Disclaimer: Yu Yu Hakusho belongs to Yoshihiro Togashi. The Crow is the property of James O'Barr.
Author's note: My frequent writing collaborator The Wolf God recently gave me a challenge: Write a Crow fic based in Yu Yu Hakusho. I merrily took up his gauntlet and now I'm writing this story for you, my readers. Don't expect the main character to meet Robin or Yami Yugi, as this story is not in the same universe as "Black Robin" or "Yu-Gi-Crow." Also, this prologue is a retelling of the fight between Yusuke and Toguro in the Dark Tournament finals, with a shocking twist.
How the fuck did I get here? Yusuke Urameshi asked himself as he fought Toguro. As they fought, he began to remember.
He remembered how he and Kuwabara had teamed up to save the ice maiden Yukina from the clutches of a human crime lord named Tarukane, a wicked man who tortured her because her tears would become the Hiruiseki Stones, rare diamonds that could be sold on the black market for millions, maybe billions. In the course of that mission, they had encountered many demons that worked for Tarukane, the deadliest of all being the Toguro Brothers.
Yusuke and Kuwabara thought they'd bested the demonic duo, but as they later discovered, the match had been rigged. The Toguro Brothers had thrown the fight because their real employer, Sakyo, had set up the whole thing to bring about Tarukane's downfall. Toguro challenged the Spirit Detectives --- Yusuke, Kuwabara, and the demons Kurama and Hiei --- to participate in the Dark Tournament, a demonic fighting contest. Refusal was no option, since they were the invited guests and if they refused, they would be hunted down and killed.
Team Urameshi had battled through some of the toughest demons around: Team Rokuyukai, the trio of brainwashed human fighters known as Team Ichigaki, the demon ninja known collectively as Team Masho, Team Urautogi, and now Team Toguro.
The foursome, fivesome if one considered the Masked Fighter, had endured so much on the way to the finals. Hiei had unleashed his Dragon of the Darkness Flame, only to end up crippling his arm and being unable to fight in the next two matches. However, that had been no fault of his, just simple trickery on the part of their opponents and the vile tournament committee. Kurama had rediscovered his full power as the demon fox Yohko Kurama. Kuwabara had frequently lost his fights, although one was due to trickery and the rest to simply being surprised by his opponents' techniques. As for Yusuke, he had grown even stronger, especially when the Masked Fighter, later revealing herself to be his mentor Genkai, gave him her Spirit Wave Orb, thus passing most of her power onto him.
Unfortunately for Genkai, passing on the Spirit Wave Orb had left her too weak to fight Toguro when he had come for her. With one punch, he had fatally wounded her and she died in Yusuke's arms.
This was why Yusuke was fighting Toguro now. He was fighting to avenge Genkai's murder.
"Is this the best you can do, Yusuke?" Toguro asked.
"I suppose you're right," Yusuke replied. "I was kinda arrogant to think I could beat you with these on." That said, he removed his wristbands, revealing golden coils around his wrists. Another pair of golden coils appeared around his ankles.
"Wow!" Koto shouted. "I suppose you'd have to be pretty brave to wear golden bracelets and anklets in a Dark Tournament!"
"Nice fashion statement," Koenma's blue servant ogre commented.
"Spirit Cuffs?" Hiei asked. "Is he insane?"
"What's the big deal with those Spirit Cuffs?" Kuwabara asked.
"Those golden coils around Yusuke's wrists and ankles keep his spirit energy at a certain level," Kurama replied. "If he removes them now, then his energy will rise even higher."
Yusuke stared at Toguro, remembering just how he'd gained his Spirit Cuffs. Genkai had placed them around his wrists and ankles, binding him. Yusuke had struggled with all his might to move, but to no avail.
"Don't you get it, slacker?" Genkai had asked. "Your physical strength can only go so far. But your spirit power can reach levels beyond human comprehension."
Yusuke had channeled his spirit energy and with that he had finally been able to move with the Spirit Cuffs.
