The others could finally call off their search, because Kurama and Hiei had found him.

Kurama's dark form appeared at the mouth of the tunnel, his body blocking off what little moonlight that shone through the opening to begin with. His shadow stretched over the white concrete. The darkness obscured his face.

Quivering in equal parts rage and fear, the spindly and gray demon was huddling over his long limbs, already wounded in various places. He looked back over his shoulder wildly when that shadow fell over him, like a snare. He scrambled to get away, only to halt, facing the end of Hiei's sword.

Kurama spoke. "Erase now any false hopes of escape you may possess."

The eater trapped between them had been wanted for months, directly responsible for a total of six human killings and three kidnappings, indirectly responsible for untold numbers more. Many of them were young, and two in particular went to Kuwabara's high school. The authorities were overwhelmed to begin with, and it was already too late by the time they found out.

Their orders at the start of the whole mess were to capture and detain the culprit; now they were much more simple.

Hiei had felt more irritation at being dragged in to help than at how many deaths the eater had actually caused— the others were involved longer than he was. Hiei didn't expect a pervading sense of final justice.

But that didn't stop his heart from beating faster when Kurama pulled out a tiny seed from his hair with a graceful flick of his wrist, nor did it stop Hiei from experiencing a wicked thrill race up his spine when that harmless-looking grain of youki was forced inside its victim and commanded to erupt into consuming, unstoppable life.

Hiei narrowed his eyes, hearing the eater's pleas bubble forth like a gurgling spring. The weak ones constantly begged for mercy, and always past the point that Kurama was willing to give it.

Kurama's room was darker and colder than Hiei had expected, but it was a welcome relief to be out of the freezing wind. Kurama explained that the reason that he was using oil lamps for light had to do with the snow and ice outside interfering with lines of power needed for ningen homes.

Hiei was sitting sideways on the windowsill, staring out of the window at the darkness outside.

There came a sudden HARD impact of shattering glass.

Hiei was across the room in a blink and the force at which Hiei flung open the door left a small hole in the opposite wall's plaster. The bathroom was pitch-black. Quickly Hiei brought fire to his hands to illuminate the area.


The first thing he noticed was Kurama, his shirt hanging open, fists clenched, breathing softly. Littered all around his feet were glinting shards— Kurama's gaze was undeniably wild, directed at but not seeing the large remains of the mirror in front of him.

Hiei tore off the white strip of cloth around his forehead, freeing his third eye to seek out any invisible danger. There wasn't any, not in the bathroom or anywhere else in the house, which only added to his confusion. There was a lamp that had crashed to the floor, but the wick was still in place. Quickly, Hiei picked it up, lighting it with a tap, and set it on the sink to provide a soft flickering glow.

When Hiei reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, Kurama jerked —exactly why Hiei was hesitant to touch him— but at least it was a response. To Hiei's relief, Kurama seemed to regain his senses.

"Watch your step." Hiei warned, backing them out in to Kurama's bedroom, which was no brighter than the bathroom.

Hiei guided Kurama to sit on the bed. There were a few small cuts on his arms and the back of Kurama's right hand was scratched, most likely from breaking his mirror, but they were already healing and would be gone within minutes. Kurama blinked, then his eyes searched for an explanation that he couldn't produce.

"Kurama?" Hiei asked, energy from the jagan eye wanting permission. Kurama gave it.

Hiei saw a disembodied head and pair of shoulders in the place of where Kurama's reflection should have shown, same height, clothes and all. However, Hiei had no recognition of a teenage boy with light brown hair that stopped and curled right around his ears. The boy had an innocent face, gently structured, that complimented wide, dark eyes. They were kind, far from sharp or emerald in any way. He simply looked human, human like all the others that walked the streets, human like Kurama's mother, perhaps. The boy's lips then moved, curling upwards, but it was not a smile because the dark eyes did not smile, and thus they were no longer kind, but wide and empty. They were lost and irreversibly doomed.

It's a trick of the lamplight, Hiei finally reasoned after some silence. After all, his jagan could only show him what Kurama perceived and it was possible that there was nothing extraordinary in the mirror to begin with...

You doubt me.

It must have been the light. My jagan sensed nothing there.

Anger. No 'light' could have produced this!

Then I cannot conceive of what it could be. A shape shifter from our last case? An illusion?

Kurama's thoughts took on an alarming edge.

Hiei, do you not see it?

Apparently not.

It is what this body should have become. It was Shuuichi, the real Shuuichi... you saw him.

It was dark.

This is what I consumed. I condemn the demons that take life. He looks just like her...

Kurama, stop!

Hiei had enough. He closed the connection, retying the white cloth around his forehead. Kurama was breathing softly, recovering from the jagan's probing.

Hiei looked Kurama in the eye and put his hands on Kurama's shoulders. The fox was weary.

"You shouldn't question yourself."

"You don't understand."

"There is no reason to be feeling this way."

"How can you say that?"

"How? Humans. They cannot bring themselves to believe that their precious lives are not a entitlement and spend their days wallowing in and out of nothing but conceit."

"But to be denied an existence is something neither human nor demon deserves."

Now Hiei was getting frustrated. "How are you to know what anything deserves?"

"It never had a chance."

"I was thrown off a cliff not a day after I was born."

Kurama started in surprise, eyes widening.

Hiei's heart jumped. He'd said too much. He had not meant to say it, but Kurama was silent and he could by no means reveal that he did not mean to say it. Hiei went on.

"My existence hinged on no being but my own. I fought for everything I had and I fought for everything I didn't have. I fought for who Iwas."

Kurama's previously desperate visage now held a layer of sorrow. He closed his eyes, putting his hands around the wrists that were grasping him by the shoulders.

"Kurama, forget this thing. There's no reason… it was dark. And you said you had work to do tomorrow."

"Please stay." Kurama was reaching for him.

There were precepts of morality that Hiei never understood, among them being why Kurama believed himself wrong, but, putting his arms around his friend, Hiei was equally sure that it would be wrong of himself to do anything less than offer all of his warmth when Kurama pulled him close.