Ahaha! The ever-elusive final chapter to "Kitsune Politics"! I'm truly sorry it took so long; forgive me everyone (especially lilyoftheval5). I have real excuses as to why I could not post this when I planned, which I won't bore you with, so all I can do is apologize and hope you enjoy it!
Kurama grinned as he held his chin with one hand, his feet nonchalantly walking alongside his teammates as they fell from their shock into the vestiges of reality.
Yusuke finally shook his head and a lecherous expression overtook him. "Did you see her legs? Wow! I wouldn't mind those wrapped around me!"
Hiei snorted derisively, though his eyes flashed slightly.
Kuwabara remained quiet for a second before he murmured—"She had such beautiful hands, and did you feel her aura—so pure." His dreamy voice made Kurama raise an eyebrow and cant his head to one side.
Hiei scowled. "And what of Yukina?"
"I can appreciate pure beauty, and Yukina happens to be the most wonderful woman I have ever met! Her beauty outshines even the moon itself!"
Oho, so he says now; when the woman isn't in front of him…or the illusion for that matter.
Kurama smiled and kept up his pace, following the aura of the pair as it led them through hidden trails and covered passages along the makai. Kurama briefly thought that Koenma would be angered that the miko had, after it all, ended up in the makai where it had all started; but he gleaned far too much amusement from the predicament to bother warning the spirit child.
Besides, the kit had called her okaa-san. For a kitsune to do so meant that she had adopted a special place in his pack, as those of the fox were prone to naming their acquaintances after family members to indicate their relationship.
In his ruminations he had to silk step to one side to avoid his suddenly halted teammates. Upon looking up he found, with more amusement, that the pair they had been following was waiting for them before a solid looking copse of trees. Of course, to his kitsune senses, that was anything but a forest.
He blinked; hiding the flash of gold in his eyes lest he alert the two strangers he was puzzling out. His senses tugged with the otherness of magic, a kitsune curiosity (much more insistent and pulling than any human understanding of the emotion) pulling his eyes consistently towards the trees even while he wanted to study the two strangers who'd escaped Koenma's office.
Even in those brief instances where he resisted the pull and could glance at the duo that'd created such uproar that curiosity kept him from truly noticing details.
Kurama was a kitsune—one very much about the details—and having his attention pulled in two ways was frustrating in a way he hadn't felt since he was a kit.
He grinned. This was so much more exciting than more reikai missions about some demon bent on taking over the world.
Kurama was inserted back into reality when Shippou laughed and turned to the miko—"I told you!"
The woman looked briefly uncertain before her face cleared. "Well then, as you've come so far it is only fair we invite you in for rest."
Shippou grinned; flashing a whole set of fangs, and then gestured with his head to the woods.
Standing beside the woman he had called 'okaa-san' the hikitsune raised both his hands up towards that mysterious copse of trees Kurama had been distracted with. The woman carefully eyed them all while the kit was distracted, her eyes dark and heavy as she assessed them.
Green eyes blinked back at her, and Kurama wondered behind his veiled stare if she was always so protective of a demon kitling—and what had made her so.
It didn't always happen that a kit's mother was so attentive. Shippou must have found this woman through the oddest of circumstances.
He was pulled from his thoughts, chasing them like a rabbit on a game trail, when the copse of trees suddenly wasn't there anymore. It was quite a startling difference, to have the landscape altered so abruptly, but Kurama stepped forward without a stumble as he now looked into a valley housing a castle and the village it protected.
His teammates took a bit to catch on, but they caught up easily as the two strangers led them through several switchbacks and even tunnels on their journey to the base of the vale.
It wasn't long before they got to the village proper, and Kurama noted the excited reactions of the villagers to the presence of the woman as well as the weary drawing away when they spotted the reikai tantei.
He carefully mulled this over in his head as they set out for the castle. While it was traditional long ago for villagers to be weary of strangers, and indeed still happened in smaller towns even in ningenkai, the miko with them was surely cause to be more wary.
And Shippou was escorting the team, and he was apparently well liked considering the glances of relief thrown his way.
Kurama blinked as the sound of the outdoors cut off and he found himself in a grand room—the ceiling was so high Kurama could have sworn some of the taiyoukai's could have transformed in here, and the walls a rough hewn stone that had been worn with age. There was something deceptively warm about the place, despite the size and stone, and even though it's only gracing feature was a very large circular table in the center of the room.
"Hey Ji-san! Look who I brought home!"
