A/N: Again, in the long, long ago when I read/wrote fic regularly, there was this trope of incorporating song lyrics into your chapters or stories. Most fics had at least one “Song Chappy” and mine is no exception. I was pretty heavily into Evanescence at the time I started writing this. Fallen had just come out (dating myself, I know) and I listened to it on repeat for weeks. When I knew I was going to have a chase scene, this song became a major source of inspiration because in my head the scene played out like a music video for it. I could have cut the lyrics from this iteration, but I decided to leave them in as an homage to the fanfics of old and to my original telling.
Chapter 9 – Whisper
Catch me as I fall
Ali hadn’t been on the run more than twenty minutes when they were upon her. Dozens of creatures like the one that had attacked her earlier in the day swarmed her as she fled the estate. She was faster than they were and dodged as they lunged at her.
Swipe. Duck. Lunge. Dive. Block and parry. Repeat.
She couldn’t go on dodging forever but there were far too many to take on alone. She kept running. Zigzagging through trees. Leaping over bushes. There would be a clearing eventually. There was always a clearing.
Her senses were in overdrive as she tried to watch where she was going and deflect attacks from behind and to the sides. At the very least she was able to stay a few steps ahead of them.
The air was blessedly cool despite the heat of the demons breathing down her neck. It had been a solid minute since any had come close to grabbing her; how far behind her were they?
The momentary glance she spared behind her was just long enough to miss the root sticking up from the ground. Her foot caught it and she cried out as she fell.
Say you’re here and it’s all over now
She braced herself for the impact of the ground but was instead caught at the waist. Panic that she had finally been caught swept over and she nearly wrenched her neck turning to see the face of the one who held her. “Hiei?!”
He glared at her as he placed her back on her feet. “What were you thinking?”
She didn’t have the opportunity to respond and he cursed as three of the demons fell on them. He slashed at them with his sword and she backed herself against the tree that had tripped her.
Speaking to the atmosphere; no one’s here and I fall into myself
Several energies burst into the area, cutting a path through the monsters. Yusuke, Kuwabara, and Kurama. Her chest tightened upon seeing them. She had hoped Kurama would sleep for hours. She didn’t expect all of them to have followed her so quickly. They shouldn’t have come. They shouldn’t be trying so desperately to protect her. They were going to die.
This truth drives me into madness
Tears poured down her face. She had to do something, anything to stop it. That awful vision. She knew what was coming. The feint from the left that would take Kuwabara’s feet out from under him. The reaction from Yusuke as he blasted his spirit gun to clear the swarm clamoring atop his best friend. Hiei and Kurama back to back slashing and dicing with sword and whip.
No matter how many they cut down, more rose to take the place of the fallen. The enemy was endless. Yusuke complained loudly as he threw punch after punch. “God dammit, there are just too many of them!”
“Come now detective, don’t talk like that,” Hiei shouted back, his eyes wild and almost gleeful. “Clearly you’re just not trying hard enough!” To emphasize his point, he drove his sword through two demons and tossed them aside. He smirked as he cast a glance her way. His grin faded as he saw her face. He called out her name.
I know I can stop the pain if I will it all away
Her body wouldn’t move. She had strength enough to fight alongside the detectives but she was trapped by her own fear. She was afraid of their failure, afraid of seeing their bodies on the ground, bloodied and lifeless. She was afraid she had caused it by running away. Was it truly inevitable?
Hiei’s sudden exclamation distracted his teammates. They all turned to assure themselves she was unharmed. Their enemy made them suffer for it.
Don’t turn away (Don’t give in to the pain)
The demons overwhelmed the Spirit Detective and his allies, swarming en masse, a tidal wave of flesh and rage. A white light broke through the conglomerate and incinerated a couple dozen of the creatures with a single blast. Yusuke stood at the center, his fingers folded over as though they were holding a gun, a satisfied smirk adorning his face.
