Hello peeps! I've got a pretty short chapter for you today, and sadly, no Hiei in this one! But fear not, $hit's about to hit the fan pretty soon and we'll see plenty of him O_O
Chapter 24- Yesterday Is But Today's Memory
That night, I found myself in a dream for the last time.
I stood quietly to the side, invisible and nonexistent, as Kuri insistently tugged in vain on Riku's arms.
Though I didn't know why, I was immediately filled with a dark dread that only grew from the look on Kuri's face. Desperation and fear flooded her eyes.
However, Riku was only frowning deeply in concern, refusing to move. "Kuri, what's the matter? What's going on?"
" Riku," She cried, "We need to go now. I promise I'll explain, but we have to get away from here!" She meant it too. She would finally explain everything, but just as soon as they were safe. They had no time!
However, Riku refused to budge and gripped Kuri's shoulders, deaf to her cries, "Kuri, tell me what's going on."
A quiet crackling that had been muffled before was slowly creeping into a thundering roar and the couple snapped their heads towards the sound, Riku in bewilderment and Kuri in despair. Beyond the screen doors, there was an increasing flurry of activity and noise. Riku jumped when the undeniable sound of people screaming pierced through the night.
Riku paled, frozen in confusion and growing realization, "What the..."
Kuri, white as a sheet, yanked on him all the more desperately and he stumbled a couple of steps her way until the screaming grew louder and the sound of wood snapping and the smell of burning began to creep into the room. Vicious orange and red shadows began to dance behind the doors.
She swallowed a scream of her own when a particularly terrified shriek was abruptly cut off and something red and dark was sprayed across the screen door and dripped down. A black shadow crept closer to the door and the blood that rushed through Kuri's veins turned to lead as the figure stopped just outside the door.
She began to tremble violently as the smell of the blood began to wash over her, nearly making her physically sick; she was paralyzed as a certain dark memory from her childhood rooted itself into her mind.
Kuri was almost oblivious as Riku swept her behind him and searched around in a futile effort for some kind of way to defend themselves.
The screen slowly slid open, a nauseating drip practically echoing as they waited with bated breath. Each drop echoed like thunder in Kuri's mind, like a hammer striking her down again and again and again.
Highlighted by a crackling, sadistic fire, Asami's face was hidden in the tangles of her loose hair as she slowly padded into the room, her once beautiful kimono drenched in the blood of innocents. In one hand, she was dragging the body of a guard; in the other, she was carrying his decapitated head.
Riku sucked in a breath in horror, but Kuri was still struggling with her phobia, barely able to tear her eyes from the gore trailing behind her mother.
Asami chucked the corpse from both her hands; both pieces landed with sickening thuds against the walls, the rattle of his armor and spear resounding across the room. Her once electric blue eyes were black in the firelight.
She looked up and though her expression was clouded in a dark shadow, even she could not completely contain the violent anger and hatred shaking off her entire being.
"I smell it." Asami's voice was hoarse with disbelief and betrayal. "That stink...It's all over you. Everywhere."
Kuri's eyes widened with horror in realization, but Riku only braced himself.
"Stay back demon," Riku hissed, waving his hand in a slicing gesture. Asami didn't flinch; it's like she didn't even see him, only through him. Her eyes were fixed on Kuri.
"My own daughter..." Asami whispered, almost brokenly, stepping closer, "Betrayed again... just like him."
"I said back!" Riku yelled bravely stepping forward, but in vain. I cried out as Asami stuck out an arm and in one gentle sweep shoved Riku's body across the room as if he was just a doll. He slammed against the wall with a breathless gasp and crumpled to the ground. Visibly shaking but conscious, he gasped sharply, gingerly trying to wrap an arm over his torso, in obvious pain. Asami had crushed a good side of his ribs with that single blow.
"No...Riku!" Kuri wheezed, but let out a broken cry of fear at the sight of the slow line of red that dribbled down his face. A shadow began to overtake her and she forced herself to face her mother who was now within arm's reach.
Asami's eyes flickered, black receding to blue for a single instant as she looked upon her daughter. Her form sagged and the lines of hundreds of years were highlighted in the shadows of her face; for a single instant, Asami was just a mother who was very old and very sad.
