Botan wanted to scream. She wanted to rant about the unfair place the world, all worlds, had suddenly become. She would have liked to believe that it was her professionalism that kept her silent, that her set jaw in the face of her new assignment was a testament to her countless years spent as a Grim Reaper, a gentle guide to escort souls of the dead to their final rest. As much as she wanted to pretend that was the case, she knew that she was just lying to herself. The thing that forced her to swallow her rage and the bitter words forming on the tip of her tongue was fear. Few people held the courage and power to stand before King Yama – master of all Spirit World and final judge of the dead – without being intimidated, but she was not one of them.
It was only last night that Yusuke departed for Demon World. Though he left with a smile, his absence and the circumstances around it weighed heavily on Botan and everyone else who called Yusuke friend. Returning to Spirit World and her normal duties was a depressing prospect, but she had not been given the chance to find out, as she was ordered to see King Yama immediately. There was no time for her to straighten out her pink kimono before she suddenly found herself in the cavernous throne room belonging to the ruler of the Spirit World.
The urgency in which Botan had been summoned, coupled with the heavy atmosphere she felt when she first entered the throne room, somehow made Yama seem as though he were twenty times her size, even though it was closer to ten. He sat in his massive throne in his royal vestments, his eyes hidden by the glare reflecting off his glasses, his expression as hard as stone. It would have been easier for the aqua haired girl to face the giant king had she been allowed to remain floating on her oar, but there was a small table waiting for her not far from the king’s feet, upon which rested an inconspicuous looking manila folder.
Botan had no sooner laid her pink eyes on the file’s contents before Yama informed her of her next assignment. In that instant, it was as if reality had taken an unexpected and very unfair turn.
Botan looked at the file in her hand one more time to make certain that her rage was justified. The floating orbs of light hovering lazily about the room provided more than enough illumination for her to see the name printed on the cover. She was familiar with this particular case, and all it took was a quick glance at the data to verify that her memory of it was not faulty. A small part of her wondered if she had simply misunderstood Yama, but she knew that she could not cling to such flimsy denial. She could still feel the orders he gave her reverberating through her soul.
As much as Botan wanted to scream at Yama and lecture him about how he was making a terrible error in judgment and behaving like a hypocritical bully, she forced herself to speak in even tones. “King Yama, I’m afraid I don’t understand.” She was almost pleased to note that her voice only barely wavered. “I thought the entire problem with Yusuke being Spirit Detective, despite everything he’s done for us, was the fact that he has a demon ancestor.”
When Yama chose not to reply immediately, Botan felt her anxiety grow. Words tumbled around in her head, but somehow she managed to gather the right ones she felt might support her argument without offending the king with her justified anger. “I understand that the situation with Mushiyori is bad,” she said. “What with all the demons and demonic insects that snuck out while Yusuke and the others were stopping Sensui… I know there’s a lot of them running around that desperately need to be taken care of, but why this?” She held up the case file, shaking it slightly. “Why replace Yusuke with a new Spirit Detective so quickly? Isn’t the SDF enough to clean up this mess by themselves? They certainly seem powerful enough to take care of even B-Class demons easily. And why did you choose someone like this as his replacement?” She slapped the back of her hand against the case file and quaked with both rage and fear. She realized belatedly that she had been shouting by the end of her diatribe, but she tried desperately not to let her nerves override her valid concerns. If she apologized for the harshness of her words then she would undoubtedly dull the impact of her argument and render it invalid.
If Yama noticed Botan’s anger or fear, he deemed it beneath his concern. “The Special Defense Force in the process of cleaning up the mess left by my son’s former Spirit Detective as we speak.” His voice rumbled almost pleasantly, sounding as though it held the infinite patience and understanding of a father speaking to their child. Botan would have been put more at ease if she were not well aware of how terrible the king’s fury could be sometimes, especially when offended. She did not want to be the cause of another earthquake suddenly springing up in Tokyo.
“However,” Yama said, “even they will not be able to eliminate every demon that has already gone into hiding within such a short amount of time. You know as well as I that they were created to defend us against the most powerful threats against the Spirit and Human Worlds. I will not have them distracted by hunting down weak demons on the run. That is the Spirit Detective’s job, or have you forgotten?”
Botan tried to smile to disarm the harsh look Yama shot her way, but it came out more like a grimace. She could just imagine that if she were in her human guise that she would be sweating bullets under such an unsympathetic, scrutinizing gaze delivered by the king of the Spirit World. She forced herself to be cheery, even though inside she felt as though she had recently swallowed a swarm of angry butterflies. “O-of course I haven’t forgotten! Why, I’ve been very focused on helping Yusuke with all his tasks.” She paused to steel her courage so that she might continue her argument. “It… it’s just… I thought all that trouble with Yusuke being detective anymore was because he has the tiniest bit of demon blood in his family. It seemed to me that if his family tree had been traced back that far back when he first became a candidate for Spirit Detective, he never would’ve been allowed to become one in the first place. So I can’t understand why you would choose someone who has no family tree at all!”
