A/N: Your positive reviews have meant a lot to me. I wasn't sure if people would like this fanfic at first but it's nice to know you do. Wow, chapter seven already. Guess I'd best continue with the story so you can find out what happens to poor Shizuru and exactly what Botan and Hiei are about to discuss...

Got another question for the readers: Can you please give me any info possible on Shuuichi's little brother? I've read that he has one but I don't know anything about his age, appearance, etc. So any info on him would be appreciated...heh, like his name or when/where he's mentioned in the show/manga. Please place any info in a review, thanks!

Dark & Light: Her Night, His Day

Chapter Seven: Harsh Words and Hidden Toils

When life is kind and happiness is in abundance time always seems to fly by, leaving nary a moment to cling to. But when the world turns cold and tragedy hits the seconds seem to pass by as hours, leaving every instance to seem like an endless eternity, giving sorrow another chance to strike.

This truth seemed all too clear to the Reikai Tentai and their loved ones now. The Reikai Orb had nearly fallen into the clawed hands of a ruthless fire youkai, its keeper Ruri had been killed, and Yukina had accidentally managed to infect Shizuru with Kurama's demonic essence. What more would come to pass before this dreadful night was spent?

Outside the temple Hiei stood midway along a sturdy branch of one of the many ancient trees on the grounds. His crimson orbs stayed focused on one distant spot somewhere far off into the dazzling night sky. Stars twinkled from the heavens, misty bluish-gray clouds slowly trekked across the inky blue sky, and somewhere she was returning on an oar flown by newly enhanced spirit energy.

"Hn," he snorted to himself, "I did say that I wasn't going anywhere. At least not until she got back."

"That's right you did!" a cheerful voice chirped from behind him.

Trying his best not to look surprised he spun around on his heel and came face to face with a bubbly blue haired ferry girl.

Arching an eyebrow Hiei thought it odd that he hadn't been able to sense her until just now. Usually he would be the one catching her unaware. As amusing as that was to him, it was a bit frustrating to find himself on the receiving end for once.

"Ha!" Botan smiled in triumph, "I completely startled you didn't I?"

"Hn."

"Oh come on Hiei," Botan mock pouted, putting on her cutest kitty face, "don't get all grumpy just because I managed to sneak up on you once."

Deciding this topic to be a total waste of time he chose to ignore her and change the subject. "So Ruri is supposedly resting in peace now?"

"Yes." Botan nodded, a trace of a sorrow passing over her features.

"Good, then I suppose I should be going." he turned back around as though preparing to leave. Truthfully, he wanted to know if she'd stop him.

Right on cue she shouted a sharp "Wait!"

Grinning to himself with his back still turned to her he muttered, "What is it onna? I said I'd stay until you got back."

"Yes," she protested, "but-"

"But?" he pressed, facing her once more with an eyebrow raised.

"But-" she faltered, "-you just got here!"

He stared at her dumbly, wondering if that ridiculous outburst was truly the best reason she could come up with. "So?"

"So!" she exclaimed, fighting back a blush from her lame response, "It's kind of pointless to come all this way and not even try to catch up. I mean...well...don't you even care about how everyone's been, what's new with the group, anything!"

The onna doesn't know when to drop a failed act. he observed with an amused smirk. "I don't really care. And even if I did," he tugged lightly at the middle section of his white headband, "I still have my Jagan Eye. There's no need to idly stand around having meaningless conversations."

"Hmph!" Botan huffed, turning herself sideways on her oar so that she was now the one with her back to him. A few seconds passed before her face brightened and she faced him again, "Oh Hiei, I know you don't mean that. You're just putting on that 'tough guy' act of yours again."

"Explain yourself onna." he demanded, was she really so ditzy as to presume that she could read his thoughts? "I assure you this is no act."

Giving a knowing giggle she turned her full body towards him again. "You just don't like showing your true feelings. Why it's actually rather cute, the way you sulk around in the shadows when you're really just being overprotective."

"I-" but his objection was interrupted.

