Thinking back to her first says in freedom. She stopped to rest, feeling sick from spending a week without eating anything, having had no luck in hunting the few animals she encountered in her travels. As she laid herself to rest in the murky puddles at the base of a tree, she felt her stomach twist. She thought of the river water she drank not that long before. Shit, that pain was clawing and clawing at her innards, pulling at her bowels to the point that the thought of even voiding them sounded more like soft torture, the thought of anything even laying in her stomach disgusting her even more than ever. She curled into a tight ball, her small fists locking into her gut, her breath quickening. Her bowels pinched and she forced herself up so she could squat somewhere and let it void in burning gushes, feeling like it was making boils on her rear. And so it went several times for maybe a few hours… But is it better than before?
She groaned and tried not to think about it.
She heard the sound of some heavy sloshing footfalls coming her direction. She groaned and struggled to get to her feet, struggling to stay away the wastes of her labor. She slid through the mud and into the bushes that penetrated and ripped open her sensitive skin. She knew her legs and feet were sticking out, but she still played dead. It was all she had at the time before the darkness set in. And come what may…
Mukuro awoke in near darkness. She squinted her eyes as she started to get her bearings, suddenly realizing she was bundled up, cocoon-like, in some musty smelling blankets. She looked around the room, her breath quickening again, not recognizing the dresser or that particular positioning of the door. Then the heavy footfalls returned, creaking the floor like the horrifying creaking of bedsprings. She clenched her teeth as the door opened. It was a large older man, old enough to start getting wrinkles and grey hairs and large enough to cover what was beyond the doorway. In his hands, he held a steaming bowl of soup. He placed it on the dresser before crouching at the edge of the bed so the two could be at eye level.
"Good morning, little girl. I guess you're wondering what you're doing here. I saw you sleeping outside when the snow was starting to come- did you notice that? I found you in the bushes and you were pale as milk so I took you in. Really, what were you doing sleeping in the snow like that?" She didn't answer, just stared with eyes so wide, she could feel her face starting to stretch. After a few moments the man asked, "Where's mama? Where's papa?"
She still refused to answer.
"Can you talk? Little girl? Where's mama and papa? Are they- gone?" He put his wide, hairy claw on her shoulder, and she jerked her head towards the offending weapon. Mukuro started to grit her teeth. The beast growled on, "I'm so so-"
She grabbed his hairy throat as he leaned in to engulf her in some sort of parody of a hug. She knew what would come next if she let him get that far. She dug in her nails and the beast pulled back, failing a bit, which was enough to knock the bowl of soup over, shattering it. Mukuro grabbed a shard and shoved it in each of the beast's eyes and took another, jabbing it down its maw and into its throat, turning the screams to gurgles. To make sure it would die, she started to pound it in with her palms, slapping his flailing claws away. She sat on his chest so she could watch him due. When she saw what she had done, she walked in the kitchen and ate the soup right out of the pot.
Too bad he would never make it again. The older man. The beast.
No Good Deed
"You weren't there."
There was actually no particular reason why Mukuro decided to go to Human World. Breath of fresh air, change in atmosphere, a chance to unwind after spending days in a relatively low stress job or maybe it was just answering its damn siren's call to see what Raizen saw, to see what this world had that corrode demonic prides so easily. Whatever the case was, she found herself at a temple of sorts, the fabled Genkai's Temple, where quite a few demons made their first check out point just for convenience's sake, rather than out of interest towards the residents of said temple.
Not that there was usually anybody there. From what Hiei said, since Genkai passed, the temple was left uninhabited most days if there wasn't some sort of holiday or break from school. Though Yukina would come by every other weekend and every other month would stay for a week to make sure the place stayed clean. Apparently she would leave a note so no one would go out searching for her like she was the damn queen of the world and even went as far as leaving the house in the middle of the night just to ensure her solitude. To prove… well, to prove something. She promptly changed the subject when Hiei tried to pry the truth out of her, which was pretty much comparable to pulling out teeth. Though Yukina at this point still has no clue where she could have gotten that from, only she has the habit of going through a long period of redemption following these escapades.
