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

A Reason To Be Strong

by Shisoukengo 0 reviews

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 - 10253 words

A.N. - Short, sweet, and to the point. Thanks so much for all of you who reviewed the last chapter. Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you like this one as well. Enjoy!!
Disclaimer: If I owned Yu Yu Hakusho, I certainly wouldn't have given Kuwabara such a goofy looking hairstyle! What the hell was Togashi-sensei smoking when he did that?
Poltergeist Report 2: The Untold Saga
Chapter 3 - A Reason To Be Strong
By: Shisoukengo
Saturday, April 4th
Kuwabara's shoulders were slumped as he stood on the train. His thoughts had become occupied in the day that had passed since his discussion with his sensei. So much so that he had tuned out all of the other passengers riding along with him on the train. The words of his sensei continued to haunt his every waking moment, to the point where even Shizuru had given him discreet looks the night before. She hadn't said anything, but he knew from those looks that she had been wondering as whether or not to ask.
He was glad that she hadn't. He didn't want to deal with the problems that would inevitably come out of that discussion. The thing that haunted him more than anything else; however, was the question Kanekita asked him.
Why do you want to be strong?
That one question had caused quite a troublesome sleep for him, and it hadn't abated his feelings of restlessness at all. If anything it had only made them slightly worse. Kuwabara had stayed up for quite some time the previous night, racking his brain in the hopes of miraculously discovering an answer to that question. However, fate had not been as kind and he only succeeded in losing what he considered valuable sleep time.
Luckily it was a weekend, which meant he did not have school or homework to worry about for the time being. Again he went back over the question, deciding it would be easier to start from the beginning.
'In the beginning, I just wanted to show up that punk Urameshi, and prove he wasn't the toughest kid at school.' He thought to himself, eyebrows creasing.
'But that's no longer possible, what with that demon blood and all.' Kuwabara's mind wandered back to the last mission he'd been on for Reikai; to stop the former detective, Sensui Shinobu, from opening a tunnel to the Makai.
In that battle, the now ex-ReikaiTtantei Urameshi Yusuke was resurrected, again, only to return to life with newly awakened demon blood flowing through his veins. Mazoku, was the term used to describe the demon kinship that Yusuke inherited from his ancestor. A being who was revealed to possibly be one of the most powerful beings in existence.
Kuwabara still shuddered from the memory of the overwhelming force behind the reigun his friend used to finish off Sensui. Not since the awakening of his own reiki did he get such a foreboding feeling. Now, as he stood thinking on the train, he allowed himself to admit there was no way possible he could catch up to Yusuke, or Hiei and Kurama for that matter.
Well, maybe Kurama, but even that would be a stretch, as in his fully transformed state he was already at upper A-class level. Not to mention that he was cunning as hell, and had almost fully absorbed the entirety of his yoki. And Hiei, he was sure the little fire punk would in some way find a means to get stronger.
'No, I can't go following the guy's footsteps at a time like this.' He raised his head as the train slowly came to a stop.
'I'm a man. I have to do this on my own.' He thought as he stepped off of the train. Walking through the train terminal, he pushed his thoughts to the back of his mind and focused on making his way to his destination.
Descending the steps that led away from the platform where passengers boarded, he stuffed his hand in his coat pockets as he walked on. Kuwabara began to think of possible answers he could give to his sensei's question. He knew that he could go to Genkai for possible training. The old woman was never one to turn down a helping hand to another psychic.
The sounds of people around him had been completely tuned out by him that is until he heard a trio of voices he recognized all too well. Looking up ahead of him, he spotted his three friends. Well, four really. Kiyoshi Mitarai had recently begun to become affiliated with he and his friends. While he wasn't necessarily a member of his gang, he couldn't fathom calling his group anything else, Mitarai had been seen around them enough that it certainly had not gone unnoticed by his peers.
He had to admit, it was quite flattering that his reputation and that of his gang, had become nearly as synonymous as Yusuke's own reputation. And the former member of Sensui's seven psychics didn't seem to mind the attention either. Mitarai had long since given up the ideals that he'd held under the former detective's command. And he'd come to accept that there would always be bullies in the world, regardless of whether or not demons were ever brought into the equation.
In truth, Mitarai had come to accept that being bullied by fellow humans was a much lesser evil than being bullied by demons. And his grades had gotten him accepted into one of the finest high schools in the region. For the moment, however, it seemed that his affiliation with Kuwabara's gang was protecting him from the bullies he once feared.
Well, maybe with the exception of Sawamura, who had the timid teenager in a headlock and was rubbing his knuckles against the top of his head.
Crossing the busy intersection with a few other pedestrians, Kuwabara called out to his friends.
"Oi! Sawamura, let the poor guy go, would ya?" The four young men looked up toward him as he strode forward.
"Hey Kuwabara-san!" The shorter and stockier of the group, Okubo, greeted him warmly. The two bumped fists as Kuwabara stopped beside him. Sawamura released his grip, smiling jubilantly at the young man they each perceived as their leader.
"Hey Okubo. How's your folks doing?"
Okubo grinned, and Kuwabara felt a similar feeling at seeing his long-time friend's happiness. "They're doing great! My mom's slowly getting healthier, and she's even started working at her job part-time again."
Kuwabara grinned at that. For a while, Okubo's mother's illness had prevented the young man from doing much outside of school beside work. It was only part-time, as he wasn't old enough legally to work full-time, which meant the free time he did have was juggled between tending to his younger brother and sister and school. Fortunately, depending on the point of view, his school time had been more time spent hanging with Kuwabara, Sawamura, and Kirishima.
"That's great, man!" He responded, then turned to bump fists with the other two young men.
"Yo, Sawamura! What have I told you about messing with Mitarai?" While his words may have seemed reprimanding, his tone was playful and teasing. Sawamura just laughed it off in response.
"Aw relax, Kuwabara-san. Besides, it'll toughen the little guy up." Behind him, Mitarai frowned at being called "little".
"Is that so?" Kuwabara's grin suddenly turned mischievous, the only warning sign given before Sawamura found himself in the grip of Kuwabara's own patented headlock. "And who made you the authority on being tough huh?"
