Ring Away

Day One: First Hunt

-

"We will be playing Hunter and Prey."

No one spoke. Many wanted to giggle and break the hushed silence. But no one dared speaking with Butch watching.

"There will be three groups," Yura continued. "The Prey, the Hunter, and the Human. The Preys will be like rabbits. They will wear these blue bandanas and run like hell."

Butch passed the bandanas to five people. They were all female.

Kagome, one of the preys, mentally grumbled.

Sexist.

"The Hunters will be like foxes. They will wear these red bandanas and tag the Preys. But the Hunters can tag other Hunters, if they wish," Yura paused. "Sort of like cannibals."

Butch laughed as he passed out ten bandanas. Eight males and two females tied it around their forearms or wrists.

"The Preys are allowed to cooperate with other Preys. Hunters may do the same."

Secretly, among the group, the Preys held hands and the Hunters huddled in a bunch.

"And if you want, just for today, the Preys can ask for the Hunters' hand. However, betrayals are quite common in this game – I warn the meek Preys that this will not be pretty."

Butch held up his hand and stared at his wristwatch, as if counting down.

"All of you will be allowed to roam freely. In the woods, the field, even the cafeteria. No door will be locked, no building is restricted. Speaking is prohibited; however, this rule does not apply to Humans. You all have until six o'clock."

Kagome frowned. It was 2 in the afternoon – they'd be doing this for 4 hours?

"If you are caught, you may be released," Yura clicked her tongue. "It depends on the Humans. Because humans are such fickle beings, you may be 'caged' or immediately… well, whatever humans do to animals. Luckily, because we must abide by the law, we will not be skinning or dismembering you."

Yura's humor was dry and mocking.

"This will teach you all what the victims and bullies feel in their daily lives. Abused, scared, targeted; powerful, special, worthy… This will also teach us what the uncivilized wildlife knows. To live just another day, running away because of the natural food chain," she cleared her throat, signaling Butch.

He pulled out a stopwatch and handed it to Yura.

"In seven minutes, we will be beginning our game."

Kagome turned to her group. Seven minutes was a very short period of time, especially in a time like this. They tried formulating a plan, but to no avail. Only running seemed fit for the occasion.

Yura made it sound like unrestricting the grounds was the best thing for the Preys. But, in fact, it was the Hunters who still held the advantage.

Because there really wasn't anywhere for the Preys to hide now.

True, it'd be taking the Hunters some time to find them all, the campgrounds could rival the largest maze, but they'd find them. The Preys were outnumbered, after all.

"We will be beginning in five minutes," Yura said. "The Preys will be getting a head start – you will be let go in two minutes.

"Wait," one of the Hunters held up his hand. "Who are the Humans?"

It was a very unwise question. The moment he finished asking there was a chilling breeze, pushing along a ball of hay, an oddity passing by.

"What a silly little question," Yura giggled, enjoying the suffocating silence. "Why do you think only Butch is here with me? If it was any other day, I'd have at least five men watching you lot."

Great. Kagome grimaced. I'm going to be manhandled by a douche bag.

She had lost all hope of running or hiding. Actually, she had planned to climb up a tree and stay up there, enjoying the last moments of her life before they dragged her back to reality.

This was now officially worse than death.

"Preys!" Yura shouted. "You may start!"

Kagome stood up.

And ran like hell.

-

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Inuyasha stood still, watching intently.

There it was again.

He growled, baring his teeth. It was growing.

Every time he thought about this situation, about his miserable life, about his anger, he saw it happen.

His cheeks tickled and two odd markings crawled up from the side of his face. His canines… basically formed into real canines.

Like dogs'. Inuyasha massaged his temples and breathed in, relaxing his nerves. The markings disappeared along with the canines.

It started just this morning, when he tumbled out of bed, unable to stay calm because of his boiling anxiety. It seemed like what happened yesterday worsened his ungodly animosity…

No.

Inuyasha was not going to think about that. It was childish and absolutely ridiculous.

Only seven days? Seven days until death?

"Hell," Inuyasha mumbled. "Better than suicide."

