Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.
(A.N.) I'm picking up this story again. Yay! With my D.N.Angel story almost finished, I can start donating a bit more time to this project. I hope that everyone that reads will enjoy this.
"So the few who control
The attitudes of the many
Label sea-girls and mermaids,
It was going to storm soon. Like it had for the past three weeks. I could feel it in my blood, could see it in the dark clouds above my head. I could even smell it on the wind. It would be a couple hours in coming, giving me ample time to be indoors before the fury hit. Indoors and working. I grimaced at the thought. I enjoyed my work most nights, but it was becoming tiresome. How could I enjoy utilizing my voice when I could not do so to its full potential? Such a thin, wearisome line to walk. I don't think I'll ever fully get used to it.
Glancing up at the sky once more, I noted that the clouds were becoming indistinguishable from the night-darkening sky. Tsukiyomi was coming into his realm already, his emblem, the moon, was hidden by the vast rain-laden mass of clouds. Autumn brought the moon god's reign on earlier and earlier, and with the season came these storms.
I sighed and tore my eyes away from the twilight heavens. If I didn't hurry, I would be late for work. Which would only increase today's opposition towards such a mundane task and would make it harder than usual to control myself.
I arrived at the high-class lounge and bar thirty minutes before my shift started. Kurai Teitoku. The Dark Admiral. I found it ironic and appropriate that I worked here, as a singer no less. My sisters' mirth would be inescapable if they knew. And I suppose that they Humans would find it interesting if they ever knew what I was.
As a sigh escaped my lips, I slid into the alley next to the building and swiped my employee's card through the electronic lock. A little beep later, I was opening the heavy door and sliding inside. The backstage area was already cluttered with my fellow performers who, also like me, would wait tables and tend bar once their entertaining duties were fulfilled. A few of them glared at me, but I paid them no mind. It was not my fault they were not the main attraction.
I'd been singing and otherwise working at Kurai Teitoku for the better part of six years. It had not taken long for my voice to draw enough attention to secure more-or-less permanent employment there and a more than comfortable salary, things I was glad to have. I'd never expected it to be so difficult to survive on my own, without my sisters. Stupid of me, really. It was an illusion that I'd dispensed with in short order. I made changes in my expectations and my attitudes.
Another sigh left me. The constant pretending for the Humans was difficult, even more so when I was performing. I was already anticipating a headache by the end of the night. It would be so much easier to simply bind my audience they way I had when I'd lived in the sea, consequences be damned.
Doing my best to push such thoughts from my mind, I pushed open the door to the communal dressing room that the permanent lounge acts used. The rack of my performance clothes was the one farthest from the door. Resigned, I shut the door behind me and went to the rack, examining the fabrics almost without caring. I don't know why Kikuchi-san insists that I dress prettily. Though I have been told my long black hair and wide changing blue eyes pleasing to the eye, it is not my appearance that attracted customers. It was my voice. If only those Humans knew how easily I could turn that attraction into something more. They would probably want to run and would find that they couldn't, too mesmerized to have control over their bodies.
"I have got to stop thinking such things," I chastised myself. Living in the Human World was hard enough without my incessant mental conjurings.
Apathetically, I chose a black sweater, black knee-length skirt, and black calf-high boots with silver buckles. The monochrome color scheme suited my mood. Besides, I'm told that I look good in black. I hung my casual jeans and long sleeved shirt up in place of the sweater and skirt, draping my black jacket over the back of a nearby chair. My navy blue slip-on flats were tucked underneath the hanging garments. Once changed, I stashed my messenger bag in the corner between the rack and wall. No one will take it. Not here.
I paused to check my appearance in the full-length mirror before I leave, only because I know that Kikuchi-san would be upset with me if I do not look acceptable. I also took a moment to shake my hair out of the confines of its ponytail, letting hand loose down to my mid-back.
The hall was still crowded. The only difference now as opposed to fifteen minutes ago was that everyone was utterly silent, listening to the soft music of an exceptional koto player. My oppressive melancholic mood lifted from me as the music teased my ears. My own attempts with harp and flute had ended abysmally, so I had great respect for those who could play instruments well.
The music ended too early, in my opinion. The koto player took her bows, the audience applauding their appreciation. A few shouts from the already tipsy businessmen are called out. Lovely. It was going to be one of those nights.
