Yoshimitsu winced at hearing Xiaoyu’s loud calls echoing from the otherwise quiet hallway. The two were back at the Manji Clan’s mountain stronghold after dodging the police all night long. The sun was only hours away from making its appearance in the early morning sky, and Yoshimitsu was desperate for a relaxing cup of tea.
He placed his tantalizing cup of hot tea down in front of him, reluctantly rising from his seated position at a small table in his modest room. He made his way to the sliding door just as Xiaoyu began knocking on the wooden frame feverishly.
“Yoshimitsu!” she continued to shout impatiently.
“Can I help you?” asked Yoshimitsu, opening the door to see Xiaoyu smiling. He wondered how she could possibly still have this much energy after such a taxing evening.
“Yoshi, I have a problem. I realized… I don’t have anything to wear as pajamas. We didn’t really plan this out.” Still smiling, Xiaoyu took a moment to look Yoshimitsu up and down. He had changed from his gleaming armor into rather traditional-looking clothes, a dark blue robe with a matching sash. His arms and feet were bare. His face was, of course, covered in a demon mask, but she could see his pursed lips through the opening of the mask’s fanged mouth.
“As I explained earlier, we couldn’t risk them finding where you live. I’m truly sorry if you feel uncomfortable sleeping in your daytime attire, but I’m afraid there’s not much I can-” Yoshimitsu paused as Xiaoyu invited herself into his room. She seemed eager to find something- anything- to appease her restless boredom.
“Do you mind if I hang out for a bit? I’m not really all that sleepy.” Xiaoyu had already begun looking at the various suits of armor displayed along the far wall.
“Uh-… By all means,” Yoshimitsu returned to his seat at the small table. Xiaoyu soon joined him, smiling as she crossed her legs neatly. He poured Xiaoyu a cup of tea, which she accepted with delight.
“It’s too bad we had to bail from the arcade so soon. I was excited to stay out all night,” said Xiaoyu in between sips. She set the cup of tea down, then, and began playing with a few strands of her hair. She had let her hair down, and at the sight of those long, dark strands, Yoshimitsu couldn’t help but remember that first night Mikel had attacked them. It seemed like it had occurred months and months ago, but he recalled the night vividly. Xiaoyu had looked so shocked from the violence of the encounter, and the image of her bare, bloodied back had been burned into Yoshimitsu’s consciousness. He never wanted to see her like that again.
“… Your hair,” he murmured, taking his own cup of tea in his hands, “It’s down again.”
“Oh! Well, yeah…” Xiaoyu’s hand instinctively reached up to touch her hair as she continued, “ I can’t wear it in pigtails all the time.” She was admittedly surprised that Yoshimitsu would take the time to even notice something so particular. It filled her with an odd sense of glee. She suddenly felt the urge to avoid his gaze and, instead, she took up the cup of tea in her hands, adding, “Sorry if it bugs you.”
“No, it… looks lovely,” Yoshimitsu assured, startled at his own honesty.
Xiaoyu grinned then, blushing, and Yoshimitsu suddenly felt like he would die from this clumsy feeling rising up in his chest. Why wouldn’t she just leave?
“Aww! You really think so? That’s so sweet of you to say! Haha! I knew it!” suddenly exclaimed Xiaoyu, taking great pleasure in the opportunity to tease him. “I knew even you wouldn’t be immune to my naturally charming looks!” Xiaoyu giggled, gloating triumphantly as she finished her tea.
“D-Don’t be absurd,” retaliated Yoshimitsu, feeling a little flustered, “It’s only natural for a change in your usual appearance to be more noticeable than the status quo. Please refrain from giving yourself too much credit.”
With that last quip, Yoshimitsu was determined to prove his disregard for Xiaoyu’s appearance by pouring more tea into his cup, despite the fact that it was still partly full.
Normally, such a response would have left Xiaoyu thinking twice about speaking so recklessly to someone like Yoshimitsu, but she was feeling particularly fearless that night. She merely grinned, wishing that she could see the look on his face.
Yoshimitsu’s brows furrowed behind his carefully carved demon mask, becoming more and more vexed at Xiaoyu’s increasing familiarity in his presence. It was teetering on the verge of brashness, and he burned from his inability to quite place it. It obviously wasn’t like the deep-seated sense of brotherhood that he shared with Kawamitsu, and it wasn’t quite like the newly developed bond that he held with Hiyamitsu- which was equally as frustrating. No, it was something else entirely.
Yoshimitsu kept himself quiet by taking another sip of tea. He had to admit that it felt nice to sit and relax with Xiaoyu, even if she was incredibly frustrating at times. He just hoped he wouldn’t continue to blurt out such awkward nonsense whenever he was around her. Her carefree honesty was proving to be contagious.
