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About Literature / Hobbyist Mark Thomas Barden22/Male/United States Recent Activity
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The works of a crazed writer and poser are within these walls. Enter at your own peril. No, seriously, I tend to get lost in here.

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Mostly Street Fighter pictures, and, by that logic, mostly Juri Han.



Chapter 2: Burn Ward

"Isn't this great Samus? We're like the two most agile fighters here and we're on the same team!" Pit could hardly contain his excitement as he waited with the blonde-haired bounty hunter. "Oh this is gonna be so cool! We'll be like two peas in the hand; worth a lot more than any golden goose, right Samus?"

"Uh-huh, yeah, sure," Samus muttered. She played with a few values on her paralyzer before casting a calm and determined look Pit's way. "I'm ready. You'd better be too."

"Ready? Uh, yeah! I'm ready, but shouldn't we come up with some kind of game plan?"

"We'll be fighting two others who are unknown to us at the moment. There's no use in planning for something like that. Just keep your head in the game and stay quick on your feet," Samus replied. She jabbed a finger at Pit. "Above all else, pull your own weight and don't get yourself knocked out."

The angel gulped and looked down at his feet. The two brawlers, Pit and Samus in her zero suit, were called upon to fight together in a team battle that day. Pit was his usual self; enthusiastic, chipper and eager to prove his worth to both the rest of the smashers and his goddess. Samus was anything but chipper, yet the woman was more determined than most fighters. Her cold demeanor put many fighters on the defensive, and though her professional attitude threw Pit off a bit, she could tell that he would do his best out there on the battlefield.

"The match will begin in thirty seconds!" came the voice of the announcer. "Red team is ready! Blue team, please proceed to the teleporters!"

Pit whirled around and looked for his teleporter. The Smash Mansion's sublevels contained all the nuts and bolts for the main events, including but not limited to training rooms, personal Sandbag pummeling areas and teleporters for those about to fight. The angel jumped onto his teleporter and couldn't help but grin when his sandals clunked against the cold metal exterior of such an advanced piece of technology. He pulled out his bladed bow and plucked the string before looking over to Samus.

"Hey! Good luck out there! Let's show 'em what blue team can do!"

The Metroid hunter only glared back at him before the teleporters sparked to life and whisked the two away to the Battlefield stage. It was a simple and small stage that offered a lot of room for agile fighters to move around. However, because it was so small, large and powerful fighters could easily control the flow of battle. Two distinct roars from nearby ran shivers up Pit's spine.

There in the distance were the two fighters of red team, Bowser and Charizard. Embers fizzled around their maws while their clawed hands were poised and ready for the fight ahead. Despite their intimidating size and raw power, Pit had every bit of confidence in himself and Samus. Plus, if Bowser or Charizard should use their flames against him, the angel could protect himself without any trouble. Why, the match was practically won already!

"Three, two, one... Go!"

"I should have some around here somewhere. Let's see... Ah! Here we go!"

Mario reached into his medicine cabinet and pulled out a large bottle of aspirin. Though his megavitamin pills, a trade secret, were able to fix a lot of common illnesses and leave a fighter feeling better than they were before, nothing could quite compare to the tried and true pain relief that aspirin provided. The Italian man produced a smaller pill bottle and fed a dozen aspirin into it before capping it up and handing it off to a grey-skinned woman in yoga attire.

"I shouldn't have to tell you anything about how to be well. You know all the tricks!"

"Yep! But there's only so much a person can do on their own." The Wii Fit Trainer pocketed her aspirin and rubbed her head. "Medicine can do so much for one's body and wellness. In fact, besides the pain-relieving qualities, aspirin is very effective at thinning the blood and reducing the risks of heart attack and strokes."

"Hmm! I didn't know about the strokes!" Mario replied as he reached back into the medicine cabinet and looked over the aspirin. He made a mental note to procure some more pills. "How is your headache now, Trainer?"

The woman rubbed her temples next and took a few deep breaths before flashing the doctor a thumbs-up.

"Still a little woozy, but I'll be fine. I didn't expect you to headbutt the ball back at me!"

Mario let loose a hearty laugh and touched his forehead where a tiny welt had formed. He turned back to the trainer and clasped his hands together, signaling that he had done his job.

"I'm surprised I did that myself! I should have used my cape, but I must have been reminded of my striker days... Ah, anyway, take two aspirin a day and in a few days you should be okie-dokie."

"Thanks Mario. I'll return the bottle when I'm finished." The Wii Fit Trainer saw herself out of the clinic only to peer back in from the doorway. "You know, you could do with a little more jogging every now and then."

Before Mario could offer a few words in his defense, the trainer had vanished. The portly plumber couldn't help but feel put off by that comment as he had tried in the past to lose a bit of weight here and there. His original profession as a carpenter didn't offer much room to be active, but when he became a plumber and began to embark on adventures within and beyond the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario was about as active as a sports star. But despite all his running, jumping and smashing the man just couldn't lose that potbelly of his.

"More jogging? I'm as healthy as a Yoshi!" Mario exclaimed, baffled.

But like the easygoing man he was, Mario shrugged and let it go like water off a duck's back. Almost nothing got under his skin. He held no grudges, no vendettas, and no delusions of grandeur either!

"As for me, I should do something different today instead of sports. Hmm, what would Luigi do?" Mario asked himself as he began to tidy up his clinic. He sorted his megavitamins out along with various medical instruments. "Reading? No no, not very interesting... Unless it's a cookbook, heeheehee! Ah, I'll figure out something to do."

