Rating: PG-13 (for language)
Warnings: Swearing ahoy. Other than that nothing to report.
Parings: Hints of YoukoxKuronue, but for the most part Gen. (lol wut?)
Summery: Humans have a way of tainting the truth. The truth, as it happened, was that Narcissus had the misfortune of meeting Youko Kurama.
Notes: I know this has far too many things in common with Pandora’s Gift, but the temptation was too…tempting to resist. For information see the flower and the myth.
Also, for the most part, Youko’s P.O.V is usually taking place at a different times to Kuronue’s, unless they are mentioned roundabout the same time.
Oh and Kuronuecentric. Something of there isn't enough of on teh_webz.
Oh and Kuronuecentric. Something of there isn't enough of on teh_webz.
“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”
- Mark Twain
From the delicate yet sardonic arch of the eyebrows, to the way the lips separated slightly upon seeing the reflection, it seemed that he was staring at something greater than himself. That the mirror image was more than just him.
Urgency clawed at him, telling him to run, now before anyone realized his presence here, but the sarcophagus had pulled him towards it, and forced him to look inside its depth, to stare into his watery reflection instead of into the corpse that should have been there instead.
And passed the flat reflection of himself, the singe word etched into the plating that held the water within the sarcophagus. The one he had to struggle to see, and to utter with a frown.
And then he was pulled in completely.
He and Youko had set out together, and for a while everything had been fine, it was all routine. Locate the item they were after, a rare necklace Youko had had a hard-on for quite a while, then sneak out without a sound. In, take, out, resume planning next thievery that would send all of Makai’s gossip wagon working harder than ever before.
In and out.
It seemed Youko had hit a snag on the ‘out’ bit.
Because here he was, standing in the rain, pacing back and forth, drenched, and wondering where the hell the youko was and what had happened to him. Youko had to be furious by now, supposing he had seen the rain, he hated rain, mainly because it always seemed to correspond with the times when things went wrong.
But really it was his own fault he’d decided to pursue the necklace, because he had to have smelt the rain on the wind, he did in fact, Kuronue swore that he did. There had been a moment as they made their way towards their destination in which Youko had paused for a long time, standing still and sniffing the air, looking at the flora around him and then he seemed to give a mental equivalent to a shrug and simply resumed running.
Kuronue hadn’t said anything, he would have gotten his head kicked in for sure if he did, Youko was serious about this one, almost obsessed with it. He hadn’t exactly explained the reasons behind why he wanted the necklace so much, other than the fact that it was worth a whole lot of money and that single fact alone was good enough for Kuronue. However, as much as he trusted Youko, he couldn’t help but indulge guiltily in the thought that lingered in the back of his mind.
Had Youko become so blind in the need to gain possession of his precious treasure; that he’d abandoned all else, including his own health and safety, in order to acquire it?
Kuronue sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose as he squeezed his eyes closed, feeling a headache approaching.
He leaned back against the trunk of a large tree, one of thousands if not millions, and sunk to the ground, placing his elbows on his knees. He tipped his head down so that the water tricked from the brim of his hat and saved his face the misery of the cold water, and blinked down at the water logged soil.
Youko had told him, a long time ago, that he had to have absolute faith in him. Because sometimes, going back into a hostile situations was a sure fire way to get yourself killed. So, Kuronue sat, his head hung, as he pondered whether or not he should break Youko’s trust by going back for him: and run the risk of fucking whatever plan Youko had formulated right up, endanger himself, endanger the loot, and generally make his and Youko’s lives miserable. Or, he could: act the hero and rescue Youko, or simply sit here, in the rain, and wait.
He placed his chin on his palm and tossed the consequences back and forth, a sour expression slowly creeping forth to swallow his face.
Damn it. He thought. One night. And if Youko still doesn’t show, then I’m going in, and I’m going to drag him out by his tail.
He didn’t allow himself the agony of wondering if Youko had been murdered or not.
