Disclaimer I don't own Kurama, Yusuke, or any other character in this fic, 'cept Jess, some ogres, and Koenma's psychiatrist. Oh, and that bit in the last chapter where Jess kids about being a lesbian? That belongs to my beta, but I forgot to mention before. Forgive me, Sporky?

A/N I know it's been a few moons since the last update, guys, I'm really sorry. It was one thing after the other, and then when I got around to writing, I ran into a lot of plot holes in the original that were, you know, gaping. Then some issues arose about in-Palace transportation, and I've had to rewrite the rewrite more than once.

X.x

So, maybe I've got most of this stuff fixed now and updates will be faster. Maybe. I'm going to try.

Also, the name of this chapter is not one you'll see much, I bet. I've been on this weird kick of finding words in ancient languages to use for names, titles, etc. (ie: 'Silere' from the last chapter; it does mean something!) I won't tell you what 'Silere' means, but 'Aequus' is Latin for "level" or "equal".

Watch out for the brief Anatomy and Physiology lesson. I explained it as well as I could, but if it makes no sense, I'll try to make a simpler version in the next chapter's A/N. Anywho, you go read it and tell me.


Life Goes On

By: SunshineandDaisys

Chapter 7: Aequus I, Part I


In the humble opinion of over half the world, mornings came far too soon. But for Jessica Matthews, Queen of the Comatose and an authority on sleeping late, this statement was surely justified at five in the morning.

"My God, are you kidding me?" she shrieked, slamming the door to her room behind her. Kurama had installed an alarm in her room that sounded like a foghorn. And as amusing as he may have found it, Jess was not so easily persuaded. "Look - the sun is sleeping! It's still in Japan, and it's probably pillaging the city you live in, having so much fun that it'll be an hour late! Hell - two hours!"

Kurama pulled out a chair for her at the table, then sat down himself. Jess remained standing, crossing her arms and shivering in the icy morning air. She couldn't decide if it werethe season or just the ungodly hour making it so cold. Likely a mix.

"They say it's warmer at lower altitudes." Kurama nodded at the chair, trying his best not to smirk at her stand-offish manner. She was loud even when she tried to be quiet.

"I'll sit if I feel like it."

He shrugged as he leaned forward to grab a pastry from the bowl on the table. Jess wondered if that had been there last night.

"Want one?" he offered.

"Yes, but I'll get my own." she snapped back.

"You're not a morning person, are you?"

"No." Jess selected a promising specimen and plopped down to eat it. As she sank her teeth into it, the French doors opened.

"Oh good, the tart's awake." The speaker kicked the door shut behind her with her left foot, balancing a basket on her hip and holding a key in her free hand. She tossed the key up and it landed deftly on top of her ashy, blonde hair.

'Tart?' Jess thought, a little confused at what could possibly merit name-calling. She glanced down quickly to count all the buttons on her night shirt, making sure she was decent. She was.

"I've been looking for you, Youko. Are these yours?" Their intruder waved a bright metallic pair of boxers in the air. Kurama choked on his strudel.

"No, I think maybe they're... Yusuke's. I'm not sure, but they're not mine ."

"Good." The woman gave them a doubting look before dropping them back in the basket. "I would've feared for your sex appeal." She eyed him mischievously before gesturing at an exponentially puzzled Jess. "But I see that you have that under control. These must be yours then, hon?" Instead of boxers, she flagged something lacier.

Kurama was utterly speechless, and Jessica was between gaping at him or the woman with all the laundry. Neither made a sound in that awkward, still moment until Hiei opened his door. Even then, it was quite unintelligible. Hiei, however, made a very interesting noise that sounded something like 'shit' and 'hell' combined into a hissing noise along the lines of 'shell'. Only angrier and more perturbed.

Before any of them knew it, he'd snatched the laundry basket and lacy what-sit from the woman's hands, and was slamming the door in his wake.

"And now we know--oh dear, I seem to have forgotten my manners." She walked to the table and shook Jess's hand heartily. "I'm Furuhana, maid to all the misfits Koenma calls employees. Well, his "favorites", anyway. If you need me, I'll be collecting the dirty laundry in some ogre's rooms."

