Author's Note: So it's been about two years. That doesn't make me the slowest writer ever, but it does put me in the category of World Class Procrastinator. I just want to say thanks to everyone who's reviewed this story or sent me email to let me know you're still reading. There's only one more chapter after this. I hope the wait has been worth it. ^_^

Disclaimer: Yu Yu Hakusho is the property of Yoshihiro Togashi, Funimation, etc. No copyright infringement is intended.

The Other Side of Reality

Part Eight: In Which Answers Are Finally Had But No One Is Very Happy About It

Kurama dropped out of the sky behind the shapeshifter without a sound or a warning, and crouched on his hands and toes for a long moment, sharp green eyes assessing the scene before him while his fingers clenched against the black floor. He looked tired to Yuusuke and there was blood smeared down the front of his shirt, but it was the look in his eyes that told Yuusuke Kurama had not been having a good time over here.

"Well, it took you long enough," he said with great relief, before it occurred to him that l maybe Kurama had been planning some kind of sneak attack. Oops.

The shapeshifter twisted around to regard Kurama with cold metallic eyes. If it was hoping to spook Kurama with an image of his other form, Yuusuke had a feeling it was going to be disappointed.

Kurama didn't even look mildly interested in the shapeshifter, let along surprised, and if Yuusuke had given away his sneak attack, he didn't seem to mind. He just pushed off the floor and rose to a stand in one smooth movement, like a dancer stretching before rehearsal. "Perhaps I was waiting for my teammates to enact a rescue mission. In which case, you are the ones who are late."

"We never really got around to the rescuing part of this fiasco," Yuusuke said. "Also, do you know what the fuck is going on?"

"I have some idea," Kurama said.

"Am I gonna like it?"

"Probably not," Kurama said. He flicked his fingers almost absently and a sharp green spear shot out of his sleeve and impaled the shapeshifter just beneath its ribcage. Yuusuke jumped a little at the suddenness of it, but Hiei reacted on cue, darting in and driving his katana through the shapeshifter's chest – exactly where its heart would have been if it really were a youko. The shapeshifter staggered and fell. It hit the ground with a meaty thud and Yuusuke skipped back a few paces, reluctant to let the damn thing too close in case it could still bite.

Kurama viewed the body with a clinical detachment. "It's not dead," he said. "It isn't a perfect solution, but we've managed to take it out of the running for the time being. Yuusuke, what in heaven is that?"

"I would really like someone to tell me this isn't real," Yuusuke said. He still had Kuwabara's head in his hands and he couldn't bring himself to look at it any more than he could bring himself to drop it.

"Is Kuwabara-kun here?" Kurama demanded.

"We came in after him," Yuusuke said. Hiei took over, bringing Kurama up to date on what had happened since his disappearance that morning. Kurama, Yuusuke couldn't help but notice, didn't seem to be getting any happier.

"I don't think much of anything here is real," Kurama said when Hiei was done. "Probably that as well."

"Probably?" Yuusuke echoed. "That's not as reassuring as you meant it to be."

"I wasn't trying to reassure you," Kurama said. "It would be easier if this place were real. Then we could be certain of a way out."

"You know what?" Yuusuke said. "I don't think I want to know what's going on after all. Just point me at the bad guy and let's go."

"That's the problem," Kurama said. "I think I know who's doing this. And I don't know how to stop it without hurting him. For heaven's sake, Yuusuke, put that thing down. We need to find Kuwabara." He eyed the head grimly as Yuusuke gingerly set it down on the floor a safe distance away from the shapeshifter's remains. "All of him."

A flash of color caught Yuusuke's eye and he turned to see Keiko standing a few feet away. She was wearing chain mail armor over her old school uniform, and the edges were tarnished and smeared with the same black gore that had spilled from the shapeshifter's corpse.

"I can help you with that," Keiko said. "But we have to hurry. Kuwabara's waking up and I'm not sure any of us will still be here when that happens."

Kuwabara knew he wasn't really awake.

He was somewhere in the middle, awake enough to know he was still asleep, and the harder he struggled to focus on the world around him, the further he slid back into the dream.

"Tell me where it is," the old man said through the bars.

"No," Kuwabara said, shaking blood out of his eyes. "How stupid do you think I am?"

"I don't know why you insist on being so stubborn," the old man said. "You know I'm going to win. Even if I don't find it, it's only a matter of waiting for you to give up and die at this point."

"I'm not going to die," Kuwabara snarled and the old man laughed. "Let me out of here."

