Doubt~ Chapter 9: TH3 TH1RT33TH
Author: japancat
Content Rating: T-13
Published: 2012-07-05 16:33:59
Tags: Yu Yu Hakusho, Kurama, Hiei, Mukuro, Jersey Devil, Natsume, Kujou



Summary:
For some reason Hiei and Kurama are sent on a mission in New Jersey... to track down the Jersey Devil. Oh yeah, and you meet Natsume and Kujou (who isn't a Saint Bernard with rabies).

Author´s Notes and Disclaimers:
I predict Hiei will be emo and start ranting. Anyway, the Jersey Devil... Pretty much I explained all the stories behind it. There's actually more variations on its appearance than I discuss here. But... It's not that important, really. I think outside of the East Coast, this might be an obscure topic, I'm not sure. I kind of don't discuss my love of things like cryptids to other people unless the conversation's provoked... Kurama asks Hiei about getting colds... In Japanese culture, idiots don't get colds is what he was saying.
Chapter 9
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Chapter 9: TH3 TH1RT33NTH

Mother... Why did you throw me away? For that brief moment you held me in your arms, it was the first and last warmth I felt in my life, and that's what's keeping my sanity as I walk the earth for eternity. No... I will not rest... I will not... Not even after the day of Judgement. Not after the Lord has destroyed what is left of this world...

Mother, why couldn't you have given me the time to become worthy of you? I've become a serf of hell for you, and I would even become the foulest beast for you. Yes, a vengeful demon that feasts on the wastes of the lowest sinners in the deepest bowels of hell. I'll tear the world to ribbons for you. Tear out all the flesh and bones of your enemies, even those who have wronged you in the slightest. I could bring you the life you would have wanted: a line of suitors spread across the land asking for your hand, all the freedom to do as you desire, every item that you wish to have in your possession, no matter how petty, the moon, the stars, the cruel sun. I would give my life a thousand times over, live hundreds of lives as parasitic worms and bottom-feeders of society if you so wish. I could make the earth and hell combined, so the blood and flames below overfill the disgusting lands filled with savages, and in the end, I would take you in my arms and carry you up to heaven- to safety... and I... I would drop down and suffer the rest of eternity, if you so wish. All... For you.

But it seems that that won't be enough. There is something I can give. Something you always wanted... Please, mother... Mother... Mother... I will find you a child. The one you always wanted and maybe then I can see the smile that I never saw. Even if it was not for me, seeing you smile for a second will be all I ever needed to continue this vile survival.

-:-:-

"New Jersey?" Hiei asked, cocking a brow. "Don't they have one of these things over there, too? Why can't they take care of this case themselves?"

"Well, they just figured that we need to stop dancing around half naked on our sunny beaches and tanning as we dye our hair blonde, because you know that's all we have to do in California," Mukuro replied. "And all in between our plots to help our Governor Schwarzenegger AKA the Govenator terminate John Connor. I didn't vote for that guy. But then again, we don't exist in the eyes of the government. Hiei, don't start complaining, I could send you out to Honduras or some ridiculously distant place like Santiago did with Kirin. Though, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure why he did such things. It kind of makes things harder than they need to be on our end." She waved a paper in his direction. "In any case, they actually sent us a request to send someone out there. With them still being a relatively small group at the moment, they need all the help they can get. We've actually been really close. If we were ever in a pinch, I would ask for some of their members, too."

"Uh... So why don't they ask for people from states closer to them? Isn't Georgia supposed to have the biggest department?"

"They hate Georgia."

"That explains nothing."

"Why can't you be more like Minamino? He just accepts his assignments without complaint." Kurama shrugged in response to that comment. "See? Look at him right now. You should strive to be like he is now."

"...He doesn't have to deal with your shit on a daily basis."

"Yes, he does. He works here too. Seriously, do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"

"She killed herself. Quit asking me questions like that."

"On a less disturbing note, you're supposed to be doing something with the Jersey Devil. I'm sure you all have heard of it. Especially if you're a fan of the X-Files."

"I thought you said that thing about assuming."