And figure out something he did. After a half-hour of doing inventories and cleaning, the door to the clinic opened up and in stepped Samus Aran in her zero suit. Mario was about to ask what she needed when he noticed that the woman was leading a charred angel inside along with her. It was confusing to see the two of them together at this time of day, seeing as Samus and Pit were supposed to be participating in team battles at the moment, but Mario understood that this was a medical emergency. Master Hand must have postponed the battles for awhile, at least until any injuries or wounds had healed.

"B-by the sacred treasures... I c-can still feel the burning!" Pit cried as he shambled along after Samus.

"Come on, come on, it's not that bad; you'll be fine," Samus reassured the angel. She approached Mario and presented Pit before him. "Doctor? Pit could really use your help."

It didn't take long for Mario to figure out what was wrong with Pit. He had noticed the smell of burnt clothing and skin, more so the former than the latter, but seeing the inflamed skin and charred angel wings made it clear that Pit had suffered quite a bit from flames. The doctor took Pit aside and sat him down on a hospital gurney to examine him a little more.

"Hmm... Looks like second-degree burns to me." Mario looked over to Samus. "You two were battling today, yes? What happened?"

"Lots and lots of fire," Pit whimpered. His wings were tightly folded against his back as if he was putting pressure on his own wounds. "Ow ow ow ow ow!"

"We were fighting Bowser and Charizard today," Samus explained. "At one point Pit got between them and they unleashed their fire breath at the same time."

Mario nodded in understanding. Having fought Bowser so many times he could identify the wounds left behind by his fire breath and knew that it was vital to clean things up right away. He went over to his desk and snapped on a pair of vinyl gloves before skipping over to a sink to procure a basin of water. He could hear Pit's whimpers of pain and had to remind himself that the angel had had much worse before. Once the basin of water was all set, the doctor moved over to the gurney and looked up to the angel.

"Alrighta. Pit, do you think you can manage to take off some of your clothes? Just your tunic and upper body for now, okay?" As Pit struggled yet managed to do just that, Mario looked over to Samus. He raised an eyebrow when he noticed her lingering near the doorway. "You're-a-gonna go so soon?"

"Yeah, I have to. The battle's been postponed but not for long. Blue team will be down a fighter, but I'm going to go see if Master Hand will let me switch into my power suit to make up for it." She looked over to Pit and actually smiled for once. Granted it was a simple sympathetic gesture, but it was a smile nonetheless. "Hey. When I beat those two I'll come back and see if there's anything I can do to help you out."

Samus left soon after and closed the clinic door behind her. Once she was gone Pit breathed a sigh of relief only to cringe in agony as Mario began to rinse his burned skin.

"Augh! What are you doing Mario?"

"I'm-a rinsing the burned areas until the pain stops," Mario explained. He cupped his hands and poured some water down the angel's back. "Don't-a worry, I'm a doctor!"

"Y-you know, when I first saw you in that coat I thought you were just wearing a costume," Pit said. "I didn't think you were a real doctor!"

"Oh yeah! I'm a real certified doctor alright. First I was a carpenter ya know." Mario moved his hands over the burn wounds and continued to lather them up with cool water. Though Pit hissed every now and then, eventually the frequency of his cries of agony died down. "So, how was fighting with Samus?"

"She's kind of scary, actually. All that hurty-looking equipment she has makes me not want to fight her one-on-one!"

"She's always prepared for anything. She's probably got more combat experience than any of the Fire Emblem characters," Mario surmised. "However, she's not the best at working with others. The only fighters she seems to work well with are Pikachu and Snake from the last Smash Brothers."

Pit nodded and mumbled in agreement. The bounty hunter had a lone-wolf kind of mindset and did her best work while alone. It seemed to the angel that he had just been an inconvenience to her in the previous battle. Yet Pit was quick to reassure himself that Samus probably had put her faith in him and believed that he could handle himself out there. Just because a teammate didn't stick by you didn't mean they didn't believe in you, Pit thought with a smile.

Once a few minutes had passed in relative silence and Pit's burned skin stopped flaring up, Mario nudged his wings and tried to get them to unfold. The magnificent angel wings, once a blinding white color, were now a light grey from the flames and soot. Mario could see that some feathers had been burned completely and exposed the vulnerable skin beneath. Out of all the places Pit had been burned, it seemed that the wings received the brunt of two infernos.

"H-hey Mario, I gotta ask you something," Pit said with a hiss of pain when he felt the doctor's hands on his wings. "How do you deal with fighting Princess Peach in a battle?"

"Hmm? I'm afraid I don't understand the question Pit," Mario replied.

"I mean, Lady Palutena is participating in this Smash Brothers tournament, and Princess Peach joined the melee way before she did."

"Oh I get it." Mario chuckled and finished up on Pit's wings before grabbing some soap and mixing it in with the water. He took a soft sponge and lathered up the angel's inflamed skin to clean the burns. "You're wondering how I deal with fighting Peachie when I'm supposed to keep her safe and sound, yes?"

"Yeah, yeah! I'm practically Lady Palutena's right-hand man as well as the captain of her royal bodyguards. She's like a mother to me too, and I'm not sure how I can go out there and fight her."

"Didn't you fight her before in your own universe?"

"I did? Oh, yeah, I forgot. B-but that was because she was under a dark influence. This time it feels like I'm attacking her for no good reason other than entertainment or training, and even then, I don't like the idea of hurting Lady Palutena."

