A/N: Welcome to chapter 6! Wow, already on chapter 6! Thank you to the people sticking around this far! ... hi mom.

I kid. I kid. Haha.

We'll wrap up the Puffer Fish Whale arc here! (translation: this is gonna be a long-ass chapter)

Hopefully, this will make up for the year I was gone, LOL!

Lastly, I will be following the manga for the most part. There may be scenes where I will probably (most likely) diverge and add original scenes here and there. Furthermore, this is told in Komatsu's perspective. So, unfortunately, unless she is witnessing the fight scene, I ain't gonna regurgitate that.

Special shoutout to Konan248, raitein, merendinoemiliano, BurningRosethorn

Thank you for your kind reviews!


Chapter 6: The Puffer Fish Whale


Komatsu, Toriko, and Coco took the train from Fortune Town. Again, Toriko had to wrestle against Coco's rampaging fangirls while they were waiting for the train. When the train finally arrived, Komatsu noticed how there were barely any passengers compared to this morning. Well, she wasn't complaining as she'd rather not meet a certain obnoxious caveman that disrupted their peace earlier today.

The train ride was relatively placid save for Toriko's occasional munching as he ordered another round of alcohol and food. In 15 minutes, they arrived at a train station nearest to the Cave Beach. It was another ten minutes hike until she saw the terrain change into a rocky, barren land. In between the crevices of the tall rocks, she felt like someone was watching her every movement. She was worried that some shady-looking people would jump out and suddenly attack them. Quickening her pace, she stuck close to Toriko.

Toriko rummaged through his pocket before pulling out a cigar and started smoking it. She wondered if he was addicted to the Cigar Trees, but then again, everything that Toriko consumed seemed like in excess to her.

They arrived at the mouth of the cave, and she could hear distant cries getting louder.

The big caveman with his two goons ran out. Toriko recognized them immediately, "Oh!" he took another puff of his cigar, "aren't you..." he paused before realization lit his eyes, "Zombie-kun!"

Zonge retorted in outrage, "Who the heck is Zombie? I told you that I'm Zonge, Bishokuya Zonge!"

"So did you find the Beach in the Cave?" Toriko chattered on completely oblivious of Zonge trying his best to get him to remember his name.

Zonge opened his mouth before closing it. He thought for a bit, then laughed obnoxiously, "It was right in front of my eyes!" he said as he pointed at his eyes. "Besides, if I just caught them, what's the fun in that?" he laughed some more, "I'm the type of guy that stops playing an RPG game when facing the last boss. Ya know?"

Somehow, she highly doubted that this caveman even made ten steps into this cave.

"Hm, is that so?" Toriko asked nonchalantly. He took a long drag of his cigar before disposing of it by stomping the remaining embers of the cigar to the ground. "Alright! Let's go, Coco, Komatsu!" Toriko walked past Zonge without a second look and finally entered the cave.

"Ah...yes!" She responded, suddenly her stomach started to churn inside, telling her that this was a bad idea. She swallowed down her fear and willed her legs to move forward. "Wow... this cave is really...big," she commented lamely. Her attempt at small talk failed as Coco and Toriko continued to walk deeper into the cave.

"Take out the lights, Komatsu." Toriko ordered, "you won't be able to see anything soon because of the darkness."

"Ah, yes!" she said as she took out her helmet with the attached flashlight on top.

"Komatsu." Coco finally spoke to her; he hadn't spoken or even looked at her ever since she ran away from him. She should apologize for that since that was incredibly rude of her.

"Y-yes...?" She was half curious but half nervous as to what Coco would say to her.

"Don't ever stray too far from us, okay?" Coco said with his brow knitted together.

"Eh..." she didn't know what to expect from Coco, but she didn't expect those words from him. Somehow, she felt like she was mistaking Coco's intention. If he hated her, he wouldn't be giving her such a worried look, right? "Y-yes..." she said in a daze.

Coco gave her a small smile and nodded before walking ahead to lead the group.

As she was walking, she noticed a flash of colour in her peripheral vision. She stopped and looked closely before her eyes widen in excitement, "AH!" she yelped, "no way! Boki-boki mushrooms are growing here!" she said in delight.

"What? Seriously?" Toriko exclaimed before running to Komatsu to see. "Ohh! Look at that, fresh Boki-Boki mushrooms." He picked a handful and began to eat it right away.

She also picked a handful and ran towards Coco. "Uhm, Coco-san!" she called. "These Boki-Boki mushrooms are great in soup, but eating them fresh is delicious too!" she offered some to hopefully bridge the gap between them.

"Ah, no, thank you." Coco politely declined before walking away.

"O-oh," she laughed awkwardly, "okay..." She realized that Coco was definitely not like Toriko, and she should perhaps try a different method to form a friendship other than offering food.

They continued their journey deeper into the cave. The sunlight had already been filtered out by the darkness, and she had to rely on her small beam of light to ensure she didn't slip or fall. Coco and Toriko suddenly stopped in front of a forked path. "Ah! Which path should we take?" she asked to no one in particular.

"How is it, Toriko?" Coco asked.

Toriko began to sniff the air, "I smell dead meat from both holes, but there's a distinct smell of millipedes in the right one." He pointed to the left tunnel, "I can smell a tint of the ocean's breeze from the left." Flicking his nose with his thumb, he excitedly proclaimed, "we're going left!"

"A-amazing..." she remembered Tomu's comparison of Toriko's nose to a police dog. She closed her eyes and tried smelling the air. She wasn't surprised when all she could smell was something fetid.

They entered the left entrance, and suddenly the path started to elevate as they went in further. Her breath ran ragged as she struggled with the steep rocks she had to climb over, and it didn't help that Toriko and Coco were moving at a quick pace.

"It's quite slippery up here. Be careful of your steps, Komatsu-san." Coco called back.

"A-ah, yes!" she replied as she sighed in relief when she was finally keeping pace with Toriko while Coco was several steps ahead of them. Her light barely reached past Coco's feet, and he was traversing through a dark cave with ease. "Coco-san doesn't even have a flashlight, yet how can he move so quickly in the dark?" she wondered out loud.

"Coco has good eyes. Not his eye-sight per se, but then again, his eyesight isn't normal either," Toriko said before stuffing the final Boki-Boki mushroom in his mouth, "Coco can see beyond the visible light waves, as much as electromagnetic waves."

"...electro-huh?" she mumbled in confusion.

"For him, he has more sight cells than an average human that he can see in ultraviolet and infrared." Toriko said before pointing at his own eyes, "For Coco, this dark world might be as bright as day."

"W-wow..." she said in awe, both Toriko and Coco were definitely beyond the scope of what you would call normal. She looked at her tiny, frail hands, suddenly feeling very inadequate to be on this adventure.

She kept walking until Toriko and Coco stopped in their tracks. She couldn't see past them even with the flashlight. Could they have discovered an interesting ingredient? Curiosity and excitement getting the best of her, she started running towards them. "Is anything wrong?" she called out, and as she took one step in front of Toriko, her feet met thin air. "UWAHHH!" she screamed as gravity pulled her down.

She felt a tight grip on one of her arms, and she looked up with watery eyes to see Toriko sigh in exasperation, "What are you doing by yourself?" he asked.

She was dangling loosely with only her one arm being held up. "T-thank you very much..." she said in a strained voice as she tried to get her breathing back to normal.

