Author's Note: I've seen this type of story begun several times now and I've read them, but they never seem to update so I decided just to make my own with my own little twist to it. I hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu Yu Hakusho. No amount of wishful thinking will change that.
He ran as fast as he could, fear racing through his pounding heart. He sped onward as fast as his legs would carry him, but it still did not seems fast enough. Despite the turmoil in his heart, he was not even sure of what he was running from; but he somehow knew whatever it was would kill him if it caught him. This primitive fear kept him running.
The scenery suddenly changed and he found himself running in a dense forest. The branches whipped across his face as he ran past, leaving bloodied scratches. Blind fear kept him running, leaping over tree trunks and other obstacles in his path. As he jumped over a felled trunk, his landing foot came in contact with the underside of another felled log; he was sent sprawling onto his face. Only, the ground beneath him seemed to melt.
He felt himself falling through an oppressive blackness. He felt his body make contact with a hard ground, face first once again. Blinking against the sudden intense aching all over his body, he realized he was in a cement ring. The roars of a blood-lusting crowd forced the harsh reality to sink in, as he felt the warm stickiness of blood, his blood, on his skin. The stench of his own blood was overpowering to his senses and he had to force himself not to gag.
Before he could push himself to his feet, he felt a hand grasp his hair and violently pull him upward. He hissed in pain as his vision blurred. He closed his eyes against the pain-induced dizziness. When he was finally able to open them again, his eyes met a pair of red-tinted violet ones that sent a shiver down his spine. This is what he had been running from. Death.
"Bang," a soft, but malicious voice whispered into his ear, and his world erupted in a white hot pain, then darkness descended.
Kurama bolted upright in bed, his breath ragged and his entire body drenched in sweat. His thoughts were still spinning as he took in his surroundings. He was in his bedroom, a dim shaft of moonlight streaming through the otherwise dark window. With the aid of the slight moonlight, Kurama was able to make out the rest of his furniture. Yes, he was in his room, not in the right fighting Karasu. That fight had ended months ago with Karasu's blood being drained by a malicious plant that Kurama had summoned with the last remaining bit of his energy. There was no doubt about it. Karasu was dead.
Kurama's breathing finally began to slow as he assured himself that this had only been a dream. Except… this type of dream had been overtaking his subconscious for the last several weeks and he had been finding himself unable to sleep. Even with his demonic stamina, he was beginning to tire, both physically and mentally. Long days with restless nights did not make a pleasant combination.
Raking his hands through his fiery-red locks, Kurama frowned. What was it about his fight with the crow that was leaving him with such vivid and fear-inducing nightmares? One did not live as long as Kurama had without seeing his fair share of evil monsters. Kurama had lived for over a thousand years without ever letting one get the best of him. Yet, memories of that fight still sent shivers down his spine and reminded him of the extensive wounds he had received that had taken so long to fully heal. Kurama had awoken from every dream very conscious of the places where those wounds had once been.
Frowning at his own foolishness, Kurama lay back down in bed in hopes of getting a few more hours of sleep before school. Lately, the normally diligent red-head had been caught drooping in class; a rarity for the pride of Meiou High. Unable to pay attention in class, Kurama's seemingly perfect grades had begun to slip, giving Yuu Kaito, Suuichi Minamino's academic rival, chances at achieving top marks, which he had taken full advantage of.
Absently stroking his upper left arm, Kurama stared up at the ceiling above him. Realizing he was stroking the spot that had been ripped open by Karasu's attacks, he immediately pulled his hand away. It was not like Kurama to dwell on past fights for very long; considering he had had so many in his long life, he would never have time for the present if he were to do so. Groaning to himself, Kurama rubbed his face with his hands. He would never get past this if all he did was dwell on it.
The red-head closed his eyes, only to jerk them open once more. Those red-tinted violet eyes, so filled with bloodlust were beginning to overtake his subconscious. Sighing once more, Kurama turned his eyes toward the window and to the waning moon hanging among the stars in the night sky. It was going to be another long night, as the night before had been, and the night before that…
"Top score, Kaito."
"That's three tests in a row."
"Yeah, Minamino's losing his touch."
Kurama rolled his emerald eyes while stifling a yawn as he walked past a group of students who stood studying the posted exam scores. Had they even the slightest idea of why his grades had been slipping as of they, they probably would have run home screaming to their mothers. Then again, if they had the slightest idea of why "Suuichi Minamino" was so wise beyond his years, they would probably run home screaming to their mothers anyway. Such was the duality of Kurama's existence.