A floorboard creaked.

Inuyasha turned around and saw the bathroom door slowly swing open. Still vexed about his appearance, he stepped out and walked onto the carpet. The cabin door was ajar.

"Great," he grumbled.

He closed the door, but the wind pushed it open. Because he wasn't allowed a lock, the old door continued to open every time he tried closing it. After the fourth time he gave up and left the door as it was, until the door closed by itself and then opened back up.

"Oh for the," Inuyasha cursed and jammed his sandal between the door and wall.

He went back into the bathroom, and found that his shower curtain had been closed. It ruffled a little. Very peculiar, and very creepy.

Not that blatant Inuyasha cared.

"What're you doing?" he shouted and pulled open the curtain.

He wasn't expecting a ghost or anything of the sort; but he was definitely not expecting a foot making contact with his groin.

"Get away!" two girls with blue bandanas screeched and pushed him down, using him like a doorstep before running out the bathroom and cabin altogether.

"What the hell," he groaned. "It's MY cabin!"

He crawled out of the bathroom just as the front door exploded open, ricocheting off the wall.

Like a cannon, a pair screamed and thundered into the small area, stumbling into desks and chairs and, inevitably, into Inuyasha.

Newton's First law stated that an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Kagome and Shippou was the object and Inuyasha, unfortunately, was the unbalanced force.

Inuyasha fell, two pairs of hands pushing his head down, pinning him on the floor.

"Keep quiet!" Kagome savagely whispered through gritted teeth.

"He'll hear us!" Shippou fiercely murmured, nose flared and eyes wild.

"VATDAHELL?"

"Close the door!" Shippou ordered, and Kagome followed. She got onto her weak knees and desperately forced the door shut. Of course, it didn't work the first time, and try as she might the door did not want to close. "Why! Why won't you close?"

"Because my shoe's in the–" Inuyasha yelled before Shippou covered his mouth and slammed his head to the floor.

Kagome kicked his shoe out and closed the door. Strangely it didn't reopen. (Woman's touch.)

"Okay," Shippou gulped. "You promise you won't kill us if I get off?"

"BAIDAHVORDOFHERENHAGHFASTLADEOFHYAMELIKATHEDAAIMUGOHINDOGILLYA!" Inuyasha gurgled.

"What did that mean?" Kagome frowned. "Let go of his mouth."

Shippou did so and was promptly knocked down. Inuyasha sat up and pried his hands loose from under his back.

"I said," his hands found Shippou's neck. "By the words of Helen Hayes, first lady of the American Theatre, I'm going to kill you!"

Kagome screamed. "Stop it! You're strangling him!"

"No," he shouted. "I'm killing him!"

Kagome jumped on Inuyasha, grabbing his forelock and pulling as hard as possible. "Let go!"

"OW, OW, OW!" Inuyasha loosened his stranglehold but held onto Shippou, who was very much blue at the time. "YOU let go!"

-…7 minutes later…-

The three sat silently in Inuyasha's cabin, all of them sitting as far away from each other as possible.

Inuyasha sat on his bed, cross legged with a very sullen look. His hair looked like a cat's rejected hairball. Shippou sat atop the dresser, looking still very blue and afraid. He also looked a little dazed. Kagome, sitting on the floor, was out of breath, but the most unscarred out of the whole mess.

She broke the pregnant pause.

"We're playing Hunter and Prey," Kagome explained. "I'm the Prey."

"I know," Inuyasha snapped. "Two of them with the blue bandanas were hiding in my bathroom."

"Then why are you so annoyed? You should've known we were coming."

"He skipped class," Shippou cut in. "I'd know; I have all his classes."

"So why were you with her?" Inuyasha glared.

"Well, it went something like this…"

-Flashback Mode – Shippou Style-

Shippou was having the time of his life. He was basking in the sun and drinking coke on a park bench, all the girls on the other side of the lake joshing over his perfect figure, fanning themselves with handkerchiefs pulled out of their Victorian type dresses.

"I do say," one of them spoke with a southern accent. "He is absolutely adorable, don't you agree my dear?"

