[FFML] [fic][yyh][rewrite] Shonen Chapter 19: Rebirth (Part 2)

Abdiel gabriel_gabdiel at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 14 19:28:04 PST 2009


"When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of
childishness and the desire to be very grownup." 

(C.S. Lewis, 1947)


________________________________________________________________________


Shonen
A Yuyu Hakusho fic
By Chester Castañeda
chester.castaneda at gmail.com
gabriel_gabdiel at yahoo.com
http://www.fanfiction.net/~abdiel 
http://abdiel.florestica.com/
http://chester-fanfics.livejournal.com/

Tomorrow, C&Cs will cease to exist. Give yours out today while you still
can. Nanchatte.

________________________________________________________________________

Chapter 19: Rebirth (Part 2)
________________________________________________________________________



"Hey! Kurama-sama! Kurama-san! Kurama-kun!" beckoned an adorably shrill
voice just as Kurama trotted past Kaito's dream of Meiou High School,
still following the straight and narrow path to his good-byes.

As Kurama turned, a large bead of sweat dripped just above his left
eyebrow. 'Who was that? And what's with all the honorifics?' He looked
around his immediate surroundings, but saw nothing. 'I'm not just
hearing things, am I?'

"Up here, Kurama! ABOVE YOU!"

Kurama blinked and looked up. "Ah. Botan! What a surprise." He cocked an
eyebrow as he cautiously asked, "What are you doing here in the Dream
World? How did you get here?"

"I'm here to help, silly!" Botan chided as she slowly descended from her
place above the clouds. Upon landing on the cobblestone path, she got
off her oar and declared, "Originally, Tetsuma only had the power of
manipulating life force; all his other powers, he gained as a shinigami.
A 'ferry-girl' is basically a shinigami, only cuter. In so saying, I
also have the power to go into the dreams of others."

"Uh, okay. That's nice to know," Kurama supposed, supplementing, "I
still don't understand why you'd help me now of all times, but I guess
it's the thought that counts. So what can the Spirit World do for me?"

Botan seemed bowled over by Kurama's question, but she nonetheless
continued, "It'll take you forever to get to the first pillar of light
at the rate you're going, so I figured that I could get you there much
faster by flying on my oar. Furthermore," her eyes shifted from left to
right before she willed herself to calm down and mumble several
unintelligible words.

"Pardon?"

"I said I wanted to make sure of something!" Botan exclaimed, hiding her
rosy cheeks behind the folds of her kimono sleeves. She shifted her foot
in embarrassment. "I also wanted to do something that I've wanted to do
for a long, long time, and this may be my last chance to do so." Kurama
winced at her words.

Taking deep and relaxing breaths, Botan timidly walked towards Kurama,
startling him. The half-youko spirit, in turn, looked at her anxiously
with a fervent gaze that seemed to bore holes upon her person until all
that was left was her bare and shivering soul.

"Excuse me," Botan muttered as she gently took hold of Kurama's hand.
There were traces of nervousness in the tall, crimson-haired
adolescent's unnecessary breathing as she wrapped his arm around her
slim waist.

Botan sighed with bated breath as she drew Kurama near her. So there
they were, face-to=face. Their mutual anxiety and embarrassment were
practically palpable in the atmosphere-laden air around them.

"W-What did you want to make sure of?" Kurama finally stuttered in
apprehension, his voice almost cracking. He nonetheless stood his
ground. In a mellower intonation, he managed to say, "Botan, before
anything else, I have to tell you..."

"I already know everything. I already know about your 'death scene', and
your good-byes," Botan disclosed. She bit her lip as she looked straight
into Kurama's olive eyes. Her own eyes were moist with withheld tears as
she confessed, "And to be honest, it really hurt my feelings that you 
intentionally planned to not say good-bye to me from the start."

Kurama quickly backpedaled, explaining, "Botan, it's nothing personal.
Truth be told, I was so afraid that the Spirit World would--"

Botan hushed Kurama by placing a finger on his lips. "It doesn't matter.
What's important is that I'm here, and you're here. Let's say our good-
byes here and now and be done with it." 

"Okay, if that's what you want." Kurama smiled. "By the way," he began,
"what did you want to make sure of?"

Without missing a beat, Botan whispered, "I want to know the truth about
my feelings," which surprised Kurama. "Don't worry. I have no
expectations," she whispered tenderly, with an aching need behind her
indistinct request.

