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"Hey, you with the big fish ears, I got a bone to pick with you. How does a dead guy win!?"
--Yusuke

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On the Line

by Ryoko

Chapter Three: "Pain and Memories"

Yusuke followed Kurama down the streets. They hadn’t made much progress due to the weather. The snow was falling more and the wind was blowing much harder. Maybe there really would be a blizzard. To top it all off Kurama had continuously stopped. The snow was covering Keiko’s scent. Sometimes it took him awhile to pick it back up. They had to be careful, too. All though Kurama was acting no where near canine-like-he was merely sniffing the air for Keiko’s scent as you would normally inhale-he didn’t want to catch the eye of a stranger, never-the-less.

Kuwabara hadn’t said much to Yusuke as they searched. Only the occasional, “We’ll find her. Don’t worry.” Kurama wasn’t speaking much either. Only a few words to point out directions. Yusuke was also quiet. Even though he found the quiet unusual for the three of them and unnerving, he didn’t try to stir up a conversation. He didn’t want to speak. His mind could only think of Keiko.

He thought of what would he do if it was too late. What would he do? He couldn’t bring himself to answer that question. He couldn’t just continue on with his normal life. She had been a part of his life for far too long to do that. He couldn’t forget nearly fifteen years of friendship, their possibly closer relationship. He couldn’t just erase her from his life. Keiko Yukimura was his life. His heart hurt at the thought of her being gone; being dead.

Yusuke sighed and looked around at where Kurama was leading them. It was an old part of town. The windows were broken in the shops and graffiti covered the walls. The perfect place for a kidnapping.

He thought back to the beginning of the tracking. Yusuke had brought them back to where he had found Keiko’s bag and Kurama had, cautiously, began the search. He had said that another scent was mixed in with Keiko’s. That same scent was on the dead girl. So it was concluded that whoever had killed that girl had kidnapped Keiko.

That little notion didn’t make Yusuke feel any better. But he did find it odd, though he didn’t say anything, that the kidnapper had killed one girl yet kidnapped the other. All Yusuke could figure was he had other plans for Keiko. And that only made his heart hurt more. In his mind he could hear her screaming, calling for his help, but he could not help her. He could only watch and suffer along with her.

“Yusuke,” came Kurama’s voice, bringing him out of the depths of his mind. Yusuke looked up at him. This was the first time Kurama had directly spoken to him since the search began. It was a little odd.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I can no longer smell her scent.” His eyes drooped with sorrow.

What? thought Yusuke. If Kurama had lost her scent then his only chance of finding her was gone. Gone! Gone! It was over. He would never find her. Keiko was gone. How would he go on with his life when his life was gone?

Yusuke didn’t say anything. After all, what was there to say? Was he suppose to yell at Kurama for trying his best to find her? No. He shouldn’t and wouldn’t. Kurama had done a much better job searching for Keiko than he had done.

“Yusuke,” Kurama continued. “there are just too many scents here and its become so faint….I am very sorry, Yusuke.” He looked at his friend, who was looking away from him. He saw the hurt, fear, and sorrow in his eyes. “I will continue to try, however.” he smiled slightly and walked away.

Kurama stopped and without looking at Yusuke added, “Don’t give up, Yusuke.” He walked completely away after that.

Kuwabara came over to Yusuke, who was finding the ground very interesting. Kuwabara knew his friend was in pain. He needed to help him; to cheer him up, but then what could he say; what could he do? If something like this were to happen to Yukina he knew that nothing in the world would liven his spirits. Nothing, except knowing she was safe.

“Yusuke…” he began.

“Don’t,” Yusuke said, his voice was tired and hurt. “Don’t Kuwabara…just leave me alone.”

Kuwabara looked Yusuke over. By the look of him he really did want to be alone and Kuwabara would grant him that peace. He walked away from his friend, over to Kurama. He figured he’d help Kurama or something.

Yusuke looked up slightly and watched him go. All his hope was gone. His knees felt weak. They gave in under him. He felt the tears swell up in his eyes. It was no use to try to hold them back. They were overwhelming and fell off his cheeks onto the snow. “Keiko…” he wept. Why did it have to be her? Of all the women there were, all the others that creep could have taken, why her?

What was he going to do? How was he to go on living? He couldn’t! He just couldn’t. He was so strong but right now, when Keiko needed him most, he couldn’t protect her. He couldn’t save her. He felt so weak.

Who would do this? What type of person would ruin two people’s lives like this?

For some reason Yusuke’s thoughts trailed to a face he saw on the news earlier that day. The face of that missing murderer. That sinister face. But why? Why was he thinking of that man? Just the memory of that man, this Yamato Miyazaki, stirred something in the back of his mind. He knew he had seen him before. Not just on T.V., but really had seen him in the flesh. But where and when? And why was it so unnerving that he needed to know?

