[FFML] [fic][yyh] Shonen Epilogue: Last to First

gabriel_gabdiel at yahoo.com gabriel_gabdiel at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 15 00:18:16 PDT 2009


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

"Shuichi-san!"

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?"


________________________________________________________________________


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

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

________________________________________________________________________

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 that 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 myriad 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's 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.

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.

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


***


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.'"



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