Never thought this would get updated ever again, huh?

Well, anyway, hope everyone had a fantastic 2012! And that 2013's treating you well too!

Hahaha…yeah…it's weird to start writing after so long. Especially when the manga keeps updating so quickly and makes me feel like a terrible human being because it messes up the plot for this fic. Also, please ignore the OOCness just this once…I'm still trying to get the hang of this writing thing once again.

Chapter 63:

Honoka Shirahama let out an exasperated sigh for the umpteenth time in a matter of minutes.

"Are we there yet?" she whined, swinging her legs in boredom—making it difficult for Natsu to actually get a good grip on her and in annoyance he looked over his shoulder at her.

"When we get there, we'll tell you," he said coldly. In response, she stuck her tongue out.

"It's not far," Akisame stroked his chin thoughtfully, regarding the forked path in front of him in the the jungle-like undergrowth. "Left or right," he muttered mostly to himself.

"Wait, you don't KNOW?!" Honoka and Kenichi demanded in unison.

"Eh, I do remember," the Jujitsu master replied, taking the left before backtracking. "That one of these paths leads us to a small village full of men and women who use poison darts and shoot at strangers on their territory. But which one is the question—"

"Uh, suddenly I'm fine," Honoka squealed, thrashing—once again—against Tanimoto's grip. "I can walk, see? Miracle, miracle, miracle," she trilled. Sweat dropping she said in a high-pitched voice. "Please don't kill me, sensei."

"I'm sure she can heal up on her own," Kenichi insisted as well. "It's not like there's anything waiting for her when she gets back."

"And presenting, the next fighter for the daaaay!" the overhead speaker in the coliseum boomed, shaking the stone seats the spectators were barely seated on in excitement, "for the first time, a female fighter for RYOUZANPAKUUUUU!"

"Heh, Honoka's back?" Sakaki wondered aloud, leaning over to better see the arena below. The gate opened with large metallic clashes as a bright white spotlight swung towards it.

Shigure shook her head.

She raised one finger.

"Look," she urged tonelessly.

Wordlessly, a monstrous man, dressed in a white dougi stepped into the arena. Blond wisps of hair were hidden under a black wig that bulged against the amount of hair under it. He raised a hand and there was silence.

"He does know," Sakaki shook his head, covering his face with one meaty palm in distress. "That his beard is still clearly visible, right? That old man," he gritted his teeth.

"I am Honoka!" Elder declared. "I am your average 16 year old girl!"

"Is this some sort of joke?" many people whispered.

"He's not serious, is he?"

"They won't let him fight, will they?"

He ambled towards his opponent, who was eclipsed by Elder's size.

His opponent—an average sized male in a suit—recoiled in absolute fear.

"Please," Elder beamed, "go easy on me, I'm fairly weak. And also, try not to struggle, or else you might die."

"That old man," the 100th Dan Karate master sweat dropped, groaning at the sight before him in exasperation, placing a palm to his forehead. "What does he think he's doing?"

"Keeping Honoka in…the tournament," Shigure replied, pointing at a higher up section of the coliseum.

There, a blonde girl folded her legs and leaned back in her stone chair in dissatisfaction. She scowled.

"Getting masters to fight your battles for you now?" a smile of derision curled across Wesley's face. "How pathetic…but," she exhaled, "expectedly you, Shirahama."

"Honoka…wants to fight that person…very much. So Elder will replace her until she comes…back."

"Let's see what you youngsters have got!" Elder bellowed, crouching down and bulging his already unbelievably large biceps. His eyes became hidden behind his wild brown hair—that pathetically attempted to conceal his wispy yellow hair—as white glowing orbs.

No matter the motive, Elder is enjoying this more than he should be, Sakaki surmised, watching the strong superman's opponent, who shrank away in pure, untainted fear.

The thick forests undergrowth was becoming difficult to traverse, as unknown insects whistled and buzzed around Honoka, Natsu, Kenichi and Akisame. Sparse raindrops descended from the steel grey spots of sky blotted by dark green foliage that shook in the gale.

Honoka had her head buried in Tanimoto's neck in fatigue, her bad leg feeling uncomfortably tingly as Natsu roughly jumped over a large trench of black dirt. Kenichi glanced back at his sister from time to time, concern in his eyes. The ex-disciple mumbled incoherently under his breath, cursing having been so hard on his little sister.

