Standard Disclaimers Apply!
a/n: Hello! I finally got this posted... Thanks for everyone who waited. And thanks to everyone who read To Look Upon a Rose! I never expected to get over seventy reviews on it! Kuwabaralover, kitsuine kurama, amauk wolfheart, ukera15... you guys stayed with me all the way. And so many more that I don't have time to list...
Anyway. This fic is a little more angsty in the psycological sense than I usually write. Karasu is a very emotionally deep character, and I still can't figure out whether I like him or hate him. So make your own judgment, and enjoy the story!
Mirai no Elegy: Future's Elegy
Fading sunlight trickled down through the trees, struggling against the storm clouds looming ever closer on the horizon; even the birds fell silent at their approach, chittering quietly among the trees. Dark and ominous, these portents of the explosive battle to come suited me much better than the brilliant sunlight.
The wind was gaining strength, carrying with it the smell of youkai and the acrid stench of impending death. It wrapped around me like a heavy, rain soaked cloak, the scents I was so used to seeming putrid and depressing today. Yet one scent stood out from the decay, almost lost in it, a blossom buried amidst a tangle of weeds. A fresh scent, full of spring and rain and life. A tantalizing mixture of youkai power and ningen vitality.
It was this scent I followed, into the forest and far from the congestion of the hotels. The energy that hung in a fog around the stadium faded as I moved deeper into the forest, almost as if it were unable to penetrate the thick line of trees. It disappeared suddenly, flickering out in the space of a heartbeat; I'd stepped through a barrier of sweet smelling energy that had been erected to keep out the stench of the world.
I smiled. Very clever, little fox. But you'll need more than that to keep me away.
I was close now. I could feel him, sense him, taste him through the metallic tang of my mask. His energy burned within me, ambrosia to one who'd been parched of thirst for far too long. Savoring each drop, I drank it in and let swirl along my senses like wine, then continued forward.
Red glimmered through the green of the forest, as brilliant as blood glistening in the sunlight. I ducked under tree branches bowed by a demon's youki and stepped into the clearing.
Kurama sat, eyes closed, at the base of a tall Ningenkai tree, a leafy vine entwined around his right arm beneath his sleeve. Shadows played along his clothes, twisting and writhing in snake-like patterns as the wind rustled the branches above. His chest rose and fell slowly, too slowly even for sleep. Youki eddied around him, swirling, expanding and coiling with his will.
Deep green eyes flew open at my approach; even in the deepest trance his guards never faltered. He moved gracefully to his feet, untwining the vine from his hand, never allowing his composure to slip despite the undercurrent of fear I sensed within him. Eyes narrowed, he watched me circle his haven warily, his lithe body taut and ready for an attack.
"I thought I'd find you here," I murmured, fingering a leaf by my shoulder. "You find comfort and strength in your plants." Tilting my head slightly, the shadows cool against my eyes, I smiled at him. "Tell me, are you afraid of tomorrow, Kurama?"
He retreated as I moved forward, matching his steps to mine until his back was pressed against the tree. Only then did his mask slip, a flash of fear glinting beneath the calm pools of his eyes. "What is it you want?" he asked coldly, his mask up once again.
I met his gaze, watching the shadows swim through his eyes like sharks through murky waters. Cool bark met my fingers as I brought my hands up on either side of his head, leaning closer until I could feel his breath on my neck, hot and heady. "I want you," I whispered.
His eyes darted between mine, not quite fearful but no longer impassive, as the ghosts in the wind murmured around us. "Why?" he asked breathlessly. "Why me?"
I brought one hand down to trace the curve of his face, running my fingers lightly over his lips. "Because of your eyes..."
Her eyes meet mine, laughing, living, loving so deeply that I nearly drown in them. Sea green, a green so rich and full of life that I can taste it, can feel it gliding over my skin like waves of honey. They sparkle playfully in the sunlight, soft as the ocean wind and just as powerful. Soft lashes flutter, brushing pale cheeks as her eyes fall shut and her lips part slightly in invitation.
I lean down to kiss her, running my fingers across the perfect skin of her throat, feeling her breath against my face. I barely brush her lips at first, a feathery touch, then kiss her hungrily while the wind increases around us. I can never get enough of her sweet taste, can never sate my hunger for her fire. I am cursed, cursed with desire... and with love.
She purrs beneath me, her slender fingers tracing spirals along my arms. The grass sways around us, dancing along our skin to the rhythm of the wind and the melody of the rushes. The scent of water encircles her like musk – the scent of a naiad, a daughter of the water. Droplets cling to her skin in elaborate silvery chains, glistening in the sunlight and streaking her chestnut hair a brilliant gold...
Golden sunlight played over Kurama's hair, the last of the day's light streaming instinctively down to him like a moth to a lamp. He started as I ran my fingers through it, tasting its silkiness, but did not pull away. I could sense the indecision in him, the fear he tried to hide and the attraction he tried to ignore. Some part of him was drawn to me, to the youki within me; no matter what body he wore, he was still a youko, a sensuous creature who was just as much a demon as I was.
