Chapter 10

Yoko had to admit, even if only to himself, that he was impressed with Hiei. While the koorime had impressed him with the ability not to flinch in face of his power, Yoko hadn’t expected him to surpass all of his expectations.

The koorime had mastered fighting with him and his whips in the time limit he’d set and hadn’t once complained about the pain inflicted on him during the training or during the few punishments he’d managed to earn. Those, Yoko admitted, were few and far between and occurred only when Hiei overstepped his bounds, testing the limits as all new partners have a tendency to do.

And the sex, well, there was no way he could complain about that. Hiei had proven time and again that there were much better uses for his mouth than talking. Yoko smirked, thinking that he might test those uses later.

Now, though, he had more important matters to consider. It had been three months since he’d taken Hiei on as his partner and it was time to announce it to the world. The time allotted to him for training purposes was up. And Hiei was as trained as he would ever be. There was no doubt in Yoko’s mind that his partner was up for the task. He just wasn’t sure the world would be up to accepting Hiei.

Once Yoko made the announcement, other S class demons were going to start coming for frequent visits to see how well behaved Hiei was. And with the disdain for male koorimes so high in the makai, if Hiei made even one mistake within the first year of observation, the consequences would be nigh unbearable.

Yoko sighed and relaxed back into the couch, wishing he had a way to make the world see that the prejudice they held towards Hiei for his very existence was unwarranted. But the makai was steeped so deeply in the old ways that it wasn’t going to be easy to keep a claim on the S class title with Hiei as his partner. But it wasn’t a title he could afford to lose.

Losing S class status would seriously cramp his style. He was used to the luxury and infamy that the status provided him with. The power he had would always be S class level-that couldn’t be taken away from him. But once you became S class, it stopped being about the levels of power you possessed and started being about how well you played politics with the other S class demons.

And this move, taking a male koorime as his partner, wasn’t going to be viewed favorably by anyone. Not unless he spent the obligatory two years proving to everyone in the S class world that Hiei was the perfect partner. That there was no “bad blood” in him that made him act out inappropriately during formal events or during visits from other S class demons who would spend the entire time subtly criticizing him.

That dance was going to be difficult enough, but add on top of that the fact that Yoko was fairly sure he was in love with Hiei and everything started to disintegrate. First, because he hadn’t told Hiei how he felt. And he knew the koorime wasn’t likely to just “know” because he lacked self-worth. How could he not, with the life he’d been forced to lead? Yoko rubbed his eyes. All of this was making his head hurt. “Mist,” he called. “Bring me some chamomile tea.”

A couple minutes later, Yoko was nursing his tea as he considered the options before him. He had to announce Hiei. There was no way around that and he didn’t want there to be. He wasn’t ashamed of his partner. The political dancing was going to be tiring but it would be good to exercise those muscles. He hadn’t had to use them in a long while, being as secure as he was in his position as the makai’s most legendary thief.

But that was the least of his worries. There were sure to be demons who would disapprove of Hiei so much that they would send assassins or attempt it themselves, depending on their stature in the S class world. There were a scant few demons ranked higher than Yoko and they wouldn’t bother themselves with someone of a lesser rank. In a way, it made Yoko wish he was still on the bottom of the rung. At least lower status demons didn’t have to worry about upper class demons coming after them. There was no reason to usurp a lesser being’s position.

But he had to face facts. He was a high rank S class demon with an A-class power D-ranked demon as a partner. That fact alone would cause problems but add into the mix that not only was his partner a koorime, but a male koorime, and the problems immediately escalated. And part of Yoko dreaded the tightrope walking he was being forced to do, but the rest of him was exhilarated. This was why he’d taken on such a difficult partner in the first place. He’d been bored out of his mind and Hiei had been the only demon to stir any interest in him at all.

Yoko smiled, thinking of the day that Hiei had first graced his doorstep and told Mist off. Not a lot of demons had the guts to tell off a tremor demon, but Hiei hadn’t flinched. And in the time since that day, he’d overheard his partner threatening his aide with death. Not that such a threat would be carried out, of course, since Yoko was the only one allowed to decide who Hiei could kill.

A light knock on the door told him Hiei was outside.

“Come in,” Yoko said. He watched as the door opened, one of Hiei’s hands falling down from the doorknob to resume its proper position on the floor as he crawled into the room. Yoko had meant to lift the rule that made Hiei spend all of his time on hands and knees after it’d sunken into his partner that he was allowed nothing without his permission, not even his own two feet, but he’d gotten to enjoy watching Hiei crawl to him too much to do so.

Hiei crawled to the couch where Yoko sat, the muscles of his back bunching up under the light blue tank-top he wore, his black shorts outlining the muscles in his thighs. Once in front of Yoko, he sat back on his heels, kneeling properly in front of his Solo, hands clasped behind him with his head up and eyes downcast.

“I take it you’re done with your training for today?”

“Yes, Solo,” Hiei said.

Yoko smiled. It had taken a few punishments before Hiei had learned that even rhetorical questions demanded answers. “Have you made any progress with the poisoner?”

Hiei grimaced. “Not as much as I would like, Solo. I am having trouble memorizing the plant names.”

Yoko raised an eyebrow. “You’ve been working on poisons for almost a month and you’re still having trouble with the plant names?”

Hiei nodded, ashamed. “Yes, Solo,” he said, remembering himself.

Yoko was pleased that Hiei had caught himself. He had no wish to punish his partner for something so minuscule when they had such an important matter to discuss. But that would wait. Right now, he needed to find a way to speed up Hiei’s learning. Poisons were one of the simplest fighting techniques at his disposal and Hiei was going to be at a severe disadvantage if he didn’t learn the ins and outs of it before the first assassin was on their doorstep. “I will start coming with you to lessons,” he said.

“Solo?” Hiei startled. Yoko never came to lessons with him.

Yoko raised an eyebrow. “Unless you have an objection?”

“No, of course not,” Hiei said hastily. “It just took me by surprise. You’ve not shown interest in attending lessons with me before.”

“This is a matter of life and death,” Yoko said, turning his serious gaze on his partner. “I have to announce you to the S class world next week.”

Hiei flinched at the news, but didn’t break his gaze. “They’re going to send assassins,” he said, his voice cool. “You need me to learn poisons so I can defend myself.”

“Yes,” Yoko said, unsurprised that Hiei had put the pieces together so easily. His partner was more than a match for him in intelligence. “I will help you learn.”

“It’s going to be bad, isn’t it?” Hiei asked, his voice soft.

Yoko reached out a hand, running it through Hiei’s soft locks. “Worse than you can imagine, Hiei. Worse by far.”

Hiei nodded, an eerie calm falling over him. “We’ve not fought together on a real battlefield,” he said, mind racing. “How badly will that affect us?”

Yoko gave a smile that was all teeth. “It won’t.”

Hiei shivered at the intense look in his Solo’s eyes. “Why not?” he asked, his voice a near whisper.

“Because,” Yoko said, “we’re going to fight together for real tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow, Solo?” Hiei asked.

“Yes,” Yoko said. “We’re going to go Hunting.” A thrill of excitement ran through him. It’d been a long time since he’d gone Hunting. The small amount of money bounties offered for demons who had escaped into worlds other than the makai was rarely worth it. But the thrill of the chase with his partner by his side…he closed his eyes, shuddering with the pleasure he knew it would bring them.

Chapter 9     Chapter Index     Chapter 11

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