Yama stared down his nose at Botan over the rims of his glasses, his brown eyes losing all trace of warmth. “Are you saying that I have made a mistake in judging this matter?”
A trill of nervous laughter bubbled up from Botan’s throat as she suddenly found herself at a loss for what to do with her hands, which seemed to flutter around her like birds caught in a cage. “What? Who? Me? No! Of course not! I-I just think that maybe there was, um, ah, a… a misunderstanding! Yes, just all one big silly misunderstanding! I would never dream to question the great King Yama’s judgment.”
The corner of Yama’s mouth pulled back into a slight smile, though his gaze remained unforgiving. “I’m glad to hear it. Since you are so worried about whatever nasty surprises might crop up, I have an additional assignment for you. I want you to keep an eye on this new Spirit Detective. Find out everything you can, from family tree to earliest memory and anything else you might find unusual. You are to make your reports directly to me until I assign someone to oversee your tasks.”
Botan wilted then bowed her head. She knew when she was beaten. “Of course, King Yama. I’ll… I’ll head out to Human World at once.” It was hard for her to accept rolling over and giving up so easily. What would she tell Yusuke if he ever found out? Perhaps she could try one last approach… “But, ah, what should I tell Yu… K-Kuwabara and the others? I-I mean they’ve helped so much before. Surely they would want to help us round up the stray demons as well.”
Yama stroked his thick black beard, as though pensive. As the silence stretched on, Botan felt convinced that he certainly must have considered the thought before she even asked and was merely making a show of choosing whether or not to answer, to give some illusion that her concerns were valid. “You may request the assistance of Kazuma Kuwabara if you feel that he is still willing to cooperate with us, despite the fact that he has never been an official agent of Spirit World.”
Botan tried unsuccessfully to hide her wince and nodded. Despite what had happened to Yusuke, she had no doubt that Kuwabara would help save the world again in a heartbeat. The only problem was what Shizuru’s reaction would be to the reaper dragging her baby brother around to fight more monsters. Shizuru had gotten so angry when Botan whisked Kuwabara away from his studies in order to say goodbye to Yusuke, and, in a way, Kuwabara was retired from fighting in order to lead a normal life. After everything the swordsman had gone through, it was hard to begrudge him that desire. Botan doubted that she would receive help from Kuwabara except for the big, important fights, or anything involving Shizuru or Yukina being in danger.
“Yusuke Urameshi and Hiei, of course, have been sent to Demon World, and as such are no longer involved with Spirit World affairs,” Yama said. “As for Kurama…”
Every second that ticked by seemed to multiply Botan’s fears. She fidgeted with the file in her hands, not noticing how her clenching fingers crinkled the corners of the papers that jutted out from the edges.
“Kurama and I have already come to an arrangement,” Yama said. “He will be assisting the new Spirit Detective as well while he’s in Human World.”
Botan’s anxiety changed to shock in the span of a heartbeat. For a moment, she lost her composure completely and outright gaped at Yama, her mouth hanging open in a small O. She had expected him to say something completely different – most likely a remark about how dangerous it was to have Kurama still living among humans and he should be ‘dealt’ with in some way, possibly in the same manner as Yusuke. However, Yama’s casual response to the matter sent a small spark of outrage through the reaper that loosened her tongue despite all common sense. “What? You mean that you told him about this before me? But I’m the Spirit Detective’s guide!”
Botan almost said more but then remembered who she was talking to and quickly shut her mouth. She was only thankful such a petty concern escaped her lips, rather than the more pressing one – what made Kurama less of a threat than Yusuke in Human World. She knew she would not like the answer, and she did not intend to tempt Yama into reevaluating his decision.
Yama raised an eyebrow at Botan, which caused the Grim Reaper to flinch and babble a quiet, somewhat incoherent apology for her outburst. He waited for her to silence herself before he responded. “Kurama came to me earlier to offer his services in exchange for safe passage to and from Demon World on a regular basis. Had he not, I would have likely sent him there permanently like Yusuke and Hiei, regardless of his attachment to certain humans in Human World. In fact, he offered to assume the role of Spirit Detective for the time being in exchange for that privilege.” He exhaled loudly, the noise coming out almost like a snort and a growl all at once. The displeased sound echoing off the high ceiling made Botan shiver a little. “I have had enough demons acting as agents of Spirit World for one millennia. For now, his duties will be limited to ensuring that we will not be in need of a fifth Spirit Detective any time soon.”
Yama leaned forward in his throne, casting his shadow over Botan and reminding the reaper just how much larger and intimidating he was compared to her. “I trust that answers all your questions and concerns to your satisfaction.”