I leaned closer, my breath hot within my mask, and watched as Kurama struggled with the conflicting desires within himself. Half of his face was hidden in shadow now; the darker part of his soul looked out from that eye, gazing hungrily at the promise I offered. The other part was frightened, for in the sunlight, it could not see what lay behind the darkness of my soul. Eyes wide, breath short, he trembled like a frightened rabbit before me, caught between his instinct to run and the carnal desire within him.
Neither of us spoke, our eyes locked together in a dance of colors, energy crackling around us in an fiery crescendo that threatened to explode us both. And in that fire I saw it, the glimmer of another in his eyes, a spark of youki marking him as the other's. I snarled and withdrew my youki as anger burned coldly within me, anger and some other, more painful emotion I refused to acknowledge.
Kurama started, pulling away, but I stepped forward and pinned him to the tree before he could escape. "It's that damned fire demon," I breathed angrily. "The half-breed." I leaned forward until bare centimeters separated us, struggling to keep my voice calm. "He's claimed you. You let him... have you."
Fear gleamed in Kurama's eyes, the mask that had hidden it destroyed by the wind whipping around us. The sky thundered, mirroring the maelstrom raging within me, and split open to release a flash of lightening. A barrage of icy rain began...
Rain pours down around us, blotting out the light until the only thing illuminating the lake is the screaming lightening. And yet, he keeps those damned sunglasses on, hiding his eyes. It's as if they are a part of him, an extension of his body as necessary for life as his heart. If one beats in the thick chest at all.
"Let her go," I beg again, my voice trembling with fear and anger and hate. "Please, let her go." I'm beyond pride now – I know I am no match for the demon before me, and no amount of pride would save me if she were hurt. I open my mouth to murmur another plea, but he cuts me off with a smile.
"I don't think so. You're more powerful than you realize, Karasu." He smiles again. "How far would you go to protect her?"
I step backward, feeling her hands press against my back as she whispers in my ear. I can't hear her over the beating of my heart and the drumming of the rain. All I can hear is her fear; the song of her youki is colored with it, acid greens splashed over the serene blues of her aura. She trembles with it, cries with it, breathes it against the bare skin of my back.
Drawing my power around me like armor, I look up to meet his eyes, glowing softly behind the shaded glasses, and frown grimly. "I'd give anything to keep her safe."
"That's good," he replies, that empty smile still on his face. He takes a step forward, his coat falling to the ground to splash in the mud. "Thirty percent of my power should be enough." Energy flares around him, simmering like a flame despite the rain. His skin seems to stretch, smoothing over muscles that grow and expand before my eyes. His presence looms in my senses like a volcano about to erupt, and we are standing straight in its path.
The rain stops for a moment, afraid to splatter on the cold steel of his body, and I am finally able to hear her whispered words.
"Please, don't. Stop... Gods, stop it..."
"Stop it," he whispered beneath me, struggling weakly against the hold my eyes had over him. I gazed down at him, feeling a wash of emotions struggle within me until only one was left. I leaned forward, feeling the curve of his body press against mine, and let the desire consume me like dry leaves in a wildfire.
I tugged at the soft cloth of his shirt, now drenched with rainwater and clinging to his form like a second skin. "You've hidden yourself all this time, giving only one the privilege of seeing through the mask you wear." I turned his question back at him. "Why him?" His lips parted in a silent reply; eyes still locked on mine, prisoners of the moment, he could do little more than tremble beneath me as my youki wrapped possessively around his. "Who loves him? Is it you, Kurama?" I lowered my voice, brushing my mask against his ear and freeing his eyes from my gaze. "Or is it Youko?"
The name jarred him out of the emptiness he'd fallen into. He pushed against me, his hands clawed, his teeth bared in a snarl as he struggled from underneath me. Lightening flashed, and I saw the resolution in his eyes; the conflict within him had ended, and his ningen side had triumphed. The side that had given itself to the other.
Framed in rivulets of rain, his eyes flashed an icy green in the fading light. "Don't talk about love, Karasu," he said calmly, dangerously, "until you know what it is."
The hazy gray of the past stole over my senses like the dawn, summoned by the music of the rain, and for a moment it was another storm that raged around us. The ragged sound of Kurama's breathing shook me back to the present, and I closed my eyes against the bruising emotions that swelled within me. "I've known love," I said quietly, listening as his uneven breathing echoed through the clearing. He hadn't left yet, though I no longer held him captive; some part of me took comfort in that. "And I've known the pain of losing it."
I opened my eyes. "And I've found that pain can be quite... exhilarating."
Kurama's features twisted into a frown; emotions shone in his eyes, among them pity. "Why does death hold such an attraction for you?"
"Death?" I sneered...
