The Blood Red Rose

Chapter Thirteen: Confrontations

It was an eerie night as if nature itself knew a cataclysmic battle between two powerful forces would ensue. The air was still and seemed suffocating to Kurama as he traveled through town. The crickets were silent for once, and the night birds were still. None of this even fazed Kurama. The only thing that mattered to him was his, (or maybe 'they' would be more correct), transformation to go through without a problem. The outcome of the entire fight depended upon it. At the moment, a fog had rolled in, blocking the appearance of the full moon. This worried the red head greatly, but Yoko put his worries to rest.

All that mattered was that the full moon was out. It wasn't as if he was a werewolf and needed to see it to transform. The moon was always linked to a demon's energy, whether some believed it or not. Usually most gained more power under the moon's gaze, while some lost power when the moon started to wane. Many lower class demons fell under the moon's mercy, but there were a few higher class demons that also depended on its might, like Yoko for example. At least they wouldn't lose power if it started to wane.

Kurama tried to calm himself as Yoko send him a mental picture of the probable location. They figured that Karasu would pick the strip of beach closet to the warehouse he was hiding at. Searching a twenty something mile coast would be horrendous. As they traveled through the line of warehouses, the red head couldn't help but feel some nostalgia. It was around this area Hiei had taken Keiko hostage. He subconsciously grasped his stomach where he received a severe wound. Still, those were the good old days – before the days of his life and his mother's being constantly in danger.

Despite the inconvenience of the fog, it created an excellent cover for Kurama to walk through. It hid his bright hair very well from human eyes, though Karasu would probably have no problem spotting it. He easily strolled through the area, letting his fox senses take over in the horrible conditions. The night air seemed surprisingly clean the closer he traveled to the beach. He already smelt the salt intermingling in the air. It would only be a matter of minutes before he felt the ocean spray as well. But the more he walked, the colder the temperature became. The beach was unfortunately always colder than the mainland, and he dreaded the fight if it suddenly took place in the water.

He tried to find the scene of either Maya or Karasu, but it was to no avail. The ocean air and wind was probably taking it away to a completely different direction. He'd have to rely on sight and the chance that Karasu would be projecting his energy signal and not hiding it to find them. He suddenly felt a slight pang of worry again. Maybe he should have informed one of the others of his whereabouts. Only Hiei knew and even then, he would not know quickly enough if something horrible were to happen. He shook his head to rid himself of such thoughts. He would prevail, and Karasu would die tonight. He will pay for what he has done.

Are you sure Karasu will be here? asked Kurama for the umpteenth time.

/Yes, Red, just keep going forward. We still have some time before it's midnight anyway. Besides, I highly doubt Karasu is just going to give up and go home if we're a couple minutes late. He's not some date we're standing up.../

Kurama led out a low growl at his counterpart's lame attempt at a joke. His frustration at Yoko just seemed to grow every time he talked.

Despite Yoko's slight inability to stay on track, he was right about nearing the beach because the concrete eventually turned into a wooden dock. It appeared to be that the dock was not cared for once the area was abandoned. Most of the planks were rotted through, and there was a horrible creaking noise every time Kurama took a step. It was very dangerous to stay in one spot for too long. He also noticed that most of the railings had rusted in time and from the salty air.

He cautiously leaned over an area that had no railings and peered over it. He barely noticed the division between the water and the shore. The rush of water from the waves was somewhat soothing. A slight wind picked up. He brought a hand to his hair to keep it from bothering his eyes. He gazed into the distance. Karasu was sure to wear black, which made this even harder. He couldn't pick up an energy signal either.

The wood groaned underneath Kurama's weight. His feet shuffled, but it was too late. He had stayed still for too long, and the planks gave way with a loud crack. Luckily, with the grace of a fox, he was able to land softly on the sand and barely avoid the falling debris. He turned around, keeping the shock from registering on his face.

He had sensed something at the last second, but a sudden blast threw him yards away. It wasn't strong enough to do any damage to him, but it did catch him off guard, and he fell into the sand. He winced in discomfort. Sand had gotten into his eyes from the blast. He brought his hands to his face, rubbing the corners of his eyes.

