A/N: This is the sequel to The Wreck of My Memories. It's another story from Hiei's POV. There is mild shounen-ai.
Disclaimer: All rights belong to Yoshihiro Togashi and Shonen Jump. No infringement intended, etc etc all that jazz. I'm poor so don't sue.
Rating is M for language.
The Voice of Your Eyes
By Terri Botta 2005
"Are you going out on patrol?" Kurama asked me, his voice light and friendly.
He is standing in the main entry of Mukuro's fortress dressed in what I have come to call his 'traveling clothes:' light colored pants, long-sleeved shirt, jacket and backpack with its ridiculous fake fox tail dangling from it. I know he thinks it to be a cute inside joke, but to me it only reminds me of how sentimental and frivolous he can be sometimes.
He came for a surprise visit yesterday. Just showed up on the doorstep and expected to be let in. Fearless and stupid (and too much like something Yuusuke would do) but he knew I was here so Mukuro ordered him safe passage through the gate. It's the first time he's been to the main fortress, and I wondered what made him come so far from Yomi's territory, but I didn't ask him and he didn't explain himself. He merely said that he was 'in the neighborhood' and wanted to 'look me up.' Hn, stupid ningen slang.
Not that I wasn't glad to see him. It had been over a year since our last meeting and the sight of him gave me a pleasant feeling. It also broke the monotony of patrolling the borders to make sure Enki's decree that we leave the human world alone is being upheld. The demon won again in the second Makai Tournament and his decree stayed in effect; so we, the losers, must continue guarding the borders and returning hapless ningens who accidentally end up in the Makai back where they belong.
Ch. Some days it's so boring I could do it in my sleep.
So I was surprised and happy to see the red-head when he appeared before the gate. We had a chance to talk and renew our friendship. The good thing about Kurama and me is, no matter how much time has passed between our last visit, within moments it is like we have never been apart. The old camaraderie returns and I am filled with the feeling Kurama once described to me as nostalgia. Whatever it is, it's pleasant if a little bittersweet sometimes. Our time together, brief as it might be, is something that I like and I am always glad to be with him. Sometimes, I even allow myself to miss him when we have to go our separate ways.
Just a little bit.
Our lives are very different now and there is not much reason for me to visit the Ningenkai since I told Yukina that her brother is dead. She still doesn't know that I am her twin and I still prefer it that way. Knowing me has become a liability and she isn't strong enough to defend herself. Until recently, however, I traveled to the Ningenkai more often than any of my old colleagues traveled here. But with the third Makai Tournament quickly approaching, I know I will be seeing more of Yuusuke and perhaps even the Oaf himself if he decides to fight again. I know I am entered, and I think Kurama is as well. Neither of us really want to win nor do we have any illusions that we will win, but the lure of battle is too much for either of us, and I relish the opportunity to use my skills and increase my power. Perhaps this time, I will draw Kurama and we will have to go head-to-head.
I think I would like that.
But ideas of pitting myself against my closest friend aside, he came to visit me after attending to some business with Yomi and stayed overnight. Today we will part company again and I will most likely not see him until the Makai Tournament next year. Somehow my good mood at seeing him is dampened a little, but I don't allow my disappointment to show on my face.
"Yes," I reply, wrapping my scarf around my neck and adjusting my katana. "Are you headed back to the Ningenkai now?"
"Not quite yet. I have one errand to make before I go back, but after that I'll be going home," he tells me, a small smile on his lips.
"Is there any chance that your patrol is headed north?" he asks innocently.
"Hn? Didn't have any particular direction in mind. We just wander aimlessly with Big Nose sniffing for ningens."
"If you are headed north, I'd like to go along. Where I'm going is up in the mountains near the northern border of Mukuro's territory. If I hitch a ride with you, it'll save me a couple of days' walk."
Ah. So that's why he stopped to see me. He really was 'just in the neighborhood.'
Part of me is just slightly disappointed. There was a certain thrill in believing that the kitsune had gone so far out of his way simply to see me. To now find out that the unexpected visit was merely a means to an end is… somewhat disillusioning. Then again, knowing the wily fox, he decided to go on this errand simply because it would give him an excuse to see me.
I know he loves me and he would like nothing more than for me to stop pretending I that don't see his thinly disguised advances; however, I'm not ready for that and never may be. Still, it's nice to know that he keeps trying. In the spirit of our friendship I can meet him at least half way and offer him my aid.
I shrug. "We can head that way."
He smiles, his eyes lighting up with happiness. "Thank you, Hiei."
I shrug again and nod my head toward the gate. He falls into step beside me as I walk out to the traveling fortress we will ride out on patrol.
"Where are you going?" I ask him that night as the rumbling of the monstrous centipede we ride in drones on in the background.
He takes a sip of his tea and places the cup down on the table before answering. "There is an herbalist up in the mountains that I visit sometimes. She cross-breeds like I do, and I like to see what she has come up with and trade seeds if she has something I think I can use. I haven't been to see her since before the first Makai Tournament, and with the third coming up next year, I thought it might be a good idea to see what she has to offer."
"You're going to fight then?"
He takes another sip of his tea. "I've already put in my leave request from my step-father's company."
I chuckle. I find it endlessly amusing that the powerful Youko Kurama relegates himself to a… what did he call it? A desk job. Then again, I'm one to talk. Boring patrols…
"Ah," I reply, sipping my own tea. It's just the way I like it and the flavor fills my mouth. It is a pleasant finish to a good meal.
I look down into the cup and frown. I haven't known hunger or thirst for a long time. Before I met Kurama and began my ill-fated plans to take over the Ningenkai, I was almost always hungry. Hunger was a constant in my life when I was growing up. Except for those six brief months I spent with Uma, any food I got I had to fight for. That was Itsuro's way. The strongest survive and get the food. It was a lesson I learned very early on.
Then I met the kitsune. He then in turn betrayed me and sided with that damn fool Yuusuke. His betrayal forced me to tie myself to the Reikai Tantei to serve my probation. I hated it in the beginning, then Yuusuke foolishly put his trust in me and I began to know what it was like to be a valued member of a team.
And I was never hungry again. If Kurama didn't feed me, then the old woman did or Yuusuke's female or the Oaf's sister. From the moment I joined their group, there was always enough food and it was freely given; no fighting needed. Of course, if other sources of food weren't available, or I was in one of my 'I want to be alone' phases, it was ridiculously easy to steal food from any number of ningen establishments whose security was so flimsy it was laughable. For obvious reasons, Koenma turned a blind eye if you stole food. Unless, of course, the food you stole happened to be a human, but since I don't care for the taste of human flesh I never fell under his scrutiny for such 'petty' thefts.
It strikes me suddenly that my belly has been full for almost nine years. In the moment of Kurama's betrayal, he ended my hunger and my isolation in one act. In truth his betrayal saved me just as much as Yuusuke's innocent faith in me did. I am beholden to both of them for that, but it isn't something I will ever admit or reveal willingly. I prefer to let my actions speak for themselves. They know where my loyalties lie and I will stand beside them as much as I can. Mukuro knows it too. That is why she no longer asks me who's side I will be on if she and Yuusuke were ever to fight.
Yuusuke… Yuusuke has never doubted my loyalty even when I myself did. It seems he can see into me like a Jagan; either that or he is just a simple-minded, trusting fool. To be honest, I still haven't figured out which it is.