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On the Line

by Ryoko

Chapter Six: "Encounter Inner Demons"

A metallic object cried in the night. Its yelp echoed off the icy walls of buildings and other human-made structures. Yusuke turned around instantly as soon as the "clang" reached his ears. He strained to see through the heavily falling snow. A heart throbbing image encountered his eyes. His heart skipped a beat and he felt the organ tighten in his chest. The fear that so recently had been forgotten came back instantly, once again tearing him up inside; utter, heartbreaking pain. The source of the noise he had heard was the cry of the blade of a shovel colliding with another object. Its wooden handle was held in the hands of a beast of a man. Blood dripped down from his nose and mouth, covering his dark whiskers with red. His face was sweaty and bruised. His black hair clung around his head because of the sticky sweat, making him appear lion-like. His eyes were frightening; holding a malevolent glare in them at the object the shovel had just hit. They seemed to shimmer not a white sparkle, but a crimson gleam. The image that caused the most pain to Yusuke was when he saw the girl he cared so much for stand weakly on her feet for a moment, eyes wide and blood slowly seeping down the side of her face, then fall to the cold snow-covered ground to lie there, lifeless. All around her the once white powder became stained a dark red.

Yusuke couldn't believe what his eyes behold. He strained harder against the weather to make sure that his vision hadn't been misleading him. But another heart throb and he only saw Keiko lying in the red-dyed snow and a man standing over her, shovel in hand. This man Yusuke recognized right away as being Yamato Miyazaki. Somehow he was actually able to stand and move after Yusuke's beating; actually conscious. The shovel that he held no doubt belonged to a neighbor who had been shoveling away the snow. Yamato had returned for revenge, Yusuke assumed. He couldn't just let these two kids get away and turn him in, after all. Anger and hatred filled up his whole being. That man had pushed him to the end of the line. He had all ready kidnapped and hurt Keiko, and here he was doing it again. He clenched his knuckles together until they became white and hurt, but did not ease the strength. He was furious and soon Yamato would pay.

Yusuke's sight fell upon the brown haired girl lying below the man's feet. All his thoughts of anger, hatred, and revenge drifted from his mind and were replaced with pity, sorrow, pain, and failure. He had let her get hurt again, even after he had promised himself to never allow that to happen again. It was the worst pain of all. Here he was so powerful. He could defeat the strongest of demons, yet he could not protect a simple human girl; couldn't save his love. It was the bitter taste of defeat. That failure to accomplish what really mattered. She meant everything to him. Although he had never said it outside the depths of his mind, it was true. Without her life was meaningless; it did not mattered. He was supposed to save her from this pain, but being with him seemed just to hurt her more, both physically and mentally; it only lead to danger and heart break. If he could had been there in time, if he was paying more attention, this might had never had happened. He could have protected her from the attack just now. He cursed himself. He could had even stopped this whole thing from happening if he had just been there with her in the beginning; he could had saved her at that time. It hurt him so bad, maybe even more than the pain she had endured from Yamato.

Forgetting all other things he ran to her. He ignored the man that hovered over head as he fell to his knees and lifted up her limp torso to lay in his arms. He brushed the bangs from her eyes and saw the wide gash on her forehead. He instantly felt guilty; he should have prevented this! "Keiko…?" he whispered. His voice was strained because he was holding back tears. She did not answer. The sorrow was overwhelming. He pulled her in closer; wrapping his arms around her upper body and pushing her head against his chest. "Keiko…?" he choked again. The tears were evident now and flowed silently from his eyes, landing upon her frozen cheeks. Again no answer. "Keiko!" he wept, desperate now. He held his breath, praying for a response.

The moments seemed to tick by unbelievably slow. A second seemed like hours. Yusuke didn't make a sound. He didn't even breathe. He had to listen for the slightest confirmation that she was all right; alive. His mind raced. What would he do if she didn't answer? What if she didn't wake up? What would he do without her?

Then shakily it came. "...Y-Yusuke..." she choked softly. Slowly her eyes opened and maintained a weak half-opened state. She looked up at him. His heart froze, but soon it felt warm again. She was all right; she was alive! He began to breathe normally again. So much relief swept over him. Silently he cursed himself for ever suggesting that she would not ever open her eyes again; thinking she was dead. He smiled down at her. He was so glad she was all right.

Keiko felt unbelievably weak. A faint pain stung the side of her head. She could barely see a blurry figure looming before her and barely hear that so familiar voice. Everything was so distant. So dream-like. She could only guess that the figure was Yusuke. She could not be certain. What had happened? Why was she like this? She could not recall. Yusuke’s voice was worried, slightly frantic. Why? Usually she was the type to stop and think the situation through, but right at that moment she couldn’t put logic together. She felt worn. So drained. She didn’t have the strength to think.