"And the Jagan Eye in itself is a telltale sign of your concern for everyone." she pointed out observantly, "What a thoughtful big brother. Willing to go through some demon surgeon's horrific surgery and have a third eye implanted just so that you could keep watch over your little sister."

He was about to inquire how she knew so much but then remembered that she had worked in Koenma's castle as head ferry girl for who knows how many years now. Plus she had that Ayame friend who headed up the Research and Records Department. And he wouldn't be too surprised if she had somehow 'accidentally' stumbled across his files and taken a peek at his background. The blabbermouth had probably told the others (those privileged to the knowledge of his relation to Yukina) all about his past.

Feeling quite confident with her assumptions at this point the fuchsia eyed spirit hopped off her oar onto his branch and plopped down, letting her feet dangle over the side as Hiei stood there gazing down at her warily. "Who'd have ever thought that the infamous Hiei Jaganeshi would care so much about anyone? It's rather sweet really."

Fists clenching he bent towards her growling out, "There is nothing 'sweet' about me onna!"

Botan only grinned up at him.

Scowling he reluctantly sat down beside of her and folded his arms.

Tilting her head slightly Botan's grin broadened, He's so cute when he's pouting. Makes it hard to believe that he could ever kill anyone.

Noticing her adoring expression the annoyed fire demon shot her an intimidating death glare, a pair of fangs protruded from his tight-lined mouth.

Then again m-maybe it's not that hard to believe. she added nervously.

Seeing her flinch with a bead of sweat rolling down the side of her face he decided he'd gotten his point across. "Just what is it that gives you the constant urge to try my patience?"

Staring at him quizzically the ferry girl could only shrug, "I-I don't know. I'm not trying to get on your nerves. Hm..." she put a finger to her chin and contemplated on the matter. Hiei thought this to be particularly silly-and amusing.

"...I suppose we just have clashing personalities." she offered with a smile.

"Hn that much is glaringly obvious." he scoffed, "A rigid demon warrior and an air-headed ferry girl."

"Hey!" she objected, giving him a playful push. "I'll have you know that I'm quite brilliant in my own way."

"Yes," he smirked, "I dare say you're the utmost expert at falling prey to traps and low level delinquents."

Propping her hands on her hips she leaned over so that she was eye level with the smug little demon sitting next to her, "That's NOT what I meant Hiei!"

"Oh I'm sorry, forgive my foolishness," came his sarcastic apology, "I didn't realize that you were referring to your skills at blindly swinging bats and oars about or your amateur healing powers."

Botan was seething over with embarrassment and anger, how dare he have the audacity to speak to her this way! "Well these 'amateur healing powers' have patched up your beaten body plenty of times! And it wasn't as if I lucked out and was born with certain otherworldly abilities like SOME obnoxious little fire demons I know!"

"And let's not forget your endless supply of Spirit World gadgets." he chided, "I've yet to see one that didn't have some sort of fatal flaw or energy-sucking drawback."

The peeved ferry girl's face was redder than the flames blazing in her eyes. Her anger was boiling over and one very unlucky fire demon was about to get himself scalded.

Hiei was content with the damage he'd caused to the bubbly woman's pride. He'd never seen her so enraged before, it was most unbecoming. Hn, she's far too easy to rile up.

Teeth clenched and hands balled tightly around the material of her kimono that lie bunched up in her lap Botan was ready to explode. "HIEI JAGANESHI YOU ARE THE MOST ARROGANT, COCKY, STUBBORN, CYNICAL, SELF-CENTERED JERK THAT I'VE EVER HAD THE DISPLEASURE OF MEETING!"

"Thanks," he smirked, not bothering to look at her.

"Ooo..." her kimono nearly ripped apart in her hands as she clenched her fists tighter and pulled it taut, "If you weren't so afraid of your own feelings maybe you'd be able to take something as simple as a compliment and be grateful! But nooo...you have to go and be a-a-well an ASS about it!"

Noticing her slip of the tongue too late she covered her mouth in shock. She was a ferry girl for goodness sake! Ferry girls weren't supposed to talk like that!

