Saeka: Erm… yeah. Don't think I can explain or talk my way out of this one guys… Ooooh! It was snowing today in second period, so we begged our instructor to let us go outside and play in the snow. Even though it was only like half and inch, and it was only there for like two hours, I got to play in it! Eeeeeee! It doesn't snow much in Georgia. I mean, when it snow like three quarters of an inch, school gets closed, the roads get blocked up, and the news station considers it the biggest storm of the season. And I got to play in the snow! Considering that half an inch of snow is probably the most we'll get this year, and that makes me happy! I know, I know… people in New York and stuff are like, pahh, and inch of snow? I can pick that much off my shoes! Yeah! So! Most Georgian's don't even know what snow looks like. So there!

Disclaimer: I'll never own YYH… (sighs)

Reviewers: Yay! Ya'll simply are the best. And because you guys are the best group of reviewers ever, I'll give you a chapter so damn full of fluff it'll make you puke. And, even better, I'll respond to each and every one of you at the end of the chapter! Isn't that exciting? Now, if you can't contain your excitement, (like I know you can't) just scroll down and look before you read. As I'm pretty sure none of ya'll are reading this author's note, let me close on this: Spiffeth, flibberty loo, and chickens.



Chapter Nine: A Hardcore Fluff Chapter

The Countryside Outside of the Palace

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees; the thunder was crackling in the distance while the lightning tore a thin ribbon of blue across the sky. The moon was a brilliant yellow coin tossed upon the cloudy sea of night, flickering in and out of its lambent rays as the storm clouds raced upon the winds. Surprisingly, below the battle of earth, wind, and fire, there lay a house.

A small cabin perched atop a grassy knoll; it emitted a sense of coziness in the raging storm. There was a soft light was coming through it's small window; a beacon of hope in the night's eerie darkness. And if one would look through the window, in the house was a woman, and in the woman's lap was a small child.

"Tell me another story!" she squealed excitedly, bouncing up and down on her mother's knee.

Laughing, the woman tossed back a long wave of golden hair, her light brown eyes twinkling with merriment. "But I've already told you three, Nori," she chided gently, grasping her daughter's shoulders in an attempt to still her.

Nori, who was alive with ideas to avoid going to bed during the angry storm, stuck out her lower lip which immediately began to quiver as her hazel eyes shinned with tears.

"But," her mother said, contemplating, "I guess I can tell another one."

Nori pealed with laughter, clapping her hands together happily, her former disposition forgotten. "Oh boy! I wanna hear the one big monster, and the giant tree, and where there was all this neat stuff, and then there was this kitty, and then with the boy who jumped up and EXPLODED when he was—"

"All right," the mother said, cutting off her daughter's flow of words as she caught the tiny hands that flew around in violent gestures. "I don't think something quite so sadistic just before bed time. How about the Samurai story?"

"No… I didn't like that one, mama… the little kitty dies…"

"What about Urashima Taro?"

"Yay! Urashima Taro!" Nori said gleefully, rubbing her hands together. "That's my absolute favoritist story ever! It was so cool when he opened that box and then he became—"

"Hush," her mother said, putting a finger to her lips. "I'm telling a story." Nori froze instantly, her wide eyes focused on her mother with the intensity of a searchlight. Her mother smiled, and took a deep breath. She looked down at her daughter, who seemed to have forgotten everything except the sound of her voice. "Now, once upon a time—"

The door to the small cabin banged open suddenly, and a tall figure stood silhouetted in the doorframe. "Jiro?" her mother gasped as the form strode into the house, leaving a small trail of water on the floor as rain dripped from his clothes.

"We have to go, Lana," he said flatly, grabbing a sack and throwing open a drawer.

"Is something wrong, darling?" Lana asked, gently dropping Nori down on the floor and rising from her chair. "I didn't expect you back until well after—"

Jiro spun around suddenly and grabbed his wife's arm, swinging her around to give her a hard, passionate kiss. "Look," he whispered urgently, breathing kisses along her brow, "it isn't safe here, everyone else has already ran. We can't stay."

"Is it...?"

"Yes," Nori's father said, turning back around to stuff some clothes into the sack. "He's come back."

"Put on your shoes Nori," Lana said, moving around the small cabin to grab some food from a cabinet.

"But mama," Nori stammered, fear in her eyes as she stuck her thumb into her mouth.

"Put on your shoes!" she fairly screamed back at her daughter.

Nori's lower lip trembled, and tears began to pour desperately down her cheeks. What had caused this sudden outbreak from her normally calm mother? What was going on? Jiro threw a sack over his wide shoulders' before bending down to his daughter. "It's all right, cherry blossom," he murmured, gently whipping away her tears. "Everything will be all right."
Just then, a scream sounded in the distance.