It was no secret among the group that Sawamura still harbored a little resentment toward the teen for his attempting to kill them over a year ago previous. While Okubo and Kirishima had both expressed similar feelings during their initial meeting with Mitarai sometime after, they had eventually been able to accept Mitarai's presence around them.
Especially when Kuwabara made it certain that the young man was no longer a threat and that he would continue to hang out with him even if they would not. Unfortunately, Sawamura had been the slowest to come around. And though he had lightened up, he could still be a little hard on Mitarai at times. Fortunately, Kuwabara always had a way of evening the playing field.
Okubo and Kirishima laughed at their mutual friend's predicament, while the young man cried out, struggling against his leader's hold. Even Mitarai found the situation humorous, as he showed his mirth via smiling at the taller man's antics. After a few moments, Kuwabara let go of his hold, allowing Sawamura to straighten and rub his slightly sore head.
"How's it goin Mitarai?" He asked the blonde teen. Mitarai seemed startled by the attention, still not used to being addressed so warmly by the orange-haired teen.
"I'm doing great, Kuwabara-san. I joined the tennis team at my school, and I think I made a good impression with my teammates."
Kuwabara grinned at hearing such good news. "Sounds like you're fitting in, eh?"
Mitarai chuckled nervously. "Yes, something like that."
"Great! Alright guys, you ready to do this?" Kuwabara stated as he turned to the building they had been standing in front of.
"Yeah!" The other four chorused.
Throwing open the door, Kuwabara led the group into the building. A young female clerk behind the desk greeted them warmly, batting her eyes at Kuwabara and Kirishima as she did so. Kuwabara returned her greeting with a smile and a wave, while Kirishima gave her a flirtatious grin. The other three rolled their eyes, not surprised by Kuwabara and Kirishima's antics. Ever since entering high school, the five young men had gained a more impressive reputation among their more mature peers than they had back in junior high. This included gaining the attentions of the opposite sex, which Kuwabara and Kirishima seemed to excel at more than the others.
Walking through a set of glass doors, the group entered a room that was layered in carpet on the floor. Floor mats covered one section of the room where training equipment such as punching bags lay strung up from their support beams. Various sets of weight-lifting equipment occupied the other half of the room, and a standard sized boxing ring stood directly in the center of the room. The gym was occupied with people, male and female, using the various sets of equipment.
Toward the back of the large room, two doors sat on opposite ends, leading into the men and women's locker rooms respectively. The room was layered with heat despite the large fans that were running in the four corners of the room, and the scent of sweat could be detected in the air. Kuwabara and the others had discovered this place during a night of celebrating their new high school lives almost 6 months previous, and had made a point of coming here three times a week.
Mitarai, who had not joined the group until sometime afterward, had also began coming to the gym after being encouraged by Kuwabara and teased by Sawamura. The five would spend a few hours exercising on the weight-lifting equipment, training with the boxing coach who also happened to be one of the gym's managers, and relaxing afterward in the saunas in the locker rooms.
Walking through the gym area, the group made their way to the lockers as they toted their backpacks on their shoulders. Some of the other guys in the gym graced them with almost violent stares, and Kuwabara remembered those few as being guys he and his gang had gotten into fights with back in their junior high days of school. They entered the locker room, changing into their gym clothes before depositing their bags into the gym's lockers. Chatting among themselves, they re-entered the gym area and began going through warm-ups.
"So Ayame's friend was totally flirting with me while she was standing there. You should've seen the look on her face! It was all I could do just to keep from laughing." The five young men laughed while they stretched, as Kirishima finished the story of a April fool's joke he and his girlfriend's best friend had decided to play on her.
"Sounds like you guys might've gotten her a little too well, eh?" Kuwabara said, earning him glances from the others.
While Kuwabara's recent changes in study habits had become apparent over the past year, Kirishima and the others were still surprised sometimes to hear him speaking properly. Of course, this didn't mean he had completely rid himself of his use of slang. But rather, he tended to use elements of each speech in different situations, as if tailoring the two forms of grammar to fit certain scenarios. A trait that was apparent to all but those who didn't know him well enough.
The group burst into laughter again as Sawamura answered.
"Yeah, they totally did! You could say that's also the reason Ayame-chan threw her drink on him." At this, the group laughed even harder, except for Kirishima, who was now sporting a small blush of embarrassment on his face.
"Eh? You said you wouldn't tell nobody about that, Sawamura!" He exclaimed as he glared at his friend. This only caused them to laugh harder, and Kirishima to direct his glare to the group as a whole.
"Well, she got over it after Mitsuko-chan and I explained what was going on. Sides, she did offer to pay for the dry cleaning." Kirishima folded his arms across his chest, a frown now marred on his face while the group rode out their laughter.
As the teens continued their idle chatter, an older gentleman approached them. He was tall, with a muscular build that seemed to be a flesh and blood copy of a Greek statue. His hair was short and spiky, and a stubble trailed from his sideburns to pool in a goatee on his chin. His eyes were dark as coal, a feature that was a stark contrast to the cocky grin that was almost constantly displayed on his face. His loud, masculine voice nearly sounded throughout the gym as he called out to them.
"Hey! If it isn't my favorite new comers!! You boys ready to work hard today?" The five looked up and broke out into smiles at the older man.
"You bet your ass we are, Enomoto-sensei!" Sawamura replied, his fist clenched in anticipation.
The others seemed to share his enthusiasm, except for Mitarai, who had a nervous look on his face. He seemed, at first, to be the only one to notice that Sawamura had actually cursed in front of an adult, and an instructor at that. Realization soon caught up to the others, and each of them shared Mitarai's nervous look. Most notably, Sawamura, who suddenly appeared red-faced at his blunder. Enomoto however, gave a boisterous laugh in response.
"Take it easy fellas!" He spoke before Sawamura had a chance to apologize. "It's good to see you guys all juiced up about training. Besides, I was young once too. I can tell when it's meant to be offensive and when it's not, so loosen up eh?"
The teasing grin that followed his statement successfully drew out the same responses in the five young men. Kuwabara stepped forward, bowing respectfully to his instructor, a habit he noticed he'd developed from his kenjutsu class. The older man still smiled, but appeared puzzled by Kuwabara's sudden show of respect. Hadn't he just told them to loosen up?