As the performer exited the stage, another woman, who was followed by two men pushing a piano, walked on to it. She directed the men to position the large instrument in its appropriate place, taking her seat on the bent set down for her as soon as all was ready. Over the music shelf that she was already spreading the sheets of notes on, she smiled confidently at me and I grinned back. Nagano-san was very talented and we had been performing together almost as long as I'd worked at Kurai Teitoku.
My cue was given by Kikuchi-san. "Please welcome to our stage Fuchi Sen-san, songstress of the Kurai Teitoku."
I nearly choked on the irony.
While the microphone was adjusted for my height of five feet, I entered the stage and felt the eyes of a full house on me. I went to the mike, and then closed my eyes. I'm sure the Human onlookers thought I was banishing some lingering nerves so that I could perform at the top of my game. Little did they know I was doing quite the opposite. I was locking away that part of myself that wanted to seduce and force them to swim out to sea, never to return.
Feeling sure that I had restrained my Siren instincts, I wrapped my pale hands around the mike and listened to the first few bars of Nagano-san's playing. And, without preamble, my lips parted and I sang with only half my soul.
Uremeshi Yusuke was pissed. Royally pissed. Koenma had promised him some time off after his last case. So why the fuck was he sitting in the little twerp's cushy office?
Grumbling angrily to himself, the Spirit Detective leaned against the unbearably pink walls of Koenma's office. This is so fucking lame, he fumed silently. As soon as that little midget popped in, Yusuke was going to tear him a new one. This whole back-to-back job schedule was starting to be too much, especially since half of them were some of the stupidest and most meaningless missions he'd ever heard of. Retrieving eggs from chicken demon nests, for example, was hardly the sort of work for him. That was why he'd bullied Kuwabara into doing most of the work on that job.
Which reminded him. Why didn't Kuwabara have to come on this stupid trip? The oaf got to stay at Genkai's Temple with Yukina, while Yusuke had been unceremoniously carted off by a certain grim reaper.
The ornate doors to the office were slowly pushed open, and Yusuke whirled to face them, ready to start shouting.
He was disappointed. Instead of the toddler, Kurama and Hiei had joined him. Hiei was not looking anymore pleased about the summons than Yusuke, though the Fire Demon's overall facial expression was more controlled than the Detective's. Kurama, calculating kitsune that he was, was complete unruffled by Koenma's call. After all, the former thief believed that he was still paying off all the wrong deed's he'd done in the past.
"It's good to see you again, Yusuke," Kurama greeted pleasantly, green eyes evaluating correctly that the seventeen year old was close to giving in to a fit of rage. "I don't suppose you know what this all about, do you?"
Hiei merely stayed silent. He'd never been the social type. Besides, he was working at controlling his considerable temper, just at Yusuke was doing. The only sign of his irritation was the flashing of his garnet colored eyes. The Fire Apparition hated to be ordered about, and that is exactly what Koenma had done.
The normalcy of the words took Yusuke's irritation down a notch. A small notch. "Nice to see you, too, Kurama," he said, leaning back against the wall once more. "I don't know shit. The brat didn't explain a damn thing when he demanded my presence. Botan all but dragged me here on that dumb oar of hers." She'd also smacked him over the head with the aforementioned oar for initially refusing to obey "Koenma-sama's" orders, leaving a large bruise on his forehead. But he chose not to add that to his account. Too embarrassing.
Both demons' eyes flicked to the purple shadow on his forehead anyway. The amusement in both their gazes told the Detective that they knew exactly how he'd acquired it. Damn. There goes that.
Clearing his throat, Kurama let his eyes search the office briefly before returning his gaze to Yusuke. "Where is Botan, then? I didn't see her out there either." The red-head nodded at the once-again closed doors of the office to indicate the chaotic outer chamber staffed by ogres.
Yusuke shrugged. "She ran off as soon as she'd dropped me here. Said something about another errand she had to run for His Midget Majesty. Haven't seen her since."
"And when did she leave you here?" the kitsune inquired almost idly.
"No clue. Maybe forty minutes?"
Snidely, Hiei muttered, "Why does is not surprise me that you have, yet again, aptly demonstrated your fly-like attention span?"