"And you also think potato has an E at the end, too, Zamyatin. Well, for the record... The legend dates back to the 1830's if I remember correctly..." She started to flip through the file.

"What, are you an old woman on the verge of being sent to a nursing home?"

"No, but you were given a rifle as soon as you ended up in school even though you can't tell anyone who invented the light bulb."

"Okay, now you're really not making any sense. And it was Jefferson, right?"

"Je-?! Really, Hiei? Really?" She sighed and dropped it. "They usually describe the creature as bipedal with the head of a horse and the legs of a bird... Or was it the body?"

"What do you mean by that? You mean to tell us that you assigned us this case, and you know nothing about it?"

"Well, I know parts of it. It involves something about a woman, but as to what she did, none of the stories add up to why the child left her at birth- with or without its choice. I don't know the entirety of the case, but you're the ones who have to deal with it so you should know the story backwards and forwards." Hiei shrugged and he started to walk out the door as Kurama stood up from his chair. "Hey, don't start leaving yet. You still have plenty time to get ready for your flight." Kurama flinched at the word. She took a briefcase from under her desk and she gave it to him. "You might need this. If anyone asks, it's some laptop that I need you to take to a shop and fix. But I doubt anyone's gonna notice you walking out with that anyway. If someone can walk out with the microwave without anyone knowing, then you can go out with that."

"What is it?" Kurama asked. He fidgeted with the locks on the case, hiding the impulse to open it.

"It's called the Colt. If you watch Supernatural, you've heard about that too." He gave her a blank look. "Hm. Most people understand what I'm getting at. Apparently, it was created in 1863 by Samuel Colt, and it supposedly holds the power to destroy anything- even spirits. But I think that might be a lie. We only received this thing recently- almost a few months prior to Santiago's retirement."

"Oh. Okay... So why are you giving us this?"

"I'm actually not supposed to be giving you these types of things. It's supposed to be used only in an absolute emergency, and even then, I'm supposed to be the one handling this since I'm the chief or Kirin. He's my assistant. But if they're right in calling this thing a devil you might need this. I've heard that regular weapons alone would be meaningless. I've never seen one face to face before, but you'd be screwed if you do see one and can live to tell the tale... Or with your soul. The damn things just want our soul no matter who we are."

"Heh, even Dick Cheney?"

"Soul, what soul?"

"Aren't devils and demons supposed to be the same thing?" Hiei asked. "What, quit looking at me like I'm stupid. How am I supposed to know?"

"...I thought you would know. And no, they aren't," Mukuro answered.

"Yeah, well I don't know, so screw you. I wouldn't've been asking if I knew, now would I?"

"If I was still in the army, I wouldn't want you as my First Sergeant. Okay, it's a big long story, and I'm sure that you know most of it since you had to deal with all that quantum physics bullshit yourself when you came over here and I don't want Minamino to get bored. There are four basic entities that exist in any dimension that we know of. There could be more but that doesn't apply to us since we are loosely connected. And those are devils- oni- for you, Minamino, I think- demons-youkai, humans, and angels. Devils and angels are on the opposite sides of the spectrum of absolute evil and good. Humans are about on the center- note that this is basically an average of all human behavior before you start being a smart ass about Hitler and Stalin and all that. We know they existed, and they were horrible. People need to quit referencing those guys every time an assumption's made. Those are the extremes. We need to remember that.

"Demons, note the devils on the last of the spectrum, are probably at the midpoint between neutrality and evil if we ask Spirit World. In reality we're roughly the same place as humans are. Yeah, we all know what we've done in the past so we can't be egotistical about how great we are, but we're also no worse than humans. We just happen to have what they would call strange powers. Considering that we're basically just alternate realities, this shouldn't come as a surprise, which is also why most of us ended up in here. Well, maybe not you Minamino,  but these guys at the top think you're on the edge of blowing up and killing us all. And anyway, they also have to be aware of any births in this world so they know that the children are brought up to standard and that it wasn't with a human if they're below an A class rank."

"...What's the point of that law?"

