A/N: Authors’ notes used to be a thing back when I regularly read/wrote fic. Not sure if they still are (don’t much see why they wouldn’t be) but in any event, I’m gonna put a brief one here at the start. I promise I won’t do one for every single chapter either, just where I have some additional context or fun quip. If by some twist of fate this is your first foray onto my blog, welcome! I usually write short stories from prompts, but as I am currently preparing for NaNoWriMo, I am taking a hiatus from those prompts and instead am posting a full novel-sized fanfiction that I have spent literal years writing and rewriting and rewriting some more. It takes place in the YuYu Hakusho universe (some context here) and is 36 chapters long. That’s right, you get 36 straight days of content. And hopefully, by the end of it, I’ll have written another novel!
Synopsis: A search and rescue mission becomes a mission to protect, but the damsel is not so helpless as she lets on. Hiei is certain Ali is hiding something, but the closer her past catches up to her, the further ensnared he becomes. All he wants is to get her out of his head, but doing so could mean losing her forever and now that he’s found her, she isn’t letting him go.
Chapter 1 – Found
“Ten days, Koenma. It’s been ten friggin days!” Yusuke shouted at the young prince of the Reikai from the other side of the desk. “I thought once the Toguro mess was settled, we’d get a vacation.”
“I know.” Koenma sighed. He wished he had anyone else to call on. “And you deserve it, you really do. Kuwabara, how’s the chest wound?”
The ginger flashed a triumphant grin. “It’s mendin’ just fine, thanks to the power of love!”
Hiei stopped glaring daggers at the back of Kurama’s head to glower at Kuwabara’s. Koenma hoped the fire demon wouldn’t start anything here. “For what asinine reason did you summon us all here, Koenma?” Hiei’s icy stare turned on him. “If we’re only here for a paltry status update, I’m leaving.”
“Yeah, I’m with short and steamy over there,” Yusuke yawned, taking no notice of the penetrating stare the black-haired swordsman had turned his way. “If it’s really so urgent, what are you stalling for?”
Koenma did his best not to swallow under the gaze of his four strongest fighters. He did not want to lie to them, but the truth was far more complicated than he could explain in a short time span. There were too many things he didn’t know yet, though he had speculated plenty. “There’s a-” he paused to search for the right word, “delicate situation I need your assistance with.” The boys all exchanged curious glances, though Hiei’s eyes didn’t soften one bit. “It’s a search and rescue mission, to put it simply.”
Hiei scoffed. “That hardly requires all four of us,” he snarled.
“No,” Koenma admitted. “A pair should be just fine, but I would prefer not to have to order you to go.” He should have just called for Yusuke and Kuwabara, but he wasn’t sure how well Kuwabara was healing, and he thought one of the demons should go. He was most curious how that encounter would play out. The teens were still grumbling amongst themselves and Koenma grew frustrated. “Well, don’t everybody volunteer at once.”
Yusuke sighed. “Fine. I’ll go. I am the leader of this ragtag crew of misfits, after all.”
“I will go as well,” Kurama said, stepping forward. “A search and rescue shouldn’t be too complicated for the two of us.”
“Not with your nose to guide us, fox-man!” Yusuke gently punched Kurama’s shoulder. “So, who’re we goin’ after?”
Who indeed. “There is a girl in the mountains. A girl with an incredibly powerful energy, who may be in very serious danger. We first became aware of her a couple years ago, when her power spiked and alerted us to her existence.” He brought up the briefing screen and revealed the graph showing the energy spike alongside a picture of the mountains and a blurry picture of what might have been a person or might have been an animal. An amorphous blob that could be anything.
“We’d never seen an energy signature that strong in the human realm before, and I sent a previous detective to investigate. He was able to locate her, but then she vanished shortly after. A couple weeks ago, she reappeared. At least, the energy signature spiked again.” He showed another graph with a similar spike. “We’ve been trying to track her, but she is very evasive. I do not think she is even aware of the power she holds, and so it is crucial to bring her to safety before someone with less honorable intentions captures her.”
