The Book of Cat With Moon: A Yu Yu Hakusho Redemption Story

When I was younger, I found fanfiction to be more addicting than anime.  I saw various writers (some who were very good) creating awesome stories that beyond what we saw on television.  As the amount of free time I have and my focus in media has changed, I read less and less fanfiction.  Still, when a good piece comes along, especially one that reflects ideas like redemption or transformation, I’ll jump right in.

Today, I’ve included chapter one of a Yu Yu Hakusho fanfic.  I’m not overly familiar with the series, only watching some of it during its original Cartoon Network run, but I can say the writing below is fantastic.  Here are some notes by the author, Kenshin (you can also visit Kenshin’s blog, Heart of Sock):

When I put a link to my fanfiction into a siggy line – I often title it “Tales of Love, Sacrifice, and Sushi.”  My characters and stories are about redemption and reconciliation, but though the themes are there, they are subtle, and leavened with the kind of battles and banter that made Yuu Yuu Hakusho so endearing.

Point to ponder: Whenever an anime character wants to protect someone, he places himself between the person he wishes to protect and the threat—and flings out his arms—in the position of the Cross

Without further to do, here’s chapter one:

The Book of Cat With Moon
Chapter 1: Solitude of a Falling Star

When he first entered the park, Kaitou Yuu felt no sense of danger at all.

‘The park is an oasis of calm-‘

Terrible. Ghastly.

And yet Kaitou loved the park at night. Of the many cities-within-a-city comprising Tokyo, Yoyougi Kouen was his favored realm. He walked quickly, a tallish boy of 17, black of hair and eye, with a long, powerful-looking neck and an easy stride. He was glad of his heavy overcoat; the weather was cold for May, and he was more troubled by cold than heat, by noise than silence, by crowds than solitude.

The air smelled leafy, with an underlying tang of car exhaust. Swaths of lawn were dotted with specimen trees, lamps stabbed circles of light onto benches, ponds drew people and wildlife alike. But at night the park turned into a secret society of one, and solitude was his office, his competence, his-dare he say?- Territory.

Usually, it worked wonders upon his Muse, whom he naturally pictured as a beautiful girl. But tonight she had become a toad, playing him false. This stubborn silence had laced his thoughts with desperation, for Kaitou harbored ambitions that went beyond merely besting Meiou Academy rival Minamino Shuuichi. He saw himself as the head of a publishing empire, and all the wealth and prestige that such a position would entail.

He had, not long ago, signed a contract with one of the world’s prestige publishers of poetry, Sakura House.

Someday, he would live where he could have an overview of the park. Money could buy that.

He hurried over brick-paved walkways wide enough for rollerskaters and street performers, now blissfully free of both.

Kaitou’s bench faced a thick stand of trees, their roots obscured by undergrowth. Though they lay some 50 yards distant, their very existence gave him the not altogether unpleasant sense of being lost in the woods.

But not quite alone. The lamp that kept him from darkness had also attracted a large gray moth, now trying to batter itself to death against the bulb’s glare.

‘Sphinx moth seeks the light of doom

Feathered antennae waving a semaphore of-‘

Even worse.

When analyzing someone else’s work, whether literature, film, or boy bands, Kaitou’s pen was his sword.

“We have every confidence you will become our youngest poet,” publisher Jinouka Aoi had assured him. At first the elderly gentleman’s statement had seemed flattering. Now it sounded as though Jinouka regarded Kaitou like a circus dog doing tricks on its hind legs.

For all his published works, Kaitou had never written so much as a single poem, not even the sophomoric free verse in which his classmates reveled.

He had been struggling to perform tricks on his hind legs-to compose one decent poem-for two months now. Not a quatrain, couplet or sonnet had passed muster.

Maybe haiku was his forte.

Kaitou again studied the suicidal moth. It revealed no secrets, no magic. He switched his gaze to the trees.

‘Bench overlooks trees

Branches shake fists at night sky-‘

Definitely not haiku.

A gust of wind tugged the moth sideways. The trees rustled in response. Kaitou jerked his head at the sound.

When nothing emerged from the trees, he relaxed. Kaitou Yuu often fell prey to nerves and knew it.

