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A story about Bacon

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After dinner Yusuke walked Botan to the door. As he opened it he gave her a cheesy grin and said, "Really. I think if he was going to hurt me, he would've done it then and there. I mean, I was wiped after fighting Gouki. I will be careful anyway, but I just have the feeling that I can trust him."

Yusuke and Botan were startled when they opened the door to find a petite brunette woman with long wavy brown hair and brown eyes standing there with a hand raised to knock on the door. She was wearing a soft tan knit shirt, a full brown skirt and brown boots. She appeared young, but something about her eyes and demeanor said different.

 

"Oh Botan, I am so glad you're still here. I was hoping you could vouch for who I was and introduce me to the spirit detective." The woman gave them both a hesitant smile.

Botan looked at her in shock for a few seconds and then made a little curtsey to the lady and returned her smile. "Lady Vanimallion, I almost didn't recognize you. Its a pleasant surprise to see you again so soon, but what are you doing here?"

"As you know, my family now owes Koenma a favor. Since I like to pay my debts myself, I volunteered my assistance."

"Your daughter is not with you?" Botan asked, peeking out the door to make sure.

"No, I set her loose in the city to start tracking Hiei... since I figured she'd be doing that very thing anyway. Why not make it official, right?" The lady said this last bit with an exagerated sigh.

"Are you sure that's a good idea? Aren't you worried about Nasareth? She's such a little thing." Botan's anxiety appeared to increase as she spoke.

"I think we will know pretty quick whether that was a mistake or not... but not for the reasons you assume. Nasareth is a tough little girl, tougher than you think and she can take of herself. I'm sure she can handle Hiei, but I did give her strict instructions not to engage her target tonight. It's the rest of the city I'd worry about."

Yusuke was unsure who the person standing in front of them was or who Nasareth was, but he was not afraid to ask. " So, who the hell are you exactly?"

"My apologies, young one. I am the Lady Vanimallion Siluva Nasare Brogadur. I have been called many other names, but that is the one I prefer and answer to."

Botan couldn't help adding a little more information. "She is the daughter of the former King of the Sidhe... Nuada Silverhand."

"She? She is obviously a girl. Wtf?, Botan."

"Not that kind of she, Yusuke. S~I~D~H~E. The fair folke, seelie, elves, fairies... whatever you want to call them."

"Huh?!"

"Well, to call my people fairies in all honesty, is as general as calling humans animals, but the label is not inaccurate."

Yusuke looked at her and Botan with a blank stunned expression as his head twisted to stare at her sideways.

The woman smiled at him and laughed. "I AM wearing a disguise of sorts... It wouldn't do to traipse down the main street in full court regalia and pointy ears after all. That's more my cousin's style, but seriously I'd like to help, if I can. Yusuke was it? You can just call me Vann," she said as she extended her hand.

Botan brightened considerably. "Oh yes, we could use your help. Tell him he absolutely should not trust this Kurama and on top of that he shouldn't meet him alone or go with him anywhere."

"Kurama? THE Youko Kurama, nine tailed spirit fox and master thief?"

"That's the one," Botan said nodding grimly.

"Absolutely you shouldn't go-"

"See! I told you-" Botan beamed happily.

"-alone... I'd be more than happy to accompany you to this meeting. In fact I've been looking forward to meeting him for a while now."

Botan's mouth dropped open as she stared in disbelief at the elfin woman.

"Thanks, but I don't see that you'd be much help if it came to a fight and I don't need someone else to worry about. Which is why you don't need to come either, Botan." Yusuke said pulling Botan out into the hall and closing the door. He did not need his mother asking any more weird questions about strange girls showing up at their apartment.

The lady in front of him and Botan looked at him with a sort of stunned air and then Vann began to chuckle. "Oh, its been too long since anyone has been worried about my safety, I almost forgot what it felt like. Even when I was a child this lifetime, no one mistook me for weak or incapable. Everyone knew who and what I was... did I mention I am wearing a disguise?"

"I think I'm missing something," Yusuke said a bit bewildered.

"Indeed you are. A history lesson from another world...," She said letting her laughter die down. "I am not just any fae creature. I am one of the five true dragons of Kellia and collectively over two thousand years old. The Red of the Wildelands, The Mortal Flame..."

Yusuke just looked at her even more confused,"I thought your name was Vann...?"

"I told you my names have been many...," Vann gave him a wry grin and shrugged. "I may not look it in this little human body, but I have laid waste to entire cities and fought gods. I promise you I can hold my own in a fight, but I don't really think we will end up fighting Kurama."

"Why do you think that though?" Botan still couldn't help worrying about the whole situation.

"I actually know a little bit about him and Hiei for that matter... Kurama can be a formidable opponent its true, but I don't think he considers Yusuke his enemy. The Green Mother only knows what he'll actually think about me, but I can handle it whatever his reaction is. You know, come to think about it. I might make the situation more volatile. Hmmmm.... Oh well, I made a promise. I've got to jump in at some point and Kurama is a logical strategist and smart. I think he'll be reasonable, since I truely mean him no harm."

"But-" Botan's nervous protest was cut off.

"I really can handle anything that comes up, Botan. I promise."

"Dude! I think I can handle it all just fine. On my own! Without any help!"

Both women turned to Yusuke and gave him a bit of a condescending look.

"I'll see you in couple of days, Yusuke." Vann pulled a small bone whistle out of her pocket and handed it too him. "If he shows up before I do, you can call me with this. You should be more careful with yourself. You have several people in this world and the next, that care quite a bit about you."

She reached out a hand and closed his hand over the whistle and placed her other hand lightly over the cut on his cheek. There was a small glow around her hand and Yusuke could feel the skin pull a little tighter and the pain receding away from the various injuries over his body. He paused for a long moment examining the elfin woman's face. She was calm and serious as her hands dropped back to her sides.

"Okay, fine." He said grumbling, while he pocketed the tiny bone whistle. He wasn't stupid. If she could heal injuries that fast, she would be useful for sure. "I'll let you know when he shows up."

************

Outside, high on another building Kurama was watching the spirit dectective and Botan discuss him and the wisdom of trusting him and letting him keep the mirror for another three days. They thought he was unaware of what the "price" was for making a wish using the mirror, but he was very aware and he was prepared to pay it. In three days time it would all be a moot point anyway, everything... including his life.

He saw the woman arrive at the apartment building and at first he didn't take any special note of it, but then she stopped to pace in front of Yusuke's apartment. She appeared to be an average unremarkable human, not even exceptionally pretty at that, she was short with her roundish face and full figure, all dressed in brown. It got more interesting when Botan was leaving the apartment and the two spirit world employees began speaking with the newcomer. The Grim Reaper, Botan, obviously recogized her after a moment and was surprised to see her. She called her LADY Vanimalion, so Kurama looked again carefully. He was surprised to realize that the woman was using some kind of glamour to supress her aura, but to all outward appearances she looked human. When Botan explained to the spirit detective who and what the lady was, no one was more shocked or confused than Kurama himself spying on the scene. A fae dragon from someplace called Kellia? He was pretty sure there was no such country on Earth, Spirit World or Demon World and hadn't she said herself it was indeed another world entirely.

The big surprise came when she touched Yusuke's face and the glamour disguising her aura faltered while she expended some energy to heal his wounds. For a few seconds her aura flashed brightly, the waves of energy rolling around her and twisting like flames in the vague shape of a bird or dragon. Then just as quickly the image was gone.

Kurama felt an old familar twisting in his chest. He had always had a weakness for pretty or powerful things. This new player to the game, wearing a disguise? He was beginning to suspect she was both and the fact that she was a mystery to be solved only added to the appeal. Kurama cursed lightly that fate would dangle such a temptation in front of him, when he only had three more days left in this world.

He watched quietly while Botan drew out her oar to fly away and the other woman Vann simply walked back down and out the apartment complex. He debated briefly on the wisdom of following her, but quickly decided it was worth the risk. She hadn't sounded like she meant him any harm. Point in fact she had said so, and she was looking forward to meeting him and had given him several compliments. There was also the fact that he intended to die in a few days time and most risk was made insignificant by that fact.

The number of people on the streets was thinning as the hour grew later, so he kept a generous distance between them as he followed her through the city. He soon realized she was heading to the park, where Yusuke had stood his ground against Gouki earlier that very day, where he had officially withdrawn from the other two thieves' plans. There was that damned twisting feeling in his chest again. His heart... or his conscience acting up at his age, for shame, he thought to himself. He admitted silently, it had bothered him greatly to "betray" Hiei, but he had no intention of killing any humans nor any desire to turn them into demon slaves. He only cared about one human he told himself, only that one. So, he asked himself, why are you following someone obviously dangerous and probably not human into a park at night? Curiosity? Death wish? Old habits maybe? He never had liked to leave puzzles unsolved.

*************

As Vann walked through the city toward the treehouse she had erected in the park, she could feel the eyes on the back of her neck and knew almost immediately that she was being followed. Even before her "awakening" over two thousand years ago, she had been sensitive to that kind of thing. She smiled to herself. Who ever it was, they were bound to be interesting, if they had noticed her inspite of her thorough disguise. Or, she thought with a bit of hope, it was quite possible Kurama or Hiei had been spying on Yusuke and had noticed her that way. It was always tricky insinuating ones'self into another's story. There was a tendency to want to save people from themselves, you really couldn't predict how they would react to you, and you couldn't risk changing too much either. A person's whole life good and bad makes them who they are. It had taken her many lifetimes to truely understand that, like the life where she had spent most of it depressed, moody and suicidal. She had finally come to realize it had made her a better person and a more interesting person. It makes you a person with more depth, if you can hurt like that...

Vann snapped her wandering thoughts back to the present and the person following her. She knew who she hoped it was, but until she made sure, it really could be anyone or anything. She did have her own story and her own enemies after all, and it was easy to read others' stories, but one could never tell exactly where one's own story would go. Who knew if Malak could follow her here? Or if the Unseelie Court would send someone else after them? Her heart squeezed in her chest, when she thought about her daughter out there alone looking for Hiei. She knew Hiei would grow up alot in the next year, but she hoped that they had not arrived too early. It would crush Nasareth's little heart, if he was incapable of giving her a chance.