KHREEK KHREEK KHREEK

She heard a high pitch screeching from down below, "W-what's that sound?" She looked down, and with the aid of her flashlight, she saw hundreds of black crawling Scorpion Cockroaches. They were all screeching with their antennas pointing towards her. "UWAHHH!" she screamed in fright as she clawed Toriko's arm to get back on solid ground.

"So, this is the Toxic Cockroach's nest." Toriko's voice was a bit strained. He pulled her up with ease, and she landed on her knees and hands.

"WOAHHH!" she heard a voice scream. She looked to her left, and there was a man who fell into the nest of Scorpion Cockroaches.

"A Bishokuya?" Coco said in shock.

"No good, he fell in the nest," Toriko said, his face turning sombre.

"E-eh?" she stared at Coco and Toriko, looking down with what appears to be a sympathetic gaze. She peered down at the pit once more.

"EIIYYAAAHHH!" The man cried in fright.

Like a deer caught in headlights, she couldn't stop staring. The man pulled out his sword and swung blindly at the Cockroaches. One of the Cockroach leapt and grabbed hold of his arm.

"AAUUUGGGGHHHH! HELP! HELP!" the man begged helplessly.

She couldn't look away. She could only watch in horror as the other cockroaches swarmed and began to devour him. The man continued to scream until his scream abruptly stopped. Her body shivered. She knew that man was eaten alive by being shredded apart from these cockroaches.

"The problem is we have to go through here... Coco." Toriko sighed and seemed to be not fazed from just witnessing a man being eaten alive.

"I will go down first then. Follow me." Coco said as he unwrapped the bandages from his head and his neck.

"Eh?" she looked at Coco in shock, "Please wait! What do you mean you'll go down first?" Did Coco not just see a man die in front of them? There must be a different route they could take!

Coco did not bother to answer her as he jumped right down into the pit.

"Coco-san!" she yelled in fright; she didn't want to see the same event played out like that poor man. The moment she heard a thud from Coco landing in the nest, she hid behind her hands. A few seconds passed, and she didn't hear Coco or the screeching of the cockroaches. She slowly peered down and was amazed to see all the cockroaches formed a ring around him. None of them dared to move a step closer to Coco. "Eh? Why?" her befuddlement quickly replaced her worries.

"Hmph," Toriko grinned, "these cockroaches with their highly toxic poison can also detect the danger from Coco's poison!" He grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder, "let's go, Komatsu! We're going to follow Coco!" Without so much of a warning, he jumped down the pit. Shell shocked, she couldn't even scream in fright. He landed gracefully on his feet and dropped her to the ground.

She stared around in awe as the cockroaches all formed a line to make a path for them to walk through. As she walked past the cockroaches, she saw the remains of the unknown dead man. There was only a puddle of blood and his skeleton with bits of flesh dangling. She quickly looked away lest she threw up. She gave a silent prayer to the deceased man.

They finally passed the nest of Cockroaches, and she let out a breath she held from fear.

Coco also stopped and took a deep breath in then out. His dark purple skin was slowly fading away. He wrapped his bandage around his neck and his head once more. "Sorry for scaring you, Komatsu-san. You're safe now." Coco said with a pleasant smile on his face.

"What do you mean by p-poison?" she blurted out, there were so many things that just happened, and there were millions of question racing inside her head. "W-Who are you, Coco-san?"

Toriko answered for Coco, "Coco has poison inside his body."

Upon hearing Toriko's answer, her face scrunched up as that didn't answer any of her questions.

"Most of us bishokuyas often can make immunity." Coco finally answered, "We can artificially create antibodies to combat against poison." he stared at her with a frigid smile. He continued with his explanation nonchalantly, "by injecting a tiny amount of poisons from poisonous snakes, insects, or plants regularly into our system over long periods, our body starts to create specific antibodies to combat it."

"I was bitten by Zombie Taipans before, remember that?" Toriko said.

She nodded hesitantly as she recalled how worried she was when Toriko wasn't taking any antidote after being bitten by five Zombie Taipans. He mentioned something about already having "it." Was he referring to his body being able to create antibodies for the snakes' venom?

"However, that being said," Toriko started, "it is said that in nature, there are more than hundreds and thousands of different kinds of poison. It's impossible to make antibodies for every single different type of poison." He pointed to his chest with his thumb, "I only have about 70 kinds." Then he pointed to Coco with the same thumb, "but the amount of antibodies Coco has is over 500! That's abnormal even in bishokuyas."

"F-five hundred?" she paled at the sheer number. She probably would drop dead as soon as she got poisoned by any type of poison!

"By chance, my body can endure more poison than most people." Coco said as his eyes glazed over, "I injected far too much poison in my body, and they began to mix with each other." He raised his hand and inspected his palm, "a new kind of poison was produced within me." He closed his hand into a tight fist and looked over to her with a wry smile, "I am now a poisonous human." Chuckling, he said, "my identity is just an undignified extremist. But there aren't many beasts that dare to attack me."

She never realized that people would forcefully inject poison into their body. She could recall the time she had food poisoning, and it was easily one of the worst moments of her life. It was painful, and she felt like she was going to die. She looked at Coco carefully masked smile and wondered how much pain he had to suffer over and over again? Why would he inject so much poison in his body?

"Now, let's go," Coco said, breaking her out of her train of thoughts. He started to walk deeper into the cave until her headlight could no longer reach him.

"Coco-san...he seemed really sad..." she murmured more to herself.

"Once, a lot of scientists and medics of IGO chased him around in order to produce the perfect serum from his blood," Toriko replied, much to her embarrassment that he heard her.

"D-did these IGO scientists and medics... were they the one who injected all sorts of poison into Coco-san?" she bravely asked.

"Yah..." Toriko's face turned sombre, "he was also about to be isolated as a first-class dangerous being."

"I-isolated?" she asked.

Toriko let out a sigh, "well, long story short, he has a lot of bad memories." he patted her shoulder, "he probably got out of the bishokuya business because he wanted to get rid of all of that." the mood turned heavy. She wasn't used to seeing Toriko with such a pained expression on his face.

"Bu-but!" she blurted out, "to have the beasts avoid you, that's the best thing I can hope for!" she laughed sheepishly, "I can go to dangerous areas as much as I want."

He chuckled softly, "I suppose that's true."

She looked to see the dark path ahead of them. She couldn't help but think if perhaps the reason why Coco was trying to avoid her was that he was worried he might hurt her with his poison. Even though he seemed cold at first, his kindness and caring nature would show through the cold facade he was trying to keep up.

They began their trek, and the path would go from steep decline to sudden incline. She looked down to see scattered bones that could be human or animal remains. She shuddered at the sight and tried to focus on Toriko, who was slightly ahead of her.

They finally stopped at a clearing, and Coco was crouching down near the edge of a hole. This time she was careful to stay put, so she doesn't accidentally fall to her death.

"It's getting quite steep," Toriko said.

"Yeah, there's a huge hole about 100 metres right below here." Coco examined.

She inched closer to Coco and stared down at the pitch-black hole. "A-are we going down there?"

"Shall we go down by scaling against the wall with the rope we have?" Toriko asked while Coco passed the rope to Toriko. "Hm, is this rope long enough?" he pondered out loud while inspecting the line. "Oy, Komatsu, you should cling to one of us," he said while impaling a metal hook into the wall.