This…Honoka's leg…is really all my fault. If I had held back, Honoka wouldn't have had to use such a dangerous move, he clenched his fists in self-anger. But could there have even been another way? Towards the end, I stopped holding back.

Kenichi recalled the last few minutes of the fight, Honoka's incensed expression burnt deeply into his retinas as she surged forward, her dark chocolate eyes seemingly aflame with a passion only a martial artist could understand.

But that look in her eyes…I feel as though I've seen them before…

Immersed in his thoughts, he barely heard Akisame lightly comment. "We're here."

Before them stood a run-down house, or even an abandoned cottage. Splinters of wood tilted at odd angles on the barely existent roof. Moss and plant life trailed across the roof, tumbling over the edge, creeping into cracked windows and black crevices.

"What a dump," Natsu commented in disgust.

Honoka lifted her head wearily.

"Akisame-sensei…" Kenichi stared at the house in mild disbelief. "Are you sure we have the right place?"

It was a half-hearted question he knew. This was the only house on this side of the island. There was no way the Jujitsu master had made a mistake.

However, despite the appalling dilapidation, the one surprising sight was of thin smoke billowing from the top of the chimney, spiralling beyond the tall pine trees surrounding the home.

"Don't mind the appearance," Akisame took the first step forward.

Just as he did, a fast and sharp sound of wind reached all of their ears.

"Akisame-sensei!" Kenichi and Honoka yelled at the same time.

He took a step back and turned his body to the side, only leaving the foot Akisame had turned on in the same place on the ground.

A strand of his sandal had snapped off.

Right next to the discarded piece was an arrow, dug deeply into the mud.

"The owner is still very much alive," Akisame bent down to pick up the arrow. He examined the point in thoughtful silence. "Still poisoning the tips, I see," he hummed, throwing the arrow to the ground by the flowing lake that separated the group from the house.

So both paths had poisoned arrows anyway? Master, what kind of dangerous place are you taking us to?! The Shirahama siblings inwardly screeched in unison.

"Let's keep moving," the older man sauntered towards the house, as if just a few seconds ago an arrow had not nearly pierced his foot with poison.

"ARGH! That boat ride was a killer!"

"We're here right? That's all that matters."

"Can't believe I'm back here again…I really don't learn, do I?"

"What do you mean, Freya-nee?"

"How long has it been," the dark skinned woman placed a hand on her hip and rested her weapon of choice across her shoulders. A scar was across her cheek, but was mostly covered by her black hair that curled inwards. She wore a long, tight costume coupled with a jacket of the fabric but a different colour. She smiled at her companion, "since we were at a tournament?"

A shorter, less curvy girl blinked her feline-like green eyes.

"Ah, I see what you mean…but if the kid needs my help, who am I to say no?" Kisara grabbed the top of her hat and tilted it down over her eyes, smiling slightly. "Friends are friends, am I right?"

"That's so mature of you, Kisara-chan!" Ukita exclaimed, flushing.

"Who told you to call me THAT!?" Kisara kicked his stomach angrily. "Call me Kisara, we agreed on this!"

"I wonder where Ken-chan and Honey are?" Takeda wondered, taking out the grass from his mouth.

"Who knows, all that matters is that we're on the island it is time to spread the word of—"

"Lalalalalalalalaaaaaaaaaaa—" Siegried bellowed.

"SHINPAKU ALLIANCE!" a creepy hunched over alien hissed, his serpentine tongue dangling out of his mouth.

"NYA!" Kisara jumped, to Ukita's joy, into his arms reflexively at the sight of the pale slimy creature.

"To be honest, I was surprised when Kenichi called me the other day and told me to reassemble Shinpaku Alliance here. But then again, he is my trustworthy lackey, I can only expect as much—"

"But what do we do with her?" Takeda jerked a thumb over his shoulder.

The object of his pointing uncrossed her legs and removed her cheek from her palm.

She got up from her seat on the boat and, ignoring the ramp down onto the wooden platform, she jumped from the lip of the ship onto the solid ground below.

"I showed you where to go, right?" the buxom queried rhetorically. She tilted her neck to the right and stretched her arms until the joints cracked. She opened one clear eye. "So thanks for the ride."

She flipped her blue hair over her shoulder, weaving past the group and strode off.