"Kuri... what were you thinking?" She whispered and Kuri's throat tightened, unable to summon her voice. The only sound was the popping and sinister snapping of the fire.
"With a human no less. Have I done something so wrong that all the people I love must betray me and abandon me for them?"
"No..." Kuri choked out, but Asami disregarded her and slowly sank to a crouch. Heart thrumming wildly, Kuri whimpered and went stiff as Asami's hands came to caress her face; she didn't dare move.
"I should've known from the very beginning; it's in your polluted blood. Raizen couldn't resist one of the worthless scum either, so how could you... I should've just killed you the moment I laid eyes on you." Asami's grip on her face tightened, the tips of her nails barely digging into her face. Then she let go and drew herself back up to standing over her.
Her eyes had become overcast in their dead-like shadow, "I will do you the justice, my dear, of putting you out of your misery now; I would rather die than to watch my own flesh and blood have the child of vermin."
Kuri's heart stopped as Asami raised her glistening hand and gave her a last, solemn look.
"I'm sorry, my dear." Asami whispered broken-heartedly and she lashed out.
Kuri screamed and blood splattered all over her face.
Her eyes were wide with horror and shock, mirroring Asami's own. Both of their gazes were drawn to the jagged spear that had erupted out of Asami's chest, her clawed hand frozen in mid-air and astonishment, only inches away from her daughter. That was the guard's spear, I immediately realized.
"Kuri, you have to go." Riku grit out, twisting the spear from behind Asami, adrenaline pumping through his veins.
Kuri remained frozen though, the realization of what just happened dawning so fast and furiously she felt faint. However, her mother was quickly overcoming her own shock and began to reach for the spear. Alarmed, Riku twisted and shoved it in a little further in a desperate effort to buy a few more seconds.
"Kuri. Run now! Get away from here and run and don't stop!" He yelled at her and she shakily raised her gaze to meet his. They shone with pain, fire, and fear, but beneath all of that, with a set determination.
Then for the last time, his eyes went soft and loving as he looked at her, "Go." He said earnestly and she fully understood. This was goodbye.
She knew that she would never see those eyes again.
Kuri's body and mind seemed to go numb, and she was oblivious to the tears that streamed down her face. She looked upon her beloved's face for a long moment and she was absolutely sure that she would not leave, could not, but his eyes flickered and fell to her stomach; her breath caught and her resolve crumbled into dust. She forced herself to look away and then, before she knew it, was running, winning over her phobia that had paralyzed her before; running for her life and leaving behind everything she loved.
Riku took a shuddery breath of relief as Kuri escaped, but it was short lived. They were trapped in a ring of fire and he was alone and powerless against this demon.
All he saw was a sharp flurry of silk before the end of the spear was ripped from his hands as Asami turned, grabbed him and yanked him to her chest .
Straight onto the tip of the spear.
The shock far exceeded the pain. His mind went blank and he barely realized that something thick and warm was spilling from his mouth; his vision began blur.
Asami only pulled him further down and he continued to choke and sputter until he couldn't breathe. Holding him with one hand, she reached behind his back and with a quick stroke, ripped the spear up and out of their bodies with her free one; It was slicked bright red in their blood. The fresh hole in her bosom bled freely, but she barely glanced at it, her gaze focused on Riku's.
"Just like a stuck pig..." She said so quietly that he barely heard her as everything faded around him. Then the evil glint of her hatred shone in her eyes once more and she opened her mouth to reveal a snarl. "But you know , I wouldn't mind pig for dinner."
I blinked and I found myself on a familiar mountain edge with Kuri. She couldn't rip her eyes away as she watched the castle and the entire village continue to burn into the night before her eyes. Even as the castle gave out and toppled down, she watched. She knew she couldn't stay there for long though, but she could not bring herself to turn away.
She knew without a doubt that Asami was alive; she could just feel it. Stray tears floated down her face because she knew that Riku's sacrifice had been in vain. He might have saved her for the moment, but he should've known that with him, she had died as well. Except... her hands hovered over her stomach and with a painful heart, she turned away.
