On the night of the first day of winter...


Maya Kitajima woke up with a start. As she rubbed her eyes, she saw a ceiling... a familiar ceiling; her ceiling. She continued to stare at her room's ceiling in confusion.

The memories in her head were blurry, but her visceral feeling of nostalgia was well-defined.

"Shuichi-san is the name of a friend of mine back in Junior High." Maya grabbed her head as she felt the onset of a shooting headache. Wincing, she thought, 'But why would I...?'

The blurry memories slowly but surely cleared up as the truth made itself known.

"Who," she started tentatively as she brushed away the loose bangs over her eyes, "is Kurama?"


A Yuyu Hakusho fic

by Chester Castañeda

Well, I'm not quite the newbie anymore. Nevertheless, all comments and criticisms are still acceptable... and appreciated. ^_~

Disclaimer: Yuyu Hakusho is the rightful property of Yoshihiro Togashi, Shueisha, Fuji TV and St. Pierrot. This fic therefore also belongs to Yoshihiro Togashi, Shueisha, Fuji TV, and St. Pierrot. I doubt they care.

Epilogue: Last to First

A year later, after the longest night of Shuichi Minamino's life...

A subdued and bespectacled pony-tailed girl strolled towards Teikokou Kogakuin Shiiou University (Teikogashin for short), conversing shyly yet happily with her college friends Maya Kitajima and Chiho Sasae.

Yes, the Chiho Sasae-infamous Ice Queen of Meiou High, the progenitor of the Legion of Minamino Shuichi, and Lord of the Gossip Grapevine-was now a freshman in college. May God, Buddha, Allah, Jesus, Zeus, Odin, and Krishna have mercy on the poor souls of the Teikogashin student body.

The still-gaudily dressed and eccentric Chiho was discussing to her friends how her brainchild, the Legion, had developed from merely being a lowly fanclub for Minamino Shuichi... the man, the myth, the legend... into a veritable force to be reckoned with in all of Meiou High, with almost the entire female population of that school's student body signed up for the now-unofficial school club.

As a by the way, the Legion had long ago been pushed out of the roster of official Meiou High clubs ever since Chiho, the former president, left for college; her father, Principal Sasae, immediately had the student council ban the ostentatiously useless and topical organization from engaging in any further activities within the school campus ASAP.

In any case, regardless of the Legion's dubious standing in Chiho's former private high school, the pure image of the pretty boy-based mostly on Shuichi's knight-in-shining-armor reputation-continued to be cultivated in the pseudo-club, with its brigade of squealing and rabid members scouring the entirety of Mushiyori City, or even Tokyo, or even Kanto, or even Japan, or even Asia, or even the rest of world, to find men who fit this very aesthetic.

Whether these men were real or fictional, criminals and/or politicians, sportsmen or intellectuals, singers or actors or dancers or all of the above or none of the above, the Legion made it their mission to let their love and adulation be known to these people, or at least have it manifest in an eighty-page boy's love doujinshi that they'd sell to Comiket every August and December. Such was life.

"It's kind of bittersweet, really. Of all the ridiculous clubs the Student Council can get rid of... the tragically useless, X-files-obsessed Paranormal club, or even that stupidly named 'The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture' club that's obviously just an excuse to watch and discuss cartoons and comics all day... they got rid of my precious Legion! Can you believe that, Midori-chan? How dare they!" Chiho lamented to the mousy girl beside her. Unfortunately, she wasn't really talking to the Legion's former secretary at all.

The timid redhead perspired in mortification. "Um, Chiho-san? That's not my name. My name is Asuka, remember? Matsui Asuka."

"Oh, yes, yes. I almost forgot. Sorry, you keep reminding me of an old friend of mine back in high school," Chiho hastily waved off, her large, eighties-era earrings tinkling like chimes as she felt a wave of nostalgia flood inside her.

She wistfully looked up to the open sky, briefly wondering what had happened to her freakish yet loyal friend, Midori Ohya. Then, just as quickly, she shrugged the feeling off; she'd mended that bridge already, so it was time for her to move forward.

Asuka pouted as she adjusted her glasses. She'd be more tolerant of Chiho's faux pas if it had occurred far less often than it did. One of these days, she might eventually have to change her name to 'Midori' just to accommodate Chiho's repeated use of the name.