"Enomoto-sensei, we're ready to get started whenever you are. Just give us a little longer to finish our warm-ups." He stood back up, drawing himself eye-level with Enomoto.
"Sure, go ahead. I've got the ring cleared from my teachings from this morning. But you guys had better not keep me waiting. I don't know how long I'll be able to keep it that way." Enomoto Takeo replied.
A former two-time amateur Karate champion, Enomoto had competed for a few years in the professional circuit. Known for being one of the quickest and most powerful strikers of his day, he had made a name for himself until a serious injury had caused him to leave professional martial arts. This led him to building his own gym in the heart of downtown, along with a group of close friends as business partners. He also established his own karate academy program, which he oversaw directly, within the gym as well.
Rumor had it that the secret to his powerful punching techniques were known only to him, though there were a few students who claimed to not only have seen him use such techniques, but also to have emulated them perfectly. However, since Enomoto had made it clear that he had not yet shown anyone the secret, those claims had never held any real merit behind them.
The group, soon after, finished their stretches then went on to doing their basic exercises: push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and even jump rope exercises. When they were done with these, they began debating as to who would be working with Enomoto first.
The general rule among them was that they went two at a time when working with him. This was suggested by Enomoto himself, who claimed that it was easier and more efficient to train with someone who was either close to or on the same level as themselves. That way they would all learn things like technique and foot work at the same time, and could get the most out of their sparring sessions.
The final decision ended up being that Kirishima and Okubo would go first, with Sawamura and Mitarai going next. Kuwabara, being the leader, decided that he would let the guys go first and finish up last by working with their instructor directly. While two of them trained under Enomoto, the rest would work out on the various weightlifting equipment throughout the gym. As Kirishima and Okubo entered the ring with their training gear strapped on, Kuwabara stood behind a weight bench to provide support for Mitarai, who was lying on the bench.
As Kuwabara encouraged Mitarai through his reps, his mind went back to his sensei's question. 'If it's not to beat Urameshi, then why? Why do I still want to get stronger? Why do I still want to fight?'
Mitarai finished his set, lowering the barbell back onto the bar before sitting up. Turning to look up at Kuwabara, he was met with a serious expression on the teen's face that seemed out of place on his normally cocky facade.
"K-Kuwabara-san?" He questioned. His voice seemed to snap Kuwabara out of his daze. Kuwabara's brown eyes met with Mitarai's own blue eyes, and for a moment, the blonde thought he could register a look of uncertainty in the red-head's eyes.
It was dispelled immediately thereafter, replaced by Kuwabara's usual bravado. "Good set Mitarai, you'll be as tough as Urameshi if you keep this up." He gave Mitarai a teasing grin.
Mitarai returned it with a nervous laugh. "No, I don't think I could ever be like you and Yusuke-san."
Kuwabara gave him a confused look. "Like me?"
Mitarai responded with his own bewildered look, "yeah, like you."
"What do you mean like me?" Kuwabara pointed a finger at himself, his eyes wide with surprise.
"Yeah, I mean you're strong too." At Mitarai's assertive expression, Kuwabara's suddenly turned rueful.
"I think you got the wrong idea, Mitarai." Mitarai's confused look returned, and Kuwabara just grinned. "I'm nowhere near Urameshi right now. Hell, I doubt I'll ever be at this point." Kuwabara's grin stayed intact; and despite the fact that his eyes were closed, Mitarai could not sense the usual cockiness that had been present before.
"Maybe you weren't meant to be, Kuwabara-kun." Startled brown eyes met Mitarai's blue ones, and after a moment, he felt compelled to elaborate. "Yusuke-san is strong. But I don't think that being strong like him would suit you. I mean would you really want the same type of strength he has? I think finding your own strength would be much better for you."
Mitarai placed a hand on Kuwabara's shoulder, returning his smile before stepping aside for the next person to use the equipment. A confused Sawamura stood blinking at the interaction, before shaking it off and lying down on the bench. Kuwabara stood in a daze momentarily, before he mentally shook himself and spotted for Sawamura.
However, Mitarai's words were not as easy to dismiss, and he continued to mull them over. This frustrated him though, as he was never one to contemplate things for such periods of time. It was exactly why he preferred fighting. Emotions were always so much easier to express with fists rather than thoughts. Setting the bar back down onto the bench, his fogged mind barely registered the antics of Sawamura, who was teasingly flexing his muscles while poking fun at Mitarai for lacking the same.
Kuwabara took Sawamura's place on the bench, and began his own reps while Sawamura spotted for him. As he finished his repetition and set the bar back down, he had to concede that Mitarai had a point. He didn't want strength like Yusuke's, or Hiei and Kurama for that matter. Pursuing the same type of growth as either of them would be like accepting that his own strength wasn't good enough. This, he ultimately concluded, would not do.
The group of three continued through their workout routines, and before long almost an hour had passed, and Enomoto was calling for them to take a break.
"You guys relax a little, stretch or something," he told them.
Kirishima and Okubo removed the training gear, wiping the sweat from their brows the towels Enomoto had tossed them before walking away. The group of friends chatted as they went to the lounge area, chugging down bottles of water and sports drinks. As Kuwabara listened to his gang talk among themselves, a nostalgic feeling came over him.
'And to think, I would've missed out on all this,' he thought. 'Sis was right, I guess. Just like she usually is.'
It wasn't the first time he had this line of thought. And he was certain it wouldn't be the last. In fact, it was thoughts like these that battled with his burgeoning urges to train and fight. At first, they had won out, mainly because he had given his word to Shizuru. And everyone knew that Kuwabara Kazuma was, if anything, a man of his word. Of course, Shizuru's ever-watchful presence was a contributing factor as well.
But the urges were persistent, and over time had grown stronger. Almost to the point where his sister's presence didn't seem to matter as much anymore. The interactions between he and his gang, while certainly never lacking in humor; didn't quite have the same excitement as the days of fist fights and tournaments.
