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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.

Chapter 5… It's ongoing… Oh my goddess…. As usual, please forward all your C&C to this quaint little email address: gab_ab@edsamail.com.ph


Chapter 5: Outgrowth


"What now?"

Yusuke Urameshi had to admit that the statement wasn't exactly conducive to further thought and analysis of his current condition… which was why, needless to say, he viewed the testimony the most suitable evaluation of the whole state of affairs.

Yusuke blinked. "Man, I have been hanging around Kurama for too long."

In short, it was the Urameshi 'call-shit-as-shit' school of thought. He had no idea what the hell just happened a month ago… or what the hell he was supposed to do afterwards. It was… a helluva mess, and he couldn't even begin to imagine how he was to go about cleaning it up

Even shorter than that… he was pissed. He was very pissed… and very confused, at that… which pissed him off even more. He sighed… that, in its utter simplicity, made the most sense to his mind.

The sleek-haired youth checked his pulse. Yup, it seemed normal… it had been a month since he encountered Chuuku… on second thought, he did find the name quite ridiculous… it seemed such a cool designation at the time but now… bleagh. Still, even with a stupid title like 'Chuuku,' that thing sure did kick some major ass. The shadow-man definitely kicked Yusuke's ass… which was more fodder for his 'pissed' line of thought. Yusuke frowned to this.

The teenage Spirit Detective had been subjected to a unique condition of ki imbalance… a direct result of his fight with the 'Gothic Faggot.' Ugh.

The thought of that thing getting a crush on Kurama sent chills all over Yusuke's body… right down to his spine, even… but he had to cut short that line of thought as well, lest he lose his intended assessment… which was getting over the fact that some fag with a gothic shtick beat him up like a stray dog using, of all things, Kuwabara's body.

What a goddamned sick bastard.

Yusuke hated reflecting over… stuff.

It was only when Yusuke tried to stand up that his priorities came crashing back to his person. His body shook in rage as he looked at his trembling fingers, marred with minor nicks and scratches from the tree stump which held him at bay from slipping entirely into the mushy ground.

"Dammit," Yusuke cursed silently. He was back to the 'pissed' line of thought again.

Whatever sexual orientation or silly acquired pseudonyms Chuuku had, the fact remained that the half-being took a lot out of Yusuke. Though perhaps the whole event took a lot more out of Kuwabara or Hiei, Yusuke wasn't spared of any of the consequences of defeat. It was not merely the humiliation of a loss that pissed him off… No, it was a lot more than that.

Yusuke closed his eyes in concentration… to find his center of calm to which his control of his Spiritual Power lay… an exercise Master Genkai taught him. Painfully taught… hundreds of repetitions… she was an irritating old gnarled gnome at times.

The spiritual energy of the surrounding marshes… once a battleground for countless wars… began to swirl around and envelop the Spirit Detective's body. Soon, his momentary lapse of disorientation subsided.

Granny said that this was only temporary and that all I had to do was go to this marsh from time to time to recu… recup… recover. Bullshit… why the hell is it taking so long? Yusuke frustratingly deliberated.

Genkai also mentioned that this situation was just an 'advanced version of what happened in the battle with Chu during the first parts of the Black Martial Arts Tournament.' During Yusuke's said battle with the drunken fighter, his Rei Ki was nearly totally depleted, coming back only after a long while… in the middle of the next fight, even.

But at least it didn't make me friggin' dizzy from time to time like a pregnant chick! Yusuke sulked as he exasperatingly sat down once more, leaning against the rotting piece of wood.

At this point in time he still didn't have enough control of his ki to enable him to do really cool stuff like blast things with his Rei-Gan. At least that would have given him a measure of satisfaction over the whole situation… and a helluva great way to vent off all his anger and frustrations to boot.

Dammit… I wasn't even able to do anything to help save Kurama, Hiei… and especially Kuwabara… from that goddamned asshole. I just… lay there, like a wet dishrag. Damn that fag, Chuuku! Dammit! Yusuke gritted his teeth in fury.

Yusuke turned his attention to the remnants of what used to be a tree. He balled up his fists as he forced himself to stand up, his knuckles turning white as his nails dug deep into the skin of his palm. He then focused his rage and wrath on the helpless tree stump, breaking and snapping up the rotting wood like so many empty stacks of matchboxes with his furious punches and kicks.

He was promptly brained by an equally enraged Genkai for all his efforts.

"Are you an idiot?! Do you really have to destroy everything in your path? Have you no consideration for the beauty of your surroundings before you unwittingly ruin it? Are you some sort of living plague to nature?!" Genkai admonished sternly.

Yusuke rubbed his head hard as he glared back at the Master of the oh-so-powerful Spirit Light Wave Technique. It was a stupid, half-rotted tree stump, for Enma's sake. Feh. I could kick your ass anytime, granny.

"Humph. Try me, then."

Yusuke was taken aback with his master's statement. Sometimes that old woman just scared the shit out of him. "Whaddya want, granny? Can't you see that I want some time alone with myself?"

"I don't think even you can stand yourself… I just couldn't see it," Genkai said off-handedly while Yusuke continued to fume. "Anyway… I just came here to inform you that Botan had just arrived and is now speaking to Kurama about… things of interest."

"No shit? It's about fucking time!" Yusuke made a pinching motion with his fingers. "I was this close to deciding to go to the Spirit World for the hell of it and settling things with that pacifier-sucking brat myself."

"I'm not surprised at that." Genkai smiled. "You're not at all that unpredictable once one figures out that the reason no one can read your mind is because you usually don't use it in the first place."

"Oh, shut up, you old hag!" Yusuke said irksomely. "So… did you catch any interesting news from the ditz? Maybe she has some info on a way to finally beat that stuck-up fag, Chuuku?"

Genkai smirked at the youth. "It would seem you have quite the grudge against the soulless one?"