"What a cold girl," Takeda sweat dropped.

"She's like the girl version of Tanimoto-kun," Ukita agreed.

"You're not going to cause trouble for Honoka, are you?" Kisara demanded.

Ryouko stopped.

She looked over her shoulder and grinned.

"Honestly, I have no interest in Shirahama at the moment," she replied, turning once again, still stretching as she went.

Ryouka Tachibana cracked her knuckles, her eyes gleaming with bloodlust. "I just came for a fight," her lips curled upwards. "That's all."

Inside the cottage was astonishingly better.

I thought it'd smell like moss and dead stuff…Honoka raised her nose to better inhale the sweet scent of food and the warmth of a home. The walls were a sombre blue, the only evidence of the outward appearance of the building being the small cracks emanating from the cornices and from behind cleverly placed paintings of plants. But it has the same feeling as our house.

Ever since she had been on the island, all she would wake up to was a spinning stone ceiling as pain seeped into every single vein within her body that was lying lifelessly on a cold bed with springs sticking out at the corners where she had thrashed the most.

"Ah, and this plant was in last month's issue! And this one and that one…could it be from that genus?" Kenichi jumped from picture to picture, admiring everything around him as a natural plant-lover would.

You're in your element, aren't you big brother? Honoka sweat dropped.

"We didn't come here for that," Natsu snapped behind Kenichi's shoulder, his eyes closed impatiently. "Snap out of it Shirahama."

"But Tanimoto-chan—"

"Who in the hell is this 'Tanimoto-chan' you speak of?" Honoka felt Natsu quake with anger, "Quit being a plant otaku, damn you! We've got business to attend to!"

"But look! This type of plant is rumoured to be able to cure all kinds of ailments if you just sniff it—"

"What is this place, Akisame-sensei?" Honoka queried in wonder. Both Natsu and Kenichi continued their bickering despite her question.

"The home of an old friend of mine who I've known for a very long time. He is an enthusiastic fan of medicinal herbs and has dedicated himself to living here and studying the healing effects of the plants around this area," Akisame stroked his chin, "however, despite his desire to become a hermit, he is rather fond of keeping himself up-to-date with what's going on in the martial arts world, isn't that right?"—Akisame smiled, just as an elderly man crept into view, holding a wilting plant in his hands—"Takasaki?"

The man named Takasaki stared at the group with his slits for eyes before exhaling.

"Koetsuji," his voice was rugged with age and playful exhaustion, dropping the plant on the table as he shook his head. He peeled off his grimy yellow gloves. "To walk into an old man's home without permission…how ill-mannered of you."

"I apologize, Takasaki. But unfortunately, due to our circumstances, we can't afford to be courteous at this late I'm sure you know."

Takasaki waved a hand around dismissively before turning his back on the group. "Word travels on this island, doesn't it?" he mumbled mostly to himself. "More like permeates frankly. It's what keeps this world alive, no?"

"Then the rumours must be true," Akisame replied thoughtfully.

Honoka snapped out of her reverie at Akisame's serious expression. "What rumours?" a hurt look flitted across her face. Had she been left out again?

"I wasn't sure whether they were just idle lies or not…but it appears that they are true. Hermit, that is also the reason you tagged along?"—the boy in question's face hardened—"Because your master also went to this so-called 'meeting'?"

"Guests…guests…" Takasaki said gruffly. "More guests…"

"More guests?" Kenichi asked. "Wha—"

Before he had finished his sentence, his body involuntarily tensed up. Thi-this feeling…he gritted his teeth. Quickly, he attempted to catch Tanimoto's eye. The both of them seemed to be having the same reaction. It can't be…! That person…

Two people appeared from deeper within the house.

One was a light brown haired girl clad in a Lolita get-up from head to toe. She had on a defiant expression on her face when she caught sight of Honoka. Her grip tightened on the wheelchair she was pushing.

In that wheelchair was a man with wilted ashen hair and a pale face. He raised his pair of round frameless glasses further up his nose. This boy was roughly around Kenichi's age, dressed casually in a hoodie and jeans, his sneaker-clad feet propped up on the ends of the wheelchair.

Honoka narrowed her eyes speculatively before something clicked.

This is…

She gasped.

"Ryu-chan!" she exclaimed.

The mysterious appearance of more characters! What are the ex-Yomi members here for?