Kurama quickly stood up, not letting another attack get through his guard. He peered into the darkness under the small part of the pier that was still standing. There was a dark figure that stalked toward him. The moonlight struck his face as he left the darkness that the pier created. Menacing shadows appeared on his face, and the light shined off the demented looking doctor's mask he wore. Karasu was truly alive. He couldn't believe it. Just the sight of him made Kurama clench his fists tightly enough to draw blood. His blood was boiling in rage. Then another sight made him angrier. Karasu had slung Maya over his shoulder as he sauntered over. His long fingers were digging into her back as she fought and struggled.

"It's good to see you again, Kurama, I was almost afraid that the next time we would meet would be in the afterlife," said Karasu calmly.

"Let her go," said Kurama in an equally calm manner, but the undertone of malice was evident. Specks of gold created a border around his pupils. He barely heard Maya yell out, "Let me go you crazy bastard!" Although her wrists were tied together, she was still repeatedly pounding against Karasu's back.

"As you wish," replied Karasu, smiling evilly. It made Kurama very nervous. His stomach twisted into knots. The bomb master moved Maya from his shoulder and then suddenly threw her into the ocean. She screamed, careening into the water. Then everything seemed to go in slow motion as adrenaline pumped through his veins, and Kurama remembered something very important that Maya had told him.

The sun overhead was high and blazing. The breeze had almost come to a stand still as the beach inhabitants were left to bake in the scorching heat. The seagulls' squawks became a soothing rhythmic pattern despite the heat. Along with the sound of crashing waves, it was altogether relaxing. The air was filled with the ocean spray and the scent of salt. Not counting towels, beach chairs, coolers, and umbrellas, several shells and stray pieces of seaweed littered the sand.

The sand matched the heat of the day, if not more. People scurried to and fro on the sand, trying to reach the cool, wet sand along the shoreline. Children turned into a game, running back as large waves crashed onto the beach. The screams and laughter of everyone filled the air. A quiet spot could not be found on this hot, June day.

It was on this day that a small junior high class had arrived for a field trip as a good bye party before high school. The dirty, yellow school bus came to a halt and twenty or so children ran out despite the shouts from the chaperones telling them to stay together. They quickly laid down their towels, claiming their spot on the beach. Some stayed behind to put on sun block; others wasted no time in running into the water to play. Even then, a few seemed to prefer to linger on the beach, trying to find shade.

One such child was a small red head with bright green eyes. He shuffled his feet, eyes kept downcast to avoid the sun's glare. He edged closer and closer to the pier where it gave ample shade. There was a drastic difference under the pier compared to the rest of the beach. It was incredibly cool; even the sand wasn't burning. This was where little Shuichi Minamino chose to spend the most of his day at.

He watched as his classmates splashed in the water, yelling and screaming at each other. Eventually, some one brought out a beach ball, and they began playing with that. He watched for what seemed like an eternity, frowning that his mother had made him come on this trip. Considering he was never able to get along with his classmates, let alone even make good friends, the beach would prove to be hell for him. He sat on the beach towel, hugging his knees. He sighed. Swim trunks were another reason why he hated the beach, and he refused to keep his shirt on during the heat either.

In short, a very miserable Shuichi sat on the beach, counting the minutes until it would be over. He squinted as he watched Tasaka drag Maya to the water. It looked like she was resisting a little, but he must have taken it as playful. Suddenly, a wave crashed on top of them while Tasaka's attention was elsewhere. Maya took this chance to break her hand free, and she marched back onto the beach. She hadn't escaped the clutches of the wave either; she was dripping wet, and her hair clung to her face. She suddenly looked up and locked eyes with Shuichi.

He sighed as she walked over to him. It had been a few weeks since the incident with Eight Hands, and he was desperately trying to avoid her in case her memory came back. She stood in front of him, blocking the sun's rays.

"Hello, Maya," he said pleasantly. No reason to be rude he deduced.

"Hi, Shuichi," she said, biting her lip. "Do you mind if I sit here?"

He closed his eyes for a moment before replying, "No, not at all." She sat down, carefully enough not to get him wet as well. "Why aren't you in the water like everyone else?"

"Well…" she began hesitantly. "You have to promise not to laugh."

Shuichi blinked. "Yes, of course."


A brief smile appeared on his face before disappearing. "Promise." The simplicity and slight immaturity of humans still amused him.

"Okay…um, Idontknowhowtoswim." She said the last bit incredibly fast while looking away.


She sighed and then closed her eyes in embarrassment. "I don't know how to swim." She looked at Shuichi expectantly, smiling nervously.