Furuhana winked a gray-blue eye and sauntered out of the lanai the way she'd come. It was silent as the fox demons exchanged blank looks. Kurama snorted and Jessica cracked.

"What the hell is Hiei going to do with that lacy-- thing?" She was practically crying.

Kurama shook his head from its place in his palm, incapable of speech in his silent fit of laughter.

"More importantly," he began after rediscovering oxygen. "Who wears the shiny ones?"

"A suicidal epileptic?"

Kurama laughed outright and smiled at her. He looked so gorgeous, with his hair falling perfectly around his eyes, and that smile... It would've taken her breath away if she'd had any. Jess looked at her lap and laughed again, a little bit nervous as she realized how very unattractive she was right now.

Her discomfiture was short-lived, however, as she discovered that her pastry was filled with strawberries and cream cheese. Clearly, it was heaven-sent.


After devouring three of the phenomenal pastries, Jess was treated to a sun rise. In the bright rays of light, she could finally see what lay off the pavilion. Or, more correctly, what wasn't there. The ground, or any semblance of it, was eons below. The only land her eyes saw were the miles and miles of distant craggy terrain highlighted by the rising sun. From where she sat, Jess had a clear view; any farther to the right, however, and the sun would be blocked by an adjacent tower approximately two-hundred feet away.

Kurama had said it was a three-sided courtyard with several balconied verandas looking out at various heights. Theirs' was the only one with a view of the sun, however. It was pretty much the ocean-front property of the palace.

Jess mulled this over in the shower between her shampoo and soap selection. The variety ranged from 'Strawberry Pop Tart' to 'New Car', and she wondered what Kurama's scent of choice was. But those thoughts led to others, and soon she was beating her head against the pearly shower wall.

'He doesn't think this way about me,' she told herself. 'He doesn't! That's why he's so collected and intelligent - he's not wondering what I smell like! But maybe he would, if I were more like him...? Smarter, quieter, funnier. Prettier. Why is he so pretty, anyway? I mean, God, his mother must stop traffic.'

She sighed at this thought.

'Unlike me, who just runs straight into it. Well, at least I don't look like his mother. I'm just not pretty, and I'm likely to get run over any day now. Go, Jessica! You're sure to make him like you once you're dead.'

"Jessica?" Botan called from the bedroom, startling her out of her demeaning contemplations. She shut off the water to hear better.

"Yeah?"

"I'm putting your new wardrobe on the bed. Once you find something you like, put it on and meet us in the sixtieth floor results lab."

The sixtieth? Was she deranged? "I don't know where that is!" Jess exclaimed, her voice echoing in the small, rectangular space.

"Oh, yes, of course! I'll leave you a map."

"Botan, I don't know if you know what Mapquest is, but once we tried to drive to Washington, and I was in charge of directions for an hour and--"

"You'll be fine with this map, Jess. See you there!"

"But Botan, you don't understand! We almost ended up in Idah--"

Jess listened with dread as her bedroom door shut. Sighing heavily, she turned the water back on and finished her shower. 'Fantastic. At least this way I won't have to worry about being mature, seeing as they won't find my body until the second coming.'


She'd expected jeans, some tees, and maybe something weird and oversized for training. But she had definitely not counted on the blandly colored drawstring pants and Mandarin-collared tunic shirts. It was like a Tamora Pierce book wardrobe, only without the beautiful, curvaceous heroine to fill it out.

After sufficient cringing, Jess pulled on a matching cream top and pants. Glancing in the mirror, she saw that it wasn't as bad a fit as she thought it would be, even if the colors weren't her favorite. But the scrap of happiness she found in this was shredded once she realized that Botan's map wasn't with her clothes... or anywhere else in the room, for that matter.

She searched the room frantically with her eyes, honing in on every object. After the fifth eye-scan, she began tangibly devouring her room. She'd tried her best to ignore it, but the fact was that a map, or anything resembling a map, was just not there. Jess pulled at her hair and half-screamed in frustration.

"Why don't these people have freaking cell phones? Augh!"