"Hell yeah! Nobody beats up Urameshi Yusuke like a human punching bag using, of all things, Kuwabara's body! I won't stand for it!" Yusuke reduced a nearby hollowed and barren tree into toothpicks, not at all minding Genkai's presence nor whatever consequence she could deliver upon his person.

Genkai snorted derisively at Yusuke's declaration. "Then you've already lost, fool."

"What the hell does that supposed to mean?"

Genkai shook her head. "You couldn't take it… being beaten by this Chuuku… you just couldn't stand it. From your limited experience, you always have to win every battle you fight… or, if and when you lose, you just have to stand up again to fight once more… to the very last drop of your blood, even. There was just too much at stake at the time for you to lose… you couldn't afford losing."

Yusuke thought for all of three seconds. "Your point being?"

Genkai looked straight up into Yusuke's eyes, the latter suddenly standing upright in attention.

"You didn't win the fight because it wasn't your fight in the first place. Chuuku is not your demon to overcome… he is Kurama's demon. I assure you no great power from even a Class-S youkai would be able to help him there… if you really want to win this case, leave Kurama to mind his own demons."

Yusuke was uncharacteristically silent for a few moments before he replied, "So… whaddya think I should do, Master Genkai? Should I just stand back and stay away from the problem or something?"

"I said no such thing… do understand that Kurama will need you… us… more than ever. He'll need everybody's help… our help. But this is still his fight… you can't always play the hero's role, Yusuke. We are all responsible for ourselves."

There was another uncharacteristic pause from Yusuke. "I guess… I'll help out as much as I can. But I swear to you, granny… when I meet Chuuku again, it'll be payback time for Kurama, Hiei, Kuwabara… and me, especially."

"Heh… that, I'm very certain of, boy," Genkai acknowledged.

"Just let him come… as soon as we finally get to the bottom of this, it'll all be over… there'll be nothing to fear!" Yusuke huffed in his full bravado.

"Just because the Spirit World has finally come up with some answers to the puzzle, it doesn't necessarily mean that we finally have the final solution to the dilemma… such confidence is folly," Genkai berated the obnoxious young lad.

"Feh. Urameshi Yusuke fears nothing… GA-H!"

"YUSUKE!!!"

Yusuke reflexively made an immediate back-pedal toward the remains of the nearby ravaged tree stump he had used to vent his earlier aggravations.  Now, he wished that he wasn't so hasty at laying waste such a precious stub, now that its absence afforded one very irritated Keiko Yukimura a plain view of him. Not that he was afraid of her or anything… nope, not at all. He was just startled by her… sudden appearance.

"Urameshi Yusuke fears nothing, huh? Aren't you just full of yourself?! You asshole!"

"Ow! Owowowowowow! Leggo of my ear, Keiko!" Yusuke heroically countered. "Where the hell did you come from, you stupid girl?!"

"You're the one who's stupid, stupid! I was so worried, and that's all you could say for yourself? Not a word from you for a month and now you act like a complete jerk?" Keiko exclaimed, her eyes moist.

"H-hey!  Don't cry!" Yusuke was quite a sight to behold as he nearly panicked at the sight of a near-tears Keiko, while Genkai just shook her head in dismay. "H-hold on! Is there something wrong?"

"There's nothing wrong," Keiko quietly said as she slowly turned her back on the errant Spirit Detective… which flustered said errant Spirit Detective all the more. She began to saunter off the egress the marsh.

"Oi, Keiko! Wait up!" Yusuke started, puzzled by Keiko's behavior. If nothing was wrong, then why was she acting so weird? It didn't make any sense to him at all. "It's not like I have to report to you every time something major happens in my life! I don't even do that for Koenma!"

Keiko stared back at Yusuke, holding the sleek-haired youth at bay with her fiery eyes and angry pout. She closed her eyes and sighed loudly.

"Fine."

Yusuke just stared, dumbfounded, at Keiko's retreating figure a good distance away. He turned to Genkai in askance. "Fine? FINE?! What the hell did she mean by FINE?!? She certainly didn't look 'fine'!"

Genkai looked at Yusuke once and then heaved a near facsimile of Keiko's own sigh. "You really have no idea, do you? You go figure things out for a while longer here in the marsh. Get your priorities straight."

Yusuke snorted derisively at the statement. "I'd rather be Chuuku-hunting like Hiei, but it looks like I have nothing better to do, anyway." He scowled as he stared at the direction Keiko went. Feh. Women.


"So… what really happened that day the girl Matsui Asuka offered herself to Tetsuma Yoshitaka?" Kurama asked earnestly, getting right to the point. The gap… perhaps even the nexus… between Yoshitaka Tetsuma, the miracle boy prodigy… and Chuuku, the living dead, could only be explained by an exacting account of the events that transpired that fateful day.

Botan looked sheepishly at the kitsune… an apologetic look, to be sure. "I'm really sorry, Kurama-san… but those particular, classified files are the very ones Lord Koenma weren't able to 'de-classify.' We couldn't even get a hold of those files… ever since the 'Black Chapter' crisis, all files with similarly very sensitive information were that much harder to come by. We really tried our best, but it would seem at this point only Lord Enma himself could have access to those files."

Kurama frowned. He was so close to the true answers… yet he was held at bay by yet another unexpected circumstance. A month… it took a month for Koenma and his staff to uncover little tidbits of information about the disreputable Chuuku… yet still all they got for all their troubles were just that… mere portions and partitions of the fact, but never the whole truth.

"What do you actually know about Chuuku, Botan?" Kurama yielded, having no choice with the matter.

"I'm glad you asked!" Botan said cheerily, much to Kurama's befuddlement.

"Tetsuma Yoshitaka had shattered his soul. That in itself was quite a feat to accomplish… a feat which mightily impressed the Great Lord Enma… so impressed was he that he actually considered Tetsuma employment in our fine institution."