Shuichi merely smiled serenely, which was a sign that he didn't care. "Well, I won't be swimming either. Feel free to stay here instead of facing Tasaka's wrath."

Maya then noticed a very drenched Tasaka, glaring daggers at the two. His hair clung to his face and covered his eyes, which made the scene very humorous. Their chuckles soon turned into laughter, and Shuichi felt a small gladness that he wouldn't be as alone as he thought he would be.

It barely took even a second for Kurama to act. Not only did he know that Maya could not swim, but he had also done quite a bit of research concerning the moon's effects on tides, and he remembered that whenever it was the full or new moon, the tides would be at their strongest.

Everything moved so slowly for him. Maya was still in the air, but would reach the water in a matter of moments. The sand underneath his feet formed into a small dust cloud as he broke into a sprint. He ignored Karasu as he went into the water. Maya's hands were tied; there was no way she would be able to survive the tide even if she were free and knew how to swim. Sprinting was a little difficult on the sand, but he was still faster than the normal human. He barely noticed the cold water lapping around his knees and getting higher and lower with each pull of the tide.

His eyes scanned the dark water. The crashing of the waves made it impossible to hear any splashes made by Maya. He had to rely on his sight. The seconds passed by achingly as he still hadn't gotten any sight of her. He turned around in place, panic gripping his chest. Had she gone under already? Did the tide pull her away this quickly?

He turned again, but this time relief spread through his body. He noticed something, or rather someone, trying to stay afloat a little further away form the coast. Although the relief was short lived because she was probably drowning, he had found her. He gave up on wading through the water because it was too much like trying to push through a rioting crowd going in the opposite direction and instead opted to dive into the water, silently cursing the lack of swimming experience he had as a human.

He fought through the raging waters, even going under a few times. He put his head above water, taking in a gulp of air and dove under to grab a hold of Maya. She was desperately kicking and struggling, not letting her head stay under water for more than a few seconds. The fight in her had not died away. That did a lot to soothe his worries. Kurama was not going to be late in saving her.

He grabbed her bound wrists and pulled her close to him. After a few failed attempts, he was able to get a good hold of her as he kicked back to shore. The tide was not cooperating in their favor. His arms and legs were feeling a little sore, but soon enough, his feet touched the ground beneath him. The water was up to his waist and was putting up less of a struggle.

He gently grasped her hands as he ripped apart the rope binding her wrists. She broke out into a small coughing fit, spluttering and removing the excess water from her lungs. Once Kurama was done untying her, she rubbed her wrists, feeling the deep creases left in her skin. Her eyes flickered up to meet Kurama's. She opened her mouth to say something when he grabbed her hand and pulled her to shore. She nearly stumbled, but regained her balance quickly. Again she coughed a little. She looked up to see his face, but then looked away when she saw how cold his eyes looked. She had never seen such an angry expression on his face, ever. She gulped, afraid not for her well being, but for what was to come because of the current predicament.

Kurama never broke his gaze from Karasu's. As long as he could see the crow demon, there would be a lesser chance of him pulling a secret attack as they walked back onto the dry beach. The two teens were drenched to the bone. Kurama's red hair clung to his face and looked matted. His clothes stuck to his flesh. Maya's appearance was quite similar to his. She broke out into several shudders, wishing to wrap her arms around herself, but at the same time not wanting to take her hand out of Kurama's grasp.

The cold night air combined with the freezing water almost stung them. It was almost painful to be left standing in their wet clothes. The wind seemed to lash out against them. Despite the roar of the water and the stinging wind, an eerie calm spread through both of them. They were safe, probably not for long, but safe and alive for the moment. It was a blessing that neither would take for granted.

On dry land, the red head braced himself for whatever would happen. He was almost certain Karasu would try something. It was his style to watch him suffer and then strike again when everything seemed alright.

/Of course, there's the other possibility that he won't do anything so he could watch you squirm while Maya questions you. I'm sure he'd like nothing more than to watch you be damned by someone so close,/ commented Yoko. It seemed like it was the first time he had spoken in ages. The moment on the pier was a distant memory already.

Thanks for the moral support, replied Kurama dryly.

Karasu though just stood there on the beach, watching the two intently like a hunter stalking its prey. To say that it didn't unnerve the red head would be a complete lie. This wasn't a repeat of the Tournament. There was another life at stake other than their own. It was the life of someone innocent, someone just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Failure was simply not an option.