He woke when the sun decided to peer between his eyelids and generally irritate the hell out of him. He blinked himself to consciousness then shook his body properly awake afterwards as he picked himself up off the ground, pulling small pieces of dead grass and whatever else the half dead forest floor had offered him as a bed for the night, then stretched his wings and sat up. Still no unspeakably vain youko anywhere in sight, nor could he hear anything worth attributing to him – not that he usually heard him anyway, but Youko usually left some sort of a sign to say that he was okay and to just go home if shit like this happened.
Not today it seemed.
He yawned and stood, flexing his muscles and then his wings again, only right out this time until the trembled lightly with the effort of being spread so far and then he allowed them to rest again at his back, folded naturally. Navigating around his hat he pulled his hair out and re-tied it as he began to walk towards the direction he’d ran from the night before, careful to listen for any sounds that might alert him to soldiers or any other generally bad demons to encounter.
Usually he had hearing that far outmatched Youko, although he could get confused a lot of the time depending on the condition of the weather and other variable aspects. The rain from the night before had not turned things in his favor, nor had it eased as much as it should have. The black thunderous clouds had merely paused for a while, hanging overhead ominously, growling every so often.
He kept an eye on them as he stalked forward, sticking mostly to the patches of shadows cast by the canopy of leaves the trees provided, and sang a song to himself in his head, as he normally did when attempting to stay focused on one thing and not allow his mind to stray to other, more disastrous, subjects.
He licked his lips and continued on, scanning the trees wearily with his eyes, alert for even the slightest trickle of yoki imminent.
Youko gurgled slightly, and tried to grip the sides of the metal tub he was being forcefully submerged into.
He caught what little air he could in the struggle, and tried to not cough and breathe in more air once his lugs screamed for more. Past the white haze of millions of fizzy little bubbles he saw a shadow of a demon, and he thrashed, his eyes wide, as if opening them further would allow him better vision under the suffocating and consuming weight of the water above him and around him. He saw his own hands struggling furiously, attempting to free himself from the clutches of whatever demon held him submerged with one massive hand, splayed across his chest. The water slowed down his attempts to escape, and infuriated him to no end.
And then he found he couldn’t struggle at all anymore, and his back was pressed firmly to the bottom of the tub, a seemingly endless expanse of water stretching out before him, the surface unsettled and crashing into each other in tiny waves. He felt himself becoming lightheaded, and weary, or at least more so than already with the wards that had been drawn by hand around his wrists and ankles. Sealing all of his yoki deep inside himself where he could not reach it, not even as desperate as he was.
He had trained himself to withstand water. To stay submerged for stupid amounts of time, so that if something like this ever did happen, and one of the armies had managed to catch up to him, and he happened to be subjected to torture, he would have a head start. But he’d been under here for far too long, far, far too long.
The world pressing in on him suddenly seemed very cruel, but he had no regrets. He was a true villain, and he would be one to the death, and die knowing that he had been a thief worthy of legendary status. The great Youko Kurama.
He studied the outline of his murderer before his eyes slipped closed, and his body slipped from his control, drifting endlessly in the water. Everything became black, and died away.
Kuronue had made it to the poor excuse for a palace without to much hassle, and had snuck back in the same way as the first time, which ended him prowling along the shattered roof of the once splendid palace. The tiles beneath his boots were cracked and decaying, and so he had to rely on his wings in order to stay truly quiet, making no sound what so ever but from the gust of his powerful wings.
From here he could see a great deal of Makai, not nearly the whole of this thirds land, but enough of it for him to be marginally impressed by the palaces size, and to wonder at its once grandeur. However, truth be told, he was beginning to feel slightly anxious about this whole situation.
He hadn’t located Youko’s yoki yet, and that worried him. The obvious answer would be a ward, but still, even with a ward in place, there was still residue that he should have been able to track down. And they had known each other for so long that it should have been immediate and instinctive for him to be able to catch hold of it and seek him down.
Only there was nothing.
Just the wind in his hair and the occasional tumble of shattered and brittle tile as it fell to its death once dislodged from the old and neglected palace roof.
