Disclaimer: I do not own X-men Evolution, Yu Yu Hakusho, or anything of Edgar Allen Poe's.
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A/N: Back in action, baby! Finals are nearly over and I feel freer than a bird! Wheee! I'm working on revising some earlier chapters, too, so Mission X should soon be supremely spiffy as far as formatting goes!
Also, PLEASE READ THE NOTICE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE.
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I've had to alter my markings for various languages due to some new quirks of ff . net.
Now it's "Japanese" and "Makai dialect."
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- : - : - Last Time on Mission X - : - : -
They crossed the field in silence save for the near-imperceptible rustling of their footsteps, and even that was masked by the occasional breezes meandering through the clearing.
They were a mere ten feet from the doorway when a dark shape rose up before them as though from nowhere. A low, bass voice rumbled through the darkness.
"Where do you think you're going, low-class?"
- : - : - Chapter Twenty-Three: Strange Encounters of Many Kinds - : - : -
Hiei could not restrain a dark smirk. It was amazing, he thought, to see just how swiftly a grown demon wilted into a quivering, whimpering imp when an S-class Toushin had it pinned by means of one foot pressing suggestively against said demon's jugular.
The Toushin in question looked to be having entirely too much fun, ruby eyes glinting in the pale moonlight, dark hair swirling about his form like an all-encompassing cloak.
"Now," purred Yuusuke in a voice rich with ugly promises, "just who were you calling low-class?"
The foot ground into the demon's scaly neck with just a hair more pressure, and a wretched growl that was more like a squeal wrenched itself from the creature's throat. "N-n-not you, m-my l-l-lord! A s-slip of the tongue, I swear! I was m-merely g-g-guarding the d-door!"
Well, the demon –a bear demon, it appeared (and smelled)—was certainly large enough for 'guarding the door' to be a viable career option. Standing, the bear had towered head and shoulders over even Youko, easily the tallest of the Toushin's group. In a comparison of sheer muscle mass, the bear easily outweighed all three of the smaller demons… combined.
In terms of youki, though, the bear was a small ember encircled by three roaring infernos.
"M-m-my lord, p-please!"
… an ember that might shortly be snuffed out of existence, it seemed.
Yuusuke bent closer to the panting demon's face, seemingly unaffected by the stench of the bear's unwashed flesh. The moonlight could make no purchase upon the dark markings upon the Toushin's skin, creating inky-black slashes against Yuusuke's moon-paled skin, gleaming upon bared fangs. "You break much too quickly, low-class. Begging already? I'm disappointed."
Golden eyes clearly alight with amusement, Youko Kurama spoke up from his position at Hiei's elbow. "My Lord, we're wasting the night."
The Toushin rolled his eyes. "Always gotta' ruin my fun." He smirked down at the bear demon, whose eyes had grown noticeably larger as it seemed to take in the power levels of the crazed battle demon's two companions. Yuusuke snorted. "Fine then, fox-boy, you take care of the little weasel. I want him out of the way until we're far out of range of his stench."
A pale, clawed hand rose to run elegantly through the youko's silvery hair, pulling free several small seeds. The fox demon grinned as the bear tracked this movement with ill-concealed terror. "My pleasure."
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"Here. Swallow these."
Rogue mumbled something that even she herself couldn't understand as she accepted the blessed gift of pain-relief pills from Doctor McCoy's furry palm and gulped them down. The infirmary lights had been set for half their usual brilliance as a small concession to the monstrous migraine that was currently stomping gleefully on her skull. She tried to ignore the way that her hand had trembled when she had accepted the pills, but her entire body was trembling, shivering, and not from any sort of chill.
… Kurama… once Youko, now Shuichi… a thieving fox with mastery over plants… a monster in the body of a human boy…
Hank bustled about in the dimly-lit room, bringing pillows to support her back so that she could sit up without much effort, fetching a second glass of water to wash down the pills, rummaging through cabinets of medical equipment, but Rogue had shut her eyes and made no effort to track his movements visually after her first efforts had culminated in a disturbing view of three Hank McCoy's offering her three separate cups of water and six more pills.
It wasn't that hard to keep tabs on him anyway, even without her eyes. She could hear his breath as he shuffled about, and she could smell the musky scent of his fur when he drew nearer, could feel his body heat.
… Hiei… master of the Jagan eye, tamer of a demon dragon from the depths of hell… kidnapper, murderer…
… but she could not stop shivering.
"Are you cold, Rogue?"
It had to be in the middle of the night. The air had the unmistakable, still quality that only the early hours of the morning possessed, and she could hear no sounds beyond the movements of the doctor in the room with her.