It was then that Xiaoyu spotted the sword displayed on a table near Yoshimitsu’s bed. The sword’s place on it’s solitary stand somehow made it look less menacing than it did when he was wielding it in battle. She remembered taking it up in her hands for those brief seconds, back when Yoshimitsu and that foreign assassin were fighting each other in Miharu’s apartment. Everything had happened so fast, so frantic... Xiaoyu barely had enough time to take up the sword and toss it to Yoshimitsu as he was running out of the door in pursuit. She wondered, then, what it would feel like to use such a powerful weapon.
“Find something interesting?” asked Yoshimitsu, noticing the attention Xiaoyu was giving to the revered blade of the Manji Clan, its dark lacquered scabbard shining in the room’s soft light. He was thankful for something other than themselves to talk about.
“That sword… It’s very old, isn’t it?” she asked. The silky strands of her hair fell over her shoulders as she slightly tilted her head inquisitively.
“Yes. It is a very ancient, powerful blade. It has been passed down from leader to leader since the beginning.”
“It looks so cool! Can I hold it?” asked Xiaoyu hopefully.
“I… don’t think that’s such a good idea, Xiao.” The tone of Yoshimitsu’s synthetic-sounding voice grew more somber, and he continued with, “It’s a very dangerous weapon, more so than a young woman in your position may realize.”
“Hey now,” replied Xiaoyu, a hint of exaggerated resentment in her voice, “You think I can’t wield a sword just because I’m a girl?!” She crossed her arms and her lips pouted into a scowl as she did her best to look utterly offended.
Yoshimitsu let out a frustrated sigh, now convinced that Xiaoyu’s true intent for coming to him at this hour was nothing more than to give him a headache.
“That’s hardly the reason, Xiaoyu. It’s just that this sword has amassed a considerable amount of negative energy over the ages, and it’s a deadly weapon. You could hurt yourself if you’re not careful.”
“You’re just saying that to cover up the fact that you’re a chauvinist, Yoshimitsu!” Xiaoyu betrayed a smirk as she said this. She propped up her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her interlaced hands, delighted at the sight of Yoshimitsu’s mouth arching into a small frown.
“… Was there something you needed from me?” asked Yoshimitsu, suddenly changing the subject.
“Oh? Well… Not really, but… Like I said earlier, I don’t have any pajamas. You can’t expect me to sleep in my day clothes; it would be so uncomfortable!” Xiaoyu preceded to make a miserably disgusted face, checking to see if Yoshimitsu was buying it.
“If it bothers you so much, I suppose I have something you could wear.” Yoshimitsu quickly got to his feet and walked straight towards a large wooden chest near his bed. Upon opening the chest, he promptly began rummaging through its contents, which consisted of various articles of clothing and other random trinkets. Xiaoyu rose and stood by his side, smiling as he held various pants and shirts up to her as if checking to see which ones would best suit her.
“You have a rather slight frame,” began Yoshimitsu, “so I apologize if these aren’t very fitting, but I’m afraid it’s all I have.” He then extended one arm, holding a small bundle of clothes out to her as nonchalantly as possible.
“Thanks,” smiled Xiaoyu, giving a little bow with her head as she took the clothes in her arms.
For a moment, Xiaoyu watched Yoshimitsu as he began carefully folding all of the clothes he had tossed about in his search. There was something about the scene that she found irresistibly amusing on a level she couldn’t quite explain to herself. Xiaoyu noticed how skillful his hands were, the many small parts of his robotic left arm moving perfectly in sync as his dexterous fingers smoothed over the fabric, folding each article of clothing into a neat bundle. She realized then that she absolutely loved where she was, here with him. It was only after a few silent moments had passed that Yoshimitsu realized she was still standing there, observing him. He paused and quietly looked up at her from his kneeling position on the floor.
“Do you, uhh… not find them satisfactory? You can change into them over there, if you wish,” Yoshimitsu said, pointing to the rather ornate shoji screen in the corner of his room.
“Huh? Oh! Uh, right!” mumbled Xiaoyu, laughing nervously as she tiptoed behind the screen. Once safely behind the cover of the tall barrier, she hastily shed her street clothes and reemerged wearing the outfit Yoshimitsu had provided. Judging by her facial expression, Yoshimitsu gathered that she was less than pleased.
“Is there something wrong?” he asked as he finished putting the other clothes away. He shut the lid of the chest firmly and rose to his feet, prepared for the worst.
“I look like a stagehand in an old kabuki play!” fretted Xiaoyu, motioning to the baggy, dark-colored fabric that was now draped over her lithe body. How she wished for her adorable, brightly hued panda pajamas!
Yoshimitsu halted but a moment before taking her hands in his, grasping them firmly as he caught her gaze with the resolute eyes of his demon mask. She froze for a moment, feeling the dual warmth and coolness of his hands against hers. Was that her heart beating in her ears?
“Why no, Miss Ling. You are not a simple stagehand in someone else’s epic tale of fate,” began Yoshimitsu, the deep notes of his voice dropping to a husky legato, “You are the hero of the story, just now making your appearance.”
She was stunned. His words sounded so perfect. Even then, Xiaoyu was oblivious to the idea that the brave Yoshimitsu had been soundly defeated by her charm, and he could feel the agony of his demise wash over him.
