Youko opened one sleepy ice blue-green eye and looked around. Slowly he let his other senses reach out and try to determine what it was that woke him up. He stirred from his bed and pushed a naked demon woman out of his way. She stirred but went right on sleeping.
Just like the other women in his tent, along with some of his men. They had celebrated after a successful heist. Or rather the celebration was Yomi and Karasu's idea. He had his share of fun, but he didn't like the idea of being drunk and not in full control of himself. Not to mention the nasty hangover that came with it the morning after.
There it was again... That... something...
He got of his bed and had to step over a few sprawled bodies. He grabbed his clothes and put them on before getting out of the tent.
What is that?
He surveyed the state of his camp with distaste. It was unguarded. Even though he made sure that the place they picked to camp with was secluded, naturally guarded by the Makai plants that he had left in place and easily defendable he still wanted the guards to be at their posts.
He was going to talk to Yomi again on this. It was getting tiresome.
He approached one of the trees and placed his hand on its trunk.
What is it...?
The tree didn't know. It was confused. It didn't know what it... is.
Is it dangerous?
It didn't know also. It didn't understand what it is. A confuse jumble of images. Then the wind changed and he caught the faint fragrant scent of a human female.
A human? Female? Here?
They were too far from the Borders for a human to crossover by accident. His nostrils detected the faint whiff of power that came with the human scent. Ahh, that explained it... a power user, most likely a Spirit detective.
He moved forward in the direction of where the scent was coming from. His eyes had bled out to gold now. Human blood and flesh had always been a delicacy in the Makai world- they were the best type of food. Even more so if they were power users. Legends in the Makai world says that if a demon consumes a power user's blood they lived longer and get the power user's ability. Spirit Detectives were especially prized but they were also notoriously difficult to kill. He had run into a few in his line of work. Sometimes they were amusing. Sometimes they were annoying.
He broke into a run, a ghost in the darkness of the Makai forest.
Breakfast was going to be interesting.
She was lost in the sensations she was feeling. Things felt brighter. Sounds were more alive. You could hear and feel the sounds. Smell...was far more intense here. Everything, every stimulus could be savored not just through one sense but through all of them. Where had she gotten herself too now? She remembered wanting to go somewhere...free...to escape…and then she was here. Everything here was vibrant- not dull or muted nor suppressed.
Youko skidded to a halt just near the very edge of the forest and stared into the small grassy clearing.
Ten human years old - maybe less but definitely not more than 10.
There it was again-that faint whiff of power.
He'd met a few child prodigies sent by Reikai. And a few other clueless humans who wander in by accident. They never go all the way in and very few lived long enough to get into the heart of Makai. If she survived to get all the way in here from the Borders than she must be extremely powerful indeed. Reikai sure knew how to picked them-if she survived to live into puberty she was going to grow up twisted indeed. Come to think of it- he wouldn't mind waiting for her to hit puberty. By then she would have grown even more powerful... Would she still retain that innocence? He watched her reached for one of the flowers and sniff it. Or would she grow up jaded? Or crazy?
Either way, she would definitely grow up beautiful. She was at that interesting point where one can glimpse what the woman would be like- and that woman was very interesting indeed. If she grew up still innocent- he would enjoy taking it-in more ways than one. If she grew up jaded- he knew a lot of tricks to make those pretty purple eyes grow wide. If she grew up crazy - well then...
She was going to be a very interesting prey. Wonder how long it would take before he got bored with her?
Why had Reikai sent this child so deep into the Makai world? For surely she couldn't have just come here on her own... the trip alone from the Border to the edge of Makai world was more than enough to deter any grown human. Hell, most demons never even stray far from their own territories. She was either very stupid or very naive.
Or very powerful that getting here was a walk in the park.
He reconsidered. Nah.
Maybe just very lucky.
He sensed the demons coming before he could see them. He shrank back into the shadows. Things just got interesting. He was curious to see how this young spirit detective was going to handle it. The demons were definitely homing in on the girl. If she survived - he was going to wait till she's older before he took her on. If she didn't - then it simply means she wasn't worth his time after all.
He saw the way she paused from smelling the flowers. Good. She could sense them even from afar. Very few could do that. She also saw the curious look on her face. Oh not good. Curiosity was the last thing he expected to see on that face. Curiosity means you are not as defensive as you should be.
The demons burst into the clearing and every single one of them had a hungry look on their face. They were slightly brighter than the average demons it seemed because they didn't just rush in after seeing the youthfulness of the prey.
