Not mine, not gonna be mine, don't have any money, don't sue. Foul language, violence, homosexuality, heterosexuality, and other potentially offensive things, so if you don't like that stuff don't read the story.

Many thanks to everybody who let me rant through points where I got stuck, you know who you are.

All Japanese words are all either names or non-words. The equivalents (hey, geez, arrgh, etc.) just didn't sound right to me. So don't bother with a Japanese-English dictionary. I'll be posting author's notes every few chapters anyways.

The Best Defense
By Jo-chan

Ch. 1- Letters

Tokyo in late June usually suffered from heavy rain, as did the rest of the country, but today it seemed that the unbearable weather of later summer was making an early appearance. The sun blazed high in a blue-white sky, and had long since replaced puddles of last night's rain with glassy heat-mirages. The still air stuck to skin like cobwebs, every breath as thick as syrup.

Hiei dozed on a tree branch, wearing his customary heavy cloak and white scarf, nearly oblivious to the weather. He yawned, letting his mind wander. Yet another sultry, sleepy Ningenkai day. It almost made him want to immolate something. Or spook the hell out of Kuwabara; he hadn't done that for a while. He smirked imperceptibly. He'd go in another few minutes.

A soft hooting distracted him, and he frowned. He cracked open one wine-red eye warily, watching as an owl landed on his branch with a nearly-silent wing flutter, and turned its head to look at him. He moved his foot sharply, since that was the part of him closest to the bird, but it merely hooted again and hopped a bit closer.

Hiei opened his other eye and sat up a bit, a few spiky black wisps of hair falling forward over his headband. Since when did wild birds not take flight when a person got too close? Come to think of it, since when did owls fly during the day? And perhaps most importantly... since when did owls carry ningen mail?

His eyes narrowed as the owl hopped even closer on one foot, extending the other with its packet. Visible in neat hiragana was an address:

Mr. H. Jaganshi
3rd Branch Up, The Tallest Oak Tree
Yukimi Park
Tokyo, Japan

Hiei took the letter suspiciously, ignoring the owl as it flew away. What was the damn fox up to now? This had to be his doing. The only people who knew his second name... which was more of a title than anything else... were Kurama and Koenma, and this didn't quite fit the godling's twisted sense of humor. With a roll of his eyes, he opened the envelope, pulled out the letter, and (under a Western-style crest and letterhead) read:

Dear Mr. Jaganshi,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted in the newly-developed international program at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Hogsmeade, England. Please find enclosed a list of all neccessary books and equipment.

Term begins on Sept. 1. We await your owl no later than July 15.

Yours sincerely,
Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress

The signature was written in a flowing script, repeated with printed roman letters, and he spent several minutes deciphering the name. Upon discovering it not only wasn't one he was familiar with, but was a human's doubled name rather than a demon's singular one, Hiei crumpled the parchment in his fist. He raised his ki a bit and burnt it, annoyed. Someone... not Kurama, unless he'd somehow mixed up his Makai plants and gotten high... was playing a joke on him, and it was NOT funny. Weird as all hell, yes, but definitely not funny.

He flitted off, intent on making his day pleasant again.

****

Somewhat later, a tall youth, wearing a blue school uniform that was far too warm for the weather, walked through the same park. He had orange hair, cut short and combed up into a pompadour, and a rough-hewn face with prominent bones, which was currently scrunched up in a pained expression.

Kuwabara was getting one hell of a migraine. For the past two hours, he'd felt random flashes of a strong, unidentifiable ki less than 50 feet away from him, but every time he looked there was nothing there. He'd yelled... well, okay, screamed like a stereotypical girl... each time for the first hour and a half or so, and gotten a lot of weird looks from passersby for it, but he'd long since developed a tension headache. Yelling now made his brain hurt as badly as a kanji test did. The continuing random psychic flashes didn't help much either.

Damn that shrimp! Hiei was the only one he knew who was this powerful enough to generate those flashes, fast enough to get away before Kuwabara could spot him, and stubborn enough to keep it up this long without flat-out killing him. Not that Hiei would kill him, that would upset Yukina...

