcastically.

It had been a rather long week since Kurama had given the human boy his infamous threat; and out of respect for the Spirit Detective's dangerous "promise", Kaito had put off meeting Botan for that time. However, he and she agreed that three weeks had ended that agonizing week. The human and ferry girl, now on their unofficial fourth week, felt completely uneasy about their status. Luckily for Kaito, his excuse for not canceling the relationship was so valid that Botan forgot her own issues. In fact, she was now worrying over a certain young man.

"We'll just have to keep that off the record," she said with a small frown, off in her own reality. "After all, Kurama-kun only did that out of reaction to this plan. Threatening a human demonic torture and death is a serious offense in the Spirit World; and depending on the demon and his record, the punishment can be made harsher. And I know Shiori-san will be completely heartbroken if Kurama-kun is torn away from her now."

She wouldn't be the only one, Botan sighed involuntarily. And who knows how long I would be able to live with my guilt if he is convicted? It would be my fault!

Watching the young woman fester and continually babble in front of him, Kaito removed his spectacles and rid them of dust and smudges. "Botan-chan, that is not the point right now, even though I am quite sure that Minamino-san's mother does not deserve any trouble," he sighed loudly. "But the fact remains that Minamino-san's threat will be more than a threat by the time we're done with this charade."

It'll be a reality.

Processing the boy's words, the ferry girl gasped. She waved her hands in the air in panic. "Oh dear God, you're right, Kaito-kun! What are we going to do? And it's all to happen tomorrow! What are we going to do about Kurama-kun?"

"That's what today is for, Botan-chan," he said with a thin smile. He replaced his black brimmed glasses back onto his face with a set expression upon his features. "We're going to find a way where the plan still works without myself being tortured for a thousand years and Minamino-san not getting arrested: main focus me not suffering."

I'm sure that Minamino-san isn't even one bit concerned about his arrest. Not really surprising since he'll probably figure a way out anyway. Kaito sighed at the injustice of the situation.

"What if we made it a mutual agreement?" Botan suggested off the top of her head. "That way, no one gets hurt."

"But we have to have some sort of conflict to break us apart," Kaito argued reasonably. "The way we've fabricated this 'relationship', Botan-chan, no one at school especially Minamio-san is going to believe we 'mutually' agreed to stop seeing each other over nothing. And I can't be the one dumped because that just puts me back to square one before we started this entire plan." He cringed at the sudden thoughts of the redhead seeing Botan cry. "But then again... I don't know what's better at this point: eternal loneliness or a thousand years of torture."

Sighing at the challenge, Botan hastily chugged down her cup of tea. She huffed in exasperation: the situation was almost hopeless. "Without a choice, you have to look like a good man in front of everyone. That was the entire point of this relationship."

"But with Minamino-san's help, I'll look like a good dead man," the human added pointedly.

"I just can't believe he said something like that to you," the spirit pouted, laying her sky head tiredly in her hand. "Not only was it dangerous, something like that is not in Kurama-kun's character. I mean he got flustered over nothing and risked his freedom by saying something very foolish." And that fact alone worried her. Even before she personally knew Kurama, his reputation dictated his ever firm belief in caution and discretion. A demon famous for his power and intellect, he was not the type to lose control over such a minimal matter. So why did he put in on the line for her? "One would think he had more faith in me."

Chuckling at the consideration, Kaito commented, "Oh, but don't you see it, Botan-chan?"

She blinked several times in confusion. In her candy eyes, Kaito could see the suggestion was not clicking. It almost made the lad groan in frustration. "Huh? See what, Kaito-kun?" she asked with the tilt of her head.

"Minamino-san has very deep feelings for you," Yuu said with a sly smile, realizing he had to be blunt and obvious. "The fact that he promised to save my life just so he could exclusively torture me is proof enough. I believe Minamino-san is in love with you, Botan-chan."

A feminine hand dismissingly slapped the air in disbelief. She pointed at her head with her index finger. "You're crazy, right? Ha ha ha." Her laugh, in Kaito's opinion, lacked the conviction that she attempted to portray. When she finished her half-hearted laughter, Botan stared the young man seriously in the eye. "You're really frightened, aren't you, Kaito-kun? You must be scared out of your mind right now because I thought you just said Kurama-kun's threat of torture was his way proving he's in love with me. That's a little sadistic, if you ask me."

At his partner-in-crime's skepticism, Kaito could not help but to frown. "No, Botan-chan, I'm in my right mind; and yes, I did say Minamino-san was in love with you." Sighing, he rested his head in the palm of his right hand. Why didn't she understand? "Wasn't that reason you agreed to follow my plan in the first place? To reveal Minamino-san's true feelings for you?"

His true feelings? Waves of heat and crimson bloomed across Botan's pale complexion. Her mind would have gone blank if she had not reeled it back in immediately for denial. "N-no, Kaito-kun, that's not why I--I just--I just wanted to--"

"Help Minamino-san, yes, yes, I know," the high school student chuckled, relishing his direct hit. He had her cornered, and he knew that she knew that he knew it. "But you have to admit, you were intrigued and now you know your answer."

The answer? Could it be true that Kurama-kun is in love with me? And for a brief moment, she nearly believed her spectacled friend. However, her rationality returned to her and she reasoned the more probable truth. "Just because he threatened you everlasting torture doesn't mean Kurama-kun feels that way towards me. For all you know, Kaito-kun, it just may be Kurama-kun's way of protecting his friends," she argued defensively, crossing her arms dogmatically. Her anxious face then took a gentler look. "After all, Kurama-kun has rarely had any close friends; and each time he made one, they were painfully taken from him."

"But do you think he promised his enemies eternal pain that continued far past their sanity or soul's endurance in exchange for a little growing pains?" Piercing black beady eyes bore through periwinkle ones to prove a point. "I would think that Minamino-san was merciful enough to give them rather quick deaths if they ever hurt someone important to him."

Sky brows furrowed with determination. Botan would not be so easily defeated.

"He's been strained as of late."

Nor would Kaito.

"Over you."

"He's had a lot to think about."

A smirk lit his freckled face; playing against Botan was far too easy. "Well, Botan-chan, juggling how friendly or romantically he feels about you is a lot to deal with. I'll have to give Minamino-san that much credit."

A flustered Botan retorted, "He's just feeling insecure right now."

"And now you're making pathetic excuses. Tsk. Tsk." Kaito chuckled amusedly, truly intrigued now by the ferry girl's adamant denial. From his observations, any female would kill to possess a possible inkling of a chance for Minamino to like her. And while he spelled out the facts that Minamino was in fact in love with her, Botan fought against the evidence with all her power. What was she so afraid of? "Botan-chan, you should just stop. I mean your feelings for Minamino-san are so obvious, and the proof is too--So why do you refuse to accept how Minamino-san feels about you, Botan-chan?"

