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The Sharp Side of the Knife

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Kurama pulled his shoes off at the front door as he did every school day, calling a distracted, “I’m home,” as he lined them up neatly in the gekkan. He paused when he noticed three pairs of unfamiliar shoes. One pair was large, large enough to belong to a full grown man rather than a first year in high school like the other two appeared to be. Kurama extended his senses as his mother came into the entryway.

“Welcome back,” she said smiling. “Your guests are in the dining room. You didn’t mention you had a study group coming over today.”

Study group? His senses brushed against unfamiliar youki. His breath froze in his chest for a moment as he realized his mother had been in the house with three unknown demons for an unknown length of time. “Ah,” he heard himself say, looking past his mother. “I had forgotten about that. When did they arrive?”

“Only ten minutes ago,” Shiori reassured him, mistaking his frozen look for upset over having forgotten. “They’ve been very polite about waiting.” She turned and Kurama saw what looked like blue spider silk on her shoulder. He reached out to brush it and it sparked with blue youki the moment his hand got an inch from it. The silk extended to the back of her neck and, upon closer inspection, down the hallway toward the dining room.

The cold panic inside him iced over to cold fury. One of those unknown demons had done something to his mother. It did not matter who they were anymore, they would pay.

Shiori led them down the hall to the dining room as Kurama reigned in his anger, subverting and redirecting it to plans. All useless until the situation became clear, but it kept the anger from ruling him, and that kept the fool demons that thought they could mess with his mother and his territory from winning.

Three demons sat around the dining room table with tea in front of them—of course they had tea; Shiori was unfailingly polite—and snacks in the center of the table for them to enjoy. For a moment Kurama saw them double, one image how humans must see them with neat and presentable school uniforms and perfectly human and innocent faces. The illusion was paper thin though, and the reality was much less innocent.

A woman with blue hair so pale it almost looked translucent sat at the end of the table, her hair swept up in a hair clip tight enough that it looked like she should get a tension headache from it. Strands drifted free, accentuating her widow’s peak, and lavender slit-pupil eyes regarded him with grating smugness. To her right was a boy with wolf ears, cheerily munching through a senbei with a wild grin on his face that made his fangs stand out. The remaining member of the group was a slit-eyed male demon that looked human but felt wrong. It was him that the blue thread led to, and it pulsed bright about his wrist. Two dozen or so more threads were wrapped around his other wrist and as Kurama passed through the doorway, they pulsed yellow, sending zigzag lines of light that showed that the threads covered the length of the room, including across the top and bottom of the doorway they had just walked through. The doorway that now felt similar to protective wards and barrier spells Kurama had been exposed to in the past.

Kurama gave them a cold look. The one with wolf ears waved enthusiastically.

“Hey! Minamino!” He was using Kurama’s human name, and they had gotten the school uniform correct. This reeked of forethought and planning. “Sorry we got here early! Did ya detour on the way back or something?” Wolf boy glanced at Kurama’s mother, grinning just the slightest bit wider.

Kurama set his bag on the table. “I apologize. I realized I lent my notes to Tanaka-san and had to get them back. We couldn’t do the project without them, could we?”

The boy’s eyes narrowed slightly as his ears pricked forward. “You do have the best notes. Kumoto’s pretty good, but he always ends up zoning out at the end of class.”

The demon with the colored threads crossed his arms looking condescendingly amused. “Garou, your notes can barely be called such considering they consist largely of drawings and stains from smuggled food.”

The blue haired demoness laughed and Shiori smiled. Kurama forced a small smile as well for the sake of appearances. Kumoto—kumo, so a spider demon? And Garou was a wolf in name and in appearance. That left the last demon an unknown in all ways, though her coloring could be an indication. Wind or ice elemental, possibly a water elemental too, but that was less likely since water elementals tended to remain near their water source.

“I’ll let you get to work,” Shiori said. “Shuichi,” she added, turning to Kurama, “if your guests need anything, please let me know.”

“Of course, Mother.” Kurama smiled at her, and for her at least he could muster a genuine expression even with the bitter cold rage flowing through him. “Our…literature skit should not take too long to work out a concept for. If it proves otherwise, I will let you know.”

