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Sitting on a high chair within the confines of what seemed to be the administrative office of a person with a high-ranking position was Lord Koenma, the acting Administrator for the Spirit World. He was the one who decided where the spirits of the dead went, and he was damn good at the job, too.

"Ooooh boy," Koenma, Lord Prince of the Dead, second most powerful being in the Spirit World, said.

It wasn't supposed to be that way. Since he was the one who decided where the spirits of the dead went, him being the next most dominant authority in the Spirit World, answerable to only one person and all that… well, it just wasn't supposed to be that way. It wasn't fair.

Though that was exactly what he feared; with everything that had happened, he was most certainly, completely answerable to one person… his father, the Lord of the Dead, the most powerful being in the Spirit World. Enma Daio.

"It's not as if it was my mess I have to clean up," Koenma whispered sullenly to himself… as silently as possible, paranoia taking over as he feared that somehow his father would overhear and give him some sort of parental disciplinary sanction. He shuddered. "Last time, I couldn't sit down on any kind of chair for a month…."

"What was that, Lord Koenma?" Botan, ferry-girl extraordinaire, cheerily asked, oblivious of the deep blush that formed on the Spirit World Prince's face.

Koenma coughed once before replying, "Uh, nothing, nothing." He continued his previous discourse with the ferry-girl. "Um… from all the information-gathering we've been doing…."

Botan thoughtfully put her finger on her chin, innocently asking, "Oh, you mean all the 'surveillance' we've been doing in your office where we just sat there and watched while three of your Spirit Detectives nearly had their souls sucked dry?"

Koenma groaned. He hoped Botan's statement didn't sound as bad as it did. "Uh, yeah…. Well, from all the information-gathering that we've been doing, as well as the in-depth research I've been making in the Great Ancient Library, I have come to the conclusion that…." He heaved a sigh of trepidation as he said the words.

"No way… him?" the ferry-girl said, recognition apparent on her features. She had heard rumors and tales about him. He was such a tragic character to begin with, but he was just rumors and tales to her until now.

Koenma nodded ruefully. "I know it'll be difficult, but I want you to relay the following information to the Spirit Detectives, particularly to Kurama."

Botan giggled nervously. "Heh. Difficult. After leaving them alone with that guy for a few days, not knowing who or what he is, it would be safe to conclude that… well, as Yusuke would say,  they'd be more than a little 'pissed.'"

"Ah, well. We really have no jurisdiction there." Koenma sweatdropped, embarrassed. It had taken him awhile to figure out just who they were dealing with, and — after much deliberation — how they were going to deal with it. The enemy moved stealthily and unexpectedly; that, coupled with Spirit World red tape and bureaucracy concerning certain classified files with very sensitive information, had caused many of the delays.

"Just go ahead and tell them all the vital information they would need to know, while extending my sincerest apologies for the delays, of course." Koenma shifted uncomfortably on his seat. "As of now, further investigation is pending after the tumultuous events that had happened in Genkai's dojo. It is vital that we examine further the circumstances leading to this especially sensitive situation. Do I make myself clear, Botan?"

"Yes! I'll do my best, Lord Koenma! Wish me luck!" the Angel of Death said brightly, muttering under her breath, "I'll be needing it."

Koenma sighed at the retreating figure of a certain ferry-girl, her paddle in tow. The toddler then looked at the darkened monitor, sighed some more, and then sighed for the heck of it. This was not a good day.

Nor a good month. He'd suffered through thirty days in hell… literally, if one actually noted where he was. The infant blinked at the thought.

'Hell' was more of a complicated situation rather than the place he currently inhabited. The current 'complicated situation' was far more vexing to the Prince of the Dead than the usual visages of fire and brimstone usually associated with hell.

Of course, he was more scared of the present circumstances than an actual place: located in Level 17, Block 8 of the Corporeal Punishments Sector, in fact. But he was getting ahead of himself again.

So… it has been a month, he thought wistfully. He pulled out his special TV/VHS control panel from under the drawer of his table and hit the power switch. He stared listlessly for a while at the static feed of his special Spirit World TV/VHS Monitor before hitting the replay button.

Father, why do you always have to leave your messes to me?

A Yuyu Hakusho fan fiction story
by Abdiel

Disclaimer: All characters used in this fanfic (save some others) are the rightful property of Yoshishiro Togashi, Shueisha, Fuji TV and St. Pierrot. Don't sue me please, I'm very poor.

If you want to send C&C, this is the address: gab_ab@edsamail.com.ph

Chapter 4: Shrubbery

Metal fought with pure energy; sparks flew as sweat and blood showered the two fighters rushing onto each other like rabid wolverines. Yet one of the combatants had the misfortune of being distracted by a kin's anguished presence, fearing the worst….

The metal sword clanked a good distance away as the koorime hybrid rubbed his sore wrist. He barely evaded nearly getting flung to the nearby wall by a javelin-like ki-lance. Hiei's inhuman speed was the only thing that saved him from the oncoming onslaught of strikes by the now near-insane, still-possessed Kuwabara.

Hiei had no choice. He had to make a gamble.

Ignoring the intense pain that added even more to his already fatigued self, the fire demon bit his lip as a lengthy ki-lance plunged into his left hand, not unlike a long crucifixion nail.

