The massive release of energy lit the sky afire. At the epicenter of the blast, two bodies hovered in mid-air, tethered by some unseen force. Slowly, they began to descend to the ground. Neither was moving.
Koenma’s fighters watched them, transfixed. Yusuke’s muscles were taut with anticipation. Kuwabara stared in awe. Youko seemed as stone. Yuki and Nikkie fought back tears. Even Hiei held his breath. She had to have survived.
The twins settled on the scorched earth, two limp forms among the debris of their battle. Hiei took a step towards them but found Youko’s hand at his shoulder. He glowered at the man and received a sharp shake of Youko’s silver head. Before he could question, another surge of energy drew his attention back to the wolf demonesses.
Ali’s body was writhing on the ground as a black and purple aura crackled all around her. Her friends stood at a distance and watched, helplessly, as fate exacted its toll on her and her sister. “She won,” Yuki whimpered. “Sayuri is dead, but her power remains.”
“Can she even withstand that much raw strength?” Yusuke murmured. Nikkie’s tearful glare shut him up as Yuki shuddered with a silent sob under her arm. Youko placed a tender hand on her head as they watched Ali’s painful transformation.
Hiei thought Yusuke’s question was valid, despite wanting to believe it a foolish one. Ali had proven herself stronger than Sayuri by emerging the victor. Surely that meant she was worthy of all the power that came with it. It wouldn’t kill her, would it?
Her anguished howls tortured him. He felt every snap as her body convulsed within that violent, popping aura. Sayuri’s body remained still, and he found himself wishing she had been the one to come out victorious. He didn’t want to watch Ali suffer anymore.
After an eternity passed, Ali’s body ceased twitching, and the electricity in the air receded as the aura dissipated. Her friends rushed to her side as a small crowd. What they found left them speechless.
The transformation was more than just the power. Her appearance had altered even more than before. Her beautiful silver hair was now streaked with black and violet, her ears and tail tipped with black. Her wounds were gone and her skin seemed to glow. But she still was not moving.
Hiei reached out with his mind to probe hers and found nothing. He found the same nothing when he looked to Sayuri’s mind. For the first time since returning to Makai, he felt fear rising in him. He couldn’t have lost them both.
He took Ali in his arms, not caring that everyone was watching. “Ali? Ali wake up!” He managed to keep the pleading from his voice, but only just. He wanted to shake her. “Wake up, you idiot!” Please don’t be dead. He would have given up his Jagan for her to open her eyes. He would have traded his freedom for her to breathe again. Why did he get to live on when she was the one who deserved to be happy and free?
He was only vaguely aware of the others behind him, sniffling or openly sobbing, as he tightened his arms around her, pressing his head against hers. A single tear fell from his eye and landed at her neck, the first tear he had ever shed in his life. He hardly noticed the small fire drop that nestled near her throat.
Someone audibly gasped as her hand twitched. It went to the gem at her neck. “Hiei?” she whispered, her eyes fluttering open. Relief poured over him. He had never heard such a beautiful sound.
“Ali!” her friends all cried and piled on top of the two of them before he could utter a response. He managed to slip out of the crush and sat to the side, catching his breath. He felt a grin spread on his face as he watched them alternately embrace her and tousle her hair, kiss her cheeks and clasp her hands. They scolded her for scaring them, and heaped praises on her for her victory.
Those last drew his attention to Sayuri. The transfer of power had not left her body unchanged either. Her hair had streaks of white in it, and her wounds were fresh and numerous. Her skin, once so smooth and full of vitality, was sallow and wizened. It pained him to see her so. He removed his cloak and laid it over her.
“I’m sorry.” Nikkie’s voice at his side nearly startled him, he’d been so focused on Sayuri. “I said cruel things to you and about her. They came from a place of fear, but that doesn’t make them right. Watching their fight, I realized she was just like me, terrified to lose something she loved.” She stared through him towards Ali. “She loved you both.”