A white haired demon turned from his seat at that notable table, revealing his markings and eyes. Kurama gaped, struggling to recover his calm as he blinked. He knew that demon! The whole of makai would recognize those markings on sight!
And the kitsune called him Ji-san?
Sesshoumaru, the ancient and powerful dog demon, glanced over at them before turning back to the miko. "Your son was bored as of late, I do believe he's waiting to lash out."
The woman laughed breathily, "Don't worry. He got enough jollies today to last him until the next gathering. But you might want to warn him about drawing too much Reikai attention. The Makai Lords might get suspicious after another incident like today."
Golden eyes blinked and then eyed the team, "Indeed."
"Aw, come on Mum, Ojisan. Koenma needed to get off his high horse anyway, I mean, I don't know how many times he insulted me without even asking who the illusion was for!"
"Yes, because he expected you to be using your aura to call a miko into the makai?" Hiei intoned drolly.
Shippou flashed him a grin and the hybrid rolled his eyes and looked away.
Kurama grinned; "That was very brilliant, I thought."
Shippou sniffed and puffed up, but the miko reached over and poked him in the chest, startling the air right back out of him. She then turned to address him, "Yes, you would think so. But not everyone understands that kitsune sense of humor. And I don't want my boy getting into any trouble we can't get him out of."
"You are very powerful. I don't think you couldn't get him out of anything." Kurama canted his head as he pointed this out.
Shippou saluted him with his cup.
But Sesshoumaru and the miko exchanged furtive glances.
Kurama carefully watched their silent conversation before the miko rounded her shoulders back and stuck up her chin, her eyebrows raised and lashes lowered in a calm expectant stare.
The inuyoukai nodded and turned to them. "It appears you will be our unexpected guests for some time."
Kurama smirked in amusement while Yusuke and Kuwabara shifted uneasily. Hiei simply scoffed and tightened his grip on the hilt at his side.
Shippou grinned, his tail wagging lazily behind him as Kurama watched the hyper kitsune energy he suppressed dance around his form. This wasn't some type of kidnapping, as his teammates felt, but a limitation of the barrier that would keep them there for whatever period of time.
Unlike the barrier between the three worlds, which were permanent with only holes to cross through ( or inter-dimensional portals—which were dangerous to create and required a skillful and powerful creator as well as the knowledge of where exactly one would end up), the barrier these strangers had set up—hidden in the illusion of a forest—was a kitsune one for strongholds, meant to build up power the more it was stabilized. Taking it down to pass through was a timed occasion…
Kurama's narrow eyes transferred to the miko, wondering what she was doing in the ningenkai when it was obvious the kit had called her home—here—and they only had a narrow window of opportunity to retrieve her.
Sesshoumaru let out a quiet huff of breath as he straightened (not that he'd ever actually slouched, but Kurama thought there was a firming of his aura that gave the impression he was bracing his shoulders back more). "Shiori and Souten shall show you to the wing—it will be entirely yours for the duration of your stay, no interference or surveillance by me and mine."
Hiei stood more relaxed, his grip not so tight upon the hilt of his sword. Yusuke carefully eyed the Lord before his gaze strayed to the hi-kit. He snorted and shook his head.
Sesshoumaru nodded and made an absent gesture with his wrist, two maids coming forward and bowing. One had flashing defiant eyes as she glared at them, the interlopers in the castle, while the other had gentle wary lavender eyes.
Kurama swallowed as he stared at the young bat demon—remembering all too vividly with her koumori soul prodding his senses. (Kitsune were like that, it took very little to send their imagination and memories in a tail spin, and it was all the more easier with such a visceral pull like a similar soul.)
"Ah, Jinenji-kun!" The miko exclaimed as a dark shape loomed in from another hall. Her eyes lit up brilliantly, and Kurama had to draw himself away from the light that had distracted himself from his memories.
The distraction came in a large hanyou, towering even in the large room.
Kurama blinked as he felt the pull of flora and fauna from the half-demon.
"Kagome-sama," the large beast spoke in a low rumble, "the Demon Paradise has bloomed. I recall you were very interested in their maturation."
"Wonderful!" Kagome smiled, her face lighting up even more as the large man led her back down the hall. Kurama strained his neck slightly, trying to watch them even as the maids were leading them down a different corridor.
It was a very labyrinthine journey to what the maids finally called their wing—Souten left with a distrusting glance over her shoulder while Shiori bowed and smiled as she gracefully backed out of the room.
