Disclaimer: I own nothing of importance in this story.
I would like to include a special thanks to anony and BballAnimeLover89 for reviewing chapter five of Rachisuru. Normally I wouldn't include this, but since I was posting this one a week after the conclusion of my last story, I figured I could get away with it. Anyway, thanks for your reviews!
Clouds covered the sky, growing darker as the day wore on. There was a strong breeze, ruffling hair and clothing, as well as sending smaller items skittering across the deck. A light rain began to fall, encouraging passengers to pack up their belongings and move inside to the lower levels. Kurama stood on the deck, staring out across the choppy water towards the horizon. The full moon is tonight. Still several hours before dark, yet I can already feel my body yearning to change. I knew this cruise was a bad idea from the start, but it was so important to mother that I come, he thought, ignoring the raindrops dampening his hair.
It had been one year since the Makai tournament had taken place. Kurama had gotten his own apartment when he started attending college, although he went home to visit his mother every weekend. School was out for the summer and Shiori had thought it would be fun for the whole family to go on a cruise-- their first family vacation. Kurama had been reluctant at first, but he couldn't say no to his mother. It would only be two or three days before they reached Japan, depending on the weather. I do hope the storm clears before nightfall. With all the passengers crowded down below, it will be difficult to find a secluded place to transform, he thought.
. . .
Night came, but the storm was only getting worse. All passengers had been advised against going out on deck and there was not a single empty room to be found down below. Kurama was running out of options. I just need to be alone for a few minutes, at least! Is that too much to ask?! he thought, pushing his way through a crowded corridor. He had even considered hiding in the bathroom in the room he and Suuichi shared, but his stepbrother would want to talk to him through the door and the youko's deep voice would give him away. The only option he had left was to go out on deck.
He forced the door open against the wind, quickly shutting it behind him. The floor was slick with rain and seawater, making it difficult to keep from falling. Kurama made his way across the deck, the wind whipping through his hair as he searched for a suitable hiding place. Although, with weather this bad, I doubt anyone would be able to see me if I changed in the middle of the deck! he thought.
. . .
Shiori walked toward her sons' room, knocking on the door. There was no answer. "Shuichi, are you there?" she called. When there was still no answer, she opened the door slightly and looked inside. The room was empty.
I wonder where he could be? she thought, closing the door. Her son had seemed worried about something when she had last seen him that morning, but she hadn't got a chance to talk to him all day. She chewed her lip, wondering where the redhead would be so late at night. Suuichi was with his father, but where was her son?
"Ah, Shiori-chan! Why the long face?"
The brunette looked up, seeing an older woman with graying curly brown hair. They were about the same height although the older woman stooped over a bit when she walked, supporting herself with a cane. "Oh, I sorry, Kameko-san, I didn't see you there. Actually, I'm looking for my son, Shuichi," she replied.
The older woman scratched her chin. "The redheaded one, right?" Shiori nodded and Kameko continued. "Yes, I do believe I saw him going up on deck a few minutes ago."
Shiori's eyes widened a little bit. "Up on deck? In this weather? Thank you, Kameko-san," she said, walking past the older woman. What would Shuichi be doing up on deck? she wondered, hurrying outside.
Squinting her eyes against the rain, she held her coat tightly around herself as she slowly made her way across the deck. Where would he be? she wondered, looking around. "Shuichi!" she yelled, hoping he would hear her and come. Almost as soon as the name left her mouth, a wave crashed over the ship, knocking her down and causing her to slide across the deck. She hit the side of a cabin, a little dazed. Seeing movement from the corner of her eye, she glanced to the side. What she saw stole her breath away.
. . .
Kurama cocked his head to the side, listening. He thought he heard someone yelling, but it was impossible to tell over the howling of the wind. A wave hit him, causing him to lose his already unstable footing and swept him into the side of a cabin. He spit the water out of his mouth as the wave receded, his amber eyes flashing. That is the fourth time this has happened! Whether it has been long enough or not, I am going to return below deck-- I'll end up being washed overboard if I stay up here much longer. He pushed himself to his feet, the lights reflecting off the water running down his silver hair as it shortened and turned red. His ears shrank, changing as they repositioned themselves down on the sides of his head. His tail disappeared with his pale tunic, a pair of blue jeans and a blue denim jacket replacing them. Turning, he began making his way towards the door, only to freeze as he passed an overturned lawn chair. Shiori was lying on the floor on the other side of it, staring at him with wide, disbelieving eyes. "Mother," he whispered, the wind swallowing his words. His heart leapt to his throat as he glanced back at the chair. She had a clear view while being hidden from my sight! How much did she see? he wondered, staring down at her. He stepped forward to help her up, but she recoiled from him.