Botan let out a tiny squeak and nodded, knowing full well that was not a question. She had worn out Yama’s patience, and experience – as well as horror stories that spread around the office – taught her that when Yama lost his patience it was time to retreat as quickly as possible. “Y-yes, King Yama.” She let out a shaky laugh as she backed away. “I… I’ll just go talk to Kurama about this and then, well, we’ll, I guess, go introduce ourselves, right? Don’t want to make a bad first impression on the new Spirit Detective you know.”
Botan found her feet suddenly anchored to the floor. Almost against her will, she turned back to look directly into Yama’s large eyes, which managed to pierce right through her despite the distance between them.
“I trust that you will keep the contents of that case file confidential,” Yama said. “It would not do for the Spirit Detective’s guide to risk allowing sensitive information to fall into the hands of demons. I would prefer not have to find someone else to train my Spirit Detectives from now on.”
Botan swallowed, trying to force her throat to open back up again so that she could speak. She did her best to sound at least a little affronted by the suggestion in order to hide her anxiousness. “O-of course I won’t say anything about it. Wh-what kind of guide would I be if I sp-spread gossip around like that?”
Yama leaned back in his throne, never blinking. “My son will be informed of the situation as soon as he returns. You need not burden yourself to seek him out for his assistance.”
If Botan’s spirit body possessed a heart, it would have stopped beating. She tried desperately to maintain her poker face – a flimsy effort at that. The only thing keeping her from babbling out every sort of denial that crossed her mind was pure terror rendering her silent. Does he know? How could he? I’ve been so careful! H-he can’t possibly have found out I’ve been talking to Koenma in secret about what’s been going on around here… right?
“You are dismissed,” Yama said.
It took a couple seconds for Botan to process the fact that he was letting her go instead of grilling her for information about Koenma. She bowed deeply as quickly as she could then backed up, fumbling behind her for the door. “Yes, King Yama, Sir. I-I’ll just go ahead and, ah, get out of your hair.” She felt a small wave of relief wash over her when she felt something solid and pushed the door open. “Goodbye!”
The second the words left her lips, Botan left Yama’s office as quickly as she could without making it appear as though she was running away. She waited until she left the outer office and was safely away from both Yama’s gaze and that of his secretaries before she broke out into a sprint. She did not stop running until there were at least six hallways between her and Yama’s office. She took ragged, shallow breaths as she leaned against the wall, more out of reflex learned from spending so much time in a human body than a real need to take in oxygen or cool down. Once she soothed her frayed nerves, she brushed her bangs out of her face so she could get another look at the file held tightly in her hand. She sighed as she absently smoothed out the creases she made. “Oh Yusuke,” she whispered. “Why did it end up like this?”
Botan closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall, trying to suppress the feeling of hopelessness that threatened to overwhelm her. The idea that Yusuke had been so quickly and easily discharged, replaced, and discarded to Demon World like trash was so terrible that she could not think of anything appropriately awful enough to compare it to. Not only had his position been filled within little over a week, he could never return to the Human World – not if he wanted to remain alive. If the former Spirit Detective ever came back, she had no doubt that Yama would reactivate the order to assassinate him. The only way she was ever going to see Yusuke again would be to ferry him off to the afterlife.
Tears blurred Botan’s vision before she hastily wiped them away with the back of her sleeve. No. I can’t just give up on Yusuke. I have to remain positive. He’ll find a way to come back without having to d-die. Yusuke always finds a way out of a tough spot, even if that tough spot includes dying. It’s not like he doesn’t have a habit of refusing to stay dead after all. I just have to stay positive and… and… train his replacem… the new detective. Yusuke never really wanted to be Spirit Detective anyway, so it’s… it’s okay. It’s okay.
Botan sighed before she forced herself to straighten up and put on her best determined expression, even if there was no one watching her at the moment. She was not the type of person to let unpleasant things get her down for long. She had experienced plenty of tough assignments in the past. This was not any different than, say, talking a rather stubborn ghost out of lingering in Human World, or something like that. If she could handle trying to save the world on a regular basis, she could certainly handle an uncomfortable situation like this.
Botan gave the folder a sharp look and flipped it open. She would not let some setbacks stop her, or cause her to hold it against the new charge. Her eyes were drawn to the photograph on the brief profile summary set neatly on top of the small stack of papers. This new Spirit Detective reminded her almost nothing of Yusuke, but then again she imagined that was likely the entire point.
As Botan’s eyes scanned the information with great fervor, a small whisper at the back of her mind feared that Yama’s decision would result something terrible for either Yusuke or the new Spirit Detective. She almost succeeded in ignoring that tiny voice.