Asami couldn't have been mistaken. She was with child and what maybe would've made her overjoyed before only dragged her down into despair. It was why all those innocent people had been murdered, why Riku had given up his life. She choked out a broken sob. How could this life inside her be any good when it had caused the destruction of all she loved?
She tore her eyes away and turned to face the tunnel that Riku had once shown her all those many months ago when they had been happy and she had been naive. She didn't turn back as she forced one foot in front of the other; she had to make herself focus only on getting away or she really would not be able to go on. She reached the end quickly and walked out, gazing at the stars that had once seemed to gleam with a beautiful light but only felt so cold now.
Where was she supposed to go?
She could travel further into the mountains but she was pregnant with Riku's child. Whether she loved it or not, this was all she had left of Riku and she swore that she would survive to see it born. She glanced over the edge and frowned. It was no use, the side of the mountain was too steep and plummeted straight down for what looked like a 60 , maybe more, meter drop. Maybe she would've risked it before, but at the thought of hurting her baby...
Something snapped behind her and several rocks fell down, startling her. She spun around in fear and for a split second she imagined her mother's eyes staring straight at her, but she realized too late that she had already lost her balance had started sliding backwards off the edge. Terror re-igniting through her body, she desperately tried to swing back, but it was impossible.
Alone and already broken , she fell.
This was finally it. Kuri thought weakly.
They had come to the end.
I still stood there, as if I had never moved, but we were in a hut now and Kuri was lying on a straw futon, her once flat belly now huge and heaving. Her entire body was soaked with sweat and fever and shook with pain from her labor.
There were two other women there that I didn't know. One had graying hair and was obviously getting on in her years, but she was snapping at the other girl, maybe her daughter, for hot water and was cutting cloth into strips with a quick and practiced hand. Regardless of whom this woman was, childbirth was obviously not new to her.
But besides the strangers, what shocked me most of all was Kuri's physical condition. Her face seemed tight with dark shadows, and she just looked sick. Her eyes scared me most of all: they had lost their shine and simply looked on, void of any life or will and only filled with deep pain. I don't know how I knew, but just looking into her eyes it became clear and I understood.
Like a flower that had wasted away because of lack of sunlight , Kuri was dying. What was worse was that she knew it too and wasn't even fighting.
Kuri was tired. She had held on for this long and she would hold on for a little longer, but she didn't want to fight anymore. How could one lose everything and go on, only to suffer forever?
This world, from the start, had been terrible. From the very beginning, she had always known that her mother was a monster when she had witnessed her first death and that had always been painful because she loved Asami terribly. Then when she had found a love of her own, it had all burned away in flames and she had lost everything. But now it would finally come to an end; she would carry through to have this child, for Riku, and then she would die.
She just wanted the pain to be over.
She felt sorry for the child that she would be abandoning though. In all honesty, she felt like she had endured enough pain and couldn't bear to think of what terrible things awaited for the poor child in this cruel world. Ultimately in the end, like everything else she loved, she knew that it would just break her heart. So she'd rather just not love it at all. She hated herself for thinking it, supposing that it was very inhuman of her, but that would be when she would remember, almost with shock, that she wasn't human. She never had been.
Tears began to leak down her face. So many regrets... she had never even told Riku the truth, how she was a demon and about her past. With growing fear, she even began to think that the girl he had fallen in love with may not have even been her at all, but a fool's false reality. Being at the castle, falling in love, living... somewhere in her heart, it was like she had really wanted to become human because she had loved them, but if she had only known the extent of the pain they were fated to suffer. Even if she had stayed with Riku, she realized, something would have separated them eventually, whether it be the truth of her person, age, or some other incident- it had never been possible, just a forlorn dream.
Her thoughts strayed to wondering where she would go when she died. How likely would it be for her to see Riku again? Did demons go to the same place humans did? She had no idea but hoped more than anything that he would be there, waiting for her. If she ever did see him again, she would tell him all that she never got to- but wherever she did go, she felt some sort of peace for the first time in many months. She wouldn't have to be afraid anymore.