Kuwabara immediately slumped down onto one couch, his face falling into his hands as he groaned. Yusuke cursed once, and forcefully, before he paced to a window and looked out over the gardens.
As Hiei took post against the wall closest to the door Kurama glanced around the large receiving room that made up the hearth of the wing. Several doors and halls branched off, but he had the feeling that it would be a very slow and wary exploration.
"Well, this sucks," Yusuke said bluntly as he turned sideways, so that his vision was equal between them and the world outside their wing.
Hiei snorted, "The barrier will not open again for at least another two weeks."
Kuwabara looked up wearily. "So we're not prisoners?"
Hiei snorted and Kurama smiled indulgently. "They have a modified kitsune barrier in place. It will only be lowered when they strengthen the border magic. This happens at set intervals—I believe as soon as the miko was retrieved the barriers were up and stronger than before. To disrupt this schedule would put their whole existence at risk."
Hiei nodded. "I have heard nothing about this enclave before, they have been hidden well for what must have been centuries."
"Yeah?" Yusuke growled out.
"Yes, some of these species we've passed have been noted as extinct even in reikai files. For that to happen a significant time would have passed with no detection."
Kuwabara shook his head and collapsed sideways onto the couch, stretching out his long frame and staring at the ceiling.
Kurama grinned at the exhausted man. He didn't have the benefit of quick-recovering youki like the rest did, and Shippou had led them on a merry chase before he'd led them straight to Koenma's reikai office.
Quite like a mischievous kitsune to flee and then purposely lead his pursuers to the expected destination of their own trap.
He smirked and then shook his head; "We've had a long day, why don't we rest and think about this tomorrow."
In the morning it was agreed that, with the two weeks they had, they would do their best to gather what information they could for Koenma. Though Kurama was distinctly dissatisfied with the prince at the moment, he understood that there was a mystery here he wanted to investigate—and he would help his teammates.
Kurama—with the understanding that Hiei would be doing silent reconnaissance, Kuwabara wandering the halls looking lost (a not-so-untrue-ploy that usually drew in a few gullible women), and Yusuke looking for the guards and training grounds—set out to get the 'official' tour of the little valley they'd been led to.
In the grand hall he found a few gathered strangers, but Sesshoumaru the only recognizable face.
"Good day, Great Lord," the red head greeted cheerfully, glancing around for the other kitsune if only to glory in the puzzles of another well bred mischief-maker.
"Shippou is busy checking the borders," the Inu Lord intoned calmly.
Kurama blinked rapidly before smiling, closing his eyes and bowing. It would be understandable that a Lord who spent such a great amount of time around a kitsune (called Oji-san no less!) could easily guess the direction of another kitsune's thoughts.
Still, it rankled the previous Youko Kurama just a little bit.
"Ah," he recovered, "I was just wondering if I could have a look around."
His innocent expression lasted under suspicious gold eyes, and then Sesshoumaru huffed out a longer breath before turning to one of the maids. "Please retrieve the miko—I have need of her assistance."
Kurama raised one eyebrow as the maid disappeared from all senses.
Minutes later the miko entered from another corridor, her eyes briefly and warmly addressing the very same maid before she turned to them and straightened. When her eyes caught sight of him she visibly braced herself and entered the room.
"You called for me?" she asked quietly of the Lord, her eyes carefully on Kurama who did his best to look non-threatening.
She was a thing of beauty, even in the faded light of morning. His eyes could definitely appreciate that slender neck, highlighted by that dark hair; and he could definitely enjoy those glowing eyes, surrounded by thick sooty lashes; and he could definitely admire those delicate hands, undecorated and smooth.
Kagome abruptly turned to fully face him, her face guarded. Kurama cleared his throat and smiled.
"It appears I shall be your escort for the duration of today, what would you like to see?"
"Ah, I wouldn't mind seeing the grounds—I noticed some particular plants I was interested in."
She looked at him silently for a minute before smiling and bowing her head slightly—"The grounds are rather beautiful."
And so they briefly toured the gardens, with minimal conversation. And though Kurama could tell the miko was wary to be near him, she still kept up a steady and interesting commentary when she did speak. And she was still kind and full of light.
Though Kurama was sure the gardens were much more vast than she'd guided him through (he had seen no such thing as the fabled Demon's Paradise) they were soon walking among the houses and stores of the town.