"Anyway, the loss of the Legion's official status as a club is really a blessing in disguise, come to think of it. Because it's not limited to Meiou any longer, it has now started to branch out, moving outside of my former school's jurisdiction and into other schools and districts! Oh, I'm so proud of my baby! They grow up so fast! By my estimations, the Legion would've weeded out and exposed every last bishonen on the planet by the end of this decade!"

"Yeah. Amazing. It's become like a disease, almost," Maya... the most normal one of the trio, with her not-too-reticent-yet-not-so-obnoxious attitude... chimed in deadpan. She still couldn't quite figure out how she'd ended up befriending the loud and unbecomingly rambunctious girl, but she only had herself to blame for hanging out with Meiou's Ice Queen.

To her horror, Maya found herself getting more and more used to Chiho's antics as the days went by. Even though familiarity usually bred contempt, if contempt was already there in the first place, then familiarity sometimes found a way to breed tolerance and desensitization instead. Funny how that worked, huh?

Given the golden opportunity to showcase her Ice Queen persona to her newest posse, Chiho Sasae dramatically pointed at both her Midori-and Yumiko-substitutes and declared, "Disease? Disease, you say? How naive, Yumi-chan! It's actually our world that suffers from a disease, and the Legion is the only cure for it! Oh, if only there were more noble, hot, and gorgeous men like Minamino-sama on this planet, then they would totally improve the human race!"

Yumiko and Midori sneezed together in unison, then excused themselves simultaneously. They afterwards laughed at themselves, but stopped once they realized that they were also doing that at the same time. Anyhow, they didn't realize that spring fever included, well, colds and allergies.

"W-ell... that was freaky," Yumiko sniffled as she wiped the receiver of her cellphone with a handkerchief. "You okay over your side, Midori-chan?"

"U-huh," Midori replied, the characteristic sheepishness of her tone loud and clear despite the wavering signal of their mobile phones. "D-Do you think...?"

"Yeah, without a doubt. She is talking about us right now. But never mind that! Guess who's asking me which college you're trying get into? Come on, guess," Yumiko teased Midori with an unseen smirk and an inward giggle as she squeezed her cellphone in between her shoulder and her cheek whilst typing the story outline of the Legion's upcoming Comiket doujinshi. The girl just loved to multitask.

In any case, as the upperclasswoman of the newest batch of Meiou's 'Legionettes', Yumiko felt that it was her responsibility to get them on the right track and show them what the Legion was all about, especially now that Chiho was concentrated on helping branch the Legion out within the university level.

There was just no stopping the Ice Queen's grand plan of Kanto-wide "fujoshi" domination, but the good old girl of dreams and invisible girl were always prepared to help her out in the sidelines, whether she was aware of it or not.

Sure, a story based on "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" with all of the characters replaced by beautiful yet troubled effeminate boys was just empty calories for the squealing female brain, but if angst-filled and angel-winged bishonen didn't represent the very essence of the new-and-improved Legion, then Yumiko had no idea what did.

Did Maya just think that she was already getting used to Chiho's antics? Scratch that; the bun-haired girl decided then and there that she (and most every other sane person) would never, ever get used to the likes of Miss Sasae. "Matsui, will you please tell Sasae off? She's... doing that thing she does again."

Asuka jumped, then wilted at the attention Chiho and Maya directed at her. "W-What is it?" she asked. "Ah, sorry, what did you say?" Maya repeated herself. "Oh. Um, Chiho-san, you're freaking Maya-san out. Please stop that."

Asuka trailed off uncertainly. She had a secret she'd kept about Shuichi Minamino that she was dying to tell people, but knew she couldn't. Not ever. She thought about telling the other two about it, but Chiho was already talking again. She was now running through a list of bishonen classmates that they knew, rating each one on his potential Minamino-hood. Asuka listened, amused and pensive at the same time.

It was odd, this business, Asuka thought. Unsettling, even. From there, a memory wedged deep inside her psyche that didn't quite belong to her emerged on the murky surface of her mind, rending her heart to pieces as she realized its full implications.

"What sort of spell has that witch cast upon you to make you so... so... obsessed with her? I don't want her! I don't want this Matsui Asuka person as a daughter! It's you whom I want! It's always been you, Kurama! You're my son! You're my Shuichi! Please, don't leave me!"