Continuing his walk down the hallway, Kurama idly watched the other students preparing to go home for the night. As he walked past a classroom, he heard his human name being called out. Turning, he saw his math teacher looking out at him from behind her desk. She was a young woman of about thirty, her brown hair neatly pulled back and her round glasses trimly framing her face. Kurama changed his path and made his way into the classroom.
"Yes, Ms. Kamiya?" he asked politely as he entered the threshold.
"Please, have a seat, Suuichi," she said, gesturing to a desk in front of hers. Curious to know what this was about, Kurama did as he was bidden. After he had settled himself, he looked up.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"Actually, Suuichi, I was going to ask you the same thing," his teacher replied. Kurama frowned.
"I'm not sure I know what you mean."
"Your grades have been slipping lately. You seem to be dozing in class, which is something I've never seen you do, and you seem quieter than usual." Kurama mentally grimaced. Not exactly the topic he had wanted to address. "Are you alright?" Ms. Kamiya asked after a moment.
"I'm fine, really," Kurama replied calmly. "I just haven't been sleeping especially well as of late."
"Would this have anything to do with that extended absence a few months ago?" Again, Kurama mentally grimaced. No matter what Hiei thought, some humans were too perceptive for their own good.
"I'm afraid I don't know," the fox replied evenly. "I've just been very busy lately with things in and out of school, so the hours of sleep I have been getting have been decreasing. I apologize if it is disturbing class."
"It's not," she assured him, "but I just worry when our star student begins to slip." She paused, studying the red-head in front of her over her glasses. "You're sure you're alright, Suuichi?"
"I'm fine," Kurama replied, careful to keep his tone respectful.
"Well then, good night, Suuichi." Kurama stood up.
"Good night, Ms. Kamiya."
As Kurama exited the school, he recognized a familiar energy signature, and looked up to see the source: Hiei was sitting in a tree near the entrance of the school.
About time you showed up. Kurama quirked an eyebrow as he made his way to the tree.
Is there a reason I should be hurrying?
Meet at Genkai's temple. Koenma has news of some sort. With that, Hiei disappeared in a black blur. Sighing, Kurama left the school, taking the opposite direction of his house. Just what he needed right now: Spirit World business.
Upon entering the temple, Kurama found he was the last to arrive. Genkai, Yusuke, Kuwabara, Hiei, and Botan were all seated. They looked up when Kurama entered the room.
"'Bout time you showed up, fox boy," Yusuke said with a smirk.
"For once, Urameshi isn't the last once here," Kuwabara added with a smirk of his own. Yusuke elbowed him in the ribs, earning himself a death threat from the orange-haired boy, which he naturally ignored. Kurama watched on in silent amusement as he took a seat near Hiei's window perch.
"Alright boys, that's enough," Botan admonished. The two boys in question glared at each other once more before turning back to the ferry girl. "As you know, Koenma…" she began.
"Has a new case," Yusuke finished. Botan frowned at the interruption before continuing.
"Yes… and no," she answered after a moment.
"What the hell does that mean?" Yusuke demanded.
"Perhaps I should just let Koenma explain it," Botan said as she lifted up the briefcase she had brought along. Opening the top, a screen popped to life and almost immediately Koenma appeared, sitting behind his desk.
"All this time you had a briefcase and you gave me a compact?" Yusuke snorted irritably. Genkai, however, was having none of Yusuke's attitude, so smacked him on the back of the head. "Hey!" Yusuke exclaimed in response.
"Why don't you shut up already, dimwit?" Yusuke rubbed the back of his head with a pouting expression, but said nothing. It was only then that Koenma was able to speak.
"Thank you, Genkai. Now we can finally get this started," he said. Genkai nodded and Yusuke glared. "The reason I asked all of you to gather here today us…"
"You have another case," Yusuke interjected, unable to restrain himself.
"Dimwit," Genkai growled warningly. Yusuke flinched in anticipation of another smack to the head, but none was forthcoming. Koenma deliberately cleared his throat, bringing everyone's attention back to him.
"Well, yes and no, Yusuke," he said.
"That's what Botan said," Yusuke replied with a frown. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Let's just call this a warning," Koenma said. "It is not an official case… yet. However, it could very well turn into one."
"And 'it' is…?" Yusuke prodded.
"Recently we've been noticing some unusual energy fluctuations in your area," the Prince of Spirit World proceeded to explain.
