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Tue Jan 1 02:30:05 PST 2008


person, Kurama changed into his fox demon form while, strangely enough,
still maintaining his human form's voice, and Kuwabara would later on
tear through the Reikai's Dimensional Barrier in between the Ningenkai
and the Makai using his Jigen Tou.

It was also during that moment of unremitting rage that Kurama said
words which, in contrast to the rest of his splintered recollection,
came about in crystal certainty, revealing heartfelt feelings that
flowed out of his mouth accidentally, unthinkingly, unbidden: "No matter
whom, I hate missing any one of the four of us."

Kurama had lived for hundreds of years; his mental development was very
deep and far. So he couldn't easily tell his true feelings, but at that
one time, he revealed the true feelings of his heart.


________________________________________________________________________


Shonen
A Yuyu Hakusho fic
By Chester Castañeda
chester.castaneda at gmail.com
gabriel_gabdiel at yahoo.com
http://www.fanfiction.net/~abdiel
http://abdiel.florestica.com/
http://chester-fanfics.livejournal.com/

Again, this chapter is rated for course language and Dante-like mental
images. You have been warned.

________________________________________________________________________

Chapter 26: Nemesis (Part 3)
________________________________________________________________________



Kurama felt it; the dreadful, nauseating mass of malevolent energy that
filled the entirety of the cave. As he unwillingly focused on the
peculiar and repulsive feeling, he soon discerned the origin of the
miasma of youki.

Kurama's intensive reverie was cut short by the scent of pure, rotting,
and nauseating death. Waves of revulsion racked his body, squeezing his
guts with freezing iron fingers. He fought with all his will to keep
the flood of horror at bay so that he could finish Toguro Ani off before
he could regenerate, but eventually the tide overwhelmed him as he
gagged and backed away in utter dread.

For one reason or another, Toguro Ani's bloom-decorated corpse turned
into a leafless, five-petal Rafflesia blossom, one of the largest and
most notorious flowers in the entirety of the Human World, and it was,
to put it quite crudely, stinking up the place with a wet, clingy, and
puke-inducing stench reminiscent of a septic bilirubin river flowing
through the blackest rectum of a scatological abyss where dark rites
were being performed by immoral men defiant to the will of God, skirting
the edge of sanity, twisting the darkness to shape their motive into a
diarrheic Hershey Highway of coprophilia, urophagia, coprophagia,
urolagnia, and mysophilia.

As the volatile inflorescence of the Tetrastigma Vitaceae spread inside
the luminous stone room, smelling like an intestinal catastrophe that
was left in the sun for three days straight, Toguro Ani's repulsively
naked self emerged from the putrid bloom's calix, his hands covering his
privates as he posed in what appeared to be a perverted lampoon of the
famous artwork, 'The Birth of Venus'.

"I got a bit carried away there, falling for your obvious mind trap.
Well, I _almost_ fell for it, anyway." Thankfully, the odiferous blossom
itself soon melted into a sentient ebony goop that quickly clung to
Toguro's nude body before morphing into his trademark outfit. It was
apparent that the maniacal monster was not even remotely impaired, much
less discombobulated, by the Shimaneki Sou, much to Kurama's chagrin.

"To think, you already did a number on me after you killed that brat,
Amanuma. The same thing has happened here, after you killed that
spectacled girl. That much I will admit. Still, that's not to say that I
won't find a way to _top_ your creativity in murdering people. After
all, you and I are among the few elite demons out there who kill their
prey with _style_."

With that said, pale globs of white flesh immediately erupted from
beneath the black folds of the shorter man's clothes, the rubbery mass
splitting into a host of writhing tentacles, plated erratically with
lumps of chitinous armor and adorned with a host of cruel spikes.
Kurama was fast enough to leap away, but he underestimated the sheer,
unadulterated speed that his opponent kept in check a while ago. The
hapless victim took a glancing blow to the shoulder and sprawled away,
tumbling across the rocky ground.

Toguro's victim went on to produce a heavy, wooden mace and tried to
ward him off, but the weapon merely cracked and fractured against the
surface of his vast, durable limbs. Toguro could take infinite damage
and register a bit of pain, but this attack was insignificant.

Automatically, all of Toguro's tentacles rushed forward at the same
time, easily overpowering the erstwhile kitsune with their numbers. The
whip-like protrusions extended towards Kurama in a tempest of thrashing
fury that was way too fast for even him to dodge. They coiled around his
throat, his wrists, his ankles, his waist--digging into his flesh with
thorn-like barbs where they touched. The redhead struggled, but the
elastic members lifted him off the ground: He had no purchase, no
surface off of which to push. His splintered wooden club and his
assortment of plant paraphernalia were useless against the flexible
prison in which he was held. And the barbs gouging themselves into his
skin dashed all hope of being able to wriggle free.

Still, he persevered. A muffled grunt that demanded to be released as
an agonized howl rose from his throat as he struggled to escape; for
some reason, touching any part of Toguro was like plunging into a lake
of congealed nightmares. The shape-shifting demon filled him with
unspeakable revulsion which clawed and ripped at his insides and
loathing that stretched far beyond the limits of sanity.

"You know what? Maybe I should have increased my tally of victims by
killing four or five hundred humans... then I would have felt better.
Then I would have felt that I really offered society something, don't
you agree?" Toguro Ani's inquiry was met with pained groans and panting
breaths.

Toguro carried on his diatribe without missing a beat, stating, "I've
heard of human serial killers doing just that, killing hundreds, or
even thousands, of people without needing the assistance of demonic
powers from beyond the grave. I, a natural-born killer, should be doing
far better than a bunch of powerless amateurs and wannabe predators;
it's such a shame that I haven't, come to think of it, but I'll make up
for that right now."

"I'll stop you," insisted Kurama, his lower lip bleeding messily after
he bit on it to keep himself from screaming in pain; he would not give
Toguro Ani the satisfaction of hearing him suffer. "I have a thousand
reasons to stop you, and any one of them is justification enough to
erase the entirety of your existence."