"Eh? Expectations? What do you...?"

Soft lips met with smooth ones as Botan gently puckered hers almost 
playfully, teasingly. The innocent, buttery-soft peck quickly dissolved
into a deeper kiss; it was so intense that it was as if they were
gasping into each other's mouths because that was the only way the could
keep themselves from suffocating. 

The rest of the Dream World eventually melted into inconsequence. As
soon as the kiss started, it stopped. As their lips parted, Kurama was
left dumbfounded.

Botan's knees buckled in shock. Instinctively, her other hand flew up
and grabbed his shoulder for support as she sagged against him. What was
happening to her? Why was she losing control over her bodily functions?
She couldn't understand it; either that, or she was in denial and she
knew exactly what was going on. Nevertheless, she continued to feign
ignorance, even to herself.

Botan sighed dreamily. 'Wow.'

After a few minutes of mystified blissfulness, repentance and regret
soon followed. "I'm sorry," Kurama instinctively blurted out, lifting
Botan up to her feet and bowing to her apologetically.

'Way to ruin the mood, Romeo,' Botan thought with half-lidded eyes and
pouted lips. 'He's _sorry_? Why? Was it that bad? Is it because Hiei's a
better kisser? Honestly, can't he just...?'

"I mean..." Kurama scratched the back of his head laughingly at the
chagrined Botan, humbly stating, "Thank you. Thank you very much."

Botan halted in the middle of her mental rant. After a few more moments
of poignant silence, she smiled and blushed. "You're very welcome," she
replied pleasantly. "Consider it your good-bye kiss," she added with a
wink.

Kurama insisted, "But still, I'm really sorry that I never intended to
say good-bye to you in the first place. I hope that the... the k-kiss
made up for it." He recoiled after realizing what he just said. "Oh,
excuse me! I don't know what possessed me to say that. I-I don't know
what I'm saying."

Botan coyly grinned, beaming. "You're cute when you're all flustered and 
confused." She reassuringly patted Kurama's back. "Don't worry about it.
You don't need to apologize. All is forgiven." 

Kurama blinked. "Are you sure that you're okay with it?"

"I don't see why we should dwell on such things. We should let bygones
be bygones, don't you think?" Botan summoned her oar. "Hop on. This
beautiful and ravishing Angel of Death is about to assist you with your
good-byes and your honorable suicide!"

"I wouldn't put it that way, but thanks again," Kurama noted, feeling a
droplet of sweat trickle just above his eyebrow for a second time. He
wiped it with his free hand as he climbed on the wooden paddle. 'Aside
from Yusuke, only Botan could make me sweat bullets like this. She truly
is quite a girl,' he reflected, taking note of Botan's demure smile
after she heard his thoughts.

"So tell me," Kurama probed, "did you find your, um, truth?"

Botan laughed. "Well now, I do believe that's my business. A girl has to
have her secrets, doesn't she?" she teasingly replied. Her previous
feeling of consternation began to engulf her again, but she ignored it
once more.

Very quickly, the pair espied a tower-like pillar of light that
stretched up into infinity. Passing through the splendor of the bright, 
multicolored river that made up the aurora borealis that surrounded it,
they marveled at the luminescent column's simple majesty.

"So this is it," Botan declared as she circled around the surprisingly
immense structure. "Where do I drop you off? I don't exactly see an
entrance anywhere."

"Let's go straight into the light," Kurama instructed Botan with a fair
amount of certainty. "A very important person is somewhere inside that
pillar."

"All right. If you're sure, you're sure. Let's go."

Kurama nodded in kind. "She's been waiting for me after all this time.
She needs to know the truth." And so the pair headed straight for the
colossal beam of radiance.

"Kurama?" Botan tentatively called out.

"Yes?" Kurama responded.

"So this person you're going to is a 'she', right?"

Kurama's moment of hesitation was far too lengthy for Botan's tastes.
"...Yes."

"So who is she?" Botan nonchalantly inquired, a strangely alarming smile 
plastered on her face.

Kurama gulped. He could hear Botan's cyclic mantra of 'I have no
expectations' at the back of her mind, which made him feel oddly tense.
"Why do you want to know?"

"That's not the answer to my question, Kurama." There was an almost
imperceptible hint of acrimony in Botan's voice. Kurama again winced at
her words, but for a different reason than before.