“Hold up,” Yusuke said, folding his arms across his chest. “How would she not know about her own power if it’s strong enough to cause a blip on your radar? Doesn’t that mean she used it?”
“All it means is that it surged, however briefly,” Koenma said. “There are a handful of reasons as to why that could happen, but I won’t speculate further until I get her in front of me to find out the truth.” If she was who he thought she was, it was imperative that he bring her under his protection.
“It would seem that the sooner we get on our way, the better chance we’ll have at seeing her safe,” Kurama said.
Koenma agreed. He brought up a portal back to the human realm. “This will take you near the last place we saw her, but it has been about a week since then.”
Yusuke groaned. “This is going to take forever. Keiko is gonna kill me,” he muttered.
“Should I tell her you’re off rescuing a damsel in distress?” Kuwabara chuckled.
“If she’s as strong as Koenma thinks she is, she probably won’t come without a fight,” Hiei said. “I don’t need to remind you not to underestimate her.”
“Oh c’mon Hiei, what’s some chick gonna do to them?” Kuwabara whined. “Besides, they wouldn’t hit a girl.”
Hiei ground his teeth. “They don’t have your foolish honor code and they will do what they have to if it means completing their mission.”
While the two descended into argument, Koenma urged the mission-bound boys towards the portal. He had some final words of warning for them. “Hiei’s not wrong. We really don’t know what she’s capable of, so don’t underestimate her. When you find her, offer her assistance only. She’s been living off the grid for a while now. I imagine she’ll come rather willingly and you can avoid a fight.”
Yusuke and Kurama exchanged a meaningful look. They nodded to Koenma and stepped through the portal to the mountains north of the city.
Hiei and Kuwabara were glowering at each other. For a moment he wondered if it wouldn’t have been better to send all of them together. He shook that thought from his head. He didn’t want to frighten her into hiding again. He wanted her to feel cornered even less. Sending both Hiei and Kurama along could have had unexpected consequences. Kurama would be able to handle it though. Koenma prayed he was right about that.
* * *
Shades of brown and green blurred past her periphery as Ali ran through the dense foliage, her pursuers not far behind. Breathless, she leapt from branch to branch, taking as jagged a path as she could towards the forest’s edge.
Clenching her teeth, she wondered why she was suddenly being targeted. It was infuriating. All she wanted to do was live in the quiet of her forest. A couple weeks ago, something had changed within her though, the same thing that had happened two years ago, and whatever it was it seemed to be a beacon to every low-life thug within two hundred miles.
She could smell the salt of the ocean. She only needed to go a little further. The ones chasing her would be caught unawares as she lured them to their death. Dropping to the forest floor, she slowed her pace and turned to face her attackers. They would not find a helpless girl when they reached her.
Taking a defensive stance as they drew near, she focused her energy around her, a trick she had learned from fleeing other pursuers before these. She would have one shot once they caught up to her.
“There you are, missy,” the dark-haired one said as they stopped in front of her. “You are not an easy person to find.”
“That is the general idea when one lives as a hermit,” she growled.
“We want you to come with us,” the long-haired one said. “We’d rather not have to take you by force.”
She curled her lip. They were lying. “I think I’ll take my chances.” She braced herself as they leapt at her together. Putting the energy she had concentrated into a burst of speed, she propelled herself past them, tripping them as she did. Their own momentum caused them to fly forward towards the edge of the forest.
Unfortunately for them, there was nothing at the edge to catch them as they fell. The forest grew to the side of a cliff and as they tumbled, they went over the edge. She didn’t flinch at the thud of their bodies on the rocks below. She was numb to it after luring so many to the edge. Climbing up into one of the trees, she wondered how much longer she could keep hiding. She was tired of running.
The ocean was vast and from her vantage point overlooking the cliffs it seemed peaceful. The afternoon sun caught the ripples far off the shore and glistened like diamonds. She knew, though, how dangerous that shimmering water could be, that beneath the surface was a roiling current that could sweep anything that got in its clutches away.
