Shinobu.

He was so pure. Like a sword, he was pure, slicing opposing forces apart without hesitation or flaw, as if it was what he had been born to do, and, like a sword, brilliantly mirroring the world from his smooth, bright face. And the back of the blade was flat, with innocent round eyes and a gentleness that could not even understand being tempted to do wrong. Like a sword, he was pure.

And so what happened to him, what became of him, is my fault. That the reflections in the blade are warped and twisted because the metal was retempered in too hot a flame; that the cutting edge has fractured and split into jagged pieces, and that even when the old clean line of the blade restores itself it is no longer straight. My fault. Because he was a sword, a weapon, and I was the one who used him. I am the only one who can be blamed for breaking that sword. And because he was a person…because he was a person….

He was too pure, and I didn't try to prepare him for the world—didn't see what a terrible discrepancy there was between the world he lived in and the one that really exists, wouldn't have realized the danger of it if I had. He broke, and I still didn't realize it, even though the signs of it were everywhere. I was responsible for him, and I let him down completely.

And it's probably completely right that Yusuke has no respect for that whatsoever. Would he thank me for looking after his peace of mind, and hasn't he got the same job Shinobu had? (He doesn't, not really, hasn't had to do a fraction of the killing because I can learn, and Shinobu wasn't Yusuke.) Does it make any sense to him, to hold one person responsible for what another person does, barring mind control? (No, he's too simple.) And aren't I being a baby about it?

Well, Yusuke is pretty pure, too, in his amoral cockamamie way, even if that's pure mess. He can barely handle abstracts, just the opposite of a person who runs on them, and so he's been proud of being a human without feeling the need to bother hating the other party, and he's not even tempted to feel existentially threatened now that it turns out he isn't human at all. He pretty much divides the world into different categories of things he can punch, plus a couple of categories of things he can only yell at.

And then he tries to punch some of those, too. Like death.

The fact that he could actually hit us, once he died—not to mention that, now, he could probably seriously injure my father if they fought—makes that attempt no less ridiculous. Idiocy is a dangerous form of purity, but…if he didn't quite break when he fought Toguro, and if he didn't fall to this…I don't think he ever will. He might…become corrupted. I can think that now, away from him, although face to face it doesn't even occur to you because of how strongly he is who he is. It's true, he could lose his strange mottled purity to vague bitterness or boredom or just spending too long steeped in demon culture, and…I'm ready for that. Yusuke falling. It will just mean he's not Yusuke the way he once was, and might even mean a few bodies, but it shouldn't mean anything too terrible. Too world-shaking. Because I don't think he'll ever break.

Not even if someone tortures Kurama or Yukina to death in front of him. Not even if Kuwabara or his Keiko betrays him to his death. Not even if somebody he thought he could trust eats his children. He might very well kill again—he killed youkai under my command when he was only fourteen, and if humans manage to do anything that he would be willing kill them for, now…if they cross such a line with him I am not sure I would defend them if I could—but he will not…break.

I have told Kuroko that. I believe it. Spoke to her for the first time in twenty years to say so, but I don't think she was moved. He is no longer what he was, and too little like her. I know that. I am a little sorry. But I do not fear it, as Sanada Kuroko does.

She…was not pure as either of her successors were. She was never an absolute. She was merely a person, a woman, human, a wielder of her own power who discovered her real self more with every year she worked under me, and then was able to set the job aside and make a new life, better if stranger than she would have had before. Not a force. Not a power driven by fate. Nothing wonderful and terrible. Merely powerful, and a little wild, and sane in spite of the power and the wildness.

I do not think I will find another like her.

Any more than I could find another Shinobu, or another Yusuke.

If I draw another human child into this fight—fight which will never end, even if all the rules have changed, and I have succeeded the name 'Enma' without qualifiers and must master the reluctant of the Reikai, and the demon world is playing with a new form of politics from the hand of the monster of certainty I helped create out of a stupid, self-hating boy who overset his fate without thinking…. If I ever revive this project, this reikai tantei experiment that has borne such strange fruit, I will need to find such a person first.

Such a strength. Someone brimming with kindness who can still bring themselves to kill at my word. Someone with eyes to see, because I no longer trust myself to do their understanding for them. Someone better than the three that have gone before.

I doubt I will ever find them.

I still believe I was right about Yusuke. I was right about Kuroko. And for all I did so badly by Shinobu, it was his fate to fight, even without my hand on him. But I should have protected him. I stood by Yusuke when he needed me. I will stand by his whole world for many years to come, as I always meant to do, but now I…understand. What they deserve of us. It is more than rules and barriers.

I will have a son of my own someday. And I will teach him, as my father never taught me. I will teach him that what we owe the living world is more than a duty. It is a trust. And we must care.

Yusuke was right. I have stopped teething.

Now it is time to be king.


Set in manga canon immediately after Koenma's coup d'etat, which happened during the Three Kings arc. Like, his dad is probably getting dragged off to jail right now-ish. References are mostly to events in the climax of the Sensui/Chapter Black arc. The Spirit Detective thing seems to have started out as a side project of a terminally bored thousand-year-old infant, but it ultimately changed his life and, in the manga, the regime in charge of the afterlife. Which is interesting.

The fact that the psycho-terrorist religious-extremist resistance that is going to spring up against him in a few years wear keffiyeh for no reason except stereotype is a less cool thing, and that Togashi tried to fob the history of demon aggression off on Enma's propaganda belongs in the dustbin of nonsensical discontinuity. But the coup was neat. Review?