"Are you going to kiss her too?"

Rather than go through the difficulty of stumbling through sentences and
figuratively walking on eggshells, Kurama opted to simply plead, "Can we
not talk about this, Botan?"

Botan casually shrugged. "Fine. It's not really any of my business."

Kurama was far too privy to the intricacies of feminine psychology to
not see through the true meaning behind Botan's 'Fine.' Without any
further prodding, he relented, "It's Kitajima Maya-san."

Botan stirred. "Who?"

"She's a girl that I knew back when I was about the same age as Yusuke
and Kuwabara-kun. She was a classmate of mine in Junior High."

"Was she a girlfriend of yours?" Botan queried.

"She was a close friend of mine," Kurama clarified.

"How close?"

"Close enough to matter." Kurama cleared his throat. "Actually, I'm not
even going to say good-bye to the real Maya-san, but to an image of her
in my mind. A memory, if you will."

There was a puzzled look on Botan's face. "Why is that?"

"Because I'd endangered her life by getting too close to her." Kurama
averted Botan's subsequent gaze, opting to stare at the psychedelic
rainbow sky. "In order to protect her from ever getting involved with
demons and evil spirits, I gave her mind-controlling pollens to make her
forget about me. Now all that's left of her to me is a memory. She
doesn't remember a thing about me, even though I myself can't forget
about her. Ironic, isn't it?" 

Botan supposed, "So the Maya-san in your mind is some sort of
personified guilt-trip, huh?"

Kurama smirked in concurrence to Botan's assessment. "Something like
that," he assented.

During their momentary gap of mutual, leisurely silence, they quickly
realized something that should have been fairly obvious to them had they
been paying attention to their task at hand. Because of their rather
extensive conversation, they missed the pillar of light by about a mile.

"Oops! Sorry! Let's circle back and try again," Botan shamefacedly
appealed while Kurama's sweat beaded into large drops thrice over.

As they awkwardly flew back to their intended destination, Botan broke
the ice by giggling and sharing, "Keiko-chan's right. You really are a
good guy, Kurama. You don't have to do all of these 'good-byes' of
yours, yet you feel compelled to do so. You also didn't have to explain
anything to me about 'Maya-san', but you still did. Asuka-san's a lucky
girl to have you as her protector and savior."

"I'm glad that you think so," Kurama said as he sighed in relief. This
may actually be his last night of existence, so he certainly didn't
want to leave on a sour note.

"People can't help but admire you for your selflessness. Maya-san
probably did. Even Keiko-chan did. Even I..." Botan closed her eyes in
consternation. "But have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe,
people don't want you to act so selflessly? That your very selflessness
can hurt the very same people? That, even though you'd go through heaven
and hell to save Asuka-san, there are people who'd also go through
heaven and hell just to save you from yourself?"

"I've considered that. But the bottom line is, unless they're willing to
endure what I've endured to save Asuka-san, they won't be able to 'save'
me. They have to know the true meaning of going through heaven and hell
before they can even hope to go against my will," Kurama declared, which
dismayed Botan all the more.

Botan once again quieted down for perpetuity contained within an awkward
moment as she contemplated Kurama's avowal. Before long, they were but
mere seconds away from the resplendent column.

"Well, here we are." Botan squeezed her shoulder in apprehension.
"Before anything else, there's something I have to tell you. I'd like to
talk to you about the kiss..."

"Botan, I'm sorry to say this, but I don't think we have the time--"

"Please, listen to me first. I... To tell you the truth, it was..."

Just as the pair finally reached the shining pillar, a powerful and
radiant pulse knocked both of them off the paddle and into the colorful
night sky. After an instant of mutual shock and confusion, the pair 
simultaneously realized that they were falling.

"Kurama!"

"Botan!"

Botan quickly righted herself, beckoning the wooden oar to come back to
her. Once she regained her ability of flight, she frantically searched
the skies for any sign of her fallen comrade. 

"Kurama, where are you?"

"Over here!" Kurama's tone was faint, almost muffled.

After what seemed to be an eternity, Botan eventually located the
hapless half-youko. He was trapped within the pillar of light, his body
a soft blur of gold as it continued to succumb to the laws of gravity.

Botan maneuvered her paddle of flight to follow Kurama's descent in the
gigantic, tube-like pilaster. Upon reaching him, she directed, "Kurama!
Grab my hand!"