Xiaoyu smiled, unable to keep her cheeks from burning.
“… Thank you,” she replied.
It felt right for her, then, to take her leave. She bowed her head again before turning away. Yoshimitsu sat back down to his tea, trying his best to avoid staring at her as she left his room.
“Good night, Yoshimitsu,” Xiaoyu said before departing, her day clothes in hand.
“… Sleep well,” responded Yoshimitsu. His voice sounded less jovial, darkened from the deathly feeling of dread that was eating away at him.
Xiaoyu closed the door behind her and returned to her room, unable to clear her racing mind. Once in her own room, she sighed with relief upon feeling the warm, comforting embrace of the blankets envelop her as she snuggled her way into the quaint bed. She inhaled deeply, and the new scent of the borrowed clothing soon enveloped her. It smelled like him. It was warm and safe, and her thoughts were filled with Yoshimitsu’s last words about her being the hero of her own story. Xiaoyu wondered if she really had it in her to be all that the leader of the Manji clan thought she could be. She really hoped so.
Back in his quiet room, Yoshimitsu finally found the words he had been meaning to tell her all this time. Through every awkward, wonderful, irritating moment with this hopelessly hopeful girl, he had desperately clawed at the wretched feeling welling up in his core, hoping to capture it and, in turn, discover its secret meaning. He might have even felt it from the moment he threw his body through the window of that Mishima building, braving shattered glass and gunfire to rescue her. It wasn’t until just now, however, that the words grouped together so gloriously in his mind. He spoke them incredulously, as if he was an atheist sending up a quieted prayer.
“I adore you, Ling Xiaoyu.”
Sensing that the sun would rise soon, Yoshimitsu abandoned the notion of sleep and resigned himself to meditation, giving his best attempt at focusing on anything but those last words.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Manji Clan mountain stronghold, Mikel de Garonne leaned against a tall tree as he watched the sunrise. With a brooding look on his face, he exhaled the warm smoke of his cigarette as he let it fall, squashing it into the cold dirt under his boot.
It was then that his cell phone began to vibrate quietly. He took a deep breath and then answered it, knowing full well who it was.
“Ah, Jean-Luc de Garonne. Good morning. I trust you’ve slept well amongst your new-found friends,” sarcastically stated Eigo Yokoshima, chief of research for G Corporation’s Tokyo office. He sounded impatient, having recently returned from some remote location.
“What do you want?” darkly responded Mikel.
“You know what I want, de Garonne. It’s the entire reason why you’re there, the reason for all of this! Don’t tell me the excitement of helping the Manji Clan destroy my offices derailed your focus. If you’ve forgotten, let me refresh your memory.”
It was then that Mikel could hear the painful yelp of a young woman on the other end.
“Itsatso!” shouted Mikel, his blood boiling, “You better not hurt her, you bastard!”
“Mikel!” Itsatso shouted out, struggling against the zip-ties that held her to the chair in Eigo Yokoshima’s lofty office. There was still noisy construction going on around them to repair the damage from the Manji Clan’s invasion, and Itsatso found herself straining in hopes of hearing Mikel’s voice. One of the nearby G Corps thugs grabbed her hair and yanked her head back, causing her to cry out again.
“Get me what I want, de Garonne,” continued Eigo coldly, “before something bad happens to your little girlfriend here.”
With a click, the call was then ended. Mikel lowered the phone from his ear, an urgent drive for action rising up in his chest.
“You didn’t tell me there was a hostage involved,” Kunimitsu spoke suddenly from her seat on a tree branch above Mikel.
Startled, Mikel looked up at Kunimitsu and quickly asked, “How long have you been up there?!”
“Long enough,” responded Kunimitsu, gracefully leaping down to the ground to stand beside her new cohort, “Long enough to hear that you’ve been keeping something important from me.”
Mikel paused for a moment, slipping the cell phone back into his pocket. He wondered if explaining the situation to Kunimitsu would even matter. Where would he even begin?
“G Corporation,” the words sprang from Mikel’s lips before he had finished his thoughts, “They have her. Itsatso. She’s everything to me. She’s all I have, and they’ve kidnapped her. It was G Corporation who originally hired me to kill Yoshimitsu, at the airport, not the Mishima Zaibatsu.”
Kunimitsu’s gaze was transfixed on him now, her genuine surprise clearly visible from her exposed lips.
“Yes,“ continued Mikel, running a hand through his hair with frustration, “Afterwards, they came to me with a request to retrieve something from this secret base. Rumors had surfaced that Dr. Bosconovich, the Russian scientist who had been forced to work for the Mishima Zaibatsu, had created some kind of incredible power generator. This isn’t my kind of work, so I initially turned down the assignment… But G Corporation forced my hand when they kidnapped Itsatso. I don’t know how they found her…”
“So, they kidnap your girlfriend in exchange for whatever Dr. Bosconovich was working on when he himself had been kidnapped by the Mishima Zaibatsu? And you think that this power generator- whatever it is- is here at the Manji Clan base?”
