Hiei wanted to be glad that Sayuri was alive and safe. He wanted the twins to have the sibling relationship he and Yukina could not. He wanted to return Sayuri’s affections as her lips against his reminded him of a fire he had known once. He wanted to trust her.
What he wanted was immaterial. He could not have any of it. She had seen to that with the utterance of that woman’s name.
He wondered if she had done it on purpose. Did Sai know Ali was listening when she confronted him about his relationship with her sister? She had seemed as surprised as he to feel that surge of power from the other side of the courtyard. Of course, that shock turned to fury in a heartbeat. She chased after the source of that power while he intercepted the S.D.F. guards. He would apologize to Koenma for their treatment later.
By the time he caught their trail, the unease he had been feeling since Sai’s kidnapping reached a crescendo. He did not particularly enjoy the déjà vu of the path he took leading straight to the coastal cliffs where he had first glimpsed the knife’s edge of Ali’s powers.
Instead of a decapitated demon forever sleeping in a coagulated pool of its own blood, he found Ali alone at the cliff’s edge. Her chestnut brown hair was disarrayed, but then the wind was stronger here than inland. She was still in her school uniform. The air appeared to shimmer next to her and he recognized the portal she had made once before.
He almost called out to her, but he had no idea what to say. What could he even say to convince her to stay? He wasn’t even sure which one she was at that moment. Ali, or Rin? He had to remind himself they were the same person, though it was hard to tell at times who was in control.
She turned and spotted him. He froze with his hand against a tree for support. Her silvery gaze urged him forward and he found his feet moving toward her without a second thought. He stopped several feet in front of her, his hands balled in fists at his sides. He had to assume she had heard, and probably seen, everything.
Her face was serenity, reminiscent of the first time he had found her out here. She had no doubts about what she was planning, and for some reason that made him… well he didn’t have a word for it. For some reason he imagined Kuwabara telling him he was sad, but that was ridiculous.
Sadness was not an emotion with which Hiei was acquainted. People came and went, lived and died. It was pointless to form emotional attachments to others if pain was all they left you when they were gone. Pain was a part of life, but he didn’t go seeking it. Then why are you here? the small voice in the back of his head asked.
He had avoided her since they had returned with Sayuri. He at least owed her an explanation. He wondered just how much she remembered. “Ali, I-”
She cut him off with a shake of her head and he stopped right away. She reached up behind her neck and unclasped the necklace she had worn since Christmas. Gingerly, she took his hand and curled his fingers around the locket. “Take care of Sayuri for me,” she said quietly. “Kurama, too. He might misunderstand.”
If she clasped his hand longer than might have been necessary, he wouldn’t comment on it. He felt he should say something, anything, to make her stay. It was as futile as fighting water and hoping not to get wet. When Rin—and by extension, Ali—made up her mind about something, she saw it through. It was another similarity between the twins, though Rin had rarely used force to get her way.
He gripped the locket tightly and nodded. He didn’t know how he could keep such a promise, but he would try. He had made so many private promises for her, he could at least try to keep one. She smiled as she stepped backwards through the ripple in the air.
He walked through the space she had vacated, but he remained on the cliff. The shimmering curtain was gone, and so was Ali. Had she truly returned to Makai? He was a little envious. The brief foray to save Sayuri had filled him with more power than he’d been able to draw in years. The human realm was stifling in comparison.
He looked at the locket in his hand and shoved it in his pocket. This realm did have one thing, though. Sayuri was here. If Ali was truly lost to him, and Rin with her, the least he could do was repair things with Sayuri.
There was one thing left to prove Ali was really gone, though. Hiei sent to Kurama that he would go to the overlook that night. He used the pretense of needing to speak to Ali about some things and asked Kurama to keep Sayuri company. Kurama agreed it was for the best. Hiei couldn’t tell the man the truth yet.
He waited for her at the lighthouse as he had so many nights before. He shoved down a mite of shame imagining their roles reversed, her sitting in front of the beacon unprotected as she meditated to control her powers, ignorantly maintaining the seals on the door to her own memories, wondering if he would come to watch over her. How many nights had she been alone before Kurama came to her side? Hiei shook his head. He didn’t want to think about that.
His fingers curled around the locket in his pocket. He stared out over the sea, debating throwing the stupid thing out there, severing her from him forever. Could it be that simple?