"O-ho. So you dare threaten me now? Tell me, how'd you think I managed
to escape your stupid Janen Ju in the first place? Huh?" Toguro Ani
mocked as he squeezed his prickly octopus arms around Kurama's body
tighter, easily rending through his prey's tender, supple flesh. The
sheer invasiveness of the act left him in wonderful throes of ecstasy.
Unseen by all, the upper half of a nearby dismembered corpse began to
stir. "I'm unstoppable, Kurama. You're the fool who's chosen to kill a
man who cannot be killed!"

"It doesn't matter. I've already killed a man deemed un-killable. Your
fate would be the same as his," Kurama valiantly stated before he shoved
the sharp end of his broken bat into the open wound where he struck one
of Toguro's arms earlier, and concentrated his youki upon the weapon
until the demonic energy permeated right into the tips of its large
wooden splinters.

Using Kurama's power as its source of nutrients, the cracked club grew
and matured itself into a young Japanese Chestnut tree inside the
tentacles themselves, quickly taking root and rending their innards with
its growing mass. With a final, convulsive thrust, the redhead kicked
off from Toguro's body, releasing himself from the spiked and sinewy
arms as they exploded into a spectacular display of guts, blood, pus,
and interconnected tree roots and branches a minute later.

Kurama avoided bodily harm by somersaulting just he was hurled to the
ground. He afterwards landed on his feet, crouched down, stood up,
turned around, and nearly ran face-first into a perfectly intact and
relatively healthy Toguro Ani. The half-youko reeled back in surprise.

"That was an remarkable piece of work, but sooner or later you'll have
to stop sticking plants into my system; you know that I'll eventually
develop some sort of immunity to those kinds of attacks. Be more
original," Toguro obligingly assessed, smirking meaningfully.

Kurama's discontented scowl grew deeper, almost twisting his pretty
little face askew as he reasserted his personal space. Unfortunately for
him, the Toguro he fought was nothing more than a fake dummy version of
the immortal demon: The real Toguro Ani had already switched with his
doppelganger by the time the assault started.

"Here you are again, spoiling all my fun. All I eve wanted to do was
kill a few hundred people, maybe enjoy a little torture on the side. Was
that too much to ask?" Toguri Ani conversationally queried the perturbed
Kurama. "But you! There are times when even I am impressed by the
cruelty that you're capable of! You really are willing to betray family
and friends in order to get what you want: that's a trait that even I
can appreciate."

"Shut your filthy mouth," an angry Kurama hissed, eliciting an impressed
murmur from both his unseen youko counterpart and Toguro Ani as a hint of
malice burned in his usually kind voice and gentle eyes. "You're a waste
of humanity."

Toguro snorted. "Really? That's rich. As if I'd _want_ to be associated
with such a vile, disgusting, and hypocritical race anyway! Humans are
so fragile its ridiculous, yet their humongous egos push them to commit
horrors far beyond what I myself have achieved. Humans have inherited
the folly of Icarus, believing themselves to be superior because of
their waxy faux-wings. Being a demon is an infinitely nobler calling,
and it's ten times more fun to boot."

Kurama didn't quite know how to respond to Toguro's avowals, so he
instead opted to steadfastly fall into his ready stance, but winced at
the shooting aches that suddenly sprung from his countless injuries. For
a mere dream, his wounds sure felt a bit too real.

'I wonder if Chiho-san went through the same sort of pain after Weichu
Fang ran her through with his dragon-fanged trident. Come to think of
it, has Midori-san suffered as well?' Kurama shook his head clear of the
morbid thoughts; he was in the middle of a life-or-death battle, so he
shouldn't be thinking of such depressing things.

"Oh, are still whining about your girlfriend? Poor baby." Toguro Ani
rolled his eyes after doing a quick scan of Kurama's mind. "This sad,
introspective, and self-absorbed pity party of yours is seriously
ruining the callous, badass effect you had going for you after murdering
your own classmate in cold blood like some sort of... Sakakibara! Don't
even pretend that you thought of the girl's safety when you chopped her
down like a Sequoia, lest you become as hypocritical as the rest of the
human race."

Kurama's jaw tightened shut as he clenched his fists until his knuckles
turned white, digging his fingers deep enough to make his palms bleed.
However, he didn't dare give in to his seething rage lest he fell into
same the mind trap he put Toguro in a while back; but of course the
demon would try to compare him to Sakakibara--an infamous, Mary-Bell-
like murderer in Kobe--just to get under his skin. Still, he had nothing
to rebut to Toguro's accusation, which made him even more upset.

For the briefest of moments, his green eyes sparked with shades of
golden malice, a rare occurrence for one of the most levelheaded demons
to ever cross over the dimensional barriers between two worlds.

Toguro Ani. He was the one to blame for all of this. Him and the
insufferable Youko Kurama, but mostly him. He was a despicable bag of
garbage with no reason to exist. Kurama scrunched up his lean,
effeminate face in deep concentration as he regarded the monster cagily.

It wasn't as if Kurama were blaming Toguro Ani and absolving himself
from all responsibility, but the possibility of taking out some of his
frustration on the demon sounded rather promising to him.

But Kurama would not delude himself. It truly was his fault. He cared
for Midori. He gave a damn. He wished to Inari that he didn't, that he
could somehow wave of her murder and a calculated risk, but he cared
anyway. He impulsively indulged in that last minute decision, and he
_did_ say that he would not let anyone or anything stand in the way of
his death scene, no matter what. Nevertheless, a stray memory of him
inevitably killing Tsukihito Amanuma to get past the so-called Game
Master's Territory kept nagging him at the back of his mind.

'Sorry, mother. Just a few moments after I said my good-byes to you, and
I was already neglecting the things you taught me. That's one painful
lesson I won't soon forget.' He shut his eyes and forced himself to calm
down. 'There are never any easy decisions. Someone would always get hurt
by them, even if they're done with the best of intentions.'