"Hey, what's wrong with you this morning?" inquired Chiho, snapping Asuka out of her sad reverie in a second. "You look pretty out of it." Then suddenly, she gasped. "I know!" she said theatrically. "You've finally got yourself a boyfriend! I knew you could do it, Midori-chan! Who is it? Is it somebody we know?"

Maya supportively squeezed Asuka's shoulder. "Way to go, Matsui! So who's the lucky guy?"

Asuka lukewarmly joined in her friends' enthusiasm. "Yeah, that'll be the day," she muttered bitterly, but something inside her added, 'At least two people have sacrificed their lives for your happiness. Those two should count, right?'

To the others, Asuka insisted, "Whatever, let's talk about something more interesting, okay?" which promptly made Chiho launch into a long narrative about her plans for world domination using pretty boys and the fanatical girls that love them... or something to that effect. She never really did make a lick of sense to either Asuka or Maya.

Maya rolled her eyes. Only Chiho would think that slender girly-boys were far more interesting than their shrinking violet of a friend actually winning the interest of men and finally gaining a love life. But then again, that was Chiho all over. The smartest yet most bishonen-obsessed girl Maya ever knew; she could never stray from that one topic for more than five minutes.

But Maya was one to talk; the reason she got into Teikogashin and banded together with the likes of Chiho Sasae and Asuka Matsui in the first place was because of the persistent rumors that a certain elusive redheaded childhood friend of hers had decided to enroll in this very university. From the time when she gained admittance to Teikogashin, she'd been searching for Shuichi Minamino far and wide on the campus, meeting both Chiho and Asuka along the way.

Maya swore that one of these days, she would find where Shuichi-no, Kurama was hiding, and once she did, he most certainly had a lot of explaining to do.

Meanwhile, the dazed and confused Asuka walked on with her compatriots, trying to appear interested in what Chiho was saying. They then came up to the gates of the Main Building, where they were supposed to split up and go to their respective colleges.

As they passed through, Asuka glanced up and was surprised to see a phantom of what appeared to be a young delinquent boy sitting just inside the gate, staring at her. That was odd.

'Small boy,' something inside her said. But what was so special about a small boy?

She shook her head, bewildered, still looking at him. His eyes followed her as she went past, and she almost thought he seemed as surprised to see her as she was to him. Realization then struck her hard as she did a double-take and saw the boy disappear before her very eyes. She shrieked.

"Hey, Midori-chan! I mean, Asu-chan! Hang on!"

"...What's the matter, Matsui? Is something wrong?"

"G-G-Ghost! I think I saw the ghost of little kid!" Asuka cried to the bemusement of her two friends as she clutched their sleeves tightly. Of course, the irony of being afraid of ghosts when she was one just a year ago was lost on her.

The dark silhouette of Hiei stared after Asuka from a more secure vantage point, stunned. 'After all these months...' he thought. Who would've believed it? Oh, he'd doubted Kurama's so-called quest from the very start to its very last stages. He was certain that it would fail, that Kurama was doing something supremely stupid and senseless-a potential "shaggy dog" story in the making, leading to a pointless sacrifice and a wasted effort.

But somewhere deep inside, he had not been sure. He tenaciously kept up the search for Shuichi Minamino once he recovered from his epic yet failed battle to save Kurama's soul hour after day after week after month, willing to continue even if it would eventually take him year after decade after century after millennia, because he wanted to be sure.

'Kurama,' he thought. 'You managed it after all.' He had seen the girl clearly; seen the moment of recognition in her eyes. Felt the spirit within her. 'You did it. You sent her forward, had her be reborn yet again.'

There could be no further doubt. Not any more. Because the girl he had just seen-the shy girl with the glasses and ponytail of chestnut hair-was the living image of Kurama's human self, Shuichi Minamino.

Speaking of which, later that day, in one of Teikogashin's many cafeterias...

Shuichi Minamino stared blankly at the perky little blonde tartlet in front of him. Believe it or not, during the past few semesters he'd spent at Teikogashin as a self-sufficient college brat, this particular issue had become as old as... well, it was really old. He braced himself for what was to come. 'How can I put this gently?'