As a child, he had crept into the hall long after his bedtime to peer into the living room, where his parents watched monster movies. And he froze. Always.

Fascinated yet horrified by the likes of Gojira, Kaitou could not look away until the closing credits rolled. Then he would steal off to bed, only to lie staring at the ceiling, ravaged by scenarios of horror until exhaustion conjured up a nightmare-plagued sleep.

And Tokyo’s streets, though far safer than almost any other world metropolis, were still fraught with dangers: sneakthieves, hustlers, the occasional demonic insect.

A cloud veiled the full moon. The only sound was the rumble of distant traffic; the only movement, the moth fluttering down in its death spiral.

Kaitou heard another growl, dismissed it as the gears of a passing truck. But the guttural sound repeated, and the stand of trees rattled in answer, and kept rattling.

Something was emerging from those trees. Kaitou’s heart began to knock.

Up impossibly high from the ground, a long snout thrust through the boughs of a maple tree, followed by a reptilian head. Snuffling, as an animal on the hunt. Eyes set in front. Binocular vision. Predator.

Cursing the lamplight, Kaitou tried to render himself invisible as the beast’s head thrust forward, and the neck went on and on, parting the leaves, ending in a massive body.

Terrible and fearsome to behold, it cleared the trees and stood for a moment as if lost in thought. For all the its size, it moved with a grace that spoke of speed in reserve-speed meant not for fleeing but pursuit.

Minamino’s little plant attack in Yojigen Mansion had effectively killed Kaitou’s interest in botany. He had since shifted toward the study of zoology.

Even struck dumb with fear, with his heart threatening to shake free of his ribs, Kaitou knew that Japan boasted no native animal the size of an elephant, with six wicked horns arrayed like a crown, none with fangs to give a saber-toothed tiger pause, whose armored hide rivaled that of the rhinoceros, coupled with hair in a luxuriant crest down the giraffe-like neck.

Could it be a dinosaur, somehow detached from time? As was true of the extinct diplodocus, it was taller at the withers than the sloping hindquarters, and had massive dinosaur legs, yet no tail. Its color was difficult to discern in this paltry light.

And it seemed more a monster from a movie than this world.

Now might be a good time to flee. But the old black magic of fear and curiosity kept Kaitou frozen. His hands clamped themselves painfully to the bench, fingers white as bone.

The monster was not yet facing him, its head cocked in an attitude of listening.

No. Not listening, but looking; peering at someone standing foolishly close, a mere ten feet from its forelegs. Where had this person come from?

Kaitou had not seen him approach, nor could he tell the stranger’s identity, but his size underscored the monster’s mass; his head barely level with the beast’s chest.

The monster cracked its long jaws. To Kaitou’s astonishment, it spoke, addressing the person at its knee. Its voice was like gravel splashed with blood, and the sentiment was equally violent: “Move or die.”

Kaitou wanted to comply. But he was one with the bench.

The person near the monster didn’t move either, or cooperate by dying.

The monster thrust its head forward, short-sightedly, then said, “Oh, crap, it’s you.

They’re friends?

“Thanks for noticing.” A heavy voice, lazy and sullen, as though the speaker had been dragged from a sound sleep.

The monster rumbled, “Word on the street is you’re finished. Done for. Nothing but a D-class nonentity.”

“I’m looking at one now.”

The monster gave a long, low hiss. Evidently friendship among his kind was short-lived. “Prepare to die, rodent!”

“After you.” The cloud fell away from the moon, revealing that the ‘rodent’ was young, a kid really, somewhere around Kaitou’s own age. And he was walking toward the monster.

Recalling the moth that had beaten itself to death against the alluring light, Kaitou feared the boy was setting himself up for a similar fate.

Kaitou opened his mouth to shout a warning, but a sword appeared in the boy’s grip, making a silver slice against the backdrop of trees. Kaitou’s jaw clicked shut.

“Don’t you have anything better to do?” inquired the boy, in those same sullen tones.

“Not if you’re offering me lunch,” the beast countered.

“Dinner. At least get your mealtimes straight.”