"No," the old man said. "You made this place. You can rot in it."

They were moving through the darkness at what felt like a brisk pace, but without landmarks, it was hard to judge their relative speed. Hiei had vanished into the darkness ahead several minutes ago scouting out what was waiting for them up ahead and Kurama was busy turning recent events over in his mind, which left Yuusuke with nothing to do except talk to himself. In fact, it took Kurama several seconds to notice when Yuusuke's comments stopped being rhetorical and started being addressed to him.

"So are you ever going to tell me what's going on here?"

"No," Kurama said as Keiko led them through the dark at a jog. Her chain mail clinked like silver coins in a purse as she moved.

"Why not?" Yuusuke was keeping pace with Kurama, but he was having a hard time tearing his eyes away from the image of his wife. "That's not actually Keiko, right? I mean, the tentacle monster didn't pull her in here and turn her into an extra from Monty Python or something. That'd be weird."

"You said you didn't want to know what was going on. You just wanted to get the bad guy, remember?"

"Yeah, and then you told me I wasn't allowed to hurt the bad guy, which I think is pretty unfair. That's kind of my thing, you know?"

"I didn't tell you not to hurt the bad guy. I'm not sure there is a bad guy," Kurama said.

"The tentacle monster is the bad guy. The acidic tentacle monster is very high on my list of suspected bad guys."

"The tentacle monster isn't real, either." Kurama slid a glance sideways at Yuusuke and then raised his eyebrows at Keiko's back. "A lot of things aren't what they look like."

"If you don't tell me what's going on right now," Yuusuke said, "I'm going to bite you. And no one will blame me."

"Look out!" Hiei's shout cut through the distance an instant before the darkness heaved around them.

Years of teamwork kicked in as Kurama and Yuusuke threw themselves in opposite directions, Yuusuke pulling the Keiko doppelganger with him, dodging the rose vines that shot out of the darkness and grabbed at their arms and legs. Hiei dropped out of the sky and hit the ground at a run, his swords bared and already stained with oil-black demon blood. The vines grabbed at him as he threw himself into the center of them, but sheer speed – and the razor edge he kept on the twin katanas – kept them from latching on.

"I thought you said we stopped him!" Yuusuke shouted. He pushed Keiko behind him as the vines lashed at his face and chest. His reiki glowed brightly as he swatted the vines away.

The other Kurama had reformed far faster than expected. Kurama held the vines at bay with a kekkai as he focused on the darkness surrounding them. The vines weren't real – not like the ones wound through his hair and around his arm. Those he had brought into this world with him, but these were… another construct. Like Keiko, like Yukina and the doppelganger Hiei. They weren't real and that meant he wouldn't be able to control them at all. "I may have been mistaken." He recognized the surge of youki from Hiei and shielded his eyes an instant before a fireball erupted from the center of the vines, cremating them instantly. A growled curse told him Yuusuke hadn't covered his eyes in time.

"A little warning, please?" Yuusuke called, blinking his eyes to clear the last of the afterimages away. "Great. I can't see a freaking thi-"

The shapeshifter melted out of the darkness beside Yuusuke, prompting a shout from Keiko too late to serve as warning, and dropped Yuusuke with a foot to the stomach that threw him back a dozen meters. Before Yuusuke could get his feet under him again, it turned on Keiko with bared teeth and a growl building in its throat. "I should have wiped out all of the playthings when he made you." He reached for her with grasping talons and the gore on her clothing started to spread, climbing over her chain mail and starting to creep onto her skin.

Kurama swore as he lunged forward; he'd only stopped himself at the last moment from putting his hand to the ground and willing the roots and grasses to the surface – roots and grasses that didn't exist here and it was only a moment's hesitation but more time wasted than there should have been. Instead he caught Keiko around the waist and pivoted, swinging her on his hip like a small child. He dropped her once he was between her and the shapeshifter and gave her a push toward where Yuusuke was staggering back to his feet with a hand pressed against his stomach.

"Your partner said much the same thing," Kurama told the shapeshifter. "Just before that plaything dealt with him most efficiently."

"It didn't stop me," the shapeshifter snarled. "It could only slow me down. And that's all you can do as well."

"I'm no plaything," Kurama said. "I'm no formless apparition forced to steal just to have a face-"

The shapeshifter shrieked as it lunged, a high-pitched screech of rage and embarrassment as it launched itself at Kurama. The youko didn't bother dodging. Instead he planted his feet against the ground and brought both hands up to meet his imposter's charge. His fingers dug into the shapeshifter's chest, holding it at arm's length as the vines wrapped around his arm surged forward and punched through skin and bone.