"...I dunno. I guess all you B class and lower people are a bunch of perverts and once you've had one human you can't stop...? But that's not entirely what we're getting at, are we? Basically, remember that demons are the equivalent of humans, whereas devils and angels are strictly spirits. They're so much so that even the spirituality aware can't see them most of the time. They tend to linger in this world from what I hear. If you've been in Spirit World enough times, you actually have a better chance of seeing them when they are on earth. Coincidentally, I have the ability to see these kinds of things, but it also has to do with my power level. Minamino, I'm pretty sure you can see them, with your background being what it is. I hear youko have the ability to see even through illusions. Hiei, you... I think you can see them as well since you're in possession of the Jagan. Go ahead, look around, you two. You are most likely unable to see anything out of the ordinary because angels and demons tend to stay home instead of wander on the earth and see what has gone wrong." She glanced at the clock. "Well, that's the end of that then. I've killed enough of your time so you better get moving. And the Colt... Please take good care of it."

-:-:-

Hiei opened the file that he had tucked under his arm once the plane had finally taken off, and the pilot and the flight attendant had finished going through the emergency protocol. He turned to Kurama who looked as if he was about to vomit all over himself. He stared at the other man under he stared back, still looking as pale as the sheets of paper in the file. "What's your problem?"

"I... It's nothing. Nothing at all," he replied at almost lightning speed. "I'm not sweating, and I'm not scared at all. What's in the file?"

"Whatever's wrong with you, it's not my problem."

"Oh, that's really polite."

"Yeah, well, deal with it. You're practically glued to the chair. If you're going to throw up, make sure you do it in the bag here and not on me." Hiei glanced at the man next to him and saw that he was too occupied trying to figure out all the applications his iphone to give a damn what they were doing. "Right..." He lowered his voice as he saw a stewardess pass by. "We'll be going off to Pine Barrens, New Jersey- that we were told by Mukuro. The thing we're looking for supposedly has a long neck with bat wings, hooves, tail and a head like a horse, and about three to seven feet tall. And why that would be any help, who knows. The legend goes something like a woman named Mother Leeds- there's always a Mother Leeds involved."

"L-like 'There was a man who lived in Leeds?'"

"What?"

"There was a man who lived in Leeds who planted a garden full of seeds/ And when the seeds began to grow it was like a garden full of snow/ And when the snow began to melt it was like a ship without a belt/ And when the ship began to sail it was like a bird without a tail... Or something like that. There's more to it but..."

"Whatever you say." He glanced at the passenger next to them again. Now he was playing Pac-Man. Fascinating. Back to business. "As I was saying, there was a Mother Leeds who had twelve children. Apparently, when she was pregnant with the thirteenth child, she said it would be the devil. And the child was said to have been born looking normal, but changed to have hooves and wings and it left after killing the... midwife?"

"Midwives helped woman give birth and if need be care or the child, nursing and all that."

"Oh. Sure. There was also another version in which Mother Leeds threw it into a river because it wasn't beautiful. It depends on who you ask. Going by the first legend, the thing when up the chimney and started going around the town until there was an exorcism in 1740. It was seen again it 1890- so this says. In 1840 they blamed it for livestock killings (so much for 1890). There was another case in which a creature was found flying overhead. It was hit by cannons but it didn't even flinch. There have been a lot of reports of stuff like that. That and seeing footprints in the snow that just begin and end in random places. And there's a lot more but you should look at it yourself..." He offered the file to Kurama.

He looked even more pale. "I-I'll pass..." He leaned closer to Hiei. "So you think we'd really need the Colt for this?"

He sighed. "I don't know. She always does stuff like that. As long as it's really destructive she'll support the use of the damn thing. Don't know why Santiago liked her so much. She's so overdramatic."

-:-:-

As soon as they got off the plane, Kurama sat in the closest bench as Hiei looked around the airport, standing on the tips of his toes every so often in an attempt to see over the heads of other travelers. He glanced at Kurama and disappeared in the crowd. Just as Kurama was about to get up to search for him, Hiei was in front of him, a bottle of ginger ale in his hand. He took it without asking questions, but he thanked him anyway. Hiei continued looking around until he saw a hand waving around just outside of the waiting area in the gate. He motioned for Kurama to follow him and they walked to a couple, who vaguely looked alike.

