The End of the World

On the edge of the cityscape, overlooking the skyline, a ghostly figure smiled. Death was prepared. Death was decided. Death was calm.

Death would be in seconds.

The book foretold all. Earthquakes in Asia. Volcanic eruptions in the South Pacific. Hurricanes on the southeastern coast of North America. Mt. Vesuvius in Italy was already spewing debris into the atmosphere. Pompeii was getting ready for an encore.

Antarctica was melting. The greenhouse effect was in full swing. The atmosphere was so congested with smog and smoke that those brave enough to venture out wore oxygen masks.

But Death was calm. She had been frantic earlier. Mt. Fuji would erupt, too. So much heat had now been trapped in the earth that nearly every volcano was exploding. Triggering earthquakes. Typhoons and hurricanes were set to strike in their designated hemispheres. Each Messenger of Death, each of the ferry girls Botan had always known, was waiting in her designated Apocalypse Station.

Ayame hovered over the Bay of Naples. Hinageshi waited patiently in Tanzania. And Botan had been given Tokyo. As always.

She had requested Tokyo. She had fond memories there, and wished to remember it. Tokyo had been the home of Yusuke Urameshi, and the group that followed him. Most of them had died centuries ago, as humans did. Keiko had passed quietly. Yusuke was never seen again. Shizuru fell to lung cancer, Atsuko to cirrhosis. Kuwabara held on as long as he could for Yukina, murdered by a fanatic ice maiden nearly a decade later. Kurama died from complications due to a massive heart attack, which was a great shock to everyone who had foolishly assumed that he could be reborn again as a demon. No, he'd said, when it was mentioned. Even if he could become his demon self at will, he no longer had the strength. Besides, Death is death. And indeed, he faced dire punishments for cheating it once.

Botan had been prepared to cry as Tokyo fell to ruin. As the earth reclaimed what foolish humans had stolen from her, so full of self-righteousness. As man fell to what he thought was conquered. But no. Earth was never conquered. Earth was her own master. Earth was man's master. But this had been forgotten over so many millennia of cities and roads, technology and ideas.

Once the earth fell, once the human realm was no more, demon realm would also be vanquished. The demons had advance warning. They had all fallen to their knees, praying to the various gods. The Koorime invoked their ancient goddess, the one who rained on the demon realm, but snowed only for her daughters. The Youko began to give back what they had stolen. People who had lost a favorite toy in the demon equivalent of preschool were surprised when a Youko thief knocked on their door, apologized, and handed it back. Yomi spoke of righting wrongs. Mukuro spoke of settling old scores with the past. The King spoke of staying together to bear this tumultuous time. Koenma had assured them all of speedy, fair judgment. Leniency could be arranged in the face of such disaster. Wickedness was being forsaken by the demons. This was their punishment, said Koenma solemnly, no need for us to make it worse.

Spirit realm. So organized that even the end of the world, as they knew it, was merely routine. In the Event of an Apocalypse—it was written right there in the manual employees were made to read and quizzed on every other decade.

Botan had originally been assigned to scatter duty—to pick up the stragglers in the other girls' areas. But she begged so hard for Tokyo that Koenma agreed to let her trade.

And now she could hear the rumbling of the earth as it began to shake. Searing waves of heat were crashing in, cutting like knives. Buildings melted. People began to scream. Someone was crushed by a car. Botan swooped down for him, and set him in a designated cloud.

A girl fell from a third story balcony. She sobbed. Normally, Botan would comfort her, but her resignation. Her calm. It would be killed by the dead little girl. A grandmother died of a heart attack, all right. She could comfort the child.

And on it went, and on it went, and when the humans were merely a hundred in number, when the earth was blackened with death and ash, and 'civilization' was but another pretty word in a burned, obsolete dictionary somewhere, the demon realm began to die. Shock waves shattered what was left of the spirit realm's barrier, better than any dimensional sword could have dreamed. But death there was slower. Disease. Plague. Only earth's leftovers hit there, but the doggie bag was still more than they could take.

Food and water was contaminated. That's what killed Mukuro.

Technology was destroyed. Gandara came to a standstill. Some demon that craved simplicity began to pity the pampered citizens and killed them all before they learned about life after computers and radio.

The Koorime glacier melted, taking her spoiled daughters with her.

The Youko died out when prey animals could no longer find plants to eat.

With the human apocalypse over, the Messengers of Death were sent to demon realm to escort its citizens to judgment. Botan escorted Koto and Enki, among others. Ayame was the first to find Mukuro's restless soul. Hinageshi coaxed the Koorime to spirit realm, all of them in denial.

And through it all, through every sobbing mother and screaming child, Botan was calm and resigned.

But nowhere, in either realm, did she find the soul of who made her so. The soul who learned of the impending doom with a disturbing vision from his third eye, and informed spirit realm's higher-ups—Hiei was nowhere. Dead or alive, no way to say. No body. No soul.

No Hiei.

Had he killed himself to avoid the apocalypse? No. Not his style.

Did he shuttle his soul through realms to escape death, as Kurama had? No, not the coward's way for stubborn Hiei.

All Botan found was his sword, her only remnant of him.

That, and the confession she had coerced, the forced bit of affection, the vague, less than harsh smirk, before he left the spirit realm forever.