Fear struck her heart. Are my feelings really that obvious? If they're so obvious, then why hasn't anyone said anything about it before? Her mind began to panic as picture formed. No one said anything because they already knew the truth. They know how I feel about Kurama-kun; and they must know how he feels about me. She never felt more embarrassed than at that moment.

Swiftly rising to her feet, Botan placed down money for her own food and headed out the door. But she did not leave before she gave her reply to her human friend. "I can't accept what you're saying because in my heart, Kaito-kun, I know that this entire scene is just a human mind trick." Without another word, she left the restaurant and left Kaito alone at the table.

How can I hope for something so unreasonable like that? My goal was just to help Kaito-kun win that girl's heart and help Kurama-kun with his human life. I was never meant to make my own personal goal for this situation. With wistful periwinkle eyes, she watched the clouds fly past her while she soared through the heavens on her oar. It's not as if I ever had a chance anyway...

"Oi! Botan! Hey, Botan, down here!" a boisterous voice shouted out from the city. Looking down , the ferry girl smiled at the sight of two familiar faces.

"Hello, Kuwabara-kun, Yusuke. What brings you two to this side of town?" she greeted as cheerfully as she could, landing before the two Spirit Detectives. Her oar disappeared into her hands she crossed into the physical plane. "I would think you guys would be spending time with the others."

Shrugging slightly, Yusuke answered, "There's nothing really to do, since everyone can't meet all together anymore. Kuwabara and I just wanted to say hi to you and all since we haven't seen you around lately. It's been so long, Keiko and the others are a little worried about you."

For a moment, the dark-haired human regarded his assistant thoughtfully; but whatever that was on his mind, he would not say out loud. And I've been worried too.

"Yeah, Yukina-san has been worried that something happened to you. She's been especially worried since all of these weird things are happening to human souls nowadays; she's worried you're being overworked. Oh, she's so caring!" Kazuma gushed. After dreaming about his "beloved" for a little longer, the young man then began to scratch his chin thoughtfully. "Who else was it, Urameshi, that was worried the last time we mentioned Botan's name?"

"Oh, yeah!" Yusuke grinned devilishly, clapping his fist in his hand. "I remember. Kurama in particular was really worried about you, Botan: was even more bummed when no one knew anything about you. He said something about a boy from school getting too close to you and possibly hurting you. And you know what, I meant to ask you about that. What the hell is he talking about?"

"Oh," Botan blushed, slightly edging away from her two friends. "I'm seeing someone from Kurama's school." Deep inside, she wanted to tell Yusuke and Kazuma the truth; she wanted to be able to trust them as she usually did with anything. Unfortunately, she knew that they would accidentally, if not purposely, inform Kurama of the truth. At this point in time, Botan and Kaito could not risk discovery before the due date. Otherwise everything would be ruined, the entire "relationship" rendered pointless.

And I'll have to suffer hell for it.

When the girl's words reached their ears, the two human boys reached a defining moment in their lives. "Aha! So that's why you're not around as much anymore." They looked to each other with smug, understanding nods. "We should have figured that it was a guy."

"But you know, Kurama seemed a little down when he mentioned your boyfriend, Botan," Kazuma muttered, giving the Spirit World employee an analytical stare. "I think you hurt Kurama's feelings when you got that boyfriend of yours."

Candy eyes grew wide. "Huh? Why would Kurama-kun's feelings be hurt?"

Seeing as Botan was not going to get the message, the carrot-top waved away the notion with his hand. "Oh, never mind." If she did not understand Kurama's suspected intentions towards her, then Kazuma would not be the one to make it awkward between the two. He would just leave that up to life. Besides, he did not know for sure if Kurama really did feel anything for Botan. It was just an educated guess. But really, and I thought Hiei was blind to love; Botan is just hopeless.

"Hey, why aren't you wearing your usual kimono?" Yusuke pondered, circling Botan curiously. Hopefully he could amend Kuwabara's blunder and direct her attention away from Kurama's indefinite affections. "You're all dressed in normal clothing: and nicely too, if I might add. Why's that? What's up, Botan?"

"Oh, I had to meet someone earlier," Botan explained easily, just as easily forgetting Kazuma's earlier statement. And as she did not think about what was previously said, she did not even give her answer a second thought: that is, until she realized where the conversation would eventually lead to.

"Were you meeting your boyfriend?"

Oh, dear--it's coming.

A nervous laugh replied, "You could say that."

Ah, I really am going to get it.

"So you're just coming back from a date?"

Maybe not?

"Um, yes, if you want to call it that."

Yusuke and Kazuma smirked deviously at one another, a mischievous thought passing between the two. The junior high boys then returned their attention to Botan. "Did he KIISS you?" the lads questioned while puckering their lips mockingly at their lady friend.

"No! Gross!" she snapped at them, slapping away their blubbering fish lips. "And save that for Keiko-chan and Yukina-chan! I don't need it! Especially from the two of you!"

"That's right," Yusuke chuckled, looping his strong arm playfully around his assistant's shoulders. "You just need it from your boyfriend. But I'm pretty sure Kurama would like something from you too."

"Yeah, I bet Kurama-kun would really like a kiss," Kazuma played along, poking at Botan's side teasingly.

Huffing angrily and blushing a rosy scarlet, Botan materialized her oar, took a harmless swing at her friends, and started flying away. "Oh, BOYS!" After blowing a frustrated raspberry at the two Spirit Detectives, the young spirit started her ascent to the Spirit World.

Yusuke waved a cheery good-bye to the ferry girl as she soared away through the clouds. "See you later, Botan!"

Hopefully, he thought as he watched her disappear into the blue, you'll realize we're serious about Kurama though. One day I hope you'll realize what he feels about you...

"Botan 'nee, what's wrong?" a petite redhead girl asked worriedly, shaking her mentor slightly. There was no reply as Botan continued to lie deathly still in her bed, staring lifelessly at the opposite wall. Frightened for her senpai, Hinageshi continued to question and inquire Botan about her state and continued receiving no answers.

Another presence then entered Botan's bedroom, making the junior ferry girl jump in surprise. When she turned around, felt relief from seeing Ayame calmly walking in. "What are you doing here, Hinageshi?" the ferry woman inquired curiously when she spotted the fretting Hinageshi. "Shouldn't you be on your rounds in the Human World?"

