This is a one-shot, just so you know. The story should explain everything, but if you have questions or trouble understanding any part of the story, let me know so I can rewrite it to prevent further confusion. Thank you! :D
One in a Hundred
Hiei zipped through the treetops above the other members of the Tantei who ran along the forest floor. Only a couple of hours ago Koenma had been briefing them on their newest mission.
"Just like the toddler to keep sending us on pointless errand runs", Hiei thought to Kurama.
"I agree that it is rather irksome that he still expects us to do random tasks out of the blue occasionally, Hiei" –Hiei snorted—"but we are his only trustworthy link to maintaining any semblance of peace among the three worlds", Kurama thought back reasonably.
To this thought Hiei remained silent, grudgingly admitting to himself that the fox was right. He always was, after all.
Earlier that day Koenma had called the Tantei into his office to discuss the possibility of an uprising in the wilder regions of the Makai. He had given the team instructions to go assess the situation and to take actions to stop the movement should they decide that it was a threat to the relative peace. Their journey, he had said, would take them far north to the lands of ice. After the rest of the boring general information, he had opened up a portal that would get them only a few hours distance from the location of activity.
Hiei was shaken from his thoughts when he heard the ever-annoying voice of Kuwabara.
"Guys, I think we should take a break!" Kuwabara called out between pants. "All this running is makin' me hungry!"
"Just a little bit of running and you're all worn out? C'mon, Kuwabara!" Yusuke taunted. "I ran for longer than this without any breaks just to get to Raizen's territory, and I still didn't complain as much as you do!"
"You shut up, Urameshi! Koenma assigned me to this mission too. I'm human, and humans need breaks!" the carrot-top argued.
"Oh, wait that's right. You are just human," Yusuke chuckled mockingly.
"Hey! What's that tone for, you punk?!" Kuwabara snapped scowling in Yusuke's direction, though it was slightly less effective with the visible fatigue on his features.
Kurama stepped in before the two could move their argument to the physical level.
"Kuwabara is right, Yusuke. We should take a break and eat something," the red head spoke. "I think that it would be best for all of us to be in top condition in case this mission turns out to be rougher than anticipated," he said thoughtfully, glancing at Kuwabara.
They all came to a halt by the side of the trail, Hiei in a low branch above them, and unpacked some of the snacks that Yukina had kindly placed in their packs, Yusuke grumbling all the while about how he hadn't even broken a sweat yet. The weather had become slightly chilly the farther they ventured into the mountains, which had added a little comfort to the heat of running such a long distance. However, this feeling was offset by the fact that the trail was making a slight incline the entire way; even Kurama was secretly glad for the break.
Kuwabara took a long swig of water from his canteen and leaned back looking at the sky. All of a sudden he let out a surprised gasp causing everyone to jerk in the direction of his gaze and fall into a fighting stance, Hiei landing on the ground to join them.
"Look at that!" Kuwabara said, pointing.
Deciding there was no immediate danger judging by the look of amazement in the man's eyes, they followed his finger which was pointing past the tree line. Three pairs of eyes narrowed, and one pair remained round as plates. There, suspended high above the ground like some eerie balloon, floated a monstrous mountain of ice. A floating glacier.
"Koorime," said Kurama in a soft tone.
Both Yusuke and Kurama exchanged looks and then glanced over to Hiei. Seeing his face remain stone-like and impassive save for the mysterious glint in his eyes, they turned back to marvel at the giant ice-block that they had not previously noticed through the denser parts of the forest.
"It's no wonder my darling Yukina-chan is so beautiful if she comes from an island as beautiful as that!" exclaimed Kuwabara in a high-pitched voice, which was reserved only for kittens and his 'darling Yukina-chan'. "I wonder what the ice-village is like?"
"Hn. You can't possibly get up there," Hiei remarked with a hint of bitterness in his tone. "It's too high, and a weak human such as yourself would never survive the subzero temperatures anyway. You would be literally frozen solid before you even reached the actual village."
"Sounds like a really happy place," Yusuke said sarcastically.
Odd, how although Hiei possesses a fiery youki, he inherited more of the koorime traits than his sister did, Kurama mused, remembering the kind and warm ice-maiden who was such a stark contrast to her brother's cold demeanor and frozen heart.