Taking a deep breath and starting from the first verse of his distraction song, he peered across from one roof to the next and sought out other yoki signatures. Once he was certain he would not be seen by the palace literally teeming with life-forces he abandoned all insecurities and threw himself into the wind, allowing his wings to carry him from one perch to the next, slowly making his way across the shattered roofs and church-like steeples until he came to a certain tower, on which he paused.
He listened intensely, the wind whistling in his ears and the rustle of his clothes and whisper of his hair forgotten as he listened for sounds of tapping feet, and perhaps the tell tale sound of Youko’s footsteps or perhaps even his furious roar, or his seductive prowess when it came to his more easily manuvered captives.
He’d done that many a time before, charmed his way from a hostile situation using his own body, and while as low as it may have been to others, Youko thought nothing of it. He was a thief, what else did he have to worry about? Surely not something as petty as mere morals, human morals at that. Kuronue had always lived the life of the dishonest thief, he agreed with Youko’s philosophy.
That and Youko’s motto was practically: if it can walk; fuck it.
He swallowed his smirk and returned his mind to the job at hand.
Digging his hands into whatever hold he could find at the top of the tower steeple he pulled himself up on top of the decaying roof, an elbow first, then he swung a foot up and then his knee and with a careful spur of his wings – carefully, carefully, the tiles would make to much sound if the downdraft of his wings was to send them plummeting to the earth- he pulled himself up, and ducked down when he got the weird you’re-being-watched feeling. He reached out, in his mind, and saw everything in little lights, each one signaling yoki, all of them different and individual colours and tastes.
The palace itself could almost be called a kingdom or maybe a city, with hundred of sky reaching towers and high walls that seemed endless, and then nothing but the green mess of trees that eventually melted with the sky on the horizon. He frowned, searching through each of the yoki patterns, looking for the one that tasted familiar or even the one that wasn’t there. Abnormal patterns, conversations, whispers, footsteps, shouts, clashes of swords, the sounds of water - perhaps blood - spilling on hard floor.
He didn’t want to indulge in his own misery, but, the ‘what if’ hung in the air like the rotten stink of a corpse. Nagging at his insides incessantly.
He perused the thrash of water, though the connection seemed too…perfect.
He listened assiduously.
Splash. Laugher. More water thrashing about. Words spoken, too softly to tell what they were, but the malice in the voice could have been enough to rival Youko’s own. The water increased. Scraping sounds, as if wet skin against a thin metal surface. Silence for a moment. Laughter. More thrashing.
Kuronue blanched when he checked the yoki present in the room.
Water still spilling over the edge of whatever it was the demon had been submerged into.
Still only one signature.
He needed to get closer to see if it was Youko doing the drowning or not, but he had to take his time if he wanted to do so quietly. If it was Youko drowning, then his lack of speed could get him killed. But if it was not Youko drowning and he rushed, the whole palace would most likely be alert to his presence and they would have even more people after them then they would ever care to remember.
Feeling like tearing his hair out Kuronue worked through the possibilities, one by one.
The worst that could happen was: Youko was the one doing the drowning, in which case if he rushed, and the palace became alerted they were probably fucked…more fucked.
In the instance that Youko was the one drowning: and he rushed, alerted the presence of the palace, still became royally fucked when it came to escaping, however, there was a chance he could save Youko.
In the instance that he went: slowly, slowly, and Youko had trained to hold his breath for as long as he hoped he had, everything would work out fine.
So does he trust Youko; or does he endanger them both, merely to save both their skins, and end up – in both cases, whether Youko was doing the drowning or not - with a large group of royally –and he meant royally – pissed off demons on their tail.
He wanted to whine in the back of his throat, and tear his hair from his scalp, to still the furious pounding of his heart; but he ignored it all.
His heart steeled itself, and he remembered the promise he’s made to himself.
He was going to drag Youko out by his tail, willing or not, alive or not.
He stood and leapt into the wind again.
