Koenma frowned at the report on his desk. An URGENT stamp adorned the top of the audience request, but what was curious was where it had come from. Someone in Makai needed to speak with him? And sooner rather than later, from the tone of the form.
Naturally, he had some agents in the demon realm, but they were not supposed to make themselves known to others. This request was submitted on behalf of an outsider. It was also submitted through back channels typically reserved for emergencies. He’d had no choice but to approve it.
“I’m growing concerned,” Kurama was saying, snapping him out of his thoughts. “It’s been nearly a week. Yusuke says he hasn’t seen her at school, and when he stops by to check on her, Sayuri or Hiei are there to tell him she’s resting or not up to visitors.”
Koenma sighed. “I agree that it’s odd for Ali to let an illness keep her laid up for so long. But Sayuri is with her.”
“That’s what concerns me,” Kurama muttered.
“You don’t trust her?”
Kurama’s face was impassive but his hands were balled at his sides. “I think there’s a reason she wanted to move into that apartment and I don’t think Ali’s apparent illness is a coincidence.”
“You think she made Ali sick?”
“I don’t think Ali is in that apartment,” he said. “Sayuri was a great tactician and a master manipulator. She didn’t lose those instincts lying asleep for fifteen years. I think she’s lying about Ali’s illness to hide the fact that Ali is missing.”
The man wanted peace of mind. That was why he was in Spirit World, positing his theories to Koenma, because the prince of Reikai could give him that assurance. Koenma dug in his desk drawers for the remote to his briefing screen. “I promise you, Kurama, she is there now.” He found the remote and pressed the buttons to show the position of Ali’s locket on the screen. “See? She’s right there.”
Kurama’s face remained skeptical, but he nodded his appreciation. “If it is as accurate as you say, I will be able to rid myself of this paranoia. I’ve just been uneasy since they returned from Makai with Sayuri.”
“You and me both,” Koenma murmured. “The War cannot be sparked anew. I fear what that would mean for the worlds.”
“The Legend?” Kurama’s voice was calm, but his eyes flashed dangerously.
Koenma nodded. “They are fated to fight one another. I wish I knew who the primary players were in that battle fifteen years ago so I could be sure that their destined fight was done, but I don’t think they were on opposing sides then. I fear their true battle is yet to come.”
“What happens if Ali loses that fight?”
“Allegedly? Sayuri will gain her powers and the worlds will be at her mercy, whatever shape that takes.” He had no idea what Sayuri’s ambitions were. It was equally likely that she was meant to win that fight, leaving the other realms alone, as become the tyrant he feared she truly was.
“She’ll burn everything down and you know it.”
Kurama turned around at the sound of an unfamiliar woman’s voice at the door. She had a denim jacket over a graphic tee and tight pants that clung to her from her hips to her ankles, disappearing into dark, laced boots. Her short dark hair framed her round face, straight bangs hanging above reddish eyes. Her most striking features were the black furred dog ears that poked through the hair on top of her head. Koenma stood to greet her. “You must be-“
“Nikkie?” Kurama exclaimed, cutting him off.
She gave Kurama a confused once-over. “Do I know you?”
“You know her?” Koenma cried.
“Nikkie, it’s me, Youko!”
She eyed him up and down again, then shook her head. “I don’t think so. Youko was much more handsome than you, pretty boy.”
“Wait, you know Youko?”
Nikkie turned her confused expression on Koenma. “Yeah, he used to live with Rin and me. But he went off and got himself killed apparently.”
“Who is Ri-“ before he could finish the name, he remembered. A powerful psychic with reality-bending abilities. A terrifying demon who wanted nothing more in all the worlds than to live peacefully because she feared what people would do with her if they knew the barest scraps of her power. The other half of the Legend. Sayuri’s twin.
From the stunned look on Kurama’s face, he had just made the connection as well. Ali’s past self. With a start, Koenma realized Hiei had known. He had warned him not to awaken her. If Koenma had realized what he was dealing with, he never would have shown her Sayuri in the first place. Rin had taken great pains to keep from fighting her sister, and Koenma had blindly forced them right back to it.
“She did say you might know her by another name,” Nikkie murmured.
“Ali,” Kurama supplied.
Nikkie snapped her fingers and pointed at him with a grin. “That’s the one!” She frowned. “She also told me not to come to you for help if anything happened to her, but I didn’t know where else to go.”
“Hold on,” Koenma shook his head. “Back up. Your emergency request for an audience is because something happened to Ali?” His eyes flickered to the briefing screen where the tracker showed her safe at home. “That doesn’t make sense.”
Nikkie folded her arms across her chest and glowered at him. “What doesn’t make sense is me waking up a few weeks ago suddenly aware that my best friends were killed and I’d spent the last decade and a half in a waking dream with no memory of them. Only, about a week ago, one of them showed up at my doorstep in tears, apologizing for things I don’t remember her ever doing.” She eyed Kurama askance. “I could almost believe you were him,” she said. “As I said, stranger things have happened to me recently.”