It was disconcerting to note the inhabitants did their best to scurry away when they saw him. "You know, if I wasn't so sure of myself I'd be a little offended."
"Oh?" she said idly as she looked out to one of the fields they were passing.
"Yes, I'm far more used to people stopping to stare in awe at me."
She blinked and turned back to him. Her eyes quickly took in the scattered residents, and she shook away a looming sadness before she sighed—"I think you should also be used to enemies fleeing before you."
"Ah, but we're not enemies."
"Are we not?"
"Hardly, I may be working for Reikai, but I know a good puzzle when I see it. You and yours are for too interesting for me to ignore."
"You were sent here by Koenma, and we allowed your stay to demonstrate that we were not a threat."
"No, you allowed us in because you knew we couldn't harm you here with everyone else to aid you. You were worried that we'd overpower you in the greater Makai."
Her jaw tensed minutely.
"But we haven't attacked you here either, which certainly makes us less than enemies."
"I suppose it does," she said idly.
But she still wasn't looking directly at him.
"You are wary of us, of me," he said slowly.
"Hmm," she hummed in response.
"I don't see why—you have the position of power in this village, especially hidden as it is. Reikai and we can't harm you here."
"But you'll be leaving soon."
"If you are so scared of me why do you walk at my side, why do you tour the village with me?"
She swallowed, "You already know I am miko, Reikai already knows. If Shippou were here he would have this task. But your teammates are resting, and you are curious."
"So you two can fight us off if it comes to it?"
She abruptly stopped, "Not everything is about fighting, Youko." She blinked rapidly. "Excuse me," she bowed, "I just remembered I have somewhere to be."
Kurama was left in the middle of the silent village, watching the beautiful miko retreat from his questioning.
Looking around, he sighed and decided he best retreat from the cautious and even suspicious stares of the eyes in the village, he carefully made his way back to the castle.
After a bit of wandering Kurama found the library, and he marveled at the shelves even as he gasped over the books. The entire room was a piece of art to store old pieces of wisdom! His metaphorical tail was wagging.
Here he might find some answers while the inhabitants were so reticent.
The silver fox settled into a small chair by a stained glass window, books piled beside him on the floor as he started with the legends these strangers had collected.
He was there quite a few hours, by the change in direction of light, before he was interrupted.
"You upset my okaa-san?" rang the curious question.
Kurama looked up, startled from reading the rare text he'd found in their vast library. The fire fox was swinging his legs from where he sat atop one of the heavy carved bookshelves. An apple was being munched on, a betraying crunch that should have alerted him earlier.
But the question wasn't asked in anger.
"I believe I have, though I had no intention of doing so."
The fox hummed and took another large bite of his apple. After chewing a minute he made a show of swallowing and then speaking, "It takes a lot to make her that upset."
"Oh?" Kurama leaned back in his chair and folded his hands together, undeceived by the nonchalant air the kit was forcing. He was worried about something.
"Yes," he said gravely.
The two foxes stared at each other, neither willing to give first.
Kurama blinked and looked at the tome he'd been reading. Caressing the spine with a finger he spoke slowly, "We were simply walking through the village."
Kurama glanced up to spot real amusement before the younger fox cleared his expression.
"Foxes don't do simple," he said bluntly, which was the only hint Kurama had ever gotten that no kitsune had raised this one. A fox would willingly continue the game for hours, never tiring or becoming bored.
Kurama's eyes flickered to the apple core as Shippou used foxfire to deal with the remains. His eyes slowly tracked back to that serious face, reading the threat there though he still couldn't spot any anger, just weary resignation.
"I asked her why everyone was afraid of us, especially when you hold the tactical advantage here."
Shippou looked down and licked his lips, "She doesn't like fighting."
Then green eyes drilled into him and foxfire rose before the kit was gone.
Kurama sniffed the air, but there was no scent of brimstone or ash, and the flames hadn't roared or sputtered. The kit had left as quietly and quickly as he had arrived.
A small part of him was impressed; he'd never seen that skill before.
His eyes took in the overcrowded library and its old texts, the stained glass windows and the carved wood that was almost everywhere.
He'd also never seen any of this in one place. His eyes narrowed and his fi ngers stroked once again down the aged leather spine of the book he'd been immersed in.
And Kagome was a miko.
He sighed and gave the day up—making his way through the vast corridors scattered with antiques he withdrew to their assigned wing. Finding his teammates there, resting as Kagome had said, he gave them a nod before shaking his head.
