The Line Between Love and Hate - Chapter 6 - The Line Between ...

The Line Between Love and Hate - Chapter 6 - The Line Between ...
Aozame32 2010-02-06 22:30 1
Chapter 6: The Line Between Love and Hate

Kunimitsu looked up at the sky, trying to find the moon, which was hidden by the clouds and stark branches of the trees. She sighed and continued following Yoshimitsu through the dark forest. The leaves that had already fallen were blown around in the slight breeze, carpeting the forest floor.

Everything seemed so surreal to her, as if she was having a strange, dark dream. Suddenly, she felt a gloved hand on her shoulder. She looked over and saw the glowing eyes of Yoshimitsu's skeletal mask.

"Don't worry, we're almost there," Yoshimitsu told her, as they walked past a cluster of ancient trees.

Yoshimitsu didn't have to tell Kunimitsu that they were almost there. Even in the dark, she already knew that. What he really needed to emphasis was the phrase "Don't worry." All this time, Kunimitsu's interactions with the Manji Clan had been laced with hate and violence. She was now heading to their stronghold, hoping that they wouldn't lynch her.

Kunimitsu shook her head, trying to get these thoughts of fear out of her mind. She hated being afraid. She no longer wanted to lead the life she had been leading for years and years.

"Kunimitsu."

Kunimitsu stopped in her tracks and looked over at Yoshimitsu, who was barely visible in his dark, sleek armor.

"What?" she asks, matching her voice with that of the wind's.

"We're here."

Yoshimitsu pushed aside a few moss-covered branches and lead Kunimitsu out of the forest. She then realized that the two of them were standing at the edge of a large clearing. She looked around at all the moonlight-laced buildings. Everyone was inside, asleep, so it was tranquil and quiet. Kunimitsu stood there for a moment, breathing quietly. She then nodded and took her first peaceful steps into the Manji Clan Base.
Yoshimitsu had taken Kunimitsu to the Main Building, where she could find a room to sleep in for the night. She found the room to be strange, yet familiar all at once. Once Yoshimitsu had left, she sat down on the tatami mattress and fell backwards, sighing in enormous relief.

Kunimitsu looked around the room, her eyes growing more and more accustomed to the darkness of the room.

'What am I doing here?' she thought to herself.

However, before Kunimitsu could begin to contemplate an answer to her own question, she started to drift off into a deep sleep.

Yoshimitsu, knowing that there were wounded Manji ninja, headed to the Medical Quarters. When he got to the building, he looked up as he noticed someone standing outside of one of the rooms, looking out at the stars as they gripped the railing of the balcony. It was Hiroyuki.

Yoshimitsu entered the building and, after climbing a few staircases, he found the room. He knocked softly and then entered, finding Kitsune sleeping in a hospital bed, her oni mask replaced with an oxygen mask. Yoshimitsu looked at the outline of her body underneath the white blanket, and he saw the void where her leg once was. He sighed and walked out to Hiroyuki.

Hiroyuki leaned against the railing, a cigarette dangling from his lips loosely, giving him a brooding, careless look. Yoshimitsu exhaled and let the silence fill his mind for a while before speaking.

"... Hiroyuki... I... I'm sorry about Kistune. I'm sorry about everything."

Hiroyuki looked over at Yoshimitsu, a dull, hopeless glaze over his eyes.

"Master... You have nothing to apologize for. These sorts of things are what's to be expected. We have to make sacrifices to do what we think is right. You've taught us all that..." Hiroyuki tightened his grip on the railing, only letting go to take the cigarette and give it a flick, sending the ashes spiraling into the cold air. Yoshimitsu stood next to Hiroyuki, leaning on the railing as well as he looks up into the sky.

"Hiro... My dear friend, Hiro." Yoshimitsu placed his hand on Hiroyuki's shivering shoulder, and at that simple, meaningful show of compassion, Hiroyuki's walls came down and, against his iron will, his emotions were let loose. Hiroyuki tossed the cigarette away and covered his face with a free hand.

"I-I should have been paying more attention!" He gasped the words, his breath strangled from sobs. "It's a-all my fault that... Kitsune, she...!"

Yoshimitsu continued to grip Hiroyuki's shoulder, and he replied, "No, Hiro. It's not your fault. You, Kitsune, and every other clan member did the best you all could. I'm proud of you. '?m so very proud of you all."

After a few moments, Hiroyuki composed himself, thankful for his master, his friend?s support. Yoshimitsu led Hiroyuki back into the room and out of the cold air.

"Hiroyuki," began Yoshimitsu, as he sat in one of the simple chairs, "Although Kitsune still needs your support, it's I who will be helping her get past this immense obstacle that fate has thrown in her path."

"Obstacle? What do you mean?" Hiroyuki sat in the chair directly beside Kitsune's bed.

Yoshimitsu, leaning back a little, held his left arm up and looked at it closely. With the armor on, his left arm looked just the same as his right, but underneath that armor, the story was very different.

"I remember when I lost my arm, Hiroyuki. I could never forget something like that. It was very painful, yes, but nothing could compare to the pain and agony of what came next." Yoshimitsu reflected on what it was like to first use his robotic arm. The nerves in his left arm were attached to the prosthetic nerves of the robotic arm, and even the simplest movements had felt like fire- at least at first. However, after a while of training, it became second nature. Kitsune would need his help with that.

~*~*~*~

"Master!" exclaimed the Manji ninja, the next morning, when they saw that Yoshimitsu had returned and was alright, save for a few injuries.

Yoshimitsu continued to walk down the large stairs of the Main Building, glad to have at least gotten a few moments of rest after his visit with Hiroyuki. The Manji ninja ran up to him and knelt before him on the stairs. He was greatly reassured to see familiar faces, to know that they were all alright after the battle that raged yesterday.

After a few moments of discussing, the Manji Clan proceeded with their normal routines of helping the needy. It was very difficult to immediately resume life as if nothing happened, but it was what had to be done in this world of theirs.