"Hey, Hiei," Kuwabara said after a momentary silence. "You looked for Yukina's brother for a while, right?"
Kurama and Yusuke sent worried glances in Hiei's direction preparing for a possible outburst from the fire demon. Hiei stood rigid, staring off towards the glacier, though clearly not seeing it at all.
"So you had to have gone up to the island before," Kuwabara continued, oblivious to Hiei's distress. "What's it like?"
Hiei faltered slightly.
"What?" He snapped. What the hell is he getting at?
"The island," Kuwabara replied, turning to face the fire demon. "What's the island like?"
Hiei stood clenching and unclenching his fist, still staring ahead, unseeing. Just as Yusuke opened his mouth to save Hiei, Hiei decided to speak.
"Snow," he said.
"Huh?" Kuwabara blinked. He hadn't really expected a real answer. Maybe a huff and an 'idiot', a full insult if he was lucky, but he hadn't actually thought he'd be answered with real information concerning his question.
"Snow," Hiei repeated, still refusing to look at Kuwabara. His voice quieted as he continued, "Snow and ice. A barren wasteland as far as the eye can see. Near-constant blizzards, treacherous landscapes freezing solid any who dare enter."
Silence. And then…
"But what about the people and the village?" Kuwabara enquired.
Hiei turned to him. He stared hard into those curious eyes. Perhaps Kuwabara was too naive or too stupid to realize the effect this conversation was having on the fire demon. Finally Hiei answered.
"As cold as the snow they live in," Hiei replied, a sharp edge to his voice.
When the carrot-top opened his mouth to tell Hiei to explain his answer, Yusuke made use of his loud nature.
"Stop talking about snow!" Yusuke said, slapping the back of Kuwabara's head.
"Ow! Dammit, Urameshi!" Kuwabara exclaimed firing up at once as the tension in the atmosphere was broken. "I wasn't even the one talking about snow! I was just asking about—"
But Yusuke cut him off.
"Yeah, yeah!" Yusuke said, waving a hand. "Look, it's already a little bit colder than I'd like without all the thoughts about freezing weather and giant floating ice-cubes. Besides, it's going to get dark soon, so we'd better get a move on if we're gonna make it to the bad guys' little hide-out while dragging your slow ass along!"
"Hey! What do you mean by that?!" Kuwabara shouted at Yusuke's already retreating back.
Kurama sighed and got up to follow Yusuke. "We aren't fighting 'bad guys', Yusuke. We're seeing if they wish to cause trouble," he muttered, though loud enough for Yusuke to hear.
"Good enough for me! Onward!" Yusuke cheered, punching a fist into the air.
Kuwabara grumbled as he finished gathering up the remainder of his snacks into his pack and ran to catch up with the other two team members, Hiei having already disappeared into the branches above.
"I'm going on ahead," the three ground-bound Tantei heard him voice in their minds. They all nodded in response and continued along the trail.
"Going on ahead, or going on a short detour?" Kurama questioned back.
Of course, he didn't receive an answer.
Hiei sped through the trees far ahead of the rest of his group. Why had he just started telling that simple-minded idiot about a subject that he never wanted to talk about? He couldn't even stand to be around Kuwabara! He was so weak…
…Five years ago, a little voice in the back of his mind finished. You have to admit that he has gotten strong enough that you would trust him with Yukina's life.
The little voice, also known as Hiei's severely abused conscience, was quickly beaten down. He had no desire to contemplate his actions further, so he concentrated on what lay ahead of him. He knew that the team would probably pass by the edges of the shadow cast by the glacier anyway, but for some unexplained reason he felt the need to be there first.
"…It's longing for your homeland," Mukuro's voice echoed in his mind, a reminder of what she had said to him at the Makai Tournament.
He snorted as he came to a stop, glaring upward at the belly of the glacier that hovered above him.
"Longing my ass," he told the memory.
Suddenly he caught a coppery scent on the wind. He sniffed again to be certain. There was no denying it, something had been injured here. Perhaps it was a sign of the activity going on at the camp the detectives were currently seeking. He stalked forward cautiously as he cast around for the source of the blood. Seeing nothing in plain sight, he turned to leave. Standing in the shadow of his hated people was making him increasingly irritated. He would return to the group to tell them of his suspicious findings, he decided.