'Focus woman,' she told herself firmly, 'being followed... remember?' But it is tricky business to use magic without broadcasting the fact to every nearby sensitive, so she decided to wait until she reached the park to risk revealing herself. 'Less witnesses to scare or get hurt in any unexpected backlash as well.'

She also thought using a less direct magic to reveal the person tailling her would be a wise move. She paused directly under one of the many electric street lamps lining the park's paths to draw a tiny vial on a chain out from under her shirt and opened it. There was a tiny bubble wand attached to the bottle's cork and she couldn't help smile as she drew it out. The fact that every child in the world(and even some adults) believes in the inherent magic of bubbles (belief being essential to true magic after all) had inspired this particular spell. She whispered as quietly as she could the words of ancient elfin, 'Breath of Life,' as she blew gently into the wand sending out a flurry of tiny bubbles. The fairies that would spring forth in a few minutes from the bubbles would be equally tiny and seem rather unthreatening. The key word being 'seem', anyone who knows the real folklore knows the true nature of the fae is not gentle or safe, but unless the person tailing her was hostile these little guardians would be harmless enough.

The tiny bubbles flew away from her, carried by a gentle breeze, where they quietly popped in the darkening shadows of the park's trees birthing tiny winged creatures no bigger than lightning bugs. (In fact that is exactly what they most often get mistaken for.) Even though only seconds old, they knew exactly what their mistress wanted them to do and what they had been created for. They were immediately drawn to anyone looking at their Lady, something about her image being reflected in someone's eyes made them stand out to the fairies.

**************

Kurama watched her carefully as she paused in the light to blow some tiny bubbles, he kept his head slightly down and his hands casually in his pockets as his gait slowed. The hair on his head stood on end when she whispered something just before blowing the bubbles. He was unsure what spell she had just cast, but he knew for a fact she had used some kind of magic. His heart suddenly started a bit of panicked beating, his senses were telling him that he was in danger of being discovered, but running now would only ensure his being found. He strode calmly over to a bench and sat down. He glanced causually across the park taking in everyone in the area including Vann, there was a couple walking hand in hand and a few people walking dogs.

***

Vann watched the diminutive fairies as they mimicked their little firefly cousins and drifted slowly across the park thoroughfare. Following their general drift, she anticipated their path and spotted their target. The school uniform and wild hair was unmistakeable even in the dim light and she would bet anything his eyes were as green as jade. An unconscious sigh escaped her lips, she realized with a bit of shock she had been holding her breath. It wasn't like her to be worried about Malak (or any enemy). She had always met him head on, with gusto even. Every new fight was a new chance to humilate and beat him at his own games, but she was tired and she didn't want him here to ruin things this time.

***

Kurama didn't want to be too obvious about watching the little brunette woman, but he didn't want to loose sight of her either. She hadn't moved yet from under the light of the lamp and he suddenly realized she was staring at him. He watched curiously as she gave a sigh of ... relief? She clearly recognized him, as if she knew exactly who she was looking for, but how would she? No one would have had any way to know how his appearance had changed. Hiei knew who he was, but he was sure the fire demon had not been telling stories and Yusuke had had no time or opportunity. Then she smiled at him, a wide happy smile, like he was an old friend and he was a little surprised to find he had been staring back. 'So much for being sneaky,' he thought as he shrugged lightly to himself.

He noticed vaguely the 'fireflies' as he stood back up to walk over to her, but only because they followed his movement. He carefully kept his face neutral as he approached her slowly. She still looked very human to him, and her smile looked a little more tense now that he was closer.

***

She watched him as he stood up and clearly heard his thought "so much for being sneaky". No one but Nasareth had sent thoughts to her with such clarity on accident and suddenly she was a little scared. Two thousand years old and scared of a teenage boy. Just because she had "heard" an errant thought, but there were implications that such a thing made and she hadn't been that close (or that vunerable) to anyone in a long long time. 'He may look like a teenage baby,' she reminded herself firmly, 'but he is not. Don't you forget it, girl. He is every bit as old and wily as you are... he could really hurt you, if you let him.'

***

Kurama watched as a myriad of emotions flitted across her face in quick succession. She was clearly unaware that he had seen anything amiss. He kept his own face calm and gave her a small smile designed to charm. A corner of her mouth twitched lightly in humor. That she could read him as easily as he could her, surprised him to no end, but he refused to let it show. He stood quietly in front of her for a full minute waiting to see if she would say something first, studying her face and hair. She was prettier than he had first thought, or maybe it was the light in her eyes that made her so. Then he remembered that it didn't matter how interesting she was, or nice, or dangerous. He had a job to finish and he wouldn't be around to find out any answers. His smile became a little sad and he merely bowed in apology instead of saying anything and turned to walk away.

***

As Kurama turned to walk away, the smile fell off her face like it had been dropped. He had looked so incredibly sad for just a split second. Vann watched as he walked away from her. She knew in a few days that she would see him again at the full moon crisis, but she had secretly hoped... She knew better than to mess too much with any major events, but she had hoped... Several of the diminutive fairies flew to her side because of her obvious distress and she let their presence comfort her briefly. Then she gave a nod in Kurama's direction and they drifted off to follow him at a discreet distance.

***

Well, that had been strangely tense and exciting, Kurama thought, only to fall flat... and it was all his fault it had and he knew it. He had seen her look of disappointment as he turned to walk away, and why did he feel like a cad for that. Perhaps because he had changed that sweet smile she had given him into a frown. Who was he to deserve such a smile anyway, he thought bitterly. Why would she be so relieved, happy, nervous and excited to see him? A demon thief who had selfishly taken over some poor woman's unborn baby to save his own worthless life and then made her life more miserable at every turn. He walked sadly toward the hospital, steeling his resolve to make things right for the one person that always sacrificed everything for him... his human mother.

He was almost to the hospital when he noticed the little fan club of fireflies, a dozen or so, following him. He was immediately certain that they were not in fact fireflies. He stopped and held out a hand toward the little lights. One little light was shoved forward by the others and it made him smile. The little thing flew slowly to him and landed in his palm. The tiny fairy woman was chattering at him barely audible in a language he didn't understand, so he simple smiled and shook his head at it. Suddenly the little fairies were all over him, before settling down and hiding themselves in his hair and clothes. Kurama stiffened for a few seconds, until the little one in his hand patted his thumb comfortingly. He wasn't sure how he felt about taking the little hitchhikers in with him to see his mother, but it didn't look as if he was being given a choice.

After making sure they were all hidden, Kurama opened the door to his mother's room and quietly slipped in, just in case she was resting. She was sitting up picking half-heartedly at her simple meal. Her face brightened and she smiled warmly as she noticed Shuichi trying to sneak into the room. His smile back to her faltered a second, as he realized how similar his mother's way of smiling at him was to the way the strange woman in the park had smiled at him. It made him uncomfortable, that smile of exceptance and love.

"What's wrong, Shuichi?" his mother asked him in concern.

Kurama quickly recovered and smiled at his mother. "Oh, I just remembered a paper I need to finish for school, that's all." He sat in the chair next to her bed and began to help his mother with her meal.

"I'm really not that hungry, you eat it instead."

"Nonsense, you have to keep up your strength, if you're ever going to get well," Kurama scolded her gently as he completely ignored the sad look that briefly drifted across her face at his words. Shiori Minamono knew she wasn't going to get better, but couldn't bring herself to say it out loud to her son. Kurama heard an almost inaudible sad croon by his ear as the little fairies tried to muffle their cries in his hair. Their tiny voices crying in distress for his mother almost caused his stoic calm to crack.

They talked a bit about school, as he fed his mother as much as she could stomach. He then made sure she had fresh water before tucking her blankets in around her and bidding her good night. As he left he noticed that a couple of the fairies had snuck out of his hair and had settled around the room, instead of worrying him it made him feel better that she wouldn't be alone all night. He lost a couple more fairies when he exited the hospital. He knew they would be going back to their mistress. He had heard her give Yusuke her full name, but what was it she had told him to call her... Vann. As a Japanese name it would've meant humility, he wondered if she knew that. He wondered where it fit in her personality, was she full of humility or was she lacking in it? She had sounded pretty confident of herself, but she had also been trying to reassure Botan. When he saw her in the park, she had only seemed happy to see him not cocky or over confident. He heard the faint sound of one of the fairies crooning in his hair again. It sounded concerned, but whether the concern was for himself or his mother was unclear. Reguardless, he appreciated the sentiment, as he walked home.

****************

"What do you mean, he didn't say ANYTHING? No!" a cute little blonde girl dressed all in purple and black spouted vehemently. She stomped around on the open air veranda, her thick blonde waist length hair whipping around with the violent breezes she was unconsciously creating.

"He smiled at me at first, then got this awful sad look, then turned around and left without saying a single word, Nasareth. Exactly what I said the first time."

"God bless it!"

"Nasareth...," Vann scolded laughingly. "It's okay."

"Oh, I know things will go better at the hospital, but still- how frustrating," she said still fuming. "Neither of us got any where tonight. I picked up Hiei's trail a couple of times, but I couldn't find the right warehouse. Nothing looked right."

"We weren't really supposed to, remember?" Vann gave her a smile. "These things happen in their own time... and Hiei is going to be even more difficult to befriend, you know?"

"Yes, I do. I remember more than you think I do."

"More than I WANT you to remember, I'm sure...," she hinted at their recently dark past. "There are somethings you should leave behind, baby." Vann couldn't stop the tears that pooled in her eyes and she wrapped her arms around her daughter's head and pulled her into a gentle hug.

"It's okay, mom. I'm okay really."

"I know... but somethings are always going to hurt, no matter how much time passes. Besides if you don't wait to 'meet' Hiei until after his fight with Yusuke, you will very likely have to fight him and you really don't want to do that do you?"

