Chapter 7: Songs in the Dark
"Okay, so which way are we gonna go now?" Yusuke asked as he stared at the seven doors in front of them with dismay. He shook his head. "Actually does it make a difference? We have plenty of time anyway."
"Well, it doesn't matter if you want to die," Kurama replied. Everyone turned around to stare at him. "After so many people had come in in an attempt to assassinate the Saint Beasts, they created this series of doorways to stop them. There is only one correct passage and the others are filled with traps so there can't be any second chance."
"Yes, Kurama. Assuming that they defeated Byakko and Genbu with flying colors just as we had. Actually not with flying colors with us," Hiei said sarcastically.
"Hiei, that might be true today, but I'm pretty sure that most people didn't even pass the Gate of Betrayal nor did the Saint Beasts ever go all the way down to meet even the slightest threats. In fact, I'm pretty sure they they even came to meet us is an oddity in itself."
"Yes, so go poop on someone else's party, Shorty, and go back and cry in your mushroom house! I'd like to see you do better than us." Kuwabara shook his fist and turned to the doors when the smaller man rolled his eyes at him. He focused on each of the doors, then walked up to each and put his hand on it. He hummed under his breath and nodded as he turned around. "Anyway... The second one from the right's the one we should go through. I'm feeling a massive amount of energy coming from it that I'm pretty sure is the next Saint Beast."
"Can we even trust you?" Hiei said, stepping towards Kuwabara and staring him in the eyes.
"Would you quit that? You trying to kiss me or something cause I definitely don't swing that way." Kuwabara stepped back. "And can we even trust you? And I'd like to see you do this for me, Mr. Spacely. Why can't you do it with your little demony powers, huh? But no, all you wanna do is stand there and be all like 'Derp, derp, derp, crawling in my skin, duh-derp, derp, DERP.'"
"...What the hell was that? And sure, when all else fails blame the communist." And he added as a side note, "It's still a good idea- communism."
"Um, this is starting too weird for me. I thought the Soviet Union stopped being that in the nineties or something..." Yusuke said. "It's really driving me nuts. I know I failed history and everything but at least I know that the Soviet Union's gone. I've seen the maps, okay?"
"Are you kidding? And Stalin's still alive! And the Soviet Union's a fucking hell hole. Let's just leave it at that." Hiei groaned. "Look, let's just go through the damn door already. If we take any longer, I risk having to take another call from that woman."
"...Whatever. I'm not gonna ask you anymore. You shouldn't talk crap about your girlfriend, though." Yusuke caught Hiei's punch before it made contact with his gut.
"Yeah, and another thing, I also came in second place and Genkai's tournament. And I have mad skills when it comes to sixth sense! Why else would I get in contact with all those ghosts? If it weren't for that, I wouldn't have had to see you and your partner, remember?" Kuwabara paused. "By the way, you might asking her to call and tell my dad that I don't need anyone to come by anymore? I kind of made peace with my powers, but I don't think he gets it. Also, I'm pretty sure he has a thing for her... But- but... That's not the point. I still have better skills than you, and that makes me more useful."
"You? Useful? That's a good one. Honestly, should I care about what place you were in that Tournament? It means nothing to me. And everyone knows that the second place one fails the most," Hiei replied.
"Of course, because if you're not first, you're last," Kurama added. Hiei rolled his eyes at that. "Now, as you said, let's move on." He pushed the door open and they all filed in behind him.
Keiko sighed irritably, her eyes out the window. Yusuke's been gone a while. I would be more annoyed if I had to drag his stuff around all day. Not that he really bringing anything anyway. I wonder why he's been needing to go anyway. She felt a finger tap her shoulder and she looked up, remembering that she was still halfway through a sandwich and that she had been in the middle of her friend's story of her last date. Keiko gave her a fake smile. "Sorry, I haven't been getting sleep lately. So what was it that you were saying? Last thing I remember was the part when you went into the movies. And what was it, they gave you a Coke icee instead of the cherry one somehow?"