Mario continued to clean the angel's burns and soon moved to the more sensitive parts of the wings. When he touched a sore spot Pit flinched in reflex and smacked Mario's nose with the tip of his wing. The poor doctor couldn't help but sneeze in response.

"Ooh! Sorry, my bad."

"It's alright. But I know what you mean Pit. I thought the same way when Peachie joined up in Melee." Mario rubbed his nose and pulled his mustache before getting back to cleaning. "You just gotta put it behind you. Think of Palutena as just another fighter and don't hold back on her."

"Just another fighter? She's the Goddess of light!"

"So?" Mario cut in with a shrug of his shoulders. "Princess Peach is the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom, but I don't hesitate to toss fire her way in a battle. Same way with my brother. I believe it's respectful to treat them like anyone else. That way they know that I won't go easy on them, so they don't feel like they're being patronized."

"Huh... I never thought of it like that Mario. I guess Lady Palutena would get annoyed if I didn't fight her." Pit grinned sheepishly and snapped his fingers. "Plus, Viridi would never let me hear the end of it. Alright, I'll go after her like I'll go after Link then!"

"That's the spirit Pit! Now hold on while I go and get the burn ointment." The merry doctor turned on his heel and went to his medicine cabinet once again. "You may have to not use your wings for awhile. I'll have to bandage them up so the wounds don't get infected, but you'll be able to move normally."

As Mario returned to Pit with ointment and gauze in hand, he noticed a darker copy of the angel lingering in the clinic doorway. Though the doctor wasn't the least bit annoyed at seeing Dark Pit around, Pit was a completely different story. He turned and shot his dark counterpart a look of sheer terror, like that of a deer caught in the headlights of a truck.

"What's the matter Kid Icarus? Fly a little too close to the sun?" Dark Pit said with a sneer and a chuckle.

"Aw come on, don't call me that," Pit whined.

To Pit's chagrin, he heard a good-hearted laugh from Mario in response. Must be Pick-On-Pit Day, the angel thought as he buried his embarrassed face in his hands.

Chapter 3: Ganondorf's Debt

For a moment, all seemed to be well and good in the Smash Mansion. Dr. Mario had been busy tending to the smashers and their petty problems like minor wounds and cuts, and while he helped them out as much as he was able, the hero of the Mushroom Kingdom wanted nothing more than a break in the action to tend to himself for once. The man had a few rough nights where he couldn't get any sleep and when he had to get up early to participate in battles, Mario could barely keep up with the others. He soldiered on the best that he could though and got in as many naps as he was able.

His stomach rumbled as he sat at his desk.

"Whata time is it?" Mario grumbled. He looked up from his paperwork and to a clock sitting on the wall nearby. "Wait a minute... Is that- Oh no! I missed dinnertime!"

Now, there were many things that Mario loved in the world. Food just so happened to be one of them. He would eat raw mushrooms, stews, breads and pastries, treats of all shapes and sizes, foreign food and above all else, pasta. The man loved pasta like he loved breathing! To miss a chance at grabbing the most delectable of foods was to commit an unspeakable atrocity in Mario's eyes. The poor man grasped his head in both hands and smothered his forehead on the surface of his desk.

But, as per Smash Brothers tradition when things aren't going one's way, fate was kind to Mario. He heard the door open and before he could ask who it was, he smelled it. That sweet, rich aroma tickled his nose and washed away all the stress and aches he had in him. Mario looked up as if he was in a daze and sniffed around, eager to find out where the aroma was coming from. If there was ever a villain who decided to use food as bait, why, Mario would be as gullible as a con man in love. Once he caught sight of where the scent was coming from, his breath hitched in his throat.

There it was... The most wonderfully put together plate of pasta, and it was right there for the taking. Mario's mouth watered as he took in every detail, every splash of marinara sauce and every fine fiber of pasta that poked out from the delicious dish. Next he noticed who was holding the plate and almost teared up. Standing a few inches taller than him and in his usual green clothes was Luigi, the doctor's wonderful brother.

"Heya bro! I noticed you didn't show up for dinner, so I came around to give y-"

"Oh Luigi, you are the bestest brother who ever lived," Mario choked out. He sniveled and wiped his eyes. "I'd be... Ho... I can't even say it..."

"Uh-oh. You're getting emotional!" Luigi laughed and set the plate of pasta down in front of his brother. "You must have skipped lunch!"

"It's-a been a hell of a day, Luigi. I had to tend to Pokemon and the Duck Hunt duo many times today! I'm-a human doctor, not a Pokemon nurse or veterinarian!"

"Well why don't you take a break? Here, have a fork and napkin and just sit back and enjoy yourself!"

"Okie-dokie, I think I will!" Mario picked up the fork and napkin as if he was at a fine restaurant. "Thank you so much again. I owe you one, brother."

Luigi scratched his nose and brushed it off.

"Ah don't-a worry about it Mario. You deserve a little bit of r-"

"You there, plumber brothers," came a deep, dark voice. "Your assistance is required and I will not take no for an answer."

The brothers tensed up and were about to drop into fighting stances when they noticed the character standing there in the clinic. Tall, dark, not very handsome but exuding power and malice, there was Ganondorf in all his wretched glory. Cloaked in armor and brandishing a grim scowl, Ganondorf was the very essence of evil and darkness. His might was something to fear and his scheming mind worked tirelessly to exploit the weaknesses of his enemies. And yet, the sight of such a powerful character was marred when five brightly colored Lumas clung to his armor and legs.