His loud rich laughter reached her ears causing her to regard him in immense surprise. H-He's laughing at me! Sh-shouldn't he be angry?

The laughter faded into chuckles as he finally glanced over at her. Amusement danced in his crimson eyes, he had not only managed to push the overly optimistic ferry girl past her boiling point, but as a bonus he'd found a way to make her curse. And her reaction afterwards was truly priceless. "Baka onna, I take it you don't swear often."

"Well it's not a habit I want to develop!" she snapped. "I hope you're happy!"

"Of course I am." he nodded, "Especially now that you've proven me right."

"Huh?"

"I told you it was pointless to engage in meaningless conversation." he taunted, "Just look where it's gotten us."

Flushing in embarrassment she cursed inwardly at his smug reasoning. "Well most people can manage a conversation without driving each other insane!" she retorted.

"Well then I guess I'm just not like most people." he replied, arrogant as ever.

"Well that's just too bad isn't it?" she snapped back, "Because I'm determined to stay up here until you can manage a civil conversation with me."

"Then it's you who's out of luck baka onna," he explained, his amusement mixing with annoyance again, "because you'll be up here for the rest of your afterlife trying to buddy up to me."

"Hmph!"

"Hn."


Down at the temple a solitary figure stood leaning up against the window frame. The redheaded fox demon smiled to himself as he watched the pair arguing up in the tree, oblivious to his observation.

"They must really like each other." a female voice announced behind him.

Looking over his shoulder he noted that Shizuru was still awake and had been watching the scene outside as well from her futon.

"Can I get you anything?" he asked, his voice a bit more at ease than before. She was noticeably doing much better now with no signs of a relapse.

"No thanks," she said sitting up and grabbing her jacket from the floor beside her, "I can handle myself."

Reaching into the side pocket she removed a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. Holding the packet upside down she shook a cigarette loose and stuck it in her mouth. Flicking the lighter top up she paused a moment to stare at the inscription. Sakyo's initials stared back at her, a grim reminder of yet another beautiful man who had suddenly come and gone in her life. Sighing she told herself that it was just the sort of foul luck she had with love, a constant disappointment that she had no choice but to get used to.

Kurama's expression faltered when he noticed the lighter she was holding. It had belonged to their old foe Sakyo; there was no doubt about that. His scent was all over it. For some reason he felt a strong desire to storm over, grab the accursed thing, and hurl it into the gullet of one of his carnivorous plants. Shaking this off he merely watched as she lit her cigarette and stuffed the offending object away, back into her coat pocket.

"You miss him," he muttered absently. He hadn't meant to say anything, but the words came out before he could stop them.

Looking up at him in puzzlement she waited a moment before replying, "Yeah. I guess you think I'm some sort of traitor for that. But I don't think the guy was all that bad. Lacking in the morals department sure, but still not your run of the mill egomaniacal madman."

"And what makes you think that?" yet again, his mouth was acting without his brain's consent.

Staring down into her lap she twisted the jacket sleeves about, "Well, for starters he helped me out of a tight spot back at the stadium on Hanging Neck Island."

"Oh?"

"Mm...I was being chased by this group of demons and he rushed in and got me out in one piece." she confessed, "Of course after that he didn't stick around, just went on about his business, playing the whole 'heroics' thing off. We had another run in sometime after that but our conversation didn't go beyond a quick smoke. I-I didn't mention this before because I didn't think anyone else would understand, like maybe I was the only one getting this positive vibe from him."

Kurama nodded, "But you must realize, Sakyo planned to open a portal between Makai and Ningenkai, spreading death and mass hysteria throughout the world. In that respect, he was a madman. One good deed is not enough to make up for a lifetime of corruption I'm afraid, it hardly compares to trying to destroy all of humanity."

"His priorities were all wrong," Shizuru agreed, "it just seems like such a waste. The choices he made...he could've been a really great man."

"Not all with potential choose to use it for good." Kurama sighed. He seemed to be reflecting on his own past, the wrong choices he'd made, his lack of priorities, his disregard for anything beyond a thief's honor.

