Ali returned to school in lighter spirits after a weekend with Yuki. Her strength had mostly returned and she was all caught up on homework, so she enjoyed an afternoon of his company. Much like their Christmas date, they went to a movie and had an early dinner at a café in town. He frequently stopped to ask how she was feeling, if she needed to rest, if she was sure she was ok, if she needed anything. Always she assured him she would tell him if she was in any distress, but none ever came.
“Glad to have you back, Ali!”
“Welcome back, Miss Shinamori.”
“Still alive Shinamori?”
Her classmates and teachers greeted her return with enthusiasm. Her grades helped keep their class average up. They were impressed with her preparedness for the first exam of the year and even more impressed when she managed to get a top score despite having been sick during all the lessons.
“It’s not like I had anything better to do while I was lying in bed for a week,” she told her astonished classmates. “Besides, I had great tutors.”
“She’s just being modest,” Keiko laughed. “Yuki was right. You didn’t really need our help. How was your date with him this weekend, by the way?” Of course Yusuke had told her.
Ali shot her a look as the girls in their class clamored to find out who this “Yuki” person was. They were never going to leave her alone after this. Keiko feigned innocence as she tidied up the classroom. She was just as much a troublemaker as Yusuke, in her own way.
“What’s all the commotion in here?”
Kuwabara entered the classroom with his bag over his shoulder. Ali had never been happier to see him. Well, maybe once. She didn’t like to think about that. “Kazu! Thank goodness. Please tell these crazy girls that I do not have time for a boyfriend and that Yuki is just a friend of ours!”
The ginger nodded. “Now ladies, it’s not polite to ask a girl to kiss and tell.”
Ali wanted to deck him. Keiko snorted and the other girls in their class turned back to Ali with renewed fervor. “We haven’t… he’s not my boyfriend!”
“Uh oh, looks like someone is in denial,” one of the girls laughed.
“So what’s he like?” another asked.
“He goes to that super elite academy on the other end of the city,” Kuwabara answered. “He’s classmates with a friend of ours.” A chorus of “ooh’s” rippled through them. Ali sighed. It would just have to run its course.
“He has the Keiko Seal of Approval anyway,” Keiko smirked. “As long as he doesn’t try to steal Ali away from us.”
“He’d have to go through me first,” Kuwabara agreed to more giggles. It was hard for Ali to believe there had ever been a time when he wasn’t so well-liked. Yukina had really had a great effect on him.
Once Keiko had finished her duties, they left to find Yusuke waiting at the gate. The four friends walked home together every day. On the days Keiko finished early, they would spend the afternoon at the arcade or the mall. Some days they would go to the arcade first and then come back to walk Keiko home. They didn’t go to their training grounds though.
Before she realized it, Ali had fallen into a new routine. After-school sparring had turned into goofing off, much to Yusuke and Kuwabara’s delight. Kurama took Hiei’s place as she meditated in the evenings. Her weekends she spent with Yuki. It wasn’t really all that different from before.
Except that she wasn’t sleeping well. Her dreams were often dark and she woke up in more cold sweats than she could count. A reflection of herself, darker, with eyes of a killer, haunted her dreams. She couldn’t look at herself in the mirror after a shower. Her wet hair looked like the dark hair of her nightmare doppelganger. It began to take a toll, and her temper grew shorter as the days grew longer.
She stopped going out after school, leaving almost the second the final bell had rung to return home. She stopped going to the overlook to meditate. She would barely leave her apartment for anything other than school. She grew paranoid. It had been too long since the last attack. What were they waiting for?
The others were worried about her. Yuki was the only one who could convince her to go out, even if it was only for a couple hours. It was during one of these rare excursions that an urgent summons came from Koenma.
Ali’s heart sank when she saw the grim reaper walking across the café to her. “Botan? What are you doing here?”
“Botan?” Yuki blinked his confusion. “Oh! We met at the Christmas party. You’re a distant relative of Shuichi’s, right?”
Botan masked her concern with a coy laugh. “My, don’t you have quite the memory!”
“I rarely forget a face,” Yuki said. “Though to be honest, I’ve only met two people with your particular hair color.”
“I do like to stand out,” she laughed. “I’m so glad I ran into you here. Your uncle has fallen ill. I would have waited, but it does not look good right now and everyone is coming together to see him.”
Ali frowned. This was bound to be serious if they were pulling her in right away instead of waiting until she was home. “I’m sorry Yuki. It looks like I’ll have to take a rain check on this lunch.”
He stood as she did. “It’s alright. You should be with your family. I’ll call you tomorrow?”
“Sure.” He kissed her cheek and she left with Botan, ignoring the other woman’s raised eyebrow. When they were well out of earshot, Ali asked “Do you know what this is about?”
Botan looked fiercely ahead. “I don’t know all the details. There have been some developments regarding your case though. Koenma wants to disclose them to you. And to the team.”