Hiei followed her gaze, saw Ali smiling and laughing with Yuki draped across her chest, bawling and proclaiming he would never leave her side. Kuwabara clapped the man on the back and said he was welcome to join them back in the human world. Yusuke was already offering to fight Ali, to see just how strong she had become. Youko watched them all with the softest expression Hiei had ever seen on a demon; Shuichi was slipping through.
“It’s weird.” Nikkie was staring at Sayuri’s body again. “She could be sleeping. That cloak almost looks like it was made for her.”
Hiei nodded. “It used to be hers.” She gave him a side-long smirk. He shrugged it aside. “She used to always wear mine so at some point we just swapped and never went back.” He remembered the nostalgia he felt seeing Ali sleeping in his cloak the first time they’d been alone on the overlook on that trip to the beach so long ago. How little he had known then.
He watched her as she consoled Yuki, fended off Yusuke, and laughed with Kuwabara and Youko. She offered apologies for worrying them and assured them she hadn’t really changed all that much. Hiei laughed quietly to himself. She would learn just how true that was as her memories returned. She was still the same cheerful, powerful wolf demon he had admired but now she could truly live happily. A part of him hoped that one day he would be worthy enough to share in her happiness. He knew if it were at all possible for him to become a better man, she would bring about that change in him.
She caught him staring at her and smiled just for him. It wasn’t her usual smile. At least, it wasn’t just her smile. Sayuri’s smile was there too. She had finally gotten her wish. Thank you, Hiei. He nodded. It was over. They had done it. They had saved the worlds.
* * *
Ali stood on the edge of the overlook a week after her destined battle with her sister, an empty urn at her feet. She had returned to her human form, though her hair wouldn’t revert to the dusty brown she’d taken before. It remained long, silver and black and purple in thin alternating bands. She would have to cut it before returning to school.
Yusuke had been bewildered by that plan. “You’re going back to middle school? Aren’t you like 400 years old?”
Kuwabara smacked him but Ali laughed. “Hardly. More like 250,” she said with a sly smirk that felt entirely like her old self. “But I’ve still only lived in the human world for sixteen years. I can’t just suddenly drop out of school and go to college at sixteen.”
“You could just get a job,” he muttered. He had no plans to further his education past what his mother would force him to get. He would be perfectly content to find a job and never go to school again, but Atsuko valued his education and so he grudgingly went to school.
“Ali wants to live as a human, which means she’ll need to have a human education to get human jobs,” Kuwabara lectured. He had dreams of attending a technical school to get into a really good college and actually make something of himself one day.
Ali admired both boys. Big things or simple, they knew what they wanted out of life. Smiling, she threw her arms around their shoulders and pulled them down to her in a tight embrace. “Besides which, it means I get to keep hanging out with you two ugly lugs!”
Koenma had raised some concerns about her remaining in the human realm. “What about the power you gained from Sayuri? Demons will flock to you like moths to a flame to get the smallest taste of that power.” He frowned meaningfully. “There are some here in Spirit World that feel you have grown too strong to be on this side of the barrier.”
She knew it was King Enma putting that pressure on the prince. He was afraid of her, of her power. That power Koenma spoke of, the power Sayuri had surrendered to her, it wasn’t what he thought it was. In the midst of that ball of light where their battle had ended, Ali had finally understood the depths of her own strength, and the truth of the Prophecy.
They had fought as wolves, teeth gnashing and paws swiping. Sayuri hadn’t taken to it as naturally as Ali had, her loping attacks never striking Ali’s furred body, while Ali circled her and took bites of her shoulders and ears and tail. Sai finally offered her throat to her sister after Ali had taken a chunk of her belly with a well-placed kick. Relief was the strongest emotion Ali felt from her sister as her jaws closed around Sayuri’s throat. The burden of Prophecy was no longer hers to bear.
The truth was, the prophesied power had been hers all along. Or rather, whatever power the surviving twin had was the power in the prophecy. The agonizing transformation afterwards had been something different. A merging of souls, the rejoining of one split at birth and finally becoming whole again. She had absorbed all of Sayuri’s pain and memories during that seizure that had almost killed her.