"I guess it's just hard to let go," she frowned, tears brimming in her soft brown eyes, "he tossed me his lighter, as a memento, when the stadium came crashing down around him."

The redhead watched with sad green eyes as the brunette burst into tears, clutching her jacket close. "Sakyo you fool!" she cried, "Why! Why couldn't you have changed! For your own good! Couldn't you see what you had to gain! Why wasn't that enough! Why wasn't I-?"

She froze, terrified that she had said too much. Damn it Shizuru, why'd you have to go and open your big mouth!

Approaching her with slow grace he knelt down and put his hands on her shoulders, gently pulling her forward until her head was resting against his chest. "It's alright; try not to get so upset. Anything you say here never leaves this room."

Sniffling she sat back on her palms, embarrassed by her outburst, and the fact that the calm natured fox demon had seen her cry. Looking up she found that he was smiling warmly at her, a certain air of understanding and sympathy in his voice and expression.

"You can trust me." he vowed, never breaking her gaze.

Shizuru found herself nodding, becoming lost in the lush forest green of his captivating eyes. No wonder Shuuichi has all those girls fawning over him. He's handsome, I mean...just look at him.

Kurama remained smiling as he gradually got back to his feet. "I think it's time you tried to rest some more." he kindly advised, "I'll be just outside. Please don't hesitate to call if you need me for anything."

"Sure." she replied dazedly, not able to tear her eyes from his retreating form.

Snap out of it! she scolded herself; This is Kurama, Yoko the legendary bandit trapped within the body of Shuuichi Minamino! If you're gonna lose your heart to someone make it someone who's not out of your league!

But alas, when the heart has set its sights upon something, there's no use trying to reason with it. Damnit.


Back up in the tree the fire demon and ferry girl were still at odds with one another. Botan was determined not to back down. Hiei showed equal resolve in his efforts to be unpleasant company.

"Why haven't you visited?" she asked after another long, tense moment of silence.

He showed no signs of listening yet she sensed he'd heard her so she pressed on, "You could've at least written you know? You can't be that busy."

"Hn, don't mother me onna." Hiei finally spoke without turning to face her, "I prefer to keep to myself, your affairs are none of my concern nor are mine yours."

That answer was hardly satisfactory to Botan, "Do you really hate us that much?"

"What?" he actually stared at her, somewhat reluctant to believe that she'd think such a thing. Botan struck him as the type of person too naive, too trusting, too full of idiotic notions of love and friendship to believe such a thing possible. And yet here she was inquiring as to if it were true. What was he to say?

She turned her head so that she was now the one staring off into the great blue oblivion that was the shimmering night sky. The part of the woods where Genkai's temple stood were quite ancient and the trees there very old. The particular one they were both perched in was exceedingly tall and towered above much of the surrounding woodland giving them a bird's eye view.

"You've always come across as a bit haughty you know? Making belittling comments about humans, acting superior, saying humanity 'tainted' Kurama and made demons weak." as she explained her eyes grew distant as if she was transported back to the many times such instances had occurred. "And the only compliments you give out focus on power, species, a foe's worthiness, or someone's usefulness to you."

"So?"

Admittedly Hiei was growing interested in their conversation, not that he'd let on. To be honest he didn't know why any of this mattered-it was simply his nature-but he was a bit curious as to where she was going with it.

Facing him once more he could see her eyes come back into focus, now confusion and something else, something deeper was written across her features: admiration, contemplation, a longing to understand?

"And then I learned of Yukina and saw the way you acted around her," Botan continued as if he hadn't said a word, "A whole new side of you was revealed during that mission Hiei. A side I was beginning to doubt you possessed. In spite of all your cruel tendencies, your past misdeeds, your harsh prejudices, and your quest for power lies a caring older brother who'd risk everything for his sister's happiness. I suppose it was then that I gained a certain level of admiration for you."