"Well, did you like the chocolates?" the college kogal with golden curls eagerly chirped, expectation clear in her voice. "I mean, I know it sounds childish, but please don't think of them just as 'duty' chocolates, okay?" The girl winked. Shuichi's face turned blue at the implication. 'This all seems strangely familiar.'

"To tell you honestly... the chocolates were delicious... the flowers were nice... but I'm not so sure about the puppy..." Shuichi tentatively began, completely bowled over at the amount of disposable income the girl was wasting on him.

She didn't even know the proper gift to give to him; though the flowers were indeed nice, receiving presents from her was like having a thankful tabby cat offer him dead mice and carrion in gratitude. The sentiment was nice, but he had no use for such shallow knickknacks.

"Well, besides the puppy, are we good?" The girl fluttered her long, golden lashes, showing off her garish silver eye shadow and sending cold shivers down Kurama's spine. His left eye was already twitching, and it took his entire willpower to prevent himself from losing what little lunch he had already eaten.

This was already forming into a scene taken straight from a commercial manga. A sadly trite girl's comics, to be exact-not that Shuichi read such tripe. That was more his old classmate Yumiko's shtick, really. He sighed dejectedly.

"But I really can't accept them," he said simply. Even though he loved roses in general, he didn't like getting them under these circumstances.

"Nonsense!" cried the girl, a spark of hope lighting up inside of her despite the rejection. 'So, he's one of those shy, quite types... I love those! And he's so hot to boot!' she thought ecstatically.

"Because..." Shuichi continued, totally ignoring her machinations, "I'm really a girl."

"..." the girl wittily retorted. "R-Really?"

Shuichi looked away and scratched his nose. "No, not really. Actually, I already have someone else." Another lie.

The redhead felt the cafeteria's room temperature drop down to a few degrees or so. "Tell me the name of the harlot, Minamino-sama," the girl demanded, cracking her knuckles in typical delinquent fashion.

Shuichi gulped, then admitted, "H-Hiei." If he was going to think up of a name, then it might as well be someone who can defend himself.

"Hiei, huh? Must be some sort of fat, big-boobed cow if she had the audacity to name herself after a mountain! She might as well be named 'Fujiko' for all I care! I'll get her, or my name isn't Kotubu-Hey, where are you going?" the kogal cut her rant short after seeing Shuichi scuttle away like a crab towards the exit, right under her nose. "Oh, no! Minamino-sama! Is Hiei really that good under the sack? Because I swear that I can do better! In fact, I even-"

Blocking out the rest of the girl's rather explicit boasts in regards to her oral talents and bedroom prowess, Shuichi sighed as he ran far, far, far away from his latest fanatical admirer. He was never too keen on hurting people's feelings... or bodies... unless necessary, but on the other hand, that was the first time he'd ever felt tempted to hit a girl in all his life. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, you just couldn't win.

Ever since he enrolled in Teikogashin, Kurama's days had been like this. He had more than his share of devotees even back in Meiou High, but their numbers didn't exactly dwindle once he got to college. It certainly didn't help that Chiho Sasae, of all the girls in Japan, had followed him all the way to this particular university. This was most certainly not a coincidence. Some things never change, but then again, there were some things that needed to change; preferably this dire situation he was currently in.

It was a taxing situation for Shuichi Minamino, good human son of Shiori Minamino, but his groupies were not the only ones at fault here. His short, red, yet feathered hair wasn't helping matters, but to let it grow to its original length would mean that he'd be back to the situation where he'd have to stave off the advances of his male fans. Damned if he did, damned if he didn't, eh? What a tragic Catch-22 for him to be caught up in.

So he decided, once and for all, to simply ignore such things. If they all thought of him as a suitable target for male and female affection... with some alleging that he might as well entertain both sides of the fence at the same time... then that was their problem. He was above such things.

"Hello, miss... You seem all alone. May I accompany you?" a deep, sultry voice intoned.


So much for thinking that his shorter haircut was going to help keep the men away from him. At any rate, Shuichi was still a human being deep in his heart. Who could blame the guy for getting pissed off once in a while? Even he, as long a fuse as he had, had his limits.