Ganondorf was anything but amused when one Luma tried to play with his beard. He raised his hand and looked as if he wanted to backhand the little creature, but he curled his fingers into a fist and growled as something held him back. Honor, maybe.

"What are you doing with Rosalina's Lumas Mr. Ganondorf?" Luigi asked. He scooted back to stand with his brother. "Did you kidnap them?"

"Me? Kidnap a gaggle of sentient star children who exist only to annoy others? Do not flatter yourself with that idea, whelp. I am here b-" Ganondorf was cut off when a Luma patted his cheek and cooed. He bared his teeth and growled it away. "Rrr... I am here because of a bet, and I am honorbound to do my part in repaying it. That is why I have been reduced to helping the guardian of the cosmos with her... children."

"Huh? Then why are you here?" Mario asked.

"These creatures suffer from the smallest of cuts and scrapes, and it was my doing. As I had been defeated by the guardian Rosalina, and after having made a bet with her prior to the battle, I am required to tend to these injuries." Ganondorf grasped a green Luma in his hands and looked down his nose at it. "But I am the Lord of Evil, not a medicine man!"

Neither Mario or Luigi knew what to make of the situation. Granted, it was comical to see a villain defeated by someone new or unique, like Rosalina, but the aftermath wasn't pretty. Ganondorf was at least honorable enough to uphold his end of this bet, whatever it was. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to leave him to care for cute and cuddly little Lumas who were far too innocent to realize that their caretaker ate baby chicks for breakfast.

Looking down at his plate of pasta, Mario made up his mind and decided he wouldn't budge.

"This is the first and finest plate of pasta I have seen all day. I am going to eat this and I am going to enjoy it," Mario declared. He was hungry and nothing would get between him and his pasta. "You will have to wait, Ganondorf."

"I am not going to wait with these infernal creatures nipping at my armor!" Ganondorf bellowed.

"Woah-woah-woah hold on you two," Luigi interjected as he found the courage to speak up. "M-maybe I could help? Mario can sit back and relax for awhile while I help Mr. Ganondorf with the Lumas! It's only a few cuts and scrapes right? Shouldn't be too hard to manage..."

Though Luigi was known as the cowardly brother of the Mario Brothers, he had long since learned to stand up for himself. He had learned many things from his older brother in the years prior and even picked up a few new skills. He wasn't a certified doctor like Mario, but Luigi knew how to tend to injuries and wounds without relying on tried and true shortcuts like super mushrooms. The lean man in green took the green Luma from Ganondorf's hands and directed the evil lord to a hospital bed where they could sit and work.

The Lumas were a handful for both of them. Despite their cuts and scrapes, the little celestial beings were as immature as children and as flighty as squirrelson a sugar rush. Ganondorf had little patience to deal with any of them, but after being reminded of his debt by the Mario Brothers, he grumbled and did what he could to keep the Lumas still without crushing them. He held a few down while Luigi cleaned the cuts and scrapes, applied disinfectant and then bandaged them up. At times the lord of evil would be prompted by Luigi to apply a bandage, and though Ganondorf did so, caring for someone other than him left a rotten taste in his mouth.

"Hey little guy, how ya doin'?" Luigi asked a little apricot-colored Luma that had yet to be treated. He reached up to tickle its side. "You must have helped out Rosalina a bunch, huh? You certainly helped out my brother and I a while ago!"

"These little creatures actually have value besides being organic projectiles?" Ganondorf asked.

"Oh yeah! If you feed them enough star bits they can become planets of all shapes and sizes!"

"What a wonderful metaphor for raising children."

"Mhmm!" Luigi concurred, not catching the sarcasm in Ganondorf's tone. He held the apricot Luma still as the dark lord dabbed at a cut. "So Mr. Ganondorf, what do you make of the newcomers in this tournament?"

"Hmph. Most of these newcomers are pushovers and mere lambs to the slaughter. One tried to attack me by growing a tree under my feet. A tree, for Din's sake!" Ganondorf rubbed his chin in thought. "Though... I will say that the two tacticians will pose a challenge, as will that boy with the scarlet blade."

"Shulk and the two Robins?" Mario asked as he looked up from his plate. "They both seem to be very interesting smashers. I'm happy that Pacman and Megaman are participating! Luigi and I haven't seen them since college!"

"Pacman put on a little weight, but he still looks as cheery as ever! Oh, bro? You've got a bit of sauce in your mustache," Luigi pointed out.

As Mario went about tidying himself up, the dark lord sat still for a moment in thought.

"Yes... I had forgotten about those two icons. I would do well to not underestimate them based on their appearance. I had made that mistake far too many times in the past," he grumbled. He slapped a bandage onto the last Luma and looked it up and down. "This is acceptable. Is it not?"

"Hmm... No, that looks good to me! Good work Mr. Ganondorf," Luigi praised.

"Yes, good work!" Mario exclaimed. He stood up from his seat with an empty plate in his hands and a full belly, along with a happy smile on his face. "Rosalina would be very happy to know her Lumas have been taken good care of!"

Ganondorf grumbled and let go of the apricot Luma. He wasn't too big on receiving praise for good deeds. Like Bowser, he would rather be praised for being selfish or bad in some way. He shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and folded his arms.

"Bah. I repaid a trivial debt. Nothing more," he muttered with indignance.

"And I am grateful for it," Rosalina cooed as she entered the clinic. Her brilliant blue dress trailed behind her as she walked over to her star children. "Everyone looks just fine. You have done them a service that will not be soon forgotten, Ganondorf."