Taking a look at the scenery, Mukuro saw it was as Raizen said and just how she imagined it to be: like a bad calendar photo op. One of those things extreme religious fanatics use when they want to give a visual for their kiss-on-the-cheek quotes. Not that landscaping was what brought Raizen to his knees. Though the secret romantic fool that he was had some sort of attraction to that too, as strong as the attraction to that woman even.
She stepped onto the wooden floor, reached out to slide the door open but stopped midway, having heard a loud "oh!" from beyond. Mukuro turned her head just enough to glance at the culprit. Yukina, looking just as Hiei remembered her as his memories drifted into Mukuro's consciousness. She stood in the doorway, a hand clutching the edge of the door frame, the other balling into a fist at her chest.
"You're a visitor aren't you?" She gasped again and did some sort of sloppy bow, nearly smacking her head on the door frame. "There are plenty of rooms here if you wouldn't mind staying here for the night. I need to go back and clean the rooms first, if you- er…" She clutched both of her hands at her chest, her eyes shifting side to side like a mouse knowing it was going toward a predator's territory.
"You're awfully trusting, aren't you?" Mukuro asked. She cocked her head to the side awaiting the inevitable apology.
"Oh, but you wouldn't hurt a poor helpless girl like me, would you? Even if I've done nothing more than offer you a place to stay and a nice warm meal made especially for you? Besides, women don't hurt women. They just say some rather rude things and leave before they can apologize to make sure it hurts."
"Still kind, as far as people go. I've seen women much worse than that. You can't trust that I'm not one, now can you?"
"But if you were, you wouldn't be able to eat my special dinner."
"Would that really stop me?"
"No. But if you did mean me harm, you would have done so already. Since you're just saying this to test me… I suppose you're one of Hiei's friends. He does the same thing to me, you see. Everyone worries about me so much but it's like they think I can't take care of myself." She shrugged but quickly drew her arms back. "Well, would you like to come in anyway? Just to rest for a bit?"
Mukuro was severely tempted to say no, considering that her journey only took two hours in a slow day, but she decided otherwise just to see what the goddess everyone seemed to be fussing about was like. That one a brother would lay his life down for. That lucky bitch. That stupid, lucky bastard. She sat on the porch, turned toward Yukina, who blushed as though pleasantly surprised someone took her offer. In a moment, her pink tinged cheeks turned back to their damn perfect baby doll white. She really needed to sit in the sun.
"Your name… It's Yukina, isn't it?" Mukuro asked. Yukina twitched and turned rosy once again as she nodded. "You're as I thought you would be. Your friend (nearly tripped on the word herself) mentioned you a few times. Hiei, I mean. He mentions all of you but you and Kuwabara are the only ones I haven't met." She thought of Hiei's comments on Kuwabara, most of which were variants on the word jack ass, though that's as close as that man would ever get to calling anyone a friend. That stupid, lucky bastard. She smiled a bit at the thought nonetheless.
"Well, this is awkward, then. You seem to know about me but I know nothing about you."
"Knowing someone's name and taking someone's word on one's personality traits doesn't really mean that I know anything about you. Honestly I figured out who you were based on the process of elimination. Yukina is a woman and Kuwabara is a man." A half-truth, really. "We're basically strangers either way."
"Hm…" Yukina shifted on her feet, rocking her side to side. "Let me guess your name…" Her brows knitted tightly together and after a few moments started to chew on her lip. (Don't try too hard. Mukuro could see smoke shooting out of her ears.) Mukuro was about to mouth the first syllable, but Yukina waved a finger at her. She clapped her hands and then smiled. "Mukuro! I think, no, I know he's mentioned that name a few times. It was the only name I didn't recognize when Hiei said anything and when you mentioned that you were a friend of his, that means you must be."
After a pause. "Well, you thought right."
"I'm glad that Hiei found a friend." Yukina bit her tongue to hide her girlish gasp. She jerked her hands around. "I- I don't mean that he's incapable of making friends or anything, it's just that he tends to keep to himself and I think he really should have more or connect with us more so he wouldn't be lonely." Her cheeks grew redder and redder as she rambled on, to the point where they were just about matching her eyes. Eyes the color of roses or fresh, ripe cherries. Eyes the same color as his. The eyes the color of blood or freshly sliced flesh. Losing track of things. "…Not that you really need to have lots of friends, if you prefer to be alone, that's okay too. It's just that I think you should have at least one really close friend."