He felt sickened by what he had just done, but he knew that he merely
did what he HAD to do. He rationalized, _hoped_, that the worst thing
that could happen to Midori after dying in the Dream World was to wake
up. He repeated to himself over and over that he had no other choice, as
if he were trying desperately to convince himself.

But Midori....

Besides, if Toguro Ani had won and killed Kurama now, the kitsune
himself would have no body to wake up to in the Human World since he
had already passed away. All his careful planning and preparation of
two decades past to revive Asuka Matsui would have been for naught. He
did not want that to happen, and if 'killing' one of his classmates was
what it took, then so be it. He was already in too deep anyway.

But Midori...!

Kurama nodded; this was for the best, he assured himself. Everything
would work out as it should in the end, and his will would be done
without any ill effects to those close to him.

Why, then, did he feel so low?

He kept trying to convince himself that it wasn't his fault, but he
couldn't make himself believe it.

Youko Kurama abruptly and mockingly chortled at his second-guessing
other self's roundabout reflections. "Just like before, your mind
continues to wander, human. So you don't like being compared to
Sakakibara, huh? Well, how about the infamous Japanese cannibal, Sagawa
Issei? I hear he's a celebrity now. And what about the unforgettable
Miyazaki Tsutomu, the pedophilic 'Otaku Murderer'? Would that have been
a more accurate point of comparison?"

"Now you're just being ridiculous," Kurama rebuked his alter ego. "Stop
trying to butt in on other people's conversations with such non-sequitur
heckling. What I did to Midori-san... was not premeditated. I was forced
to do it, and I didn't enjoy it one bit. The way you two keep on
glorifying that horrible act is beyond forgiveness."

"Don't be so modest, Kurama," Toguro chided the kitsune avatar. "The
lady doth protest a bit too much, methinks. Besides, your classmate
actually got off easy, considering what happened to Furota Junko.
Remember her? I'd bet that no one in Japan has truly forgotten her. The
disreputable 'girl in concrete' was all over the news during her heyday;
hers was a bone-chilling tale of human debauchery that left the media
salivating for more. That child died that day, tortured, molested, and
murdered, her dismembered parts taped up and her body put inside a drum
filled with concrete; you should have seen the ratings that day."

In November of 1988, Jo Kamisaku and three other young men from Tokyo
abducted and held Junko Furuta, a second-year high-school student from
Saitama Prefecture in Misato, and for the next forty-five days enacted
every imaginable and unimaginable form of abuse on her. They kept her
captive in the house owned by the parents of one of the other three
boys.

To forestall a manhunt, Kamisaku coerced Furuta into calling her own
parents and telling them that she had run away from home, but was with
"a friend" and was not in danger. He also browbeat her into posing as
one of their girlfriends when the parents were around, but when it
became clear that they would not call the police, he dropped this
pretext. The girl tried to escape several times, begging more than once
with the parents who lived there to help her, but they did nothing,
apparently out of fear that Kamisaku would hurt them. He was at the time
a low-level yakuza member and had bragged that he could use his
connections to kill anyone who interfered.

According to their statements at their trial, the four of them sexually
abused her, beat her, tortured her, burned her with cigarettes and
lighters--one of the burnings was punishment for attempting to call the
police--and various other sadistic acts. At one point her injuries were
so severe that according to one of the boys it took more than an hour
for her to crawl downstairs to use the bathroom. When the boys refused
to let her leave, she begged them on several occasions to "kill (her)
and get it over with."

"I know you would like to believe that most humans have at least enough
courage to, say, pick up the phone and call the police if they believe
someone is being slowly beaten and tortured to death in the same house
they are currently living in. Yet somehow, it is apparently entirely
possible for such courage to simply vanish: imagine a teenaged girl
was kidnapped by four teenaged boys, held captive for over a month,
abused almost continuously, died of her injuries, and was dumped into a
cement-filled drum in an abandoned lot."

On January 4, 1989, using one of the boy's loss at mah-jongg as a
pretext, the four beat her with an iron barbell, poured lighter fluid on
her legs, arms, face and stomach, and immolated her. She died later that
day of shock. The four boys claimed that they were not aware of how
badly injured she was, or that they believed she had been malingering.

Her corpse was hidden in a fifty-five gallon drum filled with cement
and was disposed in a tract of reclaimed land in Koto Ward, hence her
infamous moniker, 'the schoolgirl in concrete'.

"And during the entire ordeal, despite dozens of people being made aware
of what was going on—-including the parents of the boy whose house they
were holding her in—-apparently not one summoned the nerve to call the
police. So tell me, where's the humanity in that? Can you still be proud
of a cowardly race that's capable of doing such things to each other?
This is hardly an isolated incident either, as Kitty Genovese would
confirm." Toguro guffawed yet again in remembrance of the grisly crimes
before he theatrically formed a human-sized marionette girl from his
left hand, one that looked eerily like the recently deceased Midori
Ohya.

Kurama jerked his head back at Toguro Ani; there was something swift and
savage in the movement. He then balked after taking a peek at the wild,
lamentable glint in the youkai's eyes. He searched for basic humanity in
them, but found none; he expected it, he shouldn't have been surprised,
but actually seeing it for himself left him with an unsettled feeling
that prickled the hairs at the back of his neck and chilled him to the
bone.

The 'dolled-up' Midori had a blank, ostensibly painted-on expression on
her face that edged upon the uncanny valley with its lifelessness: She
was truly aphasiac, an Elena Milagros Hoyos to Toguro's Carl Tanzler, a
well-constructed and 'lifelike' reanimated corpse which featured
startling detail and realism that merely emphasized the cadaverousness
of its eyes and the inertness of its every movement.

Then, without further ceremony, Toguro Ani did the unforgivable; he
began to reenact each and every last gruesome thing that happened to
Junko Furota on Midori's 'body double', right down to her immolation,
in front of a flabbergasted, indignant Kurama. The demon abused the
thing that wore Midori's face in every shape and form with reckless
abandon, objectifying his victim by ruthlessly torturing it over and
over again like a crash-test dummy, in detail that was not merely
graphic but downright gynecological.