The guardian of the cosmos opened her arms wide to receive the Luma quintet. All of the Lumas flocked to her and gave her hugs with their little stubby arms, all the while cooing and babbling. The Mario Brothers smiled as they looked upon Rosalina and her Lumas doing much better. Even Ganondorf looked a little less grumpier than usual, though he would probably pummel the unfortunate smasher who suggested he smiled that day. All in all, it was a good day in the end for all, both good-hearted heroes and cruel villains!

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What the hell was I thinking?

I suppose that's the best way to start off a little journal for your dojo or your accomplishments. It really helps to reassure me when I'm feeling doubtful. In all seriousness, what the hell was I thinking when I decided to go ahead with old man Tong's will and run his dojo? I mean, look at me. I'm Juri Han, the ex-SIN agent, convicted felon and one hell of a difficult woman. I'm not exactly cut out for a stable job or even a home close to average, ordinary citizens.

And yet I've been back home in Seoul for over two weeks now and nobody has gathered a mob against me. At least, not yet. I don't suppose that they'll bring up pitchforks and torches against me, but I'm not saying it isn't possible. I can read faces and I know that there's plenty of people in this city who would rather not see me at all. More astounding than their complacency is the fact that I haven't gotten into a fight or argument since I got here. Father always said that Hans were known for finding trouble, and if there's none around, we'd make our own. I might have to bloody someone's lip just to stay sane.

Like I said, I'm not cut out for this kind of life. Once you bash a man's head open with the sharp end of your elbow everything else just seems bland and meaningless. But to answer the big question, I suppose I fell victim to pity, or sympathy. I loved Jin Tong for putting up with me and teaching me the skills I needed to survive. Hearing that he died was enough of a bother, but knowing that he had plans to leave the dojo to my family really made me want to stay for awhile longer. The place was essentially my second home, and I couldn't leave it to rot away as an old relic.

And I especially couldn't let it fade away when Kyung Song, that little bastard, had his own dojo.

But still, what the hell Juri? You hate kids, and you hate whiney parents even more! I have to wonder what my angle is here, as I'm obviously not doing this out of the kindness of my heart. I could care less as to what happens to Seoul or my countrymen. A bunch of little brats shouldn't be on my mind, yet I went and stuck my hand in the snot-nosed beehive because I felt sorry for them. Dammit Juri, the last guy you pitied tried to shove a knife in your back. Pity brings nothing but trouble.

Trouble's what I like, but everyone has their own special blend and dealing with kids and parents ain't it.

"But what you're doing is wonderful, Juri," Tong said to me when she picked up on my doubt. "You're honoring my husband and teaching children how to defend themselves. I can think of no better thing than making the future a much better place."

"I don't want to make the future a better place," I told her.

"You don't? Then what do you want then?"

Tong didn't phrase the question like she was attacking me. She was curious, and rightly so.

"I don't know. I don't know what I want." I sat down with her on one of the dojo's benches and clasped my hands in my lap. "But I know what I like, and this dojo life isn't it."

"Well, if you ask me, I think you're doing better than most first time owners. I can see that you have a knack for teaching."

"Oh come on; no I don't! Look at me! I mean, with all due respect, you're an old woman who's seen plenty of better people in your life. You know damn well that there are more qualified people out there."

The old woman shook her head.

"Did you honestly believe that a woman like me would be capable of- Well, no, I am capable, but you know that I'm not cut out for this. I'm number one on the Seoul watchlist, the military is keeping an eye on me and to make it all worse I've got my own Wikipedia page dedicated to my infamy!" I had to choke back a laugh at the absurdity of it all. "The Information Age is biting me in the ass at every turn when all anyone has to do is just type in my goddamn name and see what I've done!"



"What good comes from beating yourself up over this?"

I had to narrow my eyes at the old woman and frown.

"Beating myself up? Mrs. Tong, I don't have any issues. My ego is healthy and my self-esteem is flawless. Flawless!" I shrugged off her question, but I had to come back to it. "Why are you asking me that? You know I'm not beating myself up."

"Perhaps, but I do know for sure that you're not giving yourself enough credit, Juri. You may have done some terrible things in the past; things that may not ever be forgiven, but you are here now and you can make a difference in your own life as well as in the lives of others." Tong didn't give me a chance to bite back. "You may not know it but people look up to you and listen."

"That's because they're afraid of me."

"No, it's because you have something to say. You've gone through so much and have come out of the darkest of places with experiences most of us will never understand. It's your experience and courage that drives people to listen, not your infamy."

I placed my cheek in my hand and grumbled. It felt like I was getting a lecture and a peptalk at the same time. Suffice to say I didn't like either, but they helped in their own way.

"I don't like being the center of attention."

"Who says you are? You don't have to prove anything to anyone, Juri." When I didn't reply, Tong capitalized. "Just think about what you want to do and where you want to go. Give the dojo another week or so before you come to a decision, okay? At least try to find someone suitable to take over when you leave."

Now that hurt. I knew that Tong loved and believed in me as if I was her own daughter, but those final words didn't sit right with me. There wasn't going to be a problem finding someone willing to run a dojo here in Seoul, I knew that much, but the way Tong said it made it seem that I was abandoning this place. I can see why she could think that way, as I already put in a week of work getting this damn place up and running again only to show up every day with cold feet.