Death comes crying today, her tears mixing with the rain to slide down her cheeks as she gathers my world in her arms. I stand, helpless, powerless, as she gazes sadly at me, pityingly, and fades into the twilight, carrying the spirit of all my hopes in her pale arms. He laughs.
"Can you feel it, Karasu?" he asks. "The pain inside you is the key to unlocking your true power. Let your anger loose. Rage against the world that has taken your lover from you."
"The world?" I scream, stumbling forward on knees too weak to hold all my grief. "You took her. You killed her! Take my power! It's done me no good. It's done her no good!"
"Then get stronger," he says, his empty smile replaced by an equally empty frown. "Use your power to make sure that next time, this won't happen again. There's power in the air, Karasu. Use it. Breathe it in, and learn not to exhale."
"I will get stronger," I swear, glaring at him with all the pain and anger of one condemned. "And one day, I will kill you. I'll become Death instead of watching it destroy my world."
The rain begins to lessen under the emerging sunlight, and he smiles up at it, a lazy smile that holds the only spark of emotion I'd seen from him yet. "Good." And with that, he reaches distastefully down to retrieve his sopping jacket and walks back into the forest he'd emerged from, leaving me only his shadow to follow.
Burying my grief under the cold fury coursing through me, I fall into a state of unfeeling, of numbness, and trace the footsteps of the man I loathe. Cocooned in a nest of hate and despair, my sorrow would simmer and grow, and one day I'd allow it to boil over. One day when I am strong enough to defeat Death and the man who summons it as if it were a pet. But until then, I'll increase the power I despise so that when Death comes to feast again, I'll be the one to feed it, not him. I'll triumph over Fate...
"It's Fate, Kurama." I spread my hands, basking in the shadows. "Everything dies. Being the one to kill them gives you power over Fate, over Death itself..."
I gazed slowly at him, running my eyes over his lithe figure as the pale light teased the colors of his clothes. Rain streamed down his face; strands of deep scarlet framed his features like rivulets of blood. Fists clenched at his sides, he met my stare evenly, only a ghost of fear shadowing the jade of his eyes. I took a step toward him and still he did not move.
The forest was silent around us, waiting, watching. I felt something stir within me, some emotion that had been forgotten long ago. As I closed the distance between us, I felt the feeling awaken; it blinked sleepily, stretched cat-like, then leapt up into my throat to block anything the doubt in me might say to chase away this moment.
Is this hope? I thought tentatively. The wind blew behind me, throwing raindrops against my back, urging me forward until I was close enough to touch him, to kiss him. I reached up slowly, my hand coming within inches of his face, and unfastened the ties on my mask. It dropped silently to the grass between us.
I inhaled sharply, enjoying the taste of the rain, tinged lightly with Kurama's intoxicating scent. The hope blossomed within me, shining softly in all colors of the sky, and I leaned forward to press my lips against Kurama's.
Heat surged through me, molten lava along my sense, erupting from the silken rose that was Kurama's mouth. I shuddered with it, sighed with it, smiled with it. Strange and forgotten, it coursed through me like the carnal desire I was so accustomed to; but it wasn't mere lust, it was something more, something deeper. Something I'd once had, long ago.
Something within my soul resonated with his in a memory of a dance I'd shared long ago, with someone my heart had never fully parted with. It was that ghost I danced with now, an echo resounding within the deep green forests of Kurama's eyes.
But the echo soon faded into silence, and the world suddenly came rushing back to chase away the fantasies I'd surrounded us with. Kurama tore away from me, fear and shame blanketing his forest green eyes like snow as he ran– or maybe it was just the reflection of the clouds across their glassy surfaces.
I watched the sunlight chase after him as he fled through the brush toward the waiting arms of his fire demon. I could imagine the tears trailing behind him like the hiruseki his lover cried – if the half-breed ever deemed the action worth trying.
Anger replaced the cold emptiness inside me, and I welcomed it and the distraction it brought. Better to focus on that one, solid emotion than the dismal black hole growing where hope had once taken root. Fate had once again come to mock me, this time in the guise of a small half-breed demon.
Nevertheless. I would not allow Fate to triumph. I would be the one to summon Death into my world this time, holding Kurama's lifeless body in my arms and whispering an elegy for the future I could not have.
Reaching down, my fingers brushed the cold metal of my mask and I picked it up, ignoring the twinge of protest inside me. Only when it's heavy, confining weight settled over my face did I begin the slow trek back to the stadium where Death herself waited, ready to guide another soul to the Underworld.
a/n: Phew! Finally got that one done! Yet another one shot... Oh, and a naiad is a water sprite in Greek mythology. Just so you didn't think I was making it up...
My next fic, for those who are interested, will be a multi-chaptered one about how Hiei forgave Kurama for betraying him during the three artifacts arc (shounen ai of course!). It will take place during the mission at Maze Castle. It's called The Gate of Betrayal... and Beginnings. Keep an eye out for it! And leave a review if you feel so inclined!