Later that day, when the sky was the color of lead and the sun barely shone through the mask of the clouds, Kunimitsu awoke. She sat up suddenly and looked around, remembering where she was and what had happened the night before.

She rose slowly, making sure to pick up her dagger, which she had placed at the side of the tatami mat. After placing her mask back on her face, Kunimitsu quietly walked towards the door and, listening for footsteps, she slid the door open.

Kunimitsu peered down the hallways and, sensing that no one was near, she stepped out of the room. The two things that were on her mind were a bath and food. After that, she would try to make her escape. She thought about it all last night, and this just wasn't where she belonged. It was impossible to return to the way things were, so she would just leave as soon as she could. That was the plan she had concocted, but the more and more she saw her old home, the less certainty she felt about her plan.

Kunimitsu made her way out of the Main Building and into the bathhouse. The air in the bathhouse was thick with moisture and warmth, compared to the dry, cold air outside. She undressed and sunk into the hot water, clenching her teeth as to not let out a loud sigh of relief. Kunimitsu, smirking a little, realized that she still had her mask on. She took it off and placed it to the side, setting it gently on the stone floor.

Kunimitsu then relaxed her whole body as she tried to think clearly. She still couldn't believe where she was. All those years, she thought of nothing else but revenge, and now that the deep, dark feelings of hatred were gone, she didn?t know what to think.

But it wasn't like all of her feelings were gone. It's impossible to completely wash away such deep feelings of jealousy and contempt.

Kunimitsu merely sighed as she began to wash her hair.

~*~*~*~

"Mr. Yoshimitsu! You're back!!" shouted little Hakujitsu as he broke into a run at seeing that Yoshimitsu had returned safely.

Yoshimitsu smiled and knelt down, holding his arms out to hug Hakujitsu. Hakujitsu nearly knocked Yoshimitsu over as he embraced him.

"I missed you, Mr. Yoshimitsu! I thought you were dead too!" he exclaimed.

"What? Me, die? No way." Yoshimitsu placed a hand on Hakujitsu's head. Hakujitsu looked up at Yoshimitsu's skeletal mask and smiled.

"Now," continued Yoshimitsu, in a cheerful voice, "Why don't you go on a mission and find Harper for me. Try to sneak up on him, okay?"

Hakujitsu gleamed at the idea of being sent on a mission under the direct orders of Yoshimitsu. He nodded and quickly rushed into the crowd of people that always seemed to envelop the Manji Clan Complex.

Yoshimitsu then smiled from behind his mask, glad that Hakujitsu was feeling better after all that had happened. Seeing that Hakujitsu was alright, Yoshimitsu decided to take a walk through the forest to clear his mind.

Yoshimitsu sighed as he walked through the forest. Everything seemed so quiet when compared to the previous chaos in his life. He felt a huge relief now that the ordeal with the Black Pheasants was finally over, but something else lingered. There was still something that needed to be settled, but Yoshimitsu didn't know how to go about it. He shrugged and decided that a relaxing, hot bath in the bathhouse would help him better clear his mind to discover the problem.

When Yoshimitsu reached the bathhouse, he removed his suit and clothes in a special room just for that, and then he covered himself with a large, white towel. He then walked out into the main bathing room. The air was steamy, and the mist made his skin moist and precipitated on the metal of his cybernetic arm. The steam and fog inside of the bathhouse was so thick that it was hard for him to see, even with his cybernetic eyes.

Yoshimitsu sighed quietly as he slid down into the hot spring, but then he suddenly jumped when his foot touched that of another's. Kunimitsu gasped in shock and jumped a little as well, opening her eyes to see Yoshimitsu sitting across from her.

Yoshimitsu covered the lower half of his face in shock, stammering, "Wh-What are you doing here?"

Kunimitsu snatched a towel and covered herself with it, sitting as low in the hot water as she could.

"I-It's a bathhouse, isn't it? What do you think I'm doing?" she asked, trying to sound as angry as possible.

Yoshimitsu looked up at the wall, as if he was trying to memorize the designs in the tile.

"... Oh... Well... I'll leave." Yoshimitsu used his free arm to wrap the towel around his waist as he began to get out. Kunimitsu sat up a little.

"Wait... Yoshimitsu, thank you... for saving me."

This shocked Yoshimitsu, so he sat back down into the water, still holding the soaked towel. He was silent for a moment.

"You're welcome, Kunimitsu..."

Kunimitsu let out a sigh, feeling relieved to finally tell him that she really did appreciate it. Not knowing what else to say, she looked down at the hot, bubbling water.

"Yoshimitsu... You've changed a lot."

Yoshimitsu nodded and replied, "Yes, I have." Kunimitsu looked up at him, peering into his eyes.

"Yoshimitsu... Did it hurt? The transformation?" Kunimitsu couldn't stop thinking about the time she saw all of those wires in Yoshimitsu's back. It was unnerving and surreal.

Yoshimitsu thought of the surgery. He remembered lying on the table, a gas mask on his uncovered face. The bright lights and the cold metal and a drugged sleep. He remembered waking up, every single part of him in pain. He remembered not being able to move, open his eyes, or even breath fully. He remembered feeling that there were things in his body that weren't there before. He was terrified, not really remembering why he was there, but then he heard Dr. Bosconovich's comforting voice.

The doctor helped Yoshimitsu wake up, and when Yoshimitsu opened his eyes, he saw red. Everything was red and the muscles around his eyes ached so badly that he was certain tears would form in his eyes, but he no longer had tear ducts, not needing them anymore. He would no longer be able to cry. It hurt to take a breath, and he couldn't talk. Finally, when he was strong enough to utter words, it wasn't his normal voice. It was harsh-sounding and mechanic. But this is what it took to prolong his life. This would give him more time to help those in need.

Yoshimitsu looked over at Kunimitsu, remembering her question.

"Yes. It hurt a lot."