I knew that I couldn't keep up this dojo sensei facade. The little Han who looked forward to impressing her sensei was gone. These days I'd be happy to just get a cold beer and a little bit of fun.

"Alright. I'll keep an eye out," I told her. "And if it makes you feel better, I'll stay with the program for another week."

"I would be lying if I said that didn't make me feel better, Juri," Tong replied with that weathered smile of hers. "Thank you."

I don't know how many retorts I must have bitten back during that conversation. I imagine a couple dozen, and that was considering the friendly relationship between the old woman and I.

"You're welcome," I muttered as I stood up. There was nothing left to talk about, so I turned myself over to the training dummies. "Let's hope tomorrow doesn't suck."

Lo and behold, tomorrow did suck. I spent the weekend huddled up at home taking care of dojo paperwork and old bills and files. I shouldn't call it home, actually. My family's little manor of a home was more like a historic building that some street crook inherited. It was big, lavish and still in great shape despite all the unkind years. It was also empty and uncomfortable, and I don't mean to say that because no-one was around. It was just... Unfitting that I was there.

I really felt like a spider then. You see them huddled up in the corner of a window or wall. They never really want to go anywhere that's too far from their web. I stayed out of my parents' rooms, studies and libraries and made my own little den in the dining room while keeping my own room for my sleeping quarters. I really wasn't planning on staying in Seoul for much longer. I must have figured that if I didn't see anything that could tie me down to this house, I wouldn't get any cold feet when I left.

Monday brought with it all of those terrible ailments those Americans talk about. Boredom, restlessness, burnout and a lot of other words I still have to look up to get their meaning. The kids didn't make it any better.

"Sensei, are you alright? You look a little-"

This little scrapper of a girl was observant that day. She must've gotten the wrong impression that I ran this dojo by the book. That, or she watched a few Karate Kid movies over the weekend and thought it'd be clever to look up at me like I was the old coot himself.

"Oooh no. Don't call me that," I snapped. "Not sensei, not senpai, none of that."

"Well, uh, what do we call you then?"

"Just- Just call me Ms. Han or something. Anything but that sensei crap." I turned to get after another student, but I whirled back around with another thought. "Call me Han-san and I'll dock you two grades. Got it?"

"Okay," the girl squeaked in reply.

"And I'm fine. Get back to- Get over there and spar with Kim."

"B-but there's three Kims here... Which one do I-"

I shrugged and walked off.

"Hell if I know."

Tuesday was even worse. Kids are like little monsters. They can sense that you're fed up with them and they use that opportunity to be as annoying as ever. They kept asking questions and bothering me with the tiniest of problems like foot positions or where their hands go when they kick. When I try to silence them by giving them a demonstration, their questions shift to my personal history. Their parents must have gotten to them over the weekend.

Speaking of parents, I had one of them interrupt my lesson that day to pull their kid out of the class. They didn't like how I ran things, which was a big shock to me considering I was flying by the seat of my pants. One too many bruises from sparing and a mother will flip out and point fingers at the instructor instead of blaming the kid. The little shit sparred with the biggest kid in the class, and it's his fault he didn't raise his arms to block. I say good riddance.

I think it was one of the Kims too.

Wednesday was much better. The kids were slower than most to pick up the skills from the first week, but they got the basics down that day and didn't hesitate to show me. That girl I met in the alley- I forgot her name- helped the rest of the bunch get settled into their stances and lash out at the training dummies with utmost discipline. Kicks were hitting their marks and, with the exception of a few layabouts who needed to stretch and train more, the kids showed promise.

I still don't like these kids and I wasn't about to change my mind in leaving them with a better, more qualified instructor... But still, that dojo was filled with sound and the kids were trying their hardest to prove their worth. I should take some pride in that.

"You have to pivot! Let the motion of your body turning fuel your kick!"

I looked up from my paperwork and eased myself out of Jin Tong's old office chair. Class had ended ten minutes ago and the parents had come to pick up their kids. Hardly anyone stayed behind, and if they did, it was because they wanted to chat or spread more rumors about me when I wasn't looking. I peered out from the office and saw that same alley girl again giving some advice to a boy who was making the least amount of progress in the class. His form and kicks were pathetic and I had long decided to give up on him.

But the girl had no intention on giving up on anything or anyone.

"Remember what Ms. Han told us? Keep your arms up and pull them when you turn." The shabby girl demonstrated this herself when she twisted her body to kick a dummy. "See? Keep your foot rooted to the ground, twist forward and kick with your arms keeping your balance. Come on Seok, try it."

The Seok boy did what the girl told him and tried his damndest. His form was shaky and his kick wasn't as forceful as it should have been, but he managed to do an okay job kicking the dummy in the right way. I thought it was lackluster, but the boy's face lit up and the girl congratulated him. She ran him through a few more kicks and sometimes corrected his form by moving him around. It wasn't that bad of a sight, to be honest.

"I think I've got the hang of it," Seok said after he got his fill of kicking. "Thanks Hyun. I wouldn't have gotten this far without you."

"Are you sure about that? You come everyday and make good attempts when Ms. Han teaches us," Hyun replied.

"Y-yeah, but I just get so nervous around so many people. And the instructor doesn't really..."

"She doesn't really believe in you, does she?"

"No. I don't think she does, but I don't blame her," Seok mumbled.

Hyun patted her friend on the back and began to lead him towards the dojo exit.

"Come on, don't sell yourself short. You can do anything if you put your mind to it, and besides, I believe in you." As she and her friend went out the doors, I managed to hear one final thing from her. "Ms. Han... She's probably given up on many of us, but I won't, okay?"

