December 6, 2004 - Hey, everyone! ((assuming there are at least two people out there paying attention - otherwise, every "one" LOL Yeah, yeah - I know what they say about assuming . . .)) There is an explanation as to where this idea comes from - with an awesome pic by my friend Thief (TheThiefKuronue) - but I think I'll reserve those for the next chapter so I don't give anything away. ((evil chuckle))

("The Disclaimer") "Yu Yu Hakusho" and all known related characters do not belong to me. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.

" . . . For I Have Sinned"


Dear gods . . .

This cannot be, not like this! Gods, just this once grant me mercy. If I am dreaming, help me to wake. Please . . . Don't let it end this way!

Kurama suppressed a shudder of horror as the heavy wooden door swung open, swallowed the sudden lump in his throat at the sight of the countless hostile eyes glaring in at him. Guards defined a narrow path between him and the platform in the center of the town square, halberds borne horizontally to hold back the angry mobs. No matter how many times he replayed in his mind the events of the past several, confusing hours, he could make no sense of what had befallen him but that he was somehow trapped in a nightmare from which he could not awaken.

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Icy sheets of rain blinded Kurama as he walked home in the dark. The Biology Club meeting had run far later than he had expected, what with the heated argument over what to do with their budgeting deficit and the upcoming Regional Science Faire. The sun had set completely and this thunderstorm had been unexpected. He had managed to avoid the drenching for most of the trip home via train and bus, but the last five minutes' walk from the closest bus stop was unavoidable.

A particularly violent flash of light startled him, but it was neither that nor the sharp growl of thunder directly overhead that made him pause his steps. Energy of a different kind crackled in the air, and the hairs on the nape of his neck stood on end. With it, the street lamps went out, dropping Kurama into even deeper darkness. The energy surge was unlike anything he had sensed before but was certainly supernatural in nature, not completely unlike the shift of energy he felt when he traveled to the Spirit or Demon Realms. Briefly, he switched his schoolcase into his right hand and held up the left, willing his periphery key into the palm. It pulsed faintly but otherwise lay quiet, inactive. He knew that it only worked when he consciously activated it so whatever had happened, it was not connected. Dismissing the key, Kurama shook his head and continued on. He was close enough to home that he did not need the streetlights. He knew the way blind, and his part youkai nature gave him nightvision far superior to any normal human. Besides, this storm should have driven Hiei to find shelter. Kurama knew he should get home soon to answer the expected tapping at his bedroom window.

He had not taken two steps before his foot slipped sideways over the edge of a flat, smooth surface, like a broad river stone. He looked down and caught his breath. The smooth cement sidewalk had been replaced by uneven cobblestone. His eyes snapped up to the houses lining the street around him and the catchphrase from a well-known American movie came to mind unbidden. "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto." He could not recall in that moment which character was Toto, but he could not help wondering briefly if he were not, in fact, in Oz. The surrounding neighborhood was just as alien. The single-story homes appeared to be built of wood, thatch, and possibly even wattle and daub. The design looked to be a blending of traditional Japanese architecture and something out of the Middle Ages of Western Europe. He continued down the road for a few more yards until he reached an intersection where he could read the road signs. The names were the right ones, but the signs were cured and painted wood hung on wrought-iron posts. What was more - the signs were written in Romaji. No, not just that. The language was, in fact, English! He shook his rain-soaked bangs from his face and turned left down the cross street. Home was only six houses down from here - if it were there at all.

The architecture was wrong, but the numbers painted down the wall between the front door and the small, mica-paned windows were unmistakable. An intangible warning itched at the base of his neck between his shoulder blades as he slowly walked up what would have been the driveway had there been need of one - he realized that he had not seen a single automobile since the surge of alien energy. He had been staring at the front door and did not take notice of the bushes along the porch until one branch scratched the back of his hand. He looked down and his breath hitched in his throat. Roses, indigenous to the Human Realm, had not been a part of Kurama's arsenal of weapons before his rebirth in a human's body, but a large part of his choice to have them identified as his trademark now was that they were his human mother's favorite flower. For as long as he could remember, Shiori had lovingly tended the American Beauties that bordered the front porch. They had been in full, glorious bloom that morning when he left for school. Now, not a single open flower nor new bud still remained on the branches but littered the ground in a trampled, ruinous mess. In fact, the bushes themselves looked as though they had been viciously beaten with a stick or -

A baseball bat lay in the grass not far from the corner of the house, the polished surface stained red and green.