Kurama tried to do as Botan said, but to no avail. "There's some sort of
barrier inside the pillar! I can't get my hand through!" Kurama's voice
was harsh and tinny inside the luminous edifice.

"No! Not yet! Not this way! I haven't told you about--"

"Good-bye, Botan," Kurama bid farewell with melancholic finality. "Will
you please say good-bye to Koenma for me?" Strange sparkles seemed to
surround the young man as he added, "Don't worry about the kiss so much.
It was... nice."

Kurama never saw Botan's reaction to his last statement. Seemingly taken
aback by his heartfelt words, she halted her descent in the middle of
her rescue effort. The ferry-girl's image promptly faded away, swallowed
by the neon sky as the kitsune plunged deep into the sea of immaculate
white.


***


A memory of a dream from many months ago...

As Kurama's vision became clear, all he saw now was a smiling Maya. He
looked around his surroundings. Sure enough, he saw the same street
where he and Maya used to walk home from school together. The situation
was set in the same afternoon sun. Every detail of their daily routine 
was there in full lucidity.

Maya offered a congratulatory smile, saying, "Well done, Shuichi-san.
Well done."

"What was 'well done', Maya-san?" Kurama asked, in awe of Maya's image
before him. He had many other things to say--many things to explain to
her, or at least to the Maya inside of him--but he didn't know how.

"I think what Shuichi-san did was worth the congratulations," Maya
explained, smiling enigmatically. Seeing Kurama's confused face, she
continued.

"You haven't realized it? You have made this dream into your own dream,
Shuichi-san; just like Keiko-san suggested," the specter praised. She
afterwards melancholically sighed. "I am able to address who Keiko-san
is although in reality I've never met her, but your subconscious doesn't
even allow me to call you by any name other than 'Shuichi-san.'"

Kurama was about to mutter a hangdog apology when Maya signaled for him
to stop.

"I am happy being what I am now, an image in your mind, because I am
glad that somehow, you've let me in your heart. This is enough," she
stated, wiping a tear away. "I am happy that when you made this dream
your own, I was a part of it. I'm more than glad to be part of your
dreams, Shuichi-san. Never forget that."


***


Back to the present, inside the golden pillar of light...

As Kurama's vision became clear, all he saw now was a smiling Maya. He
surveyed his surroundings. Instead of the expected veil of light, he
saw the avenue where he and Maya used to walk home from school together.
Every last aspect of their habitual tradition was there in complete
lucidity.

And it was indeed true; every _last_ detail of their daily routine was
present in the dream. As Kurama looked at his reflection on a nearby
car's windshield, he was astounded by what he saw. His hair was cut
short and his build was more slender. He was also a few inches shorter
than before. He quickly put two and two together. 'I'm... fourteen
again?' 

Maya was the first one to speak, asking, "Hmmm? Did you say something,
Shuichi-san?"

"Ah, no! Nothing," Kurama assured, silently wondering if it was really a
good idea to make all his thoughts open to everyone in the Dream World.
He wanted to say more, but he still had no idea how to break things to
her. He still didn't know how to say good-bye to a memory that he clung
onto for so long. He inhaled deeply. 'I better calm down.'

"Shuichi-san always has so many things to think about. Such is the life
of a genius, ne?" she cheered, inadvertently using the same joke Keiko
quipped once upon a time. 

"You exaggerate," he said with a half-smile, and then said nothing more. 

"The sun is so beautiful when it's setting, isn't it? I just love
sunsets," Maya conversationally started, openly smiling. "Like Midas's
touch, the fading sunlight makes everything turn into gold."

Kurama rubbed the back of his head, consigning himself to his 'boy-next-
door' act. "I agree. I never get tired of watching sunsets. That's one
of the main reasons why I love walking you home from school." 

Maya giggled gaily as she mockingly surmised, "I see. So basically
you're saying that the sunset's more important to you than hanging out
with dreary old me?"

"Yup," Kurama jokingly responded, chuckling in kind as his earlier fears
started to dissipate. "But as much as I love sunsets, I love the stars
at night even more."

"Oh, please give me the 'star's death' speech again! I've only heard it
about a zillion times!" was Maya's tongue-in-cheek riposte as she
blithely rolled her eyes at Kurama. 