After a rather emphatic kick to the dresser, she fell back onto her bed and stared at the canopy. Even through her frustration, she had to admit, this was kind of funny. Just the thing that Stella would sympathize with, since she'd probably spent half an hour looking for her other pink ugg this morning.

A melancholy feeling phased over her, representing itself with an asocial type of smile, and she sighed. If she survived all this, she'd have so much to tell Stella. Maybe she should start writing a journal of it all?

The thought of hunting down paper and pencils made her scowl, so she rolled over and dismissed the idea. She sat up fast when something squishy flattened against her arm. It peeled off easily, and popped into a pulsating sphere in her hand.

"What...?" Jess hesitantly poked her key, and it surprised her when it morphed instantaneously into a flat 4 inch square in her hand. Little black lines began appearing like a miniature, detailed Etch-A-Sketch version of her room and the pavilion; it was her map.

"Yes," she sighed in relief. It was a bit small for her taste, but it was better than nothing. Her only qualm was that it was still shaking. Out of curiosity, she pressed it again. The map disappeared, much to her distress, and was replaced quickly with words.

Hey Jess, I see you found your map. Don't worry about it being too small, it moves with you. Just follow the blinking arrows and send me a message if you get lost. Tap the center three times for the message-sender (MS). See you soon, and good luck!

- StyxGirl

Jess sucked on her teeth with her tongue. ' This will be wonderful.' Tapping experimentally on the blob, she found that if she pressed her finger in the center for a few seconds, it would roll up into a conveniently sized shape of its choice - mostly something spherical, or occasionally a cube. She assumed these were its constant shapes.

More experimenting showed her that one tap transformed it into her key, two brought it back to the map, three was the MS, and four seemed to be her 'inbox'. This didn't explain why it had changed into her key last night, or the map a few minutes ago, so she planned to ask Botan when she found her.

' If I find her.' Jess sighed heavily and pocketed the blob momentarily - just long enough to put her hair in the elastic from yesterday - before walking out the door and re-activating her map. The door automatically locked behind her.

Finding her way out of the residential hallways was simpler than she thought it would be. It was when she exited the stairs into the larger palace corridors that things got tough. These passages were long and empty, so the going was slow and dull enough to frustrate her already anxious self. If it weren't for the occasional ogre scrambling across the tiles into another hall or room, she would've thought the whole place uninhabited.

After wandering for a while, it occurred to her that she didn't have to spend the walk completely bored... Three taps later, and she was typing a message on the mini keypad to Botan.

Hey Botan, how far away am I if the map says Hall 17,456,397,523?

It took five minutes for Jess to receive the reply. She was just starting to get worried when she felt the jelly-key vibrate in her hand.

Sorry it took me so long, your message scared me and I fell into Kurama's lab set-up! We're all intact, though, but just barely. (haha not)

You should be nearly to the Rising Hall by now. Get to the 60th floor, and you're 5 minutes away. See you soon!

- StyxGirl

"Well," Jess muttered wryly. "At least it wasn't me this time."

Deciding against giving Botan another life-threatening opportunity, Jess tapped her blob into its map form and continued to the Rising Hall. She presumed that the large gap in the wall ahead was it, and turning the corner three minutes later, she was assured.

"Wow." she breathed, reclining her head to see as much of the room as she could. In all likelihood, one would probably have to lie flat on the ground with binoculars to see where it ended.

The Rising Hall was clearly the core transportation area for this side of the palace, though it was nothing like any form of transportation she'd ever seen. The hall ran horizontally in front of her, stretching back far enough on either side to contain what appeared to be a giant-sized, silver Ferris wheel with bird cages instead of seats. This Ferris wheel was shaped in a stretched oval, allowing a level stop at each floor. However many that was, she had no idea.

As Jess stood blinking in awe, an ogre coughed from her right. She snapped her attention to him. Her. It?

"Miss, may I help you?" Well, it sounded like a he.

"Um, I'm not sure." Jess walked the distance between them somewhat apprehensively. Her most recent travels in Spirit World had been intense, to say the least. "I need to reach the sixtieth floor results lab...?" She turned her palms up and shrugged.

The ogre nodded and pulled one of the many levers beside him. "Right inside that cage there."