She picked up a segment of the rope, and its' width was just barely larger than her index finger. "Ehhh? Are we really going to be okay with a rope this thin?"

"Don't underestimate these carbon fibre ropes!" Toriko said matter-of-factly, "it won't snap even if there are a hundred people on it!" he proudly stated while looping the rope around the metal hook and securing a knot.

She looked between Toriko and Coco and at first, she was going to go with Toriko, but she remembered Coco's sad smile as he shared the true nature of his body. She knew that asking Coco to carry her would be selfish of her, especially since he told her explicitly multiple times not to touch him. Perhaps he hated being touched, and she promised to the Gourmet Gods that if he rejected her this time, then she will never touch Coco again. But, when she saw Coco recalling his past, she felt a strong urge to hug Coco and tell him that he was so much more than just a poison man, a fortune teller, or whatever title people bestowed upon him.

Suddenly feeling nervous, she shuffled her feet and pinched a bit of Coco's shirt between her fingers. She was originally planning on jumping on Coco's back but thought against it since she would be no different from those fangirls back at Fortune town.

"Coco-san?" She meekly called out. He looked back at her, looking quite confused. "Can I...descend down with you?" Her heart pounded in her eardrums.

"W-wait a second, Komatsu-san..." Coco started.

She bit the inside of her cheek, anticipating the resounding rejection.

"I... have poison..." Coco said quietly, and suddenly his face broke away from a mask of indifference to his true expression. A man who had been hurt, who had been turned away, and who had been abandoned. She wondered why Coco's feelings resonated deeply with her?

She willed herself to give Coco a bright smile. "Poison?" She asked feigning innocence. "But Coco-san said that no fish lives in clear water, right?" She smiled cheekily, "people are more likeable when they have poison!"

Coco stared at her, and she could feel the tip of her ears tingle in heat, was that too corny?

Suddenly, Coco crouched down and invited her to climb on his back. "Then...let's go, Komatsu-san."

She looked at Coco's broad back, not quite registering that Coco was willingly letting her ride his back.

"Komatsu-san?" Coco called out for her attention.

"Ah! Yes!" She answered. Her hand touched his shoulder and realized how warm and firm he was. Her brain started to work in overdrive. She was going to get carried by Coco, one of the four Heavenly King. She began to feel nervous, but after making such an embarrassing statement, she couldn't back down now. When she leaned closer to Coco, her chest was touching his broad back. She could feel his body stiffen, and felt terrible for putting Coco in such an awkward situation. He was so different from Toriko.

She took a small breath, trying to calm her beating heart.

"Okay, hold on tight, Komatsu-san," Coco said.

"Y-yes!" she stuttered.

Coco chuckled softly, "don't worry; I won't let you fall." His voice was smooth and gentle.

Her face instantly flushed with heat. He was very different from Toriko.

They began to descend slowly; she couldn't help but think if she was riding with Toriko, he would descend faster to the point where it would feel like they were free falling.

She appreciated Coco-san taking greater care for her safety. Although this may sound a bit egocentric, she hoped she could lessen Coco's loneliness, even if it was just a smidge. She realized that perhaps she understood Coco's feelings a little bit. After all, she knew how it felt to be cast away. She may not have experienced the same degree of hardship as Coco, but she knew what it felt to be lonely despite being surrounded by so many people.

Her fingers lightly touched her bare ring finger.

They descended deeper into the darkness.

Sometimes, she wondered how much happier Take-chan was now that he was no longer chained to her side.

Sometimes, she wondered if she chose the wrong path. She loved cooking, and she loved Take-chan. But she couldn't have both.

What if the path of being a chef was a dead end for her? The insecurity, the fear- a flash of light cut her harrowing thoughts.

Slowly, more lights started to dance around them. As they descend deeper, they were enveloped in a warm orange glow. She reached her hands out, and the lights passed through her fingers.

"Fireflies?" She murmured.

"Ah, those are Sea Fireflies. They probably got here from the beach." Coco replied.

"Wow!" she marvelled at the soft glow illuminating the space between Coco and her. "They're really beautiful!"

"That means we are nearing the beach..." Coco trailed off.

She felt Coco's whole body tense up, "Uhm...Coco-san?"

"GYAAAGH!"

Her whole body jump, almost losing her hold of Coco's shoulder. "Wh-what was that scream just now?"

"It's the screams of the other bishokuya," Coco said. He paused and surveyed the area below them. "Toriko!" Coco yelled in a panic, "there's Swallow Tail Bats! We'll need to descend right away!"

"Ah," Toriko was munching on something, "I just caught one right now."

"GYAH! He's eating it?" She was appalled, but then again, this was Toriko they were talking about.

"Komatsu, hold on tight!" Coco ordered.

"Ah, yes!" she answered and tightened her grip. Immediately, she felt her body weightless as Coco slid down the rope. The moment they reached the ground, she got off of Coco and saw a hoard of loud chirping bats flying towards them. They looked like they were ready to eat her, just like the cockroaches!

Toriko laughed, "that's a good attitude, bats!" He put his hands together and said, "itadakimasu."

She stared speechless as Toriko slashed and cut the bats before putting them in his mouth. He even caught multiple bats in his mouth while impaling several bats with his hand like a shish kabob.

"Hmm, yummy!" Toriko munched vigourously.

"Gyahhh! He ate them all!" Komatsu gaped at Toriko's chipmunk like cheeks. The better question would be if they can even eat the bats raw. Suddenly she felt a rough hand tightly clamping her mouth. She jolted and tried to turn around but was too weak to struggle. She tried to call Toriko, but his back was turned to her. She felt her whole body dragging further away from Toriko and Coco. She tried to scream, but the bats' cries drowned her muffles.

She heard a low guttural laugh. She looked up to see a man with a shaggy beard.

"Both of them are the four Heavenly Kings, Coco and Toriko! What a group! With those two, they can probably hang on for a while." the man said.

She was scared, and his grip on her was so tight that it felt like he was crushing her jaw.

"Oy girl, I'm gonna get on the beach from another route, while you get the attention of the monsters as bait!" he snickered.

She started to cry, begging for Toriko and Coco to come and save her quickly.

Suddenly the man stopped and dropped her to the floor. She landed on her left arm painfully and felt the small rocks piercing her skin.

She looked up to see the man frantically rummaging through his bag, and pointed the gun at something. She couldn't see well in the darkness and searched for her flashlight as her hat fell off when he dropped her. She felt the smooth surface of her helmet and quickly turned on the flashlight. She pointed the light towards where the man was pointing his gun.

Her body froze; she wished she never turned on the flashlight.

A massive purple serpent-like beast towered over her. It had a white mane, and she could see that its' hair was writhing and moving like tentacles. Its' mouth was wide opened, and she could see the blood-red fangs ready to maul her.

"N-no way..." the man gasped in fear, "Why here too?"

Here too? She pondered at his weird wording until she realized that perhaps there was a second one where Coco and Toriko were at. She paled at the realization that they might be fighting this serpent-like creature right now. But she tried to soothe her anxiety that Toriko and Coco will beat this monster and quickly come and save her!

"DAMN BASTARD!" the man yelled as he grabbed her collar, which chocked her in the process. She felt her body go weightless until gravity pulled her down to the ground. She landed on her back, wincing in pain. She looked up to see the man running away.

"Wait!" she grunted in pain. She heard sounds of soft growling, and she pointed her flashlight around her.

