A/N: Apologies for the hiccup with yesterday’s chapter. Something glitched out when I published the post from my drafts folder in the WordPress app and it cached it as the day it was drafted (11/2) instead of the day I actually published it. I was able to update it so it’s in its rightful place in the timeline and not trapped in the past anymore.
Chapter 25: History
“Ok, what the hell is going on?” Yusuke demanded as they settled back in to Koenma’s office. Kurama helped Ali into a chair. Her head was still spinning from the revelations in the cryo chamber deep within the vaults.
“In order to explain, you need some context.” Koenma had some water brought in for Ali. “How much do you remember?” he asked her.
She sipped the water to buy herself some time to sort her thoughts. It would take years to sort through all of them though, so she decided to start with the simplest. “It’s all jumbled up,” she admitted, “but I remember the War. That damned Legend that sent all of Demon World after us.”
“A Demon World War?” Yusuke seemed skeptical.
“Not war in the sense that humans use,” Kurama was quick to interject. “Demons are always fighting for power, and alliances rise and fall with the sun. There are regions where peace is more tenable, but even there the only rule of law is the law of survival.”
“The reason this War is so remarkable as to have even been deemed a war in the first place, was due to the scope and the duration,” Koenma went on. “It spanned the many levels of Demon World and lasted for almost two centuries. The alliances forged during this period changed the shape of the politics of the realm, such as they were.
“It began with the wolf demons. A powerful and respected race, revered for their intellect and admired for their strength. They were the only race to thrive in bonded units as large and widespread as they were. Think of them like a small nation unto themselves.”
Kuwabara shuddered. “A nation of super smart wolves who could tear your throat out? That’s terrifying. No offense,” he hurried to assure Ali. She was too distracted to take offense.
“Yes, and that is precisely why they became hunted,” Koenma explained. “The Demon World does not like sharp imbalances of power. There needs to be a status quo of chaos. The fascinating thing is, the wolf demons were warned. Ali’s ancestors were present at the uttering of Prophecy. The very same that would become Legend and spark the War For Wolves Power.”
Ali shivered. “It had been nearly forgotten until Sayuri and I were born.”
“What did you two being born have to do with anything?” Kuwabara’s curiosity got the better of his tongue. He nearly bit it off with the look she gave him.
“Because the Legend spoke of twins born to wolves. Our birth heralded the end of our race.”
Yusuke jumped in before Kuwabara could further damage himself. “Are twins so rare in the Demon World?”
“Not necessarily,” Kurama answered. “As we all know, Yukina has been searching for her own twin brother. In the koorime’s village, twins are considered unlucky, especially when one is male, but it can happen. The difference with beast spirits such as wolves is that usually one twin will devour the other in the womb. The strongest will be born.” Kuwabara and Yusuke shuddered.
Koenma nodded. “Naturally, news of twin wolf demons spread like wildfire, and those with old memories who knew of the Legend began to seek them out. What’s curious is how the Legend made it out of the wolf demon clans to begin with. They were a very close knit people, keeping their own histories and with them their secrets as well. It was not likely that they would have spread the prophecy of their own downfall.”
A name tickled Ali’s memory, a face she couldn’t quite see. It was the man she and Sai had argued over. Who was he? Someone who had been with them at the beginning. Someone she loved. Why had they argued over him? She growled, shaking her head as she failed to remember. “The tribes were not all united in those days,” she said, staring straight at Koenma. “Even before we were born, wanderlust had pulled many away. Our numbers were half what they had been when the damned Prophecy was spoken.”
“Yes, but it’s possible some of those had brought their secrets with them when they left. That is our best guess as to how it became commonly known throughout all of Demon World,” Koenma supplied.
Ali remained skeptical. The Elders had kept the Prophecy from most of their own people for generations. Unless one of them had betrayed the entirety of their people, Ali didn’t see how it had spread.
“So what happened in the War?” Yusuke’s interest was always rooted in fighting. It was something he could understand. “Who won?”
Ali laughed darkly. “It’s not over while Sayuri and I both breathe. I imagine our disappearances put a hold on things, but the War is still ongoing.”
Yusuke flinched at the cold anger in her tone. He wasn’t about to antagonize her any more so he turned his anger on Koenma. “So not only are we protecting her from bad guys who want to exploit her powers, these bastards have been fighting a war over her and her sister for decades?”
“Centuries, if we’re being technical,” the prince replied without hesitation. He knew how bad it was, but he wasn’t about to let Yusuke bully him through this one. “It’s been about fifteen years since the last major battle,” he added with a meaningful look at Ali.
“That was no battle,” she snarled. “It was a massacre and you know it.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “What do you remember of it?”
“I—“ she stopped. The memory had just been there. She could still smell the blood as if she was standing on the battleground. Her head ached with the effort of trying to remember that day. Sayuri was there. She had been angry. Had they been fighting against each other as the Legend said they would? Why did they have to kill each other?
“That’s enough,” Kurama’s soft voice sounded at her side. “You don’t have to force yourself to remember. Koenma, she needs some time to rest.”
She brought trembling hands to her face to discover her cheeks were damp. She pressed her fingers over her mouth to stifle a sob. She didn’t want those memories. Those blood-soaked, stomach-turning memories belonged locked away. She could not face them.
She barely heard Koenma answer as Kurama led her out of the office and into a quiet room elsewhere in the palace. He gave her something to drink with something to ease her pain and help her sleep. She was too panicked about her own mind to pay attention to what he made her drink. She welcomed the black that came with unconsciousness.
* * *
“What the hell just happened?” Yusuke muttered as Kurama escorted Ali out of the office.
Koenma settled into his chair with a sigh and called for Jorge to bring a few more for the boys. They were playing a dangerous game with her memories. One minute she was clear and focused, the next she was panicked and disoriented. “It would appear that Ali is still unable to recall specific details from that time in her life, even though she remembers more than she did when we first brought her in.”