Yukina! She could help him with this headache, and he'd get to visit her in the process! Suddenly Kuwabara's day was looking up.

Kuwabara got off the bus, pinching the bridge of his nose in a futile attempt to lessen the throbbing of his head, and sat on the bench at the stop, depressed. He'd forgotten to bring a gift for Yukina. He couldn't even berate himself about it properly since loud noise made his head hurt worse. He deserved it, though, forgetting to bring the beautiful Koorime a present! He sunk his face in his hands.

A soft hoot interrupted his brooding. He turned his head a fraction to the left, just enough to see a large owl had settled on the corner of the bench's backrest. Its talons pinned a letter to the painted wood. Kuwabara raised an eyebrow at the address visible on the front of the envelope, and gingerly took the letter from the bird.

Mr. K. Kuwabara
The Bus Stop
Genkai's Temple
Tokyo, Japan

He was puzzled at that... how had they known he'd be here right now? He opened the letter and read it.

"School of WHAT?!"

****

In an alley somewhere between the temple and the park, another teen boy in an equally too-warm school uniform, this one green, knocked a man's head against a brick wall. He disdainfully let the unconscious man go, not bothering to watch as he slumped in a heap on the ground, and looked around the alley. Several more men lay where they'd fallen.

Yuusuke ran a hand over his black hair, making sure his slicked-back style was still in place. He'd gone easy on this gang, even though it was rather insulting to be targeted as an easy mark.

"Aw, shit!" he muttered. "I'm late!" Keiko was going to throw a fit, he thought as he hurried towards the street.

Suddenly he was blinded by something flapping in his face. He backpedaled with a startled yelp, lost his balance, and fell hard onto his tailbone. "Itai..." he hissed, looking up to see what had attacked him.

A snowy owl stood on the pavement before him, one taloned foot splayed over a letter. As he stared incredulously, the owl hooted and pushed the letter towards him, in a manner he could only think of as deliberate. He picked the letter up, looking at the green-inked hiragana with a mix of annoyance and confusion.

Mr. Y. Urameshi
The North End
The Alley With the Beat-Up Street Gang
Tokyo, Japan

"Mou, what's this?" he grumbled as he ripped open his mail. "Birds delivering letters now. The twerp should've just sent Botan..." This was obviously Koenma's doing, Yuusuke thought as he unfolded the letter and began reading it. "Hasn't he ever heard of cell... phones...?" The letter wasn't from Koenma. "What the hell?"

****

A girl, wearing a powder-blue high school uniform, cheerfully climbed the stairs to the second-story side entrance of her home. She tucked her medium-length, brown hair behind her ear, then fished in her school satchel for her housekey. Wide brown eyes narrowed a bit as she pushed notebooks aside, only to crinkle in her usual smile as she discovered the errant keys hiding in the bottom corner.

"I'm home!" Keiko called, toeing her shoes off in the foyer. There was no answer, and she had not really been expecting one. Her parents would be working in their ramen shop downstairs at this time of day.

She headed to her room and set the satchel on her desk. As she opened her closet to get a change of clothes, she heard a sharp rapping on her window. Keiko glanced at it curiously, seeing nothing. It was probably Yuusuke, since he was supposed to be arriving any minute. But he hadn't come to her window for ages, and why on earth would he move away after tapping on the glass? She undid the latch, figuring he might have been trying to be polite if she was changing... unlikely as that was... and opened the window.

Something large flew through the open window, inches below the top sash, causing her to duck and cover her head instinctively. A low hoot, the hollow 'thwap' of stiff paper hitting a hard surface, and Keiko peeked up through her fingers just in time to see the bird swoop back out. As the seconds ticked away and nothing came back in, Keiko uncurled from her crouch. She shut the window firmly, paused, and turned to slowly approach her desk. She thought the bird had dropped something on it.

An envelope, made of cream-colored parchment, lay flat atop her satchel.

****

A knock on the door pulled Keiko's attention away from the strange letter. She'd read it over several times, barely able to believe what it said. She absently picked up the parchment as she went to answer the door, reading it over yet again as she walked down the hall.