Her breathing ran ragged.

Her hands were trembling.

Her legs were heavy as lead.

Beasts surrounded her with long trunks and sharp teethes covered in their saliva.

She kept praying for Toriko and Coco to save her. But she realized that they probably wouldn't come in time. She felt warm tears streaking down her cheeks, Toriko always said to write a will. It was his way of telling her that she could die at any time. What a fool that she thought she was invincible as long as she was with Toriko.

The image of the man eaten alive by the cockroaches came into mind.

She was going to die.

"GYAHH!" a man screamed.

Her shoulders stiffened; that scream sounded like it was from her kidnapper.

The beasts surrounding her were distracted as they looked around, searching for the source of the loud scream.

Her hands clutched her bag strap tightly.

She started to rummage through her bag.

When they had been on the train, Toriko had given her a small gift.

"If, by any chance, you encounter wild beasts when you're alone, use this," Toriko said. He handed her what appeared to be an oversized party poppers, but it was heavier and was in a metal casing. "I call them Toriko Crackers!"

"A cra-cracker, you say?" She looked at the so-called Toriko Crackers and wasn't sure how this could help her from the terrifying beasts. "You mean...that thing that you pop at a birthday party and stuff?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Hey, hey! Don't make a fool out of it!" Toriko said, "if you pop these in a residential area, the firefighters and the police will come rushing in two minutes!"

"Eh?" Komatsu was still not convinced how this could save her from being eaten by a beast that can literally devour her in a single bite.

"I've played with the type and amount of gun powder. This produces an explosion that doesn't even compare to a firecracker you pop at some average festival." Toriko handed her four more of his crackers, and she winced at the weight of them. "Listen, including humans, all animal fear sound. That means sound is a primitive phenomenon that living things are instinctively frightened by."

She had put only one cracker due to the sheer size and weight in her bag. She had hoped that she wouldn't be using this.

She finally felt the cool metal and grabbed it out of her bag. She could hear Toriko's last words echoing in her head, that this cracker will be more useful than hunting guns.

"GWAR!" the beasts' snarled as if they were saying itadakimasu.

"Uhm, uhm," her hand fumbled, looking for the wire. Once she felt the corse wire, she tried to pull, but it would not budge! She pulled harder; she could feel cold sweat pouring down her back. "Come on, come on!" she desperately pulled and pulled until she felt the wire loosened.

The moment she pulled the wire out, she heard silence, and she saw nothing but white.


How many minutes has it been? Hours? Was she successful at warding away those beasts?

Or, was she being eaten by the same beasts now?

She was enveloped in darkness. She wondered if this was the afterlife. Perhaps she didn't make it after all.

"-p already!"

She heard an unfamiliar and loud voice. When she opened her eyes, she saw a different man with a scraggly beard and missing teethes. "You're second life...savour it," he said ominously.

His whole head was more prominent than her whole body. "U-uwah!" she screamed before quickly getting up and running as fast and as far as she could from this new breed of monster. "A big old geezer monster!" she cried.

"Big geezer monster!" the old man exclaimed, "I'm the one who saved your life."

She stopped dead in her track and turned around to see the disproportionate old man with a white pompadour. He looked oddly familiar. His upper body was that of a giant with skinny legs.

The last thing she remembered was that she used the Toriko's Cracker, and that was the end of her memory. She looked around to see no beasts in sight.

"Well then, look after yourself." The old man took a swig of his drink and hiccuped. "Give my regards to your companion as well." He began to leave with a big bucket filled with Puffer Fish Whales!

She was speechless and didn't know which to address first. The fact that she died and he revived her? Or the fact that he was a giant? Or maybe the fact that he was carrying a massive bucket of what appeared to be Puffer Fish Whales.

"Ah, yes." The old man stopped and looked over his shoulder. "There's some mysterious thing coming towards the Sandy Beach of the Cave. So it'd be best if you caught your Puffer Fish Whales and leave straight away."

Before she could say anything, he left without a light to guide him out of the cave. She was stunned to silence and fell back down on her butt. There was so much to unpack that she didn't know where to start.

She was sitting alone in the dark cave, and she could feel her senses heightened. She could hear various echoes of the beasts' cry, and she felt something crusty on the sides of her neck. She started picking at it thinking it was dirt, but there was this gooey texture the more she dug into it. Was it mud?

She couldn't see where her flashlight went again. She had to find it and quickly find Toriko and Coco.

"Ko-Komatsu?" a voice called.

Her ears perked up from the familiar voice, and immediately her eyes welled up in tears. She looked towards the source of the voice, "T-Toriko-san...Coco-san." her voice was barely above a whisper. She could hear footsteps approaching closer to her. When her eyes finally saw a shadow of a familiar figure, she immediately bounced up from the floor and hugged Toriko's torso.

"Komatsu!" Toriko exclaimed.

"Toriko-san! Coco-san!" Komatsu was so relieved to see them again. "I was so scared, and, and..." her brain and her mouth weren't coordinating very well. She was just spouting words as best she could.

When her mind finally calmed down, her relief was quickly replaced with annoyance. "Hang on a second, Toriko-san!" she angrily pointed at Toriko with an accusing finger.

Toriko was laughing and said, "I'm glad you're alright, Komatsu!"

"No, no, wait, what was in that cracker, Toriko-san!"

Toriko continued to laugh in a jovial manner.

"You just basically handed me a bomb, Toriko-san! It's a weapon, I tell you, a weapon! I was about to die!" She cried.

Toriko laughed some more, "I see, I see, must've been tough!"

She couldn't understand why he was just laughing at this whole situation! He should at least show some concern. She then recalled the old man's words about her second life. "I actually did die once, Toriko-san!"

Toriko snorted, "the hell that happened, you're alive."

"It's true," she said, "A big old man saved me!"

"A big old man?" Toriko repeated his voice in clear disbelief.

"Yea!" she nodded fervently.

Toriko hummed for a few seconds, and said, "well, let's go and eat some puffer whales!"

She knew that Toriko was easy going, but to be this easy-going. This...idiot! She thought in frustration, so she started to punch Toriko's arm in which he continued to laugh, being unfazed by her weak punches.

"Oi, Coco!" Toriko called out, "let's get going! The Sandy Beach of the Cave is only just ahead now!"

"Toriko-san, you meanie!" she continued to punch his arm in a weak attempt to relieve her frustration at this big oaf.

Coco was trying to calm her down, and she eventually did because Toriko didn't feel anything from her punches, and she was getting tired.

"Ah, I need my flashlight." She said more to herself as she squinted her eyes to try and search for the helmet.

"Here." Coco passed her helmet.

"Thank you!" she said and turned on the light to make sure everything was still in working order.

"I'm glad you're alive, Komatsu-san." Coco softly said.

She laughed sheepishly, "honestly, it was pure luck that I'm alive right now." Her laughter died down, "if it wasn't for the old man..." she trailed on shivering at the thought of being so close to death's door.

"I'll make sure you make it out of this alive, Komatsu-san," Coco said.

"T-thank you." she said, feeling her earlier annoyance at Toriko disappearing, "I just wish Toriko-san was a bit more mindful of how scary this whole thing was for me!" she half complained and half-joked.

"Toriko may not show it, but he was worried about you," Coco said.

She clutched her helmet tightly and willed herself not to get ahead of herself. After all, he only saw her as an acquaintance at best.