Kurama's eyes went wide with wonder as Botan continued with her little presentation… involving spectacles with swirls, a fake nose and mustache, as well as… strangely enough… Kabuki, from what he could make out of it. Botan proceeded to put on the weird glasses, having a somber look on her features.

"I, Great Lord Enma, am very pleased with your capabilities. I could make great use of you and your… unique situation," Botan said in a grave baritone. She then took off the 'mustached' glasses and deadpanned her voice. "There's nothing left for me in this cruel world. I, Tetsuma Yoshitaka, offer myself up to you, Great Lord Enma. I am your tool, your own personal marionette."

I see… so Lord Enma himself asked Tetsuma to be in his service… and Tetsuma accepted. Could it have been… a self-inflicted punishment for whatever happened that fateful day his soul was shattered? Kurama considered. He stopped his deliberations cold when Botan, again wearing the silly-looking eyeglasses, began laughing hysterically. Kurama blinked and sweatdropped… a feat he thought only Yusuke could make him accomplish.

"OHOHOHOHOHO!!! Is that so? Well, then… I have some pesky souls in mind which I want you to get rid off. You will become my special ferry-boy… no tight fitting kimono and long oars, though. You're not pretty enough for that." Seeing that she had Kurama's rapt and undivided attention, Botan continued in a grimmer, less cheesy tone.

"I want you to become the deliverer of nihility over souls which are so damned that they do not even deserve Hell. That is your duty… to deliver unto emptiness those far beyond damned… far beyond salvation… far beyond fate and destiny…."

Kurama nodded thoughtfully. So the Spirit World was more or less partly responsible for the creation of the being they knew now as Chuuku.

"Far beyond an eternity of fire and brimstone… located conveniently at Level 17 Block 8 of the Corporeal Punishments Sector!"

"Um… uh… that was very informative, Botan-chan. Thank you." Kurama held up his hands in surrender right at the apex of the ferry-girl's performance.

"Really? I thought so too! OHOHOHOHOHOHO!!!" Botan laughed maniacally, forgetting that she still had on the glasses with the fake nose and mustache. It made for a pretty disturbing sight.

Coughing once, Kurama again meditated heavily on the recently relayed information. "So Tetsuma Yoshitaka voluntarily gave himself to Great Lord Enma's hands as a… tool of some sort?"

"Correct," Botan confirmed in an unnatural baritone, adopting a grim demeanor. "Tetsuma was my puppet."

Kurama further inquired, "What sort of puppet?" He then gestured towards Botan's face discreetly.

"Well, from what I remember, Great Lord Enma made use of Tetsuma, said usage being his 'ultimate punishment' of sorts," Botan thoughtfully answered, pensively scratching her mustache. "He destroyed those really evil spirits … y'know, the ones that we couldn't afford to reincarnate but are too stubborn to pass on… hmm? What is it, Kurama? Is there something on my face?"

Kurama sighed as he waved off Botan's question. "So since he can destroy the immortal soul, Enma Daio used him for the purpose of exterminating spirits," he supposed, adding, "Probably to make the Spirit World more 'efficient,' right, Botan-chan?"

"Ehehehehe… methinks you've gotten it right for the most part… the last part I can imagine to be Enma Daio's own sentiments as well." Botan laughed half-heartedly at that.

Kurama pondered heavily on the recent news. There were still too many things left to be considered, too many pieces of the puzzle still missing… the pieces that he did have didn't quite fit well together. He needed the missing, chief piece… one that would connect all the pieces of the puzzle together, so that things would finally make sense at last… or at least one correct piece that would put him in the right direction.

"Oi, Kurama? You ok, you hot piece of bishonen…" Botan started, quickly halting her sentence near the end as the kitsune stared at her in an odd manner. "I guess you're alright then," she merrily evaluated.

"Uh… yes. Thank you," Kurama assured, sweatdropping.

"Alright! Mission accomplished!" Botan gaily proclaimed, waving a 'v' sign with her two fingers. "Well, anyway… we'll just keep you posted on any future happenings. Remember, we're keeping a 'don't call us, we'll call you' policy. Yay! This was easier than I expected." Botan giggled as she congratulated herself for a job well done. She then began her delighted descent from the mountaintop temple.

Kurama sweatdropped again, blinking… twice this had happened today, and Yusuke was nowhere in sight. He was impressed. He waved goodbye to the silly ferry-girl. "I'll just tell Yusuke the news whenever."

Botan stopped in mid-skip and considered the youko's words. "Hmm… yeah. I suppose you could do that." Nodding to herself, she resumed her merry skip. Realization struck her by the time she reached her sixth skip.

"Omigosh Yusuke where is he Kurama where is Yusuke?!" Botan babbled in one breath.

"Uh… why do you ask?" Kurama queried the excitable ferry-girl.

"I didn't tell you? You didn't know? I didn't tell you? I didn't know? I mean…  Yusuke is now officially in a mission to track down Chuuku!"

"A mission, eh?" A voice behind Botan said. A chill formed at the base of the ferry-girl's neck. Botan shivered.

"Ah! He-hello, Keiko-chan! Where've you been up to? I mean, what have you been? I mean… oooh, headache!" Botan blabbered as she pointedly avoided facing Keiko's way… because the situation was kind of like Feng Shui, really. If one faced the wrong direction, you'd have to deal with really bad karma.

"I've been around," Keiko replied. She politely greeted, "Hello, Kurama-san… Botan-chan," before making her way back into Genkai's abode. Kurama gave a hesitant wave before he was answered back by the audible shutting of the sliding doors.

Before either Kurama or Botan could recover from the incident, they were then greeted by a loud, "WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM, KEIKO?" a good eight decimeters away, further adding to their confusion.

Yusuke grudgingly trudged forward, the very personification of chaos and confusion, followed by a contrastingly serene Genkai at a more sedate pace.