/Did I ever mention how violated I feel whenever he looks at us like that?/ said Yoko, trying to lighten the mood. His idea of a joke wasn't exactly the most appropriate. /I mean, touching our neck was like being molested!/

No, but those mental pictures are exactly what I need right now, said the red head sarcastically.

/Anytime, Red, anytime./

Kurama groaned inwardly, shutting his eyes in annoyance. It was the first time since coming out of the water that he let his attention stray from Karasu.

/Finally, the creep was probably getting some ideas.../


"Uh, Shuichi..." He felt a tug on his hand. He opened his eyes and found its source-a drenched, shaking Maya. He suppressed the chuckle bubbling up inside of him. She reminded him greatly of a wet rat. He didn't even want to imagine how he looked like. Bursting out in laughter would probably scare her away. Despite all that, he still smiled widely. He was allowed to be happy after a near drowning experience, right?

"Are you al-Why are you smiling?" asked Maya with a frown.

"No reason," he said, his smile fading. "Just glad to see you alive." He rested his hands on her shoulders and let them drop, tracing her arms. She shivered. He let his hands linger a little and then pushed aside the hair sticking to her cheeks. He narrowed his eyes at the sight of the bruise on her cheek.

Maya did something a bit unexpected. She buried herself in his chest, wrapping her arms around him. It took a few seconds for Kurama to respond, but when he did, he returned the embrace. He barely heard her murmur a "thank you," and the sudden anger in him dissipated for the moment. Karasu would get what he deserved later.

"What a touching reunion, but you do remember that I'm still here. All this is making me sick to my stomach," said Karasu, his face upturned. "I should probably go kill a puppy or two to ease the nausea."

Maya reluctantly turned her head around to face her captor. It was difficult to tell if she had began crying, but her red eyes were a dead give away at this point. She didn't want to leave Kurama's embrace.

"Get out of here. It's not safe," said Kurama low enough so the crow demon didn't hear. His eyes did not stray from Karasu. Every second that passed with nothing happening, the more worried and tense the fox became.

A few moments passed, and his words finally seemed to have sunk in. She gave him a horrified look before berating him, and then pushed him away a few inches. "I'm not leaving you alone with him! The guy's a psycho!" The red head gave her a look that clearly meant "do as I say or else," but she ignored it and continued, "Look, you have a lot of explaining to do. For one thing, what the hell is your real name? Shuichi or Kurama? And, erasing a girl's memories has got to be the rudest and most selfish thing you have ever done, Minamino." She glared at him defiantly. Enough was enough with helpless and clueless Maya. She needed answers.

Kurama chucked quietly. Only Maya could turn a dangerous situation such as this into a scene reminiscent to a parent scolding a child. She even had the whole 'jabbing her finger into his shoulder' routine down perfectly. He rubbed the spot unconsciously.

"Promise me two things and I'll get out of your way like you want," she said.

"I'm listening," he said a little suspiciously, but interested nonetheless.

"Promise me that you'll come out of this alive. I'm not letting you off the hook that easily for all the stuff that's happened."

Kurama nodded. That request was easier said than done though, but it was fair enough.

/That's nice. If we live, we have a lecture to look forward to. Joy,/ said Yoko sarcastically.

"And number two, don't erase my memories again. Not only do I want to remember, but I don't think it'll be too healthy for that to happen a second time..." She trailed off, most likely wondering about the correlation of erasing memories and brain damage.

Kurama frowned, contemplating over the answer. She just asked him a very complicated request. He could easily just placate her now, but still erase her memories later. It was too dangerous for her to be left with this knowledge. Then again, she already proved that Maya Kitajima would not be going away that easily. There were a few other friends that also knew about Spirit World, but how would Koenma handle the news? Enough people knew already. One more would be pushing it.

/I think it seems fair enough,/ said Yoko suddenly.

What are you talking about?

/We're in way over our heads at this point. If we erase her memories, she'll only remember them again like this past week. She won't be moving anytime soon either; the girl's been here for like a week. Besides, the process would be more complicated since we have to re-erase the memories she remembered and then try to manipulate this entire week so everything flows smoothly despite the memory gaps. Too much work if you ask me./

Why do you always insist on taking the easy way out? I, for one, would prefer to just erase her memories once this over, no matter how complicated and long it will take, the red head argued.

/Whatever, Red, she's your girl, but I'm only helping you with Karasu, not that./

Fine with me, he replied briskly.

