"... Tsuri was seriously ill. She'd caught a disease that had been circulating for years around the country, and it carried off about half of its victims. Our mother was one
of the lucky ones, and about a week after you guys left her fever broke and she was sleeping peacefully. Unfortunately, we were also out of food. It seemed simple enough to me. I would have to go to the same town you'd gone to and get the items we needed. If only.

I was about a half mile from the city when I noticed a column of
smoke rising from it. I continued towards it, thinking that perhaps some part of the city had caught fire. I was concerned, but not overly so. I arrived twenty minutes later to find a smoldering wreck where a proud city had once stood. The smoke rose from all of the buildings rather than one, and they were all partially if not

completely

wrecked. I
rushed forward, thinking that maybe I could help with the rescue effort I was sure was underway. I quickly realized that there was no one left who required rescuing.

A humming, buzzing sound reached my ears as I stood staring at the crushed buildings that had once been a town. Turning in fright, I discovered a huge Mosquito Hawk flying at me. I ducked it's first pass, and a man was suddenly in front of me. He had the strangest pink hair, and a smile twisted by blood lust.

"What do we have here?" he cackled, "A survivor?"

Yanking me up by my hair, he continued, "Oh, we
can't have that, now can we? Where are your parents, little girl? Dead? Shall I send you to join them?"

Holding me up, he had one of his Mosquito Hawks swept down and grabbed me. It tossed me to its companion, and I screamed. "Are we scaring you? Oh no, what should we do? Maybe I'll just

finish
you
off

now!"

Another
man's voice
interrupted his tirade. "Tommyrod, either kill her
or let her go. Your little game of cat and mouse is sickening. We've delivered the message as promised. Let's go."

The Mosquito Hawk dropped me at Tommyrod's feet, and I turned my head to see a tall man with long black hair. He must have been the one talking, my brain realized dazedly.

"Hmph. Fine, Staajun. I'll finish up here."

The black haired man - Staajun - was already walking away. "Five minutes," was all he said.

Again yanking me up by my hair, Tommyrod said, "It would be such fun to kill you now, but I would much rather soak in your fear in the arena. You're coming with me kid."

I struggled against his grip, but all that earned me was a whack on the head with his fist and the loss of half of my hair. He hauled me up with him onto a gargantuan bug
of
some

sort and
flew away,
the other

man
following. Like it or
not, I was leaving
that
city.

Instead of having to deal with me the whole ride, Tommyrod used one of his
bugs to knock me out. By the time I woke up, I was in a heavily forested area. I wasn't sure how I had gotten there, but neither of the men who had caught me was there, so I took my chance to escape. I picked myself up and started to run, and heard a strange roaring noise. Turning, I saw a huge lizard coming towards me. I ran for my life. I turned sharp corners and even climbed trees in an attempt to escape, but to no avail. Godzilla was following me wherever I went. I eventually lost it by jumping in a lake, after which I was chased by a crocodile, a lion, and a crow, all intent on having me for lunch.

"What the hell IS this?!" I shouted, covering my head as the crow (it had to be twenty feet
tall)
pecked at me.

Suddenly an arrow flew
out at the crow,

killing it,
and
a rough voice said,
"Well, I like to call it
Bishokukai Forest,
but technically it's their entertainment grounds."

Spinning around, I saw a man, about thirty years old and wearing rough clothing and several scars proudly. He walked up to the crow, and lifted it with one hand.

"EHHH?! How - you - what?" I stuttered, befuddled.

"What, no thank you? You're going to have to toughen up to survive this honey.

"Come on," he turned and bagan walking off in the direction he'd come from. "I'm Kris, by the way."

I trailed behind him, wondering who my savior was.

We eventually reached a huge tree with a door set into it, and a large stone table set outside. I correctly guessed that this was his home.

"Have a seat, I'll just be a minute here,"
he said,
going
over to a
fire pit. He plucked and prepared the
bird, taking his time.

Finishing,
he
took it and
placed it on a spit
over the fire too cook.

"Okay," he said, turning and
taking a seat across from me, "Well, you're confused and lost, so I'm guessing that you're new. I've only been here a few months myself. They caught me hunting an animal that they wanted, and so I'm here. I'm guessing you got in their way somehow?"

"N-no, not really I was just there and there was a man, Tommyrod and he said he wanted to see me suffer?" she said, hoping she could trust this stranger.

His eyes darkened, and he nodded. "Aye, he's a nasty piece of work. He's not the worst they've got though. The Bishokukai is essentially a group of Bishokuya gone wrong. They kill whoever, whatever, however, and whenever they please. They don't hesitate to wipe out the rarest
species. And
they're completely outside
of IGO
control."

"IGO?" I
echoed.

"Yeah, in this

situation they'd be the
"good guys". They regulate foods, and ensure a steady
supply of Guormet foods to the nations
that are members. They enforce the
Eight Guormet Food Laws, and defend civilians from the dangerous Guormet criminals and animals. Like I said, they're the good guys. But despite all of this, they've failed to rein in the Biskokukai. So they run rampant, destroy anything they want to, and have a hand in most every political dealing out there."

Having been sheltered by our mother's lack of contact with the outside world most of my childhood, these bits of knowledge were completely new to me. I was tired, hungry, and confused, and I was being taught things I couldn't see a possible use for. So, as any other child of 12 would do in this situation, I started
crying. He looked
awkward, patting me on the back
and reassuring me
that it would be okay. I
fell asleep there at the table, and when I woke
up,
everything had
disappeared.

*As seen by "Kris" that same day*

The metal door slid open, and a waft of cool air
rose up to meet him. He stepped inside and
it slid soundlessly closed behind him.
A dark figure sat in front of a single monitor with multiple views on it. In the center, slightly larger than the rest, was an image of the girl as he had left her, sleeping on the forest floor.
The figure straightened, turning towards him. His dark hair reflected the light from the monitor. "So, you told her what I told you to, yes?"
"Yes sir," he said, dipping his head at the man on the chair.
"Good. Wouldn't want her to die too soon... What do you think of her?"
"If I may speak frankly, I think your efforts
would be better used
on
one more worthy. She seems rather...
weak. Sir..."
Waving his hand, he said,

"Speak your mind, Kris."
"Yes sir. She will grow up weak as
she is now. Why
not
abandon her to the trials of the forest and choose another?"
Chuckling the man
in the chair rose and turned off the monitor before turning
back to Kris and the door. "Ah, you cannot see her
potential yet. Give her some time. I sense that she may be compatable with our new tests."
Surprised, Kris objected, "If that is your purpose, it would be far kinder to simply let the forest claim her!"
"Yes it would... But you said it yourself not thirty minutes ago, Kris. I'm the "bad guy", aren't I? Now, let 's go propose this to the others."
"Yes, sir," Kris said, obeying his master. As he always must.

*End of Kris's POV~ So, who do you think his "master" is?*

I
woke up to find the tree, table,

and Kris had disappeared. I looked around
for a few minutes, but even as a kid I was a fast learner.
No
one was going to be on my side here.