"Since I'm on my break, Koenma-sama sent me here to get Botan 'nee for another assignment," the girl replied with apparent anxiety. "But she hasn't moved from her bed for hours; and Koenma-sama has called me ten times to bring her to his office already!"

"Oh," was all Ayame said. After one quick glance at the dismal girl lying on her bed, the darkly dressed spirit then began ushering Hinageshi from the room. "Leave me to talk to her, Hinageshi. I'll have her complete her ferrying assignment."

"But what about Koenma-sama? What am I supposed to tell him?" the younger ferry girl cried in panic, bring her hands to her paled cheeks. "He'll scold me if I tell him that Botan 'nee hasn't left the Gate of Judgment yet. And then I'll get in bigger trouble!" She whimpered at her misfortune, knowing very well how Prince Koenma would punish her. Just like last month, when she had forgotten to turn in her assignment reports, he would revoke her anime and drama privileges, a week for every minute she was late.

With a gentle smile and assuring pat on the head, Ayame comforted, "If you tell Koenma-sama that I'm handling it, I am more than sure it will be all right. And if he gets angry with you, just tell me and I'll fix everything." Koenma-sama won't argue with me, she thought with confidence. Indeed, he would not dare.

"Okay. All right then, I guess it's all right." Taking a deep breath, she relaxed and relinquished her responsibility to Ayame. "Thank you very much, Ayame 'nee. I just hope Botan 'nee feels better," Hinageshi sighed as she left the room with some worry.

When the room's occupants were only two senior ferry girls, Ayame then returned her attention to the senseless pink flower. Watching the seemingly lifeless lethargic form through icy blue eyes, the sterner woman sharply inquired, "Botan, what in the world is going on?"

When the sky-haired lady did not answer, the older ferry woman walked up to the motionless mass and smartly slapped her kouhai across the face. Only then did the little peony give a response but barely. "A-Ayame 'nee, when d-did you get h-here?" Botan asked in a daze. "I didn't hear or see you c-come in."

"Botan, what is going on here?" Ayame sighed, quite concerned about her friend's state of mind or lack thereof. "Today you've utterly ignored all of your assignments, and for the past few weeks you've gone off to your own world. And just now I had to send Hinageshi away and strike you to gain your attention. You know that Koenma-sama does not tolerate this kind of behavior, especially from his Head Ferry Girl."

"I've just had a lot on my mind, Ayame 'nee," a mindless murmur responded, the young lady not rising from her bed. Instead she just lied on her back and stared at her ceiling in wonder and reverie.

"Like what, if you don't mind sharing?" An impatient foot began to tap against the floor.

Botan shrugged carelessly with a large exhale. "Various things."


Raising a curious brow, Ayame decided to be a little bold. If she invaded boundaries, at least Botan would show a little more life--hopefully. "Would these 'various things' happen to deal with Kurama-san, Botan?"

And just like the woman's silent prediction, the blue-haired girl jumped up from her bed in indignation and argued with a fiery spirit, "Ayame 'nee, I didn't say anything about Kurama-kun, not to mention refer to him--"

"Botan, your lack of attention today has something to do with yours and Kaito-san's scheme, yes?" Ayame cut off, seeing that she had hit the topic on the nose. Her junior absolutely being unable to lie to her, there was no point for the younger woman to argue. "I believe by your expression, something has occurred beyond your control? Could Kurama-san have possibly interrupted your original plan?"

If she's this aware of what's going on, I might as well tell her. What would be the point on lying to her? With slight hesitation, Botan shyly admitted, "Kurama-kun threatened Kaito-kun about a week ago, and Kurama-kun made the consequences and results quite clear if anything were to happen to me. Basically, Kurama-kun told Kaito-kun if I were hurt in any way, he would make him regret it in the worst way possible." Koenma's Head Ferry Girl fell back onto her bed and let out a desolate sigh. "This is all my fault."

I should have never lied to Kurama-kun. It'll be all my fault if he gets in trouble.

Sensing Botan was about to return to her former comatose state, Ayame quickly asked, "And with what Kurama-san has done, you worry for Kaito-san's safety?"

"Yes," the young lady admitted with a weary moan, sitting up once more. "I worry for Kaito-kun, but I also worry for Kurama-kun. If he follows through with his threat, Koenma-sama will have no choice but to arrest him; and everything would be terrible after that."

"What do you mean, Botan?"

A small pout on her lips, she began explaining to her friend, "Well, a part of the plan is for Kaito-kun and me to break up, and as a girl, I will naturally will be a little hurt by that; but if Kurama-kun--"

Shaking her head, Ayame redirected, "No, what I mean is why would it be terrible after Kurama-san is arrested?"

"Well, his family, especially his mother wouldn't be able to see him anymore," Botan started, waving her hands in expression. "Kurama-kun and I hate to see Shiori-san sad; a sad face doesn't suit a mother, especially such a loving and kind one like her. And already being on probation, Kurama-kun would no longer be allowed to freely roam Human World, and I know he would hate that as well. Also, it would make me sad to see him imprisoned like that."

I would never get to see him again.

"Sad for a demon, Botan?"

Botan frowned at Ayame's blunt name for her friend. The way she said it, it nearly sounded offensive. "He isn't just a demon, Ayame 'nee! Kurama-kun is my friend, and I won't let anyone, even Koenma-sama, do something like that to him when it's not his fault."

"But what about yourself, Botan?" the woman darkly murmured.

A confused face graced itself upon Botan's features. "Huh?"

"Did you and Kaito-san not manipulate Kurama-san to your wills?" Ayame clarified herself. "By doing what you have done, Botan, have you not manipulated, and in effect, trapped Kurama-san?"

"I didn't manipulate Kurama-kun!" the younger girl argued.

With a straightforward stare, the ferry woman inquired, "Then what are you doing, Botan?"

With an insecure whimper, the guilty maiden quietly answered, "I'm helping him."

That's right, she reassured herself in her thoughts. I'm helping Kurama-kun find some peace. He said he needed some at school, and by helping Kaito-kun with his plan, Kurama-kun is finally going to get the peace he deserves.

"How long have you told yourself that, Botan, and have not realized that you're doing quite the opposite?"

A worried heart questioned, "What do you mean?"

"Hinageshi brought in a report not to long ago on your Spirit Detectives. It appears that all but one Detective have good health and stable," the researcher informed, placing an emphasizing hand on her hip. "And do you want to guess who that one unhealthy Detective is, Botan?"

"Um--Yusuke?" The ferry girl shrugged in false bewilderment.

Ayame frowned at Botan's purposed mistake. "Botan."

