- Chapter 11 -
Keiko flinched when Hiei touched her face, though not from fear of him. Thanks to her connection with Kurama, Keiko felt like she could trust the fire demon. The reason she flinched was simply because as much as she felt she could trust Hiei, she still was terrified of what the outcome of this whole procedure would be. There was no definite answer. Would she wind up totally insane by the end? Would she even survive? Quietly she reached out a hand towards Youko, who instantly took it in his own and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
Mukuro watched the proceedings with something of an idle interest. Hiei brought up his other hand, not cradling, but holding her head between them as if trying to channel into her mind. Keiko tensed at the slightly "captured" feeling the pose gave her.
"Calm, Keiko," Youko murmured, coming up behind her, freeing her hand from his to instead wrap his arms around her abdomen. His breath tickled her ear and a wave of lassitude swept over her. The sudden calmness almost made her knees weak and she wobbled in Hiei's grip and his hands tightened. "Gentle, Hiei..."
The fire demon glared daggers at him. "Shut up, you stupid fox," he hissed.
"It's her first time, Hiei," Youko whispered. "Don't you know you need to be gentle?"
Keiko tensed and tried to whip her head around and squirm out of Youko's arms, outraged at the double entendre. "You-!"
But both the demons tightened their arms around her and held her still while she struggled between them. When her struggles didn't subside, Hiei growled in slight annoyance. "We don't have time for this."
"Look-!" Keiko was ignored as the two demons stared each other down.
"Now, now you two, there's no need to get-" Youko started to say when he felt what should've been a "brush" of the smaller demon's power and instead came a "shove". Keiko was braced, but not for what was thrown at her. Raw power assailed her and it was like a hurricane blowing the roof off a house. Her insides were shaken, her limbs failed her and only Youko's support kept her upright as her eyes rolled backward into her head.
"Keiko!" Youko swept the unconscious girl up into his arms and carried her over to the bed. Laying her down gently, the kitsune shot a nasty glare over his shoulder.. "That was totally uncalled for, Hiei."
If the fire demon was bothered by the criticism, it didn't show. "Hn, at least it shut her up."
Youko didn't reply. Instead, he crawled into bed with Keiko, settling down on her right side. He gave Hiei a "let's proceed" look to which the fire demon nodded in response.
Frowning, Hiei moved to Keiko's left side, propping awkwardly onto the bed, one hand on her arm impersonally.
"Want to get a bit more comfortable?" Youko purred. "Eight hours is a long time."
Leveling a hard stare on the other demon, Hiei scoffed. "No."
Youko chuckled lightly before growing serious. This was going to be rough on him as well as Keiko. From across the room, Makuro watched the two demons settle on both sides of the human girl. Youko curled himself around her back and looked cozy while Hiei was perched on the edge of the bed. It was interesting to say the least.
Frankly, she had been surprised at Hiei's request for help, for a ningen of all things. She was not overly fond of the creatures, after all. Still, she admired the bravery this ningen girl had displayed in face of such danger. She could well lose her mind and yet she trusted these two demons, allowing them to enter her mind. Fascinating, indeed. Too bad she may well die within the next few hours.
Shaking her head, Murkuro turned and exited the room.
~Hiei! We're losing her!~ Youko's voice sounded panicked to the fire demon as it echoed through his mind. The kitsune held the screaming girl in his arms, attempting to still her writhing form in hopes of keeping her from hurting herself.
Pouring more energy into his jagan, Hiei focused all of his psychic abilities, channeling them into reinforcing the block he'd attempted to create on Keiko's fragile mind.
It had been nearly nine hours now since the onslaught had begun and there appeared to be no end in sight. Another crack formed in Keiko's psychi and Hiei became more and more dismayed. At this rate, she would be a vegetable by the end of all this. He looked up briefly, crimson eyes locking with glowing amber and the two demons shared an understanding. Keiko Yukimura would not survive this experience with her mind fully intact.
"Do something!" Kurama snapped, his hands curled around Keiko's wrists. Looping a leg across her thighs he pulled her back into the cove of his body even as she writhed.
"No! No! I don't want to taste the purple! Get away from the microwave, the plane will crash!" she squeaked trying to steal her arms away from the fox. Twisting, she buried her face into his shoulder suddenly not trying to get away, but to get closer. "No!"