For quite a while, there was just silence, unrelenting calm. Tension.
Unrelenting tension. Then the gears in Kurama's head started to turn
once more, dispelling the maddening stillness and his own unease with
the comforts of logic and reason.

Kurama earlier believed that Toguro was nothing more than a bothersome,
irritating charlatan pretending to be a sociopath. But now, after
everything was said and done, Kurama knew better. The man before him was
a monster without conscience, compassion, or remorse--he lacked basic
human decency, possessed an encompassing contempt for everything and
anything alive, and had an overriding need to burn the world. To him,
moral quandaries had long lost their meaning, and the complexities of
life had simple, violent solutions: The wants, needs, and rights of
others never made an iota of sense to Toguro Ani, Kurama reckoned.

Kurama mutely watched as Toguro did some horrible, over-the-top, and
downright filthy things to the Midori mannequin with the zeal, even the
glee, of a sick Grind House double feature. Yet somehow that still
wasn't enough to spur the young redhead into action: A part of his
mind--the rational, thinking part, the same part that pushed him to
protect himself from the undead Midori earlier--kept telling him not to
fall for the obvious mind trap, to hold back and not involve himself
emotionally with the blatant psych war. Kurama willed himself to keep
his volatile emotions in check lest he did something rash or thoughtless
in the heat of anger; the Midori he was seeing Toguro molest, he assured
himself, was nothing more than a doll made out of human flesh not unlike
the Genkai puppet that Toguro impaled during the finals of the Dark
Martial Arts Tournament.

But then he heard its screams, its pleas, and its requests to be killed,
and everything suddenly changed: it wasn't an 'it' anymore, but a 'she';
a real live person begging for mercy and death in the face of ignoble
shame and reprehensible disgrace.

Everything happened in just under a minute, but it took all that time
for Kurama to fully react to what was going on in front of him, and he
cursed himself for it. He fumbled for a rose seed inside his crimson
tresses, his hands atypically trembling and clumsy with utter, searing
hatred, but eventually he calmed down enough to let the couple of
prehensile vine whips grow from his sleeves and coil over his forearms.

After Toguro sensed Kurama's growing rage, he literally turned his head
around to face him, his neck twisting like taffy as his body continued
to face the other way. "You know the best part of killing someone,
Kurama? The look on their face. It's that look. Not when they're
threatened. Not when you hurt them. Not even when they see the knife.
It's when they feel the knife go in. That's it. It's the surprise! They
just can't believe it's really happening to them. Your friend had that
look when I took over her body and raped her mind. She'll never be the
same, even if she survived. Aren't you glad that you put her out of her
misery?"

That was it. That was the straw that broke the camel's back, these words
that hit him like a kick to the stomach. Kurama staggered back, gasping
for breath, expressions of shock, horror, pain, and disgust all warring
for dominance on his face. His eyes darkened and his body ruptured with
fury; he was a vision of clenched fists, grit teeth, and sweat oozing
through the pores of his skin like volcanoes that were about ready to
burst.

He let out an inarticulate roar and leaped to attack Toguro Ani's body,
intending to drive it down to the earth. Screams, screams as the shadows
flickered, and the vicious shape-shifter's carcass went down like wheat
before a thresher as the half-youko methodically dissected it piece by
meaty piece.

And then there was blood; inexorable blood. In the end, Kurama stood
over what was left of his enemy, and over the marionette's form as well,
while his own weary soul heaved with exhaustion, with emotional strain
that tempted him to end the absurdity of it all with a single slash on
his throat. Nonetheless, he held back, like he always did. Not now, he
thought. Not now.

With a heavy, guilt-ridden heart, Kurama took a single step towards the
soiled and butchered puppet girl, one hand outstretched towards her...
and froze. He afterwards recoiled in surprise as the mannequin's
features morphed into a combination of male and female, an androgynous
intersexual that wordlessly struck the kitsune with elongated fingers
that pierced through his gut like sharpened bamboo pikes. The unhinged
hermaphrodite eventually completed its grisly transformation, changing
into a cackling and triumphant Toguro Ani.

"Surprised to see me, huh? Shame on you; you should have seen this
coming," Toguro smirked as he retracted his bloodied fingers from
Kurama's torso. "Honestly, I didn't even need to use a complicated
technique to get you; mind games truly are the best. But wait, the
surprises have just begun! Behold."

Meditating hard as he flexed each and every last muscle in his body,
Toguro grunted and sweated profusely until he altogether bulked-up into
a seven-foot, bushy-haired, brown-skinned, anthropomorphic atrocity with
a heavy and bulging build that would have made even his younger brother
proud. The beast which the demon transformed into gave new meaning to
the term "horse-faced": Gangling, tall, and severely muscular, it also
possessed a hard, multilayered exoskeleton that resembled the bionic
equivalent of a mythical knight's armor. The reversed centaur--with its
enormous equine head, massive hands, plate-sized hooves on tree-trunk
limbs, and a hulking mass of a body to accommodate all of the aforesaid
attributes--neighed dementedly as Toguro Ani spoke through it.

"This creature before you is the Legendary Tikbalang of Southeast Asian
Origin. Oh, the things that we could do to you once we get our hands and
hooves on you!" The youkai proceeded to describe some rather disturbing,
depraved, and explicit acts which he planned to enact upon Kurama's
person using his half-man, half-horse body; suffice it to say that these
were unsanitary, bestial feats that could have sprung from the twisted
mind of Jo Kamisaku himself.

"So, kitsune," Toguro was standing in front of Kurama now, three feet
taller and two hundred pounds heavier, "maybe we should try this one
again, huh?" The Tikbalang panted, snorted, and moaned, as if it were
morbidly keyed up about the prospect. "Seconds will be like hours. I
can't wait. I'm already shaking like a leaf!"

The slightly tired and marred Kurama was now wide-awake, running on
adrenaline, willpower, and sheer hatred. His pair of Plant Claws
extended a few inches longer and grew a few centimeters thicker.
"Maybe we should," he snarled.