Sayuri was a part of her now. Ali could feel her in the same way she could feel Rin. Three parts of the same soul. All of them Ali now. And she had her own plans for her life that did not involve being sequestered away from the people she cared about. She grinned. As if they could keep her anywhere she didn’t want to be.
“I was just as powerful before,” she said. “And you and I both know your barrier cannot hold me.” She shrugged. “As far as the demon world is concerned, Rin and Sayuri both died on that battlefield. The Wolves of Legend are no more.”
He eyed her with a measure of skepticism. “That’s as may be,” he said slowly, “but what about the rest of the wolf demons?”
Yuki’s appearance had made them question everything they thought they knew about the extinction of the wolf demon race. If he had survived, perhaps there were others. Neither of them were hopeful though. “I had always assumed I was the last,” Yuki said quietly. “Our numbers had dwindled even before that day. Something had been hunting us, and most packs disbanded in an effort to slow the tide of bloodshed.” His eyes were dark as he added in a whisper, “We would have been stronger together.”
Ali harbored a small measure of guilt. She was sure the Wolf Slayer had been hunting her, but she couldn’t explain why she felt that way. It was one of the many mysteries still locked within her buried memories.
Yuki refused to leave her now that they’d been reunited. He was no longer alone in the world and he would go wherever she did. Kurama had suggested he join her at school. They could remove the imposter from his school and “transfer” him to Sarayashiki Junior High.
“That won’t be necessary,” Ali told them. “That fake is dead in Makai. Sayuri saw to that.” Sayuri’s memories were clear. The Manawydans were all dead. She had done her best to leave no loose ends. “You will probably return to school to discover that no one even remembers him.”
Yuki’s transition to life in the human world was slow going, but he was making the best of it. He was even getting used to calling her “Ali” now. The first few days had had a lot of “Rin’s” sprinkled in, but he apologized every time. That Ali was with him was all the motivation he needed to adapt as quickly as his health would allow. It would take time to rehabilitate him to other people, but she remembered a friendly boy with an easy smile and knew he would get back to that someday.
Nikkie returned to the Sanctuary with demands that Ali and Yuki come visit her once in a while. The human realm wasn’t her cup of tea, but she would always have a room for them in “her” home if they ever needed a vacation from people. As Ali watched Yuki gaze fondly after the dog demoness, she had a feeling he would be taking more trips than she would.
“Are you sure about all this?” Hiei’s voice at her shoulder startled her back into the present. He felt she should at least return to her Sanctuary. It was a safe haven, after all. Not that he would join her there.
Her fingers brushed the small red stone on a tether at her neck. It had been in her hand when she awoke after her battle and Hiei had refused to tell her where it had come from. All he would say was that it belonged to her and she could do with it whatever she liked. He seemed to soften whenever he spotted it on her chest.
“The War is finally over,” she said. “Actually over, this time. Sai can finally rest. Rin can too.” She looked aside at him. He was pointedly not looking at her. She stifled a giggle as she looked back out to the sea. The same wind that had taken Sayuri’s ashes out over the water whipped his scent all around her. She inhaled deeply and laced her fingers in his. He tightened his hand in hers and her heart danced in her chest. Whatever the future held, they would face it together.
A/N: Remember back at the end of Confrontation where I explained about the tear gems? A while back, while I was in the middle of rewriting this story and thinking about how it plays into the next one (oh yes friends, this is a trilogy, though I have no current plans/schedule to rewrite/finish the sequels at this time), I was thinking about Ali and Hiei’s relationship and their future together. I thought “wouldn’t it be cute if he gave her his mother’s tear gem to wear (once he eventually recovers it) in place of like a wedding band or something (cause they ain’t exactly the traditional, marrying type).” A lot of writing is asking “what if” and in this case I decided to ask “what if Hiei can also produce tear gems like his mother’s people but never knew because he’s not an emotional person?” And then I wrote this scene, and I may have actually screamed at my own brilliance (she says with complete humility).
Anyway. I hope you enjoyed reading Ali’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you for your support!