“Keiko!” he shouted. His voice was more concerned, yet also more distant. She felt her body shake. Her voice was yelled again. It was more distant still. For a moment she could see him. His face was twisted with worry. His eyebrows had created wrinkles on his forehead and there more wrinkles at the corners of his mouth. The image seemed to be fading. So worried, but why? His lips moved up and down, but no sound escaped. She could no longer hear what he was saying. It was like watching through glass. She could see him, but not hear him. She could not reach him. There was an unseen distance between the two. Yet again apart.

Then as his mouth moved once more the glass shattered. The distance increased. No sound. No sight.

Yusuke noticed Keiko’s lost of consciousness. Thinking the worst he quickly put his hand in front of her mouth. After a moment of furious worry his heart eased slightly as he felt her breath brush upon his hand. Thank goodness! She was alive!

Then he remembered what he was feeling before he was distracted and quickly looked up at Yamato. The line had been crossed along time ago. Yusuke had given him a chance. A chance to live at that, but now his chances were spent. Yusuke wasn’t going to let this man walk away with hurting Keiko not once, but twice! He’d pay!

Yusuke glared up at Yamato. All the hatred and anger he felt toward this one individual showing on his face in a spiteful stare. This man would feel the true sting of fear. The type of fear he put into so many that he had encountered and destroyed the lives of. Like so many others he’d fear Yusuke Urameshi. A malevolent smirk crept upon Yusuke’s face. Hatred mixed with pure loathing is one of the worst concoctions of all. It is a drug that leads the mind astray, causing the consumer to be unable to think clearly and judge his or her actions.

The young man gently placed Keiko back on the ground, letting her rest peacefully. He gave her one last loving look and in a blink of an eye was back on his feet. He turned to face Yamato. Yamato looked bewildered at Yusuke’s agility and quickly raised the shovel he held, threateningly. Was that fright that shined in his eyes? He should know Yusuke wasn’t playing around any longer. Not many would dare approach Yamato like this, yet Yusuke did, and Yusuke could tell it caused the man great concern.

What had become over Yusuke? Hate of a level he had never felt before loomed within him. He did not wonder about his behavior too much. The only thoughts that mattered were that he had to avenge Keiko’s pain. He had to make Yamato feel pain for hurting his beloved! He couldn’t help but think when he saw the terror in the farthest most depths of Yamato’s eyes, That’s right. Fear me.

For a moment the two just stared at each other, one with an apparent hatred, the other with a hidden fear. Yamato was the first to act. If he did not, he feared Yusuke would and what would happen when that occurred was more frightening that anything he had ever experienced. For it would him that would feel the pain, not another. He swung his weapon at Yusuke. The two objects made impact, but to Yamato’s amazement Yusuke was completely unharmed. He didn’t appear damaged at all. In the moments that the shovel stayed pressed against Yusuke’s head (It was there much longer than normal mainly because Yamato was in to great of shock to do anything but stare at Yusuke dumbfounded.) the boy took the opportunity to react. He swiftly grabbed the man’s right wrist. The bones shattered effortlessly under Yusuke’s grip.

Yamato let loose a long screech of agony. The shovel fell to the white ground, embedding itself in a nice blanket of snow. He fell to his knees beside it and hunched over. He grabbed his wrist with his left hand and cradled it, yelping with pain. After he regained some amount of self-control he looked up at Yusuke. His teeth were clenched and the pain and the hate and even fear showed on his features.

This was quite satisfying to Yusuke. He lowered his face to stare into his enemy’s eyes; a cold, frightening stare. A stare that filled Yamato with unwelcome thoughts. Would this boy really kill him? The hate that was in the boy’s stare answered a definite, “yes.” A shiver ran up the man’s spine. He did not want to die. There were still plenty more people to torture and more masterpieces to create out of blood and tears. Was this really his end? He could not let it be! Ignoring his injured hand he quickly tried his best to get away. He began to hobble to his feet and at the same time crawl away from the boy.

Yusuke smirked, but it was not the playful or excited one he usually wore. No, this one had a hint of unwanted malice. He watched the man try to get away. What a fool he was. He was not going to escape. When he was at his feet Yusuke grabbed his left arm and locked it behind its owner’s back. Yamato stopped his escape instantly. The pain that shot up his arm was excruciating. It paralyzed him. He could not move; could not get away. Then more pain came as Yusuke’s fist plunged into his stomach. It was not as hard as Yusuke could punch, but it was enough to really hurt someone. Blood squirted out from Yamato’s mouth. Yusuke continued to punch and each time Yamato coughed and gagged up more blood.