He hadn't really found anything of note.
The days passed much like this, though Shippou was now their point of contact for the locals beyond brief interactions. It got tiring after the first week, and though the team was close, they couldn't deal with close quarters for such a long time with no action.
They found they split up more often to take in the area rather than snipe at each other. At the end of the day they usually talked about what they had found or random things—but Kurama knew something had to give soon.
Though their communicators did work through the barrier, there was really nothing to report. So they'd had limited contact even with their boss.
It was a good thing their families were used to long absences.
Walking the halls after one such talk to his team, he trailed his eyes along the stones and tapestries. While through their limited contact with Koenma they'd been ordered to uncover the conspiracy he believed was right under their collective nose, Kurama found that his previous boredom with Reikai and its paranoia had combined with his interest in this little community to make him even more reticent to help the prince in this endeavor.
Insults aside, Youko Kurama had a niggling kitsune notion that he needed to stay Reikai's hand—or at least give Koenma enough information to waylay his overbearing father and his Spirit Force.
But for now he had a puzzle to solve before he could attend to such 'duties'.
And the puzzle was increasingly difficult. They rarely saw Sesshoumaru despite his commanding and very noticeable presence, Shippou hung around often and did speak freely with them (well, as freely as a kitsune would), but Kagome was only spotted in brief glimpses as she walked around the keep.
And the Arcanum was getting to him.
Which was a dangerous thing for a kitsune.
And he didn't even have anything pretty to look at. Kurama abruptly paused at this last thought, a huff of air escaping his lips as he rubbed his forehead and closed his eyes. Exasperated at himself, and his quick slide into his baser kitsune hoarding instincts, he looked at the ceiling and abruptly decided to enjoy the gardens.
While they offered no gems or puzzles for stimulated energy, the plant life should react with his own energies to boost his mental faculties beyond his instinctual cravings.
For kitsune, energy was found in mental stimulation and the true appreciation of riches for their beauty rather than their mortal imbued worth. Inari had insisted that she had such creatures immersed in the essence of beauty—wisdom and appearance combined.
Being thus deprived at the moment, Kurama was lucky enough to be a plant based kitsune, and able to appease his inner beast with some form of contact with flora and fauna.
What Kurama got, instead of a nice jaunt on four legs, was a chance meeting with the miko Kagome.
His ears perked and he carefully approached where she crouched over some wilting flowers. He felt a little tingle of soul magic being used and barked out happily as some of the flowers reacted and straightened.
Kagome's startled blue eyes turned to him, and she smiled oddly as she tilted her head and bit her lip.
He wagged his tail—her fingers clenched in the dirt. He stopped and blinked up at her, twitching his ears as he regarded her from the safety of his animal guise. She took in a deep breath and stared at his ears.
A pressing silence made him twitch. Uncomfortable, he paced forward carefully and pushed his own fox magic into the plants, watching the rest of the group stand proper and bloom more colorfully.
He turned to her to find her eyes dancing in delight (he'd made her smile!) and she laughed softly under her breath. "Shippou was right, you are a rare find." And then she dusted off her hands, hesitated, and stood. "Well, shall we walk together then? The gardens are particularly beautiful today."
And he joined her on the quiet sojourn.
Spurred by that chance meeting with Kagome, and a growing niggling suspicion that Kurama had, the team finally sat down to really talk over what they had found. Yusuke described the labyrinthine halls and the warriors who patrolled (he'd taken particular delight in inciting some fights just to get some adrenaline going); Hiei described the size of the barrier that covered them, and the state of the magical contingent in their standing militia; Kurama described the library and historically important sites and objects they maintained…
Kuwabara laughed and told them about the kids…the maids and the general life of the palace. He also noted that they watched him strangely.
They didn't understand why the residents were actually interacting with the man on a social level.
Paying more attention, they found it was true. Despite their very stoic stance towards the rest of the team, the manse's occupants were almost welcoming of the large man's presence. Though they watched the large ningen strangely, there was nothing threatening or suspicious in their gazes.
When Kurama later cornered Shippou (or was cornered by the kit, he could never quite figure out which it was) and inquired, the fire kit only laughed.
"That's because he's so pure! They don't know what to do with him." The kit grinned and rocked on his feet before laughing and shaking his head. "Usually only Houshi and Miko feel like he does, it's quite rare that a human like him appears." And the kit looked at him as if he were quite impressed by his association with the big lug on their team.