“No, I know it is here. You’ve seen it yourself, Kunimitsu.” Mikel looked at her with his dark, foreign eyes, and she could see how serious he was.
“The flash drive…” Kunimitsu began, searching for the connection, “… The flash drive holds schematics for a power generator?”
“Yes, but now it’s not just a power generator,” interrupted Mikel, his accented voice darkening despite the bright rays that were streaming through the leaves in the trees around them, “It’s been recently imbedded into a machine, a super soldier. A soldier with a perpetual power source… Bryan Fury.”
“Kawamitsu. I’ll need you and the others to continue this morning’s work without me,” Yoshimitsu stated over his shoulder to the black-clad figure who was following him towards an unmarked cargo truck.
“Yes Master,” replied Kawamitsu instinctually. He then looked up from his clipboard, adding, “So, you are going to retrieve the supply shipment from the airport by yourself then?” He couldn’t help but remember the last time the two of them had gone to the airport together. It had been quite eventful.
“Not entirely by himself. I’ll be tagging along to keep him company,” coyly replied Hiyamitsu as she approached the two, adjusting her oni mask while brushing silky strands of her long dark hair away from her face.
Kawamitsu could feel his hand jerk a little as he looked over at Hiyamitsu. He knew it wasn’t out of the question for one of the Manji ninja to accompany their leader on simple excursions into the city, but he could not resist experiencing a surge of disappointment at Hiyamitsu’s preference to leave rather than stay with him.
“Oh,” was Kawamitsu’s only reply.
“We’re not anticipating any further assaults, but it is better to err on the side of caution. Hiyamitsu has volunteered to accompany me to the drop point at the regional airport.” Yoshimitsu had not been entirely oblivious to the fact that Kawamitsu and Hiyamitsu were growing more and more distant from each other, so as he spoke he looked at Kawamitsu’s eyes, the only part of his right-hand man that was exposed to the outside world. He searched for any reaction.
Kawamitsu glanced at Hiyamitsu for a moment and returned his gaze to Yoshimitsu. Hiyamitsu seemed impenetrable behind her vivid oni mask. He had been growing more and more frustrated from her continuing disinterest in him, but that slight resentment immediately turned to guilt whenever he found himself envying the inexplicable pull that Yoshimitsu inherently seemed to have over her. How could he blame her for growing closer and closer to the only other person who could really understand her loss?
“Well… Let me know if there are any problems. I’ll have a frequency open. I’m heading to Dr. Bosconovich’s laboratory to help him with something. I’ll leave Morimitsu in charge here.” Kawamitsu motioned towards Morimitsu, who nodded in reply as he continued to help set up an immunization station.
“Very well,” said Yoshimitsu approvingly, “This shouldn’t take too long. Please contact me if a problem arises.”
With that, the two men quickly bowed to each other, and Hiyamitsu wasted no time in climbing up into the driver’s seat of the cargo truck. Yoshimitsu stepped up into the passenger’s side in time to see Hiyamitsu secure her seatbelt before starting the ignition.
“Seatbelt, please! Safety first and all that!” Hiyamitsu insisted. She then lifted her oni mask up to have a better view of the road, revealing the grin on her face.
“But of course,” replied Yoshimitsu, managing to get the seatbelt around his intricate armor. The golden hue of the armor, along with its pulsing red details and rich purple tones, was a stark juxtaposition to the dull gray of the truck’s weathered upholstery.
After putting the transmission into gear, Hiyamitsu urged the truck forward. The surrounding Manji ninja and refugees hurriedly moved out of the truck’s path, and Kawamitsu watched attentively as the truck continued down the rugged mountain road. He sighed heavily, and the cold realization that things would never be the same left him silent.
Soon the two were well on their way towards the city. After some time, Hiyamitsu glanced over at Yoshimitsu briefly before beginning some casual conversation.
“So, I’m assuming the usual inside crew will be there to greet us? No security problems?” she asked while changing lanes. The highway was not terribly crowded during this time of day, which certainly added to the ease of their journey.
“It’s all been taken care of, yes,” replied Yoshimitsu. He nonchalantly began studying the pattern on his gloved hands, feeling a bit out of place in the cabin of a truck. He didn’t consider himself very well-suited for motorized vehicles.
“… Good…” Hiyamitsu casually responded. She found her graceful fingers beginning to tighten their grip around the worn steering wheel, and soon she could no longer resist the temptation to jab at him. With a smirk, she blurted out, “So, I noticed that your new girlfriend Xiaoyu spent the night over in your wing of the Main Building last night. Did you two have a fun slumber party? Tell any ghost stories?”
Instead of the expected retort, Yoshimitsu was silent for a moment, which definitely surprised Hiyamitsu. His lack of an instant, disapproving reply caught her off guard a little, and her devilish smile faded as she glanced over at him.