"Would you like something to help you sleep?" Hank, bless him, was keeping his voice to a careful murmur to avoid worsening her headache, but Rogue found herself wanting…
"Ah'm not gonna' be able to sleep."
She wanted to run. She wanted to fight, to jump, to hit something, but mostly she just wanted to move.
The scent of warm fur, and then the doctor's hand, covered with the cold rubber of a glove, was on her wrist, checking her pulse, and she could sense the touch of the latex-covered fingers before they ever brushed her skin. She could hear the dull rasp of air entering and exiting the doctor's lungs.
… Yuusuke Urameshi… born by the mingled blood of human and monster… once human, now demon… a lord among demons…
"Your pulse rate is very high. You don't want a sedative at least?" He was clearly worried, but Rogue refused to open her eyes, wondering if she would see eight Hank McCoy's standing beside her bed instead of just three.
"It wouldn't help." She knew that as surely as she knew that the dull pounding she heard was the beat of the doctor's heart. "Ah'm too antsy."
"It's nearly two in the morning. Are you sure?"
She resisted a chuckle, feeling strangely disconnected from herself, wondering if that was the pain pills at work. "Ah'm sure."
"The professor will want to speak to you as soon as possible. We're all worried about what happened at the mall. Kurt would only say that you touched Yuusuke and Hiei. Do you remember anything more than that?"
… touching those that had been touched by death…
It was harder to resist the grim laughter this time, but she managed somehow. "Ah remember," was all she replied.
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A 'gentle' shove by the Toushin resulted in the battered door slamming open to reveal… a perfectly empty, abandoned warehouse.
Yuusuke sniffed the air, the scents of old wood and rusted metal and damp earth easily discernable, his senses reaching out to brush against the illusion-based barrier that stood not six inches from his face. He snorted. "Cute."
He flared his youki and stepped through, the slimy sensation of foreign youki sliding over his skin and wrenching a displeased growl from his throat. The image of the abandoned warehouse blurred and wrenched and shattered before his eyes, and he was standing at the edge of a huge room lit by small fires placed hither and yon, a room that was filled with more demons than he had seen since the last tournament. Ogres, kitsune, bat demons, cat demons, dragon demons, and demons that Yuusuke could not put a breed to. Behind him, a vague, watery barrier separated him from the outside world, turning any shapes beyond into shadowy blurs.
Cackles and growls and the dull roar of many separate conversations brushed his ears, thrumming in his skull, and he was surrounded by more youki signatures than he cared to count. A metal walkway ringed the entire room, running nearly ten feet above his head, and at the center of the room appeared to be a sizeable… pit.
"Kurama?" Ignoring the hostile, weighing gazes of a score of demons, Yuusuke nodded toward the large hole that lay about thirty feet in front of them.
The imposing figure of Youko Kurama stepped up to stand just behind the Toushin's shoulder. "I expect that's a fighting ring of some sort. We will not be able to leave without entering it at least once, I expect."
Hiei stood at Yuusuke's other shoulder, mirroring the kitsune's position. "You sound as though you aren't looking forward to it," commented the Jaganshi archly.
Kurama smirked. "I never said that."
Yuusuke pressed forward, wondering whether he would have to push to get through the tightly packed mass of demons before him, but a path cleared before him as though by magic, and he realized with a smug smirk that the demons were reading his power levels and pushing each other to get out of his way. He scanned the building swiftly and found no other S-class demons nearby, merely a low C-class.
:Head for the pit: prompted Hiei's voice inside his mind. Yuusuke felt a small wash of confusion, and he pushed that feeling toward the Jaganshi, prompting a further explanation. :When a demon enters a gathering ground with a class equal to or greater than the highest classed demon present, those demons compete for dominancy.:
Yuusuke felt a thrill of enthusiasm. A night out and a brawl. Things were looking up.
The crowd realized what was about to happen, judging by the rising levels of both sound and youki as they grew more excited. More and more heads turned toward the pit, and the crowd pressed forward, vying for the best vantage points.
Upon reaching the edge of the pit and seeing the demon facing him on the other side, Yuusuke's feelings of elation swiftly waned. There stood the low C-class he had sensed earlier, a male demon of undetermined breeding that, while mostly human-looking, sported horns, pointed ears, scaly hands, and cloven hooves instead of feet.
"Aw, man." Yuusuke sighed heavily, feeling vaguely cheated. "That's not fair. I could knockhim over if I sneezed too hard."