After his internal debate was over, he finally answered Maya, who was waiting a bit impatiently. "I promise you those two things-" /Liar!/ "-Now, leave," he ordered.

Maya stared at him for a few seconds before nodding her head in understanding. The small moment that she was scrutinizing him, he felt a little unnerved if she would be able to see through his lie. Nonetheless, she seemed to acquiesce to his request and slowly began walking away from the beach. She didn't dare risk any sudden movements in case Karasu tried something.

There was something about the red head's posture that made her more nervous and eager to leave. His eyes had narrowed, containing a dangerous glint directed towards Karasu. His entire body language was tense and even looked dangerous. He seemed to be entering some sort of fighting stance, but the crow demon still stood nonchalantly and completely relaxed under the deadly gaze. She had to get out of the area quickly, not just to see her family, but for her safety as well. At the moment, she was intruding in the makeshift arena for the two fighters and would most definitely be caught in the cross fire.

Karasu chuckled suddenly, making his presence known. He had stood idly for too long. It was time to make things more interesting. "That was very touching, but it's too bad she won't be able to keep her end of the bargain."

Maya let out a small shriek that cut through the night air and that also seemed magnified in the silence. A metal clasp had sprung up from the sand and grabbed her ankle. She struggled to break free, but it was to no avail. A long, thin neck with an oversized head emerged from it. It had only one eye that took up its entire face, and its eyelids blinked sideways.

"Forgot about my little ability already? Tsk tsk tsk. That's not like you, fox," taunted Karasu. "The girl stays here. Wouldn't it be grand to see what kind of monster she has befriended? So bloodthirsty; so violent. The bomb on the ankle cuff is set to explode within twenty minutes, unless you kill me of course. If the fight takes longer than that, she still dies." And then he laughed.

Suddenly, Karasu was interrupted by a loud, cracking sound. Kurama had already taken out his rose whip. Then he coiled the thorny, green vine as he ran toward Karasu, who easily side stepped him as the red head's whip made contact with the sand. A sand cloud emerged. Both fighters backed away from that spot.

Karasu stood casually, his back towards the mainland. He brought his hand up and slowly lowered it in a diagonal slashing motion. A series of small explosions were set off as he finished the movement. Kurama was fortunately able to move out of the way of most of the bombs, but was still hit by two. He was thrown back a few feet before he moved out of the way. The ringing in his ears was loud enough that he almost missed Maya's distressed scream.

The red head darted around the area, narrowly avoiding the bombs Karasu made from thin air. The green energy orbs that he used in their last fight had made their comeback. They caused him the most grief that time, and now it didn't seem to be much different. The green orbs lit up the area. While Kurama sprinted, he noticed out of the corner of his eyes that the orbs were gathering together.

"Time to die, fox," said Karasu. He waved his hand, motioning toward Kurama. The dozens of green bombs flew at him, but the red head was anticipating a move like that. He stood his ground, and while he was talking, he pulled out another rose from the back of his neck. The petals flew out and stayed afloat. He also twirled his whip, creating a barrier against the barrage of explosives. Once the attack ceased, the whip fell to the ground in burnt pieces, and the petals that had taken the brunt of the attack were also gone.

"Instead of plotting such an extravagant revenge, you should have been thinking up of new fighting methods," said Kurama, smirking. His cool demeanor did nothing to give away his frantic conversation with his other half.

Why haven't we transformed? I thought it would be automatic!

/Um, well, you see, I may have neglected to mention that I went on a little romp through the city as a spirit. That's how I found Maya and the answer to the riddle./ Yoko almost seemed to flinch at the end of his explanation. They were one whole person in two; two who knew exactly the type of violence and vengeance the other was capable of.

Do you mean to tell me that we won't be transforming? His tone was a little menacing and angry. He spoke slowly, trying to grit out the words.

/Yes, I mean, no. No, we will transform. DODGE!/ Kurama barely avoided the invisible bomb Karasu detonated. /I just need to gather some more energy. I used a lot of it as a spirit./

Oh...wait, why were you a spirit?...You left my body?!

/Stop with the questions and concentrate! I'll tell you later./

The beginning of the fight continued on in a similar fashion. Karasu would create bombs, and Kurama would try his best to block or dodge them. Unfortunately for the red head, dodging bombs that came out of thin air was proving more and more difficult with each passing second.

