Here 'tis! Ch 2 of my fic, the revised version! Thanks, Sylvyrblade, for your help! Really appreciate it! Now, don't forget any comments or questions, kay? They'll probably help me find out where I should clarify stuff more!

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CHAPTER 2: WHEN A CURE IS FOUND

[A.C. 195, MAKAI]

Heero looked around him. He could see from a distance the forest where Kurama and Hiei lived. He looked at the unconscious burden in his arms. Duo did not appear to have been hurt by the transfer between dimensions. Heero then started towards the forest.

Kurama felt a familiar ki enter his deadly forest. He quickly looked at Hiei, who nodded. They turned towards the direction of the ki.

A pathway was slowly being opened and a figure walked in the middle. None of the plants attacked, turning away from the unexpected visitor. Soon, he was in the clearing, the pathway weaving closed behind him.

Both Kurama's and Hiei's eyes widened as they saw the boy in their adopted child's arms. A long hank of braided chestnut hair brushed Heero's calves as he walked towards them.

"Heero! Dare da?"

The boy immediately went to Kurama. His cobalt-blue eyes, usually flat and cold, were now filled with turmoil and anguish. "Save him. Onegai shimasu."

Kurama's jaw dropped as he stared at the peaceful form. "N-nani?"

"He has been poisoned by Palyprusi. I was told that the only cure was Silvermist which is extinct in Ningenkai. You must have a seed somewhere, Kurama." They had long since taught Heero to disregard the use of -san or -sama when referring to either the youko or the fire-demon.

"Silvermist? Hai, I think I have some." Kurama ran a finger through his long silver hair. Finally, he came up with a stalk of silver-hued plant, its leaves long and sharp, moist with some kind of liquid. Heero stared at the blade-leafed herb that was Duo's salvation. Kurama immediately knelt on the ground and dug a small hole. He planted the herb and used his ki to make the tiny stalk grow into a healthy herb-plant, the blade-like leaves pointing straight at the sky. The youko tore off one of the leaves, placing it along his silver hair. "Hiei, I need a bowl. Hayaku!"

The fire-demon nodded and with a blur of black, disappeared and reappeared within minutes. He placed a towel, an empty bowl, a bowl of water, and a blanket on the ground. Heero helped him in spreading the blanket on the sun-warmed soil and Kurama carried Duo to lay him down the blanket. The boy slept on, oblivious.

Both dark-haired half-youkai watched Kurama as he plucked several leaves along with a red flower that bloomed at the centre of the herb. Kurama placed them on the bowl and ground them with a stick until it became a white, pulpy fluid. He held the bowl to Duo's mouth, telling Heero to hold the boy's mouth open. Heero did, gently, and watched anxiously as the liquid was poured down Duo's throat. The long-haired boy choked and coughed. Heero immediately pulled him into a half-sitting position and the coughing stopped. The half-okami lowered him back to the ground, watching tiny dots of sunlight dance on Duo's peaceful face as they filtered through the Soul-Searcher's high branches.

"Is he going to be alright?" Heero asked. His eyes were troubled and haunted as they faced Kurama's concerned golden eyes.

"Hai. We administered the cure just in time. But, it's going to take him a while to get back in good shape. Palyprusi burns the insides even as it stimulates the body. He would not be able to fight any time soon."

Heero nodded. He was then caught up in a hearty embrace. He looked up in surprise at Kurama's grinning face.

"We missed you, Heero! Even Hiei did! We heard from Koenma that the war with OZ is escalating even more." Kurama's face became grim. "We heard about what happened with the Federation peace officers."

Heero's eyes widened then he looked away. That incident was one of the many nightmares that haunted him, although the pain was eased by the reassurances of Noventa's family that they did not blame him. Still, Heero could not help but feel responsible.

"Hn. Baka."

Both turned to the fire-demon who had been watching them silently.
Hiei's crimson eyes stared hard into Heero's. "War is war. Anyone who
gets involved knows the price."

:But I started it!: Heero wanted to cry out. He said nothing but merely stared straight into those red orbs, trying to find absolution. "If the ningens were stupid enough to let their enemies into their ranks and trust them fully, they deserve all that they get." With that, Hiei turned away and went back to where he had been sharpening his katana. He plopped himself back onto the shaded slab of rock, pulled out a whetstone and his katana, and began scraping away. Heero blinked and then turned back at Kurama. The other's eyes were filled with laughter and compassion. They then turned back to Duo, who was still sleeping.

"Don't worry, Heero. He's going to get well."

The boy nodded. :You're going to get well, Duo,: he said to himself fiercely. :Yakusoku yo.:

***

Duo slowly opened his eyes. The wavering image in front of him slowly solidified into an unfamiliar room. Alarmed, he tried to sit up, causing a fiery pain in all parts of his body to suddenly explode. He fell back on the mattress he was lying on, gasping, eyes tearing at the excruciating pain. :Shit!: He thought.

Suddenly, a familiar face appeared in front of him. Duo blinked as Heero's initial shadowy face sharpened. He blinked again as he looked into those blue eyes. He could have sworn he had seen worry and fear before they were masked. He pushed the thought away. Heero Yuy did not care for him. At least not in the way he wanted him to care. A callused hand, strangely gentle, landed on his shoulder. Duo focused on Heero's face. "Daijoubu ka?" the other pilot asked in his monotone.

"No, I feel like hell warmed over!"

"That's just the Silvermist trying to eat away the Palyprusi," a deep voice said softly.

"Nanda?!" Duo tried to sit up, but Heero pushed him back down on the mattress. Duo glared at his friend.