Botan and Kurama quietly watched, in rapt attention of the spectacular drama unfolding before them… it was quite a sight to behold indeed. No wonder, since Yusuke Urameshi was the star of the show, it was sure to be… something. They eyed Yusuke's performance carefully… all of his intricate gestures… his uncanny bravado… his gift of gab….

"FOR FUCK'S SAKES WILL YOU FUCKING GET THE FUCK OUT OF THAT FUCKING DOOR AND GIVE ME A FUCKING STRAIGHT ANSWER ALREADY?! You know I'm going to stick with you like stink on shit anyway, so you should just save us both the trouble and tell me what the fuck is wrong!"

"Uh… Yusuke… um…" Kurama started, in an attempt to get Yusuke's attention… all five seconds of it, if he was lucky. "Yusuke-kun, we're finally on an official mission to hunt down Chuuku, just like you wanted."

"Hmm," was what Yusuke had to say about it. Now Kurama was truly shocked. Yusuke continued his discourse with the two sliding doors, mumbling to himself, "Is she going just to bitch around the whole day? What the heck is she doing here in the first place? Shit… bitch, bitch, bitch… bitchin' for no apparent reason… that's all she ever does!"

"It looks as if there's nothing more we could do… he's in his own world now." Botan shrugged as she scratched her mustache in defeat. She then materialized her paddle and promptly beat the crap out of Yusuke.

Yusuke was finally released from his stupor as he looked at a panting Botan looming over him with a broken paddle. "What just happened? What's going on? Why did the mustached man in a pink kimono beat me up with a paddle?"

Kurama winced and turned his head away, anticipating the worst. By the time he opened his eyes, there was almost nothing left of the paddle held by a panting, seething Botan. Thankfully, her silly, swirly eyeglass-fake-nose-and-mustache disguise had already fallen off of her face in her excitement.

"You asshole! No wonder Keiko was so angry with you… it's this mouth! This mouth!" Botan began stretching said mouth to various proportions in her anger.

"Bowtawng?" Yusuke said in askance. "Ith thath you, bwitch? HEYTH, LEGGOW MY MOUWTH!" Yusuke requested as intelligibly as possible. Regaining his perilous control over speech, he kindly asked, "What's the big idea beating me up with that paddle of yours, bitch?"

"And what's the big idea calling me a mustached cross-dresser, huh?" Botan countered.

"YOU beat ME up with the paddle first! And you had that stupid-ass disguise on… what was I suppose to think? You looked like my junior high math teacher in a dress! That was just disgusting!"

"It's sooo not stupid! It's cute, funny and cool! I'm not hearing this, la-la-la-la…."

Kurama coughed once to get their notice. Surprised that that worked, he then decided to make full use of their short attention span.

"Botan, Yusuke is now officially in a mission, right?"

Both ferry-girl and half-demon stared blankly at Kurama.

After about half a minute, Botan smacked the palm of her hand in realization. "That's right!" Kurama sighed in relief.

"REALLY? After all this time, it has finally come true? YEAH!" Yusuke exclaimed.

"Really, really!" Botan cheered, grinning ear to ear as she held both of Yusuke's hands in front of her in celebration. "I'm so happy for you."

"Feh. It's not that I actually need permission from the Spirit World or anything… it just came at the exact time when I finally decided to go after Chuuku instead of just wasting my time here, waiting around," Yusuke scoffed, to which Botan nodded to patronizingly. "But you've got to admit… it's about fucking time! Wait till I get my hands on that Chuuku character… ghost or no ghost, I'm gonna kick his ass! This is the going to be best mission yet, right? Botan? Kurama?"

"…." Botan and Kurama both chorused, wide-eyed in apparent horror.

"Uh…." Yusuke scratched the back of his head in bafflement. Perhaps there was bird shit on his head? Nope… that's my gel. Boy, are these two acting weird or what. He then suddenly felt a chill on the nape of his neck. What is this terrible presence I feel!?

"I see. The best mission yet… right, Yusuke-kun?" a saccharine-sweet voice said.

SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF ME, JEEZ! Yusuke boggled at the young girl before him. "Ulp… K-K-K-Keiko!" He nonchalantly fell as he casually broke the wooden post he was leaning on into splinters. "Ehehe… nice weather we're having, eh?"

He was greeted again by his familiar companions… the shut wooden sliding doors.

"So you're actually excited about that supposed 'mission' of yours, huh? You JERK!" a muted voice called out none-too-gently.

Torn from turning his attentions to either the recently announced mission or a very angry Keiko made Yusuke quite a funny sight.


Upon the empty hallways of what was once a bustling community of students walked Kaito Yuu.  A bespectacled youth nineteen years of age, with half-lidded yet intelligent eyes, thick black curly hair, a wide frame jarred by lanky limbs and a face suffering from prepubescent acne; he was what a passerby would call as the conventional bookish student… or, for lack of a better word, the stereotypical nerd. Not that he would particularly care much for the title… neither did he care much for the fact that his scrupulous actions during that weekday afternoon actually complemented his physical typecast.

He had always liked the quiet of the school grounds in the afternoon. Since he was such a familiar face during the after-school hours, the custodians didn't mind him being there at all. His slow and calculated steps stopped short upon seeing what was posted upon the glass-encased bulletin board.

Kaito Yuu: Top One.

Kaito gave a derisive snort. Top one? What of it? He knew he easily surpassed a large percentage of the student body when it came to academics… even though Meiou High was such a prestigious school to begin with, he was in a class all his own. Getting this rank was a joke… it wasn't even a challenge for me. How insulting.

Kaito scanned the list for a certain name… the only one that actually held a passing interest to him. Surprisingly, it wasn't there. The pedantic youth shook his head in dismay. Such a waste. He was certain to make it at the third rank at the least of his efforts, knowing the below par academic performance of the other students.