All of them nodded in unison.

Then, all of a sudden, a beautiful maiden came out of the clearing, obviously in distress.

"Oh I say, I say!" Kagome said. "Shippou, my good sir, oh could you please help me find a shelter in which I can hide? Oh, my hero!"

"What is it that's distressing you so?" Shippou, the good sir, inquired.

"It's the wicked demon! Oh save me, before it's too late!"

"Hush now, young maiden! Get behind that hut and I'll cover you as such!"

"My good sir! My hero!" she said as she shuffled towards the hiding spot.

No sooner had she hid an old brute with hideous stench and character came forth. His gaze was deathly but nothing compared to Shippou's righteous pose.

"You, young one," his voice alone shook the trees. "Did you see a young maiden with a blue marking? I've come to steal her away to my domain!"

"I saw nothing!" Shippou stood proudly. "And if I did, I wouldn't even bother telling such a 'looker' as you yourself!"

"You flibbertigibbet!" the brute took out an abnormally long fencing sword. "I do challenge you to a duel to the death!"

"I do say I accept!"

The duel was long and harsh, many illegal moves were used solely by the brute, but Shippou was justly and a true gentleman to the end. However, the cheat used his trickery and deceived Shippou. In one of their many binding moments, the brute kicked Shippou down and swiped his sword away.

"I do say you are defeated!"

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

-Shippou Styled Flashback Ends-

"And then I ran like hell," Shippou ended.

"And of course, being the southern damsel in distress I followed the gentleman until both of us ended up in your cabin," Kagome shook her head. "Why did I have a Southern American accent? I'm Japanese."

"Well, I was really threatened!" Shippou muttered. "That brute, Butch, even tried to beat me up!"

"I guess in the game he's allowed to do that," Inuyasha coughed. "Though I don't think bullies usually threaten you with a duel."

The two boys fell off the dresser and bed, respectively, when Kagome shrieked, her most deafening cry of sheer terror yet.

"The wall!"

The three watched as a steady drip of water slithered down the wall, just above the door. It stopped after the water seeped and dried, forming a very distinct symbol.

1

"Oh great!" Inuyasha complained. "I just fixed the leak!"

"It's beginning!" Shippou squeaked. "It's day one! Day one! We'll die in seven days, that's what the video said!"

"Forget the video," Kagome cried from the window. "The Hunters are coming!"

-

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A yellow 2005 Lotus Elise pulled up in front of the gates, the questionable rap music turned off as it did so.

Miroku Preston got out of his car with a leather suitcase in hand. Attired in a snappy business suit, and affixed with a Rolex wristwatch, he was more out of place than a clown in a Spanish church.

"Kamishima Camp," he muttered as he examined the steel gates. A sly smile played about his lips.

Sango Shirohama was busy reorganizing the boxes in the detention center, a space used as the main office. Green and pink papers overlaid the tiled floor and textbooks thronged the tabletops.

It's because of that stupid package. Sango pulled out another box from the shelf and shuffled through the content. That stupid package was also a very important piece of finery. The files claimed it had been sent seven days ago, but the receiver called in and stated they had never accepted any packages.

And the fine for losing that one package was hefty – nearly up to 5 digits, actually.

But the camp didn't plan to pay the fine.

They were blaming it on her, poor little Sango, the one who was responsible for all the incoming deliveries.

"Aw hell," she snapped and threw the box to the side. Getting to her numbed legs, she didn't expect to meet two indigo eyes.

"Hello there," the man bowed a little, never breaking eye contact. He was a handsome fellow, she noted, but she had her dignity.

"Oh," she cleared her throat. "I'm sorry; you're a little early…"

Miroku watched her consciously tug at the hem of her sleeve. She knew her hair was askew, but the nearest bathroom was two floors above.

"The folders are a little…disorganized at the moment. But I have the specific case file."

Miroku graciously nodded as Sango searched through what littered the surface of the workbench.

"I suppose caseworkers don't usually come 30 minutes early," Miroku leaned on the opposite wall, making small talk. He observed the girl push the unwanted garbage off the desk.