'So why can't I be satisfied with all of this now?' He wondered. He didn't have to wonder long, as another part of him answered. 'Because I'm not satisfied with leaving things like this.'His eyes took on a gleam of determination. 'Because I still got more to prove!' He was suddenly jolted out of his thoughts by a voice calling his name.
"Hey Kuwabara!" Kuwabara blinked, noticing for the first time Okubo's fingers being snapped in his face.
"Yeah?" He questioned, still trying to bring himself back to the present. He then noticed the confused looks of his friends, though Mitarai's seemed more concerned than confused.
"You alright man? You were totally spacing out on us." Kirishima asked him.
"Yeah, man, you didn't even say anything when Enomoto-sensei came by just now." Sawamura stated, jerking his thumb back toward the direction of the fitness room. "We're about to go back in."
"Ah, OK. Sorry bout that guys. Let's get back to work!" With that, Kuwabara headed back into the fitness room, leaving his gang of friends behind.
"Man, I haven't seen him this spaced out since the time he got dumped by that girl." Kirishima said, referring to the time Kuwabara and Yusuke had returned from rescuing Yukina.
"Nah, I don't think that's it," Sawamura replied, not entirely convinced that it was girl-related. He'd been around enough to know that his leader's rugged masculinity had caught the attention of a fair amount of girls.
"Could it be the tickle?" Okubo asked, glancing at the two. Mitarai, who had been silent throughout the entire conversation, finally voiced his opinion.
"I don't think that's the reason either, Okubo-san." The others turned their attention on the blonde. Struggling not to allow himself to be affected by their stares, Mitarai continued. "I think it has to do with Yusuke-san being gone."
The other three young men glanced at each other, confused as to how that could be affecting their leader so much.
"I thought Urameshi was gone to visit his family, wasn't he?" Okubo asked. That was, after all, the story they had been given by both Kuwabara and Keiko. Sawamura sniffed, folding his arms across his chest.
"Humph! The three of us know Kuwabara-san better than almost anyone. Why are we listening to him?!" He asked, pointing a finger at Mitarai. Mitarai frowned again, put off by Sawamura's disdain for him.
'And to think, I'm supposed to spar with him next.' His frown deepened, not liking the idea at all. It was another voice, however, who spoke up for him.
"Would you chill out, Sawamura? Kuwabara-san said we can trust him, and the kid said he was sorry. Let it go, man" Kirishima replied.
Sawamura seemed stunned for a moment, the two friends locking eyes with each other. Sawamura did not respond, instead choosing to direct a final scowl at Mitarai before following in Kuwabara's direction. Kirishima turned and gave the blonde a grin and a thumbs up, before turning and following behind Sawamura. Mitarai returned with a smile and a nod of thanks, following behind them as well.
The rest of their time at the gym was a tense affair, especially when Sawamura and Mitarai put on the training gear and stepped into the ring with Enomoto. Okubo and Kirishima had tried to talk Kuwabara into taking Mitarai's place in the ring, both knowing that someone could potentially get hurt, mainly Mitarai. Kuwabara refused however; stating that whatever bad blood existed between them had to be worked out sometime. His eyes remained focused on Mitarai the whole time though, as if he were silently placing a bet on the blonde.
As Enomoto made them go through their footwork warm-ups, Sawamura continued to take verbal jabs at Mitarai. Enomoto let it slide at first, chalking it up to good old trash-talking. But when Sawamura seemed to be taking it too far, Enomoto was certain to admonish him. He then continued to instruct them throughout the rest of their footwork. Once that was accomplished, Enomoto then had them concentrate on their form. Sawamura and Mitarai first worked on the heavy boxing bag that hung from its stand. With one arm strapped securely to their waist, the two were instructed to punch the heavy bags 200 times each.
Enomoto's reason had been simple. "You gotta learn how to throw a punch, before you can work on increasing the speed and strength of your punching."
The 200 strikes contained four rudimentary techniques: the jab, the cross, the hook, and the uppercut. Each were practiced 50 times, with Enomoto promising to increase the amounts once they could make the full 50 each time. Any time their punches were slow or lacking in power, he would not count them and the two would have to pick up from the last number they left off. This often left them beyond exhausted by the time they got to the point of sparring against each other. Enomoto deliberately planned it that way, as this lessened the likelihood that either teen would seriously hurt the other.
Meanwhile, Okubo and Kirishima went through their own weight-lifting sets, with Kuwabara mainly spotting for them. Being that they had just gone through Enomoto's instructions, meant that they had to work doubly hard when lifting the weights. However, as tough as the training regimen seemed, it was already starting to show results. After only a few months, Kirishima and Sawamura had added a little over 15 lbs. of solid muscle to their frames, while Okubo had been able to trim a major portion of body fat off while packing on firm muscle in its place.
Mitarai had also made significant gains, increasing the muscle in his arms and legs quite noticeably. Kuwabara, who had already held a natural, though slightly bulky physique, had toned it up to the point where his muscles had taken on a hard and tight appearance. Each of them had seemingly transformed themselves, and the changes had added a certain vitality that caught the eye of anyone around them.
By the time Okubo and Kirishima had finished their sets, Mitarai and Sawamura were getting ready to spar in the ring. The two of them stood outside of the ring, with Kuwabara standing behind them. They both turned toward him, hoping to talk him into substituting for either of them. While they all knew that Mitarai had come a long way, they each knew that Sawamura was far more aggressive than him. As well as possessing a great deal more of fighting experience than the blonde.
Kuwabara however, did not intervene, nor did he accept a substitution. His brown eyes simply surveyed the two in the ring, and a confident grin remain plastered on his features.
"Men have to settle their own personal beefs with each other, man to man. That's the code of the street, and in the street there's no substitution." He then turned his gaze to Okubo and Kirishima. "You guys ought to know that."
The two wore equally stunned expressions for a moment, before grinning as well. Turning back to the scene in the ring, all three watched as Enomoto called for both of them to start. Sawamura continued his taunting, his aura of cockiness never wavering. Mitarai did not appear intimidated though, as he maintained a look of defiance toward his taller opponent. The two danced around the ring for a few moments, each falling into their own "groove", as Enomoto put it, while observing the other. However, it didn't take too long for one of them to make the first move.
