Categories > Anime/Manga > Yu Yu Hakusho > Poltergeist Report 2: The Untold Story

An Unexpected Question

by Shisoukengo 1 review

While his teammates battle their own demons in the land of Makai, events in Ningenkai cause Kuwabara to become its newest protector. But can he harness the strength necessary to protect his world, ...

Category: Yu Yu Hakusho - Rating: R - Genres: Drama,Fantasy,Romance - Characters: Kazuma Kuwabara,Yukina - Warnings: [!!!] [V] - Published: 2016-04-26 - 4408 words

Disclaimer: Kuwabara and the other YYH characters don't belong to me, they belong to Yoshihiro Togashi.
Poltergeist Report 2: The Untold Saga
Chapter 2 - An Unexpected Question
By: Shisoukengo
Friday, April 3rd
"Again!!" The voice shouted.
Sweat dripped from Kuwabara's brow, soaking the headband tied around his head. His hands gripped the shinai* tightly as he performed the strike again. His cry of "kiai" reverberated throughout the training hall echoing the other student's. The shinai struck while his lead foot stomped simultaneously, executing the strike to perfection.
It was after school, and Kuwabara was nearing the end of one of his extra-curricular activities - kendo* class. Many of his fellow students found this class to be one of the most demanding in the school's curriculum. Although Kuwabara agreed, he also found it to be the most natural to him, so it never bothered him in the slightest. Completing the warm up of going through their basic strikes, the students began to dress in their practice armor.
Kuwabara had finished tying the last of his practice armor on, as their teacher made his way to the center of the large room. His sensei, a man known as Kanekita Rentatsu, was of average build and slightly low height. However, he had an air about him that commanded respect from all of those around him. His eyes were a deep shade of green. His long black hair was tied back into a pony tail, with flecks of gray on the sides, indicating his age.
One-by-one, the students lined up, as their sensei and two assistants began demonstrations. The assistants were senior students and led them through the basic and intermediate techniques of the school. Kuwabara stood patiently, awaiting his turn. He noticed some of the other students caught on to the moves almost instantly, while most needed a little bit of extra coaching. As he waited, however, his previous thoughts from earlier that week suddenly resurfaced.
'I can't believe Urameshi and the others could be out there fighting each other right now while I'm stuck here at school.' He smirked as he recalled his earlier apprehensions at helping Yusuke in his missions. 'And to think, I hadn't even wanted to keep fighting after we beat those Saint Beast jerks.'
His gaze moved down toward the shinai in his hand, and he tightened his grip on the weapon in spite of himself.
'Guess I should be careful what I ask for right?' He thought.
His eyes glazed over as if seeing something in the distance, something visible to only to him. In his mind, he saw a glimpse of Yusuke, Hiei, and Kurama, each facing off against various yokai*. He could see each of them: Kurama executing his enemies with extreme precision, Hiei annihilating his opponents with fearsome techniques, and Yusuke thrashing his adversaries with aggressive force.
'And where does that leave me?' he wondered. 'I've always been the odd man out though, at least where those three were concerned. I mean, there's only three yokai lords, and those three are yokai, it makes sense that I don't have a place with them. After all, I'm only ningen*, my place is here.'
The loud voice snapped him back to the present, and Kuwabara started, one of the advanced students staring him in the face. This caused him to have to lean backwards, and his eyes riveted to the figure of their sensei seated at the front of the room. His stare bore into the teen's, and Kuwabara had to suppress the urge not to look away.
"If you are not going to pay attention in my class, then you are free to leave and waste your own time." His gaze did not leave Kuwabara's, and this time the younger man did look away, ashamed of allowing his attention to slip.
"Now everyone," Kanekita addressed the class, "back to your lessons. Kuwabara-kun, you're up next."
Kuwabara rose and stood at attention. His sempai* - named Daishi Hitoshi, only a year and a half his senior, led him through the motions of the technique.
"Now, this is a complex move designed to counterattack your opponent's attack. It is commonly used to defend against a downward slash," the older student explained as he demonstrated by performing a downward slash with his bokken*. "However, if done correctly, it can also be used to counter a thrust as well."