"But why would Kurama-kun have unstable emotions?" was Botan's demand. She huffed in semi-frustration, very much confused. "I mean, I can understand poor health: the poison from that mission a month ago was very strong and potent. Kurama-kun is one of very few that has survived, nevertheless made a quick recovery from it. Out of all of the Detectives, he's the least likely to lose control of himself in any way; in fact, it is very rare for him to be emotional over anything really other than his mother; and that in itself is rare."

He's always so strong.

"But then there is you."

"Why does everyone keep on saying that?" the ferry girl groaned in great exasperation as she plopped herself back onto her bed. "What is it about me that everyone seems to know and I don't?"

Taking a seat beside Botan, Ayame petted her friend's head and whispered pointedly, "It's because you're too deep in to realize it, Botan, that makes it difficult. Because you're involved everyone can see the truth while you miss it. It's as they say: it's easier to see all of the trees when you aren't in the forest."

When I'm not in the forest...

A silent moment of reflection wafted by as Botan pondered on that piece of advice. Seeing the wisdom in her companion's words, the younger woman then asked, "So what should I do, Ayame 'nee?"

"Tell yourself and Kurama-san the truth."

Tell him the truth? It's impossible to tell him the truth at this point--if I did, everything that we did would go to waste. But then again... I don't think Ayame 'nee meant that. She sighed hopelessly. But what else do I have to confess to Kurama-kun? I mean, once we're done and ready, I'll apologize to him for lying these last few weeks... but there's nothing else that I've lied about to him.

But what about my feelings...?

"Oh, Botan-kun, what are you doing here?"

"Huh?" Snapping out of her mindless wandering, Botan looked up to a surprised Syuuichi and Shiori. She frantically analyzed her surroundings and realized that while she had been thinking about her feelings, she had unconsciously made her way to the Minamino residence unannounced: how embarrassing.

I must look like a fool to him. How could he ever see me as anything more?

"You're awake rather early for school, Botan-chan. Too early even for an overachieving student," the young man's mother commented with a pleasant smile. Botan recognized the smile because she saw it often enough at work; Syuuichi must have inherited it from his mother. "And I thought you attended junior high on the other side of the city district?"

Now that Syuuichi and Shiori had started a conversation, Botan lost all hope of speedily running away. If she ran away, not only would she be seen a fool but an impolite fool: they had her cornered. Really, Syuuichi had inherited a lot more from his mother than anyone really anticipated. "Oh, well, I was heading toward the high school for something this morning," she lied. "If I wanted to reach the high school and get to my school on time, I had to be a little more early than usual."

"Are you really here for something, or could it possibly be someone, Botan-chan?" the mother smiled knowingly, slightly nudging her son.

"Okaa-san," Syuuichi chided embarrassingly. An unnoticeable blush fluttered across his handsome face, the young man sheepish about his mother's teasing. It bothered him even more especially since it was his own secret wish. Really, sometimes I wonder if Okaa-san herself isn't some demon in disguise. She's far too perceptive--or maybe all human mothers are like that. He shook his head. Okaa-san, if you only knew that she was already seeing someone else.

"Um, well I--I was going to--Ah--If it's too early in the morning, then what are you doing up, Syuuichi-senpai?" Botan decided to change the subject, noting it was both awkward for herself and Syuuichi. "Why are you awake so early?"

Seeing Botan's strategic move, the handsome redhead smiled gratefully, "Well, high school is a little different than junior high, Botan-kun; there are things called bothersome committees and burdensome classroom duties. And I just happened to have a committee meeting and early set-up duty this morning."

She felt an odd sense of relief from his playful tone, causing her to giggle, "Oh, I see."

Shiori noticed that the sudden tension from earlier had with the breeze as her son and his friend conversed. How close are they? she wondered.

"Okaa-san, 'Nii-chan, who is at the door?" a younger voice called out, reaching the doorway. Botan could not help but to smile fondly when Syuuichi's younger brother, Shuuichi, appeared at the door in his school uniform. "Oh, it's Botan-chan. Good morning," he waved sheepishly while fixing his jacket and shirt. And in an instant, he whirled to his older stepbrother and demanded in a low voice, "'Nii-chan, why didn't you say that she was coming over? I'm embarrassed now, 'Nii-chan!"

"Ah, I'm sorry that I came unannounced--Syuuichi-senpai had nothing to do with it, actually; please don't be mad at him. This meeting is all sort of a mistake, Shuuichi-kun," the girl laughed nervously, throwing a hand behind her head, "I didn't really mean to stop by. I just happened to pass by on my way there. I hope that I didn't bother anyone."

"Oh, no, it's all right," Shuuichi immediately excused, a happy expression lighting his face. "No one minds that you're here, Botan-chan. I was just about to eat breakfast, no big deal." He gave his older brother a devious grin. "Besides, I can't be mad at 'Nii-chan."

Because you're going to avenge yourself later, the redhead chuckled to himself knowingly. But that's only if you can outsmart me.

Bowing politely for the excuse, the grateful "junior high student" thanked, "Oh, all right, Shuuichi-kun."

"Why do you call him 'Shuuichi-kun'?" Syuuichi suddenly demanded somewhat indignantly at his comrade, his handsome face pouting slightly. "And only refer me as 'Syuuichi-senpai,' Botan-kun? We've been friends longer, and you've known me much longer than him."

Why are you closer to everyone but me? Is it because you know what I really am? Do you keep your distance from me because you know what I'm capable of, because you know about the real me? Would that be the reason why you can't accept me?

"It's because I'm cuter, 'Nii-chan," Shuuichi laughed, looking to his brother's lady friend for approval. "Isn't that right, Botan-chan?"

The girl in the middle did not know what to say. She looked to the mother for assistance, but Shiori gave her a curious, motherly look that immediately changed her mind. Shiori, as a perceptive mother, wanted to know Botan's answer regarding to her son as well. Honestly, the ferry girl mentally grumbled, it's as if Youko Kurama purposely picked her to be his mother. For a human without any psychic powers, she is far too keen on things.

Unfortunately, her thoughts did not alleviate the situation or change circumstances; thus she remained stuck in the middle. "Well, I--I--"

"You may be cuter, Ototo-chan, but that doesn't mean you're a better suitor," Syuuichi teased with a foxy smile, ruffling his younger brother's hair. Even though he wanted to know her answer just as much as the others, he could sense Botan's discomfort. And truthfully, he preferred ignorance over seeing her unhappy or uncomfortable. "After all, a pretty young lady would go after a handsome young man, not a cute little boy. I think Botan-kun would much prefer my company than yours if there ever was a moment to decide."