The girl fumbled for something on the grass and having found it, stood up slowly.
Blind?This one is blind!
He watched disbelievingly as she stood there with her walking stick.
That whiff of power was gone now. It was as if she had withdrawn that back deep inside her and now she was just a normal human. Oh he was so definitely going to wait for this flower to blossom. He stepped out from his hiding place.
The other demons looked at him warily.
"I saw her first!" one said upon seeing him.
The other demons objected to this and started arguing with each other as to who saw her first. Through it all he watched the girl curiously.
All chatter stopped and turned to the girl.
"I am in Makai."
"Yes," he answered her. Her voice was young but there was a tone of quiet authority to it. She spoke in her own language but he could understand her and she could understand them. That's one peculiar thing about Makai and Rekai - everyone had their own language but they could understand each other. Humans had more trouble about it. He'd learned that some detectives understand some Makai language and not others and only very very few have zero language issues.
"They want to eat me. "
"Pretty much. "
"You are waiting for something. You were here first."
He was surprised. He was sure he had hidden himself very well. He didn't show it on his face. "And what gave me away, young lady?"
"The wind told me. The wind tells me many things. "
An elemental power user? This is getting even more interesting.
"Besides...you all smell funny. " She wrinkled her nose.
He found this funny and started to laugh. The others weren't amused.
"So what are you going to do young lady? " Youko asked the girl.
"HEY! Stop ignoring us! "
"Depends on what everyone else is going to do," the girl answered.
The demons were looking a little confused now. Youko looked at them and shrugged, "Don't mind me. I'm just curious how this will all turn out. "
They attacked. Youko felt that sudden spike of power - like a flip has been switched on. One minute it was just a human girl there- the next it was... it was... What in Makai was that?
Her eyes had bled to gold but they still had that distant look that the blind usually had.
The world stood still. Literally. Everything was frozen in that instant. Time had stood still, but he wasn't. And she wasn't. He'd heard of chronomancers- extremely rare-- but he'd never heard of them selectively choosing who gets frozen and who didn't. And her eyes... he was told he was the only golden eyed being out there.
She turned to face him and slowly moved toward him. He quickly learned the walking stick was just a prop. She didn't need it. She stopped a respectful distance away from him.
"You're not like them."
He suddenly felt something very strong, very forceful coming from her, slowly focusing on him, narrowing on him. Her power washed over him. It wasn't threatening or challenging. He could feel curiosity. He felt that strange force pushed at him lightly. Testing.
"What do you mean?" He felt another push.
"Not demon. " She was measuring him up just as he was measuring her up. "Something else."
"So when are you going to release Time?"
And just like that Time started again. The demons hit the ground and found nothing. They looked around confused, but they weren't off guard for long. They lunged after her. He made his decision. Huge roots erupted from the ground and impaled the demons.
"Don't thank me. I'm just keeping you for myself." He watched her eyes went back to its lovely purple shade.
"You find me fascinating?"
"Yes. You didn't kill them."
"Why? They are just following their nature. Humans are food in your world. That's like saying humans should kill lions for killing the antelopes."
"They were going to eat you."
"But they didn't and I wouldn't let them." Spoken with a child's certainty. "I don't have to kill them to stop them from eating me you know."
"You're no ordinary fox spirit."
And then that gentle curious warmth focused into a high intensity laser beam and started to rip his psychic defenses. He gasped and it took all his strength to keep from stepping back. That power eased up as it encountered resistance but then it found something else and the realization came that something she had picked up from him had piqued her curiosity.
And then her power found a sweet spot in his psyche- and it was coaxing it out. And suddenly he was fighting her back. She had found the fox and was drawing it out.
"Stop it. " He growled. He could sense her single minded curiosity about the fox. The animal in him was responding to her at first hesitantly then it was running towards her before he had a chance to control it. It slammed hard on his body and then it was starting to claw itself out, trying to fit itself into his humanoid form. He groaned and closed his eyes and threw her off before she could force him to transform him into his fox form. He was not happy and stared at the girl. She was thrown a few feet away when he had slammed his psychic shields shut and then pushed back at the intruder.
"That was rude," his voice was cold. "I saved your life and you intrude on my privacy." Deep inside he was troubled. He'd done the same thing on wereanimals before - force them to turn furry, especially their kings. The Kings were always a challenge. They were kings for a reason but they always lost to him. And this little girl nearly forced him to turn into his fox form.
