Chapter Six: Endings
A/N: Okay, did my best to finish this up quickly! I leave early tomorrow morning and will be gone for a week. .:happiness:. I didn't want to leave you all hanging that long, because it would interrupt me and then it would be two weeks or so until I got the chapter out...
But anyways. Here it is! On the short side, but that's that. Hope you all like it!
Thank you so much to all of my reviewers/readers/favoriters for the entirety of this fic! You have all been truly, fantastically wonderful for putting up with me. Hope to see you all again!
"Hiei," said Botan finally, unexpectedly, breaking the silence. "That's his name," she clarified. "He was never introduced."
Hiei looked at her, blank.
"Uh..." said Genkai, looking momentarily off-kilter. It made sense, that the Forbidden Child wouldn't be called the Forbidden Child by the person he was...close to.
Hiei looked blank, hiding his own shock; today was just full of surprises. He hadn't been expecting that. He had been a monster, both in others' eyes and in his own, for so long that it came as a shock to be introduced otherwise.
"Hiei," said Genkai, tasting the name. "Makes sense." She didn't clarify what, exactly, made sense, or why, to anyone else; she knew what she was thinking—that if the monster that he—Hiei, the Forbidden Child—had been had changed, then he would be a different person, or changed to the point of unrecognizability.
There was a long and awkward pause. Botan was trembly with relief, Hiei would be, if he hadn't learned to control that much weakness, and Genkai couldn't quite wrap her mind around the image of her student wrapped in the arms of a mass-murderer, and returning the favor willingly.
"What happened?" asked Botan after a while, breaking the silence.
Genkai out-and-out smiled at that. It wasn't a particularly friendly expression—there was teeth in it. Sharp ones.
"Enma's been overthrown."
Botan choked as she jolted, surprised, the air catching in her throat.
"Say what?" she managed.
"There've been mutters about it for years," said Genkai, her smile still apparent but somewhat suppressed. "The introduction of the Priesthood and the start of the 'magical cleansing' was what finally set it in motion. It was planned to take place later, but your disappearance—and the fact that a village attacked me, which was completely unexpected—was the catalyst. Priests were overwhelmed by groups of magic workers, individually, each one done silently, so no one knew. Then we moved on the castle, with a few priests who were better than the others—meaning that they had some scrap of decency still left in their bodies—helping us, and took over."
"How was he killed?" asked Botan, eyes stormy. She was not very fond of Enma, after what he did to Hiei. That long time alone moved beyond inhumane into the monstrous.
"He died of a heart attack right before the poison finished the job. It left him incapable of movement, and I guess the shock of what was happening—we revealed ourselves before he was fully dead—finally did him in."
Botan seemed to have inherited her teacher's alligator smile.
"We should probably find Yusuke and Kurama," said Botan finally. "They should know you're free."
Hiei nodded his agreement, eyes still carefully trained on Genkai.
"Yusuke Urameshi?" asked Genkai, with an odd inflection to her voice. At Hiei's curt nod she burst out with a sharp bark of laughter, leaving Hiei and Botan curious.
"What...?" asked Botan, leaving the question open-ended.
"Urameshi's my newest student. Great potential, total idiot." Botan simply looked stunned at this latest revelation, while Hiei stifled a smirk.
"That idiot Enma... Leaving so many people untrained. It's a miracle that there's so few deaths from people loosing control..." said Botan, looking furious.
"That's definitely something that will need to change," agreed Genkai.
"Who's taking the throne?" asked Hiei in a guarded tone.
"Koenma," replied Genkai. "He won't be perfect, but he's capable, and hugely better than his father."
"The Priesthood?" prompted Hiei.
"The priests will be re-evaluated on an individual basis. Persecution of other magic-users will be completely stopped, of course, and anyone who shows any magical ability will be given a teacher. There will be another, subtler version of it set up—without the nastier aspects of the original, of course—to deal with issues before they happen. The current Priesthood will stay in place, with a lot of changes. They'll be taught healing and given instructions in how to teach children in whatever village they end up stationed at. They certainly won't have as much power as they've had previously."
"Why's Koenma taking the throne?" asked Botan. "Aren't there better options?"
"The army's faithful to Enma and his family," said Genkai. "Some of the villagers will be, too. While he was a tyrant, the priests did some good things, and he was responsible for—" she paused slightly "—getting rid of the Forbidden Child."