Sawamura dashed forward, his right arm held up as if preparing to strike. Mitarai noticed and moved to position himself to the left, only to see Sawamura's left fist dart forward. Mitarai's instincts were the only thing that kept him from receiving a possible knockout blow, as he was able to avoid the brunt of the left jab by tilting his head back, leaving him momentarily stunned. Sawamura, however, didn't let up as he followed the jab with a right cross. Mitarai countered by bringing both of his hands up to block.
This allowed him to slide forward inside of Sawamura's guard and close the distance between them. Sawamura didn't expect this, the look of surprise on his face a tell-tale sign. Kuwabara grinned as Mitarai retaliated with a left jab to Sawamura's unguarded ribs. Sawamura was just barely able to block by tucking his arm in toward his body. Mitarai retreated a couple of steps away from him, looking at his gloved left hand in surprise.
Therefore, he did not see Sawamura's right hand coming at him until it connected with his jaw. The force behind the blow knocked him backwards, bouncing him off of the elastic ropes that he staggered into. Sawamura continued to follow through with his assault, and Mitarai responded by bringing his hands back up to guard. Kuwabara and the others watched, along with his sensei, as Sawamura continued his taunting as well.
"You think hangin out at the gym is gonna make you a tough guy? HUH?!" His left fist lashed out, aimed at Mitarai's right jaw.
Mitarai kept his hands up, his right hand blocking the jab. Sawamura then swung with a right hook, again aimed at Mitarai's jaw. Mitarai simply ducked underneath the blow before scampering backward, trying to put distance between himself and his opponent. Sawamura simply scowled as he continued to pursue him. Kuwabara, Kirishima, and Okubo all watched the match closely, grimacing as Sawamura's relentless blows rained down upon Mitarai's defenses.
Mitarai had a strained look on his face as he continued to back-peddle from his opponent's attacks. Sawamura maintained his aggressive disposition as condescending words continued to pour out of his mouth.
"YOU'RE NOTHIN BUT-" his right hand drew back, causing Mitarai to lift his hands up in front of his face. This only served to obstruct his field of vision though. So he could do nothing but gag as Sawamura's left fist buried itself into his gut.
"A LITTLE RUNT PLAYING PRETEND!" Watching the teen curl over his arm, Sawamura swung his right hand downward, connecting with the back of Mitarai's head. This brought the blonde down to the mat.
"Always was, always will be!" Sawamura grinned as he stood over his downed opponent. He turned to look over at Enomoto, who had a scrutinizing expression on his face.
"How was that, sensei?" Sawamura asked. Enomoto just sighed, scratching his jaw with his fingers.
"Not bad kid. But you could lighten up a little bit, don't ya think?" Enomoto watched as Sawamura just held up his gloved right hand.
"Eh, doesn't really matter does it? After all, a fight's about strength. If you're not strong enough to keep up with your opponent, then you shouldn't be fighting. Someone had to show that to the runt." Sawamura turned to leave the ring, headed in Kuwabara's direction.
"You're wrong, Sawamura!" Kuwabara called out, causing Sawamura to pause in mid-stride. "A fight's not just about strength. It takes guts too." He grinned at Sawamura's confused expression.
His brown eyes glanced over at something behind Sawamura, causing his old friend to turn to look behind him. His eyes widened, while Enomoto grinned at the sight they were witnessing. Mitarai was slowly picking himself up off of the floor. When he was finally standing upright, he brought his hands back up, ready to fight again. His chest heaved as he took deep breaths, but his eyes never lost their determined stare.
Sawamura's disbelief soon transformed into anger, as he turned to glare at the blonde. Kuwabara continued grinning confidently, impressed and proud of Mitarai's new attitude.
'We all started out as runts at first, before we learned how to make a fist and how to swing them. But it takes guts to make the decision to stop being a runt and swing your fists. It's only with guts that we stop being runts and start becoming men." He ended his speech with his eyes still lingering on Mitarai.
'Now Mitarai, it's time to show us your guts!' he thought.
"K-Kuwabara-san!" Kirishima and Okubo both exclaimed.
'Kuwabara-san?' Mitarai also seemed stunned by the taller teen's words.
He turned his attention back to Sawamura, and finally began to understand what Kuwabara was trying to tell him. He had to prove himself, not just to Sawamura and the others, or to Enomoto, but to himself that he was indeed a man. One who could freely wield his fists if necessary. Returning Sawamura's angry glare with his own determined expression, he kept his fists raised and awaited the oncoming onslaught.
'I've been afraid of bullies for a long time, and always needed someone to fight my battles for me. If I don't fight now, that fear will turn into hatred again. Just like it did with Sensui-san. I'll swing my fists, and win my own battles. Just like Kuwabara-san!'
With a shout, Sawamura charged forward, launching a right cross straight at Mitarai's face. Mitarai leaned back, avoiding the blow as he began to dance around Sawamura. Sawamura stayed with him, keeping up the same pace as he turned and began a series of left jabs at Mitarai's jaw. Mitarai moved from right to left, weaving out of the way of Sawamura's punches. The left jabs soon were mixed with right hooks, which Sawamura began launching as well. Mitarai managed to avoid these too, ducking and leaning away from the blows.
The two teens continued their fighting waltz around the ring. However, a slip up by one of the young men soon occurred. Mitarai's right foot slipped as he narrowly dodged one of Sawamura's punches, causing him to lose his footing momentarily. Seeing this, Sawamura wasted no time and capitalized on the blonde's blunder, swinging his right fist in an uppercut aimed at Mitarai's ribs.
Having his guard still up, Mitarai was able to cushion the blow by tucking his arm close to that area of his body. Sawamura didn't let up, choosing to finish repeating his earlier attack by launching a right hook at the side of Mitarai's head. The teen was ready, however; and brought his left hand up to deflect the blow. Pushing it aside, he quickly lashed out with a right jab that connected with Sawamura's nose, stunning the young man.
Mitarai followed it up by cocking his left fist back, and launching a left cross to the side of Sawamura's jaw. The blow connected as well, knocking Sawamura's head in the same direction as his fist. He then finished with a right hook that knocked Sawamura down onto his back. Kirishima and Okubo, along with Mitarai, were stunned as they watched the downed Sawamura slowly lift himself from the mat.