"OY!" Toriko yelled, "let's go!"

"W-well, that's our cue to go, huh?" she laughed, hoping to cover her feelings of uncertainty.

"Indeed," Coco said.

They finally continued on their trek to the beach. She could see a flickering of light at the end of the dark tunnel.

They entered a spacious room, and her eyes widened at its' natural beauty. Hundreds of Sea Fireflies were fluttering around the enclosed space. She could smell the salt from the sea. Her feet were relieved from being cushioned by the soft sand after walking for hours on the rocky path. The water shimmered in gold from the light of the fireflies. She could see discarded shells and coral jutting out from the sand.

"Wow..." she breathed in amazement.

"At last, we're here!" Toriko said.

"What a beautiful place," she commented as she marvelled at the lights twinkling around them.

"Huh? It looks like there was a visitor before us." Toriko pointed at the footsteps in the sand that was leading to and from the sea.

Immediately, she thought of the old man who saved her. She recalled seeing him holding a bucket full of Puffer Fish Whales. She smiled at the memory fondly, "he probably went back." she said.

"Huh?" Toriko questioned.

"I'm sure the visitor was the old man who saved me." She looked back and saw Toriko's confused face, "he already had a bucket full of Puffer Fish Whales, and none of them turned poisonous."

"For the knocking master, that was probably simple." Coco finally spoke.

"I see. I see now." Toriko nodded in understanding.

Again, Komatsu was lost in their conversation.

"I thought there was a familiar smell in the air. So it was the smell of that geezer who wanted the booze on the train." Toriko said.

"Eh? That funky old man with the white pompadour?" She was in disbelief; the old man could barely carry a crate of alcohol on his own!

"I did think he wasn't ordinary. But who would've thought we rode in the same train as the legendary gourmet provider, Knocking Master, Jirou." Toriko said with a smirk. "His full course is a fantasy menu that most people in the world have yet to taste it. Plus, their capture level can't be fathomed."

Her mouth gaped opened for the nth time. She met the legendary Knocking Master, Jirou, and she called him an old geezer monster.

"I heard that he retired as a gourmet provider a long time ago. But he's famous for his heavy drinking."Toriko chuckled, "even in retirement; he still looks forward to the Puffer Fish Whale's fin sake once every ten years."

She still couldn't get over the fact that she called such a legendary person, an old geezer monster.

"Komatsu," Toriko called.

"Ah, yes?" She replied.

"In any case, don't forget the absolute favour that your life was saved. Take the best cuisine to the old man someday." Toriko said.

She felt her mood brightened, "Okay!" she can also apologize to the old man for calling him a monster when she does. "Then, can I count on you for the provision of the ingredients?"

"Nah!" Toriko said without missing a heartbeat, "you have to get that for yourself!" He ripped off his shirt, "now let's go capture some ourselves! The delicacy of the deep sea!" Toriko exclaimed in excitement.

She couldn't believe she got rejected so readily. But, she supposed it would mean more if she procured the ingredients herself to show thanks to the old man.

"This sea has a lot of Sea Fireflies, so it's bright enough for us to see in the water," Coco said.

"Komatsu!" Toriko said while taking off his shoes and then his socks, "you get in the sea and make sure you watch Coco's technique too! You came for that, didn't you?"

"Ah, yes!" Komatsu was getting excited; she never saw someone capture a Puffer Fish Whale successfully. She started to worry if there were also dangerous beasts in the sea considering their track record in this cave. "Uhm, there aren't any ferocious sharks and stuff...right?"

"Don't worry," Toriko said, "even if there are, they're a hundred times cuter than the Devil Serpent or that old man."

"I guess, but even if you compare them to such a..." she saw Toriko jumping into the water, cutting her worrying bout short. "...and he left." she sighed, getting used to Toriko's devil-may-care attitude.

"Come on, let's go, Komatsu-san," Coco said.

She was surprised to see Coco still waiting for her. "Ah, I'm sorry. Hold on!" she quickly took off her bag. She stripped off her shirt and her pants. She wore her tankini underneath, so she didn't have to change in front of Toriko-san awkwardly. "Sorry, for the wait, Coco-san," she said.

"It's not a problem; then I'm g-going ahead," Coco said, facing his back towards her, and jumped into the water.

She was confused as to why Coco was acting all awkward around her again. She looked down at her tankini; it wasn't like she was showing a lot of skin. She continued to inspect her bare legs and her cleavage until she suddenly felt self-conscious of her body. She realized she just took off her clothes with such ease in front of a man.

"Coco-san...is a man...after all." She muttered, feeling more and more embarrassed being in her swimsuit in front of him. Hanging out with Toriko was making her forget the social boundary between the opposite sexes.

She shook her head and willed herself to concentrate on the mission right now, which is capturing the legendary Puffer Fish Whales.

The embarrassment can come later.

She took a deep breath and dove in after Toriko and Coco.

It was hard to open her eyes; the sea was so salty! She winced in pain as her arm burned from the small cuts she got from being pushed by her kidnapper. She forced one eye open, and she could see Toriko and Coco in the distance. She tried to swim towards them, but they were so far ahead!

She tried for another twenty seconds until she ran out of breath. She quickly swam up to take a deep breath of air. She coughed a bit and tasted the salty sea.

At this point, she realized she couldn't hold her breath for more than thirty seconds. She was a casual swimmer and best. She sighed in defeat; there was no way she could match Toriko and Coco's pace. She wadded back to shore and waited for the two to come back.

She occasionally saw Toriko and Coco coming up for air, and immediately dove in again. She wasn't sure how long she waited, but she could feel her overwhelming excitement of finally seeing a Puffer Fish Whale prepared in person. She looked at her backpack, smiling sadly that her knives probably won't see any action today.

She heard a splash with a loud intake of breath. She saw Toriko and Coco surfacing up from the ocean for the nth time.

"I finally succeeded in one!" Toriko said with a wide grin plastered across his face.

"We got quite a few, Komatsu-san!" Coco called out as he waded to shore. He carried the net out of the water and carefully laid out the Puffer Fish Whales on a tarp.

This was the first time she saw a Puffer Fish Whale up close. Their eyes were still open, and she could see their gills moving. There were ten Puffer Fish Whales altogether. "Aw...Awesome!" she said, as she went on all four to carefully inspect the deep-sea delicacy. "Coco-san, Toriko-san! I can't believe you guys got so many!" She couldn't contain her excitement any longer. She wanted to cook the ingredients quickly!

"Ten altogether, huh?" Coco observed, "although I failed quite a bit as well."

"How pathetic to have two of the four emperors go at it for an hour and only get ten." Toriko sighed in disappointment.

She didn't understand their plight; after all, if it was her, she wouldn't have caught a single one successfully. "This is a big catch still, Toriko-san, Coco-san!"

"Well, it's too early to celebrate." Coco wiped off the water from his face, "this is the real deal from now on."

Komatsu quickly rummaged through her bag and brought out two towels. She was able to air dry while she was waiting for them to capture the Puffer Fish Whale. She handed one to Coco and Toriko. Coco thanked her and began drying off.

"This is a special ingredient that requires specific preparation, right?" she chimed in. She understood that it was beyond Toriko's and her skill to successfully prepare this fish.