Something about the way she said “the team” struck a nerve with Ali and she almost missed a step. “Will Hiei be there?” She hadn’t spoken to him since he pulled her out of her own mind.
“If Kurama was able to convince him, Koenma was adamant that his presence was also required.” She gave Ali a pitying look. “He has refused Hiei’s request to be removed from your protection detail, though he has not enforced his assignment to you since… well, you know.”
Hiei was still technically her protector? She bit back her anger. What was he playing at? Why had he refused to do his job?
He was going to be there. Kurama would bind and gag him if he had to. Maybe now she would be able to confront him. Get her answers. At the very least, she would get to see him again. Why did that lessen her anger?
She and Botan arrived at the Gates of Judgement and made their way to Koenma’s office. The rest of the team was already present. Ali tried not to stare at Hiei. He certainly wasn’t looking at her. He was in the corner trying to make himself as invisible as possible. Kurama had a dark grin on his face as he watched the fire demon sulk.
Koenma had not yet arrived. Yusuke made no secret of his annoyance at the prince’s tardiness. “That’s just like him to summon us all and then make us wait. Why am I not surprised?”
“He did say it was important,” Kuwabara agreed. He smiled at her. “How are you feeling today, Ali?”
“I was better when I was enjoying my date with Yuki,” she said, sneaking a peak at Hiei to see if that news had any effect on him. Nothing registered on his face. He had his mental defenses up too, so she couldn’t peak into his mind.
“I am sorry about that,” Koenma said as he entered the room from a hidden door at the back. “I would not have pulled you from that if this were not important.”
“Cut to the chase, Koenma,” Hiei snarled from his corner. “Why am I being dragged back into this?”
Koenma shot him a curious look. Ali couldn’t tell if it was anger or pity. “Because we have solved a mystery in this case that I think will explain a few things you have had concerns about.” Hiei’s eyes unmistakably flickered in her direction. What concerns did he have? “It’s only a piece of the larger puzzle, but the image is coming into focus. If you will all follow me.”
Ali’s heart began to beat rapidly as Koenma led them down towards the vaults. Her stomach did somersaults with every step. Whatever was down there, she was going to get some answers. She wished that thought didn’t fill her with so much dread. Koenma’s brief explanation before they entered their destination did nothing to assuage her fears.
“Beyond this door is something that has been hidden for years. It is also the true target of the Manawydans,” he announced.
“They weren’t after Ali?”
Kuwabara and Yusuke talked over each other. Kurama placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “You’ll understand once we go in.” Koenma opened the door and a cloud of chilled air spilled out.
Ali’s feet carried her into the room involuntarily. There, frozen in time in a glass coffin, was the girl she avoided in mirrors. The one with her face but dark hair and eyes. The one she had half remembered only in dreams. Ali reached out to touch the tube, and found her hand was not the only one.
Hiei stood right beside her, his fingers curling into a fist before they reached the case. His face contorted into a vicious snarl such as she had never seen as he rounded on Koenma. “What have you done to her?” Ali barely spared him another look as her gaze was transfixed on the girl sleeping in ice before her.
“You know her?” Yusuke asked.
Hiei continued to stare down Koenma. Tears streamed down Ali’s cheeks as memories trickled into her mind. “Sayuri,” she whispered. Another lifetime. Another name. Her heart torn in two as the other girl pulled further away from her, fighting against fate instead of the one who knew her best. “Is… is she… dead?”
“No. Not quite,” Koenma sighed as Hiei stormed out of the room. “She was almost dead when we found her, but we were able to preserve her in this state.” He turned to the others. “I trust your eyes are working and you can see the resemblance between our Ali and the girl in the stasis chamber, Sayuri. The truth is, they are twins.”
“You have a twin?” Kuwabara cried.
“And you never told us?” Yusuke added incredulously.
“I…” she couldn’t speak. The trickle of memories became a torrent. She cried out as she sank to her knees, clutching her head as the seal weakened on her former demon spirit. How could she have forgotten everything so easily? The Legend, the War, her entire life spent running from people who wanted to kill her or control her. Sayuri, always by her side, the one constant among all the packs they took refuge with, even after their numbers dwindled, until Sai determined their chances were better apart. An argument over a man. Who was it? Years spent dancing around one another. A massacre. A confrontation. An ending.
Ali’s eyes opened and she was in Kurama’s arms on the cryo chamber floor. Yusuke and Kuwabara hovered to either side of her. “Are you alright?” Kurama spoke softly.
She shook her head. “I think my life just flashed before my eyes.” She shivered. “Can we go back to the office?” Kurama helped her to her feet.
“Of course.” Koenma ushered them out of the chamber. Ali let her gaze linger on the door as it closed behind them. Sayuri was still alive.
A/N: Yaaas, twinsss.