"Move faster Lana!" A laugh, a horrible low-pitched laugh followed, tearing through the dark night. Nori started sobbing then, burying her face into her father's neck. She saw her father grab her mother's hand; try to pull her roughly through the door. "There isn't time," he growled as she grabbed her shawl. Another scream pealed in the distance, another laugh, then a few shouts. Her father began running then, pulling her mother along as she stumbled through the darkness, Nori wailing loudly.
The laugh sounded again, this time closer than the last. Just then, her father came to an abrupt stop and her mother screamed.

"Hold still a moment, Aki," a truly refined voice came through the darkness. "This one reminds me of someone. Allow me the honors."

Nori looked out, and in the lighting flashes saw a man perched atop a gleaming white Arabian. His dark eyes shimmered with hate as he watched Jiro's golden eyes dim with fear. "As you wish, Lord," another voice came, a hooded figure sweeping into a deep bow and moving out of the way.

"You see, Aki," the man said, smoothly dismounting from his horse. "I do so despise cowards," he reached down into his cloak and flicked open a rather large dagger. "And this one reminds me of a certain snooty Reikai Prince to whom I believe deserves every ounce of my hate."

Nori screamed. Her father took a step backward, grasping his daughter's hand as he tried to process what was just said. He turned around and stuffed Nori into her mother's arms. "Take her," he yelled loudly, pushing her away.

"But Jiro!" Lana protested, her voice shaky.

"Go!"

Lana turned and ran, stumbling over tree roots, sobs escaping from her and her daughter as they made their way through the dense forest. Then they heard his scream. It was low, filled with agony and pain. Lana stopped suddenly, frozen as tears ran freely down her cheeks. "Oh, no," she said, clutching Lana close to her and burying her face in her daughter's hair. "No!" she wailed. They heard leaves crunch behind them, and Lana turned, sobs racking her body. Nori saw through her tears the same man, blood dripping from his dagger.

"Your husband I assume," he began slowly, "was very valiant about his death. Saying to " 'kill me and spare your lives!' " He mocked offhandedly in high voice. "Insolent fool." He said softly, finally as his gleaming Hessian boots stopped in front of the small form of woman and daughter. "My men are thirsty for blood, and with that pompous Hiei sitting on his pale, skinny ass, there isn't really anything we can do about it except sack your village. I am on a strict no prisoners affair, you see. There isn't any way around it, my love. Either you die, or you die!" He chuckled, and Lana fell to the floor, Nori still clutched in her grasp. She whispered something to the girl, who with tears in her eyes, nodded and ran away, picking her way through the forest.

Mamoru, with bloodlust gleaming in his eyes, hadn't noticed the small form dash away. "Now, darling you mustn't take it personal," he said, bending down to wipe his dagger on Lana's dress. "You are really quite a beautiful creature, and it pains me that I must kill you. Sadly," he speculated as he inspected his weapon, "You are simply a woman, and thereby an instrument to use." He grinned fiercely. "You're pardon, Madam." And with no more warning than that, he grabbed Lana by her arm, yanked her up, took a fistful of her hair, and pressed his mouth to hers, ramming his tongue down her throat.
Lana's scream was muted by his harsh take of her body, her hands hooking like claws as she scratched at his face. Not surprisingly, that only made him hold her tighter, to the point where she drew back her knee and rammed it up the apex of his thighs.

He swore loudly, Lana being temporarily forgotten as he dropped her to cradle his wound. "Bitch," he said thickly through his teeth. "You'll regret that!"

Lana's breathing became harsher and her began to beat faster and faster as he began walking towards her. Then, all of the sudden, she burst into peals of giggles.

The man sneered at the woman, pulling her up by her hair and slamming her against a tree trunk. "Stupid broad," he muttered, yanking up her skirts as he hammered into her.


Hiei's P.O.V.

What had surprised me when I had opened my eyes the most was the beautiful splendor of the land as it succumbed to winter's grief. The trees were bare and seemed to shiver subtly as the wind blew across their naked branches. Kurama's carefully manicured lawns had turned a dull brown color, dying with the balmy summer and cool fall breezes. A fine layer of snow had dusted the forest, making it shimmer in an almost ethereal way.

My head felt like someone had taken an axe to it, the brisk air only intensifying the pain. Taking a few breaths, my hand roved around in the piles of dead leaves, searching for something to get a handle on so I could pull myself up. As soon as I did stand, I felt dizzy and disoriented. Clutching a hand to my forehead, I took another slow breaths to try and stop the pounding.