He barely caught his sigh in time. But she didn't choose me.

Botan was speechless and could only continue radiating waves of heat from her cheeks. She kept her amethyst eyes to the ground and avoided eye contact less Syuuichi read her thoughts with his special abilities. Youko Kurama, famous for his unmatched perception skills, could without a doubt read her feelings if he were to look into her eyes. But would it be better if he knew? She signed inwardly. I wish I could be with you, Kurama-kun. But you would never want to be with me.

"Feh," Shuuichi huffed, crossing his arms. The young lad decided to change the subject, as he appeared to be losing the argument; and he refused to lose this to his brother. "Okaa-san, can Botan-chan come to dinner tonight?"

"If she doesn't mind," Shiori smiled at her stepson. "It wouldn't be too much trouble for you to come for dinner tonight, would it, Botan-chan?"

Looking up from her interesting school shoes, she excitedly replied, "Oh, I would love to come and have dinner, Hatanaka-san! It would be no problem at all." Bubbly sensations were building up within Botan as she thought of spending dinnertime with Kurama and his family. I'll be part of a family--Kurama-kun's, no less.

"Ah, you can just call me Shiori, Botan-chan."

"Erm...Are you sure you'll be free for dinner though? You don't have anything to do after school?" Syuuichi inquired with surprise.

"Huh? Should I?" the girl asked in answer, her dreams crashing down. Did Kurama not want her to come to dinner?

"No jobs or prior engagements?" The words "job" and "engagements" were accented in Syuuichi's flawless voice, reminding the spirit girl of hers and Kurama's alternate lives. A large comprehending "o" formed on delicate rosy lips.

"Oh, you don't have to worry about that today, Kura--I mean--Syuuichi-senpai. Kaito-chan is going to be busy tonight, and I was given the entire day off today. Um, Koenma-san said it was all right, and he was sure that there wouldn't be any emergencies today."

"'Kaito-chan'? Are you talking about Yuu Kaito? Oh, I wonder how he's been lately," Shiori said with a smile. She became thoughtful at the mention of the other high school boy. "His mother and I are well acquainted. Is she talking about the same Kaito, Syuuichi-kun?"

"Yes, Okaa-san," Syuuichi answered politely, regarding his mother kindly. "He and Botan-kun are presently--"

Botan promptly slapped her hand over his mouth, which surprised everyone especially the fox. A blush painted on her face, she speedily explained, "Heh, Kaito-chan and I are working together at my part-time job. Because we're always working together, we've grown really close. We're quite good friends now." The girl then hurriedly looked at her watch. "Oh, I better go now or else I'm going to be late."

"I'll got with you, Botan-kun," the redhead offered as he placed on his shoes. He did not miss the fact that she still had the gift he had given her a long time ago. Oddly, a bubble of hope filled him while he wondered what it signified. "We're heading the same direction, so I might as well join you. That is, if you don't mind my company."

"I don't mind at all! I'd love you to."

And I'd love us to be more, she added hastily in afterthought.

"Good-bye, Botan-chan!" Shuuichi called out, waving off the pair as he headed in the opposite direction. "Don't forget to come by for dinner!"

She casually waved back, and when he disappeared from view, caught up with Kurama's pace towards the high school. At first, they remained silent until the redhead knew they were out of earshot from anyone of importance. "Um, if you don't mind me asking, Botan-kun, why didn't you want Okaa-san to know about you and Yuu-san?" he finally managed to ask her.

"To honestly say, Kurama-kun, I'm just a little embarrassed," Botan blushed, kicking at the sidewalk sheepishly. She had feared that he would ask her this, but she thanked the heavens that he had waited until they were alone. At least she could deal with him alone. "Heh, don't think I'm silly or anything, but I just feel a little uneasy when people are ready to jump up and declare they're with someone."

"That's not so silly," Kurama assured, smiling amiably. His gentle emerald pools warmed Botan right through her soul. "But I do wonder--Why does that make you uneasy, Botan-kun?"

Glancing off to the side in thought with a small grin on her face, Botan giggled quietly, "Well, I just don't do well beneath the spotlight. I never have." The ferry girl laughed as she shook her head in remembrance. "Like that time where you and Kuwabara-kun were depending on me to find Hiei so we could rescue Yusuke. Waa, I thought I was going to faint from the pressure!" She put a hand on her head and released a heavy sigh. "I blame you and Kuwabara-kun for my uselessness at that time."

Holding back a chuckle, Kurama coughed slightly, "I see."

I remember that. Truthfully, he had been a little frustrated with Botan at that point: more so frustrated with himself and his inability to defeat such easy adversaries. However, at that time, he had seen a side of the ferry girl that he had never seen before. That made him happy enough.

Silence followed the pair as they continued to walk along a brisk winter morning. The sun had barely started its ascent against the city skyline and had water-colored the morning sky with dusky shades of blue, purple, and orange. Chilling breezes greeted the two students and kissed their faces until rosy red; and instead of chirping of birds for morning melody, honking of cars and various vehicles was the city's early tune. And even through this symphony, Kurama and Botan somehow maintained a tranquil silence between them.

That is, until Kurama made a decision.

"Botan-kun, I need to ask you something."

Returning to her attention to her walking partner, Botan tilted her head slightly in curiosity. "Huh? What is it, Kurama-kun?" Deep inside herself, her heart thundered wildly, various possibilities running through her mind; however, one idea, one hope reigned supreme. "What is it you need to ask?"

Is is about my feelings? My feelings for you? She scolded herself for such hopes. Now isn't the time to fantasize!

Thinking about his words carefully, Kurama waited a moment before he spoke. He did not want to make a mistake, especially with what he was about to ask. He could not afford it. "Well, Botan-kun, are you--are you really in love with Yuu-san?"

Her heart sunk like lead in water, her balloon of hope popped. "Why do you ask, Kurama-kun?" She tried to maintain her expression, not wanting her disappointment to show. If he saw the truth, then the entire plan would fall apart. "Do you think I'm not, that I don't love Kaito-chan?" An automatic, rehearsed response: Botan was ever silently praying to herself.

Because if you don't, then you would be right.

"No, Botan-kun, I don't doubt your feelings or your care; I just wish not to see you hurt, Botan-kun. I don't want to see you hurt by Yuu-san or by any incompetent human boy hardly worthy of your time," Kurama explained without a hint of embarrassment. He meant what he said, and Youko's cool overrode any nervousness or uncertainty Syuuichi had about his feelings being known. Unfortunately, his words were not blatant enough for her to understand.

