Ode to the Scorned
Disclaimer: I guess every story begins with the admittance that it was not our intention or not our fault. As not to break that pattern, it's not my fault I'm so obsessed with Kurama, it's the creator's fault. Just kidding. I'll give credit where credit is due because I own nothing. That there is a spirit breaker, you know?
A/N: I will try to work this story out to be a Kurama and Botan story the best I can. I haven't truly thought of them as a couple since I first started watching the show, but it's worth a try. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
The powers of demons are truly remarkable. Their evil ways have always been intertwined with the existence of humans, even in the beginning when man was just learning the warmth of fire. So long as there was a demon, there was always a human willing to sell their soul to achieve the supernatural powers that their feeble bodies had not inherited.
It took hundreds of years before man realized the strength of some of these demons was so immense that they could combine Heaven and Hell if they so desired. That knowledge was enough to frighten man from the manipulative, but superior beings that shared their world. Initial fear and respect gave way to greed, and man no longer just wanted that power, but swore that he needed it.
Those whose fear no longer bound them then dared to step into the darkness, venturing so far as to seek out Youko Kurama. By this time, he had become infamous for his thievery. An untouchable creature who was not hindered by any sort of lock, whether it was human made or guarded by enchantments, Youko was truly the best source of power. Years went by and Youko's strength grew far greater than any man could hope to harness. Now this creature of evil could roam freely amongst them, his sheer power was enough to wipe out an entire village within minutes. It was decided then that if man could no longer ally himself with these demons, their only option was to eradicate their existence from the earth altogether.
Bounty hunters grew in popularity but their jobs often proved fatal for the majority of them. The field of hunters narrowed as the price for Youko's death soared. Every bounty hunter in Japan had at least one hand in that chase.
Loathsome demons fell left and right to a dozen excellent bounty hunters, and it seemed the days that demons and humans coincided would soon be over. Demons were banished from any involvement with man; families of mixed blood were torn apart as nobles expelled the demons to the depths of the underworld.
Youko Kurama, however, was not so easily defeated. He continued to terrorize both worlds since the breach between the two worlds had not been completely tapered at that time, all while his power rapidly grew. Lords were divided by selfishness; those who wanted to collaborate with Youko, and those who would not be satisfied unless he was killed. Youko himself was not above killing some of these lords to obtain their wealth.
It seemed there would be no way to impede on the spirit fox. His soul was not one that could be tamed, and with every plea from humans and demons alike, Youko relentlessly stole everything they had.
Then he disappeared.
All that was left was a legend of his vast accumulated wealth and skills that far surpassed any other demons for thousands of years.
Some refused to believe that he was dead, angered that no man stepped up for the reward. Their assets were not safe if they did not know what happened to him and had no solid proof that he was dead. But years passed and there was no sign of the exalted robberies he had once staged.
But some animosity does not heal with time, even if the one resented dies.
Sixteen years later, the greatest insult to surviving Youko victims came during the Dark Tournament in the form of a feeble looking human boy named Kurama. There were valid doubts that the kid could be the same demon they had wanted dead for so long, but they were proved horribly wrong when the boy transformed once with Ura Urishima, and again during his last fight with Karasu. They were wrong in assuming someone as terrifying as him could ever cease to exist.
Youko Kurama lived on.
It was evident that he could not sustain his demonic appearance without assistance from Makai remedies and that as a human, he was virtually powerless, but many were not appeased with his docile façade. They knew Youko better than to underestimate him. Regardless of his frailty, this incarnation of Youko Kurama did not deserve to live.
One lord, whose soul was half human and demon, swore revenge for witnessing the deliberately slow murder of his family by the hands of Youko over a small pendant not worth more than a flake of mica.
Over the years that his ageless life-span allowed him, Etsuya had become skilled in various forms of alchemy and finally had a solid target: Shuichi Minamino.
"Oh, Shuichi, would you just look at those petals?" Kurama watched his mother as she walked to the window, her eyes becoming brighter at the sight of the budding cherry blossoms. "They're almost glowing, aren't they? I haven't seen such a sunset in years." A sigh escaped her lips.
It really hadn't been so long ago that he had taken the lives of people like Shiori. It was a guilt that had burdened him for many years now and gnawed heavily at his heart. He could no longer atone for his misdeeds as a child as his responsibility for aiding the wayward Spirit Detective often put her directly in the hands of demons that most likely had used Youko as a basis for their cruelty.
And still, the smile on her face was so genuine, unlike those Kurama tried to pass. His eyes fell upon the scars on her forearms that he had caused a few years back. There was no way to describe the shame and embarrassment he felt when he was reminded of her kindness to a boy who had caused her so much pain.
"Hanami starts early tomorrow morning." She turned back to her son to find him watching her through a blanket of sadness cast over his eyes. Her smile slowly faded from her lips as she pulled the curtains shut. "Is something wrong, Shuichi?"
"Wrong?" Kurama offered a smile and shook his head. "No, I'm just tired."
"Get some rest, okay?" Shiori sat next to her son and ran her hand through his unruly red hair. "You have a fever." Kurama quickly shrugged her palm away and she lowered her eyes. Even in the dim lighting, she could see the thick, jagged scars etched across his ankle. There were times that he vanished for weeks at a time only to return with wounds marring his frail body. The most recent was the injury to his ankle. He never spoke about the scars and she tried to never bring them up.