He prepared to spring into the nearby trees, and stopped. That was when he saw it. There, beside some bushes. His breathing constricted as if water were filling his lungs, and his body couldn't decide what to do—run away, or investigate? Gods, he just wanted to run away… But he couldn't seem to do that. His body simply wouldn't listen to his begging mind.
Hiei couldn't tell how long he stood there looking at it. It felt like an eternity since he had last moved. He slowly began to inch towards it. He almost wanted to move faster, but he found that he no longer had any strength left in his legs. He came to stand directly over it. A bundle of cloth. Wrapped in wards.
Numbly, he sank to his knees just staring at it. It didn't cry or make any movement or sound. Not that it meant anything. Hiei was told that he didn't make any sound either when he was found, and had it not been for the sparkling jewel dangling from his grasp, the thieves might never have known he was alive, and certainly would never have taken him in. They had found him in a river. This one was on the ground.
He reached out a shaking hand and touched the cloth. It was cold. Not that that meant anything either. Hiei had been cold when the thieves had found him. The wards had kept his youki inside so that the ice maidens would not be burned. Then, the water had soaked him, not to mention that the atmosphere was always cool. If the thieves had not looked inside, they would have thought he was dead. But they had found Hiei in a river. And, again, this one was on the ground.
He held his breath has he lifted the cloth, torn from the fall, to view the child beneath. There he froze. A gruesome sight lay within the bundles of cloth, injuries from a rapid descent from the high cliffs to collide at high speeds with the earth that left the child broken like some blood-filled china doll. So much gore was concealed by the wrappings, all caused by this act of infanticide. In the midst of the chaos inside lay a single hiruiseki stone attached to a delicate chain. The gem was a pure color of blue, but spattered with blood.
He swallowed at the bile gathering in his mouth as he tried to tear his eyes away, finally managing to cover the infant back up. He was shaking from head to toe now, attempting to stand on his legs that wouldn't work right. He stumbled away, panting as if he had run for days at full speed. Dizziness fell over him like a hazy mist as he backed up another step.
Voices. He felt that someone was calling him. But who? All he knew right now was that he had landed in a river. He had landed in a river, but this one had not.
Kurama sighed as they continued down the narrow, winding path through the trees. If only he could convince his companions to get along for two seconds. His suffering wouldn't be long though as he could sense Hiei waiting for them up ahead.
"We're gonna pass right under the Glacier!" Kuwabara squealed excitedly. "Wait till I tell Yukina-chan that I got to be so close to her home!"
Just as Kuwabara was about to make some bold declaration of love for his dearest Yukina-chan, Yusuke accidentally on purpose bumped shoulders with the carrot-top causing him to lose his balance, tripping to fall on his face.
"You'll pay for that, Urameshi!" Kuwabara yelled as he pushed himself off the ground and lunged at the detective.
"I'd like to see you try!" Yusuke shot back, catching Kuwabara's fist and putting him in a headlock.
Kuwabara managed to throw Yusuke off and the two got into a fist-fight for a few seconds before Kurama said, "Oh, look! We're about to pass under it."
The two boys stopped fighting immediately, vowing to finish the argument later like 'real men', and the group continued their run.
"Hey, there's the shrimp!" Kuwabara pointed up ahead.
"Yo, Hiei! You find anything?" Yusuke called. As he expected, Hiei didn't turn around or even acknowledge that he had been spoken to, though Yusuke just shrugged it off.
"Wait," said Kurama quietly, holding his arm out in front of the other boys' path.
"Kurama?" Yusuke questioned, falling serious. "What's going on?"
"Something's not right," Kurama replied, continuing to stare at Hiei.
The other boys followed his gaze until they landed on the black-clad figure. Kurama was right, of course. Something was definitely wrong to cause the normally stoic and strong demon to stand shaking. Cautiously the three boys made their way over to Hiei.
Kurama went to put a hand on Hiei's shoulder.
"Hiei? What's wrong?" Kurama asked softly.
Hiei's head snapped around to look at the kitsune with wide eyes before slowly letting his gaze drift back towards where he had been staring before as if magnetized. There was a collective gasp at the sight of the bundle lying on the ground.