Whatever happened to you, Minamino Shuichi? Kaito deliberated to himself. He had asked around the faculty to confirm his suspicions… sure enough, Minamino asked for a leave of absence to attend to some 'family matters'… the red-haired prodigy requested for some special make-up exams instead. He practically pleaded for them, even… As such, he wasn't qualified for the top ten by default. Feh… family matters, eh? It has been nearly a month since you've disappeared from the face of Meiou High. I wonder why….

"Oi! Kaito! Stop gawking at that bulletin board already! We know, we know… you're the top dog in your class! So quit being so self-absorbed and come join us!" It was the yellow-haired punk Kido Asato talking… with his other associate Mitsunari Yanagisawa by his side. His two associates from Sarayashiki Junior High School. They were such… immature accomplices, with no appreciation or respect for a man deep in thought.

"Oi," Kaito condescendingly greeted his two acquaintances as he scuffled toward their general direction, his meditations left for another day.


"Still sulking around, I see," Shizuru greeted the prone, blanketed form inside the laid-out futon as she carried various bath paraphernalia. "It's bath time, little brother."

Kuwabara Kazuma held his gaze at the ceiling… actually, not really looking at it, but rather seemingly staring through it, like it didn't exist. The same could be said with his perception and attitude towards everything else around him.

"Hey, you red-haired freak! Perhaps you'd rather that I bathe you like a little boy?" Shizuru taunted. "Don't tell me… you're ashamed about a little something, eh? I'll understand, since I'm your sister."

The thinly veiled insult caused a shift of sudden movement on her brother's part. Shizuru could barely hide her smile at Kuwabara's reaction regarding her little poke at his manhood. He was painfully predictable.

Kuwabara merely took away the kettle, the towels, and sponge before saying, "You can go now. I can manage on my own."

Damn… that li'l poke on his manhood thing always worked before. Why does he have to be so damn fucking over-melodramatic anyway? Shizuru fumed silently as she wished she had a cigarette in hand right about now to appease her anger, lest it boils over strong enough to make her pour the scalding contents of the kettle over his little brother's little head. Who knows? Maybe it'll change the color of his gross red hair.

Kuwabara sighed as he mumbled, "I'm not in the mood for this."

Shizuru heaved her own heavy sigh as she decided to mess with her brother's head a little bit longer. "Well?"

"'Well' what?"

The elder Kazuma crossed her arms as she looked at Kuwabara nonchalantly. "Aren't you going to bathe? Well, go ahead."

"Not with an audience, I'm not!" was what Shizuru expected her banal little brother to say. Which was why she was surprised to hear, "You never really changed… ne, sis?"

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Shizuru all but shouted, taken aback by her brother's words. Her demeanor remained the same but she inwardly cringed at what her brother's statement implied.

"What I mean is… this!" Kuwabara gestured his arms wide to emphasize his point. "You always, always have to avoid the real issue… you always go on the high road… you don't want to face emotional troubles and shit! You slink around it, sneak your way through it, but you never confront it… especially if it's a goddamn sort of problem you can't solve! You ignore it until it goes away… that's what you do. You're always like this!"

Enlivened by his own morbid enthusiasm, the younger Kazuma sat up straight, looking at his sister straight in the eye, daring her to speak. Upon hearing no contentions to his wordless challenge, he continued his impassioned yet pitiable speech, "What? No words of encouragement for your little brother? Aren't you going to say, 'It is not your fault, Kuwabara,' or, 'Hang in there, kiddo,' or 'Nothing can be done about it… just let go and do your best'? Where are your words of encouragement, sis? Am I too contemptible for you to spare any pity at all? What? Can't answer? Cat got your tongue?"

Shizuru slapped Kuwabara hard on the cheek and pushed him back on his futon as she got up. Turning towards his general direction as she looked down on him, she hotly replied, "So what are you going to do about it?

Greeted with confused silence, Shizuru prodded on, saying, "Not quite the response you were looking for either, eh? I have been putting up with your bullshit for weeks on end ever since you've regained consciousness… but you just moped and whined on and on… well, I'm fucking sick of it. You should get over yourself. You don't need lip-service, you need to get your ass off of that futon and do something. Grow up."

"So this is all the concern I get after being possessed? Suddenly it's all my fault?" Kuwabara mumbled sullenly yet half-heartedly.

"Shut yer trap. You hate bullshitting, right? Fine, then… I'll give it to you straight, no bullshit. You know as well as I that it was all your fault, so don't go whining 'It was all my fault' to win some sympathy 'coz you won't get it from me. Don't wallow in self-pity for your own convenience. Do something about it."

"Dammit, I wasn't having a pity party for myself because it was convenient! How could you be so cruel?" Kuwabara vehemently replied, his cheeks burning in a mixture of rage and embarrassment. "After everything I've been through, you won't even spare compassion or even pity?"

"Pity, yes," Shizuru said, unperturbed by his brother's burst of emotion. "Compassion? No. Compassion would need respect and, quite frankly, I have little to none for you right now. So stop whining already. Moping won't help you in your situation. What now, Kuwabara?" Upon receiving a dumbfounded stare on her idiotic brother's face as a response to her question, Shizuru heaved a sigh as she started to leave.

Kuwabara came out of his reverie in time to see his sister's back facing him as she began her departure from the room. He winced as a memory permeated in his consciousness.

It was a memory of the retreating form of a sleek-haired youth, his back turned in the same manner.

"Hold on a minute! Don't you dare turn your back on me!" Kuwabara Kazuma's eyes were flaring in bright-red passion as he quickly stood up, now pointing at Yusuke's apparition in the same manner as before, whenever he issued a challenge to him. "Don't you ever look down on me!"

"Let's fight! We must know who really is the best! Right here! Right now! Today's your lucky day! I will make you experience how it feels like to be a loser!" Kuwabara recited from his memory, playing out the scene in his mind.