"You... what are you? That--that thing..." she yelled, making herself heard over the storm. Her eyes begged him for an explanation.
Kurama closed his eyes, masking the fear that gripped him. When he looked at her, his expression was unreadable. "I am a kitsune," he replied. His heart constricted as her eyes widened in alarm.
"But, how are you able to change into my son? What have you done to him?!"
The redhead took a deep breath. She deserved to know the truth. "Nineteen years ago, I was mortally wounded. My soul escaped to the Human Realm, and I entered the body of your unborn child," he explained. He looked away, unable to meet her gaze.
"And my son?" she asked, her voice almost pleading.
"Human souls are fragile, especially before the body is born. It was not able to withstand being so close to my demonic energy. It died shortly after I entered your womb," he said. He raised his gaze to meet his mother's.
The brunette was staring at him in disbelief. The pain was visible in her eyes. "You-- so you could survive, you killed my son? You murdered him and then you mock him by living the life you stole from him?! Is this some sort of sick game to you?! See how long you could keep it a secret from me?!" Shiori shrieked, her voice breaking.
Kurama flinched, as if she had slapped him. "Please, mother--" he started, reached out to her.
"Don't call me 'mother'-- You're not my son!" she screamed, knocking his hand aside. She left, slipping and sliding as she ran across the slippery deck, slamming the door behind her.
Kurama stared after her, tears mixing with the rain on his cheeks. He walked over to the rail, her words echoing inside his head. Another wave crashed over him, but he clung to the rail. The tempest seemed to be a reflection of the emotions raging within him.
. . .
When Suuichi returned to his cabin, he was surprised to find that his older brother wasn't there. He brushed his teeth and changed into a pair of sweat pants and a white t-shirt as he got ready for bed. When his stepbrother still didn't show up, he decided to go look for him. It figures, the one time I need to talk to him and he's not here, he thought, looking for the familiar head of red hair in the hallway. He had just come from his father's room, so he knew his brother wasn't in there. However, Kazuya had sent him to bed, so there was a possibility of him getting in trouble if his father saw him out and about. I'll just have to be quick about it, he thought, running down the corridor. He checked the dining hall, almost running into Kameko as he rounded the corner.
"Watch where you're going, young man!" she said.
"I'm sorry, Kameko-san," he apologized, bowing to the older woman.
"Suuichi-kun, is that you? Where are you off to in such a hurry?" she asked.
"I'm looking for my brother," he explained, glancing around the room. The redhead was nowhere in sight. "Dad told me to go to bed, but Shuichi-san wasn't there, so I decided to look for him."
"Oh, why didn't you just ask? I saw your brother go up on deck a while ago. I doubt he would still be up there, but--"
Suuichi cut her off. "You saw him up on deck? Thank you, Kameko-san! I'll go see if he's up there!" he said, interrupting her. She mumbled about kids always being in a hurry as he sped off down the hallway.
He stepped out on deck, shivering as the cold wind assaulted his bare arms. He looked around, easily spotting his brother facing away from him standing at the rail. Is he crazy? What is he doing out here in this weather?! Suuichi wondered, moving towards his brother. When he was close enough, he called out to him. "Shuichi-san!"
Upon hearing the name, Kurama turned, looking for the source. His eyes widened as he saw a wave crashing across the deck, heading for his stepbrother. He opened his mouth to shout a warning, but it was too late. When the water had passed and he could see again, Suuichi was gone.
Kurama whipped his head around, searching for any sign of the younger boy. He saw Suuichi's white shirt amongst the waves below before he was pulled under, but it was enough. Without a second thought, the redhead dived off of the ship, aiming towards the spot where he had last seen his stepbrother. His body changed from ningen to demon as he fell, sharp amber eyes easily pinpointing Suuichi's location in the dim light from the ship. He hit the water, swimming downward toward where he had last seen the human when he felt his hand brush against something soft. Taking a firm hold of it, he fought his way back to the top, dragging the dazed boy with him. They broke through the surface, taking a few quick breaths before another wave rolled over them, forcing them back down. The kitsune pulled a seed from his hair, growing it into a wooden platform beneath them. The buoyant material quickly brought them back to the top of the water and Kurama caused the wood to grow around them swiftly, forming a sphere to trap the air inside before another wave forced them down again. The turbulent motion had the two tumbling over each other, so the kitsune caused part of the wood to come out and encircle each of their waists, holding them against opposite sides of the makeshift boat.