The other girl sighed. "What're you spacing out for? I hope you're not worrying about that douche Yusuke. Cause he seriously is one. I mean, last week, I swear he was checking out my boobs. And I think he also got caught taking peeks in the locker room. I don't even know why you even bother with him. No matter how much you tell him to shape up he won't. And you should know it."
"We've known each other since forever so I kind of ended up having to be the one to look out for him. I mean, his mom's not home most of the time and he doesn't have a dad around. You know how they say that you're supposed to have a good role model? You know, I bet if he didn't meet me in preschool, he'd be way worse than he is now." Ms. Urameshi... I mean, she's a nice lady but... I really wish she would lay off the alcohol a little. But I wonder... Am I really doing him any good? Is he even as bad as everyone says he is? Sure, he's an immature punk but...
"Right. Let's forget about him. Oh did you hear that Fallout Boy's making a new CD? They need to come back to the freaking US already! It's not fair that everyone else gets to hog up my Pete. Right, Keiko?"
"Yeah..." Keiko stared out the window again. Her eyes fell on a green and purple object in a tree. Staring at it, she was sure that bird was watching her. That's a weird looking bird over there... I mean, are those... Ears? "Hey, Maki, you see that bird out there? In the tree?"
"Hm?" She stood up and looked out. "I don't see anything." She turned around. "Man, you really aren't getting any sleep, are you?"
"Huh. I guess so."
They reached the end of the hall. There was a pair of large teal doors set in an off white frame. The handles were made of a sort of brass or bronze substance. The stairway was made of white marble and at each side of it were large dragon statues posed on three legs, the front right one held up reaching out to the viewer and the mouths hanging open in the midst of a roar. They were made of the same metal that the door handles were made from, though they had a must less clear luster.
"So Seiryu's a dragon, right? This is him. It has to be if these dragons mean anything," Yusuke mumbled mostly to himself. "And if he's a dragon he must breathe fire or something."
"What else can a dragon do?" Hiei asked. "You can't breath ice. That's stupid. It sounds too much work to have to freeze water and then somehow breath it out."
"Same with fire. I mean, how would they be able to make the fire from inside themselves? But you know something else dragons to do...? Burninate the countryside and burninating all the people and burninating all the people and burninating those straw cottages because he's TROGDOR!" He swatted Hiei's shoulder playfully, a huge grin on his face.
Hiei just gave him a deer in the headlights look. "...How much time do we have?"
"I dunno. Nine or ten hours, why?"
Hiei went up the steps. "We were in a hurry before, but now we're hesitating to go in now?" He pushed the door open. Everyone shrugged and followed him in. Standing in the middle of the large turquoise room was a tall man with mint green skin, black hair hanging in bunches around his navy blue hat, and a beard surrounding his mouth. He was dressed in navy blue robes, which matched his hat, a teal Chinese dragon circling around the length of his figure. He glared down at the four as the door closed.
"I heard those lowly goblins telling me humans had come into the Castle. It's not any surprise that you got passed Genbu and Byakko. They're an incompetent bunch, more like empty placeholders for us. No more. This is your last stop." Seiryu glowed with a light blue aura. The room's temperature dropped to the point that everyone's breathes started to produce steam. "Who dares to try their luck?" He paused. "Wait. It seems we have an unwelcome guest."
The four turned around as the doors opened slowly. Kuwabara groaned. "No way. I just shoved this guy into a pit of lava, and he's still back on his feet. They weren't kidding when they called these guys Saint Beasts..."
It was Byakko. His once white fur was charred black with dried blood scattered in blotches around his body. His leopard print robes became ugly rags barely latching onto his waist. He took long hard steps full of hesitation. He whimpered with each step, everything was filled with stinging pain, the kind that always seemed to climb that ladder of your spine and stab at the backs of your eyeballs. Large balls of fried fur dropped off him. Hiei stepped on one clump and it crunched. Yusuke made a face at the sound. In his final step towards Seiryu, he toppled over from the burden of his own body weight, tearing some of his skin from the impact of sliding on the floor with the ease of tearing the skin off a chicken. He heaved a few times before looking up at the other demon.
