Okay, so I haven't been in this fandom in years, but then I read the manga a few weeks ago. Faaaantastic. So this takes place after its ending. Hopefully, it won't be too hard to follow if you haven't read it. It's not too different from the anime, but there are certain events that occur that the anime never showed. Gosh, it's been so long since I've written for YYH. It's nice to be back.

Disclaimer: Me don't own Yu Yu Hakusho, k?

--

Phantoms

I

--

You're living like a shadow. Have you found your purpose yet?

Hiei's eyes flew open at the sound. It was a terrifying noise, screeching and withstanding. He glanced around his room. It was wide and spacious—unnecessarily so. Hiei didn't require such accommodations, but Mukuro had insisted.

In the darkness, he was able to discern nothing wrong. The wailing came from a farther distance within the fortress. The painful notes carried on for several seconds before dying down and starting anew. Hiei reached for his katana beside him and concentrated with his Jagan. All at once his mind reeled and Hiei tore away his consciousness from probing any further with a violet jerk. Gasping in the darkness, he gripped tightly onto his katana as if for reassurance.

"What the hell…"

Without glancing back, he flew out the window in pursuit.

Almost three years, he thought. It was close to the time for the next tournament. Mukuro had long stopped participating. She was complacent these days—truly happy for the first time in her life. She had no wish to rule over the Makai. But Hiei had never stopped competing. He didn't desire to rule; he only wanted to fight the best. He had encountered some nasty opponents over the years, but none had inspired him to go full out. Hiei could have laughed at himself. They finally had peace and all he could do was mope around waiting for the next challenge.

The cry came again, this time closer. At this proximity, Hiei stopped and barely suppressed a shudder. It was an inhuman sound and he had no idea what could have caused it. There was no one around. He frowned. There should have been youkai swarming the complex but there was nothing. Hiei didn't feel any trace of youki anywhere.

How long are you going to stay like this? You're becoming an eyesore.

He should have been happy for this unseen predicament. He had grown soft from all the years of patrolling the Makai, watching out for those hapless humans that wandered into their world unwittingly. He should have relished this moment of possible danger. Instead, Hiei felt sick to his bones. There was something inherently wrong. No amount of idle fighting over the past decades could dull that warning sensation. Hiei seized his katana fiercely, allowing the Jagan to scope freely.

No youki at all. But there was another strong presence—that presence that had rejected his earlier probing so strongly—and it was—

"Reiki?" muttered Hiei to himself, half surprised. He hadn't felt a spiritual presence in the Makai for a very long time. There was no reason why he should have. The Makai was youkai territory; the Rekai had made it clear early on they would leave the Makai alone.

It brought Hiei's mind back to older days. There had been four of them. Two renegade youkai, an idiotic oaf, and a headstrong detective. One was gone forever, but the other two…

Hiei focused his attention on the reiki. It was coming from Mukuro's room, but there was still no trace of the youkai herself. Hiei dashed through the stony fortress. He wasn't sure if he should have been relieved there were no bodies. There were still residual traces of youki in the air, but they were from hours ago. Hiei wondered if the only reason why he was still left was because his room was the farthest away from the main complex. He had insisted on his privacy and Mukuro had smiled it off, granting him an isolated part of her fortress. It stood alone, nearly separated from everything else.

There were seventy-seven of them with Mukuro. Hiei was one. As he neared Mukuro's room, he wondered if he would find the remaining seventy-six in the room—dead. And Mukuro… Hiei gritted his teeth. He had warned her she was becoming too calm, too relaxed in her defenses. It'll be the death of you one of these days, he had said to her recently. Hiei edged towards the door, placing a hand over the uneven surface. The reiki was unstable, flaring up sporadically. An unsteady enemy—it was the worst kind of opponent to face off against.

The wailing was at its peak now, an unyielding scream pitched high without faltering. Run, dammit, run, his mind screamed at him. Hiei knew by now to listen to his instincts even if the enemy didn't appear strong. But his comrades were missing and he couldn't leave without finding some type of clue first. As cold sweat dripped down his neck, Hiei grinned wildly to himself. A reckless human had taught him a thing or two about loyalty a while ago. It seemed the lesson stuck with him more than he thought. Hiei slipped into the room swiftly.

If you want to do something, go and do something. What, you want me to hold your hand?

He should have been stronger than this. He shouldn't have been on his knees, retching bitter bile up his throat and onto the stone ground. It was a struggle to regain his composure. The Jagan was transmitting too much lingering emotions through him. Hiei fought to deactivate it, closing off the bombardment of fear and turmoil. But his own emotions were still his to fight. He shut his eyes against the string of corpses surrounding him. Damn bastards. They didn't deserve this kind of death.

And in the middle of the room, on Mukuro's very own bed, was the damn thing responsible for it all.

Hiei wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, standing up shakily. The bodies hadn't been mutilated. Strewn across the room and over each other like dolls, seventy-six of Mukuro's seventy-seven personal guards were completely unmarred. But their faces were another story. Contorted and twisted into expressions of utter terror, there was no mistaking the agony they underwent before death. Hiei had fought with these youkai, had come to even like this band of thugs. They had all been honorable and brave in their own right. Now they were simply dead, the most pitiful expressions of horror stuck permanently on their faces. Hiei looked over to Mukuro's bed. There was the thing and there was Mukuro herself. Held limply by the thing, she was pale and unmoving, her very soul being drained by the thing like it was the biggest meal it ever had.

Hiei was paralyzed. He knew he should have run when he had the chance. But he had had to stick around long enough to find out what happened. Now he knew. He wondered if his corpse would be found later with the same expression as his comrades. He managed a tight laugh. What a way to go. He was grateful that damn Kuwabara was long dead and gone. The shame would have been too much.

You're just going to stand and watch?

He shouldn't have heard it over the scream, but he did. It enveloped his mind like a warm blanket. For a second, Hiei regained his movement. It was Mukuro, he knew. It should have been impossible; her soul was almost completely separated from her body, being consumed into that thing. Her consciousness would barely be present anymore. But Mukuro had always liked the impossible.

You gonna avenge us or what, Hiei?

It was her youki. For the briefest of seconds, before her soul was completely transferred over into the thing, she released her full energy. It was probably less than half a second. Once her soul was taken completely, the youki vanished entirely. But it was more than enough time for Hiei to run.

And he ran away faster than he ever had before, the wind taking his tears before they could fall.