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When her normally fickle power suddenly surged, flowing down her arm and exploding out of her hand to envelope them in a blast of dazzling pink light, Kagome almost melted with relief… if only the mere second before that the strange person with the mummy-inspired mask hadn't darted into the line of fire. Her heart thumped in her chest, adrenaline surging so thickly in her veins that she quivered. She opened her eyes and found her vision swimming. Her body couldn't keep up with the thoughts that were racing through her brain. That person… they were trying to save me. What if I— There was so much noise around her she couldn't think.

"Did you see that, people?! The Masked Fighter hurled herself into the ring to take the hit, only for Kuwabara to display a shocking burst of power! And I gotta tell you! It's like nothing I've ever seen or felt before! All three fighters are seemingly down for the count!"

Juri glanced around the scene uneasily. "Uh, Koto… how do I call this one? The Masked Fighter intervened; shouldn't Team Urameshi be disqualified? That's against the rules." Her declaration had the volume in the arena rising to new heights, murderous threats against the cheating humans and shrill cries from lovesick girls for Shishiwakamaru blending together into an indistinguishable roar.

An arena, a broadcaster, teams… Kagome's mind worked frantically, trying to piece it all together. It's like in I'm in the middle of a tournament… and I'm now a participant, but they've got me mixed up with someone else!

"Girl."

Kagome moved her head, staring blearily at the—she forced herself to focus—an old woman? Dull pink hair splayed across the ground and surprisingly sharp eyes glared. The wrappings that had concealed her face were in tatters. "Get up," she commanded. "You have to stand and take the match."

"Right," Kagome agreed shakily, still grappling for some semblance of what to do. Her gaze hardened with determination. I don't understand what's going on… but I'll do what she says. So far she had to consider the current state of affairs. She wasn't dead; the old woman wasn't dead and seemed to be on her side. As for her opponent, she couldn't see him to assess his situation. Her powers were still so foreign to her; Kagome didn't know how much damage she had caused. When they were drawn tightly into one point, like with her arrows, they seemed powerful enough to completely purify an enemy. Last time I managed to draw them out like that, with Mistress Centipede, I only managed to disengage her from me and sever an arm. Drawing her legs in, Kagome slowly pitched herself up.

"Oh my! It looks as if Kuwabara isn't completely finished yet! Will he try to take the match? At this point I don't even know what the outcome will be!"

Gritting her teeth, Kagome pulled herself to her feet. The impish looking girl with the microphone looked to be completely at a loss. "Koto!"

"Uh… we're going to have to consult the Committee for this one! In the meantime, what are your opinions?! Should Team Urameshi be disqualified?"

The enraged shouts from the enormous crowd was white-noise to the miko as she directed her attention around the ring, searching. Many yards away, her adversary was unmoving on the ground, but as she'd assumed, the blast wasn't enough to completely cease his existence. Somewhat relieved on that count, Kagome turned her attention back to the old woman, who was also gathering herself up. Coils of singed cloth fell around her shoulders, evermore unveiling her identity. Quickly, Kagome made her way to her side, dropping to her knees.

"Are you alright?" Kagome gasped uncertainly. "You shouldn't have gotten in the way! I'm sorry! I-I could've killed you! Maybe don't sit up just yet!"

The woman's lined face showed her weariness; however she rallied enough to smirk. "I've seen a lot in my lifetime. Many different kinds of power. But never have I encountered one so choosy. You're a special kind of girl."

"Huh?" Kagome gently put her hands on her shoulders and leaned back on her heels. "What are you taking about? You took most of the impact."

"It divided and went around me," the woman explained, "It wanted Shishiwakamaru, not me."

"Please," Kagome begged. "Explain to me what's going on. What is this place?"

"This is the Dark Tournament, but I have no time to explain any more. Go to Kurama, he'll be able to fill you in. For now, we are allies. We have bigger problems now that my true face has been exposed."

"Kurama? Wait! Who is that! Who are you?" Kagome teetered, nearly falling backwards when the old woman pushed her away and stood. Genkai pointed and her gaze was drawn over to the two figures on the outskirts of the ring.

"Go, girl. Kurama and Hiei will take care of you."

I-I have no choice. I'm going to trust her. Kagome steeled herself and nodded sharply. With one more stricken look, she set her sight on the two, who the closer she got, emanated youki assertively. So they're youkai… she mused belatedly. The old woman is human… it doesn't differ much from my own group.

A pair of verdant eyes assessed her upon her approach, and Kagome made her own appraisals as she dropped off the ring, maintaining a little bit of distance. The other one, decidedly shorter but by no means one to be trifled with by the way that his youki rippled around him, pushed himself passed the taller red-head.

"Who are you, girl?" he growled.

Okay, not the friendliest guy, but I've got to work with it. Kagome straightened her shoulders. "Not Kuwabara, just for the record."

The short youkai narrowed his claret eyes, not amused at her attempted ice-breaker. "We have already figured that out. Don't play stupid."

Coughing lightly, the redhead smoothly cut in. "Please excuse him. Your appearance has caused quite the stir; not to mention your earlier…display."

The miko allowed her attention to turn to him. "You're Kurama?" she guessed. "She… told me to come to you."

He dropped his chin demurely. "The most important question here is… who are you?"

"I'm Kagome," she answered on a sigh, inexplicably tired. This is too much. Now that she wasn't fighting for her life, all she could think about was Inuyasha. He's probably killed Miroku already. Her stomach dropped at the thought. She had no idea where she was, but she hoped her thoughts could reach him. I'll make it back, don't worry.

Hiei glared at Kurama. "Hn. You arrival here was shortly after the idiot's tangle with that cape. You appeared in his place, so tell us, did you ever cross his path?"

Their conversation went no further. Loudly, Koto's voice shook the stadium. "Now, wait a minute! It seems like we've got more to worry about than how to decide the match! First the Masked Fighter steps in, putting Team Urameshi up for disqualification; now it seems that the woman beneath the mask is not the same as before! Talk about a group steeped in legality problems. Juri find out what is going on this instant! Has Team Urameshi been sneaking additional fighters in all along using that mask as a ruse?"

The referee floundered, but before she could reply another voice rumbled; dark and calm in the repercussions of the match that was sending everyone into disarray. "Team Urameshi did not cheat. I want you all to know that. To understand why, you merely have to know who that woman is. While employing the technique she's so fond of, the body of the user does a most impressive thing. Its cells return to the moment when they were strongest. The young girl you saw before, and the old woman there now are the same person. The human psychic who created the spirit wave. It's been such a long time since we've talked, hasn't it… Genkai. As for that other girl… she doesn't have a place in this tournament."

Up high in the tiers of the arena, Kagome spied the imposing man and inexplicably the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end and a chill struck fear in her heart.


A/N: Borrowed a line from Toguro this chapter. Okay, you'll notice this is longer than the last ones have been. It's what you all have been asking for so I'm willing to oblige, but that will mean updates will probably be a little slower. I was kinda trying to follow canon up until this point, but now things will change. I haven't forgotten about Kuwabara either. Anyways, I think that's all I needed to say. As always, thanks for the support.