"Yes. The retail market for a Puffer Fish Whale that hasn't turned poisonous is about 100 million yen, but in the case that the poison sack is safely removed, the price will jump to 300 million yen. However, if it turns poisonous, the value of the fish is lost." Coco said matter-of-factly.

She gulped, "t-that's like ten lottery tickets that can each be 300 million yen or turn into just pieces of paper." Suddenly, she started to get nervous despite not being the one to cook the fish. She was sad but relieved at the same time. Sad that she wouldn't have the chance to cook such a rare ingredient, but relieved that such a heavy burden wouldn't fall on her.

"Money's got nothing to do with it," Toriko said as he wiped his lips with the back of his hand. "Coco, we leave it up to you."

Coco took out a small filleting knife and carefully placed the first Puffer Fish Whale in front of him. He stared at the Puffer Fish Whale with an intense stare, analyzing every inch of the fish in front of him. She could feel her heart pounding in anticipation. A short moment of silence and Coco remained still.

Coco let out a small breath and turned to them. With a sheepish smile, he said, "don't get mad even if I fail all ten."

Her lips twitched upward. Eh? Did Coco just make a joke?

"I will get mad! Come on, Coco!" Toriko said with an animated face of panic.

"That's right, Coco-san! You can do it!" she said, hoping her encouragement could somehow boost the chance of success.

Coco scratched the back of his head, "I mean, it has been a while..."

"Foretell the probability of success!" Toriko said with anxiety written all over his face. She could tell that he wanted to eat this fish no matter what.

"Well, it's about 10%," Coco quietly said.

"Eh!" this time, it was her turn to panic. "Just one?"

"A chance of one." Coco corrected.

"EH?!" she couldn't believe it! That means they had a chance of not eating any of the Puffer Fish Whales! But then again, if she was the one preparing the fish, then the probability would be 0%.

Coco took one more deep breath and focused on the fish in front of him. His knife inched closer to the fish's gills. She needed to observe and learn as much as she can from this rare experience. The knife slid across the belly, and she heard Coco's grunt. Suddenly the silvery-white Puffer Fish Whale turned into a malicious looking purple with black splotches decorated in a pattern.

"Ah! It turned poisonous!" She could hear Toriko's whimper from missing out a chance to eat one less Puffer Fish Whale.

She looked to see Coco, who wiped the sweat from his face with the back of his hand.

"Are you okay, Coco-san?" she asked. He looked so pale and seemed to be in pain.

"Ah, yes, I'm alright. It just takes a lot of concentration to locate the poison sac." Coco said.

"They're all in a different location?" she gaped.

"Yes, and even the slightest disturbance can rupture the sac rendering the fish inedible," Coco said.

She stared at the Puffer Fish Whale, finally understanding the difficulty of cooking a special ingredient.

Coco placed the second fish, and this time he started from the fin up. She gulped, staring intensely as he slowly cut around the gills.

The fish turned poisonous again.

"Augh!" Toriko groaned in frustration. He stood up from his seat and walked towards the ocean.

She stayed still at her spot. Even though the second time was a failure, this time Coco-san cut a bit more than the first fish.

Coco took the third fish.

He started from the middle of the belly; his hands tremored. His face was pale, and he was taking in shallow breaths. She knew from traversing through this cave, protecting her, and knocking the fish; Coco was simply exhausted. He wouldn't be able to hold his knife still, which was crucial if the poison sac was delicate and easily ruptured.

As soon as Coco moved an inch, the fish turned poisonous.

With this, three of them in a row were failures. Her grip tightened, there were only seven left.

"Hey!" Toriko called out, "did you remove the poison sac yet?" Toriko was sitting near the shore with his fishing rod out.

"Why are you doing something so leisurely like fishing, Toriko-san?" She said dumbfounded.

Coco chuckled, "He's had little patience since the old days. Leave it alone, Komatsu-san."

She puffed her cheeks out, "but still!" she made a weak protest before she burst into a fit of giggle. "I guess that's Toriko-san for you!"

Coco joined in with a small chuckle, his body was relaxed, and he no longer wore the tight smile he would force himself to adorn earlier on in their trip.

She hoped that Coco smiled in a carefree manner more often. It suited him better. "Hey Coco-san, I can't wait till we all try the Puffer Fish Whale," she said.

Coco nodded in agreement.

He placed the fourth fish in front of him. He took a slow breath in then out. He readied his knife, but this time, he started his incision near the eyes.

After three incisions, the fish turned poisonous.

"Can you guys cut the fin off quickly? We can enjoy a nice fin sake in the meantime!" Toriko exclaimed.

"Toriko-san, please be quiet for a bit! This take-" she looked over to Toriko, and she noticed him heating up the sake. "Wha-" she was speechless, and again, dumbfounded. "Why are you setting up the atsukan already, Toriko-san!" she exclaimed.

"I'm just getting ready!" Toriko replied with a toothy smile.

She sighed, knowing Toriko is the type to go at his own pace.

Coco mirrored her sigh. He wiped the sweat on his forehead with the back of his hand. She rummaged her backpack and took out a small canteen of water. "Coco-san, here."

He stared at the canteen before smiling warmly at her. "Thank you, Komatsu-san." He took a small sip and handed the canteen back to her.

"You know, we can take a small break Coco-san," she suggested. After all, cooking is an art that required 100% of mental and physical endurance. So she could only imagine how worn out Coco must be.

"Komatsu-san. Instead of me, perhaps you could handle it?" Coco said.

She blinked once. Than twice. She tapped the side of her ears to make sure there wasn't any sand in case she heard wrong.

She didn't hear wrong.

"E-eh?! Me?" she pointed to herself just in case Coco misspoke.

"My body is exhausted, and I'm sure you've noticed how unsteady my hands were. With just a millimetre of deviation, the Puffer Fish Whale can turn poisonous." Coco explained.

"B-but-" she wanted to protest, but Coco interjected.

"It's alright, Komatsu-san. You're a pro chef, right? Have confidence!" This was the first time Coco gave her such an encouraging smile, and yet it was giving her more anxiety than relief. "Just follow my instructions for the handling procedure."

She looked at the Puffer Fish Whale. She was nervous, but as a chef, wasn't this a golden opportunity?

"Is...that okay?" she asked cautiously, after all, there may be a chance that she fails in prepping the rest of their limited stock of Puffer Fish Whales.

"Of course." Coco reaffirmed.

She pushed her doubt and fear and brought forward her excitement to maximum drive. "In that case," she mustered a big smile, "I'll take on the challenge!"

"Eh?" Toriko whined while holding a now empty sake bottle, "You're leaving it to Komatsu, Coco? Is that alright?"

"Why don't you, instead of spending your free time drinking, go and try to catch one or more Puffer Fish Whales?" Coco said with a deadpanned look.

Toriko just gave them a lopsided grin and brushed off Coco's comment.

She snickered quietly as Coco was acting like a mother of a teenage son.

"Komatsu-san, here." Coco handed his filleting knife.

"Oh, no thank you! I actually brought my own cause..." she scratched her cheeks in embarrassment, "just in case."

"Spoken like a true chef, eh Komatsu?" Toriko laughed while he started to munch on some random fish he probably caught while fishing.

She brought out her knives that were carefully wrapped in cloth. She unfurled the cloth, and out of the two knives, she opted for the smaller one. She also brought out her apron and regretted not bringing her full chef's attire.