"If you want to go to the bathroom, pick your nose, or even walk, you'll have to maintain your full strength as long as you have those Spirit Cuffs," Genkai had told him. "Once I give you the full power of the Spirit Wave Orb, the Spirit Cuffs will keep your power at the level that it's at now. Until you say the code word that will release the Spirit Cuffs."
"And what's the code word?" Yusuke had asked.
"Outburst," Genkai had replied. "Say that, and the Spirit Cuffs will release their hold on you. You will know when it's time."
In the present, Yusuke smirked at Toguro. "I think it's time you got a taste of my full power, you murdering son of a bitch."
"Really?" Toguro asked. "Then let's see it."
"Outburst!" Yusuke shouted. Instantly, the Spirit Cuffs disintegrated, and Yusuke's power broke out. Massive blue energy emanated from him, shaping itself into a phoenix.
"Holy shit!" Chu shouted.
"What kind of power is that?" Touya asked.
"The kind that looks like it oughtta do some damage," Jin replied. "When your wind looks like a phoenix, that's what it'll do."
"Is that Urameshi's full power?" Kuwabara asked.
"Apparently," Hiei replied.
"Are you happy now?" Yusuke asked. Suddenly, he vanished.
"Where'd he go?" an audience member asked.
Yusuke reappeared in the air and in Toguro's face, assaulting him with a battery of vicious punches. His fists moved in a nigh-invisible blur.
"He's gotten even faster!" Kuwabara remarked. "Hell, he might even be faster than you, half-pint!"
Hiei grunted in incoherent dismissal.
Meanwhile, the four girls watched in amazement at Yusuke's newly revealed powers. "Yusuke'll win now," Keiko proclaimed confidently.
"One-two! Toguro's done!" Botan cheered.
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Shizuru contradicted, ever the voice of reason.
"What makes you say that, Shizuru?" Yukina asked.
Finally, Yusuke punched Toguro out of the ring, creating a decently sized crater. He leaped in, ready to finish the job, only to back away when he saw the look in Toguro's eyes.
That look in his eyes, he thought. It's like he's saying with his eyes that he's still in control of this fight.
"I don't believe it," Koto said. "Yusuke was dominating the match, and now he's backing away like a scared little girl!"
"I don't know," the blue ogre said. "Maybe he's got some kind of secret strategy."
Toguro smiled coldly at Yusuke and he rose to his feet from the crater.
"His muscles," Kuwabara said. "They're all normal size again!"
"Ah, this is what I've been looking for, Urameshi," Toguro intoned. "You are worthy after all."
"Of what?" Yusuke asked defiantly, or at least, he hoped it sounded that way.
"Of my full power," Toguro replied. His spirit energy spiked tremendously, creating a storm of power around him.
"What the hell is going on?" Rinku asked.
"Language, Rinku," Chu scolded.
At the peak of the storm of energy surrounding Toguro, darkness consumed everything. Within the darkness, Toguro's body reshaped and remolded itself.
I should have attacked him before all this started, Yusuke thought, and yet I'm not scared at all. If anything, I'm anticipating what Toguro's got in store for me.
"Are you ready to die now, Urameshi?" Toguro asked.
The darkness faded, allowing everyone present to see Toguro at full power. He was a terrifying sight to behold, his skin a hard, rocky gray color and small, volcano-like ridges sticking out of his shoulders.
"So this is your full power," Yusuke mocked. "I'm not impressed, Toguro."
"Don't get cocky with me, boy," Toguro answered. Something shifted underneath the skin of his right arm and emerged from his thumb. Then Toguro flicked that something at Yusuke with a speed almost surpassing that of thought.
Yusuke cried out in unanticipated pain as that something impacted against him, sending him flying back into a wall. "What the hell was that?"
"A bullet," Toguro replied. "Unlike the bullets of your Spirit Gun, mine have no limit. See?" He started firing skin bullets at Yusuke, one after another in rapid succession. Yusuke was moving quickly as well, blocking all the skin bullets that came at him.
"This is crazy," Kuwabara said.
Finally, Yusuke tired of blocking Toguro's bullets and came after him, punching him at hyper-speed. Toguro let Yusuke punch him for a minute or so, and then grabbed the Spirit Detective by the throat.