Kurama blinked, but then thought this over in his mind. Yes, Kuwabara Kazuma was a rare being—but then the same could be said for the whole reikai tantei team. Hiei was literally considered a forbidden child for the two opposing elements contained in his body, Yusuke a mazoku mystery from the ningenkai, and Kurama himself what could be considered a spiritual hanyou.
He opened his mouth and turned to the kit to address this thought only to blink when he found the kit gone down the hallway and joking around with several maids—the koumori among them. The rare koumori…
"Oh," Kurama breathed out and smiled, a piece of the mystery falling into place for him. He would just have to check on one more thing.
It took him a whole day to locate the miko Kagome, and when he did he quietly walked beside her a while. After wandering together in the gardens for a bit, catching the last of what amounted to the makai version of the setting sun, Kurama turned to the small woman.
"I was wondering how long Shippou had you in his collection."
Kagome smiled while keeping her gaze away. "I was the first piece in the collection, Kurama. I have pride of place."
"Yes, I suppose you do," Kurama agreed softly as he stared at the woman Shippou called 'okaa-san'. "And you are extremely rare," he added playfully.
"What made your son begin his collection?"
"Mm, that is a long story I will have to condense in as little words as possible." She took a deep breath and stared at a tree in the distance. "I first met Shippou-kun in a time of war, where demons and humans battled themselves and each other to bloody desperate ends. Before the barriers this is what he grew up with. And he saw how the more gentle beings were disappearing. He set aside this valley with his powers" (Kurama had the half thought that Kagome had helped him set the barrier, for the kit would truly have been a very young kit before the barriers, maybe even less than fifty years old) "and started leading some of our friends to sanctuary."
"And then the barriers were erected, and King Enma started to…hunt down those who interfered with his concept of his own powers."
Kurama sharply looked at her, unaware of this aspect of history. But he supposed he had never really wondered about the more gentle breeds of youkai beyond the ice maidens (and only then as an afterthought for their tear gems or their relation to Hiei).
He breathed in deeply as Kagome tilted her head, lost in history and thought.
"Even in his position of power he grew paranoid." She paused, then asked, "Do you know what happened after Sensui?" She swallowed and kept on staring into the forest, "Enma's paranoia insisted that he quell any potential power that would threaten his reign. No one other than he and his should have power over the souls.
"He hunted down the spiritualists that were growing in power now that no demons controlled their numbers. He wove new lives for their families and stole them away. We still haven't recovered them all."
"There are still some in ningenkai," Kurama offered softly.
Kagome snorted and turned to him with solid eyes. "I guess you aren't old enough then. Before the barrier true spiritualists were glowing columns of power, they could be felt through all the islands when they raged. The spiritualists we have left now are barely enough to master charms and subdue ghosts."
"Oh I am old enough," he whispered.
She didn't comment, but he did know how the old powers felt. He had just wanted to comfort her…
"So I go into ningenkai sporadically to scout out our next additions, people whose dormant powers have bloomed for some reason. We train them fully and they can choose to stay here in Sanctuary or return to their homes and protect themselves. Of course," she smiled, "we do tend to check up on them whenever we can."
Kurama smiled and nodded his head.
That solved this conundrum entirely for him. He would report to Koenma, but he would also do everything in his power to protect the as well. The kitsune had quite the collection, and out of respect Kurama would do anything to preserve it.
After the walk, Kurama returned to the tantei's wing for the night and quietly sat and waited for the rest of the team. Yusuke came in exhilarated, obviously tussled from a fight, and Hiei and Kazuma came in much more sedately.
"We only have a few days left," Kurama spoke from his seat.
That sobered Yusuke and he joined the team on the couches.
"The barrier will be coming down for a day or two, and only that. It was kept down too long last time on account of the miko's absence," Hiei admitted.
Kurama leaned forward, letting his forearms rest on his knees as he looked around at his team. By Enma's standards they shouldn't exist, let alone be working together.
He understood the young kitsune.
"The residents behind this barrier call this place Sanctuary. Shippou has been collecting people for centuries, hiding them from aggressive demons and zealots…even Enma himself."
Yusuke glared and crossed his arms.
"Well, then we can't persecute them," Kuwabara said quietly. "They aren't doing any harm anyway. Shippou said he only really caused the uproar before because Kagome-san was missing—they lost track of her in the ningenkai and he panicked."
Hiei settled back in his chair, and Kurama briefly entertained the notion that the hybrid would actually bring his sister here.