"I'm sorry." She did look and sound sorry. "It's that you aren't a wereanimal, not demon either but you have an animal in you, too. It's so fascinating!"
Aw, damnit he could understand that curiosity. He'd had that himself. He was probably as curious about her as she was about him right now. It made him suspicious. Was Reikai counting that this girl would make him drop his guard?
"Why did Reikai send you?"
"The Spirit World? They didn't send me. I don't even know how I got here."
She was either the best liar out there or she was telling the truth.
"I'm sorry Mr. Fox. I did not mean to intrude in your privacy."
"Youko. Youko Kurama."
"Pretty name." She smiled. Then her face twisted into pain. She uttered one painful gasp and passed out still twitching.
She heard murmuring. She was on a bed. It smelled nice. She had a dream that she was lying asleep on a huge fox's back, nestled warmly on its fur as it raced through the forest. She felt the smoothness of his movements underneath her that rocked her back to sleep. She stirred and realized she was on a bed, with warm furry blankets.
"Glad you're awake."
"Youko? Where am I?"
"In my tent. You passed out."
A look of dismay crossed her face. "Oh no, mami and papi will be worried if I don't get back!" She tried to struggle and get up. Strong firm hands pushed her back to the bed.
"You're not getting up yet, young lady."
"Am I your prisoner then?"
He paused and considered it.
"Mira is my name. You gave me yours, I gave you mine."
"You think so? I think it's ordinary. Boring."
She sensed someone else enter the room.
"Tsk, Youko...this is the first time you've gone for someone very young. Human too. You pick the strangest toys."
"What do you want Yomi?"
"Just came to look, is all."
"Boy you are grumpy today," Yomi actually pouted. "Ok, I'm not stupid I know when I'm not welcome. Hey kid, he's a heart-breaker. If he doesn't eat you first that is." He left the tent laughing.
"He's going to be blind like me soon."
He turned his attention back to her. "What do you mean Mira?"
"He's going to lose his eyes and become 1 of the 3 ruling lords of Makai"
Youko frowned a bit, "Who's the other 2?"
"Some guy with long hair who refuses to eat humans and a woman."
"There are no ruling lords in Makai."
"There will be... soon.. I think."
A seer... A chronomancer. Interesting.
"How far can you see the future?"
The girl shrugged. "I don't know... it comes and goes. It's more stable with my brother, but he doesn't tell."
Brother eh? Mhmm...it gets more interesting.
"Mira... it can mean mirror and future isn't it?"
The child looked up at him, smiling. "Hai!"
He ruffled her hair," You're cute."
"What? I thought girls like to be called cute?"
"I am a Princess!"
He laughed, "I think I will call you little Queen. My petite reine. You should have something to eat. It would make me a poor host if you get sick while staying with me."
"Yes my petite reine?"
"Am I pretty?"
He stopped just in front of the tent flaps. "Why do you ask?"
"Well am I?"
He turned to look at her earnest expression. "You are cute." She frowned. "I'll wait till you're 10 years older and then you ask me that question again."
She pouted and with a child's annoyance, declared, "Urgh. I'll make you all sorry for not calling me pretty!"
He couldn't help but laugh again as he left the tent leaving a sulking Mira behind.
Oh, I'm sure you will young lady... I'm sure you will, he mused with a smile.
Days pass and he found himself telling the little girl the name of the plants, which ones to avoid, which ones that are useful. Many a times she would surprise him with her insight on the possible uses of the plants. She was an eager and talented pupil.
The demons in her camp were uneasy in her presence and kept a respectful distance away from the little girl. Except for his lieutenants that is. Yomi was amused at the little girl and teased Mira repeatedly. That is, until Mira wrapped him up in vines in annoyance. The women on the other hand, seeing how the little girl had his favour, were tripping all over themselves to become her nanny in effort to gain Youko's favor.
"Kurama you are insane taking in that girl. Do you know what she did?!"
"You were being annoying. I admit considering doing that to you several times."
Yomi stared at him in shock, "You're kidding right? I'm your best buddy!"
"With poisoned spikes on the vines," Youko retorted in a calm voice and level gaze, effectively dismissing Yomi.
Yomi stared at him and shook his head, sighed and walked away muttering, "Fine. That... little treasure of yours will get you someday!"