Bile, black and greasy bubbled over the constructs lips as it staggered and tried, too late, to pull away. Kurama ignored the droplets that splattered his arms and face, burning red and white scars into his skin wherever they touched. "If killing you won't stop you," he grit out, "then we'll have to settle for tying you down." He pulled away from the shapeshifter, letting the vines slide free of his arm, the kitchen knife clattering to the floor. The shapeshifter gagged as the vines burrowed into the ground and dragged the creature down with them. It writhed briefly, then began pulling against its bonds.

"They're still growing," Kurama told it. "The ends will just keep going deeper until I tell them to stop. You'll never pull them loose."

It didn't mean the shapeshifter couldn't eventually break free, either by tearing the vines in half, or by tearing its own body until their grip slid free, but either one would take time to accomplish. The vines were nearly as hard as steel when fully matured – the shapeshifter had its work cut out for it. He crouched down on the balls of his feet and leaned over the restrained adversary. "How many of you are there?"

The shapeshifter snarled at him, then screamed as Hiei drove a katana through the creature's left leg, nearly severing it at the knee.

"Wrong answer," Kurama said mildly. "How many of you are there?"

"If it doesn't answer this time," Yuusuke said, squatting by the shapeshifter's head, "I'm going to do to him what he did to Kuwabara."

That was Yuusuke angry. Kurama let a grim smile turn the corners of his mouth upwards. The doppelganger hadn't even been close.

"You don't have a sword," Kurama pointed out.

"That's cool." Yuusuke reached over and picked up the kitchen knife, flipping it over his fingers idly. "Nice toy, Kurama. Not your usual style."

"All's fair in love and dealing with amorphous shadows."

The shapeshifter lashed out at Kurama with curved talons, but Kurama had anticipated the reaction and leaned out of reach.

"I think you hit a nerve," Yuusuke laughed. "What's the matter – the demon's self-conscious? Oh! Oh! I know." He lowered his voice. "Penis envy, am I right?"

The shapeshifter lunged upwards, gore dripping from the wounds in its chest as it tried to reach Yuusuke. "I'll have what I came for soon," it snarled through blood-smeared lips. "And when I do, I'll cut you apart and laugh as you stand defenseless against me."

"Heard it," Yuusuke said, wiping his hands on his jeans. "Blah, blah, blah. Are we done here?"

"Yes," Kurama said, cold seeping through his blood and into his voice. "It's told us what we needed to know."

The shapeshifter screamed and the darkness around them split into tentacles that lashed toward them. Kurama raised a hand, youki sparking off his fingers like static and the darkness crashed into an energy barrier only inches away from his back.

"Burn it," he told Hiei.

Hiei hesitated only a fraction of a second as more tentacles spun out of the darkness toward them. Then he wrenched his katana free of the shapeshifter's leg and stepped back as hellfire erupted out of the air around it and began to consume it.

Yuusuke made a vaguely disturbed sound and looked away, but Kurama and Hiei watched as the creature burned. The tentacles struck at the barrier with increasing frenzy for a moment before they vanished back into the darkness around them.

Silence settled for a moment, then Yuusuke drove the kitchen knife into the ground and stood. "What did it tell us?"

"It's after Kuwabara."

"I thought it was after you."

"No. It's formless. And it wants a body. It's going to take Kuwabara's. That's what all this is about." He turned to look at Keiko, standing at Yuusuke's side with an expression that told Kurama he was getting close. "Kuwabara made you," Kurama said, wiping blood off his face. "Yukina told me as much at the temple. She said Kuwabara made everything here except for the doppelgangers. But you aren't one of them. You're a – construct."

"A self-defense mechanism," Keiko said.

The other Kuwabara's words back at the temple came to him. "A last desperate grasp at sanity. You – and the other constructs – Kuwabara made you to distract the demon. To give him time to fight it off."

"It isn't working," Keiko said.

"No kidding!" Yuusuke gestured around him, at the dark, at the shapeshifter. "The walls were bleeding, bathrooms are eating people and Kurama just tried to kill us. You seriously expect me to believe Kuwabara's making all this happen? Dude's only power is a glowing sword of freaking justice."

"Dimensional sword," Kurama and Hiei said at once.

"And that makes more sense?" Yuusuke demanded.