"Yeah. Fuck you, too, Hiei," Yusuke snapped in response.
A young voice cut off the argument before it began. "I did not bring you three here to fight."
The trio's eyes were drawn to the diminutive figure that'd just entered the room through a door in the back wall. Koenma was dressed in his usual blue tunic and hat, yellow pants, and red sash. His trademark pacifier was stuck securely in his mouth. Unusually, however, he was drenched. As was the blue-haired woman who'd followed him into the room.
Botan smiled brightly, despite her waterlogged state. "Hello, boys!" she chirped in her usual manner, though her pink eyes were not at all cheery.
"What the hell happened to you two?" Yusuke asked tactlessly. "You fall into a lake or something?"
"Or something," Koenma answered testily. "We were attempting to head off the problem before it became out of hand. Then I wouldn't need you to take care of it." The Ruler of Spirit World rummaged through a desk drawer, finally getting his hands on the towels that he and Botan desperately wanted.
"And that problem would be what exactly?" Hiei prompted. He did not have any worry, or any sympathy, for the two drenched individuals. As far as he was concerned, it was probably their own fault.
"What do you three know about Sirens?" was Koenma's unhelpful answer.
Not surprisingly, the only thing Yusuke was able to dredge up was that he knew about mermaid legends.
Kurama was able to provide a little more information. "Ningyo. Female Water Demons. If I recall correctly, they have extensive powers over water and weather and, in some very rare instances, dreams and healing. All through the use of their voices. They tend to be a rather secretive and closed society, I believe."
"They're also distant cousins to the Ice Maidens and to some types of bird demons," Hiei added with a shrug.
"Yeah. That," Yusuke said. "What about 'em?"
"They're the problem," Koenma practically snarled, mopping up the water on his face with a fluffy pink towel. "The Sirens are the ones who have been causing all those terrible storms off the costs of Japan and Greece for the past month. And they've been up to they're old tricks again, tricks specifically forbidden to them for quite a few centuries."
"Um, you wanna clarify that last bit?" the Detective inquired as he ran a hand through his inky hair.
"Over eighty Human sailors reported missing in two weeks! And that's only the ones we know about. I've no doubt more will turn up soon enough." It was Botan who'd answered, her normally cheerful voice sounding outraged.
"Oh." Yusuke pushed himself way from the wall and stretched his arms over his head. "So you want me to beat these water chicks up, right?"
"They'd eat you alive," Hiei sneered.
"What was that?"
"Hiei's right, Yusuke," Kurama interjected, frowning. "Sirens quite literally would do such a thing. After they'd sung away all your sense from you. It is not easy to kill Sirens for that very reason."
"And there you have the issue," Koenma added. His tiny, toddler-size hand was rubbing over his newly dried face. "We can't kill them without not only getting you all killed, but also without disrupting the entire marine ecosystem. Sirens maybe nasty, but they regulate the very worst of the world's sea storms and moderate the strongest currents. They make the sea traversable for Humans and Demons alike."
"Then what the fuck do you want us to do about it?" Yusuke wanted to know. He specialized in beating the hell out of Demons and, sometimes, Humans. If he couldn't thrash these Sirens, why did he have to be involved?
"I suppose I should have been a bit more specific," Spirit World's little governor mused. "I should have said you can't get rid of all of them. Just their reigning Queen will do."
"…You want me to kill the Siren Queen?"
"Shiosai's not the rightful monarch, anyway," Botan added with a sniff. "She eliminated the entirety of the original royal family years ago and took the throne. This whole situation is her doing. The Queen before her, Umi, was far more benevolent towards Humans."
So he got to kill something after all. Yusuke grinned at the thought. Maybe this wouldn't be such a boring mission. "Sounds interesting."
"I take it we're to go with Yusuke?" Kurama asked in reference to himself and Hiei, quirking an eyebrow.
Koenma nodded. "It is for the best. I can't trust the moron alone with only Kuwabara for company. Just think of what a nightmare that would cause. But, moving on—"
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Yusuke sputtered. Stupid toddler! I'm going to strangle him yet!
"That you are incapable of not having stuff blow up in your face," Hiei remarked. His smirk was purely malicious.
Koenma interrupted, tone cross, "I still have a few more things to tell you, so shut your mouth and listen, Yusuke."