Her lips curved in a smile that did not reach her eyes. How similar that ocean was to the power within her. She wished she knew why it drew people to her, what they wanted with it. She wasn’t foolish enough to believe they were after her for her looks or companionship. She blew air out her nose. Friends. Now that was a concept she would never understand.
She didn’t have long to dwell on the idea, though. Two more powerful energies were coming towards her. She bit the inside of her cheek. These were far too strong for her to fight. Cursing, she wondered why they wouldn’t just leave her alone. She’d already fought one battle today. Usually she had days between encounters.
She ran along the cliff’s edge, hoping to put some distance between herself and the new pursuers. She could sense them heading straight for her lounging spot. She halted before getting too far, though. These were immensely powerful people coming towards her, but she could also sense their desperation. It was different from all the others who had come after her before. It was… concern?
Curiosity overwhelmed common sense, and she returned to the tree she had been resting in. Settling herself on a branch halfway up that provided decent cover from below, she waited.
A short while later she heard them running towards the edge. Just before they burst onto the cliff, she heard a boy’s voice cry out, “Yusuke, wait!”
“Whoa!” A dark-haired boy slid to a halt just short of tipping over the edge. He peered cautiously over the drop-off and whistled as he took a step back. “That was almost a one-step shortcut back to Spirit World.” He laughed.
“Indeed,” the other boy’s voice came again. Bright red hair topped the head that carefully came out to the cliff. There was something different about him that Ali couldn’t quite place. Something familiar.
He looked back to the forest where they had emerged. “So now what?” the boy called Yusuke asked. “Think you can track her from here?”
The redhead turned his head toward the canopy, staring right at her hiding spot. Her heart pounded in her ears. Could he see her through the leaves? “She’s still here,” he said.
“What? Why?” Yusuke followed his gaze up, frowning at the leaves. “Hey, if you’re up there, come down here so we can have a chat!”
They really did know she was there. For all her curiosity about them, she was suddenly anxious to be away again. She didn’t want to know why they wanted to talk to her. It wasn’t safe for her to be among people.
She dropped to the ground on the other side of the tree and ran back into the heart of her forest. She heard one of them curse as they gave chase. Why though? What could they possibly want with her? They looked ordinary enough, but they each had overwhelming power within them. And they were worried for her safety.
She tripped as that feeling came to her. She cursed under her breath as they caught up to her. “Are you alright?” the boy whose name she did not know asked from a distance. “We are not here to hurt you. We’ve actually come to help, if you’ll allow it.”
The one called Yusuke grumbled about running about all over creation. He was raring for a fight and she almost wanted to give it to him. “Are you sure she’s the one, Kurama? She doesn’t seem all that powerful.”
Ali shook her head. She couldn’t fight them. Not as she was. She didn’t know how far her strength would carry her and she didn’t want to kill them accidentally, regardless of their own hidden powers.
She got to her feet and turned to face them. The redhead, Kurama, stood casually a respectful distance away. He did not want her to think him an enemy. Yusuke was stiff by contrast, but he gasped when he got his first real look at her face. She was similarly shocked to find they were about her own age. What were a couple of teenagers doing looking for her?
Yusuke shook off his momentary disbelief and pointed a finger at her. “Alright sister, who are you?”
Kurama hurried to place himself between her and Yusuke’s finger. The way he reacted, it was almost as if Yusuke had pointed a gun at her. “Really Yusuke, you should be more polite. It is rude to point.” He emphasized that last.
Yusuke blinked confusion, but withdrew his hand. “Yeah, yeah. I’m just sick of these woods and want to go home.” He sighed as he ran his hand through his hair. “Ok, let’s try this again. My name’s Yusuke Urameshi. This here’s Kurama. What’s your name?” This time he offered his hand to her in greeting.
She eyed it warily. He was genuinely trying, but she was still on the fence about whether she should talk with them or run. She had to stop herself from laughing at that thought. Well, she did just say she was tired of running. She smiled as she shook his hand. “I’m Ali,” she said.