Daishi moved to stand a couple of feet away from Kuwabara, as the two turned to face each other. The senior instructed him to attack first. He did not specify what attack to use, leaving it up to Kuwabara to decide. The teen stared at his senior for only a few moments, contemplating which attack to use. Coming to the conclusion that Daishi expected a downward slash, Kuwabara decided to instead attempt a thrust. Taking his stance, Kuwabara inched forward, and with a sudden burst of speed, aimed a swift thrust at the elder student's chest.
Daishi, famous for living up to his first name, didn't so much as flinch as he sidestepped to the left. Turning his sword horizontally, he quickly parried Kuwabara's thrust, bearing down and driving the tip of the wooden blade to the ground. Following through, Daishi swung his weapon upward, stopping at its intended target. The wooden sword held firm against the younger teen's throat.
"Your ingenuity is impressive when you are concentrating," Daishi commented. "You're the only student so far who has attempted a thrust. However, as you can see, with this defensive maneuver I not only sweep aside your attack, but also gain easy access to one of your most vital spots, the neck." Stepping back, Daishi lowered his weapon. He straightened, allowing Kuwabara to do the same and regain his bearings.
"Always remember," Kanekita spoke from the front of the room, "that even if you attack your opponent unexpectedly, you must always have a backup plan in case they are able to counter your attack."
The older man stood, appraising both of his students with a watchful stare. Kuwabara was then allowed to try the attack against each of the two seniors, each giving pointers as to what he could improve on. Daishi and the other senior led the rest of the class through a few more drills of the exercise, as well as demonstrating two more methods of attack, before the bell rang to signify the end of the class.
The students gathered their training equipment and, shinai still in hand, bowed to both the assistants and their sensei before making their way to the changing rooms, discarding the bulk of their training gear as they did.
Kuwabara wiped the sweat from his brow, feeling a little less downtrodden now that he had gotten a chance to work out some of his pent up frustration. However, he couldn't shake the feeling gnawing at him inside. He had felt this many times before during the early years of his adolescence. And also less frequently, albeit more intensely, during his tenure as one of Yusuke's partners. A feeling that usually signified trouble, or a potential danger looming on the horizon.
'I'm probably being a little paranoid.' He thought as he bowed to both of his sempai, before bowing in turn to his sensei.
As he did so, however, his sensei spoke.
"Kuwabara, would you see me after class? I would like to have a word with you."
Kuwabara swallowed and responded with a nod of his head.
"Yes, Kanekita-sensei." Kuwabara said as he headed to the lockers to towel off and change clothes.
He could hear the hushed whispers of his classmates as they guessed among themselves why their instructor wished to speak to him.
"He has been spacing out lately, do you think he's gonna get kicked out of class?" One student asked.
"I don't know, maybe his grades are slipping?" The second student replied.
"I heard he used to be a gang leader. Maybe sensei found out about it," the third student suspected.
Kuwabara looked up at the mention of his gang, directing a warning look their way. Two of them looked away, busying themselves with the task of re-dressing. The third student, however, held his gaze, but no less remained silent. At seeing that the three were taking his warning seriously, Kuwabara returned his attention back to finish buttoning his school uniform's jacket. Picking up his gym bag and books, he exited the locker room.
'Young punks can't even mind their own business,' he thought.
As he re-entered the training hall, he saw his sensei greeting the students who had already dressed and were leaving. Kuwabara paused for only a few moments, unsure as to whether he should approach or wait until his sensei noticed him. Not being one to simply stand and do nothing, Kuwabara began walking toward him. When he was close enough to be noticed without invading his instructor's personal space, Kuwabara silently waited, not wanting to interrupt the older man's goodbyes.
It wasn't until the three students from the locker room left, followed by Kanekita's assistants, did the older man turn his attention toward Kuwabara.
"Come, Kuwabara-kun." Kanekita stated as he strode toward the sitting area at the front of the training hall.
Kuwabara followed quietly, curious as to what his sensei wanted to speak with him about. Although he had readily dismissed the comments of his peers earlier, a part of him could not help but wonder if his lack of attention had a negative effect on his sensei's perception of him. Kanekita led him to where three cushions were laid out. One for the school's instructor, one for the assistant instructor of the class whom his sensei had not yet chosen, and a third for any visiting instructors or other important guests.