What am I doing here? I thought, looking around at cold, frigid winter scenery. What… happened? Feeling weak and faded, I braced myself against the cool trunk of the tree and tried to gather my wits.

"My love, my darling…"

The voice startled me. Surprised, I spun around, only to meet remote wintry air. "Hello?" I called, my eyes searching the forest for the body to which the voice belonged.

"You're so cold…"

It was a female voice, her words as soft as summer rain, yet they radiated throughout to the forest. "Where are you?" I yelled, trying desperately to find the woman to which the voice belonged. The voice was soothing, and seemed to remind me of someone. Disoriented, I stumbled forward, hoping that would help me find the wench who had filled the air with her talking.

"Shall we take a bath?"

Visions of warmth and sparkling jewels filled my mind, for some reason that I can't yet explain. I fumbled through the dense forest, the noise of the snow falling softly on the forest floor mocking me.

"Why are you so distant…?"

"I'm right here!" I cried out, crashing through the forest to the near point of insanity.

"Where are you?"

"I right here!" I yelled again, nigh screaming it in my own frustration. She sounded so close… and yet I couldn't find her. It was tearing me apart. She had a lovely voice, and with it, I could hear the faint dripping of water. Starting to breathe even harder, I stormed across the land, straining to hear the sound I water that became louder and louder as became closer and closer.

"Lie still… let me hold you…"

"Where are you!"

"You're so cold…"

The dripping of water became thunderous, faster, more prominent; her voice mocking me and giving me visions of warmth and loveliness, while all I felt was cold and empty.

"Let me warm you…"

My breath came stood out in visible puffs against the frigid, icy air. My feet began to fly over the earth, my body twitching at the slightest sound.

"Let me hold you…"

I ran faster and faster, harder and harder, the voice driving me to the point of near insanity.

"Let me touch you…"

And then, as suddenly as it had begun, the dripping stopped. The wind no longer carried the gentile feminine voice of woman, no longer echoed with water. I stopped, standing still as to try and listen for the noise. But all I heard was the resonance of the wind rustling against the trees. A puzzled frown came onto my face. Was I crazy? Had I only imagined the voice?

No.

It had sounded too real, felt too authentic. Just as I was about to turn around and I find away out of the forest, my ears picked up a noise. It was faint at first, slow and sounding strained. Inquiringly, I stepped forward wanting to know more about the noise. I hadn't gone but a few feet when it began to get louder, and sound more pronounced. It was another voice; this one as pure and clean as a mountain stream. And it was singing.

I was hearing voices in the middle of nowhere. Surely, I had somehow managed to lose my mind when I had woken up with a pounding headache.

Yet, the closer I became, the more I wanted to know about the innocent and lovely voice that was singing. I had heard it before—but where? I moved forward until the voice sounded like it was singing in my ear. I stopped before a large fen of elm trees, shielding the person within it. The singing had become loud enough for me to make out the words. Weirdly, the words seemed to match the eloquent and gentle singing. Pausing, I lifted my face to the wind and listened.

By the time you swear you're his,

Shivering and sighing,

And he vows his passion is

Infinite, undying -

Lady make note of this:

One of you is lying…

The song called to me. It was like a siren's song, catching my ear and drawing me to the voice like moths to a flame, promising me desire… Who was this maiden who had charmed me so? I had to know. Feeling my heartbeat quicken, I took a shuddering breath and pushed through the foliage.

And stared.

I felt as if the wind had been driven out of me with a chain-mailed fist. Every breath I took, every beat of my heart felt forced. I sucked in air only to have it stick in my throat. The beautiful, enchanting voice had been coming from her. Her long hair running like rain down her back, her bright lilac eyes sparkling in the harsh winter light. Her pure voice matched the beauty and clarity of the pool of water trickling beside her, her hands and body as delicate as the wildflowers she held in her hand. She looked almost childish, standing in a shaft of light, her head thrown back as she sang. I moved forward quietly, not wanting to disturb this creature of loveliness that stood before me. A twig snapped beneath my feet, and I froze as I watched her gasp and her head snap around. Her exquisite eyes widened in surprise, and her hair had flown in a long arc.

"Hiei," she breathed.

My heart stalled, then ran. "How do you know my name?" I whispered. I could hear the blood pounding in my ears as she moved forward; her hair, the light color of a summer sky, was swinging delicately. Her eyes looked down when she stopped just short of me, her hands slowly lifting to frame my face. My eyes widened in turn when those violet eyes looked up and searched mine.

