Disclaimer: YuYu Hakusho belongs to Yoshihiro Togashi
Crack pairings, how I love them…
The demon had been a fool with a too-greatly exaggerated opinion of himself. A respectable opponent, perhaps, under different circumstances, but hardly a challenge and never a prize worth a sojourn through the snowy territories.
Suffice to say he had died accordingly. Karasu liked to be disappointed even less than he liked the frigid landscape surrounding him. The blood spatters had frozen and stiffened his clothes, now marked obviously against the black where rings of frost edged them. Underneath the dark flecks, the cold temperatures bleached his skin paler than ever with the lack of his own blood's flow. His hands nearly translucent, he could trace each blue vein lacing just below the surface.
Still, his temper didn't abate despite the wintry air. Days wasted, precious time he could never regain—and all for no profit. At least, by Karasu's reckoning, the end of the day would see him out of the worst of the weather and put the cruelest of the icy land behind him. It hardly consoled him, but at least it didn't sour his mood further.
At the beginning the harsh wind drove ice crystals against his cheeks, leaving the sting of a hundred bloodless cuts in its wake. But by now the relentless tempest had numbed his face beyond all pain. That rankled Karasu's distemper the most—the lack of sensation, frozen and feeling nothing.
He had garnered a reputation as a very sensual demon, living lustily to experience as many stimulations as possible. In Makai, such a lifestyle came in two options only: those related to sex, and those that dealt with bloodlust. Karasu saw no fit reason to limit his greed, and so embraced both and even adeptly combined the two. Killing something so precious it deserved to live always inspired in him the most intense emotions.
To Karasu, numbness may as well have been synonymous with death, and equally as despised.
He pushed a hand through his hair as the wind whipped it viciously into his face, and heard rather than felt the brittle cracking of the ice that glossed some of the strands. Even then the sound ghosted past his ears in the whistling gusts over the plain nearly before he could catch it. He might never have noticed the shout at all, had its owner not been hidden in the blizzard just beyond the reach of his visibility.
Karasu raised his head abruptly, squinting through the flurries of snow. The woman stood steadily in the storm despite her appearance of a wispy apparition. For all that she looked as delicate as a work of iced glass, Karasu swore the wind blew through her rather than fighting against her. A yuki-onna, her face not distinguishingly pretty enough from this distance to tempt him into staying in the world of ice a moment longer than necessary.
She held her ground as he continued to walk forward. "You're an intruder," she accused, though her voice sounded curiously flat. Karasu would have expected scorn or hate in her eyes, but found nothing there even as he approached. "What other reason can have brought you so close to the sacred land of Hyouga?"
Even with such an intriguing description, the name meant nothing to him. One foot before the other, with the goal of bringing warmth and feeling back to his face, Karasu contemplated nothing else.
"Don't flatter yourself with importance, Yuki-onna. It annoys me." He passed close enough for her shoulder to brush against his elbow. She didn't bother to move out of his way.
Instead, she raised her chin haughtily until her nose pointed in the air. "I'm not such a pitiful breed as a mere yuki-onna. I'm a daughter of the koorime."
The koorime, a legendary race of demon rumored to live on a floating glacier high above the world that few had ever seen. The koorime with eyes so empty to make room for the peerless jewels that fell out of the lifeless sockets. The koorime, foolish enough to announce her heritage with pride despite having surely hidden the rest of her life in protective seclusion, worth enough to at least render this entirely unpleasant excursion null and void.
Karasu paused, took a step back, and then two. His condemnation of the icy territories as completely profitless and unsalvageable had proved too hasty. He brushed a hand against her cheek; she certainly fit the description of rumors.
"A koorime, then. I'm honored," he murmured smoothly. "You're valuable. You'll agree that there's no point in wasting this fortunate meeting, then."
He knew that behind the dull, emotionless face her brain was firing warning instincts to every nerve in her body. She tried to take a step back, but Karasu's hand caught her around the neck first. Although she grabbed his wrists, she didn't struggle.
Karasu fixed the collar around her neck, mentally and physically, a snug and unbroken circle with a small, deceptively delicate bomb adorning it below her chin. "I'm sure you'll agree that it's best for both of us if you allow me to escort you. It isn't every day I find myself in the presence of something so fine as a koorime."