Jess gave the cage and wheel a startled look, one foot edging slowly behind her, before she stopped herself.

'I can do this! It's just tall. Possibly as tall as the palace.' She visibly paled. 'Damn it all.'

"Miss?"

Jess fidgeted, tucking some of the shorter strands of hair behind her ear. "So, is there another way up there?"

"No..." His expression became confused. "The stairs took days to climb, so we replaced them."

"Makes sense..."

"Miss, are you goin--"

"Jess. Call me Jess, please."

"Okay... Jess." The ogre paused. "Are you going to get on or not?"

This was stupid. It was just an innovative elevator. If she was going to endure intense physical training for two weeks in order to be the leverage in a war between the world and the very embodiment of evil , surely, she could handle a carnival attraction.

Besides, what would she tell Kurama? 'I couldn't because it was too big and scary'? 'The ogre was mean to me'?

"Yes. I am."

"Good." He gestured behind him. "Back there."

"Right."

Stepping inside the pewter cage, Jess found a seat on the long, circumferential bench. It was roomy enough on the inside to seat fifty or so of herself easily. She placed a hand on the rail behind her and squeezed it to reassure herself it was solid.

"Not that one measly bar is going to--eyah!" The wheel jolted and her cage swayed.

"Have a nice day, Miss Jess!"

Jessica trained her eyes on the solid floor under her feet instead of at the walls, if you could call those wrist-thick bars walls. At least the pace wasn't too fast. It was quick, but it didn't hold a match to Botan's paddle.

Four minutes after starting up, the wheel creaked to a stop, and the gate to her cage opened. Walking across the enclosure was not unlike climbing out of a canoe, and she was very relieved to set her feet on the hard, stone surface of the sixtieth floor.

Glancing at her map caused an unexpected feeling of excitement to spread through her veins; she was only two rights and a short hall away from Kurama. She pushed it down quickly, not wanting to act like a complete idiot in front of everyone. But by the time she reached the door marked "Results Lab", her stomach was already filled with butterflies again.

'I just saw him this morning,' she reminded herself mentally. 'It's not like we've been apart for years or anything.' Her inner-self was ignoring her.

The lock was shaped like a candy bar with the number sixty indented in it. Her blob morphed instantaneously into the correct shape, and the lock slid open with a dull click. Jess pushed on the heavy door and entered the brilliantly lit room; it contrasted so much with the dim hall that she had to shield her eyes for a moment.

Kurama had both of his hands braced against an argent stone counter as he peered into a microscope. His outfit was similar to hers in style, but stark white and trimmed in black and gold. He looked up at her when the door shut.

"It is considerably brighter in here, isn't it?" her teacher asked.

"Yes," she answered. "I heard you had an accident...?"

Botan spoke up from across the room, "Yes, and I'm still cleaning it up." She raised a hand from behind one of the closer island counters, waving it around until Jess peeked over the edge and chuckled. The blue-haired girl had made quite a mess - there were shards of glass everywhere.

"Need help?" Jess offered.

Botan was about graciously accept her offer when Kurama put a hand on Jessica's shoulder and she turned to him questioningly. "First, give me your hand."

"Why?" Jess did as she was told with no small amount of self-consciousness.

Quicker than she thought he could move, Kurama had pulled out a small knife and pricked the tip of her index finger, letting the drops of blood fall onto a clean slide. It took a few shocked seconds for her body to even register what had taken place.

"Ouch!" She yanked her hand from his grasp, and he grinned. "What was that for?"

"Your peace of mind." Jessica wasn't following at all. "You'll see," he laughed, walking back to the microscope. Jess frowned at him and sucked on her finger, wondering what he could possibly show her that her Biology class hadn't explained.

"Hey, if you're still up for helping..." Botan hinted from the floor.

After they'd cleaned up the glass, the cheerful Grim Reaper gave her a quick tour of the lab. It was a large room lined with cabinets and filled with plenty of surfaces to do work on. There were many sinks, and a few computers. A rather complex looking machine sat in the corner. Botan said that it was used for identification purposes in some criminal cases, and that it was only here from a recent class demonstration.