Shiori smiled, touching his shoulder fondly before she returned to the kitchen, no doubt working on the start of dinner.

As soon as she was gone and the door slid shut behind her, Kurama turned toward his uninvited guests.

Garou snorted, bits of senbei flying messily from his mouth as he talked. “Nice. Literature skit. What kind of lame assignment is that?”

“One that could possibly explain away raised voices as acting,” the demon woman said, speaking for the first time. “Clever.”

“Not clever enough, Hitomi,” Kumoto murmured, playing with the blue thread on his wrist. “He’s foolish to think that he will be able to blind her forever. Humans are stupid, but not indefinitely so. Her willful blindness will likely not last past the evening.” He smirked. “If she lives that long.”

Kurama felt another spike of intense loathing for the demon in front of him. He would kill him last and kill him slowly so that he knew every second could be his last and feel glad when death finally came. “Why are you here?” Kurama asked. He brushed his hair over his shoulder readying a seed for the first chance to kill and be sure that there wouldn’t be any backlash on Shiori.

“Can’t you guess?” Kumoto asked. His slit eyes opened enough for Kurama to glimpse red irises and a cold and calculating stare. “I had thought you were supposed to be the clever one of your group. Perhaps your skills were overrated.”

Empty words. They melted off him like water shed from his fur. “I could postulate some theories, but it generally is quicker to take the blunt route.”

“You have connections,” Hitomi said. She sipped her tea. It didn’t have steam like the other two cups. The probability of her being an ice demon increased. That would require a harder to reach seed to handle if that was the case. His rose was strong, but even with his youki feeding them, most of his plants did not handle direct cold well. “Both to spirit world and to Makai.”

“And you hope to accomplish what?” Kurama paced; let them think him cornered and uncomfortable. He let his footsteps circle closer to the kitchen door. “You will remember that I have no pull with the spirit world. I am currently on parole.”

“Details.” Kumoto brushed crumbs off his sleeve as Garou attacked another senbei. “Your position as a detective of spirit world marks you as a trusted cog in the wheel even if spirit world is blackmailing you into the job. It would be simple to turn a blind eye to a few human deaths every now and again.” He watched Kurama pace from under hooded eyes. His fingers twisted the blue thread on his wrist and each twitch of it made Kurama feel more of that calm, icy fury. “It is no small thing to claim to have Youko Kurama as a retainer either.”

“And claim is all you’ll ever be able to do,” Kurama hissed, feeling a flash of hot anger, old pride stung at the thought of this pathetic demon in front of him, any of the demons in front of him, considering themselves more than him. His lip curled. Youko Kurama would have fed them to a death tree after hanging their guts across the door to his den as a warning to all who thought they could try the same. But Youko Kurama hadn’t known Shiori’s unconditional love.

Kumoto’s smirk twitched even smugger. “It must be tiring pretending to be human,” he said. “Such boring creatures. School? Mindless repetition without true learning. Creatures one step away from hive mind all scurrying to fill the roles society expects them to, and procreating like the insects they are.”

Since the flash of hot anger had been shown, Kurama let himself look more visibly agitated, running a hand through his hair again. Seeds sparked against minute amounts of youki until he found the ones he was looking for.

“But humans have their uses,” Garou chirped. His mouth stretched into a fang-filled grin that changed his face into something darker and more sinister. “So fun to hunt. You remember, I’m sure. They always think they’re so safe until they’re not and then they’re pissing their pants and begging for you to eat the other one first.” He licked crumbs off his fingers, lingering over his claws. “Bet you’d like to tear into some of those humans at your school, the ones that talk behind your back and make you dance in that pathetic role of yours.”

Kurama remembered all right. He remembered committing acts that made the human part of him that Shiori had nurtured feel shame and guilt, while the Youko part of him took offense because the humans Garou were threatening were his. The school was his territory, the city was his home, the humans were his to protect or kill if he chose to do so and these demons thought they had the right to life or death in his territory. They had the right to their own deaths at any rate.