"We all want companionship. But we all want and need different things." And what you want and what you need are never ever the same thing. Mukuro shifted in her seat and stared out to the distance. It was still deathly quiet. That sort of quiet that meant someone was going to murder you soon. Damn this unnatural beauty. "The sky. It's a strange color, isn't it?"
Yukina gave the sky a second glance. "Is it really? I thought it was normal."
"It's red where I'm from."
"Hm… Where I'm from…. The sky was… I don't remember much about the sky where I'm from. I never thought much about it. (Of course you wouldn't. You could look at it whenever you damn well pleased.) Oh, but I think I remember- once Kazuma was studying and I was helping hum and one of the questions was about why the sky is blue. Let's see. It had something to do with the sky absorbing the color blue. And it changes color at sunset?" Actually Mukuro had a feeling she knew the reasoning why but she figured it would go over Yukina's head. "You know, I was never any good at remembering things from books. I always get embarrassed when everyone teases Kazuma about his studying skills since I'm as bad as he is. Worse, actually. I'm not completely sure because I have never seen his classes, of course but… I was always the bottom of my class because I never could focus. I'd always stare out the window or I'd fall asleep. When I did, the sister, or the teacher- we were supposed to call them sister… When I did, the sister would come and hit me on the knuckles with a ruler. Once I fell asleep in class and I mentioned something about my brother in my sleep, I guess, and she hit me on the knuckles and had be stand up. She said, 'Yukina! You go in the back of the room for the rest of the day.'
"So what I had to do was stand holding buckets of snow with my arms like this-" she held up her arms, spread-eagled for a moment, "-and if I dropped any of the snow she would add another bucket for me to balance on my head. I've never seen a person go further than that, though. You would think it would be common. Anyway, so she held me back after class until she was ready to walk me home. She was steaming mad at me- her nostrils were flaring in and out and I could barely see her mouth cause she closed it so tight and I knew she was grinding her teeth. She knocked on the door and Rui, the woman who tales care of me answered. Sister told her everything and ordered that I be locked in my room all week without supper, reading only our sacred teachings, and being allowed one meal in the room a day. But when Sister would leave. Rui would sneak in snacks for me. She told me more about my mother since all I knew was that she had twins, a boy and a girl- that's me. …That Rui was the one who had to kill my brother. That was when I started to sneak out to find my mother's grave. It was the only time I could feel close to her. I think Rui always knew but never said anything…"
Yukina stood up and shook her head. "I'm sorry, I was going on and on. I didn't mean to say all that to you. It didn't have anything to do with… Would you like something to drink?" Mukuro shook her head. "Well, I'll make some tea for myself, if you don't mind. Do you need to be going anywhere soon? I don't want to keep you or anything." Again Mukuro shook her head.
Yukina invited her in and had her remove her shoes in observance of some nonsensical law neither knew much about but mutually respected. (Though she suspected it was more of a solution to the cleaning problem, even if Yukina needed something to kill her time.) Mukuro kneeled at the table, strumming her fingers on its surface. She stopped for a moment and glanced at her nails, feeling a sudden urge to start gnawing on them. It wasn't so much a nervous tic as it was a form of self-mutilation she never quite kicked. In any case it helped her male persona all the more, though that should have been long dead.
She glanced around the room. Blank walls, almost sterilized from the amount of time Yukina had at her disposal. With the exception of the table there was no furniture. She must be used to living is places that look like a damn sanitarium. Too dull to be anything relaxing. It's just… sterile. Probably just Yukina's style then.
There was a tickling sensation on the back of her hand. Mukuro looked down and saw the shimmering orb like body of a spider absentmindedly traveling over her knuckles. She watched it for a few moments before the little brushes of its thick legs on her skin began to unnerve her. She raised her hand and turned it over so the spider, caught off guard, fell on its back with a shallow plop like dropping half an eggs shell. She watched it curl those eight legs towards the hourglass on its abdomen, struggling, tilting, twirling, twisting until going on its front. It turned around, ready to attack when Yukina walked in, cup in hand and a dead to the world smile on her lips.