Kurama felt the muscles in his shoulders tense around the warning itch as he turned away from the destruction. There were mysteries upon mysteries here and he would get to the bottom of them - starting with the front door. He had pulled his house key out of his pocket out of habit, but there was no keyhole in which to insert it. He faced a medieval portal of thick, vertical wooden planks bound by wrought-iron bands, the customary spherical doorknob replaced by a simple iron latch. In spite of all the clues he had been given up to this point, it was then that he was suddenly, finally stricken with the feeling that this was not his home. It was and yet it was not. He stepped up under the roof's overhang, out of the pouring rain, but could not bring himself to open the door on his own. He found himself knocking before he could really decide on another course of action.

"Who's there?" a cautious voice demanded. It took Kurama a moment to register the language in which the words were spoken.

He hesitated for a moment. He was aware that his stepfather knew English, but that he should answer the door in the language was unusual. "Hatanaka-san? It's . . . it's Shuichi."

He sensed a sudden wrath wash through the door a second before it was flung open. "You!" Hatanaka snarled, glaring at him with more fury than Kurama had thought possible from the gentle man. "How dare you return here, you youko half-breed?" Kurama fell back a step in the face of the man's unexpected anger.

"Katsu, who is - ?" Shiori glanced out the door over her husband's shoulder and her question died with a horrified gasp. For a moment, she could only stare, her eyes full of hurt and shame. Then she turned away with a choked sob as Hatanaka pushed her protectively further behind himself.

"Dad?" Shuichi-kun called, coming around the corner from the kitchen.

"Go to your room," Hatanaka commanded over his shoulder, never taking his eyes off of Kurama. "Now!"

Shuichi-kun glimpsed Kurama past his father's arm. The young boy's eyes went wide in fear and he hurriedly obeyed without a murmur.

"As for you," Hatanaka growled, pulling a sword from the scabbard hung by the door, "I swore if you ever came back - "

"NO!" Shiori cried suddenly, desperately clutching at his arm. She turned pleading eyes to her son. "Please, Shuich - . . . I-I mean, K-k-kura-ma, please . . . just go away." She buried her face into the back of her husband's shoulder as the tears finally overtook her.

Hatanaka glanced briefly at his wife before turning a cold glare back to the intruder. "You heard her. If you ever cared anything for her in your accursed life, you'll turn around, walk away, and never come back. You have until the count of ten. One . . . "

Kurama stumbled back in shock, flinching as the rain pounded him again. The door slammed shut, and he heard a deadbolt slide into place. His schoolcase fell unnoticed from his limp hand. What in the name of the gods just happened?

Lightning flashed again and Kurama thought for an instant that he saw and sensed someone to his right, at the corner of the house. He had the impression of gleaming red eyes but, when he looked, there was nothing. Had that been Hiei, he would have known . . . would he not? He began to investigate but, as he reached the corner, he caught the sound of a boy sobbing uncontrollably, the noise muffled as though in a pillow. Again, Kurama backpedaled, hurt and confused. Once more, he took in the sight of the strange houses around him. What had happened? Where was he?

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"Move, youko."

Kurama stumbled forward as a guard shoved him roughly from behind. He stifled a murmur of pain from the man's palm hitting several whiplashes and regained his balance awkwardly, not helped by the fact that his hands were bound behind his back. Reluctantly forcing one foot ahead of the other, Kurama started down the path through the crowd, the path to his death.

Author's Notes: Please be sure to check my bio page for any updates, etc. Thanks!