Kurama let out an affable laugh. "Sorry about that. I do tend to repeat
myself." He felt more and more relaxed as the feeling of wistfulness
slowly engulfed him. "On the other hand, even though it's admittedly
heartbreaking to see a star fade away, its death isn't really all that
pitiful compared to a star that dies in a blaze of glory. The fact that
it's tragic is where its true beauty lies."

Kurama checked out Maya's reaction. "I'm not boring you again, am I?"

Maya shook her head. "No, don't be silly. As usual, you've shared a very
interesting and thought-provoking treatise," she kidded, imitating
Kurama's overzealous use of deep words. "As for me, I think it's all
very romantic, if not sad."

"Sad?"

"Yes, sad. It's very, very sad. Though I agree with you that a fading
star is not without its charm and romance, it's still very much tragic.
Who wants to see a star fade away anyway?"

They heard the rustle of trees from a distance. Maya tilted her head,
querying, "What's the matter, Shuichi-san? Is something wrong?"

Finally summoning the courage to divulge everything to her, Kurama
started, "Maya-san, I have something important to tell you. It's
about...!"

But before Kurama could continue what could have been a good ten minute 
narrative, it took only all of two seconds for Maya to say, "I know."

"You do?" Kurama cocked his head quizzically at Maya as she bobbed hers
in concurrence. "I can understand why Botan already knew, but how did
you find out?"

"I found out because I'm just a figment of your imagination. Remember,
I'm but a memory of yours. I'm a part of your mind. Heck, I even know
who 'Botan' is, even though I've never met her."

"Wait, so you've been leading me on all this time? Why didn't you just
tell me that you knew?" Kurama queried, more in shock than in anger.

"Nonsense. We haven't had a heart-to-heart talk in a long time, that's
all." Maya looked at the dimming sky. It was already twilight. She
pensively added, "Nowadays, you rarely daydream about me. I miss our
little talks."

Kurama held Maya's hand and squeezed it a little bit. "I'm sorry. I
guess it's partly because I got fed up by all the dreams Taka-kun kept
putting in my head."

Maya playfully flicked Kurama's nose, a familiar gesture to the kitsune.
"Now don't lie to yourself. You've been forgetting about me long before
'Taka-kun' reared his bishonen head. The real reason is that you've
simply outgrown me."

"You know I can't do that. Crazy as it is for me to have an imaginary
friend, I still kept you around, didn't I?"

Maya smiled wryly. "This conversation is getting us nowhere, Shuichi-
san."

Kurama took a deep breath, remembering Yusuke's advice to him from way
back last summer. 'Don't beat around the bush. Go straight to the
point.'

"It's fairly obvious that it's tough for me to let you go, since you've
been around my mind for so long. I know all I need to say is good-bye,
then it'd be all over. But the problem is, I couldn't bring myself to
say the words. Botan's probably right: I can't help but keep my
'personified guilt-trip' around. That's just the way I am."

"That's sweet, but you really have nothing more to say to me. To be
honest, I'm not the one who you should be saying good-bye to."

"What do you--?"

"She's here," Maya whispered as she motioned towards the intersection in
front of them. As Kurama turned, he did a double take at what he saw.

Just across the street in front of Kurama was a slumbering 'twin' of the
Maya in his mind, floating above the pavement like an eerie phantom. The
sleeping Maya was slightly older than her imaginary counterpart, about
sixteen years of age.

Somehow finding his voice, Kurama addressed the fourteen-year-old Maya,
asking, "What's going on here? Why are there two of you, Maya-san?"

"I believe it's about time you came clean. This is the person who you
should be saying good-bye to, Shuichi-san. The only way you can truly
bid me farewell is to tell her everything. She," the imaginary Maya
motioned towards her unconscious self, "is the real Maya. Your former
friend and classmate; the girl you gave selective amnesia to two years
ago."

"This... is Maya-san? The _real_ Maya-san?"

He couldn't believe his eyes. It was her. After all these years, he
finally saw her again. 

So many questions filled him as he kept staring at her, his green eyes
almost shining with amazement.... And yet, in that moment, he couldn't
find his voice to ask a single one. 
 Her face. Pale, yet radiant in the cool starlight. 

Her hair. Long, unbelievably long, tangled and wild. 

Her body, lithe and smooth... taller somehow... her loose pajamas
couldn't hide the soft, delicate and familiar curve of her shape... 

His mouth felt suddenly, impossibly dry.