"No. They're usually an hour late," she smiled, though keeping her head down. She knew the caseworker was watching her every move, and it was beginning to unnerve her.

Mr. Preston laughed; a genuine, hearty gesture. "I was expecting some traffic, but it was…"

"Strangely deserted?" Sango ended. "It's like this all year round. Here's her folder."

"Thank you, Miss…I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."

Sango's left eye twitched. A very obvious way to get a girl's name. Well, she wasn't going to make it easy for this guy.

"Just an officer from the junior-councilor's committee," she smiled sincerely. "I'm sure your reports won't ask for specific names."

Miroku was amused and chuckled inwardly. If she was going for appropriateness… "But if I was to know for my own personal reasons?"

Whoa. That was straightforward. "Oh?" Sango, a bit thrown off, tried to recompose. "I suppose."

"Please."

"It's…Shirohama. Sango Shirohama," Sango smile became tight and thin. Defeat was not a pretty thing.

"It was nice to meet you, Ms. Shirohama," he nodded and prepared to leave. However, he stayed put, as if engraving his charming smile into her memory, unwanted or not.

The moment the door closed behind him, Sango gave a long, lasting sigh, aggravated and contempt.

"Dang it," she whispered as she sat back down on the floor. What was more annoying than the image of his self-confident smile was something she realized moments later.

She didn't get his name.

-

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"We need to split up!"

Shippou held his head. "That's the dumbest thing you could possibly do! Don't you watch horror movies? It's easier for the enemy to pick us off, one by one…"

"But if we stick together they'll definitely find us. A pack makes more noises than loners," Inuyasha blinked. "Wait, why am I helping? I should've just stayed in my cabin… I'm not even playing."

"They would've thrown you in the detention center if they found you," Kagome spoke. "C'mon, let's think of–"

"They're here!" someone screamed from the dirt path.

One question; if you screamed before you jumped a rabbit, would it run?

Hell yeah.

As if on a silent agreement, Shippou, Kagome, and Inuyasha ran in separate directions.

Because Kagome was a Prey, because Shippou was deathly afraid of Butch, and because Inuyasha feared the detention center, they ran away without hesitation.

Kagome rushed into the woods, hearing two pairs of feet follow her into the dense woodland. In an incredible burst of speed she dashed past fallen branches and trees, scratching her knees and arms as she got through a particularly spiky bush.

She came to an immediate halt when she found herself in front of two fallen trees mounted on top of each other. She couldn't go around it… there were more bushes blocking her way. And she'd have to backtrack nearly ten meters – something she didn't have time to do. She couldn't climb over it either; it was too wet with dew and there weren't enough barks to grab hold. Not must space to crawl under… she'd have to go between the two trees.

Kagome, thanking the stars she wasn't chubby, squeezed through the trees, head and shoulders first, and pushed forward, kicking off the ground and forcing her abdomen past the rough surface, and then tumbling down to the grassy surface. Her elbows stung, she was sure they were scraped, but that didn't matter.

She got back on her feet and ran.

"Damn!" a Hunter cried. Being male, he must've gotten stuck through the two trees.

She had made a daring choice, and it worked to her advantage.

Kagome jumped over a large puddle and slipped on the wet leaves, getting on her hands and knees. Undaunted, she crawled and then got back on her feet. Too bad she didn't see the seven set of branches lining the ground.

"AH!" her blood-curdling scream somehow echoed in the forest, scaring a handful of crows out of their slumber. Her hands saved her upper half of the body, but her wrists were grazed and her legs smarted more than ever.

Kagome gave in. She got up and stepped away from the branches, examining her arms and legs. There were dozens of nicks and scratches, the longest one traveling from down her left kneecap to her ankle.

She traced her wounds with her eyes. It was amazing how humans could get so desperate as to momentarily forget pain. Now that she was still, her bodies ache and blood was more noticeable.

…frankly, she didn't care.

Where were the Hunters? She couldn't have lost them – they were right behind her. Not to mention her scream…even she found it unbearable.

She jumped when a hand grabbed her shoulder.