Toguro Ani closed the distance between himself and Kurama with a sudden
burst of blinding speed, his thundering hooves and meaty fists lashing
out at the boy's head. Even with his lightning reflexes, Kurama barely
managed to evade the attack. Toguro's strike had come almost too fast
for him to see, but he was pretty sure that even a glancing blow from
the demon's abnormally large limbs would have enough to make his
cranium cave-in.

Unmindful of the danger, Kurama decided that he didn't want Toguro to
become the aggressor of the fight and advanced with a series of running
forward stabs at the youkai to test his reaction. The gigantic Tikbalang
took on the brunt of the attack with ridiculous ease as he smiled an
outlandish, horsy grin of smugness and self-confidence.

Kurama's eyes narrowed as he struck again, this time more gravely, with
a series of fatally accurate Plant Claw strikes, his hands a whirling
dervish of razor-sharp death. Toguro caught most of the blows on the
Tikbalang's buckskinned hide, avoiding the rest of them with his
equestrian speed as he trotted backwards at an incredible pace.

Kurama saw another opening and struck again, aiming for Toguro Ani's
shoulder and neck, though only getting a shallow scratch in with the
latter. That seemed to cause the Tikbalang to back off and reconsider
its strategy, watching Kurama carefully as it examined the damage
inflicted upon it. The redhead looked on, seeing if he too could gauge
the blows from his opponent's reaction.

The monster struck the bloodied area with a brawny fist of its own, then
grinned unpleasantly with its prominent bucked teeth; it was the kind of
grin that set Kurama's own teeth on edge, one that had absolutely
nothing to do with friendliness or good humor. "Another ten of those and
I might start feeling it, bitch. Admit it, you're already dead. Twice
over, at least." Heedless of the glancing blow he took that rutted into
the flesh of his shoulder, Toguro Ani struck again.

The fist approached with all of the ponderous inevitability of an
incoming asteroid. Kurama wiped a trickle of sweat from his forehead and
calculated his options. Even at less than full power, the Tikbalang's
punch would hurt like hell if it hit. It was fortunate that the chimera
didn't have the speed to land many of his blows. He waited until the
fist was almost upon him, and then ducked to the side and sent the fiend
reeling with a powerful slash to its back.

Though Kurama was able to draw quite a bit of the maniacal monster's
blood in the form of black, rancid ichor, it was painfully obvious that
the beast had not been even remotely impaired by the feverish assault.
"Bastard! You're still fighting? Fine. It'll make my victory all the
more sweeter. Still, killing you once more would never be enough. I
intend to kill you a thousand times over. I have many more surprises in
store for you. I will not rest until I've desecrated every part of your
sanctimonious, holier-than-thou flesh in every last, disgusting way
possible."

Eventually, Kurama let out a deep breath that he hadn't even realized
he'd been holding before he confidently announced, "You can try anything
you like, but when I say I'll kill you, your death is assured."

"Impertinent wench; you know nothing," Youko Kurama interposed as he
shook his head and sniffed arrogantly at his other self, his tone like
that of a man speaking to a child who had totally missed the point.
"You're too late. Damn Matsui Asuka, I'm going to take my life back
right now."

Dark energy and evil intentions were like signal flares for Kurama, and
he was getting a very familiar tingle between his eyes that told him
that whatever he had been waiting for, it was about to happen.

Just a few meters away from the half-youko, the upper half of a certain
dismembered corpse began to stir and twitch, then impossibly scream.
He looked around quickly and paled, his eyes saucer-wide in nonplussed
disbelief: Though it wasn't supposed to, the carcass behind him clutched
its head and cried out in noticeable, cacophonic agony. 'Impossible.
Midori-san...!'

The girl's body proceeded to buckle and writhe. Her shrieks went a
pitch higher. Bones broke apart with a series of muffled cracking
sounds. Her screams were then cut off as her skull abruptly deformed
into something utterly inhuman--a gruesome death mask featuring a
permanently enraged and expression that twisted and hacked her face
beyond all recognition. The upper half of the zombie girl subsequently
crawled towards Kurama using her spindly arms, grew and unfurled
extremely large and leathery wings on her back, flew up, then swooped
down on him.

She launched herself at Kurama, unceremoniously attacking with all her
unearthly power, slamming and pinning the half-youko down with her
gigantic bat wings. She howled like an animal as she pressed on with her
assault, calling upon deep reserves of strength that she had not even
known she possessed. She mindlessly attacked again and again with her
claws' deadly sharpness, cutting deep into Kurama's body with each fatal
strike. The young ghost boy barely even had a chance to counterattack as
the transmuted young lady completed her complicated offensive by
shooting out her insidious tongue into her unwilling classmate's throat.

"Ah, yes. The infamous Manananggal of the South Pacific..." the Youko
sneered as his twin gurgled and choked to his imminent, 'second' death.
"Did you know that 'Manananggal' means 'Mutilator' or 'Reaper' in the
South Pacific Vernacular? This vampire-like creature only needs half of
its body to survive, and thrives on the blood of humans, especially
those of the fetus. Good thing those Tiyanaks are already gone, or else
she would have feasted on their innards!" The Silver Fox laughed
languorously. "What's the matter, Minamino Shuichi? Monster got your
tongue?"

Kurama's breath became belabored as Manananggal Midori slowly sucked his
blood dry whilst liquefying his internal organs into a thick soup. His
eyes watered; he allowed his teary eyes to close, but he still could not
escape this world of pain. Eventually, he gurgled in moribund health as
he felt himself regurgitate his pureed internal organs in his mouth.

He felt his world collapsing around him, like a crystal shattered from
within by a note of pure, agonizing sound; an inner scream of anguish.
He vaguely thought of fighting back, of defending himself, but a single,
guilty thought kept him back: he deserved to die in the hands of Midori.
However, he couldn't help but hear a faint echo of, 'You can't leave
everything like this!' resound in his mind as well. It was all so very
confusing.

A death rattle later, and Kurama's emaciated body went limp as the
Manananggal relinquished her mouthy grip on him. It was over. It was
finally over.