I'm going to cut a
long story short
here.
Basically I was stuck in the forest training area for the next three months. I learned to be fast,
and I too learned the value of the Kugi punches. However, I had
difficulty learning much else. That was, until I defeated a level 50 Cobra Boar.

It took me four hours and about half of my skin, but I did best it. I had developed a theory that if I continued to walk in one direction, I would eventually reach a wall. The animals got tougher the longer I wandered, it seemed. I was laying there, breathing hard, when I was suddenly surrounded by people in white full length coats. I was transported via Seravaptor to their labs.

These guys are essentially the
doctors on the Bishokukai. They're called
the
Vesa. They aren't generally used to
heal people, because if you need healing you don't belong in the
Bishokukai.
Most commonly if you're going to them, it's for a power up. In my case,
they were working on
an
experiment. The idea behind this particular experiment was to make a particularly strong animal's blood, skin,
scales, feathers, whatever, into an ink that can give you the abilities of the
animal. It was also based on a theory taken from an ancient script, which detailed signs supposedly of immense power. If you use the essence of a fast animal and use it to tattoo the shape of say a racing horse, then the reciever of the tattoo would become faster.

Like I said though, this was just an experiment. It had failed on several other people, but I was thought to be particularly compatable. My first tattoos were two of the 32 that make
up my 'belt'. The first two were for speed

and strength, ones with ingredients that were easy to
find and prepare.

The testing revealed unexpected results,
namely when I
kicked their asses in an attempt to escape. After restraining me, with much
better restraints, they conferred and
concluded that the tattoos were effective. Therefore, they completed a slightly more complex set, my 'belt'. It has
symbols for deftness, intelligence, swift healing, and luck. It was said that the symbols became more powerful in this ring shape.

I was released, as well as a ton of extremely dangerous animals, as well as some food, water, and a few daggers. Cause you know, when you think testing on small children you wouldn't want anyone to die of starvation or anything. I mean that would just be cruel.

Anyways, I soon learned that I was expected to defeat them in small series, whereupon I
would receive my 'reward'. This was occasionally

weapons, tools, or food, but most commonly it was an extremely
rare animal I was to defeat.

After I beat the beast, the Vesa
would create a
new ink with the animal, and once they had the necessary inks they would find me and take
me to the labs. I tried to fight it

each time, but I was always outsmarted. Sleeping gases, medication in the foods I ate, animals released that would knock me out. I
recieved the tattoos whether I liked it or not."

Here Ari stood up, saying, "I'll show you, it's easier."

She took off her jacket, revealing a band of fabric similar to her sister's. The 'belt' was one of two tattoos in view, thirty two individual signs bound together by a gold colored chain design. Her bellybutton was encircled in the twisting design of an old willow tree. She flipped her loose hair to the front, and turned
around. Now everyone
could see the full extent of the
experiments.

On her back were two separate designs, one a
huge blue flamed pheonix whose wings fanned along
her shoulder blades
and which covered only a little under 2/3 of the skin on her back. The other was a palm sized
diamond colored dragon, curled up to form a

spikey, winged circle.

She turned back around and wiped previously unnoticed make up from mid-thigh on her left leg, revealing a rose
with a thorny stem circling her leg thrice.

The truely strange thing about these tattoos wasn't that they existed, but the strangely life-like quality around them. They also radiated intense power, much as the animals themselves would have, were they given the chance.

"That seems like overkill," Coco noted.

"Yeah, but don't forget the main reason for the testing was to see what worked and what
didn't. Obviously the belt was first,
and I got the Pheonix next.
It's there for speed and, supposedly it gives me the ability to stand up
when anyone else would have died. I can also call up fire
along my body, summon wings
of fire, and I never get burns.

Then the tree, which represents standing strong in the
face of the tempest. It also means I can sense when
someone is a good person or not, and I have excellent knowledge of forestry through it.

Next was the dragon tattoo. It gives me heightened
senses, and my nails are abnormally strong and fast growing.

The rose was a later addition. I'd though I was done with the enhancements, but I once again woke in that room. That time I recieved a tatto somewhere other than my torso, which was surprising. The rose, interestingly, changes with my mood. It's typically red, but it can be interesting to use. When I get really angry
and it turns black, I can call up thorny vines to
tangle my opponents. It
also does... Other things," she finished, smirking.

"So
un-beautiful," Sani complained.

"Okay, but then what about your
eyes? I thought that wasn't
possible?****" Komatsu asked.

"Aye, normally it would be, but this was specially done from the
script.

It required a specific kind of ink,
which required insanely specific recipes. This, of course, meant I had to fight the beasts it would come from. A species thought to be extinct by now, the Saimese
Dragon."

Cat gasped, "Are you sure? A Saimese Dragon?"

"Yes... But sister, I killed them both."

Another gasp from Cat, "Them? Oh gods!"

"What's so special about them? I've never even heard of them," Zebura scoffed.

"Well, for one, it's one of few species that always has two young at a time.
Each dragon is born with an identical twin of the same
color. They come in all
colors of the rainbow, and will only mate with another of the opposite color
on the color wheel. They are never separated from their twin by more than a
mile. Also, when a female chooses her mate,
their twin mates with her sister's chosen mate's brother. The gold and silver ones are said to mate only
with their twin, who is the gold if they are silver, silver if
they are gold. What I wouldn't give to find a live pair.." Cat mused.

"Yes. And so I killed off an entire species to get these eyes. I was put into a part of the
forest I'd never seen before. It was probably the oldest part, with trees easily a hundred feet tall. The floor was littered with leaves but not much else. I walked in, in awe of these huge creations of nature, and noticed a gold glint among the leaf litter. Leaning over to pick it up, I noticed a
sudden movement on my right, and dodged just in time as a huge
silver head with leg
sized ivory teeth clamped down on where I had been not moments before.

I
landed on a branch about ten feet up and heard a rustling in the leaves to my right.
Glancing up sharply, I saw a golden dragon rushing
towards me. I jumped again, and abruptly all sound ceased. Turning, I saw only trees rising to brush the stars
on all sides.

A snapping sound alerted me to movement on
my right. Turning my head, I saw the gold and silver dragons for the first time. They shimmered in the low light, seeming to cast a glow of color around them. They were in the style of
Chinese dragons, but with less serpentine bodies and huge wings. The female, the silver one, was larger than the gold male, but both easily reached eighty feet apiece.

I drew two daggers from my sleeves, getting into position. I threw
myself upwards, and observer the situation from above. Then, I noticed that the gold female

had disappeared. Turning, her eye met mine, and I saw that she wasn't your average everyday
lizard. She was probably as intelligent as any one of us here.. Well maybe she was smarter
than Zebura."

"BITCH ARE YOU GETTING COCKY
MOTHERFUCKER?!" Zebura roared, rising to his feet.

"Wanna go, big guy?" she taunted, sneering.

"HEY! Shut up, all of you, or we'll end up destroying the tower and I
don't know about you, but I can't pay for that much." Cat interjected.

Looking at her sister, Dragon-Eyes sighed and sat back down. Zebura looked as though he would very much like to
continue this argument, but instead said, "That's what I thought bitch. Damn cocky."