"Jess, come here," Kurama called her away from tinkering with one of the computers. "Remember when I said that I'd show you official proof about what you are?"

Jess paused beside him, remembering all too well that afternoon. It was the second time he'd saved her life, that time from an over-the-edge Chad Thomas. She crossed her arms tightly.

"Yeah, I remember."

"Well..." Kurama stepped away from the microscope and gestured for her to take his place. "Here's your proof. It's not as good as you finding out for yourself, but that will come later."

Her green eyes widened, and she adjusted the instrument until she could see all the infinitesimally sized cells in her blood. Nothing stood out, though, and she pulled away dissatisfied.

"What am I looking for? It all looks normal to me."

"It is quite difficult to make out in the light. Botan, can you flip the switch?"

Botan nodded and turned out the lights so that all you could see was the glow of the microscope. Kurama turned that off too.

"Now look." he instructed.

Jess hesitated, wondering if they'd all gone insane in the time it took her to get up here. But she looked anyway, realizing that nothing else had happened logically thus far, and that this was probably not an exception. When her eyes adjusted to the absence of light, she looked down into the magnifier again.

"It glows!" she gasped, pulling away suddenly to gape at Kurama. She didn't see him, but she could feel his presence close to her. "Why?"

"Well," he began, "we're not completely sure. There are plenty of theories, but most are difficult to explain to someone who isn't fluent in all the technical jargon. You see, we don't know a lot about your blood because you're the first elemental in nearly two thousand years. When the race started thinning out, we started the research, but not many were willing to be subjects. There are still a lot of things we don't know.

"But we do know that an elemental has an unusual amount of energy at their fingertips. Once we start training, you'll see what I mean. The energy comes from the abnormal advantage of having two mitochondria in every cell, producing double the amount of energy as a normal human. Combine that with your demon strength, and it'll increase additionally as you develop your power."

"Two...? How does that happen?" she muttered, returning to the slide for closer examination.

"It's tricky. Everyone gets a mitochondria from their mother, but an elemental demon gets a second from their father. It's impossible to get both from the mother. One has to come from each parent."

"So your father would have to be an elemental?"

"Exactly."

Botan turned on the lights. They all experienced short-term blindness.

"And it wouldn't matter if your mother were an elemental at all?"

"No."

"But wait - what about my brothers?"

Kurama shrugged a shoulder. "So far nothing has developed in them, but they do have demon blood."

Her green eyes opened wide. "So they're like you, then?"

"Yes, and no," Kurama paused, wording the answer in his mind. "It's all up to chance when it comes to demons. There are millions of possibilities. Half demons, quarter demons, demons with powers, demons without powers, and so on. Most are born in the Makai - which is the demon world - but the more civilized and intelligent ones have escaped or leaked into the human world, and that's where we get more complicated with halves and quarters.

"Your brothers may be more athletic, or brighter than others, but they don't appear to have your powers. The elemental gene also skips generations. There's so much working against the possibility of there ever being another elemental fox demon that you might be the last."

"So, what then? If I kick Underworld ass, we get to live for two thousand more years, and then that's the end of the line?"

"Possibly." He sounded completely comfortable with that answer.

Jess blinked at him, the cogs of her brain turning quickly. Her confusion turned suddenly into incredulity. "They're going to what, then, try to... breed another and... and I would have to--"

"No!" Kurama and Botan said at once.

"That'd be heinous," the blue-haired girl said. "I'd have Koenma roasted on a spit and delivered to the Wolverine Research Habitat."

As she finished speaking the door beside her swung open, and the familiar ogre from last night entered. "Botan, Koenma would like to speak with Miss Matthews."

"Speak of the devil..." She snapped her paddle into the room. "We'll be there in--"

"Actually, I'll take her." Kurama cut her off. "We'll be there soon enough. You two go ahead."

"Sure..." Botan sent him an inquiring look, but he shook his head. She sighed and sat on her paddle, hovering to let George sit as well and say, "See you two in the office, then." She was zipping out of the door, and down the hall before they could so much as wave.

"What is it, Kurama?" Jess asked, careful to keep the emotions out of her voice. She was excited to be alone with him, but also upset about what she'd surmised - whether it was true or not.