Kunimitsu looks down at the water, suddenly feeling overwhelmed. There was just too much that has happened to have a conversation with him. Things would never be the same as they were 20 years ago.

"Kunimitsu."

Kunimitsu suddenly looked up at him, a bit surprised. "Yes?"

"Your hair is darker."

Kunimitsu smiled a little and touched her long hair.

"Yeah... The red wore out." It had been a fun, childish thing they did years ago. To show their friendship, they decided to do something bizarre and fun: dye their hair bright red. Yoshimitsu still kept his in after all this time.

After the bath, and a bit of tricky maneuvering, they dressed and went on their separate ways. Kunimitsu wanted to go somewhere that she hadn't been to in years. She made her away around the Manji Complex, traveling on the outskirts of the encampment to avoid running into the Manji ninja. Kunimitsu remembered that Dr. Bosconovich not only had a lab in his home, which was some distance away, but that he also had a workshop there at the Manji Clan Base.

When Kunimitsu made it to the workshop, she paused at the door and let out deep sigh. She hadn't run into any Manji Clan members yet, but now she was certain that she was going to confront one. She just hoped he wouldn't be angry with her.

Kunimitsu then stepped into the workshop, and as soon as she did, the man sitting on a stool at a workbench, his back facing her, stopped his work and lifted his head up. He was still for a moment and then he let out a laugh.

"Oh my," he began, "Kunimitsu! I was wondering when you'd get back." He hadn't even looked at her. Kunimitsu stepped deeper into the old workshop.

"Hello Yorumitsu. It's been a long time."

"Oh, has it?" He tilted his head, "I hadn't noticed. Well, the air conditioner you fixed is still working just fine!"

Kunimitsu smiled behind her mask as she looked at the air conditioner in the wall, the one she had repaired nearly twenty years ago. The white ribbons she had tied to it were still on, showing that the air was blowing through it. They were now faded with age.

"Oh!" continued Yuromitsu, "And that small engine you were working on is still in its place. I didn't want to move it so it would be there for you." He pointed to another workbench, and on it sat a small engine covered in twenty years of dust and cobwebs. This made Kunimitsu laugh.

Yuromitsu then swiveled his stool around to face her, but not to look at her. He was blind, and his eyes were covered with a dark blue sash. A plain oni mask was then placed over that, covering his entire face. As Kunimitsu looked at him intently, she could see the dark blue fabric through the holes meant for Yuromitsu's eyes. He smiled, stood, and gave her a nod. Even after all that she had done, he was still her friend.

Kunimitsu sighed and bowed to him, thankful that he would still be there for her like he always had.

"You know, Yuromitsu," began Kunimitsu, "This isn't going to be easy for me."

"Do the others know?" asked Yuromitsu, as he stood up from his work place, "They're the ones who are going to give you the most trouble..."

~*~*~*~

Kitsune groaned a little as she woke up, her head pounding and her lower body numb. Her vision was blurring and it took a little while for it to adjust, but when it did, Hiroyuki's form came into view as he stood by her side

"Kitsune... Are you feeling okay?" Hiroyuki asked as he looked down at her, touching her face gently.

"H-... Hiroyuki... Wh-... Where am I?" She closed her eyes, groaning at the immense pain in her left leg. She tried to move it, but the pain just got worse. Hiroyuki then took her hand.

"Kitsune, your leg... Your leg was sliced off, in the battle. You had to be rushed to the medical quarters, and... Well, while you were asleep it was decided that, since the Manji Clan couldn't afford to lose a member of your stature, your leg had to be... replaced."

Kitsune blinked more, trying to clear her head. "What? Replaced?" She forced herself up, gritting her teeth in pain. When she rose to a sitting position, she looked around the room and saw that she was in Dr. Bosconovich's laboratory. It was one of the more secluded, experimental rooms. There were tools everywhere, along with all sorts of cybernetic parts. Kitsune then managed to push the white sheet that was covering her down enough to see her legs. What she saw shocked her. While her right leg was fine, her left leg was very bruised from the injury, which was to be expected. However, it wasn't the bruises that surprised her. It was what was next to her bruised skin. The rest of her leg was completely mechanic. She could see all of the slim metal nerves as her new robotic foot twitched. She gasped, lying back down.

"H-Hiro... My leg, it's... I have a robotic leg!" She couldn't believe it. How could she let this happen? She just couldn't believe it! She could start to feel the hot tears well up in her eyes, now fully taking in the completeness of her loss.

"Kitsune, it's what had to be done. Your other leg couldn't be recovered..." Hiroyuki didn't know what Kitsune really thought about all of this. Was she happy to be alive? Was she upset at the fact that her life will never be the same?

Kitsune continued to lay there in silence, her eyes closed. She thought about it for a long while, with Hiroyuki at her side in that plain room, and she came to the conclusion that what was best for the Manji Clan was best for her.

'I couldn't possibly be of any help without both of my legs,' thought Kitsune, as she stared up at the ceiling, 'This is for the best. I can still assist him... my master.'

As if on cue, there was a knock on the door and then it opened slowly. Yoshimitsu stepped into the lab and looked at the two of them, nodding. He closed the door to the lab and stepped closer, taking Kitsune's hand.

"How are you feeling, Kitsune? Is your head clear?"

Kitsune nodded and replied with a quick, "Yes, Master." She closed her eyes as she gripped his hand tightly.

"I know more than anyone that it hurts, Kitsune, but you have to be strong. You have to learn how to get passed the pain so that you can make it stronger."

Kitsune nodded. With that, Yoshimitsu helped her sit up, being careful to keep her medical gown intact and to keep her leg from being agitated. Kitsune let out a gasp as her bare foot touched the cold floor. With Yoshimitsu holding her up on one side and Hiroyuki on the other, Kitsune began to make her first painful steps with her new leg.

~*~*~*~

Yoshimitsu began to breathe heavier as he jogged down the small forest path. He had exchanged his battle-weary beetle suit for a much looser, common outfit. He had on a black hunting jacket and black pantaloons, what most of the other Manji ninja wore. His breath puffed out through the grinning mouth of his oni mask as he continued to jog through the chilly air.

