Series: Hunter X Hunter
Title: Persona
Rating: PG-13
Pairing/ Characters: Kurapika/Kuroro, some Kurapika/Leorio
Word Count: 2260
Warning/s: Yorkshin Ark.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything.

Once upon a time, there was a young boy, age eight, playing in the street, kicking at a roughly crafted, leather-covered ball. He was fair looking: blond hair, blue eyes, and a delicate face – if you were to only give him a cursory glance, you could even mistake him for a girl. It was a trait that he shared with many of the males in his clan. He had a concentrated look on his face as he played his game, to rules only he knew. Nevertheless, he seemed intent on not breaking them.

This boy was a Kurata, and one of the few children in the clan. There were around twenty other children his age, all with golden hair, with eye colors in various hues of the sea. The clan itself had peaceful relations with surrounding districts, although it was culturally a warrior clan. All children were trained, starting at age ten, so that they would grow up able to protect the clan and its strong ethnic values.

This boy had a name: Kurapika. He had not yet turned ten. He would never be taught the secrets of his clan, and how to use the scarlet eyes. He would eventually be forced to teach himself, crudely, to have some semblance of control over his eyes, with a purposeful intent in his mind. Revenge.

In a few weeks, his clan would cease to exist, and he would be the only survivor of what many recalled ten years later as only a mythical place. But at the moment, none of that mattered. There was no burning hatred rooted deeply in his heart; there was no undying need for vengeance, no restless search for the many pairs of crimson eyes stolen from their owners. Kurapika was just another simple child: not the brightest of his age group, but not the dullest either. He was not particularly fond of reading, nor studying in general. All he cared about was making sure the ball didn't touch the ground for more than a second at a time, because that meant that he would lose his game.

But, in fact, that doesn't matter either. None of it matters, because it's time to rewind. Turn the clock back eight and a half years, to before Kurapika was conceived. And then, imagine if Kurapika was indeed never conceived. There was another child conceived in his place: a blond haired blue-eyed girl whose name has no significance, because without Kurapika, the clan itself doesn't matter. His clan is nameless without him – just another amongst the many massacred and passed over in the bulk of history texts – one day existing, and the next nothing more than a burial ground.

The little girl grew up in the Kurata clan, and when she was eight or nine, she was slaughtered along with everyone else in her village and her eyes were pillaged by a man with eyes as empty as the sky at midnight. Her screams were not silent but were nevertheless unheard. And the clan no longer existed; it had never existed without Kurapika, after all, not in the same, harrowing context. It was nameless: simply another place which had been destroyed by the Ryodan for profit.

It was in no way special.

And Kurapika, the last Kurata, was not in existence.

In his place was another child, who had blonde hair and blue eyes and an effeminate face. In his place there was another child, also male and also named Kurapika. But his eyes did not change colors, and not just for lack of training. His eyes were invariably blue. He did not hate spiders; he had never been in possession of a crudely fashioned, leather ball. He had never had toys of any sort at all, actually.

He was Kurapika, but not at the same time. He was Kurapika, but not a Kurata.

He had been born in Shooting-Star City. And he was a member of the Genei Ryodan.

He remembered a time when Kuroro had never let him go on any of the missions. He remembered clearly that he had not even been taught about thievery and fighting until after his tenth birthday, or what he remembered as his tenth birthday.

Birthdays were never very clear when you were born in Shooting-Star City. They had very little meaning, except as to function as the day when he could wake up and think, 'I'm a year older', and 'one year less before I die.'

Kurapika remembered Kuroro as not being much older than him, and younger than some of the other members of the Ryodan, but still very much in charge of everything. There had always been a presence about Kuroro that he and the others couldn't touch, couldn't come close to possessing, or even imitating. It was what made him, without question, the leader.

After he had turned ten, he had trained. His Nen turned out to be powerful – fueled by memories of the initial years of hunger and loneliness before he had run into Kuroro on a dark night, and the older man had taken him in. It was his idea to craft his Nen into a pair of double katana – shorter and quicker than the one Nobunaga used. They were fastened together with an unbreakable chain, and through years of hard work, he had become one of the most respected and powerful members of the Ryodan.

At age eleven, he had been allowed on his first mission: one that had been incredibly successful.

And his early teens had been filled with thievery, training, and murder. And oddly, he couldn't bring himself to feel even a hint of guilt when killing; it was merely an act that was unavoidable in his line of work. He didn't feel pleasure, either, like he some of the other Ryodan members did – when it came to business, he was emotionless.

This did not in any way imply that he was emotionless otherwise.

When he turned seventeen, he had fallen in love.

Kurapika's reserved personality led to him viciously denying it. He had done everything, every possible thing, to fall out of love. But in the end, it had been very much unsuccessful.

And so, after Shizuku's prodding and Machi's silent approval, he had finally steeled himself to confess.

And although he hadn't been expecting for Kuroro to feel the same, he definitely couldn't say he was displeased with the way things had turned out.

Two years later, and he was still hopelessly in love with the Ryodan leader. And together, they came to lead the team with utmost efficiency and the combined knowledge of two great minds.