While he side stepped another green orb, his back exploded into agonizing pain. His back smoked as blood poured out. He gritted his teeth, trying to keep his scream in, but it was to no avail; he had forgotten how painful Karasu's bomb could be. Warm blood dripped down from his wound, staining his pants.

Kurama panted heavily, trying to ignore the searing pain. His eyes flickered over to Maya momentarily. She was still soaking wet and was kneeling on the sand. She looked absolutely terrified. Kurama frowned. There was no way she would be able to even tolerate being in the same room with him now. She would slowly witness the cruelty he was capable of during a fight. Kurama could almost see the disgust in her face after this, almost feel the rejection. It was no matter though; it was better this way. Maybe then she would willingly want her memories to be erased.

He turned his attention back to fight. Distance did not matter he deduced. Karasu would be able to attack him from anywhere. He pulled out a seed, and it quickly erupted into thorny vines that wrapped around his forearm. It extended from there, making a plant sword. He slashed it around, getting used to a weapon he hardly ever uses. He lowered it to his side and ran toward Karasu. Bombs exploded in his wake as he zig zagged on the sandy arena.

Karasu smirked at his foolhardy plan of charging ahead blindly. As soon as Kurama was mere feet in front of him, he created a bomb that exploded as soon as it came into being. Sand went up into the air. He narrowed his eyes, looking for the red head in the sandy cover. He wasn't there. Kurama had faked a frontal attack, disappeared momentarily with his speed, and attacked from the back. A few blasts came from behind as Kurama slashed away the small bombs Karasu had surrounded himself with. The crow demon turned around and leaped back, but Kurama was too fast for him. He had managed to injure his chest with a shallow cut.

Kurama mimicked him by leaping back as Karasu seemed to caress to wound. His fingertips were covered in blood, and he looked at them in slight wonder.

"Hmph, I was not expecting such a reckless attack, Kurama," he said indifferently. "You're always full of surprises. I'll just have to be more careful from now."

"That won't help you now. You've been living on borrowed time for far too long, Karasu," replied Kurama in a steely tone, keeping his labored panting in check. His eyes seemed to contain vengeance and a murderous malice. Anger coursed through his body. Someone would die tonight, and Kurama was willing to do anything to make sure Karasu died, even if he had to take himself out in the process.

Several things were worrying Maya at the moment. One, if Karasu didn't die in the next twenty minutes, she would die in an explosion thanks to her ankle 'bracelet.' Two, Shuichi was...she didn't even know anymore. Her sweet and kind friend had turned into this fighter. She couldn't even find the words to describe it. He turned ruthless and violent, and frankly, this dramatic change frightened her a little. Karasu was a demented psycho and deserved it according to her reasoning, and Shuichi was fighting to protect her, but the small hope in her wanted them to just give up and call a truce. Maybe kiss and make up and they could all be best friends!

Highly unlikely, but it was better than the unknown. The biggest fear she had was: does Shuichi really have the capability to kill? That prospect filled her with more dread and fear than the possibility of her own death.

She sat on the sand, kneeling. One hand was trying to twist and pull off the bomb on her ankle, but it was pointless. It was pressed against her skin tightly enough that it made turning it a little painful. Maybe if she could find something to break it, but there was also a thin chain that was anchored firmly to something in the sand. She didn't even bother wondering what it was. After all, Karasu had made this appear out of thin air in the first place. Her life was getting too strange, and she would get no where if she spent time questioning everything.

With a sigh, she slapped the sand in resignation. All her worrying was making it impossible for her to concentrate on one thing for far too long.

She was frightened at the possibility that Shuichi could die, be killed ruthlessly with her watching. It was because of this that she covered her eyes for the majority of the fight. Her heart was pounding erratically in her chest. Any outcome–Kurama killing Karasu, Kurama being killed, her dying–would change everything. She couldn't picture life after this, not even considering the last option coming true. She knew that Shuichi would not let her die, just like with Eight Hands years ago. She had faith in that at least.

Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap. She was close to drawing blood with her fingernails at one point. Her eyes were downcast, squeezing shut with every bang she heard. She didn't want to look up, too afraid to see a crumpled and injured Shuichi. Each passing second only fueled her doubts that either of them, if not both, would come out alive.