Grudgingly, the Detective fell silent, still fuming.
"Good. As I was saying, you will need a guide in order to reach the Sirens' city. She is particularly knowledgeable of them and will undoubtedly be of great help to you." He pulled a file folder from a precarious stack on his stack. It was nothing short of a miracle that the pile didn't collapse as the thin sheaf of papers was removed. Koenma slid the file in Yusuke's direction. While the volatile fighter went to the desk and picked up the folder, Koenma continued, "Her name is Fuchi Sen. You'll find her at the Kurai Teitoku in the Shinjuku District of Tokyo. Give her this when you talk to her and tell her that I'm calling in the favor she owes me." An amulet bearing the Enma house seal was also shoved at Yusuke. "Got it?"
"Yeah, yeah," Yusuke said absently, shoving the amulet in his pocket and tucking the file under and arm. He flashed a cocky smile. "Leave it to me." He gave a mock solute before turning and heading out the doors.
Hiei followed. He was still irritated. This was not his idea of fun. Tracking down some wayward Human who, despite Koenma's words, was probably nothing more than another useless female, was pointless to him.
Kurama completed the trio and gave a polite farewell, carefully shutting the large gilt doors on his way out.
I sang for hours. If I'd wanted, I could have done so until the break of dawn. My vocal chords are much more resilient than a Human's.
The audience was spell-bound. They all smelled like prey and they are helpless against me. It would be so easy to draw them completely into my power. So easy…
Again, I pulled against the instinct. I could feel a headache beginning behind my half-lidded eyes, a side-effect of my efforts. It was not a troublesome pain yet, but it would be soon. It was a blessing that my set almost finished. I only had two more songs to perform.
Letting the last notes of the song die away, I was already shifting to the next one in my mind. With perfect timing, Nagano-san transformed the ending of this piece into the beginning of the next. It was a more up-beat melody, faster and more operatic than the last. My voice easily ran the through the complicated staccato of the song. Although there was a part where I almost dropped a few notes, I managed to perform it well. Within a few bars, the crowd was smiling. I allowed myself to smile with them, let myself feel like one of them for the briefest moment. It was easier than it should have been.
Movement caught my eye. Unobtrusively, I let my gaze wander until I found the source.
They were not the sort of clients who usually came to the Kurai Teitoku. Their appearances were all wrong for the place. Too casual, too young. Two of the threesome, the two tallest, looked as if they should have been home studying for their college entrance exams. They were even dressed still in their school uniforms, of all things. The third seemed older, despite his lack of height. But that may have been due to his non-school uniform clothing.
Of course, their enormous Spirit energy was also unusual. As were the demonic auras surrounding the redhead and the shortest of the three.
My voice almost faltered in surprise. What were Demons doing here?
With effort, I tore my eyes from them and did my absolute best to ignore them. Perhaps they had come into the wrong place. Perhaps they would leave soon. Praying I was right, I looked at them again.
I was not that lucky. They sat themselves at a table in the back, the raven-haired Human pulling out a manila folder and flipping it open. He pointed at the contents, cast a glance in my direction, and entered into a heated conversation with the two Demons.
I needed to leave. Now.
The song ended and, before Nagano-san could shift into the next and final song, I stopped her with a subtle motion of my hand. "Thank you for being a lovely audience," I said into the microphone. They all groaned in disappointment when they realized that I was finished. A few called for encores, pleading for one last song.
Oh, how I wanted to give them one.
Doing my best to sound calm, I continued, "I hope that you continue to enjoy your night." I bowed my thanks. Then I exited the stage as slowly as I dared.
As soon as I was out of sight of the crowd, I nearly dashed for the dressing room, barely remembering to thank Nagano-san for performing with me. She caught me by the arm before I could run away. "What's wrong, Fuchi-san? You almost never end early and you seem…" She groped for a word.
I didn't let her finish the thought. Gently, I extracted my arm from her grasp, hiding my grimace from her. I hated to be touched overmuch. "Everything is fine," I murmured. "I just felt tired suddenly."
"Are you sure?" She sounded so concerned. The piano player was possibly the closest thing I had to a friend in the Human World.
"Nothing is wrong," I insisted firmly in a sing-song voice. I caught her in the intricacies of my simple notes and used my innate talents. Nothing dangerous, just enough to calm her.
