Thanks very much for the feedback guys, I was pleasantly surprised. I still need your thoughts on the title! Quite late on the update. I've had this typed up but as always, real life gets to me and then things get uploaded late. As I said in AiDT, it's vacation for me, so that means updates! A possible Shika/Ino one-shot that I've had laying around and needs editing.
Anyway, this story isn't really going to be my usual light-hearted kinda thing. It's going to be slightly more dark, so bear with me. It's going to be sort of difficult for me to write Botan this way, but you need to keep in mind that she's locked in a camp and the world as she knew it basically ended a year ago. She'll still be Botan, just less happy. Also, the scenes are all going to be character rotation. I plan to keep my focus on Hiei and Botan as usual, but expect to see a bit of everyone else too. If they aren't in one chapter, they will most likely show up in the next. I also attempt to keep crude language out of my writing, but do expect to see it in this story quite a bit.
The Big Bang: Fast Forward
Wincing as she was thrown back into her cell and hit the cold, dark floor, Botan huffed back over her shoulder at the man slamming the door shut and shuffled to the corner. Wrapping her arms around her dirty legs, she sullenly glanced over to the other corner of the cell where another girl had been placed with her a few days ago. The other girl didn't talk much, and Botan had become just fine with that. It was never good news to get close to anyone here, and as a ferry girl she'd done rather well emotionally distancing herself from most of the souls she delivered. This was the fourth cell mate she had, and probably not her last. Not many stayed very long in this camp. They either died from exhaustion, were killed for disobedience, or were bought by another camp. From what she knew, this was hardly the worst place to be in, but it definitely wasn't the best. She could only pray that her friends weren't put in a place worse than this. Especially the girls, they didn't deserve this. Nobody did.
Fighting back tears at the thought of her friends, Botan stared longingly at the door. She was so lucky when she got placed, her and Hiei had somehow managed to stay together. Right now he was on the other side of the camp where they kept all the males. He managed to look out for her in this terrible place somehow. Their camaraderie was still odd to her, but invaluable. She knew he probably still hated her, but he reminded her of a year ago, when she'd been so happy; when the world wasn't a mess. When she could fly the skies happily and feel the warm sun on her skin and the wind blowing through her hair, when she could look forward to seeing her friends in the Living World, when her biggest problem was Koenma not doing his paper work.
They were stuck together in this place, and she was sure out of honor Hiei kept her from dying. He was her only hope, and he was always looking for a way out - Hiei was nobody's slave and he never would be, he would bow to no one. Truthfully, it was amazing he was even alive here. He was disobedient and angry, and despite the shackles they placed on everyone here to keep anyone with a significant amount of power from doing harm (or anything, really - some days she could barely lift herself up from the crushing weight the shackles pushed upon her, and she was far from powerful), they would rather not fight him. She suspected they had some other reason for keeping him around, but she didn't really know. She didn't know much of anything - she didn't even know if her friends were alive right now.
Shaking her head, Botan pushed that thought out of her mind. This place was depressing, if she let those kinds of thoughts stick with her, she doubt she'd be able to keep going. Many were swallowed up by their own misery here and slowly their heartache would eat away at them. She couldn't let that happen. One day, Hiei would get them out of here, and they would find their friends. But sometimes it was so hard to keep her faith. It was already a year, and she heard nothing about them from the guards gossiping. The last time she'd seen them was when they had all woken up, in their shackles, in a large truck full of crying people. The boys had fought so hard to get them out of there, but in the end they were just over-powered because of the restraints put on them. Soon they arrived with more people, all pushed together in a large crowd. At the front of the crowd of fearful, angry, and confused humans and demons alike, there was a raised platform with humanoid beings on it. The people around were so loud she could barely make out what they were saying, but when the people were separated again and taken away it became apparent that they were all being sold. When she and the her friends began to get split up between people, Yusuke frantically did his best to call out to stay together. Kurama, eyes narrowed, told them to hold on to each other and not let go.
Pulled into large, separate groups, they were all examined and dragged off to a different truck to be taken away. Botan vaguely remembered the tears running down her face as Hiei let her dig her nails into his coat, scared to death he would make her let go, but he didn't. She had seen Kurama, Shizuru, and Keiko had been placed together, and Yusuke and Yukina. She'd lost Kuwabara in the mass of people, she couldn't even find his bright orange hair as she was placed into the back of a different truck and driven away. She worried about Kuwabara the most these days; he had nobody there to remind him to keep pushing on.
Blinking as another woman was thrown into a cell near by, the ferry girl shuddered and backed even further into the dark corner she was in. The guard was Kisho, and he was known for his cruelty among the women here. She was lucky to rarely get on his bad side, for he had no problem handling the weaker girls with his fists or forcing himself upon those he thought of as "trash". The guards did a lot of terrible things here she tried not to think about. As he passed by, she let out a shaky breath. She needed to get out of here. She was dirty, hungry, scared. Like everyone else. And these shackles made her so tired, it was hard to do anything. One day they'd figure out how they worked and get them off. And one day she'd find out what happened to Spirit World. She just hoped it was sooner rather than later.
