Kusabana radiated energy, outlining her form in a soft glow. Hiei awed at her incredible beauty. She was smiling and extending her hands to him. Hiei stepped forward and grasped them with both hands, marveling at their softness. He had never had feelings for a woman before. He felt exhilarated and nervous.

The siren closed the distance between them. She was so close. Her fingers caressed his cheek and he leaned into her touch. Hesitantly he reached out and ran his fingers over her lips.

"Hiei," she whispered.

He leaned forward and prepared to kiss her.

"Hiei," she whispered again.



He groggily opened his eyes to find Kusabana standing over him, silhouetted in light, much like his dream. He cocked his head. That was all just a dream? As he regained his senses, Hiei realized the siren was illuminated by the sun behind her. Her arms were folded. She did not look pleased.

"Did you honestly not hear me?" she scolded. "I've been calling your name for five minutes."

Hiei sat up. Why can't I get this woman out of my head? He thought exasperatedly.

"I was… dreaming," he explained.

"Well I expect you are very well rested then. You should be prepared for battle." She jumped off the platform and landed gracefully on the deck.

Hiei slapped his forehead. How could he have been more focused on the siren than on the impending battle? No more distractions, he told himself firmly.

He bounded nimbly to the wooden planks below and looked toward the horizon. The ship was sailing over a barren wasteland, sprinkled with decaying trees. In the distance he could see snow-covered mountains, and he knew the ship was fast approaching its destination.

Kusabana stood beside him. She was staring ahead, deep in thought. Hiei thought he sensed sadness in her posture.

"I will go ahead first," she was saying. "As this is primarily my battle, I request that you wait for my signal. Should I need your assistance, I will call for you."

Hiei nodded. He didn't much like the idea of standing idly by while a fight ensued, but he was also curious to see the siren in battle. She was no doubt agile.

Within minutes the fast ship had reached the first snowy slope. The air was cold and a brisk wind whipped Hiei's cloak about his ankles. Kusabana had donned a furry black overcoat and combat boots. Hiei saw her stash the dagger Shippou in her belt.

"The vessel will await our return here," she said, hefting an enormous anchor over the railing. She scaled down its chain links and Hiei followed. Once on the ground, they began their trek toward the base of the mountain.

"Aisu's lair is not fair from here. About a fifty mile hike up the mountan," said Kusabana.

"You seem very sure of the distance," observed Hiei, and the siren froze.

"I'm a good judge of distance," she said quickly. "And Koenma hinted where he thought Aisu might be found." She continued walking and Hiei eyed her suspiciously from behind.

Something isn't right, he thought. Best stay alert.

An hour later the team arrived outside an enormous cave entrance. Normally they would have arrived much faster but a blizzard had raged halfway up the slope and slowed them. Kusabana stopped just before entering the cave and bowed her head. She took a deep breath, and stepped forward.

Before her foot touched the ground, a flash from the right sliced through the air and missed amputating her leg by inches. An icicle throwing star embedded itself into the frozen wall in front of her.

Hiei gasped and crouched down low, tense.

His eyes flicked from side to side, searching for the thrower. Footsteps from behind caused the warriors to whip around.

Approaching was a tall, muscular ice demon, three more icicle throwing stars gleaming in his hand. His spiky hair seemed to be made of frost and stuck straight up from his head. His skin was light blue. He was laughing.

"You think you can just waltz into the lair of Aisu the Ice Lord uninvited?" he scorned. He came to a stop a few paces in front of the pair and put his hand on his hip.

"Surely this isn't Aisu?" voiced Hiei aloud. "I can sense this demon's frail spirit energy from here. Why, I could slice him in two with my sword in a heartbeat."

"I am Hoshi," the demon announced, making a fist. "Consider me Aisu's personal assistant. It is my duty to kill trespassers before they have a chance to bother the mighty Aisu!" he yelled as he dashed directly toward the two warriors.

Hiei was like a flash of lightning. He unsheathed his sword and jumped over the demon. Hiei landed lightly on the other side and Hoshi stopped dead in his tracks. His eyes rolled back in his head and his body peeled apart from itself and fell to the ground, his black blood freezing in the mountain air.

"Heh," Hiei scoffed. "Told you I would cut you in half." He sheathed his sword and stepped over the body.

"I'm impressed," Kusabana said, her eyes trained on Hiei's sword. "You are much more powerful than I anticipated. I felt your spirit energy spike when you attacked the demon."

Hiei bowed his head to accept her compliment, and the two entered the cave side by side.