"Really?" Yusuke's visage formed a particularly nasty grin… one which Kuwabara knew very well. It still gave him chills up his spine by just remembering it. "This is just great! I'm totally pissed right now. I feel like beating up someone today. Man, you're the one who's gonna make me feel so much better," the imaginary specter said… just the way Kuwabara recalled it.

The dark smile never left the phantom Yusuke's face as he suddenly charged at the honorable and manly Kuwabara Kazuma. Then there was unworldly pain. Kuwabara never realized that he had such a lively imagination.

"Oi, Yusuke… he just came out of a two-week comma. I don't want him relapsing into another one, 'k?" Shizuru casually said, a ghost of a smile creeping in the edges of her mouth.

"GA-H! This really is Yusuke?! OWWW! YUSUKEEEE, YOU BASTARD!!!"


As the lecturer droned on and on about the Roman culture et al, Kaito let his mind wander for a while longer. Their founders Romulus and Remus were raised by a bitch, their tendency to copycat showed that they were as creative as celery, and their overzealous appetites created such structural marvels as the 'vomitorium'… Sheesh, what is the point in all this? the supercilious adolescent summarized in his head every time the teacher enumerated topic after mind-numbing topic. Feh… like don't already know enough of this dreary subject.

The teacher… Isako-sensei… personally, I have nothing against him, but…. Kaito looked at the middle-aged, beady-eyed professor, his constant monotone, reminiscent of bees hovering nearby, lulling him into what he would call as a 'waking slumber'… where one was not only half-awake, but also suffering in shallow sleepiness.

All these dates, places, names… a trivial pursuit concluding to a complete synopsis of Man's eternal quest for knowledge ironically resulting in mere idiocy, the cycle repeating again, and again, and again… just like the constant droning of this… this… automaton-for-an-educator….

But even he was getting tired in overanalyzing the situation… his only recompense to the ever-foreboding lethargy threatening to engulf him in a barrage of pure, apathy-induced tedium.

Here's the understatement of the millennium… History is boring. Cycle after vicious cycle turning and spinning around each other like intricate clockwork in a constant tick-tock… rotating again and again until the very essence of your sanity is grinded into potpourri… it's more than a mere genius can take. Annoyed, he doodled mindlessly on his mostly empty notebook, trying to tune out whatever gibberish his mentor was spewing out… to him, his repetitive prattling was sounding more and more like a constant irrevocable hum instead of actual, intelligible speech.

Past deeds are past deeds… remembrance of inconsequential events and all other frivolities surrounding them are of no interest to me. Let the goddamned Romans be, for goodness sakes! What happens to the present is what concerns me the most. He started doodling again, but this time his doodles gave form to legible characters. Subject: Minamino Shuichi, he parroted the hastily scrawled writings in his mind.

Having a new distraction to aim his critical mind at, Kaito scribbled underneath another name with a flourish at the end of his injudicious strokes.

Kurama.

Perfect. He smiled to himself, chuckling… not at all minding the curious eyes that wandered over his desk and his person, surprised and apprehensive at his rare display of emotion.

He turned introspective again as he looked blankly at his dirtied script. Being on the top of the class was my only joy for a long time in school since I only excelled in this area… academics. That much I can admit to myself. I am neither socially nor physically attractive… but for a long time I was rather content with my superior academic standing and intellect… till Minamino Shuichi came into my life.

He tried sketching his nefarious rival in the paper, but hastily decided that he was more of an intellectual, and not an artist. He was everything that I was not… handsome and popular… but I couldn't care less about that. The worst of all… worst of all….

He remembered his slack-jawed expression of his reflection on the glass of the familiar bulletin board when he saw his name on the second rank. Right above it was Shuichi Minamino's name. I thought my eyes were deceiving me… I was rendered in a state of utter disbelief. It was completely unreasonable for this doppelganger to suddenly be so… so… repulsively perfect. He already had everything… how dare he take my only joy?

In his memories, Kaito saw beside him a mob of various well wishers… mostly female… congratulating a nauseatingly modest Shuichi Minamino, his hand at the back of his head and all. Popular… good-looking… congenial… and now a phenomenal genius. I couldn't stand for it… I wasn't only good at academics, but I was the best. For him to simply waltz around and turn my world upside-down like nobody's business was simply unacceptable.

Shuichi Minamino's thespian performance grated Kaito's nerves to no end. His utter… faultlessness annoyed him in ways he couldn't even dream possible. To take away academics from Kaito Yuu's world was tantamount to taking an arm or a leg from his person. I would become a decrepit nothing. Yet after that incident, for the first time ever since he started school… for the first time in his life he found something enjoyable to do.

It wasn't just the studying itself that was so satisfying… before, he did it only for the sake of being in a higher level than his less-gifted classmates… an elitist attitude, for sure… but for the first time he actually had to strive to attain perfection… he was at last challenged and compelled to see a natural talent develop into fulfillment.

So the incident helped me… in ways I couldn't imagine… soon, I realized that I was both overestimating and underestimating my own abilities at the same time… overestimating in the sense that I thought I was already beyond fault, underestimating in the sense that I thought I could be no better than I already am now. I finally realized my own self-worth. Kaito idly checked to see if Isako-sensei had already left. To his chagrin, he was still there, listening intently to a nervous student recite. The introspective boy let his mind wander some more, not to be bothered with the dreariness of recitation.

What was so fascinating to me was that once upon a time, my natural talent in academics was the very thing that kept me from realizing my true potential. I kept using that as my excuse for everything. It was my justification for all my inadequacies… not good in sports and physical education? That's all right… I'm good at academics. That's enough. Not good in social situations and group dynamics? It's ok… I'm smart. I'm smarter than any of them… than all of them. They don't deserve my notice… they are below it.

Kaito chuckled to himself. My own talents stunted my growth and development as an individual and as a social being. But all that changed during those last two years… I rediscovered myself through perseverance and will. I renewed myself… becoming truly whole, now knowing what I am truly capable of… what I truly am.