Yusuke sat on the ground, thinking hard about where he had seen him. Then it hit him and his heart throbbed. He knew where he had seen that killer!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Stop struggling, girl!” her captor ordered Keiko as he attempted to throw her over his shoulder. But Keiko continued to frail around like a fish out of water. With her arms tied behind her back she couldn’t hit him and with her legs bond together she couldn’t really kick him, but she thought that maybe if she struggled enough he would drop her. But the what? She couldn’t possibly escape…not like this.

She wanted to scream; to demand him to let her go, but could only choke on the cloth that was in her mouth. She wanted to yell for Yusuke, but then what was the point? He wasn’t coming. He didn’t know where she was.

The man dropped her hard on the floor, fed up with her squirming. In her mind Keiko let out a cry of pain. Falling on the hard wooden floorboards really hurt.

She glared up at him, her eyes full of hatred. But her heart quickly changed from deep loathing to throbbing in fear. For in the man’s hand was a large pocket knife. Its blade glistened in the light which came from the still opened door.

He swiftly grabbed her by her hair and placed the knife against her throat. Keiko froze when she felt the cold metal against her skin, yet her heart was pacing fast enough to make up for the rest of her body’s immobility. Her breathing was also fast. Sharp, too. Keiko’s eyes looked at the man then wandered down towards the knife.

The man put his face up against her and in an icy voice whispered in her ear, “Be a good girl now and behave yourself. I don’t want to ruin your pretty little face.” He laughed slightly and put his face in her hair and inhaled deeply through his nose.

Just do it all ready, thought Keiko. If you’re going to kill me, do it all ready. It’ll be better than waiting in fear until the moment you do kill me. Her mind turned to Yusuke and she felt water in her eyes. Maybe Koenma would let her see him one last time before she crosses through the gates.

The man put his face in front of hers again. “Will you be good?” he asked with a twisted smile. He forced the blade harder against her skin. Keiko winched as it sliced her flesh. It wasn’t deep enough to kill her, but enough to cause bleeding and to sting. She starred at him, her eyes wide with fear.

She didn’t want to die. She wanted to see Yusuke again… in the flesh! She wanted to live her life, her whole life...with Yusuke Urameshi.

Still looking at the man that held her life in his hands. She nodded ever-so slightly so that the blade wouldn’t pierce her.

“Good,” he said with a smirk and pulled himself and the knife away. As he pulled away Keiko got her first really good look at his face. Before it had always been shadowed, but right now light was shining on him. Keiko gasped. She had seen this man before! Only yesterday……

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yusuke had seen Yamato after school yesterday…

It had been snowing yesterday, too, yet a lot lighter. Yusuke had been walking home with Keiko as he always did when he had actually attended school and didn’t have any Spirit World matters to deal with.

“So what do you think I should get Atsuko for Christmas?” Keiko had turned to him with a smile and asked.

“I don’t know,” he had answered, not really thinking the question over. “Anything with alcohol in it should make her happy.”

“Be serious, Yusuke.”

“I am being serious!”

Even though he had shouted he still had held a smirk on his face. It was really like his mother to want booze for Christmas. But his grin had faded as he caught a glimpse of a quite hairy man across the street from them, right in the direction they were headed. It wasn’t this guy’s appearance that uneased Yusuke. It was the look in his eyes; a twisted look and a bemused, malevolent grin. Yusuke had not liked that at all.

He had grabbed Keiko by the arm and had started to pull her away. She had given him a confused look and so he had said, “Let’s go this way.”

“But why?” she had asked as she walked with his pull.

“Just because,” he had answered as they walked away.

Yusuke had never suspected he would see that guy again or find out he was a wanted criminal. He just wanted to get Keiko away from the weirdo.

Wait a minute, thought Yusuke as logic sunk into his head. Maybe-just maybe-that guy kidnapped Keiko! Yes! That made sense. He had seen that man, probably watching Keiko. Who was to say he wasn’t choosing his next victim? And he doubted Keiko had just vanished; something happened to her, so it was established in Yusuke’s mind that she was no doubtingly taken capture.

But what would any of this matter? Just because he assumed he knew who had take her and that she was taken still didn’t make him know where she was. Even the police didn’t know where Yamato was! Maybe it was hopeless…

“Yusuke!” hollered Kuwabara.

Yusuke looked up to see his friend waving his arms with enthusiasm and jumping up and down. A big grin was on his face.

He shouted again to Yusuke, “Kurama’s back on the trail! He found her scent!” Then he added in a low voice, “That sounds weird to say…”

Yusuke starred at him in disbelief. Even though that was one of the incredibly weirdest things that could be spoken, it was music to his ears. Kuwabara motioned him to hurry. Yusuke quickly got to his feet, feeling joy, relief, and longing all at the same time.Maybe there was hope! he thought. No! he corrected himself. There is hope!

He ran to Kuwabara, who led him to Kurama, ready to begin the search once more.

To be continued…


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