He felt pressure, constant hands pressing in all over him. Thick, so thick.
He stared up, eyes wide, and saw and endless expanse of silver and blue.
He couldn’t move, he could only stare up. And watch his hair float around him, as if suspended in time, strangely swirling, and hanging in mid-air.
Where he was never occurred to him, nor did he feel the fury of being bested as he had been, cheated into his own death as he had been. Tricked. The fox, outfoxed.
Oh, how smart they must have thought they were. To kill Youko Kurama.
To drown him.
To kill- no murder him.
Was this death? Was this punishment? Imprisonment?
This ever constant stillness, frozen in time, only his thoughts available to himself, as obviously his body was not. Suffocation. Isolation. Agony. Fury.
And then it blended with other thoughts, that not of his own, and he begged for it to stop, this slowly increasing pressure, bearing down on him, snapping him in two. Scraping at his defenses. Tearing into him. Piercing him, right to the core. Mixing in personalities that weren’t his own and confusing him, confusing him utterly. Trapping him, forcing himself out, and another in.
He would have screamed if he could have opened his mouth.
Kuronue crept carefully, taking his time, listening, waiting, and then once the ability presented itself he peered thorough the wide arches that looked more like doorways than windows. No glass, no metal, only stone, wood and crumbling clay.
He perched himself, on the edge of a roof, his fingers hanging over the edge of the eve as he watched, not particularly caring if he was seen - a sort of compromise, he thought - and watched the man move around inside the spacious room. Careful of his own position, keeping half his mind on staying concealed.
While the walls seemed to be a crumbling mess of cream limestone, the creature inside seemed even paler. Now Kuronue had seen enough of his partner to recognize him from a distance, but something… this… seemed...
Youko was puling very-not-his clothes on, elegant clothes with many layers and folds, very pastel in colour. Pale yellows and stunning whites, then a single thick gold cord around his waist. It was not lightweight material, as Kuronue knew Youko preferred, but coarse and heavy looking. That not of a fighter, but that of a prize.
Merely for looks, not practicality.
Kuronue clenched his teeth and lowered his head slightly, his fingers tightening in their hold on the eve, and his wings unfurling slightly. He glared at the person that seemed to look so much like Youko as he laughed – that laughter was him, but it was the kind when he was getting of on a kill, which didn’t happen often – and as he scooped his hands into to what looked like – from here - a sarcophagus set in stone and let water drip from his fingers. No. Something was defiantly off.
Youko wouldn’t stay around after something like this, and that was not the way he acted.
Water has always been seen as a passage.
To what, it depends on who you ask.
To see things; perhaps the future. To talk to people. To act as a go between in life and death. To do many numerous things.
Youko could see his own reflection, laughing at him, as it scooped up the water and let it drip back down to him.
It hurt. Each drop felt like a blow.
Water. Fucking water.
Last time it was that fucking egg and now this?
It’s not so bad. Now we have swapped. I finally have your beauty, in which I see so much of myself. I fell in love with the creature beyond the water, beyond the mirror, and now, I am free, and you can suffer, as I have suffered. Only having the ability to see the beauty held within you when I chose to acknowledge it myself.
You son of a bitch. You think it’ll be that easy to just- manipulate you- get away with it that easily?
…you like flowers, do you not, creature?
You’re going to –live freely forever and ever- die.
It chuckled above him, and then turned away quickly, as if something had startled it.
When he passed the threshold from balcony to inside the large room, through the window large enough to have been a doorway, Youko was nowhere in sight.
There was no breathing, no footsteps - at least not in this room - nothing.
He blinked and walked further into the room quietly, his footsteps disturbing the thick dust on the floor, and as he looked around, the only footsteps present were his. Following after him in a line from the window to the center of the room. He looked towards the pale sarcophagus and frowned, there was no disturbed dust where Youko had stood, no footprints.
Just the wind howling through one window to the next, leaving Kuronue anxious and exposed.
It seemed too quiet.