She groaned loudly as severe pain racked her body. The old woman started talking to her, instructing her with a confident shout despite the agony she was in, while the younger one moved to caress Kuri's head, petting her hair and continuously whispering words of encouragement and comfort.
For a long, terrible time, it really was too much for her and she felt like she couldn't do it, like the end was coming right then and there, but then it was all over and Kuri's body fell limp, chest heaving sharply as a sharp squealing cry flooded the room.
It was done. It's really over... However, Kuri's heart was hammering and she only felt worse than before, knowing the small thing that had destroyed her world was right there, obliviously howling away.
The young woman squeezed Kuri's hand in congratulations as the old woman tended to the squirming and crying thing in her arms, wiping away the muck and wrapping it in a fresh cloth. Though the woman's face was wrinkled from years of labor and sun, her eyes had grown soft and an awed smile had graced her face.
"My lady..." she began softly, "You've had a girl. Would you like to hold her?"
Kuri squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head painfully. No, she didn't want to see it. She wished with all her heart in that moment for the woman to take it away from her forever and just let her live her last moments in peace, but the woman just looked surprised.
Her eyes were wide and insistent, "But she's beautiful my lady! Please..."
Heart in mouth, Kuri didn't have the strength to argue and gave in with a shuddery breath. Beaming, the woman rushed to crouch beside her head and with a heavy heart, Kuri weakly held out her arms to receive the baby. She just held it in her arms for a moment but finally gave in and looked down.
Her reaction was immediate and overwhelming as Kuri shamelessly broke down into tears.
Bewildered and concerned, the woman asked her what was wrong, but Kuri could barely speak and only managed to choke out a few words.
"Her eyes..." Kuri wept. "They're just like her father's."
In the beautiful blessing she held in her arms, she could see Riku looking back at her once more when she thought she never would again, but also, she saw herself and she only cried harder, pulling her little girl closer, a pure and crushing love sweeping and overflowing in her soul. She was beautiful.
"Mother!" Kuri barely was aware of the young girl who had left her side and had moved around her and was now speaking with a frantic and fear-filled voice. "The bleeding! She hasn't stopped!"
That's right, Kuri remembered. She was still dying... she was too far gone now as she suddenly became aware of how she felt like she was slowly slipping away. Her heartbeat hadn't ceased to hammer and it wouldn't be long now 'til it gave out. Even now, as hard as she tried, she felt her arms around her child growing weaker and weaker. The tears came harder, but silently now and she shakily reached up to touch her baby's face.
The woman tried to take her child away as soon as she realized what was happening to Kuri, but she held on tightly.
"No! Don't take her... from me!" She whispered urgently, but the woman didn't have time to argue with her and she went back to trying to stop the bleeding. Kuri relaxed though, knowing it was a futile effort. Her breath began to come in short and slow.
"Sweet girl... you'll have to... forgive me for having to leave you... so soon." She said tearfully, "Please, I beg of you... to find ...happiness."
But looking at her little girl, she was filled with a final pressing fear. Asami was still out there, looking for her. If her child was ever found- she couldn't bear the thought of Asami getting her. She wouldn't be here to protect her beautiful child...her Emiko.
She suddenly weakly grabbed out, hand moving around until she found something to grab onto and tugged. The woman was instantly by her side, but the panic had left her eyes and just held a somber despair, but Kuri had already accepted it. She couldn't waste the precious moments she had left though.
"Her name... is..Emi..ko. Emiko." She wheezed out. The woman nodded sadly, but firmly and went to reach for Emiko again, but Kuri softly batted her away.
"Please... let me hold her... one last.. time." Kuri looked in Emiko's eyes again, and Riku stared back and she was truly happy one more.
Kuri pressed her forehead gently to Emiko's.
She had made her decision.
Thank you... for letting me meet you. I love you so much... but you don't have to worry.
Kuri firmed her resolve, and kissed Emiko's brow earnestly.
I will always be there to protect you.
Between them, a warm glow began to burn bright and strong and Kuri took one more breath before her eyes closed and she went still.
As I woke up, the sound of Emiko's wail echoed painfully through the air as her mother let her go.
I jerked up, heart hammering and covered in sweat. I let my head fall into my hands and I cried.