After jogging for a few more meters, he came upon a small byakko statue situated next to a brook. Yoshimitsu decided to take a break and he sat down next to the statue, closing his eyes. He sat there, meditating, and listened to the sounds around him. The voice of the brook was very bubbly, and it was fun to listen to what it had to say.

As Yoshimitsu sat there, restful, he noticed that he felt much better than before. Gone were the bogged down, stressful feelings that he obtained whenever the moment was grave or serious. Now, he could relax and think things through much more clearly. He felt like smiling, actually.

Just when Yoshimitsu began to feel himself reaching a more pure form of meditation, he heard the snapping of twigs and the crunching of leaves. When he opened his eyes, he looked over his right shoulder and saw a Manji ninja jogging towards him.

"Master," began the ninja, as he bowed, "I have a message for you. It's from the Mishima Zaibastu!" As he rose, the Manji ninja held a very formal-looking, white envelope out to Yoshimitsu.

"Oh?" Yoshimitsu rose to his feet, interested. He took the envelope and replied, "Thank you. You may return to the base now." The messenger ninja bowed and headed back to the base, disappearing amongst the bare trees.

Yoshimitsu looked down at the envelope, thinking. Whatever came from the Mishima Zaibatsu, as he knew, was always something tainted. He definitely didn't need any trouble then, what with all the stresses of the Manji Clan. They were running out of food and manpower, especially with the recent deaths. He had to find some sort of solution, and fast. Otherwise, many refugees would starve to death and be dead by spring.

Yoshimitsu decided to make his way back to the Manji Complex, still holding the envelope. He looked it over again and, finally, decided to open it.

"To Yoshimitsu of the Manji Clan," Yoshimitsu began, reading it to himself aloud, "You've been cordially invited to the King of Iron Fist Tournament 4. The paperwork enclosed in this invitation must be completed and filled as soon as possible, along with the usual entrance fee. Also enclosed is a plane ticket to the location of your first round.

"The prize of the upcoming King of Iron Fist tournament, as ordered by the great Mishima Heihachi, is... the entire Mishima Zaibatsu, along with its resources and assets." He stopped in his tracks. Yoshimitsu read the invitation over again to make sure he was getting this all correctly. He couldn't believe it, still.

'Why on Earth would Heihachi forfeit his entire organization all to the winner of the tournament? Is he trying to lure someone out? It couldn't possibly be a trap for me; that devil has bigger fish to fry,' Yoshimitsu thought, as he took a look at the entrance forms, 'Still, this is too good to pass up. If I win this tournament, I can use the power of the Mishima Zaibatsu to help further the goals of the Manji Clan. We could finally make a huge difference in the world...'

"I have to win at all costs!" Yoshimitsu declared. He headed back to the Manji Complex, determined.

~*~*~*~

Kunimitsu, seeing that the Manji Complex began to stir with activity, decided to stay hidden inside of the room she was given. However, the more and more she waited in silence, the more her thoughts picked at her conscience. Bored, Kunimitsu decided to venture out on the Main Building, hoping nothing bad would happen.

As Kunimitsu walked down the large steps of the Main Building entrance, she got many looks from Manji ninja standing nearby. Luckily, none of them knew who she was, not being around long enough to remember the great feud between her and Yoshimitsu.

Yoshimitsu passed under one of the gateways at the edge of the Manji Complex, still holding the invitation. From his position, he could see Kunimitsu walking down the steps.

'She's showing herself already?' thought Yoshimitsu, as he picked up his pace. He was worried, considering that many of the Manji Clan members didn?t know Kunimitsu was here under peaceful circumstances. If they saw her now, they might get the wrong idea.

Kunimitsu looked around the bustling complex, surprised at how many people there were. She noted on how many new buildings they had. The place had grown.

Nearby, helping to file and categorize supplies from a newly arrived truck, Noriko stood and looked over his clipboard. However, he caught someone different walking down the Main Build steps. He looked up and, to his furious shock, he recognized this person as Kunimitsu.

"That's all of it, Noriko, but I don't think-..." started a Manji ninja, who was surprised to see Noriko drop his clipboard and walk away unexpectedly, "Noriko?"

Noriko, looking like a man on a mission, marched towards Kunimitsu with clenched fists. Kunimitsu, recognizing Noriko as a Manji Clan ninja from her past, stood still, not knowing what to expect. As Noriko drew closer, he raised a fist.

"You treacherous bitch!" shouted Noriko as he suddenly took a swing at Kunimitsu, jarring her in the side of the head. Kunimitsu, not expecting to be attacked so soon, stumbled backwards and fell on her back.

Nearby Manji ninja looked towards the scene, all wondering what happened. Kunimitsu quickly brought herself to her feet and gripped her dagger. As she stood there, she saw more Manji ninja walk up to Noriko's side. They recognized her, too.

"You've got a lot of nerve, Kunimitsu, showing yourself here after all that you've done!" shouted Noriko, as he and the other Manji ninja glared at her.

Feeling threatened, Kunimitsu raised her dagger in defense. As the Manji ninja encroached upon her more, she was preparing to slash at them. However, before the situation could get worse, Yoshimitsu appeared. He stood between Kunimitsu and Noriko, holding them from each other.

"Stop this," ordered Yoshimitsu, looking back and forth at Kunimitsu and Noriko.

"Master, you know who this is! She tried to kill you before and she'll do it again!? retorted Noriko, along with the other Manji ninja.

"Back off!" Kunimitsu shouted towards Noriko as she swatted Yoshimitsu's hand away.

"Master, what's wrong? What's going on?" asked Hiroyuki, who had been standing nearby. He walked up to the group, standing next to Yoshimitsu.

"Nothing is wrong, Hiroyuki. Isn't that right?" Yoshimitsu looked at Noriko, who remembered himself and bowed to his master.

