Dragon Illusions

Writing >> Yu Yu Hakusho Fanfic >> Masquerade

Author's Notes:

One fine day, I stumbled accross K + B, a web site dedicated to two characters of Yuu Yuu Hakusho, Kurama and Botan. Now, I KNOW that pairing Kurama and Botan together really isn't in continuity with the original TV series. To be honest, it never even occurred to me, not even after I'd watched both movies and 50+ episodes.

But the wonderful stories on K + B, have inspired me to try my hand at writing K + B fan fics. If the pairing seems weird to you, just think of this as an Alternate Universe type of story. This is just my third attempt at writing fan fiction. Please be patient with me.

Please enjoy. C&C are much appreciated. Flames will be ignored.

Regards,
Shawny Wong
shawnywong@yahoo.com

December, 1999

Masquerade: A Kurama and Botan Story
A Yuu Yuu Hakusho Fan Fic by Shawny Wong

CHAPTER 1

She was having a bad day.

Icy cold wind wailed through the thick jungles of Makai, the Demon World, with enough force to bend all but the sturdiest trees in its path. Night was fast descending. The last rays of sunlight faded over the distant horizon, casting a bloody tinge to everything they touched. As many denizens of Makia were nocturnal, the normally treacherous jungles were about to become even more lethal, when demons of all shapes and sizes swarmed the jungles.

She shivered and huddled even deeper into her small makeshift shelter. It was simply a tiny burrow in the earth, just under an outcropping of rock and concealed by a hedge that had grown at its mouth. She had stumbled upon it almost fortuitously, nearly breaking a leg, when she fell off the slab of rock that was now protecting her back.

She couldn't run any further today.

She shivered again, her torn kimono providing very little warmth. One frozen hand with badly scraped knuckles reached back in a vain attempt at tidying an unkempt mass of pale blue hair. Once neat, her hair was matted with dirt, sweat, and brambles. She was almost glad that her fingers were numb with cold. The parts of her that weren't numb were aching horribly, especially her back where the man-eating spider had hurled her at a tree.

That had HURT.

But those were the least of her worries. Particularly since a vindictive enemy possessed by ancient demon was trying so hard to kill her.

It started to rain.

She was having a VERY bad day.

***

Three weeks ago:

The layout of Shotoku University was simple and elegant. Four long rectangular buildings formed an enclosure around a large grassy area, in a manner that was very reminiscent of olden villages, where individual houses would form an enclosure around the town square. Each of these buildings housed one of Shotoku University's four main schools. On the north, resided the School of Arts and Humanities, a building almost as flamboyant as its students. Colorful banners hung from open windows and every square inch of free wall space was covered in murals. On the south, resided the School of Agriculture, whose only décor was the semicirle of antique tractors on display before its main entrance. On the east, resided the School of Social Science. The flags of at least twenty world nations flew from the roof of this four story building. On the west, resided the School of Science and Engineering, newly remodelled. The sleek black and silver lines and contours of this structure gave it futuristic visage.

But the pride and joy of Shotoku University was Uzume Arboretum, home of more than several hundred species of plants, complete with its very own creek. Kappa Creek ran down from a lake several miles away. The arboretum was located behind the School of Science and Engineering.

The enclosed area in the center of campus was popularly known to its student body as the "Quad," and it served many purposes. It was used for picnics, fairs, rallies, student assemblies, as well as for noon-time performances by the students in the School of Arts and Humanities. On a typical spring day, most students could be found on the Quad, either studying outdoors or just enjoying the day, two things for which the Quad was perfectly suited.

But on this day, the Quad served another more menacing purpose.

It was a battlefield.

Kazuma Kuwabara, 18 year old college student, glared balefully at his latest enemy. He clenched his fists so tightly that his knuckles turned white. But his enemy was not intimidated and only stared back innocently. With a pounding heart and a dry mouth, Kuwabara felt the first stirrings of fear awakening in his heart.

"ARGH! I CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE!"

Shuichi Minamino, 18 year old college student, looked up from his Chemistry assignment. Emerald eyes twinkled merrily as he suppressed a laugh. Study sessions with his carrot-headed friend were always diverting.

Shuichi especially enjoyed studying outdoors with the sun warming his back. It reminded him of the few peaceful times he had enjoyed in his previous incarnation as the fox demon, Youko Kurama. Then, his favorite pasttime had been to shift into his smaller, four-legged form and sun himself on a handy slab of rock.

"Screaming at your math homework won't get it done any faster, Kuwabara."

The pencil in Kuwabara's hands snapped under the forceful grip of his hands. He turned his baleful glare on his companion who wasn't intimidated either.