"I'm a guy, and I'm not interested. Now please leave me alone," Shuichi said in a calm, unnerving voice as he turned to see who was currently dogging him. To his surprise, he wasn't confronted by some misguided boy seeking his tender, loving care, but a girl who'd lowered her voice to about the same decibel range as his. Furthermore, he actually recognized her.

"M-Maya-san?" Shuichi accidentally let slip before he could pretend to not to know her.

Arms on her hips, Maya glowered at Shuichi for exactly one second before slapping his face hard. "I've been looking for you, Shuichi-san. Where have you been?"

A few minutes later...

"...So that's how it is."

Shuichi fidgeted a bit after lengthily explaining himself to the stunned and flabbergasted Maya. She looked like she was on the verge of tears.

"B-But... But that's not fair! You've taken away all my memories of you to protect me from danger, but as soon as I finally got those memories back, you went ahead and pulled this stupid stunt on me! How could you?"

The smaller girl buried her face into Shuichi's chest, halfheartedly striking his shoulder with her fists as she murmured, "It's not fair..." over and over.

They stayed like that for quite sometime before Shuichi was forced to extricate himself from Maya's firm grip. "I'm really sorry, but that's just the way it is, Maya-san."

Maya sniffled, avoiding eye contact with the redhead. "So Kurama is..."

Shuichi nodded. "Dead."

Maya shut her eyes and exhaled, a single tear falling on her cheek. "I see. But he was real, wasn't he?"

Shuichi nodded again. "In the hearts of many, including mine, he is. He's the reason why I exist, even. I can never forget him."

Maya looked at the boy in front of her and bit her lip. So Kurama was real. The boy she'd loved once upon a time was no longer of this earth, and from then on, she had to learn how to deal with that fact, but she could still cherish the childhood memories she shared with him regardless. Because Kurama was real.

For whatever it was worth.

No more words were exchanged between Maya and Shuichi that afternoon as each went their separate ways, their heads filled with sobering reality of death and irrevocable loss.

It's been quite a few months since Shuichi had seen Hiei. After the recent events involving his rebirth... Munashii's death, Yusuke and Kuwabara's bloody war and Kuwabara's first win against Yusuke, the long good-byes Kurama had with his loved ones, Kurama's final stand with Kuronue, and Hiei's pivotal yet involuntarily involvement in Kurama's death scene... the koorime-born fire demon was nowhere to be found.

At the back of Shuichi's mind, he wondered if perhaps Kurama had gone too far in using Hiei and accidentally caused his untimely demise. But, instinctively, the redhead deemed that this was not the case.

Shuichi anxiously made his way back to his current residence, scenes unfolding before him as though they were mere hazes and blurs to his troubled mind. Thankfully, it was a mostly uneventful walk back home, and as he entered his apartment's entrance, everything eventually became clear once more.

Seconds ticked as he stared wordlessly at the doorknob. He heaved a heavy sigh as he finally allowed himself to contemplate the situation, revealing his innermost insights and feelings.

The fact that Shuichi hadn't seen Hiei in a long time was getting him upset... and a little uneasy. Sure, he'd already moved out of the Minamino (now Hatenaka) residence as soon as he graduated high school (and despite his parents' protests), got himself a menial job tending a flower shop in order to support himself, and rented his own apartment nearest to Teikogashin for the sake of his college education, but he still didn't expect Hiei to take this long to find him. Perhaps the demon was delaying their meeting on purpose just to spite him?

Then again, Shuichi wasn't exactly looking forward to meeting Hiei-not after what Kurama put him through. Also, the jaganshi wouldn't really be looking for him; no, he'd be looking for Kurama instead. Besides, what could he possibly say to Hiei once they meet? "Hi, I'm Minamino Shuichi. Nice to meet you, even though I kind of know you already. By the way, sorry for indirectly making your demon partner commit suicide just so I could exist in this world."

Pushing his morbid thoughts aside, Shuichi opened the door and went in his sparsely furnished quarters. He carefully avoided looking directly at the room, afraid to see something, anything, that would remind him of Hiei's frequent visits to Kurama-his other self, the man who both saved and cursed him at the same time-a years ago.

"Hey, kitsune. What's with that lonely look on your face?" Hiei scoffed in his usual stoic voice as he sat on the open window sill, idly polishing his katana as his mostly raven-black hair wafted through the cool breeze.