"I've missed you, love." With that she lowered her lips to mine. This kiss was sweetly intimate, her lips moving softly over mine. When she looked up at me again, her eyes were luminous with tears. "I've been wondering when you'd come home," she murmured, her lips gently nuzzling my ear.

I didn't know what to think. That kiss had near brought me to my knees, for it was achingly sweet. Holding was like holding a mountain brook, vibrant, rushing, alive. I felt like I knew her before, had heard the sound of her voice, had felt her tender mouth moving melodiously over mine. But I knew that was impossible.

"How do you know my name?" I asked again, quietly against her hair.

She laughed, an enchanting sound, for it reminded me of the tinkling of wind chimes. "My darling Hiei… don't you understand? I know you; the way the wind knows the mountains.(1) Do you remember me?"

That voice… that divine, lovely, soft feminine voice had called to me before. Visions burst over me, visions of this woman. Her eyes looking into mine before, her laughter sounding through a deep garden. Her slender frame bending over to pick a dainty flower, her light blue hair sliding down over her shoulder. A fight, her calm eyes looking at me as I ravaged her with harsh words in a harsher tone. I had known such beauty before, relished in it, but couldn't remember where. "I remember you," I whispered. "We fought… there was—"

"Shh…." She said, pressing a finger to my lips. "That's all in that past. As long as you remember me, that's all that matters."

"I remember you," I murmured against her lips. "But… your name…"

She sighed softly, her warm breath rustling the hairs at my nape. "It doesn't matter. The answer is in your dreams."

Her reply was enigmatic. I was about to ask again, yet when her lips nuzzled my ear and she bit softly on it, coherent thought had already splintered. "Can't I just enjoy you here and now?" She breathed into my ear.

I took a shuddering breath as I tried to still the feral beating of my heart. All I was doing was holding her, and yet she made feel as if I had run a forty-mile race. No one had ever made me feel as she had. There was something about her, I had known her before now, I had held her before now. Her name was on the tip of my tongue, but it wouldn't come out. She had bewitched me so completely…

"Yes," I said, bringing my head down to her lips.

The kiss we shared was something made of fantasy. My mouth rubbing hotly over hers, nibbling at her full lower lip. When her mouth parted on a low moan, my tongue slid inside to taste the velvet softness of her lips. And when she touched it with her own tongue, I groaned. She threaded her fingers through my hair, increasing the pressure of her lips against mine hungrily.This kiss… it was tying me in knots. And later, a long time later, when she lifted her mouth from mine, I felt empty.

Her eyes, those beautiful amethyst eyes, looked up into mine, and I felt something inside me burst.

"Shall we take a bath?" She murmured.

My breathing shallow and uneven, I looked down towards the pool of water.

And nodded.


The Forest Before Nori's Escape

Shaking, Botan tried to pick herself up from the ground, only to have her hand slip and land her flat on her face again. A strangled sob escaped from her throat. She took a few steadying breaths, and pulled herself up again with the aide of a tree branch. The sun had long since sunk below the horizon.

How long had she been there? Since Mamoru had left, she stayed on the ground, rolling herself up into a ball and weeping for all her worth. It was late afternoon when she had first started her treacherous expedition to hell, and who knew what time it was now. With a grimy palm, Botan wiped off the dirt on her cheeks and tried to get the pieces of leaves stuck in her hair.

Only when a rumble of thunder sounded off in distance did Botan notice then that it was raining. Pouring, to be more precise. What am I going to do? She asked herself as she watched lightening dance across the sky. I can't go back there. I'm already dead. I've hurt so many people in these past few months… I couldn't bear to hurt Hiei. Or Kurama, for that matter. They've been so wonderful… well, Kurama at least, she thought with a wry look. Hiei hasn't done anything except mope. If I go back there though… I'll have to see the looks on their faces when they realize who I am. What I… what I am supposed to be.

With a sinking feeling, Botan sat down on her rump again, and leaned back against the tree trunk. Why do bad things always seem to happen to me? The wind kicked up loudly, and the oak creaked as the branches swayed and danced in the wind. I remember just three months ago, I was sitting atop my broom, happy as could be, watching the souls sail behind me the light summer breeze. Then… then Koenma had found Mamoru.

And it had all been downhill from there.

...3 Months Ago...

Koenma had looked like the very picture of a young prince, sitting atop his stool as he stamped papers while barking out orders to Jorge. "I want the Vietcong papers on my desk by Monday. And make sure not to take them literally like you did last time, Ogre! It took days to get those cows off the roof!"