Kurama smiled at her fondly. “I am him,” he said. “We have a lot of catching up to do, it seems. But first we need to understand what has happened.”
“I should call Yusuke in to this too,” Koenma said. “Would you go collect Hiei?”
“If I can get him to leave Sayuri,” he replied heavily. He was not at all hopeful he would succeed.
A snarl came from Nikkie as soon as he said Sayuri’s name. “That witch is here?”
“Hey now, she’s our…ally.” He had been about to say “friend,” but the word didn’t feel right. The truth was he didn’t know what she was and he was becoming less sure by the minute.
Nikkie snorted. “Her allies are all on the other side of the War.” She stiffened and took a step back as the implications of that statement hit her. “I wasn’t wrong to come here, was I?”
“No!” he rushed to reassure her. “No, we want Ali—Rin—to be safe, just like you. We’re all Ali’s friends here.”
“Nikkie, is Ali in danger alone with Sai?” Kurama asked.
The dog ears twitched. “I was sure Sayuri was the one who had her.”
“I think Sayuri owes us an explanation,” Kurama said. “I will bring her, too. If she’s there.”
Koenma bid him off and summoned Botan to go collect Yusuke and Kuwabara. It was the end of the school day and they would be on their way to the arcade. He had Ayame take Nikkie to the baths to freshen up from her journey. It would be a while before the team would be gathered back at his office.
He studied the tracker as it began to move from Ali’s house. Was she there after all? Had Kurama decided to bring her for her own good? Botan arrived with Yusuke and Kuwabara. Brief introductions were made with Nikkie, but no explanations would be given until Kurama returned with Hiei, and hopefully the twins, in tow. This aggravated Yusuke as it always did, but Koenma assured him he wouldn’t have to wait long. The tracker showed them just outside.
He switched the panel to view the outside cameras. “That can’t be,” he muttered. Hiei and Kurama were alone.
“I told you,” Nikkie grumbled from her seat across the room.
“What can’t be? What’s going on?” Kuwabara leaned to see the screen. “Oh, they’re already here.”
Koenma stood with his hands on his desk as the two demons entered the office. “Where are they?”
Kurama frowned at Hiei. The fire demon glowered at everyone in the room, his eyes narrowing briefly when they fell on Nikkie. “What is the meaning of this, Koenma?”
He pulled up the tracker screen again. “Ali! Where is she?” He pointed at the screen. “That tracking device says she’s right here in this room, that she’s with you.”
Koenma wouldn’t have believed it of Hiei, but the other man actually appeared flabbergasted for the barest of moments. “What tracking device?”
“The locket we gave to her at Christmas,” Kurama said, his voice tight with quiet anger.
Hiei’s hand went to his pocket. He pulled out the silver square and chain and looked at it as if for the first time.
“We put a tracking device on that?” Yusuke’s question sounded scandalized.
“Not cool, dude.” Kuwabara shook his head at Koenma.
“It was my idea,” Kurama admitted. “I couldn’t just keep planting seeds on her, and it was safer to have a backup plan in case we lost her again.”
“Why do you have it?” Yusuke asked Hiei.
Hiei looked up at them, at Koenma. “She gave it to me before she left.”
“Left where?” Kuwabara piped up. “We’re her family now. Where else would she go?”
Nikkie barked a laugh behind him. “What do you actually know of your friend, human?”
Kuwabara stood up straighter and folded his arms across his chest. “Ali is strong and brave and smart and kind. She always puts other people first because she knows what it’s like to have no one to help. She’s had a hard life. She’s lost a lot of people, but she always smiles and she never says anything cruel about other people no matter how frustrated they might make her. And she thinks no one notices when she’s in pain, but we do. We don’t say anything because it’d be more painful to bring it up so we just stay by her side so she knows she’s not alone.”
Nikkie’s eyes widened with every word that came out of his mouth and she leaned back as the litany poured over her. Yusuke’s mouth gaped at first, but by the time Kuwabara finished, he was grinning defiant agreement. Kurama’s smile was somehow both fond and sad at the same time and Hiei frowned at Kuwabara much the same way he did whenever the ginger was fawning over Yukina.
Nikkie recovered quickly. “I guess you do know Rin,” she chuckled.
“Her name is Ali,” Yusuke said. “She’s our friend and we’re gonna get her back.” He turned a frown at Hiei. “Where is she, Hiei?”
Hiei closed his fist around the locket. “Makai.”
Koenma sank into his chair. He hadn’t wanted to believe Nikkie, but Hiei wouldn’t lie about this if he knew. Not with Kurama and Yusuke facing him. “Why didn’t you tell me before now?”
“She had already made up her mind to go. When I found her, she practically had one foot through to Makai already.”
“How did she do that, anyway? There are no holes in the barrier near the estate except for the ones inside the house that lead here.” That had bothered Koenma since their adventure to rescue Sayuri. Where had they crossed over? He’d received no word of it.