"That's nice of you, Kurama-kun; but Kaito-chan won't hurt me," Botan commented, her tone taking a different tone. "Besides, you make it sound as if I have lines of admirers just waiting for me."

Verdant eyes grew wide in speculation. "Have you not noticed the boys at my school hounding you at every moment, Botan-kun?"

"Well, if what you say is true, Kurama-kun, why do you make it seem as if there is only one boy right for me?" Botan wondered, her voice now rather soft. "And you sound as if Kaito-chan isn't him."

But even I know that he isn't the one for me.

"The fact of the matter is, Botan-kun, I--"

"Botan-chan! There you are. I've been worried about you," Kaito exclaimed as he ran up to the pair. Kurama shot death glares at the boy, the young man furious that the human had purposely interrupted another conversation. In fact, the demon within wanted to kill the foolish nuisance for following him and Botan; however, the human mind reminded Youko that they had reached the school gates: so it was logical Kaito appeared right then.

Oh, what I wouldn't trade right now just to rid you from my sight. Even more so if I could take from you what isn't yours.

Oblivious to Kurama's silent threats or deathly aura, Kaito frowned disapprovingly at his girlfriend; and that action boiled Kurama's demonic blood. Not too many humans would notice a demon cold-heartedly murdering a human in broad daylight, right? How dare he look at her with anything less than pleasure and happiness? "What took you so long to get here, Botan-chan? We were supposed to meet here an hour ago." The dark-haired boy sighed. "You'll be late to school for sure now."

"I apologize. It was my fault, Yuu-san," Kurama quickly cut in. He hated the thought of Botan taking any blame and hated even more how little her boyfriend cherished her company. "I spotted her along the way to school and stopped her for a moment to talk. I wasn't aware she had an appointment."

I didn't know she had to see you. I would have kept her longer then.

"Oh," Botan blushed, embarrassed that he defended her. "There's no need to say such things, Syuuichi-senpai. It was my fault, really. I should have kept better time."

Smug to see how quickly his rival came to the ferry girl's defense, the human boy did his best to hide his amusement under a blank face: Kurama would have been proud of his skills, he felt sure. "Well, if that's the case," Kaito shrugged nonchalantly. Taking Botan's arm, he then suggested, "Let's go inside and get warm. We have a lot to talk about today, Botan-chan." Without his girlfriend noticing, the glasses wearing boy tossed Kurama a victorious glance and began strutting towards the school. Botan hesitantly followed her "significant other", which left a certain Spirit Detective awfully alone.

Verdant eyes glaring at the pair, a fist clenched while Kurama tried controlling his emotions. He fought back his surging demonic aura and Youko's demands for release. Damn it. Damn that Yuu Kaito. I really should kill him.

Kurama only followed because he disliked the cold more than he did Kaito.

Maybe when I'm off probation and living in Demon World.

"Good work, Minamino-kun. I'll be turning this in and presenting it at the next meeting," the teacher smiled while he stacked the papers together. "I'm sure the entire faculty will be pleased with all of your hard work, as they usually are."

"Thank you, Miwato-sensei," he bowed respectively, a demure smile on his lips. "I'm happy that I had the chance to work on this assignment." A bell then chimed in the background, marking the beginning of the next period. Returning his attention to his teacher, he bowed again and excused himself. "I'll be going back to class now."

"Ah," the man nodded. He waved a friendly hand of dismissal, allowing Syuuichi to leave the teacher's room. As he closed the door behind him, he heard the other teachers demanding, "Did he really do all of that work by himself? Really, Minamino-kun is amazing. It's a wonder that he doesn't do more at school."

If I did anymore, people would begin to see exactly how inhuman I am. Then Koenma-sama would really breathe down my neck and threatening me more than just probation, he mentally sighed. But, Syuuichi discovered, high school opened many more chances for him to be himself. Granted the curriculum demanded conformity as society prescribed; however, unlike junior high, he had many more opportunities to distinguish himself as an individual without others continually questioning his every decision. So, in essence, he could act more like his real self than ever before.

But the situation was a double-edged sword.

I have a group of stalkers that claim to be my fans, and no one condemns them. He shook his head at the idiocy. Every move he made, the girls documented. Anyone he spoke to, they investigated. Whatever he lost, he felt sure they had it in their possession. On a few occasions, Syuuichi had used his abilities to avoid these girls and sometimes boys while keeping his identity as a Spirit Detective and a spirit fox a secret.

He had tried various tactics within reason and his power to dissuade them from their affections. He acted cold towards them and ignored their existence; they only attributed it to his "cool" personality and doubled their love for him. He masterminded the creation of an anti-Minamino Syuuichi fan club; with the greatest ferocity he had ever seen in humans, the organization was annihilated a day after its creation. He had even "leaked" through indirect means that he had a terminal disease that could be contagious if people became too close to him; it backfired on him terribly, quadrupling the club's efforts to be close to him and to "go with him to the Underworld" since they "could not possibly imagine living in a world without Minamino Syuuichi." After officially confirming that he was not dying, the redhead gave up trying to thinking of ways to rid himself of his groupies. He figured that they were just one of life's hardships for him.

"Is it true, Botan-chan?"


"Tell me if it's true, Botan-chan!"

"Is what true? What are you talking about, Kaito-chan?!"

Syuuichi, who just happened to be passing a hallway, suddenly stopped in his tracks when he heard the two familiar voices loudly demanding from one another. Looking down the hall, he noticed a small crowd had formed around something; and if his hearing did not deceive him, he had a good idea around whom.

What's going on?

"Botan-chan, I need to know if the things your friends told me yesterday are true," Kaito said sternly, staring straight at the ferry girl. He and his "girlfriend" seemed oblivious to the now rather large crowd surround them; it was smaller than they had anticipated, so they felt no concern for it. "They told me some things--They told me some things--and I--I just can't believe them!"

Everyone seemed to hold his or her breath as the entire hallway waited for Kaito to reveal what in the world he was talking about.

"Botan-chan--Is it--Is it true that you're in love with your friend Yusuke?"

Emerald eyes flying wide open, Kurama felt dumbstruck for another moment in his spontaneous life. He felt his heart thumping against his chest in defiance; this was just too much. Botan is really in love with Yusuke?

Biting her lip apprehensively and trying to find some way to explain, Botan muttered quietly, "Kaito-chan, I-I didn't want to--It was just--"

"I see," Kaito sighed, bringing a weary hand to his eyes. He woefully removed his glasses from his face and stared at the lenses to observe his saddened expression. "Then, I guess, Botan-chan, we have no choice but to go our separate ways."