Movement in the woods behind him sent his hand to his sword. A slender shadow appeared at the edge of the woods. “Will you draw your blade against me, Hiei?” Sayuri’s voice was cold but amused.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded.
She shrugged and clasped her hands behind her back. “Kurama told me I might find you here. He seemed to think my sister would be here with you.” She leaned forward and looked around. “Have you made her invisible?”
Hiei frowned. “Why are you really here?”
She joined him at the edge of the small cliff, swaying as she walked toward him and slinking her arm around his. “To talk to you.” He made himself relax in her grip as she looked around at their surroundings, taking in the defunct lighthouse overlooking the rocky shore below. “It is quiet here,” she said flatly. “I see why she would be drawn here.”
She wanted to talk about Ali, of course. The way he saw it, there was nothing to talk about. “If you’re only here to talk about your sister, then I’m leaving.”
Her eyes widened as if he had punched her in the stomach. “Why would I want to talk to you about her?” She tightened her grip on his arm as she pointedly looked away from him. Storm clouds were brewing behind those dark eyes, though.
He had never taken her for the jealous type, but then she’d had nothing to fear in that regard with him. He never believed he would look at another woman the way he looked at her. That she had softened him however little she had was hard enough to believe, but they had bonded over their own cursed existences.
Rin had never cursed her own existence though. The Legend had saddened her, but she accepted it. She hoped that when the day came, it would be a quick and painless death. She believed Sayuri was destined to kill her and take her power, that she was no match for her brave and mighty warrior sister. She had hoped Sayuri would forgive her for dying at her hands and leaving her alone in the world. Hope was the difference between them.
“It’s impossible, isn’t it,” Sayuri sighed, dragging him out of his reverie. “She brought me back, to this world, to you. You’ve been with her all this time. We have to acknowledge that she is partially responsible for the tension between us if we’re going to move forward.” Her dark eyes glistened in the faint moonlight as she stared at him. “We are going to move forward, aren’t we?”
He thought of Ali’s parting words to him. Take care of Sayuri. The world had changed in fifteen years. She would need someone at her side she could trust. With Rin gone, Hiei was all she had left. With Ali gone, maybe things could go back to the way they had been before. Was that what he wanted though?
It didn’t matter what he wanted. He nodded. “We’ll move forward together.” There would be some growing pains. He couldn’t protect them both, and he had promised one to protect the other. Sayuri was at his side, so he would do whatever it took to keep her safe.
She seemed to accept his answer. The tightness in her shoulders faded, anyway, and she rested her head on his shoulder as they listened to the waves crashing on the shore below. A short while later, her breathing slowed as her head lolled against his arm. She had recovered a sizeable portion of her strength in the few weeks she had been in the human realm, but she was not one hundred percent yet. She only muttered mild protests as he scooped her up to carry her back… where?
Unless he wanted to wake her by running at a full sprint, Koenma’s was much too far. He took off for the city at a gentle pace. There was one private place there he knew of that would be vacant tonight. Ali rarely locked the window to her bedroom, and even when she did, it was child’s play for him to break in.
He had no trouble carrying Sayuri into Ali’s apartment and getting her into bed. What did trouble him was how similar to Ali she appeared, sleeping in her sister’s bed. Even asleep, a wolf was still dangerous. Sayuri was every ounce the wolf spirit she was born as, but Ali had only ever seemed a wolf when fighting.
Hiei shook his head. He crept back outside to the tree just beyond the window. It wasn’t like he would be far, but he couldn’t remain in the apartment. He would never get Ali out of his head if he kept living in her memory. It was just for the night, he told himself. He would take Sayuri back to Koenma’s when she awoke.
He counted his decision to remain outside a good thing when the detective passed below him an hour later. Yusuke wouldn’t accidentally discover Sayuri in Ali’s apartment if Hiei provided forewarning and an explanation. “It was a long way for Sayuri to come so soon, but she is stubborn,” he said, speaking no untrue word. “They’re resting now and Sai will return to the estate in the morning.”
Yusuke was glad the girls were getting along and more glad for the heads up. “I owe you one,” he laughed softly. “I was going to check in with Ali tonight to see how she was feeling but if she’s already asleep I could have head my head chewed off for knocking so late and waking her up.”
Hiei nodded. Yusuke was an incredible fighter, but he was far too gullible and trusting. It still baffled Hiei that Yusuke could trust him after he had tried to kill him, and had almost killed Keiko, when they first met. And if Hiei didn’t trust easily, he respected Yusuke enough to count him among the few he did trust. Hiei didn’t enjoy lying to his friends, but he did what he needed to in order to keep his secrets safe. If that meant taking advantage of Yusuke’s trust, so be it.