Once she was settled, she was finally in front of the Puffer Fish Whale. Her earlier anxiety melted away as she stared at the Puffer Fish Whale. She stared in awe. It was almost like a dream. Her restaurant never received such a luxurious ingredient; she wished Mary was here with her to experience this moment of supreme bliss with her.

"Komatsu-san, this one has the poison sac directly below its' bladder. You need to cut from the fin's base at the point and at three-knife widths down, make a ten-centimetre cut." Coco instructed.

"O-okay!" she replied. She was nervous, but her hands were steady. She slowly cut across the fish and stopped at what she thought was close to ten centimetres. The fish was no longer than her forearm, yet the body felt massive and heavy. This sort of sensation was similar to when she was tasked to dismantle the gigantic Andre Marlin that was at least 100x bigger than the Puffer Fish Whale.

"Next, put the knife at the gills and cut down to the bone below the chin," Coco instructed next.

She was engrossed in the sensation of preparing the Puffer Fish Whale, that she could almost feel what the next step was going to be.

Next, she had to slice just below the poison sac. She steadily and slowly cut across the gut before the fish turned poisonous. "Ahk!"

"That was close, Komatsu-san." Coco said, "you'll get it next time."

She took a deep breath in and a deep breath out.

There were five remaining.


She was only filleting a fish, yet she was sweating like mad. She panted heavily as she failed the ninth fish. She now understood why Coco had to take a break. The sheer concentration alone was testing all of her experience as a chef.

She was finally down to the last fish.

Her excitement died down for each fish she failed. Facing the last fish, and thinking of their disappointed face if she failed one last time scared her to no end. She looked over to see Toriko intensely staring at the last fish unmarred with any poison.

The feeling of inadequacy overwhelmed her. She wasn't qualified to prep a special ingredient. The thought of whether being a chef was the right decision flashed across her mind. She looked over to the pile of her failures. She was right all along. If she was the one prepping this, the chance of success was zero.

"Komatsu-san." Coco's voice cut through her whirlwind of self-deprecating thoughts.

"Ye-yes?" she gave him what she hoped was a smile, but she could feel her nose stinging from incoming tears.

"I can handle the last fish if you like," Coco said.

"E-eh?" She was crushed. Was it because Coco thought she was incapable? Did Coco foresee that she failed? "I..." she wanted to protest. She wanted to say that she could do it. After all, she was the chef in this group. But no words came out, and instead, she hung her head low in defeat.

"Komatsu-san," Coco called. She struggled to look up through her blurred vision. "I just don't want you to carry this heavy burden."

"Heavy burden...?," she repeated.

"If you failed, I know you will carry this failure deep inside your heart," Coco said quietly.

"Coco!" Toriko finally huffed, he put his large hand on top of her head and began to rock her whole body back and forth. "She's not a child. If she fails, then we all fail. Simple as that." He then gave a gentle pat on her shoulder, "right?" he grinned.

She realized that she must've shown so much anxiety in front of Coco that he felt it was necessary to protect her from failure itself. Then there was Toriko, in his own way, encouraging her to take the last fish to try one last time.

She must've looked so pathetic. She was the head chef of Hotel Gourmet, and she was presented with possibly a once in a lifetime chance to prepare a Puffer Fish Whale. If she failed, it just meant her skills weren't up to par yet. But that didn't mean her growth should stop there, right?

She was a chef. She knew all too well what failure felt like. But that never stopped her from wanting, growing, and yearning for more experiences in this golden gourmet age!

"Coco-san, Toriko-san, thank you." She smiled, this time an earnest one. "Could you let me handle the last fish?"

Coco smiled, "of course," he nodded.

"If I did it, I would definitely fail!" Toriko laughed.

Toriko and Coco risked their life to get them to this point. Now it was her turn to give everything she got!

"I'm ready," she said, with her knife steady and her gaze unyielding at the great Puffer Fish Whale before her.

"The poison sac is located near the heart. Start at the gills and cut to the chin." Coco instructed.

Her mind was clear. The only thing in her mind was calculating the breadth, the width, and the length of her cuts. Coco's instructions were so precise that she started to see faint lines on where to cut next.

"Good. From there, remove the area from the sickle shape around the gills. If you clear off the abdomen to the fin, you just need to peel it back gently." Coco said.

She slowly followed each step. The Puffer Fish Whale's belly opened, and she could see the poison sac infused with the fish's flesh.

She let out a small breath and wiped the sweat from her chin with the back of her hand.

This was her third time successfully seeing the poison sac. "This...is it." she placed her knife down gently.

"Now, the poison sac has to be taken out slowly while being rotated," Coco said.

She nodded.

One more breath, until she plunged into the Puffer Fish Whale's belly.

"Towards this side, remove the mucous membrane so you can gently scoop it up."

Her hands could feel the slickness of the poison sac.

"Put the poison sac in the palm of one hand, and with your other hand, remove the mucous membrane with care."

Slowly. Slowly. She chanted in her mind. Gently. Gently.

She paid little mind to how slow she was being; all that mattered was removing the poison sac without rupturing it.

She slowly pulled the last web of the mucous membrane.

She halted her breath. Fearing that the fish would turn purple, signifying her failure.

"You did it, Komatsu-san!" Coco exclaimed.

Right before her eyes, the fish changed from silver to a radiant gold.

"AWWWW YEAAA!" Toriko cheered.

Her eyes overflowed with tears. "I'm so" hic "glad! The last one," hic, "was a success!" she cried out loud.

"Komatsu!" Toriko's voice boomed. He grabbed her shoulders, and she looked up to see Toriko's deadpanned face. "For the first time, I think it was good that I brought you along."

"Thank you," she said, then thought for a few seconds before she realized that was a pretty rude statement. "Wha-hey! What's that supposed to mean!"

Toriko laughed and patted her back, "OKAY, let's have a food sampling right now! Komatsu, make the Puffer Fish Whale's body thin, please!"

Seriously, this man works at his own pace. "Alright, coming right up!" she said; after all, as a chef, her job wasn't done until she saw her customer's satisfied face. She carefully placed the poison sac out of everyone's way. "I wonder if I should just leave this here?" she mumbled to herself.

"That's alright. After an hour, the poison will decompose and will be harmless." Coco said matter-of-factly.

"Oh, that's a relief." she sighed.

"Guys!" Toriko called, "I'm gonna make the fin sake right now!"

"Okay!" she called back as she took her larger knife and began to slice the fish as she would for any other fish when making sashimi.

Using a leaf as a plate, she placed the sashimi into the shape of a flower. Her stomach rumbled in response. She couldn't wait to try this!

"Komatsu! How's it going over there?" Toriko asked.

"I'm just about done, Toriko-san!" she replied.

Toriko walked over and marvelled at her plating, "Woah! That looks good!" He poured three cups of fin sake and raised the cup for a toast. Coco and her joined in with his toast. "Celebrating the capture of the Puffer Fish Whale!"

"Cheers!" they said in unison.

She took a sip of the warm sake, and instantly her body tingled from how smooth the sake went down. The dry sake went well with the savoury note from the broiled fin.

She looked over to Coco and saw that he was abstaining from drinking the rest of his cup. "Coco-san, are you not going to drink the fin sake?"

Coco smiled shyly, "I'm actually not a fan of sake. Plus, if I get drunk, I lose control of my poison."

"Oh, I see." she said, "I actually have a pretty weak tolerance to alcohol too."