"This isn't easy, you know!"

"No. I suppose not," Shuichi smiled serenely.

Kuwabara stared suspiciously at him, unsure whether or not he was being teased.

"Here. Let me help you," offered Kurama.

"Thanks," replied Kuwabara grudgingly.

Kurama had scored so highly in his mathematics placement exams that he was a year ahead of the other first year students at Shotoku University. As much as he, Kazuma Kuwabara, hated to ask for help, he knew he needed it. Math was not his forte and past experience had already shown that Kurama was an excellent tutor.

Kurama set aside his chemistry books and placed them in a stack neatly beside him. From the corner of his eye, he could see a gaggle of girls surreptitiously glancing in his direction. He sighed. Lately, the incessant, fawning attention of Shuichi Minamino's "fan club" had started grate on his nerves. In the past, his fan club would have been just another rather amusing pasttime.

'After all, if they LIKE to compliment me... Let them,' he had rationalized in high school. Why should he discourage it? He was a VAIN fox, too. Who else had hair that was such a brilliant shade of red?

'But now... Really. We're in a university. MUST they act like witless schoolgirls?' he thought with some exasperation. Of late, he had found the attention more of a bother, than the diverting game he used to play.

He reached for a clean sheet of notebook paper.

"What are you having problems with, Kuwabara?"

"EVERYTHING!"

Kurama raised an eyebrow. Kuwabara was, in all honesty, more intelligent than he thought. "Please be more specific."

Kuwabara opened his mouth to reply, when he was suddenly interrupted by a loud, familiar greeting.

"Yo! Kuwabara! Kurama!"

Kurama turned and was hardly surprised to see Yuuske Urameshi, their long time friend, sauntering up to them with his hands stuck in his pockets and his jet black hair slicked back. Yuuske had been one of Kurama's first friends since high school.

"Hello, Yuuske," he said with a smile. "What are you doing here?"

Unlike he and Kuwabara, Yuuske had not graduated high school with them. Instead of attending high school like a normal teenager, Yuuske had spent the better part of his high school years battling demons and saving the world. It was unfortunate that the world would never know. Kuwabara had also fought along side Yuuske on many occasions. But Kuwabara, at least, hadn't spent three years in Makai, the Demon World, fighting a tournament to determine the next ruler of that world.

Yuuske shrugged carelessly.

"Keiko's mad again. So I thought I'd see what you guys were up to."

Kuwabara grimaced.

"Math homework. Kurama's helping. Man! Fighting demons is easier," muttered Kuwabara unhappily.

"Hah!" grinned Yuuske. "You definitely need all the help you can get!"

"What did you say!"

"Are you deaf AND dumb?"

"WHY YOU!" Kuwabara began heatedly. "I don't see you doing any better. How are YOUR studies going?"

The fact that Kuwabara refrained from ribbing Yuuske for not graduating high school gave proof that Kuwabara DID possess some miniscule amount of tact, although this was not often apparent to his friends. Yuuske, with Keiko's encouragement, was studying at an adult night class.

Yuuske looked a tad sheepish.

"Actually, I need all the help I can get too," he confessed, looking at Kurama hopefully.

"Would you like me to come by later and help you with another lesson?" asked Kurama diplomatically.

Yuuske hated asking for help almost as much as Kuwabara. But it was either ask Keiko, his childhood sweetheart, or ask Kurama, Kurama being the lesser of the two evils.

"Only if you have time."

Kurama thought for a moment. His stepfather was expecting him at his part time job later this afternoon. But he had no plans for the evening.

"Why don't you come by around seven tonight?" suggested Kurama.

"Thanks," replied Yuuske, gruffly.

After a minute, the conversation turned towards other topics. As always, Yuuske and Kuwabara started squabbling again, Kuwabara's homework forgotten.

"Maniac!"

"Psycho!"

"Ugly!"

"Idiot!"

Other, more colorful expletives, were exchanged between them.

Seeing that his friends were otherwise occupied, Kurama turned his attention inward. It was strange, he reflected. Since the beginning of the year, he'd discovered that helping his friends gave him almost as much pleasure as growing plants. In some ways, it was very similar.

But soon, the gathering of spiritual power distracted him from his thoughts. Yuuske and Kuwabara were at each other's throats again.

Tiny sparkles of light started to gather around the tip of Yuuske's index finger, as he "charged" his signature weapon, the Spirit Gun. Meanwhile, a pale orange glow started to emanate from Kuwabara's palm, an clear indicator that he was about to call forth HIS signature weapon, the Spirit Sword.

Kurama shook his head in chagrin. For best friends, they enjoyed fighting a bit much for his tastes.