He wondered though, why was it that he could not summon his full power? Why was it that he was unable to unleash an attack that would kill? This man had caused so much pain. Not just to Keiko and him, but to many others…yet he could not end this man’s life? Why not? His mind shouted those to words repeatedly. Yusuke shot a quick glance toward the unconscious girl lying a few feet away. In this state she appeared so peaceful. A side of her he rarely saw. For once her features weren’t askew with anger or worry towards him. They were at ease. The wind was blowing gently, sending falling snowflakes everywhere. The breeze reached Keiko and fluttered her hair with its touch. That’s where he saw it. A hint of sorrow was in her features, even though she lay asleep. Suddenly he recalled something that she had said not even an hour ago.

“Even if he’s hurt me a-and hurt you, he doesn’t deserve to die….no one deserves that, no matter what they’ve done.” He remembered the pleading in her eyes. That sorrow in them. Then her other words echoed in his mind, “Please….stop.”

“Please….stop!” reiterated in his mind. This time it held more passion, more urgency. The words paralyzed him. He followed the command even though it was but a memory. He no longer punched the other man, but just held the limp man. He looked down at Yamato, who appeared unconscious now. What was he doing! It sickened him. He was being just like this monster. Yamato had killed many humans and if Yusuke killed him now what would that make him? A ruthless murderer. An equal to this man. He didn’t want to kill a human. He might had killed demons, but that was to protect humans. If he murdered even one what would be the point of that protection? He released his hold on Yamato, who fell to the white snow below, looking rather lifeless. Was he dead? The young man dreaded the very thought. He did not want to be a killer! Yusuke bent down beside him and checked if he was still breathing. Thankfully he was. Yusuke let out a sigh of relief.

He looked back at Keiko. It was about time they got out of here. The events of the day needed to be forgotten with the time. He walked over to her and lifted her still unconscious body into his arms. She had become so cold, but he could feel her warm breath against his neck. He whispered in her ear, “Thank you” and after making sure she was surely not awake, kissed her gently on the cheek. Nobody, not even her, would know he had done that. She truly had saved him. Twice at that. She had saved him from possibly his worst enemy: himself. He mused that they both needed protection sometimes.

He looked back at Yamato and supposed that he could set things right. This man was still wanted by the police. He quickly thought a plan up of what to do. He stashed the man back in the house he had been occupying and tied him down to a chair with some make-shift ropes, known commonly as bed sheets, which were twisted into long chain. So even when he woke up he’d still be trapped. As Yusuke left he wrote down the house’s address and took note to inform the police later of Yamato Miyazaki’s location. Then he left with Keiko in his arms. He would go to Genkai’s temple. For sure he couldn’t just drop Keiko off like this and even however drunk his mother was tonight she’d notice the blood on his clothes.

He couldn’t help but feel guilty as he walked. Yes, he still did feel like this whole thing was his fault. Maybe Keiko wouldn’t had been abducted if he had been with her. However right at that moment that wasn’t his only cause for worry. He had almost killed a man and would have, too. That thought made him feel so terrible that it rivaled how he felt when he was searching for Keiko. Maybe all the adults were right. Maybe he really was a devil. Was he really? Was he really no better than Yamato? His heart told him, “no,” but his recent actions made him consider it more. He sighed and felt the chill of the wind and snow.

“Yusuke…” he heard a faint voice say. He stopped walking and looked down at Keiko, squinting to see her. The weather was blurring his vision. He could tell, however, that she was giving him a weak, strained smile, but it was genuine nevertheless.

“Hey,” he answered back, trying to appear cheerier than he really was. He smiled feebly. “How’re you feeling?”

“My head hurts,” she answered softly as she brought a hand to her head where she had been struck. She faintly felt a sticky substance and lowered her hand to eye level, where she squinted to see the red blood. She starred at it a moment and then lowered her hand back down to her stomach. She didn‘t give much thought to it. There was a much greater concern and that concern had nothing to do with her well-being.

“It’s so cold,” she whispered, trying to press on a different subject to see how he would react. Something was wrong with him. She knew it for sure. Cold was an understatement, however, freezing was more accurate. She could barely feel any longer. Her fingers were numb and she couldn’t even feel her clothes pressed against her or the touch of Yusuke’s hands as he held her. She could barely feel his body heat or even her own touch. She’d endure this lack of sensation, however, until she found out what was the matter with her dearest friend.

“Yeah,” Yusuke said dully. “It really has become a storm.” Which was true. The temperature had dropped dangerously low and the raging wind companioned by snow made it hard to see. It was hard to make out anything. He had to strain just to make her features out, as did she to see him. He wasn’t even sure if he was going the right direction. He wasn’t familiar with the neighborhood and the weather sure wasn’t helping.