"It actually does. A little. Cutting through dimensional barriers – that could explain how we got here. And as for the rest of this – a psychic with a void of utter nothingness could create anything to fill the darkness in."

"Okay, yeah. Fine." Yuusuke planted his hands on his hips. "A powerful psychic can do almost anything. But Kuwabara's not a powerful psychic. Kuwabara gets bad dreams sometimes. Occasionally he talks to us in our heads. That's not the kind of power you'd need to build an entire world."

"But it's not an entire world, is it?" Kurama gestured around them. "This is nothingness. The constructs, and a small portion of our home – the house, Genkai's, a few places in between, most of them empty and corrupted. And none of it is real, Yuusuke – how much of what we're seeing and reacting to exists at all? How much of this is happening in our heads?"

"I am getting a headache," Yuusuke said with a grim kind of determination. "It is going to last until we go home, and I get drunk enough that any of this makes sense."

"Going home might be a problem." Hiei hadn't sheathed his katana after the attack and now he was watching the dark around them with a judicious eye. "Unless you suddenly know how to cross dimensions."

"This day just sucks so bad," Yuusuke said. "The next time your bathroom eats you, Kurama, you're on your own. I'm not even answering the phone the next time Kuwabara calls me."

Kurama ignored him. It was his preferred method of dealing with Yuusuke when he was aggravated. "Keiko, a question." The construct was looking the worse for the other Kurama's attack. Her chainmail and uniform were nearly entirely covered with demon blood and thin lines of it had started tracing out into her skin. "The demon is trying to take you over?"

Keiko nodded.

"What does he gain by that?"

"Control," Keiko said. "If I'm a defense mechanism-"

"Every time he takes one of you over, Kuwabara's defenses fall." He cut his eyes toward the remains of the shapeshifter. "The Kurama doppelganger. He said he should have destroyed you and the other playthings as soon as Kuwabara made you. The construct of Hiei said the same thing back at the temple."

"Of course he did. He doesn't have many threats, I've noticed."

"Wait," Yuusuke said. "He? Not they?"

Keiko raised an eyebrow at him. "How many of him do you think there are, Urameshi?"

"They're all the same," Kurama said. "Controlled by the same mind. Just like you and Yukina are the same."

Keiko tilted her head to the side and watched them with wide eyes. "Are you ready to ask your question, Kurama?"

"My question?"

"At the temple. You asked us a question. But you didn't ask it right."

Kurama narrowed his eyes as he replayed the conversation in his mind. "I asked Yukina how many of you there were here. She didn't answer. She just said-"

How many what?

"Keiko," Kurama said. "How many decoys are there?"

The Keiko construct smiled at him and tipped her head to the side in a move that was completely Kuwabara. "Six."

"You. Yukina."

"Hiei," Keiko said. "Kurama. Yuusuke. Shizuru."

"Attacking the constructs wasn't a way to hurt Kuwabara, or at least it isn't the demon's primary goal," Kurama said to the others, ignoring the face Yuusuke was making. "He's taking them over to find out which one of them has – what? What is Kuwabara using them for?"

"I don't know," Keiko said.

"Who is it?" Kurama asked. "Which construct has whatever it is the demon wants?"

"I don't know," Keiko said.

"It's got to be one of the girls, right?" Yuusuke gestured at Keiko. "The Yuusuke, Hiei and Kurama constructs were all taken over, right? If you're right about all this-" his voice said he had serious doubts about that "- and he'd gotten what he wanted from any of them then we'd already have lost."

"The problem is that neither one of you can count," Hiei said. He snapped his fingers and six sparks of hellfire jumped in the air before him, forming a little circle of flame. "Six decoys, Kurama. Which means that there's a seventh construct." A seventh spark ignited in the center of the circle. "The one that's hidden. That's the one we're looking for."

"Okay. Great." Yuusuke eyed the hellfire with an unhappy expression. "Who else do we even know?"

"Maybe we don't know them," Kurama said. "Kuwabara's friends – Okubo, Sawamura, Mitarai-"

"No," Yuusuke said. "This whole thing sucks enough already. I refuse to believe that spineless, whiny, genocidal, punk-ass, suck-up, cow-eyed-"

"Genkai," Hiei said.

The three of them exchanged a glance before turning on Keiko as one. The construct shrugged at them and twisted her mouth into the same exasperated look Kuwabara had been known to wear from time to time. "I don't know."

