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The Beginning of Forever

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It was springtime. When the cherry blossoms began to bloom, people flocked to the numerous parks and public gardens to celebrate. The flowers would not last long, but Kurama chose to wait until the very last day before he went.

Just before dawn, he set off towards a park near his home, and spread a blanket on the ground at his favorite spot. He was sure no one would pay attention to an old man who just wanted a bit of peace and quiet. Chuckling at the thought of himself as "old" (for that he certainly was, even more so than his seventy-odd human years), he lay down, closed his eyes, and let his memories wash over him.

Kurama had lived a relatively long and satisfying human life, despite the fact that he had never married. He had his share of experience with children; his stepbrother Shuuichi had more than a fair number of children and grandchildren. People often asked him why he himself remained single, and he found pleasure in informing them that he was in fact already taken. In his youth, Kurama's friends (the ones who knew nothing of his youko heritage) sometimes had the opportunity to meet his lovely girlfriend, but these were rare. He didn't talk about her too often, and when he did, he never revealed facts such as where she lived, or where she went to school.

As Kurama got older, he gained a rather strange reputation. Whenever the name "Shuuichi Minamino" came up in conversation, all sorts of rumors could be heard. There were those who said that he had a lover who was far too young for him. Others said that they knew nothing of this supposed young lady, and speculated that he was most likely gay. Some were convinced that he was simply like many other males with the fear of commitment.

And as a response to all these, Kurama merely laughed. At least they hadn't yet declared him insane, which he was sure they would do, should he ever reveal the truth.

A soft giggle interrupted his reverie.

He opened his eyes, and there she was. With her blue hair bound in a ponytail, and slim figure clad in a familiar pink kimono, Botan still looked exactly the same as she had over seventy years ago. But her eyes were different... they shone with unshed tears.

"Hello, Botan-chan," he greeted. "It's been... what, a week?"

"Oh, Kurama... it's time, you know," she said, half-smiling. "And I don't know whether to be sad or happy."

"How about I decide for you? Be happy," Kurama declared, reaching out to brush an errant lock of hair from her face, "Because I know I am."

Botan fully smiled then. "You always did know how to sweet talk a girl."

"Well, what kind of a youko would I be if I didn't?" Kurama joked.

She laughed. "We're going about this the wrong way! I'm not supposed to be the one being comforted."

"It's not a problem, Botan. I've told you a hundred times before. I'm prepared for this," he said. And before she could utter a reply, his spirit parted from his human body.

In front of her now stood Youko Kurama. Silver hair, golden eyes, fox tails, and all.

Botan gaped at him. "But... but..."

Kurama grinned, and swished his tails. "Does this form please you, my lady?"

She launched herself at him, and he caught her in a fierce embrace. "Kurama," she breathed. "This is it, isn't it?"

"Yes, Botan," he answered. "This is the beginning of forever."