Kuwabara looked on as his sensei took his seat in the center, waiting for the older man to invite him to sit. Once he was seated, Kanekita addressed Kuwabara.
"Please, have a seat," he gestured with his hand to the seat on his left, and Kuwabara took it obligingly.
Positioning himself with his legs tucked underneath him, Kuwabara placed his gym bag beside him, focusing his attention on Kanekita. After a moment of silence, the older man spoke.
"I know that you have studies to which you must attend, so I will try to make this as brief as possible. Speaking of which, how are your studies going by the way?" Kanekita asked.
Kuwabara started, a little confused as to why his instructor was asking him this. While it wasn't unusual for a teacher to ask about a student's grades from time to time, Kanekita had rarely ever inquired to his own student's academic progress, instead choosing to instruct his students on focusing on perfecting the art of the sword. Chalking it up to being a long overdue question, Kuwabara mentally shrugged and decided to answer his sensei's question.
'Guess I got no reason not to answer his question. I mean I am doing better than I thought I would be, and besides this guy's nothing like Akashi,' he mentally reasoned.
The memory of the former Jr. High teacher who always seemed to have it out for him was somewhat fresh in his memory. Kuwabara still had to resist the urge to be suspicious of his Gaikou Fuzoku* high school teachers. Realizing his sensei was watching him, awaiting his answer, he shook off the old memories and returned his attention to the present.
"My studies are going well, sensei," Kuwabara replied, seeing no reason to mention his recent trouble in his English course, due to his improvement with Keiko's help.
"That is good to hear. You've always shown such dedication in my class, I had expected no less from you in your other subjects," Kanekita nodded in compliment.
Kuwabara had to stifle the urge to grin like a little kid, choosing instead to reply simply with a smile of gratitude and a firm "thank you" in return. However, his mood was broken by his sensei's next words.
"However, I have noticed that as of late, you have seemed to be distracted during my lessons. I know now that it is not due to any pressures from other classes. So my question to you is, what is it that is robbing you of your focus?" Kanekita stared directly at Kuwabara, watching the young man's face for any type of reaction.
The one he received was a startled response as Kuwabara's eyes bulged a little, surprised both by the question as well as the look that accompanied it. The older man's green eyes bored into his own, studying him with quiet intensity, and whatever thoughts he may have had about brushing the question off vanished in that instant. For what seemed like a longer time than it actually was, Kuwabara sat quietly, contemplating his response.
For a moment, he thought about lying, but reminded himself that it wasn't his style. He didn't like it, and being a guy who was always straight forward with his words and actions, he didn't like people who lied either. But he couldn't possibly tell the truth, not because he didn't trust his sensei, but because the truth itself would be too impossible to believe. After all, how could his sensei believe that there were monsters from another world who crossed over into their world. That he could form a sword made from his own energy to combat them. And that one of his best friends was not only fighting them, but was also one himself.
But what else could he say? What else could he tell him that would make sense? Not seeing any other option, he decided for a half truth, putting into words the main thing that was bothering him while leaving out the finer details.
"Um, well sensei," he began, his thoughts jumbled as he struggled to figure out how to word his explanation.
"See, I have this friend, and he and I sort of grew up as rivals, but then we later became buddies and even competed together as teammates. But...well, no matter how much I tried, I couldn't keep up with him and the other two guys we fought with, and I always got the feeling of not really being a part of the team ya know? And my sister, she convinced me that I couldn't keep fighting my whole life, and I didn't want to become someone who just got in the way all the time, though I'm pretty sure that's how the other guys saw me.
"So I quit, gave up fighting and started concentrating on my school work as well. But no matter how much I try, I keep getting this feeling like there's still more for me to do, you know? Like I haven't reached a stopping point yet, but I don't see how can I keep goin when I'm nothin but just a shadow to my teammates."
Kuwabara stopped abruptly, realizing he had begun rambling, and looked up to see his sensei's expression. Kanekita just studied him, having taken in every word of what his student had told him, and was waiting to be sure if there wasn't anything else he wished to add to it. He had become well aware of the young man's reputation during the first part of the school year when he had signed up for the class. It wasn't much of a secret among the teachers of his former life on the streets as a small time gang leader and thug, and was even less of a secret among the student population.