"What type of readings?" Genkai asked.
"They seem demonic at first glance, but we've been unable to get concrete readings on it."
"So what are we supposed to do about it?" Kuwabara asked.
"Just be on the lookout for things out of the ordinary," Koenma replied.
"And you brought us all this way for that?" Hiei growled. "What a waste of time." He began to rise from his perch.
"What if I told you this mystery being is tied to the Dark Tournament?" Koenma asked suddenly. Hiei froze.
"What?" Yusuke demanded, thunderstruck. "I thought you didn't know what it was. How can you know it's tied to the Tournament?"
"Because, the earliest readings we detected of this being came from the area around Hanging Neck Island. They have since moved on."
"But how?" Kuwabara muttered.
"Yeah. Sakyo blew up the island."
"Not the island, just the stadium," Koenma clarified.
"So this creature is a fighter from the Tournament?" Yusuke asked, trying to piece together information.
"Not necessarily. Those who survived are smart enough to keep under Spirit World's radar."
"So, a spectator?" mused Genkai.
"It's impossible to say at this point." Koenma frowned. "So, just be on the lookout for anything demonic."
"Besides those two, right?" grinned Yusuke as he pointed at Kurama and Hiei. Genkai rolled her eyes before smacking Yusuke on the back of the head once more.
"Dimwit," she growled.
"Sheesh, Grandma. Attitude much?" grimaced Yusuke.
"Don't push it." Yusuke immediately backed off his verbal attack. Turning back to the screen, Genkai addressed Koenma. "Is that all?"
"For now, yes." Genkai nodded and Botan closed the briefcase.
"There you have it," the ferry girl said. "Now, I have to return to Spirit World, so if you'll excuse me…" An oar appeared in her hand and she boarded it with the grace of an expert. She floated out the open door and disappeared into the darkening sky. Kuwabara stood up. Yusuke followed suit, but stopped when he noticed Kurama still sitting. The Spirit Detective made his way over to his friend.
"Hey man, are you okay?" he asked. Kurama blinked, as if returning to reality, then looked up at Yusuke.
"Oh, I'm fine," the red-head answered as he rose to his feet. Yusuke frowned at the demon's sluggish movements. Kurama's movements were usually graceful like those of a dancer, and though someone who did not know him well would not have noticed it, Yusuke could see the dragging in his friend's motions.
"Are you sure? You didn't say anything when Koenma was talking, and you're usually the one who asks all the questions."
Kurama blinked in surprise at Yusuke's perceptiveness, but quickly shook it off. He waved off Yusuke's concern. "I'm alright, just a little tired. But I was listening."
"Yes, I'm sure, Yusuke," Kurama replied, trying to hide his slight irritation. Yusuke, however, frowned.
"Something just seems off…"
"I'm fine!" Kurama snapped, his emerald eyes flashing gold for a moment. Yusuke's chocolate brown eyes widened in surprise, and even Hiei seemed startled by the outburst. Blinking suddenly, the green returned to Kurama's eyes. "I'm sorry, Yusuke. I didn't mean to snap at you like that," he said tiredly, shaking his head slightly.
"Don't worry about it." Yusuke's concerned frown deepened. "Just get some rest, alright?"
"I will." Kurama gave his friend a small smile before heading out the temple door. He said a quick, but polite farewell to Genkai, and then disappeared down the temple steps. Yusuke turned to Hiei. Their eyes met and after a moment, Hiei nodded.
Kurama sat at the dinner table, picking idly at the food on his plate with his chopsticks. Shiori watched her son with worry.
"Suuichi, are you alright?" she asked finally. Kurama looked up at his mother and his heart turned at the concern in her eyes. He forced a small smile. He seemed to be getting that question a lot lately.
"I'm fine, mother."
"You don't seem yourself lately. You've barely been eating, your grades are beginning to slip, and even your plants are starting to wilt." Mentally, Kurama grimaced. Am I really becoming that easy to read?
"I haven't been sleeping well lately, that's all. I'm fine. Really."
"You haven't been having more nightmares, have you?" Once again, Kurama mentally grimaced. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately as well.
"I've just had a lot on my mind. That's all, I promise," the red-head replied. He really hated lying to his mother, but it was the only thing he could do. Shiori stared at her son for a moment before relenting.
"If you're sure…?" she asked, leaving the question open-ended, in the hopes of getting her son to confide in her. However, Kurama was having none of it. He smiled at her, despite the ache in his heart.