"Forgive me, Master, but why is this traitorous wench here?!" asked Noriko, as the other Manji ninja standing next to him bowed to Yoshimitsu and went back to work.

"Noriko, you old son of a bitch!" Kunimitsu spat in anger, "You're lucky I-!"

"Kunimtisu!" Yoshimitsu took her arm and began dragging her away, heading towards a quieter end of the Manji Clan Complex. Kunimitsu was quick to pull her arm out of Yoshimitsu's grasp, but she continued to walk away with him. Hiroyuki, newer to the Manji Clan and therefore unaware of it's complete history with Kunimitsu, merely shrugged and returned to his work.

"I have it in my right mind just to leave if this is what's going to happen!" declared Kunimitsu, her footsteps padding down the already hard, cold ground. She followed alongside Yoshimitsu as they walked through the Southern Sector.

Yoshimitsu sighed and crossed his lean, powerful arms as he walked beside his longtime rival.

"Kunimitsu, you must have patience... Just stop freaking out!" Yoshimitsu quickened his pace, leaving Kunimitsu behind a few paces.

Kunimitsu was suddenly surprised at that last, frustrated remark. It was a glimmer of Yoshimitsu's former self- the one she had known, the Yoshimitsu who was young and wild. She smirked under her mask as she caught up to him.

"Oh, don't worry, old man. I'm not going to hurt anyone," wryly said Kunimitsu as she kicked Yoshimitsu in the calf, causing him to stumble slightly.

"H-Hey!" Yoshimitsu counterattacked with a kick to Kunimitsu's calf, causing her to stumble as well, "I'm warning you, Kunimitsu. Heh. I'm starting to think that you're going to be more trouble than the Black Pheasants."

"At least I'm not trying to kill you." Kunimitsu smiled under her mask as they walked past the peaceful living quarters of the Southern Sector.

"Kunimitsu, the Naming Ceremony will be taking place tonight. I know it will be awkward for you, so you don't have to attend if you don't want to." Yoshimitsu had almost forgotten about the Naming Ceremony, when honored and skilled members of the Manji Clan received their titles.

"The Naming Ceremony, huh? Actually, that might be interesting to see. I haven't seen one for more than twenty years, you know." Kunimitsu gave Yoshimitsu another playful kick as she walked off.

~*~*~*~

"Maiyu nemu isu Yoshimitsu." Yoshimitsu stumbled through the simple phrase, just as determined to learn English as he was determined to learn to fly.

"That's good," encouraged Harper, "Now, try again. My name is Yoshimitsu."

"Mai nemu is...u... Yoshimitsu." He sighed, estimating just how difficult this would be. "Almost every word ends in a consonant. It's so harsh and choppy..."

"Don't get discouraged, Master," Harper said with a smile of encouragement, "It'll just take a little time. I mean, you already can get through the alphabet and counting with no problems at all."

Yoshimitsu nodded and looked out the window at the steely sky.

"I think it'll snow today, Master," began Harper, "I think it will snow."

Yoshimitsu straightened up, putting all of his effort into it.

"I... think it will... snow." He offered himself a little smile underneath his mask at his small triumph over the enigma of the English language.

~*~*~*~

After his English lesson with Harper, Yoshimitsu returned to his room to change into the suit that he had planned to wear for the Naming Ceremony. After donning the shining breastplate, he picked up the wide-brimmed hat and put it on, making sure the beads hanging on each side of his oni mask were straight. He looked at himself in the mirror, sighing a little. He remembered the last time he wore this suit, during the second King of Iron Fist Tournament. So long ago...

Once that was finished, he made his way out of the Main Building and towards the temple in the forest. The same temple where he met Kunimitsu for the first time in twenty years. By the time he got there, the entire Manji Clan was already present and waiting. Yoshimitsu looked around a bit, almost hoping to see Kunimitsu hiding somewhere. Either she was getting very good at concealing herself, or she wasn't there.

"Welcome, Master," greeted Hiroyuki, "Everyone is ready to start."

And so, the Naming Ceremony began. Many Manji ninja were up to be given there honored titles, especially after all of the valor shown during the attack on the Black Pheasants. Yoshimitsu looked at each and every one of them as they lined up to receive their new titles. This brought back memories indeed. He remembered when he was one of the young ninja standing attentively, waiting to receive his new title of leader. That was a fateful day. Among the ninja waiting, Yoshimitsu saw Hiroyuki, of course. Next to him stood Kitsune, gritting her teeth silently at the pain of standing. Noriko, his old and faithful friend, was standing there as well. The previous leader hadn't seen fit to grant Noriko, who was then just as young and wild as the rest of his peers, a new title. Noriko would finally get his dues today.

Just as Yoshimitsu was about to begin, panic suddenly ensnared him.

'The weapons!' he thought, 'Who will be the one to give the renamed Manji Clan members their new weapons?'

It would normally be Yoshimitsu's right hand man, but seeing as Hiroyuki was one of the Manji to be named, Yoshimitsu looked around almost frantically as he stood in front of the waiting crowd.

As if on cue, Kunimitsu appeared from the trees, carrying a wrapped bundle. She took her place next to Yoshimitsu, who was just as surprised as the rest of the Manji Clan.

Kunimitsu was dressed in a slim, purple body suit, and instead of her usual byakko mask, she wore an oni mask that only covered the upper half of her face. She smiled slightly at Yoshimitsu, who could now see her lips clearly.

And so, Yoshimitsu began the Naming Ceremony underneath the cold, cloudy sky. He called them up individually and gave them their new title. After that, Kunimitsu would respectfully pass them their new weapon, which they were to take care of with honor. Finally, Yoshimitsu called up Hiroyuki.

Hiroyuki left Kitsune's side and took his place in front of Yoshimitsu and Kunimitsu, kneeling before them. Yoshimitsu took a steady breath as he regarded his friend with admiration and pride.