Apparently having noticed the movement on the table, Yukina looked down and gasped, rushed to take the arachnid in her cupped hands, mumbling some sort of apology (to the spider? To Mukuro? To both?) as she ran/skipped out the door. She kneeled down and opened her hands, shaking one a bit to get its clutches off her, cringing a bit. When she returned, Mukuro saw why- she was bitten so her virgin white hand was broken by one reddening bump. She held her hand in her other one to hide it was shaking.
"I'm sorry about that," Yukina said again, yet another naïve grin on her face.
"For what? It's not as though you planted it there," Mukuro replied. After a moment, she noticed Yukina turned her head in a way that her bangs covered the curvature of her brows, pointed towards poor concern. Empty concern.
Self serving concern.
The great geniuses and paladins of our time with all their splendor juxtaposed with memories of their flaws, no matter how obscure the offense. Ghandi hated his family. Albert Einstein was a well-known adulterer. Mother Theresa and her institutions of neglect. Oskar Schindler was shunned after saving so many lives for being born in the country that he was. Mozart and his kidney disease. Beethoven and his syphilis… Because geniuses can be fools. Because you can't be mortal and angelic. So just wait for her true colors to show.
Yukina didn't have any apparent physical flaws. Her hair didn't have the amount of frizz that did anyone harm. Her face didn't have a single blemish and her pores were all but sparkling. And all of its features that people slice themselves to have. A face like a flattering painting or a doctored photo. A face like a new doll. Fake.
"So uh… What's your favorite vegetable or fruit? Or… er, what do you like to eat?" Yukina asked. Mukuro cocked a brow. "Well, uh… I'm trying to find things so we can know each other better."
"Do you even know your friends' favorite fruits?" Mukuro asked.
"I suppose Kazuma likes carrots. Or maybe legumes. I'm… Wow, I guess that is a silly question to ask. Um… Colors? Numbers? Animals?"
She was really trying too hard. Mukuro sighed. Might as well play along. "No particular one, seventy-seven, and I happen to have a sort of attraction to manticores as of late."
Aside from the bit about manticores (she briefly scrunched up her face, though it could have been an aversion to the beast or just because she didn't know what it was in the first place) her face lit up. "Well, um, I like light colors and the number three and I like birds the most. They're really kind animals you know. They like to land on my hands and sing. I could show you."
Mukuro shook her head. No need to remind her of the goddess that she was sitting with. Mukuro once met a man who could catch dragonflies on his fingers but as he killed again they slowly feared him as everyone else had. As long as that object of desire, that stone that was the keeper of his sanity, he could hold onto the hope that one day they would land on his finger, just one more damned time. But puberty taints innocence and abandonment blackens it more. So he walked a fantasy world where his mother followed him, assuring him that she loved him. While this man walked on earth looking for a replacement whether he denies it or not, here was his blessed sister, who always had a mother figure amd someone to love her.
Somehow Mukuro couldn't help but hate her.
"They won't come," she said. Yukina cocked her head to the side, smile turning wry. Birds never would sing for someone else- someone like Mukuro- and they both knew it. That goddess just wouldn't understand the feeling. "…Is there a body of water nearby? I've heard people say they're beautiful here."
Yukina did a two-step, gently clapping the tips of her fingers. "Of course. There's one when you go down the stairs. Let me finish my tea and I'll take you there." As a matter of fact, she took the least gentle gulp of it like a young child hurrying for a treat. She excused herself for gulping and hurried the cup out of the room. Mukuro stood when she came back and allowed for Yukina to head in front of her, leading her down the stairs.
She hopped down step-by-step, paused once to glance at the older woman over her shoulder before giggling and going on. She stopped Mukuro, growing adventurous and jumped down three steps at once. Upon landing, she stumbled a bit until the other woman steadied her by grabbing her shoulder. Yukina stared down, hand clasped over her mouth like a baby doll as tears began to well up in her eyes. It was a shattered snail shell, possibly a few days old- no trace of the dead flesh- only the empty shell at the end of a shimmering thread of a trail. She turned around and stared into Mukuro's questioning eyes, mumbled an apology twice.
"You… You know…" Yukina stammered and turned her eyes away. "Oh, what am I doing? I know it's silly but…" She crouched down and her hands shook.