I frowned and returned to my office. Wow... What a dick move talking about me behind my back. Like I said before, kids are like little monsters. You give them a little bit of material and they'll do all that they can to use it against you. But I suppose that girl, Hyun, had a point. I am giving up on these kids by looking for another instructor to take over.

I returned to my office and shut the door behind me. I'll get after them some other day.

I had gone out the other night to a local bar so I could meet with my replacement instructor. He was an older man just entering the prime of his life and he told me he was looking for something to do, as long as it was something physical. The man had another job to tend to and had started a family with some chick I forgot the name of, so what I gathered is that he's a distracted guy who could stand to have his wallet a little heavier than usual.

He had a little bit of military training but didn't make the cut, so he became a family man. After a few beers with the guy I thought he was alright. Balding and a bit of a bleeding heart, but alright. If he wanted to run the dojo and look after a bunch of ankle biters, more power to him. I think he said his name was Tommy or something... Ah, whatever. Come next monday he'll have the dojo and all the burdens that come with it.

Thursday was rather calm and much better than wednesday was. I think the kids had an idea as to what was going on with the dojo. They didn't want to look at me too much, or at least, they didn't look at me more than usual. That alley girl probably got to them. I let the kids off on the tough exercises and lessons and just left them alone to build up their stamina. And so they kicked and jogged around while others stretched and gossipped as kids tended to do. Whatever made them happy and got them out of my hair.

I tried to rid my mind of any thoughts pertaining to the future, as who the hell was I to know what was in store for me, but I kept coming back to the same things. Where would I go next? What will I be doing? Who will I have to put up with in order to stay around? I haven't even started packing my things at the manor yet. I could always keep an eye out for any shady fighting tournaments, but after dealing with SIN I think I've had my fair share of getting stabbed in the back, at least for a year or so.

Ah hell, whatever comes my way I'll take care of it. I do better under pressure.

Once all the kids went home for the day I decided it would be good to peek into the old sensei's file cabinets. I wasn't looking for any dirt; just a few documents pertaining to the dojo. I wanted to make sure that the deed to the dojo was still around along with any papers I'll need to show to an official once the dojo changes hands. Honestly, I had forgotten what I did with the deed once Mrs. Tong slipped it into my hands. Maybe I left it at the manor...

Speaking of Mrs. Tong, as I was looking around in the office she came around with something in her hands.

"Hello Juri. I take it you've had a good day?"

"Better than yesterday, and yesterday wasn't that bad either," I replied as I looked up at her. "How can you tell?"

"I passed a few of the children on my way here. They were chatting and looked alright." The old woman smiled and continued to linger in the doorway of the office. "Also you aren't swearing under your breath or pouting."

"I don't pout," I retorted with a shake of my head. "Since when have I pouted? You're crazy; I don't pout."

"My mistake," Tong laughed.

I had to smile at this little old lady.

"Well, you're in a good mood aren't ya? You got my letter about that Tommy guy?"

"Tao Mai, Juri, not Tommy. And yes! He seems like good people. I knew his father back when he used to check up on us during the war. He was a nice fellow who tried to keep the peace."

"He was a cop?" I asked.

"No. Milkman."

"Oh." The bundle in Tong's arms attracted my attention. I gestured to it and moved away from the office desk. "What do you got there?"

"My friend Hanako- have you met her?" I shook my head. "Well, she left a bottle of cheongju in the mailbox here for us."

"Woah, really? Here, lemme see."

I took the cheongju from Tong's arms and undid the simple paper covering. Cheongju was a popular drink here in Korea, especially with the younger generation. This was my favorite brand, Chung Ha, and I remember sitting back in an armchair at SIN with a couple glasses after a hard day's work. Now those were good memories. I looked over the clear liquor for a moment longer as Tong read a note that I assumed came with the package.

"She says she has heard about what you've been doing these past few weeks and that she's proud of you for it. Her friends all have grandchildren and she's been talking every so often about signing up for classes."

"I hope she means she's been talking to the kids about signing up and not her old lady friends," I scoffed as I set the bottle down.

"She left us with a bottle of cheongju to celebrate our first week, but she forgot about sending it until the second week," Tong continued, undeterred. She dropped the note to the desk and shook her head. "Poor thing's been forgetting many things lately."

"Hey, at least she remembered in time. Wanna open it up?"

"Here? Now?" Tong looked around the office. "Juri, I don't think this- Well, I do want to open this bottle, but we have no glasses."

"Say no more; I got some here," I replied.

I pushed my chair away from the desk and delved into the drawers. Though I wasn't planning on sticking around much longer, I placed a lot of things in that desk. There were some first-aid supplies, pain pills, a few bills of foreign currency and most importantly, candy. I had to reward myself for making it through week one so I bought a lot of candy and stuffed it away. I really, really missed Korean candy when I was away.

After digging through a few drawers I pulled out two short drink glasses and approached Tong. She was, without a doubt, wondering why in the world I had drink glasses in an office adjacent to a dojo for kids. I just shrugged it off for the answer was simple. I had two glasses because if one broke I could just use the other!

"Come on, let's head back inside. You can open the bottle," I said as I brushed past the old woman.

We made our way back into the dojo and picked a spot on a bench. I would have unscrewed the bottle back at the office, but I didn't want to offer my seat to the old woman and stand around like an odd duck at a party. This was cheongju! It's meant to be enjoyed as you look out over something you've accomplished. I made myself comfortable and set out the glasses for Mrs. Tong to pour that sweet stuff in.