The buildings of Mushiyori City passed by quickly many meters below Botan as she flew sidesaddle on her oar towards her destination. The area filled her with a complicated mixture of emotions, mostly unpleasant ones, which simply piled onto all the other feelings she was already dealing with. Just over a week ago, this place had almost been ground zero for the end of the world, and now she was there to find the person selected to replace the Spirit Detective who saved it. If this is King Yama’s idea of being ironic then I certainly don’t appreciate his sense of humor.
For a moment, Botan wondered if she should have gone to see Kurama before heading for Mushiyori so that they could come together and perhaps discuss the situation. That thought was quickly squashed when she reminded herself of how he had not mentioned a single word to her about him making a deal with Yama, or that a new Spirit Detective had been selected. He can just come and introduce himself on his own for all I care. It’s not like King Yama told me what exactly Kurama was supposed to do to help out anyway. He’s probably just supposed to go out on missions like he did with Yusuke...
Botan sighed, as a more pressing thought weighed on her mind. “How am I going to tell everyone that Yusuke has been replaced?” There really was no gentle way to break the news to them as far as she could see. She shook her head after she noticed that she was closing in on her destination. “I’ll think of something… after I’ve introduced myself.”
Botan considered whether she should pretend to be a fortuneteller like last time when shouts from below caught her attention. She slowed her oar and made her descent as sought out the source of the ruckus. A small dog was barking its head off as it made a mad dash along the sidewalk. Not far behind it, a schoolgirl in junior high uniform was in hot pursuit, pleading with the pedestrians milling about to snag the dog before it passed them by. Most people simply stopped to watch the scene unfold, though a few did try to grab the dog or the leash that trailed behind it. Somehow, the dog continually managed to slip between grasping fingers and darted between legs, always keeping a few lengths ahead of the girl chasing it.
Botan had been ready to shrug the incident off when the dog veered away from the sidewalk then suddenly came to a halt in the middle of the street to catch its breath. She could see the scene unfolding before her even before she spotted the car heading right for the dog at a reckless speed. “Oh no…” The girl must have seen the car too and ran into the street in order to save the dog, or she was so focused on catching it to realize the danger she put herself in. “No! Get out of the street!”
Botan willed her oar to move as fast as possible towards the girl, knowing that she wasn’t going to make it in time and that her shouting could not be heard by the living in this form. Even though she was a Grim Reaper and had seen accidents like this occur many times, she was unwilling to sit idly by and watch someone die if there was a chance that she could stop it from happening.
The dog looked back, oblivious to the car barreling towards it. Upon seeing the girl, it ran to the other side of the street, away from the danger that the girl had thrown herself into for its sake. Botan cringed and covered her eyes, knowing that it was too late. She heard the screech of tires but no telltale crunch of metal or cracking of glass. Reluctantly she lowered her hand and slowed her oar to survey the scene. To the reaper’s immense relief, she saw the girl standing on the opposite sidewalk, obviously shaken up but otherwise fine. The driver of the car stuck his head out the window and spewed rather ugly curses at the girl before continuing on his way, albeit at a slower speed than before. The girl shook her head, as though trying to brush off the fact that she had come within a hair’s breadth of death.
Botan put her hands to her chest and let out the metaphorical breath she was holding in a literal sigh. “What a relief.” Despite the intense scene she saw only moments ago, an ironic smile tugged at her lips. “I seem to recall something like this happening before I met Yusuke too. At least this time it didn’t end with someone dying.”
Despite the brush with death, the girl did not linger long. She spotted the dog further along the sidewalk and resumed the chase. Botan was not sure if the girl simply recovered quickly from traumatic incidents or was too focused on catching the dog to fully understand what had happened. As Botan watched the girl round the corner and disappear from sight, she considered whether she should follow. After a few moments of deliberation, she decided that the chances of the girl getting in another accident were slim enough that her presence was not necessary.
Only a second later did Botan realize that she recognized the girl. The shock caused her to go rigid for a moment before she slowly turned, looking from the tire marks on the road to the place where she last saw the girl. “It can’t be…”
After a bit of searching, Botan found both girl and dog in a vacant lot. The girl was slowly circling the dog while speaking soft assurances that she had no intention of harming it. The dog growled at the girl, its body tensed in a crouch. Though obviously exhausted, its eyes never left the girl, and it kept turning its head to keep sight of her as she made a full rotation around it.
Suddenly the girl flicked her hand in the direction of the dog and a glowing dome of blue energy sprang up around the animal, trapping it. “Gotcha!” The dog seemed to have no idea that it had been cornered until the girl stepped closer and it backed up into the wall that was likely completely invisible to its eyes. The girl snatched the end of the leash now that the dog could no longer run away and grinned ear to ear. “Finally!”
Botan drifted in closer until she hovered barely above the ground behind the girl as she let out a giggle. “Well, that’s certainly one way to use your Territory.”