But in real life, there's no such thing as a fairytale ending. There's no such thing as true, unbroken happiness. Because in this scenario, things were too perfect – too flawless. There had been nearly no obstacles at all – there had been nothing in the way of their mutual love. In this version of the story, there had been no need for revenge, and Kurapika had not suffered nearly enough. He hadn't gone through the things, the trials, that would make anger and revenge so ingrained to his character that they would eclipse his almost infallible rationality.

Hate, it turns out, far outreaches such paltry boundaries such as life and death. It is in its nature something that can reach past logic and reason – something that can surpass things believed unsurpassable. The past, the present, the future.

Even dimensions.

In this version, this mockery in which Kurapika was allowed happiness, there was a glitch. Two worlds had collided, and where they didn't overlap, they forced themselves to overlap.

In this version Kurapika had been a Kurata, but not really. There had been no girl conceived in his place, but there was the corpse of a girl conceived in his place, rotting underneath the ground, her eye sockets empty.

In this world, Kurapika had been born in the Kurata village and in Shooting-Star City at the same time. They were so different but they were the same person after all; they simply didn't know it yet.

The worlds collided, and not a single person in either dimension felt the ground-shattering clash.

But it was the night that Kurapika, the Kurapika who was hopelessly in love, started to dream.

The dreams had been pleasant at first – quiet, chattering voices and the trickle of a nearby stream that Kurapika did not remember ever visiting. Flashes of smiling faces, of golden hair and the smell of wind and grass. A child's laughter, and the steady thump of a crudely constructed leather ball hitting the floor, never resting for more than a second. He could not recognize their faces, but he knew their names – all of their names – and they knew his.

The dreams left him softly, like the whisper of a breeze. And he wakes up, smiling, and looks into the eyes of his beloved, thinking them dark and romantic.

But something had gone wrong in his dreamland. And suddenly he wasn't himself anymore.

He walked through a village, one so familiar, with roads he had committed to memory. But it was a detached remembering – it was a memory, but at the same time, it wasn't his memory. But he looked down at his hands, and they were his hands from a decade ago. He could see the border fringe of his golden hair, framing his face. So he knew it was himself, he could tell that the body was his own.

He saw the corpses, but did not allow himself to bend over and look closely. Because he knew, he simply knew, what he would find if he looked into the faces – faces that had names attached to them.

And even if he didn't know them… even if he had never seen them before…

He was afraid to look, because he knew the eye sockets would be empty. He was too much of a coward to check.

He wakes up to the face of his lover, his lover with eyes the color of soot. And he wakes up with the taste of ashes in his mouth, and wonders who it is that has died.

"Kuroro?" Kurapika spoke softly, voice oddly low.

The dark haired man turned to him, a small smile on the corner of his lips. "Yes?" Kuroro answered, but his voice was above that of a whisper.

"Why is the symbol of the Ryodan a spider?" Kurapika asked, and as he spoke, the dark bags under his eyes seemed to stand out, vividly.

Kuroro blinked at the unusual question; he had thought that Kurapika already knew the answer.

"Because a spider can live even without its head. Spiders are, in that way, immortal."

Kurapika closed his eyes, and Kuroro was hit by the thought that the younger man wasn't getting enough sleep. That in this half light, his face only partially illuminated from the weak light of a gray day, Kurapika looked ages older than he was. "I don't think I like them. Spiders, I mean."

There was nothing Kuroro could say to that; he knew from Kurapika's expression that he did not mean it as an insult. But Kuroro couldn't understand why, after all these years of being a member of the Ryodan, only now did Kurapika voice an objection to their symbol.

Kurapika didn't understand it completely himself. He was lost in a dream.

And he had the feeling that in it, he didn't like spiders at all.

Kurapika couldn't breathe.

There was no air. There was so much blood, that the very molecules of oxygen had been squeezed out, forced out to make more room for the blood that he could practically see evaporating.

And Kurapika couldn't breathe.

There were corpses. There were so many corpses. And he knew these people, because they weren't simply corpses. They were his clan, his family. They were real, and they were in front of him.

They did not have eyes.

And, in every single case, the mouths were gaping; distorted so that Kurapika knew they last thing uttered had been a mindless scream.

It was him walking these streets – itwashimitwashimitwashim – it was him walking these streets, because these streets belonged to him. In this place, this dream, the streets were as familiar to him as Shooting Star City was to him in the day – his feet moved mechanically, knowing the way from the thousands of times he had taken this path before. They were the streets of his childhood, ingrained in his subconscious, and only now being uncovered. These were his memories, these corpses belonged to him.

This was his past, and Kurapika couldn't breathe.

He was angry. That wasn't precisely correct – he knew that he wasn't angry. But there was something in him that was murderously so; a part seething, just below the surface, with a rage that he could almost detach from himself.

And with a sudden flash of knowledge, he knew his eyes were no longer blue, but a crimson shade they had never been before.

Kurapika woke up with a jolt, as he sat bolt upright in bed, breath labored. Beside him, he felt Kuroro shift, and Kurapika knew the man's eyes would be filled with concern.

Kurapika taught himself, in those few moments, how to breathe again.

And when he turned to Kuroro, to reassure the man that he was alright, that it had just been a dream, he knew his eyes were blue again.

In fact, he could not remember them ever being anything but blue.


* Kurapika's Nen katana, or Kan, are modeled after the ones he had with him during the hunter exam.