"You fight like a wimp!"

"Oh, yeah? At least I don't fight like a GIRL!"

"Hey! Cut it out you guys!" Kurama broke in. He glanced around at all the students on the Quad, some of whom were starting to take notice of the altercation. "We're in public. Remember?"

Properly chastised, they dropped their fighting stances and dissapated their spiritual energy.

"He started it," muttered Kuwabara, unable to resist one final jab at Yuuske.

"Hey!"

'Children,' thought Kurama with some exasperation.

"Shouldn't you be working on your math, Kuwabara?"

"M-m-math!" he spluttered, instantly turning a pasty shade of gray.

Yuuske grinned evilly at his best friend. Then a thought occurred to him. Why was Kurama, star student, spending so much time with Kuwabara, academic dunce? They were friends certainly. But they each had their own circle of friends too.

"Why are you studying with Kuwabara?" asked Yuuske curiously. "Wouldn't you get more done on your own, Kurama?"

Kurama passed a weary hand over his eyes.

"No."

"Why not?"

Kurama glanced over his shoulder at the flock of schoolgirls that he had been trying hard to ignore. Not only were they still there, but the flock had grown in size. He unintentionally caught the eye of a pretty brunette. She squealed in delight and promptly passed out.

His shoulders sagged and he closed his eyes in resignation.

Yuuske, who had been following his gaze, burst out laughing loudly enough to wake the dead. Kurama winced.

"It's not that funny, Yuuske."

"Huh?" Kuwabara was clueless.

"I study with Kuwabara for protection. As soon as I'm alone, I get MOBBED. You don't know how irritating that is," Kurama explained. "Then I don't get ANYTHING done."

"I don't believe it!" Yuuske exclaimed. "Since when have you started to DISLIKE all the attention you get?"

"Since..." Kurama trailed off.

Since when HAD he begun to find it more irritable than pleasant?

'Since I started spending more and more time with HER,' came the unbidden thought. Kurama frowned. 'That's not true, is it?'

Lately, he had been running into Botan more and more frequently. Coincidence, right?

'How often are our encounters TRULY coincidence?' he asked himself, a little uncertainly.

Had he been unconsiously seeking her out?

"Since... since we started university," he blurt out. "I mean come on! We're not in high school anymore!"

Yuuske and Kuwabara scruntinized Kurama with critical eyes.

Kurama was an attractive young man whose brilliant green eyes had caused more than one girl's heart to flutter. His deep red hair framed a face that was almost too handsome to belong to a mere male. At the moment he was wearing the standard school uniform of Shotoku University, like Kuwabara. But unlike his friend, Kurama wore the ordinary attire as if it had been tailored especially for him. The short, black jacket and black trousers enhanced his already slender appearance and contrasted vividly with his flaming hair, making him even more devastating to the opposite sex.

Kuwabara was quite, quite ordinary in comparison.

"I don't know what the girls see in you, dude," Yuuske said, frowning in puzzlement. He saw nothing more than an apparently ordinary young man, who happened to be one of his best friends.

"Me neither," added Kuwabara. "No offense, but you're scrawny." Kuwabara, who stood nearly a foot taller than Kurama, flexed his own bulging muscles.

"Maybe it's the hair," mused Yuuske.

"Really?" asked Kuwabara with interest. "Should I grow out my hair, too?"

A sudden image of his homely friend with a wild mane of ORANGE hair made Kurama's aesthetic sense shudder in horror.

"No!" shouted Yuuske hastily, as the same thought crossed his mind. "It's probably NOT the hair, Kuwabara."

"Oh."

Kuwabara scratched his head, not quite understanding Kurama's problem.

"What's so bad about all the attention? Isn't it nice to have the girls like you?"

"It's not just the girls."

"You don't mean..." Yuuske nearly fell over as Kurama's implication hit him.

Kurama nodded an affirmative.

"I've been hit on by almost as many guys as girls."

"EWW!" Yuuske gagged.

"No way!" Kuwabara's jaw dropped.

"It's true," he inisted. "NOW do you see what I have to put up with? Everyday I get more wilted flowers and useless trinkets than I know what to do with. And that's not all. One poor boy even tried to give me chocolates for Valentine's Day!"

Yuuske tried very hard not to laugh at Kurama's disgruntled expression.

Kurama noticed and was NOT amused.

"It's not funny, Yuuske. I do NOT go that way."

"But it can't be ALL bad," Kuwabara protested. "Didn't Tomiko Ogata proposition you yesterday?"

"Don't remind me," Kurama groaned.

"You mean it's true?"

"Who's that?" inquired Yuuske.