Maya tried to keep her mind off the fight, thinking of the happy moments she shared with her friends. She remembered random moments from junior high, where she would laugh at Tasaka's silliness and talk with Shuichi. A hysterical little giggle escaped her lips at a memory. That was when she dared to look up at the fight and locked eyes with Shuichi. Unfortunately, she picked a horrible moment to watch the fight. Several green orbs littered the area, and Shuichi accidentally hit one of them on his back. He seemed to arch as the pain erupted from his back.

Suddenly he looked at her, and Maya was frightened for his well being. The gravity of the fight had finally sunk in when she saw him getting hurt. She now knew that this was going to go on until the death, and it was all for her. She squeezed her eyes shut and looked away, hoping with all her might that Shuichi would actually become a 'murderer' just for tonight.

Kurama jumped back from another bomb. He was doing his best to conserve his energy, keeping any plant attacks at a minimum, but with Karasu, one could never play it safe. Yoko had to emerge soon or it was all for nothing. His vine sword was still intact for the most part, but from his lack of attacks, neither him or Maya would survive at this rate. Playing the defensive was getting too dangerous. He dared another glance at Maya. How long had it been? Ten minutes? Fifteen perhaps?

Karasu suddenly lunged at him, arms outstretched. He was trying to swipe at Kurama. The red head knew better though. Since his long range attacks weren't effective enough, he had to try and touch him to land a decent blow. Kurama kept running backwards, dodging his attacks. Karasu touched a few strands of hair, and a small explosion singed his hair a little.

The crow demon tried to hit his face, but Kurama easily dodged it and tried to use his sword to hit Karasu. He didn't even try to move out of the way and received a gash on his arm, but in return, Karasu was able to hit him against his chest. He let out a bloodcurdling scream and was thrown back from the force of the explosion, landing on the sand. His back ached and stung even more from the sand.

He groaned, eyes flickering open. He barely heard the crow demon's laughter. It took a lot of his strength to stand up again. His back was in constant throbbing pain, and now it was burning. He clutched his chest,attempting to suppress the flow of blood. It squirted out from in between his fingers. Not enough blood had left his body for him to feel dizzy, but at this rate, he would soon pass out from blood loss.

Yoko, he thought desperately. Please tell me you're ready to come out. I can't stall much longer.

/Believe me, Red, I would have come out a long time ago if I could./ Kurama may have been too busy keeping Karasu at bay, but his counterpart was incredibly worried and even trying to come up with strategies for when he would finally come out. It was the only thing he could do to keep his mind off the state of his other self.

Karasu did not relent in his onslaught. He was very skilled in hand to hand combat. Each passing second made it even more difficult for Kurama to dodge, especially with his wounds. It was oddly reminiscent of their fight in the Dark Tournament, but this time he lasted for much longer without Yoko's help. Kurama barely noticed Karasu's change of plan. He still continued with this physical onslaught, but his green orbs made a comeback. Now he had attacks coming at him in many different directions to worry about.

It wasn't long before Karasu was able to hit him, but this time it was from the orbs. It hit Kurama on the back again. The red head screamed once more. It was impossible to hold it in. He arched forward and was hit again on the chest. He was thrown back. He closed his eyes, awaiting the barrage of bombs that would soon follow like last time, but they did not come.

Perhaps it was because he had shut himself from the fight for too long or maybe it was because the pain and blood loss were clouding his senses, but suddenly he felt himself being pulled away from the spot he lay on the beach. His eyes opened, searching frantically. He saw Karasu dragging him somewhere by his legs. He struggled and thrashed, trying to break free. A trail of blood stained the beach.

"Still got a bit of fight left in you I see," said Karasu, smirking.

"What are you planning?" he asked, fighting to keep the pain and fear out of his voice.

"Well, if you're that morbidly curious, blowing you up is so impersonal," he replied nonchalantly.

The sand underneath Kurama became wet and muddy. Soon water was lapping up against his body. He reached behind his neck, conserving his energy be damned. His bloody fingers brushed up against a seed and then–

"Oh, no you don't! I'm not an idiot, Kurama. You can't escape fate."

–there was another explosion that Kurama had no hope for dodging. It was kind of like his head was dragged over a land mine. The red head yelled. His vision was covered with black spots now, and he vaguely felt hot blood flowing from his head. His eyes fluttered, taking seconds to open again. The world around him was in a haze, and he could not process coherent thoughts.

/RED!/ yelled Yoko. He was not affected from the blast since he was not in control.