He wondered if the measure were even necessary. Her already-dead eyes offered no resistance.
The ice melted from his long, black hair and joined the water running in small rivulets down his clothes, dripping in faintly rusty drops to the floor of the cave. His face burned pleasantly as the fire brought renewed sensation to the warming skin. Karasu's hair and clothes dried completely, a little worse for the wear, long before his fingers ever began to prickle.
He had worried for a few hours, considering her lack of struggle, that the koorime's frostbite might have intended him to lose both appendages. When she had grasped his wrists, it hadn't occurred to Karasu at the time that she might have been trying to freeze his hands solid.
Still, she never attempted to run away or cause permanent damage. Even now she sat quietly on the ground, as dull as a broken doll.
Matters of profit aside, the koorime intrigued him. Never before in his life had Karasu encountered something so passive, a creature practically antithesis to his own nature. He crouched before her, not hiding his interest.
"What is your name?"
She stirred, pale hands smoothing over the lap of her kimono. "Hina."
"Hina." The nerves in his fingers hummed with furious pain as he lifted her chin, tilting her face from side to side as if examining a fine ware. Along with curiosity, the beginnings of a good mood had kindled inside him. "You don't seem to fear me," he observed. "You haven't fought me. Are you so eager to allow me to kill you?"
Hina frowned mildly, her brow knitting in apathetic confusion, and her fingers brushed against the bomb on the deadly necklace. Karasu's hand had begun combing through her seafoam hair before she answered, "But I'm of no use to you dead."
Karasu stood, rubbing his hands merely to feel the pain, the reassurance of life. The fiery redness at his fingertips had begun to dull back to his normal pale skin tone.
"You want the tear gems, isn't that right?" Hina continued dispassionately. "That's what everyone wants. That's why we hide. You'll torture me to get them, but you'll get nothing if you kill me. So I can't be eager to die."
Shadows flickered over his hands near the firelight. Simple, naïve logic at best; at worst, the untroubled attitude unsettled Karasu and pricked his mind with wariness for a hidden plot. And he had set a precedent for walking brazenly into elaborate traps before. He turned his hands over, letting the warmth seep into the back of them and staring at the palms. Blood still etched faintly into the lines.
However, her manner struck him as lacking all confidence, haughtiness, wavering, or bluffs. That assumption made her cavalier approach to death genuine, something unheard of in Makai where being alive was reason enough to fight to continue living at all costs. And Karasu had never turned his back on intrigue before; his skin prickled in anticipation.
If dangerous, the threat Hina posed certainly wasn't of the ordinary variety—if an opponent, more than worthy. Though obscured by the shadows, he smiled terribly.
"I've heard the rumors." He rubbed his hands together again, noting their near return to normalcy. "If a koorime engages herself with a man, her body melts and reforms into a thousand perfect gems."
Karasu glanced at her from the corner of his eye. Hina appeared to be listening, but still displayed no particular interest. "It may be a rumor," he added, "but it must be true. The jewels exist, after all; yet how could something as unfeeling and dispassionate as you ever cry?"
"I suppose I've never thought of it that way." Hina stroked her hair placidly in thought and raised her eyes to the ceiling. "But then, if that is true, where do the children come from?"
Her hollow eyes widened slightly, as if she had made a mistake. But she looked straight at Karasu and continued without hesitation, "That is, when a child is born, a koorime sheds a tear for it. But I've never known anyone in Hyouga to cry for another reason."
Karasu leaned down to press a finger over her eyelid, tracing a path from it down her cheek. Surprisingly her skin felt pleasantly warm to the touch, unlike the icy temperature of a yuki-onna. Aesthetically, he assessed, he wouldn't mind playing with her at all, with such delicate features, even if she possessed the emotional range of a corpse. Hina met his eyes neutrally, as unfeeling as a self-centered child.
"Let's pretend the rumor is true." Karasu's fingers cradled the back of her head while his thumbs stroked her jaw. "It seems a shame to ruin something so fine, but you should know that I'm a vain man. I'll destroy anything precious before I'll let someone else touch it—so I would be happy to kill you even if it leaves me with no profit."