Occasionally Youko would return with presents for the little girl, small things that he knew she might like, like that snow flower he found in one of their many excursions. She would reject the offers of treasures though scolding him for taking them from other creatures to which he would shrug and ignore her with a laugh. She would stomp off in frustation and then a few hours later he would be looking for her in the forest. Not that he was worried as she was more than capable to deal with any demons but it had become a game for them. He would hunt her and she would try her best not to be found. Though she could hide her power he could smell her. Each time he found her she would look up to him frustrated asking if there is some way she can smell not so human or disguise her scent. To which he would smirk and say, "I'll tell you when you are 10 years older." After which he would hoist her up on his shoulder and she would laugh and smile again, her annoyance forgotten.
"You haven't mentioned your parents or your family in a while now," he asked after one such trip into the forest.
"They told me to stay here for a while. That brother will come get me when things are safe for me to return."
He kept quiet. Sensing his unspoken question, she leaned over a bit.
"I saw them after you gave me something to eat that first day, in the In-Between. I told them about you."
"You did tell them I am a demon, right?"
"I told them you were an itan, with golden eyes and silver white appearance but that you are a fox."
He stopped in his tracks. The camp was a few more yards away. His heart started to ache at the word but he could not understand why.
Mira rested her chin on his head then nuzzled his hair. "You're like us more than you are like them you know," she said softly.
It started to rain. The girl hugged him tight. He tightened his grip around her, the pain in his chest started to dull, his mind reeling at her words.
It was a few minutes before he realized they were not wet despite the pouring rain.
He looked at the pretty girl sitting on his shoulder who smiled back cheerfully and innocently at him.
He blinked. He reached out to touch a nearby branch. It felt dry but it was clearly soaked.
"We're here but not here," the girl continued. "One of the many places that you can call In-Between."
He stared at the girl his heart beating hard. Oh... This... girl... that...power...? What... is she? She said he was more like them than... the demons...What..?
He started walking again before the questions overwhelmed him. He changed the topic as they neared the hidden camp.
"So why don't you do this when we play? I certainly wouldn't be able to smell you if you are in the In-Between."
The girl mused, "Well...that wouldn't be fair right? You can't jump to the In-Between..." she paused and was quiet for a long time before adding, "…yet"
He found himself woken up in the middle of sleep. There was a sliver of light on the tent flap and it was open. The girl was gone from his side. He had gotten used to her warmth, curled up next to him.
He looked around. She was nowhere in his tent but something felt odd. He stood up, went out and blinked at the scene before him.
The campsite was gone. So was the ground. He was standing in empty space or so it seemed. The moon was unbelievably bright and nothing else.
A young man stood there, still in his teens. He was tall with long dark hair the same color as the little girl and wearing a Chinese style outfit. The little girl was holding his hand and talking to him, crying. The 2 of them appeared to have what looked like a very intricate magic circle at their feet, lazily turning and overlapping with each other. The symbols look alien to his eyes but felt utterly familiar. The circle under the boy's feet was stable. The one under Mira's feet was brighter but unstable, unravelling where it did not touch the other circle.
He caught fragments of their conversation.
"... I am scared, onii-chan..."
"I know... and you are so brave..." the boy stroked her hair and dropped to his knees to hug her tight.
"My time will start moving again when I go back!" Youko had never seen such a panicked stricken terrified look on Mira's young face.
"I don't want to go yet...I don't want to disappear!"
"I don't want you to disappear too."
"But I have to go... don't I? I am not meant... to..."
The look on the young man's face was heartbreaking and he squeezed her tight. "I am sorry...so sorry...I am not yet strong enough...not powerful enough..."
" Mira?" Youko found himself speaking. "You don't have to go. If it is not safe for you, you can return to my side."
The young man was facing him and looked up from Mira's shoulder, a sad smile on his face. Mira still had her back turned to him and he could see the little girl wiping her tears.
"Youko-san," the girl said and turned to him smiling brightly now. " I get to say goodbye to you!" She ran and gave him a quick hug. Before he could react she was running away from him. There was a flash of light and now it was just him and the odd young man.
He smiled at Youko sadly.
"Brother, I presume."
"Clow." The man bowed deeply. "I thank you for taking care of her."
"Who are you...what are you? What did she mean when she called me an itan?"
A kind smile crossed the man's face, "I cannot tell you."
Sudden anger crossed Kurama's chest and he grabbed the young man's collar, knocking off his glasses in the process. "Tell me!," he snarled. The ground underneath them flashed brightly and the young man's circle expanded to enclose the 2 of them. Youko felt the energy. It was different but familiar at the same time, serving to madden him more since he could not recall what made it familiar.