"Scared of me yet?" he asked with a cruel smirk.
"Yeah, right," Yusuke managed to reply. "Scared of a rock-faced freak like you? In your dreams."
"Toguro's got Yusuke in what's got to be a painful hold, and yet he won't surrender!" Koto exclaimed. "Man, is this kid a glutton for punishment or what?"
"You're a fool not to fear me, Yusuke," Toguro stated. "Fear is what makes you stronger. Without the fear that you will be beaten, that you will die, you will never get stronger." That said, he threw Yusuke across the stadium and Yusuke impacted against a wall.
"Ooh, that's gotta hurt!" Koto exclaimed with cheerfully sadistic delight.
Yusuke just got up and came after Toguro again. However, Toguro simply would not go down. In fact, he gave no sign of feeling the blows Yusuke rained upon him.
Finally, Toguro punched him in the stomach, eliciting a choking gasp from the Spirit Detective. Then he followed up with a vicious backhand to the face, sending Yusuke spinning into involuntary flight.
"This doesn't look good for Yusuke," Koenma said.
"As it is now, it does not look as though he will be able to stand against Toguro for very long," Kurama added.
"Come on!" Kuwabara protested. "Urameshi will win! We've come too far to lose now!"
Yusuke removed himself from the ground and glared at Toguro, ready to fight some more. However, something made him pause.
Energy was emanating from Toguro, seeming to fill the entire stadium. Then something truly horrifying happened.
Demons in the audience started to scream in pain as they felt something being torn out of them. It didn't take them long to realize that something was their very souls. Those who remained in the audience watched with horror.
"What is happening to them?" Keiko asked.
In the devastated arena, Yusuke asked the same question, but of Toguro and with more outrage than horror.
"What the fuck are you doing, Toguro?!"
"Maintaining maximum power can take quite a toll on this body," Toguro replied calmly as the souls were absorbed into him through the volcano-like protrusions on his shoulders. "So I have to absorb the souls of others in order to keep it up."
"Aw, shit!" one demon exclaimed. "We better make a run for it!"
The demons stood up and ran for the nearest exit. Unfortunately for them, Sakyo pressed a button on a remote control he was holding. Steel walls emerged around the stadium, forming an inescapable circle.
"Fuck!" another demon cursed. "We're trapped! Trapped like fucking mice!"
"In that case, we better start rooting for that asshole human!" a third demon yelled.
"Kagu's right," a fourth demon agreed. "Urameshi may kill our kind, but at least he'll let us live if he wins. Toguro'll probably suck all our souls out for the hell of it!"
"Don't try to run again," Toguro said to the audience. "You'll just piss me and Yusuke off. We tend to have disagreeable tempers."
That statement made Yusuke's blood boil. He leaped into the air and came down with a salvo of vicious punches aimed at Toguro. "Don't ever put me in the same category as you!"
Toguro just smirked chillingly as he blocked Yusuke's last attack. "Is that why you lash out at me so, Yusuke? Don't like being reminded of just how similar we really are?"
"Shut up!" Yusuke screamed. "I'm nothing like you!"
"Denial won't help you, Yusuke," Toguro intoned. That said, he threw Yusuke once again, sending him flying into a wall.
"I am not seeing this," Keiko murmured to herself. "This isn't happening." We're back home, and Yusuke's just being an idiot and a pervert like he always is. I'm getting offended, but I'm secretly flattered. He's not surrounded by demons, fighting for his life, and I'm not watching him and being helpless to do anything.
"Keiko . . ." Botan murmured. Something made her turn, and for an instant she saw Genkai. What was that? I could have sworn I saw Genkai for a second.
Puu watched Yusuke and Toguro fight with an unreadable expression in his eyes. Then he spoke.
The subject of Puu's one-word speech turned to him, startled. The reason she was so startled was that Puu had spoken in Genkai's voice.
"Genkai?" Botan asked.
Puu/Genkai turned to face Botan and the other three girls and that was when Botan knew for sure. The hard, flat expression on Puu's face could belong to none other than Genkai.