And her face. She had always been pretty to his eyes, but now, in her 
more mature form, she was breathtakingly ravishing. The fact that she
was unconscious made her all the more alluring; his sleeping beauty.

'Maya-san. I'm glad to see that you're doing okay after all these years.
But still...'

After a fair amount of quiet contemplation and deliberation, Kurama
nearly demanded, "Why are you doing this? This is pointless. Do you hate
the fact that I'm saying good-bye to you instead of the real Maya-san?"

Maya's smile was promptly replaced by pursed lips and downtrodden eyes.
"No. I hate the fact that, after you're gone, there won't even be a
memory of you in the real Maya-san's mind. For her, it's as if you've 
disappeared completely off the face of the Earth, like you never
existed."

"It's better that way," was Kurama's succinct reply.

"How is it better? How can it possibly be better?" Maya queried, almost
challenged.

"She's been living her life quite well without me, so I don't see the
point in making her know things she doesn't need to know. I do believe
that this time, ignorance truly is bliss," Kurama rationalized as he
felt his discomfort rise.

"That's a lie," Maya patently declared. "I'm a part of your mind. I can
tell when you're lying and when you're simply in denial. Actually, after
all these years, you finally have come to the point where you _want_ to
tell Maya-san the truth. It's time to let go. Free yourself. Enough of
the lies."

"I can't, I won't, and that's no lie. What could she possibly get out of
the truth? The very reason I removed part of her memories was because
she knew too much." Kurama adamantly stared eye-to-eye at the equally
defiant Maya. 

"This would have been what she wanted; it's what you want to do as well.
Please, do her... us... this one favor. Trust me, I know her. I am her.
This is what _we_ truly want."

"You can't be sure of that. You're just an impression that Maya left in
my mind. You're an idealized picture of what could have been, nothing
more."

"Don't second-guess yourself so much; you were a lot closer to her than
you give yourself credit for. You knew almost everything about her: her
insecurities, her shyness, her crush on you, the way she shares your
passion for literature, philosophy, and the arts; I'm a reflection of
all that. I'm neither a figment of your imagination nor a personified
guilt-trip. I am Maya-san."

"No, you're not. And I know what I need to do. Even though I want to
tell her the truth, what needs to be done goes beyond that. I've said my
piece, so we should let this matter rest. I came here to say good-bye,
and that's what I'm going to do. Good-bye, Maya-san." 

The illusory world of Kurama's childhood memories housed within the
pillar of light started to fade away as the red-haired ghost began his
trek anew. Springtime was nearing its end.

The pubescent and conscious Maya, in either panic or desperation, nearly
pleaded, "Why couldn't you talk to her the same way you'd talk to me?
You were always so quiet and secretive around her. Why can't you be more
honest with her?"

Kurama paused and, for a second, seemed reluctant to answer. "I didn't
want to hurt her. And I also don't want to hurt you. I don't want either
of you to get hurt because of me. Why can't we just let things be? This
is what I want to remember before I die."

"Wait. Let me get this straight: Before you die, you want to remember
seeing yourself chicken out on telling Maya-san the truth about you?
That's preposterous!" the willful Maya countered, livid and seemingly 
oblivious to what was happening around her. The golden pillar of light
was already dimming from the inside out, judging by the way the
surrounding environs was disappearing into nothingness.

"Why must you continue to lie to her and to yourself? There's more to
you than just Kurama!" Seeing Kurama stop in mid-stride, Maya prodded,
"I know! I've met the true Minamino Shuichi! Why can't you let her know
about that part of you? Why can't you tell her about your philosophies
on human nature? Your likes and dislikes? Before you disappear from the
world altogether, she deserves to know the truth! The truth is what she
really needs!"

Just before everything inside the pillar of light faded forever into
obscurity, the young Maya's eyes widened in surprise. "Kurama. I just
said Kurama. That's your real name, isn't it?" She smiled sweetly as she
hastily wiped the tears that formed in the corners of her eyes. At long
last, the Maya in Kurama's mind was finally able to call him by his real
name.

"Thank you," the imaginary Maya gratefully said before being swallowed
by the converging darkness.

Before everything melted into inconsequence, the older, slumbering Maya
finally awoke, mouthing Kurama's name. She afterwards stopped levitating
altogether, falling into the vanishing earth like a puppet whose strings
had been cut.



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