"Hiroyuki, since the moment you entered the Manji Clan, you have been at my side no matter what. Your loyalty is unwavering and strong, and for that I commend you with your new name. Rise at take your place in the Manji Clan, Kawamitsu."

Kawamitsu rose and bowed to Yoshimitsu. He then bowed to Kunimitsu, who handed him a set of throwing daggers. Their hilts were as black as pitch and their blades were silver and sharp. Holding the knives carefully, Kawamitsu stepped away from the front area and stood with the other Manji.

The wind whispered through the bare branches of the trees as Yoshimitsu called out the next Manji ninja. Noriko walked up to Yoshimitsu and knelt before him.

"Noriko, my old friend. You have been in the Manji Clan as long as I have, and I've always been able to count on you. You are brave and wise and the finest comrade anyone could ask for. I am proud to be the one to finally give you your deserved honor. Rise and take your place in the Manji Clan, Morimitsu."

Morimitsu stood up and, after bowing to his master and friend, made his way to Kunimitsu. The two enemies regarded each other for a moment, and then a current of hesitant acceptance passed between the two warriors. Morimitsu saw that Kunimitsu was trying to change by being there. She was taking the risk and she was making an effort.

"Kunimitsu," began Morimitsu quietly, "... There was once a time, long ago, when I saw you as an admirable warrior and comrade. Now, it seems that how I once saw you might be the same as how I see you now."

Kunimitsu was silent for a moment, and then she replied, "Morimitsu, I'll always see you as someone who I wouldn't want to mess with." She smirked and handed him a new sword, which he took gratefully. Morimitsu then bowed to her with genuine approval.

Yoshimitsu kept his eyes on Kunimitsu with interest. It seems so surreal to see her here in the steely light of the winter sky. She looked the same. Exactly the same. She moved with the same grace and conviction that she always had when they would spar so many years ago. And as he watched her intently, his heart suddenly fluttered. He looked away in surprise, wondering why he was still plagued by that same wind-swept fire in his chest. Shaking his head slightly, he continued with ceremony until there was only one more name left.

"Kitsune, come forth," said Yoshimitsu, as he looked at the young kunoichi cautiously.

Kitsune knew that this was the one moment in her life where she had to do things on her own, and so she got to her feet slowly and painfully with no one else's aid. Her thigh was throbbing with pain as she worked her new cybernetic leg with all of it small, moving parts. She took the agonizing steps up to Yoshimitsu and knelt before him.

"Kitsune, you are one of the boldest, strongest warriors I have ever seen. Your zeal is unwavering always. You are straightforward in your conviction and daring in your valor. There is nothing than can stop you from following your heart. Rise and take your place in the Manji Clan, Hiyamitsu."

Gritting her teeth again, Hiyamitsu rose and, after bowing to Yoshimitsu, she agonizingly took her place facing Kunimitsu. Hiyamitsu bowed to the dangerous rogue, and Kunimitsu replied by nodding her head and simply handing Hiyamitsu her new weapon: a sleek and deadly-looking pair of razor-tipped gauntlets, the finest Hiyamitsu has ever seen.

Thus concluded the Naming Ceremony, very solemnly and austere. Then, as if nature herself was willing to celebrate a little, she began to toss little, white confetti. It began to snow.

~*~*~*~

Yoshimitsu, in a desperate attempt to sort out his thoughts and feelings, had gone on another ride with Gessekai. It wasn't long, however, before he realized that riding Gessekai through the new snow wasn't going to solve his problems with Kunimitsu.

And so, once Gessekai was put back in the stables, Yoshimitsu began to make his way back to the Manji Clan Complex. As he walked through the dark, leafless, snow-adorned trees, he came into a clearing and decided that this would be as good a place as any to try to think things over carefully. Dressed in his older suit of armor, with its dark and light embroidery and its bright red plume, he sat down in the middle of the clearing and began to think things over.

'What will I do?' Yoshimitsu asked himself, 'Will I allow her back into the Manji Clan? Will she accept it? Does she want to come back? Can I trust her?'

Despite recent events, Yoshimitsu still felt that small fire. It was like a warning. Kunimitsu is dangerous, it would seem to tell him, and you can't change that. She has tried to kill you and you cannot erase all the years of hatred and jealousy.

Yoshimitsu didn't want to believe that, but- He suddenly stood up, having heard a small noise. He looked around the clearing, peering through the trees with his cyber optics. Almost as if this all was expected, Kunimitsu appeared from her hiding place and confronted Yoshimitsu.

"Yoshimitsu," began Kunimitsu, still dressed in her purple suit and oni mask, "I've been looking for you. You know as well as I that we have unfinished business."

Yoshimitsu took a step back, not wanting this to be happening, but somehow oddly knowing that it was meant to be.

"Kunimitsu, there are other ways. We can work this out in other ways."

Kunimitsu shook her head, pulling out her dagger.

"Yoshimitsu, you can't deny these feelings we have. Twenty years. These resolute feeling that we have, to battle each other, have been building up for twenty years... The only way to go on with our lives is to quell these demons!" With that, Kunimitsu charged at him fiercely.

Yoshimitsu, faster than the blink of an eye, drew his sword and countered Kunimitsu's attack. Sword to dagger, he pushed her back and advanced, slashing with no intention to kill, but to put at bay.

"Kunimitsu, please! Don't do this!"

"Shut up and fight!" Kunimitsu kicked his sword out of the way and took a stab at him. Yoshimitsu dodged with a sidestep and, attempting to trip her, kicked at her feet.

Kunimitsu blocked his low attack and back-flipped to gain more ground. Seeing her on the defense, Yoshimitsu advanced with his sword, slashing at her with lightning speed.

Despite the fact that the two warriors no longer wanted to kill each other, they both fought with the most intensity than they had ever fought with before, each trying to best the other in one final battle.

