Title: Cruel Ties
DISCLAIMER: Inuyasha belongs to Rumiko Takahashi and Hunter x Hunter belongs to Togashi Yoshihiro. Two highly respected mangaka! I do not own the characters in any way nor the story plot. Only the idea of this fanfiction!
MizukixTsukiyomi's Notes: This chapter took so freaking long to write, and after 18k words, I present you with this mess. Honestly, I hated writing this chapter because I didn't know how to execute the final phase and this was the best I could do. This took MONTHS, you guys. Not even kidding. But it's done! Done! I just hope appreciate it...
But anyways, this is the end of the exam arc and we are moving forward after this. Hopefully we are happy about that? Thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter! Seriously makes me happy to see people are liking the story, and honestly, I was ready to drop this story when the reviews weren't coming in at first, but then I noticed we are close to 200! Hard work pays off. Well anyways, enjoy!
Chapter 06: Faith Driven
"Well, then…nine applicants have remained." Netero chuckled as he walked into the arena of the hotel. Walking past the many bodyguards inside and the examiners of the phases before the final, he stopped beside the covered white board in the middle of the room. His eyes scanned the nine said applicants who stood silently, yet he could see the impatience in everyone's eyes.
That was to be expected after four phases.
"I do hope you all got plenty of rest?" He raised a brow to match his grin. "This hotel is owned by the Hunter Exam Selection Committee. The place is all yours until the battles have concluded."
Kagome took another minimal observation of their surroundings; all of them stood in an empty arena with no screens or windows. Just the one door that was both the entrance and exit. After arriving late last night, they were instructed by Beans, Netero's secretary, to rest in their personal rooms. At first they were all iffy about sleeping, but after the seven days in the island playing "hunting", sleep definitely nagged them.
It was now the next morning, and she did not expect the light breakfast waiting at her door from a butler. She accepted it and ate, but that was when she saw the note under her cup of coffee. The note instructed them to the arena they now stood in, but the rest was a mystery.
From the corner of her eyes, Kagome noticed Gon staring at Netero talking to the tux-dressed bodyguards. He had greeted her, but his aura told her his feelings remained planted on the day his pride was crushed. Deciding it was still not time to comfort him, she also remained silent. But judging by the arena, there was only one thing Netero could have in mind for the final phase, and something told her it was not going to be easy.
Netero cleared his throat, "I have decided that for the final phase, we will be holding a one-on-one tournament." His hand rose to grab the cloth covering the board before pulling it off. He smirked at the sight of everyone's confused faces as they saw the abnormal bracket consisting of five battles on the left and three on the right before the final battle met on top.
Leorio blinked as he noticed at the bottom of each bracket being covered by a white piece of paper. "So…only the last person standing passes?"
"One." Netero held up a finger, "only one win is all you need to pass."
"One win?" Leorio repeated. "Wait! Then this tournament-!"
"As the winners are decided, they are also removed from the competition, while the losers continue up the bracket." Netero explained. "In other words, the person who finishes at the top," he pointed at the top of the bracket, "will not pass. Does everyone understand now?"
'So only one person will fail…'. Kagome thought to herself and the abnormal use of the bracket. A tournament where the winner becomes the failure. 'The real question now would be…'.
"Here is the bracket." Moving to pull the white paper covering the bottom of the bracket, Netero's lips curved back into his grin. In one pull, he revealed everyone's application picture and number before the lines where they fall on the bracket.
The priestess's eyes fell to her picture before noticing it was behind the names of Gon, Hanzo, and Pokkle. So depending on who lost, one of those three were going to be her opponent. Her eyes narrowed at the discomfort of fighting against them all, but if this meant to retrieve the jewel and finding her friends, then it had to be done. After all, this was not her first fight, well, maybe in hand-to-hand combat it was. Her eyes roamed down to the right side of the bracket to see the first two opponents on that side to be Kurapika and- '-Hisoka…?' The same churning feeling in her stomach doubled before taking a glance at the Kurta teen. He was awfully calm, just like the clown standing on the other side of the line. There was no telling how these battles were going to go.
"Impressive, aren't they?" Netero gleefully laughed. "After all, everyone has at least two chances to win."
"Two chances?" Pokkle questioned, "but some people like number two hundred ninety-four and four hundred and five get five chances. Is there a reason why a balanced bracket wasn't used?"
Netero nodded, "a question everyone must have. This bracket was assembled based on your performances throughout the entire exam. Those who performed better received more chances."
Reacting to the head of the Hunter Association, Killua's interest and confusion piqued. The bracket had been decided because of their performance? Then it made no sense. His focus narrowed, "that doesn't sound right."
Attention was pulled to the younger white-haired kid.
"Can you explain how you scored our performances?" Killua commanded his question.
Heads slowly turned to the silent examiner of the phase; Netero's eyes closed in thought.
Netero gave the young boy a smile before he shook his head and shouted, "no!"
Jumping back from the sudden yell, Killua's brow twitched in response. "W-Why the heck not?!"
He laughed at his reaction. Of course there was curiosity to the performance evaluation, and he expected at least one person to voice it out. "Your scores are classified; I can't tell you everything, but I can explain our methods." Waiting for the applicants to place their attention on him, he held up three fingers, "first, we consider three major criteria: physical and mental strength, and overall impression. For physical strength, we use an aggregate of agility, flexibility, endurance, and perception. For mental strength, we use an aggregate of resilience, adaptability, judgment, and creativity being the biggest one, although this information is only used as a reference point. After all," he chuckled again, "you were strong enough to advance to the Final Phase. However," his eyes narrowed, "we are most concerned with your overall impression. This refers to any intangible factors not mentioned. You could consider this an evaluation of your potential as a Hunter; we also included the opinions of your peers."
Killua's brows furrowed after hearing Netero's explanation. It was not an explanation he wanted to hear, and it sent him into a spiral of confusion. 'Based on performance? I should be ranked higher, than…'. From the corner of his eyes, Killua took notice of Gon's focus on the board, 'do I have less potential than Gon?'
'Opinion of our peers?' Kagome noted his words. The interviews from the day before had been for this? Reflecting on Netero's questions, now it made sense why he was asking who they would least want to fight. She bit her bottom lip, 'should have really been adamant about Hisoka then!'
"The battle rules are quite simple." Netero continued, "weapons are allowed. No cheating. If your opponent admits defeats, then that will be a win for you. However!" Holding his index finger up, his eyes narrowed on the applicants, "if you kill your opponent, you will be immediately disqualified. The rest of the applicants will pass and that will mark the end of the exam. Are we clear?"
Silence was the given agreement.
"Then," one of the referee men in a tux came forth, "we shall begin the Final Phase."
"The first match: Gon versus Hanzo. Please come forth!"
Eyes coming off from the referee, Kagome looked down to her left to see Gon tying his boots. After moving to the sidelines of the arena, the silence dragged on. The number of auras radiating off from everyone was overwhelming, and it even made her forget to stay calm. This was now a combat phase, and one she feared for sure. Although there were moves Sango and Miroku had taught her in the past, they were only for defense, not so much for the offense side of things. 'Weapons are allowed, so maybe I could use my arrows…'. Her eyes landed on the bow over her shoulder before shaking her head. 'Only that would work on a few people. The ones here have gotten this far for a reason.' No arrows were going to stop them.
Hearing Gon patting down his shorts, Kagome's shoulders dropped. "Don't be so reckless, okay?" She whispered.
"Don't worry, Kagome-onee-san." Gon reassured her with a smile. "I'll be fine."
'Fine is one thing, but you don't measure your limits…'. She had learned that in the span of just the days they had been taking this exam. Gon was definitely a risk taker. The cracking of bones echoed in the room, making her cringe; looking to her right she saw Hanzo twisting his wrists while making his way to the middle of the arena.
Watching Gon take his steps to the middle of the arena and face Hanzo as the referee came to stand between them, Kagome's brows furrowed. Netero had matched them according to his own algorithm, but just staring at Hanzo and Gon standing before each other left her confused. Where did he call this even?
"Gon. Hanzo." The referee gave them a bow with his head before adjusting his black sunglasses. "I will serve as the referee for this round. My name is Masta, nice to meet both of you."
"Yo." Hanzo smirked, "good to see you again."
Both Masta and Gon were taken back by Hanzo's greeting.
"You were tailing me during the Fourth Phase, right?" Hanzo chuckled with confidence.
'Tailing?' Gon questioned.
Masta's nervous laughter cracked as he scratched the back of his neck. "You noticed?"
"Of course! I'm assuming that each applicant was assigned an examiner for the Fourth Phase. Well, I'm sure everyone else noticed."
Gon blinked in thought to Hanzo's words. 'I had no idea…'. Perhaps he had been so into his pursuit on Hisoka that he had forgotten to really scan his surroundings. After all, he did get attacked by another once he had Hisoka's tag – the first time.
'I obviously noticed.' Killua's eyes narrowed, even more annoyed now if that had been not a requirement.
"I thought it wasn't worth mentioning." Kurapika added, looking over at Kagome and Leorio to his left.
Kagome bit the inside of her cheek. She had noticed an extra aura lingering in the shadows, but no matter how much she read it, it was never a threat. Then again, she should have not let her guard down no matter what.
"Y-Yeah…". Leorio replied. 'How the hell was I supposed to notice that?!'
"You have my thanks." Hanzo continued with the smirk ever growing. "My rank was higher because your reports on me were accurate. Thought the outcome was never in doubt! But, moving on! I do have one question for you." Pointing at Masta, Hanzo's face melted to a serious tone. "We can only win if the other surrenders, correct? It sounds like it doesn't count if we knock them out."
Masta nodded, "yes, that is correct."
After hearing Hanzo's question, Kagome could already tell he was going to be an issue against Gon. He was setting a plan in mind, and after hearing Masta's answer, there was no doubt Hanzo was working around it to make Gon surrender. 'This can be a problem…'.
"I see." Hanzo replied before his focus set on the silent boy across from him. He was a boy for sure, but he had made it this far, and judging the glare he received, Gon was definitely going to be a difficult opponent to deal with.
Gon tried to even out his breaths as he waited for Masta to prepare. The time for an actual fight was here, and all he needed was one win. 'He looks tough, but in terms of strength, we should be even, and speed shouldn't be an issue. I can use my own speed to keep on the move until I get an opening.'
"Now then," Masta took his steps away from the two, "it's time to begin."
Leorio's jaw clenched as he watched Gon prepare his stance. 'Get him, Gon!' There was no telling what Hanzo could do, but Gon had to win! It was now a matter if he could do more than his opponent.
Silent, Kagome kept her focus on the two on the arena. The end of the Hunter Exam was here, but it was going to be a long one. 'Gon-kun…'.
Masta lifted both arms in the air, "begin!"
The moment they got their signal, Gon sprinted off to the side of the arena to catch Hanzo from his blind spot. Gon's view remained glued on the ninja even as the rest of his surroundings blurred from his sprint. 'I need to put some distance between us-!' Pupils dilated the moment his view was blocked by Hanzo intercepting his path and staring at him straight in the eye.
"So you're confident in your legs, huh?" Hanzo's expression darkened. "My respects." In a blink of an eye, Hanzo's tightened the muscles on his hand before bringing it down half-strength behind Gon's neck.
Gon's eyesight wavered in as everything around him doubled and colors were lost. He had lost all his senses before he could register exactly what Hanzo had done to him.
"You did well for a kid." Hanzo spoke, watching as Gon's fell to the floor, face first.
