Chapter 12

Yoko frowned thoughtfully at his cousin, who was leading the way back to his mansion. He’d expected the younger kitsune to put up more of a fight. That he hadn’t really struggled worried Yoko. It meant the bounty hunters were hot on Mayai’s tail and he’d seen Yoko as a way to divert their attention.
After all, there wasn’t a single bounty hunter in the Makai that wouldn’t love to get their hands on the elusive legend. Yoko sighed and spared a glance back at Hiei.

The koorime walked with his shoulders slightly hunched, hands tucked into his pockets. To Yoko, his body language was screaming that he knew he’d done something wrong and was mentally preparing himself for punishment.

One of the best things about taking Hiei on as a partner was the koorime’s sense of honor. He wouldn’t lie to Yoko, not even to save himself from punishment. And he’d own up to the smallest infraction, ones that Yoko might sometimes be inclined to overlook. It made Yoko smile. He hated being lied to, despite having to use lies himself when he needed them for his work.

He cast another worried glance at Mayai. For the young fox to fall into his life now, during a brewing season of trouble, didn’t bode well. Having to take care of Mayai, on top of dealing with the S class demons regarding his partnership with Hiei-Yoko didn’t know if he was up to that much of a challenge.

Ah, hell. Who was he kidding? He lived for challenge. The challenge Hiei presented had been the reason he’d agreed to take the koorime on his partner in the first place. Well, that, and the fact that male koorime were so damned rare.

“Mayai,” Yoko said, keeping his tone even. “How far behind you are they?”

Mayai started, his gaze furtively darting between Yoko and the trees beside the path they walked on. “I don’t know what you mean,” he said.

Yoko scowled and yanked the younger kitsune back towards him, curling his hand around Mayai’s neck so that the tip of his claws pressed against the kitsune’s throat. “How far?” he asked again.

Mayai swallowed against the pressure on his throat. “Three days,” he whispered.

Yoko released him. “And when were you planning on telling me this?” he asked.

“Um. Never?” Mayai said, flinching at the warning growl Yoko gave. “I’m pretty sure I lost them! I’ve been covering my tracks.”

Hiei snorted. “Any fool can see you don’t know the first thing about covering your tracks,” he said. “You’re like a kit trying to run before it can crawl.”

Mayai scowled, planting his feet with his hands on his hips. “You can’t talk to me like that!” he said.

Hiei arched an eyebrow. “Oh?”

Mayai whirled to face Yoko. “Cousin, tell him he can’t speak to me like that!”

“Like what?” Yoko asked.

“He’s being disrespectful!” Mayai stuck out his bottom lip.

It was all Yoko could do not to laugh at his cousin. “From where I’m standing, it sounds to me as if he’s speaking as an adult to an errant child,” he said.

“I am not a child!” Mayai said, the petulance in his tone a clear contrast to the words.

Hiei rolled his eyes. “You are a child if you think claiming you’re not one makes it so.”

Mayai looked between the two of them, trying to gauge which one of them would take his side. When it became clear neither of them would, he deflated. “Fine,” he said flatly. “I’ll just go my own way.”

Yoko snagged him by the collar before he could take two steps. “You’ll do no such thing,” he said, voice dangerously low. “You brought bounty hunters to my doorstep, cousin, and danger to me and mine. You will see no harm befalls any in my household before you part ways with me, as kitsune law decrees.”

Mayai flinched at the words, huddling into himself as the reprimand was delivered. “Aye,” he said finally. “I’ll see you through the trouble I’ve brought.”

Yoko glanced at Hiei and saw the desire that burned in his partner to ask about the law he’d just invoked, but the koorime didn’t open his mouth. Yoko smiled grimly. His partner had proven to him pretty quickly that he knew when it was okay to cross the boundaries he set and when it wasn’t. And right now was definitely not the time.

“I’ll protect you from the hunters,” Yoko said. “It’s my duty as an Elder of our clan. But you will pull your weight around the house and keep your paws off my possessions or you’ll find yourself rooming with Mist.”

Mayai shuddered. “The tremor demon you claim as your aide?”

“The very same.”

“I’ll leave your prizes alone, Cousin,” Mayai said. “I’ve no wish to find out how loud a tremor demon snores.”

Hiei covered his mouth to stifle a laugh. At Mayai’s questioning glare, he said, “I pictured Mist snoring. It wasn’t a pretty sight.”

Mayai’s glare softened and he laughed, a light, tinkly sound that seemed to fit the kitsune. “No, I daresay it wasn’t.”

Yoko smiled. If his partner and his cousin could get along, it would make dealing with the S class demons coming after Hiei and the bounty hunters pursuing Mayai much easier to handle. Those two problems were enough of a handful without Hiei and Mayai being at each other’s throats. Figuring out how to deal with those two problems–well, that was another story altogether.

Chapter 11     Chapter Index       Chapter 13

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