Yoshimitsu’s gaze seemed to be focused on the outside world, which the two were quickly passing by in their hasty drive. Or, perhaps, he wasn’t looking at anything at all? He was deep in thought, for one reason or another, and Hiyamitsu couldn’t help but feel a tinge of worry. Why wasn’t he stammering an indignant denial to her claims?
Yoshimitsu’s thoughts careened back to last night, to that moment he grasped Xiaoyu’s hands, the little doves that they were, as he attempted to reassure her. He had crafted some analogy about epic plays and actors, but he realized that what he really wanted to tell her was something he could never bring himself to say directly. He was not so absorbed in these enthralling new feelings that he could not see how stunningly absurd the entire thing really was. And yet… He still felt an incurable burning urge to do everything he could for her.
Finally, he spoke.
“… Is that jealousy I hear staining the loveliness of your voice, my dear Hiyamitsu?” Yoshimitsu asked, his voice thick with the impunity of a jest.
A small smile blossomed across Hiyamitsu’s lips, supported by the sudden relief she felt at Yoshimitsu’s jovial response. She then began to prepare a counter-offense, deciding to take a more direct route.
“Yes, I am utterly and inescapably jealous,” she stated, smirking at her own exaggerated claim. She then cast out her bait. “You’ve never invited me over to sleep with you.”
“She did not sleep with me,” Yoshimitsu retorted firmly, feeling genuinely shocked by Hiyamitsu’s audacity. He looked over at her intently, his head tilted in disbelief. “You are not the dedicated, polite young woman I once knew you to be.”
Hiyamitsu glanced over at him a couple times, trying to keep enough attention on the road while attempting to gauge Yoshimitsu’s level of frustration. Somehow, his bold denial of her ludicrous claim left her feeling pleased, and she couldn’t help but start laughing at him.
“Hahaha! Oh, please don’t be upset, Master. I’m only joking.” Hiyamitsu hoped that addressing him with more respect would help soothe the sting she gave him. Yoshimitsu noticed how odd it seemed, now, for her to call him by that title, like the other clan members did. From this small realization, he wondered if he had already accepted that she was not like the others. The professional relationship between them had morphed into something altogether different.
Hiyamitsu then reached over and placed her right hand on his knee, half expecting him to swat it away. Much to her surprise, however, Yoshimitsu placed his own gloved, robotic hand down onto hers.
The laughter in Hiyamitsu’s face immediately dispersed into a look of taut anticipation. The truck slowed slightly as her foot let up on the gas pedal, and her delicate eyes shifted up to meet the eyes of Yoshimitsu’s fierce skeletal mask. Her alluring lips parted slightly.
“Kitsune…” Yoshimitsu began, faintly tightening his grip on her slender hand.
“I love it when you say my name,” suddenly interrupted Hiyamitsu, blurting out the words as if she had been waiting to say them for years and had only just then been awarded the opportunity. She continued to glance over to him, hoping to hold onto this miraculous moment as best she could.
Yoshimitsu looked over at her then, and he at once knew that he was no longer content to disregard her light-hearted advances. So, instead of brushing them off, he latched onto them firmly. With the determination of a warrior finally facing down his demon, he asked, “What would you wish of me?”
At that, Hiyamitsu felt her heart pounding like a drum in her chest. Was this really happening? No longer confident in her ability to drive without distraction, she pulled the truck over onto the side of the highway, shifting the gear into park before turning in her seat to face him.
She hesitated for a moment, her feelings teetering on the edge of thought and speech, unable to make the transition despite herself. She would love nothing more than to tell him everything, and yet she was silent, smiling a little at her own reluctance.
Yoshimitsu remained quiet, patiently waiting for her to finally speak.
“Before my life with you, there was nothing,” Hiyamitsu stated blankly. Her courage was beginning to return and it left a hint of seriousness in her voice. “I was floating from home to home with no future in sight. Before the Manji Clan, I had no goals, no hope.” She then shifted her weight to move closer toward him. Upon doing so, she looked down at her right leg, it’s artificialness concealed underneath her skintight body suit and light armor. “When I lost my leg to that Black Pheasant lackey, I was so afraid. I was afraid that I would always mourn that loss, crippled by the fear that I would always see the horrible face of that man in my nightmares. But you rescued me from that.”
Hiyamitsu stared intently into the eyes of Yoshimitsu’s mask, and she dared to lean in closer, continuing with, “All of that pain… My shaking hands around those cold bars while I tried to take those first awful steps- you were always there with me, right by my side through everything. I always looked up to you, Yoshi. But now? I can’t help it. It’s so much more than before. I l-…” She stopped suddenly, faltering in her resolve. The rawness of the moment had stripped away all of her brash determination, and now she fell silent, unable to bring herself to say the words.
Yoshimitsu could see the look in Hiyamitsu’s eyes change from defiance to something akin to humility. Her cheeks were soon flushed, adding a rosy gloss to her ivory skin, and in that moment she looked as delicate as a flower. She chuckled a little, feeling slightly embarrassed at her professed devotion to a man who could never love her. She brushed her hair out of her face and then reached for the gear shift. Yoshimitsu suddenly placed his hand on hers again, preventing her from shifting into drive.