Jorge flushed as he hefted a stack of papers of his master's desk. "Yes, Koenma sir," he muttered to himself.

"Oh, and Ogre?" The Reikai prince asked as he looked up from his desk.

Ogre sighed. That usually meant that he was going to have to chase down some foreign something that would often take a few days of haggling and cost him a few more gray hairs. Oh well. At least now he knew for sure that he'd never get married. "What is it, Koenma, sir?"

"Would you mind bringing me a plate of Kalian's fried rice? I'm extremely ravished."

Damn. That meant at least three hours on the phone lines. "Yes, Koenma sir," he answered, his voice less than excited.

Botan watched the goings on with a smile on her face. Though Koenma didn't know it, he was always a great source of amusement among the ferry girls. She moved forward and out of the doorway, letting a muttering Jorge slink past.

"Ah, Botan!" Koenma said, holding out his arms to her when he saw her in the doorway. "Just the person I wanted to see! Come here!"

Her smile breaking out into a grin, Botan flounced over to Koenma and threw her arms around his neck. "Koenma sir, how are you?"

Koenma released her and leaned back in his chair. "Fine, I guess you could say. And how was the Croatian run?"

"Wonderful. Went off without a hitch!"

"Excellent. I'm glad."

There was an awkward moment of silence between the two. Koenma shuffled some of his papers around, and cleared his throat. "Well, I guess you're wondering why I've called you here."

"You could say that," Botan said, her purple eyes twinkling.

Suddenly, Koenma's lively golden eyes darkened. "Botan, do you trust me?" He asked, his hand reaching out for hers. She took it, and grasped it with familiarity.

"Of course," she answered, a little puzzled at his strange mood.

"Good," he breathed. "I'd… I'd like to introduce you to one my, well, I guess you could call him my advisor."

Botan frowned. "Isn't Jorge you're advisor?"

"Well," Koenma coughed, and then awkwardly scratched his head. "Yes, but— ahem— well, Ogre isn't necessarily good with, well—you know—business matters."

"You mean the war." It didn't surprise Koenma that anger crept into her voice. After all, he wasn't the one that was left to pick up the pieces of the Shadow Lord's disasters. It was hard enough for her to put a straight face on after the tragedy in Croatia. I swear to God, if he takes anymore innocent lives by way of bomb, plane, or mass murder, and if I have to see that look on her face one more time, I will personally kick his ass. Letting out a deep and weary sigh, Koenma reached out for his favorite ferry girl's hand.

"Yes. I mean the war. Botan, this man is going to prove invaluable to me. He's already gotten rid of four of his platoons, which is more than I have managed by myself. He's the man that's going to lead us to victory, Botan! I can just feel it!"

Botan's mouth twisted down in pain. How many more lives must we take, before it's over? Oh, I wish I could my hands on this "shadow lord"! "Who is he?"

"Allow me to introduce myself," a deeply cultured voice said from behind her. Startled, she whipped around to see a tall man, his eyes flashing darkly and his mouth curved upward in a slight smile, and his hands neatly hooked behind his back. He walked over towards her, carefully picked up her hand, and boldly pressed it to his lips. "I believe you can call me Mamoru, darling," he murmured against her hand. "And like our dear Koenma said, "I'm going to be the one who'll lead this pathetic kingdom to victory.

Botan disliked him on the spot.

...Present Day...

And Koenma was dead within two months.

Botan shuddered as the wind blew through the trees. Koenma had taken to him like his long lost brother, giving him a house, stature, a constant source of food. He sprang out of no-where, and yet Koenma-sama had trusted him with his life. That had ended up to prove fatal.

Mamoru poisoned Koenma's mind with his ideas. He brought his own "advisors" with him… and Koenma had trusted every last one of them. His own murderer among them. It had broken Botan's heart to walk into Koenma's office, of which she usually had free run of, only to see a group of slimy looking men clustered around battle maps. And with a chuckle, a pinch on the cheek, she was let out again. As Mamoru always said, war is a man's business, she thought, her mouth twisting down into a frown.

And then… Koenma was dead. Thunder cracked sharply overhead. The bang of the gun… the blood on my hands…the smell of death in the air. Wincing slightly, Botan shrugged her shoulders and tried to push the dark thoughts from her mind. And that brought me here. Straight into Hiei's arms, she mused as she listened to the rain. He was always so gentle with me… and now he's about to find out that it was all for nothing. Mamoru hadn't even used me as a spy. He just used me to get close to Hiei, and then… then when I was discovered, more would happen to him than just me leaving.

Would more happen to me to?