The possessed boy was now wide open.

Hiei thrust his free hand upon the wound on the marionette's left breast, shoving its entirety upon it. A horrified and panic-driven screech of agony, barely human in its intensity, assailed the koorime's sensitive hearing as he twisted his hand further, adding searing pain to the maniacal puppet.

A door slid open, letting a flare of bright light enter the darkened dojo.

Kurama could barely distinguish the figure that suddenly appeared, merely gaping at the apparition draped in immaculate light.

A gust of cold wind suddenly caressed the youko's face. Realization struck his features like an audible slap as a small snowflake gently landed on his face, melting like a tear on his cheek.

Desperately, Kuwabara ripped away his ki-lance out of the forbidden child's hand, nearly tearing apart the appendage. Thusly, Hiei unceremoniously fell and landed on the smashed and crumbling floor, blood and stone pelting across the ground.

Hiei had finally gone above and beyond his limits. Every muscle in his body ached from the effort he exerted in his last ditch effort in saving the idiot kitsune's… and probably somebody else's… life.

His various other injuries now came into his attention as they chose this particular moment to make their presence known. His nearly severed left hand… his fractured ribs… his torn-up gut… countless cuts and bruises… they all sang a simultaneous chorus of agony.

Hiei came back to awareness, astonished with the fact as he continued to endure the torture of all his excruciating injuries.

The fire demon hybrid looked languidly at the approaching pawn, Kuwabara… the koorime's small crimson eyes, for a change, reflecting apathy while the tall human lackey's, in turn, reflected murderous lunacy.

The forbidden child would've chuckled at that, had it not hurt to do so. He couldn't care less anyway. It was already over, as far as he was concerned.

Faint glimmers of awareness began to rudely intrude upon Kuwabara's consciousness.

A distant voice… he thought he heard a precious and wondrous voice he recognized as coming from his aqua-tressed goddess. He suddenly decided that the said faint glimmers of awareness weren't all that rude after all.

Yet a sense of alarm filled him as he identified the sadness and desperation within the plea… somebody had hurt his dear darling Yukina? Damn them! Surely, they would pay dearly for this insolence… it was the least a true man could do.

How dare they! They made Yukina sad… they brought melancholy in her life! Whoever did this will… must… face the wrath of Kuwabara Kazuma. Only a true man could teach a faggot true manliness!

The earlier not-so-annoying awareness had become annoying again as it slowly pervaded Kuwabara's mind in mid-thought… his fantasies of Divine Retribution and honorable manliness were slowly replaced by…

What the HELL?!


Tiny jewels cascaded upon her flushed cheeks; little falling stars in the early morn. The expression of horror was etched on her frail features as she shook her head in disbelief, sprinkling the glittering gems all over like pixie dust.

There she saw the bloodied katana… the near-dead fire demon… the almost mechanical, indifferent stare the prodigal koorime gave to the taller, red-haired boy whose eyes, in turn, shone a glint of homicidal hysteria.

Her voice nearly choking in emotion, she gave out one last, desperate plea. It was her one last cry… one last appeal for reason… one last call for sanity.

"Kazuma-san! Brother! Please STOP!!!"

First there was only darkness… darkness with seemingly inimitable depth… an everlasting void.  His vision had begun to adjust enough to be able to distinguish the bright light in the corner of his eyes… eyes whose earlier madness were now replaced by utter puzzlement. There, in the hazy luminescence strode an angel of beauty and…


Then, at that very moment, the numbness which permeated in his whole body was shattered by a plethora of…

Agony. He couldn't think… because of it. Somebody… anybody… stop the pain…. please…. he beseeched to no one in particular… the mere fact that he was in such a pathetic condition not angering him in the least simply because it was hard as hell to think of anything else except the unworldly pain that was now coursing through his entire body.

Nearly blacking out with the incredible amount of suffering he was subjected to, he was only clinging to a single, coherent thought… the only thought that was able to break through the heavy brick wall of utter anguish.

Yukina was hurt and somebody must pay.

Nearly feverish, Kuwabara hobbled aimlessly across the demolished dojo floor until he stumbled and fell on… something. It grunted… a sort-of familiar grunt… an annoying, arrogant bastard type of grunt, to be exact.

He glared… or made a near facsimile of a glare as he winced in agony at the same time… at the figure of a spiky-haired imp lying pathetically on the… floor?

What the hell's going on here? What the hell is Hiei doing here? Did… whatshisname… Chuufu… do this? Kuwabara mentally debated, taken aback by the unnerving, listless stare the fire demon gave him.

Hiei's deadened gaze was soon replaced by a straightforward questioning glare. Kuwabara merely returned it with a look of confusion as he gazed at his own bleeding hand, the deep gash oozing with crimson warmth.

When… how did I get this?

Kuwabara's eyes warily darted back and forth across Hiei's prone form… and he did not like what he saw. He then confusedly looked at his own condition… the missing flesh from his thumb… the various deep gashes on his person… he saw everything, felt everything, but he could not understand… believe anything he saw or felt for the life of him.

A fleeting look of realization that was soon drowned out by further confusion met the curly-haired teenager's features as he saw Hiei's glinting katana a few feet away from him.