Suuichi coughed, ridding his lungs of the water he'd swallowed. His eyes were screwed shut, the constant spinning motion threatening to make him sick. He tuned everything out, focusing only on keeping the contents of his stomach where they were.
Just then, a tremendous jolt shook the wooden structure as it collided with the side of the ship. A sickening crack was heard as the impact caused Suuichi's neck to snap back, hitting his head hard on the wooden wall behind him. Kurama flinched at the sound. That had to have hurt. I won't be able to check it until the storm passes, but I doubt any serious damage was done. Actually, I think this might be a good thing-- his recollection of tonight will be fuzzy, at best. Between almost drowning, disorientation from the movement and hitting his head, I doubt he realizes he's inside a wooden ball, sitting across from a kitsune. Of course, it's so dark in here, he'd need demonic vision to be able to see me, anyway. Although, I suppose it doesn't matter anymore, the silver-haired youko thought, his ears drooping slightly at the realization. He understood the severity of the situation. The incident on the boat assured that he would not be able to go back to his ningen life. The emotions and lessons learned from his human mother made it equally as impossible to return to his demon life as the king of thieves. He didn't know what he was going to do now.
A slight gasping noise distracted him from his depressing thoughts. Abruptly, he realized that they were running out of breathable air. How could I have overlooked that? he berated himself, pulling several seeds from his air and tossing them to the floor. Various ningen plants sprouted from the seeds, rooting themselves in the wood. Kurama manipulated them with his energy, speeding up the cycle of photosynthesis such that it provided sufficient oxygen for them to breathe.
Having solved that problem, the kitsune looked at the ningen again. Suuichi seemed to have passed out and was hanging limply in his wooden harness. Kurama caused the wood to meld around him, completely immobilizing the human to reduce the risk of further injury if they hit anything else. Since he is unconscious, I don't have to worry about his claustrophobia kicking in unless he wakes before the sea has calmed, Kurama thought. He sighed, leaning his head back against the wood. Now, all that's left is to ride out the storm.
. . .
Shiori woke as someone knocked on the door to her cabin. She had come in late the night before and her husband had already been asleep. Not wanting to wake him, and not sure what to tell him if she did, she had decided to wait until later to talk to him about Shuichi. The knock on the door was repeated, a bit more loudly than before. She heard her husband walking across the room to answer it.
"Hello, Suzue-chan," he greeted, opening the door.
"Good morning, Hatanaka-san. Sorry to bother you," the girl apologized. "I was wondering if you had seen Suuichi-kun?"
"Not this morning, no," he replied. "Did you check his cabin?"
"I did, but no one answered. He was supposed to meet me this morning behind the, uh..." she trailed off, blushing. She coughed, lightly. "Well, he was supposed to meet me, but he never showed up."
Hatanaka raised an eyebrow, a slight smile tugging at his lips. I think I'll need to have a talk with Suuichi-kun later today, he thought. "I'm sure he just overslept. I'll go check his room," he said, walking out into the hall.
"Thank you, Hatanaka-san," Suzue said, bowing.
Hatanaka stopped in front of the door to his sons' cabin. He knocked on it loudly, but there was no answer. He knocked again, raising his voice as well. "Suuichi-kun? Are you up yet?" Silence was his response. Opening the door, he turned on the light, looking around.
The room was empty, save for a few clothes discarded carelessly on the floor. Hatanaka identified them as his son's, noticing they were the ones he had been wearing yesterday. Suuichi-kun really needs to learn to clean-up after himself. Maybe he'll pick up some of Shiori's son's good habits, he thought, looking over to Kurama's side of the room. Everything was neat and tidy, all of the redhead's personal items organized on the nightstand and dresser. His pajamas were even folded on his bed, waiting to be used. Hatanaka shook his head, exiting the room.
Suzue was waiting out in the hall. "I'm sorry, Suzue-chan, but he's not there. He probably just forgot. Why don't you see if you can find him in the dining hall?" he asked.
She nodded. "I'll go look for him, then. Thank you, Hatanaka-san. Sorry to have bothered you," she said, bowing. She turned, walking down the corridor toward the dining hall as Hatanaka went back to his room.
. . .
Suuichi woke, the back of his skull throbbing. He was lying on his stomach on some odd sort of red bed, staring at a wooden wall. The bed, while comfortable, felt strange. The mattress underneath him was soft and smooth, almost as if it were made of silk but more firm. It wasn't like anything he had ever used before. A sweet scent caught his attention before someone touched the back of his head. "Ow," he groaned, trying to move away.
"Don't move," a deep voice commanded him, softly. "This will help reduce the swelling."