Only a doll, but he couldn't resist drawing out the dramatics—what point in living if not performed beautifully? "So will you burn?"
Hina blinked once, slowly, the reflex of drying eyes. Karasu let the tension drain, untangling his fingers from her hair. "But I doubt it. After all, how can I succeed in killing something that isn't alive to begin with?"
She frowned again; hindered by her lack of genuine emotion, her reasoning resembled the simple logic of a child. "Is that what you are, then? Your aura is so different." Hina ducked her head and placed her hands over her ears, and Karasu raised an eyebrow at the rare reaction. "Even just being near you is unpleasant. It isn't pleasant at all," she murmured.
"Does it burn?"
She slowly lowered her hands from her ears, studying her lap as if puzzled. "No…"
Karasu grasped her shoulder forcefully and shoved her suddenly sideways before she could recover. Hina winced as she hit the floor, but didn't struggle when he grabbed an ankle to unfold her legs from under her. Karasu leaned closer, murmuring darkly in her ear, "Then I'll have to go all the way to find out, won't I?"
One hand slid along her calf, holding the leg fast while he pushed her kimono upward. The fabric's neatly arranged layers parted reluctantly and merely disheveled under his touch. Hina's fingers splayed on the cave floor to keep her balance. She watched him with less apprehension than he liked; in his victims Karasu preferred to inspire terror, an emotion he could nearly smell at times with its poignancy, proof that he lived and affected his surroundings.
The kimono tangled around her knees, but Karasu's hand continued its path, caressing her thigh. As he went, he fingered the small imperfections in the soft skin—a faint scar, a crease of flesh, anything that merited a moment's interest or attention. If the legends were true, Karasu wondered briefly, would some of the jewels be tainted if the body that formed them wasn't entirely perfect?
Hina's sandal, knocked askew by his arm, finally fell from her dangling toes and clattered to the floor. She ignored it, still watching Karasu's progress with idle disinterest. His right hand moved to cup her bottom, forcing her to shift her weight, and he managed to hike the left side of her kimono higher around her hip. Rubbing her cheek, it generated just enough friction to bring their skin to the same temperature. Karasu fanned his fingers in a fluid stroke, feeling between her legs.
Hina jerked abruptly away from the touch; she kicked reflexively, glancing an unexpected blow against the other demon that caught him off guard. He sat back on his heels, watching her reaction with undisguised interest glinting in his dark eyes.
She turned her face away, sliding her legs sideways. In an absent, protective gesture, she trapped a wrist between her thighs, the hand curled out of sight and hidden. The fingers of her other hand, supporting her weight, clawed slowly against the ground as the muscles contracted.
"Am I… really melting?" she murmured hesitantly. She raised her eyes to meet Karasu's face, though she kept her head down and gazed at him through the fringe of her bangs. He imagined her fingers probing blindly, searching for any signs of damage—feeling nothing, or discovering horror? Karasu avidly observed her heavy breathing, the faint flush suffusing her face.
Karasu caressed her jaw, drawing her midway to meet his approach. The primitive stirrings of some emotion, perhaps her first outward signs of fear, glazed her wide eyes as they locked on his. Doe eyes, the eyes of prey, especially that of a victim before a predator. He pressed their foreheads together, laughing quietly.
Hina relaxed after a moment, the change in her demeanor barely visible. "It burned, but it passed," she announced calmly. "Your rumor isn't true."
The hint of emotion—uncertainty, he decided, rather than fear—had vanished from her eyes when Karasu pulled back to examine her face more closely. Still, if he pushed further, he was certain the ice would break. He only needed to apply pressure to the hairline fractures she had already revealed.
What an interesting find, after all. At least the night's diversion, satisfying his curiosity, might make worth of his disappointing trip. And even if his story were a lie, perhaps she might be moved to tears in one form or another before the morning came.
Karasu kept Hina's chin firmly in place while he traced the collar of her kimono. Running his fingers along the hem of the fabric, he toyed with the immaculately-arranged layers. Hina didn't look away, even as he loosened the collar down to the obi; he might have called her expression defiant if it had actually possessed any heat behind it.