“You deserve a normal, happy life.” Yoshimitsu’s voice sounded soothing, the mechanized hum descending into a valley of comfort. “You deserve everything, and I am sorry that I cannot give that to you. I can only swear that I will always be here for you.”
Hiyamitsu’s lips curved into a smile once again, parting slightly to reveal her pearly teeth. She was overcome with joy and relief at having heard Yoshimitsu, in his own way, reciprocate something of her affections. They both knew that what she had truly craved was impossible, and despite this, Yoshimitsu’s declaration was a much-welcomed consolation.
Before Hiyamitsu could say more, Yoshimitsu was startled as his internal cybernetic sights suddenly flashed with a warning. SOS! SOS! CODE RED! SOS! SOS! LOCATION: BOSCONOVICH INC. LABS.
“Kitsune, quick! Take an exit and turn us around! We have to go back!”
“What’s wrong?!” asked Hiyamitsu, wasting no time in lurching the truck back to life.
“Dr. Bosconovich’s lab is under attack!”
“Where did you get that?” Mikel asked, genuinely impressed.
“I bummed it off of one of the Manji clan lab techs when he wasn’t looking,” Kunimitsu answered proudly as she swiped the stolen access card through the digital lock. The glass double doors opened with a swish and the two cohorts made their way quietly into the deepest reaches of Dr. Bosconovich’s laboratory. “He shouldn’t even notice it’s missing as long as I get it back to his quarters as soon as we’re done. I’m surprised they’d have such a large gap in their shifts.”
Mikel said nothing, preferring to focus on completing his objective. Each second that passed while having not located Bryan Fury was like a dagger inching closer and closer to his beloved Itsatso’s throat.
Soon, the two had made their way down a passage that led to a few dimly-lit containment rooms. Kunimitsu, ever conscious of the ticking clock, hurriedly opened door after door until, finally, the two found themselves inside a rather small room that appeared to have not been entered for quite some time. The tiny space was just large enough to hold a computer terminal, various other monitoring devices, and a hospital bed of sorts. Upon the bed rested a pale, muscular figure, and Kunimitsu and Mikel quickly took their places beside the sleeping man.
Kunimitsu admittedly did not recognize his face, scarred as it was. She noted how ghastly pale the mysterious man’s skin was, as if it were lacking the life and vitality found in others. He was shirtless, wearing a few arm bands, combat boots, and a pair of snakeskin pants. Kunimitsu marveled at how out-of-place he seemed in the quiet, sterile laboratory. His heavily scarred chest and tense facial features gave him a rather grim disposition, even in sleep.
“Is this him? Bryan Fury?” Kunimitsu asked quietly, unsure if their presence would wake this angry-looking man from his slumber.
“Yes,” Mikel answered her with a serious tone, growing more and more edgy with anticipation. He had yet to admit that he was not entirely sure what would happen once Bryan Fury was awoken, but that’s what was going to save Itsatso, and that was all that mattered to him at that point.
“What exactly are you planning to do?” Kunimitsu continued to stand by the bed, crossing her arms as she watched Bryan intently.
“With Yoshimitsu and all of you Manji ninja crawling around his mountain base, G Corps knows that it would be suicide to try to storm this complex and take Bryan Fury by force. So, they want me to wake him up so that he can escape on his own accord, to be captured by them later.”
“What? Do they seriously think a plan that ridiculous would work?”
Mikel ignored her and leaned over the bed, snapping his fingers a few times over the sleeping man’s face to no avail. Slightly frustrated, Mikel proceeded to examine the bed and nearby computer console for some way to wake Bryan Fury. It was there that he took a seat and began probing the computer controls, ignoring the pain in his splinted arm, aching with each press of the keyboard. All the while, Kunimitsu continued to grow more and more anxious with each glance she gave the sleeping Bryan Fury. There was something overwhelmingly menacing about him, and it filled her head with questions. What was a grisly guy like that doing in Dr. B’s lab? How exactly did the doctor or Yoshimitsu even know him?
It was then that Kunimitsu felt it: a deep-seated fear. The fear didn’t necessarily come suddenly, but it’s presence was overpowering to her. Her instincts were firing off a warning that she simply could not ignore.
“…Something’s wrong…” Her words were a gruff whisper, like smoke escaping her lips.
“What?” asked Mikel, tense, “What are you talking about?” He stared at Kunimitsu with a look of agitation from his place at the computer terminal seat.
“I don’t know, I… I just have this feeling. This man, this cyborg… There’s something wrong about this whole thing. I don’t think we should-”
“You can do whatever the hell you want,” Mikel suddenly stated, his nerves on the edge of anxiety and desperate determination, “but I’m doing what I can to get Itsaso away from those G Corps assholes.” He proceeded to delve deeper into the computers access files until he finally found something that resembled a command code.
Kunimitsu was just about to protest when she became suddenly still.
