Okay, everyone. This is my first venture into the horror genre, and I'm horrible at first chapters. So please forgive me, and give me a chance, okay?
Shattered Twilight: Chapter I
Urameshi Yuusuke loved summer. He loved it because it was warm. He loved it because it was bright.
He loved it because it meant no school.
And no school meant only one thing.
This summer, Shizuru had gratuitously volunteered to drive their little group (fondly dubbed "Reikai Tantei Co. by Yuusuke) up to a cabin that Keiko had rented for them. It was in walking distance of a lake and hot springs, and (in Yuusuke's opinion, most importantly) there were no adults there to spend the two weeks with them, save for Shizuru.
But any qualms Yuusuke might have had about Shizuru crashing the party were quickly dispelled when she drove up to his driveway in a rented minivan, dressed in a halter top, nicely short shorts, sunglasses, and a grin that told Yuusuke that they were going to be having a lot of fun this vacation.
"Get in, Urameshi; we've still got Kurama and Hiei to pick up." Kuwabara said from the passenger seat. "Just dump your bags in the back, Keiko will show you how."
Yuusuke shouldered his duffle bag and headed around the car to open the rear door. Before he could, it opened by itself, revealing his girlfriend's smiling face. "Morning, Yuusuke!"
He grinned at her. "Morning, Keiko." He glanced down at the sundress she was wearing. Almost of its own free will, his hand snuck out of its pocket…
"Don't you even think it, Yuusuke."
He looked at her sheepishly. "Sorry. Force of habit."
With a little bit of wrestling, they stored Yuusuke's bag under the seat and Yuusuke plopped down between Keiko and Botan. Yukina, sitting on Botan's other side, smiled at him. "Good morning, Yuusuke-san."
He grinned back. "Hi, Yukina. How's it going?"
"Very good, Yuusuke-san. I'm very excited about this trip."
"We all are, Yukina-san." Kuwabara agreed enthusiastically from the front seat. Yuusuke kicked the back of his seat. "Ow! Urameshi!"
After about ten minutes of that, they arrived at Kurama's house. The redhead was sitting on his duffle bag, wearing shorts, a slightly tight T-shirt, and sneakers, his hair pulled back in a high ponytail with his sunglasses propped on top of his head. Hiei stood next to him, looking very put out, wearing shorts, a tank top, and hiking boots. He could have been a normal teenage kid, save for the bandages winding around his arm.
Shizuru leaned out the window and smiled at them. "You look cute, Kurama-kun. I like your hair that way."
He looked up and grinned back. "Do you? Good. I just put it up because it was annoying me." He stood up and grabbed Hiei's arm. "Into the car, Hiei."
Hiei glared at him but did so, grumbling the entire way. Kurama threw his bag in the back and climbed into the rear seat next to the fire demon.
Yuusuke, who was beginning to feel cramped, crammed between the three girls anyways, gratefully moved to the rear with the two demons. "Hey guys. Uh, Kurama, just out of curiosity, how did you…"
Kurama gave him a foxy grin. "Hiei and I had a bet on. He said if I could catch him while he was running, he'd wear the clothes and come on the trip."
Yuusuke raised his eyebrows. "But he's so much faster than you. How did you catch him?"
"I didn't think he'd try to use flame-proof vines." Hiei mumbled. "That wasn't fair."
Kurama smiled at him. "You didn't specify fairness, Hiei. And those vines were loose enough that you could have broken out if you tried hard enough. You just chose not to."
Hiei "hn"ed and turned away.
Yukina turned around in her seat, peering over the edge at Hiei. "I'm very pleased that you came, Hiei-san. I think we're going to have fun."
Hiei's eyes widened slightly and he snapped his gaze to the window.
Yukina giggled and sat back down. Within seconds, her face was replaced by Botan's. "You shouldn't be such a sourpuss, Hiei. It's mean."
He glared at her.
She laughed nervously. "Not that there's anything, um, wrong with that."