"Hey," Inuyasha said. "There you are. C'mon, Shippou's up in tree."

Kagome turned. "Literally?"

"What do you think?" he frowned and walked away. She followed him, slowly but stably.

The two found themselves below a slanted tree, supported by another tree that also acted as a stepping stool. It was perfect. A little ways from the buildings and shielded by thickets and groves.

"Are we all here?" Shippou stuck his head out from the peak of the tree.

"Yeah," Inuyasha shouted. "We can show her."

"Show me what?"

Inuyasha turned to her and frowned. Then he rolled his eyes, shaking his head to a naïve child.

Kagome fumed. "What, I'm supposed to read your mind or something?"

"You talk too much," he growled and walked away.

Shippou jumped out of the tree and found Kagome in a very cruddy move. She ignored him and followed Inuyasha, trying to bore a hole through the back of his head. Shippou stayed away. Far away.

The three traveled down a gentle slope, cleared of all trees and bushes. The clearing looked like it had imploded a long time ago, the ground sunken in a few feet. Grass still grew on the ground, but in the center a very out of place shack stood proudly and stubbornly. It looked very decrepit and dilapidated, moss growing on the roof and shutters barely clinging onto the walls.

"What's this?"

"Just shut up," Inuyasha said and continued into the shack.

Kagome shook, her hands balled into fists. Who did he think she was? Treating her like some stupid little kid!

She stepped into the shack. The inside was worse than the exterior. Vines hung from the ceilings and walls, not to mention…

"Stalactites?" Kagome stared. "That's not right… this isn't a cave."

"The phone's working alright," Inuyasha ignored her and picked up the phone from the other side of the shack.

"Weird, right?" Shippou came in. "An abandoned shack with vines and moss everywhere… but with a working phone and an outlet to boot. Not to mention the TV."

Kagome turned to what Shippou pointed. It was a plasma TV, and it looked well taken care of.

"Someone lives here?"

"Someone did," Inuyasha corrected. "When we came here the TV was still on. They bolted… and look at this."

Kagome involuntarily stepped back when he held up the accursed videotape. "What… we left that in the other cabin!"

"Yeah, well, someone found it and brought it back with them. I don't know if they watched it; it was on the floor."

"Or if they did something with it…"

Inuyasha and Kagome turned as Shippou crouched in front of something. He stood back up and turned, holding a video recorder in his hands.

"You think they made the video?"

"Well, if it has an origin," Inuyasha smirked. "Then it can't be cursed. It's not like a ghost is sealed inside it or anything."

Shippou scoffed. "Dude, look at this place! It's creepy and… what're you doing?"

Inuyasha pushed the videotape into the VCR and pressed the Play button. "What? I just want to see if they added anything."

"Do you want to be cursed again?"

"You think I'll die two times in a row? Think of it this way; two negatives make a positive, right?"

"And do two rights make a left?"

"No."

The three kiddies uttered a cry of surprise when an intimidating figure walked into the shack. With a braided ponytail, the committee officer stared the three campers down.

"What are you three doing here?"

"We're–" Shippou started, but a loud cackle drowned him out.

Someone had altered the video – and now it was more violent.

Sango walked over to the TV. "So this was the priceless package," however, because she was fascinated by the pictures, she didn't reach for the VCR.

Primarily because a hand reached out of the TV.

"Whoa!" Inuyasha and Sango, both sitting inches away from the TV, dodged the hand and drew back. The fingers of the three dimensional hand curled, trying to lure them closer.

"That…" Shippou's voice died.

Kagome shook her head as the picture changed. A puddle splashed in the background before the image faded to white and two black orbs appeared.

"That didn't happen," she said. "It's impossible. It's just a box…"

"Turn it off!"

Inuyasha dived for the VCR…

Only to be slapped silly by the TV hand.

"Oh jeez!" Inuyasha tumbled back. "That hand can really smack!"

"Isn't there a remote?"

"The hand's holding it."

"Oh," they watched the hand wave the remote around, using it as a weapon to frighten the inhabitants of the shack.