“Sometimes it feels like there’s another Ali talking when she brings up stuff about her past,” Kuwabara shivered. “Kinda like how Kurama gets scary when Youko comes out.”
“Oh yeah, I have noticed that,” Yusuke agreed.
Koenma nodded. “Well it’s not entirely different to how Kurama and Youko share a body. In Ali’s case, however, it is not her soul that is split but her mind. Her body is her own, but due to the prolonged amnesia, she has lived this new life for more than a decade without knowing about who she had been before.”
“What, like a split personality kinda thing?” Kuwabara asked.
“Perhaps. It is unclear how much she even remembered just from seeing Sayuri. I fear her encounter with the Manawydan has left deeper scars than we initially realized.” He paused as Kurama returned. “So how is she?”
“She will sleep for a spell, but I worry about her mental state when she awakes. She’s never dealt with loss well.”
“How do you know that?” Kuwabara asked.
Kurama remained standing behind the free chair and folded his arms. “I…Youko remembers her.”
“You knew her too?” Yusuke cried. “Wait, then Hiei…?”
Koenma chewed on his pacifier. “You all saw how he reacted to Sayuri’s body. My guess is, his own memories came back when he saw her. Isn’t that right, Kurama?”
The kitsune nodded. “It was like a fog had been lifted. But it was one that had been there so long, I never noticed it was there until suddenly it became clearer.”
“Can you tell me what happened that day, then?” Koenma had been trying to piece together the history of the War for so long and now he was so close. He was sure something had been hidden from him, and somehow the events of that day were key.
Kurama shook his head sadly. “I remember the fighting. It wasn’t my style to be so embroiled in the heart of a battle, but she was there and I wanted to protect her. There was an explosion, and when I came to I was outside of the forest. I remembered a treasure I had been seeking and, heedless of my injuries, went after it anyway. That was the botched robbery that sent me fleeing here.”
“Was Hiei there too?”
Kurama nodded. “He was at Sayuri’s side when the battle began.”
“What was he doing with her?” Yusuke wondered aloud.
“They were partners. They had been together for years.”
Kuwabara scratched at his head. “You mean he worked with someone for that long?”
Koenma shook his head as Kurama grinned, a mischievous glint in his eye. “I mean it in every sense of the word.”
Yusuke processed that statement much quicker than Kuwabara. Had he been standing like Kurama, he might have collapsed to the chair anyway. Kuwabara stared blankly from one to the other. “I don’t get it.”
“You will one day,” Kurama chuckled. “When you are older, perhaps.” If anything, the ginger looked more confused.
“Hey wait a minute,” Yusuke shouted. “If Hiei was with Sayaka or whatever, does that mean you and Ali…?”
“Sayuri was a powerful demon,” Kurama said by way of answer, stressing the second half of her name. “Over the centuries she had amassed a sizable guerilla army. It was unknown just how far her reach extended, but she could have rivaled any of the three demon kings, had that been her ambition. She attracted all kinds of enemies, allies, and lovers.” Kuwabara made a strangled sound as his brain finally connected the dots. “Naturally, Youko had heard tales of her exploits and sought her out like another treasure to be won. That was perhaps part of why their partnership didn’t last.”
Koenma frowned at him. “So then you went after her twin instead?” He did not try to mask the contempt in his voice.
Kurama laughed. “Hardly. Sayuri had her own agenda, and she decided Youko did not play a part in it. It was years later I crossed paths with Ali.” He said her name slowly, as if curious to be speaking it. He shook his head and went on as though nothing had happened. “Her face startled me at first. I thought perhaps Sayuri had donned a disguise, altered her appearance in some way. Some wolves could do that, you see.”
“Is that how she looks human?” Kuwabara asked, turning to Koenma. “When you first told us she was a demon you said something about wolves being masters of disguise or something.”
“Deception,” Koenma corrected him, “but yes. I do believe that is key to her current appearance. I also fear she’s been human so long she doesn’t remember how to change back.”
“Well when her memories come back, she’ll figure it out, right?” Yusuke said.
“Hard to say for sure.”
“Well it’s not like we want a terrifying demon walking around the school,” Kuwabara interjected. “It’s probably for the best she looks human.”
“I’m inclined to agree with you, Kuwabara,” Koenma nodded. “She’s been difficult to track, living as a human.”
“And yet, we found her,” Yusuke countered. “And since she’s been with us, she’s been attacked twice, and kidnapped once. I’m not so sure we couldn’t benefit from a bit of her demon strength. And while we’re on the subject, how come none of you remembered anything until today?”
Kurama’s discomfort was evident only in the slight tightening of his grip on the chair. “Ali was and still is a very powerful psychic. I suspect whatever happened at the end of that battle, she had something to do with it.”
Koenma nodded solemnly. That corroborated his own suspicions. “You mentioned an explosion and waking up outside of the forest. I believe something in that battle broke her, and the explosion was a psychic blast, the scale of which we have never seen. It would explain why no one remembers anything about her or Sayuri.”
“You think she sealed her own memories and with them, everything to do with the War?” Kurama asked.
“That’s insane,” Kuwabara breathed.
“It’s the only thing that makes sense. And until she remembers everything and can tell me otherwise, we will have to work under that assumption.” Koenma leveled his gaze at each of them in turn. “This is only going to get worse, and time is not on our side. She is not going to like it, but until further notice, we cannot leave her alone.”
“You mean like right now?” Yusuke muttered.
Kurama turned to leave. “I will return to her. I have things to discuss with her when she awakes, after all.”
“Good luck,” Koenma bid him. He prayed luck would be with them all.
A/N #2: Expositiooooon!