That is if Genkai would…
Kurama sat upright with a stray thought and then started laughing. While his team only gave him startled and then curious looks (they were used to his active kitsune mind after all) he waved his hand. Calming down a bit he smiled, "We've met one of them before."
The other three glanced between each other, and Kurama could easily watch the attempt to remember before they gave up and turned to him to address his sanity.
"I'm certain we would remember such an event," Hiei intoned bluntly.
Kurama grinned wider, "At Genkai's shrine. Remember that young boy came to visit while we were leaving for Shizuru's surprise party? The one Yukina called Kohaku?"
Hiei blinked and sat straight against the back of his chair.
Kurama nodded. "Kagome told me they like to check up on the people they've trained, Genkai must be one of them. Her land borders makai and ningenkai, and she doesn't have a spiritual ancestry that would account for her knowledge."
Yusuke laughed, "Granny's got some contacts then, no wonder she's so brutal if these people trained her. They give all in their fights!"
The team laughed.
Kurama took in a deep slow breath as he calmed down and then addressed his teammates. "I am going to contact Koenma about helping protect these people."
Kuwabara grinned and Yusuke tossed over the communicator.
When the young prince came on screen he was looking unusually solemn—"I have been doing some digging in reikai files—looking for any mention of a kitsune named Shippou being related to a miko." He looked down at some old papers in his hands and swallowed. "Please be on your best behavior there, I don't know what's going on, but these people deserve peace."
The team stared stunned at their boss, the one who usually flew off the handle at the slightest pressure (what with his father constantly breathing down his neck), as he pleaded for them to be gentle with their suspects.
Kurama was thankful, and stunned, but articulate enough to question this odd behavior. "What have you uncovered?" he asked softly.
Koenma took in a shaky breath—"Let me tell you the tale of the Shikon no Tama," he started. And then, for over an hour, Koenma described horror and blood and terror to them. He described how a group of misfits with one goal bonded to take down a manipulatively devious hanyou that would have threatened the known world. The prince described their wounds and trials and how their goals changed.
And then he told them, "They disappeared off reikai records after that. We don't even know the outcome of the battle, though Naraku's…soul…has been processed."
The team was quiet for a bit.
Kurama cleared his throat, "We were actually just calling to ask you to help protect these people. There are quite a number of extinct demons living here peacefully, and I have been told that their goal is only to protect demons and spiritual humans from being persecuted."
Koenma squared his shoulders and nodded, fully aware that they were accusing his father of being involved in that persecution.
"You have my permission to extend reikai alliance with them—I fully intend to set up a more formal alliance at a later date, but will trust your judgment and discretion with this." He paused and looked at them with a smile, "Thank you guys, for trusting me too."
The screen blinked out before they could reply (or, in Yusuke's case, razz him about his emotional parting words).
"Well," Kuwabara said, sighing and laying back on the couch. Hiei looked at him warily from where he was crouched on the arm of the piece, waiting to see if the large man would jostle the furniture enough to upset his balance. "I guess we'll clear everything up in the morning then," the large man finished happily before rolling into the couch and letting out a big snore.
Yusuke laughed and stood to get ready for his own sleep.
Hiei and Kurama exchanged glances, but both simply shook their heads and settled in for the night. Despite the fact that they had all never been comfortable enough to take a separate room and instead camped out in the big den, all four slept well that night.
Both Kurama and Hiei caught up to the young kitsune the next morning, finding him very easily in that large receiving hall that still managed to awe them.
"Well good morning!" Shippou greeted enthusiastically.
Hiei nodded his head and Kurama returned a polite greeting.
Shippou blinked and turned to them when they both stood silently. His eyes narrowed in playful suspicion, "Is there something I should be aware of? Did you steal the last cookie? I was certain I'd hidden it thoroughly. It's supposed to be my treat you know."
"Reikai wants to offer alliance and help you in your endeavor." Hiei broke in bluntly.
Shippou gaped and shook his head to clear it, rocking back on his heels. Then an incredulous laugh erupted from his throat and he threw his head back. "Yes!" he shouted as he threw his fists into the air. "Ojisan! I was right! I was so totally right!"
Sesshoumaru turned to regard the active kit but Shippou didn't address him again. Instead he ran into the center of the room and hopped up onto the large table—"Reikai offers us alliance!" he boomed out over the milling people preparing for the morning duties.