Reminiscing, nostalgia took free reign of Kaito's senses.


It was a familiar setting. Kaito Yuu was standing in the familiar spot in the hallway, checking to see the latest post in the bulletin board. Classmates and students, familiar and unfamiliar, were all used to this scenario as they made their way around the riveted youth, all but ignoring him. Nodding to himself in affirmation, Kaito absentmindedly tapped on the glass in front of the posted top scores in last week's Physics examinations.

Ah… Minamino is ahead of me by four points. In the corner of his eye, Kaito could make out the usual silhouette of a familiar long-haired form making his way through the hallway in his usual hurry.

"Minamino," Kaito said simply, as if merely acknowledging the red-haired boy's presence. The red-haired boy turned his attentions to the unassuming youth, politely giving a nod in askance. He did seem a bit relieved though, as evidenced by his inching away so very discreetly from the myriad of female well wishers circling around him like vultures.

Kaito hadn't even taken away his gaze at the bulletin board as he spoke, "Minamino, you're slipping. Even though again you've gotten the highest grade, you could have done better… you usually could outdo me easily by ten points or so."

Minamino scratched the back of his head in his usual feign of ignorance as he sheepishly said, "Really, Kaito? I wasn't really keeping count."

"You easily made eight mistakes, three of them I got. Most of them you could have simply avoided by reading and following the instructions carefully. It seems your mind was wandering during the test," Kaito calculatedly evaluated. "I do not like having a below par rival, Minamino… lately, your perfect record for attendance has been inexplicably tarnished by surreptitious absences."

"Ah… it's really nice that you consider me as a rival, Kaito… but I do have other responsibilities to attend to aside from school." Minamino laughed in a decidedly stilted manner.

"Never you mind, Minamino… it's just a matter of time before it'd be me who would get the top rank. Please, don't be left behind," Kaito said in his typical deadpan.

"I'm sure that you could do it. You are certainly the most deserving… After all, you're the one who studies the hardest in the whole class! I truly found your History report just a while ago to be insightful and…."

Minamino suddenly halted in mid-sentence as Kaito motioned him to stop. The red-haired boy fell silent as Kaito spoke.

"My History report was below par yours, even though you had probably less than a day to prepare for it given the erratic nature of your school attendance. I have no need to be patronized."

Minamino blinked once at the declaration and then smiled. Nodding to himself, he addressed Kaito in a less condescending manner. "Very well… if you really insist, I'll be frank. Yuu Kaito, it'll take you a millennium to reach my level of intelligence… and in every single year of those hundreds of years you would have to study with your life. If that is the only statement you can accept from me, so be it."

"I'll shorten it to a month's time… at most half a year's time… to get to that level," Kaito said as he started to leave. "You are stagnated while I am dynamic… though I still expect no less than a challenge from you, Minamino Shuichi."


So it was a rather productive two years, if I may say so myself, Kaito assessed. It may be true that I never bettered Minamino Shuichi in any subject whenever he could attend school… the closest I ever got was a one point difference in favor of him in English. But I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed those two years.

But it wasn't at all nearly as interesting as what happened just recently… when strange things suddenly occurred around our area… around Meiou, particularly. Horror stories of missing students and bizarre things happening to people… perplexing diseases spreading like a contagion that not even modern medicine could explain… people dying of mere fatigue. I couldn't care less about such things if I myself haven't experienced those things first hand….

I could not remember how exactly I met up with the old woman known as Genkai… or perhaps it was the other way around and she found me… found us, actually… that didn't matter much to me either. Kaito smiled. What matters was that I finally had a chance to learn all about the enigma that was Minamino Shuichi and the truth behind that puzzling statement he once told me….

"Yuu Kaito, it'll take you a millennium to reach my level…."


"Yuu Kaito is your name, is it not?" the old woman wearing what seemed to be oriental ancient Chinese clothes said. Kaito looked at her apprehensively and nodded.

He eyed warily the two other people inside the room… the way they were acting, with their mouths agape as they gazed around at the whole interior of the abandoned house reminiscent of little children in those haunted houses confirmed that they also have no idea where they were or what was going on… which was typical. The reflective youth guessed that though they all looked about the same age, he was the eldest of the two.

Immature, Kaito concluded to himself as he warily eyed his two presumably would-be associates.

"I believe you haven't met each other yet," the elderly woman stated the obvious. Kaito remembered the old lady introducing herself beforehand. What was her name? Genki? Remembering the names of complete strangers wasn't exactly his forte.

"Oh… heh… I'm A-Asato Kido. It's nice to meet you," the bleached-haired, gothic-looking youth formally greeted. The dark lines under his eyes made him look like a drug addict… a delinquent, at the very least. The shaking hand he offered rather reinforced the idea in Kaito's head. He cautiously looked at the said hand but made no move to shake it.

Kaito nearly jumped out of his skin as he saw… a completely three-dimensional version of himself… bound over him and said in an exaggeratedly comic voice, "Oi!"

"My, you're a jumpy one," the nightmarish phantom-clone of Kaito said. It then suddenly morphed into a droopy-eyed, broom-haired… for lack of a better word… freak. "This changing-into-different-persons ability I got was one of the reasons why I'm here… I think. I would presume you would have the same… er… problem?"

Hearing no response, the broom-haired delinquent continued. "Yanagisawa Mitsunari, at your service… but you can call me Yanagi."

Speak for yourself, you broom-haired freak, was what Kaito meant to say, but instead he simply went with, "I'm Yuu Kaito."

"You can easily see from your uniforms that you all came from different schools… Yanagi and Kido came from Sarayashiki Junior High… and Kaito-san here came from Meiou High."

Yanagi made a low whistle. "Meiou? That's a top notch school."