Kuwabara just smiled, pleased to see the blonde's progression from runt to man. The match soon played out in less grand fashion, as the two sparred less heatedly before Enomoto finally called the match. Wrapping both of his arms around the two young men's necks, he pulled them toward him in as he congratulated them on their enthusiasm. Clapping them both on the back, he took the time to also explain what mistakes each of them made.
"You allowed Sawamura-kun an opening when you took your eyes off him to look at your fist. Never take your eyes off your opponent, not even for an instant. That's the first rule of combat, and could cost you your life in a kill or be killed situation." He explained to Mitarai. "Don't forget that." He nodded to show his sensei that he understood.
Turning to a bitter Sawamura, Enomoto clasped him on the shoulder as well.
"You got sloppy at the end when you noticed Mitarai's slip. You were so eager to finish the match that you were inattentive and attacked with a combination that he'd already seen. That's how he was able to counter it. If your opponent knows what you're going to do, then you should switch up your attacks." He gripped the teen's shoulder as Sawamura also nodded.
"Now bump fists and bow!" He demanded. The two complied, neither taking their eyes off of the other.
"Thanks for sparring with me, Sawamura-san. I hope it was a good match for you." Mitarai said with earnest. Sawamura just eyed him for a moment, before spitting as he turned to the side.
"Humph, you just got lucky kid. But you did alright though. I just gotta stick with calling you kid now is all." He began unstrapping and removing his gear as he spoke, while Enomoto and the others grinned at the seemingly new display of respect.
Mitarai himself smiled as he began removing his own equipment. He handed it off to Enomoto, who once again congratulated him on a job well done. Kuwabara also accepted Sawamura's training gear, giving his friend a teasing smirk in the process. This was met with a light shove from Sawamura as Kuwabara watched him step out of the ring. Turning back to Enomoto's direction, he noticed his sensei now had his gear strapped on.
Giving one glove a final tug, Enomoto flashed him a cocky grin. "You ready for this kid?" He asked. Kuwabara just strapped on his own gear before bumping his fists together.
"You bet, Enomoto-sensei!" His eyes took on a determined gleam as he gave his own cocky grin.
'Just watch Urameshi, I'll show you how a real man swings his fists!'
Walking with his hands buried in the pockets of his summer jacket, Kuwabara strode through the streets, heading to the wilderness at the outskirts of the city. His body was a bit relaxed, having had the opportunity to vent some of his pent up frustration in his sparring match with Enomoto. However, the dull throb stemming from his bruised jaw and forehead did not allow him full relaxation.
Kuwabara still found it perplexing how the force behind his sensei's punches was felt so much. Almost as if he hadn't been wearing any training gear at all. The few punches he did manage to land, by comparison, were considerably lacking in force, despite how much power he put into them. They had only served to stun his sensei at best, but it had been enough for Enomoto to acknowledge his effort afterward.
"That wasn't half bad, kid. You'll be punching like a champ in no time. You just gotta get a bit more focus under your belt." He looked at Kuwabara, a confident smile on his face. "You'll get a helluva lot stronger after that!"
Kuwabara lifted his head, watching the clouds in the late afternoon sky drift overhead.
'More focus, eh?' he questioned. After a moment, he looked ahead and continued to walk determinedly to his destination. He had a request that he was going to make himself, and was prepared to bow his forehead to the floor if necessary.
It didn't take him too long to arrive at his destination, but the stairs leading to Genkai's compound always left him a little winded. As he cleared his ascent, he stood a moment, taking the time to look around and admire the serenity in the old woman's home. A grassy field surrounded the main house and temple that was connected to it.
In the distance, a vast wilderness of trees and mountains surrounded the area, completing the serenity that encompassed it. When the moment passed, he walked across the grassy knoll, stopping at the base of the short set of steps that led up to the veranda. Looking around, he could feel only one presence, a faint yoki that didn't belong to the old woman who he'd come to see. He might've been on his guard were it not significantly weaker than his own and so familiar.
Smiling, he called out in his loud, gruff voice. "Hey! Anyone home?!"
A small noise could be heard inside, followed by the shuffling of feet, and then a shoji door to Kuwabara's right opened up. A young woman, whose diminutive size and innocent face made her appear no older than 14 years of age, stepped out onto the veranda. She wore a simple light blue kimono with a darker colored obi, tied at the waist. Her scarlet colored eyes were the only contrast to her overall brightness, but Kuwabara still found her to be the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen.
"Kazuma-san?" She said after she'd gotten over her surprise.
"Yo! How's it going, Yukina-chan?" Kuwabara called out exuberantly. Yukina smiled at him.
"Hello, Kazuma-san. I am doing well." She gestured for him to come inside, and he accepted as he ascended the small set of steps.
Removing his shoes at the doorway, he stepped inside and surveyed the area but couldn't detect Genkai's presence. He took a seat on one of the cushions in the center of the room. Between the two cushions stood a low table, where Yukina approached with a fresh pot of green tea. Though health conscious at times, Kuwabara never did have a knack for tea. He could drink it of course, having drank it a number of times during his youth. But he never really had a taste for it.
He held out his cup for Yukina to fill, returning the smile Yukina held for him. He sat back, taking a moment to study the liquid in his cup as Yukina filled her own. Once filled, she sipped daintily on the warm drink while Kuwabara downed his in one swig. Letting out a contented sigh, he set the cup down on the table. His gaze slipped around the room, trying to pick up on Genkai's presence. However, he couldn't find it, and he frowned at the idea that Genkai might've gone somewhere and left Yukina alone.
"Hey," he spoke to Yukina, who lifted her head as she refilled his cup. "Where's Baa-san?"
"You mean Genkai-sama?" She asked, and Kuwabara nodded.
"Yeah. I haven't seen her once since I got here, and she's usually good about showing her face whenever someone drops by." He continued looking around the room, as if waiting for the old woman to suddenly appear out of thin air.
"Yes, she's been busy during the day in recent months." Yukina smiled at Kuwabara, who only gave her an inquisitive look in return.