Crimson orbs widened as her solemn frown became a soft smile. A warm, comforting, knowing grin not so different from the one Ruri had given him before being ferried off to Spirit World. He remained speechless, sensing there was more to come. Humiliating as it was he wanted to hear it, telling himself that he needed to know just how much she knew about him. No, he didn't care what she thought of him. It was his personal life: his secrets, his crimes, his true nature that he didn't want her blathering about to the others.

"I went to the Records Department after you left for Makai," she confessed. "As assistant to the Spirit Detective I decided it was best to keep tabs on all of you. In fact in some cases I was the first to know new information about you four and of course Koenma wanted me to submit that to your files."

"To be used against me?" his tone held a dangerous edge. He should've known the toddler would pull something like this! That conniving brat!

"I suppose if you had put us in that position," she went on, "but thankfully you proved yourself to be a most valuable ally. Don't forget your slate was wiped clean. And we try to keep a detailed record of all demons and humans you know? It's not like any of you were being singled out. To be perfectly honest until recently the files of you and Kurama were relatively blank. Only through painstakingly patient observation and inquiry were we able to fill-in any details (mainly of your pasts) and complete those records."

"I and my history are illusive for a reason onna," Hiei snarled angry to learn just how busy Koenma's informants had been. "Incomplete records hardly haunt me as much as those Reikai spies meddling in my private affairs!"

"Then how are you supposed to be judged?" Botan's tone became one of exasperation. "When the time comes to decide your ultimate fate I should think it would be useful to have something more than the past three to five years to go on!"

"You wouldn't think that if you knew the whole story." he sneered. "Then again," he paused as something between grim reflection and smug humor flickered across his stoic features, "maybe you would?"

A small sigh escaped the ferry girl, her emotions never failed to fluctuate around the complicated youkai swordsman. "While I don't know the whole story Hiei I do know what the files say. And I know that if not for the information in those files you wouldn't even be here right now. True they contain information which could be used against you but they also hold hidden facts that can benefit you as well. Such as Inferuno being your father. I daresay that without your early knowledge of that Yukina might've come to great harm while you were still off in Mukuro's realm."

Drat! The baka onna has a point. He had to confess a certain appreciation for the ferry girl who had risked the many perils of Makai to deliver the dire news to him.

"Ayame thinks you're overly pigheaded, by the way." Botan smirked and drew her knees up under her chin, a bit tricky considering it hampered her balance on the branch.

"Hn, as if I care what your bothersome friend thinks." Hiei's tone was gruff yet a mischievous smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. What was it about ferry girls that made them so fun to rile up?

"I probably shouldn't be telling you this-for my own sake-but what the Hell?" the blue haired girl giggled a bit, it was oddly relaxing to use such inappropriate language. It wasn't as if Hiei hadn't heard and said far worse whereas the other ferry girls would gasp and shoot her disapproving looks. She was beginning to like the newer level of unrestraint she felt free to show around him. Perhaps the sense of confidence this gave her was entirely misguided? Still she decided to continue. "Remember back at the start of the Sensui case? When Yusuke had been kidnapped and the ransom note required you to come to that odd house?"

"How could I forget?" he shrugged with a small hint of annoyance in his voice, "That damned fox wouldn't stop mentioning that 'hot' incident for weeks."

Botan stifled another giggle recalling the look of embarrassment that crossed Hiei's face every time Kurama would tease him about saying the taboo word back in Kito's territory.

"Well if you recall our deal I promised to have your probation lifted in exchange for your participation in that mission." Botan beamed at him and held up a finger for emphasis. "I kept my part of bargain alright but didn't you ever wonder how in the three world's I might've had so much pull?"

"Hn, I simply assumed you'd beg that pest Koenma until he grew tired and did as you asked." He obviously hadn't given the matter too much thought. "It wasn't like I was giving either of you much of a choice in the matter. You needed me, therefore I clearly possessed the upper hand."

"Arrogant as always," Botan shook her head yet the smile remained. "Possessor of the highly evolved Jagan Eye and you still never figured out just who your probation officer was."

For the second time since his return to Ningenkai Hiei found himself struggling to keep his balance in a tree. "YOU!"