Heart stilled for a second as Kagome watched Gon's body meet the ground. Leorio and Kurapika gasped watching Hanzo walking around Gon's now weakened body. Even they had no time to process the movement Hanzo had taken prior to his attack.
Killua clicked his tongue, 'I could have easily dodged that attack!'
Fingers desperately tried to curl into tile beneath him, but his eyesight continued to vibrate, and the pain increased with each ticking second. Gon felt his lungs desperately pulling for the lost oxygen that was forced out of him. He had thought he could escape Hanzo's tactics, but in the end, in just a second, he was already on the floor?
"Well," Hanzo cracked his neck, "this would already be over if it were a normal fight." Coming to pull Gon onto a sitting position – while ignoring Gon's painful grunts – Hanzo squatted behind him and placed both of his hands on Gon's shoulders. "Here, wake up." Without warning, he pushed his knee into Gon's back, making him arch.
Gon's body shook from the shooting pains screaming for him to stop him. His grunts were muted through his gritted teeth, and he definitely felt his body fail his commands to move.
"You must feel terrible." Hanzo sighed. "I hit you hard enough to make your brain bounce around. Do you understand now? You have no chance against me. You might as well give up now."
"N-No…," Gon struggled to release his voice, "way…".
Expecting his objection, Hanzo quickly smacked the side of Gon's head knowing it would worsen his sight. Hearing Gon's coughs, Hanzo exhaled. "Think about it. If you surrender now, you'll still be in decent shape for the next fight. Don't be stubborn. Just surrender."
Gon's body shook as the pains exploded throughout his body. Whatever Hanzo had done from the start, he had hit the nerves and muscles enough to make them spasm. He felt everything around him tremble, and despite still having his mind intact, his other senses completely failed to work properly. "N-Never gonna happen!"
Kagome and Leorio immediately flinched at the sight of Hanzo smacking the other side of Gon's head. The whole scene of the small boy now clutching at his stomach while coughing out blood proved them right.
Gon did not set limits.
"Surrender." Hanzo demanded once more as he came to stand next to his body.
Kagome's brows furrowed slowly as she watched Gon slowly come to all fours and listened to his aching moans. Hanzo was not going to go too easy just because he was a kid, but even so, now with Gon's coughed up blood and the echoes of each hit only made it harder to watch. She closed her eyes as soon as Hanzo kicked him down to the floor once again.
"Gon!" Leorio shouted. "Don't be silly! Surrender! You will still have another chance-!"
Looking down, Leorio's jaw clenched upon seeing Kurapika having put his arm in front of him. "Kurapika!"
"Stop!" Kurapika shouted. "If you were in Gon's position, would you surrender?"
"H-Hell no!" He replied, "but…!" His eyes landed back on Gon struggling once more to get to his feet. He knew that Gon wanted to win this with all he had, but there were limitations. This was worse! The Final Phase was allowing torture!
Once again, Gon's body was kicked away from Hanzo's personal space. Despite Leorio's logical reasoning, Kagome had to side with Kurapika. Of course she wanted to spot the fight, and Kurapika had the same feelings, but this was about Gon.
Kagome cringed and wanted nothing more than to stop Hanzo from getting closer to the boy. 'Gon-kun…please yield this fight! This is suicide!'
"Honestly, the chairman's nasty streak is something."
Overhearing the female sigh on the other side of the board, Kagome blinked to see the examiners standing and having neutral expression to the horror. The priestess noticed Menchi, the Food Hunter, shake her head at the sight of Gon once again trying to get up.
"What do you mean?" Buhara questioned.
"The applicants who have made it this far are unlikely to simple surrender." She answered. "This goes beyond a 'rather peculiar fight'. This system is just plain crazy. It's all about pride at this point."
Glaring at the said chairman standing the closest to the board and across from her, Kagome slightly turned her focus to him. "Netero-san!" She whispered her rage. "Did you know something like this would happen?" If he did, then nothing about this was ethical. "He is just a kid, Netero-san!"
"Kagome-san," Netero chuckled under his breath, "the Hunter world is far worse. If you can't handle this, you are free to turn away the opportunity."
Kagome fell silent upon hearing Netero's option. She could leave and not have to see the torture, but that would not help anybody. Even if she left, Gon's pain would not go away as it this would continue.
Even after they passed.
And then there was her goal. She could not just drop it when she was so close. The Hunter License did not guarantee finding the Shikon no Tama nor her friends, but it was something to get her foot into the door. She understood Netero's warning, but-
Another grunt from Gon made her flinch.
-she hated feeling powerless.
The echoes of each continued and now Gon's pain had become inaudible. Dry and fresh blood pooled around Gon's body, and it shook from the need of mercy.
"It's been three hours…". Pokkle whispered as he looked away. "T-There is nothing left for him to vomit."
It made the priestess's heart heavy hearing the whispers of the others, and three hours of this had been nothing but hell. She wanted nothing more than to come in and stop it, but to hear Gon continuously reject Hanzo's requests put her in a tougher situation.
"Get up." Hanzo ordered.
Watching Hanzo take another step closer to Gon, Leorio's fists shook at his sides. "Enough already! I'm gonna kill you if you touch him! I'll fight you in his place!"
Upon hearing Leorio's shout, the ninja looked over his shoulder, "if you can't take it, then leave. It's only going to get worse."
"What was that?" Stomping towards Hanzo, Leorio was immediately stopped two other referees blocking his path. "What the hell?!"
"No one may interfere in a one-on-one match." Masta spoke, "and if you step in, Gon will be the one disqualified!"
Kagome watched as it took every restrain within Leorio to not go forward and stop the torture before them. She was ready to come in and stop it as well, but the conflicting thoughts of Gon's feelings were pulling her back. What the heck were they supposed to do?
The faint voice caught their attention over to the said boy already back on his feet, but back hunched as he shook to keep his body up. Slowly, Gon's face lifted to reveal the bruises and cuts taking over his features, but the smile he presented them with blinded from the flaws. "T-This is nothing…". His smile stretched, "I-I can still fight…".
Annoyed over Gon's tough façade, Hanzo's foot swept under Gon's foot, tripping him back down to the floor. A heavy sigh escaped his lips before coming to apply pressure on his left shoulder blade and grabbing his left arm to pull it to his lower back. "I'm going to break your arm."
Gon's eyes widened at the threat; Kagome's breathing stopped for a minute. Eyes of shock came from the sidelines, but others showed no care or surprise to have heard Hanzo's upcoming action.
Shaking her head, Kagome took a step forward, "O-Oi-!" She blinked at the sight of another two referees coming to stop her. Did they not understand the situation?!
"I'm not joking around, so," he applied pressure to his arm, "give up."
Gon could hear his heart beat thundering in his ears as he felt the pain slowly pull him out of reality. He knew Hanzo was being serious, and he knew the moment he answered…
The break was swift, but the sound heard by all. It left everyone with lips sealed at the sight of Gon's arm falling limp beside his crouched body. No doubt he was suppressing the screams. It made the priestess's blood boil, and yet she could not find herself moving to help.
Was this really what it took to be a Hunter?
"He…really broke his arm…". Pokkle gulped.
"There you go." Hanzo sighed once more as he got off the boy's body. "You can't use your left arm anymore."
Fingers curled into his palm as they shook from the rage he knew was ready to explode. Leorio's teeth grinned watching their friend gasping for air while being watched by Hanzo for another round of his games. "Kurapika. Kagome. Don't try to stop me." He had enough. "If that bastard does anything else to Gon…". He knew Gon would end up upset over his meddling, but he could not watch anymore. "Sorry, Gon, but I can't stop myself at this point."
"Me?" Kurapika scoffed. "Stop you? Don't worry." His irises slowly bled red, "there is no chance of that happening."
"Hold it." Kagome stopped them both from reacting, "I want to get in there as much as you guys, but please think about Gon-kun's feelings!"
"Don't stop me, Kagome!" Leorio snapped. "Don't you see what that bastard is doing?!"
Her eyes narrowed, "I do see it! I hear it! And I feel Gon-kun's pain!" Her chest heaved, and she was sure she was going to feel the headaches later from all the emotions she was holding onto, "but Gon-kun shared with us why he is doing this. Please understand that like all of us here…he has his pride, too." After witnessing the mess with Hisoka, Gon had become broken, and the last thing she wanted was to see that look of loss again on his face. He was a twelve-year-old boy, yes, but he was a boy already with a life goal.
They needed to respect that; she needed to stop herself as well.
"I'm sure you're in too much pain to listen," Hanzo cleared his throat, watching the boy grip his broken arm, "but do try to hear me out." Placing his palm on the floor, Hanzo lifted his whole body in a vertical line. "I am descended from the shinobi, a clan of covert agents. From the day I was born, I was forced to endure harsh training in order to master the art of ninpo. For eighteen years, I have trained my body and technique without rest. By the time I was your age, I had already killed a man."
Killua rolled his eyes, 'ha, that's nothing to brag about.'
Hanzo pushed himself to support himself on his fingertips, "at this point in time, you cannot defeat me in combat." He chuckled before moving to only one finger tip, "I'm trying to be nice. Admit defeat-!"
Eyes widened as they watched Hanzo being kicked in the face from Gon's sudden jump. Both of them dropped to the floor with only Gon's voice finally coming out.
"O-Ow…". He groaned as he tried to get back on his feet again. "Damn it! I can finally think straight a bit, after all the pain and that long explanation!"
"Yosh!" Leorio pumped his fist into the air. "Gon, get him! Kick him while he's down!"
"Oi…," Kagome's brow crooked up, "I thought you were against this Leorio-san."
"If you're eighteen, you're only six years older than I am." Gon scoffed back as he finally came to a stand. "Besides, this isn't a battle to see who's stronger! It's to see who's willing to surrender first!"
Slowly coming to push himself off the floor with his hands, Hanzo jumped back to put farther distance. He scoffed at the boy's words before revealing the aftermath of his face. "Well, I did let you kick me on purpose."
"Freaking liar!" Leorio pointed at him and at the bloody nose decorating his face.
"You don't understand, huh?" Hanzo shook his head. "This isn't a warning. It's an ultimatum. Was it too hard for you to understand? Then," taking out a blade from his bandage sleeves on his wrist, he revealed it to his opponent, "I'll make it easier for you. I'll cut off your legs, so that they can't be reattached. A permanent injury should help you realize. I'll tell you once more," his eyes narrowed darkly, "surrender."
Waiting on Gon's response, the rest of them watched as Gon remained still with the same unchanged expression.
"I won't accept that!"
The arena went an extra minute of silence upon hearing Gon's declaration and leaving Hanzo completely blank. He…said no?
Gon shook his head, "I don't want my legs cut off, but I don't want to surrender! So…let's find a different way to fight?"
Brow twitching at the sudden smile sparkling on Gon's lips, Hanzo had to stop himself from really attacking without logic. "Oi! Do you understand the situation you're in?!"
One by one, each of the people from the side let out their laughter upon hearing Gon's nonsense.
"You don't get to make demands!" Hanzo exploded. "Are you insulting me?! I'm seriously going to cut off your legs!"
"But I still won't surrender. Besides," Gon titled his head to the side, "if you do that, I'll bleed to death." Looking over at Masta, he directed the question to him. "He'll be disqualified if that happens, right?"
"See?" Gon's smile returned. "Neither of us wants that to happen, right? So! Let's think of a better way!"
Feeling every vein on his forehead pulse with every word Gon spewed, Hanzo had to admit the kid had some sense, but it still annoyed him. The serious stare he received only continued to sour the situation.