Yuusuke frowned at Hiei. "Don't threaten her telepathically, Hiei. Do I have to beat the crap out of you again for doing that?" He shook his head. "You should have learned by now not to mess with women around me."
Botan nodded enthusiastically. "What he said, Hiei. Oh, and Kurama, you do look really pretty."
"My only problem is that you stole my hairstyle." She motioned to his bangs and sidelocks.
Kurama smiled sheepishly. "That wasn't actually my fault. They wouldn't stay in the ponytail, so I just took them down. Sorry if I'm infringing a copyright."
"No, it's okay. I'm just a little put out that it looks better on you than it does on me." She pouted.
Yuusuke laughed. "Ooh, male beauty 1, female ego 0. Nice job, Kurama."
Kurama hit him lightly. "Don't be mean to the girls, Yuusuke. Apologize."
"Okay, okay. Sorry, defeated weaker gender." Two slaps to the head. "Ow! Dammit! Fine! You made your point."
Keiko thought for a moment and hit him again.
"What the hell was that for?"
"Yukina. She wouldn't hit you, so I did."
Yuusuke sat back and joined Hiei in moping. Kurama rolled his eyes and leaned over the seat, striking up a conversation with the girls.
Yuusuke glanced at Hiei over Kurama's back. "Hey. Hiei;" he said in a low voice.
"…Dare you totouch his ass."
"Oh, this is pretty!" Yukina breathed when they arrived at the cabin. "Look at the lake, Kazuma-san! See how it sparkles?"
"Just like your eyes, Yukina-san." Kuwabara said brightly, climbing out of the car carrying both his bag and Yukina's.
Shizuru rolled her eyes, shoving her duffle into her brother's arms. "Give the poor girl a break." Ignoring her stuttering brother, she put an arm around Yukina's shoulders. "Come on, Yukina-chan. You can bunk with me if you want."
"I'd like that very much! Thank you, Shizuru-san!"
"Don't mention it."
Kuwabara stared after them, mouth open. "What just happened?"
Kurama walked up behind him, his bag in one hand and Hiei's arm in the other. "Nothing you shouldn't get used to, Kuwabara. And stop squirming, Hiei, or I'll bunk with Yuusuke and leave you with Kuwabara."
Horrified, Hiei fell into step beside the redhead, and even offered to carry Kurama's bag.
Kurama grinned smugly, handing the duffle to his smaller friend and catching Yuusuke's eye. "Blackmail. Don't you just love it?"
Yuusuke had to admit it, when Keiko planned something, she went all-out.
The cabin she had rented for them was bigger on the inside than Yuusuke had thought it would be. There were four sets of bunk beds arranged in a square in the bedroom, a bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower stall, a living room with two couches and a large fireplace, and a well-equipped kitchenette. Outside, they were in walking distance of both the lake and a hot spring, and just outside the house were four logs arranged around a fire pit in a cozy campfire setting.
"I've got to hand it to you, Keiko. This is really great." He said, climbing on to the top bunk of the bed nearest the door and throwing his bag on it. "I'm impressed."
"Well, that's what I was striving for." She said with a smile, putting her duffle bag on the bottom bunk of the bed across from Yuusuke. "Botan-chan! I'm putting your stuff on the bed above me!"
"Okay!" Botan called back from the living room.
Standing on tiptoe, Keiko put Botan's bag on the top bunk, just as Kurama and Hiei entered the room. The fire demon took one glance around, and promptly flitted to the top bunk of the bed that was against a wall with a window. "Hn." He said decisively.
Kurama shrugged. "It doesn't matter to me, Hiei." He put his bag down on the bottom bunk and looked up at the demon, a sly smile crossing his features. "I just can't seem to top you in anything, can I?"
Yuusuke made a face. "Hey, dude? Too much information."
Kurama winked at him. "Sure it was, Yuusuke."
Shizuru, Yukina, and Botan entered the room. "What was too much information?" Shizuru asked.