"Anyways, I beat them soundly. They hid behind the trees, dodged behind me while their partner taunted me from the
front, and used every wily trick in the book. I first killed the female, then the male. That
was
when Vesa showed up.

They had to be started at 6:00 PM, and had to end at precisely
6:00 AM. They made the inks in front of me, and when they were done, they went at my eyes with
needles. I wasn't given any anesthetic because it would
stop the herbal mixtures I'd been forced to eat earlier from being effective. It felt like fire being injected into my eyes. The
first dragon, the silver one on my left eye, was finished exactly 1 minute
before midnight, as the directions had said to do. The golden one was started at exactly a minute after midnight, and finished just at six.

Unlike before, where I had been instantly released into the forest, I was held for a week with a dark cloth over my eyes. Again, this was according to the directions. They're lucky I didn't fight back. Had I, they would have
lost. These idiots had created something they could no longer control. Or so I thought.

While it was
true the Vega could not have won in a fair fight against me, they didn't have to. At the slightest
sign of resistance, the room would have flooded with Bushokukai fighters. And those I couldn't have
fought.

They kept me in a small room with
only a bed and a chair for that week. There was a bathroom attached to the room, so the only time I was in the presence of another human was
when they delivered my food. I attempted to interrogate everyone who came in,
but to no avail. I was ignored completely as my eyes healed.

At the end of the seven days, I was taken from my room to another. I thought that I would be taken to the room where they gave me the tattoos, but it seemed to me that we were going in the wrong direction. I entered a sweet smelling, steam filled room, and was given over to a
small group of women. They were told to bathe me, and to make sure that if they were going to remove the

blindfold to ensure my eyes remained closed.

Their hands on me were timid and gentle. "Come with us,
my lady," they said.

I was unused to human interaction after all this time, but I knew I
wanted to appear in charge. I chuckled and said, "I'm no lady."

They responded by laughing softly and relaxing a bit. I had to take two baths, one to loosen up the accumulated dirt of three months, and
another to actually rinse my hair and remove all the dirt from my body. Throughout all
of this, my blindfold was removed twice. I kept my eyes closed, as instructed, and when they washed my face and, unless I was much mistaken, applied makeup to it, it was tied on again.

I was thoroughly dried, then led to another, adjoining room. There, I was dressed in some sort of fancy shirt and
shorts, along with knee-high boots. My fingernails were painted, and my hair was done put up. I had to restrain myself
from
fidgeting, but these women were kind and provided my first human conversation in months. So I put up with all
of it without protest.

I was eventually led out and given back to my wardens. We took a series
of turns and walked for what had to be thirty minutes before a voice came from in front of me and slightly to the left. "Sir, may we enter?"

A voice that seemed vaguely familiar emanated from what I could only
assume was a room. "Yes, bring her in."

I strode into the room, back straight,
posture defiant, but behind that was fear. Much like my sister here, I had gained the ability to sense animal capture levels as well as humans'. And I certainly didn't like what I was sensing in this room. Thirty major opponents, and, scattered throughout the room, a variety of
much weaker presences.

A group arrayed around a table, perhaps? I did not like entering this room with no idea of
what was going
on, so I reached up to my blindfold, and the hand on my arm became a restraint. Instead of fighting it, I
gave in. There was no telling what these presences would do if I showed any signs of struggling.

I was
led to a sort series of steps, and as I walked up them I got the idea that this was a platform. We walked a few more steps, and then I was made to turn to face the room. Blindfold still on, I sensed their calculating gazes on me. A
Vega came up behind me, and tore the blindfold off dramatically.

I heard gasps and
mutterings around the room as they saw my eyes. Looking down, I saw I was indeed wearing high heeled, knee length, black leather boots. I was also wearing dark blue cut off shorts that displayed my rose tattoo. The "shirt" was in fact a band of
gold cloth barely covering my chest, coupled with a long jacket that reached past my knees, with sleeves to my elbows. It was
black, with the entwining bodies of a
gold and red dragon on the back. Dramatic, yes. If I had to guess, I would have said my eyes
were lined in black kohl and blue eyeshadow. Those ladies had certainly known their art well.

The table
consisted of mostly men whose shirts could just barely cover their muscles. They had the look of fighters who enjoyed the killing as much or more than the battle. I noted both Tommyrod and Stajuun. Tommyrod looked, for no apparent reason, rather
sulky. Stajuun and a few other men wore their best poker faces. Others leered at my body in ways that
made me uncomfortable. A few seemed bored. So this was the infamous Bishokukai. Interesting.

Then I noticed something strange. I had never been very good at reading people or their intentions, yet I
could read all of these expressions. And, of I looked for long enough, I could get a deeper sense for their inner selves. Tommyrod,
for example, seemed to me to have a certain, unsettling
love for hurting others. A closer look at Staajun revealed to me a calmer, kinder
personality, albeit one with little patience for idiots or those who got in his way. And, perhaps, a hint of something
darker behind that. Interesting.

Abruptly, a voice from behind me said, "Move your jacket. I want to see in full what I have payed for."

My muscles tensed for battle, and I felt my breath catch before schooling my features into a mask of
calm. I had not sensed this presence. This voice demanded obedience with the tone of one used to it. I
shrugged my shoulders and tossed the jacket to the side. A breath of cool air traced its way along my back, and I fought a shiver. I could feel his gaze upon my back.

"Well they certainly look impressive, I'll give you that. Now, face me."

I turned slowly, wondering who this was that I had not
sensed him behind me. When I finally faced him, I saw why. He was only
a projected silhouette on the wall. I could see nothing of this man, and
this unsettled me. The men in the chairs behind me, who had been whispering and speaking among themselves prior, we're now
deathly silent. Perhaps he, then, was their leader.

"Yes... you have done well. However, I require a demonstration if your abilities. Being him out," he demanded.

The door opened to admit a strong man of about 24. He smirked and lept onto the
platform, then stalked towards me. "Is this the one, boss?"

"Yes. Do your worst," the silhouette said,
leaning back.

I turned to face my opponent, mind whirling. So, they would not let me off easy. I feinted to the right, and he took
that as a real attack. I twirled out of his way as he charged, then tripped him with my leg as he passed by. He crashed to the floor, but bounced
back up. The men at the table laughed and jeered at him. His face flushed, and he came
at me more carefully this time.

I dodged left, then
right, and his fists sailed past me. I swung up and knocked him in the jaw. He reeled back, cursing. More jeers, and he utterly
lost his head. He flew at me in a torrent of flashing fists and kicks, and I slid around his blows. The force of one of them knocked him slightly off balance, and I threw a five ren kugi punch into his stomach before he had time to recover himself. He flew into the wall, and then
slumped to the floor.

I heard the roar of voices behind me, but suddenly it felt as though another presence
was in control of my body. Coldly, I walked up to the man, and, grabbing him by the collar, lifted him up
to my eye level. I looked straight into his dazed eyes, and suddenly my eyes emitted a glowing gold and silver light, and I saw all of his past. He was
a hired mercenary who came from a family who would be ashamed to know how far he had fallen. And now he
was forced to see all of his actions through
another's eyes. His torture of people who did not deserve him sickened him, and he cried out at this sudden change in perception. I frantically
pulled out of his mind, and saw he now had the outlines two dragons, one silver, one gold, on the opposite sides mine were, whose tails began at his jawline, then continued so that the back feet cupped the bottom of his eyes, and each head met at the center of his forehead. I reeled backwards,
barely registering the horror and sorrow in his eyes.