Shuichi looked at the fire demon in front of him, completely stupefied. The redhead didn't feel the need to dilly-dally, exclaiming about how Hiei took so long to finally get there and what a shock it was to finally see him again face-to-face.

To be quite frank, the seventeen-year-old didn't know what to expect from the jaganshi. Was he about to die, even after finally gaining his life back through the most dubious of means? Maybe it was just as well; as far as Shuichi was concerned, he owed his life to both Kurama and Hiei.

Hiei suddenly stepped down from his precarious perch on the windowsill and unabashedly embraced the shocked human. This was literally the last thing the redhead expected.

Startled by the unanticipated gesture, Shuichi felt compelled... albeit awkwardly... to hug Hiei back, half-expecting the demon to suddenly set them both on fire, immolating poor ol' non-fireproof him in the process. "W-Where have you been, H-Hiei... san? I-I thought that you died," he quietly mustered as he cringed from the inside.

Not even bothering to address Shuichi's questions, Hiei demanded, "What are you doing here? Why aren't you with that human woman you call your mother?" as he let go of the trembling young man, his crimson eyes directly affixed upon the boy's grass-green ones. It was such a deep stare that the two were soon literally seeing themselves through each other's eyes.

"I... I think you already know why," Shuichi couldn't help but reply, wincing once he realized how rude he sounded. To his shock, he felt the cold bite of Hiei's sword touch his skin, the blade tearing apart his clothes. He shut his eyes; like he'd reflected before, this was just as well. Let his fraudulence end right here and now.

The reason Shuichi couldn't stand going back to the Hatenakas was because he was reborn a charlatan. Kurama had filled the role of good son far more effectively than he ever could, and, as his mother revealed, he was never wanted in the first place. It was Kurama whom Shiori considered as her son, not him. He could never live up to the selfless, compassionate, powerful, protective, and complex man that was Kurama. Never. Not in a thousand, million, or billion years.

To Shuichi's chagrin, Hiei hadn't actually killed him. Instead, something a lot more embarrassing happened. His polo shirt had been cut apart and his pants undone, exposing his bandage-bound breasts and his sock-stuffed boxer shorts... or rather, her bandage-bound breasts and her sock-stuffed boxer shorts.

Hiei harrumphed as he looked at the half-naked, cross-dressing girl before him in disdain. "Is this yours?" the youkai asked as he threw a long, brown wig and glasses at Shuichi's direction. The fire demon had stolen it from the human's backpack while they hugged. The girl nodded in affirmation as she quickly took the wig and hastily covered herself up with it.

Hiei looked up at the ceiling... more out of indignation than out of any sense of shame or decency for the sake of the girl he'd just stripped naked... and wailed to the concealed heavens, "Is this what you meant by changing fate, fox? Damn it, you've made things worse!"

Just then, to the fire demon's surprise, Shuichi said, "I'm sorry. If you think it will make things better, then please feel free to kill me."

Hiei quietly looked at the exposed girl for quite sometime before inquiring, "Why? Did you suddenly feel that you don't deserve to live?"

Shuichi Minamino, also known as Asuka Matsui, calmly got up, took a shower robe out of her closet and wordlessly covered herself in front of Hiei. With that done, she replied, "No. It's not that I feel like I don't deserve to live. Rather, I think living is the least I can do after everything Kurama had done for me. But I still owe you this life as well. You were also the one responsible for my birth, right? Feel free to kill me, because this life is as much yours as it is mine."

Unperturbed by Shuichi's bold words, Hiei queried, "Why do you keep on pretending to be Kurama long after he's dead? You don't need to do this. Kurama had changed your destiny for the better, right? Everyone should have forgotten about Kurama by now, including me. That's the way Kurama's death scene was supposed to work; you living the rest of Kurama's human life as the daughter Minamino Shiori never had. Koenma himself expected as much. Kurama himself thought you deserved as much. The only reason everyone still remembers Kurama the half-youko is because you willed it so. Why?"

It was true. Had Shuichi Minamino let the tides of destiny reassert themselves into her life, things would have been drastically different. Kurama's life as a half-youko would have been completely erased from the memories of all those who knew him; he would've been nothing more than a footnote in the ever-growing list of the magical Book of Fate, with the only thing of note about his entry was the fact that he was the first willing victim of circumstances. Everybody in the Demon World would've believed that Youko Kurama died as soon as he faced the Reikai Hunter had Shuichi allowed fate to have its way. No one would have ever known about his existence in the Human World, not even his family or closest friends.