I cried and cried until I felt completely drained and had to make myself lay back down, completely exhausted. It was still dark out, maybe a little past midnight and I was still in my room at Keiko's as I had been when I first went to bed, but I would not be going back to sleep tonight. No, not after that.
I had a feeling deep inside that I would not be having anymore dreams, but I couldn't stop shaking or shake any of the memories from my head.
So that's what happened... I thought, my heart squeezing painfully. I had to swallow the tears that once again threatened to come up.
But if there was one thing I didn't understand, it was why Asami would possibly want to bring Kuri back if she had felt so angry and betrayed by her?
What could she possibly be after? Of course, no answer came to me.
I held my hand up to my face, examining the familiar lines and fingers. This was my hand... However, in another dream, I distinctly recalled having another one, very much not mine.
How could we possibly be the same person? Maybe it just didn't work like that then and it was silly to think we would have the same bodies though our souls were the same. I still couldn't really wrap my mind around it.
And if Asami had been right all along, that my soul has always been Kuri's , then all those dreams I'd had were actually my memories. I shook my head.
No, not my memories- they were Kuri's. If I was Kuri, then was I even me at all? Did I really exist?
Because whether or not it was true, the me now wasn't Kuri. I could never be her. I had my own memories, my own feelings and experiences so that left the question to what would happen after my soul, not Kuri's, I firmly thought, would be passed into the empty body waiting to be filled.
Would I remember myself?
Or would it be the same thing as dying?
Or would I just disappear, erasing me like a wrong answer and correcting it with the right one, except from existence?
Deep thoughts late at night really were the worst and I tried to squash them down and not think about it anymore, but there was no stopping the train of thought now.
I wouldn't miss school at least, I thought, trying to humor myself though it didn't last long.
What would Mako do when he realized that I had vanished? And that was if he woke up at all. Would he miss me or go looking for me, never knowing that I wasn't coming back? Or would he even remember me at all?
I was filled with a swift and terrible fear. Could that happen? If I was wiped from existence, would everyone else forget me too? No, that was silly. Things didn't work like that... I think.
But if they did... would it really be just like that? I would be gone and no one would even notice or remember. Maybe though, I would become something like the whisper of a memory that got hidden away. Someone would see something that would remind them of me and maybe they wouldn't exactly know what it was, but they know it was something... There just couldn't be nothing.
With a sickening ache in my chest, whether or not everyone missed me, I would miss them and painfully so. I couldn't imagine my life without any of them. But there was one more than anyone else... I swallowed hard.
There was no denying that Hiei, even just the thought of him at this moment, seemed to mean something a lot more to me than anything else... Keiko had said it was love, and though the idea still terrified me, I began to wonder how long I could deny it until I just couldn't any longer. That maybe I really was...
I squeezed my eyes shut.
Thinking of Hiei made me think of the dream and remember... every time Riku was there, I could only think of Hiei. Even when he died... I saw Hiei die, before my eyes, completely powerless to do anything. That's why I was giving up my soul though, so that that wouldn't happen. If I couldn't imagine my life without Keiko or Yusuke or Yukina and the rest of them, then I couldn't even begin to imagine living without Hiei, not being by my side from day to day and onwards...
I quieted my thoughts, just staring into the darkness, pondering for a moment.
If there was one thing I wished though, more than anything else, it would be to know if Hiei would even miss me.
Maybe, I thought absently, he'll even think about me sometimes...
I closed my eyes, just thinking, until without realizing, I fell back into a dreamless sleep.
Not going to lie guys, but I'm super upset right now! I lost my USB that had freaking most of the next two chapters written and planned out... SIGH *FLIPS ALL THE TABLES* WAAAAAH T-T
So I was going to post this earlier (for Valentine's day, as a gift!), but I was thinking that I would be extra super nice and post two at once, but of course THIS HAPPENS, so you just get a small chapter instead T-T I'm so so so so so sorry...
But with that, life must go on, and I'm sorry to say it might take a little longer to get the next chapter out because of college and serious depression at losing all of that work, but I'll try my best! Physics is kicking my freaking butt :(
I love you all, my readers and reviewers!