His thoughts! His past! Inside my head pressing down on my own!
I fought back hands clenching the sides of my head in an
attempt to keep it from bursting like an over ripe fruit, tears streaming from my eyes now as I fought for my sanity. I fell to my knees and braced myself with my
arms, gasping. His thoughts slowly faded, leaving behind only his past, lacking teh force of his mind behind them.

And now I could hear the men at the
table.
They were in an uproar, no one quite understanding what was going on. I took several gasping breaths to settle myself, and rose unsteadily to my feet.
I felt the mood in the room
grow tenser, wondering what my next action would be. I turned and bowed to the silhouette projected on the wall.

"I hope we entertained you, sir," I said, "Now, can you explain to me what I just did?"

The figure was quiet for a few moments, then said, "I myself am not entirely sure.
Is the man alive?"

"Yes sir," one of the hooded Vesa reported.

"Good... Now, explain to me
why one of my men has
been reduced to a sniveling imbecile."

"W-well, to be honest sir, we were not expecting that either. We can only speculate, sir,
but we think this had to do with a power the Saimese Dragons are rumored to have, sir."

"And that power is?" he said, impatient.

"Supposedly they
have the power to make
anyone look at their lives through another's eyes and feel remorse. All of their memories, their thoughts, their best kept secrets. Everything, sir."

And suddenly
the figure in the screen was laughing. It was cold and terrifying, with no warmth. He said, "I'm so glad you brought her in, Stajuun, Tommyrod. Stajuun, see to her training. I will expect daily reports." With this, the screen went black.

I was shaking from the sheer amount of energy I'd expended to use the dragon's ability. I forced myself to remain standing, and as the black haired man rose, I
went to him. Silently, he led me from the room. I felt a menacing gaze following us, and turned my head and my eyes met Tommyrod's. I saw a black, malignant fury in them,
directed at me. Something about this encounter had given him reason to hate me, although I wasn't sure what. I had made an enemy today.

Stajuun began chuckling as we
walked down
the hall together. "Ahh, it's good to see Tommyrod taken down a few pegs. I'm Stajuun, by the way."

"I-I'm Kiri, sir," I muttered, shy.

"Just call me Stajuun, Kiri.
Almost everyone goes by their first names here. I'll take you to your rooms, since you look like you're about to collapse."

He led me through a twisting maze of hallways, pointing out rooms as we passed them. "There's the main hall... The training rooms... The sparring areas..."

We reached my rooms about twenty minutes after leaving the room with the platform. Our pace
hadn't been particularly fast, but neither had it been slow. I also got the impression that we had gone through only a small portion of the Bishokukai base. He opened my door
for me, and waved me through.

"I'll be back for you at eight, use the clock on the dresser to ensure you're on time. I will not tolerate lateness," he said,
turning to
go back the way we'd come. I stated after him as he disappeared into the gloom of the stony keep.

I turned to find a lavishly decorated room, but I could only focus in the bed. I paused only to remove
the boots before collapsing on the bed.

I woke up at five o'clock, thoroughly rested. I figured that I'd fallen asleep at about five the previous day, so I had slept a full twelve hours. Getting up, I noticed the room was indeed lavishly decorated and brightly colored, mostly with gold but with decorations of red, black, and various shades of gray. I went into the
adjacent room and saw an equally over done bathroom with a huge tub and shower. My first order of business was to use the shower, since I wasn't sure when my next would be. Stajuun
had said these rooms were to be mine, but perhaps that was only a slip of the tongue, or a deception.

I finished and went to see if I had any other clothes to
change into. I
found a new but indentical outfit in the wardrobe. My shoes had also been replaced with other, similar ones but with even more outrageous heels. I couldn't see how I was expected to fight or even walk in these things,
but I wore them nonetheless.

Turning, I found myself confronted by my own reflection in the mirror. I walked up and tossed my over coat thing off, and observed my tattoos. The last time I had had the luxury of observing myself in the mirror for as long as I pleased had been before the two of you left. I was much changed. Where my body had before
spoke of an awkward girl barely entering womanhood, it now spoke of hard living and, were anyone to see it, their gaze would be captivated by the tattoos instead. I drew closer, almost
pressing my nose to it. I was most angry with what they had done to my eyes. I had liked looking like my mother, because I knew she was considered very beautiful. I could see that no
one would
call these eyes beautiful. In each one a dragon curled around my pupil, it's body covering most of the boundary between iris and whites. The right was gold, the left silver. They were like the Saimese dragons, but in
miniature. They formed a vaguely "C" shaped figure in my eyes. I sighed, then turned to the rest of my tattoos. These I liked more, since they could be considered beautiful.

When the knock in the door finally came, I was already ready and was investigating my room. Without waiting for me to answer, Stajuun opened the door. Seeing me
already up, he cocked an eyebrow and told me to follow him. We went to the dining hall, and a woman served us there. It was all fantastic food, although this may have been my raging hunger
speaking. That move had taken more out of me than I thought.

Leaving, Stajuun asked, "So, did you enjoy the food?"

"Y-Yes it was very good," I replied.

"It 's nice to hear
that from someone who isn't worried I'll kill them if they say it's no good," he chuckled.

"Oh! Did you make it?" I exclaimed.

"Yes and no. I made parts of it. I'm still learning, after all," he said.

"It was
fantastic. I'm
sorry if I seemed a little rude in there, Dragon's Sight took more out of me than I thought..." I apologized.

"Dragon's Sight?" he asked, " Did you decide to name it that? Well, it's certainly appropriate."

He led the way into another room, this one filled with throwing
knives, swords, bows, and spears. This, then, was their weapons room. He grabbed a few daggers from a table near the door, then led me to a room connected to this main one. There were three, all
protected by huge steel doors and keypads that must serve as locks. He placed his body so that my sight would be blocked, and entered a code. The door clicked open, and I followed him inside.

The
inside smelled of old leather and parchments. He led me to the very center of the room, where an old book, two katana, a belt, and two sheaths lay on a raised pedestal. I gasped as I recognized the book. This was the book they'd used to find the
recipes and patterns for my tattoos!

Staajun nodded and said, "Yes, this is the same book. It was discovered, at great risk, in an ancient tomb." He handed me both of the swords. I held then gingerly, afraid Staajun would take an accidental movement as an attack. Looking at me, he nodded
and grinned, "I thought so. For everyone who has attempted to carry those swords, whispers invaded their minds and drove them crazy. I'm correct in assuming you hear nothing?" When I shook my head, he
continued, "We've only managed to translate about a fifth of the words in there, and the project was mostly abandoned when we realized it wouldn't lead us to the rare ingredient god. So, the swords have been
sitting here gathering dust for years now. The boss said to give them to you, so there you go." he lifted the left one slightly, He passed me the sheaths and belt as well, then showed me how to put it on. His hands on my waist made me wary. I was about fifteen,
and I knew about men by
then. I suppose I was lucky he didn't try anything..."