/Shit. Come on. Stay with me, Red. You can't-/ He couldn't bring himself to finish that sentence. /This is my fault. Hang in there./

In the distance, he heard a muffled scream. The water was now covering his face as he was being dragged. The sudden cold and lack of air woke Kurama from his stupor. He scrambled to lift his head above the water, coughing and spluttering. He still felt too weak to fight Karasu back, and his mind was still too jumbled up to feel or think anything.

Basic survival instincts were beginning to take over. Coughing, he was able to lift his head above water for a few seconds before he would fall back down, limp. The cycle would start all over again as he repeatedly gasped for air.

Karasu seemed to be slowing down the pace, but that wasn't very helpful to Kurama who had suffered a massive head injury and was preoccupied with getting enough air to last him a few seconds. His eyes couldn't correctly focus on anything. He tried to move his body around, but he barely even thrashed around for Karasu to lose his grip. In fact, the crow demon held on tighter.

Maya sat on the sand, her eyes unblinking and frozen in place. Shuichi was being dragged into the ocean. An ear splitting scream erupted from her as an explosion hurt him. There was no fight left in him; she did not see him stir.

She couldn't form a coherent thought. Her breath caught in her throat. She stood up and grabbed the small chain that connected her ankle to the sand. Tears were threatening to spill from her eyes, but didn't. She pulled with all her might and let go when her palms became too raw and tender. Then she tried running, hoping the chain would dislodge from its anchor. That only knocked her down on her butt.

She had to free herself somehow. Shuichi needed her. He was going to drown. She was breathing rapidly enough that she was close to hyperventilating.

The gravity of the situation just hit: Shuichi was going to die.

This time, she quickly dug in the sand, hoping to find the anchor for the chain. Her head quickly bobbed up and down, alternating from the hole and Shuichi.

"Please...I have to get out. Shuichi needs me," she murmured in near hysterics.

When she looked up again, she froze. It was as if her blood had ran cold. Karasu was bending over, and Shuichi was no where. His arms were outstretched into the ocean where there was a huge amount of splashing. It didn't take her long to realize that it was Shuichi making all the commotion.

"No...please, please don't die," said Maya, shuddering. She stood up again, tugging against the chain. Tears streamed down her face.

"Let him go! Stop! STOP!" Her yells went unnoticed by the crow demon though.

"Please..." she said to no one in particular. The splashing sounds in the distance soon slowed and eventually stopped. It was as if Maya's heart stopped for a moment. Her body was wracked with sobs.

Wordlessly, she fell on her knees, plopping down onto the sand. Her arms hung loosely at her side as she cried. She had gone into shock, watching Karasu stand in the ocean, laughing.

She was still in this stupor when Karasu walked towards her. She just sat there and stared out into the water, hoping and praying that Shuichi would emerge any second, but he didn't. There was only the gentle crashing of the waves against the beach.

The dark figure stood in front of her, blocking her line of sight. Her head inclined just a little bit to look at the murderer.

"Hard to believe that the mighty Yoko Kurama dies by drowning," he said nonchalantly, looking down at her.

Maya rocked back and forth slightly, sobbing and hiccuping. The truth had finally sunk in as she beat her fists against the sand, screaming. She thrashed her head side to side, ignoring the chuckles from Karasu. A sharp shell cut her fist, but the pain from her wound was nothing to the anguish she felt. She'd gladly take thousands of cuts like that if it meant bringing Shuichi bag. She stopped hitting the sand, keeping her palms against the ground. Her head was bowed as the tears hit the sand.

"NO! You bastard!" she yelled and stood up. She stared defiantly at Karasu, lips quivering. She clenched her fists and then beat them against his chest. Karasu just smirked and grabbed her by her wrists and threw her aside.

"Stop wasting your tears for a demon," he said coldly.

Maya laid on her side on the beach, heartbroken and with no fight left in her. She curled up into a little ball, crying. Maybe the bomb would go off soon and save her from her misery.

Karasu, who had walked away a few feet, turned back and said, "Oh, you're free to go now."

With a pop, the anklet disappeared, turning into smoke.

A/N: Sorry for the late update. This one ended up being a doozy of a chapter. XD Sorry for the giant word spam. The next update will take some time though. I haven't quite finished the chapter, and I've just started a new job. School is starting again so I won't have too much time on my hands. I'll do my best to work on it though. If you don't hear from me in awhile, please do not hesitate to message me and remind me to write. I won't bite. =D