“Wait!” she whispered intently, a look of frozen shock on her concealed face, “Do you hear that? Someone’s entering the lab…”
Mikel paused as he also heard the voices and footsteps of two people coming down the hallway.
“Oh, that’s quite alright!” Dr. Bosconovich’s voice echoed through the hallway with each step he took. “I’m sure your keycard is around here somewhere. I’ll just make a copy for you in the interim, until you find the original. By the way, have you seen Kawamitsu? He said he would be here.”
Mikel, panicked, initiated the command sequence with a few button clicks. The built-in computer interface of the bed seemed to come to life, the noise alerting Dr. Bosconivich and his Manji assistant to their activity in the containment room.
Kunimitsu only had enough time to make a shout in protest as Bryan Fury’s eyes struggled open. A tired groan of pain slipped past his clenched teeth as he lifted himself up from the bed. Bryan looked around the room, his cybernetic eyes adjusting to the dim light. He regarded Mikel and Kunimitsu with indifference, his clouded thoughts too busy with trying to recall exactly where he was.
Knowing that he had done enough, Mikel then hastily turned and bolted out of the room, brushing past a startled Dr. Bosconovich and his Manji companion. Mikel’s heart beat wildly as he raced down the hallway in his escape. Kunimitsu let him go, well aware that the best thing she could do then was to stay and keep Bryan Fury occupied.
“Ok, take it easy, big guy.” Kunmitsu sheathed her dagger and held her hands out as peacefully as she could. “No one’s going to hurt you.”
Dr. Bosconovich and the other Manji ninja entered the room, and it was upon seeing the old doctor’s face that Bryan suddenly remembered everything that had taken place before he was put into his deep sleep.
“Ah…” he began, his grisly voice cracking from long-unused vocal chords, “Dr. Bosconovich… You promised to give me an overhaul. A perfect body.” Bryan Fury shifted so that his boot-clad feet were touching the cold floor. “My internal scans are showing a different story…” He then rose to his full height, rotating his shoulders and neck to stretch his stiff muscles.
“Yes, Bryan.” Dr. Bosconovich knew he had to be careful in his explanation to this volatile man. “The various integrated structures that Dr. Abel used in your design were too… complex. It was to the point of inefficiency. I need more time. I have equipped your cybernetic body with a perpetual generator instead, for the meantime. It’s my latest design.”
As far as Kunimitsu could tell, Bryan Fury’s facial expression seemed to be calm, but she could sense a deep reservoir of unchecked violence bubbling beneath the surface. She glanced over at the other Manji ninja, a young man she had never met before. He returned her look and continued to watch Bryan Fury warily. His own eyes betrayed a look of uneasiness underneath his cloth mask.
Bryan Fury grinned darkly, feeling out his new power with clenched fists. He suddenly let out a bellowing laugh, it’s sinister chimes tinged with the glee of a madman.
“Endless power? This is perfect!”
Then, like the flip of a switch, Bryan suddenly turned into a terror. He roared in a sadistic rage as he reached for a nearby computer console. He tore it from its stand as if it were made of cardboard only to hurl it across the room at the elderly scientist. Kunimitsu leaped at Dr. Bosconovich, able to push him out of the way just in time to allow the heavy console to crash into the other displays. An electrical fire started, only adding to the chaos in the small containment room, and the Manji ninja who had accompanied Dr. Bosconovich wasted no time in activating the security alarms.
Bryan Fury charged at the young Manji clan member then, throwing a powerful fist at him. The young ninja narrowly dodged the attack, causing Bryan to completely destroy the display behind him. The Manji ninja tried to counter the attack, but Bryan was too strong, too vicious. He parried the ninja’s counter and then barraged him with a trio of punches to the chest, brutally cracking the young man’s ribs.
Kunimitsu, after helping Dr. Bosconovich to his feet, turned to face Bryan Fury, her dagger ready. She was a bit stunned with his sudden, senseless violence, but she knew she had to do something.
At that moment, half a dozen other Manji ninja flooded into the room. They were shocked to see that there was already so much destruction. Through the growing haze of smoke, they could see the body of their comrade slumped to the ground at Bryan Fury’s feet.
Bryan Fury rushed at them, filled with the exhilaration of combat. He swiftly kicked the first ninja in the chest and followed up with a bludgeoning backhand strike to the second. He tried to get a leaping kick at Dr. Bosconovich, but his attack was blocked by Kunimitsu. She grabbed the heel of his boot and diverted the momentum of Bryan’s attack, forcing him to regain his footing before dodging the blade of another Manji ninja.
The mad cyborg retaliated with an uppercut that sent the third Manji clan member flying backwards. The fourth ninja attempted to flank him with an elbow strike, but he was too quick for her. He parried her attack with one hand and struck the side of her head with the other. Another ninja tried to come to his clan member’s aid, but Bryan easily negated his attack and, grabbing him by the throat, he bashed the other man’s head into a nearby wall.