Don’t try to hide (Though they’re screaming your name)
Ali stood with one hand on the tree for support, her knees trembling and threatening to give. Everything was happening as she had seen it earlier that afternoon. “You couldn’t have done that sooner?” Kuwabara scolded Yusuke.
“Hey, I still have limited ammo you know.”
“Guys, don’t let your guard down just yet,” Kurama warned. Another wave surged out of the trees. Ali wanted to run, to get as far from the battlefield as possible. Her legs refused to obey her, and she sank to the ground, tears blurring her vision.
Don’t close your eyes (God knows what lies behind them)
“Where the hell are they coming from?” Kuwabara shouted as he summoned a sword of energy in his fist and relieved a demon of its head. “I swear the darker it gets the more come out of the shadows!”
Attack. Defend. Swarm. Slash. Slice. Blast.
For every demon they cut down, it seemed two more took its place. The pile of bodies was growing, but the fighters persisted. “We’ll get to the end of them sooner or later,” Yusuke encouraged his team. “Keep pushing!”
Don’t turn out the light (Never sleep never die)
But they had been pushing for a while. Weariness was beginning to set in and Ali knew it was only a matter of time. Kuwabara’s stamina seemed to be waning the quickest. His breathing became labored and his energy flickered with each thrust and slash.
Kurama and Hiei seemed no worse for wear, but Ali could see the sweat on their brows, could smell it in the air from all of them. Why didn’t they just leave her? She wasn’t worth the effort. They were going to die in vain.
I’m frightened by what I see but somehow I know that there’s much more to come
Like déjà vu, Ali watched in horror as Kuwabara, breathless, was overtaken by a horde of demons. She cried out to him to no avail. Startled by her voice, Yusuke turned to look for his best friend. Enraged, he summoned a multi shot blast of his spirit energy and aimed it at the demons piled on Kuwabara’s body.
Immobilized by my fear and soon to be blinded by tears
It was a valiant effort, but it wasn’t enough. The demons turned their attention to Yusuke and, having expended his energy, he was buried under them. Kurama cried out for him and swept his thorny whip over the mass. He stood over Yusuke’s body and persisted his attack. “Hiei, we might have to reconsider our strategy.”
Hiei focused on the enemies in front of him. They fell to pieces in the blink of an eye. “Save your breath,” he answered harshly. “If we focus, we can win!” Another demon sliced in two. Ali’s stomach turned at the stench. It reminded her how it was going to end.
Fallen angels at my feet, whispered voices at my ear, death before my eyes… Lying next to me I fear
One more push from the swarm.
Kurama was swallowed up in it. Hiei spun around frantically, cutting and slashing, leaping and blasting. But if there had been no hope of the team winning the fight, there was certainly no hope of Hiei winning alone. If she could just find the will to fight, to help, to do anything other than sit and witness the horror a second time.
A surprise attack from above knocked Hiei to the ground. He looked up at her, angry that she was still there. “Run, dammit!” She couldn’t move. The demons pounced on him, his bandaged arm outstretched toward her as they buried him.
She beckons me; shall I give in? Upon my end shall I begin forsaking all I’ve fallen for…
Ali sat numbly as her vision came to an end again. She prayed it was just a nightmare and she would wake up back in bed with Kurama keeping watch over her. She prayed she hadn’t just brought destruction to the first people to be kind to her since her parents died. Not for the first time, she wished she hadn’t left her forest and accepted Koenma’s offer of protection. They would all have been better off if they hadn’t met her. They wouldn’t have been hurt.
The swarm of demons thinned out as two approached her. Behind them she could see four shapes in the growing darkness. Bloodied, broken, unmoving bodies. She remained stoic as the demons grabbed her arms and put her on her feet. A look passed between them and their wide mouths broke into sinister grins. Lightning flashed through her skull as one of them punched her in the jaw. Then everything was enveloped in darkness.
…I rise to meet the end
* * *
A dull ache in her jaw greeted Ali as she awakened in a dark room. She wasn’t in her bed at Koenma’s estate. Rolling to her side she found she wasn’t in a bed at all. The ground was cold and hard like concrete and the air smelled musty. The cool stone soothed her face as she turned her head to the other side.