"Yusuke will not win against Toguro as he is now," Genkai said. "There's only one way for Yusuke to stand a chance against Toguro."
"And that would be?" Shizuru prompted.
Genkai flew outside the protective shield Puu had created around the girls. "Botan, Yukina, it'll be up to you to keep up the shield."
Toguro stalked over to Yusuke. "Pathetic. I expected so much more from you."
"Do I look like I give a shit about your expectations?" Yusuke asked defiantly.
"Toguro," Genkai said, floating above him and Yusuke.
"Genkai?" Yusuke asked, startled.
"Genkai," Toguro sneered. "What brings you all the way from Spirit World?"
"To tell you something important about Yusuke," Genkai replied. "The boy has a six-foot wall of crap standing between him and his true power. There is a way of forcing him to bring down that wall."
"And that would be?" Toguro prompted, echoing Shizuru's earlier words.
"He's very predictable," Genkai explained. "You want his full power unleashed? Kill one of his friends."
"What the fuck?!" Yusuke yelled. "Genkai, what the hell do you think you're doing?"
Genkai gave no response.
"An excellent idea," Toguro said. "Nothing like a little emotional pain to bring out a fighter's true potential." His lips twisted into a chilling smirk. "Now which one of your friends do you want me to kill, Yusuke? The kitsune? The fire demon? The swordsman? The ferrywoman? Or perhaps your precious girl."
"If you touch any of them, I swear I will kill you," Yusuke snarled.
"I thought you already wanted to kill me," Toguro said.
"Yeah," Yusuke admitted defiantly. "Only difference is I won't go so easy on you if you go after my friends."
"What is Genkai thinking?" Koenma asked.
"That it's better to sacrifice one than all," Hiei replied bluntly. "If one of us dies, then Yusuke's anger and pain will give him the strength he needs to finish off Toguro."
"And what if that isn't enough?" Koenma asked. "Are you saying that if that isn't enough, then it's ok to sacrifice another one?" He sighed in resignation. "There is a cold sense to it after all. I just hope Genkai knows what she's doing."
"Genkai," Yusuke said. "For the last frigging time, what the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Helping you win," Genkai finally replied. "You're not going to win the way you are now."
"When you trained me, you told me to commit to something all the way," Yusuke said. "I chose to commit to my friends. And now you're telling me it's ok to let one of them die as motivation!?"
Toguro was still ruminating on who he was going to murder in order to coax Yusuke's full power out. Finally, he made his decision.
"The girl will be my coup de grace," Toguro decided. "However, that doesn't mean that there isn't someone who means just as much to Yusuke." He chuckled insidiously. "I choose you, Kuwabara. Say your prayers now."
Yukina gasped in horror. "Oh, no . . ."
Kurama and Hiei began to advance toward Toguro, ready to protect Kuwabara as best as they could. However, Kuwabara raised an arm to stop them both.
"Don't even think about it," he growled. "I don't need your protection."
"Reconsider that, fool," Hiei spat. "Toguro intends to kill you. And you are too weak to fight him and live."
"You think I don't know that?" Kuwabara asked. "I know! But I know this as well: I'm a man, and I'm going to die like one!" That said, he unsheathed his Spirit Sword, ready to face Toguro.
"Kazuma-san," Yukina whispered.
"Bring it on, you sick motherfucker!" Kuwabara yelled. "I'm not afraid of you!"
"Then you're even more of a fool than I thought," Toguro said.
Kuwabara charged at Toguro and slashed him with the Spirit Sword. It hardly put a dent in his armor.
"My turn," Toguro growled and punched Kuwabara in the stomach. Hard. Of course, hard for Toguro meant being able to shatter a tank. Then again, given his insane strength, that could have just been an easy blow.
"Kuwabara, no!" Yusuke shouted.
Yukina stared in horror, her vision beginning to blur with tears.
Toguro removed his fist from Kuwabara's stomach, revealing a bloody hole in Kuwabara's midsection. Toguro's fist itself was covered in that same blood.