Mukuro took her by the shoulder, and when Yukina looked up at her, she held out a hand so she could return to standing as Mukuro took her place. Crouching at Yukina's feet, she cooped up shell shards, picking up the larger pieces in between forefinger and thumb. She closed her hands over the shattered corpse and looked up, eyes meeting once more. The Saint Mary that she was stepped forward and continued on with the precession, the Queen of Bathsheba and Mary Magdalene playing the part of the hearse and coffin, the saint humming a dirge in between sniffles.
Because this is how it is. Mukuro the whore and Yukina the angel. She walks the earth dancing upon the flowering fields while whores, murderers, and vagabonds walk in hell beneath her. Yes, the virgin and the divorcee. Goddess and the beast. Princess and the serf. Yet here is the damned who once had status and the blessed who was and likely never will be anyone. And what does Yukina have to offer the world anyway? In a world where evil is easier to conceive of than good and ugliness overpowers beauty?
They reached the base of the stairs and Yukina turned. They reached the shore and she stopped, dug her tie of her shoe into the ground. Mukuro crouched at her feet and waited for her to step away so she could drop the snail in piece by piece. Together, they drew the grains of sand together in a small mound and their fingers met in the middle just for a moment. Just long enough for Mukuro to pull back instinctively.
"Do you think he'll go to heaven- or she? The snail?" Yukina asked as her eyes left the grave.
Heaven? Dear god, heaven? People thought about such things still? What happens to animals after they die? Do they go to the same place we do? Well, hell! Children can dream, can't they? "I don't see why not."
"Hm…" She stood. "Well, here it is, the water. I think it's lovely. I've had so many good memories here. I know I haven't been here long but it really outweighs my sadness."
"…Mukuro, do you have any brothers or sisters? No? What about parents?"
Mukuro took a sharp intake of breath, knowing all the while that Yukina could hear it. And dammit, she could feel the blood draining from her face. "No. No mother. No father."
Yukina saw it. But she nodded. "I… Don't have a father. That's how my people function, you see. We're all women. I don't know if anyone knows of us- is this true?" Mukuro waved her hand, indicating there was somewhat of a knowledge everywhere else. "Well… I also have a brother. I've never met him- have been looking for him for so long. You see, before Hiei left her to- goodness, to serve YOU in fact!- I asked him if he could spare the time to look for him. Has he… ever mentioned it to you?"
What do you say to that? She could break her heart and say "No" and that he made no attempt to do so. It wouldn't exactly be lying considering that it WAS through Hiei's stream of consciousness and his conversation with Shigure that she was even aware of Yukina's existence. Hiei also couldn't look for her brother, seeing that would only really involve staring into a mirror. But she could also claim that Hiei didn't care enough to do anything for Yukina. Just out of spite for this girl to live in luxury as she did.
But hell… Adolf Hitler liked sweets, especially cream puffs and Josef Stalin loved his mother. And if Charles Manson could dream of being a musician or Vlad the Impaler could love his country to death, then Mukuro could easily be capable of compassion in her sleep.
"He has, now that you mention it. I offered to give him help with that because I have a lot of connections but he turned it down. He told me that this was something he wanted to do on his own- you know how he is about that sort of thing, I'm sure. But with his doing work and whatnot, it's hard for him to find the time. He's really dedicated to his work… If I offer to give him time off, he gets angry and refuses. He acts like he's getting special treatment sometimes." Okay, I'm giving her too much of the truth… "But…" Sigh. Here goes. "He suspects that the man might be dead."
"But he also always suspects the worst," Yukina replied. She took a stone and tossed it in the water, barely managing one skip. "I always thought it was sad that he does because I know he'd been through some really bad times. I wish I could help him see the world differently… But we're not so different sometimes… My people… I hate them. They abandoned my brother and didn't give him a chance just because he's a boy. They could have let my mother leave to take care of us both. But they tried to kill him without a second thought and even to this day they try to act like it didn't happen. Not unless I try to make them tell me. Where is the justice? That's why I want my brother to live so they can be punished."
"And what then, Yukina?" Mukuro asked. She sat down in the sand, letting it run between her fingers. "You will have your revenge but you'll live the rest of your life knowing about your committing genocide. Maybe they don't deserve to live as they do, but they're not worth the rest of your life in guilt. Killing sounds like the easiest thing in the world and the same with revenge- and in fact it is- but for someone like you, it wouldn't be worth ruining yourself because you can always remember their deaths. What it's like for their states of being to slip right through your fingers. And there will be no turning back.