"If you don't hold her still, her mind will split open like an egg!" Hiei grumbled.
Before Kurama could snap back, Keiko suddenly went still in his arms. Deathly still. The stillness caused both demons to turn alarmed eyes toward the female. Her forehead lay against Kurama's chest heavily. Her breath warmed his shirt.
The girl didn't move. Instead, she lay there, slumped against the bed. Lifting one arm, Kurama gently titled her head back. Her brown eyes were open but glassy. Those listless eyes drifted up from nowhere to Kurama's face.
"There's a seed," Keiko suddenly said, her voice soft, almost a murmur, "A brown one. You plant it in water with a thirty percent water mixture. Put it into full sun. It will germinate in fifteen days." she said it in a matter of fact way. "If you give it fifteen more days and feed it water daily, full sun for eighteen hours a day and sprinkle the soil with a bone mix fertilizer it will sprout little heads that have teeth in them. What was that called again?"
The demons exchanged wary glances. Keiko tapped one finger against Kurama's hand absently, reminding him he was still holding her wrist.
"It's called an Ogigi," Kurama answered absently. Where had she come by such detailed knowledge of demon plants? Had the experience tainted her brain with pieces of their collective knowledge, his and Hiei's?
Suddenly, Keiko's eyes turned sad. Her hand reached up to cup Youko's cheek, drawing his eyes back to hers. "Not your fault." she stated, as if it were clear to the meaning of her statement. "He chose to go back. Told you 'Run. Save yourself,'. He wanted you to live."
Youko's eyes widened as he realized what Keiko was referring to. "How did you . . ." his voice trailed away as he couldn't complete the sentence, or even the thought that was coursing through his brain.
Hiei watched the scene unfolding, a blank expression masking the anger he was feeling. Anger at himself as, from Keiko's seemingly senseless rambling, it appeared that he had failed to protect her. That's when he caught sight of Youko's dumbfounded expression.
"Hmm, worse than it looks, is it?" Hiei straightened.
At the sound of Hiei's voice, Keiko turned to him. "Poor Hina," she murmured. "Her heart cries from a faraway cave."
Hiei startled back from her, now knowing why Youko had reacted the way he had. Somehow she was digging up the all time lowest points of their history, at least if his was anything to judge by. He got up, shaking, he wasn't sure whether it was with rage or some other emotion he really didn't want to name, all he knew was that it caused him pain. He had to physically withdraw from both Youko and Keiko to prevent accidentaly hurting them. He closed his eyes in a vain attempt to prevent the other two from seeing what that innocent statement from Keiko had done to him.
He had no words; speechless.
When he knew that closing his eyes would do nothing, especially where Youko was concerned, he flitted as quickly as he could out the window, to try to understand why this affected him so deeply. It was almost as if Hiei's swift departure triggered something in Keiko. Her posture shifted and her eyes lost their glassiness. She now looked up at Youko with a look of confusion.
Youko looked down at her, still with some lingering sadness in his eyes, though it lightened quite a bit at hearing her lucidly speak. Feeling his human half struggling to come out, Youko conceded and quickly allowed Shuichi to take over. Silver hair bled into crimson and amber eyes turned to emeralds.
"Keiko, we have been terribly worried about you. Do you remember anything you said a few minutes ago?"
"I don't think I said anything, although my throat hurts," she answered, softly sliding her hands out from beneath his loose hold. She stretched leisurely. "Is it over? Where did Hiei go? Is it normal to be this tired?"
Kurama watched her cautiously as she languidly crawled to the edge of the bed and stood on apparently wobbly legs before straightening herself and looking around and finally turning back to him.
"Is there any food?"
He smiled ruefully at her. After hearing that she remembered nothing of what she said, Kurama knew that she had been in a trance of sorts. What variety would have to be determined if and when it ever occurred again. In the meantime, he had to find her food and drink since it seemed that she was both hungry and thirsty, which was a very good sign. "I'll go get you something. Stay here and rest, you've had a trying day."
"Thank you," Keiko replied.
Feeling fatigued, she returned to lay back down upon the bed. Her eyes felt heavy and though she had so many questions about what had transpired during her ordeal and how she had come through apparently unscathed, Keiko couldn't resist closing her eyes for just a moment. By the time Kurama returned, she was sound asleep.