Lying next to him where he sat on the bed, Hiei responded with a huff of impatience. "What does it matter?"
"I want you to tell me," the redhead explained, tracing with his finger the intricate character that covered an area the size of his palm. When he completed the last stroke, he turned to the equally enthralling task of defining an invisible mirror image of the symbol over the smaller youkai's left nipple, adding flourishes the unknown calligrapher had never envisioned.
He was rewarded with his partner's deep voice reciting a deadly formula. "Spectral Inferno. Requires focused attention--"
"Like this?" The youko deftly illustrated his version of "attention" with nimble fingers.
"--But when performed correctly," Hiei continued, despite the distraction, "it sears an enemy's soul without leaving a physical mark."
"Mm..." Kurama studiously went on to a different glyph. He indicated a sharply defined black ribbon that sparkled along its serpentine length with flashes of fiery color that vanished the instant the eye sought them. Its sinuous, two-dimensional curves seemed almost to ripple and flutter in a nonexistent breeze. "And this?" While he spoke, he slid his hand down to stroke the fire demon's inner thigh.
The ragged edge to Hiei's voice proved he was far from immune to his partner's caresses. "Diamond Blade Thrust." He drew a breath to steady himself as the redhead expressed his appreciation for the suggestive description. "Allows the wielder to penetrate anything," he added in retaliation.
Kurama raised an eyebrow. "Anything?" he purred.
Hiei rolled on his side and smirked at his fox. "Hasn't failed yet."
The quick answer prompted the youko's rich laughter. His wandering hand crept even farther down, pausing to tickle the other behind the knee before exploring a deceptively slender ankle. "The next one is curiously primitive," he commented, eyes half closing as he pondered. "One might even say primal. A circlet of many interlocking crescents, each the most basic moon symbol, with points as sharp as thorns..." He leaned close to the fire demon's ear to whisper mysteriously, "...Containing within their impenetrable circle the deepest, most frightening secrets, found only on the darkest and loneliest of nights." As if to put the lie to his bleak description, he began nibbling on his partner's neck.
Hiei settled onto his stomach, resting his head on his folded arms, not objecting to the warm nuzzling. "Obsidian Talon, for when all other weapons are lost. It brings out the user's animal nature." He bared gleaming fangs as the redhead's muffled sounds of enjoyment began to take on vulpine overtones. "For some it takes very little."
Kurama bit him, just enough to prove who was in charge at the moment. "Any complaints?"
"I thought not." He kissed his way down the youkai's shoulders, then started to massage the firm muscles into greater relaxation. "What about the faint one?" It was different from the rest, the pattern a diffuse cloud of black that appeared airbrushed rather than hand-painted. The outline was blurred and faded, making it impossible to distinguish where it truly ended. The wavering image seemed shapeless at first glance, yet further examination resolved it into a ghostly silhouette.
"Shadow Warrior Combat." He shifted position beneath the redhead's practiced touch, making it known where he wanted more concentrated effort. "Divides youki into shadow fighters to surround an opponent."
Kurama wrapped his arms around the fire demon's waist. "How do you like being surrounded?"
"Depends on the opponent..." He twisted and reached up to smooth his partner's hair back from his face, appraising the flushed features.
The youko captured the small hand and stroked the palm with his thumb. "And the feather? As soft as down, innocent as a freshly hatched chick, the least portion of raven-dark plumage..." He kissed the palm and laced his fingers through those of his chosen mate, covering the spot. "What power, what threat could there be in such a simple thing?"
Hiei was silent, considering his answer. "The power of life." He tightened his grip. "The threat of death. The Phoenix Flame is a suicide attack. The final move when nothing else matters but victory."
"Yet the phoenix is reborn from its ashes."
"The final test for mastery of the technique. It can't be taught. It can only be won through experience and desperation."
Kurama met his lips the moment he stopped speaking, rolling him once more onto his back and devouring him with enough desperation to call him back from the afterlife. Hiei matched his intensity, understanding the fierce need for affirmation that drove him. When forced to part for breath, the youko followed his action with a trail of kisses down the exposed throat. "The last," he said briefly as he continued tasting along the bare skin of the youkai's right arm. "Tell me about the last." His tongue explored alternating regions of light and dark as the familiar image coiled around its permanent home.
"The Black Dragon Wave." Hiei flexed the arm, then caressed his fox's cheek with the back of his hand. He always protested the ritual at first, but his partner's unmistakable interest in every detail of his body couldn't help but arouse him. The huskiness of his voice revealed that this time was no exception. "Provides command of an elemental creature of fire."
"I must be quite fortunate. I have a fire elemental of my own." Kurama returned his attention to the first symbol, the most recently acquired, a character in an ancient youkai language branding the right side of the smaller demon's chest. It represented months of constant struggle and training. "A beautiful creature he is, too."
Hiei slowly rubbed the other's back with his left palm, the ebony feather transformed from a disturbing point of contention to a comforting point of contact between them. "Too lucky for your own good."
"Mm," the redhead agreed playfully, taking full advantage of each tattooed brushstroke. "And it only gets better with every new shade of black."