The man had dark hair with a bluish tint to it, which stuck up straight in the air in boxlike spikes. His body was packed with muscles, though most of the bulk remained in his arms. The woman had fluffy hair, sticking out in random intervals on top of her head, while the rest was able to be tamed into a braid tied back with a bow as pink as her eyes. She regarded the two with a cool demeanor.

"You know, I was thinking Reeve was gonna be coming along, but that might just be me thinking in the past. I forgot that she got slapped with the leading position. She has better things to do to than watch you guys do your stuff... And I'm Kujou by the way," the man introduced himself. "Aono Kujou, these days, anyway."

"And I'm Aono Natsume. We run the Ketchum Department in this area," the woman said.

"Twins. We're inseparable. Anything that separates twins is evil against nature, you know."

"If you say so," Hiei replied gruffly.

"Okay, well, we'll be needing your names, since Reeve never actually told us who she's sending over. I think I've seen you before..." He pointed at Hiei. "I don't know where, but you look really familiar. Who are you? Are you a Vincent?"

"No. Not even close. Hiei."

"Oh. You look like a Vincent." He shook his hand and turned to Kurama. "And you, miss..."

"Mister Shuichi Minamino," Kurama replied holding back a glare.

"...This is awkward."

"We should get going. I'm assuming you're just trying to get this job done, whatever it is," Natsume said. When she received blank looks from the two, she shrugged. "We put in a lot of requests for help here for various cases so we can't keep track of what we asked for. Some of them have even been sitting for months. We've even asked for transfers and not one person has come through, you must understand." They all went to the parking lot and got into their car.

As they got on the highway, Kujou asked them, "Where are you going then?"

"Abeson. It's in Pine Barrens," Hiei replied simply.

"Pine Barrens? That creepy place? Are you sure? ...Oh, I get it now. You're after that Jersey Devil, aren't you? Natsume, when'd we even send out a request for that one?" His sister shrugged. "Can't believe we even sent out for that one."

"Why, have you investigated it yourself?" Kurama asked.

"We haven't been established here in New Jersey for a very long time like your guys's. I believe yours was established in the late forties or fifties. We've decided to focus on more practical things like tracking down criminals, when we can. The Jersey Devil hasn't been causing anyone any extreme harm or been behind any killings that would know of and thus would be nothing that could be of any interest. Mostly it's a nice story for the tabloids," Natsume replied. "But we would like to close this one in the case that it might lead to something dangerous. You can never be to careful when devils are involved. I don't think anyone besides ourselves has to ability to see such things, either. I should hope that Reeve made sure you two can at least. Otherwise, we're undermanned in more ways than one. We can't go out there and do field work, either."

"Yeah, I mean, even though we've had this place in the works for years... No one really came in to take the leadership opportunity. So the criminals here were usually sent off to be reformed somewhere else because we can't even get enough people to handle just the cases themselves. You can see why I we need people to call just for something like this. It was more to cover all our bases before we get in some deep shit, this case was," Kujou added. He glanced at the pair through the rear view mirror. "Plus, I've heard some really good things about you guys over in California. And everyone always said you guys were lazy."

-:-:-

Once they got settled in a hotel in Abescon and started getting things ready for the morning, the phone rang. Hiei answered it with a clear look of dread on his face.

"Hey, I just remembered something. I could've told you earlier but I couldn't reach you," Mukuro said.

"We were on a plane. They don't allow phones to be used on a plane, remember?"

"So they could charge you more fees like being a few pounds overweight. Though for you, you might just be taking up someone's seat. Kurama could have put you in his pocket and not even known it the whole way. But I'm pretty sure they do allow you to use phones once you've reached a certain height. But that's not the point. I'm giving you three days to close this case."

"Three days? That's all?"

"You've been doing so well with your timing so I figured you've finally learned to get right to business. ...Or maybe Kurama's pushing you. One of the two. By the way, you haven't been plotting ways to murder each other have you?"

