"What is he doing down here?"
The ogre to whom Koenma was addressing himself instantly became nervous--as well he might. "He--he said you told him to come here, Lord Koenma, sir. He said you sent him to look something up."
Koenma leveled a glare, not at the ogre, but at Kurama. "I said nothing of the sort."
The redhead didn't even turn to look at him. "Didn't you?" he asked vaguely, still looking intently at the monitor screen. "I could have sworn I heard you mutter something about feeling free to go down to the observation area. Just as I was leaving."
Koenma ground his teeth slightly. It's my own fault. Never, ever trust a thief who offers to show himself out. Out loud, he said, "Well, now that we've cleared the matter up, you can go."
Kurama finally turned to look at him; there was an expression on his face that was part triumph, and part something Koenma couldn't name. "You might want to see what I've found first."
Koenma ground his teeth again, dismissed the ogre (who fled the scene gratefully), and came over to look at the viewscreen Kurama was standing next to. A viewscreen that worked almost exactly like the one in his office, had taken thousands of years to learn how to build, and was worth more than the entire country of Japan. Koenma had summoned Kurama to his office to inform him that, since the Maze Castle mission had been successful, he and Hiei would be working with Yusuke permanently--not so Kurama could make use of his resources.
"Who is she?" Koenma asked dismissively, looking at the figure Kurama had evidently been going to great lengths to locate.
"She's an ice maiden. If I'm correct that there's only one missing ice maiden roaming around human world, then her name is Yukina. She appears to be in some distress." Kurama glanced up from the screen to Koenma's face, and a slightly harder edge entered his tone. "Now, aren't you glad you told me to help myself to the use of your observation room? Looks like a rescue mission waiting to happen."
Koenma had felt the color drain from his face when Kurama said ice maiden; but now, he crossed his arms defensively. "We can't go rescuing demons who willingly cross into human world. Usually we arrest them."
"An ice maiden--"
"If she had been kidnapped, I would have heard about it. I watch the ice world very carefully. They have reported no one missing."
Kurama paused. "Interesting," he said softly.
"I agree. If one of their own is in our world, but they didn't report her missing--"
"That's not what I mean. I just..." He trailed off, but Koenma had the impression it was theatrical. "I never believed all the demons who claim that spirit world is only interested in protecting humans from us, and wouldn't lift a finger to help a demon in peril. I always thought the purpose of spirit world was to create an impartial balance between the other two worlds. I suppose that was naïve of me."
All this was said very pleasantly, but Koenma felt his face flush anyway. "Most demons don't need rescuing from most humans."
Kurama gestured at the screen. "And yet."
"You don't know for certain she's in distress, anyway."
"I assure you she is."
"Do you know her? Yes, of course, you gave her name. What's she doing in human world?"
"Being held captive, apparently."
"Don't be smart with me. If you want me to do something about this you'd better share what you know."
"I know that an ice maiden named Yukina left the ice world some time ago and has not been heard from since. I know that an ice maiden's tears are extremely valuable and thus ice maidens are extremely vulnerable to capture and abuse. I know that if word gets out that you knew an ice maiden was enslaved and you did nothing about it, you will have a minor riot on your hands. I know if word gets out that you knew this particular ice maiden was enslaved and you did nothing, her brother will kill you. And I know that if you don't do anything, I will be sure the word gets out."
Kurama leaned back against the equipment, looking so nonchalant that Koenma was certain he had dropped that bit of information on purpose. "Are you familiar with the ice maidens' prophecies concerning a forbidden child?"
"Yes. Some rubbish about a boy child born to an ice maiden that would destroy them all--" Koenma paused, his brow furrowed. "There was such a birth not too many years ago, as a matter of fact. But the child was killed immediately."
"Your informants need some work."
"...So, what you're trying to tell me is that this Yukina is the sister of the forbidden child. And that he survived. And cares what happens to her. Why hasn't he rescued her?"
"He doesn't have access to your excellent equipment here."
Koenma struggled to put the pieces together. So Kurama was acting as someone else's agent, searching for the girl--doing a favor, maybe, or under orders, working for somebody. Either way, he had come down to the observation room with the express purpose of finding her.
And yet--he was deliberately telling Koenma all about it, instead of leaving to give the information to his friend or associate. What could that mean? Koenma looked at Kurama, and decided it was time for a bluff. "So, go tell him what you saw. Leave me out of it."
"It's your job," Kurama said, his eyes flashing slightly. "I thought you would welcome the opportunity to show demon world that you would protect one of their own."
"If this brother of hers is going to go rescue her anyway, once you tell him where she is--"
"I have no intention of telling him where she is. If I did, the humans in the area would be massacred. Then you would be forced to send Yusuke after her brother. I assure you it will be easier on everyone involved if you send Yusuke directly to the girl instead."
"You're not telling me everything you know."
"And yet my reasoning is sound."
"Who is he?"
"A person you don't want Yusuke to fight."
"I don't believe you," Koenma said. "I have tabs on all the powerful demons in human world. And you haven't been in contact with anyone who isn't in human world."
"You must believe me," Kurama said, with muted intensity. "You are likely to lose Yusuke if you don't."
"I told you, I have tabs on everyone that's powerful enough to kill--"
"I didn't say anything about Yusuke dying. I meant he won't listen to you any more. You are aware he barely listens to you now." Koenma scowled, but he couldn't refute the point. Kurama continued with the same quiet intensity. "Force my hand and I promise you, the team you just cobbled together will shatter. Send Yusuke after the girl. You have no reason not to."
Koenma took a step back and crossed his arms. "Except that you're telling me to, with a great deal of force and without telling me why. And that, Kurama, makes me nervous."
Kurama didn't say anything. "Why don't you want Yusuke and the girl's brother to fight?" Koenma pressed.
There was another pause before Kurama answered. Koenma could sense his decision to be truthful--could sense that for the first time in this conversation, Kurama was saying more than he had intended to. "Because the last time they fought, Yusuke only survived due to my intervention. And because they've become friends since then. If you order Yusuke to track down and arrest a friend, I don't know if he'll listen. If he does, I don't know if he'll survive. Either way, your team is lost."
Koenma felt as though he were suddenly rooted to the floor. Hiei… All the prophecies that he knew about the forbidden child came crashing over him, along with everything he knew about Hiei, matching up and making Kurama's claim so very, very obviously true. "So," Kurama said casually. "Would you like to tell Hiei you aren't going to rescue Yukina, or shall I?"
"You--you do nothing," Koenma said fervently. "Just keep your mouth--no, better, you stay here. Where I can keep an eye on you and you can keep an eye on Hiei. He can't know. He can't be allowed to kill those people--you're absolutely right, it has to be Yusuke, but we can't let Hiei know what he's doing--but Yusuke has to know who she is, or he won't take it seriously--"
"Perhaps you should send Yusuke a message?" Kurama suggested. "One that Hiei won't care to take a look at." Koenma nodded vigorously. "Oh, and one more thing. If Hiei finds out how you learned about his identity, you will regret."
Kurama's tone was just as casual as it had been before, but Koenma had no doubt that his life had just been threatened. "Understood," he managed.
"Good." Kurama gestured to the door. "Then let's get to work on that message."