Kurama stood up, allowing his pant leg to fall over the scars. He had gradually become aware of her perceptiveness to his injuries he had acquired through battles with several demons and tried desperately to hide it from her. As the years dragged on, he faced a tougher opponent with every mission, and each began to leave wounds that took many months to heal. Karasu's battle had taken a greater toll on his human body than most knew. Already over a year since the tournament, his remedies could not heal the scar.
Hidden shrewdly in the tightened grasp of his fist was a crumpled paper from Koenma. Written on it was yet another summoning to quell a small upsurge of demons escaping into the human world. It could be blamed on him that there needed to be a barrier to keep human and demon separated, and he was sure that there were many that did.
"I have a school project to finish." He admitted quietly.
"Oh?" She sunk back against the couch. A sudden urge to ask a question, any question to pry open his growing secretiveness, was stopped by the beseeching look in his eyes. "Kazuya will be disappointed. He was so looking forward to spending the day with you and Shuichi."
"I'll..." The doorbell interrupted his thoughts, ending the awkward dialogue between mother and son.
"Shuichi, I'll always be here for you." Shiori murmured as she stood up.
"Mother-" She wrapped her arms around Kurama, pressing her head against his chest. Caught completely off guard, Kurama took a moment before he returned her hug.
"You remind me so much of him. He was a truly brilliant man, Shuichi, and I loved him more than anything in the world. But there are times that I feel like you are as far away from me as he is now." She pulled away to collect herself and sighed. "I just miss having you around the house."
"I won't be gone long." He tried to assure both her and himself.
"Shuichi, you're still here!" A rather upbeat voice drifted into the room. "For a minute there, I was afraid I might have missed you. I ran into Yusuke earlier and, well, you know him. Long story short, we got sidetracked so we'd better get going or they'll leave us behind." Botan said in what seemed to be one breath. When she finally noticed the other woman in the room she politely bowed. "It's a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Hatanaka. Shuichi tells us only the best about you."
"I'm flattered." Shiori smiled sweetly.
"This is... a schoolmate of mine, Botan."
"When will your class be returning, Shuichi?" Shiori ushered them towards the kitchen. "Will you need anything?"
"I have everything I'll need and we should be home in no longer than two days." Kurama hesitated by the doorway, and then slipped through the door.
"Koenma feels really bad about this, Kurama." Botan said under her breath. "He wouldn't have asked your help if he thought the others could do it by themselves."
"I have to go fetch Kuwabara. Luckily, he was already on his way to your house when he got Koenma's message. You can go ahead and we'll meet you there." Botan waved and began running the other direction.
The street lights flickered on, replacing the fading rays of the sun. An eerie silence settled over the neighborhood, save the sound of another's footsteps from behind Kurama.
"You've forgotten something, Shuichi." The words sent a chill down his spine as he quickly turned back. The eyes of his younger step-brother looked right through him, vacant of any life.
"Shuichi..." Kurama felt a familiar sensation run through him; panic.
"It would look like your merry little gang has gotten careless without a formidable task." The younger boy spoke. There was no doubt that something had possessed his step-brother. "It's a pity he won't let me end your life here. That's the problem with him though; he always wants his mice to suffer before they're killed."
"If you hurt the boy..."
"Please," He stepped closer. "If I had wanted to do that, don't you think I would have done it already? You didn't even notice my presence, nor did that half-wit mother of yours. I understand, though, why you choose to remain here with such a dull life. Her smell is... intoxicating." A wicked smile tugged at the corner of his lips.
Kurama was at a total loss for rational thought. He had once more allowed his enemy to come within striking distance of Shiori and the mere thought of it sickened him. Instinctively, he reached behind his thick red hair and withdrew from it a rose.
"Would you really use that?" The intruder scoffed. "Your family is not important to him. Our agenda lies with punishing you for locking us up in Makai and for allowing yourself to become the assistant to the man who keeps us there."
"What reason did you have for meeting me like this then?" Kurama demanded.
"How else could I ensure that you would not kill me when I gave you this?" He tossed a crumpled ascot at Kurama and began walking back towards the house. "We all have our reasons Youko. But you are living like this... its embarrassing for all of us."
A foul stench immediately began to emanate from the scarf he held in his hand. From its musk metallic smell, he already knew that the scarf was moistened with blood.
"Is that your equivalence to a security blanket?" Hiei ridiculed from the sakura tree only a few paces in front of him.
When he received no witty remark from the fox, he dropped from the tree, also becoming aware of the acidic odor. Kurama looked down at the scarf, a sudden realization froze every limb of his body. A brisk wind knocked the scarf out of his hand, leaving a scarlet stain in his palm.
"This is..." Kurama's eyes widened. "This is Botan's blood."
In case you didn't know:
Hanami: A spring event where families or friends sit under the blooming cherry blossoms.
I'll try to update as soon as possible. This story will probably distract me from the upcoming finals, but everyone needs a little diversion from responsibility every once in awhile, right? Glares at the evil stack of homework piling up on the table