Striking a cutesy kitty pose Botan playfully pawed at the space between them, "Guilty as charged, meow!"

Hiei felt his eyebrow twitch as he sat there straddling the tree branch his face frozen in a look of unpleasant surprise. So Koenma had made the ferry onna his probation officer instead of some high up Spirit World official? He wasn't sure if that was an act of extreme cleverness or utter stupidity.

"Meow I know isn't that ironic?" Botan purred in lieu of more giggles, "All this time you were doing good deeds: trekking through Maze Castle, rescuing your sister, and battling with the team in the Dark Tournament and your probation officer was right there under your nose! Don't worry silly, I took great care to note each and every redeeming thing you did. And you'd be surprised at how eagerly Koenma agreed with me that you deserved a full pardon. You truly earned your freedom Hiei. Good for you!"

Aside from wishing that he hadn't struggled so violently to remain on the branch Hiei managed to wrap his mind around the majority of what she'd just said. Suppressing a raspy 'Ow!' he swallowed hard and spoke in a nonchalant tone. "So it was you all along. I might've known, you were always carrying on about your many uses on missions. All those pointless certifications you had."

Botan instantly took offense. "Hey! I'll have you know that those weren't easy to come by!"

"Hn, all they did was earn you a better view of the fights."

Fuchsia eyes narrowed as she swung her right leg over the branch to mimic his stance. "You know I knew I should've been less flattering in those comment boxes on the rehabilitation forms."

"Well it's too late now isn't it?" he leaned forward a bit smirking triumphantly when her face turned red.

"YOU ARE IMPOSSIBLE HIEI!"

"AND YOU'RE INFURIATING WOMAN!" He wasn't about to be drowned out by a simple minded ferry girl.

"STOP TRYING TO TOP ME!"

"STOP TRYING TO FIGURE ME OUT!"

"LIKE IT'S HARD!" she scoffed, "YOU'RE STUBBORN, UNPLEASANT, AND...AND...CONCEITED!"

"HN, THIS COMING FROM A SCATTERBRAINED, EMOTIONAL, ANNOYING, WEAKLING!"

"WHY CAN'T YOU MAKE IT THROUGH ONE CONVERSATION WITHOUT YELLING!"

"ME! YOU STARTED IT BAKA!" Hiei huffed feeling he'd soon be hoarse.

"WELL I WOULDN'T HAVE-" Botan froze and forced herself to lower her tone before the entire gang came rushing outside to see what all the noise was about, "Well I wouldn't have if you hadn't been such a JERK."

"Incase you hadn't noticed in all your time taking notes IDIOCY tends to bring out the worst in me." Hiei spat and leaned back putting more distance between himself and the irritating female.

"Well this has been a most enlightening chat." Botan replied, her voice laced with sarcasm.

I certainly hope she's had enough this time. the dark haired half koorime inwardly sighed. He wasn't sure that he cared to go another round with the headstrong woman.

To his hidden delight Botan relented and leapt from the tree branch dangling a second or two in midair while her oar materialized in her outstretched hand. Hopping aboard it she zipped down to the temple doors and shot him a defiant glance before stepping inside.

Whether a victory or an interval between rounds the fire youkai was just happy to be rid of her. He couldn't believe he'd wasted so much time in Ningenkai over her foolish request. Part of him blamed Kurama for ever bringing up the suspicion that the bothersome girl might harbor feelings for him. Another part suspected Ruri to be the cause of his curious delay in the world of humans. Whatever the reason he'd still gotten to spend more time in close observation of his sister, the one person he could tolerate in this wretched world aside from Kurama (who had steadily been acquiring more and more ways of pressing his buttons...and finding amusement in his aggravation).

"Hn, baka ningens."

And with that he flitted away to a random tree deep within the woods where he was certain he could find a peaceful night's rest. Once his head was clear of the pointless 'conversation' and other such nonsense he'd decide on whether or not to return to Makai tomorrow.