Kanekita himself had been surprised when the young man entered his classroom, turning out to be completely different from the image he had depicted. This had been made most prominent when Kuwabara had shown a surprising level of both determination and dedication to learning how to wield a sword. Kanekita had certainly not made it easy, trying to push the young man to a breaking point, but Kuwabara had met his challenge every step of the way. That, as far as Kanekita could tell, was probably his greatest attribute; his desire to surpass everyone's perceptions of who he was and what he was capable of.
After a drawn out moment of silence, Kanekita finally spoke.
"So, you gave up?" The question seemed to startle the young man, who reacted as if he'd been physically struck.
"What? No, I mean-" the teen paused, trying to re-gather his now jumbled thoughts. Finally, he met his sensei's gaze, his eyes displaying an almost lost look in them. "I couldn't go any further, not on my own, and I had no one willing to teach me. What else was I supposed to do?"
Kanekita met the gaze, feeling a sense of connection with the young man. It was obvious from the young man's story that he had once believed himself to be strong, and that the belief had been shattered by his own personal experiences, most likely at the hands of the rival he had spoken of. And it was also clear that his desire was still there, unhampered by his sister's urging or even his teammate's shadows. But it wasn't the desire to fight, the young man had seemingly experienced too much for that. No, this was a different desire, one that any master could sense in a potential student. The desire to become strong.
"I see," Kanekita nodded with a few shakes of his head. "You know, I was once like you," the older man said, drawing Kuwabara's attention back to him. Kanekita smiled at his student's astonished expression, having expected such a reaction from the younger man.
"Yes, like you I wasn't the best in my class, far from it in fact."
"You weren't? Really?"
Kanekita could see the wonder in his student's eyes, as it was no secret to him that his students held him in high esteem, as most students did their martial arts instructors. It was easy of course, to admire a person because of their strength. However, Kanekita knew that the true difference lay in admiring how a person gained their strength.
"Yes, I wasn't. Most people believe that strength is something that a person is either miraculously born with, or that they gain through many years of dedicated training. Both are true in a sense, but they are few and most people fall somewhere in-between. These two common beliefs are influenced in many ways, but mainly through today's society and one's moral upbringing."
Kuwabara continued to listen, unable and unwilling to interrupt his sensei's speech.
"As children, we believe that to be strong means to be able to protect not only one's self, but also everyone else. But this is a naive and simplistic way of thinking, as it is not only difficult enough to defend one's self, but also impossible to protect the lives of others. Because, as the saying goes, one cannot be everywhere and thus cannot save everyone. That is why the martial arts are called self-defense, because at it's very core, it is learning to defend one's self." Kanekita received a nod in response from Kuwabara.
"As we grow older and into maturity, we come to accept that at best we can only defend ourselves. Therefore, we believe that to attain true strength means having the ability to beat anyone that threatens our person. But that is also a naive, not to mention pompous way of thinking, as it implies that through constant training we can achieve a status of invincibility. But, if you've ever experienced defeat before, then you would know that not only is that impossible, given that there will always be someone who is stronger, faster, or more skilled. But also because having that thought could be unhealthy."
A moment of silenced lingered, followed by another, and another, and another, as Kuwabara reflected over his sensei's words. The logic in them was undeniable, and he couldn't come up with any words to counter them. Even his teammates, he was sure, had been beaten at one time or another. After all, they had all lost to Sensui at some point, as the former detective had not only succeeded in beating Urameshi in a death match, but had also bested Kurama, Hiei, and himself even while their latent powers had finally been unleashed.
Even the detective himself, whom his partner, Itsuki, had claimed had been told by ghostly whispers that no yokai who crossed his path had ever lived to talk about it, had met his demise at the hands of Yusuke's demon ancestor. He finally turned his attention back to his sensei, a single question racking his brain.
"Then, if those aren't the reasons for being strong, then what is it?" Kuwabara asked, desperate for someone to help him clear his confusion, to help him settle the restlessness inside of him.