As Tong unscrewed the cap and poured us a glass, she and I got to talking.

"Have you had a chance to go to the temple?"

"What temple? The Buddhist one to the south?" Tong nodded. "Not yet. I've heard that the temple's gone through a renovation recently. I should check it out before I head out."

"That would be nice. Your father always managed to make time for an offering, even before he married your mother."

I took a glass once it was full and scoffed.

"Dear ol' dad and his beliefs."

"He was good friends with the monks there," Tong continued as she picked up her own glass. "He loved showing them your class photo and always spoke so highly of-"

The glass was just about to hit my lips when I jolted up and set my drink down.

"Oh! Hey that reminds me!"

I left Tong with her drink as I dashed back into the office. I knew where the deed to the dojo was now. In case I forgot, that slip of paper would be tucked away behind a picture or painting. Seth had a tendency to hide things behind paintings, so I figured I'd pick something up from him and do the same with documents. I looked to the back wall of the office and made my way around the desk to the class photos where one of them included me.

After easing the damn thing down and prying the wooden siding from one end I got the deed back in hand. I smiled at my younger self as I put the photo back on the wall. When I was a girl I didn't ever think of taking over old man Tong's dojo, so in a sense I wasn't doing any harm to anyone by leaving. Still, I uttered a small apology to the little girl with raven hair. I wasn't about to come back and visit anytime soon.

I wanted to look over the deed just a little more while it was out, but the sound of glass breaking drowned everything out and made my heart skip. It probably came from the dojo, and if that was true, that meant that...

"Tong? Hey, what happened?" I called out. I scurried out of the office and looked to the bench. "What's the ma- Oh fuck..."

Down on the dojo floor was the old woman I had come to see as a friend. Her vintage gray robe was sprawled beneath her while her white lock of hair concealed whatever expression was on her face. A broken bottle of cheongju laid next to her while her glass was shattered with only a few drops sprinkled on the floor. I rushed over to Tong and turned her over to see if she was alright. She was in great pain, and even worse, she was convulsing right before my eyes.

I looked around in a frenzy to try and figure out what had happened. Did Tong not take any medication that day? Was there an assassin about? Did she just fall down at the first glass? Was she having a stroke? There were too many possibilities for me to tend to, and as I spent time thinking them over Mrs. Tong was slipping away by the second. I then realized that the cheongju had been poisoned, but by the time I figured that out the old woman had stopped convulsing.

She just laid there, still as can be.

"Mrs. Tong?" I shook her and felt terror creep up my spine. There was nothing I could do but call her name, louder than before. "Mrs. Tong?! Hey! Hang in there!"

On that day I did something I never would have imagined myself doing. I left Tong on the floor, rushed back into the office and called the police.
The Spider's Academy Pt.4
Hey yall! I ain't dead! What better way to put a plot into motion than with a murder? Just think: if your life isn't going the way you planned or you're not getting very far in your career of choice, consider homicide! 'Tis sarcasm, dearest!
Jungle Catnap by majormario
Jungle Catnap
Shipping isn't about why, it's about why not! Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's going to burn your house down with the lemons! I'm going to get my writers to drum up some spicy lemons that'll get you MILDLY BEMUSED...

In all seriousness, I'm proud of this one. Why? Because in trying to figure out how people sit I had to sit down myself, against a wall, while my southern package was still stiched and sore as balls. YOU'RE WELCOME.


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Mark Thomas Barden
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
Hello, my name is Mark Barden, or Major Mario, depending on if you find me on Steam or in Team Fortress 2. I write Street Fighter fanfiction and create pictures using Valve's Garry's Mod. If you would like a request, don't be shy to send it to me. I can do just about anything, provided it isn't explicit, extremely complicated, or if it involves photoshop.

My stance on photoshop is this: you use it because you want your art appreciated by everyone, and if you do use it, you weren't satisfied with what your skills gave at first. I don't use photoshop for major or minor edits because I'm happy with what I have. I'm satisfied enough to accept the work as is. Art should be carried out with the artist in mind, not with the masses nagging at your noggin. Create for yourself, then show it off.
Typing with one hand is terrible. Hello everyone; I'm still alive. I recently had an operation about a few days ago. It has to do with the problem downstairs but it got fixed up a few days ago. A hydrocele they call it. I'm gonna be out of commission for two weeks while this heals. On top of that we don't have any Internet at home.

When I get back to working order and when we have Internet I'll be posting some stories on the site. Mostly house calls and spiders academy. Yeah I'm still working on the latter.

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TheCommanderSamir Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Hope you dont mind me asking, But where I can I get these SF models for Gmod?
ImmediateLight Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey, dude! Waaaasaaaaaaap? XP
DreddStar Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2015  Hobbyist
Thanks for the fav!! ^^
LegendofHearts Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2015  Student Artist
Happy late birthday! :cake:
Simply-Scarlet Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I had a birthday song I was gonna type here, but it wasn't the same writing it out without the funny music to go with it...:p So I'll just say yay hooray Happy Birthday hope it's awesome wow the end. :iconcakeplz:  cake.
majormario Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks Scarlet!
MaxiManXD Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Happy Birthday! :party::cake:
majormario Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Danke! Thanks!
ImmediateLight Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
:iconscoutplz::iconsaysplz: Happy birthday, chump! :iconbirthdaycakeplz:
majormario Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
I like this, chucklenuts!
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