"No."

"I thought he would be a good guy. I'm glad you get along."

"I guess you can call it that."

"Well, I wish you all luck, my dear. By the way, you can't get an STD from a toilet seat, always remember that."

"Stop that and don't call me-" She already hung up. He cursed in his native tongue. "Three days. And here's day one. And then the third one would be leaving this place. How does she expect is to get anything done in one day or two... Either way..."

"Didn't you read the time we were expected back?" Kurama asked, now flipping through the pages in the file. "It's actually four days counting today. And well, that means she's got faith in you, that's for sure. More so than myself. She's more concerned in you getting things done than myself."

"...It's not like that. I don't like her but I don't hate her either and if she feels anything like that then she probably would have said something about it before. If anything we're just roommates."

"I didn't mean it that way, Hiei."

He shrugged. "I don't even care anymore. When I first showed up in the army everybody looked at me funny and started saying stuff like, 'Are you that Heinrich guy?' And immediately after that came to everyone's attention that I looked like him, except for the eyes, some jack ass from the Kremlin comes over and tells me that I can't get married or anything like that. Then once I made it to First Sergeant the Lieutenant comes over and offers to make me the new General. Didn't think about it before but it was just to use me to their advantage. Basically so they could make a better connection with Germany, a couple of years before the damn place was split in half. And then after that they told me to have as many damn kids as I want so they could use them, too. And I already know that was the case cause they kept introducing me to a bunch of German women, completely forgetting that they had already checked that issue and they already didn't have to worry about me bringing spawn to this world. But I guess no matter where you go, there's always going to be a way for the people in power to use each other to their advantage..." He stared at the wall blankly. "Even them. With them being in isolation all the time you would think they'd be free from all that dominance and censorship bullshit. But none of them know or if they did, they wouldn't care. There can never be utopias. No matter how much we want it, we can't live without having what everyone else has too..." He clenched his fists. He grumbled something under his breath in his native tongue.

"...I... Guess I said something I shouldn't have. I was just joking. Didn't think you'd react like that."

"Sure. You know, you don't make any sense. A cold blooded thief and then you go and apologize over a stupid joke and a person ranting on and on. Would've thought you'd slap some sense into me or something. Or at least tell me to stop bitching."

"Eh, well, times have changed I guess." He shrugged.

"...If you're afraid of going on planes, I guess they have."

"Hey, there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for that."

"I don't care. You're still a pussy either way." Hiei glanced at the clock. "It's getting late. You should get some sleep."

"You're right." Kurama sat on the bed, noticing Hiei was propping himself in a chair next to the window. He slipped himself under the curtain to look out. He came back under, swatted the dust off the curtain, read the time off the clock and then went back under the curtain. You're not going to rest too?"

He sighed and came out from under the curtain. "I can't sleep at night. I don't know why. Usually just sit around and stare out the window even though there's nothing to see most of the time. This is one of those times. Can't see shit out there right now." Don't know what Mukuro does to sleep. She's seen plenty of shit, and you can tell. But I guess only the privileged can get a good night's sleep." He continued staring at the wall with the same dreary look.

-:-:-

Kurama could have sworn he woke up at about two or three in the morning (only a guess though, since he didn't open his eyes to check the time) with something heavy placed on his chest. It felt an awful lot like it was a pile of thick books (the first thing he could think of to describe the weight) but it was slightly rocking to each side. He started to make sense of the weight. He felt legs hanging off the sides, and a pair of hands resting on his chest. He felt something rough brush against his cheek and a light breath near his ear, the scent reaching into his nostrils, stinking horribly of sulfur and rotting flesh. One of the hands brushed his cheek. Then the other grabbed his chin as though inspecting him. Kurama wanted to open his eyes, but he found he couldn't move a single part of his body. It was as though he was frozen. It breathed in his face again, and the weight shifted down his body, down his legs and off his feet. The thing moved down the foot of the bed and stayed there until there was a thump on the floor. The thing then moved out of the room so quickly that as soon as the weight left the bed, he heard the door slam shut. Kurama opened his eyes and saw nothing. He felt around on the bed for any trace left by the creature that was there moments ago but found nothing. With more than a little reluctance, he dismissed it as a strange dream and tried to go back to sleep. He couldn't remember the dreams that came after that visit.