“So whatta ya say?” Garou leaned in. “You help us, we take care of some of the humans making life a sham for you. And maybe you can get away with hunting a few yourself. Just like old times.” This time the grin edged along the fine line of insanity and Kurama wondered how he hid it at all. Garou was no better than the goon Gouki had been back when they stole the three artifacts.

The real pathetic part was that they thought he would agree. He stopped pacing. Kurama smiled, the smile he used to keep away annoying human children and that Hiei called his “fuck you” smile. “I think you have the wrong idea of what sort of person I am.” His whip flashed into his hand with a burst of youki.

The other demons sprang into motion, Hitomi’s tea whipping from her cup in knives of pale brown ice and Kumoto raising his hand to summon more threads. Garou crouched in his chair, clearly prepared to dive over or under the table depending on the best method of attack.

Kurama cut down the ice with a flick of his whip. The temperature in the room dropped sharply and frost crackled over the surface of the teapot. Kumoto’s threads lashed to Kurama’s left and he dodged right toward Hitomi. Her ice climbed along his whip, making it brittle and forcing him to feed youki into it to keep it green and supple.

“I think,” Kumoto said as he ducked a swipe from Kurama’s whip, “that you are forgetting who is in control here.” The blue thread around his wrist, the one that led to Shiori, glowed red. The cold fear that filled Kurama at the shift in color—even not knowing, or perhaps because of a lack of information on what the shift meant—was enough a distraction for Hitomi to shatter the whip and one of Kumoto’s threads to catch Kurama around his throat.

The thread was red and the second it cinched tight, Kurama found it hard to control his limbs. His arms froze in the motion of reaching for a new seed, his muscles spasm as they tried to resist and obey the red thread’s control at the same time.

Kumoto smiled. “Good.” The red thread leading to Shiori glowed like blood spatter on the deserts sands of Makai. Walking unnaturally stiff, Shiori returned from the kitchen leaving the door open behind her.

“What did you do?” Kurama growled, angry with his own slip up almost as much as he was furious with the demons in his home.

“I would think you would find it an improvement,” Kumoto said with a smirk. He stroked the threads trailing from his wrists. A fine tremor led to the thread tight around Kurama’s throat. “Which is worse, control? Or allowing her to be drained bit by bit like she was before?”

Red was control, blue was drain, yellow was barriers, Kurama catalogued. That meant that spider had been feeding from his mother. Unacceptable.

“Kumoto’s strong,” Garou said. He had finished the snacks on the table and didn’t look even the slightest bit ruffled from the fight that had just happened. “Don’t feel bad for falling into his trap.” He licked crumbs from his claw-tipped fingers and sauntered over to Shiori. “He’s never tried the threads on humans. Wonder how much she is seeing in there?”

The thought of Mother could be seeing this, Mother could learn the truth was smothered ruthlessly. “You should know that the sort of arrangement you suggest is not possible. Spirit world wouldn’t allow such a thing to happen and I do not hold the sort of pull over Lord Koenma that you seem to think I hold.”

“And y’see we think that doesn’t matter.” Garou grinned with glinting fangs. “Hitomi.”

Slushy tea-ice hissed across the table until it was by Garou’s side. From there it inched along Shiori’s arms, coating them with glittering shards. There was a very short period of time until that ice would do real damage. Kurama’s arms twitched against the thread’s hold.

“But you still have your mind,” Garou said, “unlike her and these threads. And you’ve shown her as a weakness.” He laughed. “You value this human, and you’d do anything to keep her safe…wouldn’t you?” One sharp claw touched Shiori’s cheek leaving a pinprick of blood to well up. “Do you think she can still feel under that? I wonder…” The claw traced up and Kurama could see Garou making mental plans to dissect her with his bare hands until Kurama complied. Kumoto smirked wider, the expression of a man who believed he had won.

“If you kill her,” Kurama said softly as a drop of blood rolled down Shiori’s cheek, “you will be sorely mistaken about living long enough to reap any of the benefits you desire.” In the distance he felt a flicker of familiar youki, not quite close enough yet to be useful, but…

Garou turned away from Shiori and laughed. “Killing her would be almost worth it.” He leaned forward. “But I wouldn’t have to kill her to get benefits.”