He seemed unsure, but finally he spoke, "I don't honestly know what will happen after this is over, Jess." She could feel her heart sinking as more thoughts flooded her mind. "But I promised your father that I wouldn't let them do to you what they did to him, and I'm making the same promise to you now. When you want to leave, you can. Even now."

"But I have--"

Kurama shook his head. "No, you don't have to do anything." He paused, and then smiled. "Although, preferably, I'd like to live my life to its natural end..."

Jess hugged her arms and sighed, staring down at the floor. "I just don't want to be a guinea pig, you know?"

"Yes, I do know." He said it with such conviction that she had to look at him again. "It's a long story - I'll show you later."

"...show me?"

He smirked. "You'll see."

Jess rolled her eyes, "You should not be allowed to be so cryptic."

"Patience is a virtue," he teased. She replied to that by sticking her tongue out at him, and he laughed. "Come. We need to see Koenma before he gets impatient."

"Isn't he always impatient?"

"Usually, yes."

Kurama reached out his hand, and she stared at it dubiously.

"This is another one of those things I'm not going to enjoy, isn't it?"

He grinned. "You'll learn to appreciate it. It's how most demons get around in the palace."

"Interworld-transport?" she recalled, remembering that Hiei had mentioned it last night before they left her house. ' That was just last night? Crazy.'

"Yes, except on a smaller scale. Just hold onto my hand and you'll be fine."

"Err... You know, I really enjoyed that Ferris wheel ride, and I wouldn't mind--"

Jess had only two seconds to react before Kurama grabbed her hand, but again her mind was too slow to formulate a reaction, and she found herself once more at Kurama's mercy.

The shock of moving so fast that you appeared to dissolve into thin air was almost as unnerving as the fact that you really might have. A flood of cold stunned her system, grayish light filled her vision, and then she was standing in Koenma's office.

Well, 'standing' was a very presumptuous word.

"Kurama!" Jess latched onto his arm, er, side... foot? She couldn't tell. Her disorientation was utterly complete. She didn't mistake the sound of his hysterical laughter with the ringing in her head, however. "Stop laughing, it hurts!"

She felt two warm hands on either side of her face, and that was when she realized her eyes were closed. They jumped open to meet Kurama's... upside down.

"I'm on the ground, aren't I?"

"Yes." He nodded, some more mirth escaping in his voice. "And that was Botan's knee you were hitting, by the way." He couldn't contain it anymore - he was laughing again before he even finished the sentence.

She sat up with a groan and glared at Botan, who was trying to cover a grin with her hand. Koenma and George were pretending to be engrossed in a paperweight. Jess sighed and allowed Kurama to help her up.

"I'm going to kill you for this one day. When you least expect it. And then I'll leave you in some random hall that no one ever uses, and they won't find you for ages."

Kurama nodded, finally grasping his amusement. "There's one in the basement where a grizzly triple homicide took place fifty years ago. They avoid it because some people mysteriously lost heads during the investigation."

The look she gave him could have wilted a rainforest. It set him off laughing again.

"You need medication."

"Assuredly."

Koenma chose that moment to pretend he had suddenly noticed their presence. "Kurama, Jessica! Nice of you to join us. I was about to send Botan after you."

Neither of them said anything, but they migrated towards the chairs in front of the desk.

"Now, I just wanted to make sure everyone knew what was going on. Do you have any questions, Jessica?"

Yeah, how about 'Are you planning on putting me in a test tube when this is over?' or 'So - just who did you have in mind for that breeding thing?' Somehow, neither of those seemed appropriate, so she just shook her head. "No, sir."

"Alright, then it's show time! George - hit the lights."

While George took care of the lights, Koenma directed his guest and employees to the large, gold-trimmed flat screen on the wall behind them. When they all had their chairs turned around, the prince turned on the film.

There was no frippery, just a sudden image, as if someone had stopped a tape in the middle of a movie. Jess jumped in her seat as thousands upon thousands of short, scrawny creatures with jagged teeth ran screaming across a field in the direction of the camera. Their cries were powerfully altissimo, yet rough. And though the yells were angry, she could somehow hear a resounding note of sadness in them.