Kunimitsu blocked every one of Yoshimitsu's attacks and, with a puff of smoke, she disappeared. It took not even a second for Kunimitsu to reappear, coming down on Yoshimitsu from above. Looking up, Yoshimitsu met her dagger with his sword, but the force caused him to fall over on his back.

Using the momentum of the fall and his feet, Yoshimitsu rolled back and kicked Kunimitsu off of him, springing her up into the air over his head. While in the air, Kunimitsu rolled and landed so that she was facing Yoshimitsu.

Yoshimitsu sprang up and, with his back towards Kunimitsu, did a black flip to ward off her offense. Not expecting this, Kunimitsu's arms came in contact with Yoshimitsu's powerful legs, sending her sprawling back.

Arms weak and pulsing with pain, Kunimitsu let out a frustrated cry and charged at Yoshimitsu. Yoshimitsu spun around and avoided her initial attack. However, he did not see her sleek, hungry dagger reach out as it struck him in the side, going through the cloth and leaving a bloody gouge in his side.

Kunimitsu jumped back, both shocked and excited to have made contact. Yoshimitsu let out a small cry of pain, but he held his ground, bracing his sword in his hands as he looked at her, waiting.

Kunimitsu, dagger bared, carefully began to encircle Yoshimitsu, her steps slow and deliberate. Yoshimitsu kept his eyes on her as he followed her movements, shifting so that he was always facing her. His wound stung in the cold air as the snowfall became heavier, covering up the small trickles of blood on the snowy carpet.

Suddenly, Yoshimitsu leaped into the air, letting out a fierce battle cry as he did. Putting his trick wrist to work, he spun his sword in the air and came down with more force than Kunimitsu expected. Breaking through her defenses, his sword came down on her shoulder. The tip of his blade left a gash in Kunimitsu deep enough to bleed, but not enough to damage her all too bad.

Kunimitsu let out an angry cry and lunged at him again. Not wanting to be beaten back again, Yoshimitsu defended himself with offense, attacking her with a downward, vertical slash. Kunimitsu dropped herself to the ground and, in an instant, she disappeared. However, she soon reappeared, and as she came up, her leg sprang up in a high kick. Her foot made contact with Yoshimitsu's chin, sending him snapping back. As he fell back, his hands reached above his head and, like a spring, he pushed himself forward in an arc. When his feet touched the ground again, he sprang forward fists first. This knocked Kunimitsu back and, soon, Yoshimitsu was on top of her, sword held high as he brought it down with lethal force, as if meant to run her through.

Kunimitsu knocked the deadly sword off course with her dagger and then elbowed Yoshimitsu in the head. Rolling to the side, Yoshimitsu got in his feet in just enough time to defend himself from Kunimitsu, who had leaped up with a kick.

Yoshimitsu crouched and, spinning, slashed at Kunimitsu's legs. Kunimitsu jumped over the singing blade and attempted to kick Yoshimitsu again, who blocked her kick with his free arm. However, as Kunimitsu landed, she got in a quick stab at Yoshimitsu's left shoulder, missing vital organs but drawing more blood.

The two continued to battle for what seemed like an eternity. The snow picked up more and more, but the heavy white blanket was no longer enough to cover all of the spilt blood that grew from their battle. They continued to cut, gouge, slash, and stab at each other until the center of the clearing was spotted with small pools of blood. Their clothes became sticky from the awful, dark liquid, but they miraculously continued to fight.

All of their hatred, love, frustration, and any other feeling that had been tormenting them for twenty years flooded out in this fierce battle, leaving their mind empty. Their movements were all reflex, unwavering and decisive.

Finally, as Kunimitsu was attacking Yoshimitsu with a barrage of lighting-fast slashes, Yoshimitsu caught her hand in his powerful, cybernetic grip. Like a demon, he seemed to become two warriors right in front of her eyes. Kunimitsu, surprised, began to tug viciously, panicked and trying to escape. While one almost transparent Yoshimitsu held onto her dagger arm, the other spun around to her back and, taking her by the shoulders, he did a back bend and threw her back, sending her flying.

Kunimitsu landed hard, but she was far from knocked out. A little stunned, she stood quickly and saw the two Yoshimitsu's become one again. Kunimitsu was amazed out how his skill in the Manji arts have improved to an almost inhuman, frightening level, but that didn't keep her from wanting to fight him.

The two back-flipped until the entire blood-spotted clearing was between them. The snow came down it's heaviest now as the two stared at each other, each drenched in sticky blood.

With no words being spoken, the two bared their weapons with conviction and charged at each other for one final attack. In a flash, the two made contact. It was too fast to see, but soon the two fierce warriors were already passed each other, now facing away.

They stood motionless, waiting to see who was the victor in their duel.

'I got her,' thought Yoshimitsu, 'I saw it. I saw my blade pierce her.'

'That was it,' thought Kunimitsu, as the two stared off into the bare trees, 'I hit him. I know I did.'

However, despite her conviction, Kunimitsu let out a loud cry of pain as she felt her latest wound among the many she had. A blinding pain shot up and down her side from the deep gash now there. Knowing that there was no escaping this time, she fell down as the blood rushed out.

Having heard Kunimitsu fall down, confirming his victory, Yoshimitsu stood up straight. However, at that simple movement, his abdomen and chest stung and burned in pain. Placing a hand on his torso, he saw and felt the truth. He may have gotten her, but she got him too. A deep, diagonal cut decorated his chest, making the surrounding skin pulse with unimaginable pain. Yoshimitsu fell to his knees and then toppled over on his side. He was now too weak to even hold his sword, so he let it fall into the snow next to him.

Kunimitsu, holding her side as she lay in the cold snow, let out a rasping breath.

"I knew I... g-got you...!" she coughed roughly, cringing from the pain.

As the two laid there, their lifeblood seeping into the snow, their senses came to. The cold and fatigue finally reached them. Yoshimitsu's breathing became weaker as he finally looked at his status on the heads up display in his cybernetic sights. He saw how both the internal and external temperatures were plummeting, as well as the amount of blood in his body.