Kuwabara grasped for an explanation… any explanation… on what was going on… he was desperate. He felt like he was drowning in the deep blue sea, desperately grasping for any flotsam or even floating bodies to keep him buoyant… anything to keep him from being swallowed into the cold, unknown depths… in the dark waters of ignorance and confusion.

Yukina froze in her place, not knowing what to do… what to say… as two of the dearest people in her life were blanketed in pain, suffering and uncertainty.

Hiei merely observed as the pitiable human looked wildly around him, in near hysteria… almost akin to his earlier murderous frenzy, only more pitiful.

Realization dawned in Kurama's eyes as he gently asked the distraught boy in a raspy voice, "Ku-Kuwabara-kun, is that you?"

The orange-haired boy looked at the youko with an almost manic enthusiasm as he gave out his acknowledgement to the question, not really minding its meaning nor purpose.

"Kurama! I'm so glad… seems like I've been out of it for a while. Say, can you explain what's going on?"

It was a simple question not even the great Youko Kurama could answer.

Then there was thirty seconds of silence that all of them felt forever.

"So… that's that," Koenma said to himself as he pushed the stop button. The static feed crackled in the background before the screen blacked out in silence as the infant prince returned to his deep meanderings. It was a good thing Kuwabara chose that particular moment to exorcise his 'demon'… if he hadn't, then he and Hiei would be both dead.

He stopped said contemplations at mid-thought when he saw a particularly large stack of papers with bulky blue legs and arms enter his office, apparently walking backwards.

"Oh, hello Mr. Stack-of-Papers!" he cheerfully called out. The stack-of-papers-with-legs-and-arms waved back, albeit facing the wrong way. Koenma then calmly proceeded to bang his head repeatedly on the table.

"Er… Lord Koenma… what're you doing? That looks quite painful," it said.

"Ga-h! It talks!" Koenma continued banging his head with renewed fervor.

"Eh?" it assessed. "Lord Koenma, it's me, Jorge! Your very loyal assistant oni! Remember me?" the large, muscular blue demon said as he put down the roped-together stacks of paper he wore as a backpack.


The infant prince promptly brained the errant oni with a heavy, blunt object… namely the table.

"What's the idea wearing all those stupid stacks of paper like that?" Hearing profuse apologies from the blue demon, Koenma waved him off. "Well… anything you would like to share THAT WON'T MAKE ME QUESTION MY SANITY?"

The oni clutched his head in pain and fear. "Well, I'm not so sure about that…." The oni cringed under the Spirit World Prince's glare.

"Um… as you can see, the amount of paperwork did increase tenfold since that little stunt we pulled in the Great Ancient Library… lots of red tape on that, you see… I think Lord Enma would not be pleased if he ever found out."

"If he ever finds out," Koenma reminded his blue-skinned assistant, while he let out a sigh of exasperation.

Koenma shifted in his seat… a curious thing, since the seat was made of the most comfortable material available in the Spirit World. "Officially, we're conducting an investigation on a 'potentially dangerous force that could pose a threat to the entire populace of the Human World'… while we have that valid 'intent and purpose,' we can still continue with the investigation… Lord Enma or no Lord Enma."

"That sounds pretty bold, Lord Koenma… but what is our intent 'unofficially'?" Jorge Saotome curiously inquired.

"To find out the intent and purpose for the creation of that… thing… Chuuku, as Yusuke calls him," Koenma said, waving his hand dismissively.

"As well as trying to save a youko's life… isn't that right, Lord Koenma?" the oni hopefully added.

"Unofficially," Koenma nodded, smiling… or what passed as a smile, with his pacifier stuck to his mouth and all. "Well anyway… strangely enough, we haven't heard from the be… Chuuku for a month."

"Could that be a good thing?"

"Quite frankly, I don't know… it is good that he was gone for a while, since it gave Yusuke and the others enough time to recover from his last attack… but from the files that we gathered about him so far, none can still logically explain why he does what he does… it could go either way."

Jorge nodded in agreement. "For all we know he could be severing the gates separating the Human and Demon World and then creating utter havoc before revealing that his true purpose is to die in the hands of another demon."

The sound of skull-crashing-on-wood can be heard far across the large hall leading to a certain high-administrative office. "STOP MAKING STUPID JOKES, JORGE! We have a situation here!"

As the blue oni continued to apologize profusely to his beloved employer, Koenma considered his options. Further investigation seems almost out of the question… I'm already in deep enough trouble as it is… so the rest is really up to Yusuke and the others….

Koenma narrowed his eyes. Or rather… the rest is all up to Kurama.

"Atsuko-san!" Keiko Yukimura chirpily greeted Yusuke's mother in her usual morning visit at the Urameshi residence. "How are you?"

Atsuko Urameshi gave a gaze of recognition at the cheerful young girl and waved. "Hello, Keiko-chan. Come on in, it's cold in the mornings." The middle-aged woman crossed her arms for warmth to demonstrate her point before she ushered the younger woman into her humble abode.

As the two women entered the apartment, two ready cups of hot beverages greeted them as they approached a familiar dining room.

The routine exchange started between them as soon as the two cups left the wooden counter-top, leaving two old, off-color circular imprints.

A silent, nearly instinctive countdown went between them before shouting in unison their proverbial morning mantra.