Also, even though physical evidence of Kurama's existence as Shuichi Minamino could still be left on the physical plane, most people's erased memories would probably dismiss or ignore them as something else entirely, whether the proof was in the form of photographs, letters, video or sound recordings, registries, or whatnot. The human mind naturally filled in gaps and inconsistencies with all sorts of excuses, rationalizing away things that didn't fit with its perceived reality.

"No. I don't want people to forget about Kurama. As jealous as I feel about it, I don't want my mother to forget the son she'd had for sixteen years past. I don't want you or any of the Reikai Tantei to forget your comrade who fought with you in all those tournaments and missions. I don't want Karasu to forget who it was he psychotically loved, and I don't want Toguro Ani to forget who it was that gave him a fate worse than death. Living a lie is a small price to pay for me to honor the man responsible for my current existence."

"You'll have to tell your parents the truth about what had happened to Kurama sooner or later," Hiei noted nonchalantly, his eyes darting back and forth at Shuichi's lithe form, unnerving her a bit. "That's the price you have to pay for not letting them forget about him in the first place."

"Or maybe I won't have to. I can't stand the idea of them feeling the loss of a child when they don't have to. But then again, maybe I'm just afraid of being rejected by them once they find out the truth." Shuichi chuckled bitterly at the thought. "I guess I'm not as selfless as I pretend to be. But if you want, I'll go ahead and tell them. Just don't expect me to ever tell them the truth under my own free will. I just... can't. Not now. Not ever. Please, let their son live on in their hearts for a little while longer."

After a brief pause, Hiei decided, "Then I will it. No more lies. Tell them the truth."

Shuichi smiled emptily at the jaganshi's brutal command. "Do you really hate me that much for taking away your precious fox? What... I don't even deserve death? That would've been a preferable option to what you want me to do."

"As you said, you can't die. You have a responsibility to Kurama to live the rest of your natural life properly, especially after all the things he went through to bring about your rebirth. Besides, you brought these hurtful lies upon yourself. If you're going to try to make yourself into a martyr, then prepare to go full-tilt, unless you want to turn into some sort of pathetic hypocrite," Hiei declared mercilessly as he turned his back on Shuichi and prepared to make his leave.

"Wait! Will I ever see you again?" Shuichi blurted out, surprised by the candid eagerness in her voice. "I know I can never make it up to you, taking Kurama away from you and all, but please... I want to know more about him. Can you help me?"

Hiei raised an eyebrow at that. "You must have all his memories in your head already, or else you would never have known who Karasu or Toguro Ani are. Isn't that enough?"

"I... I... maybe there's someway we can reverse things? Bring Kurama back? I don't know," the redhead faltered desperately, unsure of her own words. That man before her held the answer to her identity, her true identity, and she couldn't let an opportunity like this pass her by.

She tried again. "I want to know more about my father. Kurama. The man responsible for my being. Having his memories isn't really enough, because most of the time, they don't even make sense to me. It's like having all the pieces of a puzzle but not knowing what sort of picture the puzzle is supposed to form. Please... the only way that I could feel complete is by-"

"...AND WHY SHOULD I?" Hiei suddenly snapped, startling the blabbering girl and putting her in her place. "Did you know the reason why I came here? I wanted to see for myself whether or not Kurama wasted his life trying to revive you, and if he did, then I'd be the first one to finish you off. You're just some human girl, among millions of human girls..." He trailed off, unwilling to complete his sentence. Unwilling to stare back at those penetrating green eyes. It was too much.

Before Shuichi could completely recover from her shock, Hiei took something wrapped around of his neck and heedlessly flung it to her. She unconsciously caught it with her open palms, then took a look at it. "This is... a black pearl necklace? None of my father's memories ever showed me this-"

"I'll be coming back for the necklace," Hiei interrupted before Shuichi could finish her train of thought. "If you want to know more about Kurama, find things out for yourself. I suggest you start with your parents and go from there. Don't bother me or anyone else with your problems and learn to face them on your own. That's what living is all about. If I come back and see that you're still a blubbering excuse for a girl who would rather let life trample all over her than live it, then we'll talk about killing you. But I'd rather you don't piss me off by making sure Kurama's sacrifices aren't in vain. Because if you do, then I swear that I'll make you regret that decision. Mark my words, because I hate you enough to do just that."