"Wow. I never would have thought that killing Kurama was _this_ fucking
easy! This must be my lucky day! MUWAHAHAHAHA!!! After killing fakes
and mirages left and right over and over in my deluded mind, I've
finally managed to kill the _real_ McCoy! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"

An ecstatic Toguro Ani was truly one of the most bizarre sights that a
person could ever behold in a lifetime; the shape-shifter's wandering
consciousness made one of the disregarded Tiyanak corpses jumped up and
down like a caffeinated baby monkey and wildly wave about its arms as
they instantaneously morphed into an assortment of limbs from various
animals--lions paws to webbed frog feet, lobster and crab claws to
slender insect legs, elephant hooves to whale flippers, and many other
things too numerous to mention--one after another.

Toguro afterwards calmed the little troll down for exactly a few
seconds, let out another glorious peal of madcap laughter, and sang,
"Oh, ho, he's dead! HE'S DEAD! The red-haired BITCH is DEAD!" then
whistled a short little ditty before singing further, "He's dead! HE'S
DEAD! Oh, ho...!"

Yet, something felt rather amiss in the whole situation, in spite of
Toguro's groan-inducing celebratory air: The Silver Fox certainly felt
it--a twisting, nervous sensation in his gut, a premonition almost. It
wasn't the same other-sense that he used as a thief, the sense he'd
developed that forewarned him of a sneak attack or an opponent's move
during battle. It was more of a....

Damn. He couldn't put his finger on it. It was... a vague sense of
foreboding. A suspicion that something was seriously out of place. A
feeling like, any moment now, the world would turn itself inside out.

While the silver-haired fox demon continued to reflect on the strange
preponderance of foreboding, Toguro Ani's consciousness split once more
and extended itself into another one of the dead Tiyanaks. As such, the
decapitated infant head nearest to Youko Kurama leered at him nastily
before hissing, "Well, well, well. Now that your human self is taken
care of, I reckon it's about time I gave you your long overdue 'star's
death.' Legend or no legend, it's now your turn to die."

But by then, the youko had already seen the dreaded, redheaded phantom
child appear before him like a half-dead, half-alive apparition of
Schrodinger's cat, his blood turning ice cold in realization; he could
not focus his attention on anything or anyone else. 'Oh no. Not again.
Not _them_ again...'

"I said, 'It's now your turn to die', Youko! HEY! Pay attention when
someone's talking to you, you pale-skinned prison bitch! Especially when
that someone's about to kick your ass!" the changeling Toguro spat and
railed at the flabbergasted kitsune.

"Quiet, you sniveling fool," Youko Kurama rebuked as he looked around
the light-enveloped cave in... worry? Or perhaps concern. "You're only
making yourself look like an idiot by getting ahead of yourself; the boy
of reflection cannot be killed so effortlessly."

"'Effortlessly'? Are you kidding? After everything I've been through?
What do you--HOLY SHIT, where did _those_ Kuramas come from?!" Toguro
Ani cried out through Mananaggal Midori's fanged maw as he and the rest
of his fiendish puppets stared apprehensively at the curious,
unbelievable spectacle in front of them.

"I am Minamino Shuichi, and I am part of the abomination you so hate,"
the ten-year-old boy introduced himself politely, bowing low. "Even so,
it's nice to see you again, Youko Kurama." Just like the time when
Kurama fought the Silver Fox using a Janen-Ju-induced hallucination,
four reflections of Shuichi Minamino from various stages of his human
life suddenly appeared in the place of the Kurama who had just been
killed by the mutated Midori.

First was the nineteen-year-old Kurama, the surrogate of the present day
Kurama who chose to revive Asuka Matsui using his own life force. Then
there was the Kurama of three years ago, the sixteen-year-old boy garbed
in yellow and blue Chinese clothes who was just about to fight Shigure
in the Makai Tournament. Then there was the Kurama of five years ago,
the short-haired, fourteen-year-old version who had to erase the
memories of his closest human friend at the time, Maya, for her own
protection. Lastly, there was the ten-year-old Kurama, the Kurama who
was just beginning to deliberate the enigma behind his being; a kitsune
living inside a human avatar.

The Tikbalang bucked, rocked, weaved, and snorted, its animal half
acting like a spooked wild horse with its hooves rumbling on the ground
with consecutive aftershocks of thunder. Meanwhile, Midori the halved-
from-the-waist-down Manananggal unthinkingly beat her wings to the tempo
and rhythm of a hummingbird's flit, her shrill, supersonic shrieks
reverberating inside the stone room.

Conversely, the remnants of the Tiyanak corpses and giblets that weren't
used in Toguro Ani's earliest restoration of his original body--plus
the maimed Toguro doppelganger which Kurama recently assailed in blind
rage--started to melt and coagulate together like phlegmatic clumps of
rotting papaya flesh before forming into a thick, amniotic puddle of
human goop. All versions of Kurama, including the Silver Fox, reeled in
disgust of the strong, bleach scent of the seedy bisque.

The Silver Fox palmed his head in exasperation amidst the mounting
pandemonium that gathered behind him. "It's _them_ again: Those wretched
clones of the so-called 'boy of reflection.' I think I'm going to be
sick." The Youko pursed his lips in contemplation as the gravity of the
situation set in, then huffed to Toguro Ani's host of gruesome forms,
"If you really want to be a part of my star's death, then finish those
Minamino Shuichis off. Kill the boy of reflection once and for all!"

Toguro Ani made his grotesque, bat-winged doll twitter the cries of a
thousand virgin sacrifices. "Kill? Like I said before, I will do nothing
so simple. I want to humiliate, mutilate, and molest each and every one
of those red-haired beauties."

The youko's smile became strained as he began to reconsider his decision
in involving Toguro Ani in his campaign to stop his human self from
killing himself--or rather, 'themselves'--for the sake of a shattered
soul. 'You sick fuck.'