An unfamiliar figure appeared beside Heero. Duo gaped as he stared at the tall, silvery-haired man. :W-was that dog ears?: he asked himself, eyeing the said organs with disbelief and fascination. He turned back to Heero who seemed unfazed by the clearly inhuman creature beside him. "H-Heero, where are we? Is that even you?" Duo was beginning to feel very scared. :I'm hallucinating. Aa, that's it! I'm hallucinating!:

"No, you're not hallucinating, Duo." The boy gaped at the Japanese pilot. Heero sighed and looked at the half-dog, half-human creature. The other nodded and left. Duo and Heero were left alone.

"Okay. Heero, that was Trowa, wasn't it? Or maybe Wufei? Are you guys trying to cheer me up or something? Where are we, anyway? This doesn't look like any of the safehouses we've been in!"

Heero halted the American's frantic babbling with a broad hand. He glared at Duo. Duo took a deep breath and was silent, waiting.

"We are in the Makai, the Demon World. That was Kurama, a silver youko, a fox-spirit. There is another one named Hiei. He is Kurama's husband."

Duo rolled his eyes. :Like that explains everything!:

Heero continued on. "You were poisoned by a toxin made from a plant called the Palyprusi. Sally Po could not cure you and I brought you here for Kurama to cure."

Duo's Catholic soul froze in absolute horror. "You-you sold your soul to demons to save m-me?"

A smirk appeared in Heero's face. He leaned forward until their noses brushed. "That had been done long ago, Duo. You see, I'm not human." Terror tore through Duo's soul. He had often joked about Heero's 'inhuman' capabilities but he had never expected anything like this. He began edging away, ignoring the burning pain that his movements created.

Heero grabbed his arms and held him. "Bakayarou!" He scolded the squirming Duo. The other boy, exhausted by his own actions, merely lay there, gasping. His violet eyes still wild and frightened. Heero's face softened. He gently stroked Duo's rounded cheek, flinching as the other boy recoiled from him. He let Duo go and stood up, back towards the mattress.

"Please, just leave me alone," Duo mumbled. "I don't want to be a vampire or a demon. Don't touch me! Don't come near me!" Heero's shoulders shook as those words tore through him. The last two sentences were so familiar. They were the dying screams that he hear every night in his dreams.

"We won't hurt you, Duo. Kurama was the only one who could save you. I'll send you back to Ningenkai, the Human world, if you want." His fists were clenched at his sides.

Those words pierced through the hazy fog that shrouded Duo's brain. He shook his head and stared at the other's ramrod-straight back.

"H-honto? You'd send me back?"

"Hai."

Duo rested back against the mattress, chewing on his bottom lip and his eyebrows drawing into a frown. :Why did Heero save me?: he suddenly asked himself. :Was it because I was his partner? Was it because Shinigami was still needed? Or was it something else?:

"Naze, Heero? Why did you save me?"

"Because…because…because…"

"Yes?" Duo's heart was fluttering with hope.

"We still need your skills as a pilot."

Duo's breath rushed out. He ignored the ache deep within as he moved on to his next question. "What are you?"

"I'm a half-breed. My father was a wolf-spirit, an okami, and my mother was a Japanese ninja. She died giving birth to me and I was brought up in my father's clan here in the Makai."

"H-how old are you?"

Heero hesitated before speaking. "255 years old."

Duo gaped at Heero's back. "255 *YEARS* OLD?!" he squeaked, eyes round as saucers.

"Hai."

"No wonder you became a pilot then," Duo said suddenly, bitterness seeping in his words. "You're fucking immortal! It's hilarious the way you keep self-destructing when you can't even die!" :The pain and agony that I feel every time you do it means nothing,: he thought to himself contemptuously. :I'm such a fool.:

"You're wrong!"

Heero's reply was intense enough to catch Duo's attention again. He fell silent, eyes watching warily. Heero continued on, "Demons die. We may live long lives but we can die as easily as humans do. The only difference is that we don't grow old as fast as humans."

Suddenly, the fox-spirit, Kurama as Heero called him, appeared in the doorway again. His golden eyes flicked from Heero to Duo and back again. "Heero, your friend must rest. Koenma is here to see you." Heero nodded and followed Kurama out of the door. Duo lay back, staring at the wooden ceiling, deep in thought. :What am going to do now?: he asked himself. :He is not who I thought he was. What do I feel towards him now?:

That question remained unanswered as the exhausted American fell into a deep sleep.

*****

"Koenma, what is it?" Hiei asked the diminutive Lord of Death. Koenma looked at Heero inquisitively, quite a task since he had his eyes close. The Gundam pilot looked back impassively.

"Makai, Reikai, and Ningenkai are under attack once again."

"NANI?" Both Kurama and Hiei shouted. Koenma glared at them. They fell silent.

"Somehow, youkai are managing to appear in Ningenkai once more. They possess or take forms of the soldiers down there and are going on rampages. They must be stopped."

"But the Reikai Tantei," Kurama started. Koenma lifted a tiny hand.

"You know that the new Tantei have other problems to worry about. Zashoun is not the only criminal on the loose. They cannot handle these cases."

"Well, me and Hiei are more than willing to fight but Yusuke has his kingdom to rule and Kuwabara," Kurama hesitated then forged on,

"Kuwabara is dead."

"I know that! I already know who will be the new Reikai Tantei." Koenma turned his head to face Heero. The boy merely stared back blandly. "The Gundam pilots would become the new Tantei."

"No."

Koenma shook his head. "You don't have a choice, Heero. You see, it's Zashoun."

Heero's blood ran cold. Zashoun, dark-haired, sloe-eyed, master sorcerer, able to summon and control elementals at will. His master. His lover. His saviour. His destroyer.

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Whatcha think of the ending? Other readers told me it was a
cliffhanger. I love doing that to people. ^_~ Makes them come back
for the next installment!

Ja ne!

Kimi