Yuusuke grinned cheekily at her. "Yo."

Something clicked in Keiko's mind, and she brandished the parchment in Yuusuke's face. "If this is your idea of a joke..." she began.

"Oi, you got one too?" He pulled his letter from his pocket and unfolded it. Keiko took it, comparing the two as Yuusuke continued. "This owl just flew in my face out of nowhere and delivered the thing..."

"This is too elaborate to be a hoax, isn't it?" Keiko remarked.

Yuusuke paused. "Dunno. I've pissed off some pretty weird people..."

"All the more reason to ask Genkai about it."

"What?" Yuusuke yelped, turning as Keiko swept past him and headed down the stairs. He groaned in resignation as he realized what Keiko was thinking, and followed her, muttering about pushy know-it-all girls and priestesses.

****

Throughout the bus ride, Keiko was unresponsive to Yuusuke's attempts to talk with her, and he eventually subsided into grumbling. Keiko barely noticed, and he shortly fell silent as well. This continued until they were nearly to the top of the hillside stairs leading to the temple grounds.

"Now the fun part." Yuusuke said sarcastically. "Trying to find the old hag." Keiko spun, throwing her fist out to knock Yuusuke face-first into the smooth flagstones of the courtyard. He pushed himself up, spitting dirt. "Hora, what was THAT for?!"

"Must you always call her that?!"

"Yes!" he shot back automatically. Keiko made an exasperated sound and stalked off, leaving Yuusuke to scramble after her as she made her way to the traditionally-styled living quarters.

"Hello?" Keiko called. "Master Genkai? Yukina?"

"Oi!" Yuusuke shouted.

A screen rolled open a short way along the covered porch, and a delicate, sweet-faced girl in pale blue kimono stepped out. Her hair was a soft shade of ice blue, caught low at the nape of her neck, and her eyes were a deep wine red that matched her crystal hair ornaments. "Keiko? Yuusuke?" Yukina greeted them curiously.

Kuwabara left the room in the girl's wake, towering over her with a goofy grin on his face. "Oi! Urameshi! Keiko! What're you guys doing here?"

****

Shortly after, the four teens were sitting on floor pillows inside, four matching letters lying on the table they were clustered around. Cups of green tea cooled next to the letters, ignored as they listened to Yukina's soft voice.

"And then Kazuma arrived with his letter, and the owl flew away." Yukina finished.

Yuusuke spoke up first. "What's with the owls?" he demanded. "Why would anyone try to send a letter by owl? Seems pretty stupid to me."

"Well, Yuusuke, it obviously *works*, since we all got these letters by owl." Keiko told him. "Besides, mail delivery isn't what's bothering me."

Kuwabara nodded in agreement, frowning seriously. "Yeah. How the..." He paused with a glance at Yukina. "Er, how on earth did they get the right addresses?"

Keiko put a hand to her forehead. "No, not that either." She tapped the letters. "Who *sent* them?"

"This "Minabaa" person, of course." Kuwabara answered, mangling the English syllables.

"First off, Western names are reversed." Keiko informed him. "They put the family name last. And second off, we don't know who or what McGonagall is, if that's their real name..."

"Oi, I thought you'd decided these letters weren't a hoax." Yuusuke reminded her.

"They aren't!" Keiko sputtered. "But... but... they could be a trap... though there are really much easier ways to make you walk into a trap..."

"Ha!" Yuusuke crowed. "All that school's fried your brain, Keiko! You're arguing against yourself!"

Yukina picked up one of the letters. "Um... what do we do if they're genuine?" she asked softly, coincidentally stopping the brewing argument. The other three stared at her blankly.

The screen rolled open, and a tiny old woman with faded pink hair entered the room. Her gaze slid across the four who'd turned to look at her, then fell upon the parchment in Yukina's hands.

"I see you've recieved your letters." Genkai said flatly. They blinked in surprise. "I was told they'd arrive in July. No matter. Botan will be here at six."

TBC

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