The girl jumped, startled, and turned to face Botan. Her bright azure eyes were wide as they fixed on the reaper, despite how her quick movements caused her long bangs to fall across her face and partially obscured her vision. Her thick black hair was much longer than what most women put up with, ending just beneath her knees, and bound in a low ponytail with a ribbon tied in a bow near her shoulder blades. Her skin was fair, her body type curvy, and she was slightly taller than average – they would have been looking eye to eye if the reaper had not been floating at the moment. Most importantly of all, her heart shaped face matched the photograph Botan had memorized perfectly.
Botan grinned, feeling a smug sense of satisfaction that her hunch was correct. “I’m sorry. I didn’t startle you, did I?”
The girl blushed faintly as she looked away. “Well, um, a little. I–” She tensed before turning back to get another look at Botan. Her gaze traveled down to the ground, where the reaper’s feet did not touch, and then back to Botan’s smiling face. The girl’s eyes widened as she took a couple involuntary steps backward. The dog barked in protest and scrambled back to the end of the leash now that the barrier trapping it was gone.
Botan unsuccessfully hid a giggle behind her sleeve. “Oh come now, you can’t tell me that you’re scared of little old me after you defeated a terrible demon like Horumon only a week ago.”
The girl took a few moments to articulate a response. “Y-you know about that?”
“Yep!” Botan said. “And I have to say that I was quite impressed when I found out about it. Not many people would risk their lives to save the person who bullied them all through school you know. Especially not against a demon wanted for four previous convictions in Spirit World.”
The girl found her shuffling feet oddly interesting. “Thank you, but I can’t say I really meant to…” She went silent for a moment before she turned her gaze back to Botan. “Wait. How do you know about that? I never told anyone, and Fukui doesn’t even remember any of it. Who are you?”
“Oh,” Botan said, “forgive my rudeness. My name is Botan. I’m a guide to the River Styx, or in other words I guess you could call me a Grim Reaper.”
The girl stared at Botan as if seeing her for the first time, brushing her long bangs back to get a better look at the floating girl. “Grim… Reaper? You, ah, you don’t really look anything like I imagined.”
Botan smiled as she thought back to the first time she met Yusuke and how he had made a similar comment, though not quite so tactfully. “I get that a lot.”
The girl’s expression slowly shifted from surprised and embarrassed to wary. “If you’re the Grim Reaper then why are you here? If it’s about that car…”
Despite the serious topic, Botan had a hard time suppressing the urge to laugh. She could not fail to see the irony of the situation. “Don’t worry. I’m not here because of that. I’m here to see you, Silly.”
Botan nodded and pulled out her book, flipping it open more for show than because she needed to refresh her memory. “Amaya Mamori, age 15. Kind hearted and polite, but easily flustered and shy. Oldest child of a family of six with a mother, father, two sisters, and one brother. A senior with top marks at Ugetsu Junior High, which was the site of your heroic battle against the wicked demon Horumon just last week. And it goes without saying that you have a strong sense of spiritual awareness that has allowed you to see ghosts and apparitions since you were a very young age.” She closed her book and smiled at Amaya in spite of the shocked expression on the dark haired girl’s face.
“That’s…” Amaya slowly shook her head. “How…” Her brow furrowed. “Wait. You’ve been spying on me?”
Botan pouted as she put her hands on her hips. “It’s not really spying. Spirit World keeps track of every human since the day they’re born until the day they die. It’s our job to keep record of their lives and make sure that when they meet their final rest that they will be fairly judged for both their good and bad deeds.”
Amaya took a moment to digest this information before speaking. “I… guess that makes sense. If you really are the Grim Reaper I mean.”
Botan felt put off by the remark and let out a huff. “Well of course I am. Just because I don’t go around without any skin or wear a black cloak and brandish a scythe doesn’t mean I’m not a Grim Reaper. Surely the fact that I’m flying and know about something you yourself said no one else could know is proof enough.”
Amaya’s cheeks pinked as she had the good grace to appear chastised. “I’m sorry if I’m being rude, but I’ve encountered a lot of ghosts that like to stalk people. Though I admit you do seem somehow different than they are…”
Botan wore her best smile to put Amaya’s mind at ease. “Don’t you worry. All of your information is strictly confidential. I’m the one in charge of your case file, and I know how to keep a secret. I doubt anyone but King Yama knows as much about you as I do, and you don’t have to worry about him until it’s your time.”
Amaya pondered the reaper’s words in silence. She lightly traced the edge of the black velvet choker around her neck. “Okay. I guess if I can accept all the other strange supernatural things I’ve seen I can accept that a girl who looks my age and rides a flying oar is a Grim Reaper.”
“Glad to hear it!” Botan said. “Now, that, that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business.”
Amaya gripped the choker’s heart-shaped charm as her apprehension grew. “This doesn’t have anything to do with anyone dying, does it?”
