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The Endgame by The Dream Weaver

A Seal of Fate

Hello, fellow shippers! This is my first time writing not only on Dokuga, but also an actual chaptered story! I'm usually a one-shot kinda gal, so let's see how this goes ^_^ Enjoy!

All characters belong to Rumiko Takahashi , but the story itself is mine.

                The sky was painted in shades of orange as the sun began to set in the horizon, casting a last show of warmth before it disappeared for the day. It was beautiful, as any sunset was, but it only seemed to emphasize the lack of time she had left. Blue eyes scanned the sky once more before she stood up from her lotus position, sparing a few minutes to stretch before making her way to the rickety yard. She had spent most of her life preparing for the upcoming event; Ten years of breaking almost everything that defined her, only to build herself back up to become stronger and more resilient. She had worked hard- testing her limits mentally, physically, and spiritually- and had honed her abilities to as close to perfection as she could.  But the closer the day came, the more the foreboding feeling grew. What if all that time and effort had been wasted on her? What if she couldn’t even make it past the first trial? Taking a deep breath, she relaxed.

Today was the last full day of her training, the last time she could test herself before her departure, and she was just finishing her final lesson: archery. Now that she was proficient with the bow, she could finally admit it- when she had first started out she had been absolutely horrific at the sport. The first time she had shot an arrow, it had completely missed its mark and- by some supernatural force- had not only bounced off the far wall of the yard, but had also shattered through the kitchen window and pinned Souta’s hat against the wall- right off his shocked little head. Needless to say, Souta absolutely refused to go within ten yards of her when she had her archery lessons. She smiled at the memory, shaking her head lightly. Poor kid. However, as time went on, her instructors had shaped her into someone malignant- lethal with both holy powers and the bow. It had taken a lot of effort and a good amount of blood and tears, but she had mastered it.

She frowned as she picked up her bow and quiver, dwelling on the reason behind everything: her training, her effort, her chance in the Akuma No Shiren- all leading back to one thing….that one night… Kagome furiously shook her head, pushing that dark memory to the very edges of her mind. There was not time for that, no point in wasting minutes remembering something that could never be changed. Clearing her mind, she swung out her bow, her body snapping into position on its own accord. Her spine straightened, her posture poised, and with a steady hand she grabbed an arrow and notched it. She waited patiently for the signal to begin, and the second she heard her instructor’s voice ring out she let her arrow fly, her arm blurring as she rapidly aimed and shot.

The first arrow soared through the air and towards the tree at the very end of the yard, charged with enough miko energy to create a bright streak as it whizzed by. Just as quickly as it had launched another followed in its wake, as did another. In a quick succession that had taken years to master, the arrows shot forth and embedded themselves deeply into the trunk, the holy power behind them causing the wooden surface to char slightly. As the arm behind the projectiles lowered, Kagome turned her sapphire eyes away from her target and looked questioningly at her instructor. She watched as Kikyo strode over to the old tree and critically eyed the arrowheads. They still sizzled with pink energy, and were nestled deeply enough that if it had been a youkai and not a tree, they would have done damage. The older woman was inwardly impressed, seeing the arrows aligned in a perfect vertical row, and turned to give the young miko a rare smile. “Good work.”

That was all that had to be said. Kagome smiled brightly, momentarily basking in her instructor’s praise, before tipping her head slightly, “Thank you, Kikyo-san.” Then she turned to the elderly woman residing on the bench behind her, grinning even more when she saw Kaede’s nod of approval. Knowing that the lesson was over, she unslung her bow and grabbed her quiver. Beaming, she turned and walked over to the tree, humming happily. Stopping determinedly before the trunk, she began to ruthlessly yank at the arrows stuck there, comically sticking out her tongue as she pulled. Kikyo watched amusedly as she made her way over to Kaede, hearing the younger miko grumble about ‘stupid trees’ and how ‘vengeful they were for being shot at’.  She sat down next to the elderly woman, and together they briefly watched the young girl struggle against the oak tree.

“She’s come a long way,” Kaede’s voice rasped, breaking the companionable silence. Her weathered face softened as she looked at her youngest pupil, nostalgically wondering where all the time had gone. She turned to Kikyo, grey eyes turning serious. “Do ye think she’s ready?” Kikyo’s face remained blank, but she nodded confidently.