The moment the videocassette reached 7 minutes, the hand threw the remote at Shippou and retracted back into the TV.

"Ouch…" Shippou whined, rubbing his forehead. "Why'd it throw it at me?"

"Very interesting."

Four sets of eyes fell on the man standing before the doorway.

"Unusually entertaining," he applauded and observed the occupants. "Didn't anyone else think so?"

Then the phone rang.

"Don't answer that!" Kagome yelled. "It's her!"

Sango stood up, but stayed still. She was more or less shell shocked after seeing that TV hand.

"Kagome Higurashi?" the unnamed man blinked. "Oh, so there you are. You're on my caseload, you know?"

"Wait, I got it!" Inuyasha said and struggled to the phone. "I'll hit the speaker button."

"Speaker button…?"

Inuyasha knocked the receiver over, and, suddenly, the static from the phone was loud and clear.

There was labored breathing on the other end, and a female murmured something incoherent.

"How'd you make the hand stick out of the screen?" Inuyasha, who had stayed a nonbeliever throughout the day, was curious. He didn't want to believe that this was all real. He also didn't want to believe that he was wrong.

"A trick," she spoke. "A simple trick of the mind."

"You're saying it was an illusion? What kind of an illusion whack people silly?"

"The two new occupants," her voice trembled. "Seven–"

"No, not seven!" Shippou shouted. "Unless it's seventy years, I'm not going to listen."

"We're already cursed," Kagome said. "It'd only count for them," she pointed to the committee officer and her caseworker.

"No fair!"

"Seven–"

"You know who you should call?" Inuyasha yelled. "One eight-hundred, six three zero, SCREW–YOU!"

"What if it's a different area code?" Kagome interjected. "And shouldn't the numbers only have three and four digits? 'Screw you' has like…" Kagome counted off on her fingers.

"Fine!" he growled. "Go to the web and email SCREW at YOU dot com!"

"…"

Shippou tapped his chin. "Maybe that was too harsh."

"Seven–"

Inuyasha wasn't done either. "You're so smelly you turn Right Guard left!"

"What's right guard?" Kagome turned to Inuyasha.

"Oh c'mon, it's a deodorant. Don't you use one?" Inuyasha held his nose in mock disgust.

"Hey," Sango held her hand up, finally speaking. "We Asian woman don't get body hair as much as you. We also don't need to shave or use deodorant… at least not as much as you."

"SEVEN–" the voice was annoyed. So was Inuyasha.

"You're so fat, when you get on a scale it says 'One person at a time, please!'"

"Oh not this again," Shippou grumbled as the caseworker laughed.

"SEVEN–"

"You're so fat when you go outside in a yellow dress, especially at night, they all scream, 'The sun's coming out!'"

"SEVEN–"

"Crap!" Inuyasha snapped his fingers. "I don't have anymore materials left."

The voice took advantage. "SEVEN–"

"So what?" Shippou screamed. "We have the energy of a tiger and the immaturity of a chimp! Let's go!"

"Sí!" Kagome said in Spanish and zoomed out of the shack, following Shippou out the door and into the clearing.

Inuyasha, getting the gist of it, did the same.

"C'mon!" he said to the two remaining onlookers. "If you don't hear it then you won't be cursed."

Miroku, having nothing better to do, and Sango, now a true believer, jolted out of the shack and towards the two breathless teens and one preteen.

"We should've done this before!" Shippou said. "We're still cursed!"

"Actually," the caseworker commented. "I think we're all cursed now."

The five stopped and watched an odd formation on the grass. The grass parted to make the number 7.

Miroku stepped back and scanned the grass continuing to form the letters D-A-Y-S.

7 DAYS

"Aw dang it," Shippou groaned. "And I thought we outsmarted her."

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AN: No one can outsmart the accursed one, my dear Shippou. No one can.

Anyhow, more 'You're so fat' jokes in this chapter. But now the whole gang's cursed! Whatever shall happen to the five? Oh the questions, questions…

Next chapter – Day Two! (Can't think of a title now… probably Second Prey or something…)

Adieu and a Happy New Year to all!