"Please Seiryu. I need more power. Just a little bit and I'll leave you alone. Please... I'm... I'm in so much pain!" Byakko cried. He struggled to even crawl closer to Seiryu's feet, tearing off more of his fur and skin in the process. He started to form smears of blood around his figure.
"You have proved your worth to us and now, and it looks as if it isn't us who need you, rather it's you who feed upon us like a parasite. And the only way to be ridded of a parasite..."
"Please, Seiryu. Anything but that. I'm begging you..."
"Be gone!" And in a flash Byakko was frozen solid and Seiryu was standing in front of him. "Your body is as weak as your mind, Byakko..." And in another flash Byakko was in pieces on the floor, leaving only his detached head, a piece of his spine sticking out from the end of it. His eyes rolled once and then the whole face ceased to move.
"How...?" Kuwabara stared. He clenched his fists. "How can you even do that to your own team mate?"
"It's some kind of ice technique. He formed a layer of ice around him kind of like a spider wrapping its prey in a web before eating it. And then we'll leave the rest of what happened to you." Hiei stepped forward. "As for the why... We don't even need that. He just needs the favor returned to him. I'll gladly do the job for you."
"You think you can do it? What if he...?"
"What, do you pity the poor fool? If that's the case then you shall suffer the same fate..." Seiryu flared up with the energy again so his whole body glowed again. He threw a punch in the air in an attempt to freeze Hiei, but he jumped out of the way in time for the ice to hit the wall. "Oh, I've forgotten about your incredible speed. Don't worry, the messenger was able to send the news to me before he died miserably. I suppose this means that I'd have to speed up as well?"
"I don't know. Does it look like I'd slow down for you?" Hiei grumbled. He leapt forward again. Seiryu continued to attempt to freeze him but Hiei kept dodging until nearly the whole room was covered with a layer of ice.
"Dammit, this whole place is gonna be a hockey rink before he's done with him," Yusuke said. "And I guess we'll be taking back those comments about dragons breathing fire."
Hiei's arm was caught in the zone of Seiryu's attack. He held it up before his eyes, smirking at him. "Don't look like you've won. You can freeze everyone else in this room but you can't freeze me..." After a moment, the ice on his arm melted. "But shit, that still hurts..."
"Well aren't you clever? But if you don't have legs you can't run from me anymore." Seiryu froze both of Hiei's legs and charged for the kill. Hiei was not phased. He stabbed his sword into the ground and used it to launch himself. The next thing they knew, Seiryu was in pieces on the floor with Hiei kneeling with his back to the other demon.
"Ho crap!" Yusuke gasped.
"That... That was awesome!" Kuwabara said.
Kurama walked to Hiei. "You look like you're in pain." He offered a hand to help him up, but the other man shook his head.
"It's the sudden heat change from my hand to my arm that makes it bad," Hiei replied. He stood up. "It's not so painful that I'd die over in pain."
"I'm sure." He was eying his arm, which was slightly red. It doesn't look like it's just that... It already changed back to a normal color. Never mind then. "So how many cuts were did you make? I couldn't keep track of them all."
"Sixteen? I lost count after eight!" Yusuke replied.
"You have better eyes than me, Yusuke. I only saw flashes," Kurama replied.
"...I didn't even see the flashes..." Kuwabara was even more shocked. "Hey, so if I made you mad, I'm sorry."
"I'm not gonna waste my time on those who don't need it so I was short." Hiei paused and shook his head. "Wait, wait... And by that I mean I'm not wasting my time on that. I'm not going to touch you even if I wanted to. Besides that Mukuro would never let me hear the end of it if I did. You know how it... Never mind."
"Hey, so long story short: You won't get any and you'll have to sleep on the couch." Yusuke laughed. Hiei punched him in the solar plexus and walked away, fuming. Once he regained his breath, Yusuke replied, "Oh, come on. You know we're not serious."