He woke up at about nine o clock that morning and saw Hiei sitting at the foot of the other bed, half asleep. He glanced at the clock and mumbled something about finally getting six hours of sleep.

"Oh, you're up. You know you sleep like the dead? I woke up at three thirty and found out that I fell off that chair. I was surprised that didn't wake you up. Then again, you were groaning in your sleep too. It sounded really disgusting..." Hiei yawned.

"Yeah... I guess I do that," Kurama replied hesitantly. He remembered the dream he had.

"No, I meant it like you were in pain. Like you were..." He stopped, struggling for words for a moment. "Like you were sleeping on something sharp and it kept stabbing you, I guess you could say..."

"Bad dreams. That must've been it. Haven't had one of those in years." He felt a droplet hit his head and another. He waited for the drop to roll down quickly, but it only slid slowly. He swiped the area and glanced at his hand. It was blood. He looked up. There on the ceiling was the twisted and torn up body of a woman somewhere in her mid to late thirties with her throat and chest torn wide open, her stomach torn apart from the esophagus. Her intestines stuck out from under her skirt, swinging in the air. Her hands twitched and then her whole body convulsed as her wounds grew larger. Her eyes opened wide with terror and her mouth was stuck in an inaudible scream. Her mouth grew wider and wider on her face until it touched her ears. Her jaw hung as wide as a door swings, flapping open and closed, a mockery of laughter. The ceiling grew into a wider scene. A dark cabin room where the woman lay in the middle of the room, being torn apart by a baby. A large woman with unkempt hair tore at her clothes, and her hair.

She shrieked in a shrill voice, "You are not my child! You are Satan's work! You are not my child!"

The baby looked at her. One eye bulged from its socket while the other rolled back further into its skull. Its mouth was set crookedly on its face and its nose was long like a beast's. He hunched his back as knobs started to protrude against the stretching skin until it tore for slimy wings to come out. He waved his hands around to reveal its three extra fingers, two on one hand and one on the other, and all of its thirteen nails equipped with nails growing quickly into a quarter the size of its fingers. Its toes were all fused together. They hardened and made clopping sounds when they hit the ground. The baby rocked side to side, hands bloody. It smiled and crawled to its mother.

She grabbed a log of wood and hit it over the head until she drew blood. The baby was unconscious and she grabbed all her skirts and wrapped the baby in it. She slipped out of her dress to ensure she would never have to wear the devil's blood again. She ran through town, her legs and nethers aching from the birth. The villagers watched and gasped at her nakedness. She ran as fast as she could as they threw rocks at her. She reached the river and threw the baby into it. "I pity this lake that must take the devil spawn. Go back to hell."

A man from the village grabbed her by the arm and took her back. She was to be shamed as punishment. She was to be hanged...

"Oh. The ceiling's leaking." Kurama jumped at the sound of Hiei's voice. "What're you getting scared for? The thought that you had to go on that plane again finally occurred to you? Actually, I would be surprised by water hitting my head all of a sudden, too."

"Yeah..." Kurama shook his head. The images swam through his head again, "Say, you didn't happen to hear a door slam or someone come in at the middle of the night did you?"

"What? No. You sure you're feeling alright?"

Kurama went into the bathroom to change his clothes. When he looked in the mirror he saw a grotesque face before he could make sense of the image, it disappeared. It's jet-lag. Probably. When you don't get enough sleep your head plays games with you.

There was a knock at the door. "When you're done with that, we have somewhere to go. I was rereading the file last night when I woke up. Remember when I told you that other story that involved a river? I found the place and apparently there's something in the water. I didn't get it. I was half asleep when I read it. Looks like this'll be our first stop."

He couldn't help but dread the trip.