She nodded, seeming dazed. "Just wanted to make sure."
"I know. Thank you for your concern, Nagano-san. I will see you tomorrow night, right?" I was already edging away.
"Yeah. See you then." She wandered off. In a few minutes, she would be released from the mild hypnotism and would wonder what had happened. But she would not dwell on it. Humans tended not to.
In the haven of the dressing room, I changed clothes in record time. But as I shoved my feet into my shoes, I knew that I was not alone anymore.
Slowly, I turned around. My heart skipped in unease and fear. How had they found me? I had been so careful to bury myself in the Human World. My occupation aside, there should have been no way for them to figure out my identity.
It was the trio from before and their closer proximity afforded me a better look at them.
The Human was of average height, solid black hair slicked back, and the sort of expression I was used to seeing on yakuza faces. He stood in an arrogant way, both hands shoved into his pockets, as if trying to appear harmless. His eyes were an ordinary Human chocolate color. In fact, the only unusual thing about him was his extraordinary amount of Spirit energy.
The tallest of the group was red-headed and had stunning green eyes. I could see cleverness in those emerald pools. A kitsune or a tanuki, then. There was also a hint of kindness in his expression, though I didn't allow myself to be reassured. His Demonic aura was strangely cloaked with a Human one, as if hiding. Intriguing, but not quite interesting enough to soothe my wariness.
The last of the group, the other Demon, was my height almost exactly. Though his blue-black hair did lend him the illusion of a few more inches. I found my examining gaze returned by a burning maroon stare. His aura chafed against mine, clearly opposite to my own element of Water. It was just this side of uncomfortable, making my sensitive skin itch, and I could tell from the look in his eyes that he could feel it, as well. I could also see that it was not amusing or fine with him in slightest.
Swallowing, I willed my nerves to calm themselves. Showing fear was never a good idea when cornered. Never. "This is an employee only area," I said bluntly. "You will have to leave."
The Human rolled his eyes. "Whatever." The fact that he spoke first implied that he was the leader. Unusual in such mixed company.
"I'm serious." My temper sharpened a little. "I have no patience for such intrusions. Leave. Now. Or I will call for security."
"Go ahead, woman," the Fire Demon growled. "See how far that gets you."
"Get. Out," I snapped, not at all in my customary tone. I wanted them to leave, to go away and never come back.
"Yusuke," the red-haired one said, "I believe this will be easier if you simply give her the amulet." His voice was measured, pleasant. A peacemaker. His words were colored with a tinge of amusement.
"I was getting to that," the Human, Yusuke, grumbled. He dug in his left pocket a bit, finally drawing his hand out. I tensed for some sort of attack, but all that he held out was a pendant on a chain.
When I made no move to take the offered trinket, he tossed it at me. I caught the thing automatically and I nearly dropped it when I realized what it was. Emblazoned upon the blue stone was the seal of the Enma house. My surprised eyes jumped from the stone to the group. "What is the meaning of this?" I inquired, fear and temper beginning to drain away.
Yusuke, his hand back in his pants pocket, shrugged. "Koenma's calling in a favor."
Anger flared again in my chest and, uncharacteristically, I swore. "Shit."
"Yeah," the Human sighed in agreement. "I think so, too." He straightened his shoulders. "I'm Uremeshi Yusuke, Spirit Detective. And you just got recruited. Congratulations." His dry, sarcastic tone told me it was nothing to celebrate over.
"Are we quite done making nice?" the Fire Demon snapped. "We have other business to take care of besides picking up baggage. I want this to be over as soon as possible."
"That is Hiei," the red-head introduced as I bristled at being termed "baggage". "And I am Kurama." The last statement was accompanied with a slight bow. "Though Hiei put it rather…indelicately, he is correct. You must come with us immediately. Time can not be wasted."
"Why in the world are you bothering me for?" I asked crossly, sparing a quick glare for the one called Hiei. "I don't know what Koenma wants, but I am hardly any more useful than the next girl."
"What do you know about Sirens?" Yusuke asked.
My heart stopped. "Let me grab my jacket."
They had no idea what I knew.
(A.N.) I know it seems a little slow, but I promise the story will pick up after this point. Please leave reviews. They make me happy and inspire me. Much love!