"I can't depend on anyone, can I? If that's the case then I'd have to destroy them all myself!" He took the whistle from the shelf, a ghastly smile crossing his lips as he stroked it as if it were a pet. "And it's now the time to play a final melody- the last stand... Now how does it go...?"
The time was now two-thirty, and everyone was on their way home. Keiko was sitting in front of the computer, creating a powerpoint for her English class. She paused and stared out the window to think of what else to put, before doing a quick search for pictures of parrots. The teacher, Mr. Iwamoto, walked in. He paused in the doorway until Keiko turned to him, minimizing her google search. He walked to the desk and grabbed his briefcase.
"Keiko, you're still here?" he asked.
"Yeah, I have this presentation next week, and I don't have powerpoint at home so I came here because I didn't think you would mind. I could save it and go to the library if it does..." Keiko replied. She was bending down to get her flashdrive, hoping that he would at least need to leave the room right now.
"No, that's okay. (Oh, thank god, looks like I've finally won, Keiko thought.) You should go home though. I was talking with her, and she says you don't need to worry about it. It's not worth that many points. Of course, I asked because Martin was complaining about the huge load of work I've been giving."
"It's better to worry about it now instead of the night before."
Iwamoto laughed at that and walked out, saying to himself, "That's a teacher priming ideal right there."
Keiko sighed. I know it's a horrible thing to think but... Iwamoto is really creepy like... The image of a certain bear danced in her mind. She shook her head. Anyway. She took a final glance at the results of her search before closing out the window and went back to her powerpoint. She was going to continue her typing when she saw a lime green thing in the corner of her eye. Oh, it's that bird again. Someone must have lost their parrot or something. Must be lost. I wonder... She stood up and started to open the window. It flew away, but she could have sworn she heard a witch-like laugh coming from it. I think... I think I should get this done as fast as possible. She sighed again. Yusuke... He never came back to get his... folder and pencil. Well, who knows what he has in there. Maybe it's not such a big loss after all.
Still... Why am I getting this bad feeling...?
"We're almost to the top!" Yusuke took a sigh of relief. "Just that tower and we're free to go." As they proceeded down the corridor, a group humanoid figures appeared from the shadows, and they walked towards the fours in slow, tired steps. They all held their heads with a droop and had a mindless look in their eyes. They all had pine green skin that had the consistency of scales with line green hair on the top of their head, looking more like the leaves of grass than anything else. They all groaned nonsensical syllables in hallow voices. "Well, look at that. This'll be a piece of..."
"Yusuke, you should save your energy," Kurama said as he grabbed Yusuke's arm before he could raise it. "We can take care of these ones... You can wait while we finish them. You have the most energy out of all of us, and it's better to conserve it in light of your apparent upcoming battle. With our limited supply remaining, or for most of us, we would be the ideal people to take care of them."
"He's not kidding. I feel Suzaku's energy from here. I wouldn't mind having a good fight with him..." Hiei smirked at that. (What are you implying, man?)
"You know, this whole thing's annoying me! First you're all like, 'Oh, these guys are the toughest and the next one is the strongest...' Yeah, well, you have yet to prove that or else I'll keep ignoring you when you say, 'Oh, he's the strongest opponent yet!'"
"We you listening when Kurama said that their power is mostly political?"
"No, I was busy playing a Beyonce song in my head. What do you think, dipshit?"
"The point is... What am I supposed to do while you guys beat up the freaky zombies of doom?"
Hiei looked towards the top of the tower. He pointed straight up. "There's a window up there."
"Jesus Christ! We're not all grasshoppers like you are... maybe. How do you think any of us are going to get up there without a jetpack or something?"
"Easy. We just climb up on each other's shoulders and make this human tower-ladder- whatever the right word for it is- so you can make it up there. All you do it just jump your way up."
"Oh, come on. How does that not defy the laws of physics? Now hurry up and decide. These things are starting to bite me." Kuwabara kicked one of the creatures away.