Botan winced slightly at her words as Hiei almost visibly closed himself off, emotionally, windows drawing closed in his carefully guarded expression.
"That said, Koenma has no idea that you even exist. Apparently Enma wasn't particularly close to anyone, including his son and heir. You two are free to go. Hiei, I don't think anyone will recognize you; I barely did, and I've seen you before. I can put an invisibility spell on your swords for you, and the bandanna hides your third eye. I think you should be fine."
Botan and Hiei exchanged looks. Before, they had been careful not to think of the future in anything other than the most, vague, abstract terms. With Hiei imprisoned in his cell and both still uncertain of what their relationship was, it hadn't ever been a good idea.
"May we stay somewhere in the palace for a while?" asked Botan. "While we get things worked out?"
"Yes, that's fine," said Genkai, walking to the door, followed by the other two. She grabbed a passing person, stating her request, telling Hiei and Botan to follow him, gave Botan one more relieved hug before moving on, still busy.
The two were soon ensconced in a plain guest room, furnished with a bed, chest-of-drawers and writing desk. (1) Botan was seated in the desk chair, Hiei perched on the window-ledge.
"What do we do next?" asked Botan at last.
It was a good question. Her foreseeable future had changed dramatically when she crashed through Hiei's window; he hadn't had one at all. Now neither had any idea of what to do.
"I... I don't know," said Hiei, face tainted with worry.
"I don't want to leave..." said Botan quietly. "I just saw Genkai again, I had thought she was dead, and I don't want that to happen again, and she's still training me. I'd like to finish with that."
"Staying would be good," agreed Hiei, looking up at her. "I don't want to leave Yusuke and Kurama—they're the only friends I've ever had."
"Would Koenma let us live in the royal forest, near the castle?" asked Botan slowly, eyes meeting red as she mirrored Hiei's gaze. There was hope in his eyes.
"I don't know why you insist on doing this, woman," said Hiei, watching Botan bustle around their new house, tweaking this, adjusting that and distributing plates of finger-food.
"Because it's been a few months since we saw everyone, and we owe them a thank-you for helping us build the house."
"It will be nice to see everyone, don't deny it. I've missed them, at least."
Hiei sighed. "That's why I haven't complained more."
Botan looked up, expression gentle. "Thank you," she said softly, simply.
Hiei flitted next to her, glancing quickly at her for permission before wrapping her in his arms. The two stood like that for a minute, peaceful, before Botan cautiously pressed her lips to his.
Both were still adapting to their situation; both were slowly growing used to being needed, needing and love. It was by no means a whirlwind romance—they hadn't done anything other than kiss, and both were cautious, unsure of themselves—but maybe that was for the better. As things were, both got a little white-hot bubble of joy, amazement and genuine surprise when they thought, once again, me, they love me!
A knock at the door interrupted them. Between blink and blink Hiei was once more in his spot, securely out of the way of house-warming party guests or, as he viewed them, nosy busy-bodies getting in the way of his time with Botan.
"Hey Botan!" greeted Yusuke noisily. "Any kids yet?"
Botan's flustered half-responses were interrupted by a squawk from Yusuke. "What was that for, Hag? Damn, all a guy needs to do is ask a question!"
"Uh, why don't you come in..." said Botan.
Watching her interact happily with the ever-growing stream of guests—when had she met so many people? he wondered—his thoughts inevitably went back to a time, six months earlier, before Botan had entered his life, when he had had no future other than more of the same, the monotony of imprisonment and the prison of his thoughts. Even if he had been offered freedom, he might have stayed; what he had done was... More than unforgivable.
Botan had done the impossible. She had let him let go, had let him move on. His past still haunted him, but it wasn't who he was anymore. It no longer defined him.
He didn't deserve it, any of it, but he had realized that almost no one ever does. You just needed to accept that and move on.
And he thought he could be at ease with his happiness.
Most of all, Botan had taught him to forgive himself.
(1) No raven. (For those who didn't catch that, "How is a raven like a writing desk?" is a quote from either Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass, I'm not sure which one. There is no answer—come up with one of your own!)
A/N: And end!
Hope you were all satisfied that everything got suitably wrapped up.
And hey! I've got a great idea! You should all PM me. Go on, do it, you know you want to! I need people to talk to. You should also review—then I'll PM you instead! Or we could do both! Wouldn't that be just great?