Then he changed his mind, seeking out her hand instead. Worming his fingers through the small gap created between her thighs, he cupped the back of her hand and curled his fingers tightly around hers. He resumed his earlier exploration, manipulating both their hands, probing delicately and waiting for her face to change, if not her eyes.
Hina squirmed in mild discomfort, but the uncertainty had entirely vanished into her bland features. The absolute minimum level of caring about whether she lived or died as a result of Karasu's actions—an enigma, and a blow to his ego.
Karasu persisted, his ministrations just barely brushing the surface of what he would do in his promise to "go all the way." He liked to play, to toy, to draw out the foreplay that led to the killing stroke. Sex, death—the expressions, the feelings, they were all identical and all pleasurable to him.
Hina tensed as another thrill of heat spiked, a generalized sensation of burning she couldn't locate to freeze. But no tissue melted and pearled from her body, coalescing into gems that dropped away or ground inside her. The skin of her face heated as well, warmer than Karasu's fingers on her jaw. A blind stroke of her own finger, guided by Karasu's touch; another rush of the foreign sensation that seemed to be the physical counterpart to anxiety and impatience, neither of which Hina had experienced with such regularity and potency.
"You won't… get what you want this way," she panted, straining against the hold on her chin. Not an echo of the earlier intuitive statement, but this time actually confident. Intrigued, Karasu studied her face; the uppermost layer of frost had melted from her red eyes, something glinting beneath the remaining glaze. Something he wanted, something he lusted for.
So he pushed deeper, his finger wriggling determinedly between the tightness of resisting muscles.
Hina jerked reflexively again, struggling to push his hand away. "Your rumor isn't—isn't why involvement with men is forbidden," she protested. Trying to prevent any further advances, she squirmed ceaselessly. "That's how I know it isn't true, and won't get you what you want."
His interest piqued, Karasu allowed her to break from his touches, though he remained poised to take her back. The fingertips of one hand rested lightly on her knee and drew no protest. Instead Hina simply controlled her breath, ignoring even her chance to regain her modesty and set her kimono straight, let alone run. Not the typical actions of an unwilling victim who had stolen a moment's respite. He itched to have her, this strange and puzzling marionette that had barely begun to jerkily come to life, and he certainly didn't enjoy restraining himself even for his curiosity.
"Relations with men are forbidden because they are against nature." Hina's hands fluttered slightly with a barely-contained energy. She closed her eyes, but her face had lost its icy, lifeless calm. Broken, Karasu wondered, or revived? "Koorime have daughters all on their own. But with men, when the sacred birth canal is defiled, a son comes out at the wrong time. And these children are…"
"Are…?" Karasu prodded verbally to make up for the physical loss.
"…are like you." Her eyes slowly opened, the frozen death completely vanished from them—replaced by a sheen of vitality, lust weighing heavily on the lashes of her half-lidded eyes. She put her arms around his neck, initiating contact for the first time as she pulled his forehead to press against hers. "I want to burn for it," she whispered breathlessly. "I'll cry for you. I've never felt so much like—" Hina gasped as Karasu took to the invitation immediately, her back arching as he abandoned his earlier feather-light play to move in for the kill, "—never felt I would cry before in my life."
She only recognized the sensation because the gem struck her arm on its way to the floor, bouncing against the stone with a ring that was lost beneath the sound of their fervent desire.
A spectacular clash of antithesis, a momentous occasion—Karasu had never before met a being with no reasons to live; Hina, a stranger to one who could argue for everything except for to die. Hands explored with morbid curiosity, seeking explanations for the foreignness to be revealed in bodies rather than words. They celebrated their morbid envy with passion, and traded their own precious currency in return for the answers they gained but could not fathom or understand.
Karasu left with, though less than the rumored thousand, adequate jewels and satisfaction to forgive the final trek through the snow when he abandoned the cave.
Months later, Hina had returned to Hyouga carrying a borrowed warmth and life her koorime blood could not extinguish, and gave birth to twins. She named the girl Yukina and the boy Hiei, but the father she never named.