The old woman turned toward Kaito. "I already talked to the two about their specific mission concerning our soon-to-be-incoming visitors. They're task would be relatively easy." She snorted derisively as she said, "Considering who their target is."

Kaito nodded slowly, doing his best not to show how… alarmed he was with all the sudden developments happening around him. "These missions you're talking about… this is in concern with what has been happening in our area lately, as well as with…."

"What has been going on with you?" the matured martial artist finished for him. "Of course, of course. All will be explained soon. Your particular newfound… abilities would be of great use to our agenda… furthermore, I haven't exactly picked you out by random. There's a reason why you were picked… and now that you've all agreed to assist me, it's all for the best."

With one of Kaito's eyebrows raised in curiosity, the strange woman continued. "I'm sure you know of a certain Minamino Shuichi in your class, yes?" That piqued Kaito's interest.

"With the others who are about to come here, Kido and Yanagi are enough. But for the one known as Kurama, I will need your help, Kaito-san." The elderly woman smiled, which made Kaito strangely queasy. "Follow me… we have a lot to talk about."


Kaito again looked at the hastily scribbled characters on his notebook, fixating his gaze upon one name. Kurama.

So Minamino Shuichi was actually a former resident of the Demon World, also known as the great and powerful Demon World thief, the cunning and mercenary Youko Kurama. Kaito chuckled to himself once more. My, I'm surprised I was able to summarize that in one sentence.

He remembered the concomitant affair after the meeting. What Genkai said was true… the others were near worthless in the intellectual battle that occurred inside the room-wide territory where only his rules of rational thinking and appropriate judgment existed while the laws of physics and violence did not. With his acquired special abilities, he could literally create his own world… a world where only the best thinkers could survive.

But I had to bend my agreement with Genkai a little so that I could actually try and test Kurama myself… it would have been out of character of me not to do so, Kaito wistfully remembered. The resulting conclusion to the cerebral contest was far from what Kaito expected from a cold and calculating demon fox.

Absurd and jocular laughter… unbelievable… I lost because of absurd and jocular laughter, Kaito thought, in a mixture of embarrassment and amusement on his part. It was his own laughter that defeated him in the contest of silence he and Kurama devised against each other.

He didn't know what made him laugh… what made him throw away the chance to beat Kurama. Or was it Minamino? Was he so incredibly intimidated of the fact that Kurama was a legendary demon fox that when the so-called demon fox showed that silly face he laughed in relief? Or perhaps… god-be-damned… that silly face was a really funny one?

Kaito chuckled in remembrance. Maybe it _was_ because of the funny-looking face Kurama made. Again, the great Shuichi Minamino had used an unknown angle in the whole matter to his advantage to rise above the ever-striving, second-best Kaito Yuu.

Or maybe the face he made was just really funny. Kaito sniggered. He just couldn't bring himself to seriously analyze such a give-away fight. One thing for sure, that Minamino is certainly full of surprises.

Ah… his double-life… that would certainly explain his continuous absences even though he's still considered an ace student. Hell, it would explain why he's still considered an ace student even though of his continuous absences, Kaito reasoned. It would figure that his double-life would be the very culprit to his latest absence but that's not the interesting part of this train of thought.

One question still intrigued the judicious boy. Was it Minamino Shuichi or Kurama which I fought then and there? For most of his High School life, he always challenged the one known as Shuichi Minamino… there was no Kurama in the equation. Perhaps he was known as such by his colleagues in the Spirit World, but not by his classmates, friends and admirers in Meiou High… that was another world altogether.

Who was this Kurama anyway? Kaito remembered asking this question over and over again in his mind and to others involved ever since Genkai revealed to him his rival's true past. Demon plants and Demon foxes aside… what made up the base components of this person who had three identities altogether… the youko, the human and the person in between?

Kaito smirked. Why should it matter? A rival is a rival… it's quite apparent what choice he had made and who he's going to be. It is Minamino Shuichi who is my rival. It was Minamino Shuichi whom I fought with in that abandoned house during those weird times… Minamino Shuichi is my rival, now and forever.


"How long do you think he'll be sitting there, talking to himself?" one of Kaito's classmates said as he watched the scholarly youth sit and chuckle to himself inside the classroom in all his lonesome. "Doesn't he know that we've already been dismissed thirty minutes ago?"

"You want to bet on just how long can he keep that up?" the other one asked, grinning.

"I dunno. He's starting to really weird me out… he's already mumbling stuff about Minamino. I didn't realize he swung that way. I think I'll pass."

"Whatever, dude. Maybe his creepy little posse from Sarayashiki will wake him up from his trance or something."

"They're into voodoo, I tell ya."

The two suddenly jumped up in surprised when Kaito suddenly stood up and pointed valiantly toward the other doorway, crying out, "Minamino Shuichi has returned!"

"Uh… how'd you figure that?" the thinner, taller one of his nameless classmates said.

"Are you using the dark arts to predict the whereabouts of your significant other?" the shorter, weasel-like one said from behind the stick figure classmate. Kaito made a mental note to at least try to remember his classmates' names next time… or at least the ones with whom he was frequently acquainted.

"Actually… my first clue was when I saw Minamino's little admirer waving a banner saying, 'Sempai is back!' outside the school yard, from my vantage point near the window." Kaito plainly said as his unidentified contemporaries facefaulted.

"MOVE OUT OF THE WAY, YOU CLODS!"

"ACK! It's a stampede!"

"Away with you! Shu-chan is back!"

"You harlot, don't call Minamino-sama that!"

"OW, Hey, my FOOT!"

"Oh yeah… my second clue was the gaggle of girls stampeding in the hallway," Kaito said to the two disheveled figures holding onto each other for dear life as they shivered in petrified horror. He nodded his goodbyes to them and left.

Well, well… life goes on in Meiou High.

 

To be continued…


Next: Shuichi Minamino's everyday life… continues.

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 6
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