Kunimitsu then knew that, despite being outnumbered, Bryan Fury was too powerful for them. She also knew that whatever delicate truce that may have existed between Yoshimitsu and herself was now severed by what she had done, and it would only be worse if she allowed Dr. Bosconovich to be harmed.
“We have to get out of here!” Kunimitsu grabbed Dr. Bosconovich’s arm and made a break for the door. Her plan of escape was foiled, however, when Bryan Fury lifted one of the Manji ninja and threw him directly at the fleeing Kunimitsu, knocking both her and the doctor to the ground.
Kunimitsu groaned as she pushed the ninja’s body off of her. The man Bryan had thrown at her was dead, his neck broken. Kunimitsu, still on the floor, turned to face her attacker. Holding tightly to her dagger, she hurriedly pushed herself backwards to move closer to Dr. Bosconovich. The doctor gritted his teeth, feeling a searing pain in his left leg, as the two looked up at the approaching Bryan Fury. The crazed malice in the cyborg’s eyes sent a shiver down Kunimitsu’s spine, her fear concealed by her steady nerves as she held her dagger up in defense.
Having so quickly killed all of the Manji ninja, Bryan grinned with malicious anticipation as he neared them. However, as he took his next step, he was suddenly stricken in the forehead by a throwing knife. The knife failed to pierce Bryan’s near-indestructible skin, but it was enough to cause him to recoil for a moment as Manji clan reinforcements flooded the room, led by Kawamitsu.
Three Manji ninja charged at Bryan Fury as Kawamitsu helped Kunimitsu and Dr. Bosconovich to their feet.
“Get to safety!” ordered Kawamitsu as he readied another throwing knife, “I’ll try to hold him as long as I can.”
“Thank you, my friend. Just hold out until Yoshimitsu arrives. The alarm in the lab transmits directly to him.” Dr. Bosconovich gave Kawamitsu a pat on the shoulder before leaving the room with Kunimitsu at his side. Kunimitsu held Dr. Bosconovich up with his arm around her shoulder as she led him down the hallway, the loud clamor of steel and shouting still audible.
“We have to warn the others,” began Kunimitsu, determined to fix this at all cost, “Where is Yoshimitsu?!”
Xiaoyu let out a sigh of relief upon accepting the notebook that her friend Miharu held out to her. Xiaoyu placed the notebook in her backpack and leaned against the outside wall of the large polytech school, glad that her best friend had remembered her promise to meet after class.
“Thanks, Miharu. I’ll get this back to you as soon as I’m done copying all the notes I missed.”
“I know it’s not like you’ve never missed a lecture or two before, Xiao, but… I’m kinda worried about you,” began Miharu, her hands on her hips casually. The two friends began walking down the sidewalk towards the exit of the school, speaking plainly to each other amongst the crowd of students leaving for their after class study groups or part-time jobs.
“Worried? About what?” Xiaoyu held onto the strap of her backpack tightly, staring down at the sidewalk as she kicked a small pebble absentmindedly.
“Well, Xiao, I mean, come on! I know I’m far from being a perfect student, but you keep missing class because you’re off at some secret ninja fortress or whatever, hanging out with Yoshimitsu and his horde of thieves. Like, seriously, do you know how weird that sounds? You’ve even spent the night there! What do you even do there?”
“Just- I don’t know- hang out, I guess.”
“Aren’t you a bit freaked out? I mean, Yoshimitsu is technically a criminal, isn’t he? He’s killed people!”
“But I can trust him. He would never let anything bad happen to me,” Xiaoyu replied, pausing her steps. She felt convinced, but a hint of uncertainty lingered in her voice. Again, she was reminded that she hardly knew anything about the man behind that bizarre mask, but then another thought sprung in her mind. She already knew plenty about him. All the things that mattered to her, at least. “I know he may seem weird, but he’s actually a pretty cool guy.” She cheerily continued her steps. “He really cares about what he does, you know? Helping people. His home and friends are so interesting, too. And he can be really funny sometimes!”
“Well, if you say so… But what about Jin Kazama? Have you been able to continue your search for him?”
“Jin!” Xiaoyu was surprised that she had been thinking about her missing friend Jin less and less during this whole affair. “My search at the Mishima Building was such a disaster, and with all of this stuff with Yoshimitsu going on, I haven’t really thought about it…”
“So, you still haven’t heard anything from him?” Miharu folded her arms casually as she continued to stroll along by her friend’s side.
“I’m not going to give up,” declared Xiaoyu, more-so to herself. “I just have… a lot going on.”
“Well, good luck,” added Miharu, “My bus stop is down this way, so, I’ll see you tomorrow, OK?”
“Sure thing!” Xiaoyu waved as Miharu made her way down the intersecting street. Xiaoyu’s smile faded as she continued on, deep in thought. So deep in thought, in fact, that she failed to notice the trio of Aikuchi’s thugs who began trailing her from a distance as she made her way to her small apartment.
Author’s Note: Thanks again for all of your patience, my wonderful readers. I already have a lot of work completed for the final chapter, so an update should be following shortly.