The girl's amethyst eyes grew wide at the heartrending thought, and she clasped a pale hand over her wide, gaping mouth. Her face was one of utter shock. "But Kaito-chan, I--"

"It's for the best," he gently assured, placing his hands gently onto Botan's shoulders. He gave her a small smile as assurance. "It's the best thing for you and me, Botan-chan, for you especially. By the look on your face, I can tell you care a lot for this Yusuke. From what you've told me about him, you've known each other for a very long time. You were meant to be."

I should have known. From a distance, Kurama groaned at his terrible luck and blindness. I should have known Botan was in love with Yusuke this entire time. Why didn't I realize it before? It explains many things about her...

"But this isn't what I want, Kaito-chan," Botan cried, shaking her sky head. Tears were hastily welling up in her periwinkle eyes. "You don't understand, Kaito-chan! This isn't what I want at all!"

Staring at her helplessly, he stammered, "Botan-chan, I--"

"Why don't you understand that I care about you?!"

"But you're in love with Yusuke!" Kaito argued, gripping Botan's shoulders and slightly shaking her. "You can't see me and still love someone else, Botan-chan. It's not fair to me, and it's especially not fair to yourself! You can't tear your heart in two, Botan-chan, not like this! I won't let you do that to yourself."

Gripping his jacket in desperation, she sobbed pleadingly, "But now I care for you, Kaito-chan!"

"Botan-chan, I--"

And then the unthinkable happened. Botan lifted her face and kissed Kaito. And it was not just some kiss, oh no. The pair kissed for a long moment, which seemed like an agonizing eternity to Kurama, and with quite a deal passion. All of the spectators were completely silent; everyone held his or her breath in anticipation of this climax.

Kurama would have had a heart attack if his heart were not already broken.

Finally the kiss broke, with Kaito only to stare regretfully into Botan's beautiful teary eyes and say, "I'm sorry, Botan-chan."

And with a woeful shake of her head and tears streaming down her face, the junior high student ran away from her now ex-boyfriend and down the hallway in search of solitude. The students surrounding them parted sympathetically, seeing as the girl truly did care about their classmate.

"Bastard," Kurama muttered beneath his breath while he watched his dear one fly away with a broken heart. The demon inside him raged with unremitting fury; blood needed to be spilled.

"Botan-chan," Kaito sighed, hanging his head. "If only you knew how hard it is to let you go... but I know you really want to be with him, that Yusuke." A group of female classmates suddenly surrounded the young man, each young lady cooing sympathetically for his broken heart and noble sacrifice.

"Oh, are you all right, Kaito-kun?"

"It must have been hard for you, Kaito-kun."

"Do you need someone to talk to, Kaito-kun?"

"Yuu-kun, are you all right?" Kentoshima Yui, the reason why everything had began, questioned kindly when she joined the other Meiou students in their concern for the now single Yuu Kaito. The boy felt like he was in heaven.

The girls soon found their selves pushed aside by an invisible but malevolent force as a storming Minamino Syuuichi walked up to the "gloomy" Yuu Kaito. Flaming fury radiated from the undercover demon; and although only Kaito could see Kurama's dangerous deathly aura swarming all around him, that did not mean the other humans could not sense it. The students looked left and right, wondering how quickly the weather had changed, some feeling unbearably hot while others felt numb with cold.

Syuuichi's face betrayed nothing, his expression blank and emotionless as ever. But the piercing look in his eyes and his releasing Demon Energy told Kaito all that he needed to know: the end was near. And before anyone could suspect or protest against him, Syuuichi satisfyingly punched Kaito in the face.


A shocking gasp swooped down the hallway, soon followed with a frightening silence.

"This is only the beginning, Yuu-san," Kurama muttered darkly as he stared down at a messy face of blood. "Remember, you sealed your own fate when you hurt her." And without another thought, the Spirit Detective flew down the hall in search of a depressed deity. Don't worry, Botan, I'm coming.

He paid no heed to the whispers, mutterings, and murmurs as he ran after the girl.

"Is Minamino-san in love with her?"

"Wait... was he the one who punched Yuu-kun?"

"Isn't he friends with the boy she's in love with?"

"Ah, poor Kaito-kun!"

Sensing she had not run far, the fox apparition felt glad that he had quickly found Botan. From her earlier expression, the young man figured she would need as much comfort as she could get. And he did not mind being a source of that comfort, especially if he could get closer to Botan. However, Kurama was sorely surprised when he found Botan peeping over the corner with a dark glare. And for the second time that day, he was dumbstruck. The Botan before him looked like nothing had happened. In fact, she looked like the Botan Kurama knew before her relationship with Yuu Kaito. The only difference was she was deadly angry with him.

"Kurama-kun, what did you do?!" she demanded with a frightened tone as she watched over the corner. Fortunately, the bleeding Kaito was being treated by a terribly worried Yui and other startled students. They had managed to stop the bloody nose and had confirmed that he did not have a concussion. Once they picked up onto his feet, Yui told the others that she would escort him to the nurse's office to be treated.

Turning her attention to the Spirit Detective, Botan hissed angrily, "Oi, it looks like you nearly killed him with that blow!"

Trying to find words in his numb mouth, the Spirit Detective blubbered, "Botan-kun, you're not--but I--I--I thought he--he--"

"Kurama-kun, that was very mean of you! I thought you were more of a gentlemen," Botan scolded, cornering Kurama against a wall. She waved a reprimanding finger at his face. "How could you act so brashly without thinking of the consequences? What's the matter with you, Kurama-kun? You know that the higher-ups in Spirit World can count this as an attack on a human--and that'll just make your probation longer. If not longer, they'll probably add another punishment to everything." She took another look over the corner to see if things had settled a little. When she saw that they were, she sighed and shook her head at her friend. "Really... Lately, Kurama-kun, I don't think I know you anymore."

He stared at Botan helplessly. "But Botan-kun, I thought he--"

"Oi, Kurama-kun, you're only lucky our planned work or else I would be very mad at you for ruining everything," she continued ranting while putting a hand to her forehead. Her brows furrowed, she had a strained expression on her face. "I only hope Kaito-kun will be as forgiving--that should also help ease your punishment in Spirit World when they hear about this. Jeez, I worked so hard to help you too!"

"Your plan?"

Botan crossed her arms and glowered at the Detective. "Yes, our plan, Kurama-kun. Kaito-kun and I were trying to get him popular with the girls, especially with Yui-san; I agreed to help him only because he said all of your female classmates would stop stalking you." Releasing a heavy breath, she puckered her lips in exasperation. "Honestly, I never thought you would get jealous because the girls thwarted their attention to another boy! Shame on you, Kurama-kun, for your vanity!"