"Kuwabara told me to go to Genkai's," Kurama said. "When I first arrived here. He told me twice. He even gave me a clear path to the temple. But when I got there all I found was Yukina." And Hiei. And the other Kuwabara, which Kurama still didn't have a total explanation for. But he'd been so distracted by Yukina, and later by the fight, that he hadn't looked any further. "We need to go back to the temple." He turned to Keiko. "Can you tell us how to get there?"

"I can." The Keiko construct looked worried. Her chain mail was sparkling silver now, no trace of the taint of the demon's corruption remained. She touched it hesitantly. "I don't know what's happening. But he's not after me anymore."

"That's good, right?" Yuusuke very obviously resisted the urge to fuss over her. "Maybe we convinced him to leave you alone."

"Of course," Hiei said, dry as sandpaper. "All our standing around talking must have driven him off." He jerked his chin over his shoulder. "Trouble."

Something was moving in the darkness behind them. Kurama stood slowly, stepping away from the shapeshifter's remains to stand beside Hiei and Yuusuke. "Keiko," he said urgently, gesturing for the girl to step behind them. She shook her head and stepped in front of them. "We're there," she said. "But we aren't the first to come."

"What?" Yuusuke started to ask, then reality shifted under their feet and the darkness was instead the courtyard in front of Genkai's temple. "Well, shit."

The Yuusuke-monster stood naked in the middle of the courtyard. Kurama's stomach lurched as he saw the monster carried the decapitated head, clutching its hair and carrying it like a bag. The head's eyes were open and staring, and they blinked deliberately.

"Wrong turn." They spoke in unison, the creature holding Kuwabara's head up at eye level. "There is nowhere to go, Kurama. This is your hell, and no god will pardon you."

"I need no pardon," Kurama replied. "Because this is no hell. And no god has had any hand in the making of this place."

"I am a god here," they said. "Soon I will be unstoppable."

"Meaning you aren't unstoppable now," Yuusuke said. "Thanks for the tip."

The creature laughed, tongue lolling grotesquely out of the side of its mouth as it caught the head between its hands and crushed it with a heart-wrenching sound of breaking bone and squelching blood. Kurama couldn't actually hear any of that over the sound of Yuusuke's furious howl, but he could imagine it.

"I go to kill your friend," the Yuusuke-monster said. "Will he even struggle, do you think, when I kill him wearing your face?"

"Dude, last week Kuwabara slammed my head into the wall because I tried to cop a cigarette."

"A cigarette?" Kurama teased, almost unable to stop himself. "That's not how I heard the story."

"You shut up!" Yuusuke waved a finger in Kurama's direction without taking his eyes off his duplicate. "There's not a chance in hell that Kuwabara's going to roll over and die for you just because you look like me. You stupid son of a bitch. Anyone else might have stood a chance. But me? Man, he'll kick your ass and laugh doing it. He's been waiting to kick the shit out of me since we were kids."

"He made me," the Yuusuke-monster said, his mouth twisting into a grotesque smile. "Which one of us is the stupid one?"

Yuusuke snarled and Kurama could feel reiki crawl over his skin an instant before Yuusuke attacked. Spiritual energy flashed at the point of Yuusuke's finger then burst outward. The doppelganger was enveloped in blue-white energy and when the light faded, the courtyard was empty.

"What are the odds I just killed it?" Yuusuke asked. By the slump of his shoulders and the resignation in his voice, he wasn't expecting an answer.

"We need to hurry," Kurama said, putting every ounce of urgency churning in his stomach into his voice.

Yuusuke and Hiei both glanced at him, surprise showing in their expressions, but it was Shizuru who agreed with him.

"You really need to hurry," Kuwabara's sister said. Her chain mail was the same gleaming silver as Keiko's, but Shizuru wore a shield on one arm and a sword at her hip. She stood at the foot of the temple stairs and she was nearly transparent. "Very soon, Kazuya is either going to wake up, or die. And when that happens, there won't be anything to stop the invader from taking what he wants."

"The Yuusuke decoy has been corrupted," Keiko said and Shizuru nodded in grim understanding.

"That's bad?" Yuusuke asked.

Kurama didn't quit meet his eyes as he walked past Keiko and Shizuru to climb the temple steps. "At the heart of things, Kuwabara is an honest man, even in the face of unpleasant truths. And right now, he is fighting a version of you based on Kuwabara's knowledge of you, and his experience of you. So tell me, Yuusuke, how many of your fights has Kuwabara ever won?"

Yuusuke went pale as he understood what Kurama was telling him.

"We should hurry," Hiei said.

Kuwabara was still in the dream.