"Reputedly the most popular girl in the student body. She's a third year student in my history class."

"Really?" Now Yuuske was interested.

"So what happened?" asked Kuwabara with his usual amount of tact.

"And don't leave out the details."

"ARGH! You guys are as bad as GIRLS!" Kurama grumbled, rolling his eyes.

Yuusked and Kuwabara eyed each other.

"Nope. We're WORSE!" they chorused simultaneously.

Kurama started to wonder if he should run for cover. But one look at the expectant expressions on his friends disuaded him. They were the most tenacious pair he had ever met. He wasn't about evade them easily. He sighed in defeat.

"She asked me to go out with her for ice cream. I said no."

"But I LIKE ice cream," Kuwabara protested. At that moment, his stomach rumbled, remining him that he hadn't had lunch yet.

"I don't think with my stomach, Kuwabara!" Kurama shrugged. "Besides, if I had agreed to go, she would have taken it as a sign that I was interested. And I am NOT interested."

Yuuske looked thoughtful.

"Hmm... Does this Tomiko Ogata have long black hair? Kinda pretty? But wears enough makeup to make her look like a witch?" he asked rhetorically.

"How did you know?" asked Kuwabara perplexed.

"Then that would be her, coming this way."

Kurama turned warily. Sure enough, Tomiko Ogata, the bane of the female population at Shotoku University was sauntering up to them. She took deliberate steps, her hips swaying slightly to attract the male attention she seemed to thrive on. Kurama was a little surprised at Yuuske's astuteness. For someone who apparently never paid any attention to girls, Keiko being the only exception, his observations were very accurate. Tomiko Ogata possessed a seductive kind of allure, which she enhanced with dark eyeshadow and heavy lipstick. The black blazer of her school uniform heightened the paleness of her complexion. The pleated black skirt was worn several inches shorter than the norm, exposing as much leg as possible.

Kurama had to agreed with Yuuske. She was kind of pretty, if you liked black widows. He tensed, not liking the calculating gleam he saw in her dark eyes.

"Shuichi-CHAN! I'm so happy to see you!" she declared with enough sacharine to sweeten a lemon. She placed a hand on his arm, the long red nails creasing the sleeve.

Kurama masked the irritation he felt and faced her politely, almost wishing that Shuichi Minamino didn't need to maintain a reputation for being courteous.

"Good afternoon, Ogata-SAN." He gently disengaged her hand, not missing the hardness that appeared in her eyes. "You're being very familiar."

"Not as familiar as I would like," she said with a pout, leaning forward just a bit.

Yuuske and Kuwabara snickered as discretely as they knew how, which, for two ex-delinquents, wasn't very discretely at all. This drew Tomiko's attention to them and she frowned in displeasure.

"Aren't you going to introduce me to your friends, Shuichi-chan?"

"Of course, Ogata-san. Please pardon my thoughtlessness," Kurama apologized. "Kazuma Kuwabara and Yuuske Urameshi. Guys, meet Tomiko Ogata."

"Pleased to meet you," Yuuske and Kuwabara mumured. The customary words of greeting fell from their lips without much sincerity.

'Not as sweet as my Yukina-chan,' Kuwabara thought. He had seen Tomiko from afar, but he'd never actually met her before. The psychic intuition that all members of his family possessed was making him uneasy. There was something strange about this girl. For once, he wished his sister, Shizuru, was around. Her sixth sense was usually more accurate than his.

"Charmed," said Tomiko, sounding anything but. The big oaf with orange hair was too plain for her tastes, and while other one was rather good-looking, he appeared to have the sensitivity of a rock. Not interested, she turned her full attention back on Kurama.

"Actually, Shuichi-chan," she purred. "I was hoping to ask you for a favor. Could you help with my studies tonight? I'm afraid I'm not doing as well as you are in History."

"I'm sorry, Ogata-san. But I've already promised to help my friends with their studies tonight," he said apologetically. He covertly caught Yuuske's eye.

"Uh, yeah," interjected Yuuske, hastily. One look at Kurama told him that it would be in his best interests to speak up. He did NOT relish the idea of a fox demon inflicting endless agony upon him. "We kinda had plans with Shuichi for tonight, miss."

"Oh, that's so disappointing," Tomiko pouted, masking her frustration as Shuichi continued to elude her. It was almost as if he was going out of his way to avoid her. "I was REALLY hoping we could get together, Shuichi-chan."

Kurama mentally winced.

What he needed was a way to make Tomiko lose interest in him. Then he needed a way to lose the fan club.

"Hey, guys!"

Kurama smiled at the cheery greeting. He turned to see a familiar girl with pale blue hair running a little breathlessly up to them.