Her voice trailed off as she remembered. A few lies, she thought, would be acceptable. Besides, no one needed to know about that. That was her secret, and hers alone.

"Anyways, I was given swords. I wasn't taken over by the whispers Staajun had spoken of, but I did sense them in a way. It was like... an aura around the swords that was tasting my spirit. I sensed something
enter my mind, but it didn't feel malevolent in the slightest, so I ignored it. I felt it poke around, then recede while Staajun spoke.

He gestured for me to follow him out, and the door hissed closed
behind us as we walked down the stone hallway. They certainly didn't care much for decor, or perhaps furniture and the like were quickly destroyed if they were there. At any rate, the walls were bare of all decoration. Maybe that was the true motive, I mused, the lack of decoration's purpose, perhaps, was
to emphasize the difference from the rest of society. Why, then, was my room decorated?

I was led to another room where a range of weapons were arranged in groups. Another armory, I wondered? Suddenly,
Staajun flung the daggers he had been holding towards a dark corner of the room. I heard the cling of metal against metal, and a man stepped out of the shadows. He was carrying a huge Broad sword, and, for no apparent
reason, smiling. What on earth? I was beginning to think that all of the Biskokukai were crazy.

Chuckling, he said, "As predictable as always, Staajun. You make far too many extraneous movements."

I
was astounded. A man who would criticize Staajun? I was even more astounded when Staajun responded with a smile and a shrug.

"What do you expect? I have to be able to defeat my sensei at some point," he said, "But to get to the point, I have a new student for you."

The other man grunted and said, "Another
one who will waste my teachings and abuse their weapon?" he sighed, then turned to me, then took a second look, "Perhaps... come here girl."

I strode forward, chin
raised defiantly. I would not bow to this man, no matter what Staajun called him. He only smiled at my show of defiance, then titled my chin up further to look my on the eyes. "Aye, she'll work."

This, unlike anything
before, seemed to surprise Staajun. "You will, sensei? Are you sure?"

"Do I look uncertain to you, boy? I'll make a warrior out of her yet! You just watch me do it!" he continued to grumble as he went over to the
wall and dug out the daggers from earlier. "Girl, you have a name?"

"Yes... sir. I'm Ari," I said. I had already decided. I would leave the old me behind, and forge myself anew. This would require a new name, for my new attacks, for my new skin... for my new life. If Staajun even noticed, he said nothing.

"Well then Ari, what do you
know about fighting? Ever been in a battle before?"

"Only what I learned from the training forest, and I have only been in a
battle insofar as the ones in the training forest count."

"So, none at all. Humans and animals are at completely different levels. Your most dangerous opponent will never be an animal, because animals lack the more complex
thought patters and higher level thinking of a human. Whereas a human can surprise you, an animal, once understood and categorized, should not. Got that?"

"Uh, well... Yes?"

He chuckled, then said, "We're
training. Get over here. Anyone can carry an great sword, but you do the weapon disservice if you don't learn to use it properly. But to understand your swords will probably take more than it usually would, because no one's ever carried these swords before. They're not legendary, because no one else knows how to use them. So it's like you're carrying a wild card in your hands. That's
good and bad. Good in that no one will be able to predict your moves, and bad in that I can't really
train you in the use of it!" he laughed loudly and turned from me.

"So can you teach me the basics at least? I need to know what to do with these damn things. I can hold them, but that doesn't mean I can swing them at anything
effectively. And those knives."

"What the hell do you want me to do exactly?"

"Teach me how to kill," I said. I knew what i wanted, and if this man wanted to know what i desired, he would.

"No. I will
teach you how to fight, and you will do what you will with the knowledge given. I regret that this is your goal, but I've already said I will teach you how to fight. Let us begin."

He grabbed a sword from a nearby table and I tensed, expecting an attack. Instead, he showed it to me an asked, "What do you know about this sword, just from looking at it?"

"It's a deadly weapon?" I
asked.

"Well, yes and no. That's not all it is. It can be a
method of communication, a message of peace, a tool."

"How? It's used to kill. It has no other purpose."

"And that is where people fail to make full use of their swords. If I fight you, we both learn about each other. If
you're standing, say, twenty feet away, and you see me put down my sword, I've just told you I don't want a fight. If I was tied up with ropes, I could use the sword to cut them.

I was strong. I was ready. And I
would prove it.

I strode into the meeting halfway through. I threw the doors open, and stalked in. "Tommyrod," I called into the sudden silence, " I challenge you. If I win, I will be a fully fledged Bishokukai, no?"

A roar filled the room, objections coming from all sides, chairs clattering to the floor as the Bishokukai at the table rose. Tommyrod looked up in eager anticipation. Staajun, on the other hand, look
furious. The figure on
the monitor said, "Stop." And so they did. Every Bishokukai in teh room froze and turned to the screen. "Let her fight... Entertain me, my dear."

I laughed and tossed my head. "I hope I do, sir." My wings spread from my back and I launched
myself to the stage in one leap. Tommyrod ambled up the steps, taking his time. "So, Kiri.. Are you sure about this? It's probably not too late to run scared, you know. I mean, you know I'm going to win, right?"

I laughed. "Tommyrod,
you do realize I've grown up quite a bit since we first met, don't you? I doubt you could force me to do anything. Fight me, you coward. You should be the one running."

"Ah," he said, "you have grown.. so how about, if I win.. I get a kiss?"

I drew back slightly in surprise, which was exactly what he wanted. In my split second of surprise, he charged. I stumbled backwards as his dagger came within inches of my face. I cursed myself
as I
tried to regain my footing. He had me off balance within seconds of the beginning of our battle. I fumbled to draw my swords, then dodged again as he threw a dagger at my side. I gave up on the swords and backed off to give myself space, then felt
something sticky and grasping at my back. Turning my head, I found my cheek stuck to the side of the something. Suddenly, a huge hairy leg came into my field of vision. Gods no, I thought. I was already in his trap. A huge spider's web, and somehow I
didn't think that the spider itself was benign.

"Oh,
so brave," I drawled, trying to buy time, "A trap. Yes,
you're obviously the better fighter, since you need to use this to
catch me."

He had the nerve to chuckle. "Honey, it's
not just about being braver, or faster, or even stronger than your
opponent. It's about winning. So when do I get my kiss?"

"Never,"
I grinned, slicing
through the web and the spider.

He made a
face. "I liked that one! Why on earth did you cut her?"

"Well,
let's think! She was only about to bite me in half. Gee, you're
right, maybe I did overreact," I replied bitingly. We
were
circling and feinting, trying to catch each other off guard, looking
for our opening. I'd managed to grab a concealed knife in my shirt
and cut the web, but only barely. I knew I couldn't expect to be able
to pull that off again.

I made the first move this time.
Running forward, I tried a slash to the stomach, but instead hit only
empty air. Tommyrod had dodged to the side at the last second, and my
back was wide open. He rammed the knife into my side, and I only just
managed to avoid getting it through my organs. I jumped away, and the
pain finally registered. I slumped to the ground, vision going black
on the edges.