"Yusuke, you JERK!"

Heaving two unanimous sighs as the two women's gazes met, they could not help but get into a fit of giggles afterwards.

"My, my… this has been rather… therapeutic," Atsuko said, chuckling a bit while wiping the tears that had formed in her eyes. "Thank you for all the trouble coming here, Keiko-chan. I can honestly say that your visits have been quite enjoyable."

"Think nothing of it, Atsuko-san… it was my pleasure, actually," the teenager said. Her gaze then became pensive. She was about to say something but then thought the better of it.

Soon, short, idle chitchat took reign as the two women engaged in a conversation of mostly desultory topics to while the remaining hours before Keiko's school time… topics that seemed to somehow relapse into a common theme.

"How's school?" Atsuko asked.

"It's OK, I guess," Keiko gave a nonchalant shrug. "Soon enough, I'll be finishing third year. I'm going to graduate soon."

"That's so nice… and I bet you'll graduate with full honors to boot since you're in the top of your class," Atsuko said as Keiko beamed. "My, I wish my idiot son would attend more of his classes… education is very expensive nowadays…."

Keiko's smile looked a bit more crooked as she sweatdropped at Atsuko's statements… even more so as the Urameshi matriarch began to evaluate certain sensitive topics… like Yusuke being 'a lucky son of a gun,' for him to be practically engaged to an, 'intelligent, well-bred girl, who was obviously going to be the breadwinner of the family, knowing that no good lout'.

"Say… I do hope that your recent early morning visits haven't actually affected your studies in any…."

Keiko breathed a sigh of relief at the change of topic. "Oh no, no, no! It hasn't been any trouble at all! Like I said, it has been my pleasure to check on you from time to time, Atsuko-san!

Atsuko raised an eyebrow mockingly as a sly smile formed on her lips while sipping her tea. "And very regularly too, these oh-so-frequent visits…."

Keiko blushed as she groaned at Atsuko's presumptuous assessment of things. "Atsuko-san! Why should I be worried of that insensitive jerk? He probably went off on some horrid, perverted bacchanalia without even a second thought while he left you all alone in utter… solitude! How could I be considerate to such an inconsiderate jackass?"

"Of course dear. I didn't say anything, though."

"Atsuko-san! You're making fun of me again!" Keiko pouted at the older woman, her features containing a mixture of embarrassment and discomfort.

Atsuko gave a good-natured laugh. "Well, it's because you're so cute when you get so angry at such silly things… I want my son to have a cute girlfriend… which, of course, will eventually develop into a beautiful wife… and I won't have it any other way. Besides, it's easier to handle all my worries when I can share them with someone else."

A couple of beeps which sounded off too soon for both parties signaled the end of the discourse. Keiko gave a look of dismay at Atsuko as the young girl turned off the alarm on her digital watch.

"It's time to go, At…" Keiko trailed off at mid-sentence as she was enveloped by the warmth of the older woman's embrace.

"My idiot son better not die again."

Keiko went into a fit of giggles. "Atsuko-san, Yusuke's too stupid to die… again… and again… I guess. Whatever." She giggled some more at the thought.

"That's right! That's my son… Yusuke, the perennial idiot!" There was just a slight pause before the two females shared a heartfelt laugh at their private joke.

Yusuke sneezed mightily.

"WHAT THE HELL? Hey, granny… there're too many dust mites around this filthy ol' place!" Yusuke then looked contemplative as he rubbed his nose. "Dammit… somebody must be talking shit about me!"

Genkai raised her left eyebrow in distaste as she looked down at her cup of tea. She then proceeded to throw the ceramic, with all its contents, directly at the errant Urameshi.

"Cover your mouth when you sneeze! Idiot!"

"HEY! Get off my case, will ya!?" Yusuke reflexively winced as he rubbed his forehead. "Idiot? Now why does that sound so familiar?" He sneezed again.

"Oh Enma-sama…. it's hot," Botan muttered to herself as the scorching hot sun literally baked her. It was all the sun's fault… cooking her like a hot, wet potato while she was merely trying to do her job… it was just sooo unfair for a beautiful, talented, so-deserving-of-something-better ferry-girl such as herself.

The aqua-tressed girl adjusted her sunglasses while fixing the collar of her oversized trench-coat… trying to remain as inconspicuous as only a blue-haired girl wearing shades and large, thick clothing could. Stupid job… stupid message… stupid sun….

"Now all I have to do is find Yusuke and the others, get their undivided attention and straightforwardly tell them what's going on." The irritated ferry-girl picked off various gross clingy white stuffs from her shoulder while still remaining 'low-key' from her place under the bushes. It wasn't easy.

"Yup… the whole mission is simple, straightforward and crystal clear."


"Anytime now, the mission will be over."

"Uh, Botan-chan… are you…"

"Everything will be…"

"… Ok?"

"Yup, exactly."

There was a slight pause.

"GA-H! It's not my fault! It was all Lord Koenma's fault… it was his own laziness and obliviousness which made it nearly impossible to contact any of you for the life of us! WA-H! Please don't hurt me! Don't kill the messenger! I really have no—"

An audible slap resounded from the enclosed space of the yard. Botan blinked once… and then twice. By the third time her brain finally registered what was happening.