Suuichi felt compelled to obey, lying still as fingers parted his hair and gently rubbed a cool cream over the bump on his head. He felt the mattress rise slightly as the person stood up, walking across the room. The person returned, rolling Suuichi onto his side such that he was facing the wall and pulled him into a sitting position. The human closed his eyes as the change in altitude magnified his headache, making him a little dizzy. A cup was pushed into his hands.
"Drink this. It will help with the pain."
Suuichi raised the cup to his lips, taking a sip. The taste wasn't bad, but it was like nothing the boy had ever tasted before. He hesitated, not sure if he should drink an unknown beverage given him by a stranger.
"You need to drink all of it. It will help," the deep voice repeated soothingly.
Obediently, Suuichi drained the cup, drinking the foreign liquid. The mug was taken from him; strong hands pressing him back down on the mattress.
"It will take a few minutes for the painkillers to take affect. I suggest you lie down until then. I will be on deck if you need me," the voice said. There was the sound of someone walking across the floor, presumably towards the door.
Suuichi opened his eyes, but the person was already gone. He blinked, studying his surroundings. The walls seemed to be made of wood, the transition from wall to floor so smooth it appeared to be one board. There was no door, only an opening in the wall and what looked like a hallway outside of it. The room was empty except for the bed, which he was lying on. Turning his attention to it, he was surprised to find he was lying on what looked like enlarged flower petals.
Okay, he thought, sitting up. His head didn't protest, so he stood carefully, eyeing the impossibly large petals. This is getting weird. Where am I? Let's see, I was on the cruise ship talking with dad. He sent me to bed, but I went looking for Shuichi-san. I found him on deck, and... He closed his eyes as the memory came back to him. I fell overboard. I remember looking up and seeing Shuichi-san still at the rail, but I don't think he realized I was there. I wonder how long before they notice that I'm gone? He opened his eyes again, looking out a small window. There was no glass, allowing a cool breeze to blow into the room. But, how did I end up here? And, where is here, exactly? he wondered.
Walking out into the hallway, he noticed two other rooms. One had a bed similar to the one he had been lying on and the other had a table with a bench on either side of it. Shaking his head, he walked towards the end of the hallway, shading his eyes against the light as he climbed up the built-in ladder to the deck. It was obvious he was on a small ship, water as far as the eye could see. There was a single mast in the middle of the boat. One large light green sail with almost white veins running through it was tied to the pole with darker green rope. Above the sail stood the one whom he assumed to be his rescuer.
The person was casually standing on top of the mast as he looked off in the distance, his hands clasped loosely behind his back. His tail and long hair blew out behind him like a silver banner dancing in the wind. One of his ears twitched backwards, before he slowly turned his head, noticing he had company. Jumping off, he twisted his body in the air, landing in a crouched position before the human, who fell back in surprise. The creature straightened up, amber eyes locking onto Suuichi's shocked brown ones.
Suuichi just stared, not being able to articulate anything. The kitsune took a step forward, reaching his hand out towards the ningen, who recoiled instinctively.
"You have nothing to fear from me," Kurama said, pain briefly clouding his features as he remembered his mother reacting to him the same way last night. He withdrew his hand, taking a few steps back to put some distance between them.
"Who-who are you?" Suuichi asked, finally finding his voice.
"I am known as Youko Kurama. You may call me Kurama," the youko said, inclining his head.
"Um, I don't mean to be rude but, exactly what are you?" the teen asked, eyeing the silver ears and tail.
"I am a kitsune."
"You mean, like, a demon fox?" Suuichi asked, scooting a little farther back.
"Yes. I don't mean to sound predatory, but-- we're on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Where do you intend to go to escape me?" the youko asked, cocking his head to the side. He crossed his arms, a slight smile playing about his lips.
The ningen blanched. "Uh..."
Kurama sighed, closing his eyes as he dropped his arms to his sides. He does not know me as his stepbrother. "Forgive me if I frightened you. You have nothing to fear from me," he repeated. He glanced up, checking the position of the sun. I think we should be taking a more eastern course, he thought, striding past Suuichi towards the back of the ship. He stopped, laying his hand on a vine tied from the rail to the pole the sail hung from. Manipulating it with his spirit energy, he urged the vine to grow, allowing half of the sail to move freely in the wind. Walking over to the opposite side of the boat, he shortened the vine, angling the sail such that it caught the wind and changed their course, heading into the east. If the wind holds, we should reach Japan in about a week or so. Once there, I can make sure Suuichi-kun returns home safely. Kurama's heart constricted at the thought of home. There is no longer a place for me in this world. I suppose it is time for Youko Kurama to return to Makai once more.
. . .
To Be Continued
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