Kurama chuckled, his gray ears twitching to track various sounds all around the room even as his eyes focused solely on the C-class on the other side of the roughly-carved pit. "Pity. Of course, since Hiei and I both acknowledge that you are superior, one of us could take the fight for you… if you wish."
Yuusuke frowned, wanting to battle but knowing that he could get a better, more dangerous challenge by sparring with either Hiei or Kurama at a later time. Where was the sport in pounding a low-level into the dirt? It would be like kicking a kitten.
… an ugly kitten, that is.
The Toushin snorted in disgust. "Ch. Make it quick. And you owe me a match, the both of you."
There was a rush of wind, and Hiei disappeared from his side only to reappear on the rocky, uneven floor of the pit.
Kurama laughed. "I think Hiei's got some frustration to work out."
Demons were calling out all around, their voices blending in with the general mayhem, and Yuusuke realized after a moment's attention that the demons were taking bets on the fight… and the odds were extremely one-sided.
The battle was… boring. There was no doubt in Yuusuke's –or, indeed, in anyone's—mind that Hiei would win. High A-class versus low C-class left very little room for hope for a 'surprise' victory.
Yuusuke's impression of the battle later would be vague blurs of black and flashes of light upon a sword blade and calls from the audience and cries of pain from the unfortunate demon who was Hiei's opponent. The Jaganshi did not even bother using his flame powers, preferring, apparently, to beat the opposition into submission.
Yuusuke found himself agreeing with Kurama: Hiei definitely had some stress to work out.
It would be fun to spar with him later.
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The infirmary door creaked as it was pressed stealthily open, but Rogue heard it as easily as if it had been the blaring of an alarm. Golden eyes glinted in the darkness as a dark figure eased into the shadowed room, and Rogue felt a small flicker of warmth as Kurt did his level best to enter without disturbing her 'sleep'.
"Relax, Blue. The Doc's gone to bed."
The blue mutant flinched and bamphed in surprise, reappearing at the top of one of the room's walls, huddled in the corner, pressed against the ceiling. Golden eyes were wide as they sought out Rogue's supine form on one of the medical beds.
The young woman let herself chuckle softly. "Jumpy, ain't ya'? Git down here, y' little chicken."
Rogue winced at the noice but smiled when she was suddenly looking up into a pair of warm golden eyes set in a shadowy face. Her stomach twinged uncomfortably as she realized that her belly and neck felt entirely too vulnerable, and she took a moment to roll onto her side, laying her arm over her stomach. Kurt watched this with ill-concealed worry.
"Rogue? I did not know you vere avake! Doctor McCoy vould not tell us anyzing! Are you alright?"
… ruby eyes and black markings and wild hair and fangs that glinted beneath the red light of an alien sky…
She ducked her chin, feeling the tremors, now somewhat milder, still running up and down her limbs. "Ah'll be fine, Blue."
Kurt's heartbeat was different from the doc's. The younger mutant's heartbeat was lighter and swifter than Hank's plodding, steady pulse, but the tempo of Kurt's heart abruptly sped with nervousness, and Rogue could hear him fidgeting.
"Rogue… Yuusuke and Hiei and Shuichi… Zey are… Do you… did you know…" The blue-furred mutant swallowed heavily."Rogue, zey are not—"
"Not human." Kurt's pulse gave a sort of hop-skip, and Rogue raised her eyes to meet his golden gaze. "I know."
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Kurama had informed Yuusuke quickly that the dominant demon at a gathering was allowed the highest seat available… in this case, an odd sort of stone chair that looked almost like a throne. It was set on the walkway that ringed the upper level of the warehouse, a good vantage point for everywhere save the area directly underneath his feet.
A scantily clad cat demoness came with a cup of unidentified liquid –Hiei informed Yuusuke mentally that it was probably some sort of Makai wine or ale, certainly extremely alchoholic—and set it at his elbow. Yuusuke was not allowed to drink from the cup until Kurama had smelled the contents for anything suspicious; the kitsune was taking his pretend role of 'bodyguard' very seriously.
Seated above the majority of the crowded hall, Yuusuke did his best to ignore the multitudes of eyes that still tracked his every movement. He felt as though he were a cat surrounded by countless wary mice. After ensuring that the drink was nothing harmful, Kurama had vanished into the crowd somewhere over to his left, and he tracked the fox's youki signature instinctively. Hiei, far more relaxed after his short, one-sided battle, had melted into the shadows behind Yuusuke's seat, and the Toushin suspected that the Jaganshi was watching the continuing fights below only to see if there was another opponent that he might challenge to a somewhat entertaining battle.
"My, but don't you look bored."