As her senses slowly returned, they brought awareness of new pains in her shoulders and a heaviness on her legs. She tried to push herself up to a seated position but found her arms bound and shackled behind her. She winced as her muscles resisted the attempted motion. Tears warmed her eyes but she blinked them away. Sighing, she rolled to her back and pushed herself up from there.
Her eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, allowing her to see the chains on her ankles as well. Someone was taking precautions against her escaping but seemed to want her intact. She slid backwards on her bottom along the floor until she found the wall and then followed that to a corner. She didn’t want to be snuck upon from behind when her captors decided to check on her.
Ali brought her knees to her chest and tipped her head back against the wall while she waited, alone in the darkness with nothing but her thoughts for company. She was too exhausted to grieve the loss of her friends. What energy she had left was focused inward.
Shame and anger danced around each other, despair attempting to cut in while hope tiptoed at the edges. Hope surprised her, pulling despair away and giving her strength. Hope reminded her she had been foolish to jump to conclusions and should consider other options. She was certain her friends hadn’t survived, but dead or alive, she could do nothing for them if she gave up.
Instincts honed from years of mountain living and knowledge from books she had read as a child took over. She rolled her shoulders and tested her strength against her shackles. They were sturdy; breaking them wasn’t going to be feasible at her current strength. They were tight too. She couldn’t pull them wide enough to slide over her hips to put them in front of her and work on her ankle bindings.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps. A sliver of light appeared on the floor of the wall opposite her. A door was opened and she shut her eyes against the sudden brightness. Forcing one eye open, she peered across the room to see who or what had entered. A tall figure filled the doorway, blocking out a majority of the light before slamming the door closed behind it.
Fingers snapped and a bulb flickered to life overhead. The alternating light and darkness disoriented her and she closed her eyes again, shaking her head to dispel the spots that fluttered in her vision. “Ah, good, you’re awake,” a masculine voice announced. “Comfortable?”
Ali managed to get one eye open again and glared up at him. “Not particularly,” she grunted. As her vision readjusted to the brightness she got her first good look at her captor. He was another demon, though not the same race as the creatures that had attacked her in the woods. He had a similar feel, something about his energy that alerted her to his nature despite his very human appearance.
He was tall and muscular. She wasn’t sure if he was trying to impress her, intimidate her, or if he was just vain, but he wore no shirt under his cloak and his pants were so tight she could make out every line of his thighs and calves. His jet black hair fell to his shoulders, cut to a razor straight edge. His eyes were just as dark. She didn’t like the way they leered at her, drinking her in.
She spared a quick glance around the room. It was much as she had suspected, a tiny concrete cell. There were no furnishings, not so much as a rag to sleep on or a hole to piss in. Her cursory survey ended back on her captor’s face. He seemed expectant. She glowered at him. “What do you want? Who are you? Where are we?”
He threw back his head and roared a deep thunderous laugh. “Patience, my dear,” he grinned. “All will be explained shortly.” He licked his lips and took a step towards her.
Ali tried to slide away from him, but with her back to the corner she was already as far as she could be. Cursing herself for not finding the wall with the door earlier, she gritted her teeth as he pulled her to her feet by grabbing her chin. It sent a spike of pain to the back of her head and she swallowed hard to keep from crying out.
“I’ve waited so many years for this,” he whispered, leaning into her until his face was just inches from hers. He took a deep breath and his mouth broke into a wide smile. “I will awaken the power sleeping within you and unleash it on the realms. The worlds will fear the name Hitokiri and tremble before me.” His menacing smirk revealed sharp teeth. “But you will call me ‘Master’.”
Ali held his gaze with her own. “You think you know how to wield my power?” she said in a low tone.
He narrowed his eyes. “It’s been sealed away, but I hold the key to unlocking it.”
“Koenma will stop you.”