"Oooh...he's absolutely intolerable!" Botan grumbled to herself as she stormed down the hallway to check up on Shizuru. She hadn't meant to be outside with Hiei for so long but his refusal to be civil had grated on her last nerve. Aside from the occasional tremors he liked to cause her the fire youkai seemed to enjoy trying her patience as though it were a sport.

How could she have forgotten how much he loved to annoy and torment her? Why in the three worlds had she missed him so in the first place? Shouldn't she have been glad that he had chosen to stay in Mukuro's realm and out of her hair for good? What could she have been thinking!

An image of Hiei holding her sobbing form in his arms back in the catacombs of the floating island flashed in her mind. He'd really been trying to console her then, hadn't he? As impossible as it sounded, Hiei truly did have a softer, gentler, more compassionate side buried beneath all those heated threats and icy barriers. And for once, he had shown it for her. To think she'd been convinced he'd only cared enough to lower his guard for the sake of his sister. His sister...

Wait...Yukina! Oh how careless of me! Botan took off dashing down the hall, The poor girl's probably been draining every drop of energy she has healing everyone on her own!

A pang of guilt hit her as she recalled the concern and devotion Yukina had shown to healing her burn wounds. Though her hands (the most severely damaged parts of her body) were still sore and sensitive to touch the majority of her injuries weren't all that noticeable anymore. Yukina had come a long way in her regenerative skills, Botan only hoped that her white magic would prove as useful.

"WHAT!"

A familiar yell halted her in her tracks. "Hello?" she spun around yet couldn't see the owner of the voice. "Yusuke?"

A few paces behind her a crack remained in a half slid door with a light filtering through. The light faded then reappeared indicating that a person had just walked in front of it.

Uh-oh, Botan frowned and cautiously crept towards the door, Yusuke's pacing. That's never a good sign.

Peering through the crack she saw the Spirit Detective walking back and forth glaring at his communication mirror which no doubt displayed the image of Reikai's ruler.

"You're tellin' me that after all that that jerk STILL managed to get away without a scratch!" the raven haired youth screamed. "How the heck is that even possible! I mean, the whole ISLAND caved in!"

Fuchsia eyes widened, Inferuno, h-he survived!

"Well I wouldn't say that he got off that easily Yusuke." Koenma spoke in a level yet quite serious tone. "But yes he did manage to survive. As you know we here in Spirit World are privy to such information and as his soul has yet to be ferried across the River Styx and his body not recovered we have but one conclusion we can draw: Inferuno lives."

"But...but...Kurama told me he lost that battle." Yusuke muttered in disbelief, "Even Hiei said he saw the guy get blasted right off the edge."

"Indeed," Koenma sighed, "but you must remember that this is no ordinary fire youkai we're dealing with. Hiei's father is in fact an S-Class demon and therefore not so easily disposed of."

"So you're sayin' that Ruri died for nothing?" Yusuke seemed disgusted by the thought. And who could blame him? Ruri had given her life in order to save all their hides and now it seemed that the selfless koorime's sacrifice, her great attempt at atonement, had all been in vain.

N-no... Botan's eyes glistened with the weight of unshed tears, ...I-I won't believe it. He couldn't have! Ruri beat him!

"Don't tarnish her good deed with such technicalities Yusuke," Koenma scolded from the device, "Ruri did what she was entrusted to do. She delivered the jewel into safe hands. Now that Botan has it locked away inside her Inferuno will have an exceptionally hard time of retrieving it. And that's IF he even knows where to look for it."

"Oh man," Yusuke ran a hand through his slicked back hair, "this is starting to sound like the Power Sphere fiasco all over again."

"While there are similarities I still encourage you not to lose hope," Koenma responded in a more optimistic tone, "The Reikai Orb contains great power and will unleash its full strength when stored within the body of its rightful possessor. But, the true strength of this gem lies in when it is absorbed into the very soul of that person. At that point the Reikai Orb merges with that possessor's spirit and becomes forever bonded to them. Completely inseparable the being and jewel are one and no force in the world can brake them apart."