"What's that, you guys?" Kuwabara asked in a quivering tone. His comrades' actions were making him nervous.
"A baby," Hiei whispered.
Kuwabara's eyes widened as he looked back and forth between Hiei and the pile of cloth not too far away. How odd… Kuwabara had guessed that the short demon had seen a lot of scary things in his lifetime, but to be scared of a helpless infant?
"Well, shouldn't we go help it, then?" Kuwabara asked, making his way past the rest of the frozen Tantei.
As he passed Hiei, the fire demon clutched Kuwabara's wrist in a vice-like grip preventing the human from walking any further. He looked back in surprise. Hiei had never touched him before except for a punch or some other violent act against him, but now here he was clinging to him. Gosh the guy is acting so weird today…
"C'mon, Hiei! I'm not just going to—" Kuwabara began, but he was cut off by a look from Kurama.
"Is it alive, Hiei?" the fox asked softly.
All eyes fell to the fire demon as he made a small noise and gave a jerky shake of his head. Yusuke placed a hand on Hiei's shoulder and nodded to Kurama while the fox stepped out from the shadow of the Glacier and made his way over to the bundle on the ground to inspect it. The rest of the Tantei trailed behind him, though they did not come to stand directly over it as Kurama did. The fox knelt down and lifted the wrappings enough for him to see what was inside, his face the same calm mask that it had been since they caught up with Hiei.
"Kurama?" Yusuke said, his hand still placed firmly on Hiei's shoulder, Hiei's hand still gripping Kuwabara's arm as if he had forgotten how to make his fingers let go.
"I'm afraid that Hiei is correct, Yusuke," Kurama replied in a solemn tone. "He did not survive."
"He?" Kuwabara questioned. "You barely looked. How do you know?"
"I will not lie to you, Kuwabara," Kurama said, peering over his shoulder at the human. "I cannot bring myself to look it over thoroughly. A deceased infant is a tragedy, but there are not words for the manner in which this child was killed. However, I do not need to examine the situation much to know that this child was male, given the location and the apparent manner of death."
"K-killed?" Kuwabara stuttered, looking back to the rags in shock. "I don't understand. Who would kill an innocent little baby?"
"I have a pretty good guess. Did Yukina ever tell you how she and her brother were separated in the first place? Did she tell you why she had to search for him, or why she was having trouble finding him?" Yusuke asked, looking up towards the glacier above them which glistened innocently in the sunlight.
"Yeah, she said…" Kuwabara's eyes widened as he seemed to come to a realization. "She said that he was thrown out of the village. She said that he mother's friend Rui thought that if he survived he would seek revenge. Oh, God… "
Kuwabara turned his eyes towards the pure ice that hung ominously above them.
"I-I didn't know… I didn't know she meant that he was literally thrown out!" he gasped. He returned his look towards the rags on the ground. "And they did the same thing to that one, too? If that's what happened… H-her brother really must be dead like so many people told her," he said sadly.
Kurama, Yusuke, and Hiei all exchanged glances and then stared at the ground, Hiei finally relinquishing his hold on Kuwabara's wrist when it became obvious that Kuwabara had no intention of going to look at the child.
The team stood there in silence for a while. Then, Kurama took a seed from his red locks and placed it on top of the little bundle.
"How sad," thought Kurama. "There's not a carrion bird in the sky or a scavenging animal on the ground even when the scent of blood should have attracted them long ago… It seems that even they will not touch a forbidden child."
The seed sprouted and began to consume the infant while Kurama stood and turned towards the rest of the team. When the plant had finished its meal, it bloomed. The only evidence that a child of the Koorime had been there was the blood-stained tear gem laying amongst the blossoms, forever protected by the death plant.
"Hiei," Kurama said, placing a comforting hand on the koorime's shoulder as the group began to leave the scene behind them. He had just said a name, but the message was clear: Will you be alright?
"There is only one river near here," Hiei told the kitsune. "It's only about twenty feet wide. From that height, what would the chances be?"
Kuwabara looked confused, Yusuke appeared to try to make a connection between the subject and the infant, and Kurama gave a slight smile.