"Busy? What could Baa-san possibly have to do that would keep her tied up all day? I mean she is getting old, so I don't see her off in the woods training all day. And doesn't it get a bit lonely around here for you?" His questions seemed to come a mile a minute, but Yukina just sat and listened, continuing to smile as he began mulling over answers to his own questions.
She waited until he finally went into silence before she interrupted his musings. "It can get a little lonely during the day. But I don't mind. There are plenty of nice birds around who come to visit me and keep me company."
Kuwabara just stared at her, not totally believing what he was hearing. 'S-She plays with birds all day?' His eye twitched at the thought of her just sitting around, tossing bread at a few birds like an old person at a park.
'Sounds like something Baa-san would be doing, if she wasn't such a hermit and all.' Kuwabara just continued to look at Yukina, wondering if she were by some chance joking with him. Yukina simply returned his look with a smile, trying to ease his concern.
"Besides, it's not like I am always alone here. Genkai-sama is usually back before nightfall. And the birds go home by then." She finished her statement just as she finished refilling their cups.
"Oh! Alright." Kuwabara took his cup with a thanks, staring outside at the wide open field.
The late afternoon sun shone a dull light down on the area, and a cool breeze blew gently throughout the main room where he and Yukina sat. The silence between them lingered for just a few moments, before Kuwabara broke it once again.
"So, what's Genkai-baa-san doing when she's not here then?" He asked before tossing back his drink again.
"Oh, she is out training a group of yokai for Kurama-san." A look of confusion appeared on Yukina's face as Kuwabara reacted to the news.
Confusion changed to concern, as she got up to help the young man who was currently experiencing a bout of coughing fits. He waved away her attempts to help him, finally regaining his composure as he started to breathe again. As soon as he was certain he could speak clearly without hacking up a lung, he finally gave a response.
"She what?" He leveled her with a stunned look, surprised once again by her words. Yukina still knelt beside him, wondering what was going on. Kazuma was beginning to act very strangely, even for him.
"Kurama-san stopped by some time ago. He brought 5 yokai with him and asked Genkai-sama to train them. She agreed, and began training them the next day." Yukina began clearing away the pot of cooling water, as well as the cups and tea as she spoke.
A look of hurt appeared on his face momentarily, then disappeared beneath a mask of solemness.
"So that's it, huh?" His question drew Yukina's attention once again. "She agreed to train them? Just like that?" His eyes bore into Yukina's, and she had to turn her head away at the look on his face.
"No, it was not like that. Genkai-sama and Kurama-san spoke for some time, before she agreed to help him." A confused look spread across Kuwabara's face.
"Help him? What the hell has Kurama gotten into that he needed her to train a group of yokai for him?" Yukina met his eyes once again and shook her head, unable to answer his question. A sound akin to a growl sounded in his throat, building until suddenly he was up on his feet.
"I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS SHIT!!! THOSE IDIOTS WENT OFF DOWN THERE AND NOW THEY'RE ALREADY GETTIN READY FOR A FUCKING WAR!" He yelled out, startling Yukina. His fists clenched angrily, and his jaw was tense as he grind his teeth. "I knew this would happen!"
Yukina found herself a little fearful of Kuwabara's reaction to the news, and was looking to try to soothe his anger in some way. Moving up beside him, she placed a hand on his arm and softly called out to him.
"Please calm down, Kazuma-san." Her words had the desired effect, as he visibly calmed once her words reached him.
Kuwabara slowly unclenched his fists and let out a frustrated breath. He glanced down at Yukina and could see the worry in her eyes. Feeling badly for having let his frustrations get the best of him, he turned his head away and began walking to the door that led outside. He could hear Yukina move a couple of steps forward behind him, having every intention to follow him and make sure he would be alright.
He paused at the doorway, his shoulders hunched underneath his jacket.
"Kazuma-san," Yukina called out softly, "please, tell me what is wrong." Silence was the only thing that answered her for a few drawn out moments.
"It's nothin'. I just, I was hopin' to ask baa-san to train me." Kuwabara turned to look at her surprised face. "I've been wantin to be stronger, ever since Urameshi and the others left. I've always been the odd man out in this group, even before Urameshi became a yokai. I was just hopin' things could be different this time. And that baa-san could help me, ya' know?"
Kuwabara stepped back out on to the veranda and took a seat on the edge. His body leaned forward, being supported by his elbows placed on his knees. His eyes were half-lidded as another warm breeze blew by, ruffling his red hair. He heard Yukina's soft footsteps approach from behind, pausing as she sat down on the edge of the porch beside him.
Her eyes were focused on him, and something within her stirred once again at the despondent look on his face. Yukina didn't understand what was going on. It obviously had something to do with the news he'd just learned. But she couldn't figure out exactly why he was acting this way. She had been there when the others had all made the decision to leave and travel to Makai, and she remembered that Kuwabara had been the only voice against either of them going.
In fact, if she recalled, he had even made the decision to stop fighting so that he could live a normal human life. Something inside her told her that if she let him leave without saying something to lift his spirits, then he would develop some kind of resent toward Kurama, Yusuke, and Hiei. Perhaps even Genkai herself.
His words suddenly came back to her. 'I've always been the odd man out in this group.' She looked again at the downcast look on his face, and decided she had to know what was really wrong.
"Kazuma-san, please tell me what is wrong." Kuwabara looked up at her, watching her stare out across the field with a smile on her face. He suddenly wished he could live so carefree. But the possibility of his friends at war with each other simply wouldn't let him.
"You said a moment ago that you have been wanting to be stronger, since Yusuke-san and the others left for the Makai. But why? Why do you want to be stronger now?" That question drew his attention back at her, his wide eyes meeting her own red ones. "I mean you're already quite strong now, and brave too. Your bravery is what inspired me to not give up on finding my brother. Even when I wanted to give up myself."
The kindness in her eyes combined with her words had him clenching his fists once again. Only this time they were clenched due to doubt instead of anger. It was the second time today that someone had told him that he was strong already, a fact he was well aware of.
'So why? Why do I want more of what I already have?' He watched his and Yukina's shadows grow on the field as the sun continued it's slow decent from the sky, and remembered his original reason for wanting to be stronger.