"I'm sure, mother. You worry too much." Shiori gave him a sad smile.
"I suppose I do, don't I?" But why do I get the feeling you're hiding something important from me, Suuichi?
Kurama sat at his desk, his school books open in front of him. His mind, however, was elsewhere. He just couldn't bring himself to focus on the work in front of him. A part of him told him to do it, if for nothing more than to keep his mother from worrying more than she already was. But the fox could not keep his eyes focused on the work for long before his thoughts would drift again.
Perhaps the Detective is right. You do need rest, a familiar voice intruded on his thoughts. Despite himself, Kurama was unable to suppress the gasp that escaped his throat as his eyes focused as they refocused. He realized he was standing, having risen in his surprise. Turning to the window, Kurama saw Hiei sitting easily on the window sill. The fire demon was frowning. Caught you off-guard.
"Hiei," Kurama greeted as he regained his composure.
"What's wrong?" the fire demon demanded bluntly. Kurama quirked an eyebrow at his friend, a sign that his composure had returned and the walls were sliding back into place. Hiei's frown deepened. "Your mind is like an open book right now. Your mental defenses have collapsed. I've never been able to read you like I can now." It was Kurama's turn to frown. Was Hiei openly showing concern for him?
"Hiei, I…" Kurama began, but Hiei cut him off.
"I know what you told Yusuke," he growled. "But I'm not buying it." I know you too well to know when you're lying. Before Kurama could reply, Hiei had disappeared into the night once more. Groaning to himself, Kurama sank onto his bed, holding his head in his hands, his elbows propped up on his knees. He rubbed his face with his hands, trying to sort through his emotions, but could make neither heads nor tails of what he was feeling. The red-head leaned his head back against the wall and stared up at the ceiling. That familiar ceiling. The one he had been staring at during the night for the past several weeks when he could not sleep.
It just did not make any sense to him. Immediately following the Tournament, he had been afflicted with nightmares of his fights, most especially against Karasu, but that was to be expected; and they had passed as the initial shock had faded. The Tournament had ended months ago, yet the dreams had started up once more. And they were somehow different than before, but Kurama could not place why. Perhaps it was the fact that he was becoming more and more mentally exhausted from the violent intrusions on his subconscious. Kurama had always prided himself on keeping a calm exterior and a fortified interior, his mind being his greatest weapon; but as of late, his mental fortifications had been crumbling. Much like they had during his fight with Karasu…
Shaking his head, Kurama tried to brush such thoughts aside. Karasu was dead and he was just being foolish. Yusuke was right, he needed rest.
Quiet as she could, Shiori opened the door to her son's darkened room. Something was bothering him and it worried her. Suuichi's eyes had always had something of a haunted, far-away quality to them, but lately it had seemed more pronounced. The playful twinkle that entered those eyes and seemed to liven his entire being had been missing for several weeks now.
As the door inched open, a pale shaft of light from the hallway penetrated the room and dimly illuminated Suuichi's bed and sleeping form within. His back was to her, his red hair draped down on the bed behind him. He seemed fine. She was about to leave when a small groan reached her ears. She froze. She heard it again, followed by a sharp intake of breath. Concerned, she made her way to her son's side. Sitting down on the edge of his bed, Shiori slightly pulled Suuichi's shoulder over so she could see his face. She was no expecting what she saw.
His handsome face glistened with sweat. His eyes were closed as tight as they could and his breathing was ragged. Suddenly, he jerked out of her grasp with a moan. He's having a nightmare, Shiori realized. His expression looked all too much like it had several months prior when he had returned from that week-long absence. He had been riddled by nightmares for weeks after that, but they had passed and her son had gone back to normal. Shiori idly wondered if the two occurrences were related.
She hated seeing her son like this, but she knew what would happen if she woke him. He would claim to be fine and retreat into himself, giving half-answers and evading her concerned questions. Shiori bit her lip. Should she wake him? Finally, she decided against it. But I'll stay by his side tonight.
Hiei watched on as Kurama's human mother took her place in a chair by the fox's bed. I see we're not the only one's who noticed, the fire demon thought dryly to himself. Settling himself on his favorite branch outside the fox's window, Hiei frowned in on the sight of his friend and partner. Kurama's sweat-covered face and tense muscles were all the signs Hiei needed to assess the situation. Nightmare.