"Botan-chan! I'm so sorry!" Keiko apologized profusely as she held her trembling right hand. "But you were babbling incoherently and I was so scared, I didn't know what else to do…" Keiko trailed off in mid-sentence. "Uh… Botan-chan… what the heck _are_ you doing here?"

"Uh… well… ahehehehehe…" Botan elaborated.

"I don't suppose that there are some possessed, manic city-folk wreaking havoc all around the entire metropolis again, right?" Keiko hypothesized to herself, unconsciously invading Botan's personal space as she involuntarily began to close in on the increasingly discomfited Angel of Death.

"Oh! No, no, no, no! None of that! They're just being chased by a soul-sucker this time!" Botan hastily answered to Keiko's unwitting assessment, desperately trying to put a comfortable space between her and the irate girl. She put her hands on her mouth and let out a small 'eep' when she suddenly realized what she just said.

"This time…."

Botan winced at the rant that never came. "Uh… Keiko-chan?" The trench-coated girl was taken aback as the smaller yet seemingly more… assertive female grabbed her by the shoulders, with her held at arm's length.

"Botan-chan, please… if you have any idea what Yusuke and the others are getting into this time, please… tell me. I've got to know."

Try as the ferry-girl might, she just couldn't look away from the human girl's pleading, puppy dog eyes.

"Well… it's a bit complicated… I swear to Lord Enma that I'd be there to tell them about some important bits of info concerning the mission, but… ahehehe…." Botan sheepishly grinned as she struggled to straighten up, nearly slipping on her own heavy trench coat.

"There? Where is 'there'? Where are they? Do you know?" Keiko inquired excitedly.

"Oh, they're just at Master Genkai's place all this time. I was just on my way there… really, I was!" Botan insisted defensively. She then suddenly brightened like a halogen lamp as she abruptly had an idea… albeit an awfully obvious and unparticular idea, it was an idea nonetheless. "I know! Why don't you come with me?"

"What? But, Botan-chan… I have school!" Keiko protested, surprised by the suddenness of Botan's impulsive proposal.

"Oh, that never stopped us before! Come on, Keiko-chan! It'll be fun!" Botan said, grabbing hold of the petite girl's hand before any more complaints were aired. Not to mention goddarned convenient for me, she added to herself.

Keiko helplessly let the Spirit World Messenger drag her toward an ad hoc destination. A small smile crept on her lips as she finally caught up with the ferry-girl's excited pace, both hand-in-hand in running through a familiar route towards a nearby train station.

"Shizuru-san, the hot water is ready!" Yukina called out as she poured half of the contents of the kettle into a bowl of medicinal herbal solution.

"Ok… just bring the fresh rolls of bandages and bottle of antiseptic to the room, and I'll take care of the rest," the tall, twenty-something brown-haired girl said as she motioned to a tray of various medical equipment.

"You already know how to mix the herbs, Shizuru-san?" Yukina asked as she crushed into a red powder what seemed to be unusually large chestnuts.

"Yeah, Kurama already briefed me on the stuff… I can always ask him if I forget… he's just nearby the dojo, anyway… so no need to worry." Shizuru wiped the sweat which formed from her brow. "I'll manage just fine."

"I'll go get the towels in the closet first."

"Sheesh, you'd think that idiot would know how to bathe himself by now… what a wimp," she muttered under her breath.

"Um… Shizuru-san?" Yukina shyly queried as she folded several towels neatly into the side of the tray.

"Yes, Yukina-chan?"

"You think he's going to be all right? I mean… he hasn't come out of his room ever since…."

Shizuru waved off her hand dismissively. "He's practically an adult now, Yukina-chan. He should be responsible for himself and learn to deal with things as only an adult should. If he's half the man he claims to be, then he should get over this by now."

"But what if…?" Yukina worriedly insisted.

"He'll be fine. Trust me. I know these things," the taller woman gave a forlorn look across the hall toward a certain room. She sighed as she grabbed hold of bowl with the blood-colored herbal mixture. "Now, let me bathe my wimpy baby brother."

Both the two women stopped their discourse as they suddenly heard voices from the patio… familiar, female voices.

"Oh my! It seems we have more visitors!" Yukina stated as she moved to peek outside the residence.

"I think I may have an idea on who just arrived." Shizuru smirked as she two went after the shorter, blue-haired girl. "It's about fucking time."

"GA-H! It's not my fault! It was all Lord Koenma's fault… it was his own laziness and obliviousness which made it nearly impossible to contact any of you for the life of us! WA-H! Please don't hurt me! Don't kill the messenger! I really have no idea… I mean, he just sent me out here for goodness sakes…."

Keiko merely sweatdropped, her eyes half-lidded in vexation as Botan continued to prattle. She idly wondered if the ferry-girl had the whole thing memorized just for this particular instance.

"Don't worry about a thing, Botan-chan… nobody is blaming you. The whole thing was unexpected and we do not hold the Spirit World… nor you… solely responsible," Genkai said as she tried to console the distressed girl. "We just want to talk. Wait inside the house while I call Kurama."

"Where are Kurama-san and the others, Granma Genkai?" Keiko asked in a seemingly idle manner, her intonation varying slightly in the end.