Kagome blew out of her relief in a sigh while closing her eyes. "Well…I think we were over worrying for nothing." The tension in the room had lifted, and now the atmosphere as a whole had become calmer with Gon's personality soaking the worry.
"Yeah," Kurapika chuckled, "looks like Gon took control."
"H-He's…so self-centered." Leorio whispered.
"But at least everyone calmed down." Kagome added, watching as Hanzo struggled to think of something else. "Seriously thought he was about to sacrifice himself just like that. Honestly that boy…"
Looking side-to-side of him, Killua was lost. He was confused. What the hell was going on? The laughter, the smiles, and the danger had all been erased in a second. But that did not mean Gon was any closer to winning this. 'What the heck…the situation hasn't changed! He didn't get strong than his opponent! His arm is still broken!' His eyes landed on the examiners and the chairman laughing. 'So why did the atmosphere suddenly change?!'
Hanzo quickly broke into the laughs as he took a step forward and pointed the sharp end of his blade on Gon's forehead. A trickle of blood slowly swam between Gon's brows, but their stares remained on each other. "So you really don't get it. If you die, you'll never get another chance. If I kill you here, I need only try again next year. We are not on equal footing!"
Giving himself a mental scoff, Killua's eyes narrowed on the boy now facing his death. 'He's right, Gon. You can try all you want to talk you way out of it, but he's far stronger than you. It…all comes down to power.'
Continuing to stare at Gon, Hanzo bit the inside of his cheek. The boy was not turning away from his blade even as the blood continued to curve down the sides of his nose. He was only centimeters away from ending his life and the boy was not running away? "Why won't you surrender? Just do it. You can take the exam next year." He cursed under his breath seeing no reaction from the boy, "you value your pride more than your own life?! You're really willing to die for your pride?!"
Without breaking the eye contact, Gon's expression remained stoic. "I'm going to find my dad."
Hanzo and the others blinked upon hearing Gon's goal.
"Your…dad?" Hanzo repeated.
"My dad is a Hunter." Gon continued. "So I'm going to become a Hunter and find him! But I have a feeling that if I give up now, I'll never find him! So I won't surrender, no matter what."
Shoulders relaxing under Gon's words, Kagome knew it was something he had mentioned lightly during the first phase of the exam. A goal he was adamant about chasing even if it meant risking his life. Her brows furrowed as she watched Hanzo's blade slightly shake with hesitation. Gon had an ability to use his words to affect others, but…just how far could that go?
Hanzo felt a droplet of sweat curve around his cheek while keeping his blade between Gon's brows. "If you don't yield, you'll die…". Slightly applying pressure to the blade, his focus narrowed the moment Gon pushed back with his forehead. He was defying reason.
Exhaling heavily, Hanzo withdrew his blade back into his white bandages before turning his back on the boy. "I give up; you win."
Gon blinked; the others were shocked at Hanzo's sudden retreat.
"Looks like I can't kill you," Hanzo shook his head, "but I can't think of a way to make you surrender. I'll take this loss and take my chances in the next battle."
Eyes narrowing on the ninja, Gon shook his head. "I can't accept that. That's not fair!"
Hanzo quickly felt his vein pop out of his forehead. Was this kid ever going to accept something? Anything?
"We both have to think of a way to settle this fight!" Gon pointed a finger at him.
Hanzo scoffed – hoping to control his temper – before turning to face the boy. "I knew you would say that." Taking a step back to meet Gon, he quickly pushed his finger onto Gon's forehead. "Are you an idiot?! There is no point because you'll never freaking surrender!"
"But I don't want to win like this!" Gon argued back.
"What the hell am I supposed to do then?!"
"We can work together to figure it out!"
Hanzo huffed out his rage through his nostrils as he stood before Gon's persistence. This boy…Feeling his brow twitch, he proceeded to find out what Gon had in mind. "So in other words, I've already given up on this match, but you want me to try to win again, while helping to determine a way to make you feel good about your victory?"
"Yup!" He smiled back.
"You moron!" Punching him away, Hanzo felt his head had, had enough. He watched as Gon's body dropped back down to the floor and he finally succumbed to an unconscious state. Seriously, the boy was being selfish at this point. "Oi, ref!" He called out. "I lose, that's it. I've had enough. Let's move on to the next match!"
Kagome blinked, taken back by the sudden end. Did that mean…?
Masta nodded back, "understood."
"But," Hanzo turned his attention to the examiners and chairman, "I want to tell the executive committee something first. When he wakes up, he'll probably refuse the license. I think we all learned today that he's a stubborn boy. You said only one person will fail this round, right? If Gon fails, wouldn't that make the rest of our fights meaningless?"
Watching as some of the other referees came to grab Gon and carefully place him on a stretcher, Kagome knew Hanzo's words were right. Gon had shown was pride meant and what sticking to your goals was going to take, and that meant heading into unknown situations.
"We will now prepare for the second battle!" Masta called out.
Kagome's eyes dropped to Kurapika before moving onto-.
"Kurapika! Hisoka! Please come forth!"
As Kurapika and Hisoka prepared for their fight, Kagome's attention was caught by Gon and the referee's exiting the arena. Her brows furrowed with concern seeing his unconscious body and the many bruises his body held. Not to mention, the broken arm. She sighed, 'that boy needs a talk…'.
Kagome blinked; her head turned to the chairman also looking at the boy on the bed stretch.
"They will take care of his injuries; focus on your upcoming battle now." Netero sent her a smile only for it to be returned with a small nod from the priestess. Knowing the girl's worries could not be shooed away that easily, Netero nodded again to end the conversation. His eyes fell on Hanzo who had come forth.
"Chairman." Hanzo called out. "When he wakes up, he'll probably refuse his license."
"That does sounds like something Gon would do…". Leorio whispered. After witnessing the stubborn attitude he held, there was that possibility.
"Only one person will fail this round, right?" Hanzo questioned. "If Gon fails, wouldn't that make the rest of our fights meaningless?"
The priestess's attention, along with the other's as well, waited for Netero's response.
Netero nodded to his question, "don't worry. Gon has passed. Nothing he says can change that decision. If Gon were to throw a fit and kill me, we still wouldn't be able to revoke his license."
"Good." Hanzo scoffed. Thinking about the kid throwing another fit because he wanted to win under his terms made him want to give him another slap, but what was done was done.
"Why did you let him win?"
His walk to the sidelines was interrupted by the question given to him by the white-haired kid. It was the same damn kid that had given him trouble getting the badge he needed in the last phase. Hanzo raised a brow rose upon seeing the curiosity and anger in his eyes. "Let him win?" He repeated.
"I'm sure you knew how to make Gon surrender without killing him." Killua continued. "Given your skills."
Observing the young assassin from the corner of her eyes, Kagome felt his aura boil mildly. What was he angry about? Had he not wanted Gon to win? "Killua-kun…". She whispered, hoping to stop him from saying something that could hurt him in the end.
It irked him to have seen since the beginning how Netero made the matches, and watching Gon's win, it angered him. His skill surpassed most in this bunch, and yet he was placed lower? Not to mention the way Gon had won was not a true victory. Hanzo could have won easily, yet here he was. "Why?" He asked again.
Hanzo exhaled, "when I torture someone, I expect that person to hate me for the rest of their life. It's more effective and less stressful. When someone is in pain, their eyes show a gleam of hostility toward the one responsible. Even with extensive training, it is difficult to suppress that gleam of hate." His eyes narrowed, "when I saw Gon's eyes, there was none of that." Hanzo scoffed, remembering the straight look the kid had give him. "Can you believe that? I had jut broken his arm, but his eyes had already forgotten about that."
Kagome blinked, noticing Killua's expression showing he had not expected that answer. None of them were, but Hanzo had seen through the innocence of Gon's beliefs.
"I guess you could say that he won me over." Hanzo continued. "If you need a reason, there you go."
Not missing the low hum Hisoka had blown out, Kagome sent him a glare. The last thing she needed was Hisoka to be agreeing to Hanzo's speech. As Hanzo made his way past Killua, the priestess returned her attention to him. Killua had not heard what he wanted to hear. If anything, it had left him with more questions.
Kagome sighed softly under her breath. Was it right for any of them to be treading on this path of becoming a Hunter? After witnessing Hanzo's methods, she had a feeling that was only the icing of horror they could be shown.
"The second match is Kurapika versus Hisoka!" Masta announced. "Begin!"
Kagome bit her bottom lip watching the two of them now facing each other in the arena. The transition to the next battle had been smooth, despite the awkward silence that followed after Hanzo's speech. No matter how much she tried to ignore Hisoka's aura, she could tell he was craving for the fight, but something seemed off. The lust he held was there, but it was not the same one when he had come after them during the fourth phase.
As soon as Masta gave his 'go', both Kurapika and Hisoka dove right into the battle. Dodging and attacking were on repeat leaving those watching confused to who had the upper hand. Although it was obvious by the confidence Hisoka had written on his face.
"Does Kurapika even have a chance?" Leorio whispered to the girl.
Kagome's eyes followed Kurapika quick back flip from Hisoka's hand. "Maybe? Tough to say; Hisoka is…well, something." And that something held nothing good. Gon and herself had witnessed a sliver of Hisoka's fighting potential, and she could tell he was having fun right now. No matter how Hisoka took it, it did not change that Kurapika was taking this seriously.
Time dragged on to an hour, and nothing had changed between. No scratches, bruises, nor any of the two had made contact. Hisoka smirked as he found his opening when Kurapika's block had come to his face. Quickly using his foot while on a handstand, he pushed Kurapika away by kicking his shoulder.
Kurapika cursed under his breath the moment Hisoka's foot had forcefully made him drop his block. Before he could raise his arm, he found himself frozen in place as Hisoka swiftly came to his side and bend down to his ear.
"What…just happened?" Leorio blinked, having felt his heartbeat pick up the moment landed an attack. In a blink of an eye they came to see Hisoka moving his lips beside Kurapika's ear.
Kagome's brow crooked up as she saw the shock slowly spread in Kurapika's expression. "What is he-?"
"I lose." Hisoka spoke as he walked away from the Kurta boy and made his way back to the sidelines.
All eyes widened at the sudden exit Hisoka took from his battle while Kurapika remained in his spot.
Masta blinked, looking back and forth from Hisoka to the silent Kurapika, "h-huh..? W-Wait? Really?"
"Did Kurapika just win?" Leorio whispered.
The smirk hanging on Hisoka's lips was not missed by the priestess, and the small spark of rage in Kurapika's aura was something Kagome could not ignore. The battle was only but an hour, and in that hour nothing major had occurred. And for it to end just like that? Hisoka, of all people, conceded just like that? Her eyes rose to meet the innocent grin Hisoka continued to hold before he walked over to stand beside the older applicants. Whatever he had told Kurapika, it surely meant a lot for Kurapika to not move a muscle.
Masta cleared his throat, fishing the attention of the others back to him. "Ahem! V-Very well! Kurapika is the winner of this battle! Hisoka will proceed to the next battle!"
Watching the said winner slowly make his way back to them, Kagome and Leorio noticed his eyes remained down at the ground.
"Kurapika-kun?" Kagome hoped they would get a response.
"Oi! Kurapika!" Leorio's tone increased.
Kurapika's head snapped up realizing he now stood before the two who called for him. He blinked a few times; his shoulders dropped. "Ah…sorry, I was, um…".