Kurama twitched his hand again, and yes, he had the seed and could feel his youki. Kumoto’s threads had three modes, but they could not be all things at once, and he clearly hadn’t realized he was outclassed. More fool them.

The transformation into Youko Kurama snapped the thread around Kurama’s throat as raw energy subsumed it. Kurama whipped the seed he had in mind at Hitomi, feeding youki into it as it arced through the air. It hit her and tore her apart, the cold-loving vines seeking out her core where she was coldest to burrow and root with mindless survival in mind. No amount of ice she threw as it came toward her would have helped; the plant thrived off cold.

Kumoto’s threads arched toward him, but where Kurama could be snared, one clawed slash from Youko had them falling to pieces.

Garou dived over the table at Kurama’s throat, claws out and snarling. Kurama met him with a particularly vicious carnivorous plant found on his last visit to Makai. Garou struggled in its grasp and howled, sending waves of pain through Kurama’s sensitive ears.

Across from them Shiori collapsed like a puppet with cut strings and Kurama wasn’t sure if it was because of the sound or Kumoto’s threads, but new threads caught him and held longer, enough that he couldn’t get to Shiori quickly. He snarled and sent more energy into his plant. There was a sickening snap as some part of Garou was ripped apart and the sonic howling wavered into a shriek of pain. Kurama cut free of the threads, ripping them unevenly and feeling youki spark against the palms of his hand where it was severed.

Two steps, three, but the plant and table blocked Shiori and Kumoto had already been closer. Kumoto’s hand was around Shiori’s throat with a knife in the other waiting to slice.

They ignored the snaps and sounds of pain behind them, staring each other down.

“We can both walk away from this,” Kumoto said. His calm was shattering, leaving him less predictable. Kurama had to end this before it got any worse.

“You know we can’t do that,” he said, pulling Youko’s old veneer of vicious disdain around himself. It made him more imposing, someone that should not be crossed at any cost.

Kumoto took a step back, moving toward the kitchen. The only way to escape there is the window. Sealing the doorways was his own mistake.

“Hiei,” Kurama said, and the youki he felt earlier flares and burns. Threads crossing the door erupt into flame as Hiei bursts into the room. Kurama would have had trouble with the wards, but Hiei had more trouble finding ward that would work on his fire than would not these days.

Kurama lunged.

Kumoto shoved Shiori at the writhing mass of Kurama’s plant. Kurama could have laughed. Vines that should have torn into her instead cradled her and pulled her away from the fire and blood. Kurama filled the gap between him and the kitchen, pulling on a new rose whip. It lashed around Kumoto’s throat where Kumoto had had the thread tight around Shiori’s and the thorns bit deep.

“I think I’ll keep your head,” Kurama said conversationally as Kumoto struggled and only managed to get thorns buried deeper. The rose vines multiplied and wrapped around limbs. The puddle of blood beneath Kumoto got steadily larger as his eyes bugged from lack of air. “I’ll cut it off and display it in Makai.” Kurama smiled and it wasn’t much different from Garou’s earlier feral grin. “And those of your companions. And it will become clear that Youko Kurama is still not to be crossed.”

Behind him, Kurama felt Hiei burning the remnants of Kumoto’s threads. The pained sounds from Garou finally cut off.

“And what do you think of that?” Kurama asked in mocking form of their earlier proposition.

“Gh—sk!” Kumoto could not even make sounds or form syllables. He reeked of terror. Kurama tugged once, hard, on his whip and Kumoto fell to pieces. Blood spattered Shiori’s clean kitchen and Kurama felt momentary regret for sullying it. The satisfaction of seeing the corpse at his feet ultimately overcame it though. Kurama retracted his whip and vines and returned to the dining room.

Hiei stood on the table—a table that now had chunks missing, bloodstains, and singe marks—poking a chunk of what might have been Hitomi.

“It’s not like you to make such a mess, Kurama,” Hiei said.