"My--My vanity?" He tried to comprehend Botan's words and the meaning of the entire situation. Why was Botan scolding him, of all people? He had not been the one to break her heart, Kaito had; but then again, her heart had not been broken either. Why was that? And were not rescuers usually rewarded for their efforts? Why was he the villain in this situation?

Did I just hear right? A plan? This entire charade was a plan? They planned their entire relationship out? Kurama groaned at his idiocy and grieved for his talents, as they apparently were in decline. Everything was fake, and I--I believed them like a fool; they had me fooled along with everyone else. Hiei was right; I am an idiot.

"Kurama-kun, you better go and apologize to Kaito-kun when he's conscious again! After all, you did hit him when it was absolutely uncalled for." And Spirit World definitely would have it documented, Botan knew that for sure. The only way to save Kurama at this point was to make him apologize and receive forgiveness. She only had to convince him to do it! "And if you don't apologize, I'll never forgive you for being so mean to my friend!"

"Botan-kun, why--why did you agree to Yuu-san's plan?" Kurama questioned when he was able to find his voice again. Although Botan's words reached him, he did not care about that right now. He needed answers to his questions. "Why did you agree with Kaito to make me jealous?"

His words caught Botan off guard.

"I-I-I told you," she blushed while taking a step backwards. "Y-You always told me, K-Kurama-kun, you wanted a moment's peace at school; and I thought if I-I did this, you would finally get that." Of course, she would not mention that she had felt a little jealous about so many girls vying for his attention; nor the fact that she selfishly wanted him all to herself. She would also have to leave out the fact that she wanted to know if he felt the same way she felt about him. All of that would be unnecessary information. "Kaito-kun promised that if I helped him, I would be helping you. And I would do anything to help you."

Kurama felt deeply touched. Botan had not "gone out" with Kaito to hurt him but instead help him; she had endured hardship to bring peace to his life. How--how endearing. Does she really care about me that much? "Botan-kun..."

"Why would you be so jealous, Kurama-kun, if attention is the last thing you want?" she demanded quietly as she stared at her feet. A sudden sad look filled her amethyst eyes as she quickly glanced at the Syuuichi's female classmates walking past. "Why do you care so much about their opinions, Kurama-kun? Why do you care about those fickle feelings?"

"You think I am jealous because all the girls noticed Yuu-san?" he snorted, incredulous and somewhat offended by Botan's silly notion. Running a hand through his crimson locks, he chuckled lightly, "Ha, I'm far from jealous of him, Botan-kun. I'm rather glad those girls are now after him instead of me."

"But you said you were jealous of Kaito-kun, Kurama-kun," she wondered in a confused manner, staring at him directly. She pouted, very much bewildered by her somewhat demonic friend. "If you weren't jealous of Kaito-kun about that, then what--Why? Why did you do that, Kurama-kun?"

"Can't you guess, Botan?" he asked with a tender whisper, dropping honorifics completely. The ferry girl noticed the act of informality instantly and blushed at its meaning. She tried suppressing a shiver as his lips murmured with a deep voice into her sensitive ears, "Can't you guess what my secret is?"

"Erm, no." Anxiety was taking over Botan as Kurama traced her cheek with smooth fingers.

"Then let me show you," Kurama muttered seductively. His warm breath tickled Botan's neck with conflicting sensations; but before the girl could argue, the fox drew her into a long-desired kiss. When their lips made contact, there were no arguments from the blue-haired spirit; in fact, she surprised Kurama when she instantaneously responded in kind with her own pent-up passions. They remained locked in their "confessions" for a long moment before either decided to break for air.

"I would have never guessed that you felt like that for me," Kurama chuckled as he rested his head in the crook of Botan's neck. "Honestly, I believed Yuu-san when he said that you were in love with Yusuke." Even though they had just confessed to each other and had not yet made formal claims, the fox continued treating Botan like a lover of many years. He smiled when he kissed her pulsing vein in her neck and felt the heat radiating from her.

Blushing a deep, dark red from his administrations, the young lady managed to say, "I was never in love with him--and I should be the one to say that I would never have guessed that you felt like that for me!" She shifted uncomfortably beneath Kurama's possessive hold on her and did not know how to react to his nibbling on her ear--or to anything else for that matter. "I always thought you were indifferent about me."

He pulled away slightly from her form and stared at her in bewilderment. "How could I ever be indifferent to you?"

"You were, even if you weren't intentional about it," she said matter-of-factly while pulling herself from his hold. "And you have to stop this, Kurama-kun."

Grabbing her wrist, he jerked her towards him and demanded, "Why?"

"Why?" She sighed with incredulity and wondered where her reasonable fox-spirit had disappeared. "I haven't even formally confessed to you yet, Kurama-kun, and here you are already doing--doing things to me! For all I know I already have a few hickeys and I can't go to work like that and expect to live." With reflexes she and the redhead did not know she possessed, Botan caught his face and kept him from making anymore progress with her neck or ear. "You haven't even formally confessed!"

Finally managing to pry herself free from Kurama, the sky-haired girl quickly straightened her uniform and ran away. Before she disappeared over the corner and into Spirit World, she popped her head over the side and murmured with a frown, "You know that we're have to keep all of this a secret, Kurama-kun."

Already disappointed that she had rejected him--but accepted him at the same time?--and had ran away, he raised a scarlet brow and inquired, "Whatever for?"

"Well, other than the obvious reasons: if Koenma-sama were to find out about any of this, especially the part with Kaito-kun, you would be in big trouble," she sighed. "But something a little more immediate for you: Shuuichi-chan has the biggest crush on me. It would break his little heart if he found out about this." Before Minamino could protest against such reasons, he felt Botan's Spirit Energy disappear, signaling her return to her ferry girl state and exit from the physical plane.

Also, because of me we're going to have to keep this a secret, the ferry girl blushed while she flew towards the Gate of Judgment. But we'll talk about that another day...

With a heavy sigh, Kurama fixed his own uniform and wondered about the complicated relationship he found himself in. She's more sensitive about my brother's feelings than my own--really, one would think she should show more interest in me if I'm the one she's in love with.

While making his way towards the nurse's office to sincerely apologize to a fellow classmate, a smirk lit Kurama's usual poker face. But then again, I wouldn't be interested if she were any other way.

As he entered and bowed apologetically to Kaito and offered sincere regrets for his actions, the foxy demon within chuckled at the task before him. Well, at least he and Botan would tackle the challenge together. But he could not help but chuckle to himself all the same.

I wonder how long we can keep this a secret from everyone?