Botan’s voice tinkled with an undercurrent of laughter. “No, Silly. In fact, the reason why I’m here is completely the opposite. I want your help to save lives.”
Amaya blinked, twice. “Really?”
Botan winked. “Just because I’m a Grim Reaper doesn’t mean that my only duties are guiding the recently deceased you know. I’m an emissary of Spirit World, and I’m here to inform you that you, Amaya Mamori,” she pointed at Amaya, “have been chosen for a special assignment. You out of all people have all the qualifications necessary to become Spirit Detective for the Human World.”
Without thinking, Amaya mimicked Botan’s gesture, releasing her choker to point at herself. “Me?” She did not know if she should feel more flattered than confused. “Why me? What’s a Spirit Detective? Is that someone who hunts down ghosts who commit crimes?”
Botan winked and pantomimed a shooting gesture at Amaya. “Bingo! You got the answer exactly right. Your job is to take care of ghosts, demons, and anyone else with supernatural abilities who threaten people’s lives and disrupt the natural order of Human World and Spirit World.”
Amaya was briefly distracted when the dog made another attempt to get away, yanking on the leash harshly enough that it nearly slipped through her fingers. She yelped and fumbled for a moment to get a better hold on the leash and tied the end around her wrist to prevent it from happening again. She was unable to hide how awkward she felt as she looked from the dog back to Botan. “You mean… you want me to fight more demons like Horn Boy, I mean Horumon, right?” She paused only long enough for the reaper to nod. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but killing that demon was an accident. I mean, I knew I had no choice but to try at the time, since if I didn’t he was going to kill me and Fukui like he killed Mr. Abe, but I was just really, really lucky that I managed to trick him into stabbing his own head like that.”
Botan’s smile never faltered, as she called to mind all the times Yusuke won by nothing more than sheer dumb luck. “Oh don’t be so modest! I watched the tape of your fight with Horumon and it was amazing! Imagine, discovering a hidden power you didn’t know you possessed just in time to save your life. I thought it was really clever how you used that umbrella like that to form a blinding shield around his head.”
Amaya felt her face grow warm. “Th-thank you. Though, what I was trying to do really was make him suffocate. When I saw him attacking the shield I just, well…” She shrugged, unsure of how to finish that sentence. “I’m just not sure how well I’d do if I had to fight a demon like that all over again.”
“Don’t you worry,” Botan said. “With a little training, and a really good teacher,” she favored Amaya with a pose, “I’m sure you’ll be able to handle any case Spirit World has to throw at you in no time. I noticed that you’ve been spending all your spare time training on your own since then already.”
Amaya bit her lower lip. “Yes, but I was doing that in case of an emergency. I wasn’t exactly planning on going into the demon slaying business…”
Botan waved, as though to dismiss the thought, her sleeve completely hiding her hand. “Don’t be silly. A Spirit Detective’s job isn’t to act like a hitman for the Spirit World. The tasks can range from rescuing captives held by bad guys with supernatural abilities to recovering powerful items before they get misused by the wrong people.” She paused for a moment and her good cheer faltered. “Although… I guess given the way things are right now the cases are mostly to track down and take care of demons that got out from Demon World and are hiding out here in Human World.”
Amaya felt her insides clench. “Does this have anything to do with all those deformed insects and the sky turning red not too long ago?”
A quiet sigh escaped Botan’s lips as she nodded. “Afraid so.” She hesitated to continue, wondering just how much to tell Amaya about the incident with Shinobu Sensui. After seeing how the new Spirit Detective seemed to grow a little more anxious the longer Botan kept quiet, the reaper decided to save that topic for a later time. That case was over after all, and the second Spirit Detective would never bother anyone else ever again. “But don’t worry. The reason why they came here has been taken care of, and a good number of those insects and demons have already been dealt with. All that’s left to take care of is to find the ones who went into hiding and stop them before they hurt anyone.”
Amaya cast her eyes downward as she spoke so softly that Botan nearly missed what she said. “Like Mr. Abe…”
Botan nodded, her expression set with grim determination, though she made sure to add an encouraging smile. “So what do you say? Are you ready to help clean up this town?”
Numerous emotions warred across Amaya’s face – uncertainty, anxiety, and a flickering of fortitude most of all. The schoolgirl finally answered just as Botan was about to prompt her for a response. “Am I really the best person for the job? The demon I fought was strong enough to slice through the shoe lockers like they were made of tissue paper, and he used this awful gas attack that almost took me out. Surely there must be someone else out there who would be better suited for this?”
Botan closed her eyes and sighed deeply, thinking once again of Yusuke’s dishonorable discharge and what amounted to banishment to Demon World. She thought briefly of Kuwabara, who was trying to live a normal life, Hiei, who had left to fight on a side opposing the one Yusuke went to, and Kurama, who had been outright denied the position of Spirit Detective. “I’m afraid there isn’t.”
