Budding Love

Since that day, Inori was nervous...and extremely shy around her older brother who took every opportunity to tease her like a boyfriend would, and openly courting her at home.

Shiori watched her childrens' antics in amusement. "Yare yare...if only Youhei can see these two now..." she thought wryly. There are times that her son has to catch her off guard in a bid to corner and court her before she could run away. Well, his stepsister is still trying to understand her growing heart and romance after all, these things shouldn't be rushed as they live under the same roof! But still...its kinda cute to watch. On weekends, he takes her out on a date...

'So how are the kids?' Hatanaka asked his girlfriend while at work.

'Well...Inori's a growing girl...and I think Shu-chan's rushing into this too much. Its not like Inori will go away or anything.' Shiori deadpanned. 'We live under the same roof you know.' she snorted. 'How about Jr.? Is he taking self-defense classes? Shuichi and Inori are experts in martial arts streetfighting despite how they look. Well...Shuichi has lots of boys on his case for his looks, grades and the girls in school while Inori trains because simply he does.' she left out the fact that her children has powers to prevent jealousy issues...

'He's still deciding what to take.' Hatanaka chuckled. 'He wants what he can do the easiest.'

xxx

Three months went by...

Things at home got quite...the atmosphere.

After figuring her feelings out, Inori finally let her stepbrother court her, much to the redhead's delight.

Shiori chided her son for rushing things while Inori is still emotionally innocent, hence he was confusing her for months and she wants him to take it on Inori's pace so ahem, dates would go much smoother. He's so old beyond his years and Inori is the opposite. If only she knew the truth! Relatives phone call their mother, asking her about her...unusual case for kids and how's the developments because it took them quite a while to get used to the fact that their nephew is head over heels in love with their adoptive granddaughter/niece since she was a baby. They thought the family life was something out of a wacky soap or something.

That, and she also has to get used to seeing her kids kiss each other goodbye before going to school, and kiss each other in greeting when they get home. As for sleeping arrangements...they still share a bed, but Shiori will put her foot down once Inori's thirteen, a growing girl. And that both kids have single, not double beds. Inori's small in comparison to her taller, and very fit brother she fears he might squish her instead of a cuddle attempt and that got her son pouting.

Too late to use that look on her, it might have worked if he's five-to-ten. Grades aside, the kids also trained hard at home. But one day...her son dropped the bomb.

'Mother, Inori...' he said over dinner. 'I have...a troublesome situation.'

'If its you who's saying that, we may have to take it really seriously.' said Shiori with a slight frown. 'What about it sweetheart?'

'I got invited to a Tournament.' he said. 'A Tournament ran by Makai and Reikai, the Ankoku Bujutsukai. They form teams there and any youkai can join. But the committee will hand-pick a human-only team who are obliged to come or else they'll be put to death for refusing.' his mother and bride gasped at this. 'That's why...I have to go.'

'B-but why?! Why choose you and not some moron who actually wants to fight?!' Inori cried in protest.

'Because humans who have power levels of at least C-rank are picked. And I got detected. Luckily you somehow evaded detection, otherwise you'll be invited too.' said Kurama to his family's dismay. 'And I prefer it that way. Until I leave for the tournament, do NOT use your powers and stay sealed, OK?' Inori sulked at this.

'B-but you'll come home, right?' Shiori choked out. 'You'll win and come home?' Kurama smiled.

'Of course, I have family to come home to. And I have no worries about your safety as long as Inori is around.' he said with a bright smile. 'So no underhanded tricks will work on me over there. Inori is sufficient protection for the family.'

'Aiya, oniichan has so much confidence...' Inori beamed.

'I should have...we're both B-Class Fighters.' Kurama snorted. 'These weakling are just dirt on the ground where we stand.'

'But still, overconfidence is bad OK?' Shiori reminded her son. 'A smaller and even a weak person can beat a strong one by outsmarting them. Don't forget that. Never underestimate anybody until you're sure of your chances.'

'Yes mother.'

'Inori, help your brother prepare OK?' Shiori told her stepdaughter. 'We DO want him to come home alive...' she said with a sad, nervous smile. She lost her husband and her son may be next... 'A leave is in order. And just in time too because its summer after this.'

xxx

Genkai's Place...

'So oniichan, we'll have sensei train us again?' Inori asked Kurama as they jumped their way upstairs.

'Iya, sensei will be training Yusuke. I'll be training someone and you'll also train someone. An acquaintance of mine.' Kurama smiled. Up on the stairs...a tall er...ginger-haired boy with a pompadour hairstyle.

