"Back at the creation of the world, Yoru no Kuni was the entire
underground of the universe, housing the Underworld and all the evil that existed in
the world. It
was split apart by fighting demon generals, and from that came Makai, Meikai
and a number of other separate underworlds. But when the demon generals
began to invade Ningenkai, their homelands were also invaded and thought to
have been destroyed, leaving only Makai and Meikai intact."
He raised a cautious eye to Yukina who appeared to be clueless at this point in the story, listening on intently as she walked calmly beside Kuwabara. "The boundary between the other two worlds that were supposedly destroyed was Yomatsu Hara-Sakai ... the Bounds of Night. That was where the demons, spirits and other creatures gathered when their worlds were destroyed. It was a place that my ancestors couldn't describe, but from what I could guess, it's nothing like anyplace I've ever seen. It was described as a world that ran perpendicular, extending from the Gates of Judgment in Reikai all the way down into what was left of Yoru no Kuni"
Kurama ran a finger across his forehead, glancing down to the human girl beside him, holding the glowing gem tightly. "That's where this comes from?" he gestured with a leafy green eye.
Hiei didn't answer. Instead, the little fire demon pulled to a sudden stop in the middle of the sidewalk on which the group walked. As the group all slowed to stop around him, Hiei stared blankly in concentration down the street and into the darkness, his mind searching through the strange city.
For a moment, Yusuke strained his eyes to see down the sidewalk and through the blackness, to possibly pick up whatever it was that had pulled Hiei to his suddend halt. The New York night was inky and black, refusing whatsoever to let Yusuke's eyes see through it, forcing Yusuke to fall back on Hiei's sences. "What is it?" Yusuke asked, looking off into the night with the little youkai, still determined to see the obstical for himself.
Hiei frowned, stepping forward a pace past Yusuke. "I'm not sure. Strange, flashing lights and odd ningen noises are coming this way..."
A siren suddenly burst into existence, filling the street with a pulsating red and blue light to go with the rythmic, annoying whine. Hiei drew his sword, aimed toward the odd lights and sounds and snarled, ready to pounce.
Karyn huffed. "Cops ... they're never around when you need them, and always too late when you do need them," she said, shoving the gem over to Koenma.
"Cops?" Koenma asked, taking it up carefully. "What are those?"
Karyn eyed him. "You from Mars or something? Police men!"
"I think we should make a quick get away," Yusuke said. "Hiei, take us to Makai. Yukina, Kieko, you stay here with ... uh, what was your name?"
The policeman stepped heavily out of the car, his figure graced with one too many donuts. With a slow, bored sigh he pulled out his flashlight and shone it down the street. The yellow light glanced off light poles and followed across the street until three girls popped into the light. The policeman wrinkled his nose and began forward, slowly striding across the vacant street. "Hey. You girls heard any screaming around here?"
The group collectively shook their heads.
He clicked the flashlight off and walked up to them mumbling about his interrupted coffee break. He looked around the group ... Karyn, Yukina, Keiko. His gaze fell back to Yukina, and she flinched, drawing back.
"What's with the hair, girl?" he pointed to her streaming blue locks.
Karyn laid a hand on her shoulder. "Too much chlorine in the pool water," she smiled with a nod.
The cop eyed her. "You girls mind telling me what's been going on down here?"
Keiko shrugged. "Maybe if we knew. Too bad you're too late," she emphasized, drawing a look from the cop. "There was some sicko with a sword here about ten minutes ago, but he ran off that way," she pointed to a random dark alley. "Could be halfway to Tokyo by now!"
Botan shrugged. "Well, I didn't even know other realms existed outside of Reikai, Makai, Ningenkai and Meikai, let alone gateways to them." She floated about a foot off the ground, seated comfortably on her oar in her long, flowing pink kimono. "Who told you this?"
Yusuke shot a finger back to Hiei who glared a hole through the back of his head. "Anything odd surfaced lately in Reikai?"
"Absolutely nothing ... no spirits, no nothing. It's completely quiet around there."
Koenma held up the red jewel given to him by the human, turning it over in his hand slowly. "Maybe we can use this somehow."
"How exactly would we do that?" Kuwabara asked, fidgeting with a stray curl of his almost orange hair.
Kurama took the jewel carefully and held it in his hand, moving around in circles. The energy it put off came at him in waves, growing strongest when he pointed it towards a line of dying trees. With a slight smile, he glanced at the line of trees over the top of the glowing gem before he lowered it and looked off. "Hmm ... works just like a compass."