At the gloomy and desolate idea, she trembled. He'll never be able to love, so you should feel nothing for him. You can't go back to him—he wouldn't let you. And I couldn't go back home, for if I did I'd surely be killed. No ones likely to forget the treason I committed in this lifetime. I can' go to the human world, for its likely that there I'll be killed as well.

At every possible turn, there was death. I thought that I knew what it meant to be alone when Koenma-sama died. Now I know what it is in every sense of the word. It was one thing to leave one place and be expected in the other, but to be shunned from all places? To be accepted nowhere… that was loneliness.

Yet if I never go back… I'll never see both of them again. And if I don't go back, I'll never forgive myself. I've been called a coward before… and if I didn't go back that would mean that I really was one. I should stay and explain… maybe they'll understand. She laughed quietly to herself. Fool. If you go back, you're dead. Hiei's never been one to step aside someone who wronged him. And if indeed it's me who lost this war… my death and my resting place will be a shallow grave.

Stay or go, I'll die anyway. Turning her face upward to the rain, she felt each drop sting her skin. Might as well do the right thing and go back… no doubt whoever found me has already told the person.


The Palace

Four hours ago, Mitsuki Hitori had stumbled across Botan in the arms of another man. And when that man just so happened to be Mamoru, and when that man just so happened to be the one who caused you so much pain and strife, it could make a man mad enough to kill. It wasn't getting any better either, for everywhere he turned no one knew where Hiei was. He had searched the whole palace, turned it upside down, asked every breathing soul there where he had gone, and yet no one knew. He had come back to his wife's cottage on the grounds in desperation and to ask her for answers.

"Mina!" He roared, throwing open the door. "Mina, where are you!"

His petite blonde wife walked through their bedroom door and into the foyer, a confused expression on her face. "Mitsuki? What are you—"

Cutting her off brusquely, he grabbed her by the waist and stared into her eyes. "Mina, it is very important that if you know where Hiei is you tell me right now. Do you?"

Mina frowned in confusion. "No, I thought he was still in his room… Why do you ask?"

Hitori sighed deeply before walking over to the kitchen table and slumping into a chair. "Mitsuki?" she asked again, walking over towards her husband to place a hand on his shoulder. "Is everything all right?"

How do I tell her? He thought, turning bleary eyes towards his wife. How do I tell her that her friend, the one she treats like her daughter, is the betrayer? "Mina," he began, covering his hand over hers. "I think you need to sit down."

"I think I'll stand," she answered, tilting her chin defiantly.

He laughed softly, and breathed a kiss into her palm. "Don't get your dander up, darling. I just want to tell you something. I found a letter this morning… or, rather Kurama found it," digging into his pocket, he reached in and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. And its contents sent me to thinking." Handing the letter over towards his wife, he let her read it. And at the end, she looked just as confused as he felt.

"This letter… do you mean that…?" She trailed off, too afraid that she already knew the answer.

"I thought the same thing… I thought that Botan could never write such a thing, that she could never betray us. I went outside into the hills to go and think. And then…then the real horrors started." Hitori went on to tell his hurt and then anger in seeing Botan in the arms of the enemy. And at the end of the tale, Mina looked as betrayed as he felt.

"Oh, God," she whispered, slumping into a chair. "Mitsuki…" she said, turning to face her husband. "Do you know what this means?"

Hitori sighed deeply and began to gently stroke Mina's hair. "Yes. She could be killed. At first, all I thought of was revealing her true nature to Hiei… I couldn't bring myself to tell Kurama. I know that would rip him apart."

"But… if you can't find Hiei, don't you suppose it would be wise to tell Kurama? Maybe this whole thing is just a misunderstanding."

"Just a misunderstanding? Mina, for the love of God, you didn't see them together! Botan, whom I have treated like my own daughter, was messing around with Mamoru! Don't you remember what he did to us? To our family?"

"I will never forget what he did to our son," Mina replied defiantly. "But that doesn't give you any reason to jump to conclusions. I think we should talk to Kurama. Maybe he knows what's going on."

"You're right," Hitori said, slouching back into his chair. "I shouldn't draw conclusions this fast. We'll see if it's all just a misunderstanding."

"That's the way," Mina said softly, reaching over the table to grasp Hitori's hand. "We'll wait. Now, how about we go and find Kurama?"

Hitori looked up towards his wife and smiled. "All right," he answered, allowing Mina to pull him up from the chair. Together, wife and husband ventured outside, the door to the cottage shutting quietly behind them. They stood on the porch, watching the storm that was ragging outside batter the trees and the rain thrash the ground. "I've never seem a storm so violent," Hitori commented as his hand possessively settled against Mina's hip.