He took his hand away from her face and laughed. “His strongest could barely handle my minions. They’ll be no match for you.” His face fell as he saw a smirk tug the corners of her lips.
They were alive. Of course they were. She permitted herself to laugh. “Oh, you damn fool.”
She was chiding herself, but Hitokiri took the insult as though it were intended for him. “You will respect me, girl!” He drew the back of his hand across her face, further aggravating her abused jaw.
He was a fool though. She spit blood onto the floor at his feet and leered at him. “You’re just like the rest of them,” she crooned. “You don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into. But you’ll learn, just like everyone else. It’ll be too late then.” She sharpened her gaze, piercing him. Her voice was darker when she spoke her next words, seemingly belonging to someone else even as the words came from her own tongue. “You’re not who you think you are.”
Hitokiri’s face paled for a moment, then contorted in anger. “I know who I am.” He balled his fist and sent it into her abdomen. It wasn’t half as hard as the hit she had used on Kurama; he wasn’t trying to incapacitate her, just punish her. Still, she slid to the floor. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, girl. You don’t even remember who you are.” He kicked her in the small of her back. “We’ll have another lesson shortly.” He dug his heel into her thigh and pushed her away as he spun toward the door.
He snapped his fingers as the door slammed behind him and Ali was left alone in the darkness once more. Her body ached where he had beaten her but she grinned as she recalled the momentary uncertainty on his face. She ignored her pains as her body trembled with laughter. Even to her own ear she sounded manic, but she knew she was perfectly sane. She knew exactly who she was.
Laying on her side with her arms stretched out behind her back, she stared at the wall and made a plan. Hitokiri had made a mistake telling Ali her friends were still alive. Like her, he underestimated them. And like everyone else, he underestimated her. It seemed the time had come to reveal just how much.
* * *
Hiei awoke to the sounds of his teammates groaning as they regained consciousness. He looked to the tree where Ali had been rooted in fear during their battle. She was gone. He slammed his fist on the ground in frustration.
How long had they been out? The sun had set during their fight, but the sky was blocked by the leaves of the trees. Stretching his sore muscles, he leapt to the top of the nearest tree and looked to the horizon.
The last light of day was just fading. He fell back to the ground to inform his allies. Kurama was wiping dried blood off his face. Yusuke and Kuwabara were stretching their backs and nursing various wounds. “How bad does it look?” Yusuke asked Hiei.
“We were out about an hour,” he answered sharply. His pride stung from being incapacitated by a swarm of low level scum.
Yusuke nodded. “Could be worse,” he said.
His lack of urgency irked Hiei. “We failed to protect her,” he snapped.
“C’mon man, chill.” Yusuke looked at him quizzically. “We’ll get her back.”
“What do you care anyway?” Kuwabara muttered.
Hiei ignored the ginger. “Do you know which way they went, detective?” he spat the last word. “Because with all this carnage I can’t sniff out a trail, but by all means enlighten me to your superior human tracking methods.”
Kurama cleared his throat behind them. “I was not wholly inept in my duties,” he explained. “I planted a small seed in her hair that will allow me to track her over any distance.”
Tension left Hiei’s shoulders as he silently thanked his friend for having such foresight. It escaped him how he was so worked up over their failure. It felt like a personal failure and was a feeling to which he was unaccustomed.
“We should go back to Koenma,” Kuwabara sighed. “Let him know we lost her.”
“Don’t speak of her as though she’s already dead,” Hiei snapped.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Kuwabara shouted back.
Hiei tightened his fists. He really wanted to hit the idiot. He could do it and the fool wouldn’t even know what hit him.
“Alright guys, cool it,” Yusuke interrupted. “We really should regroup and let Koenma know what happened. Kurama, you sure you can find her?”
The redhead nodded. “It feeds off my own energy. It’s like a small string pulling me towards it.”
“Good.” He dug in his pocket and pulled out a small round compact Hiei recognized as the communicator they used in Maze castle. He was certain they had lost it. Yusuke flipped it open. “Yo Botan, you there?”