Nasareth wrapped her arms around her mother's waist and decided they both could use a good cry.

*****************

Three days later...

Yusuke was walking along minding his own business for once... trying to think of another excuse for why his homework wasn't done again, when someone called out to him.

"Urameshi, somebody's at the gate looking for you," the informant seemed a bit nervous to even be speaking him.

"Oh? Which high school student is it? It's been a while since anybody's came for a chat," Yusuke dashed off for the gate at high speed. He liked it when the older kids recognized that he was somebody to contend with. He was very surprised to find to find his vistor was a particular red-head. "It's you... Kurama!"

"Hi. We had an appointment today... I have to return the treasure, right?"

"Hm? Aaahhh...," Yusuke mummbled in reply. 'Oh, man! I totally forgot about what day it was!' he thought to himself, feeling awkward.

"Before that, I'd like you to meet someone."

"Me?"

"Please, I would appreciate it."

"Sure, but actually I have someone for you to meet you too," Yusuke said pulling out the bone whistle.

"Would that person be the elfin woman called Vann?"

"Yes, how did you know?" Yusuke wasn't really all that surprised.

"I saw her in the park the other day, we don't really need to involve her in this do we?" Kurama thought it would be better for him to avoid temptation.

Yusuke scowled at Kurama for a few seconds and then brought the whistle quickly to his lips giving it a sharp blow. The sound was very faint, as if out of the normal hearing range. Vann had actually visited Yusuke the day after Kurama and Vann had seen each other in the park and told him what had happened. Somehow she had known Kurama would suggest not summoning her and begged him to call her anyway. She had said it was very important and she had warned him that while she didn't believe Kurama was being deceitful or sneaky, the artifact he was carrying was in fact very dangerous.

"Very well...," Kurama said with a resigned sigh.

There was a sudden strong rush of wind that whipped their hair around for just a second and then it was gone as quickly as it had sprung up. "Thank you, Yusuke," said a woman's voice from behind him. Yusuke turned to find the Lady Vann. She was wearing a pale blue shirt and jean jacket with a denim skirt and brown leather boots.

"Kurama, this is the Lady Vann. Her dad's like some kind of king or something," Yusuke said making a pitiful attempt at a proper introduction. "But she says she's not a princess... and I don't think she's human."

"Thank you again, Yusuke," the woman said pleasantly though she gave Yusuke a pointed look, like she was torn between scowlling at his words and laughing at their frankness. "My father has not been King actually for quite some time... millenia in fact and I was not born to him until fairly recently. And you are correct in stating that I am not in fact strictly human, although technically I am at the moment."

"I thought you said it was a disguise?" Yusuke queried her, getting more confused by the moment.

"I am disguised, but it is a physical disguise not an illusion. I have a talent for shapeshifting, a much stronger one than most of my kin."

Kurama had the feeling she was explaining as much for his benefit as Yusuke's. He bowed lightly to her and said, "I am pleased to meet you, Lady."

"And I am pleased to finally meet you, Kurama. My friends tell me we have someone you wish for us to meet." She smiled gently at him in a non-threatening manner with her hands clasped behind her back, at least she hoped she looked non-threatening.

Kurama turned and started walking in the direction of the hospital. He tucked his hands into his pockets and glanced at Vann walking beside him through the corner of his eye. He was surprised to see a small bouquet of flowers clutched in her hands behind her back. For his mother, perhaps?

"Your friends?" he asked. "The little firefly fairies that have been hanging out in my mother's room the last three days?"

"Yes...," she replied not elaborating.

"Did you order them to bring the flowers and fruits to her?"

Vann smiled fondly, "No, but I most certainly approve."

"Wait-a-minute! Mother-? Fairies-?" Yusuke asked running to catch up.

"I sent them specificly for her protection and to return with progress reports on her condition. I apologize, if it was officious of me...," she kept her eyes firmly locked on her boots.

"Would you thank them for me? I have spoken to them several times, but I'm never sure how much they understand."

"I'm sure they understood the sentiment, even if they didn't understand the words... I'm glad to hear they were being helpful. Occasionally their behavior can leave something to be desired, hiding things and tangling up long hair."

They walked for a while in a sort of companionable silence, before Vann spoke again. "Surely you have questions to ask of me, feel free to ask me anything. I will answer honestly. That is one thing about my nature this lifetime that I can not deny. I may not tell you everything, but everything I do say will be 100% truthful."

Kurama looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

She shrugged. "It's a Fae thing... you should also be careful about offering verbal thanks to me and my daughter, or any fae creature for that matter. With smaller or weaker fae creatures like my "firefly fairies", they often take thanks or gifts as a kind of "payment for services rendered and here's your dismissal". I am able to resist the fae magic that requires... call it 'a debt of exchange'. Gifts have to be of like value, and gratitude is a gift that puts the giver in someone else's debt. Nasareth has a much harder time with it. All of the ones from the older blood lines do."

"You didn't say anything about that the other day." Yusuke didn't exactly understand what she was talking about, but it certainly didn't sound good.

"I apologize, Yusuke. You have such an ungrateful and belligerent nature, that I didn't think you were in any danger."

"Hey!" Yusuke shouted in his indignation, before he caught her sly grin and realized she was teasing him. "Okay, haha. You got me."

Even Kurama smiled at Yusuke's reaction, and then he realized she had just said something about having a daughter. "You mentioned a daughter...? You are married then?"

Again Vann kept her eyes firmly on her shoes,"Not currently... Nasareth's father was human and has been dead for some 50 years now."

"Ah... sorry."

Again the silence stretched out between the three as they walked. This time it was a little more uncomfortable.

"Why would you have an easier time resisting fae magic? If your daughter is half human, wouldn't she have an easier time than you?" Kurama blurted out the question in his curiousity and thought belatedly that maybe that should have been an inside voice.

"Well, there really is no such thing as halfbreeds in our world. If only one parent is fae, then you either are or you aren't. I am the only known paradox, being that I am both instead of either or."

"You are a paradox?"

"Absolutely."

"How so? What are you?"

"My soul is that of Nasare, Red dragon of the Wildelands. Yet I was born Vanimallion Siluva 190 years ago. I am my father's daughter and I am fae, but I am also the dragon at the same time. So I am unique, because normally being a fae creature overrides everything else. Just not in my case. The five dragons of Kellia suffer reincarnation of a sort... I have been reborn several times and the dragon is always the stronger magic. I am much older than I appear to be."

Kurama was momentarily stunned. He had never thought to find anyone who would understand his unique circumstances, but here she was walking next to him... and smiling at him again. He didn't think he should find her smile so unsettling, but there was something about it that was. Which brought about another thought that had been bugging him. "Why would you want to meet me in the first place? And second, how did you recognize me in the park?"

Vann knew as she waged an internal debate with herself, that way too much was showing on her face, but she was fighting her nature tooth and nail to not blurt out the simplest truth or the most convoluted answer. "Long ago and far away I read a story about you. That is how I knew you when I saw you, and I've been waiting a long, long time to meet you. I thought you could use some help and I want to... help. That is, if I can."

Kurama watched her face go through its interesting contortions, as she was obviously conflicted about how to answer what should have been a fairly simple question. He was reasonably sure she had only half answered his question that time,as she herself had warned him she might do. His eyes narrowed and her nervous smile fell away. "You're not telling me the whole truth are you?"

"I would not lie to you, ever. Fae rules of magic or not."

'Bah! Another evasion,' Kurama thought in frustration. He let out a heavy sigh and gave her a pointed look to let her know he was aware of the game she was playing. For once her face was completely blank and unreadable, as she blinked at him innocently. Hmm, she had also said 'rules of magic'. Maybe something was preventing her from giving a full answer.

"I hate to give out homework assignments," Vann said interupting his train of thought," but you should really read 'Number of the Beast' by Robert Heinlein and do some research on 'the world as myth' theory, before we talk again." She thought it quite clever of herself to redirect his unspoken question, until she noticed the pained look on his face. Should she tell the demon that she had no intention of letting him sacrifice his life? "I know what you're planning... and before you do anything foolish, please let me take a look at her and see if there is anything I can do to help."

Kurama stopped and turned to look her in the eyes. To say he was shocked was an understatement. How could she have known exactly what he was thinking? He was at a complete loss for words and simply stared at her in confusion. She was twisting his heart and thoughts up in knots. She really was the most interesting person he had met in a long long time. How unfair to meet her, when it was too late, he thought. Even now he was still determined to carry out his plan.

"Take a look at who?" asked Yusuke confusued. Both of them had seemed to have forgotten that Yusuke was still walking with them.

"My mother. She has been ill for quite some time now."

"My healling skills are not exceptional by any means, but my daughter Nasareth has some gift for it as well. And even if we can't cure her now, I'm sure we can buy her some more time. I'll do whatever I can."

"Why would you help me? Why would you want to?"

"I made a promise." She kept her eyes down, not looking at him directly.

"To whom?"

"Does it matter?"

It was like playing 20 questions with a sphinx, thought Kurama bitterly, as he gave another heavy sigh. "Yes."

"Fine... I made a promise to my daughter and once here I couldn't not see you and -," she began to elaborate, but it was obvious she was having a great difficulty with it.

"No. No, I meant that you may try to help my mother." He interupted her intentionally, since she looked like she was in real pain from fighting the line of questions. He wasn't entirely sure why, but he did like her and from the moment he 'met' her in the park, he was sure he could trust her. Besides he still had the Dark Mirror and could fix it, if anything went wrong. "I'd like to meet your daughter sometime." Not that he would have the opportunity, he thought bitterly to himself.

She bowed to him, grateful for a temporary end to the questions. 'Not until that cursed mirror is safely in the spirit world vault again', she thought to herself. She had absolutely zero intention of risking her daughter's life to stop tonight's possible fiasco.