Mina nodded solemnly. "I pity anyone who was foolish enough to be caught in it."

Suddenly, as if on cue, a figure formed on the horizon. The figure stumbled, then fell across the ground a sudden rush of wind. "Dear god," Mina whispered brokenly. "Is that a person?"

When the figure came closer into view as it staggered up towards Hitori's cabin, Mitsuki drew his arm a little closer around his wife. "It's Botan," he said, his voice grim.

"Someone needs to help her!" Mina tried to move, only to be bolted to the floor by her husband's superior strength. "Mitsuki, just because she might have betrayed us does not mean we can just leave her there!" Lightening flashed, and then thunder boomed. "She could die!"

"Quit being melodramatic. It she wasn't so busy playing a little slap and tickle with our enemy, she could have been here with plenty of time to spare."

"Mitsuki!" Mina said, shocked.

"It's the truth," Hitori answered blankly.

Botan's hair wiped around her in an angry blue cloud, her posture slumped against the wind. With the rain driving into her and blurring her vision, she could hardly make out the two figures in front of her. When she awkwardly moved up the stairs to stand in front of Hitori and Mina, she let out a sob. "At last, I thought I'd never get out of that storm…"

"What's the matter?" Hitori asked starkly. "Wouldn't Mamoru let you out of bed quick enough so you could go home?"

Mina made a low sound as Botan gasped. "You… you saw?"

Hitori's eyes narrowed. "You could say that."

"Then you know that he forced himself on me," Botan let out in a rush.

He laughed sharply. "He no more forced himself upon you than I would on Mina. You enjoyed every last bit of it, didn't you? Whore. Daughter of a whore. You wanton, don't you know what you've done!"

"I—"

"He's our enemy, he's the one who's trying to kill us all! Don't you see that once he's done with you, he'll kill you too? Don't you see that he's the one whose causing Hiei and Kurama so much pain? Aren't they your friends? Haven't you seen what he's done? The bastard took over spirit world and then started a war! He used us all to try and gain power! Can't you see that?"

"But, I—"

"You little fool," he said in a low voice. "I don't want to hear what you have to say. The words of a whore are as useless as dogs breaking wind! You have ruined us all! Do you know what's going to happen if he wins? Do you have any idea the kind of devastation that he'll bring upon us!"

"Listen to me," Botan began, tears falling down her face. "I—" Botan choked on a sob, collapsing atop the stairs.

"What, are you too weak to stand up? Did Mamoru wear you out? I don't care what you have to say, anyway! You're a slut, a dirty, misbegotten slut who is going to ruin us all! You're a whore, a two-timing little tramp, a goddamn prostitute, a—"

"Enough." Though soft, Mina's voice rang with steel.

"But, Mina, she—"

"No. Let me talk to her. Even if she is as you say no one deserves to be called those names. Botan," Mina said, turning cold eyes towards the woman who lay slack against the steps. "My husband found you in the arms of Mamoru. How do you explain that?"

Botan's breath caught before she spoke in a shaky voice, "He found me," Botan began, her voice trembling. "I was by myself, and drawing a picture. It… it soothes me. And then, he appeared… out of nowhere. He started touching me. At first, I fought him. That seemed to… to excite him more. So," Botan took a deep breath as a strangled sob came out from her throat. "I thought that I could go along with him, pretend that his caresses meant more than they did. And when he relaxed, I could draw the dagger I kept in my belt and ward him off. But… when I did… he laughed at me. And then walked away." Wisely, Botan decided to leave out some parts.

Mina felt the subtle tensing of her husband's body, and squeezed his hand slightly. "You say you tried to fight him. Why didn't you call for help?"

"I did!" Botan bawled, burring her face in her hands. "But… I was so far out… no one heard me."

"I heard you," Hitori gritted out. "And I saw you with him! How long did you "lead him on"?"

Botan winced at the rancor beneath Hitori's words. "Not long, a few moments. I thought that—"

"You thought? Am I supposed to believe that I came to you in the exact instant that you decided to "pretend"?" He snorted.

"Please believe me, it's the truth! I swear!" Botan cried. "I swear…"

"If I believe you, if I were to believe that cock-and-bull story, how do you explain this letter I found?"

Botan's fingers were shaking finely as she took the letter from Hitori. Her eyes widened as they scanned it, and she gasped.

"Familiar, is it?" He asked sardonically.

Her eyes wild, Botan looked up towards Hitori as she remember the last words Mamoru had told her. "And if there is a letter… be sure to say you wrote it…"

"I've never seen this before in my life," Botan answered, her voice raw with emotions.