However, this caused Hiei to pause. What type of dream could Kurama to have that could shake his psyche like it had? Kurama was the ever-calm, level-headed backbone of the team. It was unnerving to see him in such obvious discomfort when he was most vulnerable. The last, and only, time Hiei had seen Kurama out of control of the situation was during his fight with Karasu. But reflecting the strong soul that he was, the fox had overcome his fear and defeated the crow. For weeks after the Tournament, Kurama had had nightmares – though it would not be fair to say he was the only one who had – but they had passed, and they had not affected him like these dreams seemed to be doing.
Out of genuine concern – and curiosity – Hiei closed his eyes and the Jagan began to glow underneath his white headband. He took special care to take an angle where Shiori could not see him from the window.
Opening his eyes, Hiei found himself in an endless desert. The fire demon realized he had entered Kurama's dream and frowned at how easy it had been to breach Kurama's mind. Normally, the fox's mental barriers were so strong that Hiei had long since abandoned the idea of reading his mind. Kurama took pride in the strength of his mental defenses. But now, he had reached Kurama's dream with any hint of resistance. Something was wrong.
In the distance, Hiei saw a form running toward him. As the figure approached, it became clear that it was a very spooked Kurama. As the fox ran toward him, Hiei could sense a sinister and malicious presence following him. Kurama ran past Hiei without a glance, as Hiei was only a spectator in this dream. The dark aura followed along steadily. Hiei felt a slight shiver run down his spine as it approached. This aura was of pure darkness, made of all the darkest emotions in the heart, whether human or demon. Small wonder Kurama was spooked.
The scenery switched suddenly and Hiei looked on in the Dark Tournament ring as Karasu grabbed Kurama by the hair and violently pulled him up, his toes dangling above the ground. An exclamation of pain escaped Kurama's throat. Though he was loath to admit it to another, the sound of his best friend's agony ripped through his heart. It was like the Tournament all over, when he had stood by helplessly as Kurama had been systematically ripped apart by Karasu's bombs. Before Hiei could make a move to relinquish his role as a spectator and try to wake his friend, who seemed to be losing consciousness under Karasu's vice-like grip, the crow looked directly at him. Hiei froze. No one was supposed to be able to see him, especially a figment of Kurama's imagination. Crimson eyes widened; unless this was not a figment of Kurama's imagination…
Karasu smirked and dropped the now limp form of Kurama to the ground. He turned and faced Hiei. A malicious glint shone from those eyes. Karasu raised a hand and snapped two long, pale fingers. The setting changed once more. Hiei, despite himself, gasped.
The fire demon stood in the ring opposite Karasu; Kurama stood chained to the wall, unable to move or make an attempt to stop what was happening. Emerald green eyes widened at Hiei's appearance.
"Hiei!" Kurama cried out, trying desperately to break the bondage that held him. This out of character behavior from the fox seemed to bother Hiei more than anything else that was happening.
"It's no use," Karasu crooned. "Now watch your best friend die. Then it will be just me and you, my kitsune." Kurama paled and struggled against the chains even more fiercely, but to no avail. All he succeeded in doing was drawing blood from his wrists where the chains held him. Karasu grinned maliciously and turned back to Hiei, who was still surprised at being pulled into the dream. Only his conscious decision to fully enter the dream should have allowed this, but somehow he had been pulled in against his will.
"As for you, Hiei, let this serve as a lesson."
"What kind of lesson?" Hiei spat.
"A lesson in the consequences of charging in where you don't belong," Karasu replied. "His mind is mine now," he said in a low, but satisfied voice.
"What?" Instead of answering, Karasu formed a bomb in his hand and threw it at Hiei. The fire demon dodged, but failed to notice the second bomb that detonated against his skin. He hissed in pain.
"Hiei!" Kurama cried out helplessly from the side.
"It seems our fox cares for you, Hiei. No matter. I take you out of the picture and then there is only me," Karasu mused.
"You sick bastard," Hiei growled.
"Farewell, fire demon," Karasu growled. Hiei's world exploded in blinding pain. The last thing he heard before his vision went dark was Kurama calling out his name and the sound of chains rattling.
Author's Note: I realize that Kurama is a bit out of character in parts, but attribute it to the fact that these dreams are really starting to shake him and mess with his mind; something he's not really used to in all his years. So, leave me a review, tell me what you think. /gets down on knees/ I'll beg if I have to. Just press the little button and take a minute to let me know what you thought!
Revised as of 11/24/05