'Hey!' he greeted. 'So we're all here now!'

'Inori, this guy will be your student for two months.' Kurama introduced her. 'Kuwabara Kazuma. He's another unlucky guy just like me and Yusuke. He's barely a D-Class, so you have your work cut out.'

'Mou, gimme a little more credit than that.' Kuwabara pouted.

'Well, I leave you in Inori's hands.' said Kurama with a dark, sweet smile that got Kuwabara quivering. 'I'll go find my training buddy. He's here somewhere.' and he walked away. Inori sweatdropped as her brother-boyfriend instilled fear in her piggy.

Kuwabara quivered under that stare. When Toguro invited him and Yusuke on the streets. Kurama offered him training under his sister on the grounds that A) Inori and his mother does NOT know his case, so never call him Kurama around his family. B) Pull the moves on Inori, he WILL end him.

Either way, he doesn't have to worry! Kuwabara has his beloved Yukina-san!

'Now then Kuwabara-san,' said Inori. 'Just because I'm 10 doesn't mean I'll go easy on you.' she said. 'Oniichan and I trained under sensei for a year and after that, we trained together at home for years so we're powerful. Now then, for our first step of training...hold out your hands. Sensei started us like this.' Kuwabara did so, and she placed an energy shackle on him that caused him to stand up straight with his arms and legs snapping together, making him straight as a rod but with his wrists bound together.

'Nanda kore?!' Kuwabara shrieked panickingly.

'Those shackles are limiters.' Inori told him. 'If you want to move, focus on your reiki and make it flow around your body like blood. By doing so, you drain your reiki at an incredible rate, thus sealing it. However, if you unseal yourself, your level will increase in leaps and bounds, as the shackles will release the reiki you've been spending back into your body, so you get stronger. Now at least learn how to move in two days in that.' Kuwabara's eyes popped out of their sockets.

'You gotta be kidding me?!'

'It helps if you learn how to move in a short time, that way we have more training time.' Inori quipped as she took out a manga and started reading. 'If you fail in two days, no food for a week!'

'USOOOOO!' that was the start of Kuwabara's hell. He didn't want to starve for a week, so he worked hard in meeting the deadline and figured things out on his own. In those two days, Inori taught him about Youkai and Strength Levels, as well as various types that she learned from Genkai and Kurama. Then after that...

'Niichan told me you have a sword made of reiki.' Inori remarked over breakfast. 'Show me.' she ordered.

'Here I go! Reiken!' Kuwabara cried as he summoned his sword. Inori frowned.

'Its very basic.' she deadpanned. 'Not to mention the flow is irregular! Strong in some spots and weak in other spots! Not to mention it has no form!' she chided. She conjured her own Reiken. Her Reiken is a kendo shinai. 'Your reiken must have condensed, tightly-packed reiki on all equal levels to be stable. Then you can form your reiken into any type of sword you're most comfortable in.' she advised. 'But before we work on your weapon...we'll work on your fighting reflexes, stamina, pain endurance and tolerance first. Meaning, I attack, you defend. I'll start slow but I'll gradually increase the pace and strength!'

With that enough said, Inori lunged and began raining fists and kicks on Kuwabara. The routine was attack-heal-attack-heal-rinse-and-repeat. For...28 days, this was done. Inori attacked on D-Class Levels for five days, C-Class for a week, B-Class the next two weeks. Kuwabara had considerable trouble in the last two weeks though.

'Yosh, endurance and stamina training over.' said Inori with a beaming smile over dinner as Kuwabara was busy shoving rice down his throat. 'Tomorrow, we'll work on your fighting ability OK?'

'Yeah!'

Next day...

Outside Genkai's house...

'We'll work on your weapon stability and sparring.' Inori continued. 'And also, you'll be sparring with me.' she conjured her two reiken shinai. 'So what do you want your weapons to look like?' the shinai vanished. 'Katana? Chokuto? Nodachi? Kodachi? Wakizashi?' she caused many types to appear on a whim. Kuwabara looked at the swords with a critical eye.

'Erm...I think I'll be more comfortable with the Chokuto.'

'Then focus on the Chokuto's form. Visualize and then materialize with your reiki, creating a Reiken Chokuto.' Inori instructed. 'I expect the weapon to be stable and very condensed, so nobody can break it that easily, as reforming a Chokuto spends energy and then its existence maintained by your will.' she explained. 'If you keep breaking and reforming your sword, you're wasting energy and you won't have enough for your next fights.' she told him. 'That's why we'll spar with the purpose of maintaining the durability of your sword every time you get attacked. This is now a true fight.' she said seriously. 'The goal for this month is instant conjuration of your swords, and maintaining their stability and durability even on high and strong pressure in battle.' she conjured...two pipes?