Kurama smiled grimly and let Youko bleed away to his human form. “Yes, well there were more things to worry about than finesse at the moment.” The carnivorous plant still held Shiori with care, her unconscious form lifted well above the bloody tangle where it was consuming Garou. “Leave the head as intact as you can,” Kurama instructed the plant. The vines coiling around Garou twitched, reluctant to release any part of the prey they were allowed to feast on, but after a moment half of Garou’s head squished out. The lower jaw was missing along with the skin from where his jaw connected from the hinge to most of Garou’s right ear.

“They were weak,” Hiei muttered.

“Weak, but they attacked what they viewed as my weakness.” Kurama reached into the vines to pull Shiori down. Belatedly, he realized he had blood on him ad it stained Shiori’s clothing where they touched.

“Do you plan on hunting down their clans for this?” Hiei asked.

It was tempting, and as Youko, Kurama would not have hesitated to do so to make his warning complete. He had a feeling it would not be something either his mother or Koenma would approve of though. “I suppose that will depend on how my warning is taken and how much Shiori was harmed,” Kurama said after a moment. There were bruises on her throat from the thread and Kumoto’s hand and a cut on her face from where Garou had clawed her. The ice on her arms had melted without Hitomi to sustain it, but her fingers had the unhealthy pinkish purple color that marked the first stages of frostbite.

Kurama stepped over the mess of the dining room and carried Shiori to the living room. He had no idea how he would explain this—could it be explained?—but cleanup could wait. “Hiei,” Kurama said as he set Shiori onto a couch as gently as he could manage. “The one with the threads, Kumoto, did something to her and I don’t know if it affected her mind. Could you…?”

“Move over.”

Kurama slid to the side and let Hiei touch Shiori’s head. He half thought that anyone touching her would make him upset, but he trusted Hiei with her more than he thought he would.

“She’s unconscious,” Hiei said after a while, “most likely due to pain. There is some damage to her ears, nothing permanent, but unpleasant. Her mind seems to be unharmed, but how much she will remember about this is unclear.” He took his hand away from Shiori’s forehead. “Her energy levels are low. One of them must have been feeding from her.”

“Kumoto,” Kurama said. The void of cold anger filled him again, but sadly he could only kill someone once. “Thank you, Hiei.”

Hiei studied him. He did not say Kurama had overreacted. But then Hiei understood familial loyalty and the desire to destroy someone who has harmed someone you claim as your own. “Should I get Yukina and the fool?”

“No.” Kurama shook his head slowly. “She isn’t hurt that badly.” He also didn’t want to interrupt their date even though he knew Hiei would gladly put up with being around Kuwabara if it meant stopping a romantic outing. “I should…” Clean. Clean up everything because in a little more than an hour his step brother would be back from cram school and Kazuya would be getting home from work.

Hiei watched him catalogue what needed to be done and snorted. “I’ll get the fool. At the very least he’s good for grunt work.”

Kurama didn’t stop him this time. He would find a way to apologize to Yukina for interrupting their date later. Kurama touched Shiori’s forehead. He hoped she would sleep a while longer because he had no desire to talk about what had happened. While he was resigned to possibly having to tell her the truth one day, it was something he had no desire to do. He cleaned blood from her cheek and warmed her hands the best he was able. She slept through it all.

He disposed of the bodies first. That was ridiculously simple when one had the use of acidic, carnivorous plants on hand. The three heads he set aside, wrapped in leaves that would help preserve them and keep them from getting gore on anything until he could use them. They were stashed in his bedroom underneath the bed and behind boxes where they wouldn’t be found by the casual observer. Next came the blood, and while Kurama was confident in his ability to get bloodstains out (and repair the ripped curtains, and find replacements for the tea set) he had far less confidence in how to fix a battered table and remove singe marks from the walls. Ten minutes into removing blood from the kitchen (he started there because it was the place that the blood bothered him most to see), Hiei returned with Kuwabara and Yukina in tow.

“Kurama, are you okay? Hiei said you took care of it. Is your mom okay?” Kuwabara asked, bowling right into the kitchen and leaving bloody footprints as he went. He hadn’t taken his shoes off either.