Mina sighed, a gentle rustling noise that mingled with the crash of the thunder. "Botan, I dearly wish that I could believe you. I have loved you as I loved my son. To believe that you could write this, and betray everything we have tried to work for, that would tear the heart from my body. But this… seems all too likely."

"Please," Botan wept, long sobs racking her body. "Please believe me. If there is anything you could do for me, believe me. I would never try to betray you."

Hitori's eyes narrowed. "I thought that I could trust you, and look where that came. If you are as you say, if you didn't betray us, then maybe I could trust you again. Yet, this story does not seem probable. And it is by my wife's good heart that you are alive right now. I will give you another chance," he said condescendingly.

"Oh, thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you…" She cried over and over again, burring her face in his robes.

Hitori angrily shook her off. "But, that does not mean that I trust you. It means that you will have someone watching you, all the time. It means that everywhere you turn I'll have my eyes on you. And the moment you slip up, this time I will find Hiei and tell him. And no amount of weeping or lies shall sway my mind." He looked down at her, and shook his head in disgust. "You are not who I thought you were."

Botan gasped, and felt her heart twist abruptly. Mina sighed deeply, watching her husband angrily go out into the storm.

"Mina… Mina, you believe me, don't you?"

Mina turned cold eyes towards the pitiful girl who lay in front of her. "Come on," she said, wrenching her up from the ground. "Get inside before your wet clothes get you sick."

Starkly, the blue-haired girl watched Mina open the door and disappear into the house.

She doesn't believe me.

Dear God, what am I going to do?



Saeka: Because it would probably take three pages of writing to tell you why I haven't updated, I won't even bother.

To avoid rambling on, I'll leave this last though: Haven't you ever wished you weren't American? Do you lie awake at night and wonder why you weren't born French? Well, don't worry anymore, because I have just the ticket for you! Look at my new story, which is currently titled Prisoner of My Desire (title subject to change) and it just so happens to take place in lovely little France! If you like spoiled French actors whose first names start with the letter "H", mixed up and confused American girls whose first names just so happen to begin with the letter "B", and oh so conveniently love it when those mixed up American girls get kidnapped by those spoiled French actors, I know you'll just adore my story! Please take the time to read it; I promise you, after the first chapter, you'll be hooked!


Responses to Reviewers:

Crystal Koneko: Dang, girl, how do you always manage to be the first to review? Goodness… I agree, we should kill the bastard! But, no one knows if he dies or not. At least… not yet. Hehehehe….

Robin Autumn: Listen, honey, I hope the hardcore fluff chapter made up for your sudden burst of rage. I like my life, and would be honored if you decided not to take it!

Vindiya: Thanks, I'll have to check out that site!

Living Impaired: Your name is Lena? Pretty! I wish I had a pretty name… anything's better than my retarded American name.

Angle, Sparklefluff: Short-Attention spans are going to be the death of us one day…

Lady Water: Now you have another cliffy to kill you! (cackles madly) I'll try and fix it as soon as I can, though!

Tuathafaerie: Long reviews make me soooo happy! I'm sorry about your family, though… I hope the hard-core fluff chapter made you happy!

Hiei's Ice Maiden: I'll try and update soon, kay? Sorry if the chapter didn't end up how you wanted it to be.

Shizuka: Thanks! Don't stop your long reviews… they're soooo nice… And how could I possibly let Hiei find Botan? There must be drama in my story!

DistantCompany: I've decided to give you the silent treatment until you update. (glares)

Hiei's Shadow: Thanks for liking my sick and twisted mind!

Amanda: Yay! Your compliment made my day! It's nice to know that you like my stories so much!

Sherkoni-chan/Whatever-she's-calling-herself-now: Thanks! You know, because I updated, that means you have to update a certain story of your own. (wink) I can only harass you so much before you actually update. Let's see, it's only been what, five months! Is that a little odd? (sighs) I guess I shouldn't be the one to talk…

Wulfgrer: Thanks for liking my stories!

Cirae: I'm glad you liked my story!

Linwe Jaganshi: Ohh (clutches heart) It makes me sooo happy to know that you got into my story!

AineSironaTsuki: Hey if you didn't get enough from this story, look at POMD! And leave a review! (winks subtly)

Newyorkgeogirl: Yay! My story loves you, too!

(hugs all of her lovely reviewers)

Oh, I almost forgot….

Those-who-read-yet-don't-leave-a-review: Leave one! Pleeeaaaaaseeee….. it'd help for criticism and things like that!

(no hugs for those people) Humph.


1. CORRRRNEYYYY!