'Here I go.' and Inori lunged at him on her full level. She also taught him evasion maneuvers and speed moves by instructing him carefully.

25 days later...

'You are to use these last five days to recuperate and recover to be at full strength before you leave for the venue.' Inori instructed while healing Kuwabara. 'Don't forget everything I taught you!'

'Hey, when will I get unsealed?' Kuwabara asked her.

'When its the Final Round.' Inori answered. 'By unleashing your full level no one knew about in the Final Round, its also a good psychological attack as it will unbalance your opponent. Oniichan will tell you how to unseal yourself as we use the same Sealing Technique. And spirit weapons aren't just limited to swords...so while using these last five days to recover and recuperate, study books about weapons. It'll help more if you are versatile.'

'OK...well, I'm goin' home after a shower.' said Kuwabara as he got up and stretched. 'Thanks for these two months Nori-chan! With this I'm confident that I'll live.'

'Ma, studying is also training, so work hard in your last five days.' Inori smiled as she vanished like a ghost before his eyes.

xxx

Elsewhere in the forests...

'Oniichan.' Kurama turned around to see his sister. 'I'm done with Kuwabara-san. How about you?'

'Almost done.' Kurama smiled. 'Go on home ahead without me.' Inori vanished while Kurama looked back to Hiei who was out cold. 'Yare yare.'

xxx

At home...

'Okaeri.' Shiori welcomed her daughter home. 'Where's your brother?'

'Oniichan's still busy with his buddy.' said Inori. 'He said he'll be home later.'

'Ah souka, then I'll cook for three.' said Shiori with a beaming smile. 'And is his things ready for...' her smile fell. 'That tournament?' Inori also deflated. She didn't want him to go but its an 'or else'.

'I dunno...' she said sulkily. 'I hope he didn't forget to train himself or he'll be having an earful from us tonight.' she swore. Sometime that night, Kurama went home.

'Shuichi!' their mother cried. 'How is your training?'

'I'm stronger than any of my teammates unfortunately.' Kurama sighed. 'Sensei is training one, I had Inori train the other and I trained the third. If we'll make it out of this, at least all of us must be good. Needless to say I had no time for myself.' Shiori's face fell. 'Don't worry kaasan...power and technique aren't the only things needed in fights.' he smiled reassuringly. 'My most dangerous weapon is my mind. No one can outsmart me.' Shiori smiled weakly.

'That's true...Inori is probably still awake dear.' she said. 'Go to her. Oyasumi.'

'Oyasumi, kaasan.' and Kurama went upstairs to see his sister sleeping on his bed. In a white top, panties and...socks. His eyes nearly popped out of its sockets. Its just...too erotic and moe at the same time...and does his sister know what she's doing by wearing those?! He swallowed as he got closer to his bed. But the minute he was within an arm's reach, he found himself instantly lying down on his bed just in his underwear and his sister straddling him. 'Inori?!' he gasped at his sister's bold, aggressive move.

'I just heard from mother that...you hardly did a thing for yourself in these two months?' Inori twitched with small crosshairs on her face.

'Maa maa...we're plenty powerful because we trained for five years, Inori. You don't need to worry about me.' he reassured her softly as he pulled her down to his body. 'I'm more worried for the guys with me because they're far weaker than me. If they all die, I'll be obliged to continue alone and I don't want that.'

'But all mother and I care about is whether you'll come home or not.' Inori grumbled with a sigh while snuggling against her brother. 'That's what's relevant.' Kurama chuckled and Inori could feel the movement of his warm chest as he laughed.

'Don't worry...I have two very good reasons to go home.' he said. 'I'm coming home for mother...and my bride.' Inori pushed herself up to meet her brother's gaze.

'Oniichan...you and I have been brother and sister for ten years...' she said softly. 'I'm still having trouble seeing you as a man who loves me 'that way' you know. But...'

'Hm?'

'Will you have me anyway?' she asked him in her same soft voice.

'I'll have you.' he said as Inori leaned down to kiss him. This time, on her own initiative, not his, which pleased him. He rolled over, putting her under him, deepening the kiss but she spread her legs and used said legs to keep him over her and wrapped her arms around him. "I waited for you for several millennia after all. I'm not letting you go." their kiss stopped and he was determined to mark her as his...and do much more than that.

Although there's one line he can't cross just yet, as she is too young...and too small for 'that'. But that doesn't mean other means of intimacy are off-limits...