Toguro Ani smiled back at the youko through the demented dentures of the
mutated, bipedal Equus Caballus Homonidae. "You know I am." Just as the
multi-bodied immortal youkai spoke the words, something eerie happened
to the grisly bouillabaisse on the ground; it shifted into a more
gelatinous state before it effervesced into hundreds of clear, human-
fetus-sized bilious eggs. The surface tension of the solidified man
broth eventually burst forth like an overfilled sac, and from it flowed
amniotic fluid and a multitude of newborn Tiyanaks which, for some
reason, currently sported amphibious, salamander-like features and a
rainbow of skin colors.

Afterwards came obscene violence; the mass of freakish trolls turned on
each other and fought like hungry, wild dogs competing for a scrap of
meat. Brutal murder and cannibalism weren't uncommon, and so were
temporary alliances and consequent betrayals. "Natural selection; it's
nature's way. Only the best of the best of Tiyanaks can survive," Toguro
Ani stated as a means of explaining the odd events as they occurred. He
hooted once more, as expected. "People demonize Eugenics far too much to
realize its underlying value; indeed, this is human nature at its very
best."

All around them, the same thing happened to the others. Most of the
Tiyanaks died, thankfully. But a few of them did not. It was these few,
no more than thirty or so, that started to mature and develop into
ghouls of another kind. They shifted and warped, screaming in torment
all the while. They began to grow. Their eyes became reddened and
bloodshot. Their skins became tough, brown, and leathery... like
alligators. Their transformations continued, and continued. When the
change was finished at last, the four Kuramas found themselves looking
at...

"...Aswangs; a veritable legion of Aswangs to do my every bidding!"
Toguro Ani whinnied through the Tikbalang's pungent, foaming maw.
"They'll eat your hearts out, as well as your livers. Oh, and they eat
little children _whole_ too, so you better find a way to keep your
rambunctious rug-rat away from them."

"Tik-tik! Tik-tik! Tik-tik! Tik-tik! Tik-tik! Tik-tik! Tik-tik!" the
undead, leather-skinned zombies resounded as several of them dissipated
into the dark shadows of the cave, whilst others tensed up and waited
for any of the four Minaminos to attack. Eerily, the farthest of the
Aswangs made the loudest clicking noises, whilst the nearest ones made
the softest 'tik-tik' sounds, as if to confuse people of their current
whereabouts.

But there was one Tiyanak left which was neither altered nor killed; a
dark little man with protuberant lips, his eyes glinting in the light,
but his voice nonexistent, his manner slow. He hid in the shadows, just
beyond the reach of the sparkling luminosity of the third pillar,
smelling faintly of sweat, brimstone, and death.

Without warning, the lone changeling entered the pool of light and
started to balloon further in size until he became grotesquely obese.
Soon, his pallid skin turned charcoal black as his gaping maw started to
billow, strangely enough, tobacco smoke. The Brobdingnagian Giant soon
towered over everyone present, the midnight surface of his body marred
only by the lightning-shaped streaks on his hairy chest. "With this
Kapre, I will mangle, mince, and sodomize each and every one of you, my
sweets," the Kapre Toguro boomed and rumbled, his voice so low that his
words were almost garbled beyond recognition, almost to the point of
duckspeak.

"It's four against four," Toguro Ani squealed in delight, this time using
the Manananggal's proboscis-choked jaws to speak his mind. "That is, if
you can count the Aswangs as one enemy." He cackled his shrill and
annoying laugh yet again. "Now! This is it! Now is the time to choose!
Die and be free of pain or live and fight your sorrow!"

"Fine by me; it's about time we cleaned that filthy mouth... or rather,
_mouths_... of yours anyway." With that said, the short-haired,
fourteen-year-old Kurama summoned his Rose Whip and did battle with
the transmuted Midori. Soon, every one of Kurama's duplicates paired
off with a respective opponent, each with a different plant weapon at
hand.

Quicker than a hiccough, the Aswangs had already finished regrouping
by the time the youngest Minamino chose to engage them. Looking down,
the boy saw the shadows beneath him begin to spread and thicken as
dozens of the dark creatures rushed out into the rocky terrain. Knowing
them, they wouldn't just be standing around like a bunch of idiots
waiting for their enemies to reach them--even when they were just
Tiyanaks, they had shown a hardy, singular mindset that defied the
supposed inanity of groupthink. By his estimations, there was probably
another group circling around on the other side of the cave in order to
get a line on him and his 'brothers', no doubt. Retreat was not an
option.

"TIK-TIK! TIK-TIK! TIK-TIK! TIK-TIK! TIK-TIK! TIK-TIK! TIK-TIK!"

Using the 'tik-tik' observation he and his other cohorts wordlessly
gleaned from the numerous Aswangs, the kid Kurama took three steps back
then suddenly ran towards the loudest of the clicking sounds; leaped up
onto the cliff of a crag to avoid the closest of the ghouls; bounced
smoothly to another crag with a double somersault in midair; launched
himself head-first down from there, catching himself on a protruding
stalagmite just before he hit the ground; spun three times around the
rock formation, flipping himself up into the air again. Minutes later,
the child became a crimson blur as an out-and-out bloodbath occurred.

"Tik-tik! Tik-tik! Tik--ERK! EEEYAAARGH!"

He moved forward, harder and faster than ever before; touched a wall
feet-first, and kicked off it, pushing himself back in the opposite
direction, still traveling upward and spinning like a whirlwind and
taking out a few more of the zombies to boot; straightened out in midair
and arced downward again in a perfect swan dive; caught hold of one of
the specter's heads and twisted it in an unnatural angle; slipped,
yelped, and plummeted; and rolled in midair and landed on all fours,
catlike, in a pile of debris, sending a spectacular shower of rubbish
flying all around; rinse, repeat.

The Aswangs were efficiently taken care of by the surprisingly nimble
and acrobatic ten-year-old Shuichi. The young man showed experience
beyond his years as he plowed through the horde of zombies with the
Juryo Yozan Ken before any of them could attack, morph, or merge with
one another.