"If I were to estimate," he said, looking down at his friend, "I would say about one in a hundred."
Hiei nodded his head in a satisfied way, though he did not shoot off into the trees like he normally did. He decided to remain on the ground with his friends for a while.
For the rest of the journey Kuwabara contemplated the scene beneath the glacier. Was it true that someone as sweet and innocent as Yukina had come from a place where women tossed their own male children off of cliffs? Would Yukina do such a thing if she had a male child?
No! He shook his head angrily. Yukina-chan was always so sad about her brother's exile. She left because she wanted to find her brother, because she loved him. Kuwabara knew that if Yukina became pregnant with a male child, she would never venture back to the glacier. She had nothing left for her there, and she would not allow them to take another family member from her. She had told him so when he had asked to marry her.
He looked down at Hiei walking alongside them. Had he known all along that her brother was probably dead? Yet he had searched when Yukina asked it of him. Still it was strange to find that Hiei, the hot-headed fire demon who could kill an army of demons without blinking an eye, would be so affected by one little death of someone he didn't know. Kuwabara couldn't help but smile at knowing that the little fire demon did have a heart.
Kuwabara saw Hiei's eyes shift to look up at him, and for a moment his heart dropped from his chest. He had always known they were red, of course, but he hadn't noticed that they were that shade of red. The ruby color that was the same and his dear Yukina-chan's eyes.
"What are you looking at, you fool?" Hiei asked, glaring at the human who had been staring at him for longer than necessary.
"Gah, um… N-nothin'," Kuwabara replied, looking ahead again. Yes, so like his Yukina-chan's eyes, but in the place of softness and gentleness were harshness and fire.
When he felt the penetrating stare turn away from him, he chanced another glance at the fire demon. Hiei had black hair, but at second glance one realized that it was really a very dark shade of blue which could be seen when light bounced off of it.
He snuck one more glance at the little demon and saw two necklace chains hanging around his neck mostly concealed by his shirt. Of course one of them was Yukina-chan's, he remembered. She had mentioned leaving it with Hiei because she said something about Hiei needing it more than she did. But Hiei had an identical chain right next to it…
"Haha! Stop being silly, Kuwabara! It could be anything," Kuwabara thought to himself. Still, he could not seem to shake from his mind Hiei's many resemblances to Yukina. The face shape, eye color, height… Hiei was always so protective of her. He nearly blew a fuse when Kuwabara had asked for her hand in marriage, but Kuwabara had always assumed that Hiei was just jealous. And maybe the little fire demon was jealous… just a different kind of jealously. Perhaps Kuwabara would have reacted the same way if Hiei all of a sudden showed up and proposed to Shizuru. Yes, Kuwabara decided, he would have blown a fuse too.
Woah, wait! Back up! Had he just considered that the shrimp might be Yukina's missing brother that she had specifically told Hiei to search for? There was no way that sweet, kind Yukina-chan could be related to such a cold and violent person such as Hiei. Was there?
Kuwabara thought back to the infant that had been thrown from the floating island of ice. No, Yukina's brother had to have been killed by a fall from that height just like the baby he had seen today. No one, not even Hiei, could survive that if they were just a baby.
"A river near here… thirty feet wide… what are the chances… one in a hundred…" Kuwabara heard in the back of his mind. One in a hundred chance for survival… Had Yukina's brother been that one in a hundred? It was possible, according to Kurama who was never wrong.
Hiei had brought up information that no one else should know. He had also been far more shaken by the sight of the infant than the rest of the team. Could it be?
He watched as Hiei and Kurama had a quiet conversation ahead of him.
But if it was true, then how come he told Yukina that her brother was dead? He shook his head. If Hiei is withholding information, he must be doing it for what he considers best for Yukina… not that that made much sense, seeing as the whole reason she left the island was to search for her brother. He would have to bring the subject up with Yukina, though he did not know how to tell her without hurting her… He would cross that bridge when he came to it, he guessed.
For now, he wouldn't worry too much about it. Just being together as a team again, no matter for how short of a time it would be was too good to ruin with starting a fight over touchy subjects.
And so the Tantei passed out of the shadow of the glacier entering back into the warm sunlight and continued on their mission.
That's the end. Yes? No? Please review!