"You two are quite a bit of fun to watch, hehehe," said Yusuke chuckling at both their verbal antics and non-verbal expressions. Half the time, he was lost. Vann certainly to knew alot more about Kurama and his life than he did. It was still funny to watch Kurama's eyes pop every few seconds and then there was the occasional double take. The poor fellow now looked kind of shell shocked and resigned.

They both turned to look at Yususke in confusion.

"Sorry, I probably should have kept it to myself," Yusuke smiled back at them unrepentant. "For all your talk of honesty, there's alot neither of you are saying. You keep surprising each other and its all over your faces."

Vann seemed to recover first and smiled fondly at Yusuke, but said nothing. With Kurama it was harder to tell, because he seemed to pride himself on his perfect poker face. They were approaching the hospital finally in any case.

Vann stopped for a second outside and looked around at the surrounding buildings with purpose before following the boys inside. Neither commented and simply waited for her to join them. Little did they know she had been quickly conversing with her daughter, checking that all the security arrangements were in place. She didn't want Hiei adding any extra trouble to tonight's events. Which she thought her presence might make more likely. The simplest plan for him would be to let Kurama use the mirror and die, then take it from his corpse. Yusuke's presence and then hers on top of that might make him alter his original plans and she wanted to be ready for anything. Although she couldn't imagine what Hiei could do with the mirror, since it took the life of the wisher. Perhaps he planned to use the powers of the Jagan eye to make others expend their lives in wishes for him.

They entered the elevator and Vann reached over to press the 5th floor button at the same time Kurama did. At first Kurama was surprised she knew which floor the room was on, but of course she knew. Her little fairy companions had been reporting back to her he was sure. Their hands brushed against each other lightly and he felt a jolt that caused him to grab her hand instinctively. Surprised at himself he caressed her fingers gently in a thoughtful way with his thumb and let her go as Yusuke chuckled again behind him. Her pinky finger had been crooked and he thought it odd a shapeshifter would pay so much attention to details/flaws. He glanced up at her trying to convey an apology in his eyes, with Yusuke laughing away the last thing he wanted to do was say anything more to add fuel to the fire.

They walked onto the correct floor and headed to room 501. Kurama let Vann lead the way to confirm she did indeed know where his mother was. She didn't disappoint him.

"Should I call her Shiori-san or would Minamono-san be more appropiate?" she asked him as he reached to open the door for her.

"How do you know my mother's name as well?" He figured he really shouldn't be surprised anymore, but he paused at the closed door looking at her again in wonder.

"I have known her name a long time too. I told you, I read a story about you. That was over a thousand years ago, but I have never forgotten. I have no wish to lie to you or speak in riddles, but it's complicated to explain."

"You will explain later though...? Nevermind, it's okay...," Kurama stopped himself. Now Kurama looked very disturbed and very unsure of how to proceed, and he had been so calm just a second ago. He took a deep breath to steady himself and reached for the door. "You can call her either, she wouldn't take offense. She is a very caring and open person."

"Also, I will need to touch her to do any kind of healling... that's going to be weird isn't it?" she asked and Vann gave her own heavy sigh in frustration. "Maybe I have an idea that'll work."

Kurama led Yusuke and Vann into his mother's room wondering if he was doing the right thing. He was he sure could trust the spirit detective, the boy was very open and artless, and actually he was sure he could trust Vann as well, but she was definately more of a mystery.

A pale tired japanese woman was laying in a hospital bed and turned to look at them as they walked into her room and she struggled to sit up. "Oh... It's so rare to see you bring friends with you...," She looked very surprised, " and a girl? Who are they? Please introduce me."

"You should just lie down, Mom."

'Mom?' thought Yusuke, as things began to make sense.

"This is my friend Yusuke Urameshi and ... Vann...," he ended weakly unsure how to adapt her whole name and title to make it sound normal.

"I am very pleased to meet you. How are you feeling today, Shiori-san?" said Vann. She bowed before walking over and adding her flowers to the vase beside Shiori's bed.

"Hmmm... I'm feeling better today," the obviously ill woman responded smilling at Vann. She watched as the strange woman arranged the flowers carefully. She glanced over at her son for any clues, but his face was the impassive calm mask he donned so often. "How thoughtful of you to bring me flowers."

"Oh. It was no trouble at all," Vann said turning to the ill woman and gave her a another little bow. "I am very pleased to meet you, ma'am."

"And I am pleased to meet you both. You don't look like siblings," Shiori said fishing for more information. She wondered why her son had not given the girl's last name.

"Oh, we're not," piped up Yusuke without thinking.

Kurama began to look a little uncomfortable, unsure what to tell his mother.

"We both have part-time jobs with the same agency," Vann offered.

"Is that where you met Shuichi?"

"Sort of. It's because of our job that we met him. I am afraid I have made a pest of myself. I first saw your son a few days ago in the park and he looked so sad it worried me."

Yusuke grabbed a nearby chair turning it around so he could sit it in backwards and lay his arms across the back of the chair and lean on it. He settled in to hear the story the two would concoct for Ms. Shiori, it was sure to be interesting.

"I would never call you a pest," was all Kurama could manage to say, he was impressed at how close she get to the truth without revealing everything. It was a trick he had learned how to do too.

"I was worried even more when I tried to speak to him and he walked away, so I'm afraid I enlisted Yusuke's aid to find him, as I knew he would be talking to him again."

Shiori looked over at her son. She knew that he often blew off the pretty girls that were always trying to catch his eye and yet he had brought this one with him to meet her.

"We got to talking about your extended illness and I offered to come with him this evening to see if I could help in anyway." Everyone could easily see the older woman's disappointment at thinking Vann might be another doctor instead of a 'special friend'. "My friends all insist I have magic fingers... a gift for taking the pain away." She had almost said something about everyone saying her daughter had magic fingers, and that she had inherited the gift from her. Seeing as Vann usually didn't get close enough to people to be touching them herself, and was never actually told that personally, but how would you explain an apparently 18 year old woman having a 15 year old looking daughter.

"Massage?" She asked a little surprised.

"Yes," Vann agreed hopefully.

"She really does have a healing touch," Yusuke offered, having experienced it first hand himself.

Kurama could tell his mother didn't know what to think now, so he offered her an out,"How about I help you peel some apples, mother?"

"Ah, don't bother, I don't have any appetite today," said the tired woman watching her son.

"If you don't eat something healthy, you'll never recover."

Vann reached over to the bowl of fruit and picked up an apple that became brighter and redder in her hands as she passed it to Kurama. "He is absolutlely right. You need to eat well to keep up your strength. Let him peel the apples, while I do what I can for you."

Kurama took the apple from her and gave her a hesitant smile.

Yusuke shook his head a little, was he imagining things or had he seen sparkles around Vann's hand and the fruit as it passed over the bowl?

"Okay, okay! You are so strict, like Shuuichi." said the ill woman smiling.

Vann insisted that Kurama's mother lay on her stomach and helped her as much as she could to roll over. She asked her where it hurt and avoided touching anything that hurt directly. She focused alot of time on her temples and neck and shoulders, where she could maintain skin contact longer.

Kurama and Yusuke watched intently as Vann worked. They both noticed the faint glow and sparkles that seemed to surround Vann's hands as she gently did what she could to heal Ms. Shiori. Vann was completely focused on her task for several minutes, before she glanced over at Yusuke and Kurama. Unfortunately, Vann didn't look hopefully after examining the older woman, but of course she didn't let her see it. Ms. Shiori sighed happily, exclaiming that Vann did indeed have magic fingers and she couldn't believe how much better she felt.

"So you met Shuichi in the park?" she asked.

"Yes, actually I thought he was following me at first... like a stalker," Vann smiled and glanced over at 'Shuichi', who merely raised an eyebrow at her prodding, as if to dare her to take it further. "I caught him watching me and I thought he was going to say something when he walked over, but he just gave me a sad smile and walked away."

"No wonder you were concerned, Vann. How odd of you, Shuichi," his mother said lightly scolding him.

Kurama narrowed his eyes and gave Vann a bit of warning smile, that was so not fair getting his mother on her side. He schooled his face to a more neutral expression as his mother turned her head to look at him. His heart skipped a beat as he looked at both of the women smiling at him. He had been right, Vann's smile did remind him of his mother's. He was unsure of what to think about that.

"Yea. What were you thinking? You're not usually that bashful," Yusuke couldn't help grinning as he joined the teasing.

Kurama sighed as he finished slicing the apple and set down the knife. He gave Yusuke a quick scowl, before he turned back to his mother and Vann, but he wasn't really angry. They helped Ms. Shiori get comfortable again with some pillows. The group all excused themselves, when a nurse came to take her vitals. Kurama led them out of the room to an outdoor patio that was part of the hospital roof.

"I know you have a lot of questions, Yusuke. I suspect Vann knows alot, if not all of it already. 'Shuuichi' is my alias in the Ningenkai and she is my foster mother. My foster father died several years ago."

"You know, your back ground resembles some famous pop-star," said Yusuke in disbelief.

"They've been taking care of me for 15 years, yet I've been hiding the truth... My true form is a Youko and my profession is to disarm wards and disengage locks to steal ancient treasures and weapons. Fifteen years ago, I was pursued by a highly skilled hunter and was seriously injured. I then escaped into the Ningenkai with a spirit body.

Being helpless then, I was unable to transform or possess anybody. So I was forced to lie dormant in a lady's still forming fetus. If I could bear it another 10 years, I would recover, and my flesh would become that of a demon's. I decided when that happened, I would vanish from this lady's sight forever."

"But then why did you stay...?" Yusuke asked.

"... Did you see the wounds on her hands?"

"Yes... They looked like scars to me."

"It was because of those scars! Six years ago..."

Kurama explained how he had come home from school one afternoon, stating he was going to do some gardening. He had asked where the large pots were and finding them, insisted that he would get them himself.

The stool he used to climb on was very unsteady and he fell, knocking down several of the containers with him. They shattered around him and he fell in among the sharp pieces. His mother had cried out and dove for her falling son. She managed to put her hands in between his head and the ground in the nick of time to cushion his fall, but she had been heedless of the shrapnel.