"Hey, Botan!" Yuuske gave her a wide smile.

"Hey, Botan! What are you doing here?" asked Kuwabara.

"Koemma gave me a day off," declared Botan cheerfully. "So I came to see you guys, of course."

Tomiko fumed silently, not pleased that her place as the center of attention had been usurped. Who was this interloper? Her displeasure did not go unnoticed as a gleam appeared in Kurama's eyes. He had just found the perfect solution to his problem.

'OR... I could make myself unavailable.'

The foxy side of his inherent nature delightedly seized the idea. The posiblities were endless! He pounced on the opportunity that had just presented itself.

"Botan-CHAN! I'm so glad to see you!"

Kurama stepped forward and enveloped her in a hug.

Yuuske gawked.

Kuwabara blinked. Then he rubbed his eyes and blinked again.

Botan's jaw dropped at Kurama's exuberant greeting.

'Since WHEN has Kurama ever called me Botan-CHAN!?' she thought completely dazed. Reluctantly, Botan stepped out of his warm embrace pushing gently at his chest.

"Shuichi," she began, using his human name, being mindful that they were in public. She looked up at him with wide lavender eyes full of worry. "Are you feeling all right?"

"Of course I am, especially now that YOU'RE here. I missed you," Kurama said warmly. His gaze fell lovingly upon the enchanting girl before him. Her concerned expression touched his heart. Botan was worried about him? In that moment, a sudden insight struck. He spoke the truth.

But Kurama was not given time to ponder this new revelation.

Kuwabara, being Kuwabara, could only gape at the scene before him. Upon seeing Botan in Kurama's warm embrace, he came to the obvious conclusion and jumped.

"WHAT! You never told me that you were dating Botan!" he burst out in a voice loud enough for the entire student body to hear.

The entire student body heard.

A hush fell over the Quad.

The pretty brunette who'd fainted earlier woke up only to hear this latest piece of news. Her eyes rolled back in her head as she promptly fainted again.

"I... I..."

Botan froze like a deer caught in headlights as she felt all eyes on her. What was wrong with Kurama? What was going on? She hesitantly raised her eyes to meet his. His eyes, normally as tranquil as the eye of a storm, were turbulent with emotion. Unreadable. The intensity of his regard made her heart beat faster.

Kurama ignored the outburst and simply pulled her back into his embrace. He leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on the tip of her nose.

"I really missed you, Botan-chan."

Botan could feel the telltail heat of a furious blush creeping up her face. But even in her state of distraction, she noticed a group of girls hanging onto their every word and action. Understanding dawned.

That sneaky fox! He could have WARNED her.

She was tempted beyond words to stalk off in a fit of righteous indignation. But Kurama was a good friend, she reminded herself, despite the bitter taste of disappointment that lingered in her mouth. Friends help friends in need. However, her cheerful nature soon diffused her ire. She could even see the irony in the situation. The fox needed protection from foxy females.

She decided to play along and gave him a quick wink.

"Hmm... I missed you, too, Shu-chan," she murmured, resting her head on his shoulder.

Still, her awareness of his true intentions didn't stop the warmth that rose in her face. Just because she escorted the souls of the dead didn't mean she was dead! Kurama was a VERY attractive individual.

"Well, it's about time!" Yuuske drawled with a wink. At Kurama's raised eyebrow, he clarified, "I always thought you guys had something going on the side. Congradulations!"

"But... But... Botan and Shuichi!?" Poor Kuwabara was lost, again.

"Who is your little friend?" Tomiko asked with a hint of malice.

"Ogata-san, allow me to introduce my girlfriend, Botan. Botan, Tomiko Ogata."

The reaction from his fanclub was everything he could have desired. Half fainted on the spot. The other half started to weep. Unfortunately, Tomiko did neither. Darn.

"Pleased to meet you, Tomiko," Botan said with good cheer.

Tomiko blatantly ignored her rival.

"Isn't she a little YOUNG for you, Minamino?"

Botan supressed a giggle. She was 432 years old. Although, come to think of it, Kurama was at least twice her age. Goodness, he must be nearing his 1000th birthday. Perhaps she was a bit young for Kurama after all.

"Not at all, Ogata-san. Botan isn't as young as she looks," Kurama said, amused.

"Indeed," Tomiko managed stiffly.

"Shu-chan, may I have a word with you, in private?" Botan implored.

"Of course."

Kurama took her hand and to lead her away.

As soon as they were out of sight, the Quad took on a life of it's own. Gossip spread like wildfire. Shuichi Minamino, the university's most sought after male, had a girlfriend.

Chapter 2

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