Yuusuke looked at Yukina. "Nothing." He glanced at Shizuru. "Are you two sharing?"
"Yeah;" Shizuru smiled at Yukina. "Would you like a top or bottom bunk, Yukina-chan?"
"A bottom bunk, please." She smiled back. "I'm a little scared of heights."
"No problem." Shizuru put Yukina's bag on the bottom bunk of the remaining bed, and her own bag on the top bunk. "It's getting a little dark out, guys. How's about a campfire?"
Ten minutes later, they were sitting on the logs outside the cabin. A blazing fire roared in the fire pit, courtesy of Hiei (with a little goading from Kurama). Shizuru had procured a bag of marshmallows, some toasting sticks, and a very nice acoustic guitar, which Kurama promptly took and tuned by ear.
Happily munching on a marshmallow, with Keiko snuggling against him, Yuusuke couldn't think of any ways the moment could be more perfect.
Then a soft, sweet note rippled around them.
All eyes went to Kurama. Delicate fingers moving the strings, long hair hiding his face, Kurama began to play the soft strains of a gentle, familiar home-away-from-home song. His voice blended with the guitar perfectly, soothing and sweet and quiet all at the same time.
Keiko sighed, and Yuusuke couldn't blame her. He put an arm around her.
The song finished, and they clapped. "That was great, Kurama." Kuwabara commented.
Kurama smiled at him. "I needed to test it." He brushed his hair off his face, tying it back with a rubber band. "How about something a bit more enthusiastic?" Flexing his fingers, he returned to the strings and began to play an uplifting dance hit that was beginning to get quite popular back in Tokyo.
Grinning, Shizuru grabbed Yukina's hand and pulled her off the log, coaxing her to dance. Keiko giggled, watching them move to the music, now accompanied by two voices—Kurama's gentle, uplifting alto mixed with Kuwabara's off-tune bass.
Botan walked around the fire, holding out her hand to Yuusuke. "Dance with me?"
He glanced at Keiko. She smiled at him and nodded, releasing his arm. Grinning, Yuusuke took Botan's offered hand and stood up, moving in front of the fire to dance next to Shizuru and Yukina. Dimly, he was aware of Keiko's eyes following him, but whenever he turned to look at her, she would just smile and wave. At one point, he grinned back and blew her a kiss, and she pretended to catch it, winking at him. Conscience clear, he resumed dancing, and the music continued until Kurama, wincing, announced that if he played anymore, his fingers would start bleeding. Laughing, joking, and all-in-all in good moods, they returned to the cabin, changing for bed and crawling into their beds sleepily.
The morning dawned clear and calm. When Yuusuke groggily returned to consciousness, he could feel the sunlight that streamed through the window, warming his eyelids. Half-asleep, he wondered what had woken him up.
Oh. Right. Rubbing sleep out of his eyes, he sat up, meeting Yukina's worried eyes. "What is it, Yukina-chan?"
"Botan-san is missing!" The small koorime looked fairly frantic. "She's not anywhere in the cabin, I can't find her?"
"Maybe she went out to the hot springs or something." He spoke through an unquenchable yawn.
"She wouldn't just leave without telling us, Yuusuke-san. She knows how dangerous that is."
Heart sinking, Yuusuke realized how right she was. Rolling out of bed, he hit Kuwabara with a pillow. "Wake up, Kuwabara. We need to find Botan."
The orange-haired teenager grumbled about being woken up, but sat up anyway, groping around for his shirt.
Rolling his eyes at his fuming friend, Yuusuke crossed the room, gently shaking Kurama awake. "Hey, Kurama. Wake up."
Kurama opened his eyes, huge green orbs blinking curiously up at Yuusuke. "What is it, Yuusuke?"
"Botan's missing and Yukina's worried. We need to go find her."
Kurama murmured an affirmative and got out of bed, standing on tiptoe to shake Hiei's shoulder.