Genkai smiled. "Yusuke's not here. He went up the old training ground marsh, to heal his imbalanced ki and… to collect his thoughts."

"I don't care where that moron is!" Keiko yelped defensively, while Botan held back a giggle. "What about Kurama-san? Kuwabara-kun… he's here, isn't he?"

"Oh… well, Kurama's helping me fix the dusty old dojo out back and Kuwabara's… resting as well." Genkai had a poignant look on her wrinkled face, which worried the two girls. "Well, well… come! Come! Let's not stand here idly all day! Into the house, you two!"

As Genkai ushered the two females into her abode before altogether leaving for the dojo, Botan and Keiko were greeted by two recognizable, friendly faces.

"Oh, hello Keiko-san, Botan-san."

"Hey. What's up, you guys?"

"Oh, Yukina-chan! Hello!" Keiko gave a slight pause at mid-step. "Shizuru-san? Hello! This is a surprise… since when did you get here?"

"Oh, about two weeks ago. Y'see, when I last checked, it seemed little brother hurt himself again, so it was big sister's responsibility to take care of him." Shizuru smiled brightly while Yukina solemnly gazed down the ground.

Keiko was a bit concerned by that statement, but she let go of the subject for the time being. Kuwabara-kun was hurt? I hope it's nothing serious… but what about Yusuke? Granma Genkai said he's ok, though… I can't help but worry. "Well then… shall we?"

"Wheeee! The whole gang is here! This is just sooo great!" Botan cheerily said as she giddily followed the rest of the young women into the house.

"Hey! Granny! Open up! I wanna know where my brother is! It has been two weeks since he came home and his final exams are coming! I think it's all fine and dandy for him to save the Human World from time to time, but he still needs his education!" Shizuru yelled from outside the temple's patio, not minding the fact that it was nearly midnight and everyone was probably asleep.

A sister had a degree of responsibility over his brother, after all. Chaperoning for him on an uncharted island to fight various ghouls and demons? Sure… just as long as he didn't die on her or anything. Looking out for him when he stupidly let himself get kidnapped by a crazed former Spirit Detective? It was the least she could do. Hounding him night after night about his responsibilities in school after he finally decided to stay at home? It was merely routine fodder.

"Hey! Sorry to bother you and all, but you have to understand… I'm dead tired after having to go through a two-hour long train trip coming from a seven-hour workload, so if I sound more than a little pissed, I probably am."


Shizuru blinked at the petite figure in front of her. It was Yukina. It was typical of the old woman to send her out now… probably to calm her down or something… but she had to get straight to the point anyway. "Hey, Yukina-chan… you have any idea where my idiot brother is? It has been two weeks and I've gotten no word from him."

Yukina shifted her weight from one foot to the other, her face red in embarrassment of… Kami-knows-what.

Shizuru idly wondered if her brother had more balls than she gave him credit for, finally getting it on with… but she just as quickly dismissed the idea. She hadn't the time for this nonsense. "Yukina-chan, I have to…."

Shizuru was slightly taken aback by the sadness in Yukina's eyes as the young koorime girl gazed back at the elder Kazuma. The taller woman's heart began palpitating rapidly, but she forcedly contained herself… her cool demeanor not giving any hint to her rising panic. "Yes?"

"Kazuma-san's… hurt. Badly. It's good that you came… h-he needs you."

"What do you mean by….?"

Shizuru was silenced as the ice maiden gently took hold of her hand, ushering her into the residence. The light-brown haired girl braced herself as she felt her throat dry in dread.

What happened to you now, you dummy?

"After seeing what I saw, that's when Granma Genkai came in and gave me the head-trip she called news… it was like after being tripped, they added injury to injury by bashing my head with a rock… it was a real bombshell, that." Shizuru held a cigarette stick by her mouth while fiddling with the lighter. "Do you mind?"

"Ah… no. Not at all," Keiko assured, her hands held up in surrender. She was really impressed at how Shizuru was dealing with the whole situation… she had yet to digest the dreadful bits of information given to her, much less handle it.

Keiko gazed at Shizuru. The older female had a contemplative look on her face as she took in deep puffs from her lighted cigarette. The whole thing was much too surreal… like when Yusuke first died. She bit her lip in bewilderment as she wondered how Yusuke was dealing with his own trauma as well.

"It's good that Kuwabara wasn't horribly hurt and that the Chuuku guy wasn't able to get Kurama's soul… it's a huge relief to us." Botan heaved a sigh to demonstrate her point. She wiped the sweat off her brow as she really, really hated having to 'walk on eggshells,' with a situation as sensitive as this.

"We're all quite glad you got such a 'huge relief' over that, but I'm curious Botan-chan… where was the Spirit World when that monster used my brother as his own personal marionette?" Shizuru suddenly inquired Botan none-too-gently, startling Keiko.

Of course… she's still upset over Kuwabara-kun, Keiko thought, her eyes full of pity at the frustrated Shizuru Kazuma.