Kanekita only met the younger man's gaze, feeling more than seeing the confusion stirring within him. He didn't know the teenager all too well, but his sense of perception was very good, and one thing he could tell about Kuwabara Kazuma was this, the boy had a very strong fighting spirit. One that he immediately recognized, like the ancient spirit of the samurai. At length he spoke, not wanting to drag things out any more than was necessary.
"Well, that brings me to my next point. What is the meaning of strength? What does it mean to be strong? Anyone, who chooses to follow the path of a warrior, must eventually ask themselves those questions. And if we are to succeed in answering them, than we must simply ask ourselves one question. WHY do we wish to be strong?"
Another moment of silence hung in the air at the unexpected question, startled blue eyes meeting calm green ones. It was obvious to Kanekita that the teen had never thought to ask himself that question, even after all the fights he'd endured.
"Each of us," he continued, "have our own reasons for seeking strength, and these reasons are usually attributed to who we are as individuals. For instance, some fight for a belief or ideal, like honor, justice, respect, and even pride. Others may fight for their loved ones, people close to them whom they do not wish to see harmed needlessly or treated unfairly. And some even fight for power, or entertainment, seeking the path they believe will lead to a status of glory and victory.
"But as I said earlier, those two misconceptions of strength, which I refer to as the "I am right, and you are wrong" and "mine is better than yours" theory, are false and can only lead to an unhealthy lifestyle for one, which at times will also affect the lives of others. Therefore, for those of us who wish to be strong, it is always important that we first understand the why, before we attempt to achieve the how.
"I see potential in you Kuwabara-kun, the potential to be not simply a great fighter, but also a great person. And I am willing to help you in achieving whatever potential you possess, but in order for me to do so, you must first answer one question. Why do you wish to be strong?" Kanekita's stare never wavered as he looked at Kuwabara.
Kuwabara himself remained speechless, his face set in a grim expression, unable to answer the question because he no longer knew why he fought. At first, it had simply been to be the best, to top his rival Urameshi. But since their rivalry had somewhat come to a stand still, replaced by a grudging mutual respect and friendship, that reason no longer held any validity.
'Why, do I want to be strong?' He questioned mentally, only to once again receive no answer.
Kanekita rose to his feet, drawing Kuwabara's still confused gaze back on him. Almost half an hour had passed in their conversation, and the older man knew his student still had studies to attend to, and obviously had enough on his mind for one day.
"I want you to think carefully about that question, Kuwabara-kun, and when you find out your answer, come and let me know. Only then, will you be truly on your way to being strong."
Kuwabara followed suit, standing as well and lifting his gym bag up, slinging the strap over one shoulder. Kanekita smiled at the teen, an attempt to give the younger man some reassurance, as well as take off some of the pressure he knew Kuwabara was feeling. He couldn't say for sure whether the teen would be better off with the information he had provided, but he could see the focused look return to his pupil's eyes. And he knew, in that moment, he had helped the younger man clear his confusion, if only a little bit.
"I will Kanekita-sensei, thank you." Kuwabara bowed, to which his teacher returned, then turned and walked steadily out of the training hall.
The cooling air blew slightly as he looked up at the sky, watching as the sun's slow descent began to turn its color from a bright yellow to a fire red. He studied the scene for a few moments, as that very same question continued to echo in his head, consuming his every thought. Kuwabara had a feeling that whatever answer he gave, it would only be a starting point to something.
"Damn it," he cursed. He was already running late, and Shizuru would kill him if he didn't get home soon.
To be continued....
bokken - a wooden practice sword used in sword training. It is designed in appearance of an actual katana (Japanese sword).
Gaikou Fuzoku - Gai Technical school, the school Kuwabara applies and is accepted to after passing his high school entrance exams.
kendo - art of the sword, or way of the sword. Term used as a reference to describe learning how to wield and use a sword.
ningen - term used in reference to a human.
sempai - term used in reference to an elder student.
sensei - term used in reference to a teacher or instructor.
shinai - a wooden practice sword used in sword training. It is generally made out of bamboo, with the tip having a more bulbous shape.
yokai - term used in reference to a demon or magical creature.
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