Amaya grimaced, both at the answer and at the utterly crushed look on Botan’s face. “So… I take it then that if I don’t accept the job and fight the demons the whole world will be doomed?” She cringed, as saying the thought aloud only made it even worse to bear. “No pressure…”
Botan jerked her head up with the realization that instead of building up the new Spirit Detective’s confidence and encouraging her charge, she was making Amaya dread the job instead. The reaper flailed for a moment, nearly falling backwards off her oar before she righted herself. “No-now hold on! It’s not as bad as all that. I mean if things get too rough I’ve got plenty of friends who’d love to help. It’s just that you have been hand chosen by King Yama himself for the job of Spirit Detective, and no one else. If it’s not you then…”
Botan hesitated as she thought back to her earlier meeting with Yama. She could not see him accepting ‘no’ for an answer after the way he reacted when she objected to the idea of Amaya becoming Spirit Detective. She did not relish making the dark haired girl even more nervous so she decided make the truth a little more gentle for Amaya. “Well, let’s just say that King Yama knows what he’s doing.”
Seconds stretched on endlessly as Botan watched Amaya consider her words. She silently willed the teenage girl to accept the position of Spirit Detective without resistance or a sense of hopelessness. She did not relish the idea of being the person to tell Yama that Amaya refused or finding out what he would do in response.
Amaya’s body language practically screamed of her lack of confidence, much to Botan’s dismay. “It can really only be me because I lucked out and killed a demon?”
“It’s not just because of that,” Botan said. “Your special abilities, intelligence, and past good deeds have all played a part in this decision.” At least, the reaper hoped that was the case. “Remember when you were younger, how you used to talk to ghosts to try and find out why they were still lingering around in Human World? Well, thanks to you, some of them were able to find peace and be escorted to Spirit World without incident.”
The gloom hanging over Amaya lifted noticeably, replaced with wide-eyed wonder. “Really? I actually managed to help them?”
The change in attitude gave Botan a surge of hope, allowing her to smile more easily. “That’s right! A couple of them even asked me to thank you for them, er, when it was your time.” She laughed a little in an attempt to hide the awkwardness she felt at the mild faux paus. “Of course, now that you’ve been assigned as Spirit Detective I can tell you right now instead of waiting that long.”
Amaya touched her chin and her gaze grew distant.
Botan covered half her face with her sleeves in an attempt to hide just how nervous she felt.
Amaya took over a minute to speak again. “Do you…” She shifted her attention back to Botan. “Do you really think I could do it? Do you think I can become strong enough stop all the demons from hurting anymore people?”
Botan felt victorious, though she tried not to let herself show too much enthusiasm. “Of course!” She giggled and threw Amaya a wink. “Just leave it to me. With my help you’ll be saving the world in no time.”
A smile slowly grew on Amaya’s face as well. “Okay then. I accept. I’ll give it my best.”
“Glad to hear it,” Botan said. She was unable put into words how relieved she was by Amaya’s answer. She did not have to go back to Yama with bad news and she managed to alleviate the new Spirit Detective’s fears about the position.
So why did Botan feel so guilty?
There was not much more Botan could do during her first meeting with Amaya. They had briefly gone over some of the basics about Spirit World and the power of Territory. Amaya was particularly interested in the latter, as it related to her power to create shields. Although Botan would have liked to move onto the training right away and see the limitations of Amaya’s abilities in person, the dog had grown so restless that it started to howl and would not stop. They had to yell in order to hear each other when they arranged to meet at a more convenient time before they went their separate ways.
Botan drifted along on her oar far above the streets, watching Amaya struggle with the howling dog. “That went well, all things considered.”
Amaya met up with a number of girls wearing the same school uniform as her. She handed the leash over to one of the other girls, who was quick to scoop the dog up in a hug, which quieted the dog almost immediately. Botan was curious to hear what they were saying, but they were too far away and the city created too much background noise. The reaper did not dare move closer in order to listen in because she had a feeling she would make the new Spirit Detective even more nervous if she was spotted hovering nearby. She knew she probably should not be doing it, but she could not shake her sense of unease.
A smooth voice broke into Botan’s gloomy thoughts. “Is there something interesting about those girls?”
Botan jerked with a cry, instinctively grabbing her oar so that she would not fall off. She turned sharply to see a familiar teenage boy with long red hair standing on the roof of a nearby building. Within moments, her earlier anger towards Kurama came rushing back. “Don’t tell me you’ve already introduced yourself to Amaya too.” She huffed when she saw him raise a questioning eyebrow. “I already know all about that little deal you made with King Yama. Thanks a lot for warning me that Yusuke has been replaced!”
Kurama observed Botan’s anger a moment more before his gaze traveled down to the cluster of chattering schoolgirls and one noticeably distressed dog. “Actually, I didn’t know anything about that until you just told me.”