Botan quickly averted her eyes at Shizuru, at a loss for words. She could literally feel the intensity of the glare the elder Kazuma directed at her. Finally she said, "The Spirit World is… Lord Koenma is… I… I'm sorry for what happened, Shizuru-san. Maybe if I had known… maybe I could have done something… I feel so ashamed, not being able to do anything as I just stood there and watched helplessly like the little coward that I am…." Botan stopped her as she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"I'm sorry too… for snapping at you like that. I was just making a total ass of myself, trying to find somebody to blame. I don't blame you at all, Botan-chan," Shizuru amended, giving out an apologetic smile. "I'm sure everyone back there in the Spirit World is doing what they could, given the situation."

"That's right, Botan… cheer up! As Granma Genkai said, nobody is blaming you for the incident." Keiko said as she gave the ferry-girl's hand an encouraging squeeze.

"You're all too kind! WA-H!" Botan tearfully said amidst the collective sweatdrops of her companions.

"Shizuru-san, I'm going to take the hot water to Kazuma-san now," Yukina said after emerging from Kuwabara's temporary lodgings as she made her way towards the kitchen, interrupting the three girl's intimate moment.

"Oh, ok… now wait just a goddarned moment!" Shizuru did a double-take, surprising her companions. "You are NOT going to bathe my little brother!"

"Oh… but why is that, Shizuru-san?" Yukina tilted her head in puzzlement.

"Well… that's because… my brother is a pervert! He may be traumatized and all, but I will not condone to _that_ sort of 'cheering up,' no matter what you might say to the contrary!" Shizuru said, incensed.

"Hell yeah… your little 'Kazuma-san' is, in fact, a pervert! I swear, he was probably having a couple of perverted dreams about me before he met you… can't really blame him, though… so having you give him a sponge-bath is just a wee bit… y'know," Botan compounded.

"I feel sorry for what happened to Kuwabara-kun and all, but there are things boys and girls shouldn't do together until they are at a right age, Yukina-chan," Keiko reluctantly agreed.

"Oh all right… if everybody feels that way… I don't quite understand why, but still…." Yukina relinquished her hold of the kettle to Shizuru. "I hope he cheers up soon. I want to see him back to his old, silly self."

"As long as he sees you safe, I'm sure he'll be all right," Shizuru assured as she held the kettle in a firm grip. It was part of a sister's responsibility to look after a brother's responsibilities as well when the little dummy can't attend to them. "See you, girls."

After Shizuru left and closed the door to Kuwabara Kazuma's quarters, Yukina heaved a melancholic sigh at one nagging thought. I hope the both of them are all right.


The koorime hybrid was startled by the seemingly innocent query. He winced in pain when he turned around towards the origin of the gentle tone a bit too fast for comfort.

"Hiei-san, you're badly hurt! You better come back into the house… it's… cold."

The fire demon nearly huffed in reply to the koorime girl at the silliness of her request… if he hadn't deemed that as quite a rude reply to give to her. "Yukina… I'm a fire demon. The cold means nothing to me if I can help it."

"I'm sorry… Genkai-san keeps telling me that too, by mistake… though I've grown accustomed to it. It's sort of funny, really… b-but still… you better come in anyway! You shouldn't be straining yourself like that, while your injuries are still fresh! You may be a powerful youkai, but even youkai have their limits," Yukina insisted… nearly pleaded.

"Why do you care?" Hiei suddenly asked, surprising even himself by the brashness of his question. His ruby eyes darted back and forth as he half-expected, half-dreaded the reply. He was about to cut her off with a rushed apology of sorts when he saw the gentle look she gave him… the words dying in his lips.

There was the slightest of pauses before Yukina spoke. "Of course I care… you cared enough when you rescued me from my forced captivity with the human, Tarukane… so, I, in turn, care for you as well." Her ruby eyes reflected his own… identical in both appearance and the amount of worry found in them… sister's eyes to brother's eyes.

Hiei cursed himself for being so insensitive. He looked back at those large, red eyes and said, "You trusted me enough with your life while you were at that filthy human's clutches, right? Unconditionally?"

Yukina nodded slowly. "Yes, I did."

Hiei nodded to her as well. "Then give me that same trust now… I will be all right. I just have something to resolve."

"Y-you will be back, right?" Yukina asked as she worriedly looked at Hiei's hobbling stance.

He looked at her again straight in the eyes, his demeanor determined, his gaze resolute. "Please… trust me."

He then disappeared… vanished without a trace, except for an unsaid promise and the unyielding trust of a loved one.

"So… where's our favorite spiky-haired youkai?" Botan wondered aloud, looking around the entirety of the dwelling. "I'm sure we won't find him bunking around with Kuwabara… so where is he?"

"He… already left," Yukina said quietly, but quickly adding, "It was… typical of him to go. He looked so determined and strong enough to do so."

Botan sighed. "Yep, it's very typical of him to do that… I just wish he'd take care of himself more." She felt a nudge and saw the scolding look Keiko gave her as the shorter girl's eyes darted repeatedly toward her and the ice maiden. "Well! On the other hand…."

"I trust him."

"Uh… what was that again?" Botan queried, puzzled.

"He'll be all right… he's very strong and very brave. I trust him enough for that." Yukina smiled, her eyes half-lidded in conviction.

"W-ell… he's kinda sorta brave… actually, tempestuous is a more appropriate word to describe him… I personally go for 'reckless' myself…." Botan felt another nudge at the ribs. "We have confidence in Hiei's recklessness!"