Kurama pinched the bridge of his nose. More work, and only thirty minutes until Shuichi and Kazuya returned. “The situation is resolved,” he said. “Mother is in the living room.” He looked around Kuwabara’s bulk to see Yukina stepping carefully around spots of gore as Hiei watched, again on the vantage point of the dining room table. “Yukina, would you mind looking Mother over and checking that we have not missed any injuries? I was unable to be thorough.”

She nodded and retreated back to the living room.

Kurama turned to Kuwabara who was staring after Yukina looking both worried and love-struck. “Kuwabara, I am afraid I will need your help cleaning. As you can see,” he waved a hand at the dining room, “there is no shortage of blood to clean up.”

“Uh…right. I can do that.” Kuwabara looked around. “Is there a mop or some towels or something?”

Kurama pointed at a closet in the kitchen where Shiori kept cleaning supplies. As Kuwabara helped himself, Kurama looked to Hiei. “I don’t suppose you know how to remove scorch marks?” Considering Hiei had caused them, Kurama hoped he would help clean up.

Hiei scowled. For a moment Kurama thought he would refuse to help at all and continue to watch them scurry around with clean up. “…it’s time consuming.” He glanced at the walls and the doorway. “It’s only the surface that’s burnt.”

“…will it wipe away or do I need to find sandpaper?”

Hiei shrugged. “Give me a cloth.”

Kurama reached past Kuwabara to get one and gave it to Hiei. Behind him, Kuwabara finally chose a mop and cleaning solution.

“I got some steel wool from the back,” Kuwabara said, holding up the grey lump. “For where the stains set in. It could help with the burns. I’ve used it when I accidentally burnt some of my stuff.”

Kurama didn’t bother asking how Kuwabara ‘accidentally’ burned his own belongings. Instead he nodded and got back to cleaning the kitchen and prayed that they could get this done.

The kitchen was as spotless as he could get it (short of moving the refrigerator, but the blood hadn’t gone under it) and Hiei and Kuwabara had made headway on the dining room when Shiori woke up.

“…Shuichi?” Kurama heard from the living room, and a moment after, “Kurama?” from Yukina.

Kuwabara and Hiei froze and looked at Kurama. Kurama scowled at the mess the dining room still was. There was no replacing the table. Hiei unfroze first, rolling his eyes at Kurama in a way that said Kurama was being ridiculous. Had they been alone, Kurama would have pointed out that he wasn’t the only one keeping secrets about identities to a person currently in the other room, but as Kuwabara was there (and still didn’t know and it was too amusing most of the time for Kurama to tell him), Kurama simply lifted one eyebrow. Hiei scowled. Kuwabara started twisting a towel in his hands looking uncomfortable.

“Kurama?” Yukina said again, this time slightly louder.

Kurama shook himself. He couldn’t assume the worst just yet. “Keep cleaning,” he said to Kuwabara. There wasn’t enough time left to be stopping.

Shiori was propped up on the couch when Kurama entered the room. Thanks to Yukina’s ability, the bruises on her neck were gone along with the scrapes and cuts she had accumulated in the battle. Yukina looked tense and Kurama felt himself tense up because of it. There were still bloodstains on Shiori’s clothing, and her eyes flicked down Kurama’s front as she assessed his own stains. Her lips pressed together in a hard line.

“Shuichi,” she said. She held out a hand. The scars along it were clearly visible and for a moment he wondered if she chose to bring attention to them on purpose as a reminder. The thought was dismissed as unkind and untrusting. Unlike him, Shiori was not the type to emotionally manipulate those around her. Kurama took her hand.

He shouldn’t have been surprised when she pulled him into a hug, but he was. It was always a surprise when Shiori, fragile, human Shiori, closed her arms around him because somehow she always felt strongest when her arms were tight around him. He closed his eyes. “Mother?”

“Are you hurt?” she asked. There was a tremble in her voice, a shake in her arms. It was everything he tried to shield her against for years and years.