"I... when Urameshi and the others left, I felt helpless. The three of them were going to the Makai to fight in some giant yokai war, and I couldn't say a single thing to stop them. Despite what I said to Sis, I knew that part of the real reason she, and everyone else, didn't want me to go was because I wasn't strong enough." He continued speaking, cutting off Yukina before she could respond.
"Yeah, I'm strong enough to fight here in Ningenkai, and I even survived the Ankoku Bujutsukai. But the Makai is a whole different place." He looked up to the sky, his eyes taking on a faraway look. "I could feel it the moment we got down there. That nut job, Sensui, was really strong. But a part of me could feel more powers down there, like stronger monsters were lurking around."
He then turned his attention back to her. "There's no way I would've been able to survive down there, not as I am now. That's why I've always felt like I've been in Urameshi's shadow. Even back during the tournament, I always felt like people didn't acknowledge me, even though I fought just as many fights as they did." He let out a tired sigh before speaking his next words.
"I know I told Sis that I would stop all this demon fighting stuff. I promised her I would get serious about school, and even though I've kept that promise so far, I'm startin to wonder if there's not something more for me to do, ya know? I made a promise that I would live a normal life. I've been wanting to get outta this shit for a while now. But the more I think about everything I went through with those jerks, the more I wonder if living normally is even possible for someone like me. A human with powers like mine, I wouldn't really BE normal, ya know?"
Yukina just listened to him, taking in every word he was saying. She understood him then, understood that feeling of being an outcast among his own kind.
"If I quit now, I'll never know what else I can really do, or how far I can go, and I'll always feel like I gave up without even trying." He looked at her then, no more solemness or anger in his visage. Only determination remained, as if he were answering an unspoken challenge. "I just don't wanna live the rest of my life wondering what it'd be like to step out of Urameshi's shadow and into the light for a change."
Silence reigned between them for a moment, as Yukina sat looking out at the grassy field. A few tense moments ticked by, as the sun continued to lower further down the sky. Finally, it was broken.
"I... I think you should become stronger then." Her statement drew his attention once again, and for the third time that afternoon, her words had caught him off guard again. "When I first met you all, I thought that you were one of the bravest men I had ever met. And you were so kind to me too, wanting to help me search for my brother, in spite of the fact that finding him wasn't your responsibility."
"That man, Tarukane, he used me because my tears produced valuable treasures that could make him richer. You, however, you begged me not to hate humans because of him. You said that there were good humans in the world too, just as there were bad ones. In this short time that I've known you, Kazuma-san, I've watched you fight battles that you really did not have to fight in.
You stood bravely in the face of evil men, even when the advantage was not yours. I have watched you fight for your honor, for myself, your friends, and your world. And each time you have survived and grown stronger, even when you did not win. That, Kazuma-san, is where I believe your true strength lies."
She then smiled at him, as she spoke her last words of encouragement.
"And if there is no one there to help you achieve the strength you want, then I think you should reach for it yourself." His eyes widened fully now as he sat back, stunned by what she was saying. "Become stronger, Kazuma-san, so you can live without any regrets."
Kuwabara just stared bug-eyed at her for long moments, making Yukina begin to believe that she might have said something wrong. Immediately her hand shot up, attempting to cover her mouth.
"I... I mean, that's not to say you're not strong al-" her words were cut off as Kuwabara had taken both of her hands in his. He gave her a serious look, one that seemed out of place and appeared to be reserved solely for her.
"You're right, my love. Your kind and encouraging words have touched me deeply and reminded me of who I am." He held onto her hands for a moment longer, and Yukina smiled even as she could not understand why he was behaving so oddly again.
'At least he seems more like himself again,' she thought to herself as he let go of her hands and stood up. His voice was filled unmistakably with pride as he spoke his next words.
"I'm Kuwabara Kazuma, the real man of Team Urameshi, and I'll get stronger without anyone's help! Then I can rub Urameshi's face in it!" His face was turned up to the sky, and a proud smile was displayed on his face. His fists were clenched once again, this time with the determination that had become his trademark.
"Thank you, Yukina-san!! Your words have cast away a fool's doubts. Let me pay you back, huh?" He asked with a sparkle in his eyes and a kind grin on his face.
"You don't have to pay me back, Kazuma-san." She spoke earnestly, trying to wave away his offer. However, Kuwabara was diligent and would not take no for an answer.
"Come on, Yukina-san, you have to let me pay you back. I know! You should come and hang out with me and the guys tomorrow night. It'll be fun I promise!" He looked her again, and Yukina found it would be rude to deny his request. Besides, she hadn't had fun with another person in long, long time.
"Hm, alright, Kazuma-san," she nodded, accepting his offer.
"Yeah!" Kuwabara cried out exuberantly. "Thanks, Yukina-san! I promise you we'll have fun. I'll be here to pick you up this time tomorrow afternoon, OK?" She nodded again, and watched as he turned his back and began a jog toward the steps leading away from Genkai's home.
"See ya tomorrow, Yukina-san!" He called out, turning and waving at her before bounding off energetically down the stone steps.
Yukina waved back at him, lowering her hand slightly as she continued to look in the direction the energetic youth had gone. A noise beside her drew her attention, and she turned to see Genkai standing next to her. Yukina was slightly startled not just by the old woman's sudden appearance, but more so by the half-lit cigarette dangling from between her lips and the thoughtful expression on her face. She also happened to be looking out in the same direction Yukina had just been looking at.
The elderly woman then shook her head slightly and looked over at Yukina. "Yukina-chan, I understand you have some healing powers, is that correct?" The younger woman nodded in acknowledgment. "Good, have a good time out with Kuwabara tomorrow. Come Monday, I'm gonna begin training you in advancing your abilities. We're gonna probably be needing them in the coming months."
"Hai, Genkai-sama!" Yukina responded, and with that the old woman walked down the hall to her bedroom, as night began to fall over the hermit's home.
To Be Continued..........
Reikai tantei - means Spirit Detective
Mazoku - term used to describe Yusuke's demon heritage, more specifically referencing the off-spring between a high-class demon and a human.
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