"That's why I say killing is easy- anyone can slit someone's throat in cold blood for any reason whatsoever, and in fact, we all have that urge to do it at least one in our lives. The problem comes in the aftermath- forgetting that they were once a person with hopes and emotions. Someone who laughed and cried, maybe had a family or someone they loved, something they would have liked to do all their lives. Whether or not they did, YOU were the one who took all of that away and you have to live the rest of your life holding that on you at all times. Believe me… I know. Living a long time trying to forgive yourself for not being in your right mind. And Hiei knows it, too. Justified or not, this is what we live with everyday," The man who took her in that day… He didn't have to die. She could have accepted his hospitality and he could have had the opportunity to care for her as a surrogate father or they could have just gone their separate ways. But no good deed goes unpunished. And he was killed. By fear.
And so the saying goes, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
Mukuro threw the grains of sand in her hand in no particular direction, shaking her head. "It's not so much about what they deserve as it is what you deserve, Yukina. You live your whole life revolving around those who you hate and you'll never find peace, And is it really fair to your brother to make him fight your battle for you? If you want revenge that much, then you should do it yourself FOR YOURSELF. But if you want my opinion, I respect forgiveness more than I do vengeance. It takes more of a person to forgive. If those women cannot find the gall to forgive, then realize that they were not worth begging for. Move on with your life. Don't waste all your years on people who don't give a damn about you."
Yukina took another stone and tossed it in the water. "…I know. You're right. About all of it. He told me the same thing before he left but… Am I… a bad child for just wishing I just could…?"
"I can't make that judgment. I don't know what makes a person good. Don't you thin k someone who has committed all kinds of sins could also be a good person or a good person turn evil? Assuming that anyone could make that judgment. All I can tell you us that you want justice, which is understandable. But the world we live in, you can't always get it. That's just how things are." She stood up and shook the pant off her pants, threw Yukina a quick glance, eyes meeting just for a moment. Tch. Imagine that. People like her feel rage. She cries over a dead snail but she'd kill her own people if it meant avenging her mother and… But who am I to judge. Angels don't exist in this mortal world.
And if Hiei isn't just some resident of hell…
"Hey, can I ask you something?" Yukina was turned toward her now. Mukuro looked into her face for what felt like the first time. She had some facial features- like his come to think of it. Same eyes- shape and size- same nose and mouth. An androgynous face. Somehow she felt like she'd been drugged, made her want to look away, but she remained fixed on the others woman's entire face.
"Is… Do you think, I mean, Hiei could be my brother?"
Oh hell. "What makes you say that?"
"Well he treats me differently fro m everyone else and ge came to save me when… when I was captured. Sort of. But he came out of nowhere to save me and since then he's treated me nicer than other people. And it's not because I'm a girl because the other girls don't get attention like I do."
Might as well have fun with it for a moment. "Heh, he's not in love with you?" Actually that sounded disgusting even suggesting it.
"Oh no! He doesn't treat you nice, does he?"
"Oh, Yusuke told me you two were in love and-" Mukuro knew she gave Yukina a look because then she blushed, trying to hide it behind her hands. "I'm sorry. I should have known it was a joke. He does it all the time and I should know…"
"It sounds like something he'd do. It was one thing I liked about him. Raizen would do the kinds same thing to everyone from what I remember. Hiei could just see you as a spiritual sister, really. Most people find spiritual families in others. But let's say he is and he's not telling you. I can't make him come out and say it. He'll tell you in his own time. I can't tell you that he is or not because he never told me he had a sister. I'm sorry."
"Hm… Do you think I'll ever meet him?"
"…I'm sorry." They stared at the waves weaving in and out, coming closer to their feet. "I really should be going." Mukuro started to walk away.
"…I love him."
She turned around. "Hm?"
"I love Hiei. And I love you, too." Mukuro cocked a brow at her. "They say I'm not supposed to say it so easily but I do. I mean it but no one ever… Er…" She walked over and kissed Mukuro on the cheek. "For protection.
Mukuro backed away slowly, hand rushing to her cheek and walked away as Yukina watched on. Probably moving faster than necessary.