And with that, Hiei was off. Shuichi was at a loss for words; what else could she possibly have said after that? She was now the one left with a decision to make-to either live the life her father so generously provided or waste it away with guilt over circumstances that could never be reversed. She rolled the ebony pearl in between her fingers, and nodded to herself. She owed Hiei and Kurama at least that much, right?

So eventually, after a month or so of indecisiveness, Shuichi Minamino went back to the Hatenakas and told them the whole truth about their son... the demon fox she'd inadvertently tamed once upon a time, the honorable and relentless man who literally did everything he could to live a full life, from beginning to end... and faced the consequences head on.

Life eventually moved on.

The End.

Next: Just kidding! (giggles)

I know... very unclear premise... but this is still my first fic ever anyways. ;)

Oh, and just so we can get this out of the way: "OMG! Kurama has turned into a girly Mary Sue! BOO! HISS! This fic has turned into a stupid Gender Switch fic! This is the WORST ENDING EVAR! BAAAAAAAAAW!"

(Ahem) Wow. Just... wow. Shonen is the first fanfic I've ever written, and the first fanfic I've ever finished, so this is a special 'milestone' I've established. Yes, I realize that my writing skills aren't as highly polished as many others, but I just had to write this ever since Chimamire Kitsune's 'Kyuuketsuki Hiei' gave me the idea for this fic. If anything, this fic can be considered as action-oriented version of 'Kyuuketsuki Hiei'... plus text formatting and minus some fangirl fanservice or two. The amount of Hiei torture is about the same, though.

When I first wrote this, I was torn between writing an emotional, introspective fic concerning the half-soul Asuka Matsui's slow transformation into Shuichi Minamino, an allegory showing the many facets of human nature a la "Le Peti't Prince", or an action fic interspersed with a multitude of character insights of many a fighter in tune with the source material's style.

In the end, I opted for all of the above by giving these myriad of goals a single focal point: Kurama/Shuichi Minamino's natural-born duality. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself succeeding in making this ambitious, heavy-handed, ham-fisted project work, and (come to think of it) perhaps I did fail in making it work. But you know what? Screw that. This business is over.

In any case, this fic is what it is. Even if my lofty goals and the actual end product doesn't exactly match, it doesn't matter. The destination doesn't matter. The journey ends here, and what indeed matters is that I really did enjoy the journey. Redundancies aside, the ride was oh-so-sweet. Yeah.

Thanks to everyone who's been supportive of Shonen from beginning to end. I can only hope that the same amount of support can be given to my next projects, Rurouni Yahiko and Demon Sword/Youtou Shinnoken.

One last thing, although I think it should already be obvious: I didn't bother giving Yusuke and company any focus in the epilogue because they ended up pretty much the same as they did in the special OVAs and the original manga. I reckoned it was unnecessary to elaborate on such wonderful endings. Oh, and don't go just yet, there's a surprise waiting for you after these end notes.

Note that I put in the title Shonen not Shonen-Ai. Shonen-Ai (male-male relationship) and yaoi are just not my cup of tea. This is dedicated to Chimamire Kitsune for giving me the inspiration to write this fic. Wherever you are, this is for you.

Abangan ang susunod na kabanta! Ay, mali...

About three years ago, way before the robbery of the Spirit World's Three Sacred Treasures...

"Fox," Hiei heedlessly beckoned as he climbed down from the open window of Shuichi Minamino's room.

"What is it, 'koorime'?" Kurama jokingly asked as he sat alongside the diminutive fire demon hybrid.

"We owe each other our lives. The only ones who could finish us off are ourselves. I will be your death, and you will be mine," Hiei stated, not asked.

The fire demon was being random again, Kurama reckoned. Shrugging off the eccentricities of the lone youkai he'd befriended in years, the fourteen-year-old smiled and said, "I don't mind being killed by you. Someday, please let me have the pleasure."

There was a ghost of a grin in Hiei's contemptuous sneer. "As the humans say, 'The pleasure's all mine.'"