“She’s more than capable of holding her own. She has grown both physically and spiritually in power over the years.” Caramel orbs clashed with grey. “She has worked for it and has sacrificed much to prepare for it. She is ready.” The old woman nodded and looked back at Kagome, who had successfully packed away her arrows into her quiver. “However,” Kikyo continued, watching the girl as well, “getting in is one battle- remaining there is another. She has a long journey ahead of her once she enters those gates.” The two sat in tense silence, a feeling of foreboding settling in the air.

Suddenly Kikyo’s head snapped up, her aura flaring as she felt a familiar presence coming towards the shrine. With a practiced grace she stood, her miko garb fluttering around her, before she called the younger priestess forward. As Kagome stopped before her, the joy soon faded from her expression as she noticed her instructors’ solemn faces. Her eyes hardened with determination, knowing what was coming next. Her back straighten and her chin lifted, shedding her childlike persona to don one of a strong fighter. She waited patiently for Kikyo to announce her fate. The older woman looked down at her with a calm trepidation.

“It’s time,” was all she said before turning and making her way to the front of the shrine, intending for Kagome to follow. With a quick bow to Kaede, the young miko quickly took off after the other woman, knowing full well she was about to seal her fate.

Spine straight and strides even, Kagome matched the regality of the older woman, years of preparation cementing every learned skill into instinct. The pair walked calmly through the small home and stopped before the front gate. Kagome schooled her features as Kikyo opened the old door, her calm face masking the turmoil inside of her. A creak of hinges was her only warning before she came face to face with a youkai.

A neko demon stood tall and slim before the doorway, eyes slitted and his black hair braided down his back. His pointed elven ears gave away his heritage, as did his unnatural topaz colored orbs, which seemed to twinkle with secret amusement. He was obviously from a higher status, his rich clothes hinting that he worked for a superior class, but if the state of the poor city or old shrine disgusted him, he gave no sign. Topaz eyes flitted from one face to another, flickering across their forms quickly, before he set his gaze on the younger miko. Kagome herself eyed the neko before her, taking in his appearance and submitting it to memory. He seemed familiar, but for the life of her she couldn’t understand why.

“Haku-san,” Kikyo murmured, nodding in his direction, “I see you haven’t changed since the last time I saw you.” The neko demon- Haku- turned to the older miko and nodded as well.

“Kikyo-san,” he said formally, tilting his head slightly, “the years have been kind to you as well.” He slanted his eyes toward Kagome, making the woman stiffen under his glance, “Now I see why you’ve been coming back and forth here. It seems you’ve had an apprentice all this time.” He turned his head fully to face Kagome, locking gazes with her. “Following your sensei’s footsteps, are you? You’ve definitely grown since our last meeting, but I hope your power matches that of you teacher’s,” He smiled unnervingly, revealing sharp pointed teeth, “otherwise you will not last long in that ring.”

“Haku,” Kikyo’s voice snapped coldly, catching the demon’s attention, “you are here to deliver messages, not ponder about another miko’s existence. It is not wise to trifle with us about such a topic.” It was then that recognition flashed through Kagome’s eyes: this neko had come here years before, to this very shrine, when he had called forth Kikyo to accept her scroll. Back then she had been a little girl, peeking out from behind a wall once she felt the unfamiliar demonic presence. And yet, he looked the same as he always did, seeming not a day older in age when in reality it had been twelve years. Would he have aged at all in the next twenty, maybe hundred years? Sometimes it unnerved her how immortal youkai truly were.

“My apologies,” Haku murmured, breaking her out of her thoughts, “I did not mean any offense.” Yet even as he said it, his eyes shone with amusement. Seeming to think they had delayed enough time, the youkai reached into his gem adorned satchel and plucked out a scroll, the parchment sealed shut by a golden band. Topaz eyes once again clashing with sapphire orbs, this time formally addressing the younger miko. “Higurashi Kagome,” he announced, “your request to compete in the Akuma No Shiren has been accepted. From this moment forth, you represent your city, your heritage, but most importantly your family name.” He reached out his clawed hands to deposit his message into the miko’s possession, “Do you still stand by this decision?” He had asked the last question with such a solemn caution that had she been anyone else, she would have wavered in this choice. However, she was Kagome Higurashi: the first born of her household, a miko direct descendant of Midoriko, and a woman who had everything to sacrifice for the sake of her family. Without any hesitance she snatched the scroll out of his clawed hold, eyes flashing with determination.