A slight crackle emitted from the device but her voice soon followed. “Oh boys, are you alright? Is Ali safe?”
Yusuke scratched his cheek. “Well, we kinda lost her in the battle.”
“What?!” Koenma’s screeching voice grated on Hiei’s ears.
“It’s ok, Kurama is pretty sure he can track her,” he assured the prince. “Unlike some of us, he thinks ahead.” The kitsune chuckled at the praise.
Hiei rolled his eyes. The longer they stood around chatting, the further their enemy could take Ali.
“What?” he snarled.
The other boys looked at him after glancing at each other. “What, ‘what’?” Yusuke asked.
“One of you called my name.” He folded his arms across his chest.
“No we didn’t,” Kuwabara said, glancing at the other two to be sure they hadn’t.
Hiei scowled. He was sure hadn’t imagined it.
“There it is again,” he muttered, turning about to track the source of the sound. Was it coming from the woods? “Who’s there? Show yourself!”
“Hiei, are you alright?” Yusuke asked.
“I’m fine,” he snapped, eyes scanning the darkness, trying to sense who was calling him.
He flinched as Kurama laid a hand on his shoulder. “You are acting strangely.”
Hiei glowered at his friend. They were all staring at him with varying degrees of concern and confusion. Why couldn’t they hear it?
“There! Did you hear that?”
They all shared looks amongst themselves. None of them had heard a thing. What the hell was going on?
Hiei, you jerk, I know you can hear me!
That voice. He gaped. Of course. Ali?
Yes, who else would I be?
He laughed aloud, ignoring the fact that his friends were questioning his sanity. The psychic blocking him from her mind was Ali herself. It was so blindingly obvious he couldn’t believe it hadn’t occurred to him. Who indeed. Are you alright?
She was silent a moment. I’m sore, she replied. Took a hit before I was brought here and was beaten after I woke up. I couldn’t hit back or defend myself, my arms are chained behind me and my legs are shackled too.
She let him into her mind to see for himself. The cell she was in was cramped, and in her mind he could feel all her aches and pains. It lasted only a moment and then he was back in his own mind. We’re tracking you now, he told her. Do you have any information that could help us find you faster?
He could imagine her shaking her head. Sorry, I was unconscious the whole way here. But the man who is holding me calls himself Hitokiri. He says he intends to make me use my power for him. She paused. This cell isn’t exactly ideal for meditating. I’m worried that’s part of his plan but I don’t know how he means to control me when my own power overwhelms me. Said something about having the key to unsealing it.
He frowned. That did not bode well. He glanced at his allies and their faces reminded him they had no idea he was in contact with Ali. Can you explain this to the others too or am I going to have to?
Sorry, she answered. I’m straining as it is. I was only able to reach you because of something amplifying your ability to hear me. You’d all be out of my range otherwise.
His Jagan eye, of course. He raised an eyebrow, although he knew she couldn’t see it. What is your range otherwise?
From her tone he could hear the smirk in her reply. About five kilometers.
He sighed. She was definitely a powerful psychic, but that also gave them an idea of how far away she was. Can you stand to wait a bit while we get a plan together? I’m sure Koenma or Yusuke have some ideas.
I’m kind of at my limit, she replied. But once you guys get close you can reach out to me to explain everything.
Hiei hesitated. Would he be able to reach her? It bothered him that she could so easily get into his head while he had no access to hers. You’re going to have to let me, he commanded.
Of course, she said. Sorry, I didn’t realize.
Don’t mention it. He paused. Seriously.
Thanks, Hiei. He could feel her smile through the mental link. It was another unfamiliar sensation, like the sun on a warm day but contained within his mind.
Stay strong. We’ll be there before you know it. She made no further reply and he knew his contact with her had ended. He recalled Kurama’s intrigue from the day they met her and now fully understood it. She had piqued his own interest too.
He turned back to his teammates. They were still gaping at him with quizzical expressions. He smirked. She was going to owe him for making him be a messenger.