“Sayuri would chew you up first,” he said with a smirk. She had once been overly protective of Rin, bullying the other children if they said one ill word about her meek sister, beating up anyone who harmed or scared Rin or made her cry. She would be furious if she ever found out he knew that about her. “She doesn’t take kindly to having her sleep interrupted.” That was also true.
Yusuke shrugged. “Who does? Anyway, I won’t bother them.” He turned to go home. “I’ll try to come by and visit later this week. Think she’ll be up to sparring by then?” Yusuke always thought with his fists.
“She could take you now, detective,” Hiei grinned. “But I look forward to your inevitable defeat.” Yusuke made a rude gesture as he waved Hiei goodnight.
Hiei stood watch the rest of the night outside of Ali’s bedroom window. Sayuri hardly stirred all night, but when she did he was there to reassure her.
“Where…?” She glanced around in the pre-dawn twilight, nostrils flaring as she breathed heavily and took in the scents.
“Ali’s apartment,” he said quickly. “It was closest.”
She narrowed her eyes at him skeptically. “And where is she?”
Hiei looked away as he leaned against the frame of the window. His hand hovered over his cloak where her locket weighed heavily in his pocket. “Gone.”
She was silent. He looked to see what sort of expression she was making at that news. Her brows were knitted, eyes calculating, but her mouth was turned down in a somber way. Perhaps he shouldn’t have told her that. “They’re going to come looking for her,” she said after a while. “It’s weird to be sleeping in my sister’s bed without her here, but we can use this to our advantage.”
Which was how he found himself in front of Koenma several hours later, explaining that Sayuri was “moving in” with Ali, to be closer to her. She wanted no more guards; Hiei would be sufficient.
Koenma laughed in his face at that. “After what you did to the S.D.F.? Hiei, you’re lucky I haven’t let them haul you off to be tried for assault.”
“If they fell so easily to me, they would be no match for our enemies,” Hiei said coolly. “Enemies I have fought once before, and know how to beat.”
Koenma scrutinized him. “Is that what sparked that surge the yesterday?”
“That was no big deal,” Hiei said. “The girls got a little carried away while sparring.” It had been a spat. He didn’t think he was wrong about that.
Koenma rubbed his temples and groaned furiously. “I’m just having flashbacks to the day Ali left the estate. It’s a serious case of déjà vu.” Hiei understood the feeling. Koenma looked pleadingly at him. “Please don’t let history repeat itself.”
It was as close to permission as Koenma would give, so Hiei took it and ran. Sayuri seemed to expect it of him anyway. She wasn’t surprised in the least to hear Koenma was going to allow her to stay with Ali. “Well it’s only natural,” she said. “I’ve been apart from my beloved sister for so many years.” She chewed on the nail of her thumb. “Of course, now I will have to find her again.”
“Why?” Hiei asked a touch too quickly.
She eyed him askance. “To end the War.”
“The War ended fifteen years ago.” He could not let them reunite. Sayuri would kill Ali if they met again. Prophecy or no, he could smell the bloodlust on her.
Dark eyes smoldering with carefully controlled fury, she leered at him from her seat at the table. Even sitting across the room from him, she managed to loom over him with that look. “The War ends when one of us is dead,” she said. “I won’t run from it anymore, and I won’t allow her to run either.”
“You promised each other,” he said angrily. Promises. Why had he ever made promises to that woman? He would never be able to protect Sai if she went haring off after Ali.
“That was a hundred years ago,” she said sadly. Her eyes still flashed anger, but he sensed it was directed inward now. “We were only delaying the inevitable. While we ran from our destiny, our people suffered. If any still live, their only salvation lies in the outcome of our battle. Mine and Rin’s.”
“And if they don’t?” Hiei hadn’t intended for that to come out so cold, but her eyes softened. Anger turned into curiosity. “If you two really are the last of the wolf demon race, fighting each other won’t save anyone.”
She thought on that for a moment. Her lips curved in a smile incongruous with the darkening of her face. “Then we are already dead.”
Sayuri did not cry. She accepted her fate just as Ali—Rin—had, but she would not shed a tear over it. As she began making her plans to return to Makai to see how much of her armies remained, Hiei offered a silent apology to Ali. He had never been good at keeping promises.