Having not seen her approach, Yuusuke allowed himself the luxury of examining the strange demoness from head to toe and back again before he replied. Clad in a loose robe of dark silk with blonde hair pulled back in a simple braid, the demoness was nothing spectacular… unless one counted the fact that she was lacking in scales, horns, or extra appendages, a characteristic that made her stand out in this particular gathering. Her youki seemed fuzzy to his senses, as though she were shielding herself, but from what he could read, she was high C-class or low B-class. He wondered why she had not participated in the fight earlier.
Yuusuke raised one shoulder in an eloquent shrug. "Nothing entertaining about pounding weaklings into the dirt."
The woman chuckled, fangs prominent at the corners of her mouth. "There are those that would disagree."
She stepped forward and, without waiting for an invitation, seated herself on the arm of Yuusuke's seat, a slit down the side of her robe leaving a vast expanse of pale thigh bare for examination. She reached as though to pick up the glass of wine set on the chair's opposite arm, but Yuusuke placed his palm over it firmly, scowling up past the woman's bosom (far too close to his face for comfort) and into her violet eyes.
"Forward sort of lady, aren't you?"
She smiled, her hand still wrapped firmly around the base of the cup. "Drink service is lousy on the floor. I'm parched."
Yuusuke eyed her suspiciously for another long moment, then removed his hand. Her smile widened as she raised the cup to her lips and took a long sip. When she was finished, she returned the cup to its former position, but Yuusuke knew –even without Hiei's warning mental nudge—that taking a drink from the vessel now would be a decidedly stupid thing to do.
She was smiling again, her eyes seeming to take in every feature of Yuusuke's face. "I haven't seen you around before. I'd remember if an S-class had wandered into this dump before. I'm Indira."
Yuusuke restrained the urge to lean as far away from her as possible. "I'm… Jin."
'Yuusuke Urameshi' was far too noteworthy a name to let slip, especially in the midst of such a large horde of demons. Yuusuke pretended to not hear Hiei's soft snort.
"Jin." The demoness, Indira, seemed to taste the name. "Have you been in the area long?"
She laughed, amused at his reticence. "Well, what in the three worlds brings you out here? I can see that you're no party-demon."
The Toushin eyed her appraisingly. They had come here for information. Perhaps the woman could be a helpful source. He chose his words with care.
"I've been away for… a long while, and I've found that certain demons have… poached on my territory, interfering with the humans. I came to see if I could discover who."
The woman drew back abruptly. "Why would that upset you? Do you want to keep your feeding grounds to yourself?"
Yuusuke didn't reply.
Her eyes grew suddenly cold. "… or are you one of those human lovers?"
Yuusuke sneered. "I don't see how that's any of your concern. I do what I wish on my own lands."
"… You are protecting the humans." Indira answered his sneer by baring her own fangs. "You're a battle demon, I can see by your marks. You were born to feast on the blood and pain of humans, and you wish to save them? They're animals, like cows or pigs. The only difference is that humans are dangerous."
Yuusuke found himself glaring. "I don't like your tone, low-level."
"Well, pardon me, my lord!" The demoness stood in a swirl of dark silk and snarled, her hands arched to leave her claws at the ready, as though she wished nothing more than to scratch at his eyes. "You talk as though humans are innocent victims! Little sheep to be protected by a shepherd! They're just as much monsters as any demon imprisoned in Meikai! Demons like you disgust me!"
Yuusuke allowed his youki to rise, an obvious warning to any nearby demon, and several of the bystanders who had been watching the argument avidly edged away, showing better survival instincts than the furious demoness. "I'd be a bit cautious, if I were you."
There was a low shnikt sound somewhere behind him, the sound of a katana being loosened in its sheath, but Kurama melted out of the crowd over to Yuusuke's left and interrupted before the argument could escalate.
"I sense humans."
- : - : - To Be Continued… - : - : -
A/N: Here you go, everyone, a much awaited update! I hope it was as good as you were hoping?
Now I'm working on perfecting a balancing act between Mission X, Flawed, and What Must Be, so I'll try to update as least one of those stories a week, if not more. Wish me luck!
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IMPORTANT: PLAGIARISM NOTICE:
I would really like it if you would take a short moment to visit www dot fanfiction dot net backslash squiggle starrynites and read the story "Mutant Threat" by starrynites. It's a Yuu Yuu Hakusho/Inuyasha/X-men Evolution crossover. You don't need to read all of it if you don't want, just the parts with Yuusuke and the Tantei, and tell me whether or not you think that's PLAGIARISM.
She's also on mediaminer dot org as starrystarrynites.