“Whatever.” By some cruel twist of fate, the beast turned its head and spotted Kaitou. Its eyes gleamed red. “And I see it comes with a free appetizer.” It licked its long chops; slaver dripped down its fangs.

Then it was on the move, stalking toward Kaitou, muscles roiling beneath the armored hide.

A hard chill gripped Kaitou Yuu’s spine. A few minutes ago, his greatest problem had been writer’s block.

The monster took another step. Kaitou could not run. Nerves rasped to bare wire, he was helpless to break the stalemate of fear with either intellect or will.

Fell asleep on the bench. Having a nightmare, like when I was little. Probably wake up now.

And then Kaitou must have blacked out an instant, or there was some sort of temporal dislocation, because the boy was suddenly standing ten feet behind the monster, facing away from it, sword extended behind him.

For a second or two, boy and monster made a still life. Then the monster simply collapsed into numerous bloody hunks.

Kaitou sat blinking.

With Kaitou’s fourth blink, the boy turned toward the monster hunks again. He raised his left hand, palm-down. A sheet of flame spurted from his hand, igniting the hunks. They burned like barbecue coals marinated in lighter fluid and played with a blowtorch.

A breeze wafted the stench of burning flesh to Kaitou’s nose; all thoughts of barbecue vanished in a rush of bile that bit the back of his throat. He kept it down by sheer willpower.

The boy stood watch on the fire, its golden glow illuminating his tranquil face. The flames quickly banked to a simmer of ash. Then the boy turned his head, and his eyes met Kaitou’s, and he left the ashes, moving with a gait as lazy as his voice.

The sword was still gripped in his hand.

Fear, too, refused to relinquish its grip. Kaitou pictured the blade bisecting him-there was so much less of him than there was of the monster that surely he would only be cleft in twain. Then the boy would spray him down with fire, ignite Kaitou’s still-twitching flesh, and watch Kaitou burn just as calmly as he had watched the monster.

For the life of him, Kaitou could not move.

The boy advanced so slowly that it was difficult to tell whether he walked with a slight limp. He stepped on the fallen moth (whether by accident or design Kaitou knew not), and stood regarding Kaitou in a silence that clawed his nerves to shreds.

Then he heaved a great sigh, and sat next to Kaitou. “I’ve lost a step or three,” he said.

Up close, the boy was good-looking, with hair as ebony as Kaitou’s own, but spiked where Kaitou’s was whorled; he had sculpted arms, smooth clear skin and expressive, slanting eyes.

Kaitou’s cashmere overcoat hid a rather bulky figure, in contrast to his narrow, ascetic face. This discrepancy had always bothered him, for he felt his form was not a true reflection of his function.

Kaitou peeled his hands off the bench to adjust his eyeglasses. The wood grain had left red striations in his palms.

With visible effort, as though it now weighed a hundred pounds, the boy lifted his sword to examine it. “Disgraceful.”

“I b-beg your pardon?” Though still glazed over with fear, Kaitou found his voice.

“That thug was right.” Laying the sword aside, the boy shook his head, gave a soft, snorting laugh; steam rose from his nostrils, reminding Kaitou of pitchforks and brimstone. “Look. Blood all over.”

“Blood all over-?”

“Usually when I cut, they ain’t got time to bleed.”

Kaitou had no idea what the kid was talking about.

Yet the monster had recognized his slayer, and he did look naggingly familiar. Clad in black, with sleeveless shirt, the boy did not seem to comprehend that it was cold. His sword arm was not quite bare, but covered by a fingerless black gauntlet that stretched almost to the shoulder. A string of wooden beads hung at his neck; his hair was enlivened by a white starburst, but kept in relative check by a white headband.

It was the headband that tipped Kaitou. “H-Hiei, isn’t it?”

Hiei nodded. “Got it in one.”

“They talked about you. When we went against Sensui.”

Hiei again lifted the bloody sword. “At least it didn’t break. That hide was tough.” Bending, he wiped the blade on the grass, then gave it up with a grunt of disgust, sheathing the dirtied sword in a saya strapped at his back. It looked as though it would be uncomfortable. “That’ll teach me to come out when I’m less than a hundred percent.”