Making his way towards the elevated dais he took care in making his way up the old and crumbling steps, so brittle they were, until he stood before the sarcophagus. It seemed to be made of a different type of stone, much stronger than the last, and the inside looked like it had been plated with gold, or something like it, darker in colour, perhaps bronze.
But it wasn’t the inscriptions on the sarcophagus, nor what it was made of that shocked him, that tore his breath from him, as if divinity had just reached down and wrung the air right out of his lungs.
It was what lay inside.
The deathly still water gave way to the murky image of a very familiar body. Poised perfectly, as if dead, with his hands resting interlaced just above his ribcage. Frozen in time. His hair seemed to be caught mid-animation, swirling around him as if disturbed, almost shielding his face, and his eyes, wide open. But Kuronue knew that look, he knew that look all too well, it was one of fury, absolute fucking fury. He got shivers down his spine from the mere promise of death that seemed to seep into the air as soon as his eyes laid sight on Youko.
He went to let out a shaky breath as he reached forward, his hand dangling just above Youko’s face, but then realized that he’d have to breathe in order to do so.
But as he touched the water, he got no further, and he found his fingers were met with glass. Not water.
A horrible feeling crept up his spine.
Give my – mine now - body back you – victor, victor, victor. I’ll win, I’ll kill this demon of yours - filthy parasite.
He’s mine now, don’t you think? Shall I keep him to warm my bed at night?
The glass shattered.
Oh, so that’s it. Now I get a reaction. Is it that you care for this one?
“Oh ssshit.” He swore, and paced, back and forth for a second, then paused to listen, and see if anyone had heard him. No one had, and for a moment he was tempted to scream, just so that he would be noticed in this place, because there was no way that he could not have been spotted so far.
The situation was maddening, what the hell had happened to the Youko from before? The one in different clothes? This one trapped in glass was obviously the real one, but where the fuck was the other? They had to have been the one’s behind this, he’d drag them here, not caring who he alerted and demand them to tell him just what the fuck, they had done to Youko Kurama.
Then he felt it, in the doorway.
He turned, quickly, and with a scythe at the ready, comforting in his hand.
Youko stared at him, a slight smirk on his lips, but also, a slight hint of surprise lurking on the surface. “You,” he said simply, greeting him.
Kuronue narrowed his eyes and licked his lips, then adjusted the grip he held on his scythe, the chain cool in his palm. “You aren’t him,” he said, defensively.
He snorted, and placed a hand on his hip. “Of course I’m him.”
Kuronue glared, the bastard was trying to confuse him. “What’s my name then?”
They stared at each other for a long time, and then, without warning, they were fighting. It seemed like only a split second, but in that short amount of time, Kuronue found himself thrown against a wall, and slashing at Youko furiously with his scythe.
But the imitator seemed to have better reflexes – Youko’s reflexes – and pulled back just in time, then did another fancy obviously borrowed from Youko attack where he took hold of the hand which Kuronue held his scythe and in the process of flipping him over to lie on the ground before him, had disarmed him. So he ignored the other scythe still at his hip for the time being, and pulled Youko down with him, managing to kick him in the gut as he did. It made the resistance tolerable.
He didn’t want to kill him, because what if this one of those weird sort of things where if he killed this Youko then the other one would too? They’d taken the risk before, and they had been lucky, when looking back, there were many other things that could have gone wrong, but this…this was…much worse.
The struggled in close quarters, and Kuronue was positive that this wasn’t Youko now, otherwise he would have simply just called up his pants and had him crushed before he could have even thought to scream. But this one used only its body’s strength and nothing more, not even yoki.
Kuronue saw no incentive to fight fair, because the bastard was wearing Youko’s face and that, in itself, had to have broken all of the laws of fair engagement. So he played dirty, it wasn’t like he didn’t resort to it in other times of need as well, he was a thief and a demonic thief at that, he had no honor.