"First of all, Kuwabara, just shut the hell up and fight them off, and second of all, I don't know much real physics, but it's still a fool proof plan."
"Sure..." Kurama cleared enough space for them to carry out the plan. Then they created the tower with Kuwabara on the bottom.
"Why am I always the bottom one?" Kuwabara whined.
"Who cares what you think? You're the only one of us who didn't finish the job so you're basically like the quarter piece of pie no one wants," Hiei replied.
"Hey. Get ready. I'm going. Sorry, if I hit anyone's back. Just blame Hiei on this one." Yusuke jumped one by one... And he jumped higher. Oh, hey, I might actually make it... But gravity proved him wrong and he fell to the ground. (Though his fall was cushioned by the creatures.) "...I freaking hate you guys."
"Seriously," Kuwabara said.
"Great, the feeling's mutual," Hiei said.
And so they tried another time in which they all fell over. The third time was a success at last. Yusuke pulled himself over the edge of the window sill. "Man, I owe you all lunch when we're all through!" So up the tower he went.
A green parrot flew away from Human World, quickly locating the entrance back towards Maze Castle, having memorized the route from constant use. Once back in her own land, she flew straight for the top toward of the castle, narrowly avoiding the random bolts of lightning in the sky. She reached her perch at the window sill, closest to where the sound of a flute was being played. She stopped to listen for a bit, pausing every so often to bend over a pick a small bug that happened to crawl into one of her ears or the fleas burrowing into her chest. The music stopped a couple of minutes later. The musician turned to her, the flute still held near his lips, waiting for her news.
"Oh, Lord Suzaku!" the bird gasped, once she realized his attention was completely on her. She silently relished in his undivided attention before going on affectionately, "I didn't mean to disturb you."
He dropped the whistle from his lips. "Oh, it's you, Murugu. Do you have any useful information for me?" He turned to the mirror which showed a road blocked by a riot of people attacking each other. He smiled at the great view of his work. "Come to the mirror, and show me what you've found."
"Nothing really except..." She flew to the mirror and tapped her beak on it. Keiko appeared on the screen, still sitting in front of the computer and lost in thought. "A friend of this boy Yusuke Urameshi. You've heard of him right?"
"The one who apparently took out Rando? What is it that they call him these days? The Spirit Detective."
"Right-o, that one. This girl is Keiko Yukimura from what I heard the other humans saying. Their relationship is more platonic, but there's still love there, it seems." She faked gagging. "His weakness."
"Well, then... Keiko Yukimura. You're first..." He put the whistle to his lips to which Murugu giggled. She perched on his shoulder and listened to the music with more ease this time.
"I'm done for today..." Keiko sighed as she saved the powerpoint on her flashdrive. As she put it in her backpack, she heard footsteps coming through the door. "Is that you, Iwamoto? I'm done so..."
Iwamoto pounded a hole into the wall. "I told you... I told you go home!"
"What? Oh... I'm so sorry but...!"
"Don't you know what they do to students who don't listen to their teachers?" He flung a textbook at her. She froze in shock, watching in horror as spit started to drip from the corners of his lips like a mad dog. His eyes had a glassy, dead look to them. He walked towards her with large awkward steps. She finally regained mobility.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" She ran out into the halls. It's empty out here. Maybe they had a last minute teacher's meeting. I know that kind of thing always bothers him. But... What was with that look in his eyes...? When she left the main building, she saw the staff standing out there armed with various things from textbooks to brooms to even bats. Frozen with shock again, she stood there, wide eyed, knowing that they, too, had the same dead look in their eyes. She started to feel a bit lightheaded, but she knew she couldn't faint. Not now. Anything but now. Oh god, oh god, oh god, what do I do? What do I DO?! Someone pulled her away by the arm and Keiko tried to flail away from them until she realized that she was being led to safety in the bushes.
"Hurry, Keiko!" And Botan took her away as fast as possible. "Don't ask questions, just hurry!"
/And there was none.