He laughed and danced some kind of jig on the table, causing even Sesshoumaru to display a mirthful face.
"Get down from the table!" Kagome scolded, even with a smile. Shippou grinned and saluted before he launched himself off with a twist, laughing and jostling the castle occupants in an effort to get to her.
Kurama blinked as he took notice of the growing multitude in the hall—even more maids and guards were running back down other halls shouting out the news. The theatrical kitsune had gathered quite a crowd. Well-wishers drowned Yusuke and Kuwabara in their enthusiasm, Hiei was even cornered by a jolly captain of the guard.
Kurama was pounced by Shippou as the grinning kit shook his hand enthusiastically, "I knew you would come through. Only took a bit of mystery to get you going, and you lived up to our race indeed!"
Kurama snorted out a half-laugh and shook his head. "And now the mystery is solved." He sighed and looked around at the rejoicing crowd, a little disheartened.
"Maybe, but not all of it." Shippou grinned, but then subdued his emotions and stared at him in consternation. He made a decision, snapped his fingers and smiled. "Besides, the real mystery is; did I unintentionally bring you into the fold, or was I deliberately seeking you out with my antics?" Shippou grinned and tapped the side of his nose.
Kurama gaped at the young kit, his own kitsune side both laughing and gaping, as the fire fox chased his own excitement through the still growing crowd.
"You'll have to forgive him, he's having entirely too much fun," Kagome's voice by his side startled him, and he turned to watch her fondly amused expression.
"You don't begrudge him it at all though."
She laughed, "I'm glad he's happy." And she turned a grin to him.
"I'm glad he is too," he confessed. As a fellow kitsune, especially one that still appreciated the old ways, it was nice to find a common soul.
"I'm also glad he was right," Kagome admitted with a bubbly voice, looking fondly at him and the rest of the reikai tantei.
Kurama laughed, "Is this a rare occasion?"
A giggle came from her throat and she turned fully to face him. "Sometimes Shippou is so obsessed with things being rare that he forgets to look at the larger picture. So yes, it might be a rare occasion."
"I confess a penchant for appreciating rarities myself," Kurama said softly, his eyes glowing as he regarded Kagome.
Her eyes fluttered down for a second before she looked back up at him, confused and yet lightened by some hope. "It is a very kitsune attribute."
Kurama swallowed and took a small step closer to her, "And I confess to wanting to know you better, wanting to see how well you took all these people in and protected them, how you lived with a soul so old and beautiful."
Kagome gave him a tentative smile, a blush easing onto her cheeks. "That was all Shippou, we're his collection you know." And she smiled somewhat mischievously, somewhat like a kitsune.
Kurama's heart stuttered a bit on its usually well-practiced beat. "Yes, he does have quite the collection. But, as Koenma's envoys and privy to the past, I know you are the one who started it all."
Kagome bit her lip and smiled unsurely.
"You raised him, after all." She laughed. "And you were the one who told him about the future."
She looked him straight in the eyes, silent and cautious.
"You started a kitsune reaction—because we do love precious rare things."
She shook her head and smiled again, looking at him with soft eyes. "I still have to thank you for talking to Koenma, having reikai support will make our way of life much easier."
"Don't change the subject," he suggested in amusement, pleased at her modesty.
She just laughed at him, stepping closer and looking up into his face.
"And you're welcome," he added softly as he tilted his head down just that much, prepared to at least kiss her on the cheek.
"Ka-Chan!" they were interrupted, "Kazuma-san said he'd teach me baseball!"
Kagome laughed and turned to her son, giving him an indulgent look before she glanced shyly at Kurama. The taller redhead just smiled.
He had all the time in the world to kiss her, after all—he was part of the collection now, despite being a kitsune himself. He found it amazing that, even with centuries of kitsune hoarding, none of their breed had ever moved beyond the material possessions and collected relationships instead.
Kurama saw the wisdom of Inari in the young kit—looking for intelligence and beauty…and he was glad the fire-child was willing to share it with another kitsune.
Besides, interrupting aside, Kurama had the feeling that Shippou was more than approving of the budding relationship Kurama was establishing with his mother.
He grinned, glad that he had now entered into a kitsune-worthy mystery, and proud that he had been accepted to guard it. His eyes darted to the laughing Kagome as she hugged her kit, and his smile softened.
This was such a very pleasant surprise from a kitsune, and he was very proud.
Kagome's vivid blue eyes turned happily to him and Kurama had to admit he was also happy.