So he ended up with Youko’s head in his hands as he smashed it against the corner of the sarcophagus, having dragged him up the stairs, and the imposter fought back, not saying anything, until his hand skimmed against the water and just as his hands left the surface the glass-like surface shattered, and a thought crawled its way into Kuronue’s mind, along with a satisfied smirk.
The struggle began anew. The one in which Kuronue attempted to force the imposter, into the water filled sarcophagus and not spill any of the water in fear of it somehow containing Kurama’s thoughts or something stupid. He managed, with great effort to get the imposter about halfway into the sarcophagus when, slowly, as if a snake sliding through grass, an ivory hand wound its way around the imposter’s waist. Both Kuronue and the imposter froze, one in fear and one in a strange sort of shocked relief.
Then it was yanked down into the water, and the solid surface retuned, but it was far to shattered for Kuronue to see anything clearly.
And then came that feeling again, crawling up his spine and nagging at his senses. Telling him to get out now. Because something was coming, and it was big, and bad, and angry.
And tasted a lot like Youko.
He had barely enough time to see an ivory hand slam itself onto the edge of the sarcophagus, and the sodden silver hair and white cloth as he backed away slowly, before everything began to shake, as if an earthquake and green seemed to seep from the limestone itself. It snaked along the floors, and up the walls, advancing quickly, tearing apart and devouring the stone itself.
It had stayed away from Kuronue’s side of the room so far, and perhaps the whole side of the palace that Kuronue stood on, or at least until Kuronue locked eyes with the furious Youko, and he suddenly felt very insignificant. After all he was a mere demon, and Youko had ethereal ties to Inari, he was, practically, a minor god when it came to strength and presence.
And so it was when Youko growled at him, and a word slipped from his lips, “leave,” that he didn’t take any chances in hanging around, or trying to talk Youko out of his rampage. He could feel yoki being extinguished around him, one by one, and the palace was brought down to its knees in a giant cloud of dust and mortar.
He ran for the window and leapt from the balcony, and his wings took over as the tower Youko was in collapsed in on itself, and all he could see was tendrils of green sliding over the mass of rubble itself from his vantage point, high in the air. It almost looked like the tentacles of a squid closing in on its prey, winding and winding until all was crushed, and edible. Burying deep into the earth and snarling along with the roar of the palace as if fell.
He didn’t have to worry about Youko, and whether he was still alive or not, for it was teeming with Youko’s yoki as it was. The whole area smelt of him, of his fury, his anger.
Kuronue left himself drift down to land on an outreaching tree branch and watched, along with a few other curious demons that came to see what the fuss was. Those who were less fortunate and had lost their ability to sense yoki, or those too weak or stupid to know how, whispered among themselves, and the stronger ones snapped at them, pointing out the vines and the malicious dark yoki that bit into their skin and raised the hairs on the back of their neck.
“Youko Kurama’s doing, something must have really pissed him off.” One of the muttered, loud enough for those scattered few to hear.
In the confinement of the tree’s canopy, Kuronue stared down at them and snorted in contempt before taking off again, and heading towards Youko’s den, with only the rustle of the leaves to alert the lesser demons to his presence.
“Another one completely wasted.” Kuronue muttered, in a foul mood. He didn’t want to search through the wreckage, especially with the plants Youko had hanging overtop them, poised as a warning to all demons that they may not yet approach. They seemed to be made entirely of teeth where Kuronue would have assumed petal would normally have been placed, row upon row of teeth. He could be doing other things, like cleaning his blades, sleeping, scheming or something. There was only so much boredom he could take.
“Not entirely,” the youko replied, bending down and pulling something from the mass of vines, rubble and corpses at his feet.
Kuronue paused, stopped completely in fact, and simply stared at his partner.
Said partner merely flashed a smile and tucked the necklace securely into his sash. “Let’s go,” he said, turning on his heel and brushing a hand against one of the towering stems of the new creation of Youko’s.
‘Inspired by the times’ Youko had explained, whenever he was asked about his curious creation of the flower, of which he named Narcissus.
Kuronue shook his head and followed after the fox.