Keiko shook her head as she heaved a heavy sigh of dismay while Yukina merely giggled at Botan's assessment.

"I have confidence in Hiei-san's recklessness too, Botan-san."


It was a simple address — simple and modest, yet loud and clear. The addressee gulped as if it was Lord Enma himself who addressed her. It was now or never…. S he braced herself as she meekly went on her death march toward the patio. Of course, she said all her goodbyes to her loved ones first.

"My, I think Botan-san was a bit… anxious," Yukina concernedly whispered to Keiko.

Keiko sighed in exasperation. "She's just being over-melodramatic, as usual." She averted her eyes at the bawling Botan while Kurama scratched the back of his head in smiling confusion and amusement.

"We at the Spirit World are really, truly sorry for the delay. Lord Koenma extends his humblest of…."

Kurama waved off the apology in an unassuming manner. "I understand. There's nothing to apologize about; the Spirit World probably had as much of an idea of who Chuuku was as we did. Though I'm glad you're here… it's about time you've shown up. So you probably have some new information regarding our mutual friend?" Kurama evaluated as he cheerfully addressed the blue-haired girl.

Whoa… he's sharp! Though, of course, it shouldn't come as a surprise anymore, knowing him, Botan thought as she composed herself. It took a couple of emotional breakdowns and constant reassurance, but now it looked like it was now or never. It was time to relay the super-duper important message sent by Lord Koenma himself, the main reason why she came to the Human World.

"You're quite right, Kurama-san. It took us sometime to get through all the Spirit World red tape and such, but I think we finally nailed him."

Kurama nodded thoughtfully as he dusted off the excess plaster from his shirt. He wiped the sweat off his brow and asked, "What did you find out?"

"Well… this 'Chuuku' you've been fighting is actually a human, just as Genkai-san said. A human named Tetsuma Yoshitaka. From the information we've gathered, we discovered he was a Class-S human."

Kurama raised an eyebrow. "Class-S? During that time, did you already hire him as a Spiritual Detective, knowing he was in the highest Spirit World Class Standing? Yusuke was merely just above Class-C when you employed him."

"Well, contrary to popular belief, the Spirit World doesn't hire each and every Class-A or higher creature in the Human World as Spirit Detectives or whatever… though, of course, they still kept a close eye on Tetsuma."

Kurama considered the new piece of information carefully. "So, undoubtedly, the Spirit World was very interested in this Tetsuma."

Botan cleared her throat as she continued. "He had quite the reputation in the Spirit World. I heard about him during my early years as a Spirit World ferry-girl; apparently, it wasn't just ferry-girls who handled lost spirits from the Human and Demon World."

Kurama's eyes widened in realization. "You mean…?"

Botan nodded earnestly. "Lord Enma wanted Tetsuma Yoshitaka. Not as a Class-S Spirit Detective, nor as a ferry of various souls, but as something else. He was his own personal… tool."

Kurama paused for a full minute of contemplation before speaking in deliberate slowness, trepidation apparent in his voice. "So… what really happened that day the girl Matsui Asuka offered herself to Tetsuma Yoshitaka?"

"Some may say you look like a girl and that you're not manly enough, that you're Mister Goody-two-shoes and stuff like that. But I know better. I think you're the best, sempai!" Shigeru Amano laughed gleefully as he held his treasured possession: his precious poem for his beloved late grampa.

"Because of the fact that you actually liked it, it has double the value now, Minamino-sempai." The boy slowly read and re-read the carefully written script surreptitiously, admiring its composition and its content at every instance.

"Maybe I should become a poet. I'll ask sempai tomorrow! That is, I hope sempai comes back to school tomorrow. Oh, grampa… Wherever you are, please make it so that Minamino-sempai is back to school tomorrow. I miss him." The little boy paused for a bit, pouting.

"I miss you too, grampa. You know that, don't you?" Before he finally folded the piece of paper to be slipped inside the pages of his diary, his eyes gazed for the briefest of moments at the last paragraph of his meticulously crafted opus.

Or instead, you let yourself feel the pain…
Of course it will come, sooner or later
It's a wound, bleeding. Continuously.
No word of comfort can appease it, once it's there.

"I miss him. I hope he comes back, grampa… I want to be strong just like him; cool, collected and suave, so I won't become 'Shinko, the girly-boy' again. So people would finally take notice of me… respect me…." Shigeru lay on his bed, staring listlessly on his off-white ceiling.

"I feel so lonely, grampa. It sucks to be lonely. It always stays with you, like a disease or something, a disease people don't want to catch… and every time people try comfort you it won't work 'coz you could practically feel their pity, so you feel crummier."

Shigeru clutched his pristine-white pillows as he sauntered off to slumber, his meanderings left for another day.

The young man shuddered as he unconsciously felt a foreboding presence surround him. The said presence smiled.

"Heaven and hell for you, Asuka… heaven and hell."


To be continued…

Next: Shuichi Minamino's everyday life.

Note that I put in the title Shonen not  Shonen-Ai. Shonen-Ai (male-male relationship) and yaoi are just not my cup of tea. This is dedicated to Chimamire Kitsune for giving me the inspiration to write this fic…wherever you are, this is for you.

Ja ne!

C. Castañeda

Chapter 5
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