Outside of the tunnel was nothing but a dense fog that carried with it the scents of a swamp and muggy forest.
Gon, Killua, and Miwa took a seat on the slab of stone just outside of the sewers as they waited for Gon's friends. Miwa would learn that the blond boy with the broken core was named Kurapika, and the older one who was almost left behind was named Leorio.
Kurapika and Leorio were near the end of the group, so it took a few minutes before they had caught up. Kurapika had discarded his outer shirt in favor of only wearing his white undershirt and white pants, and when he reached the trio he greeted them with an out of breath hello.
"Is this our destination?" Kurapika asked them, glancing around the fog.
A small gust of wind blew through, and with it the fog began to slowly lift up. It was still present, but the denseness was no longer so thick that Miwa couldn't see through.
"The Milsy Wetlands, also known as the Swindler's Swamp. We must cross these wetlands to reach Phase Two of the exam. This place is home to bizarre animals, many of them crafty creatures who deceive humans and prey upon them. Please be very careful as you follow me," Satotz said, drawing everyone's attention back to the pink-haired proctor. "If you are deceived, you are dead."
With that remark, the gate to the sewers shut closed.
Satotz continued. "With that in mind the creatures here will use every trick in the book to fool their prey. An ecosystem in which creatures obtain food through deceit… Hence the nickname Swindler's Swamp. Follow me closely so you can't be deceived."
'Maybe I should mark Gon and Killua with hiraishin. They both seem competent enough to not get lost, so having back ups would be smart.'
Or maybe you're just worried about them and want to keep an eye on them! And you call me a tsundere.
Miwa's cheeks flushed, but she ignored Kurama.
"Don't… Don't be deceived!" cried out a voice.
All eyes swiveled over to a human—no, Miwa could smell that whatever it was over there was not human. The-thing-that-looked-human stumbled out, appearing battered and nearly dead. "Don't let them fool you." The thing pointed accusingly at Satotz. "He's lying to you! He's an imposter!" It pointed back to itself. "I'm the real examiner."
There was some confusion amongst the examinees, and they all turned to question amongst themselves about what was going on.
Holy fuck are they actually falling for this?
The thing pulled out another creature that vaguely looked like Satotz. "It's a Man-Faced Ape, one of the creatures that dwell in the Milsy Wetlands. Man-Faced Apes love the taste of fresh human flesh. However, their limbs are long and thin, so they are quit weak. That's why they disguise themselves as humans. They trick humans into following them into these wetlands, where they team up with other animals to kill and devour them. He—"
Miwa could not believe that some of the humans were now turning on Satotz as the creature spewed out its ridiculous speech. Even Gon's friends looked at Satotz distrustingly.
'This is just wasting our time at this point,' Miwa decided, and with a flick of her wrist, and a little enhancement from chakra, she threw a wooden senbon needle at the thing. It dug straight into its head, piercing all the way through the skull so only a tiny hole could be seen.
The thing fell back, dead, and eyes turned to Miwa.
"If any of you actually believed something that foul smelling was human, you're idiots," Miwa flatly told them. "Furthermore, using common sense why would Satotz-san go out of his way to specifically warn us about creatures deceiving us if he wanted to deceive us?"
Miwa folded her arms over her chest, and glared back at the abashed competitors.
"Foul stench?" Gon repeated back, looking over at the body of the creature. "It did smell kind of weird… Wow, you must have a really good nose, Miwa!"
"Yes," Miwa said, brushing back her pigtails.
As this exchange was done, vultures immediately swooped in and began to devour the corpse of the creature.
"Yes, well," Satotz said, drawing attention back to him. "You will be encountering such deception on a regular basis. I believe that a number of you were fooled into suspecting my identity? Do you understand now, then? If you lose sight of me in the thick fog of the Milsy Wetlands, you will never reach the exam's Second Phase. Do bear that in mind. Let us be on our way."
"Ah…" Miwa reached forward to Gon and Killua. She patted both of their backs, leaving behind the mark for her hiraishin.
Both jumped at that, as if shocked, and turned to look at her with inquisitive gazes.
But she only smiled back in return.
Without another word, the run was back on again.
369 contestants were left, as 36 had dropped out.
It wasn't any bit difficult to run through the marshlands for Miwa. She barely had to exert any chakra to easily glide over the wet grounds and keep pace with Killua and Gon.