Tommyrod again sauntered up. "So, give in
yet? Tell me I've won. Grovel, and I'll let you live as my
concubine."

I sent up a quick prayer for luck, hoping
that Staajun was right. I pulled the knife out of my side and threw
it at
Tommyrod in disgust. For just a second, my vision went totally black and I fought for consciousness. As abruptly as it had started, the pain stopped. I slumped, pretending to black out. I heard Tommyrod bend down and so when his fingers caressed my face, I was
prepared. He stood and turned, laughing.
"Arrogance, my friends.
As you can see, I have won. She didn't respect me... And so," his voice cut off abruptly
as I slashed a huge gash in his back from right shoulder to left hip. He half turned, then
fell. I stood over his body, panting, then sheathed my sword and removed my jacket. All could see that my wound was completely healed. Turning, I faced the man on
the screen.

"Yes, sir. Arrogance. I gave him three chances to kill me, and he took none of them. Of course, he would have failed... but he could have tried at the very least. I promise not to fail you in the same manner... boss."

The shadowy figure seemed to be thinking. It sat there for a minute, and I waited patiently. Finally, it laughed. "Well. Tommyrod always was uncontrollable. Fine, Kiri... You are a Bishokukai, now and forever. You serve me, and my orders are thus: pursue foods of the
highest level for me, for us, and kill anyone in your way. A question... How did you heal so quickly?"

"Ah. The tattoos. The phoenix one makes me unkillable, theoretically, and one of the belt ones makes me heal quickly, boss."

"I thought as much. Staajun," it called, "Take care of our newest recruit, will you?"

"Yes sir," came his response. The screen went blank as a huge group of Vesa
swarmed the stage. They grabbed Tommyrod's body and took him
out of the room. I wondered if they would be able to revive him, then decided I didn't care. I turned to face the Bishokukai as a whole as I waited for who knows what.

A man on the far end
of the room was the first to speak up. "New blood... I suppose we need it."

"No we don't," another snapped, "And this creature just killed a valuable member. And what was that business the last time? She's out of control."

I snarled. "I am not "that
creature". I am called Kiri. And you will notice that I have harmed no one in my time here but those who sought to harm me."

The man who had called me creature reguarded me for a minute. "Humph. Fine, I have no objections... Staajun, see that this one learns proper respect for her elders, will you?" With that, he stood up and left the room. The others stood as well and followed, until it was only
Staajun and myself left.

"So, you're under my care once more, Kiri," he said, leaning back
in his chair.

"Yes. Hopefully you will be overseeing my training this time?"

"Well, yes, since there's no one else to teach you this... We leave
tomorrow morning, and don't ask what we're doing. I'm going to put you in blind and see how you do. Think you can handle it?"

"But of course," I said. I wasn't sure what he had planned, but I was sure I could handle it.

He nodded and walked off, leaving me
to find my way back on my own.

*****

The next morning, I woke early and headed to the training hall. Upon arriving, I found that he was already waiting for me. Next to him stood the strangest animals I had ever seen. They were vaguely horse shaped, but
instead of fur they had
a leathery looking hide, bird's legs, and bat's wings. I walked over to Staajun.

"So, is that our ride?" I asked.

"Yup. You ready to head out?"

"I have everything I need," I responded.

"Good. I only have one instruction for you. Follow
my instructions to the letter."

I decided it wasn't worth it to ask what one earth was going on, so I went with it. We got on the horse things, which Staajun refused to give a name to, and flew for about an hour to I don't know where. We set up camp for that night, and I was still without any idea of what we were doing.

I woke to what I first thought was an earthquake. The ground itself was shaking, and I barely got out of the tent. It was still night outside, and so I squinted into the night. Suddenly, I noticed something scraping against my shoulder. I grabbbed at it and saw that it was a note. It bore only one word, kill, in curly, broad strokes. Staajun was gone, and his instructions were to kill? But there was nothing to kill, I thought, until a huge paw came through the air and smashed into my side. I flew into the ground, and understood the note. I was to kill whatever this was. I turned to confront a huge hedgehog. Under normal circumstances, I would have thought it cute, but it was about 20 feet tall with glowing red eyes and it's spikes were about as tall as I was. And, of course, it was attacking me.

It was nothing like a challenge. I drew my sword, which I had not taken off that night, and cut it's throat. It didn't even move when I killed it. Was this all I was expected to do? Staajun's voice suddenly came from behind me. "Well. You did learn from sensei after all."

This was my first challenge. I was insulted at the time, but this creature had been on our hit list. We took it back, and gave it to the chefs. Staajun did not say whether I had passed or not, but we went out on missions many times after. We were successful every time, and I accumulated fame and a few scars. I didn't realize it then, but I suppose it was training for later, for we only wnet after animals. And my only rule was to follow his instructions at all times.

By and by, there came a time when Staajun again refused to give me the details of our job. I took it to mean that he had been told not to. We headed out on our flying steeds, and arrived at a huge mansion far out in a swamp. I was confused, but followed Staajun as he approached the mansion. Two men in black suits waited for us to approach. As we drew up to them, the taller of the two said, "Can I-" the rest of his words were cut off by Staajun's sword in his throat. The other one he slew as he called for backup.

"What are you doing?!" I exclaimed.

"Remember my rule, Kiri," he said.

Confused, I followed him, silent. We charged through the house, and he slew more guards. I winced as every one fell to his blade. He kicked in doors, then cursed as what he was searching for eluded him. Behind the last door on the top floor, he found a family. A little girl huddled behind her mother, a beautiful brunette woman. He walked in, and a sword blade from the side caught my eye. Without thinking, I blocked it. The man who wielded it was trembling and dropped the blade when it met resistance.

"Why are you in my home," he demanded, scared, "I have done nothing! Unless.. No! No! You're them!"

"Shut up," Staajun said, and slit his throat as well. Gesturing to the woman and child, he said, "Kiri. Kill them."

"What? No. Why on earth would we need to do that? I'm not even sure why we're here in the first place," I exclaimed, backing away.

"Kiri. Listen to me. They know our names. They can describe our
faces. The Bishokukai will not hide us. Kill them," he said, as calmly as if we were discussing the weather instead of human lives. "If you do not, I will do it myself. And their deaths will be far slower and more painful than you can make them."

She paused and glanced at everyone. She was ashamed of what came next. "To be honest, I didn't care much about these people. I had understood that being in the Bishokuka would mean killing. It wasn't the deaths that I objected to, but this was cold-blooded murder of a child and a woman with no weapon. However, I believed what Staajun said. He would kill them, he would make it slow and painful, and he would feel no remorse nor anything approaching remorse. I don't expect you to forgive me for this. I killed them.

"I didn't let them know death was coming. I moved as quickly as I could, and slew both child and woman in one stroke. Turning, I fled the room and Staajun. I ran and stopped only when I could run no further. I was in some sort of forest, but I barely registered my surroundings. I laid where I
had fallen, and cried for the loss of innocent lives.

I am not sure how many hours passed, but it eventually came to me that my throat was dry as sand. It was basic human needs that finally forced me to rise. I staggered to my feet and drank from my water supply. I made my way back to Staajun and said not a word as we flew back to base. When we landed, he put his hand on my shoulder. "If you hadn't killed them, it was my job to kill you," he said quietly before walking off.