Brows furrowing at his broken sentence, Kagome took another look at Leorio from the corner of her eyes.
"The third battle will now begin! Hanzo! Pokkle! Please come forth!"
"Hisoka is the winner of this battle! Bodoro will proceed to the next battle!"
Kagome's brow twitched as she saw the group of referees gather around Bodoro's bruised body before picking him up and carrying him out to the sidelines to check on his status. The battles after Kurapika's win had picked up in pace, and there was no doubt it was because everyone was becoming impatient. Hanzo had won his battle against Pokkle, and to no surprise he had used the same methods against him that Gon had gone through. But the mercy had flown away from Hanzo's thoughts at that point. Pokkle quickly surrendered after the broken arm threat was given. Pokkle escaped with both arms still intact but left him with a loss.
Unfortunately, Bodoro's battle had come to be with Hisoka; the battle lasted a merely ten minutes. Hisoka wasted no time to kick Bodoro down and proceeded his same tactics to whisper something to him as he laid on the floor. Bodoro surrendered right after. No one had expected it, yet they were not surprised by the roughness of Hisoka's character.
Now Hisoka adorned a victorious grin; he had become a Hunter.
"The next battle will now begin!" Masta shouted as he turned to the applicants. "Pokkle! Kagome! Please come forth!"
Exhaling under her breath, Kagome felt the nerves making somersaults in her stomach. The nerves had picked up pace the closer they got to her bracket. Although part of her was glad Hisoka was not to be dealt with anymore, it still did not mean she could not be nervous. How on earth was she supposed to make someone surrender?
It was not an easy task.
"You nervous, Kagome?" Leorio whispered.
"Me?" She scoffed. Raising her hand, she showed her trembling fingers, "not at all! It's the snow in here making me shiver."
"Snow?" Leorio looked around his surroundings before picking up the sarcasm. "Oi…".
"I'm fine." Kagome sent him a smile as her eyes looked at the empty arena. "I will be fine…". The 'fine' was only but a mantra to calm herself, but she was about to enter a battle without a plan. Then again, when did she ever have a plan? 'Get a hold of yourself, Kagome! You dealt with demons! You have faced death! You can do this!' She took another look at Kurapika from over her shoulder to see him staring at his shoes. Ever since his battle against with Hisoka he had chosen to keep his lips sealed. Leorio even pestered him before each battle what Hisoka had shared with him, but no answer.
She would have to try to get it out of him later.
Noticing Pokkle taking the first step towards the middle of the arena where Masta stood, Kagome's eyes picked up on the arrow and quiver he took with him.
So he was going to use his weapon? Gripping her own bow, she decided to do the same. Taking another deep breath, Kagome followed.
Meeting Pokkle in the middle of the arena, Kagome waited for Masta's permission to begin. Her only plan in mind was to finish this as quick as possible, but the actual plan to do that was still blank.
"Pokkle versus Kagome! Begin!"
Pokkle sent the girl a smile before scratching the back of his neck. He did not plan to be going against the girl out of everyone in the group, mainly because he did not think of using torturous methods on her. "Um, I really don't want to hurt you, Kagome-san." He whispered, hoping she would understand his position.
"Neither do I." Kagome replied back, "but," grabbing an arrow from her quiver, she placed it on her bow before bringing it up for an aim, "unfortunately I have my reasons for being here." The last thing she wanted to hear now was that he could not fight her because of gender reasons. At least Hisoka treated her as an equal, although she hated to say Hisoka had more 'respect' of sorts.
Taken back by her sudden action, Pokkle's instincts moved him to do the same and prop an arrow on his own bow. So he was going to have to fight her, huh?
Leorio blinked looking back and forth from both applicants as they did a stare off with their weapons. "T-They quickly got into it!" He could not believe it was Kagome who took the first step into offense. There was no telling what Pokkle could do, but then again, Kagome had shown her worth against Hisoka a couple of times in the past phases.
Eyes narrowed, Killua observed silently as Kagome's focus remained glued on her opponent. There was a lot of mystery lingering around her, and Gon had picked up on it. He on the other hand did not understand what was so interesting about. From the outside, she did not look special, yet Gon told him, almost reassured him, she was something.
This was the moment he could see what Kagome had to offer.
'I think I may have the upper hand…'. Kagome thought to herself. Reading Pokkle's stance, she could tell he was ready to release his arrow any time. She gave herself a mental scoff, 'seriously, Kagome? The upper hand?' Overestimating herself always led to errors. There was no telling how good an archer Pokkle was, nor she did know about his character enough. 'But his aura isn't threatening-!'.
Kagome's eyes widened as she saw Pokkle's arrow come flying by her cheek, scraping it in the process. How could she miss…? Her expression melted back to a confusion twist. Pokkle was smirking; he gave her a warning.
"Sorry, Kagome-san," he spoke, "but I need this license."
Feeling the small trickle of blood running down her cheek, she smirked back. Then she was going to have to treat this like the battles Sango had thought her when she had no idea what to do exactly. Without a second thought, she raised her aim to the ceiling; all eyes - including Pokkle's – followed upwards. Kagome quickly released her arrow before Sango's advice rung in her head and ran forward.
Pokkle immediately felt the presence charging at him making him look back to the girl. He grunted at the feel of her foot kicking his stomach and pushing him back.
"Yosh!" Leorio's fist pumped in the air. "She got him!"
Killua released a scoff. She seriously thought that trick was going to work?
Thinking she had knocked the wind out of him, Kagome's eyes went wide the moment she felt Pokkle's fingers wrap around her ankle. 'Crap!' Before she could retreat her limb, she was pulled in before pushed down to the floor. Kagome winced at the feel of the impact; her eyes narrowed slightly at her opponent who now stood above her. The sudden snap of twigs had her pupils slowly widen once more before looking to her right.
Pokkle lifted his foot of her arrows before taking a few steps back. "I didn't want to do this, but I can't let someone win me in archery. I did notice the pride you had as an archer." Slowly taking out an arrow of his own from his quiver, he placed it over his bow.
Cursing under her breath, Kagome sat up with the help of her palms. He had taken her out by breaking her weapon supply. Now what? Fingers curled around her bow, the only thing intact. Pride as an archer, huh? From the corner of her eyes she caught the extra bow string being tied at the end of the bow.
"Last warning, Kagome-san." Pokkle spoke as he took his aim at her shoulder. "We both know how painful an arrow can be, right-?" Quickly dodging the throw of her bow at him, Pokkle turned his head with bewilderment. Did she just throw her bow at him? Her final weapon? Lips parted to question only to see the string that had extend with the throw. "Wait-!"
The corner of Kagome's lips lifted into a grin as she tugged the string back having the bow return in a boomerang flight. Hitting the back of Pokkle's head, enough to make him topple forward, Kagome caught her bow with her free hand.
Hisoka smirked at the sight of her quick thinking. It was something many did not have, but the girl was definitely full of surprises for him.
'Sango-chan's technique worked…'. Even she had her doubts if it would ever work; Sango suggested the idea to her in a hypothetical scenario if she were ever out of arrows. Coming to a stand, Kagome made her way to Pokkle who was now coming to look at her – the roles had flipped.
Eyeing his quiver of arrows, Kagome grabbed them all, ignoring Pokkle's protest.
Pokkle's brows furrowed as he watched all of his arrows split in half and falling like rain in front of him. Looking up again he noticed the one arrow left in her hand. He remained frozen as she squatted down. What was she up to now?
"Do you think it's your turn to consider surrendering?" Kagome whispered to him only.
His eyes tightened, "I won't."
The priestess's brow twitched at the rejection. If she could not get him to surrender here, then she was out of ideas. Over six hours had been given collectively in this phase alone, and she wanted to pass. She was tired. Sneaking a glance at their audience from her peripheral view, she knew it was going to be tricky to hide it well.
Kagome's focus returned to Pokkle; she twirled the arrow in her fingers before the sharp end came to face him. Without hesitation, Kagome stabbed the tile and near Pokkle's fingers. Pokkle gasped at the close call of the attack. Looking back at her face, he gulped reading her 'innocent' smile. If he knew anything about women, it was that the smile she gave off meant she was pissed.
"Sheesh…," Leorio felt Pokkle's fear from feet away, "I knew she had a scary side." He had his doubt about Kagome dealing with Pokkle, but now it seemed Pokkle had been cornered.
"I-I won't surrender!" Pokkle shouted again.
Taking another look at the sidelines, Kagome made sure the tip of her arrow was hidden from their eyes. "I suggest you stay quiet or it will explode."
"Huh?" Pokkle blinked. Explode? "What are you-?" Feeling his fingers near the arrow starting to warm up, he slowly moved his pupils down to see a pink glow at the tip.
Netero's eyes narrowed; Hisoka's chin tilted upwards. The girl had executed her true abilities.
"What is happening?" Leorio leaned forward, squinting to see any sign of the interaction. "Pokkle looks…afraid?"
Killua's interest piqued taking note in Pokkle's fears. What did she do? There was no way that Pokkle's confidence had went away that quick. Kagome had done nothing but place an arrow next to him.
Voice choked, Pokkle was at a loss for words. Where the heck was this coming from? The thing glowing was going to explode?
"Don't say anything." Kagome smiled again, "but I do recommend that you surrender."
Watching the glow increase in size, Pokkle quickly scooted back. "Okay! Okay! I give up! You win!" He was not sure what it was that had him surrender, but the warmth he had felt in that glow was suddenly feeling hotter and hotter. Curious of the said glow, Pokkle looked down to the unmoved arrow.
The glow was gone. He blinked.
"Kagome is the winner of this battle! Pokkle will proceed to the next battle!" Masta announced.
Leorio blinked, watching as Kagome stood up from her squat and took off the arrow from the tile. "S-She…won?" That easily? Looking over his shoulder, he saw Kurapika also confused by the outcome. "What just happened?"
A soft sigh passed between Kagome's lips after feeling her freedom. She had not expected it to work, but it had. She hated doing ultimatums, but it was the only way to move forward. Her only hope was that Pokkle would remain quiet about her trick.
That was probably get out sooner or later.
But just like everyone else there, she had to reach her goal.
"The next match will begin! Killua! Pokkle! Please come forth!"
A sweat drop loomed over the priestess's head as she saw Pokkle's tired expression. He definitely was not catching a break and now he was stuck battling without a break. Now she felt guilty.
The audience blinked as they watched Killua raise his hand and call out his surrender. Not even a minute into the fight after Masta gave his permission to begin and although Pokkle was ready to go, Killua had turned his back on him and walked away.
"Sorry," Killua waved him off, "but I'm not interested in fighting you."
"What is going on now?" Leorio blinked watching as Killua came back to the sidelines. "Oi! Kid! You got some big confidence there!"
Rolling his eyes, Killua dug his hands into his pockets. "I'm not interested in fighting weaklings. After seeing him fight Kagome, I didn't want to go through that."
Silent, yet a bit insulted, Kagome observed the smirk decorating Killua's lips. Well, at least Pokkle had passed as a Hunter now. Although it was not the best scenarios for one she knew had pride. Guess he had the confidence for the next match, huh?
"Well, it's my turn now…". Leorio whispered. Taking a look at Bodoro who remained still under the care of the doctor, he sighed. "I don't think it's fair for him to be fighting when he is down like that." Besides, Bodoro could barely stand after that one kick from Hisoka. Walking over to Netero and the group of referees, Leorio shared his suggestion.
"Is he asking to postpone it?" Kagome asked Kurapika, who had now come forth from his silent sulking.