Her blood was spilling profusely from dozens of cuts on her arms. So much blood and all she could do was ask if he was alright.

"After the bandages were removed, the scars still remained. I tried so many times to leave home, but... Her smile and her scars kept hounding me...I was unable to leave! As a demon myself, it is unthinkable to have fostered such emotions, but it was when she fell ill that I realized... that I had always considered her as my mother. That's when they appeared. Hiei had tracked me down needing my expertise to break into spirit world's vaults and that's when I remembered the powers of the Forlorn Hope. She won't last another month, and I want to use the Forlorn Hope to save her. That is my only wish. Once my wish is fulfilled, I'll return the mirror to you."

"If you give yourself up, won't she be very lonely?" Yusuke asked showing a great deal of insight.

"It doesn't matter... She has a loving boyfriend with her now. He's the president of the little business she's been working for. If she recovers... She'll be happier without me around."

Kurama was cut off by a harsh laugh coming from Vann, who looked like she was half laughing half choking. "Oh, for the love of- for all that you have to come to care for this woman, you still don't understand a mother's love do you? She won't be happier without you... No! You great silly thing," Vann said shaking her head in disbelief at him. "My human grandmother used to say that babies only break your heart after they're born. She wasn't too far off... Do you *know* what its like to loose a child? Because I do."

Kurama gave her a long sad look and then turned away to look out over the city again. "It's difficult to raise a child who thinks you are inferior. I think I broke her spirit. What if I caused her illness?"

"Kids are always thinking that their parents know nothing... It doesn't make them ill. You didn't do this," she said placing a hand gently on his arm.

"So ... Why did you tell us all of this?" Yusuke asked. Vann seemed to understand everything better and Yusuke was tired of being in the dark.

"Perhaps I needed someone to listen to my regrets! After all, Yusuke, you trusted me enough to come here tonight and Vann cared enough to try to help."

"Was there anything you could do, Vann?"

It was Vann's turn to look uncomfortable, actually she looked very distraught. "I'm sorry, Kurama. My healing is not an instinctive or intuitive or even a magical thing. I have to know exactly what is wrong to be able to tell the cells in the body what to do to fix it. Injuries from violence are easy, I have a much more difficult time with diseases. I repaired any obvious damage her condition has done, but I can't replace her natural energy and her poor body is so tired and depleted. It has been fighting so hard for so long."

"At least she looks like she was in less pain ....," Kurama said as his head drooped.

"Raising levels of dopamine and seratonin is an easy trick. I am so sorry I couldn't be more immediate help, but we can keep trying. I could try taking a copy of her medical records to some friends of mine and we can get Nasareth down here to try as well. I'm sure between the two of us, we can keep her alive indefinately and maybe if we all make a concentrated effort to get her to eat, we can build her strength back up... Please, don't give up."

Yusuke looked very uncomfortable,"...."

Suddenly a man burst on to the patio. "Ah! Shuuichi, there you are. Hurry! Hurry! Shiori-san is... !!"

It turned out the man who came to get them was Ms. Shiori's new boyfriend, Hatanaka. The doctor met them outside Ms. Shiori's room. "She had a seizure, but we have her on the oxygen now. I just don't know how much longer she'll last though. We are nearing the critical stages and I don't think she is strong enough. I'm so sorry, I've tried my best." He looked at the two young people standing near Shuuichi and the back to the young man himself. "I'm- I'm glad to see you're not alone tonight...," and he patted Shuuichi on the shoulder as he turned to go. He was speaking now to the boyfriend and gently leading him away to sit down.

Kurama peered in at the woman he called mother for a moment. She was sleeping uncomfortably with an oxygen mask on her face. His face appeared calm, but Yusuke looked from him and to the concerned expression on Vann's face as she watched him.

"God bless it! She should not have- I'm going to check on her myself. Stupid doctors. Don't do anything foolish... not yet anyway. Okay?" She placed a hand on Kurama's arm, still looking at him waiting for a response.

He looked down at her hand resting on his arm for a long moment, hiding his eyes with his long bangs. His face was completely neutral as he raised his eyes to meet hers. Yusuke thought he was missing out on something again as he watched a brief heartbroken expression twist Kurama's face. "Thank you for trying to help!" Kurama turned away from her and walked purposefully and hurriedly away from them down the hall.

"(sigh)Follow him. Please, don't let him do anything stupid like using that mirror, till I get there. I won't be long."

Yusuke gave her a nod and hurried after Kurama.

Vann opened the door and rushed to Ms. Shiori's side. She placed a hand gently on the woman's forehead and began to channel a gentle surge of energy that would check for new damage and hopefully relieve the pain again. After a moment Vann opened her eyes to find Ms. Shiori looking at her. Vann removed her hand from the lady's forehead and took her hand, they both smiled hesitantly at each other.

"Are you feeling okay now, ma'am?"

"Yes, thank you. It was a little scary there for a bit, trying to catch my breath was so hard, but its better now."

"Good, good. I should let Shuuichi know that you are better. He was so worried."

"Ah, my poor brave boy. We lost his father several years ago and now he's going to loose his mother too. I've been trying, but I'm so tired... He never brings anyone with him when he visits me, so he must really like you and that other boy, Yusuke. It makes me happy to know he will have friends around him.... when...,' and here her smile faltered as she was unable to finish her own sentence. She looked away and patted Vann's hand gently as she closed her eyes.

"Don't give up yet, ma'am. You've held on this long..." Vann patted her hand in return as the lady drifted off again.

As soon as she was sure the woman was out, Vann stood up and moved like lightining to the door. In less than a second she was out the door and moving down the hall, following Yusuke and Kurama to the roof.

 

**********

Yusuke and Kurama walked together down the hall to the stairs again and out on to the roof.

"I have to do it now! I don't dare wait any longer!"

"You're going to use the mirror!? Vann said she could keep her alive. Does there have to be a rush?"

"She seems to be telling the truth, but I can't risk it. The mirror can only grant a wish during a full moon."

"But I heard that you'll need to give something to it in exchange for its fulfilling your wish... Do you know what it is?"

"Yes... It's 'life'!"

"Vann understood that didn't she? That's what she meant by don't let you do anything stupid!"

Kurama gave Yusuke a brief smile. "Probably. She knows an awful lot, for someone I just met." He held the mirror up in the faint light. "This mirror fulfills your wish, but at the same time takes away your life. That's why it's known as the 'Forlorn Hope' and the ownership of the mirror changes often."

"She's right! You can't trade your life for your mother's! Won't it be just meaningless?! Saving her life just so she can live it mourning you?! That's not a good trade off!"

"I think it's my fault she's sick... Do you know that in some species, the child eats their mother. What if I am like one of those creatures? I know I have caused her great pains. I need to make it right," Kurama knelt down and placed the mirror on the ground in front of him. "Oh Dark Mirror I ask you to awake from your sleep and hear my plea! Reflect my greatest desire, so you can make it true!"

A deep disembodied voice echoed through the air. "The happiness of this woman... Is this really your wish?"

"Hey! Can't you hold on so we can work this out!? We should at least wait till Vann gets back! There's got to be some other way to do this!" shouted Yusuke. He didn't think he was doing a good job at stopping Kurama.

"There's no other way... and I'm sure Vann will only try to stop me too," said Kurama quietly.

"To grant this wish you must give your life... Is that what you really desire?" asked the mirror, every wisher had to be fully aware of the consquences and agree to them.

"I have been decieving her for years, if I can pardon myself by doing this... If it will save my mother's life, then yes!"

"Very well, you shall have your wish!" the voice from the mirror reverberated through out the air. A stream of light crackled up from the mirror.

"Nooo!" shouted Yusuke diving for the mirror he put his hand in the light as well.

"What are you doing?!" asked Kurama shocked at Yusuke's actions. He turned his head in surprise to look toward the door as he heard his exact words echoed behind him. Vann stood there wide eyed and frightened.

"Hey Mirror! Take part of my life instead of all of his!! This way, you can still fulfill his wish without entirely taking his life, right?!" Shouted Yusuke over the growing noise the light storm from the mirror was making.

Vann ran up to them. "How do you even know if the mirror can work like that! What about your own mother, Yusuke? What if it takes your life instead? You can't put her through that again!"

Vann knelt down between them, she put her own hand in the light. All three of them were surrounded with the crackling energy from the mirror. "I tried to tell you, we needed to talk about this first! Headstrong, crazy-!! I'm immortal, after a fashion! And immune to to being harmed by wishes! You were supposed to let me make the wish instead. Take my life energy, Dark Mirror, and spare these foolish kids!"

"I don't understand why you both are doing this! It's my wish!" Kurama shouted back.

"Have you ever seen your own mother crying because of your death?! THAT would be the most unpardonable act!"

The light grew stronger around them and the Dark Mirror's voice echoed through the air "Your desire shall be fulfilled!!" The light flashed in a completion of the wish spell. They all fell to the ground unconscious. Kurama awoke first, very much surprised to find himself still alive. His heart filled with dread that since he was alive, perhaps his wish had not been granted. He looked briefly at the two lying on the ground next to him and was too afraid to check to see if they were still alive or not and he ran from the rooftop to check on his mother.

"Mother!" he called disappearing down the hall.

"Ouch..." said Yusuke quietly from the ground as Kurama ran off. "That hurt."

"Yea.... it did, didn't it?" said a female voice next to him. "At least we all seem to still be alive."

"Yea, that is awesome," he agreed as he pushed himself up to a sitting position. "I couldn't help but interfere under the circumstances... now that I think about it, you were right. I could've hurt my own mom again.... not to mention that was pretty scary and stupid, hehehehe."

"It was a noble and selfless gesture... and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe just look before you leap next time," she said smiling at him as she sat up carefully as well. "Oh, I feel like I've been run over by a steamroller."

"Hehe, me too." Yusuke picked up the Forlorn Hope and looked at it carefully. "Hmm... that means only one more treasure to go. Wonder how his mother is doing...?"