The only thing that made it less than easy was that the fog was beginning to thicken again, and with it Miwa could barely make out anyone else's scents. The fog itself had such a heavy, dense stench to it that it overrode a lot of the other contestants.
"Gon, Miwa, let's move up a bit more," Killua said.
"Mn, yeah we don't want to lose sight of the examiner," Gon agreed.
"I'm more concerned about increasing the distance between us and Hisoka."
'Hisoka?' It took Miwa a moment to register the name. 'Oh… him.'
Hisoka was a weird man with bright red hair, clown makeup, and dressed like a jester. He had an odd combination of smelling like oleander and bubblegum. His core was elastic: stretchy, but powerful.
He didn't strike Miwa as someone good, but he wasn't overtly evil, either.
Then again he did murder a contestant for bumping into him previously.
'But I've killed a lot of people, too.' Miwa knew that about herself like she knew her hair was blonde. She knew she had been trained to take lives, and she understood that she wouldn't hesitate to do so again, and again.
Humans, animals…a life was a life, and if Miwa needed to take it, then she would.
Hisoka was kind of like Miwa in that sense, except he seemed to draw a sort of twisted happiness from it.
Don't lump me in with that weirdo, Kurama snarled. I enjoy stomping the hope and life out of pitiful humans who do not understand how beneath me they are. I live for that one moment of realizing all hope is lost and true despair enters their disgusting, squirmy little eyes.
Yes. Exactly like Kurama.
"Staying close to him is dangerous," Killua quietly finished, picking up his speed. "I can smell it."
Gon immediately inhaled. "Hmm? I don't think he smells."
"Not literally," Killua sighed.
"Leorio! Kurapika! Killua says we need to move up."
"Hey! Can't you read the tension in the air?" Killua scolded Gon.
This is supposed to be a life threatening situation.
Obviously not for us, but for tiny pathetic humans.
"Moron!" Leorio called back. "If I could I'd already be up there."
"Don't worry about us," Kurapika added.
"Let's go," Killua said, moving faster with Gon and Miwa picking up their own speeds, too.
As they moved, the fog grew thicker, and screams began to echo around us. The trio moved in silence for a few minutes before Gon hesitantly broke it by saying, "I can hear people screaming all around us."
"It just means we have to stay on guard," Killua said.
"I'm worried about Leorio and Kurapika… I hope they're okay."
The three took another step, and the ground fell beneath them. Except they didn't fall far, since it turned out the pitfall was actually the inside of a giant frog's mouth. Miwa reflexively shot out one of her lower-powered fūton jutsus and completely obliterated the frog.
The three children looked around at the remnants of what was once a giant frog.
"Wow, how'd you do that, Miwa?" Gon asked, eyes bright.
"Reflex," Miwa responded, uncertain how to explain chakra to someone without a chakra network in a timely manner. "Come on, we shouldn't dawdle."
"Mn… I'm still worried about them."
"Miwa's right, we shouldn't linger. They'll be fine," Killua dismissed.
Miwa turned back to face Gon, a frown on her face. "Do you want to go look for them?"
At Gon's nod, Miwa's frown deepened. She had no personal like for Kurapika, nor Leorio, but she had grown fond of Gon in the past six hours of chatting with him and Killua. He was a lovely boy with an unmistakable charisma that made it easy to talk to him. In her short time in this world Miwa had never encountered such a human before. Gon and Killua, Miwa guessed, were special cases and deserved a chance.
If Gon were to search on his own there was a good chance he could end up lost in the fog. It would be such a shame if Miwa let one of her potential friends die so quickly due to laziness.
Miwa looked over at Killua before saying, "Killua, you go ahead. I'm… very good at tracking so I'll make sure we catch up."
Killua shrugged. "Okay."
"Come on, Gon."
Pah. Damn you and your hero complex.
'Is that a tsundere shit talking?'
I WILL END YOU.
It didn't take long to pick up Leorio and Kurapika's scents. Gon sprinted ahead of Miwa the moment he caught wind of their fresh scents. He ripped out his fishing rod, and just as the duo broke through the fog to reveal an odd sight, Gon launched his hook forward.
Miwa only had a second to process the fact that Hisoka—the weird clown man—was about to grab an exhausted Leorio before Gon's lure smacked him square in the cheek.