"I am not the one to tell you." Clow said softly, holding his ground. "The Futures are entangled. I cannot tell. Only one thing is certain for now."
He let the boy go in disgust.
"Mira?" Youko asked. Clow nodded. "She's dying, isn't she?"
"That is one way of putting it." The boy looked at him oddly. "You have grown fond of my sister?"
Youko met his eyes and with level gaze, replied. "I found her… interesting."
"Ah, is that so," The boy looked up, folding his arms, gaze distant. "I wonder..."
Youko reached for a single strand of his silvery hair and plucked one. He wound it around a beautiful white rose he grew from one of the many seeds he kept on his person.
"White?" the brother asked curiously.
He looked at the white rose in his hand, the silver of his hair glinting underneath it. Why indeed this flower?
"It suits her," he heard himself replying and handed the rose to Clow.
Clow held it delicately, an enigmatic smile on his face, similar to little Mira. "Goodbye, Youko Kurama. Perhaps we will meet again." The boy turned around and started walking away.
"What happens to Mira now?"
The boy stopped, "You have already set things in motion with this little gift of yours. Be careful of your wish, Youko. Wishes are dangerous things..."
Around them, space appeared to split everywhere and multi-color ribbons shot out, crisscrossing in a messy chaotic flowing tangle. That was how it could only be described. There was a sound that seemed like wind blowing but not quite. It had the feel of a distant roar of a far off ocean smashing on a beach but sounded more like wind howling.
"I promised I would see her again when she was 10 years older."
The ribbons fluttered, shuddered. Clow was looking at them. More ribbons appeared adding to the chaotic patten, some getting more tangled and some appeared to be smoothing out only to tangle further on.
"Can you grant my wish then, Magician?"
There was silence. Then Clow spoke. The ribbons rippled again violently.
"That's quite a wish. Are you sure you're prepared to pay for it?"
Several ribbons started to fray and it sounded like paper tearing only the sound was magnified a thousand times.
"I cannot undo what must happen. I am not strong enough to stop her fate yet," Clow continued.
"Then let me meet her again. I don't care when or where. I have questions of my own to ask her."
"Are you certain?," Clow turned to face him, his face serious. "You must not have any doubts."
Kurama looked at the ribbons, "These are all the Worlds isn't it? All the Times, all the Realities, all the Existence... everything... I feel like I have seen them before. Each choice, decision we make... We affect them, change them. New worlds are born. Worlds die. I do not know how I understand but I do. This is the true In-Between as she called it. I feel like she has the answers that I seek. "
Clow sighed and smiled.
"Your wish then, Youko Kurama."
"I wish to meet my Queen again."
The magic circle underneath their feet flash brightly till he had to shield his eyes. There was a loud shrieking sound that seem to came from everywhere as some ribbons tore and disintegrated.
The last thing he heard before everything went black was Clow's soft words right next to his ear.
"You will see your Queen again…you have freed her from the endless loop."
Youko opened one sleepy ice blue-green eye and looked around. He had a headache. Slowly he let his other senses reach out and try to determine what it was that woke him up. He stood up and made his way out of his tent. It was early morning. Last night's heist had nearly gone to hell due to Yomi's stubborness.
"Kurama," Karasu stood beside him and spoke quietly. "You may want to speak to Yomi. He is getting to be a liability." Karasu paused and looked at him. "Are you alright?"
"I feel like we are forgetting something... someone..." He looked around. Nothing seemed amiss in the camp.
Karasu looked around then back at him, a quizzical look on his face. Youko took a deep breath and straightened up. "You're right. We'll deal with Yomi before he messes up our next group project."
A cold smile played on his lips as he greeted the new day.
In the Language of Flowers, white roses mean any or all of the following: Eternal Love, Silence or Innocence, wistfulness, virtue, purity, secrecy, reverence and humility. ( From Wikipedia: Language_of_flowers)
Hitsuzen, the idea that an action is inevitable because without it, other related events in the future could not happen. Therefore all decisions and actions are related, and there can be no coincidence, only hitsuzen. (From Wikia: XxxHolic)
Petite reine - French for little queen (Babel Fish)
Recommended Reading : Chaos Chronicles ZenpenGaiden by Dragon Lady Supreme. (www . fanfiction . net/s/5737950/1/Chaos_Chronicles_ZenpenGaiden)
You'll have to take away the spaces for the link to work.