"In honor of your noble sacrifice, I fullfilled the wish without taking a life... if only every wisher had such selfless friends, I would have no need to be called the Forlorn Hope anymore." The deep disembodied voice sounded proud of them and maybe a little sad as the light from the mirror faded completely and went dark.

Botan flew out of the night and landed on the roof next to them. "Oh, Yusuke! When I saw the light from the Forlorn Hope, I was so worried... but you're alright." She saw the woman behind him stand up and jumped on her hugging her. "Oh, I'm so glad you were here to keep him safe. Thank you!"

"Whatever! Like I need anyone to keep me safe," Yusuke bristled at Botan for thinking he needed to be saved. He looked at the mirror and then put it in his pocket.

"I'm afraid he is right. Fat lot of good I did," Vann agreed. "I should probably check in with Nasareth and let her know its all clear on our end, now that you have the mirror and Kurama is okay."

"Shouldn't we check on Kurama and his mother first," Yusuke was surprised to hear her trying to leave so quickly.

"If the mirror is to believed, then I'm sure its good news, and I would feel like I'm intruding," Vann said in a positive tone. "Besides, there's questions I don't want to answer yet... and he is sure to start asking them, if i stay."

"Oh no, you don't!" Yusuke grabbed her by the elbow. "You are not running off yet, both of you sounded like there was alot more that needed saying, even I could tell that much. Botan." he said nodding at Vann's other arm, indicating Botan should grab it too.

"Yusuke, I don't think-"

"Botan!"

"Okay, Okay. Sorry, milady," she said as she grabbed her by her other elbow.

"You kids..."

"Let's go check on them now and Kurama can decide if you're off the hook tonight."

 

*************

"Shuuichi!" Hatanaka cried out as the boy burst into the room at a run. The doctor smiled at him, "Your mother has passed through the critical stage and she is stable! Actually truely stable. I don't know how, but her heart is getting stronger by the minute. The will to live is an astonishing thing. I think she is going to make a full recovery." He was so happy to beable to give the boy some good news finally.

"Shuu... ichi..." his mother called weakly from the bed reaching for her son. "Are you there? Shuuichi...?"

"Mom... I'm here. I'm not going anywhere..." A single tear rolled down his cheek as he closed the distance and took the woman's hand into his and sat down by her bed.

Kurama was still there by her side, as Botan, Yusuke, and Vann approached the door and looked in. The doctor had passed them in the hall and hinted that Shuuichi would have some good news to share with his friends.

Vann and Yusuke smiled at each other.

"Hey, Shuuichi. I'm going to head home. Its gettin' late, buddy."

Kurama stood up and moved to join them. "But I haven't gotten to thank you, either of you properly for..." He paused mid sentence surprised to see Yusuke and Botan had a death grip on Vann holding her between them. He looked questioningly at Yusuke.

"No need, I'm glad it all worked out." Yusuke told him patting him on the shoulder.

"Hmph, we got lucky. I told you not to do anything stupid. It was unnecessary to be so reckless. If only you had given me a chance to explain-," whispered Vann. She tried to poke a finger at Kurama, as she angrily scolded the two young men. She grumbled under her breath, "I can't be harmed by a wish after all."

Kurama smiled at her warmly and allowed Yusuke to hand her over to him, causing Vann's tirade to stop mid sentence. He took the proffered arm gently. "You both were willing to give so much for my own happy ending... Thank you. I owe you both." Kurama smiled at Yusuke before he turned to go back to his mother taking Vann with him. "I'm sorry I left you two on the roof. I was just so worried about my mother."

"Eh? That's okay. We understand, right?" she replied. She kept her eyes down cast as he pulled her over to his mother's bedside, trying to hide her blushing cheeks with her long hair.

"Here she is mother, I told you she wouldn't have left without saying good night to you. I'm going to say good night to Yusuke and his friend who came to give him a ride home. I'll be right back." Kurama pushed Vann gently into the seat next to his mother and walked back to Botan and Yusuke. He asked quietly, "Do I need to come with you now to spirit world to face my judgement, Grim Reaper?"

"No, I won't drag you back now. You will still need to make an appearance at some point, but I think under the circumstances it can wait. Spend some time with your mother," Botan reassured him.

Back at the bed, Vann realized she was being used to distract Kurama's mother in case he needed to leave to face his punishment for stealing the artifacts. She turned and smiled at the recovering woman. "I'm so glad you are feeling better, Ms. Shiori."

"I am feeling better. Better than I have in a long time... Did- Did you do something to me, young lady?"

"Huh? Why would you think that?"

"Ah, I was probably just imagining things. Maybe you were just our lucky charm tonight... I feel, its odd, like its going to be okay now." The woman was still obviously very tired and weak, but happy and hopeful.

"I think you are right, ma'am. I think you are going to be fine now. The doctor seemed to think so. If you need to sleep, you go right ahead."

"Vann... that's an unusual name. It means humility doesn't it."

"I believe you are right, mother." Kurama came back to the bed. He didn't allow Vann to stand, instead he sat on the arm of the chair next to her.

"It's kind of just a nickname really. I- I should probably let you two be alone for a bit. Would you like me to get you a sandwich or anything from the cafeteria, Shuuichi?" Vann tried to stand up again. Kurama placed a hand on her shoulder to stop her again.

"Oh, you both should go down to the cafeteria together and get something to eat. I'll be asleep again soon anyway. It won't do you any good to neglect your own health worrying about me," she said smiling at her son.

Shiori's smile widened as she watched her son through barely slitted open eyes, as he took the girl's hand in his own . She supposed she should feel guilty spying on her son like that, but she had always worried about him so much. He was always so reserved and aloof even to her sometimes. She worried about whether he allowed himself to have any friends. It was good to see the young people with Shuuichi this evening and he was actually smiling at this young lady now. He had looked a little worried about bringing them in to meet her earlier, and now he looked so happy. 'I think things are going to be much better from now on,' the recovering lady thought to herself as she began to drift off.

Kurama watched quietly still holding onto Vann's hand as his mother fell asleep. Now that the crisis was over, he had the distinct impression that the petite woman was going to bolt. Yusuke, it seemed, had felt obligated to drag Vann back to the room and hand her over to him. He could sense the energy bottled up in her small form, now that he wasn't distracted by the grief and worry, or perhaps it was something about using the Forlorn Hope together. He could see she was tired, but not like he and Yusuke were. The Forlorn Hope had taken only a third of their life energy each, but she almost seemed to be putting off more energy now than before. Maybe she just didn't have the strength to disguise it anymore... that seemed likely, but that only raised more questions. As his mother's breathing evened out he stood quietly pulling Vann to her feet as well. He looked at Vann knowing her human body and her apparent youth were both something of a disguise, but no matter how hard he looked, he couldn't see anything past the human form. His spirit awareness certainly wasn't what it used to be. He led her from the room and started walking with her down the hall, before he spoke. He asked the first question that came to mind.

"A shapeshifter? How many shapes can you to take?"

"Both the fae and dragons have talents for shapeshifting, so I find I can take any shape... animal, plant, or humanoid. If I've seen or studied it, I can usually mimic something passable, at least visually. Internal accuracy is dependent on my experiences or knowledge. My daughter, Nasareth is more limited and she can only mimic something she has been in a previous life and I really should go check in with her and let her know everything is alright here."

"That's a useful talent." He smiled and seemed to be thinking about what she had said. "Can't you just send one of the little "pests" in the room out to her?" he asked teasing her. Yes, he had caught her reference from earlier and he was letting her know it.

She looked at him a bit confused, earlier he had seemed sad and cold and determined to die... she had no clue what to think about how he was behaving now. He was smiling and he had latched on to her hand, refusing to let her pull away. And oh, how she wanted to pull away and run. She gave him her best condescending 'you're a cute kid' smile and asked, "Can I have my hand back now?"

"No," he said smiling back. "Not until I have your promise that I will see you again..."

 

*******************

Hiei watched the scene on the building below as Kurama left the others collapsed on the ground to run off to check on his mother. They had all survived the explosion of energy as the wish was fulfilled. Hiei had hoped they would all die, then it would have been a simple matter to retrieve the treasures from their corpses. Hiei snorted in disgust at Kurama. "Oh, how the mighty have fallen... you really have been laid low by your emotions, haven't you Kurama?" He felt a slight breeze on his cheek and thought nothing of it untill a sweet voice spoke quietly in his ear.

"You aren't going to do anything stupid, are you? Like attack my mother? Because my friends and I would have to do something about that."

Hiei turned his head to find the face of a pretty little blonde elf only inches away from his, leaning over his shoulder. He had not sensed, smelled, or heard her(physically or telepathicly) sneak up on him and it had seriously unnerved him. He jumped several feet away from her and drew his sword.

"Oh, really. There's no call for that. I'm not going to HURT you... unless you make me," she said almost laughing. "I only bite when asked too..."

"Who are you?! What do you want?" he asked snarling. Hiei looked her over taking in her strange outfit, purple pants, a black shirt, barefeet and a long floor length purple vest. Her hair was long and thick hanging just past her waist and he noted that her eyes were purple, as they flashed when she spoke.

"You really are a big meanie right now, aren't you?" she pouted playfully. "I think it's cool that we are the same size." Giving him no time to answer, she bounced around and continued. "I am Nasareth Fanyariel Siluva... that woman's daughter." And she nodded her head toward the other building indicating the prone woman who was even now picking herself up.

"Hn. Very wise of her to set guards," he scoffed implying that Nasareth couldn't actually stop him.

"Oh, I'm not really guarding anyone. Others are doing that. I wasn't allowed to be too close to the Dark Mirror in case something went wrong. Mother was pretty sure the mirror couldn't hurt her, so she went to help. Actually, I was sent out to look for you." She finished the last statement with a bit of a wicked grin and again her eyes flashed like a cat's eyes in the dark reflecting the light.

"I won't be so easy to catch!" he shouted lunging at her with the sword.