Yusuke wiped sweat off of his brow, the heat and the shackles beginning to drain him. When he'd been placed in this camp, he'd been put on mining duty. Everyone had been given their orders for the rest of the duration of their stay. Right now, he was deep under the ground in Demon World, in mines as hot as Hell itself. Mostly they only placed demons in such conditions, since the humans couldn't survive the heat, but being half-demon his skin was able to sustain the harsh temperatures. The guards kept a keen eye on him specifically, and it pissed him off. If he didn't have these stupid restraints they'd be dead. The guards were strong, and they didn't have anything holding back their powers, but Yusuke knew with his own power and the rage building inside over the past year, he'd kill them in an instant. Making him do their shit. Intentionally saying shit to piss him off. Trying to beat the shit out of him because they knew he couldn't do anything back. Taking over the fuckin' world. Pft, yeah right. He wasn't gonna let none of that slide. Yep. As soon as he got rid of these damn cuffs, he'd rip them all to shreds.
As he lifted his pick axe to slam it into the wall he'd been assigned to, the heel of a boot slammed into his back and sent him face-first into the stone before him. Lifting a hand to his mouth, Yusuke wiped the blood from his lips and snarled, "Oh, hell no. I am so sick and tired of your bullshit!"
Not giving a damn about the restraints on his arms, Yusuke threw his axe to the side and stood up before pulling his arm back and smashing his fist as hard as he could into the guard's face. The man crumpled to the ground and the other guard pulled a device out of his pocket and pointed it at Yusuke before pressing the red button on it multiple times. Instantly waves of painful energy washed over him and he was forced to his knees, breathing hard with the urge to throw up.
"Not so tough now, are you, boy?" The man laughed, standing over him. Yusuke slammed a clenched fist on the ground in frustration at being so weak, so unable to do anything. The guard laughed mercilessly, taunting him even further. If only he could get out of the shackles... another, more powerful shock struck his body as the man pressed the button and held it down, and Yusuke's knees gave out, leaving him on the hot surface of the mines. The man pressed it again and again, and the ex Spirit World detective had no idea how long he was on the ground writhing in pain, but it felt like eternity. Finally, he stopped and walked away. The man he'd punched laughed and laughed and taunted him as he laid there, not even strong enough to lift his head. He could see some of the other people in the mine staring, quietly watching his pain and thanking whatever gods were left that it wasn't them. When the laughing finally stopped the guard looked around and kicked Yusuke's side before turning to the rest of them, "Let this be a lesson to you all. You're nothing; that's all you will ever be while you're here. For the rest of your sad, sorry lives, you will be nothing but dirt under my boots. Don't attempt to be anything other than what you truly are - and that is worthless."
With that, he walked away and everyone went back to their work, none coming to help Yusuke and making sure to stay as far from him as possible.
Shizuru glanced up at the sky, noticing the dark starting set in. Putting down her basket, she nodded to Keiko. Quickly she slid into the high grass of the field and into the shadows. It was easy to get lost at night, but she'd been working in the fields so long she knew exactly where she was going. It had become apparent after the first time she tried to sneak away to find Kurama that the shackles they were forced to wear were not able to track their movements. As restraining, tiring, and annoying as the shackles were, they were not perfect, and that was going to be the first step to the downfall of whoever the hell was running this place. Once every few days when the guards switched shifts, Keiko would cover for Shizuru when it was time to turn in their pickings and Shizuru would meet with Kurama at the edge of the high fence of their camp. Unfortunately, if anyone touched the fence, the shackles they wore would instantly shock them and alert the Warden, who would put whoever tried to escape to a horrible death. They did not dare try to escape yet. Not after watching the last few who tried burned alive.
Sitting against the tree where they usually met, the tall brunette waited, constantly glancing at the field around her. If they ever got caught - well, she didn't want to think about that. Biting her lip (a new habit she hated, which she acquired recently from not being able to smoke her beloved cigarettes), she started to get slightly worried. Kurama was late. And Kurama was never, ever late. If something happened to him, she and Keiko would have no hope of getting out of here. This would be their life forever. Not only that, but, she wasn't really sure she'd be able to handle such a loss. All of them had already lost so much already.
"I dare say you seem worried, Shizuru."
Startled out of her thoughts by Kurama's smooth voice, Shizuru smirked, hiding her relief, and looked back up the dark sky that lacked any stars, "What makes you say that, Fox Boy?"
"Perhaps it was that habit you picked up of biting your lip that you think nobody noticed."
"Mmm, you never miss a thing, do you?" She asked as he sat down beside her, their long hair pooling together. When he'd answered that no, he doesn't miss anything, she finally looked away from the sky and into his darkened green eyes. Even she had to admit, he was a beautiful man. She didn't know of any woman who was not struck by his good looks. And it was obvious before ever getting to know him that there was so much more to him than that. The man was a gorgeous mystery, which was why he probably had so many fan girls in his school. Sighing at the thought of something simple like school that seemed so normal and familiar and lost, she said, "Time to cut the crap and get down to business. I have absolutely nothing new on my end. Have you heard anything at all?"
"There has been talk of something, but they don't even know if it's true or not. I don't want to put my faith in something so unlikely, from such an unreliable source."
"Talk of what, Kurama?"