There was a pause in their conversation and then she asked softly, “Yusuke, what’s wrong?” Asking was the best way to find out if only he would tell her. He was shocked that she realized that something was the matter, but continued to try to act as if nothing was. He’d continue to play his game. He didn’t want to worry her. He starred at her, straining because of nature, and gave her a fake look of puzzlement. He began to say, “What are you talking about? Nothing’s wrong,” but was cut off before he could even begin. “I’ve known you long enough to tell when something’s wrong. You don’t have to pretend, Yusuke. You can tell me.” She lifted her hand and cupped it around Yusuke’s face. Through the snow she could still see his reaction of shock. She continued somewhat sternly, but all the same her words were full of love and trust and slight pleading, “Please tell me.”

Yusuke shrugged her off and looked away from her. He was ashamed of what he had almost done and didn’t really want to tell her, or was he planning to, but something in her voice, in her touch, made him decide to tell her. “I almost killed someone…” he said slowly, and gloomily. He gritted his teeth. The thought brought about so much pain, so much grief. “And I would have to…if you didn’t stop me.” He paused then added. “I’m no better than him.” Right now he was beginning to think that was really true.

He realized she probably thought he was speaking of the first time he had nearly killed Yamato, but actually he was referring to the second time. Remembering he had almost killed twice made him feel worst. That was two times he had come close to Yamato level. He felt so ashamed and continued to look away from her.

“Yusuke…” Keiko whispered, confusion and aghast in her voice. She looked down at her arm that laid on her stomach. “Yusuke, you’re not anything like him. He hurts people for his sick amusement. I know you would never do anything like that. You saved me. If you were like him, you would have never had done anything like that. You protect people.” Her voice was becoming strained as sobs threatened her. “You’re a much better person than him.” She turned her glaze up at him and added a bit fierce and with a bit of a sob, “Don’t you dare compare!”

He turned to see her face in a struggling strict expression. An expression she so often had, but this time it was weak and tears were in the corners of her eyes. Now look at what he had done. He had made her cry. Seeing her like this made him feel guilty for ever thinking that he was even similar to Yamato. Making her cry made him feel worst than the thought of killing someone had, for he was hurting her this time. “Keiko….don’t cry,” he said in a poor attempt to soothe her.

“How can you say something like that?” she screeched. Sobs followed.

The tears began to run down her cheeks. She looked down in an attempt to hide them since she was trying to appear aggressive. But they were deceiving her intentions and her sniffs did not help.

Yusuke you are such an idiot! He scolded himself. She was getting over what had happened to her and you went and made her cry. He thought over what she had said about him being a good person. Now he couldn’t agree on that completely, but compared to Yamato he would probably be considered a much better person. It was true. He had saved humans from demons several times. Yamato only hurt people. Sure he beat some people up, but he wouldn’t hurt them to the point of a serious injury. The more he thought about it, the more he agreed with her and the more he began to wonder why he had ever thought that he was like Yamato in the first place.

“’Cause I’m an idiot,” he said in answer to her question. There was slight relief in his voice. He looked out into the distance and strained to see what was ahead of him. Keiko didn’t reply to his comment, but he did feel her shiver from the cold. She had in fact been relieved that he had changed his mind about himself and did believe he was truthful that he would no longer think that way. He began to walk in the direction he was looking.

“Well, whatever. Let’s just…move on from what happened today. Let’s just go home.”

“Yeah,” Keiko said softly after a brief pause. Then to Yusuke’s shock she brought her arms around his neck in an embrace and placed her head on his chest. She was so glad to be with him again. For so long she had felt lost and afraid. But in his arms she felt safe. She knew she loved him and wanted to be with him. She had wanted for him to be there for her all day and he had come. Right at that moment she couldn’t stop this sudden display of emotion. With him, like this, she felt content. He may have doubted himself, but with him she knew she was safe, safer than with the tightest security in the world.

Yusuke was a bit taken back by her actions, but soon relaxed and smiled slightly at her. He lifted her up to be closer to him, since he could not hug her while he was carrying her. He brought his face close to hers, in a sort of snuggle. Their closeness warmed them both up. He too felt happiest, most comfortable with her. “Thank you for saving me, Yusuke,” he heard her whisper and he nodded a “You’re welcome.” However he couldn’t help but think she was the one that had saved him from his inner demons. He then continued to walk; walk away from the nightmare that had enveloped them that day. After all nothing can be completely forgotten, but better memories can always be created to replace them. Together they would create these joyous moments.

The End

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