“Then why-”

“I just go where they send me.”

“They?” Kaitou wondered who would be powerful enough to send this killer to the park. “Yuusuke and Genkai?”

“Ch!” Again, that soft snort of a laugh. Hiei lifted the strand of beads without removing it, dangling it in Kaitou’s face like a challenge. “Know what this is?”

“Of course,” snapped Kaitou. It was a Rosary, named for the repeated prayers said upon its 59 beads. The wood-and-pewter Crucifix crowning its center swayed. Hiei let it thump back against his chest.

“Good for you. Then you’ll realize I traded one form of servitude for another. My life’s no longer my own, even when I’m under par like this.”

Under par? wondered Kaitou. I’d shudder to see him at a hundred percent.

“It’s an uneasy alliance at best,” Hiei continued, “but it is an alliance.”

Humoring the boy, Kaitou nodded as though he understood. “Then that monster just now-”

“Tourist.” Hiei shaded the word with a fine degree of scorn. “Poor dumb bastard thought he was in for an easy meal. Some eat souls. Some eat flesh and soul together. Some just enjoy the killing; it’s a status thing. And some are harmless. But that youkai was right; I’m done for. Lucky for me he was so busy talking trash that I got in the first stroke.”

Only one word that struck a chord of recognition in all Hiei’s gabble. “That thing was a demon?”

“So you are a brain after all. Judging by your columns it’s hard to tell.”

Kaitou exploded from the bench, glaring down at Hiei. “I’ll have you know I’ve p-published any number of books on-”

“Yeah.” Hiei gave a dismissive wave. “I’ve read ’em.”

Taking his life in his hands, Kaitou stated that it required a certain refinement of intellect to appreciate his body of work.

“I’ve also read Shakespeare. No trouble appreciating that.”

“You weren’t just looking at the pictures?” Kaitou itched to bring up the avant-garde bomb Hiei had filmed back in his boy-band days-loosely based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the same way that the honkings of former pop stars were based on the scale that produced Mozart’s compositions.

“You’re in love with words,” Hiei retorted.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“Want to play with words? Write poetry.”

Kaitou sank back to the bench, legs shaking like gelatin. Could Hiei have probed Kaitou’s thoughts, discovered his newly-contracted book? Worse, did he know Kaitou was stuck? “My columns are read by-”

“Save it.” Hiei stifled an enormous yawn.

Kaitou was beginning to suspect that this wasn’t a dream. No one insulted his body of work in his dreams.

Then Hiei leaned a little forward, studying the trees, perhaps hoping for another monster to manifest.

And Kaitou studied him. The Hiei Kaitou knew had been a member of the boy band Romantic Soldier, headed by Minamino. As part of his job, he had watched them perform once or twice. A mix of curiosity, bafflement, and envy was the result.

You could never tell from the boy’s rather sulky stage presence that he even had a personality, much less one such as this. One that hacked monsters to pieces and then ignited them.

But hold that thought: the Sensui gambit again. During their long walk through the cave to Game Master Amanuma’s lair, Urameshi Yuusuke had quipped, “Too bad Hiei’s not here. He could’ve handled all seven on his own.”

A heavy silence had fallen. Minamino cast Urameshi a look that was almost fearful. Minamino the plant master, Minamino of the steely gaze and steelier whip. If mere mention of Hiei could wring that reaction from Minamino (who had so casually caused the death, however temporary, of a mere child) what sort of fell creature was he?

The creature sitting next to Kaitou.

Kaitou added two and two together and came up with 666, the number of the beast.

Hiei gazed into the distance, steam puffing from his nostrils.

If Kaitou’s body were reduced to ash, no one would connect his disappearance with Hiei; no one would realize Hiei was a demon, for he had insinuated himself into the human world with a cover identity so thorough it would take a secret agent to unravel it. But Kaitou never completed that line of thought.

Hiei straightened, with a little gasp, almost of wonder. “Did you see that just now?”

Startled, Kaitou glanced around. “See what?”

“Look!” Rising, Hiei pointed toward the trees. “Can you believe it?”

Another monster? Kaitou thought. Wonderful.