It didn't take much to realize that far from being a threat, that had been a kind warning. My continued existence depended on following directions. It was no belief in my cause that caused me to kill and kill again. I grew to have no morals, no conscience that would tug on me every time I killed. They were in my way. In a way, it was survival of the fittest...

I became the beautiful and ruthless assassin of the Bishokukai. I would infiltrate parties or the like as just another woman, and wreak havoc. Sometimes all that was required of me was to flirt with the right men and get them to kill each other for
me. Other times, I wielded my swords without care to whom I struck. The others soon learned to stay out of my way when I really got into the kill, because I did not distinguish between friend and foe during these bloodbaths. I was a seductress, a murderer, the worst kind of person. And I knew this. More than that, I didn't care. The faces of the dead did not haunt me as I had heard others describe.

I became feared for my hand-to-hand combat, my swords, and my abilities as an assassin. I was not always obviously involved in the deaths of my victims. A dash of poison in a drink, a knife to the back, an unfortunate fall
down the stairs. I enjoyed manipulating people. It was the ultimate game to me. Could I get this or that man to kill so and so? Would a prod in the right direction lead to war? Who would die next? Human lives meant nothing but the entertainment that they provided. I was a monster..."

Here she stopped and took a huge gulp from her hip flask. Everyone looked shaken, and the heavenly kings had unconsciously tensed in preparation for a fight. The woman in the chair before them merely looked up at them tiredly and continued.

"This continued for gods know how long. I lost track of the years somewhere along the way. I spent roughly four years of my life with the Bishokukai. Then one day... Something set me off. It made me so furious that I destroyed over a third of the base before my fury had run its course. After, I sensed multiple Bishokukai moving to secure me, so I fled. I took a recently acquired Azure Pheonix as my ride.

I flew long and far, and eventually those pursuing me gave up. I landed on the edge of a desert area with sparse foliage and fell fast asleep.

I dreamed of home that night, and woke to find that my dreams had invaded reality, for I remembered this desert. Not far to the west was our childhood home. I began to walk, and the Pheonix kept pace in the air.

I wasn't sure what I felt as I approached the house. It was less dilapidated than it would be a few years later when you returned, Cat, but still in bad shape. I feared that the roof would cave in should I enter, so I instead went in through a gap in the wall. Inside, I found our mother's bedroom. This was a part of the house that none of us had regularly entered. She was secretive, our mother, and I had always been curious as to what she kept in there. I believe that she knew that, because inside I found a box very similar to the one Cat found. A letter addressed to me, as well as pictures and the like. I also found these.

Here she dug around in her bag and held up a necklace and a leather jacket. The necklace had both a dragon with it's tail wrapped around a clear orb and a delicate, beautiful, pale pink rose on it. The jacket was shiny black leather with a gold pheonix outlined on the back.

"Toriko, the jacket's for you. There's also two letters addressed to you from our parents. And here, you should see this too."

She handed him the bundle, and Toriko picked through it. The letters were unopened, and on top of them was a picture of Tsuri. Blonde hair, flashing blue eyes, laughter captured forever. Toriko's head started to pound, accompanied by the feeling that he should know something but it was eluding his grasp. He unfolded the jacket, and a smell reached his nose, one that he remembered. He remembered! Looking up, he whispered, "Raisa, Kiri... I remember now."

Everyone in the room gasped. Tears began to run down Cat's face, and Ari smiled and said, "Hah, took you long enough."

Komatsu looked up at Toriko worriedly, "Are you sure, Toriko?"

"Yeah. Who would've guessed?" Toriko laughed.

Coco and Sani looked rather confused, while Zebura appeared decidedly annoyed, most
likely because he wouldn't get to beat anyone up now.

"Well. Please continue with your story, Arianna," Coco said.

"Hmph. Until then, I'd mostly forgotten about dad, since he'd been imprisoned for as long as I could remember. I left the house resolved to find him.

Mom's letter mentioned that he'd been taken to Honey Prison, so that's where I went. I arrived at the train tracks for that boat train thing only to find that the damned thing was due back in a month. Of course, I wasn't going to wait that long. Instead, I hiked along the tracks, killing wild beasts for food,
beholden to no one, following no one, enjoying the freedom of the thing.

By and by I reached Honey Prison. It was certainly an intimidating area. I later learned that I had been very lucky timing wise. I had missed the Freeze Season by barely a day, and so the strongest monsters had only just begun to wake. I was stopped by Warden Love's assistant and several others roughly halfway to the Prison. Instead of fighting, I relaxed and held my hands up. "Hey, hey calm down. I no longer serve the Bishokukai. I'm here of my own accord. Take me to my father, and I'll let you take me prisoner."

I was escorted into the Prison in handcuffs. I was told this was just a precaution, but I knew better. These people weren't about to pass up the chance to catch a Bishokukai. I'd been fully aware of that when I'd set out for Honey Prison, and I was ready to accept whatever they saw as a fit punishment. My goal in this was to be able to join society without being constantly on the run.

I was lead to a large room where Warden Love greeted me. "What do you want?" she demanded to know.

"A pony and five trillion in cash. Short of that, I would like to meet my father."

"He's dead. Only happened two months ago. We tried to contact the family, but, obviously, no one still lived in your house, and both you and your sister were impossible to locate."

"Ahh. So. As we both know, I chose to come here. If I hadn't come of my own free will, you would not have caught me," I said, demonstrating this by breaking my shackles, "And I have no interest in execution. How can I make up my debt to society and start living my life without people trailing after me?"

I was disappointed by the news, but unsurprised. Those people probably thought I did not care, but I had become master of the poker face during my time with the Bishokukai.

Warden Love considered me for a minute and said, "If that's what you want, you only have one option."

And so I was sent to Master Chinchin. I and a few others were sent on Execution Beasts to that damn disappearing forest. Upon arrival, we were told to show our gratitude to the temple by bowing. I was under the impression Master Chinchin was insane, but complied. When I looked up, there it was, the promised temple. Master told us to always feel gratitude when inside, and led us in. By this point I was truly ready to reform myself. However, despite my best attempts, a storm of arrows flew at me as I walked down the hallway. The others with me had been led off, so I had no idea that this was considered normal there.

"What the hell is the idea, old man?" I shouted, dodging the arrows.

"Display the proper gratitude, Kara," he replied.

"That's not my name!" I said, this time trying to remove my feet from wooden floor that had suddenly become like quicksand.

"Whatever you say, Joyce," Master replied, continuing to walk as though I wasn't being attacked by a building.

"This place is fucked up," I muttered, beginning to wonder if Honey Prison might have been the easier choice.

Finally, we arrived at a small room. Master took a seat on one couch, I on the other.

"Do you know why you're here, Della?" he asked.

"My name's Ari. And I'm here because I want to repent for my crimes and be able to join regular society."

"Not what I meant. Why were you singled out of the group that came with you?"

"I do not know... sir."