He was in the practice dojo at Genkai's, hanging by his arms from two chains attached to the ceiling. His feet were free, and he kicked experimentally, trying to get enough force to yank the chains out of the ceiling, but they wouldn't even budge. Just for the hell of it he tried to summon the spirit sword again, but there wasn't even a flicker of spiritual energy this time.

"Damn," he muttered under his breath.

It was certainly possible for this situation to go even farther downhill, but he wasn't sure exactly how. Well, to the best of his knowledge, all four of them were still alive, so there was room for maneuvering there, certainly. Maybe something was going to catch on fire soon. Or Urameshi could show up in his underwear. That'd suck.

He tested the chains again, tugging at first, then putting all of his weight on one wrist and pulling. The chains gave a bit under the force of it, but not enough to break him loose and if he was any judge – which he was, because his life kind of sucked sometimes – the chains were breaking loose from whatever they were bolted too. Which meant that even if he did pull them loose, he'd be dragging the chains along behind him.

That could work. He'd seen fighters use long chains before – though probably not that long, as the space above him disappeared into darkness before he could see the ceiling. And he'd never used chains as a weapon before, but he was willing to bet he could figure something out. And even an unfamiliar weapon would be useful, if only because he could chuck it at someone's head before he sucker-punched them.

He briefly entertained a thought of finding whoever was responsible for this and strangling them with their own stupid chains, but that would have to wait at least until he figured out who that was.

He kicked his feet in the air for a minute, stretching against the chains to see if he could get any leverage. His toes just barely brushed the ground and he bit back a groan. This would be a lot easier if he could get his feet on the ground. He grit his teeth and strained against the chains again, trying for just another inch of give.

Something brushed against his back, like a person pushing past you on a crowded street. He twisted around as much as he could and peered over his shoulder. Nothing but more empty space.

He rolled his head, working some of the tension out of his neck. No getting nervous. There was nothing in the room with him. Nothing he could hear, nothing he could see, nothing he could sense. He couldn't smell anything either, human or otherwise. Getting strung up in what looked like some crazy ritual chamber would make anyone nervous. Get over it and get loose.

He turned his attention back to the chains, keeping an ear out for anything that might approach. The left chain had seemed to have a bit more give in it than the right, maybe it hadn't been properly bolted in place, or maybe there was a link about to give somewhere. Either way, he'd take what he could get. He clenched his teeth, counted to three, and was about to pull with everything he could get when someone poked him in the back.

"Shit." He flailed briefly, as much as a man hanging from the ceiling can flail, and spun briefly on the chains as he tried to turn around and failed. He craned his neck over his shoulder and though he'd jump off a bridge before admitting it, he was relieved to see Urameshi grinning up at him from an inch or two lower than normal. "Dumbass!"

Urameshi leered at him, no doubt terribly amused by the entire situation.

"Get me down from here," Kuwabara said, trying to shake one hand to demonstrate the fact that he was being held prisoner. Sometimes Urameshi missed the little details.

Urameshi jabbed him between the shoulder blades a second time and grinned, then darted around to the front so fast Kuwabara almost gave himself whiplash following him.

"Well?" Kuwabara said, letting more than a little of his aggravation with the entire situation seep into his voice.

Urameshi clenched his fist and swung.

A hundred streetfights and ten years of good-natured brawling meant that Kuwabara could read Urameshi's physical movements like a book. As soon as he realized what was coming, he wrapped his hands around the chains, lifted his feet up in the air and kicked Urameshi in the chest with both feet.

The half-blood staggered back a dozen feet and ended up in a crouch on the stone floor. He'd have gone through the wall if Kuwabara hadn't checked his strength. "Okay, I am so not in the mood. Can't you just say hello like a normal person?"

Something was making the skin on the back of his neck crawl and he didn't loosen his grip on the chains, just in case he had to kick Urameshi through the wall after all. Frankly, it didn't seem like a hardship. "Urameshi," he said, pitching his voice calm and serious, the tone that meant he liked screwing around as much as the next guy but now was not the time. "Get me down." The little voice in the back of his head, the one that sounded like Kurama or his sister, depending on whether he was in trouble, or about to make a fool of himself, was screaming at him to get out. Urameshi was still crouched on the floor. "Yuusuke."

Urameshi – the thing that looked like Urameshi, or the thing that was controlling Urameshi, Kuwabara wasn't sure which yet – bared its teeth and leaped at him.

To be Continued in Part Nine: In Which They Deal With Kuwabara