"I suppose." He answered, keeping his eyes on him. "Bodoro-san can't stand, and it wouldn't be much of a fight there."
Nodding to his words, Kagome noticed Masta nodding to Leorio before walking over to the arena. They all waited for the final decision.
"Per Leorio's request, we have decided to postpone his match with Bodoro until his injuries have recovered enough for him to fight! We will move onto the next match! Killua! Gittarackur! Please come forth!"
Not expecting to be moving onto the next battle like that, Kagome turned her head to the young boy standing to her right. She blinked, noticing his unperturbed expression. A low sigh from him was all they heard before watching both applicants walking to the middle of the arena. Kagome gulped at the sight of the man twitching with each step he took. The needles sticking out of his face did not help ease her worries for Killua. If she recalled, Gittarackur was her target in the fourth phase. She was not sure if Hisoka had done her a favor in receiving the tag she needed by him.
"Killua versus Gittarackur will now begin!"
Reading his opponent, Killua took out his hands from his pockets knowing it was best not to underestimate the unknown man, but that did not mean he did not have confidence in his own skill. Taking a few cautious steps towards him, he kept his eyes on him waiting for any response.
"It's been too long, Kil."
Killua immediately stopped in his path as the nickname rung in his head. Those on the sidelines watched Killua's confusion before noticing Gittarackur raise his twitching arm to one of the needles sticking out of his ear before pulling it out. The young assassin's eyes remained glued on him even as he took one needle out at a time, but something in the pit of his stomach churned and warned him of something.
Kagome's pupils dilated at the sight of Gittarackur's last needle being taken off before his blue mohawk grew in length. The color transitioned into a charcoal black before it flowed downwards to frame his slim and pale face. Her and everyone else were taken back by the sight of his face shifting in muscle and bone to reveal a different identity and the long hair coming down to his hips.
Killua's eyes immediately felt his blood go cold; Kagome took a glance at the young boy reading his distressed aura.
Taking a step back, Killua continued to feel the shock screaming inside of him. "B-Brother…Illumi".
"Hey." He greeted.
"Killua's brother?" Leorio repeated. "And he used those needles to change the shape of his face?"
While worries circulated around the now called 'Illumi' brother, Kagome felt her worries linger around Killua. Killua always had a confidence to him, but that had been stolen the moment Gittarackur revealed himself. Not to mention…
Her eyes landed on Illumi. The moment he took off the needles, she was sure she had felt a strange aura.
"Kil," Illumi spoke, "I heard that you cut up mother and Milluki."
"I-I…guess." He replied.
Scoffing without a change in his expression, Illumi tilted his head to the side. "Mother was crying."
"Of course she would be!" Leorio grumbled. "Any mother would cry if their own son did that to them!"
"She had tears of joy." Illumi finished.
From the corner of their eyes, Kagome and Kurapika watched Leorio's mouth fall open from Illumi's statement. They were taken back as well by the meaning of the tears, but they were getting signals that Illumi's and Killua's family were not exactly normal.
Illumi chuckled lightly, "she was so happy to see that you had grown up, but she was worried about you leaving home, so she asked me to check up on you. What a coincidence to see you here, though. I didn't know you wanted to be a Hunter. I'm trying to get a license for my next job."
Brows furrowing, Killua's eyes dropped to the floor. "I don't really want to be a Hunter; I just felt like taking the exam."
"I see…". Illumi responded. "That's a relief. Then, I have some advice for you."
Kagome felt goosebumps crawl on her skin the moment she felt Illumi's mysterious aura slowly rise. 'This isn't good…this feels like…'. Her eyes slowly shifted to see Hisoka leaning against the wall with his eyes closed.
Killua's head slowly lifted to meet his brother's eyes. His body immediately froze as he felt his surroundings darken and his brother's words were the only thing chaining him.
"You're not cut out to be a Hunter." Illumi's tone lowered, threateningly. "You were born to be…a killer."
Kagome slowly shook her head.
"You're a puppet of darkness, without passion. You don't want anything or wish for anything."
'What…?' Kagome was baffled at his harsh words directed to his younger brother. Was he seriously saying that…he was nothing but a tool?
"As one who lives in the shadows," Illumi continued, "you can only feel pleasure when people die."
Killua's memories flashbacked to the lives he had taken just in the exam alone.
"That's how father and I raised you. What would you accomplish by becoming a Hunter?"
Fingers twitching by his side, Killua felt the cold sweat on his neck run down. "True," he trembled, "I don't desire to become a Hunter, but…I do have something I want…".
"You don't." Illumi cut him off.
"I do! There's something I really want!"
Kagome felt her heart ache at the sight of desperation in Killua's expression. Since the time she met him, she judged him to be a kid who only let his confidence guide him. Now witnessing him frozen out of fear due to his older brother's words, she felt her heart throb at the mistake she had done to judge.
"Is that so?" Illumi tilted his head again. "Tell me what is it that you want?" Waiting for his reply, Illumi's brow rose. "What's wrong? There's nothing really you want, is there-?"
"That's not it!"
Silence breezed through as everyone waited for Killua's reply.
"I…," Killua's eyes winced in thought to his words, "I want to become friends with Gon…I'm sick of killing people. I want to become friends with Gon and live a normal life."
Kagome's heart could not feel heavier upon feeling the agony in Killua's aura. This boy wanted nothing more than to be a regular boy. He wanted friends, and he had finally made one he could smile with. Gon had opened that door for him, or at least was getting there. Why did Killua feel like he could not?
Attention landed on the older Zoldyck who had immediately stepped on Killua's wishes. Kagome's fingers curled into her palm; her rage boiled.
"You'll never be able to make friends." Illumi continued. "Your only concern when you meet someone is whether you should kill them. That's how you were trained. You just don't know how to classify Gon because he's too dazzling for your eyes. You don't actually want to become friends with him. If you stay with him, you'll end up wanting to kill him one day. You'll get the urge to see if you can kill him or not. Because you have the soul of a killer."
Killua's eyes were filled of fear as he saw the truth in Illumi's speech, yet, 'he's wrong. He's wrong. He's-!'
Heads of those from the sidelines turned to the woman who had taken a step forward and shouted her rage. A referee quickly came before Kagome, stopping her from taking another step into the arena.
"Miss, as we mentioned before-!"
"Yeah, yeah! I know the rules!" Pushing him to the side, she knew she had lost all control on her expression. She was open to showing her fury. "Killua-kun! Don't you dare listen to a damn word that idiot is saying! You hear me?!" Brother or not, she would fight him. How dare he speak like that to him?
Killua slowly turned his head to the side noticing the one person having the guts to cut into Illumi's threat. The only person having voiced out what he wanted to say. "K-Kagome…?"
Curious over Killua's whisper, Illumi turned his head to the side. Ah, the girl Hisoka had attacked during the fourth phase. If he recalled… "You were my target." He commented.
"Yeah, I'm aware!" Kagome pointed a finger at him, "and if I had known you were going to be an ass of a brother like this I would have gladly fought you fair and square!" Perhaps she was letting her anger do the talking, but at this point she did not care. Killua's aura was dropping with loneliness.
"She's right!" Leorio cut in. "We don't give a damn if he's your brother! He's being a worthless piece of crap! So don't listen to his crap!"
Kagome's shoulders dropped getting no reaction from the young boy. He was conflicted and controlled. Illumi's growing aura was not helping the situation. "Killua-kun, you mentioned you wanted to be friend with Gon-kun, right?"
The question made his eyes rise once more to hers.
"Where has your head been these past phases?!" She shouted. "You became friends the moment Gon-kun spoke to you! At this very moment you two are friends!"
Killua's shoulders jolted to her words; Illumi blinked, "eh?".
"Gon-kun would never doubt the friendship you two have!" Kagome knew Gon was a simple boy welcoming those left and right, just like he had welcomed her. Why would Killua be any different?
"Is that true?" Illumi questioned.
"Huh?" Kagome's focus shifted to the older brother.
The priestess raised a brow in return, "did you ignore my whole speech there, long-haired ghost boy?"
"I see…". Hooking his fingers under his chin, Illumi ignored the rest of her glare. "Well, that's no good. So Gon already considers Kil a friend. We can't have that." Taking a second to think to himself, his eyes lifted to his younger brother before snapping his fingers. "Okay, then I'll kill Gon."
Kagome, Leorio, Kurapika, Netero, and Hisoka froze at Illumi's threat.
Taking out needles from his pocket and placing them in between his fingers, Illumi tilted his head to the side. "A killer doesn't need any friends. They'll only slow you down. Now," Illumi turned around to face the exit, "where is he?"
Killua's entire world went cold with only the image of Gon landing in his own pool of blood flashing in his head. No, he could not…
"Please wait!" One of the referees ran after Illumi. "The match is still-!"
Gasps came from the other examiners as they witnessed Illumi throwing his needles on the referee's face. In a matter of seconds, the referee's face began to contort and squeeze into an unrecognizable face while choking for air.
"Where is he?" Illumi's eyes narrowed on the exit.
"T-The waiting room over there…". The referee dropped to his hands and knees in agony as he felt his face continuing to squeeze in.
"Thank you." Continuing his walk to the doors, Illumi stopped the moment he saw the same woman who spoke back to him blocking the door along with the blonde male and tall lean loud man standing beside her. His brows rose, surprised not only to see them three, but also Hanzo joining to block his path.
Kagome's eyes narrowed dangerously. If her friends saw her now, they would be scolding her for heading into reckless territory. "Don't take another step." But right now a friend of hers was in danger and the other one was being tormented with his words.
"Well, this won't do." Illumi sighed. "I do need a Hunter license to do my upcoming job…but if I kill you all here, then I'll fail, and that means Kil will pass automatically. Oh darn," he shook his head, "the same thing will happen if I kill Gon."
"That's your concern?" Kagome spat out.
"Ah! You're right!" Illumi's smirk made an appearance. "I'll pass the exam before killing Gon."
Feeling the increase of Illumi's subduing aura over them, Kagome began to feel her skin become completely cold. This was not just any regular aura, this was bloodlust.
"This bastard…". Leorio growled. He was adamant on killing Gon and that now was becoming an issue none of them could have planned to have.
Ignoring Leorio's insult, Illumi turned his head to face the chairman who continued to observe the interactions. "I have a question; if I wait until after passing the exam, I can kill everyone here and still keep my license, right?"
Kagome quickly turned her own focus to Netero. The only one who could step in and stop all of this was him, right? Netero had to be thinking this was ridiculous! Her eyes pleaded for him to assist them protecting Gon, but his response did nothing to set her worries at ease.
"Yes," Netero nodded, "according to the rules. There would be no issue with that."
The priestess's eyes flickered with disbelief. Was he being serious?
"Did you hear that, Kil?" Illumi's questioned. Giving his younger brother a warm smile, Illumi turned around to face him. "You have to beat me if you want to save Gon." He waited for a response but saw nothing but Killua tremble under his threats. Taking a few steps towards him, Illumi stretched out his arm as fingers slowly inched closer to touch Killua's head. "Will you fight me for your friend's sake? We both know you can't do it. Because you're more worried about whether or not you can defeat me."
Kagome shook her head as she took in Killua's fright increasing with each words Illumi stabbed him with.
"And you already have your answer," Illumi continued, 'I'm not strong enough to beat my brother'. 'Never fight an enemy you can't beat'. I drilled that into you."
Killua's breaths quicken with panic as he saw the proximity of Illumi's touch. Moving his foot to take a step back-
He stopped under Illumi's command.