The operator of the camera was obviously very quick, because right as the entities reached them, he leapt away, landing safely on the outskirts and hardly missing a beat. The new position of the lens allowed the viewer to see a dark figure silhouetted against an undivided yellow moon. Abruptly, the figure slammed its arm forward, palm facing the impending attack.

A clear, animalistic growl rang out, causing the mass of creatures to freeze. Streaks of lightning began slicing through the sky, forking out into five or six prongs each. Agonized screeches came from the entities; they knew what was coming, and they didn't like it.

The heated electricity in the sky became more constant until finally, it etched an unceasing dome in the atmosphere. The silhouette brought both palms together, the bright concave of lightning moving slowly towards the ground. In a sudden, horrific movement, the basket dropped over the crowd. They shrieked, fighting against it in vain.

An army of demons inundated the field, attacking the screaming creatures. The lone figure moved out of view...

The image blinked off, and Koenma spoke. "That was the last Divine Night, taking place on a savannah in Africa. This year's location is still unknown, but we're getting minor tremors in Europe." He sighed. "They're small, but en masse, Ulren are terribly destructive creatures."

"They seem so... weak, though," Jess whispered, still staring blankly at the screen.

"They aren't as a frail as they appear, though you make a point. But it's not the Ulren that we truly worry about, it's their leader, Dread. Don't laugh at the name - it's suiting. Inside sources say that he's planning something this year, and that means we'll have to be extra careful. You will have to be exact, Jessica. A slip-up could mean death."

Koenma slid out of his chair, ignoring the suddenly heavy atmosphere. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment with Dr. Lin. Enjoy your lunch, and have fun training!"

George followed the prince out, and when the door shut, the room was silent. Jess stared at the screen, expressing her pain unknowingly on her face. Kurama reached for her hand slowly, still managing to scare her when he touched it.

"Are you okay?"

"I don't think I can do it." she blurted honestly, curling her fingers around his hand. "It's not even their fault, and everyone deserves freedom, I don't want to--"

"Jess," Botan stood, sighing sadly. "They're not to be sympathized with. I felt the same way as you do now for a long time, but then..." She flicked her purple eyes to the fox demon and let then linger until he glanced back, silently exchanging something, before she came back to Jess's face. "Then I learned that their discontent is wholly deserved. It's going to be tough, but we'll be here for you."

She smiled at her softly, touched Kurama's shoulder, and left the room. Kurama squeezed her Jessica's hand and pulled her up with him. "Come on," he instructed. "You'll feel better after you eat something."

"Is it time to eat?" She tried to shake herself mentally. It worked a little.

"It's nearly ten, but we're going to eat a small lunch and start training."

"Oh."

She walked beside Kurama, leaving the room with a few extra tons of weight on her shoulders. The mere thought that the day was not even halfway through made her wince inwardly. But at least she had her teacher. Jess glanced at him secretly, pulling her eyes away after a moment.

'But I'll do it, just for him.'


End A/N Lots of plot there, hope you all paid attention. There's a pop quiz tomorrow! (grin)

Right, so I majorly underestimated how long this chapter was going to be, and it's going to be in two parts. Aequus I, Part II is next, and then there's Aequus II that'll come up in... oh, three chapters, I guess. It depends on how much I cram into the next two.

Now, since I haven't had time to figure out that review board-thinger yet, we'll have to settle for this:


Review Replies

fangimation (embarrassed) You flatter me! And they do know 'what' Jess is, Hiei just doesn't particularly like her, so he refers to her as 'it'. That will be explained a bit more in the second half of this chapter, I think. Again, thank you so much!

Sailor Elf Ew! Please keep your eyeballs in your head!

Kitsune Kit, bookworm0492, Noyesgirl You guys review like every chapter. 8D Just wanted to let you know it's appreciated!

crystalfeathers I'm so glad you like Jess, I've really been working at making her likeable and not typical. I wanted her to be relatable. Constructive Crit. on Jess is one of my most favorite things to get, because she is, after all, what the fic is about. (smile) Thanks!