"I did the best I could, Yusuke," Kuwabara managed to utter as he fell. He was able to raise himself up just enough to look at Yusuke. "Now beat him for all of us. Make my death count." He collapsed and breathed his last breath.
Yukina turned away from the tableau, weeping. As she wept, her tears hardened into the Hiruiseki Stones, which clattered when they fell onto the arena seats.
Shizuru prided herself on being a strong woman, and yet this sight proved too much for even her to bear. Tears slid from her eyes.
"Not again," Botan murmured. "Not again. I can't have lost another friend."
Keiko was in shock. This isn't happening. This isn't happening. Kuwabara can't be dead. He just can't, because . . . if he can die, then . . . so can Yusuke.
"Are you satisfied now?" Yusuke asked, cold rage intertwining with unbearable pain in his voice. His energy emanated from him like a cloudy flame. "She was right. I did have a six-foot wall of crap between myself and my powers. And now one of my friends is dead because of it."
"Whoa!" Koto exclaimed. "I've never seen that kind of power from anybody before, and I certainly wouldn't have expected it from a human! Will we get to see some exciting bloodshed now?"
"Should I kill another of your friends, Yusuke?" Toguro asked. "Just so I can make my point clear?"
Yusuke was in his face in what seemed like the speed of thought itself.
"You're a dead motherfucker, Toguro," he vowed, his voice soft yet powerful. "How fucking ironic. There was once a time I wanted to be like you."
"Hmm, really?" Toguro wondered curiously.
"Yeah, it's true," Yusuke admitted. "I didn't exactly have a lot of male role models growing up. The only men I ever saw were either those self-righteous excuses for teachers or those sleazebags my mother brought home for a night of meaningless fucking. You were the first older guy I could have ever looked up to. You were strong, and nobody could ever boss you around. I wanted that."
"You can have that, Yusuke," Toguro said. "Whether you want to admit it or not, you and I are the same now. We are at the same level of power. You can truly be like me. All you have to do is live for your strength alone and renounce your so-called friends."
"I will never do that," Yusuke declared. "I wasn't finished yet. I wanted to be like you, until Genkai told me what you did."
Yusuke recalled Genkai's last words to him before she died.
"Toguro's wish was to be transformed from a human into the highest class of demon. Every human fights a war against time that is ultimately impossible to win. Toguro ran from that fight. Don't you ever do the same. You have to realize . . . that there is so much more at stake here. You can't be a . . . cocky kid anymore. You have to . . ."
She hadn't said anything else. How could she; she was dead.
"I will never do what you did," Yusuke vowed. "You got where you are today by throwing away everything that truly matters. I will never be like you. I may die today, but at least I'll do so knowing that I didn't sell my soul like you did."
"You are truly insufferable, Yusuke," Toguro said. "Friendship, love --- such things are not meant for those who truly wish to be great. To achieve eternal greatness, one must be willing to relinquish anything and everything."
"You're not human at all," Yusuke snarled. "I doubt you ever were." A regretful and soul-weary sigh escaped his lips. "I already swore that I would never forgive you for what you did to Genkai. But after what you did to Kuwabara, I now know that it is myself that I will never forgive."
Toguro delivered a vicious backhand to Yusuke, sending him flying into the wall. Actually, he flew half the way and bounced the other half.
"That didn't hurt you at all, did it?" Toguro deduced. "Ah, so your power has grown after all. You can actually take a hit from me without feeling pain."
Yusuke just got up, stalking toward Toguro with deadly purpose in his eyes. Toguro just stood there, unconcerned. That is, until Yusuke delivered a right cross that sent Toguro flying. He impacted on the ground a considerable distance from Yusuke.
"That was for Genkai," Yusuke said. In an extremely quick motion, he was at Toguro's side. He grabbed Toguro by his neck and pulled him up, only to punch him again. "That was for Kuwabara." He threw Toguro into the wall and lunged at him quickly, delivering a hyper-fast battery of vicious punches to him. "And all that was for the other people you murdered, you selfish, heartless son of a bitch!"
"Brutal," Koto commented. "I have never seen such a violent display of anger and grief before! I love it!"