Then he spotted it. Parallel to the trees, skimming along the grass-a cat. A cat? He’s excited about a cat?

“Never seen a cat with so much fur.” Hiei was right; it resembled a walking dandelion. “Kitty-kitty-kitty,” Hiei called. The cat stopped, turned its head.

Run, cat, Kaitou urged, Run!

The cat sniffed the air. Hiei called again.

Of course it would run. It was an animal. Animals had instincts. They knew when something meant them harm.

The cat’s tail shot upright, bottle-brush fashion. Then, defying logic, it pivoted, and danced toward them.

Something took hold of Kaitou at that moment, something that went beyond fear, an awakening into the realm of portent.

The cat. The grass. The moon.

With each step, the cat touched off an effect that leapt outward like a great flash of lightning to encompass the entire park. Not a sound intruded; the world might have been wrapped in cotton batting. Dreamlike, yet not a dream, the cat’s footfalls struck separate, shutter-frozen images of itself, of the park, like a series of photos, blanching color from the world, dazzling Kaitou with black and white clarity.

Flash, flash, flash, the cat came on.

Although Hiei appeared unmoved, Kaitou’s breath clenched in his ribs. He felt a wild panic that could not express itself in flight, nor in outcry; he was trapped, stabbed through the gut, a moth pinned to velvet.

Then the strange brilliance-or whatever it was-passed. The world settled back into color and sound and movement. The cat reached the bench, and stopped to sniff Hiei’s outstretched fingers.

The cat was gray, with copper eyes in a flattish face. Persian. Kaitou noted its details in a detached way.

“Hey, you.” Hiei grabbed the cat around its fluffy midsection and lifted it so its eyes were level with his. “What are you doing out here?” One hand held the scruff of its neck; the other probed the fur at its throat.

He’s going to break its neck. Nothing would surprise Kaitou now, not even if Hiei unhinged his jaw like a python and swallowed the cat whole.

The demon’s slim, human-looking fingers kept probing. “Ah,” Hiei spoke at last. “Thought so.” A metal disk between his thumb and forefinger winked in the cat’s ruff. Hiei addressed the cat again, lifting it once more to eye level. “Someone let you out tonight, didn’t he. Yes he did. The park’s no place for the likes of you. Not with hungry D-class youkai.

The cat was purring. Purring.

Hiei rose, tucking the cat under one arm, where it went limp and content, as though it had just stepped into its own personal limo. “Well.” He continued speaking to the cat. “Your owner’s going to get an earful from me, yes, that’s right. And if he doesn’t keep you out of trouble I’ll give you to the idiot.”

The demon had gone a few steps when he stopped and turned to again regard Kaitou, the cat hanging from his arm like luggage.

After a moment, he came back.

Maybe, Kaitou speculated, whoever ‘sent’ Hiei to dismember other demons also demanded that he leave no witnesses. His scalp prickled.

Hiei’s next words confirmed the suspicion: “You’re dead.”

He still has the sword. Watching Hiei’s measured footfalls, Kaitou turned all but numb. The monster, the fire, the cat, had left him drained, a piece of flotsam washed up on shore. This is it? This is how I die: skewered on the bloody sword of this demon in disguise?

Something about this ignominious end kindled a spark of anger, touched off the small blaze of his own fighting spirit.

His gut twisted. Even if he could do nothing more than glare defiance at his killer, Kaitou would not die like a worm.

Hiei reached the bench. Refusing to cower, Kaitou lifted his head to meet the rending of sword, the searing of flame.

“Stay out of the park at night,” Hiei said.

Then, still lugging the cat, the killer turned his back on Kaitou, walked away, and vanished in the distance.

Only then did Kaitou realize he had never even tried to cast his Territory.

(To be continued: As Kaitou’s troubles mount, a friend encounters trouble of his own.)

Click here to continue reading this completed tale’s next chapter, “The Tokyo Tangent.”

TWWK

Husband. Dad. Occasionally Korean. Enjoys Star Wars, ASOIAF, and Meg Ryan movies. Tweets before proofreading. Ghibli. Oregairuuuuu. Jesus is King.

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