"If you move an inch, I'll assume that the fight has begun, and if our bodies make contact, that will also mean the fight has begun. There is only one way to stop me. You know what you have to do, but don't forget…," Illumi's eyes narrowed threateningly, "if you don't fight me, your dear Gon and the others will die."
Taking another step forward, Kagome snapped. "Killua-kun! Don't listen to him! We are going to stop him, no matter what it takes!" Her chest heaved through her shouts, but she could see Killua was hypnotized by Illumi's verbal abuse. He was gone. "Killua-!"
Kagome and the others felt the tension of the room lift, but shocked lingered after hearing Killua's broken voice.
The arena fell completely silent as they saw Killua hiding his eyes under his bangs. He…admitted defeat. Hearing a clap from Illumi, eyes landed to his grin.
"Oh, that's good to hear!" Illumi laughed. "Then that marks this battle over." Coming to pat Killua's shoulder, Illumi shook his head. "I lied, Kil! I was lying about killing Gon. That was just a little test, but now I have my answer." Lowering to Killua's eye level, Illumi's expression darkened. "I'll remind you, you don't have the right to make friends nor do you need friends. You should just listen to father and me and do you job as you always have. When the time comes, I'll tell you take the Hunter Exam. You don't need a license yet."
Broken down to an empty shell, Kagome could not bare to see Killua in the state he was left in. Illumi's final speech to him was the final straw. "That bastard-!" Her sudden charge towards Illumi was stopped by Leorio pulling her back and restricting her from attacking. "Let me go! This bastard…! He…! He…!"
"I know, Kagome!" Leorio shouted back. "Calm down! If you get involved Killua will be disqualified from the whole thing!"
"B-But…!" Her eyes followed Killua, defeated and broken, walking back to the sidelines. Her shoulders dropped at the sight of his world shattering. He was given a chance to be him and all taken away within minutes.
"Illumi-ahem I mean, Gittarackur is the winner of this battle! Killua will proceed to the next battle!"
As she followed Leorio and the others back to the side lines, she made her way specifically to stand next to Killua. The aura he once held had been sucked away. His pupils looked completely cold and blank. "Killua-kun…?" She whispered, hoping to get something. Any reaction. Any response. Anything. Hand slowly coming to reach for him, she blinked – while catching the attention of others – the moment a smack of skin echoed in the arena. Kagome's lips pressed together as she felt the sting on her hand from Killua's rejection.
Slowly, Kagome's fingers curled into her hand before it relaxed back down to her side. At this very moment, she could not do anything. This boy had years of his brother telling him this on repeat. What could she say to erase it all?
"Please don't get involved."
Kagome's head snapped up to meet Illumi's threat.
"There is nothing you can do, so why are you acting like a hero?"
Feeling every nerve in her body pop, the fists reformed to her side before she was ready to launch at him.
"Kagome!" Leorio shouted as he and Kurapika held her back again.
"You should be ashamed." Kagome barked back. "You call yourself his brother? You are nothing but scum in my eyes."
"And why should I care what you think of me?" Illumi's brow rose, "especially when I could easily kill you here and your opinion of me dies with you."
'This bastard…!' Struggling within Leorio's and Kurapika's grasps, she wanted nothing more than to teach him a lesson.
"Bodoro is now ready for the battle."
Hearing the shifting of Bodoro's body behind them, heads turned to see him now standing and well. Kagome was released of her hold before looking at Leorio who realized it was now his turn to fight. And just like that they were going to move into the next battle?
"Leorio! Bodoro! Please come forth!"
"Please relax, Kagome-san." Kurapika whispered as he felt her tense up again. He understood her anger and her need to help, but they were pinned to the wall now. And without knowing the situation between Killua and Illumi, they could not meddle that easily.
Kagome's focus, now glued to the tiles of the arena, remained in the past of the horror she witnessed. Never in her life had she seen a child so terrified. She ignored Bodoro's and Leorio's entrance into the arena; her heart continued to ache in desperation for ways to fix what had been done.
But nothing came to her.
Her eyes snapped wide open; her head immediately turned to the empty space beside her.
"Begin!" Masta shouted.
Kagome quickly searched the area scanning for his aura.
"Kagome-san?" Kurapika whispered noticing her frantic search. "What's wrong?"
"Killua-kun…". She whispered, "he's not-!" Pupils dilated as soon as she caught the person she was looking for standing behind Bodoro. The frightening part was the look of despair and bloodlust in his eyes as his fingernails grew sharply and the veins on his hands twitched. "Killua-kun! Don't-!"
Her voice echoed as blood rained on the white-haired boy. Eyes of those present widened to see everything having happened too fast, yet slow enough to process what had occurred. Kagome's lips went dry as she saw Bodoro's body fall to the floor with the hole made by Killua's hand. Droplets of blood spotted the tile from Killua's hand; the look of a killed stained his emotionless face.
Netero sighed under his breath as Masta himself was at a loss for words. "Killua."
The boy's head slowly turned to Netero.
"You have broken the rules. I am afraid you will have to be disqualified."
Taking in the second to process what he had said, Killua took another look at Leorio and the others before slowly walking towards the exit doors. Kagome shook her head once more before turning to Netero. "N-Netero-san! You can't-!"
"He broke the rules." Netero cut her off, eyes glued to Bodoro's motionless body. "Rules are rules, Kagome."
The priestess's shoulders dropped. That…was it?
"Leorio is the winner of this battle! Killua is disqualified after breaching the rules of death!" Masta announced. "This concludes the Hunter Exam! To all of those that have passed, tomorrow morning you will all receive your Hunter license during an orientation. Please make sure you do not miss the meeting. You may all use the extra time you have tonight to rest."
Kagome's fingers twitched at her side; the voices of victory were muted. That was it?
"I can't believe Killua did that…". Kurapika whispered. "Although he is an assassin, he doesn't look like the type to break rules that easily-". A blur of black was caught from the corner of his eyes before seeing Kagome sprint off to the open doors. "K-Kagome-san! Where are you going? Kagome-san!"
Not missing Kagome sprinting off after what he knew was his younger brother, Illumi's eyes narrowed slightly. Killua's attention had been on Gon, but threats slowly crept up from those you would least expect. That was something an assassin should always be aware of. Making the plan to stop her once and for all, he felt a small rise in bloodlust from another. Illumi's head turned to the male leaning against the wall with his own threat looming over his expression.
'Yeah, yeah.' Illumi sighed. He knew better than to go after Hisoka's preys.
The cool night welcomed her, but the emptiness of the garden frightened her further. Killua was nowhere to be seen nor sensed. She took a few more steps towards the fountain in the middle of the garden before coming to see the droplets of blood at the corner.
The only sign he was there.
How could she have been so weak? So naïve?
She exhaled as she sat at the edge of the fountain. Gon in the infirmary, and Killua gone. Both boys she had met with smiles had ended up hurt either physically or mentally. Closing her eyes, she let her head tilt back.
Could she do anything for them?
Eyes snapping open and body come to a quick sit up, chest heaved as the adrenaline of the nightmare slowly subsided. Taking in his surroundings, the young boy noticed he was now on a bed with all his wounds bandaged up and his broken arm in a cast. He blinked at he open window to his left to see nothing but the inside garden of the hotel.
Memory clicked at once remembering where he was and why he was there. The exam! Before he could turn his body to the door, the boy blinked again upon hearing the sound of a book being closed.
"You're finally awake, Gon-kun."
The said boy's eyes landed on the first examiner of the exam sitting on the chair next to a table near the fire place.
"Satotz-san…". Taking another look around, Gon finally took notice he had been taken away from the arena. "Where am I?"
"A waiting room." He replied. "We aren't very far from the arena. Well then…". Scooching his chair closer to Gon's bedside, he noticed the curiosity in Gon's eyes.
"I remember I was in the middle of the Hunter Exam…". Gon spoke, looking down at his broken arm again.
"Your arm will heal quickly." Satotz reassured him. "In fact, the doctor mentioned it was a very clean break. He said that once it heals, the bone will be stronger than before."
Gon blinked taken back by what Hanzo had done instead. Stronger?
"In any case…".
The boy's eyes landed on Satotz hand waiting for a handshake.
"…congratulations on passing the exam."
He took another look at the hand before shaking his head. "Satotz-san, I-".
"You can't." Satotz quickly cut him off. Grabbing Gon's hand, he gave the handshake he knew the boy was going to reject since the beginning. "Just as someone who failed the exam can no longer pass, someone who has passed can no longer fail. What you decide to do from here is up to you. If you feel you are unqualified to be a pro, you are free to destroy or put away your license. You can even sell it, since no one else will be able to use it. However, a person who has passed the exam will no longer be allowed to take it again. Professional Hunters are treated well, largely due to our predecessors' efforts. There is a reason why many applicants will ill intentions come. If it weren't for them, we would be accepting every person who came forth."
Watching Satotz grab a hardcover folder with the Hunter Association logo in front from the nightstand, Gon blinked before seeing the man open it for him. Inside, his Hunter license rested - new and his.
"Most professional Hunters consider this card more valuable than their own lives, yet no more than a worthless scrap of paper at the same time. The important thing is what you accomplish once you become a Hunter."
"What I accomplish…?" Gon repeated.
Taking the license out of the folder, Satotz handed it to the boy. "Gon-kun, it is up to you to decide for yourself when you're ready to use this card; I have faith in your judgment."
Gon took another look at the license in Satotz hand before taking it. There was no use fighting the outcome, despite not liking the way it had ended. But in the end, having the card in his hands made it real he was now a Hunter.
A Hunter ready to go out into the world.
Giving Satotz a nod, he smiled, "a lot of people helped me reach this point. I'll use this once I've returned the favor."
"Then allow me to congratulate you once more."
Gon shook Satotz's hand once more, "thank you, Satotz-san." But the real question sprung into his head. He had won his share, but the rest of the exam…Expression shifting seriously, Gon worried to hear what he had missed. "What about the other applicants? The exam is still going on, right?"
Satotz's eyes narrowed slightly, "no, the exam is over."
"Over?" Gon was taken back. How long had he been out?
Satotz nodded again, "yes. You slept for nearly an entire day. The others who passed are currently completing a brief orientation. We will give you the same orientation later."
Discarding the information Satotz had given him, only one true question mattered for Gon. Gon wasted no time to ask.
Sighing softly at Gon's question, he knew it would come to a surprise once he heard the answer. "It was…Killua."
"Killua…?" Gon's brows furrowed. "He failed? How?"
Satotz looked at Gon's license before letting his shoulders drop. Sharing with Gon the various events that had occurred in the phase was definitely going to bring out a mix of emotions from the young boy.
Many mixed emotions.
Tension boiled within the confinements of the lecture-like room, but the tension radiated from a single person who objected the licenses before them. Morning rolled in, but for half of them, it was a gloomy sunrise. All applicants walked into the room where their Hunter licenses waited within a hardcover folder and their names. All of them had been assigned a seat, well separated from others, but the room itself was still small enough for anyone to go on a killing spree. The moment Netero congratulated them, Kagome spoke against him.
Now the rest of the applicants, aside from Illumi, and the examiners were left staring back and forth from Kagome to the chairman.
"Kagome," Netero sighed with a smile, "we are aware of objection, but we can no longer change the results."
"You can't?" She repeated having slammed her hand down on the table. "Or you won't?"