He sighed. “I am well.” The ice hadn’t harmed him. The threads barely slowed him down. Garou’s claws had never touched him and the effect of his howl had already died away. “You were the one that was hurt.”

Shiori said nothing, neither confirming nor denying that she remembered what had happened. Her hand smoothed over Kurama’s hair and down his back again and again like it had when he was a child. Finally she said, “Those people weren’t from your school, were they?”

He choked on a laugh. “No. No they were not.”

“How bad is the dining room?” Her hand paused. “Kazuya and Shuichi-kun will be home soon.”

“It is…” Wrecked was not quite the right word. “Salvageable?” Provided the bloodstains came out of the wood floor and the scorch marks came off the wall. “The table is ruined, and I am afraid your favorite tea set will need replaced.”

She sighed like it was to be expected and held him out at arm’s length in front of her. She frowned. Kurama had to resist ducking his head because he could count on one hand the number of times Shiori looked truly upset with him and this was one of them. “Later we will talk. I expect a full explanation without lies or excuses or cover ups. It’s long past due.”

Kurama flinched. It had crossed his mind that Shiori knew more than she let on, but he was a bit nervous to find out how much she had in fact caught on to. In quick succession, he ran through how much he could evade in the truth he told, how much she was likely to believe, and how much he could get away with based off of what she could potentially already know. A glance at Shiori’s face said she knew exactly what he was thinking and he resigned himself for telling the truth, complete, but as bare bones as he could make it while still spinning it to keep her from hating him. He did not want to end up parting with her hating him, because if she took the truth badly, he had no doubt that he would leave. “Later,” he promised.

Shiori smiled then, the warm motherly smile that had once confused Kurama to no end. “I am glad you’re unharmed,” she said.

From the dining room something crashed and it sounded like the broken tea set was being broken more. He and Shiori winced in unison.

“Uh, Kurama?” Kuwabara called. “I think I’m gonna need some more help.” He yelped and there was the grumbling sound of Hiei’s voice, likely calling him an idiot.

Yukina patted Kurama’s arm. “I’ll make sure Kazuma doesn’t break anything else,” she said.

Kurama nodded. He felt exhausted all of a sudden between the relief that Shiori was okay and the unexpected danger, and now Shiori remembering… “I am sorry if I frightened you,” he murmured.

Shiori shook her head. “I won’t say it wasn’t frightening, but you protected me and yourself.” She sighed. “I suppose we’ll have to come up with a story to explain this.”

“…I have candles in my room that could be used to explain the scorch marks.” He felt a warm bubble of hope inside as they planned to cover the incident up from the rest of the family.

“The table?”


Shiori hummed. “It’s possible. No matter. We’ll figure something out.” She patted Kurama’s arms one last time. “We should get cleaned up and help them. I certainly can’t greet Kazuya in this.” She indicated their bloody clothing. As they moved toward the dining room, she looped her arm with Kurama’s. “I don’t approve of violence,” she said, “but I would rather you keep yourself safe than to not try at all.”

Kurama hoped his explanation would be enough.


With all of them working together, they managed to clean up enough that it did not look like three murders had occurred in the last hour. The table, alas, was still too battered to be covered up, but a few quick patches made the damage less obvious than it had been at the start.

Kazuya and Shuichi had barely noticed, though they did note the strong scent of cleaner. Shiori covered up by mentioning having spilled something and needing to clean up, and Kurama got out of explaining until after dinner.

He and Shiori talked for a long time, then, side by side on Kurama’s bed in his room where he hid things that would have left her terribly upset with him enough for a lifetime, severed heads aside. He told her about demons and Makai. He told her about the demon thief Youko Kurama and he told her about how her Shuichi came to be. He told her about his plan to leave and how that had changed with one act of self-sacrifice from her that had shocked him to his core. Finally, he told her about the mirror and working for Koenma.

In return, she told him about suspicions and dreams and glimpses of the truth over the years from her perspective, and by the end she had cried and he had cried and the secrets between them had been uncovered.

Inside himself, Kurama felt more at peace with his life than he had in many years and relieved beyond words that Shiori, his human mother, accepted him.