-.-.-

After five minutes after they were on the road, Kurama heard three consecutive knocks on the roof of the car much like when someone knocks on a door. He didn't think anything of it. He sight blurred and he saw they were driving down a tunnel that reminded him of looking down the throat of a hungry animal. He heard the sounds of people moaning and shrieking. The sounds of fire crackling. The smell of burning flesh, shit, and sulfur came back to him. There were bodies dropping from the sky and...

"You feeling okay? You're really starting to..." Hiei struggled with the words again.

"Nothing. Nothing at all."

"How much sleep did you really get last night?"

"Enough." The knocks continued again. He shut his eyes. It's trying to communicate with me. Why? Whatever I do, I have to make sure I keep my distance. If it is a devil, it will do whatever it takes to get me to go back to wherever it came from, whatever it takes... and whatever that means for me and it.

They arrived at the river after forty minutes. They got lost along the way which was mostly credited by Hiei to the extremely poorly written directions he took off the internet and to which Kurama credited mostly to his inability to remember his right from his left.

"I feel something here already. I have the feeling that this thing comes here a lot." Hiei looked around the area just to make sure the coast was clear. He nodded to himself, sure that there was nothing in the area. He turned around stared at Kurama, who wasn't moving. "You're shaking now. Are you sure you're okay? If you're coming down with something, you better not give it to me. I haven't been sick in the past five years and I'm not breaking that streak."

"I haven't gotten coffee today, that's all. You know how caffeine headaches can get," he said.

"You sound like Mukuro. The people at these coffee places must know her by first name by now. I don't know how she can stand it."

"Er... Right. By the way, when you said you never got sick, does that count colds?"

"I'm from the Soviet Union. You think I'm going to get a cold?"

"Never mind."

"Okay. One of us should go in the river, and the other one should stay behind just in case the other gets trapped or something. I think rank decides that one."

"Don't abuse your power by using it to show off your power." Hiei looked as if his brain broke with that comment. "I think we should play a game of Janken Pon."

"Play what?"

"They call it Rock-Paper-Scissors here." He held out his hand, fingers together. "Paper." He made a fist. "Rock." He made the peace sign. "Scissors. Paper covers rock, scissors cuts paper and rock smashes scissors. Simple, right?"

"Scissors can break a rock, and what makes the paper think it's won the war just because it covered the rock? The rock can tear the paper when enough force is applied. This is a stupid game."

"Let's just do it." Of course Kurama ended up losing to Hiei's scissors. He walked into the river with dread building up in his chest.

"Don't go in too deep, it'll suck you in. That's what the file said, anyway. It said it was an urban legend, but at this point we should be careful anyway. Looks like any hunch will do now."

"If you knew that, why didn't you just go in?"

"Everything would look too deep for me. You should know that." There was a rustle in the bushes. He turned to them, hand on the hilt of his blade. "There's something there. Dammit, why didn't I bring the Colt?"

Kurama looked down at his reflection in the water by some strange impulse. There's no reflection in here. I need to get out of here. Right now... He turned around to start walking out of the lake, but he saw two large red eyes staring up at him. His body was frozen in place again. He struggled to move, but something was freezing himself there, staring into the eyes in the water. Those... peaceful, calming... No! Not... Don't tell me... "Hiei... I think I..." He started feeling like he was about to swoon.

"Damn, it's just a raccoon. Get out of here." He kicked a rock at the it as it ran out of the bushes and away from him.

"Hey, I think..." A hand reached out from the water and grabbed him by the ankle before he could get out of the water. Hiei ran to where he was and searched.

"What the hell...?" He dove with little hesitation and came back up just after he remembered his own warning. "By that doesn't... Why didn't I get trapped under too? I guess I have to..." A few bubbles rose to the surface and he smelled something like rotten eggs. Sulfur...? But... He saw Kurama resurface a few feet away. He grabbed him by the arms and pulled him to the shore. "Minamino, what the hell was just...?" He was sure he saw Kurama's chest moving so he was still breathing. He turned Kurama's face to be sure that he really was breathing but he saw the whites of his eyes were the only things showing. His eyes were rolled back into his head.

/And there was none.

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Chapter 9
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