Botan’s anger evaporated in an instant as she gaped at Kurama. “What? But I thought you and King Yama made a deal to help me out with Amaya’s missions in exchange for going back and forth to Demon World!”
Kurama turned back to Botan. “It’s true that I struck a bargain with King Yama, but I believe the exact terms agreed upon were that I would help with the duties of Spirit Detective as I have in the past, though I would not be allowed to claim the title for my own.”
Botan’s mouth worked open and closed for a number of moments, but no sound came out. The earlier conversation with Yama replayed in her mind. It occurred to her that perhaps the king chose what Kurama was going to do after they made their agreement. “So, wait… You had no idea about any of this?”
Kurama observed the girls down below. “I had my suspicions that King Yama would take this course of action.” His sharp green eyes narrowed a fraction. “However, I did not expect him to choose a new Spirit Detective quite so quickly.”
Botan sighed and cupped her cheek. “I know what you mean. I guess we do need one with Yusuke gone and things, well, you know.” Her shoulders drooped. “I just don’t know how I’m going to break the news to everyone.”
Kurama’s focus on the group of girls never wavered. At a glance, they seemed to be ordinary teenage girls, but when he focused on their Spirit Energy, one of the girls stood out dramatically. “What can you tell me about this girl?”
Botan poked her fingers together as she pursed her lips. “I’m not sure, honestly. King Yama swore me to secrecy about the particulars of Amaya’s case file. I suppose since you’re going to be working with her I can tell you some things that you’re going to find out anyway…”
Kurama looked at Botan sideways. “Such as her ability to flawlessly hide her Spirit Energy?”
Botan cringed, but quickly tried to cover up the action with a laugh that rang false even to her ears. “Oh, you noticed that too, huh? What am I saying? Of course you did! Nothing slips by you, does it?” She laughed again for a few moments before awkwardly trailing off.
Kurama found Botan’s reaction interesting, and grew rather curious about the exact contents of the case file. Perhaps he would find a way to acquire it later if he deemed it necessary. “It’s unusual for a human with no prior connection with Spirit World to have such a strong ability. However, judging by what I’ve observed so far, particularly with the way that dog is reacting, her control is too perfect. Animals are much more sensitive than humans, and it would seem that her lack of spiritual presence is highly upsetting to it.”
Botan fidgeted, words forming halfway on her lips, only for her to stop and make a sound of frustration or anxiousness as she tried desperately to figure out what she could tell Kurama on the subject.
Kurama turned his head towards Botan, though he kept the girl with no noticeable Spirit Energy in his peripheral vision. “I assume that this ability was a factor in her selection.”
Botan shrugged, feeling rather helpless under Kurama’s scrutinizing gaze. “It seems as good a guess as any, doesn’t it? I told Amaya that she was picked because she killed a demon, helped some ghosts, and has the power to make shields with her Territory because I assumed all those were factors. To tell you the truth, I have no idea whatsoever why King Yama chose her, and you should’ve seen his face when I tried asking about it! I was worried he was going to start another earthquake or something!”
Kurama let out a low hum and turned back to watch the street as Amaya separated from the other girls. “So her power allows her to create shields. That could explain it, if she is constantly maintaining a shield powerful enough to block any trace of Spirit Energy from leaking through. The only question is why someone would choose to do that when they are clearly not in hiding.”
Botan bit her lower lip to hold back anything potentially incriminating. She desperately wanted to tell Kurama everything she knew about Amaya, if only to hear what he thought of the unusual circumstances. Unfortunately, she strongly suspected that Yama would discover it if she did. It seemed as though the king of Spirit World was aware of her secret meetings with Koenma despite their precautions after all.
Kurama spared Botan a brief glance after it became apparent that the reaper was unwilling to say more. In a way, such a reaction told him a fair amount about this new Spirit Detective. “Do you mind if I have a word with Amaya?”
The question made Botan almost panic for a moment, but she quickly got herself under control. If Kurama grilled Amaya for information then no one could claim that Botan was disobeying Yama’s orders. “O-of course!” the reaper said, trying to regain some sense of cheer. “In fact, why don’t you meet up with us tomorrow? We’re going to start her training in a vacant lot not too far from here after she gets out from school. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to meet you, especially when she finds out you’re going to help her stop criminals.”
Kurama gave Botan a wan smile. “Whenever Yomi doesn’t require my presence in Demon World at least.”
Botan deflated a little. “Oh, right, well, let’s just hope we don’t get any big cases until Amaya gets strong enough to handle them, or until this whole mess in Demon World gets sorted out.”
Kurama held no illusion that things would go smoothly, or that the impending war between the three kingdoms of Demon World would be remotely easy to resolve. From the look on Botan’s face, he could see that she did not believe it either. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
Tonight, however, Kurama was going to find out a little bit more about this new Spirit Detective.