“She can make her own portals,” Nikkie said when Hiei took too long to answer. “She bypasses the barrier entirely.”
Yusuke whistled while Kuwabara exclaimed “That’s insanely cool!”
“It’s insanely dangerous if an A-class demon, or worse, has her,” Kurama said. “The barrier is meant to keep them in demon world. If they had a way to bypass it, human world would be overrun with demons in a matter of days.”
Koenma recalled the tunnel Sakyo had spent his life’s fortunes trying to build for that exact purpose. The experiment had crumbled to ashes along with the entire Dark Tournament committee. He had dodged a bullet there only to jump into the line of fire of another. Had he been wrong to bring Ali under his protection?
“Or say, someone with an army,” Nikkie chimed in.
“She won’t!” Hiei interjected before Koenma could finish his question.
Nikkie narrowed her eyes at Hiei. “Tell me Imiko, where is your precious Sayuri?”
His bandaged arm twitched at her insult. Hiei would never-could never-unleash the dragon in such a confined space, in Reikai of all places, but Koenma still felt the sweat beading on his brow from the merest threat of it. “She’s wherever she thinks she needs to be to fulfill her destiny,” he said, voice tight with anger.
“And you just set her right on the path to Rin, didn’t you?” Nikkie’s growl filled the small chamber. Her ears were pinned back in a threat display. Koenma waved off the ogres that came to break up the commotion. They wouldn’t stand a chance against any one of the fighters in the room and he couldn’t afford to lose any assistants right now. He prayed the open space between Hiei and Nikkie didn’t turn into a battle ring.
The locket clasped tightly in his hand was likely the only thing keeping Hiei from drawing his sword on their guest. His knuckles went white with his grip and Koenma worried the necklace would break. “I did not tell her where Rin went,” he snarled. “She wanted me to go with her, but I declined. It is not my fight. I will not help them destroy each other.”
Nikkie’s ears relaxed and she opened her mouth to reply, but Yusuke interjected. “Hold up. Why are we so convinced Sayuri and Ali are headed for a major fight? I thought their whole reunion was what we were working toward? Getting her memories back and all that?”
Koenma shook his head. “It would seem we erred in that regard. I never took the Legend into account, or how Sayuri would react upon being awakened from so long a slumber.”
“What Legend?” Kuwabara pouted. “She said something about a Legend sparking the demon war or whatever, but we were never told what it was.”
The demons in the room remained silent. The War had taken much from each of them. Koenma cleared his throat to explain. “The War for Wolves Power was fought on three fronts. The majority of the wolf demons and their allies fought to shield the twins and protect them from being captured or killed. The other two factions fought to seize the power they were prophesied to hold. One feared them and wanted to eradicate them from the worlds, the other craved that power for themselves.
“The girls themselves wanted nothing to do with the Prophecy. It claimed that the survival of their race depended on them fighting one another until only one remained. They swore they would fight against fate instead of against each other. Neither craved unlimited power. They just wanted to live normal lives.
“Unfortunately, fate was not kind to them. The wolf demons fought to protect them, but they fell more often than not. Eventually the twins determined their odds were better on their own and they went their separate ways.”
“That was when Sayuri began growing her power,” Nikkie snarled.
“She was avenging her fallen comrades,” Hiei barked back.
“Her intentions at the start don’t matter. The fact remains that she began growing her strength after she left Rin.” Disgust curled her lip. “And the more she tasted, the more she craved.”
“What happens when they fight?” Yusuke never failed to rush to the heart of the matter when fists were involved.
“There can be only one victor,” Nikkie answered.
“To the victor goes the spoils, so they say,” Kurama added.
Kuwabara frowned. “So whoever wins, will gain the other’s powers?” Koenma nodded. “That doesn’t seem right. The loser will just be a regular person then.”
“The loser will be dead,” Hiei snapped.
Kuwabara’s jaw dropped open and he grappled with his vocal chords to stammer out words. “They can’t kill each other! They’re sisters!”
“They’re children of Prophecy,” Nikkie said flatly. “They will do what they are destined to do.”
“We can’t just stand back and let them kill each other!”
“Destiny be damned,” Yusuke put in. “We have to stop that fight.”
Kurama and Nikkie nodded agreement. Koenma also desperately wanted to stop that battle. For the sake of the worlds, he needed to stall that battle as long as he could, or be sure of the victor before it started.
Just as Koenma thought he had his whole team on board, Hiei shoved his hand in his pockets, hiding the locket as he did so. “You do what you want. I’ve already said I’ll have no part in their squabbles.”
A/N: So many characters, so little time. When I first wrote this fic back in high school, I asked my sister if she wanted me to make her into a character in my story. She wasn’t an anime nerd like me, but she humored me and gave me ideas for a new character anyway. Nikkie has evolved over the rewrites, but I still draw inspiration from my sister whenever I write her.