The demon audience was now cheering for Yusuke, since he was their best hope at survival.
"Yusuke! Yusuke! Yusuke!"
"Yeah, finish him!"
Toguro's lips curled into a chilling smile.
"Admirable, Yusuke," he said. "I suppose it will take more than I expected in order to defeat you."
"What is he talking about?" Koenma asked. "Isn't he already at full power?"
Hellish energy gathered around Toguro as he began to transform once again. He grew even more massive and muscular, his increasing size causing his pants to tear. His shoulder muscles expanded even further and bifurcated.
"Remember when I said I was at 100% power?" he asked. "I lied. That was more like 85%."
"You will die," Yusuke snarled.
"It's not too late, Yusuke," Toguro said. "If there's anything I've learned in all this time, to be the best, one must be willing to let go and throw everything away --- friends, family, love, even one's own humanity."
"Cut the bullshit," Yusuke snapped. "You didn't throw it away! You ran away from it!" He pointed his index finger at Toguro in a familiar gun-firing pose and held the wrist of that hand with his other hand. "I won't run. And I won't let go. If it takes everything I have, I will make sure that you go down for good! Spirit Gun!"
He fired a massive orb of spirit energy at Toguro.
"Whoa!" Koto exclaimed. "Yusuke has just fired a massive Spirit Gun blast! One way or another, this fight will be over soon!"
Toguro caught the Spirit Gun blast and balanced himself on the balls of his feet, trying his best to hold it back.
Hiei let out a muttered curse. "He is beginning to weaken."
Indeed he was. The energy fueling Yusuke's Spirit Gun was dwindling and soon he would be completely exhausted.
Yusuke struggled hard to keep the energy going, but in the end, he was too exhausted. On its own, the Spirit Gun could not overcome Toguro's insane strength. Yusuke fell to his knees.
"That . . . took almost everything I had," Toguro said. "Thank you, Yusuke, for enabling me to use my full strength for the first time. As your reward, I'll send you to join Genkai. You can say hello to her for me."
Kurama, Koenma, and Hiei blanched in horror at Toguro's words.
Toguro created a skin bullet and fired it at Yusuke's heart. As the Spirit Detective was out of energy, he couldn't block it or evade it.
Yusuke let out choking gasps of pain as he fell prostrate on the arena floor.
I'm sorry, he thought. I'm so sorry, Genkai. I'm so sorry, Kuwabara. Tears gathered at the edges of his vision, which was quickly fading to black. I'm sorry, Keiko, that I never told you . . . how much I . . .
He never got to complete his thought, as it was at that moment that his life faded from him.
Keiko stared blankly, her mind refusing to grasp the concept that Yusuke was dead. Finally, her grief found expression in her tears.
"Say it ain't so," Chu uttered, shocked.
"It's so," Touya stated, the cold bluntness in his voice masking his own regret.
Jin shuddered. The one human who was the closest thing he could have had to a brother was dead.
"Not you, too, Yusuke," Botan murmured, tears in her eyes. "Not you, too."
Boiling anger rose in Hiei. Yusuke had been the one human he had actually respected. In time, they might have become friends.
"Don't," Kurama said. "I know what you want to do, and it is suicide at this point. Our only chance now is to escape from this hellhole and regroup."
"You go without me," Koenma said. "A deal's a deal. Yusuke is dead, and that means I am as well."
Koto left the announcer's booth to join Juri on the arena floor. "And the winner of the Dark Tournament is Toguro!" they announced in unison.
"Shit," one demon in the audience said. "We are so fucked."
Indeed they were. And so was the whole world.
But not all was lost. All great evils died sooner or later. One day, Toguro would be made to pay for his crimes. On that day, he would know what fear was. And then, he would no longer be able to escape death's cold embrace.
To be continued . . .
Next: Botan speaking. In the two years since Yusuke met his untimely death at Toguro's evil hands, the human world has been almost completely taken over by demons. The Spirit World has organized a resistance force, but so far, all they're doing is surviving. All that may change when a dead man rises from his grave to take vengeance upon the one who killed him. Next time in "The Crow: Spirit Bullet."