The snow began to cover them as they lay dying, and as it did, their souls were finally clear. They both realized that all of those dark feeling from the past twenty years were finally gone, and all that was left was something else. Something warm and pure. The truth of them.

"Kunimitsu...!" Yoshimitsu rolled over to face her as he called out to her. Despite the agony of any movement, he began to claw his way towards her, leaving a streak of blood on the snow.

Kunimitsu's eyes opened and she too moved to face him. Seeing him pull himself towards her so desperately hit somewhere deep inside of her, penetrating her tough barriers. Tears welled up in her eyes as she reached out to him.

"Y-Yoshi... Yoshimitsu!" she too began to crawl towards him weakly.

Soon, the two had reached each other. With grasping hands, Yoshimitsu reached out and held Kunimitsu's face in his hands tenderly. Kunimitsu grasped at his shoulders, pulling herself closer to him. The two held each other crying on the inside and dying on the outside. The unfeeling snow continued to cover them, but nothing external mattered anymore.

It was just them, together. It had always been them. Kunimitsu cried, her face buried in Yoshimitsu's heaving chest as he held her tightly. Their senses began to die from numbness, but that small fire between them was now a roaring inferno.

Accepting their fate, the two warriors closed their eyes and were consumed.

~*~*~*~

"Oh thank the heavens," exclaimed Dr. Bosconovich, "He's waking up!"

Kawamitsu, who had until then been playing with his throwing knives in anxiety, rushed over to the bed where Yoshimitsu and Kunimitsu were lying.

"Master," began Kawamitsu, "Are you alright? We were so worried."

Yoshimitsu blinked, very sore and tired, and he looked around a little. From what he could see, Dr. Bosconovich was standing next to him, as well as Kawamitsu. Morimitsu, his loyal friend was standing on the other side of the bed, letting Hiyamitsu rest against him as she stood with her new leg.

"Wh... What is this?" choked Yoshimitsu, breathing in heavily. He could feel the tight bandages all over his body, covered in a medical gown and blankets.

"Your vital signs began to drop, and the monitor at the lab picked up on it," explained Dr. Bosconovich.

"Luckily," commented Morimitsu, ?We were able to reach the two of you in time. We recovered your weapons and brought you here. Any more time spent out there and you two wouldn't have made it."

Yoshimitsu lifted the blankets a little and, much to his relief, saw Kunimitsu sleeping next to him, clinging on to his warmth as she recovered from her own bandaged wounds. Hiyamitsu smiled, remembering what she had told Yoshimitsu the night before the raid on the Black Pheasant Headquarters.

"Looks like all you needed was a little blood transfusion, a few bandages, and you're good as new, Master!" Hiyamitsu said cheerily, "Now get some rest, okay?"

All of the visitors left the room, turning off the lights as they did. Feeling as if the weight of the world was lifted off of him, Yoshimitsu held a sleeping Kunimitsu tightly and fell into a deep sleep.

~*~*~

Oddly enough, life continued on as normal. Yoshimitsu and Kunimitsu were recovered fairly well after a few days and both went about some sort of business on the Manji Clan base.

However, one day, as Yoshimitsu was walking back from the stables, he decided to take an old path. The path was well worn, since it led to a larger road that led into the city, and a little out of the way, but it was nice to take a leisurely stroll and admire the Shinto statues along the way.

As Yoshimitsu walked calmly along, he suddenly saw a figure walking towards him. As the figure came into view more and more, he saw that it was Kunimitsu. She was wearing her normal shirt and pantaloons, and she had a bag slung over her shoulders.

"Kunimitsu, what are you doing out here?" asked Yoshimitsu, but as he looked at her more, he could see her intentions quite clearly.

"I'm leaving," Kunimitsu said plainly, "I'm sorry, but I just can't go back into the Manji Clan. Too much has happened, and everything is okay now, but..." She grins. "It's just not my thing. Besides, I still have some business to finish up with a few friends in the city."

Somehow, he knew this is how it would end, and so Yoshimitsu wasn't all that surprised.

"I understand," he replied, "Good luck, Kunimitsu."

Kunimitsu nodded, and she would have liked to have left it at that, but there was something that she just had to say.

"Yoshimitsu!" began Kunimitsu, a little nervous.

"Yes?" asked Yoshimitsu, a little puzzled at her tone. Kunimitsu paused for the longest time, and then she spoke.

"Please forgive me. Years ago, I didn't have faith in your abilities as a leader. I thought that your kind heart made you weak. For that, I'm sorry, for I now see that it is your kindness that gives you strength. While I was here, I saw how grateful those people are for all that you have done for them. I... I've realized that, maybe... helping those in need is the destiny of the Manji Clan. You've... You've really... shown me a better way to live, and so I will leave this place and start a new life.

"But before I leave, I have just one request... Please remember me. Don't remember me as who I was, but remember me as who I am. There's a chance that we might never see each other again, so our memories are all that we have, right? I... I do not want you to forget."

Behind his mask, Yoshimitsu smiled, amazed at Kunimitsu's honesty. That only made it harder for him to let her go.

"Oh, Kunimitsu..." began Yoshimitsu, taking in a deep breath, "The line between love and hate... The line between love and hate does not exist. There is no great divide to tell you how you feel about someone. For that, you must look deep within your heart. Do not be afraid, Kunimitsu, for when I remember you, I will think of how I truly feel about you... I will never forget."

With that, the two souls continued on their separate ways. As they walked passed each other, Yoshimitsu going to the Manji Clan and Kunimitsu going to her new life, time seemed to stand still, just for one instant. And in that instant, they could feel the eternal bond that would never be broken. They then continued to walk passed each other, neither one daring to look back.

They walked out of each other's lives, out of each other's hatred, and into each other's hearts.

Amor vincit omnia.

Comments

  1. You're a great writer! I have a feeling this isn't your first work... Anyways, way to keep my attention, which can be very difficult to do..

    2010-02-09 22:17

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