A vision of carnage assaulted the boy's senses. It was a sight full of
dismembered monster corpses; from there, he could smell death, breathe
death, sense death, touch death. There was death everywhere. Body
parts were strewn everywhere, piled in such a way that they seemed to
belong to some perverted meat section of a wet market.

He wished he could close his eyes... despite his mannerisms, this
reflection of Shuichi Minamino was still just a mere ten-year-old boy
that hadn't even entered puberty yet... but it just wasn't enough. Even
though it was only a dream, the boy had to wonder how a simple delusion
could smell so strongly of rotting human flesh.

The sense of stickiness on the ground from where the somnolent youth
stood only added to his growing nausea. Different bodily liquids of both
blood and ichor poured all over the ground's surface care of the
twitching carcasses--doubtless, Toguro Ani's orchestrations of macabre
were as adroit as ever. Even so, the solemn ambiance howled a hymn for
the dead, singing haunting scores which seemed to originate from the
mishmash of cadavers themselves. These faint cries eventually faded
into guttural ticking sounds of varying decibels: Apparently, all the
Aswangs were still alive and kicking.

Like an out-of-control red imported fire ant plague with no biological
countermeasures to rein in its spread, the Aswangs instantaneously
revived themselves and trudged forward like an unstoppable, inviolable
malady. Relentless as they were, they still kept coming even after they
were beaten down, decapitated, and mutilated in every way imaginable,
exhibiting the tenacity, prowess, and regenerative ability of the
original Toguro Ani himself multiplied many times by the virtue of
their numbers.

These gluttons for punishment were so tough--far tougher than their
Tiyanak foil--that fighting them left the fiery-haired child feeling
seven times as old as he really was; it had gotten so bad that, to his
own reckoning, immolation was starting to look like a feasible option
for these damned souls. 'Hmmm. Perhaps...?'

At first, the littlest Kurama felt like a complete fool, standing there
in futility and staring blankly at the regenerating Aswangs whilst
trying to remember how to do something he'd once managed to perform by
complete accident. He was tired and sweaty, he wanted to sit down and
cool off. But gradually, as he gazed at the gruesome apparitions in the
immaculate light, he forgot his exhaustion and moved forward.

The boy reached back for the state of mind he'd achieved during his
older self's fight with Ura Urashima in the semifinals of the Ankoku
Bujutsukai; an anachronistic memory that he wasn't supposed to have
given his age, yet also a sensation that surged in him like a raging
fire but was as serene as a cool mountain lake. He remembered the
confidence he had, the shrewd, calculating demeanor that provided him
with grace under fire, the feeling of his body moving by reflex yet
following the deliberate machinations of his mind, the absolute
certainty of where his target was as he made each strike....

Like a world-weary soldier, the boy pressed on and blocked out his
mounting fatigue--he could feel the weariness in his shoulders and fire
in his lungs, but the pain was faraway and irrelevant. He knew only of
the sounds of his 'ticking' targets and his 'whooshing' weapons as they
flew, the rusty tang of blood in the air, and the feel of the seeds in
his hands as he held them for a brief instant before launching them with
deadly precision at key locations. The pulsating dance of rhythm and
motion held him in its grasp, carried him along in its frantic beat
until he forgot all pain, all time, all thought.

The careful transplanting of the carnivorous giant redwoods at specific
points of the cave proved to be a staggering success for the ten-year-
old kid. With its motion-detector-like precision, the Demon-Devouring
Tree of Death intercepted the perpetually moving Aswangs and melted them
into their original amniotic broth state care of its highly corrosive
saliva. 'The Shoku Yo Shokubutsu's burning acid is the closest thing I
have to putting them on fire; good thing it worked,' the boy surmised to
himself.

With a baleful howl, a lumbering black form burst from the shadows next
to the youngster, lunging forward and clamping its slavering jaws down
on his arm. The boy screamed, his weapon tumbling down from his suddenly
nerveless fingers as he fell to his knees and tried to pull his limb
free from the Aswang's locked fangs.

"Tik-tik."

Unfortunately, even after all his hard work, all it really took to
finish the childlike doppelganger off was just one surviving Aswang.
With a final 'death click' before it too melted into goop like its
fellow brethren, the last zombie lethally impaled the young boy's
sternum with the barbed tips of its fingers, drawing a hefty amount of
his blood in the process.

The ten-year-old kid eventually collapsed to the ground in miserable
pain and absolute fatigue a few minutes later, his frail and
underdeveloped body ultimately giving way to its natural limits.


***


To be Continued...


Next: The Puppet Monsters of Toguro Ani.

I admit it. The fact that Kurama's memory was 'bleary' and
'fractured' in the cold open is basically a cop-out excuse on my
part because I don't have a copy of the episode/issue/transcript
of Yusuke's second death. I'm claiming artistic license here.
Still, I hoped the contrivance worked regardless.

Hmmm. To me, this part of the fic is dragging like a wounded baby
elephant seal. Like Batman Returns, Batman and Robin, or Spider-
Man 3, there are far too many villains littering the prose
(though, in all fairness, they're really just the convoluted
manifestations of Kurama and Toguro; technically speaking, it's
still a one-on-one fight). I got to do something about that.

Send all C&C, flames, death threats, etc. to me at either
gabriel_gabdiel at yahoo.com or chester.castaneda at gmail.com;
whichever suits your fancy

Note that I put in the title _Shonen_ not _Shonen-Ai_. Shonen-Ai
(male-male relationship) and yaoi are just not my cup of tea. This
is dedicated to Chimamire Kitsune for giving me the inspiration to
write this fic... Wherever you are, this is for you.

Disclaimer: Yuyu Hakusho is the rightful property of Yoshihiro
Togashi, Shueisha, Fuji TV and St. Pierrot. This fic therefore
also belongs to Yoshihiro Togashi, Shueisha, Fuji TV and St.
Pierrot. If I ever even considered claiming that those were my own
characters I'd probably be thrown into a small cell where I'd be
forced to eat my own writer's block to live.

Hoping that the escape tunnel below my writer's block won't collapse,
Abdiel

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