“Yes,” she said firmly, daring him to say otherwise, “I stand by my decision.” For a moment, they stared at each other, neither gaze wavering, before the neko let loose a low chuckle. That had been her only warning. Suddenly, the scroll in her hand flashed brightly, flaring out in a show of sparks. Kagome watched, jerking in surprise, as the band broke free of the parchment, tendrils of gold loosening their hold on the message. Then, with a speed of a cobra, it snapped forward and caught her arm. She gasped as the material burned her skin, stretching and cementing to ring around her wrist. Before she could do anything, the tendrils slid down and bound itself together, forming a chain of smooth metal just below her hand. The glowing slowly receded, blinking out within a few minutes, and Kagome was left with the gold bracelet secured tightly on her skin. “What the-” She ruthlessly yanked on the band on her wrist, but it only caused her to wince as her skin pulled tightly. She twisted her arm, searching for any kind of clasp, but it was smooth gold metal all the way around. “What just happened?” she asked, slightly frantic, “What did you do?”

“I did nothing,” Haku answered with clear amusement shining in his eyes, “that was of your doing.” The younger miko snapped her head up to glare at the demon.

“I didn’t do anything!” she snapped, still tugging uselessly on the golden band, but stopped when Kikyo rested her hand on her arm. She looked questioningly up at her instructor and found that Kikyo seemed to have expected such a thing to happen.

“That is the Kin no shīru,” She explained, pointing to the gold band, “it is a sign of your part in the tournament. It is something that is given to every competitor to ensure their place in the Akuma No Shiren.” Kagome blinked as the information set in, looking down at the band and letting out a surprised squeak as the surface suddenly shimmered. Glowing faintly, it slowly carved her name into the metal, followed by a three digit number. She stared at it confusedly.

“That is your number as a participant,” Haku said as the number 356 scripted itself into the band, “As you complete your trials, you will rise in rank, which will allow the number to lower. The farther you proceed, the smaller the number will become.” Kagome’s brows furrowed, absorbing his words as the glowing subsided.

“So,” she drawled, “it not only signifies my participation, but also my rank?” she peered at the makeshift bracelet with narrowed eyes, “It seems like so much work for something so simple. Why not just make a scoreboard?”

“Because,” He answered with a dark sense of humor, “it also acts like subjugation charm, in a sense.” He grinned as her head snapped up with a panicked ‘what?!’ “It will ensure that you will stand by your word and not abandon your responsibility when you think fit.” Her face grew paler and paler as he continued, “If you do anything to go against regulations, you will be reprimanded immediately. However,” he smiled, as if he hadn’t already caused enough dread, “you yourself stated that you will stand by your decision, so you have nothing to worry about. This merely solidifies your claim.” With that he turned to Kikyo, who was regarding him coldly. “I have spent enough time here as it is, I must depart.” He turned back to Kagome, “Be sure to read the parchment and to travel to the location addressed. You will have three days to pack your belongings before you must leave.” With a final feral grin he turned away, “Best of luck to you, Higurashi.” And with that he exited, leaving the shrine ground within seconds.

Kikyo shut the door with an audible click, frowning, before turning to the younger girl. Kagome was still standing there, staring at the scroll in her hand. “Kagome?” she called, snapping the younger miko out of her trance. She smiled assuredly to Kikyo.

“I’m fine,” she murmured, looking back down at the parchment, “I think this just sets in the gravity if the situation.” She couldn’t help but laugh softly, walking out of the room with Kikyo tailing behind her. “It’s funny, I’ve trained for so many years for this, knowing I’d be doing this, but it’s totally different when you’re actually given the seal of approval.” She sighed, stopping just outside her bedroom door. “Hopefully I prepared enough.” With that she threw a quick smile at Kikyo before entering her room, closing the door on the woman’s solemn face.

Kagome sighed, moving to her bed and sitting down. She set the parchment on her side table and leaned backwards to lie on the mattress. It had finally happened; the day she had worked so hard toward had come. Ten years… would it be enough? Sighing, she looked at the golden bracelet adorning her left wrist, reciting her name and number over and over again in her head. As the letters and numbers swirled through her mind, she closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. Reaching out she grabbed the scroll and, with careful fingers, unfurled the parchment. Her lips quirked up ruefully as she completely opened the message, one thought resting in her mind as she began to read.

Her fate was sealed.

And there it is, finally posted! :) Hope you guys liked it, please review it if you have the time, critiques are welcomed too!

Translations: (in Japanese, taken off of google, so forgive me for any mistakes)

Akuma No Shiren: Trials of Demons

Kin no shīru: Seal of Gold

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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