Hisoka's head snapped back from the blow, and Miwa dashed forward full speed to land a restrained punch square in Hisoka's chest. She wasn't aiming to kill, currently, nor break bones.
Even still, her chakra-enhanced strength was enough to knock Hisoka square off his feet.
Miwa stood between him and Leorio, eyes narrowed in mild annoyance. "Back off, or deal with me."
For some reason this made Hisoka laugh, and he hopped back on his feet, dusting off the dirt. He looked in between Gon and Miwa, a gleam of sadistic interest entering his eyes. "What a good little girl."
"I said," Miwa repeated slowly, raising her right hand, "back off or deal with me."
She slapped her hand away in the air, pushing out a generous amount of raw fūton chakra. The wind was harsh enough to blow Hisoka back several steps, and rip up chunks of land.
"I think I might take you up on that off—" Hisoka was cut off by the sound of beeping, and he casually checked his pockets. He pulled out an odd devise, frowned, and then looked back over at Miwa with what could only be described as regret. "A shame. We will have to do this later…"
He then walked away, and Leorio and Gon stared at Miwa. Gon with eyes of amazement, and Leorio in disbelief. "How—how—"
"Yes, well… where's Kurapika? I thought I smelled him nearby," Miwa asked, changing the subject.
And as if on cue, Kurapika ran toward the group, out of breath. "G-Gon? Ah…what happened here?"
"That's everyone, right?" Miwa asked Gon, ignoring Kurapika question.
"Y-Yeah. Now we all have to get back," Gon said.
"No worries. All three of you come here," Miwa said, holding out her hands. After exchanging curious looks, the trio placed their hands in Miwa, and she used her hiraishin to teleport all of them to the mark on Killua's back.
'Oh that actually used up a tiny bit of my chakra. Killua got pretty far.'
"AH!" they all exclaimed when they teleported directly behind a thoroughly startled Killua in a flash of yellow light.
"Wh—where—WE TELEPORTED?!" Leorio howled, pointing an accusatory finger at Miwa. "HOW?!"
"Wh-Wh-Wha—" Kurapika had no words.
Gon on the other hand was amazed. "That was so amazing! It was like whoosh and now—oh, hi, Killua—how did you do that?! Can you show me?!"
"How—did you—did you teleport behind me?" Killua demanded, then his eyes widened. "When you patted our backs! You—you did something!"
"Yeah," Miwa agreed.
Tell them it's a family secret.
"It's a family secret," Miwa said, holding a finger up to her lips. "So please keep it down, okay?"
"Aw… what if I call you big sister?" Gon asked.
Kit, repeat after me: no.
"No for now?" Miwa settled on, earning a groan from Kurama and an excited exclamation from Gon.
"Wh—If you teach him, you have to teach me!" Killua demanded.
"Okay," Miwa agreed. "If I teach either of you, I'll teach the other, too. ."
BONUS TT!AU - In which Miwa, Killua, and Gon have traveled back to this point in time with all the knowledge and skills they possess at the end of the series.
Scenario A - With only five left (picking up from previous bonus scene).
"So you just happened to think the two of us were good people and felt the need to save us from your friend's attack?" Leorio clarified as the five of them ran through the swamp.
"Yeah, exactly," Gon lied, nodding.
"I'm not complaining, but…" Kurapika trailed off, uncertain how to finish.
"Be thankful," Killua suggested. "Because we absolutely would have left you behind otherwise."
"Uh… thanks, I guess."
"Fuck I'm bored," Miwa complained.
Scenario B - In which the trio were perfectly well behaved at the start.
"I'm BOOOOORED," Miwa cried out, this horrible agony taking hold of her heart.
"Wanna… see who can stealth kill the most?" Killua suggested.
"Guys, you shouldn't just kill these poor contestants for no reason," Gon scolded them.
"But it's not without reason. It's because we're bored," Miwa argued.
Gon considered this. "You make a good point. Okay, have fun."
"Woo! Double points for Hisoka's death."
"Aw c'mon he's not that bad—"
Killua and Miwa groaned.
Answer: The gamer ability or a massive chakra core with the know-how to use it, please.
Question: If you could be reborn alongside someone—as in you would be their sibling in the next life in a completely new world to both of you—who would it be?
Reviews are love!