She nimbly bounced clear of the flailing blade and giggled. "Now, now. None of that. My magic may be better suited to healing and protection, but I CAN kick your ass, if you really want me too." And with that she pulled out a nerf dart gun and shot him square in the jagan eye.

"GAH!" He fumbled with the cursed toy. Plucking it away just in time to see the elf's smilling face disappear from view, as she jumped over the side of the building. He dashed over to the side to try to spot where she was retreating to, but there was no sign of her anywhere. He scowled in confusion. What an odd creature, he thought, as he began to try to track her.

 

********************

"You seem anxious to leave. Is it like the fairytales? Are your clothes going to change to rags at midnight? Or will you turn into a pumpkin?"

She tilted her head and gave him a puzzled expression.

"Don't give me that innocent look. Yusuke had to drag you back to the room and now you are insisting you need to leave. So tell me, when I will see you again or how do I contact you?" He gave her a sideways glance when she still didn't answer. "You came here to what? Make sure I didn't die...? Some how you knew exactly what my plan was, didn't you? You keep saying you read about me and my human mother in a story and this was over a thousand years ago. Of course I was listening to every word you said. Is that so unusual?" Apparently it was, if the look on her face was to be believed. He looked at her for a second trying to give her time to absorb everything he was saying. "But how is any that even possible? So I want to know how... and what was this promise you made?" He was very confident and authorative as he spoke, but the little smile that had not left his face, softened the almost harsh tone to his questions.

"My, my. You do have a lot of questions. What makes you think I am motivated to answer any of them? I acomplished what I intended, you are right about that."

"And why did you care whether I lived or died tonight?" He said manuvering her against the wall by the door. "And I think you do care..." He leaned in close.

"You're so sure I wouldn't hurt you to get away now?" she asked him while shrinking away from being touched.

Kurama smiled at her. "You won't hurt me." Of that he was very sure. "And I'm going to get my answers." Again he sounded equally sure of the fact as he stated it.

Someone cleared their throat behind him and he turn to find his mother's boyfriend Kuzuya Hatanaka looking at him and Vann. "It's getting late. I think Shiori really is in the clear now, but I'll stay with your mother tonight anyway. Perhaps you should walk your friend home."

At first Kurama was extremely irritated that he had been interupted by the man, not that he let any of it show to anyone. Instead he surprised the man by giving him a warm smile. Hatanaka-san was giving him the perfect idea. Kurama turned to Vann and decided to try it. "Would you let me walk you home, Vann-sama?" he said with all the innocent devotion and hope of a boy with a crush, daring her to not play the part of the fellow teenager that she looked like at the moment.

"Take her home and then go home and get some rest yourself," Hatanaka said smiling and giving Shuichi a 'I know what your doing and cut it out' look, at least he thought he knew what the boy was doing, flirting so obviously. He gave Vann a slight bow and said that he hoped he would see her again sometime... He was assuming he would, if Shuichi didn't scare her off. The boy could be strangely intense and serious sometimes. Like calling the girl, 'Sama' for instance.

Vann couldn't help smiling and bowing to the fatherly figure as he quietly opened the door to Shiori Minamono's room and tried to sneak back in without waking her up. So sweet to be worried about her and ordering 'Shuichi' to see her safely home. She looked at Kurama still hamming it up in her opinion and couldn't help but laugh quietly.

"Would you let me walk you home, Vann-sama?" he asked again in a hushed tone, pulling on her hand to draw her in closer to him. He whispered in her ear,"I'm right about your wanting to run now, aren't I? Please, don't..." The silence stretched out for several long minutes.

"Okay, fine..." came her slightly muffled reply.

"Really?" He asked smiling like a happy fool and squeezed her hand a little tighter as he started walking down the hall to the elevator.

"You don't have to hang on to me like that... I promise I won't run off. A sidhe never breaks their word and never lies(they don't always tell the whole truth, but they don't lie)."

"Maybe I am merely holding your hand, because I need the contact of another living being. Its been a very stressful evening." Vann gave him a 'look' and he laughed. "Maybe I am just keeping up the appearance that I brought a girl I like to visit my mother... or maybe I just like how soft and small your hand is and don't want to let go," he shrugged admitting something closer to the truth.

He pulled her into the elevator with him and as soon as the doors closed he started with his questions again. "Let's start with how old are you really?"

"How many years I remember altogether? Or how old this life time?"

Kurama gave her an questioning look, "How old this life?"

"Uhm, 191..."

"And all together?"

"I suffer a sort of immortality. Whenever I do die, I reincarnate. I am over two thousand years all together, but of course some of that has been spent in dragon hibernation. So 1200, give or take a few centuries... 'Born' 7 times as different creatures. Only slain twice though, if you count the 'trap and amnesia' incident 3 times, both times as the dragon.... I seem to attract an inordinate amount of trouble, when I'm *born* as the dragon."

"That sounds like an interesting story... So you are sort of the same age as I am."

"Aren't you only 15 years old at the moment?" She asked smiling at him.

"No more so than you are really, what age at the moment, something between 16 and 18?"

"Is it 1990? Then it would be 19 by a technicallity..."

"Technicality?"

"Yes, the american social security number I am using. It was mine in another life, so its not like its real identity theft."

Kurama raised an eyebrow at that one.

Vann pulled out a passport and student visa from an elaborate leather and metal belt and pouch. She handed them to him and let him look them over as they paused in the hospital lobby. "I got them a while ago. The poor little girl in this world is actually dead. Died from asthma complications before she ever got out of puberty. Its okay, I didn't let her spark go out into nothingness. I never do... when I find her, because I was 'her' once upon a time in another world."

Kurama looked at her in confusion. He wasn't following her rambling very well. He was sure it made sense to her, but it really didn't make any to him. He led her out of the hospital and waited for her to indicate a direction.

"I lived on another Earth, another world. I was born in a different 1970, not this one," she answered drawing him down the street. She didn't know the name of the park and immortality did not necessarily imbue one with a faultless sense of direction, let alone magically conjure the names of streets into her head. She could however feel where her home was since it was tied to her magic, so they left the hospital and began walking in the direction of the park. It was getting late at this point, but there were still quite a few people walking the streets.

"How does that work?" he asked looking forward to this explaination.

"You remember what I said earlier about a homework assignment?"

"Vaguely... I seem to remember being distracted by my imminent self sacrifice."

"Have you read any Heinlien? Number of the Beast? No? Have you heard of the 'World As Myth' theory? The theory that universes are created by the act of believing in them, so that all fictional worlds are in fact real. The number of the beast is not 666, but 6 to the power of 6 to the power of 6 or 10,314,424,798,490,535,546,171,949,056 which is the number of parallel universes. I don't know if its even actually limited to that number, but that's the theory."

Kurama gave Vann a wry smile, "I think you lost me...."

"The world is a myth and that means that your life, everyone's lives are a story book somewhere for someone else. I was born on a different earth where you were part of a story. When I realized where Nasareth and I were, when it was... I had to check for you and make sure you were okay. Don't look so distressed. I know I am just a story in someone else's world."

"You had to check on me...? Why? Doesn't that mean in a way you can see the future? By reading someone's story? Can you tell me about my future."

"Just because it was written to happen a certain way, doesn't make it the be all/end all final word on what *is* going to happen. Bad writing will send a story into hell faster than anything, especially unrealistic story plots, and for every story there can be variations, "what ifs". Somethings I know, somethings I don't, not everything gets spelled out or explained in stories. And then simply being here changes things, and I have to be careful not to meddle to much. I'm sorry there is no straight forward yes or no answer... It's something you have to kind of feel your way through, every time is different."

"Is every fictional world real?"

"Most of them, yes... especailly if there is enough belief or someone has made a real wish."

"A 'real' wish?"

"Yes, there are always a few creatures capable of granting wishes in even the most magic deprived worlds."

"That sounds like the voice of experience."

"I do have a few first hand experiences... with goblin kings and djinn. I was granted 3 wishes once. Still not sure some days, if it wasn't the biggest mistake of my life."

"What did you wish for?"

"That's kind of a personal question, 'young' man... but one of my wishes was protection from other wishes, my other two wishes cannot ever be undone by another's wish and no one can hurt me with a wish. So you see why I wanted to be the one to pay the price for you with the Dark Mirror, it couldn't have killed me.... that and I have lives to spare."

It didn't really diminish her actions in his mind, even though he suspected she meant for it to do so. Like it wasn't a big deal since she couldn't have been hurt, but it still meant something to him that she used her immunity to being harmed by the aritfact to his advantage... to protect him. So few real friends over such a long life time, made it mean even more to him now. "So you really read about me in a story over a thousand years ago and then what? Been waiting to run into me, so you could save me from my mad scheme of self sacrifice? You said something about it being part of a promise to your daughter."

"Yes, I promised her someday she would have the chance to meet Hiei... and you. I had to make sure you survived tonight. She can't very well meet you, if are dead. Although with spirit world being accessable to us that wouldn't be exactly true," she said in a thoughtful manner.

Kurama was sure he was getting better at recognizing when she wasn't telling the whole truth, and he didn't think she was telling the whole truth right now. It was certainly the promise she had been talking about earlier, but he was sure there was more to it.

"She was always fond of you all."

'Ah that was it,' Kurama thought. "SHE was? Was she the only one?"

"No, I love everyone from your story. I've always been open about that, I'm sure it irked my husband back in the day. You all are remarkable people. Yusuke and Hiei's passion for fighting, Kuwabara's sense of honor, your intelligence, compassion and wisdom, and Botan has such a big heart for a grim reaper... I even like Genkai and her grouchy old ways."

Kurama was a little confused, he tried to hide it though, while he mulled over her words. She had mentioned a husband again, but it sounded like this was way farther back in the past. Maybe he had asked for it, trying to put her on the spot so openly to see what feelings she had for him. "I am not known anywhere for compassion..."

"I know you do nothing without careful consideration... No one observes and plans the way you do. I don't think you appreciate what a rarity you are."