"Master Chinchin. It is because out of all of those here, your crimes merit the most severe punishment. You killed over three hundred people, caused the extinction of at least ten species, and joined an illegal group. Any one of these should have merited an immediate and painful execution. However, you also disappeared a few months ago after destroying part of the Bishokukai base and willingly turned yourself in and agreed to come here sincerely. Your training will still be the most strenuous out of anyone here. If you do not give 100% effort to your training, I will personally see that you are released into the forest to die."

"Yes, Master. I wish to begin," was all I said. I knew this already. Love had given me multiple chances to back out and I had not accepted. I would leave here free or not at all.

Master left and sent in Shuu in his place.

"Come with me," Shuu said, "We need to evaluate your skills."

I didn't see what such a scrawny guy could do, but followed him anyways. We arrived at the training area safe, despite the temple's attacks on me.

He took a battle stance and said, "You may attack me however you like, but please refrain from using those swords. "

I unbuckled the belt that they were attached to and put it aside, then waited for him to move. When he did, I moved to block him and found he was back in starting position, and that my cheek was suddenly stinging. How had he...?

This time I attacked first, but the same thing happened. Around and around we went, me swinging with all my might and he seeming only to dodge. The cuts were so fast that it was only when I stopped, panting for breath, that I noticed how cut up I was.

"You will not win," he said. Even though I was completely out of breath and obviously the loser, I was glad to see that he was winded too, although perhaps not as much as I was. I acknowledged defeat and we moved on.

You know what the training was like. For a solid week I drove myself crazy with the candles and that damn rice. I couldn't get the candles to stay lit, no matter how much gratitude I tried to use. I stayed in a separate house from the rest of the trainees, and almost never even saw them. I was truly alone for the first time in years, as neither Shuu nor Master Chinchin spoke much. I did become adept at dodging blows and sensing when they were coming though, since I could not seem to get the temple used to me.

I'm willing to admit it; I almost gave up several times in that week. Then, one night, sitting in front of the once again unlit candle, I began to think about how ungrateful I had been. I was hungry enough by then to begin to realize how grateful I had been, without realizing it, to the food that had enabled me to survive. Suddenly, the candle re-lit. I lost concentration and it abruptly went out again, but I had lit it! For the remainder of that night, I worked hard on getting that little flame to appear.

Gradually, I came to be able to hold the flame for a minute, then five, ten, twenty, half an hour, and finally, after a month of training, an hour. I mastered the rice and moved on to more difficult training exercises. Two months, and I had completed training. Then, after two months of absence, Master Chinchin once again appeared before me.

"You have learned all I have to teach," he said, "Are you ready to face your final test?"

In all honesty, by then I didn't want to leave. The temple protected me from the outside, and I had to do very little by ways of socializing, since I was alone most of the time. But my answer was obvious.

"Yes, Master. I must find my brother and sister. Therefore I must leave. However," I said, bowing, "Thank you. Thank you for making me see my mistakes in full. Thank you for allowing me to reform myself. But mostly, thank you for giving me the abilities necessary to help fight against the Bishokukai in the future. I now know what it truly means to be grateful for what our earth gives us, and see why they are the fiends they are named."

"Of course, Ari. That is why you are here," he replied.

"M-my name! You got it right!" I exclaimed.

"Did I?" he asked, walking away.

My final test was not eating rice or lighting candles. Master Chinchin led me to the edge of the clearing that the temple lay in, and told me this: "Your final test is the hardest. Failure may cost you your life. Upon leaving this clearing, you will be engulfed in a forest where many of the trees are as those the temple was built of. There are no landmarks, and you will be given no provisions. You must exit the forest by showing it your utmost gratitude. Your final trainer is this forest. Hopefully you have learned to exude gratitude by now. Go, and prove yourself. You leave this forest a free woman."

With that, he turned and left. I headed into the forest, and had almost no trouble exiting. I reached the last of the trees only a day after Master left me.

I left the forest a changed person. I tracked the two of you down, but bided my time. After all, there was no point in contacting you when I had no information. I also kept track of the Bishokukai's movements. I secretly joined the IGO, and they put me on a special team of agents specifically to deal with the Bishokukai. I hadn't planned on contacting either of you, until I found something disturbing in a decided message we intercepted.

You four Heavenly Kings, my sister and I are all mentioned, along with a few others. We lost most of it when they realized it had been intercepted, but we got a list of names and a lot of vague hints about a secret mission. The names include all of the strongest fighters and best chefs of this time. Since you six were involved, I decided to bring you in on it."

"Do you have anything else on this plan?" Coco asked.

"No, nothing on the plan. And before you ask, I can't tell you all of the names on the list. It's confidential. We don't know anything about this plan, but we've warned everyone on the list to be careful. That's why I'm here. Getting to speak to my brother and sister is just a bonus."

"Okay.. I have two lost sisters and dead parents. You two are both murderers, and you've defied the government. Where does that leave us?" Toriko asked, looking tired.

"It leaves you with your memories and us two with the knowledge that we have at least given you what our parents wished us to. You have no obligation to us, Toriko. We can leave here and never contact you again, if that's what you want," Ari said.

" No! That's not what I want. You're the family I've been looking for. I'd actually like to get to know you two better," he said.

"I would actually like to invite everyone here to the island. Rare animals and plants, extinct life forms brought back to life, what better place to put a group of Bishokuya?" Cat asked.

"That beautiful island? I can get even more beautiful food there. I'll go," declared Sani.

"I heard there are several species of rare poisonous creatures there. I would like to take you up on your offer," Coco said.

"Cocky bastards! If there's food to be eaten it's mine!" Zebura growled.

"Of course me and Komatsu are showing up! Right Komatsu?" Toriko asked.

"I've always wanted to go there!" Komatsu said.

"Well then it's settled. I'll send a boat to Fire Harbor in a week to pick you guys up," Cat said.

Food was eaten, stories exchanged, and much celebration occurred before Cat and Ari took their leave. The group parted, only to adjourn again on Gourmet Reserve...

****OKAY I WANT
EVERYONE TO TAKE NOTE OF THIS:
YOU CAN NOT TATTOO YOUR
EYES! IT WILL MAKE YOU
BLIND! DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! I MEAN IT!

Hey you guys! I think you'll want to keep an eye out for Ari's story. It'll be the second of the two, because Cat's will set up parts of it.
I'm thinking a secret base of a far away tropical island, a cute guy and lots of alone time... ;D XD but I'll keep it T, it'll be your brain's fault if you.. add anything. There'll be romance, hurt/comfort (kinda?), and action! Fights, Staajun'll make an appearance, Tommyrod too, probably, and lovers that should shock you. I hope. P.S. Toriko will not be paired with his sisters. Not that kind of shocking XD. Although maybe him and Sani's sister, Ren? I think her name's Ren.

Also
I wanna Snickers
Snickers are yummy
Chocolate
Mmmm chocolate

Gemina istitae ~ Twin Justice

Sapientia ~ Wisdom

Misericordia ~ Mercy

Those're in Latin, I may just call then by their English names instead. Latin just sounded so much more official.

Thanks to everyone for reading! Reviews much appreciated, answering my polls even more so. I mainly write love stories, so if you'd like to, you can read the other ones. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And Happy Holidays!