Trusting Kurama to wake Hiei, Yuusuke went back to his own bed and grabbed a sweatshirt before leaving the bedroom to find his sneakers. By this time, Shizuru and Keiko had woken up, and were slightly confused by the commotion.
Squinting against the bright sunlight that greeted him when he stepped outside, Yuusuke shielded his eyes with one hand and looked around, trying to spot the familiar head of blue hair. He felt, rather then heard; the others emerge from behind him, and motioned for Kurama and Hiei to follow him. Kuwabara took the hint and remained behind with the girls.
"What's wrong, Yuusuke?" Kurama asked quietly when they were out of earshot. "Do you think something happened?"
"That's exactly what I think." Yuusuke said grimly, quickening his stride. He could feel the two demons exchange glances, communicating silently in that weird mental language of theirs. He almost envied their closeness at times, but—
He stopped short.
"Dear Inari;" Kurama breathed.
Yuusuke dropped to his knees.
When they had arrived at the cabin the night before, Yuusuke hadn't noticed the large oak tree near the entry to the hot springs.
He noticed it now.
Because now, the body of one of his best friends hung by the neck from a branch.
Dimly, he felt Kurama race past him, saw Hiei flit up the branches and cut the rope that hung Botan suspended. The body dropped into Kurama's waiting arms, and the redhead eased it gently to the ground. Pushing the rope aside, Kurama rested two fingers against Botan's neck. It was unnecessary. He looked at Yuusuke; expression agonized, and shook his head.
Slowly, Yuusuke dragged himself over to Kurama and forced himself to look at Botan's body. He nearly gagged—in addition to being hanged, Botan's heart had been gauged out and—by the looks of it, strung around her neck on a piece of twine. A yellow scarf was tied around her eyes.
He heard a scream from behind him. Putting himself in front of Botan's body, he turned pain- and denial-filled eyes to his girlfriend, Yukina, and Shizuru. The scream had been Yukina's, and the koorime was now clinging to Shizuru, sobbing. Keiko stood in shock, Kuwabara holding on to her arm to keep her upright.
"Get them out of here, fool." Hiei snapped to Kuwabara.
Kuwabara didn't bother to argue, just gently guided the girls back to the cabin.
When they were inside, Yuusuke looked at Kurama.
The redhead looked back at him, eyes filled with understanding and brimming with unshed tears. "Yuusuke." Slowly, he extended a hand.
Yuusuke grabbed it, all but flinging himself into Kurama's arms and sobbing against Kurama's lap. He felt Kurama's hands stroke his hair gently.
Hiei's strained voice sliced through the air like a knife through warm butter.
Head buried in Kurama's lap, Yuusuke heard Kurama answer.
"You might want to look at this."
Kurama gently wormed his way out of Yuusuke's grasp and moved to look at the body. "Oh, my—Yuusuke, come see this."
Swallowing hard, Yuusuke raised his head and looked.
Hiei held Botan's arm upright, and Yuusuke saw that it was stained with blood. He squinted, trying to make out the cuts. Focusing, he could see that they had been cut into the flesh in the patterns of kanji…When he finally made out the bloody message; he felt his stomach jump into his throat.
Carved into Botan's arm was "Cry for those who follow."
"What does that mean?" He was surprised at the hoarseness of his voice.
"It means;" Kurama said quietly; "that she isn't the last that is going to be murdered, Yuusuke. Something is going to happen."
Yuusuke's heart plummeted. "I was afraid of that."
Okay, horrible first chapter. It'll get better. Well, worse, actually, when you think about it. It's going to get scarier, I hope. Please don't abandon me.
Oh, and since I'm sure people are going to ask me how Botan can die, seeing as how she's a being of Reikai—it's because she's in human form. Since she takes a human form to interact with Yuusuke and co, and humans can be killed, it's possible for her to die.
That and I just don't like her, so I needed her out of the picture fast. Yes, people, that's the answer to the mystery, the serial killer of Yu Yu Hakusho characters is me. Heh heh. Just kidding.