"So where are we headed exactly?" he asked changing the subject.

"Well, I decided to set up the treehouse in the park. Since neither Nasareth or I would enjoy living in a conventional house, too much iron used in the construction. We will have to have something specially built, if we decide to stay any extended length of time."

He looked at her in surprise for a moment. "A treehouse in the park?"

"It's not like I'm sleeping on benches, or even like that would be dangerous for me. It was just the best place to put my treehouse."

"A treehouse?" he asked again, somewhere between curiousity and disbelief.

"It's probably not what you think, and it is glamoured to hide it from the local human populace. I think you would be able to percieve it, especially if you knew where to look... But reguardless I'll take you to show you where it is?" She added hurriedly as his look of disbelief increased. "No lies. I promised, remember?" she added to remind him.

He nodded slowly to her, to let her know he believed her. Kurama could feel his heart pounding a crazy rhythm in his ears as they walked in silence again. He puzzled at himself as he watched Vann out of the corner of his eye. Vann seemed not to hear his heart going crazy, for which he was grateful. He didn't enjoy seeming like a real teenager.

They followed a well lit concrete path into the park. About 200 meters in, Vann pulled him to a stop a short distance from one of the lamps and waited for the few people walking their dogs to pass out of sight. She whisked him quickly into the shadows off the path and he did his best to spot any landmarks that would help him retrace his steps. They walked quite a ways off the path and he could tell her treehouse was nearby. It wasn't that he could see it, so much as he was aware of not seeing something that he felt should be there. Like looking into a shadow in your room at night. You know what is there, but there's not quite enough light to see it. This was a different part of the park that Hiei, Gouki, and himself had encountered Yusuke for the first time. To think, they could've accidently ran into her treehouse. Well, she may not have been here yet either, he told himself.

"Let your eyes go out of focus for a minute and look over there," Vann said pointing to cluster of trees.

Kurama did as she instructed and was surprised to see the many trees blend together into one gigantic tree, the cirumference had to be more than 30 feet. He brought his eyes back into focus without loosing the giant tree. It seemed to fit into the world naturally, as if it had always been there, though he knew it had not. Kurama sighed heavily in part awe, part delight.

A beautiful exotic garden with many strange and familar plants surrounded the base of the giant tree. A large pool sat behind the tree and the water seemed to defy gravity and flow in a well defined path up the side and fall back down in a magical waterfall. Branch-like wooden stairs could be seen winding their way around the outside of the tree, up and disappearing into the leafy top.

"I like it very much," he said smiling wide.

"And I am suddenly struck by the lack of wisdom, in showing a legendary bandit my home," Vann remarked to herself with a bit of smile. "Seeing as it is an artifact full of other artifacts... I have been quite the packrat myself, off and on over the years."

Kurama turned to her and said,"I wouldn't steal from a friend. No matter how tempting."

At that moment there was a faint rustling over head followed by a shout of "BONZAI!" Vann and Kurama narrowly missed being pounced on by a goblin diving from the tree tops.

Vann scowled at the the little balding green creature dressed in mis-matched armor clutching the remanents of a bright red water balloon in his hands as he picked himself up.

"YounotNas.SorryBossLady.ExcusemegottarunorI'mgonnagetsoaked." the little goblin gasped it all out in one breath as he drew another water ballon from a satchel, looking all the while around him for his intended target.

"Snog!"

"Excuseme!" he shouted and took off for the bushes at a run.

"Ah ha ha haaaa!!!" came a girl's voice from up above.

"EEEEEK!"

"I've got you now!" A little blonde elf with a brightly colored water gun in her hand, lightly dropped down from the tree tops near the goblin. She shot him square in the backside as he dove for the bushes at the last second.

"Sneak attack!" Shouted another little goblin that came from the opposite direction. He was wearing a red cap and a similar fashion statement of mismatched homemade armor. His little bucket only had three more water balloons in it and one in his hand, that he launched at the elf girl.

"RedCap?!" Vann pulled Kurama away from the chaos toward the stairs of the tree.

Laughing in delight Nasareth ducked under the flying missile with ease and brought her multi-colored pistol to bear shooting the little goblin right up the nose as he flew over her head.

Snorting and coughing the goblin's dexterous leap turned into a crazy 'ass over teakettle' freefall. Nasareth, still laughing, dashed forward to catch the little guy and keep him from any serious harm. "Sorry about that," she said with a completely unrepentant grin on her face.

"I hates it, when you do that!" gasped the little goblin spraying water out his nose all over her arms.

"Cheater!Nofairwaterbendinginwaterfight!" came the little goblin's voice from somewhere in the bushes."Upthenoseisillegalmove!"

"I wasn't water bending. I'm just that good," the little elf denied to her accuser as she set the redcapped goblin on his feet.

"Really, Nasareth...," Vann said shaking her head.

"What? I came back here, when you gave the all clear and I got bored waiting for you to come back."

"Fight not over, little lady," the goblin sang while adjusting his bright red cap. "Not out of balloons yet..." and he picked up a little green one out of his bucket and bounced it lightly in his hand twice before chucking it with an evil grin at the elf girl's head.

She brought her arm up at the last second deflecting the bomb from her face, but it still exploded all over her arm. "AH! Why you little sneaksie devil!" she shouted with glee as she raised the water gun to return fire.

"ENOUGH!" Vann shouted louder than any megaphone, the word had obviously been enhanced magically. "I call a penalty! We have a guest and you all are making a woooonderful first impression!"

"Uh, oh..." the little elf said quietly frozen in mid strike and the water was literally frozen in mid air on its way to striking the little goblin in the face. So much for not water bending...

"Uhhhhh, byby Little Lady," the red capped goblin said as he dashed off for cover.

"Youonyourown,sorry.Loveyoububai!" came from the bushes, followed by the frantic rustling of another running goblin.

"Traitors! The lot of you!"

"Kurama. This is my daughter, Nasareth." Vann gave up trying to get anyone on the same page.

"Nice to meet, young lady," Kurama said smiling at the chaos.

"Who are you calling young? You don't look like you are even half my age," she quipped at him.

"She is older than she looks... or acts." Vann said reassuring herself more than anyone. "And you know how old Kurama really is, Nasareth. Wait, have you been eating sugar again?"

A blantantly guilty look crossed the girl's face. "Maaaaaaaybe... I made sweets for Kurama to take to his mother in the hospital... and maaaaaybe I ate *some* of them."

"Le Sigh."

"uh, I'll go get them," she said dropping the water gun and flying straight up into the treetops.

"(Sigh) There's no telling what shape the kitchen and veranda are in now. I'd invite you for a tour... but maybe that's better saved for another time." Vann bent to pick up the water gun.

"She's cute... and very... energetic," he finished with a sympathic smile.

"She is something else isn't she?" Vann said with a laugh.

"I don't mind if things are little messy. I'd still love to see more of the treehouse."

"A little messy? That all depends on if the goblins were helping her or not," Vann said with an ominous air. "Odd she didn't mention whether the guards had to turn Hiei away or not tonight..."

"well about that...," Nasareth said as she floated down from the treetops. "I found Hiei spying on you guys and since you were all laid out recovering from the mirror, I figured I better distract him. The cheeky monkey drew his sword on me!"

"What?"

"So I shot him with my nerf gun right in his third eye." she said proudly as she handed the pretty little box of chocolates to Kurama.

His eyes went wide for a second before he laughed out loud. "I bet that was something worth seeing."

Nasareth pulled another little plastic gun from some where in her clothes and hugged it to her chest. "I shall call it my little shooty thing and it shall be my little shooty thing."

"Oh, my. Waaaay to much sugar," Vann said slightly horrified.

"Is this part of why you wanted to leave so quickly?" Kurama asked feeling a little guilty.

"I should say yes, but I truly had no idea this would be part of the chaos of this evening."

"I'm sorry," Kurama put a hand on her shoulder as they watched Nasareth giggle and hug her toy.

"I hope your mom likes the chocolate, Kurama. Come back and visit us again real soon," she ran over to her mother and snatched back the water pistol before dashing off into the woods with both weapons in hand to hunt down her commrades in mischief.

"Redcaaap?! Snoooog!" She sang off in the distance some where. "Where are you my little traitors?!"

"Will they be all right?" Kurama asked a little concerned.

"Oh yes. They'll be fine. Some of the glamour hiding the tree will protect them too. As long as they don't go too far."

"I feel bad. I don't want to leave you alone with a mess to clean up," Kurama said surprising himself that he really meant what he was saying.

"Oh. It's okay really. Nothing I'm not used to," Vann said with another sigh starting up the steps.

"Who do I say the chocolates are from?" he asked with a sudden thought.

"Oh, you have a point. Probably aught to call her my little sister and not my daughter. She's been my sister, my best friend, and my daughter several times in the past, so it's not really a lie. I could pull that off."

"Like you said, something true, just not the whole truth," Kurama said, understanding better just how much she could get away with.

They heard a maniacal laugh followed by goblin squeels in the woods nearby and Vann laughed. "You better run for it, before you become a very wet casualty of the 'war'."

Kurama watched her inching up the stairs away from him and suddenly he didn't want to leave, but knew it would become more awkward to stay. So he smiled at her and turned to go, watching carefully for Nasareth and her cohorts conducting their water war in the darkness. He didn't actually run, but he didn't drag his feet either. He noticed the many firefly lights everywhere and thought that a good number was likely Vann's little fairies, there were too many to be purely natural.

Today had surprised him, he had been expecting to die today. Planning to sacrifice his life for his human mother to make her happy and undo the wrong he felt he had commited against her, in taking her unborn son's life and making it his own... Instead he had met two fae women, one serious and the other light hearted. Been befriended and then saved by the one of them and the spirit detective. His mother was going to get well and Botan had thought that once all the circumstances were known, he would be given a lenient sentence for helping steal the artifacts. As he walked home with a little trail of "fireflies', he looked up at the stars and enjoyed being alive and free for the moment.

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