Netero's eyes narrowed back on her. "We won't." He understood where she was coming from, but the world they habited was not easy, and the rules he made had to stay true. Her anger made sense, and he did not blame her, but everything else in the tournament had followed the rules. "Killua chose to kill and that was the one rule I specifically emphasized."
"None of it was fair!" Kagome abruptly stood from her seat. "His brother did something to him and we can hardly call it a fair fight!"
"The world of Hunters is anything but fair, Kagome." Netero closed his eyes. "That is the path you all are choosing right now."
He had to be kidding her! The anger she held from the day before was finally exploding, and to her own honesty, she was not sure how well she could control it. Much to her disgust, she had come to sit on the seats on the right, but in the same row as Illumi. Thankfully he was on the left side and a set of stairs separated them. She had a perfect view of his stoic face. None of what had occurred affected him. Shifting her full focus on him, Kagome's eyes narrowed angrily. "What did you do to Killua-kun?"
Illumi remained silent.
Brow twitching, Kagome took another step towards him. "Don't you dare ignore me now."
Illumi sighed in return. "Kil choose to do what he wanted to do, and honestly he let instincts take over. After all," he looked at her from the corner of her eyes, "he was made to kill."
Appalled by his statement, Kagome got closer while ignoring Leorio's and Kurapika's shouts telling her to stop. "You scum! No one is born to kill! You made him that way, but that is not what he wants! He wants to live like a normal boy! He wants friends! You have no right to dictate his life!" Kagome's heart stopped as she saw Illumi raise one needle between his index and middle knuckle.
So now he wanted to dispose of her? It would not be the first time. Standing tall, Kagome met his cold stare. "Bring it."
"O-Oi! Kagome!" Leorio called out. "Don't be reckless!" The girl was signing away her life! His eyes widened as he saw Illumi raise his hand higher to take his aim. "Kagome-!"
Illumi's wrist stopped midway from flickering to Kagome's death as the slam of the door at the top of the stairs caught their attention. The room fell silent upon seeing Gon standing at the top of the stairs and his anger directed to the male Kagome was threatened by.
"Gon-kun…". Kagome whispered, surprised to find him up and entering the room. It also did not help that by the look of his expression, he was aware of what had transpired.
"Don't touch her." Gon's tone, rougher than usual had them on alert. Making his way down, he came to stand between Kagome and Illumi before facing him. Getting no acknowledgement from Illumi, Gon's brows furrowed. "Apologize to Killua!"
"Gon-kun…". Kagome repeated, taken back by his anger crackling.
Illumi turned to face the boy, "apologize? For what?"
"You don't know what you did wrong?" Gon questioned.
Illumi shook his head. "No. I can't think of anything."
Kagome immediately caught the tightening fist Gon made with his right hand. So he did hear the whole story.
"You don't have the right to be his brother." Gon continued.
"Must I earn the right to be his brother?"
Ticked by his response, Gon wasted no time to grab Illumi's forearm before lifting him off his seat. All eyes widened at the sight of Illumi's body swiftly lifted into the air before being dropped back down on his feet.
Gon kept a firm grip on Illumi even after having off his seat and to stand beside him. "I heard everything; Killua doesn't need to earn the right to be my friend!" After hearing Satotz explanation of the events that had occurred, he allowed his rage to pile. The result of it all was all he needed to explode.
Illumi's focus dropped to his restricted arm only to see Gon having increased his strength to the point of seeing his own veins becoming visible. A final tightening alerted him of the boy's strength and potential. 'This boy…'.
"Don't bother apologizing, then." Gon spoke, seeing he was getting nowhere. "Just take me to see Killua."
"What will you do if you go?" Illumi questioned. Did he seriously think of 'saving' his brother?
"Isn't it obvious?!" Gon shouted. "I'm gonna rescue Killua!"
Kagome could only but stare at the confrontation Gon had brought up. Did he think about getting him back? Her eyes flickered to Illumi, noticing his stoic expression still glued to his face.
"You make it sound like I kidnapped him." Illumi scoffed. "Everyone here witnessed Kil leaving on his own."
"It wasn't by choice." Kagome cut in. She was tired of his act. No one else was going to back her up on the thought that Illumi had pushed him over the edge. "You can fool everyone else, but I know you did something. You manipulated him into that decision!"
Wood met tile as Netero stepped down from his stage and made sure his wooden sandals would capture their attentions. "Alright, I think it is time we discuss this. Gon," his eyes landed on the boy, "we happened to be discussing this very subject. Kagome was the first to bring up the lodge complaints, but collectively, we do see there is suspicion. The committee has been discussing the fairness of Killua's disqualification."
"If I may." Kurapika stood from his seat, "Killua had been behaving in a strange manner during and since his battle with the man who called himself Gittarackur!" Despite all the weird things that occurred during the entire final phase, Killua's behavior after meeting Illumi had been strange to everyone. It was no normal family reunion to be happy about. "I do believe that he was hypnotized into committing murder. Under normal circumstances, it would be impossible to use hypnosis to induce a person to kill. However, as Killua was raised in a family of assassins, murder was a part of his daily life, so it's natural that he would lack the ethical restraint!"
"That." Kagome added, point to Kurapika. "Everything he just said is what I have been trying to say." Of course her anger was getting the best of her to even come up with cohesive reasoning.
Getting up himself, Leorio raised his hand. "I would like to add that the attack happened during the match between Bodoro and me. It's possible that he was trying to help me. Given that, the one who should be disqualified is me."
"Netero-san," Kagome turned to face him, "you have to be coming to the same conclusion as us. You could tell Killua was in no control of his own actions, let alone his thinking! He shouldn't have been disqualified!"
Netero exhaled as he rested his hands behind his back. "That is mere speculation; there is no proof."
"Netero-san!" Kagome pleaded.
"There were no clear signs of manipulation." He continued as he made his way back to the desk behind him, "in fact, I would question the claim that he was hypnotized."
Kagome was baffled by his statement. "W-What…?"
"I agree that the incident occurred after the battle between Leorio and Bodoro had begun. At that point, both fighters were evenly matched. Bodoro had more experience, but in terms of raw combat ability, Leorio was the strongest. There was no need for Killua to interfere."
Leorio cursed under his breath upon having his claim dismissed. It would have the one thing to help Killua's disqualification.
"Actually," Pokkle cut in, "if we are on the topic of speculation, there was some other funny business happening." Turning his head over his shoulder, he took a good look at Kurapika. "Like when you fought Hisoka. Back then, what did he say to you? Neither of you seemed particularly tired, but Hisoka whispered something in your ear, right before conceding. I think that's pretty strange, and I am sure others think the same. I'd understand surrendering after your opponent whispers something to you, as happened with Hanzo and Kagome-"
'Not really sure that is something to be bringing back, buddy.' Kagome blinked as she tried to read into Pokkle's statement.
"-or how it happened with Bodoro and Hisoka. Because we were under considerable pressure. But in your case…the exact opposite happened." Pokkle stood from his seat to fully face his listener. "I have to wonder if you struck some sort of bargain. If you're going to question anything that seems odd, your own victory was quite odd, indeed. If you have nothing to hide, you should tell us what he said. Right now would be the time."
Curious herself, Kagome snuck a glance at Kurapika who remained unaffected by Pokkle interrogation. Aside from Killua's issue, Kurapika would be the next thing they all wondered about.
"I have no obligation to tell you." Kurapika replied.
Pokkle's eyes narrowed, "maybe not, but I believe you owe it to us."
"Not really." He sighed as his closed his eyes, "if you consider my victory to be odd, a victory by default would be equally odd. You also acted strange when Kagome-san attacked you. What was that about?"
Triggered by his words, Pokkle readied his fist. "What did you say?! I had no choice! The girl was going to-".
Catching the faint whisper, both Illumi and Kagome looked at Gon whose grip had tightened as the minutes ticked by.
"Oi, oi." Hanzo stepped in, cutting into Pokkle's argument. "I want to get this lecture over with so I can leave-!"
"Why are you all talking about that?!" Gon interrupted. "None of that matters!" Receiving their silence and stares, Gon's brows furrowed as the image of Killua leaving repeated in his head. "It's pointless to argue over whether someone should have passed. If you aren't happy about passing, keep working until you're satisfied. If Killua retakes the Hunter Exam, he'll definitely pass! It's unfortunate that he failed this time, but it is what it is." He gave another squeeze to Illumi's arm who had yet to show any sign of pain. "What does matter…", he turned to face the quiet man, "if you've been forcing Killua to kill against his will all this time, I'll make you pay!"
Struck by his words, Kagome was left speechless. Her argument was to change the results of the exam, but here she was listening to a boy, younger than her, making sense that what mattered was the well being of his friend. Killua could come back if he wanted to, and he would pass.
But that was if they could get him back.
"Make me pay?" Illumi repeated, breaking the silence. "Then? What will you do?"
Deciding to step in, Kagome placed her hand over Gon's to make him let go. "Nothing. Our mind is on helping Killua-kun; when we help him, I'll make sure that you never see him again." Kagome blinked as she watched Illumi's free hand coming to touch her head. Without a second thought, she pushed Gon behind her and extended her own arm out defensively with her palm facing him. "Move," she repeated his words to Killua, "and I'll take it as a sign that you are going to attack."
He stopped; he observed.
And he noticed.
"Ahem!" Netero cleared his throat, hoping to blow away the tension. "Then, I think it is best we all move on and finish this. Gon is correct. You must decide for yourselves if you were worthy of passing. You may complain about the results all you like, but we will not be changing our minds. Killua has been disqualified, and the rest of you have passed the exam." With his secretary at his side, he gave Beans a nod.
"Very well," Beans spoke as he came forward, "I shall continue the orientation." Showing a copy of a Hunter license, he held it up and waited for everyone to take a seat again. "The cards I've passed out are your Hunter Licenses. This card allows you to enter ninety percent of the countries that limit immigration, as well as seventy-five percent of the restricted areas in the world. This card also provides free access to ninety-five percent of public facilities, and a line of credit that rivals large corporations. If you sell the card, you'll have enough money to last seven lifetimes and if you keep it, you'll still be living in comfort."
'Seven lifetimes?!' Kagome blinked as she saw the card inside the folder. It almost made her feel like her world was messed up for having nothing like this implemented. It almost made her want to ditch her entire purpose and enjoy that comfort.
"So," Beans continued, "take extra care that your license isn't lost or stolen. You won't receive a replacement. According to our estimates, one in five Hunters lose their card within a year of receiving it. As a Hunter, your first challenge is to protect your card. The rest is up to you. Rise above challenges, believe in your own strength, and fulfill your dreams."
"Then," Netero smiled, "we now declare the eight members here to be the new Hunters!"
Stopped at the outside hallway after leaving the orientation, Illumi responded to the name by looking over his shoulder. He blinked at the sight of not only Gon standing before him, but also Kagome, Kurapika, and Leorio waiting.
"Tell me where Killua is." Gon demanded.
Kagome sighed knowing it was futile to stop him. After the orientation, she had asked about his arm, but his eyes were glued on Illumi the whole time. Gon had completely ignored the three of them, and they could not blame him when his worries were on Killua. Now here they were waiting to get an answer from Illumi.
"Are you really going to take him away?" Illumi faced him. "I think that's a bad idea."
"Why do you care what I think!?" Gon shouted.
Taking a step forward, Kagome cut in, "having you as an older brother is the bad idea here." Kagome commented. "Besides, we want to know because we have decided to know. So don't be going thinking for us." Deciding it was best to step in and help now that Gon's mind was set on helping Killua, she wanted to do her best. After all, Gon had done a lot for her to get the Hunter license. "Killua-kun is Gon-kun's friend. You don't have a say in that."