"A what?" Hiei answered as the group started off. He looked up to Kurama who only smiled, looking off to the dying trees.
The gem lead them on for about two miles through the gnarled forest. Although Hiei was quite at home, Kuwabara would jump at every little thing that moved. He peppered the entire trip with panicked shouts as odd animals scurried by and tree limbs bent down to whap him in the nose.
Kuwabara rubbed his sore nose intently, contorting his face into odd glares and glances until a hand reached out and grabbed his shoulder. "AH!!!"
Kurama threw him a crooked look as his friend jumped about ten feet in the air. "This thing has stopped putting out energy," he tossed it to Yusuke.
"Maybe we're right on top of the gateway." Yusuke looked up to the dark, murky blue above that could pass for 'sky' and searched.
"Maybe you broke it," Hiei said.
"Maybe it saw YOU and died of shock!" Kuwabara put in quickly.
"Why you ... "
"THE GROUND!!!" Botan yelled through the soon to brew fight, pointing down to the forest floor.
The forest floor under the group turned suddenly to an almost quicksand-like substance, sucking them all down up to their shoulders before they could react ... then the floor opened up in a spinning vortex of light, engulfing them totally in an instant. Botan reeled back, shielding her eyes from the light on top of her oar. "Oh no," she whispered, watching on expecting them to come leaping back out.
But they never came back.
With a worried sigh, Botan looked back down into the vortex, clutching the oar handle firmly. "Well, no sense being left out ... " and she flew down into the vortex.
Karyn quietly pushed the door to her parent's apartment opened and stepped inside. The Elvis clock on the wall read 9:25, the hips girating back and forth as the seconds hand circumnavigated Elvis' chest. "I'm home," she called softly.
There was a groan from the couch, and her mother raised a hand, waved and went back to sleep. "Mom? Is it okay if some friends stay the night?"
An affirmative groan came meandering from the couch.
Karyn turned out the door behind her and motioned Keiko and Yukina to come in. The two entered neatly in the house, kicking their shoes off at the door before being motioned up the orange, shag-carpeted stairs to Karyn's room.
It was a totem pole ...
No ... a wooden statue ...
No. The more Yusuke looked at the thing staring down at him, the more and more odd it became. Carefully as he stared, Yusuke picked himself of the floor of a dim forest, keeping an eye on the wierd, totem pole-ish thing beside him. He was alone, as far as he could tell ... standing in front of a tall wooden ... thing in an unknown and silent land.
"DON'T STARE!!" it suddenly yelled back to him.
Yusuke let out a yelp and stumbled back, tripping over fallen branches to land back on his rear end on the forest floor, a cloud of dirt and leaves kicking up around him under the impact.
"IT'S VERY RUDE TO STARE!!" the tree yelled back to him.
"Yeah, whatever," he snorted, getting to his feet and brushing dirt and leaves from his jeans, feeling oddly embarrassed to have been caught off-guard so. The tree shifted in place above him and lumbered forward a few paces.
"What are you? You don't look like any creature I'VE ever seen!" it asked him in a booming voice.
"Same to ya, pal. Where am I?"
"OH!! How noble of you! First you come crashing onto me from the sky ... stare at me like I'M the freak of nature here... and now you want directions! Hmph! Typical. I should have walked all over you when I first saw you."
"Look, friend. I'm sorry," Yusuke tried to be polite. "I was just sucked into some odd portal and ended up here. It wasn't my choice."
The tree glared down to him. "You from Over-World? You are, aren't you! You and your com-pu-tors and auto-mo-biles. Ningen?"
"Sort of. Who are you?"
The tree shook proudly. "Zurui. And you?"
"Yusuke Urameshi Yusuke. Could you tell me where I am?"
"Sure." The tree's 'face' contorted into what could pass as a smile as it suddenly changed moods. "You're in one of Yomatsu's forests."
"THIS is Yomatsu Hara-Sakai?"
The tree rustled.
"What happened to the others?"
"Others? Hmm ... could be anywhere. Yomatsu portals are very random, Ningen." The tree rustled and settled down. "We're a living forest, shifting and changing constantly. Your friends could be anywhere."
"Great," he huffed silently to himself.
© 1998 Jiminy Cricket Presses
On to part 5