Rinali was eleven the first time she killed an akuma. The road was narrow, and there were two of them--one hiding in the shape of each of the drivers they'd hired for their carriage.She had trained before, and she had helped out in small fights before, but she had never been the one to take them down before this.
Rinali had first seen an akuma when she was six--maybe seven, barely; for a while she had lost track of time and age.Her caretakers in the Black Church fitted her with her Innocence, pulling it onto her feet and explaining it to her in careful Chinese, and then they pushed her into a room that had been white once. In the corner, something weak and dark cowered, waiting for her to bring the end down on it. Someone watched her and the demon from windows high above.
She kicked it once, and then, when she heard the crunch of something that might or might not have been bone, she retreated into her own corner, sick. After a while, they took her out, herded her into another room scattered with miscellaneous scientific implements, and left her alone while they discussed "results."
When they came back, they were in time to see her put the sharpest of the tools left about the room to her wrists and slash them open.
The first time Rinali met an akuma was also the first time she tried to kill herself.
The day after Rinali saw her first akuma, when she woke up bound to her bed, was the day the then-disciples of the Black Church began to read from the Bible to her.
They read it in English, then translated it into Chinese. Sometimes they would pause to explain things.
"God forbids us to take our own lives," was one of the first things they explained to her. "What we are doing is God's work, so we should follow His rules."
Rinali thought of the cowering, broken akuma hiding in the corner, and of the stains on the wall of that room, and she wondered about God's work.
She thought, Komui would never let me do work like that, but her brother continued not to appear.After a time, she began to wonder about God Himself.
After her second attempt to kill herself, Rinali's caretakers began to explain the things in the Bible more often. They talked at length about the things God did, and how right he was, and how they were doing his work.
She lashed out, sometimes, and it was then that one of them told her, "I don't understand why God even wants you in his service. I should think he'd rather hate and destroy you by now. You're a very lucky girl, to go from heathen to Christian so swiftly, and yet you still reject it!"
It was only then that Rinali began to form a better picture of this God of theirs. She did not want to, she had been avoiding it for a year now, but she couldn't help it. The picture slipped into her dreams.
She dreamed of clawed hands digging into the world, dark-robed exorcists clinging to the thin fingers. She dreamed that there were chains on her arms and legs, and they were made of bleached bone.
During these dreams, she was afraid. When she woke up, she resolved not to be afraid--only to be angry, and to hate the God whose hands were clawing this world apart, the God who had torn her from her brother.
Sometimes, when she was feeling a little better than usual, at the end of her dreams Komui would appear, and he would take her away from God and his minions.
But when she woke up, she feared that this was wrong, this was not the way it should be, not the way it could be. From what her caretakers said, their God was more powerful even than her brother.
She didn't want to believe that, but sometimes she thought she had no choice.
"Perhaps she is cursed," she overheard one of the other exorcists suggest.
By then, she had stopped asking to go home. She was afraid that God had destroyed her home.
The third time Rinali tried to kill herself, they found her before she could even break the flesh. They parted her from anything sharp, and they took her back to her room. They locked her door and told her to be quiet, to pray for forgiveness, and to ask God to keep her soul safe.
Rinali did not tell them that she had promised to never ask anything of God. She lay on her bed, resolute against the world at first, but slowly losing her ability to hold back her tears. Eventually she gave up, and then she slept, her face wet.
She did not realize she had woken up at first, for when she did, Komui was there.
"There will be changes," he promised her later.
"No more God," she said, and she was a little embarrassed at how pleading her voice sounded.
"What?" He was confused. "We're doing God's work, Rinali! We are saving the world--"
For a moment, she saw something other than herself in his eyes. It was a new sight.
"Please, brother," she said.
He got up, then, and he excused himself. He went to see her caretakers.
"That wasn't God," he told her afterwards.
She watched him in silence.
"They never told you about God," he said. "They told you about demons that wear His name. It won't happen again. It won't be like this in the future. No more experiments, no more preaching." The line of his mouth was hard.
"Demons are what we fight," Komui said.
Three years later, on the mountain trail with her brother huddled in the carriage behind her, waiting on her to defend him, Rinali killed her first akuma, and then her second.
As the demons broke apart, she saw God in them.
"It's all right, brother," she said into the thin air. "The akuma are gone. We're safe now."