"Do you all feel the same way?" Illumi questioned as he took another look at her and the others behind.
"You bet." Leorio scoffed.
With a sigh, Illumi nodded. "Fine, not that I care. I doubt you'll be able to make it there anyway. Kil went home."
"Home?" Gon repeated.
"Kukuroo Mountain." Illumi answered. "Our family lives at the very top."
Leorio tilted his head to the side, "Kukuroo Mountain? Never heard of it…".
"Got it." Gon nodded back, "thanks!"
Watching the boy turn back and walk away, Kagome followed but not before giving him a light smack on the back of the head. "Thanks? You are thanking him? Why the heck would you be thanking that creep?"
"He told us though…". He whined as he other two followed.
As they walked to the other side of the hall leading to the main garden, Illumi was left wondering more about them. A mysterious and annoying bunch.
"Is it really okay for an assassin to give away his base of operations?"
"Sure," Illumi turned around recognizing the voice behind him, "it isn't a secret of anything." He chuckled at the sight of Hisoka's curiosity as he leaned against one of the pillars of the hall. "The locals all know where we live. Well, I'm sure they'll see the light once they arrive. We do live in completely different worlds."
Eyes landing on the arm Gon had gripped, Hisoka noticed the red bruises forming and the swelling.
"Oh, this?" Illumi raised his arm to inspect the damage, "yep, it's broken."
The corner of Hisoka's lips lifted darkly as he remembered Gon's instant threat during the orientation and the priestess's defense. No doubt in his mind she was ready to let out the aura he had sensed before.
"He had incredible potential." Illumi's focus went over to the group of four walking into the garden, "but the girl is trouble. She was willing to put herself in danger to protect him there." He noticed it alright. "I can understand why you want to see him grow up."
"Didn't I tell you?" Hisoka chuckled.
'But…,' Illumi's eyes narrowed on the two, 'that makes them all the more dangerous in the future. This would be the best chance to-.' Illumi's inner thoughts came to a stop as soon as he felt the same threatening aura directed on him. He shifted his eyes to Hisoka who harbored his bloodlust without shame.
"They are my prey. Touch them, and you'll suffer the consequences."
"I know, I know." Illumi sighed. "I've only known you for a short while, but I know your tastes. So, Hisoka, what are you going to do now?"
"Me?" He grinned. Taking another look at Gon and Kagome walking away from the corner of his eyes, he could not help but feel his excitement churn. "I'll be waiting patiently. Wait for the fruit to ripen…".
Waiting under the shade of a tree, Kagome sat on the bench with Kurapika as Leorio and Gon conversed over the location of Kukuroo Mountain.
"Kukuroo Mountain, huh? Never heard of it before." Leorio crossed his arms.
She had to be out of the conversation as she had no idea where they were now. With a Hunter license now in her hands, she still had no idea what to do with it. 'Could it possibly give you the answers like a magic-eight ball?' She scoffed at the idea. Sighing under her breath, she let her shoulders drop before noticing Kurapika spacing out.
"Kurapika, do you know where it is?" Leorio asked.
They waited for his reply.
Kagome blinked before waving her hand in front of his face, "Kurapika-kun?"
"O-Oh?" His eyes flickered, "what is it?" Standing up, he brushed off the dirt on his pants.
"The mountain!" Leorio sighed. "That Illumi guy said something about Kukuroo Mountain! Do you know where it might be?"
Kurapika shook his head as his thoughts floated without direction. "No…I don't. Sorry. Maybe we can look it up online?"
Turning their heads to the ninja coming towards them, Gon was the first to wave him in.
"Hanzo-san!" Gon greeted.
"Well," Hanzo chuckled, "I'm going back to my country. It was short, yet seemingly long acquaintance, but I had fun."
Gon nodded back, "so did I-oomf!"
Kagome's heavily exhale puffed out as she retreated her hand from the back of Gon's head. "Fun? This ninja here broke the arm you can't use right now! And was about to slice off you legs! How is that fun?"
"But…it was…". He sniffled.
"Ma, ma," Hanzo chuckled nervously as he caught her glare, "I do apologize for that, but we were all placed in a tricky situation, right?"
"Yeah…do you see any of us with broken arms?" She raised a brow sarcastically.
Knowing she was right, Hanzo cleared his throat hoping to mend the trust. "Well, to make up for it, if you ever visit my country, let me know. I can show you the bet tourists spots!" Hanzo handed them his business card, before walking away. "See ya!"
"See ya!" Gon waved him off.
Kagome shook her head as she had taken the card from him and looked at his over-the-top business card written in traditional Japanese. At least she could read that.
"A shinobi who tries to leave an impression, huh?" Kurapika blinked at the card.
All four once again looked up to see now Pokkle coming out of the orientation room and holding his laptop to his side.
"I wanted to come and apologize for what happened in the room." Pokkle came forth as he adjusted his bow on his shoulder.
"No," Kurapika shook his head, "I also lost control there. Forgive me."
Pokkle sighed, "I only got mad because you were right. I was using you to take out my frustration for winning by default, but I'm over that now. Since I passed, I'm going to make the best of it! But," his focus landed on Kagome who only blinked back from the sudden attention, "I seriously believed you when you said that glow was going to explode, Kagome!"
"Huh?" The three of them directed their blinks to the blank priestess. "Explode?"
Sweat drop looming over head, Kagome avoided the eye contact. "I'll…tell you all later."
"Explode?" Leorio repeated as he leaned closer to the woman. "Don't tell me you got bombs or something?"
Her brow twitched in return, 'that would be better to have right now than to explain my aura…'.
"Well the question now is what to do next." Pokkle changed the topic. "For now, I'm thinking of traveling the world, gathering information and discovering new species as an Exotic Game Hunter."
"An Exotic Game Hunter?" Kagome questioned.
"What is that?" Gon pointed at the laptop in Pokkle's hand.
"This?" He tilted it for them to see it, "you can use this to obtain all kinds of information. Is there anything you'd like to know right now? I can look it up on the spot."
Thinking to himself, Gon tilted his head to the side before his curiosity rung. "Ah! Can you look up a Hunter named Ging? His full name is Ging Freecss."
"Sure," Pokkle nodded as he typed the name, "hold on…". Looking at the information that popped up on his screen, Pokkle became perplexed at the lack of it. "Oi, oi, who is this Ging guy? All information related to him is behind a tight security system that requires a bunch of different accesses. He has some serious influence even at the national level."
They all blinked at the information.
"Huh? Really?" Gon whispered. Chuckling nervously, he scratched the back of his head, "ah, well, forget it, then…".
"Looks like Gon's old man is someone really special." Leorio whispered to Kagome.
Nodding slowly, she took another look at Gon. A man that special with his son looking for him? Who was this Ging?
"Well, let me know if anything else comes up." Closing his laptop, Pokkle handed them a card of his own. "This is my e-mail address. Well, I wish you all luck!"
Watching him run off towards the exit of the garden, Gon gave his goodbye with a wave.
"Ah!" Leorio snapped his fingers, "we should have asked him to look up Kukuroo Mountain…".
"It's okay! As Chairman Netero was saying, we are all Hunters now. It's a bad idea to let other Hunters know what you're doing." Looking over at the direction of the hotel's lobby, Kurapika hooked his fingers under his chin, "maybe they will have a computer there where we can look it up ourselves."
Attention pulled to the other direction, Kagome and the others blinked seeing their first examiner standing in the middle of the garden.
"Satotz-san!" Gon greeted before running to meet him half-way.
"Gon-kun," Satotz handed out the folder containing his license, "you forgot this."
"Oh, right…". Gon chuckled nervously again, "thanks!"
"Actually, do you have a moment?"
Looking over his shoulder to his friends, Gon asked permission with only his eyes.
Kagome nodded as the others grabbed the folders sitting on the bench before proceeding to walk towards the lobby. "Go ahead, we will wait in the lobby."
Left to stare at Gon's and Satotz's backs as they walked to another area of the garden, Kagome's shoulders drop after releasing a heavy sigh.
"Have you decided where you will go on from here, Kagome-san?"
Turning her head to the familiar older voice and laugh, Kagome's eyes slowly narrowed on the chairman standing under the shade of the tree. "I'm not in the best moods towards you, Netero-san."
"I understand and respect your feelings." He chuckled again, "but the way things occurred, I had no power to overturn the decision of who passed and who failed."
And she understood his place. It was true that there was no proof to Illumi's 'hypnotism' and all that was left was speculation. She gave another sigh as her eyes landed on Gon's back. "It wasn't fair…to both of them."
Following her line of sight, Netero nodded seeing Gon talking to Satotz. "It wasn't, but that is the real world. Reality, and unfortunately things are decided to either protect or to harm. It is up to you to decide how you want to move forward." Focus returning to her, Netero's expression became serious.
"Have you decided where you are going from here?"
"I guess we should be researching exactly where Kukuroo Mountain is." Leorio spoke as he watched Kurapika log into one of the computers at the hotel's lobby. After Gon met back up with them, they proceeded to make research on the place Illumi had led them to.
Kagome silently judged the screen before her. After Gon asked her to research it, she felt clueless as she faced a keyboard with an alphabet she had no understanding of. After giving leadership to Kurapika, it made her wonder if she could ever read the texts in this world, although it was strange enough they could communicate just fine.
"Ah," Kurapika clicked the first link, "there it is." As the images of an actual mountain loaded on the screen with its text, Kurapika read what he could. "Kukuroo Mountain. It's a three thousand seven hundred and twenty-two-meter-high mountain, in the Dentora region of the Republic of Padokea."
"Republic of Padokea?" Kagome repeated. That was enough to give her the guarantee that they were nowhere near Japan.
"I haven't heard of it either." Leorio added. "Where is it exactly?"
"I'll bring up a map." Kurapika typed into a different tab before clicking a map to enlarge. "Looks like it is northeast of here. It should be fine. There are no conflicts in the country and it appears to be stable. Ordinary tourists are allowed."
"So," Gon leaned forward to take a closer look at the map, "that is where we'll find Killua?"
Nodding, Kurapika brought up another tab with flights, "by airship, it will take three days to reach…when should we leave?"
"Today!" Gon immediately answered. "Right now!"
"I have no objections to that!" Leorio nodded with a smile.
"Alright, that makes three of us." Shifting his focus onto Kagome, who had remained silent, he asked, "will you be going, Kagome-san?"
Going? She blinked in thought. If she were honest to herself, she was given the path to become a Hunter, but nothing past that. Right now, she was at a blank on what to do and where to go. She had a goal, but no leads.
"Let's go, Kagome-onee-san!" Gon's wide smile made her jolt. "Let's go get Killua!"
'Killua-kun…'. The cold expression on his face had been carved in her memory and it pained her each time to think about it. The boy needed his freedom. Returning the smile to Gon, she nodded. "Let's go get Killua-kun."
For now, she was going to let fate guide her.
MizukixTsukiyomi's Notes: And that marks the end of this chapter and this arc (finally)! We move onto the Zoldyck family! My focus on this story will be Kagome establishing relationships with everyone she meets (or at least most people) as it will become an important factor later on. This may not be the best chapter, but I do hope you all enjoyed nonetheless.
Please review (I noticed lots of fanfic authors leaving because they are defeated by the lack of reviews and it truly saddens me. I don't want to see my senpais go)!
and thank you for reading!