"Now, let's have the Puffer Fish Whale sashimi!" Toriko proclaimed loudly.

She looked down and saw Toriko picking up over ten pieces of sashimi at once. "Ah, Toriko-san!" she whined, "you took a little too much! I worked really hard to make this look beautiful!"

Toriko was too enamoured with the Puffer Fish Whale to listen. She could see him salivating as he appreciated the fish in his own way.

"Itadakimasu!" Toriko said and put several sashimi pieces in his mouth.

Joining suit, she also quietly said itadakimasu before eating a piece of sashimi. The moment the sashimi touched her tongue, her body melted in pleasure. She could taste the fat coating her mouth. The taste reminded her of the savouriness of fresh raw tuna, but the texture was firm, and the consistency didn't go away after several chews. It felt like she was in the depths of the sea; she couldn't see the end of the deliciousness!

"Komatsu! How is it?" Toriko asked.

She felt her eyes water, "It's so delicious, Toriko-san! It's the first time I've had this kind of sashimi!" she said.

Toriko gave her a bright smile, "I'm glad. We did our best and captured it ourselves."

She nodded in agreement.

"And..." Toriko continued, "with your utmost effort, your handling of the ingredient was, as I thought, the best!"

She felt her face flushed with heat. "Th-th-thank you," she murmured.

"And of course, we give our earnest gratitude to the Puffer Fish Whales!" Toriko said without missing a single beat.

At that comment, she looked back at the pile of poisoned Puffer Fish Whales and the plate of Puffer Fish Whale sashimi. She agreed with Toriko. She was grateful for the ingredient and thanked the Puffer Fish Whale for being alive, and for giving her this unforgettable experience.

Splash.

"Hm?" She looked up to the waters and saw something emerging from the sea. It had a bird-like face, and save for its' hands and feet; it was covered in some sort of long black fur. Its' hands and feet gave a metallic shine, and the hand reminded her more like a human hand and the feet liken to that of a bird.

"What's that?" Toriko asked to no one in particular.

The bird-like monster looked at them, and she could see Toriko's muscle tense. "Komatsu! Get away!" Toriko yelled.

She was startled at how desperate Toriko's voice sounded. She didn't understand the danger of that bird-like creature. It didn't seem at all interested in attacking them. She observed the bird-like creature without budging.

"I said, get away!" Toriko yelled for the second time.

This time, she took a couple of steps backwards. She looked to Coco for answers, but his back was to her,

Toriko got into his fighting stance, and suddenly she felt a blast of wind.

"Uwah!" she yelped as her body was pushed back several more steps before she fell on her butt. She looked at the bird-like creature scratching its' head before walking past the group and exited the beach peacefully.

A moment of silence until Coco fell to his knees.

"Wha...what was that just now, Coco?" Toriko asked in a grave tone.

"I don't know. I first saw the electromagnetic waves..." Coco replied.

She kept her mouth shut. She wasn't sure what just happened, but she trusted their instinct when it came to the subject of dangerous beasts.

Coco slowly stood up and walked over to one of its' footprints made in the sand.

"That guy's footprints weren't there when we got here..." Toriko's muscles tensed. "In other words, it came from the sea. It passed through the 1000 metre deep sea. There's a living thing like that?"

"It's not a living thing," Coco softly said.

"Huh?" Toriko looked back at Coco.

Coco's eyebrows furrowed, "that guy just now was not a living creature," Coco said.

She looked between Toriko and Coco. Toriko never looked this serious even when facing the Galala Crocodile or the Troll Kongs. The bird-like creature was certainly less scary than her previous encounter with other beasts.

There was a moment of silence before Toriko turned to her and gave her what seemed to be a half-hearted smile.

"We should pack up and get ready to head home, Komatsu," Toriko said.

She nodded slowly, not pressing further about the mysterious thing that appeared out of the waters. rye


Exiting the cave was just as hard as entering the cave. At one point, she collapsed on her knees, panting heavily. She wasn't even sure what time it was.

"Should we take a break here? It should already be nightfall by now." Coco said.

"Eh? We should be close to the surface," Toriko whined.

"If it was just the two of us, we can probably make it out in another five hours. But Komatsu can't keep up with our pace." Coco pointed.

Feeling ashamed, she willed herself to get back up. Her feet screamed, her knees cried, and her vision blurred. "S-sorry. I can still go on." She panted heavily, and she could feel sweat rolling down from the sides of her face.

Coco shook his head, "you shouldn't push yourself. You don't have the same stamina as Toriko and I."

She took a step forward towards Coco, and forced a smile, "I can keep going. I just lost my footing," she didn't want to stay in this cave any longer than she had to, and she felt terrible for being the reason why they were making slow progress.

She took another step to make a point, but her knees gave in again.

"Ahk!" she yelped.

Coco swooped in and steadied her body. She leaned against Coco and willed her legs to move. Instead, her legs shot short bursts of pain and numbness.

She couldn't move.

Coco slowly lowered her down, "you shouldn't push yourself, Komatsu-san. We're in no rush to leave. I'll put some of my poison around the parameter to ward away any beasts."

"I'm sorry." she looked down at her now limp legs, ashamed for being the weakest link.

She felt a light pat on her head. She looked up and saw Coco giving her a warm smile, "you did a good job today. So you should treat your body with some rest."

She nodded, speechless. The more she spent time with Coco, the more she realized how nurturing Coco was. It was almost as if the Coco from when she first met him was an imposter!

CRACK.

Toriko made a small fire.

"Alright, I guess it can't be helped," Toriko said. "Let's get some good night rest!"

She inched a bit closer to feel the warmth of the flame. She was thankful that Toriko was quick to accommodate her for her weak stamina.

"Oh, Komatsu!" Toriko said, "You have to try the Devil Serpent's meat!"

"Y-you mean the giant purple snake?" she shivered remembering its' blood-red fangs.

"Yea!" Toriko nodded. He stood up and sniffed the air. "The meat shouldn't be too far away from here. I'll quickly grab some!" Toriko reached his hand towards her. "Let me borrow your helmet real quick."

She took off the helmet and handed it to Toriko. "Please be careful, Toriko-san! There should be another one of those snakes lurking by."

"If there's another one, we can just take it down!" Toriko said with ease. He adjusted the helmet on his head and sprinted towards the meat.

Coco sighed, "that guy, what a glutton."

"I am kind of getting hungry tho," she laughed, feeling embarrassed.

"I suppose, it is well past dinner time," Coco replied.

They sat comfortably in silence enjoying the sound of the fire crackling.

"Uhm, Coco-san?" her hands fidgeted with one another.

"Mhm?" Coco hummed in response.

"Today... thank you. For everything," she said. "For coming on this adventure with us, for giving me a chance to prep the Puffer Fish Whale, for protecting me, for...everything. Thank you!" she gave an awkward bow while sitting down.

"I forgot what it felt like to be a bishokuya. To go on an adventure simply for the pleasure of eating good food," Coco replied. She looked up and saw him smiling, "I'm glad I went on this adventure, Komatsu-san."

Her heart feeling warm and giddy, she smiled shyly and looked back down to her legs. "Do you think..." she started, hesitating to finish her sentence.

"Yes," Coco answered. "I think our paths will cross many time. I'm sure this won't be our last adventure together."

She felt her lips stretching to a wide grin, "is that what you foresee?"

"Yes."


Question time!: Do you guys like sashimi?