Yusuke's spirits lifted after hearing these words. "You mean all we have to do is wait for Botan's spirit to merge with the jewel and then that creep's flat outta luck?"

"Uh...something like that, yes." Koenma sweatdropped, "But you see we don't really know that much about the orb's powers, mainly because it's a one-of-a-kind item that's never been used. It was created with an energy enhancing, spiritually stabilizing purpose but until we see it in action we can't be exactly sure of how it will take effect or the full extent of its powers."

Botan's hand went up to clutch at her chest (just over her heart) as she listened intently to the troubling conversation. It sounded more like a ticking timebomb than an invaluable asset to her now.

Still, she reasoned, that monster wanted this gem so it must be powerful. Even if I don't know how to use it yet or exactly what it might do to me I'll guard it with my life. Ruri trusted me. I can't disappoint her...I won't!

With her mind made up Botan turned and continued on her way to the back room where she knew Yukina had been treating the injured Shizuru.

She was marginally surprised to see Kurama standing watch by the door but soon found out about the grave accident her ice friend had made in her absence.

A wave of guilt hit her as she stared down at her slumbering friend. If she had waited a little longer to leave or taken a bit less time returning, that might've made all the difference. But she had no time for regrets, Shizuru seemed to be fairing well enough yet it would not be wise to take chances this time. The ferry girl resolved to stay with Kurama in the temple and aid Yukina in tending to the remaining injuries.

"How long has she been sleeping?" she found herself asking absently after a few moments of silence.

"Not very long," Kurama answered, sounding just as distant as she felt, like the whole ordeal was just too surreal to be anything but a bad dream. "Genkai says the next few days will be crucial though. With her increasingly strong spiritual awareness Shizuru's body will no doubt start fighting the demon blood again. It's youki verses spirit energy, a human body is not built to withstand such an intense battle."

She heard the growing guilt in his voice as he spoke. Poor Kurama, he's blaming himself too much for this. I hope Yukina isn't being too hard on herself too. If we're going to place blame I should bare the most. If I'd just insisted that we wait for another portal...

...but that wouldn't have turned out much better. She decided with a sigh, Ruri would have surely been killed before help arrived. And then that arrogant cretin would have the orb and probably ransack all three worlds leaving countless victims.

Inside the mind of the elder Kuwabara strange images once again took shape and disappeared from view. Sensations of twisting and turning overwhelmed her as it felt like her insides were being molded into pretzels.

It burned, it stung, it slashed, it tore away at her. Being eaten away from the inside, maybe that was the best way to describe it? Only it was starting to feel more like a painful absorption rather than a destructive poison.

Whether or not that was a good thing she didn't care. She just didn't. All she wanted was for the immense pain to stop. If only it came all at once so she could be done with it! But no, this pain, this malicious attack upon her being on a cellular level, was coming in rapid bursts. Leaving her just enough time to catch her breath and settle back into a false sense of relief before lashing out again in a merciless onslaught that she feared would go on forever.

Of course her companions had no idea of the war going on within.

From his stance by the window and Botan's seat by her bedside both figures watched over her hoping to offer any sort of comfort possible...if only they knew. But the effects that reached the surface of her being were indeed most deceptive.

From what they could see the brunette just tensed in her slumbering state yet remained oblivious to the world around her. Shizuru seemed to be in a deep sleep undergoing spurts of pain and moments of ease. They both hoped that a few restless nights like this would be all she'd need to endure before the demon blood worked its way out of her system and things returned to normal.

Then again, for the Reikai Tentai and those they held dear, normal seemed to be a thing of the past.


Amanda/Artiste: Okay so another fairly long chapter has come to a close, there aren't that many left in this fic (thank goodness). I hate when people give characters too much info in a fic and never explain how the heck they found out. This chapter had a lot of explanations in it and showed more character interaction. There'll be plenty of action in upcoming chapters. Next Chapter: Spirit World intelligence has a lock on Inferuno's whereabouts but who's going to get to him first? If a crumbling island didn't do it just what the heck is it going to take to kill this guy? Review and find out...next update!