Darkness all around him. Thick black liquid engulfing him, a night that was blacker than black. No, it wasn't black. Dark red. Blood. Whose? His? Those he killed? Hatred, bitterness, an obsessive lust for cruelty, for beauty, all that was washed away by the dark tides around him. Yes, his mask, the facade he so carefully constructed to protect himself, ripped off its moorings in his fragile heart leaving only fear, pain, loneliness and a profound sadness that refused to leave the depths of his very being. Damn! I hate being alone. It hurts. Coldness seeped into him and he involuntarily hugged himself to retain some body heat. A youkai afraid of the cold. Hah! Some quest-class youkai I'm turning out to be. He shivered. Where is that blasted fox when I need him? I sure can use some of his body heat now.
Slowly, gradually, a soft glow enveloped him in its warm embrace. Soothing his fears and chasing the darkness away. Don't be afraid. I'm here. I'll protect you. A gentle voice echoed in the expanse of ebbing darkness. What the-? Me? Afraid? The pain subsided and he fell into a blissful slumber. For the first time in his life, the nightmares did not come.
A wave of sympathy swept through Kurama as he watched Karasu writhing on the bed. Karasu's hands were balled up into tight fists, clutching at the blankets as he fought the invisible demons from his past. He watched silently as Karasu finally curled up in amidst the tangled bed covers and shuddered. Kurama tried to offer Karasu some measure of comfort by stroking his hair.
"I hate being alone. It hurts. Cold..." Karasu whimpered over and over again as if chanting a prayer. Seeing Karasu in such a vulnerable and defenseless state opened up floodgates of memories within Kurama's mind. He saw himself as a very young youko again, left in the wild by parents who could not care less if he lived or perished. Cold, hungry and tired, with nowhere to go. Nothing more than a little plaything for the more powerful youkais. Were you like me too, Karasu? Did you have to fend for yourself when you were younger? An easy picking for the older and more powerful youkais? Did you not have anyone to depend on for comfort and strength? Did you have a safe and warm home to return to? Or were you just like me? All alone. This is what the real Karasu is like... frightened, vulnerable...lonely... Is that why you enjoy inflicting pain and suffering on others? A way of striking out at the lot life threw in your path?
"...fox... need you..."
Kurama was more than a little surprised to hear his name been uttered like a desperate prayer for salvation by one of his darkest nemesis. He smiled slightly, "Well well, I never thought that you really were in love with me... Most will just say 'Don't kill me, oh great Youko Kurama...'" Kurama laughed softly. "I guess you're not most." He gently gathered Karasu into his arms, "Don't worry. I'm here." Karasu quieted down at once, as if he had been listening to what Kurama said.
"I see you're awake. Feeling better?" He settled into a chair at the far end of the room and watched Karasu.
"Much," Karasu tested himself for any sore spots as he sat up slowly. "You used your ki to heal me. Why? I tried to kill you before."
"I am not in the habit of leaving people to bleed to death." Kurama crossed his arms over his chest. "First things first, you are now in my room. I expect you to behave."
Karasu arched an eyebrow as he looked around him. "Your room... your bed... your clothes... Hmm...nice... and what will you do if I decide not to behave?" He mused.
"I could take you back to Makai and leave you there to fend for yourself." Kurama's tone was deadly serious, his eyes were steel as he spoke. "If you ever hurt 'Kaasan..."
"That human, Minamino Shiori. Lover of the body you now inhabit." Karasu said in a smooth voice.
"She is not my lover. She is my-" Kurama retorted indignantly.
"Ah- but she does love you does she not? And you her?" Karasu smiled, a slight twinkle in his eyes.
"....." Kurama sighed, he was not in the mood to explain human terms to the dark youkai at the moment. "Ok, you win."
Karasu smirked. "Does she know I'm here?"
"'Kaasan? Yes. I told her you were a schoolmate that lived alone and got mugged on the way home from school one day. She insisted I put you up in my room till you got better. Now that you're better, you can leave." Kurama gestured vaguely at the general direction of the door.
"Does the Urameshi team know I'm here?" Karasu asked cautiously.
"If they did, there wouldn't even be enough of you left to go 6 feet under the ground." Kurama scoffed. "None of them knows that you're still alive."
There was a soft knock at the door before it opened. "Shuuichi? Oh, your friend's finally awake!" Shiori beamed as she stepped into the room.
"Thank goodness. I was so worried. Shuuichi wouldn't let me call a doctor, he said you were terrified of them and insisted that you would be all right after a while." Kurama blanched.
Karasu smiled winningly, "It's alright. Shiori-san, a little mugging won't hurt me. I'm feeling fine now. Besides, I hate doctors."
"I see. Shuuichi mentioned that you were living alone. Would you like to live with us? We do have a spare room to rent out if you wish. Besides, we could use the extra income." Shiori proposed.
"I'd love to-" Karasu never got to complete his sentence.
"No, it's alright, 'Kaasan, Karasu has his own home too. He can take care of himself." Kurama hastily tried to steer her out of the room. "Uhm... my 'Kaasan and I have something to discuss. I'll be right back." He told Karasu, casting him a warning glance before he left the room.
Karasu sank back into the covers and lost himself in the respite of the moment. Minamino Shiori, the person who turned the callous Youko Kurama into Minamino Shuuichi, the perfect student and son. He could almost see why Kurama felt so compelled to return Shiori's love, to play out his life in Shuuichi's fragile human shell. It would be so easy. Send her a bomb wrapped in pretty pink paper tied up with a big red bow and she would probably be thankful for it. Shiori trusted too easily. She loved too freely. He hated to admit it but Karasu felt himself being drawn to her as well. Perhaps, if he had met Shiori when he was younger... he would be someone quite different.
He had learnt through his experiences. Goodness never lasts, and to preserve that sweet goodness it has to be destroyed at the prime of its beauty. Before it has a chance to be corroded by the darker forces around it. Before death catches it unaware in its icy embrace. Far better for it to have been put to an end by Karasu before the corruption set in.
End of Part 3.